Saturday, April 1


Kevin Phillips rues what he helped to create. At least he's an honest observer, and trying to make amends by shouting warnings from the watchtower:

We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before -- in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.

Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country's domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion's new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.
Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests -- a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics. On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860.
The potential interaction between the end-times electorate, inept pursuit of Persian Gulf oil, Washington's multiple deceptions and the financial crisis that could follow a substantial liquidation by foreign holders of U.S. bonds is the stuff of nightmares. To watch U.S. voters enable such policies -- the GOP coalition is unlikely to turn back -- is depressing to someone who spent many years researching, watching and cheering those grass roots.

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Eugene Robinson. Amen.

It's frustrating. The three overlapping forces that have sent this country in so many wrong directions -- the conservative movement, the neoconservative movement and the Republican Party -- are warring among themselves, doing their best impression of crabs in a barrel, and sensible people can't even enjoy the spectacle. That's because it's hard to take pleasure in the havoc they've caused and the disarray they will someday leave behind.
It would all be entertaining if the stakes weren't so high. Iraqis and Americans are dying; the treasury is bleeding; real people, not statistics, are at the center of the immigration debate. Iran is intent on joining the nuclear club. Hallowed American traditions of privacy, fairness and due process are being flouted, and thus diminished. As the powers-that-be self-destruct, the powers-that-would-be -- Democratic leaders and all Americans who've seen enough of this movie -- need to put together an alternative program that will begin to undo some of the damage the conservative-neocon-GOP nexus has wrought.

To this point, I think the Democratic Party has done just what it needed to do, which was basically to sit back and watch the other side wear itself down. When one party is in charge of the White House and both sides of Capitol Hill, there's not much the other party can do anyway. Refusing to draw up articles of impeachment or sign on to Russ Feingold's censure resolution may reflect cold political calculation, but it also acknowledges plain reality: Not gonna happen.

Democrats have behaved with remarkable discipline, which shows how much they believe they need to win this fall and in 2008. What they haven't yet done is communicate a compelling vision of where they will take the country when they are given the reins. Dry position papers, drafted by committee, aren't enough. Make us see a better future.

I would just expand a bit on those last two sentences. Democrats announced a strategy for national security this past week and got almost no media attention. It's something we have to do. But we must also remember that position papers don't resonate with the media or the public. We need to create the best of marketing taglines -- and even though that's long been a regular part of my "real" job, I've never come up with anything with which I'm satisfied. We need every marketing, PR and communications professional in the party to be working on this. I'm skeptical that Beltway consultants can do it. They're too out of touch with the grassroots, both the Democratic party base that is frustrated by the passivism of Dem leadership these past five years and the independent and soft-Republican voters who are disenchanted with the current Republican agenda and performance but not motivated to vote Democrat. Eugene is right. We need hope.



Thanks to the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, we now have some details from inside the 9/11 planning from the mouth of its mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Seems Al Qaeda never expected 9/11 to do so much damage or that the U.S. would respond with such force.

As the article's author points out, that sounds, well ... familiar. BushCo never expected the Iraq war to be so "catastrophically successful," either, or that the Iraqis would respond to the Americans and the occupation with such force.

KSM also says that Osama was pretty much out of the planning for 9/11. He sounds more like a ceremonial figure than a strategic leader. As I read that passage I could just see OBL/Dubya waving his hand and saying "Go kill me some Americans/Muslims in a way that'll wake them up" and then playing the Big Shot to trainees and other visitors while others plan, execute and take responsibility for the real action.

As I've said before, Osama Bin Laden has just LOTS in common with George W. Bush.

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Friday, March 31


What a couple of sleepless-night weeks it's been! Last night (midnight) I launched new web sites for my Fortune 200 company -- the corporate site and the site for our largest business unit (ten million visits per month). Kudos all round, thank goodness, with no major glitches. I'll be spending Sunday editing a film to kick off a big leadership meeting we're hosting next week. But between now and then, I'm FREE!!!!! Now to catch up on the news.

Actually, before I do that, I want to record (so as to remember) my experience this afternoon on jury duty. I'd been called several times before, but always instructed to report in the morning. This was a 1:30 p.m. call, which nobody I talked to had ever experienced. The jury summons said it was a "special venire" -- so I Googled and found that in Texas that applies to capital crimes.

I don't know about other states, but in Texas there are all sorts of capital crimes -- e.g., murder of a child less than six years old, murder of a police officer or firefighter while they are performing their duties, deliberate killing of a person during the commission of another felony, etc. This case is one of felony murder. The defendant is accused of, in the course of a robbery, strangling and drowning a man.

It seemed as if several hundred people were in the Central Jury Room when I arrived. The trial judge, prosecutors, defense team and defendant were introduced. Only the defendant did not speak. There was nearly an hour of instructions on the law, the obligations of jury duty, and the seriousness of the case. Judge Lana read the indictment. She said it might take six weeks to select the jury, and months to conduct the trial. I started to quake. I'm a pushover for real Americanism, and jury duty, like voting, seems to be a requirement of good citizenship. But MONTHS? I can't even find time for a long weekend (not for the past year) -- how on earth could I take off that kind of time from work without having to work through every night to keep things going? This is not a good prospect, coming at me at the end of two weeks of three-hours-of-sleep-per-night. The judge asks us to look at our 16-page questionnaires and implores us not to frame our answers so as to try to get off the jury, but yet to think seriously about our feelings about the death penalty.

Could I condemn someone to death? I could have done so for Ted Bundy. I'd have opted for life first, but he'd proven prison couldn't hold him. And every time Ted got loose he killed more women. He was like the Biblical man-eating lion that must be put to death because there's no other way to stop him from killing others. Yes, there are some cases in which I could vote in favor of the death penalty.

Only a few. On the whole, the death penalty troubles me, and mostly because of the uneven way in which it's applied. There are racial, gender and economic factors implicated in death penalty cases that make our current system immoral.

But still. It's not, to say the least, a privilege I would seek out. While I might say that I'm not sitting in judgment upon the man but upon his actions, it still would FEEL like sitting in judgment on him. And you know me, good little Bible-believer that I am, I hear in my head every day, "Judge not that ye be not judged." I don't want to go there.

Oh, I judge actions and such every day of the week, yes, you bet. This blog is full of them. What I shrink from is personally assessing recompense.

Wait, it just hit me. There's no way any Texas prosecutors are going to let me on this jury. My answer to the question, "What three publicly known men do you least admire?" was:

1. George W. Bush
2. Dick Cheney
3. Antonin Scalia

That should do it.

UPDATE: Note: That was not MOST admired, they're my LEAST admired. For most admired, I put down Al Gore, Jim Wallis ("God's Politics") and Jimmy Carter.

For most admired women, I wrote Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter.

For least admired women I listed Condi Rice, Laura Bush and Barbara Bush.

Thursday, March 30


I'm so glad I didn't miss this.

For the past three years I've relived the Vietnam War of my pre-teens and teens through this Bush debacle we call the Iraq war. The budding of a veterans group opposing this war is so familiar. It's an important part of American history, and testimony to our national character, that men and women who faithfully served their country through wartime military service have been able to evaluate that service, their mission, and the rightness or wrongness of their actions, and publicly speak the truth of their experience.

And often, seek atonement.

I didn't blame the Vietnam vets per se. As a whole, I viewed them as the boys-just-doing-what-they-were-told that they were. I worried about them. I was an Air Force brat. Some of them were my relatives. It sorrowed me that I couldn't convince some of them that it was the politicians I faulted, not them.

So read the article. Once again, I feel mostly sympathy and concern for our troops in Iraq. The many horrors inflicted on the Iraqis by our own people, I again attribute to those who are pulling the strings, not to our frightened, trying-to-be-noble grunts.

The crimes are then the responsibility of our entire nation. We were made complicit because we elected and enabled through all our public institutions, the government that acted.


Wednesday, March 29


Big surprise. Chris Matthews thinks there is a campaign against religion in this country.

It's been Tony Perkins (of the Family Research Council) v. Al Sharpton on Hardball debating that very issue. (I'm editing a script at the same time I'm half-listening. But certain statements/exchanges got my attention from time to time.)

Tweety shows footage of a recent huge religious right convocation. Tom DeLay is introduced (he's the keynote speaker) as someone who is being persecuted because he took a stand for Jesus. DeLay is then shown in clips of his speech, which includes several allusions to his being persecuted for the faith. Back to Chris and guests.

Everybody indicates obliquely that when we talk about a campaign against religion, we're really talking about Christianity.

Tony's idea of a war on Christians is that the ACLU through the courts (read: "activist judges") has deprived said Christians from their God-given right to impose their religion on the state, for instance in the form of religious displays on public property, invocation of their religion in school and civic ceremonies, public school-endorsed Christian prayers in class, etc.

Al says it's important to unlink the words "religious" and "right-wing." Progressive Christians have always supported policies that were inspired by their beliefs. No-one agrees with Jesus more than Al. It's a shame and a disgrace that these (implied) so-called Christians would represent DeLay, or choose to be represented by him, his legal problems have nothing to do with his so-called Christianity.

Tony says he believes DeLay was made a target because he's a Christian (hedging in case DeLay is convicted and disgraced), but his legal difficulties are a separate matter he can't... you know.

Blah blah blah.]

Chris closes by saying he definitely thinks there's a campaign against religion. And he's sure Al would agree with him except for the partisan part.

Tony is trying for a humble-but-gratified look. As an actor, he's not bad. Ugh.


Monday, March 27


Chris Matthews is repeating a story he got confirmed with William Cohen, Secretary of State under Clinton. Seems in December of 2000, just after the Supreme Court delivered the presidency to George W. Bush, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney called Cohen and told him he didn't want one of those tours of all the trouble spots in the world, he didn't want a briefing about all the national threats, he wanted one thing only: a briefing about Iraq. That's the sole country he was interested in. It's just more confirmation that Cheney, for some reason, was obsessed with Iraq from Day One.

Chris is incensed by the pre-war memo detailing Bush's determination to invade Iraq no matter what. Well heck, what's new? The Downing Street Memo predates this one by months, and we've known about it for nearly a year. I'm so glad Chris actually paid attention to this one.

But the reason he did is obvious. Sometime in the past couple of weeks Chris has had his come-to-Jesus moment with George W. Bush and lost the faith. He's sounded like a betrayed man in his last few TV appearances that I've observed. He's not happy. So he's more receptive to evidence that President Codpiece is a liar and an incompetent.

Chris is asking his guests just when they thought Bush decided to invade Iraq. Craig Cook says pre-9/11, maybe even from the beginning of his presidency. Someone else said when Cheney convinced him to. Another suggested that it was precisely on 9/11.

I'm not sure Bush had invasion of Iraq on his mind when he assumed the presidency. I do believe it's well documented that Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfiwitz, and the other signers of the Project For A New American Century found their mouths watering at the idea of getting to put their grand experiment into play -- and Iraq was central to their plans. I tend to think that Dubya didn't have the faintest idea what to do with his presidency once it had been gifted him -- and 9/11 gave him a sense of purpose. It was a road-to-Damascus experience. He wanted action, more action, activity, vengeance, war -- he was finally, at 50+, ready to get payback for all the failures, embarrassments and fancied slights he'd experienced in his life. He just needed somebody to supply him with a target, and Cheney et al were well prepared to convince the Boy King that they'd identified Saddam as his dark half.

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Sunday, March 26



Eric Margolis's blistering assessment of the Iraq situation.


Condi says to Timmeh that Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are all determined to form a government of national unity and that's unprecedented. Historically they have settled their differences through violence, and now they're doing it politically.

What is she talking about? If they're so determined, why haven't they done it? And aren't they settling differences through violence in a most public way every day?

They're WORKING on it. It's HARD WORK. There are a lot of details to be worked out.

Thanks to the president's democracy promotion and the people of those countries, the people are taking on authoritative regimes across the region. Syria is out of Lebanon. Kuwait has given women the right to vote. (No mention of the victories of Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. in ME elections -- organizations that the United States characterizes as terrorist groups.) Democracy is on the march.

She can't confirm whether or not the Afghani who converted to Christianity and is on trial for his life has been spared. Afghanistan is a young democracy and is working with a baby constitution. They're going through a debate right now on the proper role of religion in civil government. It takes time to work these things out. It's HARD WORK.

Timmeh cites the lack of standard human rights in the Afghan constitution. Condi responds that it's better than the Taliban -- our country only established equal rights for blacks in her lifetime, so who are we to criticize? She's "certain" that the evolution of democracy in Afghanistan is on the right track. It takes time. It's HARD WORK.

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