Monday, October 15, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Imagine this!!

You are an American citizen on vacation in Thailand. You are arrested by local authorities on suspicion of being a member of the Freedom Revolution Underground Movement in Myanmar. It is a case of mistaken identity. You are turned over to the Myanmar Junta Secret Police who fly you to a “rendition” prison in the mountains of China where you are imprisoned and tortured for a year before being released in a remote section of Laos.

The American government strongly and officially protests. U.S. prosecutors issue warrants for the Myanmar Junta secret agents, charging them with kidnaping. You hire lawyers and seek redress in the Myanmar court system. The Myanmar Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision against you and dismisses the lawsuit on the grounds that trying the case might expose state secrets. While conceding you were likely kidnaped and tortured, the court decreed it must not interfere with the Junta’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.

That is what happened to a German citizen of Lebanese descent who was kidnaped by the CIA and accused of having a relationship with Al Qaeda and the Islamic Brotherhood. It was the most extensively documented case of the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program in which terrorist suspects are abducted, sent to other countries in which torture is practiced.

In Mr. Khaled el-Masri’s case, he was flown to a “rendition” prison in Kabul, Afghanistan where he was kept for most of a year, in a small cell, shackled, drugged and beaten while being interrogated before finally being released.

A three judge panel for the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the case pointing out that while it was “difficult” it pit the search for truth “against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.”

So, this is what it has come down to. Acquiescence to the arrogant lawlessness and unconstitutional actions of the Bush White House has bestowed upon us the character and behavior of a third world dictatorship. Imagine that.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sometimes Affirmative Action backfires!

With Clarence Thomas on the talking head TV circuit, hawking his autobiography, we are reminded that he is the legacy of papa George Bush who replaced a giant African American Supreme Court Justice (Thurgood Marshall) with a man of small legal stature who is a liar obsessed with paranoid conspiracy theories----a Justice so intimidated by lofty legal debate that he has yet to verbally participate in the dialog of a single case that has been before the Court of his tenure.

Those opposed to the Thomas confirmation included the NAACP, the Urban League, the National Bar Association, the National Organization of Women and many other African-American and Civil Rights organizations. His nomination raised an avalanche of questions about important issues and about truthfulness but only one question was needed to put Clarence Thomas in perspective: What was his feelings about the Roe v Wade decision on abortion?

Thomas testified that he was open-minded about abortion and that he had never discussed the merits of the case.

Does anyone believe that as a Yale law student, as an Assistant Attorney General in Missouri, as a U.S. Senate Legislative Assistant and as an Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Civil Rights, Clarence Thomas never discussed the merits of one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the U. S. Supreme Court? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I will sell you for five dollars.

Of course, he could have been telling the truth when he said he was open-minded. He just didn’t explain it was open at both ends.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Walter Lippmann revisited.

When I started drawing for the Greensboro Daily News in 1959, the first column of opinion I read appeared in the Washington Post. It was called “Today and Tomorrow” and was written by Walter Lippmann—clearly an erudite, thoughtful, articulate man who embraced a larger vision of the world he occupied than most of his contemporaries in the field.

I have often wondered what Mr. Lippmann would think of today’s columnists and talking heads---- and their mental rubbish that editors and television corporations elevate to the status of contributions worth considering—-specifically, the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Cal Thomas, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough. Bob Novak, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Riley—to mention a few.

In his book Public Opinion, Lippmann stated that “We are all captives of the picture in our head—our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.” He argued that in the affairs of men we are separated by hours, days or weeks by the world out there as it really exists and that the picture in our head may only reflect the real world when that time gap is eliminated by the arrival of knowledge of events that have taken place. We discover that people with which we share immediate space, for example, are now considered our enemy because of a war that was started days or weeks earlier in another space.

Technology has drastically changed that circumstance, in that today, there is no time gap. Today, we live in global real time—often live and in color.

Aside from the inherent contribution of the time gap to the “picture in our mind”, Lippmann came to embrace a suspicious and critical view that public opinion was largely shaped by a process he called the manipulation of consciousness which he dubbed “the manufacture of consent.” Lippmann’s worst assessment would come to fruition in the coalescing of the George W. Bush presidential campaign, the spiritual demise of print media and the ascendancy of television as the main nourishment of public thought.

“It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.”--Lippmann

Bush and his neocon handlers have ushered in an era in which truth was the first victim of his reign and deception the gold standard for establishing a “ picture” in the public mind that best suited his view of reality. The lies about Iraq and the nature and strategy of combating terrorists are will known and documented.

The news media’s acquiescence to the “embedded” coverage of the invasion, the war and the occupation of Iraq was a major contribution to the belief that the world of George W. Bush was the real one that existed at the time of 2004 election

The picture in our mind did not include body bags, rows of flag draped coffins or Iraqi corpses strewn in the rubble of “shock and awe” bombing. The picture in our mind did not include even a whisper of dissent from Colin Powell. Indeed, his contribution was to espouse supporting (and totally erroneous) statistics—“ 500 tons of chemical weapons!”

The best servants of the people, like the best valets, must whisper unpleasant truths in the master's ear. –Lippmann

Today, about 70% of the public have a different picture in their mind. Congressional democrats, after giving George W. Bush a blank check to start an unjustified war—finally have a different picture in their mind. Democratic presidential candidates have a different picture in their mind. Sadly, as Chris Mathews observed during one of his programs—they all seem to have a wishbone where their backbone should be.

The study of error is not only in the highest degree prophylactic, but it serves as a stimulating introduction to the study of truth. –Lippmann

Federalized baloney!

After President Bush vetoed the insurance bill that would have expanded health and medical care to millions of needy, uninsured children—he denounced it as a step towards “socialized medicine” —and extolled the virtues of private health care.

Too bad someone in his audience didn’t have access to the New York Times article on his private drug program. They might have asked some interesting questions.

Robert Pear reports that audits show “thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers “ that run the huge benefit program.

Abuses included improper termination of coverage for people with H.I.V. and AIDS, huge backlogs of claims and complaints and a failure to answer telephone calls from consumers, doctors and drugstores.

Medicare has levied fines of more that $770,000 on 11 companies for marketing violations and failure to provide timely notice to beneficiaries about changes in costs and benefits. The companies include United Health, Humana and Well Point.

Ah, the glory of "private care".

Lie and let the S-Chips fall where they may!

George W. Bush’s trail of lies defy measurement by normal presidential standards. They are breathtaking in their audacity and awesome in their failure to penetrate the 28 percent or so of Americans who still think he is doing a good job

Take the S-CHIP program. Congress voted to expand health insurance for children who fall between the cracks. Children whose parents earn too much money to qualify for present S-CHIP funds—but not enough money to afford adequate health insurance. The program would cover an additional 4 million children..

Bush says Congress is trying to “federalize health care.” Then he adds, “ I don’t want the federal government making decisions for doctors and customers”. Since the program enrolls children in STATE PRIVATE insurance plans—why would Bush say otherwise? It would seems there is one of two reasons: he is either ignorant–or he is a liar.

Then he says, “This program expands coverage, federal coverage, up to families earning$83,000 a year. That doesn’t sound poor to me.”

That’s interesting since the bill he vetoed prohibits states from using the program to aid families that make more than three times the federal poverty limit, approximately $60,000 a year for a family of four. Moreover,the $83,000 figure comes from a request by New York state to use the program for some families earning four times the poverty limit. The Bush bunch said no and that upper limit was not in the bill that Bush vetoed!

Do you suppose President Bush forgot that little detail when he said the program expands coverage “up to families earning $83,000 a year”? Or do you suppose, heaven forbid, that our President might just flat out be a bald faced liar?