Friday, December 22, 2006

Bush 'moved' by visit to wounded Vets

As the Associated Press reported, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday, Bush continued "an annual pre-Christmas tradition of comforting soldiers that he began after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003." From March 2003 to November 2006, 22,032 U.S. soldiers were wounded in Iraq. Bush met with 38 of them on Friday.

Wow, what a great new Christmas "tradition." If only Bush could be elected president again and again, I'm sure this grand tradition would continue for decades, as the dead and wounded piled up in military graves and hospitals, respectively.

If real life were a zombie movie -- and sometimes I wish it was -- Bush would be the prick who threw grandmothers and children to the undead mob to save his skin for a few more minutes. But he would also get his just desserts in the end, being torn apart by a dozen of the hungriest zombies (some of them those very same grannies and kids) while still conscious, watching them pull out his slimy entrails and lumber away munching his bloody limbs as he's writhing and screaming in agony.

I feel sorry for those soldiers, I really do, especially the amputees. Man, I wish I could know their thoughts when Bush came to their bed side: the little rich boy who got a cushy stateside National Guard assignment during Vietnam; the GOP scion who never had to work a day in his life, or worry about the future. What did they really think of him when they looked into his smirking face, trying but failing to show gravitas? What did they really want to do -- shake his hand, or punch him in the face?

I do like to think Bush has some vestigial conscience that maybe comes into play sometimes, like when he's sleeping. I like to hope he sweats and cries like a little baby at night, seeing those wounded and dead soldiers in his sleep, at last seeking their just revenge, coming to claim his health, his limbs, his life. Over and over and over again, all night, night after night. I like to think it gets so bad that Laura now has to sleep in another room, that the Secret Service detail knows but keeps it to themselves.

Alas, life does not offer nearly so many opportunities for justice as art. I'm sure those wounded soldiers at Walter Reed were all "yes, sir," "fine, sir," and "Merry Christmas, sir." I guess I can't blame them for that. And I'm sure Bush sleeps like a baby, the very picture of mental and physical well being. I blame him like hell for that.

Uthman: Why McCain likes the Iraq war

McCain's Mutiny

Why "Mr. Integrity" wants the war to drag on

By Allan Uthman

"I understand the polls show only 18 percent of the American people support my position. But I have to do what's right... In war, my dear friends, there's no such thing as compromise. You either win or you lose." - Senator. John McCain

Same thing with elections.

So John McCain has joined Bush in throwing a shit fit over the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. What's bothering him? Well, it's certainly not the fact that no one who participated in the ISG had the foresight to oppose the war in the first place. McCain yelled at Baker and Hamilton last week because they didn't like his proposal to increase troop strength in Iraq by a number somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand (about 100,000 short of anywhere near enough to establish a semblance of security there). But the real bone in McCain's increasingly freakish craw? If the ISG recommendations are followed—an unlikely event considering Bush's classic "whatever" dismissal—US combat troops will be out of Iraq before McCain has a chance to get his election on.

While McCain's insistence on "re-invading" Iraq and holding out for a miracle has been assailed as unrealistic except by diehard hawks and Bush loyalists, it has also been absurdly misinterpreted as the brave, bold stance of a man who puts the welfare of his nation above his own presidential aspirations. The common take is that McCain is "jeopardizing" his electability by continuing to support an unpopular war. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said McCain is "swimming against the tide." CNN's Wolf Blitzer gushed that it was "a Profiles in Courage kind of statement." Even the UK press got in on the act, with the Times of London's Bronwen Maddox arguing the report "damages" McCain, making him look "like the nation's maverick, not the next president." Anatol Lieven wrote on the Guardian's website that McCain "seems to have committed himself to a course which could very well cost him the presidency in 2008."

These opinioneers are either lying or stupid. Mainstream journalists are loath to engage in "straight talk" about McCain in deference to his heroic legend. In the simplistic, shorthand narrative of American political coverage, McCain's flashcard has the word "integrity" on it in big red letters. It's as if a few years of torture and imprisonment renders one immune to ambition, vanity or dishonesty for a lifetime. That may sound callous, but the truth is that McCain has time and again proven willing to change his tune on issues of conscience for maximum convenience, and has even admitted as much. In May, McCain told Fox News' Chris Wallace all about it:

"I've found in my life that when I do what I think is right… it always turns out in the end OK. When I do things for political expediency, which I have from time to time, it's always turned out poorly."

Asked for an example, McCain elaborated: "I went down to South Carolina and said that the flag that was flying over the state capitol, which was a Confederate flag, was—that I shouldn't be involved in it, it was a state issue. It was an act of cowardice," he said, admitting he had done it to help his chances in the South Carolina primary and seeming only to regret the act because he "lost anyway."

Early indicators of the depths to which McCain will stoop to win include his freshly appointed campaign manager, professional scumbag Terry Nelson. Nelson, Bush's national political director for his 2004 reelection campaign and an unindicted coconspirator named in Tom Delay's money-laundering indictment, is responsible for the infamous below-the-belt white bimbo ad which helped sink Harold Ford, Jr.'s senatorial campaign this year by exciting the powerful anti-miscegenation Neanderthal demographic in Tennessee. The appallingly racist ad drew so much heat that Nelson was fired by Wal-Mart, but McCain apparently has lower standards.

Further examples of McCain's shamelessness come in the form of flip-flopping: On abortion, from "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations" in 1999 to "I do believe that it's very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support" last month. On the gay marriage amendment, from "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans" in 2004 to "reconfirming" his support for the same amendment to Baptist gasbag Jerry Falwell and doing two commercials for an Arizona ban. On Falwell himself, who McCain called an "agent of intolerance" only two years ago, only to eat shit at Falwell's Liberty University this year and now supporting teaching the idiot theory of Intelligent Design in schools. McCain opposed Bush's tax cuts, but has since voted to make them permanent.

The list goes on and on, making it incredibly clear to any knowledgeable observer that John McCain is just another go-along-to-get-along bullshit artist—in other words, a senator. But reporters and pundits don't just avoid the subject; they deny it with an irrational certitude. The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson personified press fealty to McCain in an Op-Ed on the 13th: "McCain's position, at least, is sincerely held, as befits a candidate whose calling card is his integrity."

That's cute, isn't it? Meyerson offers no explanation or argument as to how he determined McCain's sincerity—there is none—he just says it is so, and you're supposed to buy it. "Integrity" is the long-established meme attached to McCain, and intellectually lazy mainstream journos aren't particularly interested in breaking new rhetorical ground there.

Some more sophisticated analysts acknowledge McCain's tradition of bullshittery, suggesting that McCain's call for more troops is a savvy feint, considering the unfeasibility of such a plan in the face of depleted troop reserves. Cokie Roberts called it "a somewhat convenient position, because he can always say, 'No one tried to win the war the way that I suggested to win it.' " But I don't think so. McCain seemed genuinely pissed that the ISG didn't consider his proposal, and I think I know why.

The reality is this: John McCain is running for president. Just like any other serious candidate, everything McCain says and does for the next (and the last) two years is calculated to help him win in 2008. If McCain thought calling for an immediate withdrawal would help his chances, he'd do that. Hell, if he thought doing a choreographed dance number on the senate floor to the tune of "Love Machine" would help his poll numbers, he'd be working out the steps with Paula Abdul right now. If McCain wants the war to intensify, you can bet he thinks it's a good long-term strategy to win—the election.

The idea that the war hurts McCain is just plain dumb. Americans may regret the war, but most Republicans still hate the idea of admitting defeat. McCain's hawkishness will help him secure the GOP nomination, perhaps the most difficult obstacle between him and the White House—and the reason for all the fundamentalist footsy with Falwell. And a still-roiling quagmire in Iraq would be huge boon for McCain in a run against soft-on-slaughter Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, his most likely opponent.

McCain isn't any more responsible for the war in Iraq than Hillary, for one, so the idea of voters punishing him for supporting it makes no sense. And who do you think voters will trust to guide the country to an acceptable solution in an ever-worsening war, the celebrated 'Nam POW or the smarty-pants feminist? Hillary has and will continue to talk tough about the war, but she just can't win a bloodthirstiness contest against McCain.

By contrast, in the improbable event the Iraq mess is largely over by November 2008, McCain seems old and irrelevant rather than strong and reassuring. What issue does McCain really have without the war? Gay marriage? The ISG recommendation to pull out the troops by 2008 completely FUBARs McCain's program, and that's why he pulled the Popeye routine on Baker and Hamilton. McCain wants this stupid, pointless, sucker's war to drag on, maybe even get worse. He needs something to rescue us from. He can't win without it. And hey, what's a few thousand more corpses if it means he gets to be president?

Taibbi: Baker-Hamilton Omission Report

Iraq study group aims to change perception, not reality

Matt Taibbi

In private, some members of the Iraq Study Group have expressed concern that they could find themselves in not-quite-open confrontation with Mr. Bush. “He’s a true believer,” one participant in the group’s debates said. “Finessing the differences is not going to be easy.”

—David Sanger, The New York Times, “Idea of Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq Seems to Fade,” Dec. 1.

What a fiasco this whole Baker-Hamilton episode is, with all its attendant leaks and media manipulations — a veritable symphony of Typical Washington Bullshit. It has all the hallmarks of the pusillanimous, cover-your-ass mentality that rules our nation’s capital, where all problems are political problems and actual real emergencies never make it to the desk of anyone who matters.

The Baker-Hamilton commission, also known as the Iraq Study Group, released its long-awaited recommendations last Wednesday, but the overall gist of the panel’s labors was obvious way back in March, when President Bush first appointed the panel. Baker-Hamilton from the very start was a classic bullshit-cloud in the proud tradition of those damnable congressional “studies” we hear about from time to time, in which “bipartisan panels” are convened to much fanfare and packed off to the wilds of suburban Virginia for years of intellectually masturbatory activity — the usual solution, whenever House or Senate leaders are faced with a genuinely thorny political issue that offers no easy or obvious solutions, i.e. a problem that can’t be simply blamed on one or the other political party, but which needs actual fixing.

Whenever one of those issues pops up, Washington politicians generally find themselves at a loss. They don’t know what to do. For the vast majority of these buffoons, their expertise lies elsewhere. These guys know how to spread their legs for campaign contributors, raid the budget for redundant public works projects and worm their way onto the six o’clock news wearing a hardhat or a Cubs cap — but the average elected official knows very little about actually solving real political problems, because in most cases that’s not what got him elected.

The successful politician today is the one who can best convert the agendas of his campaign contributors into politically saleable policies. That’s the business of government today; both the legislative and the executive branch are mainly engaged in searching out and finding the acceptable mean between voter sentiment and financial interest. It’s sort of an ongoing math problem — figuring out how many voters you can afford to fuck every four years, or how much money you should be extracting, and from which sponsors, for each rape of your constituents.

That kind of negotiation, Washingtonians are great at. But there’s no upside to taking on difficult problems for most politicians, who a) usually don’t give a shit anyway, since there are few problems outside of anthrax-infected envelopes that actually affect a Washington politician’s life, and b) have few institutional remedies for effectively addressing problems even if they were so inclined, since so many backs need to be scratched en route to taking action.

And so, when faced with an unsolvable or seemingly unsolvable political conundrum, most politicians feel there’s only one thing to do. You appear onstage with your rival party’s leader, embrace him, announce that you’re going to find a “bipartisan” solution together, and then nominate a panel of rotting political corpses who will spend 18 months, a few dozen million dollars, many thousands of taxpayer-funded air miles, and about 130,000 pages of impossibly verbose text finding a way for both parties to successfully take the fork in the road and blow off the entire issue, whatever it was.

It’s important, when you nominate your panel, to dig up the oldest, saggiest, rubberiest, most used-up political whores on the Eastern seaboard to take up your cause. That way, you can be sure that the panel will know its place and not address any extraneous issues in its inquiry — like, for instance, whose fault a certain war is, or whether the whole idea of a “War on Terrorism” needs to be rethought, or whether the idea of preemptive defense as a general strategy is viable at all, or whether previously unthinkable solutions may now have to be countenanced, or whether there is anyone currently in a position of responsibility who perhaps should immediately be removed from office and hung by his balls. Your panel should contain people who are not experts or interested parties in the relevant field (since experts or interested parties might be tempted to come up with real, i.e. politically dangerous solutions), but it should contain people who are recognizable political celebrities whose names will lend weight to your whole enterprise, although not for any logical reason.

Baker-Hamilton was a classic whore-panel in every sense. None were Middle East experts. None had logged serious time in Iraq, before or after the invasion. All of them had influential friends on both sides of the aisle all over Washington, parties in the future they wanted to keep getting invites to, ambitions yet to be realized. You could assign Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O’Connor and Vernon Jordan, Jr. to take on virtually any problem and feel very confident that between the four of them, they would find a way to avoid the ugly heart of any serious political dilemma. If the missiles were on the way, and nuclear Armageddon was just seconds off, those four fossils would find a way to issue a recommendation whose headline talking points would be something like “heightened caution,” dialogue with Sweden, and a 14 percent increase in future funding for the Air Force.

Hence the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report were predetermined virtually from the start. We could all have expected that the group’s only unequivocal conclusions would restate the obvious — that we need an eventual withdrawal of troops, that there needs to be more “robust regional diplomacy,” that Iraqi forces need to assume more of the security burden, and that there will be no hope of a political solution without some cooperation from Syria and Iran. Duh! Because the really thorny questions are the specifics: when do we leave, and, more importantly, what do we offer Iran and Syria in return for their cooperation, what horrifying inevitable humiliation will we be prepared to suffer at their hands, and what form will talks with those gloating countries take?

Baker-Hamilton blew off those questions, and it’s no wonder, because no one in Washington wants to deal with them. The Republicans don’t want to agree to a withdrawal timetable because it’s an admission of defeat and policy failure, while the Democrats don’t want to be the first to call for a withdrawal because they’re afraid of being pilloried in the next election season for a lack of toughness. Both sides are afraid of being responsible for a civil war bloodbath if the U.S. troops pull out, and neither side wants to be the first to suggest taking the humiliating step of inviting Syria or Iran to the negotiating table with anything like equal status.

Baker-Hamilton takes all of this into account, offering no concrete or controversial suggestions that would bind either party to unpopular action in the near future. In essence, all Baker-Hamilton accomplished was a very vague admission that Bush’s Iraq adventure is somehow irrevocably fucked and that we have to get our troops out of that country as soon as possible, a conclusion that was obvious to the entire world two long years ago. But even this pathetically timid intellectual assertion was deemed too controversial to risk unveiling before the 2006 midterm elections, and it’s obvious now that both parties have decided to wait until 2008 to deal with the more important questions of “when” and “how.”

In the midst of all of the recent fanfare about Baker-Hamilton, some of the actual actors in the Iraq disaster have been using the media to similarly absolve themselves of any responsibility to act. We started to see this happening on November 15, when Michael Gordon of The New York Times (who seems to be spending a lot of time fellating intelligence officials lately) ran a ponderous “news analysis” suggesting that a rapid withdrawal might not be the best idea (“Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Some Experts Say,” Nov. 15). In this piece, a host of military and intelligence officials argued vociferously that America’s problems in Iraq stemmed from not having enough troops, and that an early withdrawal would accelerate the country’s decline into civil war. Among the voices quoted in Gordon’s piece is former CIA analyst Ken Pollack, who as Jeff Cohen noted was one of the chief pom-pom wavers for the war before the invasion and one of the many experts who insisted that Iraq possessed WMDs. Gordon conveniently left Pollack’s record on that score out of the article.

Pollack and other officials like former Central Command head Anthony Zinni furthermore argue in the Gordon piece that what is needed now is an increase in troops in the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq.

A few weeks later, Gordon ran another piece (“Bush Adviser’s Memo Cites Doubts About Iraqi Leader,” Nov. 29) which contained a leak of a memo by National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley which basically expressed doubts that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is capable of doing much of anything to control sectarian violence in Iraq.

The gist of both of these Gordon pieces is obvious: the military wants it known that it isn’t responsible for any of America’s problems in Iraq, and that the real problem is that Bush failed to set up an effective political context for the military to work within.

With the military inundating the newspapers with leaks that basically pass the buck for the Iraq disaster to the diplomats and the politicians, the Bush administration still refusing to publicly face reality, and the politicians outside the administration hiding behind a Baker-Hamilton report that shelves any meaningful decisions until some undetermined date far into the future (while being careful to avoid “not-so-open” confrontations with the president), the Iraq catastrophe can now be safely perpetuated ad nauseum — and the only people who will suffer for it will be people who don’t matter in Washington, i.e. the soldiers and the Iraqi people.

We may soon have to face this fact: With the midterm elections over, and George Bush already a lame duck, the Iraq war is no longer an urgent problem to anyone on the Hill who matters. The Democrats are in no hurry to end things because it will benefit them if Iraq is still a mess in ‘08; just as they did this fall, they’ll bitch about the war without explicitly promising to end it at any particular time. George Bush has already run his last campaign and he’s not about to voluntarily fuck up his legacy with a premature surrender or a humiliating concession to Syria or Iran. At least publicly, John McCain is going to head into ‘08 siding with those in the military who believe the problem is a lack of troops.

For the Iraq disaster to end, someone among these actors is going to have to make a difficult decision — admit defeat, invite a bloody civil war, lose face before a pair of rogue terror-supporting states — and it’s obvious that none of them is ever going to do that, not until there’s absolutely no choice.

The Baker-Hamilton report is being praised for its cautious, sensible, bipartisan approach to the Iraq problem (Time magazine even called it “genius”) but actually all it is a tacit recognition of this pass-the-buck dynamic in Washington. Because there is currently no way to even think about ending the actual problem without someone in Washington having to eat a very big bucket of shit, both sides have agreed, in the spirit of so-called bipartisan cooperation, to avoid thinking about ending the problem in the immediate future. Instead, the official policy in the meantime, bet on it, will end up being some version of a three-pronged strategy that involves 1) staying the course or even increasing the amount of troops temporarily 2) seeing what happens in ‘08, and 3) revisiting the issue after we see who wins the White House two years from now.

Baker-Hamilton wasn’t about finding solutions to the Iraq problem. It was about finding viable political solutions to the Iraq problem. Since there are none, it punted the problem to the next administration. Maybe the war will be real to those folks and they’ll actually do something. Don’t hold your breath.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Review of: Children of Men

Iraq war costs v. cost of national priorities

Excellent, must-see web site - National

I don't want to hear one more criticism about tax & spend liberals until the cut tax & spend conservatives tell me how we're going to pay for Bush's never-ending "war on terror"!

This site also lets you see the opportunity costs of the Iraq war, i.e. the money we could have been using for things like children's health care, college scholarships, etc.

I wish more people would think in these terms. It's not just how much something costs, it's what you have to give up (forgo) to get it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Ex-patriots' renouncing citizenship are TRUE American patriots

Love it and leave it!

In its continuing coverage of the new U.S. tax law sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R)-KA which takes a bigger bite out of more Americans living abroad, The International Herald Tribune on Sunday reported that "some international tax lawyers say they detect rising demand from citizens to renounce ties with United States [i.e. renounce their citizenship] -- the only developed country that taxes its citizens while they are overseas."

In the best journalistic tradition, it's a clever non-story posing as news. By that I mean the reporter, Dareen Carvajal, shills the hypothesis that growing numbers of American expatriates are turning in their passports over Congress's new tax law, while meantime Carvajal covers her bases with the facts, which dispute said hypothesis: the number of renunciations is actually "relatively low" or unchanged from previous years.

Basically, she offers all the reasons that renunciations ought to be up, but then admits that they're not. The hard data won't support it. Still, a quick read of this article would surely leave the reader with the desired impression, the very deceit hammered home by the story's outright lying title: "More Americans abroad giving up citizenship for lower taxes."

Pretty slick, huh?

The reason for this journalistic sleight-of-hand is pretty easy to explain, actually: A large portion of The IHT's readership is expatriate Americans making over $82,400 who are pissed off about their increased tax burden.

So, I'm not so bothered by it. I won't blame this honest deceit on the Lib'rul Media, but rather on the Corporate Media giving its paying readers what they want. Anyway, a careful reader would see right through the article's deceptive structure, and the hype, bluster and conjecture of its "expert" quotes.

But this story did get me to thinkin'.... When it comes to criticizing things like the Iraq War, keeping an arsenal of guns in one's home, or using taxpayers' money to promote Christianity, a certain brand of crass conservative, realizing he's dead center in the inert, dumbass majority, will retort "Love it or leave it!" Which basically signals the end of the discussion. (Everything that he loves is "American," and you're criticizing something he loves, ergo you hate America. Ergo, leave.)

But reading The IHT today I wondered: What could be more American than tax revolt?

After all, our country was formed as an afterthought by tax revolutionaries. Like most people, our Founding Fathers knew what they knew instinctively -- that taxes suck, especially when you're being taxed by an aloof government to fund an empire which you have no say over, and offers you dubious benefits in return. They only bothered to think up the highfalutin justification for their tax revolt later on, when it was already darn nigh official: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." blah, blah, blah.

The Declaration of Independence was baloney. It was brilliantly written PR, and a golden Englightenment treatise, but it was baloney. Because its stated purpose had little to do with the angry motivation which caused it to be written. Namely, that Declaration and the American Revolution were about taxes and expensive wars. And taxes paying for expensive wars. (Sound familiar?)

Which brings me back to the present. My initial reaction to the female ex-Marine quoted by The IHT who is living in Geneva and recently renounced her citizenship because of high taxes was, "Good riddance!" Love it or leave it! (Never mind that she left 16 years ago.) Alas, for her being an American was a mere miserly dollars & cents equation. For shame! Whither patriotism, hot dogs, Chevrolet, and Mom's applie pie?

But then I thought better, and realized that she couldn't be a truer "American" than by renouncing her citizenship. Indeed, she followed in the hallowed footsteps of our Founders: she threw off the yoke of tyranny when it weighed too heavily on her personal finances. So, "Good for her!" was my revised reaction.

Yes, good for her. If only more true Americans like her -- be they "ex-patriots" abroad or patriots residing in the Homeland -- would renounce their citizenship, America would be much better off.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Obama for Prez: Because he's black

Let's Get It Over With

I'm coming out right now in support of Barack Hussein Obama for our next president. (Even though I think McCain is going to win it in '08). Why? Because he's black. Why else? No particular reason.

My mention of his middle name, Hussein, is no accident. Because already the right-wing media are calling him by his full, er, Christian name. And they're not doing it because they're sticklers for detail. No, the reason they're doing it - Americans' latent racism and fear of Arab-Muslims - is the very same reason we need to elect a black president.

I wouldn't care if his name were Barack Saddam Hussein bin Laden al-Zarqawi Obama. No, on second thought, that would be even better, like killing two racist birds with one stone: electing a black Arab-Muslim president. Imagine that! They'd surely fly the Confederate flag at half mast in South Carolina the day a black camel jockey got elected president. Nevertheless, they'd eventually get over it. After all, they got over getting their asses whupped in the Civil War. (Well, sort of.) Surely they can handle one little old election.

To tell the truth, I don't know much about Obama. I know he's a junior senator from Illinois without much experience. I know he wrote a book, "The Audacity of Hope," and he's touring the country talking about, well, hope. But let's be honest. In actual fact, he's trying to stir up interest in his 2008 presidential bid. And for the time being, it's working. (Partly, I think the Lib'rul Media loves the idea of what an angry Hillary Clinton might say or do when rookie Obama steals her thunder, which is one reason they're playing him up.)

But before you accuse me of being a liberal opportunist jumping on the "Obama bandwagon," let me assure you that I'd also vote for Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell for president, if either of them could ever get the GOP nomination. (On FOX and other conservative sites, you could in fact, until recently, see advertisements asking readers "Should Condi run in 2008?") Yes, Condi's a rhetorically challenged intellectual lightweight in a job that's supposed to be all about brains and suasion; and Colin's a spineless yes-man who bitterly criticized Bush among his personal confidants, but dutifully towed the neocon line public. And yes, both of them could be accused of "Tomming" for a Republican administration that only wanted a prominent black seal of approval on its idioticly destructive foreign policy.

But even so, I'd vote for either of them. Because they're black.

You may consider nominating Obama just because he's black a bit cynical. But regardless of when it finally happens, or which party nominates the first black man, the other side will certainly accuse its rivals of cynical racial pandering. I guarantee it. So, it doesn't really matter if the Dems or the GOP go first. One party just needs to ignore the criticism, nominate a black man and get it over with.

But why this fixation on a black president anyway? Because America clearly has a race problem that won't go away. And nothing would do more to erase that problem than to break America's black presidential "hymen," as it were. The first time is always the scariest - and most painful. But it's been more than 200 years already... Why don't we just pour ourselves a glass of wine, put on some Barry White, take a deep breath, and get it over with?

After all, it would only be for four years. Even after eight catastrophic years of Bush, our country will still be salvageable. (Made more salvageable by a Democrat majority in Congress, to be sure). The potential harm done by an inexperienced, over-hopeful Obama, a twit like Condi, or congenital political coward like Powell, would be far outweighed by the benefits of a black U.S. president.

Just think about it. Blacks would vote in record numbers in 2008, of course Democrat. But the GOP, which is always more electorally savvy than the Democrats, would likely decide to run a black presidential candidate the next time, which would be a real humdinger of a pickle. Imagine a Michael Steele, J.C. Watts, Ken Blackwell, or even clueless Condoleeza Rice vs. an incumbent Barack Obama in 2012! How would the black vote split then?

I'm telling you, once we get it over with, the next time will be easier, and the next time easier still. Call it "Affirmative Action for the Oval Office," call it what you will. I don't care. Remember, I'm trying to persuade you here, I'm not asking anybody to pass a law.

Forget this crap about electing Hillary because we "need" a female president. That's a half measure. Moreover, it's already been done. Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands -- even Latvia -- have elected women prime ministers and presidents. Surrender monkey central France looks like it will be next in line.

But have any of those whitebread liberal-socialist countries, who love to take us to task for racial inequality, ever elected a black man to lead their country? Or an Arab? Or anybody of color? Hell, no! So why follow in their whiny, wimpy, white footsteps? Let's show them what real egalite is all about. Let's elect a black president! After that, electing a lily-white, uppercrust "liberal" hag like Hillary would be greeted by many Americans as a temporary relief.

Once we take the plunge and elect a black man for president, it will matter significantly less if future presidential candidates will be from Mars, Venus, the Hamptons or Harlem - people will look at the (D) or (R) behind his or her name and what s/he stands for, not his or her sex or race.

And best of all, America - so often regarded in the rest of the West as a racist, reprobate, chest-pounding nation on steroids - would be the jaw-dropping envy of the holier-than-thou, liberal-pacifist-socialist world.

(And who knows? It might even make Muslims like us better, not that that matters.)

Take that, Tarja Halonen!

More to Uncle T

Uncle T,

You wrote: "Now, after paying all those taxes, and still being able to 'manufacture some wealth,' you want to take that wealth and redistribute it to the person who couldn't manufacture any wealth 'just because' it is a 'moral incentive.'"

The moral question is: How much wealth -- created thanks in part to the freedoms, guarantees, and opportunities provided by our society -- should we let any one person accumulate before it's morally justified to say "Give something back"?

You call it "stealing" to tax the very rich (even though they're already taxed -- are they being "robbed" now, and if not, at what point does it become "stealing"??). Yet you see no problem with the fact that many of them got rich thanks to the fact they're living in the US of A. You act like they created wealth in a vacuum. You act like we should be down on our knees thanking them, and never vice-versa. You never once acknowledge that they owe the USA a great debt for their wealth creation. (If you need me to spell out the reasons why the rich should be thankful, I will, but I hope you know what I'm talking about).

I agree 100% that we should tax the working and middle class less, or nothing. You'll get no argument from me. They pay more than their fair share in income to run our government, and get much, much less in return than the rich, who get sweetheart trade deals, huge tax breaks, interest-free loans, an educated workforce, port and transportation infrastructure for their businesses, etc., etc.

If the current tax system, which unfairly burdens the middle class, isn't "class warfare," then I don't know what is. It's not class warfare if the rich admit that "we're all in this together" and they have a debt to pay to society for the wealth that they enjoy. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have come out in favor of the estate tax, and have said that the super rich should pay more tax. They realize the current tax system encourages a hereditary aristocracy of wealth, thanks also to our money-fueled political system.

You've fallen into the same trap as a lot of smart market watchers: You think GDP and the stock market are the best indicators of the nation's economic wellbeing. Whether that wealth is accumulating at the top and not trickling down to improve people's lives, well... you don't worry about that. The economic statistics on that score are not so clear-cut, so it's easier not to think about the issue at all.

This may sound crazy to you, but "creating wealth" is not an end in itself. If that wealth, wherever it may be, is not improving people's lives, then it's not worth a hill of beans. That's where you conservatives fall flat on your faces -- you worry so much about Big Gubument and what it's taking from you personally, that you forget about the general welfare. If the current tax system isn't serving the general welfare, but instead allowing more & more wealth to accumulate at the top, then I say it's IMMORAL, BROKEN, and desperately in need of REFORM.

It's about people, Uncle T, not just dollars & cents.

Commission wants to overhaul U.S. school system -- ABOUT TIME!

Dude! It's like an "Iraq Study Group" for education reform! This is what I like to see: no ideology, just bringing together smart, creative people to suggest solutions that work. Getting rid of high school is the best idea yet! Most kids stop learning anything new after 10th grade anyway, then start up again sometime in their second or third year of college. That's 3-4 years wasted!

December 15, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Education and business leaders urged an overhaul of the U.S. school system, including ending high school at the 10th grade for many students. Current teaching is failing to prepare young Americans for the global economy, members of a bipartisan panel said Thursday.

Beginning teachers should earn more, according to the group, and money for this idea could come from the scrapping of conventional teacher pension plans in favor of other benefits such as 401(k)s.

"People have got to understand what we've got is not working. It's not working for kids, but it's not working for teachers either," said William Brock, a former congressman who was labor secretary and trade representative in the Reagan administration.

The Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce was organized by people who launched a group by the same name about 16 years ago. That commission made a series of recommendations, several of which were enacted.

Under the new group's proposal, students would finish 10th grade and then take exams. Depending on how well the students perform, they could go on to community college or stay in school and study for more advanced tests that could earn them a place at a four-year college. Somewhat similar systems are in place in other countries.

The report says that by not spending today's resources on 11th- and 12th-graders and through other changes, the government could eventually save an estimated $60 billion.

The money could pay, for example, for new pre-kindergarten programs and higher teacher salaries, which the report said would help recruit top graduates into the profession.

The commission recommends paying beginning teachers about $45,000 per year, currently the median amount paid to teachers -- meaning half earn more than that and half earn less.

To help cover the cost, the commission recommends moving away from traditional, defined benefit pensions to less generous retirement plans commonly found in the private sector.

Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, said teachers should not have to lose benefits in order to make more.

One other major shift would put independent contractors in charge of operating schools, though the schools would remain public. States would oversee the funding.

Cortese also was critical of that idea. "Blowing up the governance system is very drastic, and we don't know what will happen in its place," she said.

Chuck Saylors, a school board member and parent in Taylors, South Carolina, said shifting control to the states from the local districts would be controversial. "Mainly because we have done it the same way for so long," Saylors said, adding that he was glad the group had put forward thought-provoking ideas.

The report notes the U.S. had 30 percent of the world's population of college students three decades ago, but that has fallen to 14 percent. The commission also cites poor performance by U.S. students in exams when compared with students in other advanced industrial nations.

"We may want to wait to think about these changes, but quite simply the world will not wait for us to catch up," said Thomas Payzant, a commission member who recently stepped down as Boston's school superintendent.

The commission's work was financed by several foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Among the initiatives from the first commission that the government enacted were a push for states to develop achievement standards and stepped-up training for high school graduates going directly into the work force.

The current commission includes former education secretaries Rod Paige and Richard Riley; former labor secretary Ray Marshall; former Michigan Gov. John Engler; and Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City schools.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Novak agrees with moi: McCain's it in '08

I've been saying for, oh, about a year now that McCain's going to win the GOP primary and be elected the next U.S. president. Now GOP insider and notorious Bush Administration leaker Robert Novak agrees with me.

Is GOP '08 choice already written in Inc.?,CST-EDT-novak14.article

December 14, 2006

Thirty invited corporate representatives and other lobbyists gathered at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill Tuesday to hear two senior mainstream Republican senators pitch the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain. They were selling him to establishment Republicans as the establishment's candidate. Nothing could be further from McCain's guerrilla-style presidential run in 2000, which nearly stopped George W. Bush.

Invitations to Tuesday's event were sent by Trent Lott, the newly elected Senate minority whip. Over coffee, Lott and Sen. Pat Roberts pushed McCain, though neither previously was seen as a McCainiac. They were not for McCain in 2000, and neither were the assembled party activists.

It is beginning to look like ''McCain, Inc.'' -- that is, party regulars, corporate officials and Washington lawyers and lobbyists moving toward McCain, the man they feared and loathed eight years ago. The GOP, abhorring competition and detesting surprises, likes to establish its presidential nominee well in advance. I first appreciated this in 1996, when Robert J. Dole's candidacy was dying after he barely won in Iowa and lost New Hampshire, Arizona and Delaware. He then won eight of eight primaries on a single Tuesday. When I asked a Dole adviser how this happened, he said it was ''Dole, Inc.'' repelling outsiders seeking the nomination, Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan.

Viewing Republican presidential campaigns through this lens finds the corporate party selecting one candidate -- and invariably nominating him. It has nothing to do with ideology. [What a refreshing admission. Cynical, but truthful. -- J] After the establishment fiercely opposed Ronald Reagan as an extremist in 1976, he became ''Reagan, Inc.'' in 1980. The most vivid instance was the coalition's early embrace for 2000 of ''George W. Bush, Inc.,'' though he had little to commend him apart from his name.

In 2000, only two senators endorsed McCain. Many at Tuesday's coffee were surprised that the e-mail inviting them came from Lott, describing his ''respect'' for McCain as ''unparalleled.'' It was no sudden impulse. McCain a year ago went to Lott for support, and Lott then made his commitment. The major reason, Lott told me, was ''electability.'' (McCain campaigned aggressively for Lott last month in his post-election victory for whip over Sen. Lamar Alexander.)

A second surprise at the coffee hour was the appearance at Lott's side of Roberts, even though his fellow Kansas senator, Sam Brownback, also is running for president. Roberts noted that in his Tuesday remarks, but asserted McCain is the right man in the right place at the right time.

Veteran Republican operative Rick Davis, a longtime McCain campaign aide, ended the meeting by urging the insiders to get in on the ground floor with McCain. He passed out a red folder containing a money solicitation ($2,100 per individual, $4,200 per couple and up to $100,000 for a full sponsorship) and McCain's post-election speech to GOPAC (''Common Sense Conservatism'').

That speech showed McCain is still not Miss Congeniality. While many colleagues blamed the 2006 election defeat on the president, McCain said: ''We lost our principles and our majority. And there is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first.'' At a time when Republicans want to hurry out of Iraq, McCain reiterated support for the Iraq intervention and declared ''victory is still attainable.''

Ideological conservatives are not happy about McCain's ascendancy. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is trying to run to McCain's right, but his past liberal positions on abortion and gay rights get in the way. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating are testing prospects of filling the vacuum, but the fund-raising will be daunting.

Actually, McCain's danger may be on his left, if former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani can get New Hampshire independents to vote for him in a Republican primary as they did for McCain in 2000. But Dole in 1996 and Bush in 2000 lost New Hampshire and recovered elsewhere as incorporated juggernauts. McCain, with that configuration, will be hard to stop.

Blankley's touching pro-Bush op-ed: The Lonely Prez

I have to admit, this op-ed is touching. Bush as modern day Lincoln? A "country bumpkin" and "accidental president" who is the only one, including his generals, who really gets the war? I want to believe it, but... nah, it's assinine. As Blankley feels for Bush, so I too feel for Blankley: Despite his jaunty orange and yellow gangster-cut suits, he looks lonlier and more caged-in with each passing week on the McLaughlin Group. You can only be laughed at by your fellow Group members so many times before it starts to get to you....

God Bless and Merry Christmas, Tony!

The Lonely President

By Tony Blankley

December 13, 2006 | Human Events

The American presidency has been called "A Glorious Burden" by the Smithsonian Museum, and the loneliest job in the world by historians. As we approach Christmas 2006 Anno Domini, President Bush is surely fully seized of the loneliness and burden of his office.

For rarely has a president stood more alone at a moment of high crisis than does our president now as he makes his crucial policy decisions on the Iraq War. His political opponents stand triumphant, yet barren of useful guidance. Many -- if not most -- of his fellow party men and women in Washington are rapidly joining his opponents in a desperate effort to save their political skins in 2008. Commentators who urged the president on in 2002-03, having fallen out of love with their ideas, are quick to quibble with and defame the president.

James Baker, being called out of his business dealings by Congress to advise the president, has delivered a cynical document intended to build a political consensus for "honorable" surrender. Richard Haas (head of the Council on Foreign Relations) spoke approvingly of the Baker report on "Meet the Press," saying: " It's incredibly important ... that the principle lesson [of our intervention in Iraq] not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power ... to me it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq's failure, not as America's failure."

That such transparent sophism from the leader of the American foreign policy establishment is dignified with the title of realism only further exemplifies the loneliness of the president in his quest for a workable solution to the current danger.

Not surprisingly the most recent polls show just 21 percent approval of his handling of the war -- an 8 percent drop since the election, and that mostly from Republicans and conservatives. Overall, his job approval level is down to 31 percent.

If Washington gossip is right, even many of the president's own advisers in the White House and the key cabinet offices have given up on success. Official Washington, the media and much of the public have fallen under the unconscionable thrall of defeatism. Which is to say that they cannot conceive of a set of policies -- for a nation of 300 million with an annual GDP of over $12 trillion and all the skills and technologies known to man -- to subdue the city of Baghdad and environs. Do you think Gen. Patton or Abe Lincoln or Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin would have thrown their hands up and said, "I give up, there's nothing we can do"?

Or do you suppose they would have said, let's send in as many troops as we can assemble to hold on while we raise more troops to finish the job. If the victory is that important -- and it is -- then failure must be unthinkable, even if it takes another five or 10 years.

And yet, when I exclusively interviewed two members of the Baker commission last week, they explicitly told me that they didn't propose increased troop strength because their military advisers told them it wasn't currently available.

Well, in 1943, we didn't have the troop strength for D-Day in 1944, and in 1863, we didn't have the troop strength (or the strategies) for the victory of 1865. But we had enough to hold on until the troops could be recruited and trained (and winning strategies developed). And so we do today. I have been told by reliable military experts that we can introduce upward of 50,000 combat troops promptly -- enough to hold on until more help can be on the way. [I keep asking: Where are these troop reinforcements supposed to come from??? Somebody enlighten me. See: -- J]

Sometimes, current tactical logistical weaknesses must not be used as an excuse for, or a signal of, strategic failure. In 1861, newly elected President Abraham Lincoln faced such a dilemma over the siege of Ft. Sumter. He had decided to ignore his military advice to surrender the fort. While the final published version of his explanation for this decision in his July 4, 1861 Message to Congress did not reflect his personal anxiety in coming to that decision, it might be useful to President Bush to read Lincoln's first, unpublished, draft -- which did reflect his mental anguish as he tried to decide. All his military advisers, after due consideration, believed that Fort Sumter had to be evacuated. But Lincoln's first draft read:

"In a purely military point of view, this reduced the duty of the administration, in this case, to the mere matter of getting the garrison safely out of the Fort -- in fact, General Scott advised that this should be done at once -- I believed, however, that to do so would be utterly ruinous -- that the necessity under which it was to be done, would not be fully understood -- that, by many, it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy -- that at home, it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its foes, and insure to the latter a recognition of independence abroad -- that, in fact, it would be our national destruction consummated. I hesitated." (see "Lincoln's Sword," pp 79-80; by Douglas Wilson).

Lincoln was alone in the self-same rooms now occupied by George Bush. All his cabinet and all his military advisors had counseled a path Lincoln thought would lead to disaster. He was only a month in office and judged by most of Washington -- including much of his cabinet -- to be a country bumpkin who was out of his league, an accidental president. Alone, and against all advice he made the right decision -- as he would do constantly until victory.

Mr. President, you are not alone. The ghost of Old Abe is on your shoulder. God Bless you and Merry Christmas.

Yet another reply to Uncle T

Uncle T,

Although I'm actually in debt right now, the fact that I'm relatively rich on a worldwide standard has very little to do with U.S. politics; because our debate right now is about poverty & wealth in the USA. Having worked on half a dozen overseas economic development projects, I would argue in all humility that I know a thing or two about strategies to improve living standards and raise employment in developing & transition countries; and it's really a different ball of wax than trying to do the same in a developed country like the USA.

Yes, I do think taking money (taxes) from the super rich and spending it on day care, health care, education, etc. will improve infant mortality rates and lower dropout rates. You only have to look at Western European countries to see that this works.

You continue to accuse me of supporting "giveaway" programs that "throw money at problems," yet I haven't mentioned any to you, including the above. These are targeted interventions to improve people's health & well being, freeing them up to be more productive. None of them involve giving money directly to recipients.

I gather that your attitude is, no matter how one got rich, by hook or by crook or just good luck, we must accept it. No matter why somebody is poor -- whether bad parents, bad health, disability, poor schools -- we must also accept it. AND THERE'S NOTHING WE CAN OR SHOULD DO. You believe in "teach a man to fish," but you can't do that without spending money -- that's a giveaway!

You whole tangent about your and your brother's opportunities in life ignores what I've already written: I don't believe in equality of opportunity, or even absolute equality. These are impossible, except perhaps in a communist system, and even then some people will be smarter, stronger, healthier, luckier, etc. Nor do most liberals believe we should enforce equal opportunity (I'm talking in the larger sense, not minority hiring). I do believe in equalizing opportunity to the extent practically and morally possible. We shouldn't do this haphazardly just to "bleed the rich," but under consensus according to what is the best for everybody in the long run. The rich ought to buy into this if they're good citizens who value domestic tranquility, and want a larger pool of qualified, productive, happy workers.

Apparently you wanted an exhaustive list of incentive programs. Sorry. And you ignored (again) my very important point about moral incentives. (Yes, liberals have the right to talk about morals). For example, why do rap videos show black people with gold, diamonds, fancy cars, champagne... and not blacks collecting welfare checks and milking the system to the tune of $30,000 a year? If welfare were all poor black people wanted in life, why wouldn't it be reflected in their popular culture? Because even though they're poor & black, they're still Americans; and they've been taught to want the "American Dream," which to them means flashy wealth and conspicuous consumption. They've also been taught to be ashamed of receiving government assistance. This is a perfect illustration of moral incentives in action! The shame is that many poor, urban blacks see more opportunity to realize that Dream thru selling drugs, being a rapper, singer, or professional athlete than thru traditional education and hard work. I agree, this is an indictment on them, but it is also an indictment on us, as their fellow citizens "all in this together" with them, who have failed to provide the keys to opportunity.

Since you ignore the crucial role of moral incentives in our capitalist society (moral incentives act as the "angels on the shoulder" of otherwise greed-obsessed, radical individualists, and the cash-starved politicians who cater to them), I must conclude that the only incentive you really believe in is greed, i.e. the profit motive. Yes or no? If no, tell me what other incentives you believe in.

Your opinion seems to be that American liberalism was frozen in time circa 1965. I would argue that many of the programs of FDR and LBJ were timely and necessary, and largely served their purpose. (FDR kept our country from falling apart during the Depression, probably averting the birth of a popular Labor or Communist party movement, good for you; and LBJ took on Jim Crow and racial and sex discrimination when no other president had the courage, and in the process, facilitated full & equal participation in civic and economic life).

But again, I don't hear many liberals urging us to go back in time. Despite everything I argue, why do you accuse me of being some kind of 1960's liberal? It would be just as unfair of me to accuse you of being the guy who wants to keep women out of the workplace and blacks in the back of the bus. In fact, one thing I like about liberalism is that it assumes and encourages CHANGE; whereas conservatives, as a rule, must harken back to a mythical Golden Age that never existed, except in propoganda.

Anyway, to answer your question again about the guy who won't work a 40-hour week: Clinton's Welfare to Work program solved that problem. People can't stay on welfare indefinitely. Yes, there may be some abuse of the system, but I'm willing to put up with that, if it means helping the truly needy, especially children, who didn't decide to be born or have the chance to choose their parents. Again, you are so enraged by the cases of abuse (and your rage can't be based on dollars & cents, but rather on emotion, because there is much more government waste in the Pentagon, bridge-to-nowhere pork programs, Iraq, etc.) that you'll condemn the truly needy to suffering. You'll throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Ditto with affirmative action. Your opposition must be based on emotion, not statistics. Remember, it only pertains to government jobs and state-funded universities. I'm sure there are cases of unfairness, but, again... baby & bathwater. You want to throw out the program because a couple of white men on the edge of average get rejected in favor of minority candidates. I think it's extremely naive of you to believe that government-supported policies enshrined in law like slavery & Jim Crow could be undone without equal or greater counterforce in law. They had to escort blacks into my school with Nat'l Guard troops for crap's sake! I know, I know: you and every other conservative believe that we've changed our ways, and ever since the "useless" Great Society movement of the 1960s (which wasn't really necessary?? -- explain that logic!), minorities face no racial discrimination in school and employment anymore. But I'm afraid not.

A tax credit does not address availability and affordability of day care for the working poor. A tax credit assumes that a poor person on a budget has enough money to pay for quality day care for a whole year before getting reimbursed; and it and assumes that quality day care is even available where they live, when it probably isn't.

I'm curious what evidence made you conclude that education has gotten better under Bush. Because he's testing kids uniformly (which infringes on state and local rights!), and more often? Tests a better student do not necessarily make.... BTW, ask S.W. about her experience teaching in public schools, and "teaching to the test" requirements. Without having any data, I can't say if Bush has improved education or not. But, I do believe it's a bit silly to impose uniform standardized tests for the whole nation, yet allow every local school board to set its own curriculum. I can't imagine that teaching a kid in Iowa is so terribly different than teaching one in Kentucky. Most nations have a central Ministry of Education which sets curriculum and determines funding for schools. But we've still got leftovers from "Little House on the Prairie"-type parochialism in our K-12 system....

The liberal approach to dealing with those who refuse to be productive is to give them a chance, or even two, and if they don't take those opportunities, that's it. But -- and this is a big "but" -- I do worry about that man or woman's children. Do we let them suffer for their parents' shortcomings? I say no. You seem to imply "Tough shit, junior."

In general, my approach to dealing with the deserving working poor would be to pay directly for their bare necessities in life, not give them handouts. For instance, WIC is great, I wouldn't take that away. It's food for crapsakes. I would build more & better public transportation so people wouldn't necessarily need a car in order to work. (Our systematic dismantling of public transportation and construction of the nat'l highway system perpetrated by the oil and auto industries has acted like a regressive tax, and penalizes the working poor). I would of course fully fund education; and find the money to train, recruit, and hire better quality teachers. I would get rid of funding education based on property taxes; or else supplement with federal funding the districts with below average property values. The current funding system creates a rich-poor imbalance in quality. Controversially, I would keep phys. ed. but get rid of high school sports -- at least gov't funded sports teams. Kids are in school to learn, not score touchdowns. Again, I would build more day care centers near the places where the working poor live and work, and give need-based discounts or free service (not tax credits). I would spend more money on college scholarships -- or just give everybody with a high enough GPA free in-state tuition. And spend more on university research, whence most of the scientific innovations that fuel our economy originate.

Those are just some of my lefty liberal policy ideas, but that's probably enough already to drive you nuts, so I'll stop there.

- Show quoted text -

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Real Thanksgiving Story -- GOBBLE THIS!

Originally written Nov. 23, 2006

A lot of you won't accept, or won't want to accept, this "version" of the Thanksgiving story. Just remember one indisputable fact: the Pilgrims' descendants are alive and well; but most native Indian tribes have been slaughtered to the point of extinction. In modern parlance, they were "ethnically cleansed."

Even if you accept the traditional version of Thanksgiving, you must admit that the amity between Plymouth settlers and native Indians was short-lived. To me, it seems a real mockery of the dead to focus on that one mythic moment and ignore what came after.

People with a political ax to grind say the "real" story of Thanksgiving was the triumph in Plymouth of 'capitalism' (farming on individual plots of land) over 'communism' (collective farming). But this is a petty distinction, considering that those plots of land belonged to the Indians first, and were farmed by Indian slaves. Warfare, pillage, and slavery, unfortunately, are totally compatible with capitalism.

(I debate this pro-capitalism theme after the article!)

But hey, not that I'm a killjoy. I like my turkey and stuffing too. My celebration just has nothing to do with honoring those violent religious exiles from England, the Pilgrims.


by Susan Bates

Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast. And that did happen - once.

The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.

But as word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. But the Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.

In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.

Cheered by their "victory", the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.

Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- where it remained on display for 24 years.

The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.

This story doesn't have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast. But we need to learn our true history so it won't ever be repeated. Next Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families. They, also took time out to say "thank you" to Creator for all their blessings.

It is sad to think that this happened, but it is important to understand all of the story and not just the happy part. Today the town of Plymouth Rock has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving. There are still Wampanoag people living in Massachusetts. In 1970, they asked one of them to speak at the ceremony to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival. Here is part of what was said:

"Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people.

Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important."


"That's right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work!"

-- from chapter six of: "Dead White Guys or What Your History Books Never Told You,"

I don't want to debate which is better, communism (often equated falsely with 'socialism') or capitalism. (For the record, a communist nation has never existed; I hope you all realize that.) I just want to point out the silliness of the line of reasoning above.

Long before Marx, and long, long before the Pilgrims -- even after the Pilgrims -- tribal societies, including the native American Indians, practiced communal or collective farming. And it worked. It may not have gotten them skyscrapers and Gatling guns, but it kept them fed and clothed. It kept humanity going for tens of thousands of years.

The main reason collective farming didn't work for the Pilgrims is because it was completely new to them. The Puritans certainly hadn't lived that way back home in England; they were mostly middle class professionals -- less than 1/3 were farmers, to the Puritans' detriment in America! So, what they tried in the American wilderness was something idealistic but ultimately naive, and, contrary to their own poltical culture and habits in England.

Despite their Christian zeal, their heart just wasn't in it to live all for one, one for all. Nor did they know how.