Saturday, July 31

The Problem with David Brooks

Forgive the appearance of slander, but the urgency of this year's election does not permit me to let glaring incompetence go unnoticed.
New York Times columnist David Brooks, a conservative pundit featured weekly on the Jim Lehrer News Hour, always gets a sparkle of idiot admiration in his eyes after viewing George Bush giving a stump speech. The idiocy of the sparkle is confirmed by Brooks's comments. Brooks apparently sees "authenticity" in Bush's gruff manners, his syncopated gestures, and "simple folk" accent (which he adopted from Texas-born citizens), because this is the imprecise and somewhat mystical category by which Brooks assesses public figures time and again. In this exchange, from the July 30 program, David Brooks responded to Jim Lehrer's question about the negative tone of the campaigns in this way:
JIM LEHRER: What about the negative thing, for instance we ran a while ago, what Kerry ads had to say today and what President Bush had to say today. President Bush was on Kerry's record. Would you interpret that as a negative?

DAVID BROOKS: I think that's fine. First of all one of the most annoying tropes of the convention was we're uniting, we're not divisive, and then they said something incredibly nasty about the Republicans. Kerry said, that they don't care, the people who talk about family values don't value their families, so republicans don't value their families. But that's not divisive.
Not so fast, Brooks. The Democrats did not say that the Republicans don't value their families. It's irresponsible to exaggerate the Democrats' claim about the plight of the middle class in this way, by making it appear that the Democrats are saying, in essence, "The Republicans don't like their children." Brooks goes even further than this by winding his comment up with a smug quip (apparently meant to ring true as irony). "But that's not devisive," chuckle, chuckle. I wonder, though, is it truly "incredibly nasty" to point out the well-established fact that Republican tax "relief" has shifted the tax burden from the wealthiest in the land to working families? Why is that "incredibly nasty"? Is it not, rather, "incredibly nasty" to squeeze the middle class while claiming to be the pro-family Party? That seems to me a more relevant question, and it's the one that Americans have a right to ask.

Brooks then turns to George Bush's comments and says this:

DAVID BROOKS: But, you know, if you were going to call somebody a traitor or un-American, that's out of bounds. And I think that will be out of bounds. But if you're going to say he voted this way, he made that decision, that's what it's supposed to be all about.
I find it very hard to understand how Brooks is able to make such a distinction between Bush's criticisms of Kerry's voting record (which criticisms Brooks deems "what it's supposed to be all about") and the Democrats' criticisms of the Republican voting records that led to unjust tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of the nation (which Brooks portrays as a distortion and a low blow).

I have a real irony for Mr. Brooks to chuckle over. In the same speech to which Brooks was referring (given by Bush in Missouri on July 30), Bush said that "we stand for the institutions of marriage and the family," with implications that Brooks, to remain consistent with himself, could only deem "incredibly nasty." Those implications are that, by contrast, the Democrats are not only against marriage and family but, like any unapologetic anarchists the world over, are against institutions! And where, I ask, is the voting record to demonstrate that?

Thursday, July 29

The good-looking disappointment

John Edwards spoke last night at the Democratic Convention in Boston. Aside from the fact that he spoke about race issues -- which is rare -- (without, however, proposing any specific policy to counter racism in the United States), there were many disturbing, concessionary moments to his speech.
Edwards said we are at "war." No, we are not at war. And no, WE are not at war. Why did Edwards adopt this fascist tactic from the Republicans? There is no war. No war declared. But there was a war declared "won." This equation doesn't hold up to the simplest rule of mathematics. We cannot allow our leadership to have its war and defeat it, too. This is not only illogical, it is intolerable to an extreme, and its consequences for social justice have been, and will no doubt continue to be, devastating.

Edwards also spoke of securing the peace of Israel and implied that that could be done by imposing "democracy" on Iraq. This is the same mistaken assumption of Bush Inc., which assumption only feeds other greed-driven motivations and serves as the most beautiful of all their cynical pretexts for aggression. My question is: what is it doing in the Democratic Convention?

And why did Edwards not mention the Palestinians? Does he think they have no stake in Middle East peace? Does he agree with Bush that they are "undesirables" and therefore "unmentionables" and therefore not really human beings whose plight should enter into our policy statements, if not into our policies? How can America regain its fine reputation around the world if we persist in backing Israel's policies, some of which are denounced almost unanimously in the U.N. and by the International Court for Justice?

Edwards spoke of "everything being possible" in America, no matter your skin color or "the family you are born into." Well, is it possible in America to run for a prominent office without having a perfect (or near perfect) hairdo? Is it possible to run without being able to flash to the public the image of a "family man" surrounded by his "happy family"? Those are becoming much bigger barriers to public service access than are the issues of race and sex (which, granted, are huge barriers still, and not at all likely to be removed by Democratic leadership in the next four or eight years).

Edwards did not once mention the environment. He also did not mention the 8 years of "peace and prosperity" of the Clinton years (an expression to be taken with a truckload of salt, for sure). He spoke as if he were not existing in the same space-time dimension as the rest of us. Apparently, for him -- and he certainly has been taught to believe this by the far right currently in power -- time began on September 11, 2001, and every social issue since then must be cloaked in a machoistic show of military bravado targeted at the impossibly vague and endless threat of "terrorism." My question is: can't the Democrats distinguish between "terrorism" and terrorists?

It was refreshing that Al Sharpton broke with the script last night, but he addressed primarily the African-American concerns over voting rights. The Democrats need someone to break with the most offensive part of the script that was drawn up for them by the Republican party after 9/11 and denounce once and for all the illegal aggression in Iraq.

This is how Democracy Now! described Edwards' speech:

Ignoring Delegates Anti-War Stance, Edwards Delivers Major Pro-War Address at DNC. Although a recent poll shows 95 percent of Democratic delegates oppose the Iraq war, Edwards vows in a prime-time address to double the number of special forces in Iraq and to increase funding for military research.

Wednesday, July 28

Moore Good Deeds

Michael Moore spoke in Cambridge yesterday to an audience of 500-600 (with more than 1,000 outside who could not get in but whom he addressed later). This is a truly rousing speech -- the only one that could have rivaled Barack Obama's inspirational performance from Tuesday night. Obama's and Moore's speeches aired on this morning's Democracy Now!. The video and audio feeds of Moore's speech begin at 1:08:00 of the day's two-hour feed.

Democracy Now! also reports the following about Moore's activities:

"Everywhere Moore has gone in Boston, massive crowds have followed him. In fact the Kerry campaign is probably quite happy that the filmmaker is leaving town today. Moore is actually heading into George W. Bush's backyard in Crawford Texas, where he will introduce a showing of his film Fahrenheit 9/11 at a football stadium. Moore says he has invited the film's star, President Bush, to attend the show. While Fahrenheit 9/11 has now topped the $100 million mark, no theater in Crawford or the surrounding towns would show the movie, until last week when it was picked up by a theater in Waco. That's why Moore decided to do his own screening near Bush's Crawford ranch."

Wednesday, July 21

The Responsible President

Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair have each had to confront a damning report on the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. Although both leaders still insist that the war was justified, Blair has since said "I accept full personal responsibility for the way the issue was presented and therefore for any errors made." Bush has yet to make any such statement.

This past Monday, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas took on White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on the issue.

White House Press Briefing, July 19, 2004.
Helen Thomas: Prime Minister Blair took full personal responsibility for taking his nation into war under falsehoods -- under reasons that have been determined now to be false. Is President Bush also willing to take full, personal responsibility --
Scott McClellan: I think Prime Minister Blair said that it was the right thing to do; that Saddam Hussein's regime was a threat.
Helen Thomas: Those were not the reasons he took his country into war. It turned out to be untrue, and the same is true for us. Does the President take full, personal responsibility for this war?
Scott McClellan: The issue here is what do you to with a threat in a post-September 11th world? Either you live with a threat, or you confront the threat.
Helen Thomas: There was no threat.
Scott McClellan: The President made the decision to confront the threat.
Helen Thomas: Saddam Hussein did not threaten this country.
Scott McClellan: The world -- the world, the Congress and the administration all disagree. They all recognized that there was a threat posed by Saddam Hussein. When it came to September 11th, that changed the equation. It taught us, as I said --
Helen Thomas: The Intelligence Committee said there was no threat.
Scott McClellan: As I said, it taught us that we must confront threats before it's too late.
Helen Thomas: So the President doesn't take full responsibility?
Scott McClellan: The President already talked about the responsibility for the decisions he's made. He talked about that with Prime Minister Blair.
Helen Thomas: Personal responsibility?
Scott McClellan: (Pointing to another journalist) Terry, go ahead.

Tuesday, July 20

Enthusiastic support for state-sponsored killing of minors

Today, I went to and saw that they had an online poll concerning the death penalty. At the time I consulted the site, 59% of the more than 50,000 respondents had clicked on "in favor of capital punishment for minors" and only 7% were against capital punishment in all cases (including me).That made me wonder, what sort of sick people use Is it Fox that produces such twisted minds, or do the twisted minds simply gravitate towards Fox? Or both?

When I searched the web for "death penalty" using Fox's search engine, the first site that came up was It was stated by Fox that the search results were found by Yahoo!, but when I searched with Yahoo! without having the Fox site open, I didn't see that pro-death penalty site in the search returns. Strange how that works...

Is there another industrialized nation calling itself a democracy that puts child offenders to death? What a proud distinction we Americans can claim for ourselves! Aeiggghh!

Monday, July 19

Murdoch is poisoning our public space

To participate in one of the over 3,000 group viewings of the documentary Outfoxed which are taking place this Sunday, July 18, go to, which has an easy-to-use search engine for locating the one closest to you. You can also go to the Outfoxed homepagefor general information. Also, you can listen to and watch scenes from the documentary and an interview with its producer here (at 14 minutes and 30 seconds into the audio feed).If you cannot make it to one of these free viewings and are interested in seeing the largest megaphone for Bush propaganda exposed in all its crude light, you can also order a DVD of the documentary from the Outfoxed homepage.

And here is a group blog, called
News Hounds, whose contributors track daily distortions on Fox.

Sunday, July 18

American seeks refuge in Canada

After returning from Afghanistan and learning that he would be shipped to Iraq, Jeremy Hinzman had his conscientious objector's status rejected by the U.S. Army, and so he fled, with his wife and son, to Canada, where he has filed for refugee status. He has been interviewed about his case. You can visit his homepage and send him a letter of support. Here is mine:
Jeremy, Nga, Liam:

This morning -- July 15, 2004 -- I listened to Jeremy speaking on Democracy Now! and I was very impressed with both his courage and articulateness. I cannot say that I am a pacifist -- that I oppose all wars -- but in the current climate of corporate war-making dressed up in the abstract language of good and evil and cynically wrapped in the self-righteous mythology of the United States, Jerermy's actions represent an admirable aspect of America that many nations today have lost sight of.

A friend of mine who lives in France even refuses to visit the United States at this time, since she has made the unfair assumption that the aggressive actions of the corporate elites in Washington D.C. reflect the mentality of American citizens generally. Jeremy, thank you for standing up and, since it was necessary in your case, thank you for getting out! I will share your story with my friend. And may other young men and women who are enticed by the short-term rewards dangled before them by U.S. military recruiters take your example of courage to heart.

And thank you Canada for being the welcoming, tolerant, and just nation that, in America, has largely become a thing of twisted political mythology.

And here is part of another letter (from Jeremy's homepage):

Dear Jeremy,

I was in the 82nd as well for a while and in the army for five years. Although my first instinct was to think you were shirking responsibility, after reading your reasoning I really admire what you've done. It had to take an awful lot of courage, especially in this time of Republican intimidation and a nation that seems, quite disturbingly, almost content not to know the truth. I left the 82nd at the end of 2000 and can vouch for how poorly they treat their soldiers. [An example is given here.] After that I went to Australia with the money I'd saved up from my "enduring nonsense" deployment and as I'm sure you're finding now, citizens of the other English-speaking nations are very friendly and have a much less xenophobic outlook on the world. They also don't have to live in fear of people thinking they're "un-patriotic" simply for pointing out the rampant hipocrosy and sickening greed of the current administration. I wish you and your family all the luck in the world, yours truly,

Sean, North Carolina

A Democrat in mourning

Here is a testament, or perhaps a plea, of a Democrat whose call for peace has been abandoned by the decision-makers in his own Party.

Fascist speechifying: an analysis

Mike Molloy has a fine analysis of fascist speechifying as it reappears time and again in Bush’s public statements.

This is a vital listening exercise for all citizens of the United States.

Scroll to the bottom of this page and click on Molloy’s picture on the left (which has “1984” superimposed on it).

And next time you hear Bush give a public speech, see if you can identify the “five steps” of fascist speechifying that he routinely employs. Who knows? Perhaps this can provide a diversion for the whole family and give a much-needed break from the daily routine of reality TV and the Bill O'Reilly Catholic Rage Hour. At least it would be more interesting (and healthy) than taking Bush at his word.

Saturday, July 17


Public notice

Translation: Scarred, tattooed or drunk people are not allowed to enter.
These colorful photos were posted next to this written notice outside a public bath. If you look like either of the drawn figures, then entering such a bath house in Japan will be forbidden you. I'm not sure if such targeted depictions of members of the public is legal in the United States, but this does seem like quite a bold gesture on the part of the bath house proprietor. In any case, someone appears not to have appreciated either the gesture or the figures depicted on these two signs, since the mark of someone's shoe has been left on both.

Yakuza ヤクザ「Depiction of Japanese mafia」

Friday, July 9

Dean and Nader debate

With the support of NPR's "Justice Talking," a very lively debate, filled with the sort of forthright speaking, intelligence, passion, and humor that have been chased out of the presidential and vice presidential debates by the corporate-funded, two party-ruled "debate commission," took place today between Howard Dean and Ralph Nader. The debate is now available as an audio archive at the Justice Talking website.

Political surprises sought by Bush Inc?

Forget, for the moment, the obvious fear-mongering indulged in by the Department of Homeland Security. A report by The New Republic, Pakistan for Bush. A July Surprise?, reveals that the Bush Administration may have requested from Pakistan that it make and announce the capture of Osama bin Laden during the Democratic Party Convention. One of its authors, John Judis, senior editor at The New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is interviewed on this report today at Democracy Now!

Sunday, July 4

A sober documentary

Those who complain that Michael Moore "can't have it both ways" by mixing entertainment and journalism (as if that didn't occur everyday on the major networks!) should know that William Karel has prepared a documentary that approaches the subject of the Bush "dynasty" with unflinching gravity. The "World according to Bush" airs today on France 2, and its trailer, as well as an extract from the film, can be viewed here, in English. I would recommend their viewing as well to those who are not so prudish about distinctions of 'genre' and 'medium.'

Saturday, July 3

House in Nara

photos by fanni terrette

Friday, July 2

NPR's "On the Media" is failing its supporters

I don't know if it has been through corporate infiltration or what, but "On the Media," a program that used to provide critical commentary on media issues, has become a megaphone for corporate interests. This would be an understandable role if it were run by Microsoft or General Electric, but it is presumably supported by the public and has the public interest in mind. Presumably...

Here is my recent letter.
Dear On the Media,

A long-time listener to your program via WNED AM 970 in Buffalo, NY, I listened with my jaw dropped to the floor this weekend as you reached new depths of corporate-minded mediocrity by bashing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 with the help of Newsweek's Isikoff (who repeated the claims that have been publicly debunked and exposed as ideologically driven) and by giving a defense of the Carlyle group with the help of its recently hired damage-control PR man.

It is easy to research these issues better than you have. Here is one source that, at the very least, would have provided you, and your listeners, with a reasoned rebuttal to Isikoff's claims.

With this new emphasis at On the Media on defending corporate interests to the exclusion or denigration of opposing voices, I have a few suggestions for future topics that you might enjoy covering.

i) How Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" is pure liberal conspiracy theory which, if burned, would add less ozone-depleting compounds to the environment than does Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Guest: Rush Limbaugh.

ii) Why Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! is a treasonous liar who editorializes the news. Guest: Bill O'Reilly.

iii) The charitable works of the Tyco Corporation. Guest: anonymous publicity man recently hired by Tyco to speak its good deeds far and wide.

I would be greatly pleased if any or all of these ideas would make their way to your esteemed program soon.

Thursday, July 1

Bridge in Dorogawa

photos by fanni terrette