Saturday, January 1


The title of the report is Top Ten War Profiteers of 2004. But there's much, much more, and none of it is pretty. We're caught in a hopeless cycle of waste -- wasted lives, wasted money -- and there seems to be no end to it as we "stay the course" and continue making the same mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, you 51% of Americans who voted to keep this bozo and his idiot sycophants in office?????

In the beginning of the Iraq war, Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), proclaimed that the reconstruction of Iraq would look like a modern-day Marshall Plan. But a year and a half later, a combination of bureaucratic ineptitude, corporate corruption and the growing Iraqi resistance threaten to undermine the Bush administration’s grand designs.

In mid-July, U.S. officials admitted that fewer than 140 of the 2,300 reconstruction projects funded by the U.S. were underway. Although AID says “dirt has been turned” on 1,167 projects including schools and hospitals, with at least 70 new ones staring each week, it’s unlikely that the big picture has changed much. The kidnapping and execution of contract personnel and the ongoing sabotage of key projects—power plants, electricity lines and oil pipelines—has slowed work in many areas of the country to a crawl, jacking up the cost of security, insurance and other ancillary expenditures, which in most cases amount to half of the contractors’ budgets.

By August, Ambassador John Negroponte had to announce that more than $3 billion of $18 billion in U.S. aid earmarked by Congress for engineering and reconstruction work would be used for security and counterinsurgency operations.
The announcement was tacit recognition that a kind of vicious cycle is at work. The aggravation caused by the lack of electricity and other basic services is certain to be blamed on the CPA and the contractors, which could result in further support for the resistance. Exactly how much the resistance has gained from the festering resentments caused by the stalled reconstruction process is difficult to say. But an increase in attacks on construction sites – more than one a day according to the Army – indicates that they are a clear target of the resistance.

In late December, Contrack International, the lead partner on a $320 million transportation systems contract, announced that it was withdrawing from Iraq because of “prohibitive” security costs.

By the fall, news that just 7 percent of the $18 billion originally allocated for reconstruction set off fireworks in Congress. Senator Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, blasted the Bush administration as “incompetent” for failing to devote adequate on-the-ground personnel to contract administration, management, and oversight.

“It’s beyond pitiful, it’s beyond embarrassing, it’s now in the zone of dangerous,” added Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska.

Searching for Root Causes

The Professional Services Council, a trade association representing some of the Iraq contractors, says much of the blame can be placed upon “a growing politicization of government procurement,” as well as the distance between the procurement planners sitting in Washington and contractors in the field.

The problems plaguing the Iraq contracts extend far beyond questions of legality, blind ideology, heartless favoritism and mindless sloppiness. Recent revelations suggest that the Pentagon’s handoff to Halliburton may have also allowed individual employees to demand kickbacks from potential subcontractors. Congressman Waxman’s office dropped a new “H-bomb” in November, when it announced that it had received 400 pages of internal State Department documents which suggest that Halliburton officials were “on the take” and “solicit[ing] bribes openly” from potential subcontractors.
Some members of Congress believe the corruption has become enough of a problem that it is time to establish a special oversight committee. A bipartisan coalition of Senators led by Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, introduced a resolution in September to re-establish Harry Truman’s famous WWII committee on war profiteering.

The litmus test of the proposal will likely come in early 2005, shortly after Iraq’s scheduled elections (if and when they occur), when the Bush administration is expected to push for another appropriation.

Friday, December 31

Creepiest New Year's Resolution --

Americans for Tax Reform pres. Grover Norquist: "I just bought a new shotgun and I am getting married in April, so in 2005 I resolve to fulfill my demographic destiny and become more conservative." (Via Wonkette)


Not my best effort, but I'm depressed.

Sung to the tune of The Christmas Song:

Unemployment lines are stretching now,
Job security is gone.
As to Iraq and the things our troops lack --
These issues all bring on a yawn

“Cause they’re never wrong,
These Bushies and their sycophants.
Their agenda is quite clear:
Working families don’t rate in their scheme,
They’ll find it hard to eat next year.

They thought that Bushie was their guy,
He told them fear the conflagration in the sky.
He said it’s Clinton’s fault that many died,
And it’s your duty now as citizens to buy.

And so he offered you this simple phrase:
“To feed the rich will help the poor.”
You bought it, he won, and now wait for the dun --
Happy goodbye, two thousand four.


Eugene Oregon, who has been keeping us informed about the Darfur disaster, expresses some righteous anger:

Why are Amazon and others not raising millions of dollars to help those being starved to death by the government of Sudan? Why is the world not mobilizing troops and hundreds of millions in donations to deal with the genocide that everyone acknowledges?

I do not mean to dismiss the severity of the current crisis, but I am simply unable to comprehend why this natural disaster is generating a massive outpouring of assistance while the year-long, man-made genocidal disaster in Darfur remains largely unreported and ignored.

I wish I knew why natural disasters evoked so much more empathy in the U.S. than do man-made disasters. I suspect it has something to do with some kind of despicable feeling of "deservedness" -- a natural disaster hits, nobody's to blame, everyone sympathizes and many donate dollars and supplies to help the victims. A man-made disaster occurs and someone must be held accountable, either the government (if you're for it, you postulate in its defense that someone else is the problem -- re 9/11, the gays, pro-choice movement, or Clinton -- and you distance yourself from the tragedy while using it politically; if you're against the administration, you donate to the relief fund or enlist as a volunteer aid worker) or someone else -- foreign terrorists; rebellious indigenous people who are so primitive they don't feel the pain anyway and would probably be better off dead since their future is so bleak; pansy-waist Democrats who wouldn't let us nuke the hell out of the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran and any other country who defied the good ole USA; or Clinton.

Some Americans just can't conceive of the overwhelming evils that lurk in the world. Mass genocide is too overwhelming for their simple psyches to process, so they fixate on the kind they can understand: the petty evil of a Scott Peterson or O.J. Simpson; the secret and immoral sex acts of their gay and lesbian neighbors; the shame that should be associated with unwed sex, especially when it results in pregnancy, which should label the mother with a scarlet "A" for the rest of her life; the treasonous acts of Democratic politicians and (occasionally) courageous media when they report the truth about the disastrous results of BushCo policies, both domestic and foreign, especially when criticizing "The War"; the heretical refusal of a great many Americans to anoint George W. Bush as the new Messiah, representative and spokesperson of God, infallible and omniscient.

It's not a pretty picture, but I think it's accurate. As Gore Vidal once said, "Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for president. One hopes it is the same half."

The November 2 election proved that this time, at least, it wasn't.


Corrente reminds us that January 17 is Martin Luther King Day. When will we see his like again?

…It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." [applause] Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.


Great essay on the effect of Bush/Rumsfeld on the U.S. military.

Incidentally, I've been totally perplexed that the professional military would be so supportive of a draft-dodging, AWOL-or-deserter as Commander-in-Chief. Got an e-mail message that explains it: evidently, to some folks Bush looks like Harrison Ford! Even their smirks are similar! They walk the same way! But would Indiana Jones, a Ph.D. and intellectual who never asked anyone to fight his battles for him, recognize himself in the Chimpster? I think he'd be horrified by the comparison, as am I.

When George W. Bush was first elected president, civil-military relations in the United States were worse than they had ever been before. They are no better today, for more serious reasons.

The decline had begun with the Vietnam War. The less perspicacious part of the officer corps chose to blame civilian interference for the loss in that war.

What the military would have done in Vietnam without civilian interference remains unclear; they never offered the government a coherent alternative plan to the one provided by Robert McNamara, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. This was undoubtedly because there wasn't one - the war was unwinnable, short of the Dresden option (an option retested in November at Falluja in Iraq).

With the Vietnam defeat, the years of the "hollow army" began, with an angry and alienated military leadership, unsympathetic politicians and an amnesiac public.

A non-conscript professional army was built up. The result of professionalization was to create an officer corps politically on the right. This concerned academic observers and civilians sympathetic to the military, as well as thoughtful officers themselves, aware of the importance of defending the American tradition of an apolitical military.

The professional military's alienation from its civilian leadership increased with the Clinton administration's arrival - a draft-dodger president, with a feminist first lady and a liberal agenda. As one military historian has written, first there was the disastrous don't-ask, don't-tell clash over homosexuals in the service (where, as anyone who has been in the military knows, there has always been an underground homosexual culture, for self-evident reasons - where else can you meet so many guys?).

Then came Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo - and the Tailhook uproar - plus stalemate over national security policy. Colin Powell, as chairman of the joint chiefs, actually presented the civilian government with specific terms on which the military would agree to go to war. (These terms - clear objective, overwhelming force, exit strategy - were completely ignored, bizarrely enough, in going to war in Iraq, with the fearful consequences we now see).

The new President Bush, in 2001, was another draft-dodger, in fact if not form, but he walked and talked in a way the military liked. However, his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was not such a likable fellow, and he set out to reform the Pentagon and re-establish civilian authority.

He has in considerable measure imposed himself on the uniformed military, but in a way they now hate. Following his ideas about a small, light and "agile" force, he has made one bad tactical and organizational choice after another, with particularly devastating consequences for the army, its reserve forces, the national guard, and the marines. Their manpower resources are being exploited and wasted in a manner that could leave the services damaged and their officers alienated for a generation.

This has been the result of the Bush government's total misjudgment of the Iraq situation; its refusal to enlarge the regular army; its reliance on mobilized reserve forces on extended service in what amounts to the draft of specialist veterans from civilian life; and, since the Iraq occupation turned very unpleasant, "stop-loss" refusal to let people go at the end of their contracts.

Recruiting for the reserves and the guard is now badly off, as are regular army re-enlistments and quality recruits. A 20-year-old man, a regular in the army, on his way back for a second tour in Iraq, says, "What everybody is starting to know now is that this is what's going on for the foreseeable future."

This probably is true, since nobody in the Bush administration seems capable of changing course, and it is increasingly evident that American policy for the so-called greater Middle East will fail.

If the failure is a traumatic one, the result is likely to resemble the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Vietnam destroyed the American citizen army: product of a 200-year tradition that rejected standing armies and held temporary and egalitarian military service to be a duty and experience of citizenship. In Vietnam, the conscript army eventually staged a mute mutiny against the folly of its government.

However, you must not abuse even a professional army. It too can rebel, and as in the citizen army, disaffection starts at the bottom, where the most pain is felt.

Iraq is now destroying the professional army the United States recruited to take the place of its citizen army. The new army was intended to serve as the unquestioning instrument of the policies of the elected administration. This administration's refusal to supply the manpower and means necessary for its vast military and political ambitions is now having its effect on that army. Its politically inspired fear of conscription, the merciless combat rotation policy and systematic use of involuntary extensions of duty its policies impose, are devastating to troops.

The incoherence of its policy in the Middle East, and lack of clearly defined objectives, is deeply disquieting to the military leadership. America's military leaders once again find themselves victims of the policies of appointed ideologues and elected amateurs. As in Vietnam, they have no alternative to propose, except Dresden.


I've noticed that quite a few bloggers have adopted the H.L. Mencken quote you see top right on this blog (I posted it the day after the election). So maybe it's time for something new. If I stay with Mencken, my top choices are these:

"For every complex problem there is a single solution that is simple, neat and wrong."

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

"In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

The first obviously is a great picture of the Bush administration's screwed policies. The second is a bit harsh, though apt. But I think I lean toward the third.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 30


Athenae of First Draft is doing some out-of-the-Democratic-box thinking, and it's worth discussing.


I keep forgetting to report an incident at B. Dalton Booksellers on Christmas Eve. I had run in to buy America: The Book by The Daily Show gang when Bill Clinton's autobiography caught my eye -- it was displayed under "Fiction." Boy that made my blood boil, and I didn't want my blood to boil on Christmas Eve. So I walked over to a clerk and politely registered a protest. He explained that ALL the big-print books were displayed there because it was the only place they had room and showed me a sticker about one-half inch tall and perhaps (at most) two inches wide underneath the Clinton shelf that said "Big print" -- I'd have never been able to find it if he hadn't removed a couple of books so it became (slightly) visible (if you were deliberately looking for it). I pointed to the two-foot-wide, six-inch-high sign blaring out "FICTION" at the top of the shelf and asked how anyone could be so naive as to escape the obvious implication about the Clinton book or so gullible as to accept the tiny sticker below as anything more than a CYA gimmick. He backed away, being "busy" and I went to check out. I repeated my protest to the lady at the cash register and she, also, told me that there was a sticker under the book indicating that all big print books were displayed there (I think I failed to mention that there was only one "big print" book displayed there, and that was Clinton's).

Now these kinds of things tend to make me nuts, so I have to do something about them. I've already written B. Dalton's parent company, Barnes & Noble, to protest, and if you're so inclined, here is the contact info:

Mary Ellen Keating
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
& Public Affairs
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Telephone: 212-633-3323

Barnes &

Carolyn Brown
Director of Corporate Communications
Barnes &
Telephone: 212-633-4062


The NYTimes has a great essay today, "Legal Breach: The Government's Attorneys and Abu Ghraib," which summarizes the chronology of the Alberto Gonzales et al abuse/torture memos.

So our government civil lawyers act like a bunch of cynical, corrupt corporate lawyers and now we're going to reward the chief perpetrator by making him Attorney General?

This month, several former high-ranking military lawyers came out publicly against the nomination of the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to be attorney general. They noted that it was Mr. Gonzales who had supervised the legal assault on the Geneva Conventions.

Jeh Johnson, a New York lawyer who was general counsel for the secretary of the Air Force under President Clinton, calls this shift "a revolution."

"One view of the law and government," Mr. Johnson said, "is that good things can actually come out of the legal system and that there is broad benefit in the rule of law. The other is a more cynical approach that says that lawyers are simply an instrument of policy - get me a legal opinion that permits me to do X. Sometimes a lawyer has to say, 'You just can't do this.' "

Normally, the civilian policy makers would have asked the military lawyers to draft the rules for a military prison in wartime. The lawyers for the service secretaries are supposed to focus on issues like contracts, environmental impact statements and base closings. They're not supposed to meddle in rules of engagement or military justice.

But the civilian policy makers knew that the military lawyers would never sanction tossing the Geneva Conventions aside in the war against terrorists. Military lawyers, Mr. Johnson said, "tend to see things through the prism of how it will affect their people if one gets captured or prosecuted."

Some Senate Democrats have said they plan to question Mr. Gonzales about this mess during his Senate confirmation hearings. But given the feckless state of Congressional oversight on this issue, there's not a lot of hope in that news.

Now this is a courageous guy. Conservative or not, give him credit for having the guts to swim against a tsunami:

Another disconcerting feature of today's Religious Right is its attempt to Christianize political entities which it supports and to demonize political entities which it opposes. This trend is especially scary.

When people are told that they are voting "Christian" by voting for Republican Party candidates, it is being intimated that they are voting non-Christian by voting for any other candidate. This is not only silly on its face, it is downright dangerous!

I don't remember anyone saying people voted "Christian" when they elected the outspoken Christian candidate, Jimmy Carter, President. Yet, Carter, in his personal life, demonstrated as much, if not more, Christianity than does George W. Bush. If you recall, Carter even taught Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church while President.

However, in spite of the fact that President Bush and the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., have repeatedly supported copious unchristian (not to mention unconstitutional) programs and policies, Christians act as if Bush and his fellow Republicans have ushered in the Millennial Kingdom.

More than that, the Religious Right appears to believe that G.W. Bush is the anointed vicar of Christ. But instead of wearing the garb of a religious leader, he wears the shroud of a politico and a military commander-in-chief.
As such, in the minds of the Religious Right, Bush's war in Iraq is a holy crusade. America is fast taking on the shape of the old Holy Roman Empire and President Bush is quickly morphing into a modern day Caesar.
The willingness of the Religious Right to give President Bush king-like subservience is easily seen in the way they demonize anyone who dares to oppose him. This is very unnerving.

Are we heading for a modern day religious inquisition, this one led not by the Catholic Church but by the Religious Right? Are we witnessing the type of marriage between Church and State that America's founders originally feared?

I used to believe that liberals were paranoid for being fearful of conservative Christians gaining political power. Now, I share their trepidation.

Of course, the sad truth is, neither George W. Bush nor the Republican Party in Washington, D.C. represents genuine Christian or even conservative principles. If they did, they would take their oaths to the Constitution seriously and then neither liberals nor conservatives would have anything to fear, for the U.S. Constitution protects the rights and freedoms of all men.

Wednesday, December 29


Support Not One Damn Dime Day.

Hat tip to Suburban Guerrilla.


This Christmas holiday was darn-near perfect. Everyone seemed (and professed) to be as happy as could be with their presents. We had SNOW (in Dallas!!!) two days before Christmas, and the weather continued to be nippy and holiday-right clear through the holidays.

We spent a neat, though truncated, evening at Six Flags' Holiday In The Park and watched the grandbabies delight in the carousel and the semi-truck rides in Looney Tunes Land, all brightly lit with Christmas colors and with hot chocolate and roasted chestnut vendors every few yards.

We delighted in the Christmas light displays in our neighborhood and all around the lake where we live. We drove a lot, just to take in the pleasure.

Each night, after the little ones were asleep we played the games "Cranium" and "Moods" and hooted and hollered and fell into bed smiling.

On Christmas Eve, after last-minute shopping and package-wrapping, we ate take-out Chinese and attended candlelight church services. We came home and watched "Surviving Christmas" on DVD and then talked about how lucky we were to have such a big and loving family. We played one more game and then started the "everyone to your own room, sneak out to stuff stockings, wrap gifts all night and maybe get three hours of sleep" tradition.

There's so much to remember, the joy of cooking Christmas dinner in my own home with my 83-year-old mother helping while my 80-year-old mother-in-law tries to pick up all the Christmas wrappings and debris, the thrill of listening to my young-adult children laughing as they earnestly try to instruct my adorable 17-month-old grandson in how to play with new toys he obviously needs no instruction for.

I did have one quite long and earnest conversation with my beloved Southern-Baptist Mom, in which she asked me what I thought about gays, then gay marriage, the war in Iraq, abortion, you name it. The context of the conversation was, she was concerned that in recent years I have no longer been the "pillar of the church" I was as a child, an adolescent, and a young wife and mother. She wanted reassurance that I was still a believing and practicing Christian. I believe I gave her that reassurance. The answers weren't what she expected, although we've discussed these matters many times, and she knows what I believe; it just gives her comfort to know that my political stances are based upon my love of Jesus, on Biblical principles that I can back up with God's Word.

When I was very young I resented my mother, the very epitome of the aging Southern lady, for trying to curtail many of my impulses or instincts. I liked to climb trees, I found boys' activities more interesting than girls', I wanted to be the first woman to break into the Major League.

But I also loved reading, and my mother, who had read a poem she had written as her Salutatorian address at her high school graduation ceremony, appreciated and respected my reading time.

We have always had a special bond, my mother and I. I was the child that nearly killed her (my father had to make a choice between us and chose Mama, which I have always agreed with but which decision tormented my father and caused him to be closer to me than my sisters). I was the rebel of four daughters. I usually expected Daddy to support me (as a tomboy, I was kind of his boy) but it was always Mama who really understood me.

Daddy is gone now, for nearly 10 years. It's hard to believe, when I can still summon up his face and voice whenever I want. I can hear him tell me as I go off to college, "If you get caught in a demonstration or something, don't let the photographers get you, just cover your face for your mother's sake."

Okay, back to my mother. When I was a "beauty queen" my mother accompanied me to every event. Before that, she sacrificed to give me piano, voice and dancing lessons. Every time a teacher would remark on some talent or potential ability of mine, my mother would pounce on it and provide me every opportunity to explore and develop it. But she NEVER even suggested what I should do with all this training. SHE never entered me into a contest. She just gave me every experience she could provide and left the rest up to me.

But she's often asked me over the years, "Do you get to use all your talents?" It's as if she thinks I'm Isadora Duncan and the world, and more importantly, I, will experience a great loss if the most fantastically talented woman ever bred doesn't enlighten them.

So I took her to my office and let her see all the awards on my walls, desk, credenza, cabinets, etc. I explained how they were for a variety of brochures, TV advertising spots, film/videos, web sites, public relations campaigns, internal employee movie spoofs, etc. She was thrilled, and when she said, "Doesn't it make you feel important to work for this great company and be so acclaimed?" I was so embarrassed and humbled, I couldn't tell her that some companies are really award-hungry and enter everything in every competition, so of course I'd won a few. It really doesn't mean much. At the same time I was so happy that SHE was experiencing an affirmative moment, I couldn't spoil it by telling her that every day I worry that I won't have a job and will be left with mortgage payments and other bills I can't pay.

Well then I escaped as fast as possible from a conversation I didn't want to continue to pick up our youngest daughter and her two-and-a-half-year-old son from Union Station, and we had a second Christmas.

The whole holiday reminded me how blessed we are to have people concerned about us, people who love us and can be counted upon to support us through trying times. I'll never forget the looks on our children's faces when they opened a gift they especially wanted. Better, I'll never forget the looks on their faces when they watched a sibling or a parent open their own gift, hoping they'd given pleasure. I'll never forget how the entire crowd forgot their own unopened gifts in a rush to watch our two toddler grandsons open their own, and how they took their greatest delight in the joy of those little boys.

After gift-opening and a huge Christmas dinner, our family settled back for what The Sage had been advertising for days as "his entertainment." This turned out to be a collection of pictures he had selected from our family history. As he revealed each photo, we were challenged to determine the year and to tell the story behind the picture.

It was an enchanted Christmas.


Thanks to James Wolcott, Three Wise Men:

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today:

"Support Our Troops" is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution.

Jack Beatty, journalist, biographer, and Atlantic Monthly senior editor:

We have made a disaster in Iraq. We cannot escape from all of its consequences. But the human consequences of staying—the Iraqi civilians we will kill, the young American men and women alive this minute who will die or be maimed in body or mind—are worse than the political consequences of withdrawing. In any case, the political consequences are notional, as weighed against the certainty of death, suffering, and grief. In our own eyes, our prestige diminished after we withdrew from Vietnam, but our international position was not weakened. Asked for the hundredth time why we were in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson, according to Arthur Goldberg, his U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "unzipped his fly, drew out his substantial organ, and declared, 'This is why!'" In Iraq as in Vietnam, at risk is not America's prestige but the President's. No one should have to die to save George W. Bush's face.

Father Andrew Greeley, columnist and novelist:

The guilty people are not only the Vulcans [in the Bush administration] but those Americans who in the November election endorsed the war.

They are also responsible for the Iraqi deaths, especially the men who join the police or the army because they need the money to support their families -- their jobs eaten up in the maw of the American ''liberation.'' Iraqi deaths don't trouble many Americans. Their attitude is not unlike the e-mail writer who said he rejoices every time a Muslim kills another Muslim. ''Let Allah sort them out.''

This time of the year we celebrate ''peace on Earth to men of good will.'' Americans must face the fact that they can no longer claim to be men and women of good will, not as long as they support an unnecessary, foolish, ill-conceived, badly executed and, finally, unwinnable war.


The tragic results of the tsunami that hit Asia just keep mounting.

What is there to say about such a horrendous loss of life and imminent health crisis as a result of a natural disaster? You can harp about poor or cynically delayed warning systems and lack of preparedness, but for the immediate future what is needed is help, and that costs money and a firm commitment to long-range assistance. This is precisely the kind of situation to which the United States used to respond with horrified compassion and an outpouring of aid so great as to make the recipient peoples, indeed the world, love and appreciate American leadership and American values. Now we're being called "stingy," a sad reflection of the way the Unca Scrooge/Bush-Cheney administration has lowered the honor of the United States in the world. It would have been so simple for our president to arrange for a press crew that already surrounds his newly-acquired ranch in Crawford, Texas, to tape him delivering a message from the American people to the afflicted nations that we will deliver whatever aid is necessary to Sri Lanka, Thailand, et al to help their peoples recover from this disaster. He didn't have to supply a dollar figure -- he just had to demonstrate our total commitment.

But Bush has no real feelings about anyone outside the boundaries of his electoral base. He doesn't even care about other Americans. If his response to this natural disaster isn't evidence of his lack of Christian charity, I don't know what is.

About 10 years ago I coordinated the Metropolitan Dallas United Way campaign for the Real Estate and Construction category of businesses. A speaker at one of our major rallies hit a chord of pride and patriotism that resulted in an unprecedented amount of giving. She was a native Filipino who had become one of my company's mortgage operation's top-producing loan officers, and she spoke of how Americans have a grand tradition of reaching out to the world's neediest through our charities and our foreign aid. But she said that was only a reflection of a culture of caring and good Samaritanism. As evidence, she cited a story from her youth, when her small town in the Phillipines suffered a devastating fire and her neighbors and indeed her own family were in danger of losing not only many lives but their homes and the few possessions that enabled them to live and work. American GI's, she recounted, showed up and worked tirelessly and at their own peril to save the villagers and their homes. I remember, she said, two GI's carrying out mattresses from our house with several children atop, pretending to play a game with the children so they wouldn't be frightened.

That's the US I love and honor, that's the people I've always known. That's the spirit and heart that the world has loved and honored for decades, that REALLY brought down the Iron Curtain. For so long we were the beacon of freedom, economic opportunity (not just for the already rich and well-connected) and compassion. Lady Liberty was the antithesis of the Berlin Wall, and the world knew it and chose our way.

Would they do it again? Would they see the Peace Corps and American Red Cross as the exemplar of America? Or would they see George Bush, the political tsunami who is continuing his own disastrous purge not only of able administrators and advisers but of our core American values and the policies of peacemaking and justice-seeking that have made us respected and loved abroad and programs that have encouraged prosperity, economic safety and equality of opportunity at home?

UPDATE: Susan Sontag called "rugged individualism" -- the neo-Reagan Bush mantra -- "just selfishness."


An example of Bush leadership aka "We won, now choke on it."

No sooner had George W. Bush nailed down his 2004 electoral victory than talk began of abolishing state and local deductions on federal income tax forms. To high-tax states such as New York and California and New Jersey, the idea is a cold-blooded job-killer.

Not only would it steer new employers far away from the New York region, it would also erode our current job base. It would jack up our federal tax bills sharply and leave us in an even dicier plight as we struggle to compete with low-tax states.

You do the math. According to The New York Times, the plan - affecting 3.2 million households in the state - would cost New Yorkers $37 billion a year in lost deductions.

"No question about it," said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, "this could hurt new job recruitment and it could be a threat to existing jobs."

The plan must come as a particular embarrassment to New York's two top Republicans - Gov. George Pataki, who campaigned hard last fall for Bush, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has struggled to maintain a semblance of party loyalty even as he governs an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Naturally, they're working to put the best face possible on this howler.

A Bloomberg spokesman stresses that the proposal is just "a concept, not a plan." A Pataki guy swears that the whole thing is simply "a trial balloon - that's all it is."

Well, funny thing: Nearly everyone else I spoke with this week thinks the threat is about as real as Washington politics gets.

Tuesday, December 28


It's time for a public outcry. More and more, the US is looking like the former Soviet Union.


"Fearless" Susan Sontag has died. She was an enormously important voice for sanity and human progress and a personal inspiration.

UPDATE: Am into the third hour of an amazing interview with Susan Sontag (3/2/03) on C-SPAN2. It's re-aired, don't miss it.

UPDATE: Another interview with Susan Sontag. (Watch the one-frame commercial to get access.)