The neoconservatives' utopia U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer tried to force upon a stunned Iraqi populace may have instead fueled the very insurgency that now makes it impossible for that to happen anytime soon, argues author Naomi Klein in a recent Harper's Magazine piece.

Iraq was to the neocons what Afghanistan was to the Taliban: the one place on Earth where they could force everyone to live by the most literal, unyielding interpretation of their sacred texts. One would think that the bloody results of this experiment would inspire a crisis of faith: in the country where they had absolute free reign, where there was no local government to blame, where economic reforms were introduced at their most shocking and most perfect, they created, instead of a model free market, a failed state no right-thinking investor would touch. And yet the Green Zone neocons and their masters in Washington are no more likely to reexamine their core beliefs than the Taliban mullahs were inclined to search their souls when their Islamic state slid into a debauched Hades of opium and sex slavery. When facts threaten true believers, they simply close their eyes and pray harder.

Those who'll pay the price for an attempt to craft an unfettered economic nirvana won't be the likes of Bremer or Interim Iraqi leader and ex-CIA agent Iyad Allawi. Perhaps even Bush won't pay. Instead, it's the very Iraqis the administration purported to be liberating, and the children, who will bear the burden.

[Thanks to D.P. for pointing out this story.]


If you're ready to watch tonight's presidential face-off, don't be so sure you're not actually watching staged press conferences, writes NPR's Connie Rice in "Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates."

Among them, the whole thing is sponsored by Fortune 100 corporations — just like our so-called democracy today.


A new series of TV ads by RealVoices.org depicts families of fallen U.S. soldiers challenging Bush and his misleading ways.

Salon.com writes:

Each one of the spots is bitter and searing. In one, Raphael Zappala, whose 30-year-old brother was killed in Baghdad while searching a warehouse for weapons of mass destruction, says, "My brother died trying to make an honest man out of George W. Bush, needlessly. He was betrayed by the lies of his commander in chief. And the troops still in Iraq are being betrayed."

The piece quotes Cindy Sheehan, a 47-year-old woman from Vacaville, Calif., whose 24-year-old son was killed in Sadr City in April. Sheehan has been assaulted by the "right-wing patriotism police" for her outspoken opposition to Bush and the ideological and profitable war.

"I have had people tell me that what I'm doing is supporting terrorists and that my son would be ashamed of me," she says. "I was on a radio call-in show on Sunday morning, and I had a lot of people call me a traitor." ...

Speaking about those who want her to shut up, Sheehan says, "I think those people are traitors, because my son and millions of brave Americans before him have died for my right to speak out against the government."


If there's one thing literature engenders, it's empathy for others. Necessary for the creation of complex and nuanced protagonists, flaws along with redeeming qualities teach us that there are few simple answers in life, and that understanding the human psyche is a lifelong endeavor.

That's why Azar Nafisi's poignant and beautiful book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran," resonates with respect for human dignity and freedom, almost as if it were an anti-war screed.

Perhaps this is why there is a direct correlation between education level and progressive political tendencies. It's not always so easy to understand that there's more to a complete and accurate reality of the world at large than what we may simply feel or think is corrrect. The triumph of Fox News among our increasingly illiterate American electorate is evidence of this.

Noted American novelist E.L. Doctorow mours the effect of the stubbornly wrong Bush and the detriment to our standing in the world.

I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over he world most of the time.

But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

A mixture of humanness, exhiliration and sadness washed over me this week after watching "The Motorcycle Diaries," an unheroic, intelligent and empathetic story of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's life-altering journey across Latin America. In the film, he and friend Alberto Granado travel across Peru and are changed by the disparity of wealth and justice.

As Guevara's once-prosperous Argentina, middle-class in appearance and custom, fell to the depths of a Third World economy, so it appears that, perhaps, we are, too.


Although not easily given to rumors, I've been told by reliable sources in Texas that news reports are in the works that would expose the illegitimate half-Mexican child the Bush fathered with a former worker in the governor's office.

Not that this would necessarily have any perceptible effect on the election Republicans are likely planning to steal anyway, nor does it hold great possibility that extremist right-wing voters might be swayed, but it would be another example of the deserter-in-chief's sinister and duplicitous nature.

Stay tuned.



Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin makes a scathing critique of election polling, making a point I have long esposed: Most polls completely ignore the millions of voters who eschew landlines in favor of mobile phones.

There are almost 169 million cell phones being used in America today — 168,900,019 as of Sept. 15, according to the cell phone institute in Washington.

There is no way to poll cell phone users, so it isn't done

He quotes pollster John Zogby, who shares this view.

"I don't use telephones anymore because there is no easy way to use them," John Zogby was saying yesterday. It was the 20th anniversary of the start of his polling company. He began with what he calls "blue highway polls," sheriffs' races in Onandaga and Jefferson counties in upstate New York.

"The people who are using telephone surveys are in denial," Zogby was saying. "It is similar to the '30s, when they first started polling by telephones and there were people who laughed at that and said you couldn't trust them because not everybody had a home phone. Now they try not to mention cell phones. They don't look or listen. They go ahead with a method that is old and wrong."

Just like with WMD, if people hear a falsehood often enough, they start to believe it.

Then again, there are polls that show that voters most are clueless about candidates' issues. As the AP's Will Lester writes, "If matching presidential candidates to their positions on basic issues were like a 'Jeopardy!' category, most Americans wouldn't earn a single dollar."


This map purports to combine two Florida map overlays — one depicting the paths taken by hurricanes Charley and Ivan across the state, the other showing which counties Bush or Gore won in the 2000 election.

Coincidence, or psychic phenomenon?

You decide.



Maureen Dowd rightly points out the ridiculousness of recent assertions by Bush administration toadie and former hitman for Saddam Hussein that all is well in Iraq. (This despite a CIA report that warns of a worsening situation in Iraq and Secretary of State Colin Powell's admission that things are "getting worse.")

All last week in New York and Washington, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of Iraq parroted Mr. Bush's absurd claims that the fighting in Iraq was an essential part of the U.S. battle against terrorists that started on 9/11, that the neocons' utopian dream of turning Iraq into a modern democracy was going swimmingly, and that the worse things got over there, the better they really were. ...

Mr. Bush doesn't seem to care that by using Mr. Allawi as a puppet in his campaign, he decreases the prime minister's chances of debunking the belief in Iraq that he is a Bush puppet — which is the only way he can gain any credibility to stabilize his devastated country and be elected himself.

Actually, being the president's marionette is a step up from Mr. Allawi's old jobs as henchman for Saddam Hussein and stoolie for the C.I.A.

It wasn't surprising to read Dowd's allusion to Allawi having a tainted past, though I expected it was more like U.S.-picked Afghan leader Hamid Karzai having been a Unocal consultant.

Boy, was I wrong.

A piece on Allawi's shady past states:

Back in the early 1990s Allawi teamed up with the CIA to butcher movie goers and school children in Baghdad. A former CIA agent told Joel Brinkley of the New York Times that killing innocent Iraqis was an "option" the CIA used against Saddam. Of course, for the CIA, killing school kids is normal behavior. For instance, when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected leader of Indonesia, Sukarno, and replaced him with the depraved thug General Suharto, between 500,000 and a million people lost their lives. The CIA provided lists of people they wanted Suharto to rub out.

Ah, democracy.


The absurdity of the Bush administration's claims that we're somehow safe grows exponentially on a daily basis.

Most recently, a Justice Department audit found the FBI backlog in translating hundreds of thousands of hours of wiretap recordings has meant that "nearly 24 perecent of ongoing ... counterintelligence and counterterrorism intercepts are not being monitored."

[Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A.] Fine's investigation determined that as of April, the FBI had not translated more than 123,000 hours of recordings "in languages primarily related to counterterrorism activities," such as Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto. The study also found that more than 370,000 hours of recordings in languages connected to counterintelligence probes had not been deciphered by that time. The backlog accounts for 30 percent of the total hours of audio recordings in those categories, the report said.

"We are giving this effort the highest priority," said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Mind you, this is but one shortcoming that we're being told about.


In two days, the newspaper of record has published opinions that take issue with the idea of media as uncritical, parroting amplifiers of official pronouncements, right or wrong, ahead of Thursday's presidential debates.

The first one came yesterday, in the form of an op-ed piece from former New York Times political reporter — and "major league asshole," according to Dick Cheney — Adam Clymer. He writes:

The press, in recent years, has spilt a lot more ink over debate style than substance, with dutiful fact-checking relegated to inside pages, and descriptions of candidates' manners and costumes — and, above all, strategy — accompanying the front-page accounts of what was actually said.

It was not always that way. ...

Sometime in the 1980s, political coverage began to confuse itself with drama criticism. The word "performance" started showing up frequently in debate analyses, and reporters started citing playwright Samuel Beckett in their front-page articles.

Not too surprising, considering out Britney Spears/Paris Hilton-obsessed media.

Times columnist Paul Krugman does one better, asking perhaps not so rhetorically:

During the debate, Mr. Bush will try to cover for this dismal record with swagger, and with attacks on his opponent. Will the press play Karl Rove's game by, as Mr. Clymer puts it, confusing political coverage with drama criticism, or will it do its job and check the candidates' facts?

There's only one acceptable answer.



You've got to hand it to "The Daily Show" once again for putting it all into perspective and doing it with panache.

Witness the partial transcript from the following segment on the red herring of the fake document flap at CBS News:

JON STEWART: Well Stephen, what do you think is going to happen now at CBS News?

STEPHEN COLBERT, Daily Show Senior Media Correspondent: Jon, there's got to be some accountability. Dan Rather is the head, the commander in chief if you will of his organization. He's someone in the ultimate position of power who made a harmful decision based upon questionable evidence. Then, to make things worse, he stubbornly refused to admit his mistake, choosing instead to stay the course and essentially occupy this story for too long. This man has got to go!

STEWART: Uh ... we're talking about Dan Rather ... ?

COLBERT: Yes Jon, Dan Rather. CBS is in chaos, it's unsafe, riven by internal rivalries. If you ask me, respected, reputable outsiders need to be brought in to help the rebuilding effort.

STEWART: ... at CBS News?

COLBERT: Yeah, at CBS news! What possible other unrelated situation could my words be equally applicable to?! Now people need to be held accountable. The commander in chief, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser — everyone at CBS News needs to go! Jon, I can tell you, Walter Cronkite is rolling over in his grave.

STEWART: Walter Cronkite is still alive.

COLBERT: Not according to my sources ... at CBS News.

[Thanks to Ed for passing this along.]


Bush provided further evidence of what life is like in his fantasy land by dismissing CIA analyses that painted a dire picture in Iraq.

Reuters writes:

"The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like," Bush told reporters during a picture-taking session with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Curiously, neither The Associated Press, The New York Times or The Washington Post caught this story, especially in light of a recent CIA assessment that an Iraqi civil war was a very real possibility.


In his memoirs, "A World Transformed," written five years ago, former President George Bush Sr. wrote the following to explain why he didn't go after Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War:

Trying to eliminate Saddam ... would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. ... There was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.

Our deserter-in-chief might have known this, if only it had been included in "My Pet Goat."

[Thanks to D.C. for this oldie but goodie.]



Jimmy Swaggart, the so-called Christian evangelist and prostitute patronizer, offered a weakly worded apology for his remark about "killing" a gay man.

"I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."

Swaggart's comments elicited "laughter and applause from the congregation," writes AP.

"Yes, nothing like the Taliban at all," writes Olliver Willis in his blog, which also posts video of the Nazi-worthy speech.

AP writes:

"It's a humorous statement that doesn't mean anything. You can't lie to God — it's ridiculous," Swaggart told The Associated Press. "If it's an insult, I certainly didn't think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology."

Makes you wonder: Who would Jesus kill?



"The United States of Audience has become divided in a way that would make the Civil War jealous," writes Steve Young, political editor of NationalLampoon.com and creator of MoveOnPlease.org, touting the late-night host Jon Stewart as 1974's Walter Cronkite in the Los Angeles Daily News.

It's fun (at least in a democracy) attacking the influential and their institutions. You get to expose the pomposity and faults normally hidden by lies and deceit. Jon Stewart is able to do just that while getting to the heart of a politician's real character. He may only get one honest piece of actual insight from an interview, but how many do we get in a real news show?

So, is Stewart's faux news more real than supposedly real news? For his commentary on the 2000 election, Stewart won a real Peabody Award. That's something real news guy Bill O'Reilly couldn't say, and he still has yet to make me laugh ... on purpose.

At this stage in the absurdity of Bush administration positions and policies, it's no wonder we find increasing credibility in "The Daily Show" and The Onion.


The entire snafu over apparently falsified documents CBS News touted as evidence Bush was AWOL obscures the facts that for most of 1972, the deserter-in-chief didn't report for duty for six months. Since the revelations have come to light, Bush has been given a free pass by the media and not once has accounted for the missing time, except to say he's proud of his service.

Time magazine addresses the stunning discrepancies between Red Truth, Blue Truth.

Which world did you watch last week?

Do you live in the world where President Bush, whose bold wartime leadership has made America safer, survived an ambush from that liberal lion Dan Rather, who tried to swing the race with a bunch of phony documents trashing Bush's National Guard service, only to have the charges blow up in his face?

Or do you live in the world where Rather, the Tiffany network's honored heir to Walter Cronkite, spoke truth to power, made a true if perhaps flawed case that Bush shirked his duty more than 30 years ago, and is by implication unfit to serve as Commander in Chief today?

Red Truth holds that Rather has at last taken his place alongside other disgraced liberal icons, who have recklessly disregarded the standards of journalism to try to bring this President down. Blue Truth sees Rathergate as a sideshow; the problem with the mainstream media is not that they are biased but that they are lazy and have given Bush a free pass from the start. Red Truth looks at Bush and sees a savior; Blue Truth sees a zealot who must be stopped. In both worlds there are no accidents, only conspiracies, and facts have value only to the extent that they support the Truth.

Of course, the truth is that the media HAS given Bush a free pass, from WMD to their hagiographic treatment of him after the Sept. 11 attacks, from his first primary campaign's scurrilous attacks on Sen. John McCain to unbiased cost estimates for the administration's Medicare plan, which it STILL won't release.

The media has largely betrayed its Constitutional role as governmental watchdog for the comfort of presidential lapdog, with a few notable exceptions out of the spotlight.

Witness the in-depth examination of the facts of Bush's guard duty by The New York Times:

He abandoned his once-prized status as a National Guard pilot by failing to appear for a required physical. He sought temporary reassignment from the Texas Air National Guard to an Alabama unit but for six months did not show up for training. He signed on as an official in the losing campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, and even there he left few impressions other than as an amiable bachelor with a good tennis game and a famous father.

"To say he brought in a bunch of initiatives and bright ideas," said a fellow campaign worker, Devere McLennan, "no he didn't."

Little has changed, as Bush continues to "stay the course" on a failed Iraq policy that continues to cost American lives — 1,000 and counting — and those of Iraqis; a failed economic policy based on the "voodoo economics" his own father derided; and the looting of tax coffers for the benefit of Halliburton, Bechtel, et al, while distracting people with the inconsequentialities of gay marriage.

Still, a wider examination of his life in 1972, based on dozens of interviews and other documents released by the White House over the years, yields a portrait of a young man like many other young men of privilege in that turbulent time — entitled, unanchored and safe from combat, bouncing from a National Guard slot made possible by his family's prominence to a political job arranged through his father.

The expected administration reply: Dan Rather was mistaken.



Maureen Dowd of The New York Times provides a peek into how the Bush administration treats family of soldiers killed in Iraq:

... Sue Niederer, 55, of Hopewell, N.J., got handcuffed, arrested and charged with a crime for daring to challenge the Bush policy in Iraq, where her son, Army First Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, died in February while attempting to disarm a bomb.

She came to a Laura Bush rally last week at a firehouse in Hamilton, N.J., wearing a T-shirt that blazed with her agony and anger: "President Bush You Killed My Son."

... She wanted to know why the Bush twins weren't serving in Iraq "if it's such a justified war," as she put it afterward. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported that the mother of the dead soldier was boxed in by Bush supporters yelling "Four more years!" and wielding "Bush/Cheney" signs. Though she eventually left
voluntarily, she was charged with trespassing while talking to reporters.

Now, apparently, speaking to the media is an arrestable offense.

Crackdowns on free speech appear to be growing in number as our increasingly intolerant political climate turns nastier, even in New York.

Newsday reports the plight of Georgi Page, a single protester taking aim at the oil aspect of this war by dressing up in a "Bummer" costume in front of a Hummer dealership.

After about 30 minutes, a police captain approached, told her she was causing an obstruction, and arrested her. Her Hummer costume was discarded and her "Vampire Utility Vehicles" sign bagged as evidence while Page, handcuffed and by now near tears, was loaded into a police van.

All evidence of the illegal arrest conveniently disappeared after Page was released.

When she asked police officers for records related to her arrest, Page said, "They were like, 'What are you worried about? You're free.' I was like, 'I shouldn't have been arrested.' Their attitude was, 'Move on.'"

This is a free society, folks. Yet you can be arrested for no reason, despite our inaliable Constitutional protections.


Echoing a point I've been making for years, a Wall Street Journal story on the inexact science of campaign polling points out an array of challenges.

Opinion polls themselves had been getting harder to conduct long before the matchup between President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. The reasons range from growing reluctance to participate in surveys to increasing reliance on cellphones rather than the land lines pollsters have long used to ensure demographic and geographic balance in surveys.

But this year's bitter presidential contest has heaped on new challenges. They include an exceptionally close race and a polarized electorate that magnifies the consequence of different polling methods. In addition, unprecedented voter-mobilization drives by both parties make it especially tough for pollsters to say which voters probably will show up on Election Day.

With a recent Pew survey showing Bush and Kerry in a statistical dead heat, a Gallup Poll gave the incumbent a lead of 13 percentage points.

The Journal does point out a potential benefit from the errancy of polls:

The approach plays on the so-called bandwagon effects that energize supporters of a surging candidate and dispirit those of a lagging one.

So, essentially polls are representative only of those who are surveyed — in other words, worthless, except to those who can spin them properly.



In an amusing and innovative op-ed piece penned for The New York Times, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld" creator Larry David exposes so-called undecided voters as self-serving "rascals."

You want to see real undecided? Go out to dinner with me
sometime. I'll show you undecided. I look at the menu for
20 minutes, ask everybody what they're ordering, and then,
finally, after I copy someone, wind up dashing into the
kitchen to tell the waiter I've changed my mind. ...

We'd love to tell you to take a hike, but we're afraid to
alienate you. If we really had any brains, we wouldn't
spend another second on you, but on the people who can
truly make a difference: the "unlikely" voters. And there
are millions more of them than there are of you. Those
people aren't after attention, they're just incredibly
lazy. The only way they'll register to vote is if someone
shows up at their door with a form. And then the only way
they'll actually vote is if you carry them to the booth.

Not only are they lazy, they're also indifferent. They just
don't believe that voting can have an effect on their
lives. Well, it just so happens that right after I voted
for the first time, I landed myself a big fat job in
Hollywood, a biopsy came back benign and I met my future
wife as soon as I walked out of the voting booth.
Coincidence? You decide.



W GOES HOME! brings us a front page that looks curiously like the New York Post, though you're unlikely to see any such admission from them in this lifetime.



The Washington Post relays the shocking manner in which the U.S. military is conducting operations in Iraq, relying on a masked informant whose information seems sketchy at first.

"All of the village, they are terrorists," The Source told two journalists after he finished.

Asked how he knew, he said: "I have one guy here, and he passed along the information to me."

Asked how he could be sure, he said: "Yes, they are terrorists. They all have the long beard. They had the beard, but some of them they shaved."

The Source declined to give his name. He then asked: "Is the commander going to pay me any money? If you are an informant, they are supposed to give you money."

But perhaps it's not so surprising when you consider it was a similiar charlatan named Ahmed Chalabi who insisted there were WMD in Iraq and on whom the Bush administration made its laughable case.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports the following:

Three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency has fewer experienced case officers assigned to its headquarters unit dealing with Osama bin Laden than it did at the time of the attacks, despite repeated pleas from the unit's leaders for reinforcements, a senior C.I.A. officer with extensive counterterrorism experience has told Congress.

The bin Laden unit is stretched so thin that it relies on inexperienced officers rotated in and out every 60 to 90 days, and they leave before they know enough to be able to perform any meaningful work ...

Doesn't sound like much of a coherent foreign policy or intelligence plan.


Do you believe that Kerry and the deserter-in-chief were hanging out and chatting anytime in recent history?

Bush seems to think so, from Mike Allen's story in The Washington Post:

"So I said to him the other day, well, how are you going to pay for them?" Bush said at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds in Holland, Mich. "And he said, 'That's easy — just tax the rich.'"

Interesting, especially because it NEVER HAPPENED.

Do you believe there Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?


It makes me uncomfortable that there are parallels between descriptions of Iranian totalitarianism and violence in Reading Lolita In Tehran and the current state of intolerance and official harassment in the United States these days.

In some places, you can be arrested by federal agents for wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt, as a couple recently learned.

Jeff Rank, 29, said he and his wife wore the T-shirts because, "When you see the president speak on TV he is usually shown surrounded by fervent supporters only. While we wanted to hear him out and while we wanted to see him in person, we did not want to be added to the tally of Bush supporters that day."

Their crime? The AP writes:

Nicole Rank's shirt had the words "Love America, Hate Bush" on the back and Jeff Rank's said "Regime change starts at home."

The couple has filed a lawsuit looking "to declare unconstitutional any policy that led to their arrest," AP reports. As evidence that none of this exists in a vacuum, the couple's action comes after an ACLU lawsuit in September that sought to prevent the Secret Service from segregating protesters at Bush's public appearances.

The Decatur (Tenn.) Daily reported what happened to a woman who refused her boss's demand that she remove a John Kerry bumper sticker from her car:

[Lynne] Gobbell of Moulton didn't pay a cent for the sticker that she proudly displays on the rear windshield of her Chevrolet Lumina, but said it cost her job at a local factory after it angered her boss, Phil Gaddis.

This story ends happily, for now, as the Kerry campaign hired her. AP reports:

Gobbell said her former employer had told her she could either work for him or Kerry. She said Kerry told her, "Let him know that as of today, you're working for John Kerry." ...

A liberal Web site, AMERICAblog.org, began raising money for Gobbell on Monday night after learning of her dismissal. John Aravosis, who runs the site, said he collected $1,800 over a 24-hour period.

The increase of intolerance at the prompting of extreme right-wing reactionary zealots, in the U.S. as in revolutionary Iran, brings with it religious overtones and the veneer of infallibility.

Azar Nafisi, author and former professor of literature at University of Tehran, writes about the onset of the Iran-Iraq war:

The polarization created by the regime confused every aspect of life. Not only were the forces of God fighting an emissary of Satan, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, but they were also fighting agents of Satan inside the country. At all times, from the very beginning of the revolution and all through the war and after, the Islamic regime never forgot its holy battle against its internal enemies. All forms of criticism were now considered Iraqi-inspired and dangerous to national security. Those groups and individuals without a sense of loyalty to the regime's brand of Islam were excluded from the war effort. They could be killed or sent to the front, but they could not voice their social or political preferences. There were only two forces in the world, the army of God and that of Satan.

Of course, there are no roving bands of men with guns to enforce allegiance to the administration — yet — but the tendencies are certainly there.

Remember, after all, it was Bush who "joked" (to use BusinessWeek's term): "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."



Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the outgoing U.S. Marine general in charge of western Iraq, says he opposed an April attack on Fallujah and turning over control to the now-defunct Fallujah Brigade and now says the mistake created more trouble.

Sort of like Dubya's foreign policy as a whole.

The Washington Post writes:

That security force, known as the Fallujah Brigade, was formally disbanded last week. Not only did the brigade fail to combat militants, it actively aided them, surrendering weapons, vehicles and radios to the insurgents, according to senior Marine officers. Some brigade members even participated in attacks on Marines ringing the city, the officers said.

Conway said he opposed the move but followed orders from higher-ups.

"We felt like we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah: that we ought to probably let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge," he said in an interview with four journalists after the change-of-command ceremony. "Would our system have been better? Would we have been able to bring over the people of Fallujah with our methods? You'll never know that for sure, but at the time we certainly thought so."

He echoed an argument made by many Iraqi politicians and American analysts -- that the U.S. attack further radicalized a restive city, leading many residents to support the insurgents. "When we were told to attack Fallujah, I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed," Conway said.


Steve Benson, the only staffer at The Arizona Republic to have won a Pulitzer Prize, last week asked the graphic question: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

There are some who can't answer that question in this election: 1,000 members of the U.S. military and counting.


The words "retro vs. metro" sound more descriptive of fashion styles than our current political landscape and some frightening realities laid out in the new book, "The Great Divide: Retro Vs. Metro America."

Briefly, retro states are considered those with old-world economies, such as mining and agriculture, while metro states are those boasting financial services and new-world economies.

Consider the following:

Between 1991 and 2000, the 25 states that make up Retro America received $800 billion more in federal payments than they paid in federal taxes. Much of this unfair transfer of wealth from the Metro states was delivered via subsidies to the extraction industries-agriculture, mining, timber, oil, etc. So, who's the real “welfare queen,” if not Retro America?

The book touches on several aspects explaining the growing influence by regressive and reactionary right-wing extremists. One frightening example comes from the Texas Republican Party platform from 2000.

  • Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are gifts of God.

  • Nullify the separation of church and state.

  • Oppose EPA control of Texas air quality.

  • Repeal the minimum-wage law.

  • Oppose the decriminalization of sodomy.

  • Teachers encouraged to teach Creationism, not Darwinian evolutionary theory or a scientific worldview.

  • Scared yet?



    You may have heard the Bush gaffes while he addressed the Unity convention of minority journalists.

    Now, you can view it for yourself.

    [Thanks to E.S. for the video link.]



    Paul Begala, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," took a shot this afternoon at reactionary, right-wing Fox talk show host Michael Savage, whose real name is Weiner, over some lame Clinton joke.

    "They may pretend to be big Savages, but they're really just little Weiners."



    Bush operatives, once again, are in spin mode as they try to discredit what they couldn't conceal — that the deserter-in-chief lied not just about WMD but about his own commitment to his country's military, casting doubt on the already dubious character.

    In a classic and possibly even more damning flip-flop, Bush campaign propagandists sought to mislead and miscategorize.

    Reviving issues that have shadowed his political career, the documents show Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer and lost his status as a Texas Air National Guard pilot more than three decades ago because he failed to meet military performance standards and undergo a required physical examination.

    Still, the documents marked the second time in days the White House had to backtrack from assertions that all of Bush's records had been released. They also raised the specter that Bush sought favors from higher-ups and that the commander of the Texas Air National Guard wanted to "sugar coat" Bush's record after he was suspended from flying.

    Any candidate in their right mind who, like Bush, was likely doing coke when they should have been fulfilling his military service would also try to dismiss such questions.

    Bush spokesman Scott McClellan launched a two-faced and categorically untrue assertion when he said, "I think you absolutely are seeing a coordinated attack by John Kerry and his surrogates on the president."

    Yet, it was the White House — not Kerry's campaign — that distributed four memos from 1972 and 1973 from Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, now deceased, who was the commander of the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Houston where Bush served. The White House obtained the memos from CBS News, which said it was convinced of their authenticity, and the White House did not question their accuracy. There was no explanation why the Pentagon was unable to find the documents on its own.


    Knight Ridder Newspapers highlights one tactic U.S. armed forces have employed to draw out fighters in Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan: Name-calling.

    PARLE, Afghanistan - The loudspeakers atop the Humvee crackled to life: "The Taliban are women! They're bitches! If they were real men, they'd stop hiding under their burkas and they'd come out and fight!"

    It was high noon in the remote and stony heart of Taliban country, and 34 cavalry scouts from the U.S. Army were looking to pick a fight. Three hours later, they had all the fight they could handle.

    The Taliban were driven from power nearly three years ago, but they've staged a ruthless comeback throughout southern Afghanistan. ...

    Let's hope no one tells the drug-trafficking, Bush-coddling Taliban of that ever-effective "sticks and stones" rhyme.


    Aside from news that U.S. military deaths in Iraq recently topped 1,000, the media has largely moved such news off its front pages. One exception is the grimly named Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which provides just that.

    But few stories actually mention the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the war — despite none of the Sept. 11 hijackers having been from there.

    Today, we see these horrific numbers in an AP story:

    While America mourns the deaths of more than 1,000 of its sons and daughters in the Iraq campaign, the U.S. toll is far less than the Iraqi. No official, reliable figures exist for the whole country, but private estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 killed since the United States invaded in March 2003. ...

    Iraqi dead include not only insurgents, police and soldiers but also civilian men, women and children caught in crossfire, blown apart by explosives or shot by mistake--both by fellow Iraqis or by American soldiers and their multinational allies. And they include the victims of crime that has surged in the instability that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

    Yet a terrorist group with alleged links to al-Qaida was still able to carry out a deadly attack on the Austrian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, today. Meanwhile, a deputy of Osama bin Laden — remember him? — taunted the U.S. in a videotape released just days ahead of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    This is what Bush calls success in the battle against terrorism.


    Aside from news that U.S. military deaths in Iraq recently topped 1,000, the media has largely moved such news off its front pages. One exception is the grimly named Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which provides just that.

    But few stories actually mention the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the war — despite none of the Sept. 11 hijackers having been from there.

    Today, we see these horrific numbers in an AP story:

    While America mourns the deaths of more than 1,000 of its sons and daughters in the Iraq campaign, the U.S. toll is far less than the Iraqi. No official, reliable figures exist for the whole country, but private estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 killed since the United States invaded in March 2003. ...

    Iraqi dead include not only insurgents, police and soldiers but also civilian men, women and children caught in crossfire, blown apart by explosives or shot by mistake--both by fellow Iraqis or by American soldiers and their multinational allies. And they include the victims of crime that has surged in the instability that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

    Yet a terrorist group with alleged links to al-Qaida was still able to carry out a deadly attack on the Austrian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, today. Meanwhile, a deputy of Osama bin Laden — remember him? — taunted the U.S. in a videotape released just days ahead of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    This is what Bush calls success in the battle against terrorism.



    While the editors of The Arizona Republic have likely never uttered words to the effect of a ban on interracial photos, a recent decision has attracted the attention of a few concerned journalists outside the state's largest daily.

    Apparently, editors from Republic ran a front-page June 11 story about the thriftiness of weekday weddings, but relegated the photo of an interracial couple to the inside out of concern over how readers might view it.

    Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, writes in her letter to Republic Publisher Sue Clark-Johnson:

    We understand that a meeting was held shortly after the incident between the editors who made the decision and editors/staff who were upset with the move. We know that promises were made that decisioins like this would not be made again without input from more people. However, this precedent again sends a confusing message. Why should there ever be a discussion as to whether or not art that highlights and promotes the real diverse community we live in be used or not?

    It's one thing to be concerned how images of Iraq war casualties or gruesome photos of senseless carnage might affect daily newspaper readers. It's quite another to kowtow to readers who subscribe to the racist, 19th century extremist viewpoint that races should not intermingle.



    The only numbers our imbecile-in-chief is able to add to faster than the death toll in Iraq — surpassing 1,000 U.S. military deaths on Tuesday, not to mention tens of thousands of Iraqi casualties — are his verbal gaffes, also known as Bushisms.

    "Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many ob/gyn's aren't able to practice their, their love for women all across this country," Bush said.

    Apparently, the carefully culled supporters Bush misled were chosen for their ability to stifle laughter.

    During the latest Tour of Distortions campaign stop in Missouri, Bush was railing disingenuously against medical malpractice suits, claiming they're responsible for rising health-care costs.

    They're not, the government itself says. A year ago, The Washington Post wrote:

    In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, for example, two of 19 states designated by the AMA as being in a "full-blown liability crisis," the number of doctors per capita has actually increased in the past six years, according to the GAO.

    Indeed, not being able to practice that kind of love would be a tragedy.

    Yet Bush is wrong again.


    Bush, who has yet to fully account for his desertion of duty from the Air National Guard during the 1970s, will take another hit, if Texans for Truth have anything to say about it.

    MoveOn has joined the fight to raise money to run a new ad seeking a real explanation.

    The ad features Robert Mintz, who served in Alabama's 187th Air National Guard when Bush claims to have been there. In the ad, Robert Mintz says simply and powerfully that

    "I heard George Bush get up and say 'I served in the 187th Air National Guard in Montgomery Alabama.' Really? That was my unit. And I don't remember seeing you there. So I called friends. 'Did you know that George served in our unit?' 'Naw. I never saw him there.' It would be impossible to be unseen in a unit of that size."

    Recently, the AP again sought Bush's missing records.

    Challenging the government's declaration that no more documents exist, the AP identified five categories of records that should have been generated after Mr. Bush skipped his pilot's physical and missed five months of training.


    The federal ban on assault weapons is about to expire.

    Sign TomsPetition.org to help stop this machination by the extreme right-wing reactionary lobby.


    The investigative arm of the Republican-controlled Congress determined that former Medicare administrator Thomas Scully should repay his salary for having cooked the books on cost estimates for the Bush administration's giveaway to insurance and drug companies.

    The Bush administration reverted to its tried and true tactics of lying and stonewalling, once again making the case that it can only rule by misleading.

    The Associated Press reported last year that Thomas Scully, the Medicare chief until December, threatened to fire chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster to prevent him from giving the information to lawmakers. ...

    The administration has adamantly refused to release Foster's estimates, even since the law's enactment in December. House Democrats have sued for the documents in federal court. The Associated Press, which sought the same materials under the Freedom of Information Act, received 13 pages that had previously been made public.

    The administration withheld another 150 pages that HHS acknowledged are responsive to the AP's request.

    Wrong on the economy. Wrong on WMD. Wrong on Medicare.



    Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA lawyer and West Point graduate, asks in a Washington Post op-ed piece whether Bush missed the lessons many learned in Vietnam.

    It's possible, too, that the limited intelligence of our deserter-in chief simply cannot comprehend anything outside of his hard-wired indoctrination.

    Smith acknowledges he was angry at Kerry's comments criticizing the war in 1971, but realizes they were not anti-American.

    [T]he returning veterans who spoke out against the war were not, for the most part, criticizing their fellow soldiers. They were engaging in a higher act of patriotism, namely raising their voices to point out the madness of our policy. It takes a special courage to speak out against a cause for which you were once prepared to die -- a cause that, as a combat leader, you asked others to be prepared to die for. Kerry has that kind of courage. Does Bush? ...

    The debates of 1971 have echoes in our current one. We have gotten deeply involved in a region that we do not understand, and we have unleashed forces we cannot control. We must have a president who can recognize our strengths and our shortcomings, who will ask hard questions and who will challenge advice, even intelligence information that is presented to him. Did Bush ask those hard questions before making the decision to send our forces to war?

    In 1971 Kerry recognized that we needed to change our policy. In 2004 he recognizes the need to change our policy. That is the issue. Who is better equipped to lead us: Bush, who rigidly insists that he is right, or Kerry, who has charted a new direction?"

    Given a choice between the rhetoric of a reactionary right-wing extremist ideologue and draft dodger such as Bush and the understanding of nuance from an analyst, the prudent words are clear.



    The Independent excerpts "What We've Lost," a new anti-Bush screed by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.

    Highlights include:

    1 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security issued between 20 January 2001 and 10 September 2001 that mentioned al-Qa'ida.

    104 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein.

    101 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned missile defence.

    65 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned weapons of mass destruction.

    0 Number of times Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his three State of the Union addresses. ...

    79 Percentage of the 11 September hijackers who came from Saudi Arabia. ...

    $3,500 Reward a group of veterans offered in 2000 for anyone who could confirm Bush's Alabama guard service.

    600-700 Number of guardsmen who were in Bush's unit during that period.

    0 Number of guardsmen from that period who came forward with information about Bush's guard service.

    0 Number of minutes that President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the assistant Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, the former chairman of the Defence Policy Board, Richard Perle, and the White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove ­ the main proponents of the war in Iraq ­served in combat (combined). ...

    $680m Estimated value of Iraq reconstruction contracts awarded to Bechtel.

    $2.8bn Value of Bechtel Corp contracts in Iraq. ...

    22,600 Number of planes carrying unscreened cargo that fly into New York each month. ...

    13 Number of vacation days the average American receives each Year.

    28 Number of vacation days Bush took in August 2001, the month he received a 6 August Presidential Daily Briefing headed "Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike US Targets." ...

    69 Percentage of Americans who believed the White House's claims in September 2003 that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 11 September attacks.


    In a message most protesters at the RNC likely missed, perhaps because those who can afford HBO won't throw down, talk show host Bill Maher issues a challenge.

    You can't claim you're for peace unless you're willing to disturb it. ...

    Therefore, tonight, I am urging all the protesters in New York next week to riot! I'm talking about good old-fashioned rioting, the kind that made whitey move to the suburbs. Look, protester, you spent two weeks making that papier-mâché Dick Cheney mask. Now light it on fire and torch the nearest GAP store. Two lesbians with a "Lick Bush" sign is not going to make the "Nightly News." Pick up a garbage can and throw it through a Starbucks window! I don't want to see a candlelight vigil. This is New York; there's a body count at Simon and Garfunkel concerts.

    If anything with Trump written on it is standing after September 3rd, you're a bunch of pussies who aren't worth the hemp in your Timberland shoes.

    [Thanks to D.C. for forwarding this item.]


    After Chechen rebels took a school by force and killed more than 340 people — more than half of them children — Bush sought to take political advantage of the tragedy, calling it a "grim reminder of the nature of the terrorists we face."

    The horror that transpired in Russia could also be part of the administration's continuing failure to combat terrorism. Even the U.S. State Department acknowledges global terrorism has actually increased over the past couple of years.

    Not only wrong in the so-called war on terror ("I don't think you can't win it" vs. "We will win" — We're after WMD vs. we're liberating Iraq), Bush is also wrong on the economic situation in America ("Census: Poverty rose by million") and the state of health care for the elderly (Medicare costs to rise a record 17 percent to $78.20 per doctor visit.)

    Do you ever get the feeling you're being hoodwinked?

    The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reports:

    The Labor Department also revised its initial report of 32,000 new jobs in July — a figure that sparked fear of a stalling recovery — to a less alarming 73,000. ...

    Experts say employers must add an average of 100,000 to 200,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with the nation's growing population. While job growth averaged a robust 300,000 a month from March through May, it has since slowed and is less vigorous than in previous economic recoveries.

    Today, of course, Bush also ignored both the net job loss in the U.S. and another failure, writes the AP:

    As he had from the convention podium, he omitted mention of the fact that Osama bin Laden remains at large nearly three years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    The failure of his ideological, unnecessary and costly war in Iraq to find bin Laden and hold Saudis responsible is a repugnant insult to the concept of true freedom and a government that takes care of its own.

    Perhaps Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, a firm that lost more two-thirds of its works in the attacks, should run the country. It's one of the few to point a finger at the real suspects in a $7 billion lawsuit the AP says seeks restitution "for allegedly supporting al-Qaida prior to the Sept. 11 attack through financing, safe houses, weapons and money laundering."



    "Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor," writes Garrison Keillor, in a call to arms to recapture the greatness that is America — and that's not one where liberties are subverted, the Constitution is perverted and fallacy become the basis for policy here or abroad.

    What's slightly disturbing is that Nixon is hailed as the last in the line of decent, honorable man. But in comparison with the rabid ideologues and oft-failed businessman that comprise this administration, Nixon practically qualifies for sainthood.

    Keillor takes his swipes handily:

    The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

    This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

    Keillor understands, perhaps, the concept that America is a liberal concept — where freedom of speech, religion, the press and assembly are inalieable rights, where government has no place in our churches or our bedrooms, and exists for the good of the people, not the other way around.

    [Thanks to C.L. for pointing out this article.]



    Don't believe for a second the RNC's misleading attempts at projecting a warm, fuzzy feeling. The reactionary, regressive, right-wing extremist agenda seeps out when the cameras are turned off.

    Demonization is its tried and true tactic. The opening invocation on Wednesday morning compared gay rights to Nazism, but you likely won't hear it in the mainstream media. What you will hear is frightening enough. Witness this AP report:

    ... Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas told an invitation-only Bush rally for Christian conservatives, "We must win this cultural war." He offered an agenda strikingly different from anything voters will hear from the convention platform, including a proposed requirement that pregnant women considering abortions be offered anesthesia for their fetuses. ...

    The cultural clash extends beyond New York's borders this week — to Oklahoma, where Republican Senate candidate Tom Coburn called his race against Rep. Brad Carson "a battle for the culture of America" and "the battle of good vs. evil."

    Alan Keyes, the Neanderthalist who failed to capture the Republican nomination in 1996 and 2000, said homosexuality was "selfish hedonism" and called the vice president's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, a sinner.

    Ridiculousness in the Republican Party knows no bounds.

    "The left wing hates George Bush the most because he believes in God," said Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, a conservative Democrat who drew applause from Ohio delegates. ...

    "The key to a richer culture is strong families, and the key to strong families is strong marriages," said Rep. Rick Santorum. Pretty tame for a lawmaker who once compared homosexual acts to bigamy and incest.

    You can paint a turd pink, but that doesn't make it Dick Cheney.


    Finally, Kerry is striking Bush where he's vulnerable — his abject failure to combat terrorism. Although opponents generally keep mum during a political convention, Kerry struck back.

    "Today, terrorists have secured havens in Iraq that were not there before, and we have been forced to reach accommodation with those who have repeatedly attacked our troops," he said. "Violence has spread in Iraq, Iran has expanded its influence, and extremism has gained momentum."

    This morning, I had thought I would follow up yesterday's entry by composing and blogging an open letter to the Kerry campaign to , imploring them to ask: Where's Osama? But I didn't have to. (Even the alt-weekly New York Press included it as reason No. 996 in its "1,001 Things to Hate About the Convention.")

    Kerry ticked off a list of what he sees as Bush's missteps and mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan — and included a reminder that the terrorist leader implicated in the Sept. 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains at large.

    "I would have sent the best trained forces in the world to get the No. 1 criminal in the world," he said.

    Recent attacks in Israel and Russia, not to mention the recent downing of two airlines and the ongoing debacle in Iraq, erase all doubt that next year's State Department report on global terrorism will show that terrorists have only been emboldened by this administration's errant and failed policies.


    A peek behind the facade of grudging tolerance at the RNC this week reveals another desperate attempt at demonization, this time of gay Americans.

    The Empty Closet shares this dispatch:

    Sheri Drew, who offered this morning’s invocation from the Convention Podium, has said those who support gay and lesbian families are no different from those who supported Adolph Hitler in the years preceding World War II.

    When defending her comparison of Gay and Lesbians to Adolph Hitler, Drew simply stated that “it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the family—but maybe not.”

    Oh, yes she did.

    [Thanks to J.L. for pointing this out.]