Friday, November 12, 2004

Notes on the Gonzales Nomination

Now that we begin to see the direction of the Bush II 2nd non-term. It looks like black is no longer the 'in' color. With Condi taking a back seat now that the election nonsense is over with, the nomination if Alfredo “It Ain't Torture if it Don't Show” Gonzales for Attorney General brings up an intriguing possibility.

We know that Colin Powell is on the way out, having passed at the chance for greatness back in 1999 (the GOP nomination was his for the taking), and having failed miserably as Sec State (sold his soul for a mess of yellowcake), he is, and I quote from a 'close source': “tired and embittered”... poor baby. He wants out to write his memoirs, no doubt.

But this gives Shrub an golden opportunity: let's see, we need an Hispanic, with extensive political connections, a worldwide reputation, experience as an entrepreneur, and in government, military experience would be good, as would detailed knowledge of the global drug trade, he should be current on international terrorism and able to mix with all levels of society. Ideally he would be available at the present time, oh, and if it were possible, this candidate should enable Shrub to cock-a-snoot at 'Pappy' Bush...

May I present our next Secretary of State:

Manuel Noriega

Monday, November 08, 2004

An open letter to Ron Wyden

As you all probably know by now, I live in Oregon, one of the Free states. We have a pretty good senator here (and a pretty bad one too) . I wrote to the good one...

Dear Senator Wyden: November 7, 2004

I am a constituent and supporter writing to you about the next four difficult years. I have waited until today partly because I wanted to get past my depression after the election debacle and partly because I wanted to be sure that my words were thoughtful rather than merely plaintive.

    There are three parts to this letter:

  • Analysis of the political campaign

  • Observations on the DNC

  • Suggestions for fighting against the darkness

Analysis of the campaign

I'm a smart guy, you're a smart guy and there are a lot of other smart guys out there in this world... it's just that none of them seem to have been involved the Democratic party during the 2004 presidential race. The only thing that keeps this race from going down as the most inept in Democratic party history, is the fact that the 'honor' has already been taken by the 2000 Democratic presidential campaign.

I worked for 20 years in and around the New York advertising community, these are another bunch of smart guys: they spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on the ads that we all make fun of. They laugh too, all the way to the bank. Those stupid advertising campaigns... work and they work really, really well. Karl Rove knows this, Roger Ailes knows this, Ralph Reed knows this. How come no one in the entire DNC seems to have a clue about this?

Everyone is going on and on about how the Republicans turned out the evangelical vote and how they energized the base and how they did some other political maneuver: bullshit. They won because they understood and used the basic rules of advertising: keep it really simple and keep on repeating it. It doesn't matter if it doesn't fit the facts, it doesn't matter if it isn't true; if it's simple and you keep repeating it, people will believe you. I won't go into the history of this kind of propaganda, you probably know it as well or better than I, suffice it to say that a significant portion of the American electorate (and a huge majority of Republicans) believe to this day that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the destruction of the WTC.

If the Democrats actually want to win anything ever again they must learn this lesson, and the next one as well.

Observations on the DNC

I could rail on against Terry MacAuliffe and the others who 'ran' this campaign, I could question their policies, their commitment, their competency. Indeed, they are seriously at fault in all these areas but that misses the real point. The DNC and Democrats as a group need to recognize that this is not politics as usual. We really are in the middle of a clash of civilizations here... and I'm not talking about Iraq.

If you compare the 2004 electoral college map of the US with a map of pre-Civil War map of the 'free' vs 'slave' states and territories, you will see that they are functionally identical.

Over the past thirty years we have seen several congruent trends; the gradual change of the 'Dixiecrats' to the Republican party, the swing of the southern states, in fact the entire old Confederacy to the Republican party, the ascendance of the 'Southern Strategy' which pretty much says that if you aren't from the South, you can't be President. The takeover of the Republican party by Christian right-wing zealots and the gradual revelation of a plan to fundamentally change the nature of the American Republic. Again, I'm sure I don't have to go into chapter and verse here, you are politically astute and are probably more aware of these trends than I am.

The point I am making here is: the Democratic Party does not seem to be aware that these fanatics are out there determined to turn the US into a Christian version of Iran. Otherwise they would surely be fighting these people tooth and nail.

Here's the point:

We can't be nice anymore, we can't see the other point of view, we can't make compromises, we can't take the high road, we can't sit at the table, we can't decry the partisanship all around us, we can't give an inch.

Because every time we do... we lose.

We lose because they are our enemies: they understand that and we don't.

We lose because they know they are at war with us and we don't.

We lose because we want to include them with us and they don't.

...because they understand the it's them or us... and we don't.

Until we truly 'get' that this really is a fight for survival, we will continue to lose.

I don't know what your standing is within the party, though it must be stronger now by the sheer fact of having survived the 2004 debacle. I hope you will consider the points I have made above, perhaps you already hold some of these positions yourself, and will press for the fundamental changes needed if the Democratic party is to remain a viable choice for the electorate.

Suggestions for fighting against the darkness

I don't envy you the next four years, it's likely to be grueling and frustrating. I know it's presumptuous of me to make these suggestions but being an arrogant SOB I'll offer them anyway:

Pick your battles, I imagine you'll win some procedural battles but the only really effective weapon/threat you have is the filibuster, save it for the really important things.

The way I see it, we're going to lose on most things: Social Security, Medicare, more tax cuts, school prayer, bigotry against gays, and a host of others. Yes, of course, you vote against these changes but they aren't the important ones (mostly because they can be reversed once we get the chance).

The important things, as I see it are: more wars and Supreme Court nominees.

I think it's really important that we don't invade Iran, Syria, North Korea or any other tinpot dictatorship we disapprove of. They don't benefit from it and we surely don't need any more crazed Muslim fanatics (or any other fanatics for that matter) screaming “Death to America” and throwing bombs at us.

Given the propaganda skills of the administration and the gullibility of the electorate, even that will probably be a losing proposition.

The most important fights are going to take place around the Supreme Court. The consequences of confirming bad nominees are momentous, as you well know. The current court has been exceptional only for it's willingness to participate in the coup d'etat of 2000, otherwise it's been pretty undistinguished. No one expected Rehnquist to be another Earl Warren and he sure wasn't. But he's going, soon and there are likely two or even three more close behind him. This will be the battleground on which to make a stand. Nothing will have more lasting impact on the future of our country than the next few Supreme Court members.

The damage that the Republicans can inflict on us legislatively is correctable in a few years or a few election cycles. The damage the Supreme Court can do lasts for generations.

If you have political capital left, this is the place to spend it. If you want a place to filibuster, this is the place.

I don't know whether you actually see letters any more, I hope so but the vast numbers of constituents these days pretty much precludes that, I know. Perhaps my eloquence will get me through...(LOL).

In any event, good luck to you, these next few years aren't going to be a party. If there's any way in which I can help. Feel free to contact me (no, I don't have a lot of spare cash at the moment but that may change).

You've done good work in the past, I am confident you will continue to do so in the future.

With thanks for your time, I am;

...well you all know it's: Kriedigan...

P.S.: I am hoping you'll actually read this. I'm going to try to hand deliver this to your Portland HQ, or use snailmail if I have to. If this just goes onto the 'slushpile', please don't waste the stamp on a standard reply letter.

Friday, October 29, 2004

An Exchange of Views

What follows is an email exchange between me and 'Don' over the past few days. I found it interesting on several levels but ultimately frustrating, as you will see.

Here is Don's original message broadcast to me, among many others. It includes a rather vicious screed against Kerry that you don't need to read to appreciate the dialogue between Don and me.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Interesting view from Britain
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2004 22:43:57 EDT
From: Jamhar To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Interesting view from Britain

From Sue Pollard

Some of you may be familiar with the eminent British historian, Paul Johnson.. I was surprised to see a piece that he wrote about our forthcoming election, and I recommend it as a view from an "outsider". It is not written by a columnist from the Weekly Standard, The Nation, or by any conservative or liberal "talking head", or by some obscure blogger, but from a student of history.
Some may disagree, but I seriously doubt that they can argue the points that Johnson makes.

To save looking, here it is:
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quite simply, Kerry must be stopped; and Bush must win
By Paul Johnson

The great issue in the 2004 election-it seems to me as an Englishman-is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization.

When George W. Bush was first elected, he stirred none of these feelings, at home or abroad. He seems to have sought the presidency more for dynastic than for any other reasons. September 11 changed all that dramatically. It gave his presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission. Now, we can all criticize the way he has pursued that mission. He has certainly made mistakes in detail, notably in underestimating the problems that have inevitably followed the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and overestimating the ability of U.S. forces to tackle them. On the other hand, he has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary. Equally, he has placed these considerations rig ht at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.

There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to "try men's souls," as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: "Let us see who can pound the hardest." Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." However, something persuades me that Bush- with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue-is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative. Senator Kerry has not made much of an impression in Europe, or indeed, I gather, in America. Many on the Continent support him, because they hate Bush, not because of any positive qualities Kerry possesses. Indeed we know of none, and there are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted. First, and perhaps most important, he seems to have no strong convictions about what he would do if given office and power. The content and emphasis of his campaign on terrorism, Iraq, and related issues have varied from week to week. But they seem always to be determined by what his advisers, analyzing the polls and other evidence, recommend, rather than by his own judgment and convictions. In other words, he is saying, in effect: "I do not know what to do but I will do what you, the voters, want." This may be an acceptable strategy, on some issues and at certain times. It is one way you can interpret democracy.

But in a time of crisis, and on an issue involving the security of the world, what is needed is leadership. Kerry is abdicating that duty and proposing, instead, that the voters should lead and he will follow. Second, Kerry's personal character has, so far, appeared in a bad light. He has always presented himself, for the purpose of Massachusetts vote-getting, as a Boston Catholic of presumably Irish origins. This side of Kerry is fundamentally dishonest. He does not follow Catholic teachings, certainly in his views on such issues as abortion-especially when he feels additional votes are to be won by rejecting Catholic doctrine. This is bad enough. But since the campaign began it has emerged that Kerry's origins are not in the Boston-Irish community but in Germanic Judaism. Kerry knew this all along, and deliberately concealed it for political purposes. If a man will mislead about such matters, he will mislead about anything.

There is, thirdly, Kerry's long record of contradictions and uncertainties as a senator and his apparent inability to pursue a consistent policy on major issues.

Fourth is his posturing over his military record, highlighted by his embarrassing pseudo-military salute when accepting the nomination. Fifth is his disturbing lifestyle, combining liberal-even radical-politics with being the husband, in succession, of two heiresses, one worth $300 million and the other $1 billion. The Kerrys have five palatial homes and a personal jet, wealth buttressed by the usual team of lawyers and financial advi sers to
provide the best methods of tax-avoidance. Sixth and last is the Kerry team: who seem to combine considerable skills in electioneering with a variety of opinions on all key issues. Indeed, it is when one looks at Kerry's closest associates that one's doubts about his suitability become certainties. Kerry may dislike his running-mate, and those feelings may be reciprocated-but that does not mean a great deal. More important is that the man Kerry would have as his vice president is an ambulance chasing lawyer of precisely the kind the American system has spawned in recent decades, to its great loss and peril, and that is already establishing a foothold in Britain and other European countries. This aggressive legalism-what in England we call "vexatious litigation"- is surely a characteristic America does not want at the top of its constitutional system.

Of Kerry's backers, maybe the most prominent is George Soros, a man who made his billions through the kind of unscrupulous manipulations that (in Marxist folklore) characterize "finance capitalism." This is the man who did everything in his power to wreck the currency of Britain, America's principal ally, during the EU exchange-rate crisis-not out of conviction but simply to make vast sums of money. He has also used his immense resources to interfere in the domestic affairs of half a dozen other countries, some of them small enough for serious meddling to be hard to resist. One has to ask: Why is a man like Soros so eager to see Kerry in the White House? The question is especially pertinent since he is not alone among the superrich wishing to see Bush beaten. There are several other huge fortunes backing Kerry.

Among the wide spectrum of prominent Bush-haters there is the normal clutter of Hollywood performers and showbiz self-advertisers. That is to be expected. More noticeable, this time, are the large numbers of novelists, playwrights, and moviemakers who have lined up to discharge venomous salvos at the incumbent.

I don't recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals-many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes, from the Soviet empire to Castro's aggressive adventures in Africa, and who have in their time backed Mengistu in Ethiopia, Qaddafi in Libya, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua-seem to have a personal hatred of Bush that defies rational analysis.

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides (one left-wing columnist in Britain actually offered a large sum of money to anyone who would assassinate the president) there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels. As one who regularly reads Le Monde, I find it hard to convey the intensity of the desire of official France to replace Bush with Kerry. Anti- Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America-precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those who stand to profit-politically, financially, and emotionally-from the total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.

Here's my first reply:


I don't want to offend you, but I would guess that we are 180 degrees apart politically. I could foam at the mouth for hours, but let me just be brief: I think that G W Bush is probably the worst president we have ever had, his stupidity, intransigence and arrogance have put our country in the gravest danger both internally and externally. It will take, quite literally, generations to undo the damage he has done to us.

If you wish, I will be glad to take apart Mr. Johnson's essay, point by point. I will also be glad to discuss my opinions with you, should you so desire. I must say that my experience with backers of Mr. Bush has been that their faith in him precludes any critical examination of the facts and functionally protects them from the intrusion of reality.

Let me know if you would like to continue this dialogue.

Craig Della Penna

NB: I would like to add that I do not generally impose my political views on others, as you may have gathered, I am quite opinionated. But I also do not regard politics as affecting other business relations, I am quite content to live and let live.

...and Don's reply

Dear Craig,

I understand your emotional response to a candidate. I have equal ...if not more severe .... reaction to Kerry. Democrates Against Kerry and Anybody But Kerry are two organizations I fully support. I think to have a closet Communist as a candidate, a man who has never held an executive position, a man who has never had to meet a payroll, a man whose campaign plans and promises are 1980 degrees from what his record proves he has stood for in 20 years in Washington, a man who uses his "religion as a crutch but who does not abide by any of his church's foundations ... and on and on .... is the most scary time in American history. As people of Massachusetts have shown their ignorance over the years with Kennedy and Kerry representing them, now we have a cadre of people who also have bought into that stupidity with the excuse they "don't like Bush".

Anyway, it is good to have differing positions. I only think that of all the candidates running for President, Bush is the only one who can keep Kerry from totally destroying our nation and all it has stood for though it's founding and history.


...I thought I saw an opening in the armor:


Yeah, I thought we were diametrically opposed. my problem with your position is manifold.

First, I think that Mr. Bush has already gone a long way towards "totally destroying our nation and all it has stood for though it's founding and history", frankly I think we need to reverse course, since it is empirically evident that this one is not working.

Second, pardon my suspicious nature, but it seems to me that you would find similar spurious objections to anyone who stood in opposition to Mr. Bush. Canards against Mr. Kerry aren't worth your time to write, or mine to read. Kerry's just a good man who served his country and then spoke his mind... as is his right. I could pound on Mr. Bush for pages, but I won't. Instead I'll voice my objections to his followers:

I object to the cult like following so evident in Mr. Bush's retinue, I object to their expropriation of patriotism, I object to their presumption of righteousness, I object to their selfishness and venality, I object to their viciousness and cruelty, I object to their credo: "Might makes right", "The ends justifies the means." and the infamous three-card-monte routine: "Don't look at me, it's not my fault". For an administration that touts its moral superiority to anyone and everyone, I have never seen a single one of them accept responsibility for anything... truly sickening.

Setting aside my moral outrage and my clear partisanship: the presidency is just not that difficult a job, anyone with an average degree of intelligence can do it, I could, you could. The fact of the matter is that whoever is president is surrounded (or should be) by the brightest minds our nation can produce, with vast informational resources and the ability to call upon experts in any conceivable field at a moment's notice. When I see where we came from: peace and prosperity to where we are: economy in tatters and endless war. The answer is quite simple: these people are incompetent and need to be shown the door. I said, I could go on and on, the fact that you've written back is encouraging, it raises the hope that you might see through the nest of charlatans and scoundrels who have hijacked the GOP (Lincoln must be spinning in his grave). Let me know if you want to continue.


...and got disappointed, yet again:

Dear Craig,

Thanks for such a rapid response. Impressive.

No, there is little reason to continue. I have never found it productive to dialogue with profound and adulterated hate. Reason never is or will be heard or considered .. let alone accepted.

Don I signed off:


This is the last one, I promise, but I did not want to let this go with misperceptions of my position unchallenged;

This is not "profound and adulterated hate" (though I think you meant 'unadulterated'). I do not hate Mr. Bush... I am terrified of him. Let me put it in perspective: I hated Nixon, virulently, puissantly, but I was never afraid when he was president because I knew that, in the end, he was too smart to do anything truly stupid as far as the country was concerned (he saved that dumbness for himself).

When Bush was 'elected' I sucked it in and said to myself, "Well, the Supreme Court has spoken and besides there were at least six things Gore should have done and we wouldn't be here." In addition, I thought; he's got Powell, honorable and a sound thinker, Cheney, venal but not stupid, Rumsfeld, arrogant but experienced and bad could it be?

Well a lot of things happened that I didn't like much and thought were ill-advised, to say the least, but we've stumbled through worse as a nation and, I thought, we'll get through this as well.

Then 9/11 happened. Now, I lived in New York for 30 years and I know people who worked in the towers, I hope they jumped rather than waiting for the flames to get them, I've never inquired.

Well, I thought, here's an opportunity for Mr. Bush to make up for the contemptuous way he's treated the majority of folks who actually did not vote for him. And, for a time, it seemed to work that way. I did not object to the war on the Taliban, nor to the attempt to nail Mr. Bin laden, I thought they were proportional, focused and morally justifiable. Most of the world agreed, including 90% of the Muslim nations.

You can imagine my dismay when I saw the march to Baghdad begin, fiction upon fiction, lie upon lie. Idiotic fantasies about troop numbers and capabilities. No hint of a plan for 'afterward'.

And the reality was even worse, just about every conceivable nightmare about fighting a nationwide guerrilla war, provoking fundamentalist fanatics, Americans - Americans! - torturing prisoners. The respect and admiration of the entire world that we worked to engender for decades, the sympathy and friendship we found after 9/11 even from countries not usually our friends... all squandered in a vainglorious and unnecessary war against a tinpot dictator who was only capable of harming his own people.

What a waste, a waste of goodwill, a waste of treasure, a waste of lives.

I don't hate him, Don. I'm terrified of what he'll do to us with four more years.

Before I go I want to recommend that you do some research on the people who have hijacked your party;

Find out who Richard Melon Scaife is and ask yourself what his interest is, why he has financed, among other things, the ten-year war on Mr. Clinton. Get some information on Grover Norquist and ask yourself why he wants to gut Social Security and reduce the US government to penury Hint: he calls it 'Starving the Beast'. Why do you think he calls it that? Investigate Rupert Murdoch, the Australian who owns a significant portion of the broadcast and printed media in United States, including Fox (known in my circles as the new Pravda) .

Basically, be honest and take a look at ideological underpinnings of the new Republican Party and as always: follow the money. Ask yourself who benefits from these tax cuts? Who is doing well in this wartime economy? (Tax cuts during wartime?... but that's another story).

I remember the GOP of Estes Kefauver, Bob Taft, Everett Dirksen, Sam Ervin, honorable men all. They wouldn't recognize this bunch of poltroons.

You accuse me of hatred and unreason, this is not the case. I am terrified of the abuse of power I see committed in the name of the American people every day by these dishonorable men. My capacity to reason has forced me to see through the deception.

My perception is that you have been deceived by crowd of cowards and liars who are not worthy of your loyalty.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Proposal for an Experiment...

This is the land of opportunity, right? We are engaged in a 'democratic experiment" right?

We have 50 little laboratories where we conduct variations on the grand American experiment.

I'd like to propose that we do an experiment, to allow the right wing all their fondest fantasies: laissez-faire capitalism in its raw form. Here are some of the things I've thought of:

No intrusive government regulations telling business what to do, who to hire, what to pay them, what, if any, benefits to provide.

No unions, all 'right-to-work'. No burdensome restrictions on banks, like caps on interest rates.

No punitive legal awards, only compensatory damages.

No judicial sentencing latitude, fixed prison terms for all offenses, no plea bargaining.

No property taxes, income taxes or business taxes (the Constitution only mandates imposts [duty] and excise [manufacture, sale or consumption] taxes)

No public schools or libraries. Schooling would be provided by private charter-type schools or schools run by religious organizations. Libraries, likewise, could be provided by private organizaitons if they so choose. Also, no subsidized public transportation all existing mass transit would be privatized and priced according to the market.

No government support or subsidies for arts, parks, sports or any other superfluous activities. Police services would be absorbed into the general militia which would be empowered to ensure order.

Of course, there would also be no welfare, no social security, no medicare or medicaid.

In respect of our culture's heritage Judeo-Christian moral values and scriptural documents would be honored and respected at all official events: prayers for divine guidance would be mandatory at all government functions.

All citizens would be required to obtain valid identification papers and to carry them at all times for presentation upon demand.

All citizens would be required to at least two years active service in the armed forces and be subject to recall to duty from then on.

I think that we should select a state with significant resources and a history of indpendence so that no one can say we stacked the deck against them. I propose Texas.

I have no doubt that you all have some interesting contributions to make, please let us know about it.

The second part of the exercise would be to set up a prediction pool, my questions:

1. How long before chaos and panic take hold?

2. How long after that before some strongman stages a coup?

3. How long after that before some group or other starts up a socialist/communist insurrection?

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A response to Nicholas Kristof's NYT column of june 30th

Mr. Kristof:

Normally, I find your columns perceptive and edifying. But I think you have gone a bit off course on your column of June 30th.

First, I think you underestimate the anger that has been brewing over the treatment of President Clinton. I had no particular brief for the man but the right wing ferocity and mendacity forced me firmly in his camp. I, and many like me, have not forgotten that he was impeached over chasing Ms. Lewinsky around the Oval Office and lying about it. The use of impeachment for this trivial offense showed us that the right has declared war on the left in this country... there is no longer any gray area ..and let's not forget that the 2000 election is viewed by many as a coup d'etat by the right with the collusion of the Supreme Court. I don't think I will ever forget the news shots of right wing thugs breaking into the voting offices to stop the recount, they might as well have been wearing brown shirts.

Second, you are correct in stating that there is a consensus on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally dishonest. This dishonest attitude permeates his administration in every way. From out and out lies (yellowcake from Niger) to the 'public relations' bills with no funding such as "No Child Left Behind' (and I'm particularly irked by the slimy sanctimonious names these bills have) to the not so subtle drumbeat attacks on individual freedom: Patriot Act, Patriot Act II, CAPS, CAPS II, Mr. Ashcroft's 'request' for all records of women who have had abortions... this list goes on and on. This is, without doubt, the most corrupt administration we have ever had in control of all three branches of government... and I haven't even begun to mention the appalling crossover corruption of megabusiness and the superrich in regards to this administration.

Third, and most disturbing, these people really are zealots. They have a plan which they have articulated and stuck to for 30 years, they intend to take over this country and turn it into a one party state... for ever. This is the statement that usually gets the laughs and snickers of 'another vast right wing conspiracy, eh?' I've always found it interesting that, as the clear statements and the resultant evidence gets more an more obvious, the reaction seems to be 'if I don't admit it's there, then it doesn't exist'

Way back in the 1980's the Republican party and the Christian Coalition made statements as to how they intended to proceed. They would get their members on school boards, into city councils and in state legislatures by whatever means necessary including hiding their affiliation with right wing and religious groups. At that point, they thought it would be possible to take over state governments and begin their attempt to consolidate control over the country entirely.

So far this plan has worked brilliantly.

Another point to remember is that the right wing regards this process as their entitlement, for example they resent the fact that Bill Clinton was elected at all, the thinking being that, if not for Ross Perot, there would be an unbroken line of Republicans in the White House as far as the eye can see.

Tom Delay, that astoundingly corrupt man, has made no secret of his intent to create a permanent Republican majority in both houses of congress. His tactics in Texas resulted in the gain of seven congressional seats for the Republicans at the trivial cost of overturning Texas law on redistricting.

There has been an unbroken stream of political manipulation of the federal judiciary in an attempt (again very successful) to pack the federal bench, at all levels, with right wing ideologues, not just conservative thinkers: Pickering is only one egregious example.

There are also the behind-the-scenes operations: eminence grise Grover Norquist
continues to formulate and fund policies intended to 'starve the beast'. This phrase, as I'm sure you know, means to eliminate the capacity of the federal government to function by means of drastically reducing and/or eliminating taxes. The plan here is to force the federal government to eliminate social programs (medicare, medicaid and social security) entirely for lack of funding, eliminate business and income taxes (for the rich) and eliminate any government oversight of business. Mr. Norquist believes that a true laisse faire economy will result in a cornucopia of benefits for all.
Richard Mellon Scaife, the man who funded the endless Clinton investigations (until congress colluded with them and put Mr. Starr on the case). Is another furtive character who prefers to stay in the background whilst supporting such noble ventures as The American Spectator.

In addition, there is the religious right wing element apparent as far back as the Reagan era with the Moral Majority. Remember Jerry Falwell? He's still around and still working for his vision of a Christian America, where, to paraphrase from his graduation speech at Liberty College, he “Looks forward to the day when the public school system in this country is shut down and replaced by Christian schools”. Let's also not forget about Ralph Reed, formerly head of the Christian Coalition, now head of the Georgia Republican Party and de facto head of the Republican southern regional political operation. These guys have not gone away, they are here and they are zealots and they are effective.

Now I'd like to talk about the saturation of the media, your bailiwick: so far as i can see, the right have, essentially, taken over the mass media. Still voicing shrill cries of 'liberal bias' they now own radio, have the pretty much co-opted television and have managed to relegate most major newspapers to 'so what' status.

Allow me to explain. As to radio, I think no one will argue that this is a right wing wasteland, with the minor exception of Air America, the entire country is blanketed by a never-ending stream of right wing propaganda. Jim Hightower couldn't get himself arrested, even Howard Stern found the going getting tougher as soon as he turned on Bush. So forget radio.

Television, now that's interesting, Fox, of course, is a creature of Rupert Murdoch, yet another of the right wing zealots doing their best for the cause. Fox is almost comic opera, one would think that no one took it seriously yet polls consistently show that Fox is way over the top in size of audience and influence. This has had the inevitable effect of skewing television news media en masse. In their fever to compete with Fox, CNN, MSNBC (parse that acronym) CNBC, ABC, CBS, et al have charged bravely to the right. As a result, spectacularly good reporters like Christianne Ammanpour cannot get airtime. We do not get 'discouraging words', we are fed the pablum you see everywhere. This is why Michael Moore seems so outrageous.
Recently, Tucker Carlson managed to parlay his snide participation on Crossfire into a slot on PBS, riding the horse of 'liberal bias'. His first show featured an hour long guest appearance by... wait for it... Ken Starr. The beat goes on...

On to the print media, the 'gray lady' notwithstanding, I can name fewer than a dozen newspapers in this country that have room for a 'liberal' point of view, not to mention a 'liberal' bias. Can you name more? And it doesn't help that the NYT has shot itself in the foot repeatedly over the past couple of years. Shoddy reporting, nonexistent supervision... what the hell is going on there?

Nevermind, what's happened is that the entire debate has been shifted by the efforts of the right wing. We no longer talk about liberal/progressive issues: extended social benefits, universal health care, living wages. We talk/speak/think only about right wing issues now. We have shifted to center right versus far right.

I could go on and on and on... if you're still reading even now. The real point is that we cannot continue to fool ourselves about the right wing's intentions anymore. To do so would be folly of the worst sort, we must recognize that these people are quite serious, they mean to fundamentally change our form of government in very much the same way as the loathsome theocratic despotisms we see in the middle east. The only difference is that here it will be under a christian rubric.

You have a voice, an important voice even. Please do not underestimate the commitment of the right wing in this country, nor mistake their ultimate intent. They are not friends of freedom and they must be resisted.

Thanks for your time,
Craig Della Penna

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Death of Reagan

Well, at long last, Ronald Reagan is dust. I imagine that all kinds of tributory rhetoric will fill the airwaves for the next few weeks. No doubt even more public parcels will named for him. The conservatives will moan and mumble their praises and lies.

Let me submit a contrarian note. Ronald Reagan was an idiot...much like George Bush, his spiritual inheritor. I spent eight humiliating years apologizing to my european friends for his stupidities, saying: "Yeah, I know, but the vast majority of americans aren't like that." Mirabile dictu, I'm saying it yet again.

Ronald Reagan was a shallow, stupid man. A grade "B" actor who didn't have a thought in his head until he married Nancy. In fact, if you want to know, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease early in his first term, and Nancy effectively ruled the country for most of his second term.

The facts are there if you have eyes, Reagan's economic policies were a disaster: "Voodoo economics" as George Bush the First labelled them. Reagan put this country into a trillion dollar debt situtation, which lasted until, of all people: Bill Clinton bailed us out.

Reagan's foreign policy was a mess as well, his vaunted success against the communists was completely by accident. He had no clue that the USSR was in desperate economic straits. He just wanted to build the biggest aremed forces he could so that...what? So that he could invade the USSR? So that he could invade China?

Apparently so that he could expose 275 US Marines to immanent danger and death. So that he could invade Grenada...GRENADA...!

I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that Reagan was yet another cardboard cutout politician whose only legacy has been to reduce America's reputation in the world to laughingstock status...just like George Bush the Second.

The only difference here is that we have the chance to throw the current idiot occupant of the White House out in November.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Incompetence and Fanaticism

Several recent news articles and programs have forced me to ask the question: is the current administration merely incompetent (on a massive scale) or is this, in fact, a willfully apocalyptic scenario?

While one can argue that staggering incompetence could have the result of combining a throuoghly trashed economy with the destruction of 50 years of foreign policy building; it seems almost too stupid, even for the myopic Bushies.

What could explain our current predicament is the combination of the Grover Norquist, right wing fringe strategy known as 'starve the beast', wherein tax legislation is used to destroy domestic social programs such as: social security, medicare, medicaid and the education department combined with the fundamentalist christian 'armageddon' strategy. That's where the U.S., acting as a 'christian' nation foments a global war against 'heathen' religions most particularly Islam. This apparently is a precursor to the notion of the second coming of the christian messiah (and also fulfills the jewish messiah fable as well). The whole thing involves universal war, the appearance of the anti-christ, the subjugation of the populace, a magical event where true believers are raised up to heaven and the rest of the world is destroyed...generally bad science-fiction but absolute 'fiery finger writing on the wall' stuff to the faithful.

The point is that you can look at the events of the last three years as a series of fumbling stupidities by a bunch of incompetent idiots or you can see these things a series of steps on a path with clear goals in mind.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

War and Responsibility

What does it mean to 'accept full responsibility' as Rumsfeld averred?
My own reading of this includes some form of payment or atonement. A Roman general would have fallen on his sword, a Japanese official would have resigned and possibly committed seppuku, in the American Empire apparently just speaking the words is enough.

Is this now an American Empire? Certainly seems so, but we haven't acknowleged our empire in which case we run all the risks of empire without gaining any of the benefits.

The theory of Iraq invasion that makes the most sense in the real world is that we thought we needed a counterbalance to Saudi Arabia's control over oil. With Iraq in hand, we would control the second largest oilfields and would therefore have some leverage if/when the Saudis turned against us.

If it is an empire, do we guarantee our satraps democracy? How does that jibe with the mechanics of empire?


This is, and will be, a sometime journal. I invite political and philosophical discourse. My biases will be revealed in the exchanges as will the biases of those who respond and engage.
None of us will remain unscathed, unaffected, we pass through the fire we become the flames.

...and so it begins.