Friday, October 20, 2006

Fear Itself

As the nation sours on Republicans and their policies the party is going back to basics: fear, more fear and even more fear.

Amid predictions that demoralized conservative voters might sit out the election, Bush and other senior Republicans will escalate charges that Democrats will raise taxes, weaken national security and liberalize social policies. Bush struck those themes in campaign appearances yesterday in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and White House senior adviser Karl Rove said he "will consistently refresh that message" between now and Election Day.


"Conservatives are cranky but not self-destructive," said GOP adviser Mary Matalin, a former aide to Vice President Cheney. "A thing we could do, have time to do and will do in the remaining time will be to hammer home what a Pelosi-Rangel-Conyers House would really mean." She was referring to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who would become House speaker if Democrats win, and fellow liberals Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.) and John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), who are in line for committee chairmanships.

Ideas? They don't need no stinking ideas.

Coming to Terms

Now that Congress has supinely given BushCheney the kind of authority normally associated with a dictatorship, will this be part of America's future?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Listening. Or Not.

I know I need a hearing aid. My hearing tests demonstrate that quite clearly. The results explain why everyone around me seems to be mumblinc. So I am doing the logical thing, getting a hearing aid. In a few weeks I am told I will hear much better.

Maybe BushCheney is hearing impaired also. Not only do a majority of Americans want to withdraw forces from Iraq, but so do a clear majority of Iraqis. Not because they want to give their country over to terrorists but because they believe the American presence causes the violence that has destroyed everyday life there. So it seems that EVERYBODY wants America out of Iraq. BushCheney must not be listening.

The George Unit apparently listens only to God (the One True one)and the Dick Unit represents the neo-con corporate military state. With that competition, it's no wonder BushCheney doesn't hear. I wonder what, if any, device will improve his hearing.

(h/t to Pierre Tristam)

News from Scotland

Two reports in The Scotsman shed interesting light on America's Not Quite Most Excellent Adventure in Iraq. One suggests that we took our eye off the ball. The other says we'll be cutting and running in early 2007.

(h/t to Juan Cole)

Traditional Marriage Dodges a Bullet

The Federal Defense of Marriage Act has kicked in to save traditional marriage from the grave threat of a same sex spouse collecting a federal pension. The late Representative Gary Studds' spouse will not be eligible to receive any portion of his congressional pension. Studds and his male partner married in 2004 after Massachusetts legalized same sex marriage. The Office of Personnel Management, which administers the congressional pension program, said same-sex partners are not recognized as spouses for any marriage benefits. A female spouse would receive a lifetime pension of about $62,000. Studd's partner gets zip.

Bonus question:

What do you call the surviving spouse in a same sex union?




Monday, October 16, 2006

New Venue

Mimus Pauly at Mockingbird's Medley has invited me to co-blog with him there and I have accepted his invitation. For the time being, I'm posting both sites so you won't see anything new from me there until I figure out how to vary my content. But you will find Mimus' work and other co-bloggers, In addition to me, other new co-bloggers are Bad Tux, The Culture Ghost, Michael Hawkins, Rainbow Demon, Scorpio, and skippy (lowercase not a typo, btw).

Read 'em all.

Burdens of War

I found this item at This Modern World. It's hardly an new story--an American soldier noting how little the burden of America's wars are shared by his countrymen. The story resonated with me for several reasons.

Yesterday on "About Face" (see postscript) we discussed how the wars affect military families. Our guests included fathers of two soldiers on active duty in Iraq. They described how difficult it is for them to deal with the uncertainty and fear they feel about thier sons. One father described himself as a complete news junkie who cannot stop following events even as his wife refuses to follow them at all. Both told about the anxiety that comes with each announcement of an American casualty in the provinces where their sons are stationed. Those are real burdens, felt intensely by the soldiers and their families. The rest of us simply go on with life. Unless we have a relative in the military, we are largely unaffected.

I fall into that category. I personally don't know anyone serving in our wars. My nephew is an Air Force para-rescue type and could well be deployed at some point but otherwise the few Iraq and Afghanistan veterans I know I've met after their service. But I share their alienation based on my experience in Vietnam. By the time I ended up in Vietnam, American forces and casualties were declining. Draft calls were down substantially and ended completely midway during my tour. For most Americans, the war was over. Except that it wasn't. We lost almost 2,400 soldiers that year and many more wounded. For those of us in the field, the war was very, very real. Yet when I returned to the States on leave and at the end of my tour, the war was virtually invisible. I wanted to scream at people, "DON'T YOU KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON? THOSE ARE REAL FUCKING BULLETS!"

It's easy to see why any soldier will look at the "Support Our Troops" ribbons and signs as little more than window dressing. While they are fighting and dying--all in all, pretty intense work--the rest of us live our normal lives. And the worst part is that there is very little most of us can do because our government simply will not ask civilians to make any real sacrifices despite BushCheney's rhetoric about the "clash of civilizations" and threats to America.


"About Face" is a program on Air America Phoenix (KPHX 1480 AM). I am an occasional co-host and contributor. The program airs at 11:00 am Sundays. If you are outside the Phoenix area, you can tune in via computer using this link. Keep in mind that Arizona is NOT on daylight savings time.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Behind the Numbers

Dhar Jamail has a report on the Lancet study of excess deaths in Iraq. He is more inclined than Zeyad at Healing Iraq toward the 600,000 plus figure that has been widely reported. Since the study has a margin of error, the excess death estimate ranges from a low of 392,979 to a high of 942,636. Being the conservative researchers that they are, the authors chose the mid-range figure of 654,965 excess deaths due to the US invasion.

Unfortunately for Iraqis, the numbers are an abstraction to most Americans. In America these numbers are debating points, bruited about in the debate about the wisdom and value of the war. As I noted yesterday, I am inclined toward the lower figure, which I should note (now that I have actually looked at the study summary rather than second hand press reports) is closer to 400,000 than the 300,000 figure I have cited previously. But in reality, the bottom line is that many, many Iraqis are dead who would still be alive had BushCheney not brought war and chaos to that nation.

Americans obsess about our 2,763 dead. Each is a tragedy, a life unfulfilled, a family torn apart. Since most of us don't know what losing a family member to war is like, I want to put it in more immediate terms. My parents are both dead, of more or less natural causes (tobacco). I am hardly unusual in that loss. So think about what it it is like to suddenly lose a parent, brother, sister, cousin or friend to what seems to be unremitting violence. Remember, that for each American death in Iraq, AT LEAST 142 Iraqis are dead. In recent years, two couples I know lost infant children. I saw the grief and heartbreak. Imagine the many Iraqi parents who see their sons and daughters die.

I witnessed death in Vietnam. Not much, thankfully, but enough to imagine my own corpse wrapped in a bloody poncho. I lived the terror of thinking each minute could be my last and counted the days until I would be safe back in "The World". I wondered how the Vietnamese could live with this destructive force fighting in their streets, yards and villages. I could not fathom what it would be like to have that happen in my own country. Iraqis live with each day with no real hope of finding safety in their homeland.

So when the politicians and pundits banter about the numbers remember that many Iraqis are dead because of the actions of the United States under BushCheney--far more than he is willing to acknowledge. Quite likely almost 400,000, maybe even higher. Remember, too, that each death, like those of our service men and women, leaves a gaping hole in a family.

That is the democracy that BushCheney brought to Iraq at the point of a bayonet.