The Real Reason we go to War

The New York Times recently published a lengthy piece on General Barry McCaffrey which should make the military-industrial complex unusually transparent to everyone. General McCaffrey is a regular “military expert” on NBC and other media outlets and tirelessly advocates for a larger military and more defense spending and is an enthusiast for the so-called War on Terror.

What General McCaffrey does not tell his viewers or listeners or readers is that he is also an employee– they call him a “consultant”– of a company called Defense Solutions which makes a lot of money selling military equipment to the United States Government.

General McCaffrey wants your children to die so that Defense Solutions makes a good profit.

Now I am quite sure that General McCaffrey would never put things quite so bluntly for himself. He wants no one to die, of course. He only believes in wars of national defense, when absolutely necessary, after all other avenues of resolution have been completely exhausted, or we are running out of oil.

Then again, General McCaffrey also argues that just because he is paid $10,000 or more a month by a defense contractor doesn’t mean he would ever recommend their products to the Pentagon unless he absolutely believed they were the best products on earth for the task required.

In other words– those fools at Defense Solutions! They’re wasting their money! They thought they were paying McCaffrey to get some kind of advantage when it comes to getting big fat Pentagon contracts! Ha ha! The joke is on you Defense Solutions– you didn’t get anything for your money that you wouldn’t have gotten anyway!!

I’m sure that once they see General McCaffrey’s comments, they will immediately cancel their wasteful contract with them.

And George Bush is going to go to work for Habitat for Humanity.

And the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny and Rudolph will all be there.

General McCaffrey Pimps War

The Real Sally Bowles

Someone named Hilary Baily– I’ve never heard of her– has written a novel about a search for the “real” Sally Bowles. It sounds like a rather thin premise for a book.

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During the production, Scott Roose and I wandered around the backstage area with a video camera interviewing various participants. Mike Broad, I believe, also shot some of this video. I have edited some of the interviews together with clips from the production and posted it to Youtube. [added November 26, 2008]

posted it to Youtube.  [added November 26, 2008]

I had heard once– I can’t remember where– that the “real” Sally Bowles died in a concentration camp. Very poignant. I remember being puzzled by that at first– she wasn’t Jewish– but, in the account I read somewhere, she got into trouble for speaking out against the Nazis.

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The truth is that “Sally Bowles” subsequently left Germany and moved back to England where she died in 1973, of natural causes. Her real name was Jean Ross. And she really was a lousy singer and actress. Apparently Ross was not very pleased with the transformation into Sally Bowles. And why would she be? It’s not a flattering portrait. At the same time, a certain constituency seems to regard her as a passionate, mischievous, spirited lass, whose only fault was that she loved too well, and often. By most accounts, Jean Ross’ life after Berlin was not very eventful.


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Twelve-year-olds of America: Unite!

If I were an American 12-year-old right now, I would get on the web, set up a new site called something like and start up an online petition. The petition will be to designate a representative to go to Washington and appear before Congress– with a phalanx of media, of course– to announce that the future taxpayers of America– today’s children and young people—do not agree to pay to bail out this generation from their own folly. They will not pay for the war. They will not pay for tax cuts to the rich. They will not pay for obscenely over-priced fighter planes.

Barack Obama does not have $750,000,000,000 and neither does George Bush. The U.S. government does not have this money either. The U.S. government has done something rather shocking. They borrowed the money from the 12-year-olds… without their consent. Yes, they are going to give the money to the big banks and the Detroit 3, and then they are going to pass the bill on to future taxpayers. They’re charging it all to our children.

No 12-year-old voted for Obama or Bush. They didn’t vote for Clinton either or anybody else who contributed to this mess. So why the hell should they pay for it? Why on earth should they simply accept that they are on the hook for this money? Since they didn’t vote for it, I think they have every right in the world to walk away from it.

I think this idea could really gather some momentum. It should start at a local school level with grade nine students meeting at lunch to elect a representative. All city and all county representatives would follow, and would meet at the state capital to elect national reps. They meet in Washington, with some cool adult chaperones, of course, like maybe Kristen Stewart and Bruce Springsteen, and then they march to the Capitol buildings and announce that the future tax-payers will not pay this bill.

The mechanism for doing this might be complicated. They could sell off a couple of aircraft carriers, and some national parks, and the statue of liberty. Might not be enough. They might have to simply garnishee it from social security. How do you like that?

While they’re at it, they should also announce they are not going to fight any more wars on behalf of old feeble rich white men anymore either. Any future war would have to have congressional support from more than half of all the black or Hispanic or female members. How ’bout that?

Added 2011-09:  Okay, I’m just saying. In essence, the government is borrowing money to buy a house for themselves but will also be available to the 12-year-olds to live in. When they are old enough, they will have to pay their share of the mortgage.

But it is also true that if you took away the insane massive tax cuts given to the wealthiest people in the country and the corporations, you could easily pay for all of the government programs and the wars and the weapons that are reasonably affordable.  What I object to is that while soldiers and middle-income earners make sacrifices for the war– big ones– the rich are actually making out like bandits with reductions to their tax burden.

That is obscene.

And the truth is, given a choice, the 12-year-olds will demand to live in the house that they don’t want to pay for. I’m just saying….

What would actually happen if the 12-year-olds of America could do this? Revoke their obligations to the present generation of borrowers? Who would loan the government money if it seemed the the next generations would simply revoke their obligations?

If only. The lenders would simply destroy the U.S. economy. Think it can’t be done? The Americans threatened to do it to the British and French over the Suez crisis in 1956. [Read the section under “Financial Pressures”.]

I Have Loved You Long and I Fooled You

The French movie “I’ve Loved You So Long” seems to be gathering respectable reviews in spite of a plot twist that would put Spielberg to shame if it weren’t so lucrative, in this business, to indulge in all manner of preposterous plot twists. But why have critics like Ebert and Beradinelli fallen over themselves to praise this hokum? Why does Berardinelli actually insist the movie is about how society treats someone who has committed a serious crime when the movie completely emasculates that point in the last scene?

Spoiler Alert

This movie is about how the viewer can congratulate him or herself for being compassionate and understanding towards a convicted child murderer because we find out, in the end, that she was not really a child murderer. She was merely a mother who loved too much.

Check out the movie “Little Children” for a movie that more boldly and genuinely challenges the viewer in terms of his or her ability to accept the presence in a community of a convicted criminal– who really is a convicted criminal.

Meryl Streep Can’t Sing

There have been shameful moments in Hollywood history this past decade– events and appearances and speeches that made a rational person cringe with revulsion and consider changing the channel to a preacher of faith healer or Fox News or anything… Hugh Grant. Halle Berry’s Oscar speech. Michael Moore chasing an elderly Charlton Heston down the walkway of his home. Chris Rock’s mockery of Jude Law…

And my nomination for the lowest of the low: Meryl Streep “singing” “Winner Takes it All” in Mama Mia. Performed in one take, according to the bedazzled talents behind the camera. And in interview after interview, the actors in the film admit that they never respected Abba back in the 70’s but now that they have been paid, they can see that they really were musical giants– and did you see Meryl nail it in one take? Suddenly, Bjorn Ulvaeus is the Swedish Bob Dylan.

This self-aggrandizing, cloying, critics-be-damned attitude is supposed to be lovable on some deeper level than I can ever imagine, like Sarah Palin’s leadership qualities or the expressions on the faces of Secret Service agents. But what if it is just as it appears to be: a massive, slobbering wet kiss of desperation: no, I don’t have any real talent, but because I am a celebrity, you may stand back astounded at my generosity of spirit, that I would be so silly on purpose. Because it’s just fun.

No it’s not. Real fun is the Beatles’ “Help”, “The Pink Panther”, and Abbie Hoffman threatening to surround the Pentagon with meditating hippies and levitate it (the generals announced that they would stop him). Abbie, not ABBA.

As Dr. Seuss once observed: this “fun” proclaimed by Meryl Streep is the wrong kind of fun. She has confused her own singing with the careful talent that Richard Lester applied to his films, and Peter Sellers to his, … when it is actually the kind of fun you do in your bedroom with your girlfriends during a sleepover.

The first lesson is the hardest: it’s not nearly as amusing for those watching as you think it is.

Abba Babble

The Palindrome

Enough already! I thought the end of the election would bring an end to the incessant fascination with the least fascinating politician out there: Sarah Palin. Get over it, horny Republicans! She’s not that interesting.

I didn’t think she was all that interesting from the start. As far as young, photogenic, female Republicans go, Condoleezza Rice, you could argue, is more interesting, because she is fairly smart, and even though she is the most over-rated politician in the U.S. Or was the most over-rated politician in the U.S. until Sarah Palin came along. Wait. All right, maybe Condoleezza Rice really isn’t that interesting.

So you think Sarah Palin is so hot? Why? Come on. What special qualities does she have that make her unique and interesting? Interesting ideas about the economy? Interesting ideas about the arts? Interesting ideas about leadership? Interesting ideas about energy? Interesting ideas about a single bloody thing on the entire planet? I didn’t think so. Interesting personality? In what way?

So all there is, we admit, sigh, are the looks. She is a relatively hot 43-year-old hockey mom. Bravo. There is a clip on Youtube of her in a red bathing suit competing in a beauty pageant. This, evangelical Americans tell us, is an asset.

So what it comes down to, really, is that she has become “interesting” because she received so much media coverage that people became curious about this person who was receiving so much media coverage. In other words, she became a celebrity: someone who is well-known for being well-known.

So McCain made the biggest strategic blunder of any recent political campaign and she hurt his candidacy and hurt his credibility and completely annihilated his argument that only people with the proper experience should run for high office and she ran a smarmy campaign about “real” Americans who could be white or gun-owners or embittered, clinging to their religion of Opieism (that the real America is Andy of Mayberry’s homogenous rural Aunt Bea-America), afraid of them, afraid of change, and lost.

The million dollar question is– why is she still here! Why is she still in the news? Who cares about her views on anything? She is a proven loser, and a proven dingbat who never belonged on the world stage.

And that’s why I hope she stays there, in the spotlight, the darling of the pro-life evangelical right. If the Democrats are really, really lucky– if God really blesses them, as I think he will– Sarah Palin will be the Republican nominee for 2012. And the Dobsonites and the other “values voters” will be ecstatic, and maybe we will finally have an election about those so-called “values”, and just maybe a resounding message about small-minded bigotry will be delivered at last.

Incidentally, in Colorado, a pro-life ballot initiative– a real measure of just how “mainstream” these values voters are– failed with 73% of voters rejecting it. Astonishingly, the organizers plan to take the same strategy– redefining “personhood”– national.

On Values Voters – Colorado’s Pro-Life Amendment 48
Kind of a weird site on the Colorado initiative… [down]

The site suggests that this is a scientific debate, not a “political” debate, and that science absolutely “proves” that life begins at conception. Of course, science also “proves” that the world is billions of years old, the earth is warming, vaccines work, and man descended from monkeys, and I would guess that most of the supporters of the Amendment 48 might have a problem with that science… and probably have a problem with science, period.

In spite of Kristi Burton’s attempts to secularize the debate and disguise it’s religious origins, the song playing in the background of the first video contains the lines, “Let it be said of us/that our hearts belong to Jesus”.

What would probably help these initiatives more than anything else? If the Republican Party became pro-choice. That’s the only way you could even begin to persuade mainstream America that abortion is something other than a wedge issue to attract gullible evangelicals to support tax cuts for the rich and subsidies for corporations and deregulation of toxic industries.


The Mainstream Media is Right

In today’s Washington Post– and all over the place, actually– several right wing pundits are weeping their little eyes out because the Mainstream Media is so biased that it gave overwhelmingly favorable coverage to Obama and overwhelmingly hostile coverage to McCain. McCain, in fact, stopped talking to the media early on in the general election campaign because he thought they were all “for Obama”.

Is it true?

And if it’s true, does it matter?

1. If it matters, how come Bush was able to win two elections without the slightest assistance from the MSM? How come McCain didn’t complain about bias when he was the media’s darling? And how dare the MSM disapprove of John Hagee anyway, or Gordon Liddy, or James Dobson, just because they are crypto-fascists?

The fact is that even if there was a conspiracy, it couldn’t work: the internet has made it impossible for anyone to effectively suppress news. If a story really was suppressed– that would become the story, as it often does, when you see even liberal columnists bemoan the alleged bias of the media. (They somberly note that more favorable stories have appeared about Obama than about McCain.)

But what if Obama is the better candidate?

In short, McCain says it’s snowing and Obama says it’s raining, the media is biased if they look outside. [With thanks to Campbell Brown, CNN Editor, in Time Magazine this week.]

2. What about Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, ABC, and all the other conservative outlets? I could almost buy the bias argument without choking if any of these whiners would actually think to mention that Fox News is at least as biased– and, more reasonably, actually far more biased– than CBS or the New York Times. We often accuse our enemies of the flaw we most recognize in ourselves.

3. If the MSM really unfairly ignored the William Ayers story, then Fox News would most certainly have uncovered any relevant facts. But Fox News and conservative columnists kept ranting about William Ayers without providing the slightest evidence of anything about the matter that was relevant to the election. What Fox News did do was give air time to some of the most poorly documented and scurrilous stories circulating among the fanatical fringes. Obviously, they can safely assume that most of their loyal readers and listeners don’t read very widely.

4. Nobody tied Sarah Palin to a chair and forced her to provide Katie Couric with inane answers to sensible questions. Nobody forced her to chat for six minutes with a bad imitator of French President Sarkozy. Nobody forced her to identify white rural citizens as “real” Americans.

5. Did the MSM largely ignore Biden’s gaffes? I don’t know of any gaffe by Biden that would have caused anyone to doubt his knowledge, abilities, or competence. Even his comment about Obama being tested by America’s enemies soon after taking office wasn’t even really all that controversial– does McCain really believe he won’t be?

6. Would you really go to Fox for actual news over the New York Times, Washington Post, or L.A. Times? Okay– the Wall Street Journal and Globe & Mail– conservative papers– provide a fair bit of real journalism. But then, you don’t hear their columnists ranting on and on about liberal bias. The most conservative columnists, like the most conservative politicians who never seem to actually serve in any wars (McCain is the exception), never actually seem to do any reporting– just opinions.

7. As even many conservative columnists agree, Obama ran an absolutely superb campaign, perhaps one of the best in recent history. He was supremely well-organized and efficient, and he raised enormous sums of money. He was consistent and prudent and unflappable. The MSM accurately reported. That’s not bias: that’s journalism.

8. The conservative press assumes that all Americans share their anguish that Obama doesn’t seem very eager to blow things up, bomb foreign cities, or spend trillions on obsolete, ineffective weapons systems. How dare he. They are even more astonished that any sane person would have the slightest concern for the environment at a time when Wall Street Investors actually have to bear some risk for their investments.

What is “bias”?

Everyone talks as if there is a common understanding of what “bias” looks like. Take the example of Obama’s alleged association with William Ayers. This issue puzzled me. I heard from conservative pundits that there was something nefarious afoot here and the MSM was not reporting it. All right, I thought. Let Fox News– biased the other way– report it. So I went to Fox News, and Charles Krauthammer, and George Will, and the others, and waited to be enlightened with information the MSM had ignored or concealed. What was that information? What new evidence of a covert relationship did they have? What shocking story did they have to tell?

Well, it turns out that the shocking story they had to tell was that the MSM didn’t find anything particular sinister about Obama’s relationship with Ayers. They met a few times and Ayers, who lives openly in Chicago and, in fact, was voted “citizen of the year” by the City of Chicago for his extensive work promoting educational programs. Here’s CNN’s take on the issue.

The “bias” here is expressed as the conclusion drawn by responsible journalists that the Ayer’s story has no real significance or relevance to Obama’s candidacy. They worked together on two boards of charitable organizations that were clearly active promoting progressive social causes. They probably served together on a panel addressing juvenile justice issues. The odd thing is that one might reasonably argue that Obama’s association with this community activist has flattering implications. Think about it. Ayers was a radical in the 60’s, but he grew up, he matured, and learned to work within the “system”. He clearly is dedicated to working with disadvantaged youth in the City of the Chicago. How awful is it that Obama, a community organizer, would end up working with him on several worthy projects?

Now the pundits over at Fox News seem to perceive something dangerous in this activity. But that’s not because biased MSM reporters ignored important details. It’s because they don’t share the same extremist values of the conservative pundits who find the very idea of “progress” hysterically frightening because it applies to the lives of working Americans instead of the portfolios of investors.

So what the hell is going on here, with this “bias” argument? Is this all there is? Is this typical of the conservative arguments against Obama? Now I understand what they mean by “bias”.

It should surprise no one that at least some Republicans are immediately presenting the bullshit argument that somehow Obama didn’t really win a mandate. When Republicans win the election by concealing their real policies of shifting wealth from working people to investors, it’s because voters want them to govern. When Democrats win by campaigning on policies that benefit the middle classes–as Obama clearly did–, the voters were “deceived or misguided”. So John Boehner wants you to believe. That justifies the Republicans in Congress being as obstructionist as possible. Precisely the kind of politics the voters rejected by choosing Obama.

If Obama wanted to get his way more efficiently, he could just do what Bush did to get his way on Iraq: lie through his teeth.


America as theocracy.

Grand schemes don’t work and we need a strong military because human nature is corruptible; less government is better because man is so good he can be trusted not to exploit or abuse the weak. God created the world but he doesn’t want us to take good care of it. Because I am pro-life I think we should kill criminals. I believe in truth and integrity so I smear my political opponents. George Bush is godly and frankly quite hot. Part of the fight for freedom and democracy means allying ourselves with paragons of democracy and freedom like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It’s not about the oil. To preserve western values like freedom and human rights, we might have to torture and imprison people without charge, conviction, or sentence. We are so godly, our church is state of the art. Rock music represents the evil, sensual side of human nature, so we will adapt it for use in our worship.