Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"They are going to take the taxes everyone has contributed for years and use them to pay fees for Wall Street brokers."

From today's Democracy Now!:

ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, I think that despite everything, the chances are fairly high that the Bush administration, within the next two years, will get into some sort of military confrontation with Iran. One of the things that's holding them back is there's zero legal justification for that attack. If you remember with Iraq, they trumpeted the fact there were the UN resolutions that allowed the United States to somehow aggregate to itself the power to invade Iraq unilaterally. Of course, Kofi Annan said that the war was illegal; nevertheless, they had the debate. With Iran, they have no justification for an attack. So, I think they're scrambling to figure out one or maybe they'll try to provoke a military confrontation. . . . So, I'm blackly pessimistic about what's going to happen there. I don't think that the European negotiations are going to succeed beyond sort of delaying the confrontation enough for the Bush administration to get its ducks in a row. I do think that, you know, sometime by 2006 we're going to see some sort of a serious military crisis developing there.

For the full interview (which is largely about the intell bill and worth hearing) go to http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/14/1458259 (listen, watch or read transcript -- I'll now just use "LWRT" in the rest of this post).

War with Iran? Three of you e-mailed today asking what is Bush thinking -- this while Iran's in the process of reform?

As Jonathan Steele notes (re: Ukraine):

Like "humanitarian interventionism," which has been used more than once recently as a cover for going to war, "electoral interventionism" has become a tool in Washington's arsenal for overseas manipulation. The instruments of democracy are used selectively to topple particular rulers, and only when a US-friendly successor candidate or regime has been groomed.

So the notion of "helping reform" could be used. I really do question why the Times (and other media) isn't doing a better job pointing out that the "so-called Geneva rule" isn't a rule but an opinion (and not one that the European community is sharing with us) [see http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2004/12/are-rebels-drug-users-is-there-two.html].

Mohamed ElBaradei is someone the current administration wants out. Pushing the notion that a "Geneva rule" requires ElBaradei step down at the end of this term (his second) gives them a position to argue for someone new. The fact that no rule apparently exists doesn't matter if we end up falling for that spin as we did on all the Iraq spin. (I'm speaking of "we" in the sense of the American people. I'm sure that many of the people reading this blog never fell for the Iraq spin.)

The press needs to slowly and carefully explain to the people that no such rule exists. (And a columnist with a background in Constitutional law -- yes, I'm still pushing that -- would probably note that on the pages of the Times.) [This refers to "Safire Wants Out, The Times Wants a Photostat Copy, Why Is That?" http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2004/12/safire-wants-out-times-wants-photostat.html.]

Here's Robert Dreyfuss again:

Amid all the talk about the supposed crisis in Iran, I haven’t heard anyone say what the legal basis would be for an attack on Iran. Is there any? Is there an international lawyer in the house?
My guess is: No. The invasion of Iraq was the de facto implementation of the Bush administration’s preventive/pre-emptive war policy. But the neocons cooked up a legal justification, based on Iraq’s supposed violations of UN Security Council resolutions. (I personally interviewed the general counsel of the U.S. NSC about this, and listened in amazement as he spun the tale of how spurious Iraqi violations meant that the United States could invade Iraq in defiance of international law.)

That's from his blog (http://www.tompaine.com/archives/the_dreyfuss_report.php). (Remember, you click on links at your own risk. I don't see anything in this link that could get someone in trouble at work but heads up.)

Is there a reason to go to war with Iran? Should we be going to war with them? What is our plan if we do go to war?

Those are questions that probably will not be raised by the mainstream media if they handle it the way they did Iraq. Which is why I'd urge everyone to follow this as much as they can.

A lot of questions came in regarding Ohio and "is it over?" seemed to be the most repeated.
I don't think so. I'm not an expert on this. Randi Rhodes did address this (and has been addressing this since the election) so I'd urge you to listen to her show on Air America (to listen online or see if there is a station in your area please consult the Air America homepage at

Democracy Now! has also done an excellent job of covering it. I'll pull from their headlines section to give an update (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/14/1458253):

Challenge Filed to Ohio Vote Count
In election news the Ohio delegation to the Electoral College cast its vote for President Bush on Monday but not before a coalition of groups asked the Supreme Court to review the outcome of the state election. A group of Congressional Democrats also wrote Ohio's governor to ask him to delay the electoral vote until the disputes are resolved. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and attorney Cliff Arnebeck of the Alliance for Democracy accused President Bush's campaign of "high-tech vote stealing." A spokesperson for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell described the charges as "a ridiculous assertion." Meanwhile the Kerry campaign has requested that its witnesses be allowed to inspect some 92,000 ballots that have not been counted because the state claims voters did not record a vote for president on them.

I'll also note Ralph Nader's comment on Democracy Now! today (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/14/1459205)

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ralph Nader, joining us in Washington, D.C. Ralph ran for president in this election. Now the election is over. Just to clarify did you say that you think it is possible John Kerry might have won? I mean --
RALPH NADER: In Ohio, yes.

Roberta is a "big Nader supporter" and e-mailed that she doubted "this site will even mention it." Well we did and we'll quote from the interview Amy Goodman did with Nader
again later in this entry.

But for those interested in the latest on Ohio, I will again recommend that you listen to The Randi Rhodes Show. Episodes are archived at http://www.airamericaplace.com/index.php and at http://www.therandirhodesshow.com/archives/.

Frank in Orlando thinks "you're making too big a deal out of Iran!!! No one wants war!! Not even Bush!!!!" O-o-o-kay.

He also wonders if the Times has to note in "every story on Iran that there's not really a Geneva rule?" If they quote the administration saying that there is a rule, the reporter needs to note that there's not one. (My opinion.)

Tammi e-mails that: "I'm sick of these stick ball losers who are now reporters and editors thinking that the possible signing of a baseball player is front page news! If Bernadette Peters was about to sign for a Broadway play, that wouldn't be front page news so don't tell me that this is because it concerns a local issue of the Mets. It's nonsense, not news. The paper does no favors to its readers by passing off sports trivia or speculation as national events that will change our lives."

Keesha agrees with that and adds: "On any given day, the Times doesn't even cover some important stories, Ohio is the perfect example!, but they can make time for a silly baseball team? People, this isn't news."

Rob feels: "This is all about a bunch of old and getting older former jocks wanting to act like their little insular world reflects reality. Or maybe they just get free tickets when they put the Mets on the front page. Reminds me of a Joni Mitchell's 'Shiny Toys.'"

Here's the song Rob was reffing:

I'm reading people rags in the checkout lane
Look, here's a hunk -- here's a honey
Celebrated people and their claims to fame
Here's a boy and his money
And pictures of the winners in the latest
Ratepoll game
. . .
Shiny toys, when it's over don't you hate to
Have to put your toys away
-- "Shiny Toys" words & music by Joni Mitchell
(available on Dog Eat Dog, an album I personally think is one of Mitchell's most underrated ones)

Editorial in The Nation:

The first challenge is the selection of a new chair to lead the Democratic National Committee. That contest is usually a ho-hum event, but this year is different. Democrats have sunk so low, the position can become an important starting point for restoration.
. . .
The party will never get back on track with a DC player at the helm, or with DC pollsters and consultants guiding its agenda or strategy. Dems must reconnect with the energy at the grassroots, holding councils in every county.
For that reason, we urge the DNC members to choose an outsider as their next chair--someone with the stature and personal confidence to get the party to engage in vigorous self-criticism and freewheeling bottom-up venting of insights and ideas. Howard Dean, who is interested in the job, would bring those qualities to it, but so might others--even someone who is not a "politician" but an authentic leader in other spheres.

Craig Aaron, writing in In These Times, weighs in on this as well (http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/1743/):

If previous setbacks are any guide, the same consultants and pollsters who lost the election will again win the battle to interpret its results. Almost inevitably, they will conclude that the party needs to shift further to the right, ignoring the base (who else are they going to vote for?) and cozying up to the stockbrokers or gun owners or home-schoolers (or better yet—all three!) with new proposals for “budget reform” and hints of “flexibility” on abortion rights.
The only thing wrong with this strategy, of course, is that it loses every time. By tacking rightward, Democrats not only alienate their base, but encourage swing voters to think like Republicans. They “activate the other side’s models,” in the words of the unexpectedly in vogue linguist George Lakoff. The Republicans seem to understand this concept: The harder they push, the further they shift the whole country’s political discourse. Without a countervailing force, what else would you expect?

. . .
The good news for those of us to the left of liberal is that the Democratic Leadership Council and the rest of the party leadership no longer has much of a choice. Moving further to the left, it seems, may be the only way to save the center.

And remember I said I'd quote Ralph Nader again? Again from today's Democracy Now!:

RALPH NADER: Well, it's a mixed response. I mean, he's quite right in what he says, but he spent the last few months being the hatchet man trying to get us off the ballot, one of the people that the Democratic party assigned, and that's the way he restored his credentials with the established Democratic Party. That cost us over a million dollars and we're still in debt on this, and as you can see from our website, votenader.org, we're trying to offer memorabilia and other ways to get out of debt, because they violated our civil liberties, something that will be a more compelling issue in the coming months. The idea of the Democrats saying every vote should be counted, but there are certain candidates that are not going to be allowed on the ballot if we can hire enough corporate Republican law firms and harass them and file phony lawsuits. He was all part of that. But, just hearing what he has to say, he's right on. And the established Democratic Party now is getting ready again to gang up on Howard Dean and defeat him for the D.N.C. chair, just the way they ganged up on him in the primary. This is not a party in decay, Amy. This is a decadent party. A decaying party ends up going out of the way. It's replaced. A decadent party remains, loss after loss, after loss, for the last ten years at the local, state and national level, to the worst of the Republican Party. And there's no major insurgency, except what is attempted by Howard Dean. And my prediction is that he's simply not going to make it. There's going to be another bland, monetized mind running the D.N.C. and curtsying to the Democratic Leadership Council, which is really the corporate Democrats that have run this party into the ground over the last decade.

I'll also note Nader's book from July of this year: The Good Fight : Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap. As well as that on his website you can find "very sufficient, probative irregularities that occurred before, during the election that warrant a recall" and donate towards the $500,000 they need to raise by January 1st to cover campaign costs. The web site is http://votenader.org/ (where you can also purchase It Happened in the Kitchen -- a book written by Nader's parents Rose and Nartha).

Frank in Orlando wants to know why I attacked Bill Scher for appearing on The Majority Report and claimed that I would never appear on it or any other show. [See http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2004/12/i-want-to-see-your-thoughts-take-shape.html.]

Trolonda had made the comment that, had I been on the show, I would've behaved differently than Scher did. My response was: "As for me, I wasn't on the show so who knows how I would've responded. Nor would I be on. My attitude is the blog is the story and it's very easy for it to turn into "Oh you're so wonderful!"The blog is wonderful, I'm just an a__."

That wasn't a slap at Scher (or wasn't intended as such). As Ellen Goodman's noted, when you go on a show, you're expected to be an expert on everything. Instant expert. Everyone's waiting for an answer and the temptation is to give something instead of responding, "I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that so I can't comment." There are people who will say that. But most of the time, due to an oversized ego or a need to please, we'll come up with some sort of response.

There's also the fact that the blog is a story, I'm not. I'm a feature (and a boring one at that). The blog itself is a news story. I wouldn't want to attempt to entertain for a segment (because I'd be bored and so would the audience).

Add in that you can begin to desire appearing on these shows and I just think that it's too dangerous and corrupting for many people. Do I mean Scher? No. But I know that I personally wouldn't want to risk it. (I don't care for Eric Alterman, as I've stated. But he has been on
The Majority Report numerous times and co-hosted Monday night. He doesn't rush to agree with the hosts but The Majority Report has continued to invite him back. Which appears to demonstrate that they aren't playing by the "kiss our ___ if you want to be on our show"
rules that many TV & radio shows play by.)

This also ties into Martha's e-mail today regarding David Corn and why do I defend everyone that works for The Nation. I don't believe (I could be wrong) that I've ever mentioned David Corn on this site. Eric Alterman does a column for The Nation and I've mentioned that I don't care for him. Corn wrote a good book (The Lies of George W. Bush), which I will recommend now, but I'm not a big fan of his columns. Eddie points out that Corn is in a squabble with Greg Palast (among others) in the letters section of the current issue (of The Nation).

Yes, he is. Some people feel he plays the guard-at-the-gate and decides what is and what isn't permissable. I'm not sure if that's what he does so much as state his opinions strongly. I do agree that his columns can often be read as, "This is how it is! Do it!" (Martha's words.)
Whether that's how he means them or not (his response to the letters indicated to me that this might not be the case), that is how they can come off.

And when you go on shows and act as guest or pundit your opinions can become very formalized to the point that you're dismissive of views that are not your own and you don't even want anyone to discuss or address them. Cokie Roberts, for instance, might have started out curious and informed. I wouldn't say she's either now. When you're the "voice" or the "dean" or whatever title that heap on you, it can become very easy to stop listening.

(Bob Somerby might argue the same regarding Richard Cohen: "Everything changed on September 11—except for Richard Cohen’s fatuity. This morning, he pens another of his ten-minute wonders—another column which couldn’t have taken more time than that to
type up." That's from today's Daily Howler http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh121404.shtml.)

So for me, personally, there's no point in going on a radio or TV show.

If that was read as an insult to Scher, it wasn't intended as such.

Ryan, Beth, Maria and Ben felt that I let Scher off ("with a pass" said Ben) too easily. If that is true, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt because that had been his first week cohosting. I also thought, that other than that one interview, he did a really good job.

I don't know if it's the tone of his voice or the way he words it, but when he's offering his take or his opinion, it came off as such. It did not come off, as Martha feels David Corn does, like "The Last Word! The Final Word! Case closed! Move on now, nothing here to see!"

A number of you e-mailed Monday to say you had problems pulling up Andy's "Jesus is a Liberal" on Monday. I checked the link today and it was working then. [See http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2004/12/jesus-is-liberal.html.] If you had trouble with the link earlier, please try again: http://www.changethis.com/proposals/287.

The title of this blog entry comes from Theda Skocpol's comments in "Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Forum" in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041220&s=forum).

This is a post-election round up that brings to various voices to discuss what was done wrong and what needs to be done now.


Instead, Democrats should start right now to focus on aggressive defense of the Social Security system. They should not wait for specific policy proposals from Republicans--as we learned in the Medicare prescription drug battle, those specifics will be hidden until the last minute--but should paint a picture of Republican plans and attack it today, tomorrow, the next day, unremittingly. There should be a coordinated campaign among officeholders and Democratic-leaning groups.
Paint Republican privatization plans not as an attack on the elderly alone, but as an attack on all working Americans. "They are going to take the taxes everyone has contributed for years and use them to pay fees for Wall Street brokers." "They are going to let richer people opt out of paying their fair share into Social Security--and make the system go broke very soon." "They are going to break the promises long ago made to all of us who contribute to Social Security, take away the benefits we have built for our own retirement, as well as to take care of our parents and grandparents." "Social Security works as a savings system for all of us together. We save efficiently that way. It leaves each of us free to save more if we can. But no one should have to give up their promised benefits so Republicans can pay off their rich friends." Etc. Use rhetoric that is both hard-hitting and invokes a countervision of the benefits of social cooperation. Stop worrying about policy details--or engaging in expert policy-speak, or trying to be precisely "fair" to the opposition. Arouse a sense of profound threat based on a picture of what Republicans almost certainly will have to do in any privatization move.

It's various voices and each is emphasizing what they think needs to be done now and what they think the Kerry and/or Democratic campaigns did wrong in 2004. Hopefully, most of you will find something you agree with from at least one of the voices.

Francisco e-mails (regarding this forum in The Nation) that Jorge Ramos is repeating the "44% of Latino votes [went to Bush] myth." That figure is used but the figure wasn't corrected until December 2nd so it's possible that Ramos wasn't aware there were any problems with the figure.

Again, there are a variety of voices. I doubt you'd agree with everyone of them. (I don't.) But it is an interesting read.

Medea Benjamin is part of the forum:

MANY OF US IN THE GREEN PARTY made a tremendous compromise by campaigning in swing states for such a miserable standard-bearer for the progressive movement as John Kerry. Well, I've had it. As George Bush says, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again."
For those of you willing to keep wading in the muddy waters of the Democratic Party, all power to you. I plan to work with the Greens to get more Green candidates elected to local office.
Let's stop the infighting, though. Dems, Greens and other progressives must not only respect one another's choices, we must start using these different "inside-outside" strategies to our collective advantage. A strategically placed Green/progressive pull could conceivably prevent a suicidal Democratic lurch to the right.
Regardless of our party preferences, we must build strategic alliances on two key issues of our day: electoral reform and ending the occupation of Iraq.

So to read what else she has to say (and what the others have to say) please click on the link. I consider this so worth reading that I won't just say "link above" but instead will provide it
again: http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20041220&s=forum.

Lastly, is Donald Rumsfeld the new Henry Kissenger? From Democracy Now!'s headlines today:

Rumsfeld Considers Canceling Trip Over War Crimes Suit
Meanwhile Donald Rumsfeld is considering canceling a planned trip to Germany after U.S. lawyers filed a lawsuit against Rumsfeld in German courts. This according to a report in the German magazine Focus. The center for constitutional rights filed a complaint accusing Rumsfeld of war crimes and torture in connection with the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. German laws allows the trial of war crimes regardless of where they are carried out. Rumsfeld said he won't go to Germany for the Munich Security Conference if the government indicates it will investigate the war crime complaint.