Saturday, July 31, 2004

Oh, yeah, here's what I'm more or less refuting

Damned Big Difference is devoted to showing Kerry is so much different than Bush, and that Nader's run is futile and destructive.

I find it instructive this site is not long on references (rather it focuses on sort of op-ed-y pitches speaking in broad generalities for most of the time, and specific votes very rarely), and oddly (to me) does not have any contact links. Surely, if you are supposedly debating whether or not there's a difference, you're open to dissent. Or something. But alas, no. Apparently the site's owners think it speaks for itself entirely (and, as noted on a Counterpunch article about F 9/11, it seems to concentrate largely on this election, and not reforming the system in general (i.e. links to grassroots movements writ large; MoveOn is a good start, but not encouraging to me).

Ciao. Read below for the folly of Kerry as Any One But Bush.

(NO) Big Damned Difference

Hey all,

Counterpunch has quite a few interesting pieces discussing what one may call the "real" stakes of voting for Nader -- an outline of the only specific cases in which it might hurt Kerry (for example, Michigan voters for Nader in 2000 have
absolutely no reason to regret their decision, since Gore won Michigan anyway -- so principle and "lesser of two evils" didn't clash in that case), and an outline of various weaknesses of Kerry's, and the folly of thinking organizing the left will be easier under Kerry (an obviously debatable point, but the author's contention is that only a concerted mass movement will make the cost of continuing higher than the cost of changing course; he argues that this is true whether it's Bush or Kerry).

Links a plenty: (the most exhaustive) (blurb about Chomsky & Zinn
supporting Nader votes in "safe states" -- take note HopefulCynickers and J Continuees not in Michigan!)

Commentary on Michael Moore's F. 9/11 also points out the precious few positives of Kerry vs. Bush, at least from that author's perspective, in terms of changing the establishment).

Opensecrets and CPI's the Buying of the Presidency both outline how Kerry is also beholden to many large, moneyed interests, though we knew that already, and one could argue quite simply that as Kerry has less corporate largess, he is the lesser
of two evils.

Top story on counterpunch right now:

He's the (Any) One outlines Kerry's many failings (from a progressive perspective).

Highlights from various sources:

"The footage  of a joint session of Congress in which Congressional Black Caucus members can't get a senator to sign their letter to allow floor  debate about the issue (a procedural requirement) is a powerful  indictment not only of the
Republicans who perpetrated the fraud  but the DEMOCRATIC leadership that refused to challenge it." (emphasis mine)

"But it is a serious mistake  to believe that these wars can be explained by focusing so exclusively  on the Bush administration and ignoring clear trends in U.S.  foreign and military policy. In short, these wars are not a sharp
departure from the past but instead should be seen as an intensification  of longstanding policies, affected by the confluence of this  particular administration's ideology and the opportunities created  by the events of 9/11."  (My argument du jour for voting for Nader:  if Carter would stand by and have the US gov't support the Somoza regime, what hope is there that the
less earnestly humanitarian and (according to the media) similarly unconvincing Kerry would do much better in terms of true progressive goals?)

"The problem is not just that  the Iraq War was fundamentally illegal and immoral. The whole  rotten project of empire building has been illegal and immoral  -- and every bit as much a Democratic as a Republican project.  The millions of dead around the world -- in Latin America, Africa,  the Middle East, Southeast Asia -- as a result of U.S. military  actions and proxy wars don't care which U.S. party was pulling  the strings and pulling the trigger when they were killed. It's  true that much of the world hates Bush. It's also true that much  of the world has hated every post-WWII U.S. president. And for
good reasons."

"I agree that Bush should be  kicked out of the White House, and if I lived in a swing state  I would consider voting Democratic. But I don't believe that  will be meaningful unless there emerges in the United States  a significant anti-empire movement. In other words, if we beat  Bush and go back to "normal," we're all in trouble.  Normal is empire building. Normal is U.S. domination, economic  and military, and the suffering that vulnerable people around  the world experience as a result. This doesn't mean voters can't  judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous  than another. It doesn't mean we shouldn't sometimes make strategic  choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should  make such choices with eyes open and no illusions. This seems  particularly important when the likely Democratic presidential candidate tries to out-hawk Bush on support for Israel, pledges to continue the occupation of Iraq, and says nothing about reversing  the basic trends in foreign policy."

"And where is John Kerry in  all this? In a secured, undisclosed location hoping Bush continues  to fall on his face. The best that John Milhous Heinz can come up with is that he'll bring the troops home BEFORE the end of  his term (which
would mean 2009, if he's the Skull and Bones  plutocrat who's selected). Bush just announced a January 2006  pull-out date. His solution: bring on the UN. As if Bush hasn't  already adopted that dead end.  The greatest moral issue of the campaign (not to mention, the new millennia) and Kerry and  puppet master Terry McAuliffe remain unable to craft ANY coherent  plan. Kerry can't bring himself to repudiate his own vote for  the war, even given the current realities. He appears incapable  of viewing it in any way other than a callous political calculation  -- sit back and let Bush flounder as the best way to win. Sheesh!  That's leadership?  Neither Bonesman can explain  the war even at this post-WMDs late date in any way shape or  form other than simplistic "support the troops," "liberating  Iraq," "bringing Democracy to the Middle East"  banalities."

" Come next  January the Anyone behind the desk in the Oval Office may be  a bit taller. There'll be medals on the book shelf showing he  killed Vietnamese in the service of his country. Most everything  else will stay the same. Kerry's been pretty clear about that,  letting his core constituencies know that as President Anyone  he's not going to cut them any favors."

"Kerry announced that his economic strategy  will be to wage war on the deficit, which means he'll do nothing  to alleviate problem number one in American today, which is the  lack of jobs and the rotten pay for those lucky enough to have  some form of work."

"Women? Kerry, the man who voted  for Bill Clinton's savage assault labeled "welfare reform",  on poor women, said he might well appoint anti-abortion judges,  adding magnanimously that he wouldn't want such appointments  to lead to the overturning of Roe v Wade."

"Kerry vows to put more cops  on the streets and there'll be no intermission in the war on  drugs which has played a large part in producing the memorable statistic issued by the Justice Department last week, to the  effect that the number of people caught in the toils of the criminal  justice system grew by 130,700 last year. The grand total is  now nearly 6.9 million"

"War in Iraq? A majority of  the country wants out, certainly most Democrats. Kerry wants  in, even more than Bush. When the DNC told Kucinich to stuff  his peace plank, Kucinich tugged his forelock and told his followers  to shuffle back in under the Big Tent and help elect a man who  pledges to fight the war in Iraq better and longer than Bush.  Feminist leaders kept their mouths shut when Kerry flew his kite  about nominating anti-choice judges. Gay leaders didn't open  their lips to utter so much as a squeak when Kerry declared his opposition to same-sex marriages and to civil unions. Did we  hear from Norman
Lear and People for the American Way as Kerry,  the man who voted for the Patriot Act, revived his Tipper Gore-ish  posturing about the evils of popular culture? Of course we didn't,  even though Kerry voted for the unconstitutional Communications  Decency, a piece of legislation that even the prudish Joe Lieberman  couldn't stomach.

Kerry told James Hoffa of the  Teamsters this spring that he wouldn't touch the Arctic National  Wildlife Refuge but would "drill everywhere else like never before". There wasn't a bleat from the big environmental  groups. He pledged the same policy again to the American Gas  Association a couple of months later, throwing in the prospect  of a new trans-Alaska-Canada pipeline fornatural gas from the  Arctic. Once again the big environmental groups held their tongues.

****True, Andy Stern, head of the  Service Employees Union threw a gobbet of red meat onto the Convention  floor by confiding to the Washington Post's David Broder that  another four years of Bush might be less damaging than the stifling  of needed reform within the party and the labor movement that  would occur if Kerry becomes president*****. After a couple hours  of being forced to stand on a milk crate with a copy of the party  platform over his head and electrodes attached to his penis Stern  recanted and said he was "a hundred per cent " for  Kerry. Thus ended labor's great revolt against a candidate who's cast his share of votes in US Congress to ensure job flight from  America and whose commitment to the living standards of working  people is aptly resumed in his pledge to raise the minimum wage  to $7 an hour by 2007, which is still far, far below that the  minimum wage was worth in purchasing power when it peaked in  the late 1960s."

"The message of this book is:  don't put the cart before the horse. First come the ideals, the  social movements, that create the gravitational pulls that politicians  have to heed. Justice won't come because some politician pledged it on the final night of a convention, but in people's movements,  citizens organizing together in the workplace, in their communities  or on the frontlines defending their air, water and forests.  There's work to be done. Let's do it."  (

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said

Unfortunately, I don't have time to talk of many things, not ships nor shoes nor ceiling wax, and forget about cabbages and kings.

Of the many things I have backlogged to opine about, today I am thinking of Iraqi civilian casualities again.

At the right is a link to (as well as right here). Estimated civilian casualties ranges from 11,000 to 13,000 Iraqis now. I think we're nearing 1000 Coalition troops. And I think the estimate of Iraqi soldiers killed in the invasion/occupation was ~5,000-15,000. (I don't know anything about these Iraqi men -- but doesn't it seem reasonable to assume these may have been good people as much as our troops? Certainly, there were torturers and Hussein's elite guard, which I wouldn't assume had escaped committing horrible acts, but considering that service was compulsory and that Hussein was pretty, er, "convincing", and also considering that whatever they may thought of him, they may still have wanted to defend their country, family and sovereignty as much as the next guy, is it possible to think of them as no less guilty of doing their duty than our men & women? Again, think of them not as Saddam's thugs, there's no way *all* of them were criminals and sadists, those who weren't under Uday, Qusay, or Saddam may have escaped torturing anyone; think of how we're fond of saying 99% of our troops are good people. And many of the younger soldiers couldn't have participated in Saddam's greatest atrocities, which took place some years/decades ago in the Iran/Iraq War and the gassing of the Kurds, when he was still buying weapons from, well, us. If we assume maybe two thirds of the foot soldiers of Iraq were as innocent and as much their "most valuable treasure" -- the children of good, hard working parents in Iraq -- then the tragedy may well be even larger -- ~30,000! A large number for a sacrifice most Iraqis disprove of today, and most US citizens don't think was worth the several hundred soldiers we lost. End digression.) takes into account civilian deaths that happened as the result of actions of insurgents, under the assumption that the (former) occupation had responsibility for law and order in Iraq, and the insurgency would not exist without the occupation. While some have blown off this idea, it to me seems similar to the Palestinian case. Stay with me here. The Palestinian/Israel roadmap repeatedly broke down under Sharon's insistence of sustained cease-fires, i.e. no terrorist attacks, under the assumption that the PLO had responsibility and capability for controlling the population under its governance. An intellectually consistent stance would be that the Coalition had the responsibility for controlling the population under its governance, and assuring safety, making them responsible for civilian deaths that were not directly "collateral damage" as well.

Of course, I don't believe the PLO security forces CAN control all of their population. After all, as has been forgotten by most serious commentators, the Oslo Accords set the PLO up to have very little control -- so that their security forces wouldn't pose a threat to Israel. A legitimate concern perhaps -- but not a good step towards sovereignty nor trust. And as a result, I truly believe that at times the PLO has tried in earnest to stop all attacks -- but it is as much, or rather, further beyond the abilities of this intentionally hobbled security force as keeping safe Iraqi civilians or similarly, the ability of the police in any city to prevent *all* violent crime for some set period of time. I don't believe under a totalitarian regime or a constitutional one is it possible to control every person with the will and capability to destroy and murder (or resist, considering your viewpoint; I'm somewhat agnostic on this point). Bombs are not that hard to make, and watching and controlling every person with a will to destroy has never been accomplished in any place ever. And certainly not through "targeted killings" (assasinations! call it what it is!).

I believe that the US should not have invaded Iraq (when Human Rights' Watch and Amnesty International decry Hussein but state there is no humanitarian emergency, I will tend to side with them rather than those who have decided 31,000 deaths was worthy payment for a dictator who murdered most villainously two decades ago). Once it did, it certainly should've protected the cultural treasures of the Cradle of Civiliization (at least so-called), the infrastructure, the noncombatants, and the weapons stocks that had insufficient guards, enabling the insurgency to arm itself early. While I believe there should be NO troops there, it is generally accepted that the mere presence of overwhelming force can make violence less necessary and less likely. Rather than the crap-o-riffic understaffing and underplanning taken by the underhanded Donald "Known Unknowns" Rumsfeld.

And I believe that the Palestinians cannot control their entire population -- indeed, Israel either cannot or will not control its settlers' illegal expansion into Palestinian land. As much, or perhaps more than we expect the Palestinians to allow peace processes to proceed even while these offending settlements exist, with settlers willing to fight Israel to stay part of Israel in expropriated land (reminiscent of Northern Ireland and the Ulsters), Israel must allow peace to proceed without complete peace. After all, if we are supposedly not into giving in to terrorists' demands, Israel *must* proceed and work through the outbursts of violence to achieve peace. Because that is exactly what the terrorists *do not* want, while it is what the majority of the impoverished and suffering Palestinians *do* want.