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Think before you "embrace change"

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I can't help but respond to this blog post that appeared on the website of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. Jennifer de la Cruz' thoughtfulness and good intentions are commendable, but underneath all this positive attitude and cheer I detect the sickly spirit of pessimism and defeatism so deeply internalized that it is all but unconscious — hence the analogy between austerity economics and tornadoes. The latter may be partly anthropogenic, thanks to global warming; but the former is entirely so, and there is a good deal more we can do about it. Employment security, education, housing, health care, retirement security, and even the enjoyment of culture and leisure are — guess what! — human rights. The fact that those who point this out are regarded as Bolsheviks attests to how far our entire political culture has shifted to the reactionary right. We are expected to bow down and be grateful to The Man for our crust of bread. The trade unions, by and large, are collaborationists who clamor for a seat at the table where they can participate in the slashing of wages and the gutting of benefits.

So we are told to embrace change and be positive as this attack is going on. No. We need to work on our political consciousness, clear the clutter from our minds and see the big picture. You know the facts. Income inequality has gone through the roof even as we are told there is no money for frills like education and health care, even as Wall Street and the war machine are still lavishly funded courtesy of the taxpayer.

As we speak, the Federal Defenders in Manhattan — a first-rate squad of extremely hard-working, committed lawyers who represent indigent defendants in federal cases — are subjected to furloughs tantamount to a 20% pay cut with no reduction in work load. As we speak, millions of federal workers like your humble servant are in their third year with no cost of living adjustment, even as the cost of living itself has risen — a de facto pay cut. As we speak, public sector workers in the judiciary, and elsewhere, are being furloughed or laid off. There are, of course, innumerable other examples, many of them even worse.

Economic inequality of fantastic proportions, hideous social problems (including mass incarceration, of which court interpreting is but one of many spinoff industries), environmental destruction: the word for this grotesque condition is capitalism, a system where virtually by definition, the needs of people are subordinated to private gain for the few. What we need is a worldwide socialist revolution whose aim is to invert these priorities and place the resources of the planet under the democratic, rational control of the working class, by which I mean at least 90% of the world population. No one is saying this is going to be easy. But the alternative is far more dire: quite possibly, species extinction; at a minimum, further deterioration of your material conditions and a shitty future for you and your children.

Dear reader, if you are snorting "good luck with that revolution thing," then let us return to where we started. Defeatism and pessimism will get us nowhere. Rather than bowing down and "embracing change" with pop-psychological cheerfulness, we should be planning ways to resist and fight back. One idea that comes to mind is what I call the counter-furlough. For every furlough day that is meted out to workers, every worker strikes for one day, furloughed or not, and not just in the industry of the afflicted workers, but as far across the economy as we can manage. This action should be organized not under the aegis of a union, but by ad hoc rank-and-file committees of workers themselves. Do not wait to be saved by reforms implemented within the Republican/Democrat political framework because that, truly, will never happen.

Yes there is enough to go around. Please think about this and use your imagination to envision a world in which things like employment insecurity, hunger and poverty are all but eliminated — change of the sort we can truly embrace. If you are curious to learn more, I invite you to check out the Socialist Equality Party. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

On Becoming a Marxist

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I grew up as the child of liberal parents in the 1960s. One was an astronomer who was active in the women's movement against the Vietnam war; the other, a musicologist then working as a journalist and book critic whose scholarly reviews were sympathetic to lefty and liberal ideas. Both were committed supporters of the civil rights movement. My father insists that our phone was tapped during those turbulent years. I think that's uncertain, but by no means implausible.

After going through a more or less apolitical period in my teens and 20s, I gradually became a political animal, watching public affairs ever more closely. And the more I paid attention, the more I understood that notwithstanding the occasional battle won by progressive elements, the United States is fundamentally not a participatory democracy, but rather is ruled by the wealthy and corporations. Not coincidentally, wages for the many have stagnated over the past few decades even while total productivity has increased, and of course economic inequality has skyrocketed. These propositions are not controversial, but well established by objective data.

Meanwhile, in the realm of foreign policy, we've seen such monstrous criminal misadventures as the Iraq war, with complete impunity for its perpetrators. Now, under Obama — the darling of so many liberals — mass surveillance of the population, indefinite detention without charges, and assassination have become institutionalized in the name of the so-called War on Terror. On the domestic front we have rampant unemployment and underemployment; millions in debt servitude for the sin of attending college; mass incarceration on a scale unparalleled anywhere else in the world; no sign of serious response from the Obama administration in the face of catastrophic climate change; and the list goes on.

Financial deregulation, and the spectacular display of greed and corruption that ensued, resulted in the meltdown of 2008, coming around the same time that candidate Obama was absurdly being called a socialist by the far right. I began to think, would that it were so. Capitalism is a disaster for most of the world's population. True, the middle class generally has done pretty well during boom times when there's enough to go around, and with a labor movement driving some reforms. But with the hegemonic power of the USA in decline, those post-World War II days are gone. So long gone, in fact, that millions belonging to the generations born in the 80s and 90s have never experienced those Leave It To Beaver days of prosperity, as my friends at the Socialist Equality Party point out in lucid detail. Hereagain, this should not be too controversial a proposition. Even the cream of global elites get together for their conference in Davos to worry about inequality getting out of hand and causing severe unrest. In a sense, capitalism is the victim of its own "success." The more rich and powerful the top layer gets, the more its rigs the system so it can grab more wealth and power — in a vicious circle that has long since gotten out of control. Hence the crisis of capitalism.

But I still didn't quite get it. I was in what I now think of as my middle-class protest politics period. For years I gave what money I could to progressive causes; emailed and called my elected officials to urge them to this or that; went to street demonstrations. Weary from the Bush years, I dropped to my knees and voted for Obama in 2008 even though I well knew both parties were owned by big business. In 2009, the uproar broke out around Obama's much-acclaimed, much-maligned healthcare "reform" legislation. I got involved in Single Payer activism, and even suffered the inconvenience of spending a night in jail for doing civil disobedience — sitting in at the offices of a large health insurance company.

Of course, all that effort came to naught. The healthcare fiasco provided an instructive example. There were four main guys in the House and Senate who advocated for Single Payer during the Obamacare debate: Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, and Anthony Weiner (before he was disgraced for emailing pictures of his dick). When the time came, each and every one of them sold out and voted for Obama's massive bailout to the profit-driven private health insurance industry, a piece of legislation substantially written by its lobbyists. This is just one case, but it illustrates an essential point that I have since come to understand: reformism doesn't work. Capitalism subjugates social need to private profit, and it requires inequality -- that's how it works. To paraphrase Leon Trotsky, capitalism itself has to be abolished, not reformed.

I wondered: what's the alternative? I knew about socialism approximately as much as the average reasonably educated US citizen who grew up in the Cold War: not much, really. I had never actually read anything by Marx or Engels. I stumbled across the World Socialist Web Site, started reading it regularly, and became even more curious. I had never seen anyone state the political truth with such unrelenting bluntness. Who were these guys? Just as my theoretical curiosity was thus aroused, my father happened to lend me Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton, in which he assures us that if you haven't read anything by Karl Marx, no worries, this book makes a good introduction. (I have since talked with serious Marxists who scorn Eagleton as a "Catholic Marxist," but the book was nevertheless a useful introduction.) Then I took the trouble to read some texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky to see for myself what they actually say, and was struck by their prescience and continuing relevance. I followed up with some more current writings, such as David North's In Defense of Leon Trotsky, The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party, and the SEP Statement of Principles.

Once exposed to a bit of Marxist theory, I began to get it. The history of human social organization goes from slavery-based societies to feudalism to capitalism to... what? It is by no means a foregone conclusion that capitalism is the end point of the evolution of human society (Francis Fukuyama's famous, now discredited, assertion to the contrary notwithstanding). If it turns out that capitalism is the final word, it will be because the human species extinguishes itself under capitalism, most likely by way of environmental catastrophe, before it gets its shit together.

So what sort of world socialist society do I envision? One in which the wealth of the planet is utilized rationally and democratically, i.e., with the priority on social need over private profit and accumulation -- the inverse of capitalism. If that sounds somewhat vague, it is. I haven't mastered all the implementation details. If it sounds ambitious, it is; history teaches that the struggle has been and will likely continue to be long and bitter. If it sounds like so much dreaming, it isn't. Dreamers are those who think the human species has any chance of survival under capitalism.

Martin Luther King once said "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Although his statement may have been partly rooted in religious faith, there is some objective historical evidence that the principle is correct. A few centuries ago, genocide and enslavement were commonplace. Now world opinion is in general agreement that genocide and enslavement are wrong, and people get upset when they happen. Some day people will likewise look back at history to an economic system where the many — i.e., the working class — suffered and were exploited so that a few could become fabulously wealthy, and they will find it appalling and unacceptable, just as we consider slavery appalling and unacceptable today. In the future, the revolutionary Marxists of today will be recognized as having been ahead of their time.


another letter to Bill Pascrell, D-NJ

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Everyone who is not either ignorant or cynical recognizes that private health insurance must go, and be replaced by a publicly financed single-payer system such as those that exist in virtually every civilized democracy on the planet. Once again I picked up my quill and penned another missive to my Congressman and I urge you to do the same without delay.

Dear Congressman:

I write to urge you to co-sponsor and support HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All bill re-introduced by John Conyers.

Everyone knows Obama's healthcare "reform" is coming unravelled, as was to be expected. Based on the thoroughly dysfunctional private insurance system we now have, it was doomed to fail from the start. Many people -- not only the right -- rightly detest the individual mandate because it compels the purchase of a defective product. It is truly a dreadful idea, and yet the Obama legislation can never be even minimally effective without it.

Meanwhile we have the likes of Scott Walker and Chris Christie doing their best to destroy the public sector, as if firefighters and librarians were to blame for the budget crises many states are suffering. One of the recurring themes in these confrontations is the cost of healthcare. How can we take this contentious healthcare issue off the table and save our society billions of dollars, while achieving superior public health outcomes at the same time?

The solution could hardly be more obvious. We have been needing a single-payer, national health insurance plan for decades, but the need has never been more desperate than it is today. Single payer has been proven to work in other countries and it will work here. The time has come to discard Obama's ill-conceived, private-insurance-based debacle and start over. Healthcare is a human right, not a commodity. The struggle will not be easy, but that is no excuse not to do the only morally and economically sound thing: single payer, Medicare for All. One publicly financed national health insurance plan for everybody.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.

U.S. politics as professional wrestling

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One time many years ago I bought a T-shirt that depicted a donkey and an elephant doing battle inside a wrestling ring in typical pro wrestling style: extravagant, flamboyant, over the top. The caption read something like "US Government Wrestling Federation: It's All Fake."

Sagacious commentators like Gore Vidal and many others have been telling us for years that our political system is dominated by a duopoly which is really two wings of one Business Party, one of them slightly more moderate than the other, but both fundamentally subservient to the oligarchy. I think you would have to be either seriously deluded or disingenuous to disagree.

During the fake health care reform debate of 2009, Anthony Weiner remarked that Democrats show up at a knife fight carrying library books. And traditional, gullible liberals often lament that their leaders aren't mean and ruthless enough to go up against the evil Republican opposition. I think Anthony's remark is profoundly insightful, perhaps even more so than he intended. Assume it's true: Obama carries an armload of library books as he goes up against his vicious knife-wielding foes. Why? Why on earth would you do such a thing... unless... he doesn't really mean to win. Oh dear me, it's all fake!

I am reminded of the pro wrestling analogy as I watch the Obama administration pretend to care about the interests of ordinary people.

Here he comes, approaching the ring: Barack "Mister Main Street" Obama, wearing his coveralls and hardhat, carrying his lunch pail. He is lucky enough to be employed, it seems. Before entering the ring he punches his timecard on a clock installed outside his corner by the promoters, and the crowd goes wild -- their hero, a working man!

And now, here comes The Republican, in full evening wear. Cigar in hand, pocket watch on a gold chain, he steps into the ring, removes his top hat and hands it to his valet. Mostly jeers and boos come from the crowd but you can hear he has his supporters as well: those who like to imagine that their own interests coincide with those of The Republican. Now he pulls out a wad of cash and starts counting, driving his enemies in the crowd into a screaming rage. He jeers at the rabble, finally hands his cigar to his valet and gets ready to rumble.

The action begins, the Republican and Mister Main Street pound the shit out of each other for several minutes. Oh, the drama! Oh, the entertainment! How diverting! Finally the Republican beats Main Street senseless and wins the match once again. Tax cuts for the rich, billions for criminal wars of imperialist expansion, austerity for the rest of us.

open letter to Congressman Pascrell

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I urge you to oppose Obama's freeze on federal pay. According to press reports, this measure would save a mere $5 billion over 2 years. Meanwhile, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are still on the table, and reportedly would cost $700 billion over 10 years. And the cost of our criminal misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan is of course obscene in terms of both blood and treasure. Clearly, Obama's gesture is no more than symbolic in terms of deficit reduction. But it is a good deal more than symbolic for federal employees who were expecting a paltry but nevertheless welcome cost of living adjustment of 1.4%.

I speak from self-interest, as a federal employee. I will feel the impact, but am fortunate to be relatively well paid and will more than likely be able to suck it up. But the same cannot be said for countless workers whose wages are low. There are federal workers who push mops, clean toilets and do their best to get buy. I exhort you in the strongest terms to stand up for all of us federal employees and not let Obama throw us under the bus for the sake of this cheap and cowardly gesture of submission to the deficit hawks of the right.

Going to Jail for Health Care for All

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On October 15, 2009, I participated in a nationwide campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to demand Single Payer health care and an end to the profit-driven private health insurance system. Supported by some 50 legal protesters in the street, 14 protesters entered the lobby of One Penn Plaza in midtown Manhattan, a building that houses offices of the insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, and sat down on the floor. When we refused to leave, police arrested us and loaded us into paddy wagons.

Our group consisted six women and eight men. Of the men, two were in their mid-seventies; one of these was a retired Episcopalian priest, whose bearing and clerical color gave our group an air of respectability and gravitas; the other happened to be a Quaker.

Most people who do civil disobedience hope to get what is known as a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT), where the police take you to the precinct, check your fingerprints for warrants, and if they find none, hand you a piece of paper like a traffic ticket and send you on your way. The whole process takes typically four to eight hours, and is perhaps only slightly more (or maybe less!) unpleasant than typical airline travel, where you are in a sense imprisoned, and your patience is tested. But we were not so fortunate. It was determined -- I don't know how or by whom -- that we were to go through "the system" with the rest of humanity in all its wretchedness. Some of us speculated that this determination may have been political, i.e., someone powerful made a phone call and said that protesters should be discouraged and not given any breaks.

First we were taken to the 9th Precinct, in the East Village, where we were divided by gender and kept in two cells for over 10 hours. For the first five or six hours, morale was high. We had lively and stimulating conversation, got to know one another, sang songs, had some good laughs. After seven or eight hours had elapsed and we still had not been provided water, much less food, we began to complain. Ironically enough, the priest had headed a commission some years ago that promulgated a set of reforms for the New York law enforcement and penal system. Among these was a regulation that any prisoner detained for over five hours between midnight and 7:00 a.m. had to be provided food and water. When the priest pointed this out to one of the officers, she argued that the rule applied only to Corrections and not the NYPD. The priest insisted that it wasn't so, and encouraged her to consult her supervisor. Eventually, she offered to take a few dollars from us, go to a vending machine in the building and bring some bottled water. I don't think it took much effort. Shortly thereafter one of the support team was allowed to send in a bag with refreshments: more water, some fruit and energy bars.

In the meantime, the police went through an arduous process of fingerprinting us one by one with a scanner that kept failing to recognize our fingerprints. Whether it was software or hardware that was defective, or both, the machine balked if your fingers were too oily, or not oily enough, or if you were simply too old and your prints were too faint. The cops muddled through with commendable patience for the several hours that it took to fingerprint all 14 of us.

It was approaching 10:00 pm when we were transported downtown to a place known as the Tombs, in the basement of the courthouse at 100 Center Street, too late to appear in night court and be released. The place was packed, and we all stood handcuffed in a slow-moving line for over an hour to be photographed one by one, and finally, around midnight, admitted as a group to one of several large holding cells.

Some of us were still wearing white T-shirts with black lettering that said "Victim of Private Health Insurance" on one side, and "Medicare For All" on the other. We were repeatedly asked by both police and prisoners why we were protesting, and we seized every such opportunity. People were overwhelmingly receptive. (Only the intake photographer at the Tombs was hostile, but then again, from what I was able to observe, he seemed to have hostile attitude towards everyone.) Thus the system handed us an opportunity to promote our cause and continue the very sort of work for which we were arrested.

The Tombs was not particularly pleasant. I was grateful not to have known in advance what it would be like, because if I had, I might have hesitated to get arrested. We were in a windowless rectangle with a built-in stainless steel bench along three walls (the fourth being the bars). There were a lot of miscellaneous arrestees, people sleeping on the floor or on the benches, overwhelmingly black. A group of kids, whom I found vaguely menacing, had apparently been arrested together for drugs; they monopolized one of the two phones. Shortly after we arrived, the guard announced a feeding and let us all out into the hall to collect little boxes of corn flakes and milk. When we returned to the cell there was a confrontation, basically about territorial boundaries. Another prisoner struck one of our group in the face, breaking his glasses and giving him a black eye. Another of our group yelled for the guards, who came promptly and removed both victim and assailant to different cells. This was how our evening at the Tombs began. (Note to those considering doing CD who have an aversion to violence: this incident could surely have been avoided had we exercised a bit more caution.)

A guard came to the bars to ask witnesses about the incident. A couple of us went over and provided a narrative. Then there was some grumbling in the cell about snitches, and I had some fears of getting my white ass beaten. But the whole affair seemed to blow over, and the hours dragged on.

And on. After so many hours under flourescent lights with no windows and little sleep, the time of day reported by my watch became a meaningless abstraction; there was no discernible difference between 4:30 a.m. or p.m. There was a water fountain in the cell, but I distrusted the foul-tasting water and drank sparingly. As for food, it's too painful to remember and I'd rather not talk about it. Seriously, though, the nourishment provided was evidently designed to keep us from starving and no more. For a good meal you should look elsewhere.

At some point, a handsome, well-dressed, articulate black man was brought into the cell. He and a like-minded friend began to lecture the assemblage about God, and His purpose for us all, and what we had to do to attain true manhood. "Gentlemen," he said, "there are four attributes that you do not find in a real man. A real man is not a gangsta, a pimp, a thug, or a playa." This seemed to be directed at the vaguely menacing kids. Eventually, there was a genuine conversation to which everyone who was not asleep appeared to pay attention, many of them participating. We discussed spiritual and philosophic issues and basic personal values. Where we could find common ground, we did so. When our well-dressed friend argued the inferiority of women, we called him on it. It was a remarkably fruitful exchange of ideas. But the preachers outlasted us, and the dialogue degenerated back into a one-sided lecture that became oppressive.

Our Episcopalian priest had been placed in a separate, more private cell -- presumably because of his age and status. Towards morning, they put him back in with the rest of us. His appearance apparently humbled the two lay preachers, as they finally quieted down as soon as this real clergyman arrived.

The morning wore on and became afternoon, according to my watch. At last the guards started pulling small subsets of us out to go to court, where a judge released us on our own recognizance. Mine was one of the last three bodies -- as we call humans in the judicial/corrections trade -- to be summoned. Our lawyer, a volunteer who enjoys representing protesters, stood up for us in court without having had a chance to talk to us beforehand. The prosecutor offered Defendant Yours Truly a plea to Trespass Violation, the lightweight version of the misdemeanor Criminal Trespass, and one day of community service. Community service? Excuse me, I have been serving the community big-time for the last 32 hours. For our septuagenarian Quaker, who has more of a track record than most of us, the offer was seven days in jail. Apparently he is deemed a danger to society and in need of some deterrence. Fuck that. The UnitedHealth 14 will be holding out for much more favorable dispositions.

My brief encounter with the system was sufficient to underscore what I already knew: we live in a profoundly racist society. There can be no justification for the extreme overrepresentation of minorities and the poor in the jail population. If patterns of law enforcement have a disproprortionate impact on non-whites, which they undoubtedly do, that is inexcusable; and if dark-skinned people in fact commit crimes at a greater rate than light-skinned people do, then they must be disproportionately affected by inequality and social problems that make it so, and which must be addressed. Most people would rather make a living wage than spend the night in the Tombs for shoplifting cosmetics from Walgreens.

The experience also reinforced my feelings of gratitude. I knew I was lucky to enjoy a bourgeois life, but after being released from the can, sleeping in a comfortable bed next to my warm and yummy wife, with the cat Master Lin-chi curled up purring next to my legs in all his astounding furriness -- this was delicious beyond description. I slept like a god.

When I awoke, the first thought in my head was this: Patients, not profits. Medicare for all. I realized my determination was now all the stronger.

* * *

Since you've been good enough to read all these words, you can now be rewarded with pictures and video. An excellent YouTube piece is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vx_Cnw2Wxk, and there are still photos at http://www.antiauthoritarian.net/NLN/photo-gallery/2009_10_14_health/ -- scroll down past the silly HCAN stuff about the meaningless public option to see some great shots of the UnitedHealth action.

And yes, there is something you can do: http://healthcare-now.org/ The struggle is far from over and we have no intention of giving up.

Open letter to Senator Robert Menéndez: Single Payer!

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My right honourable friend David Mintz shares with us this missive that he composed for Senator Robert Menéndez, gentleman from New Jersey, in regard to health care reform legislation. Though it's substantiallly redundant with your humble servant's letter published here just a few days earlier, we think the message herein bears repeating.

Dear Senator Menéndez:

I write in response to your invitation to your constituents to their submit ideas regarding health care reform. Note that this is not a canned text or a copy-and-paste job, but my own words.

The public option may sound like a good idea, but it's clear that the likely outcome of HR 3200 is more of the same. Any solution built on top of the existing private-insurance-based scheme is a loser, as a public option plan will only be able to compete with the private sector by emulating the latter's worst characteristics, shifting costs onto consumers and delaying or denying benefits. Indeed, from what I read of HR 3200, it contains a provision that the public option offer three or four distinct tiers of coverage with names like "Basic," "Standard," and "Premium" -- meaning if you have enough money, you can buy relatively good coverage (emphasisi on relatively), whereas if you can't afford the higher premiums, you can gamble with your health; and if you lose, go down the toilet both financially and medically. This sounds all too familiar.

It's abundantly clear that the only rational and humane solution is a single payer system, and I therefore urge you to forget HR 3200 and support HR 676 and Senate 703. As a society, we are already spending enough to cover everyone, but 30 cents on every health care dollar is sucked up by insurance companies' overhead and profits, while millions continue to go uninsured or underinsured. This is as immoral as it is wasteful. For-profit healthcare is an oxymoron, because health care is a human right, not a commodity.

When politicians say single payer sounds good but it isn't politically feasible, I don't buy it, for if every politician voted for single payer, you would have the votes. At worst, "not politically feasible" is a cynical expression whose true meaning is "I am up to my ears in private insurance and pharmaceutical money, and dare not betray my corporate masters."

The economic disruption to the health care industry can be managed. Consider, as a reasonable compromise, phasing in single payer by lowering the eligibility age for Medicare by ten years every two until everyone is in from cradle to grave. (And, as a real "public option," provide that others who are below the eligibilty age can opt to buy in at an earlier age via payroll deduction.) Further, HR 676 provides that displaced health insurance workers receive top priority for re-training and employment in the public, national health insurance program.

Of course, the right-wing fear-mongering about socialized medicine is to be expected, and should be ignored. HR 676 ought to be a true conservative's dream, because it provides for an efficient, publicly financed, privately delivered health care system and eliminates vast amounts of waste. Even if we accept the language of the right and call it socialized medicine, I am telling you as a voter and citizen of these United States that I want socialized medicine.

How many of your constituents are satisfied with their private coverage, with its premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, exclusions, denials, delays, voicemail mazes, unintelligible form letters ironcially entitled Explanation of Benefits, and bureacrats incentivizing care providers to withhold care from them? I, for one, am among the fortunate: a healthy 51-year-old male with no chronic problems and relatively good insurance under BlueCross BlueShield Federal Employee Program "Standard Option." Even so, I spend way too many hours doing battle with BCBS and providers over billing and reimbursements, and I have had quite enough.

I sincerely hope you will lend your support to genuine health care reform: Senate 703 and HR 676. As a bare minimum alternative, please support the Kucinich Amendment to 3200, which would make it easier for the states to implement single payer. If there is anything I can do to be of assistance in this regard, please feel free to call on me.

Just now I emailed the following to my Congressperson, Bill Pascrell, who represents the 8th District of New Jersey.

Dear Congressman:

It's time to eliminate the private health insurance industry and cover everyone with Universal Single-Payer National Health Insurance (NHI).

Under a comprehensive National "Single-Payer" Health Insurance Program, every American would be covered for all necessary medical care. All citizens would receive a National Insurance Card entitling them to care at any hospital, doctor's office or clinic, as well as coverage for prescription drugs and supplies. The United States National Health Insurance Act, HR 676, embodies these principles and I urge you to support it.

Under NHI, a single, public insurance plan would replace the current patchwork of thousands of private plans. Eliminating the existing complex and redundant insurance bureaucracy and the paperwork burden it inflicts on doctors, nurses and hospitals would generate massive administrative savings. Overall, NHI would save about $350 billion annually on bureaucracy and profits, more than enough to pay for covering the uninsured and improving coverage for the tens of millions who are currently under-insured. (But if you aren't convinced, I would urge you to ask the CBO to do an analysis of HR 676).

Most hospitals and clinics would remain privately owned and operated, receiving a budget from the NHI to cover all operating costs. The NHI would pay for care in private doctors' offices, as well as in group practices and clinics.

A National Health Insurance Program is the only affordable option for universal, comprehensive coverage. Lesser reforms that retain the private insurance industry cannot streamline bureaucracy; as a result, expanding coverage inevitably means increasing costs, and reducing costs inevitably means limiting coverage. But NHI could both expand coverage and reduce costs. It would squeeze out bureaucratic waste and eliminate the perverse incentives that threaten the quality of care and the ethical foundations of medicine and nursing. For patients, NHI would assure comprehensive coverage and a free choice of doctors and hospitals. For physicians and nurses, NHI would minimize bureaucratic hassles and costs, and nurture the best traditions of these honored professions.

The so-called public option, so dreaded by the right wing and the insurance lobby, would most likely not be able to compete with the private sector except by emulating its worst characteristics: denying care and shifting costs onto consumers. We don't need any more of that. And such a scheme has no realistic chance of "bending the cost curve."

Medicare, on the other hand, already is a successful and efficient single-payer program that operates with 4% overhead (some sources say 3%) -- unlike the private insurance industry, which consumes 30 cents on every dollar in overhead and profits while contributing nothing to the actual delivery of health care.

I am a 51-year-old healthy male with an exemplary lifestyle and relatively good insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield federal program, "Standard Option." Still, I spend far too many hours dealing with BCBS bureaucrats who feed me an endless stream of lies and obfuscation as they try to maximize profits by delaying or withholding benefits. And I am among the lucky ones fortunate enough to have coverage. I have had enough of this.

I do not buy the argument that Single Payer is not politically feasible. The majority of the public wants real health insurance and despises the status quo. "Not politically feasible" is at best a self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy �?? for if enough politicians voted for it, you'd have the votes -- and at worst, a cynical subterfuge meaning "I am up to my ears in pharmaceutical and health insurance industry money."

Single Payer is the only rational and humane solution to the crisis afflicting our country. Please do the right thing: support HR 676.

Thank you.


Postscript: some of the above text is borrowed from http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petition-congress-to-pass-single-payer-hr-676-national-health-insurance.html

Why MoveOn.org sucks

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It all began way back in 2004 when MoveOn first posted a couple videos that compared Bush to Hitler, then gasped and groveled and aplogized and pulled them. Why so cowardly? War crimes are war crimes, fascism is fascism, disappearance and torture is... ok you get my point. It was a disappointment that showed their true (limber-dick, pussy-ass) colors.

Then came the Democratic primaries, and they endorsed Barack Obama even while Kucinich was still in it. Kucinich, the candidate who can get his mouth around those big tough words like single payer and impeachment. Why? There is no excuse -- except possibly that they are good old neoliberals, and they suck.

Then I tried to get off their email list, and had to do the unsubscribe routine like five times. Very annoying. They send too damn many emails, as anyone who has been a subscriber or has read this piece in the Onion well knows.

Then, against our better judgement, my girlfriend and I decided to order like 20 Obama buttons from MoveOn. (Of course we support Obama now.) Four to six weeks for delivery, they say. Well, it's been several weeks and still no buttons. Fuxup with that, dudes? When are we gonna see these buttons, December?

I'm sorry MoveOn, but let's face facts: you suck.

A gmail ad re Palin: need we say more?

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You know how gmail peeks at your email and pulls up ads targeted accordingly. Just now their ad-targeting algorithm came up with this gem for me:

Can Palin Lead America?
92% of America say Yes. Vote Now!
Get a DysonDC25 Vacuum with Email.
ThePopVote.com/Woman-President

Of course Sarah Palin is qualified, honey. Now here's your free vacuum cleaner. And please don't forget to iron my underwear and buy some more beer.

Fuckheads block my mail to my dad

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My dad, a retired professor of musicology, is a DSL customer of the Ontario and Trumansburg Telephone Companies. We have carried on email correspondence for years, peppering our prose with F-bombs whenever the urge arises. One fine day he stopped receiving mail from my gmail account, so I suggested he contact his ISP to see if I was being blocked. It turns out that his provider had begun applying "decency filters" to his incoming mail without his knowledge or consent, and my messages had been quarantined. When he demanded that they stop inspecting his mail for "decency," they replied with boilerplate instructions on how to whitelist my address. He got on the phone and explained that what he wanted was not to whitelist his correspondents one by one, but to have the decency filter disabled outright. The drone with whom he spoke appeared not to understand. He is escalating his case up to the telco's CEO Paul Griswold, and copying his correspondence to the New York ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Grouchy old bastard that he is, my dad has little patience with mindlessness and stubborn stupidity of this sort. So in his latest round of correspondence, he busted their balls thus:

One of your people called me a short time ago, and astonished (and, I must admit) infuriated me by his real (or feigned) inability to understand what I was trying to say to him. So let me try to get at it in writing.

There is a world of difference between filtering spam as such and filtering for what you mistakenly take to be "decency." The first is allowable; the second is abominable. And to do either or both without telling the subscriber what you are doing is detestable. If your technology is so crude that it cannot distinguish between spam and four letter words, you need new technology. But be that as it may, your minds should be capable of grasping the point.

So got it? It is really very simple.

Now, I am an old professor, so let me read you a lecture; please hold still for a few moments. The US Constitution of course has nothing directly to do with our dispute. It does, however, bear on it indirectly in a most profound way. The Constitution is not merely the legal basis of our country, it also has determined our ethos.

Now read it. You will see that it is profoundly mistrustful of the political judgments of what its authors thought of as "the mob," a group to which you and I probably would have been thought to belong. That is why the Senate was originally elected by state legislatures; that is why even today with direct election, it remains profoundly unrepresentative. On the other hand, The Constitution in its first final form -- that is with the Bill of Rights added to the original document -- is deeply concerned about individual liberties. It is accordingly at once quite libertarian and somewhat undemocratic.

To leap to our little situation: not only are you not my censor, but your attempt to assume this dreadful role really does violate America's basic ethos and is accordingly deeply offensive to people like me. Despite everything, we still believe in each citizen's basic responsibility for himself. We refuse to turn this responsibility over to others. You have no right to take it away from for me on your own initiative. And in truth, I have no right to turn it over to you so long as I am sentient.

That your definition of "indecency" is idiotic and contrary to sound morality is another matter and could be explained to you only in the context of another little lecture. I fear you have had enough for now.

Please actually read and understand what I have written you. Do not reply with some canned nonsense from corporate headquarters or anything of that silly sort. There's no point in that. If you cannot engage me in reasonable and intelligent discourse, do not engage me at all. But do turn off that thrice damned decency filter.

What do you make of that? What are the odds that anyone will understand what he's saying and respond appropriately?

Obama, arugula-eating elitist

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Now we're told that according to the latest desperate right-wing smear campaign, Obama is an arugula-eating elitist. A celebrity intellectual, not in touch with common folk.

Let's accept that for argument's sake. So much the better. I am a well-paid, educated super-liberal white male who reads books and speaks a second language: an America-hating elitist snob if ever there was one. Therefore, I like Obama better than McCain because I have more in common with Obama. What a happy irony! Who would have imagined forty years ago that a white guy like me would end up voting for the black guy because we were in the same social class.

By the way, my gratitude to The Daily Show for keeping me informed about politics.

Car buyer's dilemma

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I have not owned a car since my aging Honda Civic was stolen eight years ago, when I banked the modest payout from the insurance company and never looked back. I had the use of my wife's car up until September 2006 when we separated, so I have truly been carless for not quite two years -- and loving it. I live two minutes from commuter trains that take me to downtown Manhattan in a matter of minutes, then it's about a 15 minute walk to my workplace. If I need to get somewhere that isn't reasonably accessible by public transportation or walking, then I take a taxi or someone gives me a ride. If the destination is not local, then I rent a car. You might be surprised how beautiful and liberating it is to live this way. No parking hassles, no insurance or maintenance expenses, no sitting in traffic wishing I were somewhere else.

Alas, my carless days are coming to an end, because my daughter and her mother are moving over 20 miles from where I live. I had long since decided that I wanted my next automobile to be a hybrid -- fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly. The fact that I need a car now, as gasoline is up to $4.00 a gallon, is an unfortunate coincidence. Gas prices have driven demand for hybrids to the point where dealers can get away with a little gouging. Perhaps six months ago you could have negotiated and paid $200 over the dealer invoice price for a Toyota Prius. Now you will likely pay at least $2000 over the so-called MSRP, and you will wait anywhere from several weeks to three months for the privilege. Moreover, you will be forced to pay for leather seats, GPS and other luxuries that you might not need or want, because the more economical "packages" are sold out till fuck knows when.

Now, suppose you aren't comfortable paying over $30,000 for a car equipped with stuff that you don't want? Further suppose that you do have the money to do it anyway, although it will be a sacrifice. Further suppose that you might well not drive the car enough for the fuel savings to pay for the expense of the Prius relative to a less expensive car -- in other words in pure financial terms you'd do better with something like a Honda Fit or Civic, Toyota Yaris or Corolla. That's a purely selfish economic calculus that does not factor in the environmental impact. What to do?

Here's what's disturbing: in order for Americans to begin to wake up to reality and look for fuel efficiency, they have had to be struck hard on the head with the large, heavy club of $4/gallon gas. Capitalist market dynamics being what they are, consumers are forced to pay a premium -- to put it politely -- to do the right thing by getting a responsible car. This is the inverse of what should be. Government should be forcing auto manufacturers to adhere to a timetable for phasing out 100% gas-powered cars entirely, levy a surcharge on buyers of gas-powered cars, and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers who buy hybrids. Environmentally friendly behavior should be encouraged and rewarded -- but no. Instead they shove it up your ass so far your eyeballs pop out of your head.

MLK's Mountaintop Speech

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There was a good piece on NPR this morning about Martin Luther King's last speech, in which he said he was not concerned about longevity because he had been to the mountaintop and looked over. Just the night before I had been pondering the koan from which the phrase "All is vast and boundless" is taken. While listening to King's speaking voice coming out of the radio in my kitchen 40 years after the fact, it occurred to me that King himself must have realized that all is vast and boundless. It doesn't matter what you call it.

Too Many Political TV Ads?

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There was a soundbyte on NPR the other day in which an Iowa voter complained of being tired of so many political commercials on TV. The simplest solution -- much simpler than campaign finance reform -- apparently was beyond this person's imagination: stop watching TV.

Colbert for President

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I am immensely grateful and relieved that Stephen Colbert is running for the highest office in the land. Now, at long last, I have a viable alternative to holding my nose, getting on my knees and acquiescing yet again to that most revolting of compromises, the Lesser Evil. I can go into the voting booth, have an enlightenment experience, jettison all that foolish left-wing progressive delusion, and suddenly become a conservative. Then I'll write in for Stephen Colbert.

Think I'm kidding? Yeah, I am kidding about the enlightenment part.

Is there something odd about this headline?

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Blackwater Tops Firms in Iraq in Shooting Rate

Is it just me, or is there something a little weird and disturbing about that headline from today's NY Times?

Libby sentence: with friends like these...

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This morning NPR reported on the Libby sentencing and said that he submitted letters of support from such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, Henry Kissinger, and Donald Rumsfeld. If it were me up there getting sentenced, I could do without the help of friends like these who themselves deserve to be locked up. I'd sooner accept a character reference from Vernon T. Bludgeon himself.

Viva Kucinich!

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I am now a kucinichista.

I have had it with the same old Democratic bullshit. I heard on NPR about the "debate" among the eight Democratic contenders. Kucinich -- and this other guy I confess I had never even heard of, Mike Gravel -- were the only ones with the balls to point out that if you want to stop the war, cut off the funding. Stop re-authorizing it by continuing to give the Whitehouse the all money it wants, as these wimps in the Senate have just done. Sure, Bush will veto the latest bill because it tries to prevent the Whitehouse from staying in Iraq "until the end of time," as Jon Stewart puts it. But it still gives him the money because these lame-ass pols are way behind the American public and, apparently, are too timid to step up and make a sincere effort to stop the war.

Kucinich, on the other hand, not only advocates really stopping the war; he has now introduced articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney for falsifying the intelligence and getting us into this illegal and unjustified war.

Is Hillary in favor of impeachment? Hell no. Obama? Dream on. You know what? Fuck these wimps. I am going to write in for Kucinich, even if some of my centrist-liberal friends give me a great pile of shit for it.

Yo Alberto: Resign!

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Come on, Alberto González. Clean out your desk and get the fuck out, won't you please? What's it gonna take? Does there have to be a mob encircling your house with pitchforks and torches, like on an old Frankenstein movie? At this point there might as well be.

Come now. You know what time it is. Show a modicum of honor and dignity, and respect for reality. Resign.

Time for a coup d'état in the USA?

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I got an email from TheNation.com saying "in his address to the nation last week, President Bush accused Iran of 'providing material support for attacks on American troops,' and added 'we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.'" OK.

I also read in El Diario/La Prensa an AP story that stated that middlemen had acquired, on behalf of Iran, parts for the F-14 Tomcat fighter. That was illegal, so Customs agents seized the parts and returned them to the Pentagon. Which turned around and sold them off again, this time to another buyer who also turned out to be "suspected of" working on behalf of Iran. Close enough.

Therefore, the White House must be planning to seek out and destroy the Pentagon.

This is all fucked up, don't you think? Look at what's happening: the Bush administration is driving the country into the ditch as fast as it can. It launched an illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq -- true, with the support of most of the cowards in Congress -- and now flatly refuses to listen to anyone about how to mitigate the horrible bloody clusterfuck it has created. Not the Congress, nor the Iraq Study Group, nor the generals on the proverbial ground. Fuck all a y'all, George is saying. I'm gonna escalate. But I ain't gonna call it an escalation, see. I'm gonna a call it a surge. Gonna do a surge.

Fuck that. It's time for the Pentagon to launch a pre-emptive strike on its own -- against the White House. Generals, call him on the phone and say, you have three hours to get the fuck out. Resign. Beat it. Step down. If he says no, negotiate a little. Give him four hours. Oh what the hell, make it five! Be reasonable. And if he still refuses, then let the tanks roll down Pennsylvania Avenue and set shit off. Coup d'état. We've tried democracy for over 200 years and it's been a partial success, but it is in grave danger now, so grave we have to destroy it in order to save it. Overthrow the Bush regime, establish a military government. Dissolve the Congress, govern for a few months until things stabilize, then hold free and fair elections and start over. Why not?

Celebrity death update!

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Woa, excuse me! I spoke too soon about there being three celebrity deaths in this month of December. Now they've hung Saddam, that makes four.

Nice to know that his execution is such an important step towards establishing democracy in Iraq, according to Mr. Bush's handlers. Yeah right.

I heard some think tank wonk holding forth on NPR, telling us that some people oppose capital punishment on principle, but it is appropriate in "extraordinary circumstances" such as these. You know, like when there is incontrovertible proof that you're responsible for the death of thousands of innocents. If that's so, it would be only fitting to apply that same logic here at home. I oppose the death penalty, but I have to admit it might be kind of cool to watch the hangings of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush on Fox. Over and over again.

How to React to Three Celebrity Deaths in December

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(1) Augusto Pinochet. You are dancing in the street. It's a pity that he died too comfortably, and that we did not get "closure" through the criminal process, but my, it's great that he's dead. Let the champagne corks fly.

(2) James Brown. You feel rather sad and wistful, especially if you grew up with that DC Sound in your ears. He had soul, and he was super bad. He may have had a fucked up personal life, but the man was one hell of a performer and his contribution was major. Let us raise our glasses and drink to his bad self.

Here's a quick James Brown/LSD anecdote. Once upon a time a buddy and I were doing acid. As the drug's effects were coming on, we listened to the Greatist Hits CD on which the second track is Sex Machine (Get Up). It begins with James Brown proudly proclaiming how he intends to do his thing. Then the music kicks in, -- a-pampampampampampampam Get Up, Get On Up -- and suddenly you're in this exquisitely transparent and open texture, a perfect balance between the instrumental parts, with just enough space between the notes, and a bad-ass groove that defies description. Then come the self-referential lyrics about taking it to the bridge, threatening to take it to the bridge, building up an immense tension... it is music that celebrates itself, boasts and braggs about itself, revels in itself. I remember listening, incredulous, astonished at the genius of this achievement. I decided then and there that this was one of the greatest songs in the history of recorded music.

This is, by the way, an example of the Acidmaster's Paradox. It often happens that tripping on LSD takes you not farther from but closer to the true nature of reality. You may be fucked up beyond reason, yet you are seeing things revealed as they are. I knew Get Up was great, but I didn't fully appreciate its magnificence until I heard it while tripping.

But I digress.

(3) Gerald Ford. You don't really give a shit one way or the other. You dismiss the mainstream media bullshit about how heroically he healed the Watergate-traumatized nation by letting Trickie Dick slide. There was a deal, so he dealt. He played the game. Now we are hearing about how he told Bob Woodward -- gasp! -- that the Iraq invasion was a mistake! Oh, what genuis, what vision! By the way, it was no "mistake." It was a major crime against humanity for which its authors deserve to hang, not unlike the above-mentioned General, come to think of it.

If you went three for three above, high five.

Pinochet: que en paz no descance

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El general Pinochet, asesino corrupto, ha muerto. Que en paz no descance.

Es de veras angustiante que tanta gente siga elogiándolo como si fuera un héroe, y que justifiquen las muertes, torturas y desapariciones en aras del libre mercado y la lucha contra la subversión.

A mi modo de ver, la gran aportación de Pinochet no fue intenciónal de su parte. Su caso marca un hito en la evolución del derecho internacional y los derechos humanos. Claro que es una pena que la muerte lo haya salvado, y que no haya sido condenado a cadena perpetua. Pero los precedentes legales, tal como la aplicación de la doctrina de jurisdicción internacional, puede que sirvan para enjuiciar a otros criminales como Bush, Cheney y Rumsfeld. No te rías. Los tiempos están cambiando. La impunidad ya no se puede dar por sentado.

overseeing the what?

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I heard a snippet on NPR this morning in which they were saying something about "increasing the oversight of the [Bush administration's] warrantless wiretapping program." You have to wonder if the whoever wrote that sentence intended it as ironic. I thought oversight was the whole point of the seeking of warrants from the judicial branch.

Media circle-jerk around the corpse of al-Zarqawi

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So the US has wacked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Big deal. Judging from the media circle-jerk around his corpse, you would think this meant peace, democracy and stability were at hand. Let's wait and see whether the bloodbath continues. My money is on the carnage.

Bill of Rights now sounds like anarchy

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Now that the Bush administration's illegal domestic surveillance program has been eclipsed by the false issue of the Dubai ports deal, I thought I'd try to refocus our attention for a second or two by sharing this audaciously radical, subversive, revolutionary little snippet. The most disturbing thing is that in today's environment, that's what the Fourth Amendment sounds like. Are you ready? OK, here it is:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Pretty cheeky, don't you think?

Chile, ¡te felicito! ¡Brava Michelle!

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Chile, tienes una presidenta que es mujer; que además de mujer, socialista; además de socialista, divorciada; además de divorciada, agnóstica. ¿Cómo te atreves? ¿Qué te crees, Finlandia?

En serio, me parece fenomenal que en tantos países latinoamericanos le estén diciendo un rotundo no al neoliberalismo y desafiando a la oligarquía.

¿Por qué los gringos no podemos hacer lo mismo? ¿Y por qué será que en paises supuestamente menos avanzados y desarrollados, son capaces de sacar del poder y meter en la cárcel a sus jefes de estado corruptos, y aquí no? Debe ser que aquí en EE.UU. no hay una democracia auténtica. Parece que las masas, en general, tienen el cerebro lavado por los medios masivos que sirven al poder, o tienen una actitud derrotista que les impide actuar para defender sus propios intereses. Qué pena.

Open letter to my Congressman Bob Menéndez

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Yesterday I ordered fifty bucks worth of impeach bush gear from impeachbush.org, but I still felt that I hadn't done my civic duty. So today I fired up OpenOffice Writer and got busy on a letter to my Congressperson. Thought I'd open-source it; please feel free to borrow, modify, and follow suit.



December 5, 2005

Hon. Robert Menéndez
2238 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Menéndez:

I write as your constituent, and as a citizen of these United States, to implore you to take immediate action to commence impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld so that they are removed from office and held accountable for their crimes. The evidence of criminal incompetence, greed, corruption, torture, and unnecessary wars of conquest based on lies is more than sufficient to warrant this drastic action. Indeed, it is nothing less than the patriotic duty of everyone who cares about this country's future �?? both citizens and elected officials �?? to act now to remove the Bush administration if we are to avert further murderous misadventures like the Iraq war. Bush and his cronies are undermining the security of this country on every level �?? economic, social, environmental, and military. They have also done immeasurable damage to the United States' relationships abroad, having earned the well-deserved fear and hatred of much of the rest of the world.

Bush has got to go.

For a legal case in favor of impeachment I refer you to http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=32550 and to http://pepib.convio.net/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5054

I very much look forward to your response on this vitally important issue.

Very truly yours,

Professor B

New Slogan for the anti-Drug War

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The other day I came up with a good slogan for the drug decriminalization movement. Ready? OK here it is:

There's no criminal solution to a public health problem.

Donate to Iraq reconstruction?

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I hear that USAID is asking private citizens to pony up donations for Iraq reconstruction in addition to all the tax dollars we are spending on trying to rebuild it in addition to all the tax dollars we spent destroying it. Can you believe the chutzpah? Jeez, suppose we had simply not destroyed the place in a criminal war of invasion and occupation in the first place -- think of the savings!

I am glad I bought my bus ticket to the anti-Bush demo in D.C. on Saturday.

Want to stop Judge Roberts?

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I have two really great suggestions for stopping Bush's Supreme Court Nominee:

  1. Impeach Bush.
  2. If that doesn't work, hire Karl Rove to set Roberts up with a thirteen-year-old boy! That is, if a public servant of Mr. Rove's ethical stature and integrity can be persuaded to stoop so low, and if he moonlights. Hell, if he gets fired he won't have to moonlight and can work on our project full time. How will we raise the money for Karl's fee, you ask? Easy. Get those MoveOn.org boys and girls on the job and have them send ten emails a day to their loyal base.

Bush/Cheney Impeachment unimaginable? Not for me

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In a recent Nation editorial they say something like, whereas a few months ago it was "unimaginable," a successful impeachment movement is now merely "improbable." Dudes:  improbable shit happens! Don't be defeatist.

From the Downing Street memo and WMD lies to Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo, the justification for impeachment of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld is now more than sufficiently documented. And knowingly leading your country into an illegal war based on lies has got to be more serious than lying about what you did with your dick, don't you think? They need to be impeached, removed from office, and tried for war crimes. Why is this so unthinkable? How can we not think it and still pretend to care about democracy?

So let's all pony up our dollars and contribute to http://www.votetoimpeach.org/ (as I just did) and start thinking ahead to September 24, when there is going to be one kick-ass demonstration in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. Let's not just be pissed as hell. Let's do something about it.

Flushing the Koran

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The recent flap about alleged Koran-flushing is such a load of crap, no double-entendre intended. Everyone knows that our noble fighting forces would never be so irresponsible as to flush a book down a toilet, because doing so would surely choke the toilet.

Open letter to Bill Maher

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Hey Bill. Bill! You listening? Good. Just a few seconds of your time, please.

The show is great and I love it. Now, here's my suggestion. If you want some other smart witty progressive women on your show, I would suggest:

  • Katha Pollitt
  • Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Naomi Klein

Imagine how they would crush that mendacious, venomous facsist friend of yours Ann Coulter. Bwa ha ha ha!

OK that's it bro. Didn't I promise I'd keep it short?

Grasping the full meaning of cards

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You had to be there. But you would never be, unless you were a member of small elite that has been playing cards together for some 25 years. In our world, Cards is more than just cards. It is the rarest of delicacies; a fine wine that keeps improving with age; a profoundly gratifying, almost ritualistic event. We are a group of 40-something middle class white males that likes to get together once or twice a year and stay up late talking shit, getting fucked up, and... yes, playing some cards. Anybody who has a problem with that can kiss our ass.

Pope Shmope

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I can't see why so many people are falling all over themselves to praise the Pope. So he preached love and peace -- so what? He was the Pope, right? Espousing basic Christian values is his job; doing his job is hardly above and beyond the call.

Let's see, what else? Lacking the balls and/or the wisdom to break with centuries of fucked up dogma and continuing to discourage condom use among tens of millions of people in impoverished, AIDs-ravaged regions like Africa. Way to go fuckhead.

I say good riddance.

Condi Rice sees silver lining in tsunami

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Condoleezza Rice:  "I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of the American people, and I think it has paid great dividends for us." [Source: Dr. Rice's senate confirmation hearing, according to Agence France Presse, Tuesday, January 18, 2005.]

Maybe that helps explain His mysterious ways. See, He decided to blow away all those impoverished dark-skinned masses (and a couple thousand westerners who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) so that these United States would have a "wonderful opportunity" to display our benevolence and generosity.

Pray for the Pope? I think not

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Millions of people are praying for the Pope's recovery, NPR informs us this morning.

As a hardline atheist, I have a problem with the prayer part, but leaving that aside: why would anybody who cares about the human race pray for someone who intentionally discourages millions of people from practicing safe sex and birth control? It just doesn't make any sense.

A Stunning Coincidence

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A friend of mine emails:

So Kerik will now head Homeland. I'm sure it's pure coincidence that [newspapers report that]:

"Mr Kerik ... worked as a guard for the the Saudi royal family before joining the NYPD in 1985."

Protesta apoteósica

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Quote of the day:

"Protestamos no contra el pueblo norteamericano, sino contra el asesino principal del planeta"

-- Marcos Riquelme, a leader of protests against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum being held in Santiago, Chile.

I am proud of the way you guys are setting shit off down there. ¡Viva Chile!

who's bullshit?

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I've just about had it with the likes of the NYTimes and other so-called liberal media (SCLM) outlets like NPR. GO check out sites like english.aljazeera.net and counterpunch.org and you will see what I mean. It's like they're watching a different ballgame.

Speaking of games, atrocities are happening in Fallujah while most Americans sit around watching football. And that is just plain fucked up.

A Sad Day

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OK, I'm a sushi-nibbling, cabernet sauvignon-sipping Northeastern opinionated arrogant elitist snob who likes looking at pictures of Christ submerged in urine. And I say to all of you who voted for Bush:

You are fools at best. Either you don't know your own interests, or your interest is self-destruction (and other-destruction). You voted for what is almost certainly the most corrupt, dangerous, arrogant, mendacious, incompetent administration of your lifetime. You've shown the world that American voters, albeit by a slim majority, chose this prick and have given your approval to his greedy, demented imperialist policies. You fucked up. Shame on you.

Sore loser? Damn right I am. This is no joke, it really sucks big time.

One of the few bright spots I can think of is that Kerry got the African American vote by a margin of ten to one. At least black folks, collectively, have something of a clue. Another bright spot is that the pesto, marinara and meat balls that I served my friends last night made a big hit.

This is it

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Have you ever seen more tension and anxiety around an election in the United States in your lifetime?

Even my own dad, normally a man of relentless logic and reason, sounded a little strange on the phone last night when he said that if the Red Sox can win the World Series, Kerry can win the presidency. Huh?

This is it folks, the day of reckoning. So get out there and do the right thing.

I've been resigned to pulling the lever for Kerry for several months. It's a no-brainer. You would have to be insane or disinformed to do otherwise.

I read somewhere that 70+ percent of Bush supporters still think Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda has been established and that he had WMD. There's a fundamental disconnect with reality, a sort of cognitive disorder. The right wing Republican propaganda apparatus is a thing of awesome power, to be sure, but even so, there's no excuse for being too lazy to get off the couch and make a modicum of effort to find out what is really going on.

Someone was saying on Air America last night that if the Republicans attempt to steal it again, watch out. You might see all shit break loose in the streets of this country like we haven't seen in a century. We need Kerry to take it and take it by a comfortable margin.

I was up late prepping food for the election night dinner we are holding today: made a nice marinara, meatballs, a pesto. Gonna have some quality wine and food, huddle together with some dear friends, and we will either celebrate that we have averted catastrophe, or try to turn our backs to the abyss and enjoy a good meal anyway.

no
more
Bush

Here's why — a little much-needed levity courtesy of our beloved friend Lisa.

¡Viva Chile!

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If you don't read Spanish, here's a synopsis (yeah, synopsis. What do I look like? A translator?): some left-wing pro-human rights groups in Chile are attempting a legal maneuver to have Bush subpoenaed for questioning by a judge when Bush shows up for an economic summit in Chile in a few weeks. They allege that Bush, Rumsfeld, etc., are criminally liable for torture and murder in Iraq, citing a legal principle of universal jurisdiction under international treaties to which both Chile and the U.S are signatories.

Interesting, isn't it, that on the one hand you have a country where people are serious about trying to lock up this criminal for his crimes, while in the U.S., as we speak, the criminal has a very good shot at being re-elected President.

[de El Diario/La Prensa, New York, 27 octubre de 2004:]

Santiago de Chile/EFE — Varios partidos políticos y agrupaciones de izquierda presentaron ayer en Chile una querella contra el presidente de EE.UU., George W. Bush, al que acusan de crímenes de guerra y torturas en Irak.

En la demanda, presentada por los grupos que integran el movimiento Poder Democrático y Social (Podemos), se solicita que "tan pronto pise suelo chileno", el mandatario estadounidense sea interrogado por un juez de la Corte de Apelaciones de Santiago.

Bush tiene previsto visitar Chile con ocasión de la Cumbre del Foro de Cooperación Económica de Asia Pacífico (APEC), que se celebrará en Santiago entre el 19 y el 21 de noviembre próximo.

La querella, dijeron los dirigentes del movimiento a los periodistas en el Palacio de los Tribunales, incluye además al vicepresidente de EE.UU., Dick Cheney; al secretario de Estado, Colin Powell; al secretario de Defensa, Donald Rumsfeld, y al ex administrador estadounidense en Irak, Paul Bremer.

Según los dirigentes, la acción judicial "es un acto ético, moral y de dignidad" ante la visita a Chile de George W. Bush.

El movimiento "Podemos" está formado por los partidos Humanista, Comunista, Izquierda Cristiana y el Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR), entre otras organizaciones, que llevan una lista de candidatos a las elecciones municipales del próximo domingo.

Uno de los abogados que patrocinan la querella, Juan Enrique Prieto, afirmó que los crímenes cometidos por las autoridades estadounidenses en Irak han infringido el derecho internacional humanitario estipulado en la Convención de Ginebra y en la Convención contra la Tortura.

Agregó que el principio de jurisdicción universal expresado en ambas convenciones, suscritas por Chile y Estado Unidos, asigna competencia a las autoridades de un Estado para perseguir delitos que atenten contra los bienes jurídicos internacionales o supranacionales, independientemente del lugar donde hayan sido cometidos y de la nacionalidad de autores o víctimas.

"Estamos pidiendo un ministro (juez) de fuero y, como diligencia concreta, que se exhorte a objeto de obtener declaración de los imputados y además que en el evento que lleguen al país sean citados a declarar y se dicten las resoluciones que correspondan", concluyó el abogado Prieto.

El dirigente Lautaro Carmona sostuvo por su parte que la acción legal "representa el sentimiento de un sector muy amplio de la población chilena".

La Corte de Apelaciones deberá resolver si acoge o no a trámite el escrito y en el primer caso debería designar a uno de sus jueces para que inicie la investigación.

Bush looks like a chimpanzee, but....

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Q. What's the difference between George W. Bush and a chimpanzee?

A. The chimp is more human.

Check this out: http://www.toddbreer.com/p_070702_bushchimps.shtml

Support the Commander-in-Chief

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From now on, in deference to our Commander-in-Chief, we should follow his example and adopt his way of referring to what we used to called the Internet. From now on it should be plural: the Internets.

NY Times competes with The Onion again

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And I quote:

"Report on Day Care Death Finds Flaws in System

By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
New York's Health Department called its oversight of day care centers a bureaucratic maze riddled with problems that spell potential dangers for children...."

And here I was expecting, Report on Day Care Death Finds System Flawless


Why Kerry is doing poorly

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I got into a stimulating email exchange with some friends and e-acquaintances who live on the Left Coast the other day. We made lots of insightful observations. l take the liberty of paraphrasing myself:

Speaking of the grand right-wing propaganda apparatus and its roots back in the Goldwater days, an excellent article about it appeared in the September 2004 Harper's (don't have it handy for reference, sorry). It's by Lewis Lapham, and we know his biases; but he states that this essay was inspired by a matter-of-fact and (jaw-dropping) presentation he saw given by some dude who was anything but a lefty, some kind of finance industry guy. It is an extraordinary and important article.

I haven't read Thomas Frank's book The Trouble with Kansas but I read his Harper's article based on the book, and heard some radio interview snippets. His ideas have been the topic du jour in left/liberal scholar/activist circles, it seems. A very important read. The main criticism it seems is that he condescends to them Kansas rabble -- too dumb to know their own interests. He says it ain't so. Well, bullshit. You gotta be at least a bit of a dumbass to think Bush is a good christian man who's gonna care about working class you.

The big question is: why, why, why is Kerry at best even with W. in the polls, given how thoroughly the lies arrogance incompetence etc of W.'s admin have been documented and exposed? IMHO the answer, judging from all the lefty magazine articles I've had time to read (combined with maybe just a pinch of independent thought on my part) is something like this:

(0) The question itself suggests the answer: because it doesn't matter how unbelievably horrible Bush is, because:

(1) See Thomas Frank.

(2) See Lewis Lapham.

(3) Kerry totally blows. Who's genuinely excited about Kerry? Nobody, and rightly so.

(4) When you effectively exploit the mob's anger and fear (see 1 and 2 above), mobs turn to the right whether it's in their real interest or not. See 1920's Germany (and some piece in a recent Nation that reminded us of this). And these guys have done a masterful job of exploiting the fear. (See Michael Moore, or check the current Terror Level)

(5) The polls are rigged (see Gore Vidal). When they ask a question like "who do you think would be more effective in prosecuting the War on Terror, Kerry or Bush?", what the FUCK is that supposed to mean? It means you're supposed to accept the premise that the War on Terror is not a fraud but a Good Thing. Poll questions like that are part of the problem, or maybe a symptom of it.

I am pessimistic about Kerry's chances. Somebody please persuade me otherwise. Maybe that absurd spectacle they call a presidential debate will less vacuous than usual, and Kerry will slap that bitch's head around in front of millions. We're told he's been "ramping it up" and "picking up the pace." One can always hope....

Bill Clinton? He'll be fine.

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I hear on today's news that 26,000 people have wished Bill a speedy recovery.

Folks, don't worry:  he'll be fine. Unlike so many millions of his fellow citizens, Bill enjoys access to the finest available medical care as part of the benefits package that came with his old job (President). I bet it's all covered 100%. I bet he won't even have to see a so-called Explanation of Benefits. As my dad pointed out the other day, he surely doesn't have to share a room — with some random moribund loser crapping into his colostomy bag. In fact I wouldn' t be surprised if the hospital comps his phone.

Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge Bill his quality health care. I just wish we had universal health care in this country, as they do in every other country that is considered a modern, developed democracy.

One Helluva anti-RNC Protest

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Mordant wit and creativity showed up along with those 200,000 or so protesters at the demo against the Republican National Convention last Sunday. I took quite a few pictures, such as this one, and this one, and this one (insolent skanky-ass New York hoes! I love you!).

Arrogant scumbags, don't come back.

Who's Up for Some anti-RNC Protest?

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I know I sure as hell am. See you there.

¡Bravo Hugo Chávez! Fuck the Wall Street Journal

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Yeah you heard me.

The editors of the Journal apparently think the outcome of the referendum in Venezuela reflects the sorry state of Venezuelan democracy. Right. When the guy who's in power cares more about the plight of the impoverished masses than about the oligarchy, and the oligarchy can't get rid of him, then that isn't democracy. Thank you George Orwell.

Nixon's Anniversary and the Lost Art of Resigning

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The 30 year anniversary of old Trickie Dick's resignation got me thinking about this. Politicians and hotshot corporate executives just don't know how to resign in this country any more. Oh sure you still get some resignations, like Governor what's-its up in Connecticut who recently threw in the towel, at long last, when there was an angry mob circling his house with torches and clubs. For the most part the art of resigning is practiced more in Europe and in Japan nowadays. People in the USA, in general, just don't seem to know when to say, "ok, I fucked up, give me an hour to clean out my desk and I'm gone."

Nixon held on as long as he could, too long no doubt. But let's remember -- guys were dropping like flies all through the Watergate scandal, mostly resigning in disgrace, some in protest. Not like these arrogant, shameless shits you have in DC nowadays, like Rumsfeld, you should have hit the road long ago over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

Reagan Day -- What To Wear?

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In the midst of this revolting media deification of the Old Gipper, I rise this morning and face the big Che lives question: what shall I wear today? See, I'm a public sector employee so I get the National Day of Mourning off at your expense; I don't have to wear my usual suite-and-tie costume. Of all the miserable garments in my pathetic wardrobe, which is worthy of so momentous an occasion? What T-shirt do I own that best expresses an attitude, an ideology, a worldview that one might consider the opposite of Reaganism?

Ah, here we go:  my tired old Che Guevara T-shirt, yes I think that will do just fine.

Good riddance Ronald Reagan

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I'm glad that evil fuck is dead.

Setting Shit Off

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I saw a note yesterday in the New York Spanish language daily El Diario that said that some miners set off two explosions outside the building in La Paz that houses the Confederación de Mineros de Bolivia. They were protesting the loss of jobs, and they evidently had the skills, the equipment and the balls to set shit off and let motherfuckers know what time it was. I admire their style.

Our Senators have been looking at revolting sado-porn images of US military and mercenary personnel abusing Iraqi prisonerss, and they are telling us how disturbing this is.

What, and we don't get to see? Come on. We like to look at sick shit too, ya know. Can I get a little democracy and transparency in this fucking place?

unspeakable

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The good Professor's observation that we, with some shame, hope for the US invading forces to get slaughtered to somehow prove or comment on, the immorality of the current administrations foolish enterprise, is well taken.

It was very disappointing when it became clear that the Iraqis didn't have some weapon - a smallish thermonuclear device or the plague - that they could unleash and not only take out the invading forces but with strong prevailing winds, take out a big chunk of humanity. That would have been grand entertainment. News at eleven!! Stay tuned!! The idea of rooting for the other team creates a bit of cognitive dissonance.

But our "team" - the cheney/rummy/dubya,etc. cocksuckers - well; they aren't our team, now are they? And I'm not so sure about the spineless democrats either. They have caved in to the simple minded school-yard trick of using generally accepted platitudes to be defeated and silenced. Aren't you a good patriot? Don't you love the good ole USA? Why are you sitting on the visitors side of the gym? Where is your flag and why isn't it on display? You must not support our troops!

We watch car races in hopes of a really good crash and when it happens, it is on the news, in slo-mo, over and over again. I watch and any cocksucker who says they don't, is a pile of fermented horse shit lyin jack-off. It is our nature. We are curious about such things. (a brief aside: if you want to indulge your curiousity about the look of human carnage, accidents, self-inflicted gun shot wounds, etc, go to rotten.com - this is a Vernon T. Bludgeon approved site)

Back to the subject at hand - Iraq. People are getting killed. You read it here first. Why should I feel more remorse at the loss of an american as opposed to an Iraqi? And why the fuck should we give huge coverage to the death of an ex-football player who gave up his multi-mil contract to play soldier. Why him? I want to know about the poor child who found a bit of hope by joining the army to get a step up. The press seems enamored of the fact that he gave up the money as if that makes him an even bigger hero. He chose his way to die; his right and privledge. If he had given up the money and then committed suicide would we still think highly of him? Oh yes - he died for a good cause. Bullshit. He died for a stupid ridiculous invasion of another country by our nascent dictatorship. If he thought that he was fighting for the "homeland" (why didn't they just call it the fatherland?) or to bring democracy to a region that couldn't give a shit about democracy, then he did committ suicide. Or was monumentally stupid or read too many G.I Joe comics as a child. I read a lot of Dr. Squirm Finger the Proctologist comics when I was young but you don't see me signing up to exam sphincters do you?

We don't want anyone to die and we certainly don't want to belong to a club that sends children off to kill people and get killed just for the club leadership's amusement. Hussein gassed his "own" people. Yeah? So we are noble and order the deaths of our own people by invading another country? And when things are going badly and it is obvious that we shouldn't have ever done this, we send more kids off to the machine? Rather than admitting our folly and withdrawing?

rant, rant, rant. I need to relax so I'm going to a calming, inspirational movie - the one where they beat the shit out of jesus. Now that is what it is all about. A good wholesome sense of what the world should aspire to. Violence with a message?

speaking the unspeakable about US casualties

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I remember reading somewhere in Howard Zinn's history of the US that in the run-up to the Mexican war, a shameless imperial land grab if ever there was one, there was ferocious opposition to the war. An American newspaper editorial of the time said, in substance, we deplore bloodshed and violence, but this is inexcusable, and if someone's blood has to be shed, let it be the blood of the invading American forces. Let them be defeated and turned back in complete disgrace. Can you believe they actually published this? Nowadays everyone who thinks this way keeps his mouth shut about it.

Everyone except your servant Professor B, that is. Whenever US soldier or private sector mercenary comes home from Iraq in a body bag, I feel immense sympathy for the families and friends of these people. But on an a purely, heartlessly military and political level, I don't feel a bit sorry for the invaders, nor for the employees of profiteering corporations, who end up getting wacked. In fact I route for the resistance. The US has no business there, and never did, and should get the hell out now, and beg the UN on hands and knees to step in, and offer to pay the bills. Cut military spending in half and use some of the savings to rebuild the place and pay reparations.

"presidential" press conference

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Well well well. Can't think of any mistakes you made in the so-called War on Terror, George? Need a little help? OK, how about the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq? Under the false pretext of the WMD you now can't find, not even under the desk in your office? Remember that?

Seriously, though. You otherwise acquitted yourself brilliantly. You laid out all those distortions, lies and rabble-rousing button-pushing jingoistic propaganda just like Karl R. and your other handlers trained you. I bet you'll get a nice little bump in the poll numbers (which don't concern you, of course).

Oh by the way:  fuck you.

Spanish election

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The socialists would have won the Spanish election without the boost given them by the government's mishandling of the Madrid train bombings. The Madrid correspondent of the respected German weekly Die Zeit reported that while polls may be taken in Spain at any time up to an election, the results may not be made public in the two weeks prior to an election. Polls taken in Spain during those crucial two weeks, she wrote, showed that the socialists were steadily gaining on the government. While they undoubtedly got a push from the aftermath of the bombings, they would have taken over the government without it.

Professor B's note: The point being that you'd be unlikely to know this if you relied solely on the USA's corporate media. They have generally failed to report that the Spanish people were going to kick out Aznar's party anyway, for disregarding the popular will by supporting the US invasion of Iraq; they would have us think that the catastrophe and its scandalous mishandling were the sole causes of a stunning upset victory, which is just plain false. Good thing my dad reads German.

Real Family Values

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Family values were out in full force on Saturday, March 20, 2004 at the anti-war demonstration in New York City, as you can see if you click the thumbnail to display a JPEG of my 10-month old daughter, my wife Marie, and Professor B himself observing the one-year anniversary of the Bush administration's criminal invasion of Iraq.

Iraq invasion anniversary

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As the one year anniversary of the invasion comes around, and Ministry of Truth a/k/a the Whitehouse loudly congratulates itself for its heroic deeds on behalf of freedom and democracy in Iraq, I thought it a good time to resurrect this little gem that circulated on the Internet around this time last year.

IMMEDIATE ATTENTION NEEDED :
HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL

FROM: GEORGE WALKER BUSH
202.456.1414 / 202.456.1111
FAX: 202.456.2461

DEAR SIR / MADAM,

I AM GEORGE WALKER BUSH, SON OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, AND CURRENTLY SERVING AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. THIS LETTER MIGHT SURPRISE YOU BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT MET NEITHER IN PERSON NOR BY CORRESPONDENCE. I CAME TO KNOW OF YOU IN MY SEARCH FOR A RELIABLE AND REPUTABLE PERSON TO HANDLE A VERY CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS TRANSACTION, WHICH INVOLVES THE TRANSFER OF A HUGE SUM OF MONEY TO AN ACCOUNT REQUIRING MAXIMUM CONFIDENCE.

I AM WRITING YOU IN ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE PRIMARILY TO SEEK YOUR ASSISTANCE IN ACQUIRING OIL FUNDS THAT ARE PRESENTLY TRAPPED IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ. MY PARTNERS AND I SOLICIT YOUR ASSISTANCE IN COMPLETING A TRANSACTION BEGUN BY MY FATHER, WHO HAS LONG BEEN ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THE EXTRACTION OF PETROLEUM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND BRAVELY SERVED HIS COUNTRY AS DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.

IN THE DECADE OF THE NINETEEN-EIGHTIES, MY FATHER, THEN VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, SOUGHT TO WORK WITH THE GOOD OFFICES OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ TO REGAIN LOST OIL REVENUE SOURCES IN THE NEIGHBORING ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN. THIS UNSUCCESSFUL VENTURE WAS SOON FOLLOWED BY A FALLING OUT WITH HIS IRAQI PARTNER, WHO SOUGHT TO ACQUIRE ADDITIONAL OIL REVENUE SOURCES IN THE NEIGHBORING EMIRATE OF KUWAIT, A WHOLLY-OWNED U.S.-BRITISH SUBSIDIARY.

MY FATHER RE-SECURED THE PETROLEUM ASSETS OF KUWAIT IN 1991 AT A COST OF SIXTY-ONE BILLION U.S. DOLLARS ($61,000,000,000). OUT OF THAT COST, THIRTY-SIX BILLION DOLLARS ($36,000,000,000) WERE SUPPLIED BY HIS PARTNERS IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA AND OTHER PERSIAN GULF MONARCHIES, AND SIXTEEN BILLION DOLLARS ($16,000,000,000) BY GERMAN AND JAPANESE PARTNERS. BUT MY FATHER'S FORMER IRAQI BUSINESS PARTNER REMAINED IN CONTROL OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ AND ITS PETROLEUM RESERVES.

MY FAMILY IS CALLING FOR YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE IN FUNDING THE REMOVAL OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ AND ACQUIRING THE PETROLEUM ASSETS OF HIS COUNTRY, AS COMPENSATION FOR THE COSTS OF REMOVING HIM FROM POWER. UNFORTUNATELY, OUR PARTNERS FROM 1991 ARE NOT WILLING TO SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF THIS NEW VENTURE, WHICH IN ITS UPCOMING PHASE MAY COST THE SUM OF 100 BILLION TO 200 BILLION DOLLARS ($100,000,000,000 - $200,000,000,000), BOTH IN THE INITIAL ACQUISITION AND IN LONG-TERM MANAGEMENT.

WITHOUT THE FUNDS FROM OUR 1991 PARTNERS, WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO ACQUIRE THE OIL REVENUE TRAPPED WITHIN IRAQ. THAT IS WHY MY FAMILY AND OUR COLLEAGUES ARE URGENTLY SEEKING YOUR GRACIOUS ASSISTANCE. OUR DISTINGUISHED COLLEAGUES IN THIS BUSINESS TRANSACTION INCLUDE THE SITTING VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RICHARD CHENEY, WHO IS AN ORIGINAL PARTNER IN THE IRAQ VENTURE AND FORMER HEAD OF THE HALLIBURTON OIL COMPANY, AND CONDOLEEZA RICE, WHOSE PROFESSIONAL DEDICATION TO THE VENTURE WAS DEMONSTRATED IN THE NAMING OF A CHEVRON OIL TANKER AFTER HER.

I WOULD BESEECH YOU TO TRANSFER A SUM EQUALING TEN TO TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT (10-25 %) OF YOUR YEARLY INCOME TO OUR ACCOUNT TO AID IN THIS IMPORTANT VENTURE. THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL FUNCTION AS OUR TRUSTED INTERMEDIARY. I PROPOSE THAT YOU MAKE THIS TRANSFER BEFORE THE FIFTEENTH (15TH) OF THE MONTH OF APRIL.

I KNOW THAT A TRANSACTION OF THIS MAGNITUDE WOULD MAKE ANYONE APPREHENSIVE AND WORRIED. BUT I AM ASSURING YOU THAT ALL WILL BE WELL AT THE END OF THE DAY. A BOLD STEP TAKEN SHALL NOT BE REGRETTED, I ASSURE YOU. PLEASE DO BE INFORMED THAT THIS BUSINESS TRANSACTION IS 100% LEGAL. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO CO-OPERATE IN THIS TRANSACTION, PLEASE CONTACT OUR INTERMEDIARY REPRESENTATIVES TO FURTHER DISCUSS THE MATTER.

I PRAY THAT YOU UNDERSTAND OUR PLIGHT. MY FAMILY AND OUR COLLEAGUES WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL. PLEASE REPLY IN STRICT CONFIDENCE TO THE CONTACT NUMBERS BELOW.

SINCERELY WITH WARM REGARDS,

GEORGE WALKER BUSH

Todos somos españoles: un mensaje solidario

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Desde aqui en EE.UU. este gringo se permite expresar su más profundo pesar por los horrores que estais viviendo en España en estos días. Fue para mí sumamente deprimente leer esta mañana la triste noticia en el matutino hispanófono nuevayorquino, Hoy, precisamente cuando venía llegando al World Trade Center en el tren PATH, homólogo de vuestro sistema ferroviario que fue blanco del atentado.

Cobarde, aborrecible, detestable -- las palabras parecen insuficientes. Lo triste es que el homo sapiense sigue siendo capaz de ser tan hijo de puta por más que haya evolucionado, y recurre al terror. Y, vale añadir, el terror es el terror, sea producto de alguna fría calculación politica, sea un simple acto de odio o venganza, hágase con bombas ocultas en mochilas o con bombas lanzadas desde 10.000 metros contra una población civil indefensa.

Ojalá que el futuro sea mejor que el presente. Lamentablemente, a juzgar por el estado en que se encuentra este mundo, hay poca razón para ser optimista.

coming not so soon: WMD Whitewash

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To hear the punditry chatter about it, you could be forgiven for thinking that the WMD/intelligence investigation is a whitewash whose script is already written. They keep referring to investigation into intelligence "failures." The premise, implicitly, is that intelligence "failures" are at fault for the US' illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Excuse me, but what about the possibility -- for which there is ample evidence -- that our fearless leaders knew what time it was and lied about it to the public?

Remember last February and again in April when a hundred thousand of my closest friends and I demonstrated in the streets of New York (and elsewhere around the world) shouting at the top of our lungs that the adminstration's justifications were bullshit? I guess that's gone down the memory hole.

Didn't Paul Wolfowitz acknowledge in an interview with Vanity Fair, essentially, that the administration adopted the WMD angle because they knew it would sell? "It was the one reason everyone could agree on." That it was a lie is incidental.

Didn't Paul O'Neill say publicly (in a CBS news interview, January 11, 2004) that the Bushites began planning the invasion in January of 2001? Why would he make that up?

Granted, it is hard to overestimate the incompetence of our intelligence services. But here's the problem I'm having. When you assert a negative, and you turn out to be wrong, that's one thing. Example: "We don't think the dude has WMD because we have searched systematically for a long time and found no evidence that he does." Then suppose you're mistaken and he does have WMD. "Oops, my bad. Sorry." But when you assert a positive and you're wrong, you better explain yourself. Example: "we are certain the dude has WMD." Why? "Because." Because what? "Can't tell ya. It's a secret." OK, now we fast forward to today: no WMD. What's the story? "Well, ya see, intelligence is never 100% right or 100% wrong." Yeah right. The director of the CIA will fall on his sword -- sort of -- and the "bilateral" panel chosen by dubya will take until after the election to complete its whitewash.

Get the fuck outa here.

tim & georgie

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I almost got out of bed this morning to watch dubya talk with tim russert. But I thought better of it and went back to dreamland. I am very religious and every Sunday attend the church of Our Lady of the Holy Mattress. I saw excerpts of the interview on the news and as I figured, it just made me shout at the tube. After the bay of pigs debacle JFK simply said - sorry, my fault - and then made sure he didn't do that again. Got rid of the advisors who had led him astray and picked people he could trust to be honest. Unfortunately, dubya doesn't think for himself and therefore can't follow that example. I am heartened by the recent polls but I still don't think anybody can survive the massive corporate propaganda, donation driven machine of the dubya. I despair.

A great statesman of recent history said (I paraphrase, sorry) "It is the great fortune for government that the people don't think" How true, how true. As it was then, it is now.

The people who wave the flag the hardest and cheer the tax cuts are the least able to survive. They are the lottery ticket buyers who routinely throw away $50 to a $100 dollars every week. Even more aggravating when they slow the line at the boozeteria. I'm all for gambling; the more casinos the better - put slot machines on street corners. Make all of it legal but let the government take charge! Can't we all be indians?? I'm a member of the Slipskabonerupdepoopshute's tribe. Here in CT they invent tribes all the time. It has become a cottage industry.

Then we can cut taxes to the bone and sit back and watch the anti-tax folks throw their money into the governments coffers. And they will do it without realizing what is happening. William Bennet can urge them on.

Back to the people interfering with my purchase of a nice Vernaccia from San Gimignano - I often want to ask them to give me the money if they don't really want it but they just get all testy. OK, I can see the reaction coming about how manipulative this concept is - the lets get rid of gambling period folks who protest the exploitation of the masses. I agree. But when you consider that these masses are the same people who want to get rid of all taxation so they can spend their money as they choose?

So the great statesman, much admired in certain circles and considered one the most influential leaders of the 20th century that I quoted?? Adolph Hitler.

Open Letter to My Fox-Viewing Friends

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I've got a couple of friends who watch a lot of Fox News. One person in particular, a good friend who lives across the street from me. When I go into his house more often than not he's got good old Fair and Balanced oozing from his vegbox. Remarkably, this is a person of considerable intelligence and whose judgement and opinions I otherwise generally respect. This one goes out to youse all:

My Dear Friends,

Why do you watch that shit? Haven't I told you time and again it's full of lies, distortions and propaganda? Well here's some more evidence for that proposition, quoted from AlterNet.org. You can read the study itself here.

Based on several nationwide surveys it conducted with California-based Knowledge Networks since June, as well as the results of other polls, [University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA)] found that 48 percent of the public believe US troops found evidence of close pre-war links between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist group; 22 percent thought troops found weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq; and 25 percent believed that world public opinion favored Washington's going to war with Iraq. All three are misperceptions[...]

[N]ews sources also accounted for major differences in misperceptions, according to PIPA, which asked more than 3,300 respondents since May where they "tended to get most of [their] news.'' Eighty percent identified broadcast media, while 19 percent cited print media.

Among those who said broadcast media, 30 percent said two or more networks; 18 percent, Fox News; 16 percent, CNN; 24 percent, the three big networks -- NBC (14 percent), ABC (11 percent), CBS (9 percent); and three percent, the two public networks, National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

For each of the three misperceptions, the study found enormous differences between the viewers of Fox, who held the most misperceptions, and NPR/PBS, who held the fewest by far. Eighty percent of Fox viewers were found to hold at least one misperception, compared to 23 percent of NPR/PBS consumers. All the other media fell in between.


Yeah I added the yellow highlighting and the italics. Fox viewers, don't worry, you can wipe it off your monitor with a soft, clean, damp cloth.

How do I pray like bush?

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There was a picture, black and white, in some publication recently that showed the dear leader with his cabinet before the festivities had begun and they were all praying. I was entranced by the image - they were perfectly composed - all in a row. Their heads were bowed at the same angle; hands held in a posture signifying their humbleness; eyes squinched tightly closed. They all wore the same uniform but because it was in B&W I couldn't make out the color of the ties. I'm sure they were the same. Look - I can't join in praying like the leader of the free world if my tie isn't the correct color; don't you agree? Sometimes it is red, sometimes blue. If anyone can help me with my problem or has a thought/guess about the correct color I would be more than grateful for the help. Oh! I almost forgot - what the fuck are they praying for?

If the shoe fits, then for fuck's sake, wear it!

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I realize it's now passé, but really. Those MoveOn folks are starting to disappoint with their wussiness. The winning ad, chosen by the MoveOn voters, that CBS is nixing is too tame for my taste. The Hitler ones are actually good -- not to mention powerful.

Hitler had to defend Germany against Polish aggression, right?

Thanks to theMemoryHole.org for posting the ads that MoveOn pulled.

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