Saturday, March 08, 2003

CALLING ALL LIBERAL/PROGRESSIVE/POPULIST BLOGGERS!

There's been some quiet discussion among some liberal bloggers about gathering in person to discuss issues of mutual interst, like how to run comment sections; where we find time to work, keep a family happy, and write a blog; and how to take over the world. With that in mind, if you are a fellow blogger, please take note of the following:

First Annual Gathering of the Bloggers
August 15-17 2003
Kansas City MO (due to central location and low airfares)
Courtyard Airport Hotel (price around $59-69)
Registration fee: $20.00
Agenda: Blogging, eating, drinking, taking over the world

This will be a very informal gathering, so if you are looking for a venue for your paper on "Tempest in a Teapot: Social and Political Consequences of Eschaton and To The Barricades on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov-Dec 2002," this may not be the place. But you can come, bring it along, and we'll read it for you.

Seriously, if you enjoy blogging and want to meet your fellow bloggers, drop me a line at stephen@tothebarricades.com or tothebarricades2003@yahoo.com. I'll try to get a web site up in the next couple of weeks with specific information and sign up sheets and like that there.

NUKE 'EM TILL THEY'RE SLIGHTLY LUMINESCENT?

Natasha over at The Watch can't sleep because she read that Bush wants to break the nine-year ban on research, development, and production of nukes with a yield below 5 kilotons. The research geek who appeared before the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces said we need this R&D "for national security reasons, to be able respond to challenges in international security, and to train young scientists." But, after questioning, he said we haven't had any problems in the national security arena with the ban in place, he doesn't know what challenges need to be responded to, and the government has no problem getting new scientists without lifting this ban.

The truth of the matter, at least as we see it on the Barricades, is this: Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz see us needing a full rack of whips to keep our empire in line, once we have it started in Iraq. It isn't just the Iraqis who are supposed to be shocked and awed by our campaign in Iraq. After Iraq, Korea has to fall in line or face being next.

Permission to develop and use "mini nukes" may go down better with the American public than using the big megaton variety. The argument that they are needed for bunker busters or to cauterize chemical or biological weapons sites might well sell to Zeke and Marlene Jenkins in Grand Island. Somehow, though, it reminds me of the kid who has the little puppy who says "It's just a little puppy and won't be any problem at all..." until it grows up to be a Great Dane and wreaks havoc among the neighbors.

I don't like that analogy. There's nothing puppy-like about a nuclear weapon, whether it's five kilotons or a planet buster. Ben Nelson, Chuck Hagel, Doug Bereuter, Tom Osborne, please, please, please oppose this. If you have any principles at all, stand firm against further developments of nuclear weapons in this country.

Friday, March 07, 2003

WHO NEEDS LIBERAL TALK RADIO WHEN WE HAVE LIBERAL CABLE SHOWS?

It's too bad that HBO doesn't release a transcript of Bill Maher's Real Time shortly after the show, or at least audio clips like NPR does. Between that and Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart (which also should have audio clips available), they leave Limbaugh, Hannity, and that gang in the dust.

Tonight's high points: in response to an audience question, "Why do you have to support the terrorists since you don't support the President," guest panelist Ted Rall stated that the question was a "fucking stupid question" (okay, not good formal debate technique). But Maher got hot -- you could see it through his overdone stage makeup. He pointed out that the Iraq question is not one of pro-President or pro-terrorist. He pointed out that he is as anti-terrorist as anyone. The question is merely one of how best to deal with terrorism, and whether a massive invasion of Iraq was the way to combat terrorism, given that there is no demonstrated link between Iraq or Saddam and al-Qaeda, apart from giving sanctuary to one of their leaders.

There was also an excellent discussion between Bill and a policy wonk from the American Enterprise Institute on the subject of how best to deal with Korea vs. Iraq. The wonk (whose name escapes me) finally came close to admitting that the invasion of Iraq is not due to a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but to discourage other countries from supporting terrorism. (Is this the real meaning of "shock and awe?"). She almost had Maher cornered when he countered that North Korea had already done -- and admitted to doing -- all the things that we suspect Iraq of doing, and yet we are content to work diplomatically with them. Her response was that should the US invade Korea, it likely would spark similar world demonstrations against such an invasion -- even though N. Korea is more clearly a threat to the US -- just because people don't like Bush. She has a point there.

I wish Maher would do away with his single commentator (who isn't really funny) and his weekly changing comedy act. They detract from what is otherwise a very good political commentary show that isn't too comedic. I could stand an hour of mostly serious talk/discussion/argument, interspersed with good irony and satire. I don't know if other viewers could.

Hey, I wonder if he'd run a "best of the blogosphere" feature? Write HBO and tell them you think they should add that to Maher's show.
REGIONAL VS. GLOBAL ISSUES

According to our fearless leader last night, North Korea must be solved by a multinational, diplomatic initiative because it is a regional issue. North Korea's bellicosity, backed by a million-man army, with self-admitted nuclear weapons, with proven ability to strike thousands of miles away, with repeated threats to bring the region into war, is a regional issue and must only be handled by diplomacy.

Iraq, on the other hand, is a world problem which the US must handle unilaterally. Iraq, whose longest-range weapon is less than one hundred miles, who no one can even remotely conclusively prove has any kind of weapon of mass destruction, cannot be handled with diplomacy but must be invaded.

My father once told me that if you are caught in a sexual peccadillo by your wife, lie. Lie, even if you are caught with your penis in your lover. Deny, lie, pretend it's not what it seems, accuse her of being wrong.

Looks like Dubya learned the same thing from his father.
IT'S NOT JUST ONE LOUDMOUTH BLOGGER, BEN!

If you think that only the loudmouth, extreme left wing loonies are castigating Ben Nelson and others of his ilk who believe they have to play Republican to stay in office, look again. Here's what Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, has to say to Democrats who failed to stick together five months ago:
If the Democrats had spoken out more clearly in a unified vote five months ago in opposition to the resolution, if the people had gone onto the streets five months ago in these numbers in our country and around the world, I think we might have been in a different place today.
Meanwhile, on the Bush Budgetary Front,
In its annual review of the president's budget, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (news - web sites) said Bush's policies would turn the $891 billion cumulative surplus it otherwise predicts between 2004 and 2013 into a $1.82 trillion deficit. (emphasis mine, and thanks to The Daily Kos for the tips on both stories)
Nebraskans, do you want to be associated with a financial disaster?

Senators Nelson and Hagel, do you want to be part of a financial disaster? Do you have the courage to stand up to the President? I know Hagel does. And he's a Republican!

Is there any courage left in the Democratic Party?

Thursday, March 06, 2003

BUSH IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

In his quest for approval of his empire building, Bush has invoked the Founding Fathers, God, Jesus, Moses, Mom, and Apple Pie. Now, during this so-called news conference, Dubya keeps talking about how Saddam Hussein is a threat to his "neighborhood"

HE'S TRYING TO INVOKE MISTER ROGERS!!!!!

That's going too goddam far.
A SIGHT WE'D LOVE TO SEE

From TAPped comes the tip that the folks at Tom Paine.org want to see Ann Coulter (Slander)and Bernard Goldberg (Bias) in a debate with Eric Alterman (What Liberal Media?), carried live and uncut on C-SPAN.

They'll never go for it. That would involve intelligent, logical arguments backed up by facts, which (as a minimum) Coulter is incapable of doing. I haven't read any of these books, but I know Coulter and Goldberg from seeing them on talk shows. Coulter is nothing more than Rush Limbaugh in a miniskirt. Goldberg is little better, and without the miniskirt. I can't speak for Mr. Alterman, but I would hope he would be no worse.

I'd watch it, though, if Annie would do it in a thong and see-through gauze blouse.
THAT CRAFTY BASTARD, BRUNING

[Ed. note: Before anybody starts accusing me of being a closet fan of Jon Bruning (Republican Attorney General and almost certain GOP candidate for governor in 2006) because of the following article, let me give the caveat that this is a warning to the Democrats that someone is tromping around on what has been considered traditional Democrat turf. Action speaks louder than words. We better act or this smooth bastard will skate into the governor's mansion in 2006.]

Jon Bruning may not know jack shit about law. But he sure knows how to schmooze.

The tragic murder in Gering, a western Nebraska town next to Scottsbluff, of a Hispanic high school student, drew Bruning to town to investigate -- and criticize -- the local procedures for the "Amber Alert" system. ("Amber Alerts" are law enforcement alerts to help find children who are missing and possibly in danger of life). The murder has traumatized the Hispanic community and some are questioning, as often happens, whether more would have been done if the victim had been an Anglo.

Bruning's presence in Gering, especially questioning police procedures, makes it look like he cares. And maybe he does. I won't presume he doesn't. But if he's there out of true concern for kids, especially Hispanic kids, it also gets him a lot of bonus points with the Hispanic community in Scottsbluff. Unlike the Hispanic communities in Lexington, Columbus, and Norfolk, the community in the Scottsbluff/Gering areas is more established and more likely to vote. So Bruning didn't do himself any harm by going out there and saying "tsk, tsk."

I didn't see any press on potential Democratic candidates, announced or unannounced, in Gering saying anything. It's never too early to be laying groundwork.


CLOTURE AND BEN NELSON

Just read that the GOP lost a vote for cloture on the Estrada filibuster in the Senate, 55-44. "Democrats" Nelson of Florida, Breaux of Louisiana, and of course our own Ben Nelson voted with the GOP.

Nelson has said repeatedly that he doesn't want to continue the tit-for-tat on blocking judicial nominations as his reasoning for not supporting the filibuster on Estrada. I don't recall what his reasoning is for the other times he's voted with the GOP. I do know that Nelson has voted with the GOP instead of the Democrats more times than every other Democratic Senator except Miller of Georgia, according to Voter Information Services.

Popular wisdom is that he has to do this to get elected in Nebraska. Nelson got elected in 2002 only because Don Stenberg was so repulsive that even the GOP didn't want him in office. Folks, we tried acting like Republicans in 2000 and 2002. We got our butts kicked. Why not try acting like Democrats for a change? It might work! We sure as hell can't do any worse than we did in the last two years!

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

GOP SHOCK AND AWE TACTICS IN NEBRASKA

The GOP has begun its media blitz putting Glen Friendt's name on every possible TV channel, radio station, and free billboard in Lincoln. Right now, their strategy seems to be to make sure everybody knows his name. That's the only explanation for this saturation advertising a month before before the primary and two months before the general election. The ads are short on substance, long on images of what a great guy he is.

I'm not sure I understand what good this tactic will be. My guess -- uneducated as it is -- is that Stage 1 is to tell everyone who Glen Friendt is, since prior to his announcement as a candidate he's been a nonentity. Stage 2, to appear after the primary, will be to tell everyone what he will do for the City of Lincoln. Or something else. What the hell do I know; I'm not a campaign strategist, I'm a gadfly.

The Democrats, for their part, are hitting the streets in force this week. The last set of polls showed Friendt down anywhere from 25 points (Demo poll) to 8 points (GOP poll). Either way, he has some making up to do. Coleen Seng really does come across well in personal appearances -- kind of like everyone's favorite older aunt who gives the kids ice cream no matter what the parents say. That charm will sell well as she hits the streets. They love her in Northeast Lincoln and in the older neighborhoods. She's hitting neighborhoods hard as her message; Friendt is playing the business card. That can backfire in Lincoln.

Watch for more broad "what a nice guy" ads from Friendt. Seng will probabaly run some "here's what I've done over the last 16 years" spiced with a few "everybody loves me" ads. The take from the Barricades is that this election is hers for the Lancaster County Democrats to lose. And she's moderately progressive, with no skeletons in her closet that anybody knows about. She also lacks some of the vulnerabilities that Wesley had. Unfortunately, she lacks some substance and depth that he had. Still, she'll do.

I think the state Democratic party is viewing this election as our Spanish Civil War. We'll see what works, what doesn't, prior to the 2004 and 2006 elections. Now 'scuse me, I gots to go knock on some doors.
AN ENDORSEMENT BY TOM RIDGE BEATS AN ENDORSEMENT BY MICHAEL JORDAN ANY DAY!

This just can't be true. From The Progressive Populist's online news bulletin:
It's probably just a coincidence, but 46% of the duct tape sold in the US is manufactured by one company. And the founder of that company, Jack Kahl, gave more than $100,000 to the Republican National Committee and other GOP committees in the 2000 election cycle, according to the Washington Post's Al Kamen. John Kahl, who became CEO of Henkel Consumer Adhesives of Avon, Ohio, after his father stepped down shortly after the election, said the plant has "gone to a 24/7 operation, which is about a 40% increase" over this time last year, Kahl said. The company had more than $300 million in sales in 2001. And Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge keeps pushing the product.
So I wonder how much the GOP got from 3M or other manufacturers of plastic sheeting?

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT BEING A LIBERAL

[Ed. note: Several early members of the Barricades asked me to reprint these two, which originally appeared on Dec. 27th, 2002.]

[Ed. other note: For those liberals who take No. 3 far too much to heart, this article is written tongue in cheek. It's a joke. Sarcasm. Irony. Humor. Oh, never mind.]

1. Liberals are expected to accept every new loony spiritual fad with open arms, no matter how off-the-wall it is. When someone calling himself Swami Sittinanda Dakhadabey gives a lecture on Soul Duality, every other liberal in earshot must embrace it or be branded "closed minded."

2. All liberals are assumed to be promiscuous. And omnisexual. While that was great fun in the 70s when I was in my 20s, it isn't as much fun as it used to be.

3. Liberals are in dead earnest about everything. We take things way too seriously. NO sense of humor at all.

4. Liberals don't dance as couples. They dance solo. Or in big groups.

5. Liberals think too much. When you have a roomful of people arguing over whether it is better to use cloth napkins (don't kill trees) or paper napkins (don't pollute with phosphates), that's too much thinking.

6. Liberals want to be monolithic in their support for causes. If I oppose big business and monopolies, it's assumed that I oppose Chinese occupation of Tibet (I do), the war against Iraq (I do, with reservations), and genetically altered grain (I don't).

7. Liberals use big words and long sentences. With the exception of some of the strike rhetoric of the 60s, you will never win over a bunch of liberals with slogans and sound bites. We wants facts, logic, and syllogisms. That means you have to work harder when trying to convince a bunch of liberals about much of anything.

8. Liberals, especially male caucasians, will never admit that anyone who isn't a male straight caucasian may be wrong.

9. Liberals, especially caucasians, carry more unearned guilt than five hundred Catholic families.

10. Liberals never get it through their heads that things will never get better. So they keep working to make the world better for everyone in it and, in the process, annoying the hell out of those who just want to sit back and not be bothered.
TEN THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BEING A LIBERAL

[Same caveats. But fair is fair.]

1. The parties. I have never found myself saying "Hi, I'm Stephen, damned glad to meet you" at a party full of liberals. I've also never found myself jamming at one in the morning at a party full of conservatives.

2. The food. You won't find jello carrot salad at a liberal fundraiser.

3. The languages. There's something very empowering about carrying on a conversation at a party in Polish, German, Spanish and English all at the same time. At gatherings where conservatives congregate, I'm lucky to find people who can string more than four words together in grammatical English.

4. The arguments. Conservatives spend a lot of time saying, "Oh, yes, I agree!" Liberals, on the other hand, tend to start statements with "Well, that's true, but..." followed by a ten minute diatribe on why you are completely wrong, even if they really agree with you. Then it's your turn, not to mention when someone else jumps in, whether invited or not.

5. Outrageousness. Conservatives are uniform, plain, bland. It is not without good cause that my wife (far more liberal than I) refers to her plain cotton bras as "Republican bras." Liberals are colorful, multicolored (literally and figuratively), bright-hued, sparkly, and lively. And just plain outrageous, willing to do almost anything to get a "wow" out of someone. Preferably a conservative.

6. Birkenstocks. My feet finally sealed my political convictions when I gave up military oxfords for birks.

7. The guilt. (I know I listed this as something I hate, but what the hell...) Since I left the Catholic Church I felt remarkably guilt-free. Now that I am a liberal, I feel responsible for everything from slavery to the death of algae in the Antarctic ice cap. Every time I feel like my guilt is beginning to dissipate, I listen to NPR and it comes back. It keeps me humble.

8. The music. Tom Lehrer's "Folk Song Army" is as valid today as it was thirty-five years ago:

We are the folk song army
Every one of us cares,
We all hate poverty, war, and injustice,
Unlike the rest of you squares!

Still, it beats the hell out of "I'm Proud To Be An American."

9. More interesting scandals. You gotta admit that, although as constitutional issues Iran/Contra and Watergate were abominations, the Big Dawg getting a blowjob in the corridor behind the Oval Office was a lot more fun to read about than delivering a cake to the Ayatollah. Liberals play fast and lose with traditional mores. Conservatives play fast and lose with established legal concepts.

10. Somehow or other, despite everything going against us, we still have this silly idea that we can make things better. When the entire State of Nebraska votes Republican, that's when the liberals crowd into the state Democratic headquarters, bang heads together and say "What the hell are you thinking?" We're at our best when the odds are the shortest. And we keep plugging along. Conservatives win because they have the laws of political inertia on their side. Liberals win because we have more energy, more enthusiasm, and more faith.

THE PARTY LINE

I've been having an interesting correspondence with a friend of mine who calls me a GOP supporter disguised as a liberal because I criticized Don Wesley and Ben Nelson, and because I questioned whether LB775 benefits should be withheld from slaughterhouses and casinos, since that will hurt the Latinos and Native Americans. His point seems to be that 1) by criticizing prominent Democrats I play into the hands of the GOP and 2) by doing anything to support LB775, I am a GOPer.

Well, whaddaya know?

This is the first time I've ever been told that one must unquestionably support every candidate put forth by the State Democratic Party or lose one's liberal license. My friend must have missed my castigation of Ben Nelson for not adhering to the Democratic party line about the Estrada filibuster (or perhaps it is worse to criticize Nelson at all than it is to depart from the party line). My friend must have missed my frequent calls for the revocation of LB775. My statement here that "If we're going to bribe businesses to come to Nebraska, shouldn't we bribe people to come where all Nebraskans are, not just where the white folks are?" should read to most who have been reading this blog just as it is intended: if we are going to bribe, let's bribe equitably. But I don't want to bribe at all.

But back to my main point: the concept that I must adhere to the state Democratic party line and treat state Democratic candidates as above reproach is silly. If I wanted to do that, I really would be a Republican. I'd be calling in to Rush Limbaugh with nothing more intelligent to say than "Ditto."

The purpose of the Barricades is not to solely attack the GOP. It's to bring the Democratic Party in Nebraska back to the left where it belongs. As I've said many times, I just don't buy that "you can't get a liberal elected in Nebraska." Sure you can. Ask Terry Werner. Ask Chris Beutler. Ask Dianna Schimek. Ask Bob Kerrey. Ask Frank Morrison. Even ask Don Wesley:

Though I've whipped you and I've flayed you,
By the voters who have made you
In your heart, you're still a liberal, Mayor Don!
THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL

The North Koreans intercepted and locked on to an RC-135 (the Cobra Ball) yesterday in the Sea of Japan. That, to most readers, is important because it's the first aggressive move by the North Koreans against a reconnaissance flight since the late 60s. Given everything else that's going on on the Korean peninsula, it's another step in the "pay attention to us" moves by Pyongyang.

For me, though, it's a very personal thing. You see, I used to fly on board the RC-135s during the '70s . I flew in another part of the world, and I, as I've said before, never had anything hostile exhibited towards any aircraft I was on. We had some fun (there were rules back then and the Russians and the US pretty much played by them) and I have some great war stories for parties.

But this isn't fun. Nothing will raise your pucker factor more than to be told that a fire control radar has locked on to your aircraft, even if you know they probably won't shoot. Right now, though, we don't know that the North Korean's won't shoot. Why? Because nobody is paying attention to them. Like a child who can't get attention from anyone, they are pitching bigger and louder tantrums trying to get the attention of the world. The U.S., for our part, seems to be taking the "ignore them and they'll go away" response. Daddy's busy in Iraq. Just hold your horses, I can't talk to you right now.

When the kid pushes the Ming vase off the shelf, it's too late to pay attention and prevent him from doing it. North Korea can push a pretty big vase off a pretty big shelf. Maybe we ought to pay attention to the kid who's tugging at our pants leg.

Meanwhile, my buddies' asses are on the line right now. I am not happy.

Monday, March 03, 2003

THIS IS A HELLUVA WAY TO RUN AN EMPIRE!

Some evidence that the Great American Empire, as conceived by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al., has the seeds of its own self-destruction, courtesy of The Left Coaster:
From the Los Angeles Times today:

Early last month, Vice President Dick Cheney telephoned Turkey's prime minister with an urgent message: The Bush administration wanted the country's parliament to vote within days-- just before the Muslim holiday of Bayram-- on a request to base U.S. troops in Turkey for an assault on Iraq.

The timing of the pressure struck a raw nerve here, one that was still aching when Turkish lawmakers finally took up the request Saturday and dealt it a surprise defeat. As Turks offered explanations Sunday for this stinging defiance of their strongest ally, tales of American insensitivity were high on the list.

It was going to be hard enough for Washington to persuade one predominantly Muslim country to join in war against another. But Cheney was making his pitch to a government led by an Islamist party as its lawmakers were about to head home to join pious constituents for a week of fasting and prayer.

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, a reluctant supporter of the U.S. request, told Cheney no, a vote in parliament would have to wait, according to Turks familiar with the conversation. But word of the call got around, adding to a series of blunders by both the Bush administration and Gul's government that now seem to have doomed the Pentagon's goal of a northern front against Saddam Hussein.

"We don't like the way we were pushed around by the Americans," said Emin Sirin, one of dozens of lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party who defied its leaders and voted against the U.S. deployment.

"The Americans kept giving ultimatums and deadlines, asking Turkey to jump into a barrel of fire," he said. "They seemed to think we could be bought off, but we had real security concerns about what Iraq would look like after Saddam. They never addressed those concerns."

For their part, U.S. officials believed the Turks could not afford to turn them down. On the assumption that Turkish leaders understood this, officials led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy Defense secretary, kept pressing hard for a decision. When Turkey balked, U.S. officials, in private comments to reporters, often questioned the country's value as an ally.

"The disinformation campaign against Turkey played a big role in upsetting national feelings," Erdogan told reporters Sunday.

In the end, Washington tried to bargain for Turkey's loyalty with the promise of an aid package that would include $6 billion in grants. The deal nearly fell apart last week when Turkey balked at one of the conditions-- that it agree to strict International Monetary Fund guidelines for reform of its economy.

Ah, so we tried to use this situation to force the Turks into IMF control of the Turkish economy, did we? No wonder the Turkish parliament told us to take a flying leap. They have seen what wonderful work the IMF has done elsewhere.

And from the New York Times story:

The biggest unresolved issue was Washington's insistence that Turkey adhere to its agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which has imposed strict austerity measures on the government. Turkish officials were hoping to obtain a $6 billion grant from the United States before reaching an agreement on the next installment of the fund's multibillion aid program.

Several Turkish legislators complained of what they described as the United States' overbearing and sometimes petty approach to the negotiations.

Turkish officials said American diplomats sought to avoid paying taxes on everything they bought in Turkey, from fuel to food. One dispute, which Turkish lawmakers said lasted more than a week, involved the question of who would pick up a roughly $30,000 tab for identification labels intended for American troops in Turkey.
Do you want egg in your beer, Mr. Cheney?

The unspeakable arrogance of this administration is beyond comprehension. First we attempt to bribe a sovereign nation to grant us privileges that few nations would grant any other nation. Then we quibble about the terms of what we get for the bribe. Then we complain when the bribe doesn't work. Somehow, I am convinced that in the halls of the State Department some junior honcho is saying, "But I thought all those ragheads could be bought for a song!" That's certainly the attitude that seems to prevail, or at least the attitude that's being presented.

If I were Turkey I'd be highly offended, and withdraw my ambassador. My suspicion is that the only reason the Turks are even still talking to anyone is that they hold out a hope that 1) they might get a shot at the EU out of this and 2) they might get a shot at wiping out the Kurds. Note that the two goals are mutually exclusive, but in Turkish history, both have been cherished goals of different sectors of Turkish government.

There is no truth to the rumor that Cheney also wanted a cheap rate for carpets bought by GIs in Turkey.


TREADING THE BOARDS AGAINST EMPIRE

Tonight I have the distinct honor of appearing on stage with F. Murray Abraham, Kevin Bacon, and Mercedes Ruehl. Okay, actually I will be on stage in Lincoln and they will be on stage in Brooklyn. But we will all be performing Lysistrata, the classical Greek comedy about the Pelleponesian wars. The performance is being done around the world as a statement opposing the Iraqi war. Lysistrata was chosen because of its plot: the women of Athens and Sparta, tired of their men being gone to war most of the time, decide to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers until they sit down at a table to work out a peace between them. It's a hilarious play, and much of the commentary on the stubbornness and silliness of states at war is still timely.

This whole enterprise is the brainchild of the Lysistrata Project. As of this afternoon, there will be 1,004 productions of this play in 59 countries, from Argentina to Taiwan. And in the US and Iraq (without official recognition).

Personally, it's my first act of opposition to the American Empire. There will be more to come.
OUR WONDERFUL RIGHT TO WORK LAWS

Today's Journal-Star contains the following letter to the editor, which I quote in full
Bill attacks work rights

I am strongly against LB226, [which would require a nonunion employee to reimburse a union for legal services requested by such employee], a bill which flies in the face of our Right to Work Laws. Workers are now free to join unions or not, which is the only fair way to do things. LB226 is just another attempt, however obvious, to attack our right to work.

Instead of helping labor in Nebraska, LB226 would restrict new companies from choosing Nebraska and providing jobs here. And the wise union members at Goodyear and other companies will tell you that it would be even harder to bring jobs back to Lincoln without right to work laws in place.
Let me tell you about these wonderful Right to Work Laws:

You have the right to join a union or not join a union, if there is a union at your place of work.

If you don't join the union, you are still covered by the benefits of the contract the union negotiates, even though you don't belong to the union.

If you don't have a union at your place of work, you can be fired any time you want, for no reason at all. That means if the boss comes in and feels cranky because he didn't get laid the night before, he can fire the first six people he sees, just because. And it will stand up in court. He doesn't even have to give you a reason.

You can be accused of theft at your job, and have no recourse for a hearing, or to present evidence on your own behalf. Nobody has to prove anything. Your co-worker who doesn't like you can accuse you of theft and if she convinces the boss that you are a thief, you're out of there. No appeal, no hearing, no nothing. Do not pass go, do not call a lawyer.

You can be required to work seven days, or ten days, or twenty days without a day off. If you don't like it and complain, you can be told that you either work the additional shift or get fired. You have the right to go find a job you like better. That's your right to work. You can also be required to work overtime and be fired if you decline. Of course you are supposed to be paid for it, but once again, if you say you can't, your boss can fire you. You have the right to find a better job if you don't like it.

You can be laid off, demoted, have your shift changed, or your hours reduced, at the boss's will, without reason, without notice, without hearing.

You can be fired for filing a claim for workers' compensation.

Yep, this right-to-work law is a wonderful thing. You have the freedom to work anywhere you want. Good thing, too. Otherwise when you get canned at the boss's whim, you'd be out of luck.

One other thing. I see that Sen. Marian Price has introduced LB39, the One Day Rest in Seven Act again. It's indefinitely postponed in committee. Again. Will anyone have the courage to introduce this as a voter initiative?

Sunday, March 02, 2003

THE AMERICAN EMPIRE: WHY I OPPOSE THE WAR IN IRAQ

Since first taking a serious look at the entire Iraqi situation using the economic touchstone (“It’s all my father’s fault”) a couple of weeks ago, I have read everything I could get my hands on concerning the Iraqi war, our justification for it, the threat Iraq and Saddam poses not only to the region but to the world. I read articles from both sides of the aisle. I perused commentary from political analysts, columnists, and anyone else I could find. My wife is sick to death of hearing me work through this. Now it’s your turn, but this is where I make my final written analysis and pronouncement ex cathedra from my navel.

In my reading I came across a document frequently referred to by others, and since it so succinctly matches my own analysis, allow me to refer to it. It’s a piece by Jay Bookman which first appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on September 29, 2002 entitled “The American Empire: Bush in Iraq.”

A few key excerpts:
This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were.

Once that is understood, other mysteries solve themselves. For example, why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled?

Because we won't be leaving. Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran.[. . .]

Among the architects of this would-be American Empire are a group of brilliant and powerful people who now hold key positions in the Bush administration: They envision the creation and enforcement of what they call a worldwide "Pax Americana," or American peace. But so far, the American people have not appreciated the true extent of that ambition.

Part of it's laid out in the National Security Strategy, a document in which each administration outlines its approach to defending the country. The Bush administration plan, released Sept. 20, [2002,] marks a significant departure from previous approaches, a change that it attributes largely to the attacks of Sept. 11.[. . . .]

Because they were still just private citizens in 2000, the authors of the project report [Paul Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary. John Bolton, now undersecretary of state; Stephen Cambone, now head of the Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation; Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross, members of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld; I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney; and Dov Zakheim, comptroller for the Defense Department.] could be more frank and less diplomatic than they were in drafting the National Security Strategy. Back in 2000, they clearly identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as primary short-term targets, well before President Bush tagged them as the Axis of Evil. In their report, they criticize the fact that in war planning against North Korea and Iraq, "past Pentagon wargames have given little or no consideration to the force requirements necessary not only to defeat an attack but to remove these regimes from power."

To preserve the Pax Americana, the report says U.S. forces will be required to perform "constabulary duties" -- the United States acting as policeman of the world -- and says that such actions "demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations."

To meet those responsibilities, and to ensure that no country dares to challenge the United States, the report advocates a much larger military presence spread over more of the globe, in addition to the roughly 130 nations in which U.S. troops are already deployed. More specifically, they argue that we need permanent military bases in the Middle East, in Southeast Europe, in Latin America and in Southeast Asia, where no such bases now exist. That helps to explain another of the mysteries of our post-Sept. 11 reaction, in which the Bush administration rushed to install U.S. troops in Georgia and the Philippines, as well as our eagerness to send military advisers to assist in the civil war in Colombia.

The 2000 report directly acknowledges its debt to a still earlier document, drafted in 1992 by the Defense Department. That document had also envisioned the United States as a colossus astride the world, imposing its will and keeping world peace through military and economic power. When leaked in final draft form, however, the proposal drew so much criticism that it was hastily withdrawn and repudiated by the first President Bush.
I wore the uniform of a republic for 21 years. I swore to support and defend the constitution of a republic for those 21 years. When I – and every other person in the United States – take the Pledge of Allegiance, with or without the “under God” part, we pledge allegiance to a Republic. I want this Republic and its people to prosper, to be good citizens of the world, to contribute to the world, to play nice with the other children of the globe.

Nowhere in our Pledge of Allegiance does it say anything about an empire. Now Bush, at the behest of this bunch of empirists, wants to establish the American Empire in the 21st Century. And they want to start with Iraq.

You know what? Nobody asked me.

Nobody asked if I want the people of the world to look at me as an American and say “there goes an oppressor.” Nobody asked me if I want to have cheap products – gasoline and electricity and food – at the cost of keeping an occupying force on which the sun will never set. Nobody asked me if I though the cost of global unification at the point of a gun was the idea Baha’u’llah had in mind when He said “The earth is one nation and all mankind its citizens.”

I’ll bet nobody asked a lot of people this question. Instead, they were asked if they thought Saddam was a threat. Yes, he’s a threat. The were asked if he’s a nutball. Yes he’s a nutball. They were asked if he wanted nukes and poison gas. Of course he does. But is that a reason to establish the Imperial American Army? Hell no!

As we say in the legal world,:

For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully register my objections to the proposed war on Iraq and the policy of empire now proposed by the Bush administration and will use all lawful means to register my opposition.