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We have lost our moral imagination
(Bill Moyers, January 30, 2005)
One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. . . . Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts. . . . Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." . . . Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true . . . I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. . . . So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer -- "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse. . . . As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total and more since the election -- are backed by the religious right. . . . Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that -- it's just that I read the news and connect the dots. . . . I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer -- pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world." . . . And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice? . . . What has happened to our moral imagination?
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 1:39 PM

What the U.S.A. needs is an entirely new constitution
[The following excerpts are from my recent essay, "Mythical America, R.I.P.", which can be read in full via the link above.]

It seems to me that it's about time to put an end to the mythical version of America that so many people in this nation have been hanging onto. . . . This divide we're experiencing isn't so much an economic divide as it is a cultural divide. But make no mistake about it, there are now two Americas, Fascist America and Free America, but Mythical America is no more, and in actuality it never existed anyway. . . . When was the last time you took a good look at the documents upon which this country was founded? This "perfect" Constitution of ours was designed from the very beginning to prevent majority rule. . . . It is time for a new Constitutional Convention. The procedure for this is already in place, should we ever find the will to use it. Thomas Jefferson advised us to re-write the Constitution every generation or two. . . . REST IN PEACE . . . Free and fair elections . . . Your right to privacy . . . Your right to a trial . . . The image of America as a beacon of hope . . . America as a nation of peace . . . The truth is, there has never been a larger, richer, or more powerful empire than the American Empire. But building an empire is not what Mythical America was supposed to be about. Empires are for fascists. Free Americans have no taste for empire. Unfortunately, Free America is under the thumb of Fascist America. So what do we Free Americans do now? . . . No matter what your political views, I hope you will spend some quiet time by yourself and think about some of these things. Ask yourself, "Would Mythical America be forcing 'democracy' on people through the barrel of a gun? Would Mythical America even pretend an 'election', with unknown lists of candidates and polling places whose locations are kept secret, is even remotely democratic." Iraq is just another colony in Fascist America's Empire. If you think we are helping to spread democracy to that part of the world in any way, shape, or form, you are seriously deluding yourself. You are still living in the myth, and not the reality of America. . . . These are dark days, indeed. But I would like to end on a positive note. In fact, I am very optimistic about the future. For one thing, I still have an unbroken faith in people's ability to like one another. Without governments or religions, I am sure we would all get along just fine. Of course, some form of organization is required, but all of the forms we've invented so far just aren't working. However, evolution never stands still. While it may appear that our nation has fallen into madness, perhaps something else is going on. What if we are, in fact, in the middle of a birthing process? Could it be that before long we will be giving birth to some entirely new form of human organization on this planet? Now keep in mind that births are often messy affairs, accompanied by a lot of pain, blood, and tears. But once the newborn has passed down the birth canal and taken its first breath …. well …. for the parents, when they hold it in their arms for the first time, life just doesn't get any better than that. The feeling of divine ecstasy experienced at that moment makes everything that had come before worthwhile.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 2:02 PM

Condoleeza Rice admits she and Bush are insane
National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice at a party hosted by The New York Times District of Columbia bureau chief and his wife. (New York, April 26)

I do have an affinity for damaged people, in life, in roles. I don't know why. We're all damaged in our own way. Nobody's perfect. I think we are all somewhat screwy, every single one of us.
-- Condoleezza Rice, Lunatic in Charge of the State Department
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 11:53 AM

The Bush Gang's Ten Most Outrageous Scandals
(Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation, January 13, 2005)
1. Halliburton's Corruption. Nine different reports compiled by the GAO, the Coalition Provisional Authority's IG and the Defense Contract Audit Agency faulted Halliburton's performance in Iraq, where it has been awarded more than $10 billion in US contracts.

2. Iraq's Decline. In June 2004 the GAO provided a bleak assessment of Iraq after fourteen months of US military occupation, documenting that in critical areas like security, electricity and the judicial system Iraq is worse off now than it was before the war.

3. Abu Ghraib Prison Torture. In late August Maj. Gen. George Fay released an official Army report charging that US military personnel committed torture and that civilian contractors and military intelligence interrogators played a greater role in abusing prisoners than previously thought.

4. The CIA's Pre-9/11 Intelligence Failures. Early this month the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that the CIA's IG will soon release a report criticizing the CIA's senior leadership for failing to "direct more resources to counterterrorism and inadequately analyz[ing] the threat from Al Qaeda" before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

5. HHS's Deceptive Ad Campaign. In May the GAO concluded that the Health and Human Services Department conducted a secret propaganda campaign that illegally spent taxpayer money to produce and distribute videos touting the Administration's Medicare prescription drug law.

6. HHS's Scully Scandal. In September the GAO found that HHS had illegally paid the salary of former Medicare chief Thomas Scully, who threatened to fire veteran Medicare actuary Richard Foster if he told Congress that the Administration's Medicare prescription drug legislation would cost $100 billion more than the White House figure.

7. Government-wide Accounting Problems. In December the GAO reported that the federal government's accounting practices are unreliable and might not meet widely accepted accounting standards.

8. Sex Education Misinformation. A report that comes to us thanks to Representative Henry Waxman revealed that most of the government-funded abstinence-only sex education programs were giving students false information.

9. CAPPS II's Failures. In February the GAO uncovered significant gaps in privacy protections in the Administration's passenger profiling program developed by the Transportation Security Administration.

10. The Real Costs of War. In July the GAO criticized the Administration for underestimating by $12.3 billion the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This is part of a pattern of deception by the Administration, which has repeatedly hidden the real costs of the Iraq invasion and occupation from Congress and the public.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 8:28 AM

(airamericaradio.com,Wednesday, January 05, 2005)
The Nelson Report is a daily political tip sheet and analysis written for the past 20 years for the (US and Asian) corporate and government clients of Chris Nelson, a former Capitol Hill staffer and UPI reporter. (He was actually the first to break the looted explosives story before the election; Josh Marshall then posted it to his blog.) This Monday, he wrote: There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear “bad news.”
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 3:18 PM

The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy
(A Research Report from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Division, School of Arts & Sciences Center for Organizational Dynamics, Steven F. Freeman et al)
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: This is an excellent, easy-to-read, well-documented 19 page report. I highly recommend clicking the link above and reading the full report. Only the Summary is presented here.]
Summary and Implications
In this report, I have: (1) documented that, in general, exit poll data are sound, (2) demon-strated that it is exceedingly unlikely that the deviations between exit poll predictions and vote tallies in the three critical battleground states could have occurred strictly by chance or random error, and (3) explained why explanations for the discrepancy thus far provided are inadequate. The unexplained discrepancy leaves us with two broad categories of hypotheses: the exit poll data are wrong (or misleading) in ways that have yet to be documented, or the count is off. The most important investigations concern verification of the tallies and allegations of fraud on one hand; and the exit poll data and methodology on the other. Particularly useful statistical analyses would compare the “shift” in states, counties and precincts where safeguards are strong vs. those where they are suspect, but such analyses require NEP’s raw data. Given that neither the pollsters nor their media clients have provided solid explanations to the public, suspicion of mistabulation or even fraud is running rampant and unchecked. The fact that so many people suspect misplay undermines not only the legitimacy of the presidency, but faith in the foundations of the democracy. Systematic fraud or mistabulation is as yet an unfounded conclusion, but the election’s unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media, academia, polling agencies, and the public to investigate.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 7:37 PM

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