Friday, February 9, 2007

A Strange Coincidence (and Friday Reflection)

Is there a lawyer in the house? Take a look at this video and see if it makes any sense to you.

Now don't get me wrong, I am positively delighted for Lt. Watada, who is a truly brave young man, because he follows his own truth rather than a pack of lies that his government attempts to force-feed him. I would argue that this young man's behavior in facing this trial shows the same level of courage as would have been demanded of him had he rolled over and gone to Iraq against his conscience and his inner truth.

Where I smell a rat is the summary declaration of mistrial over the judge's negation of a pre-trial stipulation of fact that he reviewed along with lawyers for the defense and prosecution, and that all three of these parties had already agreed upon. And now, if I'm interpeting the defense lawyer's statement correctly, he's saying there can be no retrial here because you can't have a Brooklyn do-over in a court of law.

So much for my admittedly poor understanding of the legalities here. Now, for some reality, which I think I'm a little better at discerning: can anyone else smell a massive retreat before what was quickly developing into a PR shit-dinner? Is it possible that this military judge was instructed by his bosses--maybe all the way back up to Uncle Dick and Curious George themselves--to somehow get this trial off the table and out of the media headlights?

Just a know, mere blogosphere speculation.


For the Friday Reflection this week, we're presenting a potpourri of sorts (the banner quote is from one of my books, so nothing to get excited about there). There are some really fine social observers and political journalists out there, most of them on the periphery of the mainstream media. Let's hear from a few of them now.

We begin with one of my favorites, William Rivers Pitt of His latest piece is an examplary display of honesty, modesty, and some damned good writing. He freely admits to having been unhinged by a false, media-fueled bomb scare in Boston, and explains why his fear was so easily roused:

My fears were inspired by all the stuff I've been trying to telegraph to people for the last several years. This Iraq occupation, I've been arguing since the fall of 2002, will inspire more terrorism. A ten year old girl in Baghdad gets blown sideways out of her kitchen, a mother gets blasted in a sectarian street-battle in Fallujah, a father has menstrual blood smeared on his face in a cement cage in Abu Ghraib by leering US troops looking to humiliate those of his faith, a son gets shot by a US sniper in Najaf ... and the families of those people are going to pick up a gun and volunteer to die that they might kill.

Next is another writer I've cited many times here, Chris Hedges. He has a new book out with a title that may turn out to be more controversial than Jimmy Carter's. It's called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. If you've read many of the posts I've written here about the threat of fundamentalism, then you won't be surprised to hear that I think Hedges is right on target, especially with this:

The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic -- to fantastic visions of angels and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and Jesus will guide and protect them. This mythological worldview, one that has no use for science or dispassionate, honest intellectual inquiry, one that promises that the loss of jobs and health insurance does not matter, as long as you are right with Jesus, offers a lying world of consistency that addresses the emotional yearnings of desperate followers at the expense of reality. It creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true -- the very essence of the totalitarian state. It includes a dark license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens.

And finally, with tears leaking onto grizzled cheek, I present what I presume was Molly Ivins' last column. Somewhere in quantum space, she and Ann Richards are kicking up stardust, reminiscing, and reassuring us that this set of tyrants, like all before them, will fall before the will of a free people.

The war is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. It is his undoing — the public playing out of his fatal flaws, and the reason his second term will come to naught. It is the product of this president's arrogance and insecurity, as surely as an affair with an intern was the reflection of Bill Clinton's needs and denial. But unlike the last president's foolish affair, which he paid for dearly, we pay for this one. The difference between sex and war is the difference between a mistake even his wife can come to laugh about, and one that is an abiding national tragedy.

The most recent demonstration of this is the president's proposed federal budget. A budget is a statement of priorities, as well as a guide to allocating limited funds. The priority of the Bush budget is unmistakable. It is to fight George Bush's losing war. It is not just costing us our reputation and prestige in the world, not just costing us in terms of thousands of American lives, lost and maimed. It is costing us our shirts and undermining our goals.

According to the president's budget proposal, deep cuts are required in healthcare, education, transportation and support for basic human needs to finance the war in Iraq. "Our priority is to protect the American people," President Bush said after a Cabinet meeting this week devoted to the FY 2008 budget.

Not exactly. Our priority is not to protect the American people, but the Iraqi people. Otherwise, Bush wouldn't be looking to save $100 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, and limit which children are eligible for the Children's Health Insurance Program, in order to come up with the $141 billion that is to be allocated for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan next year — not to mention the total $623 billion for defense for 12 months.

Tell the kids who won't get health insurance that your priority is protecting them.

Tell the seniors who depend on Medicare and will have to pay more for prescription drugs that your priority is protecting them.

Tell the 1 million poor families who will lose the assistance they're now getting to purchase home heating oil that your priority is protecting them.

Who does George Bush think he's kidding?

How dumb does he think we are?

His priority is covering up his biggest mistake.

Bill Clinton lied about his mistake.

But George Bush is doing something even worse. He's robbing every American to pay the price for his.

Wars are expensive. You want to fight a war and, of course, not raise taxes to pay for it, but the money has to come from somewhere. It's coming from you and me, and going to Iraq. So it's not going to take care of sick kids and seniors, to educate young people, to fix the infrastructure of our own country. It's not going to fight the diseases that kill us. It's not going to local law enforcement, where the cut in federal support is estimated to be 75 percent even as crime is going up. It's going to try to stop the Sunnis and the Shiites from killing each other.

The Democrats will make a lot of noise about what's wrong with the budget and will probably succeed in resisting some of the cuts. But budgeting is a zero sum game. The end result will still be more debt and less money for services for the American people. The cost of continuing this travesty must be measured not only by what is happening there, but by what is not happening here.

The tragedy of the Clinton second term was not the Monica Lewinsky nonsense, but what the president might have accomplished had he and the Congress not been distracted and diverted by the mess of impeachment. But at least the country didn't get stuck with the tab. Our politics got destroyed, for a time, but we didn't. Government kept working. The budget was balanced, with a surplus. We didn't go into debt to pay his. George Bush's folly is far more costly because it defines our lives and future, as well as his.

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