The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Gmail Invitations

I have 6 Google Mail Invitations for anyone who reads this blog and wants them. Just send me a note at jrobertson at gmail.com and I'll reply with an invite. I have used for several months now and appreciate the 1 gigabyte of storage space.

First come first served


Brand Democrat

Oliver Willis has an excellent series of posts under the subject he has entitled "Brand Democrat".

I think that too often we have let right-wing radio and media talking heads define what a Democrat is and they do it so well that too many people are ashamed to call themselves Democrats. In fact I think this attitude has infected too much of the leadership of the Democratic party, particularly in the Senate.

The arguments presented in "Brand Democrat" are done in such a honest and simple way that they are hard to refute, and I suspect that those 'values' are more in line with the vast majority of Americans than the "Moral Values" that are trumpeted by the Christian Right. They are almost simple enough to put on a bumper sticker.

Go check them out.

everyvotecounts - sub-blog

i'm new to this and i've set up a sub-blog on grassroots efforts to improve voting and democracy. i'm still working on it. maybe seth can help me, how do i add links to the commons, your page and other resources? thanks, coral

What would democratic elections look like?

What Would DemocraticElections Look Like?

Print-friendly Page
By Jeff Milchen November 15, 2002 (updated Oct 2004)
Our federal election fiasco in 2000 exposed numerous critical flaws in our electoral process and spurred a new flurry of reform efforts, but despite all the attention generated, the actual changes have been little more than band-aids.
Why? One reason may be the approach taken by most reform proponents that essentially asks "what can we do to make this deeply flawed system less corrupt?" What might change if the approach was to first ask "what conditions are necessary for a truly representative democracy?" and then, "how do we get there?"
It's a fundamental difference in approach. Hopefully, some of the examples here will provoke you to consider the path of electoral reform in the U.S. and to clarify your own thoughts on what actions we must take to achieve representative democracy.
At ReclaimDemocracy.org, we as a fundamental requirement for democracy that each person's political influence result direct from the quality of one's ideas and the energy put into promoting them--independent of a person's wealth to the greatest degree possible. Yet we're clearly nowhere close to those conditions when it comes to state and federal elections.
The excessive power assigned to money, especially in federal elections, is glaring. Even in the 2002 Congressional races, where money was less dominant as the determinant of the victors than in 2000, 95% of all House seats and 75% of Senate seats were won by the higher-spending candidate. Incumbents won 97% of races in which they ran. (based on candidate financial reports filed through September 2002, when this article was written.)
And money is a conclusive determinant of who can compete.One-third of all those running for the House (157 candidates) -- effectively ran unopposed. Thirty-five had no opponent at all, while another 122 faced challengers who spent less than $5,000. No wonder only 75 of the 435 House races were even marginally competitive (meaning the margin of victory was less than 20 points).
The depth of our problems in some specific realms such as campaign financing is explored in detail in other primers (see links within article). Here, we aim briefly to explore an overview of some of our most vitally needed electoral reforms.
1. Abolish the "Money Equals Speech" Doctrine
2. Revoke the Precedent of Granting Bill of Rights Protections to CorporationsThese destructive Supreme Court creations both lack Constitutional basis. The first precedent dates to the late 1800s when the Court applied the Fourteenth Amendment and "due process" guarantees--designed to protect the rights of freed slaves--to corporations, an entity mentioned nowhere in the Constitution.
The 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision authorized some limits on political donations, but equated campaign spending with speech and legalize political donations at levels beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest Americans. Just one tenth of one percent of Americans gave a $1000 contribution in the 2000 election--one-quarter the present $4000 limit for investments in an individual candidate per election cycle (after the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act doubled the "hard money" contribution limits).
While we fully support public campaign financing, we must also confront those two root problems. While banning "soft money" may prevent direct corporate funding of parties, it doesn't touch corporate interference in democracy via advertising, lobbying, and many other activities.
Consider the combined effect of these two premises: give an institution (the corporation) with an unlimited ability to amass wealth many key rights of citizens, then allow money to translate freely to political power. Now ask yourself if we can possibly realize the ideal of one person, one vote with these two perversions of our Constitution intact. These issues are at the heart of our diseased democracy.
See "When Money Is Speech, Speech Cannot Be Free" for more on #1. See our Corporate Personhood page for more on #2.
3. Establish a Constitutional Right to VoteVoting is one of the fundamental elements of citizenship and democracy, and most Americans assume universal suffrage to be a struggle already won--but we lack any Constitutional right to vote! Yes, the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments outlaw voting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or age, but those protections are hollow because all citizens may be disenfranchised so long as it is done without bias. The Supreme Court on at least three occasions has affirmed that voting is a privilege granted at the discretion of those in power.
Our lack of Constitutional voting rights enabled many of the worst abuses in the 2000 elections (such as the mass disenfranchisement in Florida) and continues to invite gross injustice in elections. The deliberate suppression of targeted voting blocks that occurred in 2000 will only worsen in years ahead now that its effectiveness is proven and public opposition was muted.
Our lack of voting rights also allows the United States government to deny residents of Washington D.C., who outnumber the residents of some states, any voting representation in Congress whatsoever. A Constitutional Amendment is needed to rectify this problem.
Read more on the missing right to vote or see our proposed Right to Vote Amendment.
4. Institute Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)The unhealthy dilemma of voting one's conscience versus voting for the "realistic" contender should be eliminated. IRV offers a neutral and proven method for correcting this problem. Voters simply rank candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, she/he wins. If no candidate receives a majority of first place votes, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated, and ballots cast for that candidate are counted for one of the remaining candidates according to those ballots' second choices.
IRV ensures a majority winner, frees minor-party candidates from a "spoiler" role, and allows voters to express their true preferences rather than voting out of fear. It also spurs cleaner campaigns, as candidates have an incentive to avoid mud-slinging when they compete for second-choice votes. IRV can work at any level of government, and states are free to implement it for federal elections.
Visit the Center for Voting and Democracy for much more on this issue. We also have a free pamphlet on the topic.
5. Adopt Public Campaign Financing at Local and State Levels Taxpayer-funded campaigns are the greatest bargain on Earth when one compares the cost of a few dollars per person for public funding to the cost of paybacks by elected officials to major campaign donors. The results in Maine and Arizona, two states that have led the way in public campaign financing, are impressive: increased participation, more competitive elections, and greater public trust in government.
Public Campaign has a guide to voter-owned elections for those exploring further.
6. Establish Democratic Presidential Debates The nationally-televised presidential debates are the single most influential forum for most Americans to decide whether they should vote in the race and for whom. They offer a rare opportunity to hear candidates' ideas unedited and in context.
Since 1988, these debates have been controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a private corporation created and controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties. The CPD operates with no public oversight and exists primarily to further the interests of those two parties--to the detriment of democracy. The greatest harms to democracy are the exclusion of legitimate candidates outside of the CPD owners' parties and the exclusion of many vital issues from introduction into the debates.
ReclaimDemocracy.org co-founded the Citizens' Debate Commission in 2003 to institute debates that serve democracy, not just the two major parties. Here's our latest article on democratizing the debates.
7. Reduce Ballot Access BarriersState laws often raise absurd barriers to political competition that enshrines a two-party duopoly. National standards must be enacted for all federal offices to prevent this discrimination. Non-partisan election officials (see #9) also are essential to correcting these problems.
Ballot Access News is the definitive resource on ballot access issues.
8. Abolish the Electoral College Presently, the vote of individuals for president in the smallest states carries three times the weight of that of citizens in some more populous states. In addition, the winner-take-all system, used by most states, is profoundly anti-democratic because it wipes out the vote of all those within the state not voting for the winning presidential candidate. Eliminating the Electoral College requires a Constitutional amendment--a long-term challenge. But states can implement Instant Runoff Voting, proportional assignment of electors (already done in Maine and Nebraska) and other ideas to improve the system dramatically.
9. Independent Redistricting Commissions and Election Administration Democracy is hollow when elected officials choose their constituents, rather than constituents choosing them, yet that's our reality in elections for the U.S. House of Representatives today. The combination of partisan gerrymandering (drawing district boundaries to benefit particular candidates or party) of House districts with winner-take-all elections and the huge monetary advantages of incumbency means few citizens have the opportunity to vote in a competitive House election.
In the 2002 Congressional elections, only 38 of 435 House races were even somewhat competitive (margin of victory of 10% or less). In 356 races, the incumbent ran unopposed or won by landslides of more than 20%. Overall, 98% of House members running for re-election retained their seats between 1996 and 2002.
The gerrymandering component of this problem should be addressed by citizens in every state demanding nonpartisan commissions to draw redistricting maps, as Iowa and Arizona already have done, while building a movement for national reform.
Similarly, allowing state elections to be overseen by partisan officials is absurd. All election administration officials should be non-partisan appointments. Additionally, we need federal standards for fair and consistent registration, ballot and voting procedures.
10. Make Election Day a HolidayToo many citizens are impeded from voting because of limited voting hours and work obligations. A "Democracy Day" to engage citizens in Election Day activities, including voting, is a worthy investment. Citizens can work for this change in their own state or federally.
Contact us for a free pamphlet on this topic.
11. Reduce Barriers to VotingEliminate pre-registration requirements. Such laws are economically and racially discriminatory and a senseless deterrent to voting. A federal mandate for same-day registration is a long overdue update of the Voting Rights Act.

12. Stop Permanent DisenfranchisementIn Florida, over 400,000 citizens, including a whopping 30% of all black men, were prohibited from voting in 2000. Some did not even have actual felony convictions--the official justification--but were purged illegally from the rolls by a private corporation (Choicepoint Inc.) contracted by the state. While the choice of whether to disenfranchise those in prison is appropriately left to states, lifetime voting prohibitions for ex-felons, enacted by several states, are racist and violate the constitutional promise of equal protection of law. Disenfranchisement of those who have served their sentences must be banished.
Demos is one of several excellent resources on this issue.

Of course, this list is incomplete and many other ideas deserve consideration, but key to all truly fundamental reform efforts is to begin with the end goal in mind and not be deterred by current leanings of the Supreme Court or "political reality." Government of, by, and for the people only will result if the people repossess it.

Please see our Transforming Politics page for detailed analysis of many issues summarized here and additional links to organizations focusing on these issues.

Jeffrey Feldman - PRAs (CAUTION!)

Frameshop: PRAs (CAUTION!)
by Jeffrey Feldman


Sat Nov 20th, 2004 at 09:54:15 PST

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONSUMER ADVISORY

POLITICAL LANGUAGE RECALL

The following phrase has been identified as faulty political language:

"Personal Retirement Accounts" (PRAs)

DO NOT USE THIS PHRASE.

This phrase is subject to immediate recall.

If you or someone you know is currently using this phrase, please go immediately to Frameshop for repairs.

WIDELY USED IN SOCIAL SECURITY DEBATE.

This phrase is widely used in Bush proposals to "fix" Social Security.

Also used in Conservative think tank "solutions" to Social Security.

Anyone currently engaged in debate about Social Security should exercise extreme caution.

All others should immediately make themselves aware of the problem.

WARNINGS:
Use of this phrase will result in serious damange to political debate and harm to this country.

Repeated use of this phrase will result in the proliferation of a deceptive conservative frame, the dismantling of Social Security, and the destruction of the social welfare state.

EXTREME CAUTION ADVISED.
---

Frameshop is open.


Problem with the phrase "PRA"

The basic conservative idea behind "Personal Retirement Accounts" is to change the Social Security deduction so that a portion of it will be deposited directly into bank accounts controlled by the individual. These accounts could then be used for investment that would, in theory, be greater than the return from the current Social Security tax. Social Security benefits would then be lowered, easing the pressure on the system.

This scenario is false.

Bush does not want to repair Social Security. Bush wants to eliminate Social Security because he believes that it is immoral.

To achieve this goal, Bush needs to convince Americans that Social Security is immoral. He will do this by using the PRA proposal which invokes a "get rich quick " frame in the minds of Americans.

When we think of Social Security, we think of taxes, deductions, something that makes it harder for us to make ends meet, a system that isn't working.

When we think of Personal Retirement Acounts we think of control over our money, striking it rich, opportunity to enter free markets with unlimited gains, the chance to get rich.

The PRA proposal is the slippery slope initiative designed to turn our fear over a secure retirement into greed for unlimited wealth.

The transfer to the new system would not fix Social Security, but would kill it.

Social Security is a huge fund. When investors pull out of a fund, its value drops. Furthermore, the costs of setting up the new system of PRAs would further bankrupt Social Security.

Currently, the current Social Security fund exposes pensions to a non-market risk: our national debt. The more national debt we have, the more risk to retirees.

PRAs would expose pensions to market risk. The more PRAs there are, the higher the stakes, the more incentive for corruption, and the higher the risk to retirees.


The Cost of the PRA Plan: Thrown to the Sharks
Think Enron on a national scale.

PRAs are not a way to repair Social Security. They are a way to transfer retirement money from the federal government to the markets, and to bankrupt Social Security.

Some people will succeed with PRAs. There are winners and losers in the markets.

But investment is a busines, and the creation of PRAs will first and foremest benefit those whose business is investment.

Think of all the get rich schemes you see you TV late at night. Ever wonder how those people make money? The get rich quick in real estate guy doesn't make money in real estate--the get rich quick in auto sales guy doesn't make money in auto sales--the get rich quick in day trading guy--doesn't make money in day trading. They all make their money by selling these schemes. It will be the same with PRAs. Win or lose, the investment industry will make money.

But in an unregulated market place, who will protect the individual investor? Eliot Spitzer has only two hands.

Dumping millions of retirees into an unregulated marketplace would be like pouring millions of small fish into a tank filled with sharks. Some would survive, but most would be eaten alive and quickly. And the more fish get eaten, the bigger the sharks get.

To quote "Jaws," if PRAs are passed, we're "gonna need a bigger boat" to save retirees from ruin in this country.

Realigning the Frame
The frame invoked by "PRAs' is wrong on many levels.

FREE MARKETS ARE SHARK TANKS NOT GOLDFISH BOWLS: For people to back PRAs they have to believe that free market or idyllic and safe. Goldfish bowls where everybody wins, and living is easy. This is false. In the free markets, only the big fish win. Small fish get eaten.

GET RICH QUICK SCHEMES ARE SCAMS, REDUCING SPENDING IS RESPONSIBLE: To back PRAs, people must believe that wealth doesn't come from savings and responsible spending, but from get rich quick schemes. All you need is a little money and poof! You're a millionaire. This is false. Get rich schemes benefit those who sell them--in this case, Bush is selling this scheme for the investment industry.

INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS ARE ALWAYS RISKY, SOUND POLICY CAN TAKE THE RISK OUT OF SOCIAL SECURITY: The risk to social security is a rising national debt. We can reduce that through sound fiscal policy and investments in this country that spur growth. Investments, on the other hand, are founded on risk. No risk, no return. Period. That's how they work. And they are only protected up to a point. If PRAs are approved, you can bet the next proposal will be to dismantle the FDIC so that individuals are no longer protected if their investments tank.

AMERICANS VALUE THEIR CHILDREN MORE THAN THEY VALUE THEMSELVES: The PRA concept invokes an image of Americans whose greed for themselves outweighs their desire to insure their children's future. This is not the America I live in. Bush is wrong if he sees a country full of greedy parents. Our grandparents invested in the system so that our parents could benefit. Our parents have the same idealism as our grandparents. They love their children more than they love themselves.


New Language to Use instead of PRA

These phrases can be used to turn the GOP frame on it's head, as counter punches in political debate:

* "SHARK TANK": Invokes a frame where individual investors are small fish in a dangerous free market

* "ENRON ALL OVER AGAIN": Invokes a frame where the world of the PRA is the world of quick rich quick schemes.

* "WELCOME TO POTTERSVILLE": Invokes the movie It's a Wonderful Life to make the point that the world without Social Security, retirees will be at the mercy of angry tycoons.

These phrases can be used to invoke a better frame that helps people understand ways of believing in and supporing Social Security:

* "GIFT TO OUR CHILDREN": invokes an accurate frame of this country where parents care more about their children than themselves and are happy to invest in their future, even if they don't reap immediate rewards, today.

* "STEEL SAFETY CAGE FOR SAVINGS": Invokes the frame of the markets as a hostile place for investors, and Social Security as protection against an unsafe world of investment.

* GRANDPARENTS ARE THE BEST INVESTMENT: invokes a frame of a country that values its grandparents more than it believes in quick rich schemes.

* AMERICAN'S BELIEVE IN GEORGE BAILEY, NOT MR. POTTER: Invokes the clear frame of It's a Wonderful Life, where hopeful working class Americans win and greedy corporate scoundrels that look like Dick Cheney lose

The Mystery of The Undecided Voter

Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.: "Well, here's another pre-election favorite to explore. This time, it's from a Kerry volunteer writing in The New Republic:

"For those who follow politics, there are few things more mysterious, more inscrutable, more maddening than the mind of the undecided voter. In this year's election, when the choice was so stark and the differences between the candidates were so obvious, how could any halfway intelligent human remain undecided for long? 'These people,' Jonah Goldberg once wrote of undecided voters, on a rare occasion when he probably spoke for the entire political class, 'can't make up their minds, in all likelihood, because either they don't care or they don't know anything.'

And that was more or less how I felt before I decided to spend the last seven weeks of the campaign talking to swing voters in Wisconsin. In September, I signed up to work for the League of Conservation Voters' Environmental Victory Project--a canvassing operation that recruited volunteers in five states to knock on doors in 'swing wards' with high concentrations of undecided or persuadable voters. During my time in suburban Dane County, which surrounds Madison, I knocked on more than 1,000 doors and talked to hundreds of Wisconsin residents. Our mission was simple: to identify undecided voters and convince them to vote for John Kerry.

...Most undecided voters...seem to view politics the way I view laundry. While I understand that to be a functioning member of society I have to do my laundry, and I always eventually get it done, I'll never do it before every last piece of clean clothing is dirty, as I find the entire business to be a chore. A significant number of undecided voters, I think, view politics in exactly this way: as a chore, a duty, something that must be done but is altogether unpleasant, and therefore something best put off for as long as possible...

...Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general. Kerry, by mere dint of being on the ballot, was somehow tainted by Bush's failures as badly as Bush was.

As a result, undecideds seemed oddly unwilling to hold the president accountable for his previous actions, focusing instead on the practical issue of who would have a better chance of success in the future. Because undecideds seemed uninterested in assessing responsibility for the past, Bush suffered no penalty for having made things so bad; and because undecideds were focused on, but cynical about, the future, the worse things appeared, the less inclined they were to believe that problems could be fixed--thereby nullifying the backbone of Kerry's case. Needless to say, I found this logic maddening..."

That last accountability argument rings true, and points to how powerful a tool the flip-flop charge was. Iraq and reality will change some minds on that, but not right away ('72 and '73 were very different years for RMN).

So in case you were wondering why Bush got whatever votes he did, take this article to heart. It may shock you, but most people out there are glad the election's over (even if it's a tiny majority).

Friday, November 19, 2004

Condi Hearts George

Condi Hearts George
Bart Acocella (4:09PM)

Then there was this weird, uncomfortable, profile in Wednesday's LA Times. It notes “Rice's ability to become an almost clone-like extension of the president.” One anonymous source weighs in: “She is remarkably effective in being a very attractive mirror for whomever she is working with.”

Remember when Rice was sold to us as a brilliant foreign policy scholar? Turns out she’s a sycophantish cipher...and apparently proud of it.

The intimacy between the President and his presumptive Secretary of State is downright icky. She takes calls from the President while sitting on her couch, according to a friend. Cute, isn’t it? Does she write his name in her notebook? Do they have slumber parties and paint each other’s toenails?

And here’s my favorite part. According to the Times, Rice and Bush get along so famously because of their shared adversity. You see, she grew up black in the Jim Crow South…and he was an underachieving rich kid -– boo-hoo! -- whose parents never thought he’d amount to much. I kid you not:

“Different as their backgrounds are, their personalities have been forged in similar fires.

“Both have experienced the pain of being looked down on by their peers. Growing up, even his parents never saw George W. as the son who would do great things. It was his brother Jeb, now governor of Florida, who was expected to become the second President Bush.

“As a mediocre student and failing businessman, George Bush got little respect. Even as president, he has been mocked for his occasionally mangled use of English and his reputed disdain for the details of policymaking.

“Rice grew up in a brutally segregated city, but made her way not only as a student but as an athlete — a black figure skater in an almost purely white sport.

“And once in academia, many of her colleagues tended to dismiss her, pointing out that she had been trained not at one of the nation's elite institutions, but at the University of Denver.”

Leaving aside how you feel about Rice, how about the chutzpah of turning the President’s lazy mind and business impotence into a victimization narrative? We know why they'd spin such a yarn -- remember, they're the audacity party. What's beyond comprehension is how or why a respected national newspaper would fall for it.

Retroactive Abortion Offers Hope

[NOW THIS IS WHAT I CALL REFRAMING!!]

Barbara Sehr at The American Street writes:
Retroactive Abortion Offers Hope

Now that prospective Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has been properly humbled, Democrats may require a new strategy in blocking future anti-choice Bush Supreme Court nominations. “We can’t necessarily wait 18 years until a whole generation of pissed-off unwanted children is old enough to vote Republicans out of office,” a Senate source said. As when Republicans discovered a rarely used procedure they liked to call “partial-birth abortion,” Democrats may choose to concentrate on slightly more common procedures that some call “retroactive abortion.” GOP ranks are replete with well-known names who have participated in the procedure. “The names start with George Walker Bush himself,” a Democratic senator noted.

The Senator noted that Bush’s record of support for retroactive abortions began with his 1976 drunken driving conviction, in which he had the potential to complete a retroactive abortion without even thinking. Even as he allegedly “matured,” his thirst for retroactive abortions continued as Governor of Texas, where he signed permission slips for hundreds of retroactive abortions at the Huntsville State Prison each year. “Even as we speak, he is authorizing the retroactive abortion of hundreds and thousands of US and Iraqi conceptions on the battlefields of Baghdad and Fallujah,” the senator said.

While there are some who believe a retroactive abortion should be an issue only between a governor and a convicted murderer, or a commander-in-chief and an enlisted man, a growing protest movement believes that the procedure is cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional. The issue did not even register a blip on recent election exit polls and when the question was asked in isolated areas of deeply red states, there were actually elements of deep support for the procedure.

In deeply wooded areas of Idaho and Montana, volunteers told of plans to establish clinics for retroactive abortions much like those created before the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. The clinics would reach out to what the volunteers called “particularly needy” populations that would benefit from retroactive abortions. Among those populations listed were “gays” and “liberals.”

Seymour Hersh at Hampshire College, blasts Bush

Seymour Hersh at Hampshire College, blasts Bush
by rentogen (blogger at www.dailykos.com)


Thu Nov 18th, 2004 at 16:45:42 PST

Seymour Hersh gave the 7th annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture tonight at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. The gymnasium had been filled with 800 folding chairs, and by the time Hersh began to speak the room was filled to capacity.

He offered a trenchant critique of the Bush administration and its disastrous war in Iraq.

Hersh gave a captivating address filled with humor and intelligence, and offered a scathing critique of the Bush administration and the disastrous war it has undertaken in Iraq. In one of the most powerful moments in the talk, Hersh distinguished between the disaster of the Vietnam war and the disaster of the war in Iraq. Defeat in Vietnam, he argued, had tactical consequences. Within a few years of the end of the war the U.S. and Vietnam began economic cooperation. The war in Iraq will have strategic consequences. Abu Ghraib has turned the Muslim world against the U.S., and in the Middle East the U.S. has lost all claim to being a source of moral authority.

Throughout his address Hersh offered a harsh critique of Bush and his administration, but he began with a surprisingly sharp criticism of the political campaign Kerry ran, a theme he returned to in the question and answer session. Bush ran a mind-boggling campaign where he repeatedly claimed that the war in Iraq was going well but everyone could see that it actually was going badly. Kerry's response was to claim that "I can win this war better than Bush." Despite Kerry's very conservative stance Bush nevertheless successfully painted him a liberal. In Hersh's assessment, a better candidate could have beaten Bush (he refused to accept the premise of one questioner that Bush stole the election; "Kerry lost the election," Hersh shot back). Kerry lost because he was a bad candidate and never spelled out the issues. And even if he had won he would have faced an ungovernable situation.

The bulk of his talk, however, dealt with the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Hersh found it striking that during the campaign Bush never backed down on pursuing the war, even with his presidency at stake. He could have played to the center and won reelection easily, but instead he maintained a hard line stance. As Hersh sees it, Bush really believes in the war. It means a great deal to him personally, and he will never back down, no matter how destructive or deadly it becomes.

Here are some highlights from the talk.

About Falluja:

* Hersh put the battle for Falluja in a broader historical context, noting that Falluja is the Iraqi center of the Wahhabi sect (the predominant sect in Saudi Arabia) and it was the center of armed resistance to the British in the 1920s.
* He refused to scapegoat the Marine in Falluja who shot a prisoner. The soldiers at My Lai were as much victims as the Vietnamese who were killed, he argued, and the same is true for the Marines in Falluja. The blame rests higher up.

About the war in Iraq:

* It is not an "insurgency." Although he used the term for convenience's sake, he made it clear that it implied that we had won the war, and that resistance had developed afterward. That is not the case. We did not win the war, and are now fighting it on different terms than Pentagon planners imagined would happen.
* We're occupiers, and occupiers don't win wars.
* He dismisses Ayad Alawi as a U.S. puppet who has no support in Iraq.
* The war is escalating. Since Alawi was named Prime Minister bombing in Iraq has increased dramatically. We have little information about the escalation because the military is not providing it.

About the Bush administration:

* Hersh spoke several times about the theme of high ranking military personnel not being able to tell the truth about Iraq to Bush. In one case Hersh stated that our military is full of people who respect the constitution, but they are afraid to come forward to tell Bush (and the public) what is really happening in Iraq. In another case he said that no one can tell Bush that the war cannot be won. He is a true believer in the war.
* He described Condoleeza Rice as a "dimwit" and a perfect reflection of Bush. She was an ineffective and incompetent National Security Advisor.
* Bush is an idealist, a utopian and, in a line that drew a good laugh from the audience, a "Trotskyite" in the sense that he believes in continuing revolution.
* The current dismantling of the CIA is about eliminating dissent, not about improving intelligence.

About the decision to go to war in Iraq:

* Hersh is not sure how Bush got pulled into the neo-con dream of getting Saddam Hussein. But by early 2002 he was pulling troops (especially those trained in Arabic) away from the more important fight against terrorism in order to prepare for war against Iraq.
* There was a serious fight in the government in 2002 over how to conduct the war. Some (e.g. Wolfowitz) thought that the war could be won with as few as 15,000 troops. A small force could initiate a "Milosevic revolution" in Iraq that would spread democracy throughout the Middle East.
* Bush believes he is going to make democracy happen in Iraq. He is, according to Hersh, "completely bonkers and doesn't know it." What's worse, nobody can tell him that he's nuts.
* The Bush administration had an easy time shaping the intelligence it received because it was so clear to people in government that if you bought into the neo-con fantasy your fortunes would rise. If you told them, in Hersh's words, that "this is total whackdom" your fortunes would fall. Journalists missed what was happening at the time, so there was little awareness of how policy was being shaped.
* In reading Bob Woodward's Bush at War Hersh noticed something was missing in the administration's planning for war. There was no discussion of who Muslims were, or of the Koran or Islam. Bush assumes that Iraqis want to be like us.

Prospects for the future:

Hersh was particularly bleak when outlining his thoughts about the future. His most important point is that Bush is incapable of changing course, and at this point we will simply have to wait for events to transpire.

* Europe has turned against the U.S. and will begin to act soon (after the upcoming election in Germany) to restrain the "craziness" of the Bush administration. He expects they will move to settle the war in Iraq.
* The economic consequences of the turn against the U.S. will be severe. Europeans will start to avoid buying U.S. made goods. Soon the Chinese and French will begin to buy oil in euros rather than dollars, and there will be a big move away from the dollar as an international currency.
* Europe (led by Germany and France) will take over brokering a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
* The neo-cons still hope to invade Syria and Iran. They think it will be easy to knock off Syria. There is nothing to stop their trying (reality certainly won't stop them).

The Dollar Dump

From The Financial Times (UK)

"The US currency came under renewed selling pressure the moment it became clear George W. Bush had been re-elected president. In the two and a half weeks since then, the value of the dollar has fallen 2.5 percent against the euro and 1.9 percent against the yen. The falls represent an acceleration of the dollar's steady decline since 2002. Since the start of that year, the greenback has fallen 32 percent against the euro and 21 percent against the yen. . . .

Darek Halpenny, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, points to a "very grim" outlook for the dollar in the near term. "With the foreign exchange market now focused entirely on the problem of the US budget deficit and current account deficits, there is a real risk that dollar selling becomes a crisis of confidence," he says. . . .

There is a fear in the currency markets that the dollar's decline, which has been gradual and orderly so far, will turn into a rout."

UC-Berkeley Report Says Bush Given Over a Quarter Million Extra Votes in Florida

Keith Olbermann continues to be the only mainstream media news person covering the story of alleged voting irregularities in the presidential election. Although he has somewhat mysteriously disappeared from his own "Countdown" show on MSNBC since he started running the story (he claims it was a scheduled vacation), he continues to cover it via his MSNBC "Bloggerman" site. Here's a snippet from his latest dispatch. Read the full story here:

Referring to a new report by a team at UC-Berkeley, Olbermann writes:

Without attempting to crack the methodology, it’s clear the researchers claim they’ve compensated for all the bugaboos that hampered the usefulness of previous studies of the county voting results in Florida. They’ve weighted the thing to allow for an individual county’s voting record in both the 2000 and 1996 elections (throwing out the ‘Dixiecrat’ effect), to wash out issues like the varying Hispanic populations, median income, voter turnout change, and the different numbers of people voting in each county.

And they say that when you calculate all that, you are forced to conclude that compared to the Florida counties that used paper ballots, the ones that used electronic voting machines were much more likely to show “excessive votes” for Mr. Bush, and that the statistical odds of this happening organically are less than one in 1,000.

They also say that these “excessives” occurred most prominently in counties where Senator Kerry beat the President most handily. In the Democratic bastion of Broward, where Kerry won by roughly 105,000, they suggest the touch-screens “gave” the President 72,000 more votes than statistical consistency should have allowed. In Miami-Dade (Kerry by 55,000) they saw 19,300 more votes for Bush than expected. In Palm Beach (Kerry by 115,000) they claim Bush got 50,000 more votes than possible.

Hout and his research team consistently insisted they were not alleging that voting was rigged, nor even that what they’ve found actually affected the direction of Florida’s 27 Electoral Votes. They point out that in a worst-case scenario, they see 260,000 “excessives” - and Bush took the state by 350,000 votes. But they insist that based on Florida’s voting patterns in 1996 and 2000, the margin cannot be explained by successful get-out-the-vote campaigns, or income variables, or anything but something rotten in the touch screens.

US accused of ‘torture flights’

From the Times (UK) online---http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1357699,00.html

US accused of ‘torture flights’
Stephen Grey

AN executive jet is being used by the American intelligence agencies to fly terrorist suspects to countries that routinely use torture in their prisons.

The movements of the Gulfstream 5 leased by agents from the United States defence department and the CIA are detailed in confidential logs obtained by The Sunday Times which cover more than 300 flights.

Countries with poor human rights records to which the Americans have delivered prisoners include Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan, according to the files. The logs have prompted allegations from critics that the agency is using such regimes to carry out “torture by proxy” — a charge denied by the American government.

Some of the information from the suspects is said to have been used by MI5 and MI6, the British intelligence services. The admissibility in court of evidence gained under torture is being considered in the House of Lords in an appeal by foreign-born prisoners at Belmarsh jail, south London, against their detention without trial on suspicion of terrorism.

Over the past two years the unmarked Gulfstream has visited British airports on many occasions, although it is not believed to have been carrying suspects at the time.

The Gulfstream and a similarly anonymous-looking Boeing 737 are hired by American agents from Premier Executive Transport Services, a private company in Massachusetts.

The white 737, registration number N313P, has 32 seats.

It is a frequent visitor to American military bases, although its exact role has not been revealed.

More is known about the Gulfstream, which has the registration number N379P and can carry 14 passengers. Movements detailed in the logs can be matched with several sightings of the Gulfstream at airports when terrorist suspects have been bundled away by US counterterrorist agents.

Analysis of the plane’s flight plans, covering more than two years, shows that it always departs from Washington DC. It has flown to 49 destinations outside America, including the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba and other US military bases, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan.

Witnesses have claimed that the suspects are frequently bound, gagged and sedated before being put on board the planes, which do not have special facilities for prisoners but are kitted out with tables for meetings and screens for presentations and in-flight films.

The US plane is not used just for carrying prisoners but also appears to be at the disposal of defence and intelligence officials on assignments from Washington.

Its prisoner transfer missions were first reported in May by the Swedish television programme Cold Facts. It described how American agents had arrived in Stockholm in the Gulfstream in December 2001 to take two suspected terrorists from Sweden to Egypt.

At the time of what was presented as an “extradition” to Egypt, Swedish ministers made no public mention of American involvement in the detention of Ahmed Agiza, 42, and Muhammed Zery, 35, who was later cleared.

Witnesses described seeing the prisoners handed to US agents whose faces were masked by hoods. The clothes of the handcuffed prisoners were cut off and they were dressed in nappies covered by orange overalls before being forcibly given sedatives by suppository.

The Gulfstream flew them to Egypt, where both prisoners claimed they were beaten and tortured with electric shocks to their genitals. Despite liberal Swedish laws on freedom of information, diplomatic telegrams on the case released to the media were edited to conceal the complaints of torture.

Hamida Shalaby, Agiza’s mother, said: “The mattress had electricity . . . When they connected to the electricity, his body would rise up and then fall down and this up and down would go on until they unplugged electricity.”

A month before the Swedish extradition, the same Gulfstream was identified by Masood Anwar, a Pakistani newspaper reporter in Karachi. Airport staff told Anwar they had seen Jamil Gasim, a Yemeni student who was suspected of links to Al-Qaeda, being bundled aboard the jet by a group of white men wearing masks. The jet took Gasim to Jordan, since when he has disappeared.

“The entire operation was so mysterious that all persons involved in the operation, including US troops, were wearing masks,” a source at the airport told Anwar.

On another mission, in January 2002, a Gulfstream was seen at Jakarta airport to deport Muhammad Saad Iqbal, 24, an Al-Qaeda suspect who was said by US officials to be an acquaintance of Richard Reid, the British “shoe-bomber” jailed in America for trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami.

An Indonesian official told an American newspaper that Iqbal was “hustled aboard an unmarked, US-registered Gulfstream . . . and flown to Egypt”, where almost nothing has been heard of him since.

The CIA Gulfstream’s flight logs show it flew from Washington to Cairo, where it picked up Egyptian security agents, before apparently going on to Jakarta to take Iqbal to Egypt.

Another transfer involved a British citizen. On November 8, 2002, the Gulfstream took off for Banjul in Gambia. On the same day Wahab Al-Rawi, a 38-year-old Briton, was among four people arrested at the airport by local secret police and handed over to interrogators who said they were “from the US embassy”.

Wahab said he had previously been questioned by MI5 because his brother Basher, an Iraqi national, was an acquaintance of Abu Qatada, the radical London-based cleric.

When Wahab asked the CIA agents for access to the British consul, as required under the Vienna convention signed by America, the agents are said to have laughed. “Why do you think you’re here?” one agent said to Wahab. “It’s your government that tipped us off in the first place.” Wahab was later released but Basher was sent to Guantanamo and remains there and has yet to be accused of any specific crime.

Some former CIA operatives and human rights campaigners claim the agency and the Pentagon use a process called “rendition” to send suspects to countries such as Egypt and Jordan. They are then tortured largely to gain information for the Americans who, it is alleged, encourage these countries to use aggressive interrogation methods banned under US law.

Bob Baer, a former CIA operative in the Middle East, said: “If you want a serious interrogation you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear . . . you send them to Egypt.”

Among the countries where prisoners have been sent by America is Uzbekistan, a close ally and a dictatorship whose secret police are notorious for their interrogation methods, including the alleged boiling of prisoners. The Gulfstream made at least seven trips to the Uzbek capital.

The details bolster claims by Craig Murray, the former British ambassador, that America has sent terrorist suspects from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan to be interrogated by torture.

In a memo, whose disclosure last month contributed to Murray’s removal, he told Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, that the CIA station chief in Tashkent had “readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence”.

The CIA and Premier declined to discuss the allegations over the planes. The American government, however, denies it is in any way complicit in torture and says it is actively working to stamp out the practice.

Nicholas von Hoffman - Now Is Not the Time For National Unity!

http://www.observer.com/pages/observer.asp

Now Is Not the Time For National Unity!
by Nicholas von Hoffman


A little disunity, please. Let’s get divisive, gang. No national healing—raw wounds, anger and resentment. This is the moment for accusations and recriminations.

As per the routine used by countless other defeated politicians, John Kerry wrapped up a quavering call for unity and oneness inside his tardy concession speech. "In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort," quoth the fallen leader of the failed effort. Yeah, yeah, yeah, link arms with George W. Bush and … and what? Mr. Kerry’s answer was forget politics and take it up with the local
divinity.

"I leave this campaign with a prayer that has even greater meaning to me now that I’ve come to know our vast country so much better thanks to all of you, and what a privilege it has been to do so," he said. "And that prayer is very simple: God bless America."

Unity and prayer. I cannot think of a less helpful farewell sentiment to leave the many thousands of first-time Democratic volunteers with. Let’s talk about unity and prayer.

First, unity. If you are a professional Democratic politician, "unity" translates into making the best deal for yourself with the other side, double-talking the volunteers who busted their butts for Mr. Kerry and refusing to tolerate, whatever else may come, any kind of looking back on Mr. Kerry and the kind of campaign he ran.

The party leaders—such as they are—knocked out Howard Dean and swung behind Mr. Kerry because they thought he could win. Think back to last winter and early spring, when that argument was repeatedly used for the longtime, non-standout Senator from Massachusetts. He could win and the crazy cuckoo-loco from Vermont had no chance. Pick John Kerry because, the pros said, John Kerry could win—except they didn’t know what they were talking about.

Nevertheless, thousands upon thousands of ardent idealists, out of overweening fear of a second Bush term, went to work for Mr. Kerry. They gave money they often couldn’t afford and time they could have usefully employed in their own strapped private lives. Seldom have so many worked so hard for a candidate so little admired and so greatly unloved. But they were told to put all the doubts aside: Don’t listen when he said things that made his own supporters grind their teeth—just keep your head down and work for him because, said the sleazeheads who run the party, he can win.

Except he didn’t.

Since his winning was the sole and entire raison d’être for Mr. Kerry’s candidacy, his losing has left Democrats and their fellow travelers with a hole in the ground, with nothing. John Kerry was not the champion of a cause which orators can say will go on after him. His cause was beating George Bush and so making sure a clump of hideous, faith-based horrors do not take over the Supreme Court. Duh? This is not a Democratic version of the famous 1964 Goldwater campaign, in which the Republican candidate got skunked but left the G.O.P. with a cause, a goal and a high purpose which would animate hundreds of thousands for years and victories to come. Not the Kerry campaign: It has left us with the hole in the doughnut.

No legacy here save the very dubious political practice of—well, not quite lying, but employing the magician’s art of misdirection and illusion. It was typified in the campaign by the photo op of John Kerry in brand-new hunting togs against a country background, carrying a shotgun, accompanied by a flunky holding a dead goose. I am second to none in my low estimation of the American public, but not even our morons are going to be fooled into thinking the man in the center of that picture is not a liberal on gun control. Shoot the goose, carry the goose. Such pathetic, embarrassed, inept deception.

Democratic candidates like John Kerry hide and run away from the word "liberal." Sometimes they will do it by substituting the word "progressive," but more often they do it by donning G.O.P. clothing, which does not become them. Personally, I am not above some outright lying, but only if it gets me where I want to go. If you are going to kid the public, at least win the election. Otherwise, you have your reputation as a liar and nothing to show for it. In this campaign, the candidate and the major politicians fled from being called liberals, which the Republicans did in abundance—except if the heart of the Democratic Party is not liberal, then what the hell is it? Tell us. Who are you? The anti-Bush party. We know what that gets: defeat in the Presidential campaign, losses in the Senate and the House.

From time to time during the campaign, I would blunder onto Ralph Nader talking on C-SPAN. I didn’t listen long: Too much of what he was saying I agreed with, and that was too painful because I was backing Mr. Kerry. Now that it’s over, I wonder what the election and the aftermath would have been like if Mr. Kerry had spoken Mr. Nader’s lines. He would not have won, but the loss would have meant something, just as it would have had Howard Dean been the candidate. Do you remember Mr. Dean’s telling line: "I am the candidate of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party"? Instead we are left with the Bob Shrums, the Terry McAuliffes and the other modern-day smokeless equivalents of the mythic, cigar-chomping backroom bosses of yore. In short, we are left with a small pile of mouse dust.

Unity and prayer. Unity in our situation means endorsing aggression, invasion, torture and assassination. It means indifference to the working poor, the fastest-growing major segment in our population. Small wonder that calls for unity and backing George Bush are coupled with the imperative to pray—but, fellow liberals and lefties, God doesn’t answer Democratic prayers. God is a Republican.

The Christian clergy of the United States was either pro-Bush or silent. When Mr. Kerry was condemned by a group of bishops in his own church, there was no countervailing group of bishops stepping forward to defend him. Organized Christian religion is either controlled by the other side or indifferent, or too weak and spineless to defy Republican godliness. Mr. Kerry, having to deal with the hostility of organized religion, chose to play the other side’s game. You cannot blame him for going publicly pious in self-defense: No significant Democratic voice took on religion. The major figures, as much intimidated as Mr. Kerry, shut up and played pious, too. Mr. Kerry was reduced to telling the world that when he was fighting in Vietnam he carried a rosary in his pocket. How undignified is that? But given how he was left out to dry, he cannot be fairly criticized.

Taking on religion, and the superstition and obscurantism which characterize it, is not the job of somebody running for public office in America. Somebody else had better start fighting back, however, before a new species of the Dark Ages is upon us, and faith-based mobs begin breaking into scientific laboratories and smashing the test tubes. If the Republicans want to talk values, then let us talk values, because some of their values are pretty damn ugly.

Let us talk about religion and reaction in America, now and then. The alliance between the Republicans and the churches is no new thing: The Christian clergy has a long history of siding with the big money and the powerful. Be meek and get your butt kicked. The job of taking on organized religion should not be left to well-meaning but ineffectual groups working on keeping church and state separated. This is much bigger, more insidious and more dangerous than dragging a stone with the Ten Commandments on it in front of the courthouse.

From defeat, if we can take nothing else, take disunity, division and a refusal to shut down the liberal spirit. And one more thing: The next time you hear a politician call for prayer or give a "God bless," boo!

You may reach Nicholas von Hoffman via email at: nvonhoffman@observer.com.

This column ran on page 4 in the 11/22/2004 edition of The New York Observer

Bob Herbert - Bush's Echo Chamber

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Bush's Echo Chamber: "The New York Times
November 19, 2004
OP-ED COLUMNIST
Bush's Echo Chamber
By BOB HERBERT

Colin Powell, who urged the president to think more deeply about the consequences of invading Iraq, is being shoved toward the exit. And Condoleezza Rice, who blithely told America, 'We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,' is being ushered in to take his place.

Competence has never been highly regarded by the fantasists of the George W. Bush administration. In the Bush circle, no less than in your average youth gang, loyalty is everything. The big difference, of course, is that the administration is far more dangerous than any gang. History will show that the Bush crowd of incompetents brought tremendous amounts of suffering to enormous numbers of people. The amount of blood being shed is sickening, and there is no end to the grief in sight.

Ironically, Ms. Rice was supposed to be the epitome of competence. She was the charming former provost of Stanford University, an expert on Soviet and East European affairs who was also an accomplished pianist, ice skater and tennis player, and the presidential candidate George W. Bush's tutor on foreign policy.

She was superwoman. They didn't come more accomplished.

She and Mr. Bush developed a remarkable bond, and he made her his national security adviser. Which was a problem. Because all the evidence shows she wasn't very good at the job.

Ms. Rice's domain was the filter through which an awful lot of mangled and misshapen intelligence made its way to the president and the American people. She either believed the nonsense she was spouting about mushroom clouds, or she deliberately misled her president and the nation on matters that would eventually lead to the deaths of thousands.

Secretary Powell's close friend and deputy at the State Department, Richard Armitage, viewed Ms. Rice's operation with contempt. In his book "Plan of Attack," Bob Woodward said Mr. Armitage "believed that the foreign-policy-making system that was supposed to be coordinated by Rice was essentially dysfunctional."

In October 2003, the president, frustrated by setbacks in Iraq, put Ms. Rice in charge of his Iraq Stabilization Group, which gave her the responsibility for overseeing the effort to quell the violence and begin the reconstruction in Iraq.

We see from recent headlines how well that has worked out.

A crucial mentor for Ms. Rice was Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser for the first President Bush. He appointed her to the National Security Council in 1989. Ms. Rice and the nation would have benefited if she had sought out and followed Mr. Scowcroft's counsel on Iraq.

Mr. Scowcroft's view, widely expressed before the war, was that the U.S. should exercise extreme caution. He did not believe the planned invasion was wise or necessary. In an article in The Wall Street Journal in August 2002, he wrote:

"There is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the Sept. 11 attacks. Indeed Saddam's goals have little in common with the terrorists who threaten us, and there is little incentive for him to make common cause with them."

Ms. Rice exhibited as little interest in Mr. Scowcroft's opinion as George W. Bush did in his father's. (When Bob Woodward asked Mr. Bush if he had consulted with the former president about the decision to invade Iraq, he replied, "There is a higher father that I appeal to.")

As I watch the disastrous consequences of the Bush policies unfold - not just in Iraq, but here at home as well - I am struck by the immaturity of this administration, whatever the ages of the officials involved. It's as if the children have taken over and sent the adults packing. The counsel of wiser heads, like George H. W. Bush, or Brent Scowcroft, or Colin Powell, is not needed and not wanted.

Some of the world's most important decisions - often, decisions of life and death - have been left to those who are less competent and less experienced, to men and women who are deficient in such qualities as risk perception and comprehension of future consequences, who are reckless and dangerously susceptible to magical thinking and the ideological pressure of their peers.

I look at the catastrophe in Iraq, the fiscal debacle here at home, the extent to which loyalty trumps competence at the highest levels of government, the absence of a coherent vision of the future for the U.S. and the world, and I wonder, with a sense of deep sadness, where the adults have gone.

Paul Krugman is on book leave until January.

David Gergen - The Power of One

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: The Power of One: "The New York Times
November 19, 2004
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
The Power of One
By DAVID GERGEN

Washington

Give the man his due: George W. Bush is emerging as one of the boldest, most audacious presidents in modern history.

Whether he is also wise is a question that will preoccupy us for another four years, but the reshuffling of his team in recent days makes clear that he intends to stretch the powers of his office to their limits. Woodrow Wilson once wrote that 'the president is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can.'' President Bush comes Texas-sized.

By sending members of his White House staff to run three of the most important departments in the government - with perhaps more such appointments in the offing - Mr. Bush is centralizing power in the White House in ways not seen since Richard Nixon. Nixon had his troika of Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger to run the government. Mr. Bush seems destined to run the government with his own troika: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice.

Moreover, he believes he has a mandate for a revolutionary agenda. Conservative presidents, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has argued, tend to be consolidators - men like Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon and even Ronald Reagan, who largely accepted the expansions in government made by their liberal predecessors. Mr. Bush is the first conservative whose policies would gradually unwind major commitments like Social Security and progressive taxes. It is increasingly clear that Mr. Bush embraces the view of Winston Churchill: that great leaders should set great goals. The president apparently intends no less than to overhaul government, achieve long-term Republican hegemony over American politics and ensure long-term American hegemony over the world.

In restructuring his team for the second term, Mr. Bush is also acting well within his rights. As long as he doesn't name his horse as proconsul, a president is traditionally accorded the right to choose anybody he wants in his cabinet, including members of his White House staff. Heading into his second term, Nixon named one member of his staff, Mr. Kissinger, as secretary of state and appointed five members of his staff to sub-cabinet posts; Reagan nominated two members of his staff, James Baker and Edward Meese, to key cabinet spots; and Bill Clinton also promoted a member of his staff, Alexis Herman, to the cabinet. Former members of the White House staff who have been good administrators have generally served well in departments. The ability to speak with their leader's voice has always enhanced their authority.

Presidents of the past would also sympathize with Mr. Bush's desire to quell rebellious voices at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. For more than half a century, White Houses have resounded with complaints about the striped pants set at Foggy Bottom and renegades at Langley. Foreign service officers are especially out of step with the incumbent president: a rising star in foreign service confided a week ago that on a scale of 0-to-10, colleagues in the service would give a 9.5 grade to Colin Powell and a grade of 2 to the Bush administration. Bringing the foreign service on board will be one of the toughest challenges facing Secretary Rice.

The fact that Mr. Bush is acting within his rights does not mean, however, that he is also right. Critics mostly worry that the reshuffling of the national security team signals an even harder, more militaristic line toward the world. That is probably true, but one cannot discount noises from within that the president wants to turn more toward diplomacy. Every White House remembers, after all, how L.B.J. warned his staff after a landslide election in 1964 that they only had a year to get things done domestically. If you were Karl Rove working with the president, wouldn't you want a couple of years of relative peace on the foreign side so that you could concentrate on the domestic agenda now? (Yeah, let's fix Iraq, but for goodness sake, don't bomb Iran or North Korea ... at least not yet.) So, the jury is still out on where security policy is heading.

The more immediate danger is that Mr. Bush and his troika are falling into a trap facing other re-elected presidents: hubris. When presidents win their first elections, they and their teams think they are king of the hill; when they win re-election, they too often think they are masters of the universe. As Richard Neustadt pointed out, even the best of modern presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, fell into the trap when he was first re-elected in 1936. He immediately started overreaching, as he tried to pack the Supreme Court in 1937 and tried to purge Southern Democrats in 1938. F.D.R. nearly did himself in during his second term.

In Mr. Bush's case, his administration has already shown ominous signs of "group-think'' in its handling of Iraq and the nation's finances. By closing down dissent and centralizing power in a few hands, he is acting as if he truly believes that he and his team have a perfect track record, that they know best, and that they don't need any infusion of new heavyweights. He has every right to take this course, but as he knows from his Bible, pride goeth before. ...

David Gergen is professor of public service at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and editor at large of U.S. News & World Report. He served as a White House adviser to four presidents.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The stop Alberto Gonzales movement

so many people are horrified by the Alberto Gonzales nomination. if this one is not fought there is no hope of stopping anything. here is a one click form where you can send your personal message (not a form letter) to both of your senators on this:

http://www.thepen.us/gonzales.html

please post this link everywhere you can to everyone you know

To The Editor

[My good buddy wrote this bit of satire in response to recent letters in the Globe]

To the Editor:

On a recent drive through Joplin I happened upon a copy of the Globe and quickly turned to the editorial page. Imagine my disappointment to hear the same kind of equivocal language about the recent election that I'm reading all over the country. Why are we Christians pussy-footing around behind our colossal victory? It is now obvious to me, the nation and the world that Jesus Christ himself intervened in the presidential election in order to affect his will on earth. George W. Bush is his true champion and I am his loyal foot soldier. We all know that the heretical middle-east, with its terrorists, communists and international bankers is the center of hell on earth. Just look at how hot it is there. By contrast, our great nation is bountiful and climactically balanced. Accident? I don't think so. After leaving Joplin I headed east on route 70. As I drove past Effingham, Illinois I was heartened by a monumental cross on the side of the road. It reminded me who's boss. We Christians shouldn't forget it.

Glen Harlan
Dayton, Ohio

What Have We Wrought?

Somehow this little vingnette says it all about what America means to the world today:

The New York Times > Movies > What Is an American Movie Now?: "The day before 'Shrek 2' was set to have its premiere at Cannes, DreamWorks's representatives placed large plastic bags full of green Shrek ears along the Croisette, the bustling beachfront walkway that dominates the action in Cannes. Even before the festival began, it was feared that protesting French workers would shut it down over a labor dispute. On this day, a group of hundreds gathered outside the Carlton Hotel to denounce the war in Iraq. They were chanting in French for about 45 minutes, until the police broke up the demonstration. Then, as the protesters dissipated into the throng on the Croisette, I watched them, one by one, put on the free Shrek ears. They were attracted, it seemed, by the ears' goofiness and sheer recognizability. Immediately, the crowd, once filled with political fervor, was transformed into a sea of cartoon characters."

Civil Liberties Under Assault: Reporter Is Convicted in R.I. for Protecting Source

The New York Times > AP > National > Reporter Is Convicted in R.I. for Protecting Source: "November 18, 2004
Reporter Is Convicted in R.I. for Protecting Source
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 5:02 p.m. ET

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A TV reporter was convicted of criminal contempt Thursday for refusing to say who leaked him an FBI videotape of a politician taking a bribe -- the latest in a string of cases in which journalists have been threatened with jail for protecting a source.

Jim Taricani of WJAR was found guilty by a judge after a 45-minute trial and could get up to six months behind bars when he is sentenced next month.

Taricani called the verdict an ``assault on journalistic freedom'' and said he never thought he would have to serve time for doing his job.

``No reporter should have to pay such a terribly high price for honestly and legally reporting the news,'' WJAR said.

Taricani is one of several journalists nationwide who are locked in First Amendment battles with the government over confidential sources. That includes reporters for Time and The New York Times who have been held in contempt as part of an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

Taricani, 55, got in trouble over a video that shows an undercover FBI informant giving an envelope full of cash to a top aide to former Providence Mayor Vincent ``Buddy'' Cianci Jr. Cianci and the aide, Frank Corrente, were convicted in a corruption case and are in prison.

The reporter broke no law by airing the tape in 2001, but a special prosecutor was appointed to find out who leaked it because the court had ordered no one to release any tapes connected to the case.

U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres has said the leak was meant to either disrupt the investigation or deprive defendants of a fair trial by influencing prospective jurors. He ordered Taricani to answer questions about the tape last fall, but Taricani refused, saying he has a First Amendment right to keep his sources confidential.

In March, the judge found Taricani in civil contempt and imposed a $1,000-a-day fine until he identified his source. WJAR, owned by NBC, paid $85,000 on Taricani's behalf until the judge suspended the fine two weeks ago, saying it had not achieved its goal.

At Thursday's trial, Torres rejected a defense request to dismiss the case, and said it is ``a complete distortion of the issue'' to argue a First Amendment privilege.

The judge said the reporter's intent in protecting his source was not a factor in determining his guilt. ``The issue is a very simple one,'' Torres said. ``Did (the reporter) willfully violate this court's order? The evidence is clear ... and undisputed.''

The judge has said that he would not sentence Taricani to more than six months in prison because of the reporter's health. Taricani received a heart transplant in 1996.

``I admire him enormously for sticking to his word,'' said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. ``If journalists start revealing confidential sources, they are going to be viewed as an arm of the government and government investigators.''

Lakoff's 11 Recommendations For Progressive Strategy

[In my humble opinion, the two books everyone should be reading right now are Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas? and George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. Both books offer fresh perspectives on why the Republicans are winning (despite reality, despite our better policies) and, more importantly, how we can turn things around. Here are Lakoff's 11 recommendations for progressive strategy. I fully believe that all progressives need to completely internalize and implement them as soon as possible. Lakoff runs the Rockridge Institute, which has a very useful website at http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org---Jeff]

First, recognize what conservatives have done right and where progrssives have missed the boat. It is more than just control of the media, though that is far from trivial. What they have done right is to successfully frame the issues from their perspective. Acknowledge their successes and our failures.

Second, remember "Don't think of an elephant." If you keep their language and their framing and just argue against it, you lose because you are reinforcing their frame.

Third, the truth alone will not set you free. Just speaking truth to power doesn't work. You need to frame the truths effectively from your perspective.

Fourth, you need to speak from your moral perspective at all times. Progressive policies follow from progressive values. Get clear on your values and use the language of values. Drop the language of policy wonks.

Fifth, understand where conservatives are coming from. Get their strict father morality and its consequences clear. Know what you are arguing against. Be able to explain why they believe what they believe. Try to predict what they will say.

Sixth, think strategically, across issue areas. Think in terms of large moral goals, not in terms of programs for their own sake.

Seventh, think about the consequences of proposals. Form progressive slippery slope initiatives.

Eighth, remember that voters vote their identity and their values, which need not coincide with their self-interest.

Ninth, unite! And cooperate! Here's how: Remember the six modes of progressive thought: (1) socioeconomic, (2) identity politics, (3) environmentalists, (4) civil libertarian, (5) spiritual, and (6) antiauthoritarian. Notice which of these modes of thought you use most often---where you fall on the spectrum and where the people you talk to fall on the spectrum. Then rise above your own mode of thought and start thinking and talking from shared progressive values.

Tenth, be proactive, not reactive. Play offense, not defense. Practice reframing, every day, on every issue. Don't just say what you believe. Use your frames, not their frames. Use them because they fit the values you believe in.

Eleventh, speak to the progressive base in order to activate the nurturant model of "swing voters." Don't move to the right. Rightward movement hurts in two ways. It alienates the progressive base and it helps conservatives by activating their model in swing voters.

Maureen Dowd - A Plague of Toadies

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: A Plague of Toadies: "November 18, 2004
OP-ED COLUMNIST
A Plague of Toadies
By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

I went to see the magical 'Pericles'' at the Shakespeare Theater the other night.

In ancient Greece, the prince of Tyre tires of all the yes men around him. He chooses to trust the one courtier who intrepidly tells him: 'They do abuse the king that flatter him. ... Whereas reproof, obedient and in order, fits kings, as they are men, for they may err.''

Not flatter the king? Listen to dissenting viewpoints? Rulers who admit they've erred?

It's all so B.C. (Before Cheney).

Now, in the 21st-century reign of King George II, flattery is mandatory, dissent is forbidden, and erring without admitting error is the best way to get ahead. President Bush is purging the naysayers who tried to temper crusted-nut-bar Dick Cheney and the neocon crazies on Iraq.

First, faith trumped facts. Now, loyalty trumps competence. W., who was the loyalty enforcer for his father's administration, is now the loyalty enforcer for his own.

Those promoted to be in charge of our security, diplomacy and civil liberties were rewarded for being more loyal to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney than to the truth.

The president and vice president are dispatching their toadies to the agencies to quell dissent. The crackdown seems bizarre, since hardly anyone dared to disagree with them anyway and there were plenty willing to twist the truth for them.

Consider George Tenet, who assured Mr. Bush that the weak case on Iraqi W.M.D. was 'a slam-dunk.'' And Colin Powell, who caved and made the bogus U.N. case for war. Then, when he wanted to stay a bit longer to explore Mideast opportunities arising from Arafat's death, he got shoved out by a president irked by the diplomat's ambivalence and popularity.

Mr. Bush prefers more panting enablers, like Alberto Gonzales. You wanna fry criminals or torture"Sure thing, boss.

W. and Vice want to extend their personal control over bureaucracies they thought had impeded their foreign policy. It's alarming to learn that they regard their first-term foreign policy - a trumped-up war and bungled occupation, an estrangement from our old allies and proliferating nuclear ambitions in North Korea, Iran and Russia - as impeded. What will an untrammeled one look like?

The post-election hubris has infected Capitol Hill. Law-and-order House Republicans changed the rules so Tom DeLay can stay as majority leader even if he's indicted; Senate Republicans are threatening to rule Democratic filibusters out of order.

In 2002, Cheney & Co. set up their own C.I.A. in the Pentagon to bypass the C.I.A. and conjure up evidence on Iraqi W.M.D. Now Mr. Cheney has sent his lackey, Porter Goss, who helped him try to suffocate the 9/11 commission, to bully the C.I.A. into falling into line.

In an ominous echo of the old loyalty oaths, Mr. Goss has warned employees at the agency that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work.''

Mr. Bush doesn't want any more leaks, like the one showing that he was told two months before invading Iraq that such a move could lead to violent internal conflict and more support for radical Islamists.

Mr. Goss has managed to make the dysfunctional C.I.A. even more dysfunctional. Instead of going after Al Qaeda, he's busy purging top-level officials who had been going after Al Qaeda - replacing them with his coterie of hacks from Capitol Hill.

Mr. Cheney is letting his old mentor, Rummy, stay on. What does it matter if the Rummy doctrine - dangerously thin allotments of forces, no exit strategy, snatching State Department occupation duties and then screwing them up - has botched the Iraq mission and left the military so strapped it's calling back old, out-of-shape reservists to active service?

Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley did not do their jobs before 9/11 in coordinating the fight against Al Qaeda, and they did not do their jobs after 9/11 in preventing the debacle in Iraq. They not only suppressed evidence Americans needed to know that would have debunked the neocons' hyped-up case for invading Iraq; they helped shovel hooey into the president's speeches.

Dr. Rice pitched in to help Dr. No whip up that imaginary mushroom cloud. Condi's life story may be inspirational. But the way she got the State Department job is not.

Not only are the Bush officials who failed to protect the country and misled us into war not losing their jobs. They're getting promoted.

E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Scorr Piraino - The Third Depression

The Third Depression: "The Third Depression

The Third Depression

By A. Scott Piraino OpEdNews.com May 31, 2003

As of this writing our stock markets have stabilized after plummeting from their all time highs in the spring of 2000. The Dow Jones average is down nearly one third, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ has been decimated, losing over two thirds of its value. Seven trillion dollars in investors wealth has vanished with the market's decline.

Unfortunately, there are historical precedents for our trembling stock markets, and if history repeats itself we could be in serious trouble. In the Gilded Age of the 1890's, and the Roaring 1920's, improvements in technology and industry fueled rapid economic expansions. Capitalism was revered as the new engine of progress, while onerous government regulations were seen as an impediment to growth.

These were days of "laissez faire" economics and unscrupulous robber barons. Sound familiar? Many investors believed these economic booms would last forever, but speculative bubbles formed as exuberance bid up share prices. Inevitably the day came when prices fell, and the markets collapsed.

The Gilded Age ended with a monetary crisis in the first decade of the twentieth century. Incoming President Teddy Roosevelt was forced to borrow money from wealthy elites to finance the government. The Roaring Twenties ended in a more spectacular fashion, a stock market crash in 1929 ushered in the Great Depression.

After the economic crises following the Gilded Age and Roaring Twenties, there was a backlash against the excesses of capitalism. Teddy Roosevelt reined in monopolies, and passed the first income tax into law. During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt raised taxes on the wealthy to finance his New Deal legislation.

The 1990's has followed the same pattern as earlier booms in US history, and the end result has been the same. First investor's overconfidence inflated stock prices, now a stubborn recession and a slew of accounting scandals has deflated stock prices. Unfortunately, now that the boom has become a bust, we don't have a Roosevelt in office to champion the majority against business interests.

President Bush offers no real reform. True his administration passed legislation to curb corporate fraud, but only as a slap on the wrist. Those same corporate interests did pay him to run for office, after all. The President supports more tax cuts for our wealthiest citizens, and more free trade agreements. The same policies that have created huge budget and trade deficits over the last twenty years.

Debt is the fundamental difference between this stock bubble and the market collapses of the past. Our national debt has climbed to over six trillion dollars, US households are in hock for another eight trillion. Yearly interest payments on our national debt cost us 275 billion last year, and thanks to Bush's tax cuts, the debt is growing again. We must also account for the nearly 400 billion dollars we export every year to finance our trade deficits.

Interest rates on our national debt are low because bondholders are still confident in our ability to make payments. The US dollar has not collapsed only because foreign nations believe we can still afford our appetite for imported goods. As our economy falters and our deficits continue to rise, the market could lose faith in our ability to finance our deficits.

That would cause a wave of selling. In past crises, investors and savers rushed to withdraw their assets from financial institutions, creating a panic. Borrowers defaulted on their debts, depositors lost their savings, and creditors lost their shirts. For the managers of today's global economy, this is unthinkable.

The solution is to guarantee the banking system with public money. Bailing out capitalism costs less than the depressions and bank runs of the past, but only by making taxpayers cover the losses of speculators. Since 1990 we have bailed out our own Savings and Loans, the Mexican peso, Pacific Rim banks, Russia's bond market, and most recently Brazil.

The seven trillion dollar hole in our financial system has already wiped out mutual funds, pensions, and millions of Americans life savings. So far banking and other key economic sectors have weathered the stock market meltdown, but it could easily get worse. In the event of a financial panic, our economic house of cards would collapse very quickly. The implosion of Enron has heralded a wave of corporate bankruptcies and accounting scandals that have roiled financial markets worldwide. The billions of dollars these corporations these corporations were supposed to be worth simply vanished. In truth, that wealth never really existed in the first place.

Depressions are created when money disappears. People suddenly become poorer, and they spend less money. With less demand for goods and services, prices fall and production declines. This causes a downward spiral of unemployment and falling incomes. Our country has endured deflationary periods after numerous boom and bust cycles, most notably during the Great Depression. Many economists, including Alan Greenspan, fear the US is now entering a deflationary period. US wholesale prices took their biggest plunge on record in April of this year, the Producer Price Index dropped by 1.9 percent. The Federal Reserve has expended its last bullet, cutting interest rates for the twelfth time in an attempt to stimulate the US economy. The Fed Funds rate now stands at 1.25 percent, the lowest in 41 years, yet our economy remains mired in recession. Mr. Greenspan tries to sound optimistic while addressing congress, but he has admitted that, what we do have is a very large degree of uncertainty.

Whether this stock market bubble deflates or bursts, we will not escape the effects of seven trillion dollars simply vanishing into thin air. We have a right to be angry over the economic consequences, but no right to be surprised. It's happened before.

My name is A. Scott Piraino populist21@yahoo.com http://www.xanga.com/ThePopulist and I am a populist. It is a very simple ideology really. No matter what the issue, if the majority benefits it is good, if the majority will be hurt, then it is wrong. In our country today right-wing politicians are distributing wealth from everyone else to themselves. Left-wing social engineers are enforcing their politically correct agenda on us, and using our tax dollars to do it. My columns address political, economic, and military affairs that affect us all. Since the real world is more complex than Republicans versus Democrats or Left versus Right, so are my columns. It is true that there are two sides to every issue. But when those issues affect people the only choice is between right and wrong. I think I'm right.

Cynthia McKinney on the importance of alternative media

Cynthia McKinney:"We Need Narco News, and It Needs Us"
A Letter from Georgia's Congresswoman-Elect on the Need for Authentic Media
By Cynthia McKinneyPlease Distribute Widely
November 9, 2004
Dear Friend,
I am one of the silver linings to come out of Election Day 2004 in the United States.
After being driven from my seat in Congress two years ago by a hostile corporate media that seeks to demonize those of us who speak our minds and our hearts against power, the voters of Georgia's Fourth Congressional District returned me to Washington on November 2nd.
I return to Washington ready to fight.
But before I get to Washington in January 2005, I ask you to join me in contributing to the Internet newspaper that made a free online media possible in the United States and elsewhere: Narco News.
When we contribute to the journalism of Narco News through The Fund for Authentic Journalism, we in Civil Society also become co-publishers of the newspaper - a pioneering experiment that is working to bring democracy to the Media. Read more about this innovative project, and make a contribution today, at this link:
http://www.authenticjournalism.org
Here is why our contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism and participation in Narco News are so urgently important today:
The voters brought me back from the political grave in disobedience to a Commercial Media that told them I was too radical for the United States Congress. They endlessly repeated falsehoods about my family and me. They distorted my political positions. If you know the story of the Fourth Congressional District in Georgia, you already know the score.
But the voters saw through the Commercial Media this time. Why?
Because an alternative media is rising from below, through which we were able to correct the record, and allow authentic truth to shine its light above all the lies.
The cutting-edge of that alternative media exists on the Internet. It would not have existed in 2004 if not for the heroic battles fought by Narco News three years ago to win press freedom rights for Internet journalism.
It was Narco News that, through its 2001 New York Supreme Court victory, established First Amendment protections for all Internet journalists. Narco News literally opened the legal door through which all other alternative media and bloggers on the Internet marched through to enjoy press freedom.
During that court battle, in September 2001, I wrote an open letter to the law firm that sued Narco News and its publisher Al Giordano on behalf of billionaire bankers, and sent a copy to the Court. I said:
"A respected journalist telling the truth, at risk to his own safety, should not be facing a lawsuit meant to silence him. The lawsuit is without merit. Cease the case immediately and issue a formal apology."
Three months later, the New York Supreme Court issued its landmark decision protecting Narco News from that billionaire attack, which will be recounted in law school textbooks for decades to come as the turning point for press freedom on the Internet.
None of the online media that exist today - the bloggers, the journalists, the web pages of alternative media - would be able to do what they do if not for the sacrifice and fighting spirit of Narco News before them.
Beyond the legal precedent, Narco News continues to be the shining lighthouse setting the example for all online and alternative media about how to practice credible journalism that is not beholden to advertisers and big money interests.
What we read on Narco News is credible journalism, "reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin America," that time and time again over four years has changed the course of history. Narco News led the way in foiling the coup attempts in Venezuela when the Commercial Media dishonestly claimed that President Hugo Chavez had "resigned." Narco News' reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border has become the chosen media of whistleblowers in the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs, and other law enforcement agencies. I know - because I hear all about it from the Washington insiders - that the border reporting of Narco News correspondent Bill Conroy regularly leads to shake-ups, firings, reassignments, and concrete changes in how those agencies operate. Hispanic and black law enforcers, in particular, count on Narco News to combat the rampant discrimination inside U.S. border agencies. And Narco News has the bureaucratic bosses running scared as a result.
Let's talk about racism in America for a moment. Narco News is the only online media of its size that doesn't just talk about combating racism: It is a shining example of a truly integrated, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, grassroots media. The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism has trained 100 journalists of conscience over the past two years. Although there is no law requiring Narco News to practice affirmative action, Narco News walks its talk. At least half of all young journalists given scholarships by Narco News are Latin American, and at least half are women.
The right wing has been indoctrinating young journalists with its own scholarship programs for 30 years. The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism is the first project of its kind to fight back by building an international army of truth-telling journalists of talent and fighting spirit.
You would think that a project like Narco News that does so much so well would be thriving economically. Well, it is not. There is no profit in fighting against greed. But if we, the people, don't act now to democratize the media, the undemocratic money-driven media will continue to make authentic democracy impossible in the United States.
One of the huge lessons from the 2004 elections is the folly of placing all our activist eggs (and funds) in election campaigns. The opposition in the United States raised more than $100 million dollars in small contributions via the Internet this year. I know my campaign benefited greatly from that trend. You may be one of the donor-activists who gave to my campaign or to others, and if so, I thank you for it.
But for the past three months, while everybody was making online credit card contributions to election campaigns, we forgot about the need to keep the alternative media strong. Donations to The Fund for Authentic Journalism - more than $60,000 in the first half of 2004 - dried up as everyone's focus was on elections.
Now the election is over - elections, alone, didn't work to change the country or the world - and we need our alternative media more than ever.
Narco News, as the first and best example of how non-profit authentic journalism can and does work, is the first of many that we must save and make grow stronger.
More exciting is that our participation in Narco News doesn't begin or end with a financial donation. It's the groundbreaking participatory nature of Narco News and its online group blog - The Narcosphere - that makes all of us who contribute to Narco News partners in the project. There, if we have donated labor as journalists, or money as citizens, we become "co-publishers" of the newspaper, and can comment, criticize, correct facts, add information, and discuss with others every single report published by Narco News. I don't know of any other newspaper that gives the readers so much power to directly keep journalists honest and be participants, not just consumers, of the media.
That's why, today, I have signed up for my co-publisher account on Narco News, and I ask you to do the same. Narco News has created the space for us in Civil Society - no matter what our political party or tendency is; all voices are invited - to be part of the newspaper.
Narco News continues building a revolution in journalism, tearing down the monopoly walls that once gave First Amendment rights only to Commercial Media.You can join me as a co-publisher of Narco News by making your contribution today to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.
You can make that contribution online at:
http://www.authenticjournalism.org/
Or you can send a check made out to "The Fund for Authentic Journalism" at:
The Fund for Authentic JournalismP.O. Box 71051Madison Heights, MI 48071
I want to know, when I return to Congress next January, that Narco News is on a strong financial footing again. If it is not, my job will be so much more difficult, and not only on the issues of democracy and the drug war, but also on all our priorities for a more just, fair, and open society.
We have all spent recent months in election campaigns, with mixed results, and we have ignored our alternative media to our own peril. The next two months we need to make up for lost time and bring Narco News and authentic journalism back to health, because every battle that comes next will be dependent on it.
Authentic Media, and the citizens it mobilized, brought me back to Washington.
Today, let's mobilize together to sweep Authentic Media to its new and rightful place as the path to replacing, and democratizing, all media in our lifetimes.
Without democracy in media, democracy in politics won't be possible. When it comes to the First Amendment, I say "first things first." Let's save and strengthen the online newspaper that founded the Authentic Journalism renaissance. Let's flex our political muscles where it most counts: in building that alternative media.
Let's have another mighty success story before January 1, 2005. If, together, we accomplish this task, then all will truly not be lost come the New Year.
Sincerely,Cynthia McKinneyCongresswoman-elect4th District, Georgia