Friday, April 27, 2007


(photo: Bush's legacy to America)

This draft of a column for The Albany Journal was never published- I substituted another instead. But it is highly instructive on where we were just 2 1/2 years ago, and where we are now. This was written when Bush was riding high and bragging about all of the political capital he had gained and how he was going to spend it wrecking (er, reforming) and privatizing the Social Security System. And rational Americans (48 %) and the rest of the world (99%) were left in relative despair to ponder, as the English newspaper The Guardian put it: "How can 60 million Americans be so stupid!" (for those of short memories, that was Bush's total votes in the 2004 election). One tragic note: when this was written, over a year and a half after "Mission Accomplished," only 1,000 Americans had died, and only (only!) $100 billion had been wasted on the war. The totals are now 3,337 dead as of 4/27/07, and our expenses on the war are over $420 billion. And former CIA Director George Tenet, made infamous in Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" book for his "slam dunk" comment on the case being made for the presence of WMD's in Iraq before the invasion, has now written his tell all book debunking the Bush Administration for never seriously debating whether or not an invasion of Iraq was necessary. Of course, this "revelation" comes just shy of two years after the Times of London published the Downing Street Memo which revealed British concerns in 2002 that the Bush Administration was "fixing the intelligence" and ginning up a war they had no intentions of avoiding.

There is some good news: the "51%" I keep referring to is now around 29%, and we managed to get a Democratic Congress elected in 2006 which has, for the first time, started to provide oversight and to hold hearings on the most egregious of lies and abuses from this Administration. And they are at least talking about a cut off date for the troops to come home. That's progress of sorts.

December 7, 2004

Watching the movie “Shattered Glass” about the rise and fall of The New Republic’s Associate Editor Stephen Glass, one can’t help but remark on the disparate treatment America gives to journalists versus that afforded to politicians who are caught in their professional lies. After Glass made up dozens of stories and got them published in prestigious- and pretentious- publications like The New Republic (in the movie they bragged they were the “in flight magazine on Air Force One”), Harpers, and The Rolling Stone, the young (25) writer finally got caught when he made up a story about a computer hacker’s convention where software manufacturer “Jukt” paid off a hacker which had posted nude pictures on the company’s website. Except for the fact that Glass made up the hacker, his family, his “agent,” the hacker convention, the software company, and the report of proposed legislation to deny profits to hackers, it was a nice story. As Adam Penenburg, the reporter who broke the story in Forbes’ online magazine, wryly noted, he did find one true statement in Glass’s story: “there is a state called Nevada.”

More recently, it was Dan Rather who was pilloried for being snookered by fake Texas Air National Guard documents purporting to reveal the manner in which George W. Bush avoided being drafted and sent to Vietnam in the late 1960’s. The oft utilized visitor from Mars was left to wonder how Americans of the Republican persuasion could be so incensed that a reporter inadvertently and carelessly used fabricated documents in a news story whose underlying truth was never challenged by Bush- that George W. used his family’s connections to get in the Texas Air National Guard (cool NASA type acronym: “TANG”) during a period when less fortunate young men were drafted and send to Vietnam. And then George W. topped it off by failing to show up for his 1972 physical, thereby losing his flight certification, failing to show up for drills in Alabama after his transfer there, and opting out of the Guard months early to go to grad school- a privilege denied draftees then serving in Vietnam.

Those same Americans (we’ll call them “the 51 percenters”) were entirely comfortable with the indisputable fact that George W. had lied to them about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, causing the deaths of over a thousand Americans, the wounding of almost 10,000 more, and over $100 billion in losses to the nation’s treasury. They had no problem when George W. lied to them about the tortures at Abu Ghraib (a few bad apples at the bottom, he said, neglecting to reveal that the policy of torture came from the top- a memo from his new Attorney General designate, Alberto Gonzalez, then White House Counsel), the environment (his “healthy forests” initiative was actually designed to cut down healthy trees for the profit of timber companies), about using Iraqi oil to fund the war (Bush’s minions fired or disciplined any government officials who dared to reveal accurate estimates about what the war would really cost), about Enron (the company praised by Bush turned out to be a scam), the United Nations (he said we didn’t need it and shouldn’t heed it even as he sought a Congressional authorization for use of force to... wait for it... enforce U.N. resolutions against Iraq) , or... well, the list is endless. This Administration, far more than Nixon’s, compulsively lied even when the truth did them no harm. And then they fought any attempts to let in sunlight- such as the creation of the 9-11 Commission, which revealed the screwups at the very top, both before and after the terrorist attacks.

The high tolerance for official lies by the 51% of the electorate can’t be explained by the traditional respect Americans have for their president, because Bush’s immediate predecessor was impeached for lying. And the impeachment process had the wholehearted support of those same Republicans who since then have seen no problems with continual lies of omission and commission. Remember the prescription drug “benefit” for the elderly? It doesn’t benefit the elderly- only drug companies will make out- and the cost was deliberately misrepresented by Bush & Co. to Congress and the American people as being about $100 billion less than the actual price tag, revealed only after the legislation passed. Phffft, teflon. That lie slid right off, along with the all others- at least for the 51%.

Using another analogy, it reminds one of the old sci fi movie where only the hero can see the aliens who have infiltrated earth. Using his special glasses, he sees the aliens sneaking among us, stealing our precious bodily fluids... wait- wrong movie (that’s a “Dr. Strangelove” moment with Sterling Hayden’s wonderfully named character, General Jack. D. Ripper explaining to British Officer Peter Sellers what the commies have attempted to do to him.) Democrats, especially black Democrats, print reporters for large papers (not the Republican hack columnists, of course), the top newsmen (Brokaw, Koppel, Brian Williams, to name three), and 99 percent of non-Americans have no trouble perceiving Bush’s lies. And being outraged by them. And we don’t even need the special glasses. It’s more like the 51 percenters are wearing special lenses- more accurately, blinders- that prevent them from seeing reality even when it rears up and slaps them in the face.

To the rest of the world, the 51% have chosen to “drink the Kool Aid” as the vernacular puts it, referring to that horrific day when hundreds of cultists gave the last full measure of their devotion to Rev. Jim Jones in “Jonestown,” Guyana, by drinking from the cyanide laced vat of Kool-Aid and committing mass suicide. The 51% seem oblivious to the true state of the world around them- the hundred billion dollar Reagan and Bush I deficits that became worthy of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in the GOP’s 1994 Contract with America are insignificant and irrelevant now that the GOP controls both houses of Congress and the Presidency- and now that deficits have swelled to over $400 billion annually. The 2003 and early 2004 comments by top Administration officials that the media was overlooking all of the progress being made in Iraq and were only reporting the few isolated incidents of “bad news” have given way to requests for thousands more troops to be sent there even as November 2004 became the costliest and bloodiest month for Americans in the war’s brief history. But nary a peep from the faithful, who haven’t questioned why we’re still in Iraq at all now that Saddam has been captured and the WMD scare disproved. To stabilize the country? Surely not, as our presence is now the single most destabilizing factor in Iraq, evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of its citizens now view us as occupiers rather than liberators.

So journalists who tell lies are pilloried. And truth to tell, the 51% don’t much like journalists who tell us the unwanted truth, either, whether it be about Bush’s National Guard absenteeism, the failures in prewar and postwar planning for Iraq, or the need to keep up revenues (i.e. taxes) when deficits are threatening to rend the fabric of America’s economy. Fact based journalists are routinely castigated as being “liberal” or “biased.” It must be frustrating to a genuine reporter to painstakingly fact check a story, utilize sources, do research, and attempt to obtain balance from all sides when reporting on the fiasco which is apparent to all in Iraq. Then a Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, or Dick Cheney can swoop down, and with no sources, no basis in fact, proclaim that things are going swell there and anyone who says nay must be a lily livered America hating Liberal.

The most revealing quote about Bush & Co.? The one in Ron Suskind’s article, where the high ranking official (Karl Rove, one wonders?) states that they “create their own reality” and the rest of us peasants will have the privilege of standing by and recording “it” (their creation) while they move on to create more new realities.. In other words, we of the 48% have to live in a fact based world. The 51% and their cult leader will exist in their faith based, fantasy filled, fact challenged universe. Unfortunately, when the dreaming stops, we will all come crashing down to earth together, all 100% of us. Hardly seems fair, does it?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Searching for Truth

How can you tell when he's lying? When his lips are moving...

Editorial writers have a right to their own opinions. However, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, they do not have a right to their own facts. For many people, The Albany Herald is an important source of local, state and national news. The political pundits and the political cartoons that appear on The Herald’s editorial page are the place many local readers receive their analysis of the news-- on what’s behind the cold facts on the news pages. So it’s a disservice to readers any time The Herald’s editorial staff chooses to print columnists and cartoonists who shamelessly exaggerate, mislead, and occasionally outright lie about facts.

Instead of printing column after column from the likes of Rich Lowry and Cal Thomas, The Herald would be doing its readers a service by publishing fact checks of their prior columns where they stated as facts that global warming is a liberal myth, that weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaida existed in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before we invaded in 2003, or that everything was going swell in Iraq and the mainstream media somehow overlooked the incredible successes of the American occupation and focused on the few “dead-enders” who were in their “last throes.”

Maybe I’m being naive, but isn’t the purpose of a newspaper to help its readers find the truth?