Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bush's unintentional humor

The Republican base is riled over the immigration reform bill and Limbaugh is leading the charge. Caught a snippet of his show at lunch and laughed out loud when he played audio of a testy-sounding President Bush attacking opponents of immigration reform (emphasis mine; listen here, timestamp 23:45).
"Amnesty is forgiveness for being here without any penalties -- that's what amnesty is. I oppose it. The authors -- many of the authors of this bill oppose it. This bill is not an amnesty bill. If you want to scare the American people, what you say is, the bill is an amnesty bill. It's not an amnesty bill. That's empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our fellow citizens.
So ... how's that feel?

But George, George, it's not their fault. You trained them too well.

Not to worry. The president got right back on his game a few paragraphs later:
... Convictions run deep. Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like. If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it, you can use it to frighten people. "
That's our George. Right back to guilt-tripping and questioning peoples' patriotism.

"Your either with Us or ..."

Monday, May 28, 2007

But what if we stay?

Glenn Greenwald balances the ledger on risks associated with Iraq. In selling the product surge proponents (the original invasion proponents) catalogue only one set of risks -- those that favor their view. While invasion proponents were busily hyping the risks of taking no action against Iraq, Howard Dean was pointing out the risks associated with invasion: fanning anti-American sentiment, civil war, regional instability, etc.

The current "should I stay or should I go" debate features the same conservative pundits repeating the same mistakes, Greenwald insists.
But these same pundits who dole out lectures about how Seriousness requires an acknowledgment of risks focus -- just as they did when advocating the invasion -- on only one side of the risk ledger. These Serious War Pundits studiously ignore the risks of keeping 150,000 troops in the middle of that region under the control of George Bush and Dick Cheney. There is virtually no discussion of the risks of that course of action.

The most glaring of these risks is the prospect of military conflict with Iran -- the by-product not of some deliberative democratic debate over whether to go to war with that country, but rather a natural outgrowth of our occupation of Iraq.
That and the fact that war with Iran and Syria is just what the war hawks want.
All of the super-serious and responsible pundits may be drowning in angst over the fact that we cannot leave Iraq because it is so very vital that, before we leave, we stabilize that country and turn it into a beacon of democracy, or at least avert even worse violence. But however laudable that goal might be, that is not the goal of the people controlling our actual strategy in Iraq. Stabilizing Iraq in order to leave is not what they are interested in.
As Atrios suggests this morning, this isn't a bad war that more time, money and lives will magically turn into a good one.
The reality is George Bush and his merry band of incompetent psychopaths are in power for the next 20 months. 20 more months of the war-as-product-for-domestic-consumption rather than as an occupation to be understood. 20 more months of thinking about this being about "terrorists" and "the enemy" instead of series of conflicts we're in the middle of (yes there are people engaging in terrorism and yes there are "bad guys," but this problem isn't solved by rounding up all the bad guys and killing them).
It's a policy run by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. What are the risks of leaving them free to run further amuck in the Middle East until they leave office.

Assuming they plan to. Even the conservative World Net Daily is fretting over this:
President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.

[. . .]

When the president determines a catastrophic emergency has occurred, the president can take over all government functions and direct all private sector activities to ensure we will emerge from the emergency with an "enduring constitutional government."

Translated into layman's terms, when the president determines a national emergency has occurred, the president can declare to the office of the presidency powers usually assumed by dictators to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over.
Time to pull the plug.

Supporting which troops?

Today's NY Times profiles Delta Company troops' attitudes about their mission in Iraq. The mission has its roadside hazards:
“I thought: ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”
Minor problem. The president insists we're making good progress in Iraq.

Scepticism of the mission doesn't dampen Delta's performance, however. “My guys are all professionals. I tell them to do something, they do it.” says Capt. Douglas Rogers. But an April 29 incident has changed attitudes about the conflict's eventual outcome. After a two-hour gun battle, among the dead insurgents American troops identified at least two Iraqi soldiers they'd helped train.
Captain Rogers admits, “The 29th was a watershed moment in a negative sense, because the Iraqi Army would not fight with us,” adding, “Some actually picked up weapons and fought against us.”

The battle changed the attitude among his soldiers toward the war, he said. “Before that fight, there were a few true believers.” Captain Rogers said. “After the 29th, I don’t think you’ll find a true believer in this unit. They’re paratroopers. There’s no question they’ll fulfill their mission. But they’re fighting now for pride in their unit, professionalism, loyalty to their fellow soldier and chain of command.”
In another story, the Times reports that globalization is working well for terrorism. Iraq is now exporting fighters to other countries in the region to prepare attacks "on Americans and Jews."

We've been told repeatedly that Bush's "fly paper" strategy in Iraq -- using American troops as live bait for all our enemies in Iraq, both foreign and domestic -- would keep America's foes from following us home. Once again, our civilian leaders' assurances prove mistaken if not phony.

But America is the land of endless second chances. So the next time Bush & Co. deliver their "if we pull out they'll follow us" defense for the Iraq debacle, will someone please suggest that we redeploy troops to Afghanistan where Bush lost his way and Osama bin Laden? Maybe They will follow us there. Maybe Bush could find his way again (and a viable mission) where he first lost it. On Memorial Day, it would be an excellent way to support Delta Company, their comrades and their mission.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Immigration bill divides GOP

[Updated below]

Today's L.A. Times riffs on the rift over "competing visions for how to rebuild and maintain a base of loyal Republican voters." Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were both booed by Republican crowds in their home states over support for the compromise immigration bill.
"I believe that not to play this card right would be the destruction of our party," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), the Cuban-born general chairman of the Republican National Committee, who helped write Senate legislation creating a path to citizenship for most of the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. "Hispanics make up about 13% of our country and by 2020 will be closer to 20%. It is a demographic trend that one cannot overlook."

Directing his criticism squarely at [Rush] Limbaugh, Martinez added, "He has emotion on his side, but I think I have logic on mine."
Good luck with that.

While Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) tries to leverage animosity towards illegal immigrants into a viable presidential bid, he's inflaming the GOP base while turning off Latino voters. The LA Times reports that Latino support for Republicans has slipped from 40% to 30% between 2004 and 2006.

"We're getting close to the point where we will no longer be a national party if we try to define it as a white male, cul-de-sac, gated-community party," said John Weaver, McCain's chief strategist.
Good luck with that too.

UPDATE: Immigration bill divides GOP from the rest of the country

Friday's story on the New York Times/CBS News poll shows a strong consensus behind the kind of reforms in the compromise immigration bill. The accompanying NYT graphic shows a persistent 30% +/- opposed to the proposed plan. (Is it just a coincidence that that's about the same as the president's approval rating?)

"Amnesty!" they cry when immigrants face fines for breaking the law. (Though that's seemingly acceptable for American businesses who employ illegals.) Apparently, anything less than deportation will satisfy Justice. Or is deportation amnesty too? After all, U.S. laws have been broken. Perhaps they should all be jailed?

Will amnesty-phobes put their wallets where their emotions are? Would they support a tax increase to support the international spectacle of rounding up millions of illegals, putting them on busses and trains (if not in jails), and for building and manning hundreds of miles of border fences? After all, it's for securing our freedom, America, and all she stands for.

Maybe we can buy some fencing -- surplus -- in Berlin.

[h/t Scrutiny Hooligans]

Friday, May 25, 2007

The courage of politicians

Lots of flack in the air over the Iraq funding vote by Democrats. Most of it well-deserved.

Lots of anger and frustration. Lots of promises to abandon the Democrats and/or run against them.

But few comments as useful as this from Paul at Alien & Sedition:
The single-best piece of advice for progressives is still Franklin Roosevelt's admonishment to that group of labor leaders who visited him in the Oval Office with a demand: "You have convinced me. Now go out and find a constituency and make me do it." This is the principle around which the entire conservative media and political edifice is built.

The lesson of the 2004 election was that the fortunes of a political movement cannot ride upon the fate of a presidential campaign; if anything, it should be the other way around.

Likewise, the fortunes of a political movement cannot be made dependant upon the courage of politicians. The point of a political movement is to make the courage of politicians irrelevant.
While "movement conservatism" crumbles, Democrats still quake like Dorothy & friends at the large, loud talking head, even though they know it's all a show by the party behind the curtain.

What the Iraq funding vote shows is that the Bushies' weakness is not the same as Democratic strength. Democrats won't find theirs in any wizard's black bag. What they lack is spine. Either they have it already or they don't.

But as Paul's Roosevelt story points out, that's their problem. Ours is to make their lack of spine irrelevant, to make them do the right thing in spite of themselves. Our job is to do that by supplanting dying movement conservatism with a viable, reformist movement progressivism. Our job is to build a bigger, better, more irresistible movement they cannot ignore.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Nightmares on Your St.

Glenn Greenwald cites a Pew poll and takes up where we left off in Republican the 13th, Part 2:

Note that majorities of white Christians want to torture not merely actual terrorists, but they also want to torture "terrorist suspects" as well, i.e., a group that almost certainly includes perfectly innocent people.

And majorities of white Christians -- Catholics, evangelicals and protestants -- believe in torture not merely in the improbable-in-the-extreme "ticking time bomb" scenario; rather, they believe in torture as a matter of course (i.e., more than "rarely" -- either "often or "sometimes").
No, Viginia, it's not Father O'Malley's church anymore.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

ACVR: Gone but not forgotten

On Friday, Slate posted an important piece on an organization that the Brad Blog has been following for some time.

The American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) has been one of the major promoters of the phony "vote fraud" meme behind the push for "voter ID" laws, etc. In the wake of the US attorney scandal where DOJ is taking getting heat for replacing US attorneys (ostensibly) for not pursuing vote fraud cases where there was no evidence to support them, ACVR has closed up shop, vanishing almost overnight:

Its Web domain name has suddenly expired, its reports are all gone (except where they have been preserved by its opponents), and its general counsel, Mark "Thor" Hearne, has cleansed his résumé of affiliation with the group. Hearne won't speak to the press about ACVR's demise.

The death of ACVR says a lot about the Republican strategy of raising voter fraud as a crisis in American elections. Presidential adviser Karl Rove and his allies, who have been ghostbusting illusory dead and fictional voters since the contested 2000 election, apparently mounted a two-pronged attack. One part of that attack, at the heart of the current Justice Department scandals, involved getting the DoJ and various U.S. attorneys in battleground states to vigorously prosecute cases of voter fraud. That prong has failed. After exhaustive effort, the Department of Justice discovered virtually no polling-place voter fraud, and its efforts to fire the U.S. attorneys in battleground states who did not push the voter-fraud line enough has backfired. Even if Attorney General Gonzales declines to resign his position, his reputation has been irreparably damaged.

But not enough to quash the push back home in Texas for voter ID. As the Houston Chronicle reports:
Republicans like the voter ID bill because they believe it will weaken Democrats, but can argue that it is a reasonable requirement.

[. . .]

In his letter, [Texas Lt. Gov.] Dewhurst cited "independent polls, like one recently conducted by Austin-based Baselice & Associates." [Base-lice?]

Mike Baselice isn't exactly independent. He is Gov. Rick Perry's pollster and most of his clients are Republicans.

[. . .]

The poll found 95 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats support using photo IDs.

[. . .]

Among Republicans it is an "article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections," Masset said. He doesn't agree with that, but does believe that requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a dropoff in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote.
As the editors at Marvel say, 'Nuff said.

Flip-flop season

The WaPo has Digby making hay of watching the GOP explain Romney, Giuliani, et. al.
Update: oh, and by the way, in case you think the flip-flopping charge would work against any of the Republicans, think again. The press have declared the issue dead since all the Republicans are flip-floppers, so it's not a useful issue anymore. Indeed, it's now called "evolving."
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is supporting Romney in the presidential race, said that he struggled when he arrived in Congress in 1999 with trying to reconcile lessons learned in the private sector with votes he was taking on the floor of the House and, as a result, some of his policy stances evolved over the years.

DeMint said Romney had been far more consistent than he had been portrayed by the media. On abortion, DeMint said that Romney's "values have always been the same" and that when Romney "saw his political position was out of sync with his personal values, he changed it."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Republican the 13th, Part 2

This week's second Republican presidential debate brought to mind a 1980(?) "Sneak Previews" episode with movie reviewers Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

Their "Women in Danger" special attacked then-popular slasher films. Siskel and Ebert ended with an unusual appeal to moviegoers: stop going to see these movies "because if you stop going to see them, Hollywood will stop making them, and then we won't have to go see them." They decried the films for their disturbing misogyny and point-of-view murders in which the audience becomes the homicidal maniac.

The creepiest aspect of going to see such films, Ebert explained, wasn't what was on screen, but who was sitting next to you in the theater. He recalled one screening where (on screen) yet another attractive, independent-minded female tiptoed through yet another dark attic. But what really raised the hair on Ebert's arms was the male patron beside him muttering to himself darkly, "She's gonna get it now."

Flash forward.

Republican presidential candidates in Columbia, SC fell over themselves to endorse interrogating suspected terrorist prisoners using torture - I'm sorry, "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Their display was almost as creepy as the audience reaction as candidates tried to one-up each other in what moral depravities they would sink to in handling terrorist suspects. When Sen. John McCain - the only candidate with bona fides on the issue as both a former prisoner and torture victim - spoke out against torture as un-American, audience members sat on their hands in stony silence. Romney, Giuliani and others endorsed Jack Bauer 24-style rough handling of prisoners and pegged the applause-o-meter.

But talk is cheap, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert offered, suggesting the next Republican debate feature a live suspected terrorist, properly hooded and wired, with each candidate given 30 seconds to make them talk, because "Actions scream louder than words."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The path to security

"That is the path to security, and back to ourselves."

More military men argue against the Republican torture policy after GOP candidates (excepting McCain) argued in favor of it in this week's debate. Romney says,"We ought to double Guantanamo." Followed by enthusiastic applause.

Comey's bombshell

Watch it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Creative destruction

The Boston Globe wonders about the sale of Chrysler Corporation to Cerberus Capital Management, and whether workers need a little "buffer" from globalization's "creative destruction."
The people who put together the Chrysler sale won't be worrying about their own pensions or healthcare. At their level of compensation, they are assured the best of both. And if Cerberus managers can turn around Chrysler, they'll deserve lucrative stock options and bonuses. There's enough wealth in this economy, however, that the people who make the cars, as well as though who make the deals, should be protected in illness and old age
In this morning's New York Times Michael Kinsley chronicles the ownership history of Avis to explain how much of modern business is really finance. Heaven forbid anyone who runs the place should know anything about renting cars.

Why make or rent cars when you can make money flipping the companies and employees who do?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Bottom Line

Part 4: Code Talkers

Part 5: The Bottom Line

Consistency is not one of mankind's defining attributes, unless we're talking about the pursuit of our basest desires.

American conservatism acknowledges that reality in its own split-brained way. To the social conservative, that way lies sin - those base desires must be tamed. To the economic conservative, that way lies progress, freedom. "By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society," as Adam Smith wrote. Through pursuit of self-interest a man shapes his world as he sees fit and best enjoys his God-given freedom. Greed is good.

Government (other people) just get in the way. "[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," President Reagan declared, as though somehow distinct from the beast of which he'd just become the head. The Oval Office's current occupant, his team of sycophants and a Republican-controlled congress (even the Clinton administration) made a demonstration project of Reagan's declaration, hoping finally to free us from the regulatory chains that bind us from pursuing personal gain without regard for anyone else.

Hence Iraq, Katrina, Abramoff, Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Global Crossing, etc.

Economic conservatism is about the bottom line: my bottom line. Maybe that's why conservatives have such an affinity for corporations.

Their "leave us alone" tendencies find expression in assertions that, say, the Virginia Tech shootings might not have happened if more people carried guns. Like free people in Mogadishu, Sarajevo and Baghdad.

Unfettered capitalism (or something close to it) is the "leave us alone" crowd's goal as well. Given how successful their theories about guns have proved when tested in the cities just mentioned, what does unfettered capitalism look like?

Last Sunday's New York Times gives us an inkling.

In China's wild-west style economy, the lack of oversight means those seeking to enhance their bottom line unencumbered by onerous government regulation are free to pursue their Chinese Dream.
In this environment, Wang Guiping, a tailor with a ninth-grade education and access to a chemistry book, found it easy to enter the pharmaceutical supply business as a middleman. He quickly discovered what others had before him: that counterfeiting was a simple way to increase profits.

[. . .]

“He didn’t know what he was doing,” Mr. Wang’s older brother, Wang Guoping, said in an interview. “He didn’t understand chemicals.”

But he did understand how to cheat the system.

Wang Guiping, 41, realized he could earn extra money by substituting cheaper, industrial-grade syrup — not approved for human consumption — for pharmaceutical grade syrup. To trick pharmaceutical buyers, he forged his licenses and laboratory analysis reports, records show.

Mr. Wang later told investigators that he figured no harm would come from the substitution, because he initially tested a small quantity. He did it with the expertise of a former tailor.

He swallowed some of it. When nothing happened, he shipped it.
"It" was a cheap substitute for pharmaceutical-grade glycerin. Later he found an even cheaper substitute: diethylene glycol, a primary ingredient in antifreeze. It ended up in cough syrup in Panama where reportedly well over 300 died. (They haven't been able to get an accurate count of the number who died.)

"Seventy years ago, medicine laced with diethylene glycol killed more than 100 people in the United States, leading to the passage of the toughest drug regulations of that era and the creation of the modern Food and Drug Administration," the Times reported.

It's a "bottom line mentality," says Prof. Donald McCabe of Rutgers University. Only McCabe was speaking to NPR about the recent expulsion of graduate students at Duke's business school for cheating. Among undergraduates McCabe's recent survey finds that "business students and occasionally engineering students" rise to the top in terms of self-reported cheating, with MBA students rising to the top among graduate students.

Their attitude, says McCabe, is "I'm just learning a skill that's going to serve me well when I'm out there in the profession. It's less important how you get the job done as long as you do get it done. So, that bottom line mentality."

We saw the bottom line mentality at work recently in the poisoned pet food containing rice protein concentrate (and other bulk food products) from China contaminated with melamine, an ingredient in some plastics. Apparently, Chinese exporters used melamine to boost the apparent protein content and their bottom lines.

Are we now exporting bottom-line thinking?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Vote fraud vs. election fraud

One thing that gets lost in the Republican vote fraud hype is the distinction between vote fraud (in which individual voters vote illegally) and election fraud (in which there is an organized effort to subvert an election). I wish more people would not blur that distinction. Republicans have already worked hard to blur it for them.

Rove and Co. are engaged in a campaign of vote suppression (election fraud) supported by allegations of rampant vote fraud. They use a technique similar to the one used to convince Americans that Saddam and 9/11 were connected. (They rarely said explicitly that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. They repeatedly threw them together in sentences, enough times that people made the connection for them, while they maintained they never made such a claim.) Today they cry vote fraud. Repeated enough times, people will infer there is an organized effort (by Democrats) to commit election fraud, when it's really the GOP pursuing that. Republicans might actually have to uncover real, substantive evidence to sustain a myth of election fraud by the Democratic party, but find an ACORN worker here or a felon there who commits vote fraud and they've got enough to sustain the myth that election fraud is rampant, requiring measures like voter ID, etc. aimed suppressing turnout among groups of likely Democratic voters.

Discussing the issue this week in Salon, Garrett Epps introduced it this way:
By evil chance, I spent the Saturday night before Election Day 2000 at a jolly dinner for high-level Republicans. Most of the talk over the entrees concerned why then-candidate George W. Bush had been too pusillanimous to tell the voters that Al Gore was not just a liberal, but a Soviet-style Marxist-Leninist. But as the desserts circulated, so too did a piece of comic relief -- an anonymous leaflet explaining to voters that because of heavy voter registration, the rules had been changed: Republicans would vote on Tuesday, Democrats and independents on Wednesday.
[h/t The Errington Thompson Show]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Real Democrats [please check box]

Some local progressives are irate because their congressman didn’t vote for H.R. 1592, The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. They’re pissed that Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) voted against a bill I suspect most of them haven’t read. The bill won overwhelmingly in the House and is destined to be vetoed by President Bush if it clears the Senate.

Doesn’t matter. Bush wouldn’t enforce it if it did get by him. One more reason they’re pissed.

After sixteen years of Republican Charles Taylor, they’re ready to throw his new Democratic replacement under the bus because he’s what they knew from the start: an anti-Iraq war social conservative. It’s the very reason he was able to unseat Charles Taylor in the first place, helping Democrats retake the House and bring some heat to the Bush administration.

Not good enough.

We're proving what Kos says is wrong with Democratic politics – that being a Democrat in good standing is about checking off enough check boxes on the laundry list of liberal causes.

Vision? Big picture? What big picture?

Politics is process. Republicans think long term. They built a well-funded, disciplined movement, working steadily, methodically crafting and disseminating a message in the minority for thirty years before retaking Congress in 1994 and holding it through 2006. We can’t manage six months.

Under Charles Taylor, liberals in this conservative district got none of what they wanted. Under Heath Shuler, they now get some of what they wanted. They’re apoplectic because they aren’t getting all of what they wanted.

All or nothing. My way or the highway.

Where have you heard that recently?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bush gets a talking to

11 GOP Congressmen to Bush: You’ve Lost Credibility

Only one thing left for him to do.

Bomb Iran.

[h/t Crooks & Liars]

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Code Talkers

Part 3: Bad Apples

Part 4: Code Talkers

Rhetorically, neoconservative spokesmen on television and on the blogs often practice a studied vagueness when advancing their agendas.

Glenn Greenwald recently took them to task for this evasiveness, citing debates at The National Review Online’s, The Corner:
“… what one finds in almost every debate about Iran - is that while the Warriors will mock and oppose every attempt to resolve the U.S.-Iranian conflicts short of war, they never have the courage to expressly say what it is that they actually favor. The reason for that refusal is clear: they oppose negotiations because they crave full-on military confrontation with Iran (or, at the very least, the use of force to bring about regime change), but they know that expressly advocating that will cause them to be stigmatized as the dangerous radicals that they are. So they keep using code to talk about the need to show strength and toughness towards Iran and never appease them -- and they mock every option designed to avoid war -- while lacking the courage of their convictions to say what they actually think.”
Greenwald is correct about their agenda being hidden behind code talk. But they also use code in “the meaning of 'is'” fashion to advance the Big Lie while providing themselves plausible deniability should anyone try to hold them accountable, as Big Liars or in a court of law.

The salesmanship Bush administration officials displayed in promoting the Iraq war is a classic example. Over and over in the lead up to invasion, spokesmen placed the Iraqi regime and September 11 side by side in describing the terrorist threat.

Iraq / al-Qaeda
Saddam / bin Laden
Iraq / terrorists
Saddam / September 11

The Vice-president was still using that technique in 2006.

A large segment of the American people became convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Yet when pushed to answer directly, the Bush administration denied having made that case, or said there was no proof. Rarely did any administration spokesperson say explicitly that Iraq was responsible for the September 11 attacks. They didn’t need to.

Here’s how it’s done in sleight-of-hand fashion and in plain view. Simply place two bad actors’ names close together on the marquee and passersby will believe they are in the same movie. Place them together prominently and repeatedly and your audience will make the connection for you, a connection that – technically – your grammar never did.

The propaganda technique calls to mind a semi-accurate e-mail that circulated widely in September 2003:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
Neconservative code talkers convey their message similarly, without having to spell things out clearly, expose themselves to accusations of lying, or take responsibility for what they say clearly implies.

Many neoconservatives lack the courage of their convictions this way about many topics -- they hint at their extremist ideas without having the courage or honesty to expressly state them. That practice is consistent with the founding principles of neoconservative theory. Neoconservatism does not believe in the virtues of democratic debate, but instead views itself as the vanguard of a superior elite which formulates wise policy in secret and then deceitfully packages it in digestible Manichean form to the idiot masses (that is how we travel from a long-standing, pre-9/11 desire to invade Iraq for all sorts of geopolitical reasons to a marketing product "justifying" that invasion based on the claim that 9/11 Changed Everything, Saddam was connected to those attacks, he would give his Bad Weapons to the Terrorists, and Freedom is On The March).
Greenwald’s recent run-in with neoconservative columnist Frank Gaffney on Alan Colmes radio show is a case in point.

Gaffney’s February 14 Washington Times column led with a bogus Abraham Lincoln quote:
Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.
The column criticized Sen. Carl Levin and others for looking into the cherry-picked pro-Iraq war intelligence spoon fed to the White House by Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, actions the Defense Department’s own Inspector General called “inappropriate.”

Gaffney concluded:
If there's one thing that really should be a hanging offense, it is behavior that results in our being even less equipped to deal with such threats than we were before this phase of the War for the Free World began on September 11, 2001.
When called on his column’s “dissent equals treason” argument, Gaffney answered with studied neoconservative vagueness, asserting that ”inappropriate behavior” in time of war “has consequences” for which people should be “held accountable.” Listeners are left to fill in the blanks in those phrases themselves.
“I’m talking about behavior, not debate, but behavior that I believe is contributing to two things. One, the impedence of people who have the responsibilities of guiding our national security from challenging intelligence assessments and analyses that are now widely regarded to have been wrong on a number of different counts. I think that’s a very pernicious step and one that would have grave consequences over time ... This great president (Lincoln) recognized that those who would weaken the country, who would deliberately undermine the military should be subjected to silencing.”
For Gaffney, debate (speech) is not objectionable – stifling free speech being un-American – it’s the act of debating (behavior) to which he objects. Asked if he was advocating hanging Senators, Gaffney got angry. He kept repeating his “consequences” and “held accountable” talking points, insisting he was being very clear what he meant.

He was being clear, to those with ears to hear the code spoken in neoconservative parables.

Next: The Bottom Line

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Engineers R Us

Yesterday NPR’s Morning Edition interviewed Vivek Wadhwa, a Duke researcher and former tech executive who examined the statistics underlying the popular assumption that America has a shortage of trained engineers. Corporate executives have cited the alleged shortage as the reason they seek out engineering talent overseas. NPR played an audio clip of Bill Gates citing the shortage as the reason Microsoft has a campus in India.

The Duke study disputes the notion that America’s engineering talent is insufficient to meet the needs of American employers, either in quantity or in quality. Wadhwa concludes that the engineer shortage (at least in aggregate) does not exist. While it is true that India is turning out large numbers of engineers, many of them are unemployable, Wadhwa himself alleges. The training available to US students still exceeds the education students acquire there. His concern is that the continued loss of research and development jobs to offshore locations will eventually erode America’s competitive edge.

Corporate executives Wadhwa spoke with admit privately that the number one reason for offshoring is "cost, cost, cost." When he ran a tech firm, Wadhwa had outsourced to India and Russia for that reason. NPR asked, if he should ever find himself running a tech firm again, what he would do differently.

“If I was a tech entrepreneur I would act in my own company's interests,” Wadhwa replied unapologetically, “and I would find the cheapest labor, the best quality I could, and I would go overseas right now. That's where the problem is with the system ...”

The interviewer was taken aback.

“Well, that's what the problem is. That's capitalism. The system rewards you for doing what's in your own interest."

For example, the interests of Gates the philanthropist and Gates the chairman of Microsoft are different, Wadhwa argues. Gates "doesn't get paid to worry about U.S. competitiveness and to worry about social issues as the chairman of Microsoft."

And that's the problem as Wadhwa sees it. The system forces managers into making decisions based solely economic interests. It forces the champions of public morality into arguing that greed is good (for business). Please, check your conscience and patriotism at the door.

But Wadhwa is describing the nature of the public corporation, not capitalism itself. Capitalism existed millennia before the appearance of the corporate model for organizing businesses. It is only one model, but its success has made it so ubiquitous that we have come to accept it without examination as the model.

Politicians celebrate the mom-and-pop small business as the engine behind American prosperity and job growth, but our model of success is Wal-Mart. Since it went public Sam Walton’s five-and-dime chain has morphed into the world’s largest public corporation, bringing to communities what Hillary Clinton diplomatically described as a “mixed blessing.” That mixed blessing includes lower-cost consumer goods made in China, not here and – owing to Wal-Mart’s take-no-prisoners pricing – rapid death to its small competitors in towns across the country.

Would Sam recognize or approve of what his creation has become? Once he went public, Wal-Mart’s visionary creator lost control of his creation to its absentee landlords: the shareholders. The public corporation already exerts more control over human affairs than the people who created it or serve it.

As I have written before, our creation seems to have already grown beyond our control.
“The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.”

— Theodore Roosevelt, 1910