November 04, 2005

Fitzgerald is a Meanie

Graphic by Dena

November 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2005

Extra Extra

Frank Rich in Sunday's NYT:

ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

Graphic by Dena

Continue reading "Extra Extra"

September 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Rove Cooked

Graphic by Dena

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May 29, 2005

John Conyers For President

Not only did he write the forward to this book, he also writes this diary. I've always liked the man. He's pushed for Bush's impeachment, and he seems like a purist and a truth-seeker. Maybe Obama could be his running mate. Or vice-versa.

May 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)

May 01, 2005

My Husband's Dumber Than Mr. Ed

The Washington Post reported the fun at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, particularly this gem:

After he bought the ranch, Mrs. Bush said the president once tried to milk a male horse.

I mean, he's dumber than a box of hammers ...

"Here's our typical evening: Nine o'clock: Mr. Excitement, here, is sound asleep," Mrs. Bush said. "I'm watching `Desperate Housewives' with Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I AM a desperate housewife. I mean, if those women on that show think they're desperate, they oughta be with George."

Laura went on to describe how TV keeps her from losing perspective.


May 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6)

February 02, 2005


This weekend brings us another puff-piece biopic from the Arts & Entertainment channel, this time one that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look celebrity cool and teddy bear charming. Unlike the 1977 Pumping Iron version of history, in which young Arnie smokes a joint at a beach party, the 2005 reenactment has him politely declining the chance to get stoned. Well, of course he declined. No matter what was really happening on the beaches of California thirty of forty years ago, Arnie is now Governor, and there’s a certain honor in the way a governor behaves.  So what if we alter history a little? Call it the values-based approach to image making. It works for Karl Rove, after all, whose main mission is to use images and misleading sound bites to wrap a pretty skirt around the merry band of administration charlatans.

Unfortunately, Arnie’s win in the California gubernatorial election was too plain a reminder that today, honor is in the mind of the beholder, that fantasy can produce pseudo-heroes in the same way genuine acts of heroism can produce real heroes.  The Big Oaf’s entire career, from bodybuilding to acting has been based upon imagery and entertainment. He is a fantasy hero and sometimes villain whose transgressions in his personal life should have barred him from any position of public trust, but which, unfortunately, surfaced too late for timely adjudication by a slothful press.  Through astute media manipulation, including a love-fest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and many appearances with his publicly trusted wife, Maria Shriver, the power of make-believe prevailed to put him over the top in the California election. The same smoke and mirrors image constitutes George W. Bush's entire public persona; it's all based on manipulation of truth, and bears no resemblence to the little man behind the image.

There was, however, a time when the reputation of a man was determined by his actions, not by his acting.  Never was this truer than in the days of the American Revolution.  An honorable man in a position of leadership lived his life by visible acts that left no doubt about his character.  Even Benedict Arnold, as he lay bleeding on the battlefield at Saratoga, his leg shattered by a musket ball, knew he had reached the pinnacle of honor.  As another officer approached him, Arnold, who was disillusioned after two years of dirty American politics, told his fellow soldier he "wished the ball had passed through his heart." Only then could he die with honor. George Washington, ever fond of Arnold, called him “his fighting General” and the most “active, spirited, and sensible officer” in the army. But when Arnold later tried to give West Point to the British, that act washed away all of his prior exemplary accomplishments.

Death Over Dishonor
So there actually was a culture of honor back then, as can be evidenced by an extraordinary case surrounding the real actions of George Washington in September of 1776, a time of extreme anxiety for him, and a time when he contemplated his own death as a means of avoiding dishonor. You won’t read about this in the biographies or history books, contemporary or otherwise. But if you read his letters, you will see it’s true, that when he foresaw the American cause collapsing, his legacy flashed before his eyes and he contemplated dying, and maybe even attempted to bring it on.

Anticipating a British landing in New York, Washington’s army had built fortifications in strategic places around the city.  The conservative aristocrats in the British parliament had won the day and His Majesty’s army was about to launch an 18th century version of shock and awe. On the fourteenth of September, Washington rode his stallion to inspect the various defensive works around the island. Joshua Babcock, a soldier from Rhode Island captured this real image in his journal:

Just after dinner, three frigates and a forty gun ship sailed up the East River under a gentle breeze and kept up an incessant fire, as if they meant to attack the city. Three men, idle spectators, had the misfortune of being killed by one cannonball.  One shot struck within six foot of General Washington as he was on horseback riding into the fort.

The next morning hell on earth erupted from five British warships that had anchored in the East River, just off Manhattan at Kip’s Bay, three miles north of the city.  A British soldier on one of the ships, The Orpheus, told this real story:

It is hardly possible to conceive what a tremendous fire was kept up by those five ships.  In the Orpheus alone we fired away five thousand, three hundred and seventy-six pounds of powder in only fifty-nine minutes.

An American officer, Colonel Douglas, wrote about it to his wife:  “They very suddenly began as heavy a cannonade, heavier than ever came from as many ships, as they had nothing but to fire on us at their pleasure."

So loud was the pounding that Washington heard it seven miles away at headquarters on Harlem Heights.  He later described the scene in a letter to Congress.   Bear in mind this is NOT a movie.  Washington wrote:

In the morning they began their operations. Three ships of war came up the North River as high as Bloomingdale, and about eleven o’clock those in the East River began a most severe and heavy cannonade to scour the grounds and cover the landing of their troops between Turtle Bay and the City, where breast works had been thrown up to oppose them.  As soon as I heard the firing, I rode with all possible dispatch toward the place of landing.

Stop and think about this. Washington hears the sound of New York under attack, so he mounts his horse to ride to the scene. George W. Bush, on the other hand, hears word that New York is under attack and he reads My Pet Goat for seven minutes, and then, after gathering his thoughts, jumps on Air Force One to fly at warp speed in the opposite direction, as far away from New York as he can get. Of course, Congress had unanimously, and with proper authority to do so, appointed Washington the Commander-in-Chief in 1775, and Bush was … well, activist judges appointed him Commander-in-Chief.

The Demons Of Fear And Disorder
In the East River, the British ships had formed a cover for the landing troops, and eyewitness accounts mentioned the heavy smoke hanging over the water. While the firing continued from the ships, eighty-four transport boats carried five thousand British troops to shore where the enemy soldiers walked onto Manhattan unopposed. The American militia, whose only mission was to hinder the British progress coming onto the island, instead abandoned their positions and took to flight. British General William Howe who was in charge of the operation described his success in a report to London:

The fire of the shipping being so well directed and so incessant, the enemy could not remain in their works, and the descent was made without the least opposition.

One American wrote that the cannonade “seemed to infuse a panic through the whole of our troops.”  Another described an “incessant fire on our lines" and grapeshot “so hot" that the militia were compelled to retreat. Colonel Douglas again to his wife:

Their boats got under cover of the smoke of the shipping and then struck to the left of my lines in order to cut me off from a retreat.  My left wing gave way, which was formed of the militia. I lay myself on the right wing waiting for the boats until Captain Prentice came to me and told me if I meant to save myself to leave the lines, for that was the orders on the left, and that they had left the lines.  I then told my men to make the best of their way as I found I had but about ten left with me. They soon moved out and I then made the best of my way out.  We then had a mile to retreat through as hot a fire as could well be made, but they mostly overshot us. The brigade was then in such a scattered posture that I could not collect them and I found the whole army on a retreat. The regulars came up in the rear and gave me several platoons at a time when I had none of my men with me.  I was so beat that they would have had me a prisoner had not I found an officer that was obliged to leave his horse because he could not get him over a fence.

Private Martin recalled that his company “kept the lines until they were almost upon us, when our officers, seeing we could make no resistance, and that we must soon be exposed to the rake of their guns, gave the order to leave the lines.”  He then described the fleeing militia: “In retreating we had to cross a level clear spot of ground, forty or fifty rods [about 750 feet], exposed to the whole of the enemy’s fire.” Martin next noticed a group of American soldiers “on the main road leading to Kings Bridge.  They were fired upon by a party of British from a cornfield, and all was immediately in confusion again.  I believe the enemy’s party was small; but our people were all militia, and the demons of fear and disorder seemed to take possession of all and everything that day.  When I came to the spot where the militia was fired upon, the ground was literally covered with arms, knapsacks, staves, coats, hats, and old oil flasks.”

I suspect the demons of fear and disorder caused Bush to flee on that fateful day in September of 2001, but I'm not so sure about his skipping out on his obligation to serve in the National Guard.  I don't think Bush really believed the Guard had anything to do with protecting America, and thus to him it was a superfluous assignment. Why bother?  Likewise, I don't think he really believes today that the military is on a mission for liberty, but after his reckless impetuosity led us into war, this is the label given to it to cover the collective poor judgment of the Bush administration.

He Sought Death Rather Than Life

In a letter to Congress, Washington described the chaos as he reached Kip’s Bay:

To my great surprise and mortification, I found the troops that had been posted in the lines retreating, flying in every direction and in the greatest confusion, notwithstanding the exertions of their Generals to form them. I used every means in my power to rally and get them into some order but my attempts were fruitless and ineffectual.

Testimony from a later court martial revealed a few more details.  A Brigadier General “saw Generals Washington, Putnam, and Mifflin at the top of the hill eastward, and rode up to them.”  Washington directed him “to keep his brigade in order and march on into the cross road.”    Washington next ordered the men to “take to the walls,” directing them to cover. “Immediately from the front to the rear of the brigade, the men ran to the walls in a confused and most disordered manner.” Another soldier testified the Brigadier tried “to form some order, but the men were so dispersed he found it impossible.”

Meanwhile, the British continued landing their troops and Washington determined it best to make an orderly withdrawal from the area. The testimony indicated he “gave order to form the brigade as soon as could be done, and march on to Harlem Heights.  When they had proceeded about a mile or two, a sudden panic seized the rear of the brigade; they ran into the fields out of the road.” This second panic is the one Martin referred to above. Washington also reported it to Congress:

On the appearance of a small party of the Enemy, not more than sixty or seventy, their disorder increased and they ran away in the greatest confusion without firing a single shot.

The journals and letters of several soldiers picked up the scene. Smallwood wrote:

Sixty Light Infantry, upon the first fire, put to flight two brigades of the Connecticut troops, wretches who, however strange it may appear, from the Brigadier-General down to the private sentinel, were caned and whipped by the Generals Washington, Putnam, and Mifflin.  But even this indignity had no weight. They could not be brought to stand one shot.

George Weedon wrote that Washington "was so exhausted" by his efforts to rally the men "that he struck several officers in their flight and dashed his hat on the ground. It was with difficulty his friends could get him to quit the field, so great was his emotions."

General Heath said the poor showing of the troops so exasperated Washington that he "threw his hat on the ground, and exclaimed, are these the men with which I am to defend America?”

Historian Andrew Ward, borrowing a quote from the work of Washington Irving described the fleeing soldiers and the remaining solitary figure of Washington:

And they left Washington almost alone within eighty yards of the oncoming enemy.  Blinded with rage – or with despair – he sat his horse, taking no heed of his imminent danger.  He would have been shot or captured had not an aide-de-camp seized his bridle and “absolutely hurried him away.”

Repeating: This is not a movie.

One of Washington’s closest confidantes and a trusted subordinate, General Nathanael Greene, writing to the Governor of his home state of Rhode Island told of the closing scene.  Note the words Greene uses which go to Washington’s state of mind.

We made a miserable retreat from New York owing to the disorderly conduct of the Militia, who ran at the appearance of the Enemy’s advance guard.  This was General Fellow’s Brigade.  They struck a panic into the troops in the rear, and Fellows and Parsons whole Brigade ran away from about fifty men and left his Excellency on the ground within eighty yards of the Enemy, so vexed at the conduct of the troops that he sought death rather than life.

No one will ever know for sure if Washington in that moment was hoping he would be struck down by enemy fire, but he did pull his horse to a dead stop within range of enemy guns. And though he could have merely intended to demonstrate battlefield courage to the fleeing troops, he knew at a minimum he was putting his life gravely at risk. The letters Washington would write in the days following leave little doubt what was on his mind, and leave no doubt that dying with honor was more important to him than living in dishonor. Washington imagined that his reputation would evaporate as quickly as his army had. To his way of thinking, when the dust settled, and the American cause had been lost, no one would understand that he really never had a chance.

Two letters in particular that Washington wrote after the panic at Kip’s Bay, one to his brother John and another to his cousin Lund, are revealing.  The letters parallel each other repeating many of the same details, and track almost identically with what he had written to Congress, with this important exception: each letter revealed a hidden aspect of Washington’s state of mind.  In the letters, Washington did something he had never done before Congress; he vented his personal emotions revealing intimate details about what he was thinking at the time.  To his brother John he wrote:

Immediately on hearing the cannonade I rode with all possible expedition towards the place of the landing, where breast works had been thrown up to secure our men, and found the troops that had been posted there, and those ordered to their support, to my great surprise and mortification, running away in the most shameful and disgraceful manner, notwithstanding the exertions of their Generals to form them.  I used every possible effort to rally them, but to no purpose, and on the appearance of a small part of the Enemy, not more than sixty or seventy, they ran off without firing a single gun.  Many of our heavy cannon would inevitably have fallen into the Enemy's hands, but this scandalous conduct occasioned a loss of many tents, baggage, and camp equipage, which would have been easily secured had they made the least opposition.

The dependence which the Congress has placed upon the militia has already greatly injured, and I fear will totally ruin our cause.  Being subject to no control, they introduce disorder among the troops you have attempted to discipline, while the change in their living brings on sickness.  This makes them impatient to get home, which spreads universally and introduces abominable desertions. Our numbers by sickness and desertion are greatly reduced.  We have not more than 12 or 14,000 men fit for duty, while the Enemy, who it is said are very healthy, have near 25,000. In short, it is not in the power of words to describe the task I have to do.  £50,000 should not induce me again to undergo what I have done. 

To his Cousin Lund he wrote:

Your letter of the 18th now lies before me. The amazement which you seem to be in at the unaccountable measures which have been adopted by Congress would be a good deal increased if I had time to unfold the whole system of their management since twelve months.  I do not know how to account for the unfortunate steps which have been taken but from that fatal idea of conciliation which prevailed so long. [He means reconciliation with the British.] Fatal, I call it, because from my soul I wish it may prove so, though my fears lead me to think there is too much danger in it. This time last year I pointed out the evil consequences of short enlistments, the expenses of militia, and the little dependence that was placed in them. I assured [Congress] that the longer they delayed raising a standing army, the more difficult and chargeable would they find it to get one, and that at the same time, the militia would answer no valuable purpose.  The frequent calling them in would be attended with an expense that they could have no conception of.  Whether, as I have said before, the unfortunate hope of reconciliation was the cause, or the fear of a standing army prevailed, I will not undertake to say.  But the policy was to engage men for twelve months only, the consequence of which, you have had great bodies of militia in pay that never were in camp; you have had immense quantities of provisions drawn by men that never rendered you one hour's service (at least usefully), and this in the most profuse and wasteful way. Your stores have been expended, and every kind of military discipline destroyed by them; your numbers fluctuating, uncertain, and forever far short of report, [and] at no one time, I believe, equal to twenty thousand men fit for duty.  At present our numbers fit for duty amount to 14,759, besides 3,427 on command, and the enemy [is] within stone's throw of us.  It is true a body of militia are again ordered out, but they come without any conveniences and soon return [home].

Next, I think we see the bottom of Washington’s heart. This is where he reveals what he thinks of  honor and character:

In short, such is my situation that if I were to wish the bitterest curse to an enemy on this side of the grave, I should put him in my stead, with my feelings.  And yet I do not know what plan of conduct to pursue.  I see the impossibility of serving with reputation, or doing any essential service to the cause by continuing in command, and yet I am told that if I quit the command, inevitable ruin will follow.  In confidence I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.  To lose all comfort and happiness on the one hand, whilst I am fully persuaded that under such a system of management as has been adopted, I cannot have the least chance for reputation, nor those allowances made which the nature of the case requires. And to be told, on the other, that if I leave the service all will be lost, is distressing.  At the same time, I am bereft of every peaceful moment.

But I will be done with the subject, with the precaution to you that it is not a fit one to be publicly known or discussed.  If I fall, it may not be amiss that these circumstances be known, and a declaration made in credit to the justice of my character. And if the men will stand by me (which I despair of), I am resolved not to be forced from this ground while I have life.

A few days will determine the point if the enemy should not change their plan of operations; for they certainly will not -- I am sure they ought not -- to waste the season that is now fast advancing and must be precious to them.  I thought to have given you a more explicit account of my situation, expectation, and feelings, but I have not time. I am worried to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances -- disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat.  My time, in short, is so much engrossed that I have not leisure for corresponding, unless it is on mere matters of public business.

In the letter to his brother, Washington showed that he still maintained a glimmer of hope:

I should hope the enemy would meet with a defeat, if our troops would behave with tolerable bravery.  But experience, to my extreme affliction, has convinced me that this is to be wished for rather than expected.  However, I trust that there are many who will act like men, and show themselves worthy of the blessings of freedom.

New York was gone now, the rebels having lost it back to the British without any measurable fight, just as they had lost Long Island in late August. A minister who was loyal to the British wrote in his journal after Long Island, and again after Kip’s Bay, the latter entry marking a momentary pause, just as the power changed over.

Friday August 30th.  In the morning, unexpectedly and to the surprise of the city, it was found that all had abandoned Long Island, when many had thought to surround the King's troops and make them prisoners with little trouble. The language was now otherwise; it was a surprising change, the merry tones on drums and fifes had ceased, and they were hardly heard for a couple of days. It seemed a general damp had spread; and the sight of the scattered [soldiers] up and down the streets was indeed moving.  Many looked sickly, emaciated, cast down; the wet clothes, tents, and other things, were lying about before the houses and in the streets today; in general everything seemed to be in confusion.  Many, as it is reported for certain, went away to their respective homes. The loss in killed and wounded and taken has been great, and more so than it ever will be known. Several were drowned and lost their lives in passing a creek to save themselves. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland people lost the most.

Sunday September 15th. There was a good deal of commotion in the town; the Continental stores were broke open and people carried off the provisions; the boats crossed to Powlus Hook backward and forward yet till toward evening; some people going away and others coming in; but then the ferry boats, withdrew, and the passage was stopped. Some of the king's officers from the ships came on shore, and were joyfully received by some of the inhabitants. The King's flag was put up again in the fort, and the Rebels' taken down.

Washington quickly composed himself, but events did not let up. Late at night on the twentieth, a mysterious and spectacular fire broke out in New York and burned uncontrollably until midday on the twenty-first. Nearly a quarter of the city was destroyed.  No one knows how the fire started, but the British had no reason to burn New York, which was soon to become their winter headquarters.  History has cast the fire as accidental, but Washington had asked Congress whether he should destroy the city in order to deprive the British of a place to winter.  After discussing the matter, Congress decided New York should be preserved.  While Washington undoubtedly played no part in its destruction, the military advantage of burning the city was easily known outside his own circle, which meant there were many who could have been responsible. The eyewitness descriptions of the fire sound eerily familiar to what we saw on television in September of 2001:

Several women and children perished in the fire. Their shrieks, joined to the roaring of the flames, the crush of falling houses, and the widespread ruin, which everywhere appeared, formed a scene of horror great beyond description, which was still heightened by the darkness of the night.

The fire commenced in a small wooden house, on the wharf, near Whitehall slip, which was then occupied by a number of men and women of a bad character. The fire began late at night. There being but a few inhabitants in the city, in a short time it raged tremendously. It burned all the houses on the east side of Whitehall slip, and the west side of Broad Street to Beaver Street.  The wind was then southwesterly. About two o'clock in the morning the wind veered to the southeast; this carried the flames of the fire to the northwestward, and burned both sides of Beaver street to the east side of Broadway, then crossed Broadway to Beaver lane, and burning all the houses on both sides of Broadway, with some few houses in New Street to Rector Street, and to John Harrison's three-story brick house, which stopped the fire on the east side of Broadway; from there it continued burning all the houses in Lumber Street, and those in the rear of the houses on the west side of Broadway to St. Paul's church, then continued burning the houses on both sides of Partition Street, and all the houses in the rear (again) of the west side of Broadway to the North River. The fire did not stop until it got into Mortkile Street, now Barclay Street. The college yard and the vacant ground in the rear of the same put an end to this awful and tremendous fire.

Trinity church being burned was occasioned by the flakes of fire that fell on the south side of the roof. The steeple, which was one hundred and forty feet high, the upper part wood, and placed on an elevated situation, resembled a vast pyramid of fire, exhibiting a most grand and awful spectacle.  The southerly wind fanned those flakes of fire in a short time to an amazing blaze, and it soon became out of human power to extinguish the same; the roof of this noble edifice being so steep that no person could go on it. St. Paul's church was in the like perilous situation. The roof being flat, with a balustrade on the eaves, a number of citizens went on the same, and extinguished the flakes of fire as they fell on the roof. Thus happily was this beautiful church saved from the destruction of this dreadful fire, which threatened the ruin thereof and that of the whole city. The Lutheran church being contiguous to the houses adjoining the same fire, it was impossible to save it from destruction. This fire was so furious and violently hot, that no person could go near it.

The next day, in another part of the city, a handsome twenty-four year old Yale graduate, blue eyes and flaxen hair, had spoken his last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  General Howe, had ordered Nathan Hale to be hanged, accusing him of spying for Washington, a charge Hale would not deny. The British left his corpse twisting in the wind for days, and hung an effigy next to him, a carving of an American soldier stolen from a nearby yard.  Across the effigy in bold letters, British soldiers had painted the name “George Washington.”

Actuated By Principles of Honor
On the night of the twenty-fourth, Washington retired to the Georgian mansion owned by a loyalist sympathizer who had fled to London at the outbreak of the war. Washington had made the home his headquarters earlier in the month, and would begin the evening by reading several letters requiring his attention. Next he would write several letters, just as he did every night. (What time does Laura tuck George in?  Nine o’clock?)  On this night, Washington first wrote the General Orders for his officers, about five hundred words.  He then wrote a short letter, maybe two or three hundred words, to John Hancock, the President of Congress.  He wrote a second letter to Congress, this one approaching three thousand words. Although he started before midnight, he did not finish this last letter until the early morning hours of the 25th. As I read this and consider Washington’s graceful prose written against a backdrop of war, and as I consider his real dedication to the cause of freedom, and the enormous and constant pressure he was under, I laugh when I think that George Bush probably couldn’t even read the letter, let alone write it.  Here is a smattering of what Washington wrote that night. He opened to Hancock with a political touch that should precede a warning as dire the one he was about to give.

Sir: From the hours allotted to sleep, I will borrow a few moments to convey my thoughts on sundry important matters to Congress. I shall offer them with that sincerity which ought to characterize a man of candor; and with the freedom which may be used in giving useful information, without incurring the imputation of presumption.

We are now, as it were, upon the eve of another dissolution of our Army.  The remembrance of the difficulties which happened upon that occasion last year, and the consequences which might have followed had advantages been taken by the Enemy, added to the present temper and situation of the troops, reflect but a very gloomy prospect upon the appearance of things now, and satisfy me, beyond the possibility of doubt, that unless some speedy and effectual measures are adopted by Congress, our cause will be lost.

It is in vain to expect that any (or more than a trifling) part of this Army will again engage in the service on the encouragement offered by Congress. When men find that their townsmen and companions are receiving 20, 30, and more dollars, for a few months service it cannot be expected without using compulsion, and to force them into the service would answer no valuable purpose. When men are irritated and the passions inflamed, they fly hastily and cheerfully to arms.  But after the first emotions are over, to expect among such people as compose the bulk of an army, that they are influenced by any other principles than those of self-interest, is to look for what never did, and I fear never will happen. The Congress will deceive themselves, therefore, if they expect it.

A soldier reasoned with upon the goodness of the cause he is engaged in, and the inestimable rights he is contending for, hears you with patience, and acknowledges the truth of your observations, but adds, that it is of no more importance to him than others. The officer makes you the same reply, with this further remark, that his pay will not support him, and he cannot ruin himself and family to serve his country, when every member of the community is equally interested and benefited by his labors. The few therefore, who act upon principles of disinterestedness, are, comparatively speaking, no more than a drop in the ocean.  It becomes evidently clear then, that as this contest is not likely to be the work of a day;  as the war must be carried on systematically, and to do it, you must have good officers, there are, in my judgment, no other possible means to obtain them but by establishing your Army upon a permanent footing, and giving your officers good pay.  This will induce men of character to engage, and till the bulk of your officers are composed of such persons as are actuated by principles of honor, and a spirit of enterprise, you have little to expect from them. Besides, something is due to the man who puts his life in his hand, hazards his health, and forsakes the sweets of domestic enjoyment.

If I was called upon to declare upon oath whether the militia have been most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole, I should subscribe to the latter. I do not mean by this, however, to arraign the conduct of Congress.  In doing so, I should equally condemn my own measures, if not my judgment.  But experience, which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to militia, that no man who regards order, regularity, and economy; or who has any regard for his own honor, character, or peace of mind, will risk them upon this issue. The jealousies of a standing Army, and the evils to be apprehended from one, are remote, and in my judgment, situated and circumstanced as we are, not at all to be dreaded. But the consequence of wanting one, according to my ideas, formed from the present view of things, is certain and inevitable ruin.

Personal Sacrifice
It’s well known that Washington loved to dance.  He regularly held parties at Mount Vernon, always comfortable with a large group of his friends.  They would gather frequently and dance the night away.  This passage is from a book called General Washington’s Christmas Farewell:

After more than eight years of war, Washington was impatient to return home.  The unpretentious and unfinished country house, its wood panels shaped and covered with a sandy white paint to resemble wood stone, was still without a completed cupola and weather vane. Eight square wooden pillars already fronted the portico overlooking the broad waters of what was then known as the Potowmack. Mount Vernon and the postwar improvements he wanted to make to it had rarely been out of Washington’s thoughts since the shooting had stopped. He had lived on the property, purchased by his father as Little Huntington Creek Plantation in 1735, since he was three years old. At nineteen, in 1751, he had inherited it from his half-brother Lawrence.

Since May 4, 1775, Washington had been back only once, for a few days in October 1781, during the culminating Yorktown campaign. Nearly fifty-two, his once reddish hair was graying above a Roman profile weather beaten by early exposure as a surveyor, planter, and frontier soldier and etched by smallpox at nineteen. He felt physically and emotionally drained. In the limbo between war and peace, his weight, on a solid six-foot-four frame, had burgeoned to 209 pounds. To his worshipers, military and civilian, to whom he symbolized the new United States, Washington embodied rocklike perseverance. He appeared even more majestic and larger than life late in 1783 than in his lean and anxious early years directing what seemed an unwinnable war.

The Pretenders: Show and Tell
I see this picture of Dick and Lynn Cheney, making great sacrifice in a time of war, just like Washington did.  And here’s George and Laura -- what pressure they’re under. And here's their Christmas card -- which shows them actuated by principles of honor.  And here’s a few of Big Oaf in his string of career fields that tend to draw narcissistic personalities.  One in his first career as a self-indulgent body-builder.  Another from his next career as a self-centered actor playing a fantasy action figure.  And finally, two conducting strategic maneuvers as he prepares for battle, here and here, in his quest to become a self-ingratiation Governor. What an honorable lot these people are, sacrificing every day in a time of war, away from home for eight years running. Just like George Washington was.

A belated acknowledgment goes to Riggsveda, whose post suggesting we replace the values talk with a focus on honor triggered my thoughts here.

February 2, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (2)

January 12, 2005

Teleprompter Tom: The Greatest Failure

The editors of Washington Monthly must surely have their collective heads up their you-know-whats to have identified Tom Brokaw as a potential Democratic candidate for president.  The mere suggestion puts a giant underscore on what ails America: its confusion between celebrity images and competent leadership.  Surely fifty years from now, with the advantage of detached observation, historians will note that it was the press itself that enabled America's essential failures in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. If it was the press that failed, then Tom Brokaw was a prominent part of that failure.

Accountability Is Through The Press
On October 14, 2003, on National Public Radio, David Gergen -- the former White House adviser to four presidents--Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton – had something to say on the role of the media.  This was during the period when the Bush administration was painting a rosy picture of the situation in Iraq and was complaining because the press was reporting negative news. On the relationship between the White House and the press Gergen said:

The issue is whether you answer tough questions on a regular basis from people who are assigned to cover you in a professional way, and the reason openness is so important is we have a form of government in which, unlike a parliamentary system where a prime minister has to be accountable to the parliament, and members of the prime minister's Cabinet have to be accountable to parliament, but the prime minister has to go in for questions and answers regularly in front of a parliament -- in our system, we don't have that.  And what we substitute for it is the press asking questions, and accountability is through the press.  It's a question of whether the president and the White House are going to be accountable to the people for the extraordinary power that is entrusted to them through an elective process.  And that's why it's so necessary that it become a regular part of White House life. And our best presidents go back to Franklin Roosevelt;  he had a war on his hands, and he held press conferences on average twice a week throughout his presidency, right through the Depression, right through the war.  Nobody had more overwhelming problems than Roosevelt, and by the way, it also served him politically because the people did feel more connected to him.  Were the press a filter in those days?  Of course. But also, the larger question was one of accountability.

Today, the question is about the failure of press to push accountability at all costs. In their blind haste to mention Brokaw as a Democratic candidate for President, Washington Monthly noted that he has interviewed more foreign leaders than most candidates can name. So fucking what? Do we keep score by how worldy the press appears, rather than by the accountability of government question? Well apparently so.

It's Wes Clark's Fault
This is just what I expected from a prominent and competent journalist.  During the run up to the Democratic primary, Brokaw was awarded the prestigious Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club.  Standing before an audience of his peers, adorned in a formal black tuxedo, Brokaw worked into his delivery a major diss on Wesley Clark.  He joked (kidding on the square, of course) that Clark had more positions on the Iraq war than the 800 pages that made up the Administration's Iraq war plan.  That's nice, Tom.  How apropos.  It couldn't be that Wesley Clark had a single position on the Iraq war, but that it was so highly nuanced, and accurate, that you just didn’t get it.

Two of Brokaw’s best friends, Tim Russert and Bob Schieffer, gave speeches at the ceremony.  In a classic mutual-admiration-society-for-co-dependent-flatterers, Russert and Schieffer heaped lavish praise on Brokaw.  It was sweet. It reminded me of when I put too much syrup on my pancakes and gagged after eating them.  I'm convinced that Brokaw, Schieffer, and Russert coordinated their attacks on Clark.  Check the Meet The Press transcripts, along with Face The Nation, and anything you can find on Brokaw.  It's telling that the three had the same opinion of Clark, and coming from where they sat, their attacks were far more devastating to Clark than anything that came from Fox News.

Say Hello To Judith For Me
And what was Brokaw up to during the presidential debates, a time when the Republican lie machine continually spewed false stories?  What did Tom do in his post-debate interview with Rudy Giuliani when his fellow lisper launched spiteful hatred of Kerry while heaping disgusting, disingenuous praise on George Bush?  Well, he did NOT hold Rudy accountable for anything said.  He only gave a relaxed, agreeable smile for his friend.  Any Democrat who saw it would have recoiled at the sight. I did.

After the debate, Giuliani’s bodyguards whisk him through crowds, ignoring shouting reporters, past the jealous gaze of pols like Henry Cisneros. Giuliani goes directly from the front row of the debate audience to a seat beside Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw in the NBC booth overlooking the theater and serves up the red-meat Bush party line. There’s grins all around once the cameras are off and the earpieces removed. “Say hello to Judith for me,” Brokaw says, slapping Giuliani firmly on the back.

Which brings me to Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation.  The greatest form of self-validation is to declare things great and big.  Brokaw's omniscience allows him to judge entire generations. He must be great to be able to do so. For Russert, it was his father, Big Russ. What better way to declare your own greatness than by writing a book telling how great your father was, which would be completely unworthy of publishing if it weren't for the fact that it was your father's son, yourself, who happened to really be the great one.

But these guys are confused about where they got their advantage.  The lofty perch where they sit is upon an artificial heirarchy that results only from the limited number of players in the television news arena ...  millions of viewers, but only a few places for them to get spoon-fed news.  If you hold the key position in the hierarchy, and you carefully read the words coming off the prompter, you're going to do very well.  In fact, people will think you're great.

But the perceived greatness is only an illusion.  In reality, Brokaw and Russert are servile incompetents who, unfortunately for America, have the responsibility to be the stewards of truth for the people, the responsibility to hold political figures accountable for what they do and say.  On that score, Brokaw and Russert are part and parcel of the greatest failure.

January 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

January 02, 2005

Never Trust The King With The Army

How John Kerry lost the election really isn't that complicated and dovetails with MY's post on Lessons Learned.  Kerry can't be the candidate against unjust wars (see: Going Upriver) and also be the candidate who supported the invasion of Iraq (if only it was done properly.) In voting to pass the authority to go to war to Bush, Kerry made a political-calculus-error that proved to be his undoing. Evil genius Rove zeroed in on this, completely neutered Kerry on the topic (remember him pressing Kerry on whether he would take his vote back), and the rest, as they say,  is history.  As John Bonifaz describes in his book Warrior King: The Case For Impeaching George W. Bush, that vote violated the War Powers Clause of the Constitution:

"In drafting the War Powers Clause of Article 1, Section 8, the framers of the Constitution set out to create a nation that would be nothing like the model established by European monarchies. This is why they made the momentous decision of whether or not to send this nation into war a matter to be decided solely by the people, through their elected representatives in Congress."

Before you say that it was Congress who made the choice for war, consider another example from Bonifaz. He says:

"Imagine this: The United States Congress passes a resolution which states: "The President is authorized to levy an income tax on the people of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to pay for subsidies to U.S. oil companies." No amount of legal wrangling could make such a resolution constitutional. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants the power to levy taxes solely to Congress."

The people have been failed by both parties, and this includes Kerry, Edwards, Hillary, and all the rest who thought Iraq would be a cakewalk, and thus voted their presidential aspirations instead of their principles.  When Rove told his little puppet to call Kerry on whether he would take back his Iraq war vote, and Kerry said no, that he would vote the same way he did before, his fate was sealed.  The disaster we're in should be sufficient proof of why you don't trust the King with the army.

P.S.  I should also point out that before they rationalize the war vote, people should google to read what Bob Graham, Robert Byrd, and others had to say about the war resolution.   It was no secret in Congress that giving this power to Bush violated a fundamental principle of American government.  Those who got on the Iraq bandwagon should regret that they did.  Again, the results we see are undeniable.

January 2, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

December 22, 2004

Deconstructing Deception

Now that the Republican Party has institutionalized the art of political deception, how sustainable is it?  Kevin Drum hits that chord with his latest post and it's drawing out some of his top commentators.  I don't know the answer, but I would say it unfortunately depends on the press, since they are the only ones who can break the lies down expeditiously, and then trump them before a mass audience.

What everyone is up against, however, is the president's invisible cabinet, which includes the Deputy of Rhetoric, the speechwriter who aims to put a touch of Cicero in every utterance coming out of the president's mouth.  Then there's the Deputy of Self-Interest, the role played by Dick Cheney, whose frame of reference is always, if every American accumulated wealth and power the way I do, wouldn't America be wealthier and more powerful? This Reaganesque-maxim (if I can do it, everybody can) gets translated into policy.  And finally, there is the Deputy of Deception, Karl Rove, the resident evil genius who architects the Machiavellian lies.

Notably missing is a Deputy of Ethics, which is the way  Machiavelli said it should be. It's all about the presentation layer, and that is what Rove is so skilled at manipulating.  With the press now corporatized, and with their mission unambiguously aligned with the shareholder, they lay down for the Republican cause and nothing is left to protect the public interest from private greed. By failing in its traditional role to cross-check the politician, the press sustains a system that will only come to an end when it collapses under its own weight, something that may not happen for a very long time. 

December 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 18, 2004

Fathers Be Good To Your Daughters

F3dx85r2_1Before something bad happens.

This is a picture of my teenage daughter fishing innocently off the end of the pier.

I ... I can't quite explain what happened ... but it started one day at Wal-Mart ...

End Of Innocence.

(via Snarkmarket)

December 18, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

December 15, 2004

A Homeland Security Announcement From The Letterman Show

For those who missed it last night, Letterman used a serious prelude to set up this comic bit about an announcement from the Department of Homeland Security.  Imagine the script scrolling slowly on the screen as Alan Kalter's voice attempts to put us at ease:

In light of recent embarrassing developments, the Department of Homeland Security assures all Americans that a new Director will be named soon.

He or she will be experienced, tireless . . . and hopefully . . .

doesn't have ties to a mob-connected construction company,

make $6 million on shady stock options,

accept thousands of dollars of unreported gifts,

hire an illegal nanny,

partake in an inmate cigarette scandal,

get served an arrest warrant for non-paid condo bills,

wrongly block a colleague's promotion,

use the police department to research a book he was writing,

and nail two different women behind his wife's back.

The Department of Homeland Security.  Working every day.

December 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 13, 2004

The Bold and the Bashful

Digby makes it plain that if you never draw a line in the sand, you'll get your ass handed to you.  Maybe it's time to revisit this report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which chronicled Cheney's activity leading up to October of 2002, a time when he and President Pea-Brain were whipping the world into a war-frenzy:

In the second period, the shift, described in Part II, between prior intelligence assessments and the October NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] suggests, but does not prove, that the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by policymakers' views sometime in 2002.  Although such situations are not unusual, in this case, the pressure appears to have been unusually intense.  This is indicated by the Vice President's repeated visits to CIA headquarters [footnote 123] and demands by officials for access to the raw intelligence from which analysts were working. [footnote 124]  Also notable is the unusual speed with which the NIE was written and the high number of dissents in what is designed to be a consensus document. [footnote 125]  Finally, there is the fact that political appointees in the Department of Defense set up their own intelligence operation reportedly out of dissatisfaction with the caveated judgments being reached by the intelligence professionals. [footnote 126]  Although some of those who were involved have claimed that analysts did not feel pressured, it strains credulity to believe that together these five aspects of the process did not create an environment in which individuals and agencies felt pressured to reach more threatening judgments of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs than many analysts felt were warranted. [footnote 127]

Now, contemplate the sources that fed this and ask whether it's credible or not.  If it is, shouldn't someone draw a line in the sand by calling for impeachment?  I don't think we'll ever find anything more egregious or more costly than going to war on a lie.  And the damning evidence isn't going away.

[123] John Aloysius Farrel, "Cheney's Intelligence Role Scrutinized,"  Denver Post, July 23, 2003, sec. A, p. 1;  Ackerman and Judis, "The Operator"; Walter Pincus and Dana Priest, "Some Iraq Analysts Felt Pressure From Cheney Visits," Washington Post, June 5, 2003, sec A, p. 1.

[124] Greg Miller, "CIA May Have Been Out of the Loop," Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2003, sec. 1, p. 1; Seymour Hersh, "The Stovepipe," New Yorker October 27, 2003, p. 77.

[125] Ackerman and Judis, "The Operator"; Pincus, "Intelligence Report for Iraq."

[126] Eric Schmitt, "Aide Denies Shaping Data to Justify War," New York Times, June 5, 2003, sec. A, p. 20; Greg Miller, "Pentagon Defends Role of Intelligence Unit on Iraq," Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2003, sec. 1, p. 8; Michael Duffy, Perry Bacon, Timothy Burger, James Carney, John Dickerson and Mark Thomson, "Weapons of Mass Disappearance," Time Magazine, June 9, 2003, p. 28.

[127] Stuart Cohen, "Iraq's WMD Programs: Culling Hard Facts from Soft Myths, November 28, 2003, available at (accessed December 1, 2003).  This is a longer version of an article originally published in the Washington Post on November 28, 2003.

Link to Summary is here.
Link to entire text in pdf format is here.

Above paragraph excerpted from Page 50, column two.

December 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 10, 2004

CBS' Competitive Imperative

PressThink makes a suggestion to CBS.  I would add that the managing editors at the networks have to realize that truth has a competitor called obfuscation. It's not enough to report an important fact. The editor must make sure it registers with the audience, which means understanding - and overcoming - the other messages the audience hears. In other words, the competitive imperative for the networks has shifted from just getting a story to ensuring the audience perceives the difference between truth and fiction. CBS is under no obligation to change, but if they don't, they will fall victim to the giant flanking maneuver that's underway beginning now, according to this fascinating eight minute flick (via RConversation.)

December 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 09, 2004

Pin The Tail On The Elephant

Dictator Bush's social security reform plan has been under Kevin Drum's deconstruction microscope lately (here, here and here), giving rise to this thought:  Why not let Our Compassionate Dictator do a little dirty work for us?

If we believe the following to be true ...

1.  Social Security is not perfect.

2.  Taxes on investments hurt the middle class.

3.  Uncoupling health insurance from business is good.

... then maybe Daddy Polibucks can get the ball rolling for us.  He does, after all, specialize in breaking things.  So let him be the fuck-up, and the next liberal administration can come along to do the fixing.   Except the post-reform fix will be something like this:

- the middle class will continue untaxed on investment gains, while those with high net worth or income will lose that privilege.  (Gotta balance the budget.)

- privatized social security accounts will carry government guaranteed minimums, but can do better based on higher returns in the market, if the market performs.

- universal healthcare for all.

Yeah, I know this is half-baked, but you get the idea.  Fake right, go left.  The door to higher returns for those with lower income is through the self-enrichment tendencies of the Republicans.  We can continue to feign protestation so President Pea-Brain doesn't suspect an ulterior motive, but the  opportunity here is to leverage Bush's galloping ambition and limited ability in a way that benefits the middle class.  And he takes the blame for everything that goes wrong in the transition.

December 9, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 06, 2004

The Last Tribe Standing

This passage from Norman Mailer's Why Are We At War? threads nicely with Digby's latest.  Mailer delivered these comments in a speech to The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, just days before the Bush Tribe launched its invasion of Iraq.

Because democracy is noble, it is always endangered.  Nobility, indeed, is always in danger.  Democracy is perishable.  I think the natural government for most people, given the uglier depths of human nature, is fascism.  Fascism is more of a natural state than democracy.  To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad.  Democracy is a state of grace attained only by those countries that have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it.

The need for powerful theory can fall into many an abyss of error.  One could, for example, be wrong about the unspoken motives of the administration.  Perhaps they are not interested in Empire so much as trying in good faith to save the world.  We can be certain at least that Bush and his Bushites believe this.  By the time they are in church each Sunday, they believe it so powerfully, tears come to their eyes.  Of course, it is the actions of men and not their sentiments that make history.  Our sentiments can be flooded with love within, but our actions can produce the opposite.  Perversity is always looking to consort with the best motives in human nature.

David Frum, who was a speechwriter for Bush (he coined the phrase "axis of evil"), recounts in The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush what happened at a meeting in the Oval Office last September [2002].  The President, when talking to a group of reverends from the major denominations, told them,

You know, I had a drinking problem.  Right now, I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office.  There is only one reason that I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar: I found faith.  I found God.  I am here because of the power of prayer.

That is a dangerous remark.  As Kierkegaard was the first to suggest, we can never know where our prayers are likely to go nor from whom the answers will come.  When we think we are nearest to God, we could be assisting the Devil.

"Our war with terror," says Bush, "begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end ... until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated."  But, asks Eric Alterman in The Nation, what if America ends up alienating the whole world in the process?  "At some point, we may be the only ones left," Bush told his closest advisers, according to an administration member who leaked the story to Bob Woodward.  "That's okay with me.  We are American."

December 6, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 03, 2004

Outsourcing's Greatest Story Laid To Rest

IBM is selling its personal computer business saying it wants to invest in strategic growth areas like software and chips.

Software and chips.  Software and chips.  Software and chips.  Thinking.

Ah yes, it was only a quarter of a century ago that IBM's finest stood around the design table admiring the new PC.  One of the geniuses said, "Let's outsource the operating system and the chip because we don't want to invest in non-strategic, low-growth areas like software and chips."  Another one replied, "Yeah, we can make the boxes.  No one else could possibly do the boxes.  Just think how many boxes we'll ship."

Today, IBM likes to keep its strategic assets in-house, if it can recognize them.  But whenever possible, it still prefers to outsource the more worthless commodities - like people - by replacing them with overseas knockoffs.  "There's not much strategic growth in people," the current genius said.

When asked about IBM's faulty strategic thinking in the '80s the genius replied, "But we sure looked nice in our three-piece suits, didn't we?"

Yeah, you sure did.  And Microsoft, Intel, and Dell laughed (and are still laughing) all the way to the bank.

December 3, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 01, 2004

Digby Finds The Sweet Spot Again

His earlier reference to the Puritan movement in 1690s Massachusetts, and his latest post, reminds me of Richard Bushman’s 1967 masterpiece From Puritan To Yankee in which the author describes how New England society threw off the shackles of Puritan influence.  Remarkably, this transition away from Puritanism, and toward individual freedom, was largely accomplished by the 1760s, just in time (not coincidentally) for the American Revolution.  Oscar Handlin, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and renowned former Harvard professor,  writes in the forward to the book:

No attempt to trace the history of liberty can deal with the detached individual in isolation.  Freedom is a condition not of the single man alone but of man in relationship to a community.  The group protects him against the misuse of the power of others and provides the setting within which he can advantageously exercise his own powers.  Therefore, changes in the nature of the community, which necessarily either increase or restrain the capacity of the individual to act, affect his liberty.
Particulary significant in the analysis of the process by which the Puritans became Yankees is the light it throws on the relationship between society and individual personality.  The description of the forces in the community that gave birth to the wish to be free, among men brought up in a closed order, illuminates an important, and neglected, facet of the history of liberty in the United States.

How ironic.  The demise of Puritan religious influence coincides with the emergence of liberty, the very same liberty that was to become the foundation of America.  Richard Bushman, the book's author, describes the process of elections in Puritan days, and how a government meshed with religion was opposed to the concept of Democracy.

Election of these officials, even the highest, did not diminish their authority or make them responsible to the people.  Democracy, in the Puritan view, was nongovernment, or anarchy, and rulers had to constrain [themselves] not to obey a corrupt popular will.  Election was a device for implementing divine intentions rather than for transmitting power from the people to their rulers.

Bushman provides a contemporaneous quote from John Bulkley's work The Necessity of Religion (Boston 1713) to illustrate the poli-religious thinking of the day:

In elective states, where persons are advanced by the suffrage of others to places of rule, and vested with Civil Power, the persons choosing give not the power, but GOD.  They are but the instruments of conveyance.

So, as Bushman concludes, “rulers were obligated to God, not to the people.”  What better describes George W. Bush's political philosophy and the direction he has driven our nation?  Replace God with Allah and ask the same question about bin Laden.  Bush and bin Laden are birds of a feather, each believing himself to be a divine instrument of good, and the other evil.

Finally, I found this passage in the book to be both compelling and frightening.  It speaks to the oppressive and coercive power that results when you mix religion with government, and mix both with other means of authority, such as the family father.  (Lackoff anyone?)  There are two other ironic references to note, the one the author makes to "wolves in the wilderness" and another about the Puritan belief in a "war of good and evil."

The combined force of so many institutions invested law and authority with immense power.  In nearly every dimension of life – family, church, the social hierarchy, and religion – a [citizen] encountered unanimous reinforcement of governing authority.  The total impact was immense, because each institution was an integral part of a monolithic whole.  In each community the agencies of law and authority merged so that the individual felt himself confined within a unified governing structure.  The preacher’s exhortation to submit to domestic government reinforced the father’s dominion in his family.  Church discipline carried added terrors because censures were delivered before the neighbors and the town’s most prominent families, and the assignment of pews in the meetinghouse according to social rank reminded everyone of the distinctions among individuals and of the deference due superiors.  The total environment enjoined obedience: the stately figure of minister or commissioner as he rode through town, the leading inhabitants’ imposing two-storied houses standing near the meetinghouse at its center, the austere graves of the dead in its shadow.  As interpreted by the minister’s sermon, even the natural world – the storms, the wolves in the wilderness, and the catastrophes at sea – spoke of the war of good and evil and of God’s mighty government.  Social institutions, conscience, and the forces of nature meshed in the communal experience to restrain rebellious dispositions.

After reading this, the parallels are clear that the current movement afoot in our society -- the movement to infuse religion into government -- is working against, and not for, the very same liberty upon which America was founded.

Remarkably, Bushman's book is still in print, more than forty years after it was written.  You can find it in almost every library, or here from the original publisher, Harvard University Press.  I found it for $3 at one of my favorite haunts, Half Price Books.

December 1, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

November 30, 2004

An Open Letter To General J.C. Christian

Dear General,

Your letter to Principal Craft this morning reinforces the notion that Democracy has eroded the Christian faith in our modern society, especially in light of the provable fact that most eligible voters do not worship Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let me finish.

Rough estimates indicate that only half of the American adults over the age of 18 -- those deemed eligible to vote -- actually voted.  Since roughly 25% of the total pool -- or only about half of the half who were eligible -- actually voted for Our Leader, it is clear that about 75% did NOT vote for Our Leader.  If 75% did not vote for Our Most Christian President, they must therefore be athiests and non-believers.  In keeping with your insightful post on Christian math, I am providing the algebraic proof of the foregoing:

(1/2 EV x 1/2 AV) = TB
(where EV = eligible voters, AV = actual voters, and TB = true believers)

Solving for TB, we get 50% x 50% = 25% true believers.

Then (1 - TB) = NB, where NB = non-believers or

1 - 25% = 75% heathen infidels and 25% Christians.  (They're either with us or against us.)

Now to the more immediate point that Democracy poses a threat to Christianity.  I reported a few days ago about an extraordinary believer who through exacting research had uncovered the roots of Christianity's demise.  Here is the money quote from his book:

Democracy, in the Puritan view, was non-government, or anarchy, and rulers had to constrain [themselves] not to obey a corrupt popular will.  Election was a device for implementing divine intentions rather than for transmitting power from the people to their rulers.

The author uncovered more proof in the writing of a Christian pundit from the year 1713:

In elective states, where persons are advanced by the suffrage of others to places of rule, and vested with Civil Power, the persons choosing give not the power, but GOD.  They are but the instruments of conveyance.

This is how things were when Christianity had a solid grip on society.  It is needless to say much more on this topic, since immediately after the period of Puritan Rule the American Revolution began, which, sadly, led to the onset of freedom.

Now to my final point.  You wrote to Principal Craft about the necessity of a Christian Cultural Revolution.  I suggest the Revolution will be more successful if we eliminate the word "Leader" as a reference to Our Most Christian President.  Let me finish.

My fear is -- and fear is an important part of religion -- that the use of "Leader" suggests to the proletariat, and the Frenchified liberals, that ours is a participative government "of the people", in which "the people" have a voice to be heard.  In this sense, and as mathematically proven above, Democracy works against a good Christian government.  The words lead, leader, leading, and leadership all suggest that people will move toward Christianity voluntarily.  Of course, we know this is not true.  Therefore, I suggest the more strident term "Our Ruler" when referring to Our Most Christian President.  I realize this will necessitate the changing out of a great number of billboards  and murals but surely the effort will prove worthwhile, once Christianity, the only true religion, enfolds the world.

P.S.  About the wall mural,


are you offering it in post card size?  I would like to use it as a holiday card this season to send to my friends and neighbors, and to my children's school teachers.

November 30, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

November 27, 2004

Meet The Republicans

In keeping with Daschle's wish that Americans find common ground, it might be useful to regularly highlight a member of the Republican Party in order to get to know them better.  Meet Tom Vail.  He's getting an extended fifteen minutes because he claims Jesus Christ let him in on what has heretofore been one of God's little secrets.

Name: Tom -- Then I Met The Lord -- Vail
Occupation: Christ-centered motorized rafting trips through the Grand Canyon and Bush administration partner in promoting evidence that the Grand Canyon was created by GOD 4,500 years ago* -- as a result of Noah's Flood.
Major Win: A joint-venture with Bush-anointed religious cronies in the National Park Service hierarchy.  Partnership uses NPS gift shops to peddle creationism as science.
Biography: “For years as a Colorado River guide, I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time span of millions of years. Then I met the Lord. Now I have a different view of the Canyon, which according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than a few thousand years old.”
Found Jesus: A couple of years ago.
Attorney: The Alliance Defense Fund. PDF Letter to Gail Norton, Secretary of the Interior.
Opposition: The National Park Service rank and file, and PEER - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility .
Publicity: Time Magazine - Faith Based Parks? Creationists meet the Grand Canyon.

Washington Post - Review Delayed on Sale of Creationist Book at Grand Canyon.

ABC News - Religious Conservatives Demand Changes at Nation's Parks.

World Net Daily - Feds OK'd biblical Grand Canyon book? 

*NOTE:  My outdated book Chronicle of the World (Paris, 1989) just might support Big Tom's assertion.  Looking at what was going on in the world 4,500 years ago (circa 2496BC), here is what I find:

2500BC - Peru.  The inhabitants of Waywakas are fashioning objects from gold.

2500BC - Near East.  Bronze is becoming a popular material for the manufacture of arms and tools.

2500BC - Mexico.  Pottery and weaving are developing in central Mexico.

2500BC - South America.  The selection and hybridization of maize have given a great boost to crop yields.  As a result the population is growing and large permanent villages have been set up.  Long-distance trade routes are being forged.

2500BC - Mesopotamia.  The world's first libraries are being set up at Shuruppak (Fara) and Eresh (Abu-Salabikh).  They include texts concerned with the trials of daily life reflected in the proverbs: My wife is in the temple, my mother is by the riverside, while I am here dying of hungerA spendthrift housewife adds illness to worries;  You can have a master, you can have a king, but a man to be feared is the tax collector.  [ed. note:  these are real entries]

2496BC - No Entry.

2450BC - Mesopotamia.  Eannatum, a member of the dynasty founded by Ur-nanshe at Lagash in Sumer, has recorded an account of his victorious wars on the "Stele of Vultures".  He tells how he tried to dominate the whole of Sumer and led his armies as far as Mari to the northwest and Elam (Iran) to the east.

As best I can tell, in 2496BC there were no activities underway in what would become Arizona, so GOD could have created the Grand Canyon then.  If he was careful and took his time, he probably could have made it without the people in Mexico and South America hearing him or feeling the earth shake.  And the folks in Mesopotamia were too busy visiting the world's first public library to have even noticed.  Big Tom Vail does the Republicans proud.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  In checking around the internets, I found the following recently updated entry for Chronicle of the World:

2496BC - Flagstaff.  GOD started a new project this year by laying down the Colorado River as the northern border of Arizona.  According to His master plan, since Arizona would become the Grand Canyon State, He thought it would be wise to have the river run through a great big canyon here.  He would make a canyon so big it would become one of the seven wonders of the world. I mean, this fucker is big.  Big and GOD-like, for big fucking human egos.  GOD-like egos.  Unbeknownst to mankind, GOD left a memorial embedded deep within a hidden cavern.  The memorial reads:

This canyon is for Tom, who suffers from exagerrated self-importance and delusions of grandeur.  He confuses his many years of working here at the Grand Canyon as having knowledge of something divine, something non-human.  That's not nice and I am appalled.  Therefore, I sentence Tom to the Republican Party where other self-important, delusional thinkers abound.

November 27, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

November 17, 2004

Did George Bush Invoke Sally Hemmings?

Imagine Letterman's Late Night skit called Is This Anything, because I don't know if this is anything or not.  Everyone knows Bush has a very close relationship with Condi, right?  White president, black subordinate, a really, really close relationship. Hmmm. So what does Bush do in the nominating speech?  He brings up Thomas Jefferson.

President Announces Nomination of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State

I know that the Reverend and Mrs. Rice would be filled with pride to see the daughter they raised ... chosen for the office first held by Thomas Jefferson.

Now, just to add to the shits and giggles, the New York Times editorial today said ...

Ms. Rice is going to be first and foremost a loyal servant  ...


An AP report noted that ...

... in Europe, Rice has raised some eyebrows ...


And the Boston weighed in by quoting a pundit ...

She's going to need a whole new wardrobe ...


The Times editorial noted that Condi "makes the president feel comfortable" -- aw, isn't that sweet -- but said they were more concerned that she "seemed to tell him what he wanted to hear."

There there, pumpkin.



Brian Montopoli at Columbia Journalism Review also noticed something rather overt.

November 17, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

November 13, 2004

CSI, Ramallah: Arafat's October-Surprise Onset of Death


Isn't it curious how the Administration is back on plan now, so to speak?  Recall that immediately after demonstrating the coercive powers of American military might, by shocking and aweing Iraq, the administration made a strong push to force the Road Map as the default solution for the Middle East.  The coercive approach lost its punch when everyone realized that Iraq was not the decisive victory that had been claimed, and that many outside of Iraq were insufficiently shocked and awed.

So the plan took a painful detour down Quagmire Lane.

Well, it seems with Arafat out of the picture, all is right again with Bush foreign policy doctrine, and the president is playing a host of cards timed with his re-election.  The military strategy shifts to Schrecklichkeit as Fallujah is rolled.  Bush reclaims his mandate, and starts cleaning out his closet, er, cleaning up his cabinet.  Ashcroft is out as Attorney General, and Alberto Gonzales is coming in.  (A Bush appointed AG is required to be as malleable as silly puddy, and should demonstrate prior experience obviating laws through good, solid, legal rhetoric.)

And, most fortunately, Arafat cooperated by extinguishing at just the right moment, leaving a full four years to push the Road Map through.

Don't you love it when a plan comes together?  It's like post-orgasm bliss for Bush.  You can see it in his step.  As Yogi Berra would say, it's megalo-hubris all over again.

By the way, how did Arafat die?

The Washington Post says:

Arafat died early Thursday in a military hospital outside Paris, where he had been taken Oct. 29 for treatment of what doctors said were apparently digestive and blood disorders.

Apparently?  Digestive and blood disorders?  October?

How Rasputinous.

Better call in CSI, Ramallah to investigate Arafat's mysterious and timely death.


Arafat's doctor: Poison is 'highest' probability


The precise date of onset for Arafat's demise is interesting.  On October 20th, Palestinian officials deny Arafat hit with mysterious illness.

Reports of Arafat ill health denied

Gaza, Gaza, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Palestinian officials are denying Israeli reports Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat needed to be airlifted to Cairo to undergo surgery.

On the same day, the 20th, Atrios noticed this obscure article:

That's weird.

Bush in Crawford on Saturday?

WASHINGTON - President Bush is turning Pennsylvania into his "Northern White House," visiting the battleground state as often as his home in Crawford, Texas.
He will be back in Texas on Saturday for his 41st visit since he was sworn into office in 2001.

Strange time in the campaign for a rest.

Indeed.  Quite strange.


Here's Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker where he reveals an extremely secretive unit that was set up, among other things, to knock off high value targets.  This was from last May when he broke the Abu Ghraib torture story:

Rumsfeld … authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate “high value” targets in the Bush Administration’s war on terror. A special-access program, or sap—subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security—was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon.

The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps. America’s most successful intelligence operations during the Cold War had been , including the Navy’s submarine penetration of underwater cables used by the Soviet high command and construction of the Air Force’s stealth bomber. All the so-called “black” programs had one element in common: the Secretary of Defense, or his deputy, had to conclude that the normal military classification restraints did not provide enough security.


“Rumsfeld’s goal was to get a capability in place to take on a high-value target—a standup group to hit quickly,” a former high-level intelligence official told me. “He got all the agencies together—the C.I.A. and the N.S.A.—to get pre-approval in place. Just say the code word and go.” The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said.


Fewer than two hundred operatives and officials, including Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were “completely read into the program,” the former intelligence official said. The goal was to keep the operation protected. “We’re not going to read more people than necessary into our heart of darkness,” he said. “The rules are ‘Grab whom you must. Do what you want.’”

Yet More:

Row Continues Over Mystery Cause of Arafat's Death

Arab world abuzz with Arafat poisoning theory

PA wants Arafat's medical report

Did France Murder Arafat?

November 13, 2004 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

October 29, 2004

Idolator Nation: Bush As The Savior

Billmon speaks on hero worship and excess devotion. Boston liberal, agitator, firebrand, and rebel Samuel Adams expressed the same in a letter to his friend James Warren in January of 1776:

A standing army, however necessary it may be at some times, is always dangerous to the liberties of the people. Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a body distinct from the rest of the citizens. They have their arms always in their hands. Their rules and their discipline is severe. They soon become attached to their officers, and disposed to yield implicit obedience to their commands. Such a power should be watched with a jealous eye. I have a good opinion of the principal officers of our Army. But if this war continues, as it may for years yet to come, we know not who may succeed them. Men who have been long subject to military laws, and inured to military customs and habits, may lose the spirit and feeling of citizens.

And even citizens, having been used to admire the heroism which the Commanders of their own Army have displayed, and to look upon them as their saviors, may be prevailed upon to surrender to them those rights for the protection of which against invaders they had employed and paid them. We have seen too much of this disposition among some of our countrymen.

The militia is composed of free citizens. There is, therefore, no danger of their making use of their power to the destruction of their own rights, or the suffering of others to invade them. I earnestly wish that young gentlemen of a military genius…might be…taught the principles of a free government, and deeply impressed with a sense of the indispensable obligation which every member is under to the whole society. These might in time be fit for officers in the militia, and being thoroughly acquainted with the duties of citizens as well as soldiers, might be entrusted with a share in the command of our Army at such times as necessity might require so dangerous a body to exist.

October 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2004

Winning The Peace In Five Easy Steps

1.  Take down statues and murals.  If completed, go to 2.
2.  Locate flowers and sweets. If completed, go to 3. Otherwise, go to 5.
3.  Hunt for easter eggs. If completed, go to 4. Otherwise, go to 5.
4.  Secure giant munitions cache around al Qaqaa. If not completed, go to 5.
5.  Obfuscate.

October 28, 2004 | Permalink