Sunday, October 31

Freedom Flyers (updated)

Blogging is not the only space left for the non-corporate-filtered exchange of ideas in America — no, siree — there are still coffee houses, dinner tables, and utility poles. Yes, utility poles.
True Majority has provided a link to a well-organized, well-researched set of flyers. Each flyer addresses a specific issue (the occupation of Iraq, education, debt, young Americans, etc.) and lists facts relating to the particular issue that reflect the state of America under the watch and command of the Bush Corporation (a.k.a., "Administration"). These flyers, which are not narrowly identified with a single party or candidate, will help inform citizens or, at the very least, spark debate on the state of the Union. People need a fact-based antidote to the deceptive, media-packaged portrait of a happy nation being ushered to social and economic progress by a strong, benevolent leader.

Via Bush Campaign Lies, I note that the Nation has created a single-page listing of 100 reasons why Bush should be voted out of the position that five judges appointed him to against the express will of a majority of voters in America (talk about "judicial activism," Jesus Christ!).

The American Priorities Project has assembled an equally thorough set of fact sheets, which cover numerous issues and can be used for the same purposes of increasing public awareness. A word of caution: I would advise anyone reading these first to sit down in a stable chair and remove hot liquids and other potentially harmful objects from one's personal space. Forget the silly charges of "pessimism" that the politicians lob at one another; for millions of Americans, life is punishing and cruel. One needn't be pessimistic to recognize that fact. Seeing the evidence of it, however, can be shocking and, indeed, saddening.

Finally, via Steve Bates, this Sierra Club fact sheet contrasts the environmental records of Bush and Kerry. This would supplement well the above postings.

Bloggers, friends, unpaid intellectuals, and all those whose eyes have landed upon these words, I encourage you to download these flyers and take them out into the wide world outside the blogosphere, display them, distribute them, and make them into paper airplanes to be darted into the windows of slowed cars. (Well, maybe just stick to conventional displaying and distributing.) In this crucial time, we need to free our fellow citizens from the systematic corporate disinformation, frivolity, and sloth to which so many of them are subjected everyday through their TV sets, computers, and radios.

The upcoming election will be won or lost over the weekend. Our nation's prospects are in the balance. Please step outside your cyberspace and embrace a hopeful view of life by informing your fellow citizens and encouraging them to vote.

Saturday, October 30

No Uranium Bombs!

photos by fanni terrette * translation: No! Depleted Uranium Bombs!

1991 Golf War. 320 tons of radioactive weaponry used (euphemistically termed "depleted" uranium).

2003 Golf War.
"Depleted" uranium used much more frequently in civilian areas.
Today, Iraq is strewn with radiocative rounds, and most Iraqi citizens and occupying troops are unaware of the toxic nature of this material, which can be born aloft in dust particles. Proximity to it fosters the development of birth defects, cancers, and disease.

U.S. soldiers are reporting illnesses from their exposure. The Gulf War syndrome is tied to the use of uranium-enriched weaponry. Depleted Uranium has been discussed as a weapon of U.S. terrorism (think "shock and awe").

This site provides documents concerning the use of uranium-enriched weapons.

Would a Kerry presidency put an end to this madness and ban the use of toxic weaponry that risks poisoning Iraq and its people for countless generations?

Friday, October 29

Tea room

photos by fanni terrette 奈良

Thursday, October 28

Shame on You, Mr. Bush

While right-wingers in the United States complain about the "liberal media" "obsessing" over photographs depicting torture by U.S. troops and mercenaries, a new report has returned a human face to U.S.-led military and corporatist aggression in Iraq (likely to the consternation of Rush Limbaugh and all the news strategists at the Fox News corporate entertainment center).
Via Faramin and now widely reported, this new study by U.S. and Iraqi health experts estimates the number of Iraqi deaths caused by U.S.-led coalition forces to be 100,000. The estimate is deliberately conservative. The authors note that the actual death toll "may be much higher."

Contrast this finding with what a Bush-supporting acquaintance wrote to me in April of this year (post of April 15):

"In studying the abortion question, I have learned to be wary of unsubstantiated statistics. Some groups just seem to make them up as they go along. For example, you stated, "Calling the death by US firepower and cluster bombs of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq ..." To the best of my knowledge, cluster bombs were not used in cities in the 2nd Iraq war. Smart bombs were. "Tens of thousands" is a gross exaggeration."
So much for gross exaggerations. If my estimates were gross exaggerations, they were so in understating the probable number of killings.

The horror of this carnage, carried out both cynically and naïvely in the name of "security," "peace," "democracy," "freedom," etc., defies words. At the moment, I can only echo Michael Moore who, shortly after the killing started, said, "Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you."

If this link does not open to the report directly, the report is available, with registration, at The Lancet, a British Medical journal.

Here is the interpretation of data penned by one of the authors of the report:

Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.
And here are some notable lines, from the final paragraph of the study:
"US General Tommy Franks is widely quoted as saying 'we don't do body counts.' The Geneva Conventions have clear guidance about the responsibilities of occupying armies to the civilian population they control. The fact that more than half the deaths reportedly caused by the occupying forces were women and chilren is cause for concern. In particular, Convention IV, Article 27 states that protected persons "... shall be at all times humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against acts of violence...". It seems difficult to understand how a military force could monitor the extent to which civilians are protected against violence without systematically doing body counts or at least looking at the kinds of casualities they induce."
Fortunately, not everyone in the U.S. has remained apathetic about this wildly excessive killing.

Wednesday, October 27

One lane so high

photos by fanni terrette, Nishi-Yoshino, Japan 2004

Tuesday, October 26

When Called "Anti-Semitic"

How might you respond if, when criticizing the right-wing leadership of Israel, you are called "anti-Semitic"? First, you might clarify, for the benefit of your slanderer, the precise meaning and the political history of the term "Semitic."
As the retired lawyer Robert Thompson explains:

I write "anti-semitic" because [...] many more Semites speak Arabic than Hebrew, and the word "semitic" relates to a group of languages spoken by people of all colors of skin. The idea of a "semitic race" arises from the racist theories of Theodor Herzl who invented the "Jewish race" as a basis for his political aim of Zionism. If anyone looks at a dark-skinned Jew from Harlem (New York) or from Ethiopia, he or she does not in my view have any close resemblance to a white-skinned Jew from Europe. I still think of a Jew as being a person who tries to live his or her life in accordance with the tenets of Judaism, a religion for which I, as a Christian, have the deepest respect.

In contrast with this attitude, the Nazis used Herzl's theories as a convenient excuse for persecuting the Jews, and decreed that anyone with a Jewish grandparent was thereby of "Jewish race". Rather than following Rabbinic rules as to who is a Jew, the founders of the Zionist state followed Herzl and used exactly the same formula as the Nazis when deciding who should have the absolute "right" to settle in Palestine under their auspices. This same racist principle is currently used to limit the number of indigenous Arabs living within the borders of the "State of Israel" and, furthermore, to give them a lower status as second-class citizens of their state.
Next, you might discuss the Biblical (and, already, political) origin of the notion of anti-Semitism. Consider, for example, that, when he is called "anti-Semitic" for being critical of the Israeli government, Noam Chomsky says that his response depends on:

...who [the accusers] are. If they're people [...] with a nice Jewish education like I had, I tell them to read the Bible, where the concept is invented. It was used by King Ahab, the epitome of evil in the Bible that calls the prophet Elijah — Elijah was what we would nowadays call a dissident intellectual, like most of the prophets were, giving geo-political analysis, calling for moral behavior — he calls for Elijah, he said why you are a hater of Israel? [And Elijah asks,] What does that mean? [And Ahab replies,] You are criticizing me. I'm the king. I'm Israel. And therefore you're a hater of Israel. And that's what the concept means. If you identify the country, the people, the culture with the rulers, accept the totalitarian doctrine, then yeah, it's anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli policy, and anti-American to criticize the American policy, and it was anti-Soviet when the dissidents criticized Russian policy. You have to accept deeply totalitarian assumptions not to laugh at this. If an Italian criticized Berlusconi and he was called anti-Italian, the people would crack up with laughter, because there’s some kind of democratic culture [in Italy]. The fact we don't crack up with ridicule, [when we hear] that [such and such a] notion is anti-American or anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, it tells us something about ourselves.
Incidentally, Ralph Nader has penned a letter to Abraham Foxman of Weekend Edition that addresses this same question. The letter is published at CounterPunch (Oct 16 - 17) and is titled "Criticizing Israel is Not Anti-Semitism." This letter also puts to rest any suspicion one might have whether Nader is the most educated and compelling presidential candidate when it comes to the Middle East conflict in particular. One cannot even imagine the major-party candidates taking time out of their campaigns of attacks and counter-attacks to write such a letter as this. The prospects for the peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as for a noticeable diminution of the conditions that favor terrorism, would be greatly enhanced by the intelligent and dedicated leadership of President Nader (and will surely remain, for many years, as slim as the prospects are now of Nader becoming President).


Monday, October 25

Kobe aesthetic

photos by fanni terrette 神戸

Sunday, October 24

Swing for Kerry, pt. 2

What follows is the second of two posts that explain the reasons for my endorsing John Kerry over Ralph Nader in so-called swing states.
There is another dimension to my hesitation to support Nader all-out. Consider, next, his July 9, 2004 debate with Howard Dean at the National Press Club, where Nader was asked by the moderator, Margot Adler, the following:

MODERATOR: If Senator John Kerry wins and asks you, Mr. Nader, to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency, would you take the job?
And replied that:

NADER: The answer is no, because I want to be, after the election, what Howard Dean told me he wanted to be during the election when he lost the primary, [namely,] a hair shirt to the Democrats, a real hair shirt, not a linen handkerchief.
While it would be impossible to imagine Nader answering "yes" to this question, since that would make his candidacy look like a mere power play designed to get him well placed in a Kerry Administration, Nader's stated ambition here is troubling. It makes him fit the spoiler image he rejects and at times mocks, since he seems content to target one opponent in particular. It suggests that it is Nader who has taken his eye off the ball, and not those who are intent on voting pragmatically, or out of well-founded fears of the Neocons who, for self-enriching and ideological ends, swarm around and manipulate the feeble presidency of George Bush. If Nader's main purpose were the reform of government, he would not liken taking such a position to selling out and suggest that irritating Democrats is his driving ambition. Heading the EPA would give Nader enormous powers of reform, and his saying that he would refuse such a position to concentrate on irritating Democrats leaves him in the very small role of "guy out to punish the Democrats." Sure, the Democrats deserve punishing criticism. Alexander Cockburn provides some in "The Democratic Party: an Advanced State of Decay: You Can't Blame Nader for This," available at CounterPunch, Oct 22-24. Here's a sample:

We are now witnessing the Democratic Party in very advanced decay. After the Clinton/DLC years, its street cred is conclusively shot. In formal political function the party is nothing much more than an ATM machine, spewing out torrents of cash, supplied by the unions and by corporations seeking favors, to the armies of consultants and operators who have lived off it for decades. Its right wing comprises people who could as easily be in the Republican Party, its center people incapable of standing on any principle. Its left, this season, is made up of the Anybody But Bush crowd, who last spring made the decision to let Kerry be Kerry, without a word of criticism, when he pledged a better war on Iraq and even a march on Tehran.
Still, it is hard to see why Nader would refuse to assert progressive leadership in the EPA, unless his primary goal were simply to be a persistent annoyance to the Democratic Party. At the very least, Nader could have used the question as a springboard to discussing the problematic state of the EPA today and what his appointee to the EPA would look like, in the improbable situation of his being elected.

So, in addition to Nader's not making the case well enough that his candidacy, at this point in our nation's political scene, is the most compelling way to address the myriad problems he astutely identifies, he falters, here and elsewhere, by getting carried away in petty revolt against the mediocre Democrats.

My speculation is that one thing that could have led Nader to feel so embittered toward the Democrats is his having held false illusions about their grandeur. His attempt to reform the Democrats through external opposition and the model of a clean campaign has as much hope as would the effort to bring a level playing field to Major League Baseball by picketing George Steinbrenner's Yankees with nostalgic posters depicting Lou Gehrig. In my view, the Democrats have been the less-worse political party for a long time, and not only for the past thirty or so years, as Nader often says. The shortcomings of the Democratic Party did not emerge with the massive build-up in the 70s and 80s of corporate lobbying in Washington, D.C. Nor will they ever be fully eradicated with the development of a third party. At best, a third party would achieve some gains and end up incorporating into itself much of the corruption that has run roughshod over the Democratic and Republican Parties. And since that is the most believable scenario, as opposed to the triumph of a purified political party that Nader seeks, perhaps the ideal of a pure political party risks becoming a side-show and an obstacle to the promotion of lasting reforms. Third parties have made great gains in the past, it's true, but many gains have been made without them. Martin Luther King Jr. never ran as a third-party candidate for office.

For all the above reasons, I fully embrace the pragmatic approach to the presidential election. I encourage those who reside in swing states and who care about the progressive gains of their fellow citizens, living and dead, to vote for Kerry and participate in politics beyond November 2, whatever the results. However, I urge those who live in states neutralized by the Electoral College (and thus saddled with foregone conclusions) to vote for a decidedly progressive candidate. David Cobb of the Green Party and Ralph Nader each have widely progressive platforms that would promote social change, universal health care, environmental protection, peace in the Middle East, real job creation, etc. Moreover, their websites, while lacking religious rhetoric and shiny family portraits, are rich with creative solutions to real political problems.

It seems appropriate to end this post by linking to a clip from a recent interview with Noam Chomsky, who discusses the election with Amy Goodman. I highly recommend watching this interview (click on "Watch 128k stream" or "Watch 256k stream"), in which Chomsky states that

the election is a marginal affair, it should not distract us from the serious work of changing the society, and the culture and the institutions, creating a democratic culture. That’s what you work on. You can’t ignore the election. It’s there. But it’s designed as a method of essentially marginalizing the population. There’s a huge propaganda campaign to get people to focus on these personalized extravaganzas, and make them think, "That’s politics." Well, it isn’t. That’s a marginal part of politics, and here, a very marginal part.
Journalists themselves confirm Chomsky's assessment, since they judge the coverage of the 2004 elections to be atrocious, with very few exceptions, especially in televised coverage, which is where most of the power is concentrated.

Saturday, October 23


 居酒屋 写真・ファニーテレット

Know Thy Bush

The World According to a Bush Voter explains how little Bush supporters know the policies of their man for office.

Here is the study on which the above article was based. The study was conducted by PIPA (the Program on International Policy Attitudes).
In addition to these persistent and widespread confusions among Bush supporters over policy and the state of affairs in the world today, New Donkey explains, via Talking Points Memo, that Bush is a heretic on a number of accounts. I am sure that very few Catholics who support Bush have given these points their due consideration. Lest their Maker take offense, they had better wise up before November 2nd.

My commentary, in a word: Bush supporters, get a clue (preferably before voting).

Friday, October 22

Swing for Kerry, pt. 1

What follows is the first of two posts that explain the reason for my endorsing John Kerry over Ralph Nader in so-called swing states. In presenting this, I take for granted that my reader is largely familiar with Kerry's platform and does not need me to rehash it.
Many endorsements for Kerry emphasize the “disastrous tenure” (NYTimes) of George W. Bush and argue that, by comparison, President Kerry could only be an improvement. This is an easy way out, as it turns making the case for Kerry into a stroll along the beach. It would be more difficult and, I think, more compelling, to argue for favoring Kerry to Nader. As for me, making the case against the Nader vote in swing states was at first difficult because I agree with Nader on the issues and see that he has been treated brutally by many Democrats (including all the paid voices of Air America Radio).

The source of my support for the strategically placed Kerry vote can be found in Nader’s own arguments. Nader is right when he says that it is unfair to label him a spoiler when all candidates try to spoil other candidates’ chances for election. He is also justified in drawing attention to the unfair way in which he has been treated by scheming Democrats and an uneven system of ballot access, among other things. The system he has courageously confronted is nothing short of criminal, and his candidacy has highlighted the fact that, in the United States, democracy has been sold off to corporate interests and hacked to pieces by bought-and-sold politicians. But there are a few decisive blind spots in Nader's approach that, when taken into account, weaken the grounds for his drive to campaign hard in swing states. Consider, first, this exchange with David Brancaccio that took place on Now with Bill Moyers (October 8, 2004):

BRANCACCIO: You're doing very well. This could, your candidacy in particular, perhaps yours, swing the election. You said in February on television that if it was very close late in the game, maybe you might pull out. Maybe you might ask people in close states to vote for, perhaps Kerry. It's getting late here. You prepared to do that right now?

NADER: David, I didn't say that. I said to Tim Russert, if it's close in October...

BRANCACCIO: ...You'd come back to talk to us.

NADER: ...invite me back. He hasn't invited me back yet.

BRANCACCIO: A great time to do that.

NADER: Yeah, here's my answer. If people are worried about third parties tipping the balance between the two major corporate candidates, then their problem is with the Electoral College. Their problem is with the absence of instant run-off voting. Their problem is with a winner take all system that we're all prisoners of. And it's time to get out of jail.
Mr. Nader is right to deflect voters' worries and anger away from third parties, and even, by implication, from himself, but this argument could just as well be turned against Nader's campaign, since Nader's problem, as well as everyone else's who likes the notion of democracy, is primarily with the Electoral College and the winner-take-all system of voting. Of course, the two dominant parties are resistant to reform these distortions of democracy, but, contrary to Nader's assumption, it is not firmly established that running a progressive candidate hard in swing states is the best means of addressing these problems. Indeed, it is doubtful. And that is true even if it remains (as I think it does) disputable whether Nader's candidacy would draw more votes from Kerry than from Bush. The mere risk of tilting the balance to Bush should be grounds enough for not hitting as hard in a decisive state such as Florida.

Nader has an abundance of crucial ideas for the reforms he seeks, as can be seen in other comments from the same interview:

NADER: I think the American people want more voices and choices on the ballot line. We need to dramatically reduce the huge ballot access barriers that have produced a two-party duopoly that turns around and through redistricting, carves up the country and leaves voters with one dominant party in one district after another, Republican or Democrat. That's not an election. An election means selection. That's a coronation. Ninety-five percent of the House of Representatives seats are one-party dominated, Republican or Democrat. So we need more third parties, more independent candidates at the local, state and national level. Here's how you get them. You have public funding of public campaigns based on a well-promoted voluntary check-off on the 1040 tax return. Number two, you get rid of these ballot access barriers. In the 19th century, they were much lower. We had many more third parties. They broke ground on the abolition of slavery, women's right to vote, labor rights for trade unions. There was a much more fluid system. We need same day voter registration. We need run-off elections.
Very well put, Mr. Nader; however, none of this supports the claim that defying pragmatism is the best of all solutions to these many problems, particularly at this juncture in our nation's history. The threat of the Neocons is far more sinister than the long-observed structural deterioration of our democracy, which deterioration will not be reversed in the short term, no matter what the results of the upcoming election. Still, there are signs that some of the structural corruption of our system has begun to crumble, as exemplified most recently by the fact that the Republican-leaning State of Colorado is considering a proportionate distribution of its Electoral College votes, rather than a winner-take-all give-away, as is practiced elsewhere. Now, this proposed reform is not the consequence of any third party, and the glorification of past third-party gains is not a persuasive means of arguing that all such reforms must begin with a complete upheaval of the corrupt duopolistic power of the Democrats and Republicans. In my view, a progressive rotting away and displacement of this power by the efforts of citizens’ groups and popular organizations would be more likely, and ultimately more effective, than a nation-wide revolt presenting itself as an effort to topple the big players through the same narrow, media-controlled conduits.


Thursday, October 21

Democrat Rises from Dead

It was widely reported that the formerly exsanguine Bill Clinton will appear at a rally in support of the Kerry campaign on Monday. This represents a significant shift in presidential election dynamics. Whereas the Republicans have been running God's self-appointed commander on Earth, the Democrats can now at least boast a Lazarus-like campaigner on their side. If this reversal in the trend of divine intervention continues, do not be surprised, before the big day, to hear reports of apparitions beckoning the faithful to vote Democratic.
But enough joking for now. Please do the patriotic thing and assist our president in this time of international strife and calamity.

Wednesday, October 20

Kyoto pastel

photos by fanni terrette

Tuesday, October 19

Voting for Bush?

Inspired by the Guardian's efforts to encourage British citizens to express their opinions on the upcoming presidential election to voters in Clark County, Ohio, I'm going to send the following letter to swing-state bloggers. To my advantage is the fact that I'm not a limey arshole. Globe of Blogs lists blogs by location, thus making possible this type of targeted cyber-intrusion. (Some responses to the Guardian-directed letters were not pretty).
Dear Bush sympathizer or not-yet-fully-committed voter,

For months, I have listened to many reasons given by those who are set on voting for Bush for their positive view of the Bush presidency, and I would like to list what seem to me the most popular. I will also respond, briefly, to each line of thinking and I ask you to respond as you see fit. Do you share some of these pro-Bush views? Would you offer other reasons for supporting Bush that I have not characterized here? Would you dispute my follow-up remarks?

If you are not fully committed to a Bush vote, please read what follows and, if you like, send me comments so that we can have a civil exchange about this important choice before us.

1. You shouldn't change quarterback too often (let the man finish his job in Iraq).

This view, which appears to have more to do with the Washington Redskins quarterback situation than it does U.S. politics, defeats the entire purpose of presidential elections, which is to give a voice to the people so that they can use their judgment either to mark dissatisfaction or establish a mandate for the president-to-be. This is particularly significant in this cycle, as the current president received no clear mandate from the voters four years ago. In my view, we should not let Bush push forward with his "catastrophic success" in Iraq. We should not reward our leadership for creating catastrophes. We should not let Bush and his team continue to distort the reality of the conflict in Iraq by labeling it a "success" and persisting in the hallucination that it has struck a blow against international terrorism or made Americans safer at home. We should not be under the illusion, either, that Kerry will triumph over terrorism, or bring a radical shift in U.S. policy. Still, we should recognize that Kerry would be less likely to pose a serious obstacle to a potential resolution of the Middle East conflict than would Bush.

2. 9/11.

This is sometimes presented simply as a concept whose light is supposed to sit upon Bush's head like a halo and at other times with the unconvincing view that "Bush acted firmly after 9/11." The facts show that Bush did virtually nothing but run and hide on 9/11, that his pre-9/11 anti-terrorist efforts were at best derelict, and that he even resisted a non-partisan investigation into the event and continues, today, to suppress 9/11-related reports. Not good, anyway you size it up. We need leadership that will not fear being compromised by a full, publicly-available investigation into 9/11 and the historical and political factors which led to it. This is a matter of decisive importance for our national security. Kerry does not promise to satisfy the public's need for full disclosure, but a new regime will at least help to air the dirty laundry of the last.

3. Bush is against abortion.

The "partial birth" rhetoric helps Bush here, but by signing the bill that was packaged with this name, Bush will not prevent a single abortion from taking place. If Bush tries, through Supreme Court appointments, to outlaw abortion, he will face a virtual civil war, if not an actual one, since a clear majority of U.S. citizens does not want the government to outlaw abortion. Bush's assault on the Constitution in this area could signal the death-knell of his right-wing stranglehold on the U.S. government and cause damage in a number of other areas that social conservatives hold dear.

4. Bush stands up against homosexuals.

The "constitutional amendment" smoke-screen works in Bush's favor here by obscuring two important facts: i) such an amendment doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing ii) Bush's position, aside from this amendment charade, is not different from Kerry's. Both feel marriage should be reserved for other-sex couples. What's more, the claim that, in exploiting homophobia, Bush is "protecting marriage" is complete rubbish.

5. Bush is strong on terror.

Bush's voice raising, macho posturing, and his ridiculing of the U.N. and the International Criminal Court make him look impressive and strong, but Bush's distractive, self-serving take-over of Iraq suggests that he is clueless about even which country to strike, not to mention what kind of strike would best suit the purpose of stemming terror, and how to carry such a strike out. Furthermore, Bush and his studio crew are wildly deceptive in trying to suggest that Kerry's positions on the U.N. and other international bodies are different than his. Both are unilateralists in principle. The only qualitative difference is that Bush is stunningly effective at alienating allies and potential allies, whereas Kerry has shown some concern for maintaining the appearance of diplomacy. These are both awful leaders, in view of their political and military programs, but Bush is far more dangerous for the stability of the world as we know it. Let's not be distracted by the press, who want us to believe that this is a contest between a he-man and a pussy-foot. This is not a contest between personalities. We are not watching a dating game. We are being asked to choose between two corporate militarists who have no solution for peace in the Middle East, and who therefore promise lots of terrorism for us and our children. But, based on his short and horrific record of inflaming hatred across the globe at — yes — America, Bush is far more dangerous than Kerry.

6. Bush is Christian.

Well, guess what, Kerry is, too. The big difference here is that, unlike Kerry, Bush learned from Pat Robertson long ago how to use Christianity cynically for vote-getting (and that is true no matter how sincere the man's faith in Jesus Christ may be). The Frontline portrait of Kerry and Bush, called "The Choice," shows how, early on, Bush and his advisor Karl Rove understood the importance of religious rhetoric for pocketing the Christian vote. More important, on the issues, it is clear that, if either man's policies have to be judged from the perspective of Christian principles, Bush's voracious greed (which has characterized his entire professional and political career) would get him in serious trouble with any self-respecting God (to mention just one of his massive failings, when judged according to the well-known tenets of Christianity). Esther Kaplan and Ron Suskind have researched this question and discuss it here. But, we should be wiser on both scores here, especially since Kerry has been trying his best to catch up on piety. Kerry certainly has been surrounded by advisors who have pushed him to hype up the religious rhetoric, and I am sure that they don't give a damn about Kerry's spiritual make-up. The main point is this: we are not being asked to elect a priest, and we should not let our televisions and hate-radio programs convince us otherwise. This whole issue is one big, fat, cynical distraction. It's like debating whether we think the candidate who wears starched shirts would have more moral fiber than the candidate whose boxer shorts are pressed.

7. Kerry, as depicted by the beautiful people at Fox News, Limbaugh, and other corporate entertainers, is an asshole (Kerry can't make up his mind, follows public opinion slavishly, is a communist, looks French, does his nails, windsurfs, etc.).

Perhaps the Fox News cast, Limbaugh, and the rest of the "disgruntled" crowd are the assholes here. When you consider that their carefully constructed image of Kerry is a fraud, and in fact a very laughable, bungled attempt at fraud, you begin to wonder. The real point here is: are you going to vote your fears (based on the Republican Party slandering of Kerry), or are you going to inform yourself on the issues and determine which candidate's platform would better serve your own interests?

Monday, October 18

Reading without Consuming

In most bookstores in Japan, one can read all day without being approached by any store owner or employee. Reading is not deemed "consuming reading material" as it is in many other parts of the world. Whereas in America, for instance, reading, like so many other things, is treated as if it were a subcategory of eating, in Japan, it is almost the absence of activity: a "down-time" in which one insulates oneself from the surrounding world of people and appointments, a pocket of private leisure inserted into public movement and sound. For this reason, in Japan's hustle-and-bustle cities, it is deemed both necessary and natural. Among its other uses and meanings, the activity, which goes by a name that literally means "standing-reading," allows high school kids to delay returning to their parents, husbands to avoid their wives, and so on.

Sunday, October 17

Stucco in Okinawa

photos by fanni terrette

Saturday, October 16

Battling the Forces of Darkness a White House Press Briefing...
Journalist: Uhm, I'm having a hard time here... I'm struggling to see... before we get started, could someone change the light bulb or pull a blind?

Press Secretary Scott McClellan: The bulb has served us honorably and will continue to do so. Morever, by order of the Department of Homeland Security, all post-9/11 blinds shall remain firmly shut. Now, let me say, if anyone wants to paint a dark picture of this room or imply that the president is not in full command, they can maybe just ask themselves what Europe would look like today if President Roosevelt or Winston Churchill had been pessimistic. The president will never give comfort to the forces of darkness. Once a bulb is on board, we never change it. The president is resolute on this and always has been. Unlike his opponent, the president remains optimistic. The president is very firm, here. The president has been very clear.

Journalist: But... I can hardly see my notes...

Scott McClellan: As I said, the bulb is fine, and the president is very clear. So, if you want to denigrate the bulb for its service, that's your prerogative, but, as I said, the president's message is clear. And, I might remind you, this particular bulb had already dimmed considerably in the previous administration (pointing outward to the seated journalists). The president inherited a good deal of dimness... next!

Journalist: Uh, me?...

Scott McClellan: ...Whoever's sitting directly in front of me. Go ahead.

Journalist: Well, I think, uh, I, too... if I could just locate my recorder. Excuse me, does anyone have a pen light?

Scott McClellan: (impatiently) Listen, I don't know what the problem is here. The President has been very clear. It was never a question of there being perfect lighting in this room or any other. The president never said that. Could things be brighter? Yes, of course. Is the President working hard everyday for the American people? Of course he is. The President has never wavered. He wakes up everyday thinking about brightness and light. And, you know as well as I do, American-made light bulbs are the envy of the world. Now, that's my final word. The answer to any other questions today is that the President has been very resolute and very clear. Thank you.

Inspired by contributor to The Chicago Tribune as culled at the Blog of the Attorney General of the United States.

Friday, October 15

Extruded Okinawa

photos by fanni terrette

Thursday, October 14

Another Name for "Moral Clarity"

I will refrain from giving a lengthy account of my impressions from the final exchange between John Kerry and George Bush (Steve Bates and many others have done this work well), but I would like to respond to the piece of Republican spin (which I heard repeated in an interview on BBC radio last night) that says that, of the two favored candidates for the executive office, George Bush shows greater "moral clarity."
I was struck by just how little clarity George Bush provides on one of the issues he has made the biggest stink over: homosexuality and rights for same-sex couples. Here is a Reuters account of the exchange in question:

Asked by the debate moderator whether he thought homosexuality was a matter of choice, Bush said, "You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know."
The moderator's question went right to the heart of the issue. If being gay is less of a choice than it is a discovery, then is there any reason why we should treat gays as a threat to civic and religious institutions? And the President's reply? The President just doesn't know... Such a reply would be understandable if one allowed that moral issues rarely admit of clarity, but the fact is, this President is leading a charge (that has already been firmly rebuffed by both houses of Congress) to amend the Constitution so that gays are definitively excluded from hundreds of rights that currently favor married heterosexual couples. So, I ask, is this clarity? Rushing to amend the Constitution over a matter of which the President says he does not have a clear understanding? Doesn't that look a lot more like stupidity? Or, worse, political maneuvering that hopes to cash in on widespread homophobic notions while at the same time preaching "tolerance" and "respect"? There's another name for that. It begins with an "h."

Following the President's admission of ignorance, he said this:

"I do know that we have a choice to make in America and that is to treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity. It's important that we do that."
If this is clarity, one would hope for tangible legislative proposals that would not only preach "tolerance and respect and dignity" but reflect these principles in law. But for that, one has to look to Bush's opponents, Edwards and Kerry, who want to grant same-sex couples specific rights (while still not permitting them a government-sanctioned contract to be called "marriage"). As Kerry said,

"You can't disallow someone the right to visit their partner in a hospital. You have to allow people to transfer property, which is why I'm for partnership rights and so forth."
When asked the question about the nature of homosexuality, Kerry, whom the Republicans relentlessly depict as being indecisive and unclear, said,
"I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice."
As I see it, it took moral clarity for Kerry not to equivocate on this issue. Bush, by contrast, tried to position himself on the fence with an astounding claim to ignorance, a hollow statement about "tolerance" and other ideals, and an impotent — and, strictly speaking, irrelevant — call to "protect marriage" (as if, in denying gays marriage by means of a Constitutional amendment, we would be "protecting" marriage, an assumption even the right-wing commentator David Brooks finds ridiculous).

On a personal note, I asked a gay friend of mine about this issue a few weeks ago; the following is copied from our e-mail:

Me: what would your response be to someone who told you that homosexuality is merely a personal choice that one can reject?

He: Hmm, well, I suppose I would say, "Why would I choose to be in such a condemned, hated minority when I could live a perfectly "normal" life as a heterosexual and avoid all the pain, heartache and self hatred which accompany being homosexual?" In other words, I would not have chosen such an existence if I could have helped it, so I have come to accept the nature of who I am and try to live as happily as I can despite the vitriolic hatred spewed by those who don't understand.
As I see things, if there is moral clarity on the issue of homosexuality, it can be found in my friend's words. The far-right wing of the Republican Party has pushed Bush into a thoroughly indefensible position and, lacking moral — and logical — clarity, Bush is rushing to stain our Constitution with ignorance. In fact, things are probably worse than that. It is most likely that Bush is merely pretending, for his short-term political gain, that the amendment of the Constitution is a vital issue, since no one in their right mind would give the proposed amendment a chance of passing. So, I say, let's not let Bush jostle for political gain by appealing to voters’ fears. Let’s not take him seriously when he toys with the role of ‘moral activist’ with respect to our Constitution. And, in all matters, let's not let George W. Bush get away with implying that he represents "the main stream" as he did so fraudulently in his televised comments last night.


Mirth of wisdom

photos by fanni terrette

Wednesday, October 13

A Pause in the Show

Since major-party politicians in the United States increasingly find it convenient to evoke the word "war" to describe their corporate supremacist take-overs and occupations as well as their domestic and foreign policies generally, it is good to remind oneself from time to time what exactly war entails, on a human level; that is, outside the pathologically technophilic dressing up of war that corporate news networks specialize in and profit from spectacularly. So, in your moment of leisure, forget for a time the "smart bombs" and "precision-guided weapons;" the "collateral damage;" the reverential recourse to retired generals; the smartly dressed news anchors; the "fireworks" footage of bombing in Baghdad, Fallujah, and elsewhere; the apocalyptical speechifying of the political conventions; and the tax-devouring non-security-related military budget, and read, if you will, this testimony of a soldier, who calls his piece "Hold on to Your Humanity: An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq." Enjoy, my fellow Americans. Enjoy, everyone. Life is good in the Empire today, and autumn's glow reposes upon those within it.

To resume show, view this short video, from the cockpit of a U.S. bomber, which gives a glimpse of life today within an expanding zone of the liberating Empire.

In a related site, the group Operation Truth features soldiers' testimonies and video ads.

Tuesday, October 12

A mirror facade

photos by fanni terrette

Monday, October 11

The NYTimes Buries Derrida in Countertruth

Question: Why, only days after his death, has the NYTimes whipped up confusion and heaped vicious insult upon one of the most lucid, courageous, and generous thinkers of the last 50 years?
Today's obituary in the NYTimes for Jacques Derrida, written by Jonathan Kandell, aggressively crumples this important thinker into a paper wad of all that is detested (and wildly misunderstood) by the academic intelligentsia in America and flings it with rage into a gaping grave of intellectual history. It pummels and spits upon Derrida with a ferocity that one normally reserves for one's most threatening — living and real — enemies. I will speculate why such a vicious thing as this could have appeared in a publication of this size and importance but, first, I note that friends and colleagues of Derrida have responded to Kandell's insensate diatribe with a co-signed letter to the editor which begins as follows:

Jonathan Kandell's obituary article on Jacques Derrida, published in the NYTimes of October 10th, is as mean-spirited as it is uninformed. To characterize Derrida, one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, as an "Abstruse Theorist" who is "notoriously difficult," is to employ criteria, such as simplicity or transparency, which would disqualify virtually all the significant thinkers of the past century, including Einstein, Wittgenstein, and Heisenberg. Worse, with scarcely concealed xenophobia, Derrida's work, and deconstruction generally, are described as yet another of those "fashionable, slippery philosophies that emerged from France after World War II," which "many Americans, in particular," felt were "undermining many of the traditional standards of classical education" as well as encouraging "divisive political causes."

In fact, Derrida's writing has been focused on the major works of the Western Tradition, from Plato, Aristotle, and the Bible to Shakespeare, Kant, and the Declaration of Independence — none of which he ever suggested we should discard as the products of "dead white men," as Mr. Kandell implies. As for political causes, Derrida was a tireless critic of apartheid and racism in all its forms.

While he asserts without further evidence that "literary critics" under the baneful influence of deconstruction allegedly "broke texts into isolated passages and phrases to find hidden meanings," Mr. Kandell himself does precisely this when he quotes several isolated statements without ever trying to indicate their possible context. They then are designated as "typical of Mr. Derrida's murky explanations of his philosophy." (One of the quotes he attributes to Derrida, "O my friend, there is no friend," is in fact from Aristotle!). In short, this text confirms one of the few sensible quotes it contains: "Many otherwise unmalicious people have in fact been guilty of wishing for deconstruction's demise-if only to relieve themselves of the burden of trying to understand it." Whether Mr. Kendall's article is "unmalicious" we will leave to others to decide. There can be no question, however, that his article does everything it can to "relieve" readers "of the burden of trying to understand" Jacques Derrida and deconstruction, by announcing the demise of both.

(Sam Weber, Northwestern; Ken Reinhard, UCLA)

Over 300 signers have joined in this letter of protest. The letter can be consulted and signed here.
I can only speculate and wonder, aghast, what led the NYTimes to launch such an attack on Derrida. Perhaps there is a history of confrontation that goes beyond the obvious contentiousness that has always marked the competing Anglo-American and Continental traditions of philosophy. Derrida was consistently submitted to dismissive caricature in the NYTimes and once, in a gesture that was rare for him, Derrida, to illustrate a larger point, discussed one of these incidents in a paper he gave called "History of the Lie: Prolegomena" (in Futures: Of Jacques Derrida, Ed. Richard Rand, Stanford U Press, 2001, 65-98). My speculation is that today's rancorous obituary both continues the tradition of treating intellectuals and Derrida, in particular, with smug brutishness and may even serve as pay back for Derrida's having responded to this particular instance of abuse in the NYTimes. In the paper, Derrida recounts how Tony Judt, a professor at New York University, published an article in the NYTimes entitled, "French War Stories," in which the author advances a number of laughably false claims concerning Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault, claiming that they are all Marxists and that they have all been "curiously silent" about Vichy France's responsibility in crimes of WWII. Aside from feeling indignant at the obviously false nature of the claims, Derrida expresses dismay at the fact that the partial retraction by the NYTimes of the article's scurrilous assertions, which came on the heels of a letter to the editor submitted by Kevin Anderson, an associate professor of sociology at N. Illinois University, was destined, as all such follow-up letters are, to obscurity. In expressing his dismay, Derrida describes what can be called, without exaggeration, the plague of the modern media state. Those attentive to political matters in the U.S. will immediately recognize in these words the guiding principle of George Bush's chief advisor and publicity guru, Karl Rove:

"Such letters are always printed in an unobtrusive and sometimes unlocatable place, whereas the effect of truth, or rather of countertruth, of the first article "properly speaking" remains ineffaceable for millions of readers..." (85)
The philosophical questions which the recounting of this incident allows Derrida to raise include the following:

"Exactly what is it a matter of here? Incompetence? Lack of lucidity or analytic acuity? Good faith ignorance? Accidental error? Twilight bad faith falling somewhere between the lie and thoughtlessness? Compulsion and the logic of the unconscious? An outright false witness, perjury, lie? These categories are no doubt irreducible to each other, but what is one to think of the very frequent situations in which, in fact, in truth, they contaminate one another and no longer lend themselves to a rigorous delimitation? And what if this contagion marked the very space of so many public discourses, notably in the media?" (83-84)
Again, Derrida's comments burn with relevance for the economically televised political environment of the United States. How is one ever to describe such a speech act as that in which George Bush, when asked in a "Townhall debate" about his environmental "record," says that, "I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land"? Into which of the many categories of error and deception that Derrida lists above should this incredible statement be included? And how could the massive effects of countertruth that it radiates throughout the land ever be stemmed or reversed?

As if Derrida's reflections on the lie did not already resonate strongly enough with our current media-controlled political environment and, in particular, the stubbornly duplicitous handling of the Iraq take-over by the Bush Administration, consider this further line of questioning, which shows that Derrida was not trying simply to score a point against his detractor:

"No doubt, one ought to keep a sense of proportion. But how to calculate proportion when the capitalistico-techno-mediatic power of an international newspaper can produce effects of truth or countertruth worldwide, which are sometimes tenacious and ineffaceable, concerning the most serious subjects in the history of humanity, going far beyond the modest persons implicated in the recent example I have just given?" (86)
The notion of countertruth, as Derrida conceives it here, is irreducible to that of the lie. Thus, Derrida underscores that,

" speaking of the countertruth [contre-vérité] of his article, I never said that Professor Judt lied. Everything that is false cannot be imputed to a lie. The lie is not an error. Plato and Augustine both insisted on this. If the concept of the lie has some resistant specificity, it must be rigorously distinguished from the error, from ignorance, from prejudgment, from faulty reasoning, from failure in the realm of knowledge, and even... from failure in the realm of action, practice, or technique.... In order to lie, in the strict and classical sense of this concept, one must know what the truth is and distort it intentionally." (85-86)
Consequently, the notion of countertruth:

"does not belong to the category of self-deception that Hannah Arendt talks about. It is not reducible to any of the categories bequeathed to us by traditional thinking about the lie, from Plato and Augustine up to Kant and even up to Arendt, despite all the differences that separate all these thinkers from each other." (87)
Perhaps this is nothing more than an irony, as one says, but no thinker more than Derrida has established the framework in which to question the mediatic techno-performativity in which falsehoods spread and, consequently, blot out truth with increasing rapidity and decisiveness. Case in point: the New York Times' most recent foray into countertruth production, which is called an "obituary."

The Judt article, Derrida wrote,

"is not the first time that newspapers bearing the name of New York in their title have said whatever they please and lied outright about me, sometimes for months at a time and over several issues." (84)
It is outrageous that the NYTimes has capitalized on the passing of this remarkable thinker by burying his name and reputation with what will certainly prove to have been massive effects of countertruth. I myself write on Derrida and can readily imagine that my writings will be received with increasing coldness and prejudicial stupidity.

In this time of xenophobic, imperialist presumptions running amok throughout the United States' jingoistic, corporate press, it is conceivable that Kendall's motivations, which the NYTimes gives full reign to by publishing his piece, concern, as well, a certain "pay back" to the French for their having been "disloyal" by not joining the unjustified assault on Iraq — as if, of all of his personal achievements and insights, Derrida's most enduring legacy were simply that, in being French, he represents a French "world-view," a quirky, Continental fashion in language, or un-American political configuration. (Even this simplistic assumption about his identity is something that Derrida, the Algerian-born Jew, had political, historical, and cultural reasons for disputing.) The motivation is conceivable, indeed, and for that reason alone, stands as a truly sad commentary on the state of the NYTimes, if not on the nation's Fourth Estate in general.

Sunday, October 10

To each a vantage

photos by fanni terrette

Derrida est mort...

Jacques Derrida, the most famous French philosopher of his generation (b. Algeria, 1930) and author of scores of remarkable works, has died of pancreatic cancer in Paris. I will continue reading and writing on his works till my own death, I am sure. One of his greatest works will appear in English translation in January 2005. It is called Rogues: Two Essays on Reason. This work gives philosophical depth to questions of geopolitics and globalization; by comparison, it makes Chomsky's thoroughly documented and impassioned anti-imperialist writings look important, but conceptually shallow.

Saturday, October 9

Notes on the "Townhall" Debate

Impressions from Kerry's second debate with the Ruffian in Chief:
  • When President Bush stubbornly interrupted the moderator, Charles Gibson, who was trying to pose Bush a follow-up question, and then failed to return to the moderator's squelched question (as any polite debate participant would do), it was the perfect metaphor-in-action for Bush's shortcomings in international diplomacy. Just as — to cite one example — Bush rushed to war on hyped-up threats and faulty and forged intelligence, he offended the sense of fairness of any dispassionate witness to the debate by overriding the master of ceremonies and treating his assistance as resistance. As Kerry joked on the day after the debate, "I thought he was going to attack Charles Gibson." It was the same type of disdain for shared conventions that he heaps upon the International Criminal Court. In Bush’s belligerence we find a remarkable presumption: Bush believes that in being irascibly unilateralist, he attains a higher moral ground than can be hoped for by others’ negotiated agreements. That is, Bush feels that his personal arbitrariness is always less arbitrary than others' deliberately worked out agreements over shared principles of action and rules of discursive engagement. It is hard to figure how this makes any sense. To those who always judge Bush through a lens of plummeted expectations, I might concede that I am making too much of this case, since, possibly, Bush was simply frightened at the prospect of a brain overload: Bush might have feared that if the moderator were to offer new information it could boggle his mind and make it impossible for him to strike what he felt at the moment would be a decisive blow. But this concession, if granted, would only reinforce the telling metaphorical value of a very ugly incident.

  • Everyone can agree, I think, that, beyond memorizing his advisor Karl Rove's talking points (many of which are simply baseless assaults on the "opponent"), Bush does not do his homework. All of his attempts to persuade by citing authority are reduced to an "I know this or that foreign leader," or an "I looked so and so in the eye," etc. This reflects well Bush's disdain for the press, for journalism, and — yes — for the world's affairs as recounted by anyone who has not formally signed on to, or legitimated in some way, his entrenched political circle. Kerry, however, made ample use of press accounts of the state of the nation, of the events in Iraq, etc., and frequently cited Republican law-makers. Now, each man made claims that could be called misleading — again proves useful in locating some of these — but when Bush tried to win a laugh and make Kerry look small and mistaken by expressing astonishment at the suggestion that he, Bush, owned a timber company, and it turns out that, in fact, he does, well, I don't know if there could be a more dramatic way of illustrating Kerry's superior grasp of facts. Kerry knows Bush's tax records and business holdings better than Bush does.

  • It was a curious thing when Bush stopped in mid-sentence, pivoted on his foot, and turned his head to the moderator to request whether he still had time to speak. Did the President forget that both Parties, via their corporate front, the CPD, had had a light system installed to indicate whether or not, and if so, how much time remained for each man's comments? (Once the moderate said, "Yes," Bush, now pressed to proceed, pivoted back in the other direction while shrugging his shoulders and snorting over a grin; but when he resumed talking, it was clear, from his few hollow and disjointed phrases, that he was running on empty.) My question at this point was: why did the President not simply look at the lights? Was his asking a needless question and wriggling out of the moment with a calculated "affability" just his way of stalling? Or could his paranoia for media have become so exacerbated by the damaging reality checks published at home and abroad that he was suspicious and untrusting even of the lighting system? If so, this could be a troubling sign of things to come, both for the nation and the President's mental health. The threat of "liberal bias" may be looming larger by the day in the President's beleaguered mind.

  • The "excuse president": Kerry has used this expression to describe President Bush. Some might think this a bit harsh. But consider this: when challenged on whether he had planned the invasion of Iraq sensibly, by providing a sufficient number of troops, Bush, instead of citing military precedent or discussing specific strategies and arguing for their soundness, said what he always does to cover over his incurable incuriosity. He said that he "looked his generals in the eyes" and that they told him in so many words that everything would be OK. I don't know how much information the President believes he can receive and submit to judgment by means of a gaze, but it seems to me that this is just a cheap, emotional way of excusing himself for laziness and a lack of leadership. (As a side note, I find it ironic that the only time Jesus Christ mentions war is in a passage — Luke 14:31 — where he questions the wisdom of going into battle with an insufficient number of troops. So much, then, for the image of Bush, the righteous warrior, inspired by visions of divine counsel. It appears that the lesson of this verse was missing from his generals' eyes. Here is the verse: "Or what king, going to war with another king, will not first take thought if he will be strong enough, with ten thousand men, to keep off him who comes against him with twenty thousand?" Why, in his greatest hour of decision, did the President not heed his "favorite philosopher"?)

  • I am not too sure what people mean by "appearing presidential." Personally, I think that, for instance, an obese female with dark skin should not be excluded from the possibility of "appearing presidential." But I will say that, of all the things that contrast Bush and Kerry, dignity is Kerry's alone. Consider, simply, the question of posture. When Bush enters a room, he seems to be vigorously repeating to himself, "Walk resolutely, appear erect and determined, look presidential." This would be fine, and perhaps I would even believe that it were in some sense "Texan" — that's the President's explanation for his swagger — if it weren't for the fact that, once other things crowd into the President's frontal lobe — things such as debate topics — his "presidential" posture evaporates and, in its place, one finds a flatulent, impish, slumped over, rude little man. Kerry's posture, however, never seems the product of determined efforts. This is seen in his gait, his manner of standing while he speaks and of listening while he sits: there is an unforced stability and uniformity to his body language that, coupled with his never making snotty remarks or reckless gestures, suggests dignity. If Americans think dignity is or should be a presidential quality, then I suppose that Kerry is more presidential. One thing is sure: there is no dignity to a huff-and-puff, watch-me-look-presidential President.

  • I felt that this second meeting between President Bush and Senator Kerry would have ended with a sense of justice and fairness had Bush taken a flight back to Crawford and Kerry gone to work in the White House without further delay. Democracy certainly is slow.


Friday, October 8

Dorogawa footbridge

photos by fanni terrette

Thursday, October 7

Link on the Irony

Here is something I would like to see John Kerry say in his debate with George Bush, Friday, October 8:
"This Administration has not been honest about the war in Iraq, and it has spent millions of dollars spreading the impression that, on this issue and others, I have regularly changed my positions. Well, the reason they keep mentioning flip-flopping and position-changing is because they're trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false. The President and Vice President know that if they go to factcheck.O-R-G, an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, they can get the specific details with respect to the slanderous and ridiculous charges that they have leveled against me and John Edwards. There, one finds a study of a typically negative Republican campaign ad, and the study concludes that, I quote, 'Selective use of Kerry's own words makes him look inconsistent on Iraq. A closer look gives a different picture.' Indeed, the American people are tired of stubborn and distorting language from their leadership. Now, they are asking for a closer look. And they desperately need a different picture of the nation and its affairs — one that is accurate, and one that is honest."

(End of imagined quote.)

So, as I see it, a more delicious irony than Cheney's having mistakenly sent the public to George Soros' virulently anti-Bush site (, by screwing up the domain name, was that Cheney actually meant to send the public to a site that includes, among other things, a piece that demolishes the obsessive center-piece of the Bush-Cheney assault on Kerry. Here is the synopsis of the September 27-28 piece from

"Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support. But a Bush ad released Sept. 27 takes many of Kerry's words out of context to make him appear to be alternately praising the war and condemning it."
One has to wonder what led Cheney to recommend this site. My speculation is that he is so anxious about Halliburton's misdeeds that he was simply relieved to find SOMETHING that might seem to disculpate him and his "former" company. The state of his anxiety had perhaps reached such a pitch that it prevented him from looking further and realizing that FactCheck offers a very damaging and sobering view of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

It appears that Cheney's gesture had an ironic after-taste, as well. Since yesterday, makes the following statements (from its fact-checking take on the Cheney-Edwards debate):

"Cheney wrongly implied that FactCheck had defended his tenure as CEO of Halliburton Co., and the vice president even got our name wrong. He overstated matters when he said Edwards voted "for the war" and "to commit the troops, to send them to war." He exaggerated the number of times Kerry has voted to raise taxes, and puffed up the number of small business owners who would see a tax increase under Kerry's proposals."
This is a non-partisan site, as the Vice President noted, and so it also criticizes the performance of Senator Edwards:

"Edwards falsely claimed the administration 'lobbied the Congress' to cut the combat pay of troops in Iraq, something the White House never supported, and he used misleading numbers about jobs."
Compare, however, the misleading statements not only in their number (Cheney grabs the lion's share), but their significance. One of the falsehoods Cheney offered up undercuts the very reason why he meant to tell the public to go to FactCheck in the first place, and thus, far from clearing his name, it makes it look like he was trying to cover up his sinister involvement with Halliburton by a sleight of hand; the other, as I said above, dismantles what has become practically synonymous with the Bush-Cheney platform: an obsessive, almost maniacal repetition that Kerry and Edwards are indecisive and inconsistent. Compared to these whoppers, Edwards made a questionable numbers claim and was mistaken in attributing to the White House the Department of Defense's proposal to allow a pay increase for soldiers to expire. If Edwards corrected himself on these two points publicly, it would hardly compromise his campaign or his integrity; whereas, if Cheney were fully exposed as the traitorously greedy CEO-in-chief that he is, and if Bush and Cheney were forced to spit out the "flip-flip" nonsense once and for all, where would that leave them?

So, I say, it's time for Kerry to turn this blunder to his advantage and rub the ol' "a certain university website proves that you're a liar" trick back in the face of the bumbling and duplicitous Cheney and Bush.

[Point of clarification, added 10.12: As the Wall Street Journal reported on October 6, is owned by Name Administration Inc. Individuals within this company who are favorably disposed to Soros's political point of view redirected the traffic to Soros's website without Soros's acknowledgment. The massive increase in traffic--50,000 hits in the first hour after Cheney's flub, as opposed to the 200 per day average--was costing their company for Internet bandwith, according to a Name Adminstration attorney.]


Wednesday, October 6


Translation: Withdraw (from Iraq).
Osaka, Japan. All photos by Fanni Terrette

Polygraph Bell Needed Now!

I don't have time to expose fully all the falsehoods that Dick Cheney let fly shamelessly or incompetently (or both) in his debate with John Edwards in Cleveland last night, but I have do have a recommendation to make.
The "Commission on Presidential Debates," which is very keen to micromanage these exchanges, needs to install a polygraph-controlled alarm bell in front of each speaker for both of the remaining debates. Once either man launches a falsehood into our public space, as Cheney did relentlessly and for the most part without apparent consequence, the bell should ring loudly and the man should be forced to cede the rest of his time to his opponent. If this prudent measure had been taken before last night's discussion, John Edwards would have had ample time to lay out his education policy in detail, as well as to delve into a number of other domestic issues, and perhaps discuss his life story.

The American public does not have to tolerate this type of fear-mongering, distortion, and deceit. Indeed, it is their responsibility to fact-check the public statements of all the candidates. Anyone who is up to the task should look into a few of the most critical falsehoods Cheney mumbled into our television sets last night. A few of the most decisive of Cheney's falsifications concerned foreign policy.

These (paraphrased) claims, made by Cheney, are FALSE:

1. John Kerry's statement about a "global test" means that he won't act to secure the United States against imminent attacks unless he first has permission from other nations. (Read the statement and you will see that Kerry's "test" is nothing more than the test of reasonable judgment. His point is that our military actions, whether preemptive or retributive, should be undertaken to stem REAL threats and REAL enemies, not fabricated, hallucinated, or secretively convenient ones.)

2. Before U.S. aggression was ordered in Iraq, Zarqawi, a terrorist, was a threat to the United States and was in a part of Iraq controlled by Sadaam Hussein, and therefore attacking Iraq was justified because our attacking Baghdad will eventually allow us to kill Zarqawi. (Here is an honest assessment of Cheney's deceptive claims about Zarqawi: "Cheney said Zarqawi was in Baghdad before the war, and his proof was that he was running the supposed ricin-producing facilities at the Ansar al-Islam camp in northern Iraq. Not only was no ricin ever found there, northern Iraq wasn't under Saddam's central government." From Empire Notes.)

3. Cheney never said there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. (There are at least 20 occasions on which Mr. Cheney made this connection publicly, unambiguously, even forcefully. Here is ONE example: "if we're successful in Iraq, we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographical base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.")

So, please, if you do not already know these and other statements made by our vice president to be completely false, flex your keyword muscles and go on a little scavenger hunt for the truth. We cannot let our leadership insult our intelligence in this way. And we cannot let our journalists and talking heads tell us that the debate was a "draw."

Tip: is a good place to start, although it focuses largely on domestic issues, and one shouldn't presume that it provides the final word in all matters. With respect to last night's debate, it also puts to question a few misleading implications of certain statements Edwards made, but these contrast with the bald-face lies of the sort Cheney drones into the desk before him with his hands clenched tight. (Credit to the vice president for reminding me of this site, which demolishes many of the Bush-Cheney campaign fictions, chief of which is the "flip-flop" portrait of Kerry.)

Finally, we, the citizens of this country, cannot give credence to the impression that this debate was a close match or that the vice president participated in a fair manner. In a democracy, outright falsehoods do not win debates; nor do they inch a candidate toward a draw. They are big-time point losers. More: they are sinister and need to be condemned. Last night, John Edwards blew the deceitful and shameless pillar of voracious greed named Cheney into Lake Erie. And THAT, to cite Cheney's obsessively repeated expression, is the fact of the matter.

[For those who may not have been sure, my "polygraph bell" idea was not to be taken seriously; although, if such a thing were possible, I would like to see one hanging around the necks of Dick Cheney and George Bush. Or possibly it could be surgically implanted.]


Tuesday, October 5

Scare Me Once...

Highlights from the Post-9/11 American Society of Terror-Empowered Fascists Convention, 2004.

Monday, October 4

Green Grow

Sunday, October 3

A Security Lapse Comes Out

Consider one of many concrete reasons why John Kerry (or any other of the three or four top contenders for the presidency) would be stronger on defense than our huff-and-puff ruffian-in-chief and the ideologues in his right-wing Administration.
To start, compare the following two stories.

1) On September 27, 2004, it was reported in the New York Times that “three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, more than 120,000 hours of potentially valuable terrorism-related recordings have not yet been translated by linguists at the Federal Bureau of Investigation… according to a declassified summary of a Justice Department investigation.”

2) And, next, this CBS report, from November, 2002, that “nine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, have been dismissed from the military because they are gay.”
Now, no one in the press, as far as I know, has juxtaposed these two stories, if only to extract from them the obvious.

[After I first posted this, Randi Rhodes of Air America Radio spoke of the two reports in a critique where she also recalled the firing by the Bush Administration of Sibel Edmonds, a translator who said the FBI had information that an attack using airplanes was being planned before Sept. 11 and called Condoleezza Rice's claim the White House had no specific information on a domestic threat or one involving planes "an outrageous lie." Full story here.]

If these six translators were fired in November 2002 for being attracted to members of their own sex, and, today, the Justice Department is decrying the lack of progress the FBI is making in translating potentially crucial documents in the struggle to prevent acts of terrorism on U.S. soil, then it would not take much math or rumination to conclude that, just maybe, in this case, the sexual orientation of the linguists who were dismissed years ago should have been judged less harmful to the integrity of our society than the potential plans for a terrorist attack that the linguists had the know-how to uncover in advance. One can only guess how many of the untranslated hours could have been translated by those six linguists alone, but certainly the linguists would have made more progress had they not been fired on account of officially-sanctioned bigotry.

It is easy to lament the sluggishness that the FBI has shown in translating these tapes, but it is hard not to feel outraged when an obvious solution to the problem — if not its prevention — has been blocked by an ideology that says, in essence, that men or women who are attracted to members of their own sex must be disallowed from assisting the nation in counter-terrorism efforts.

This kind of ideological dogmatism, which reduces the number of competent homeland defenders according to superficial social categories and favors pet social and corporate entities to the exclusion of others, weakens our national security. There are other examples of such ideological blind spots within the Bush Administration and, taken together, they call the bluff of the huff-and-puff president.

If Al-Qaeda's strategy is to "divide and conquer," its members can thank George Bush for giving them a leg up in their assault on the United States. In countless ways, Bush has used the "war on terror" to enrich the wealthy, exclude the harmless, assault the vulnerable, and demonize those who would differ. For the same reason, John Edwards's "Two Americas" speech concerns more than only domestic economic issues, and Edwards would do well to underscore that point in his debate with Dick Cheney.


Saturday, October 2

Nobu anew

Friday, October 1

To Those Who Lost the Debate (an open letter)

To those who lost the debate on foreign policy between John Kerry and George Bush:
To the women and children of Iraq and to all their loved ones who, by the tens of thousands, have been blown to pieces, poisoned, shot, crushed, drowned, suffocated, tortured, humiliated, hideously disfigured, or terrorized by U.S. and "coalition" forces;

To all the Iraqi men whom U.S. corporate and military interests set out to "liberate" and who now have been boxed together with the catch-all phrases "insurgents," "terrorists," and "the enemy";

To all the innocent civilians and the justified homeland defenders resisting U.S.-led imperialism in their own land who will be blinded, mutilated, crippled, deformed, or killed in Iraq in the days and years to come;

To the forefathers of the Iraqi people who fought against British Imperialism in the 1920s in what now seems the recycled blueprint for today's U.S.-led catastrophe of international banditry;

To the practice of international law, which George Bush ridiculed as being a weak appeal to "popularity" and unaccountable judges, and which John Kerry failed to champion or defend;

To the citizens and candidates for political office in the U.S. who are excluded or removed from public forums lest they speak openly against the outrages perpetrated by the U.S. government in the name of "freedom" and "liberty" and other concepts that state and media interests never tire of selling and sullying;

To the Palestinians, who are subjected to inhumane living conditions and unchecked violence at the hands of Israeli forces, and to the many peace-loving Israelis who resist their government's abusive and illegal actions;

To the citizens of Haïti, whose democratically elected leader was removed by force by deceitful U.S. intervention and who, in the wake of this coup, have suffered a natural calamity without the support of organized government or assistance from the U.S.;

To those whose only exposure to American citizens who are not weapon-wielding soldiers comes in the form of movies wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger empties machine guns into people and dances past explosions or Tom Cruise and actors of his ilk conquer foreign women and defend the "world" against the extraterrestrials that always gravitate to Washington, D.C.;

To all of you, and to many others, an apology is in order for your having been absent or dismissed in the "debate" between George Bush and John Kerry and suppressed by corporate influences from public discourse and the imaginations of many Americans.

Knowing the perils of public apology, in lieu of such a declaration, I mark here my hope and aspiration that we who have not forgotten you will one day break through our nation's orchestrated silence and overcome the pathological powers that, today, in the mouths of our political leaders, make the words "democracy" and "freedom" ring as a menace or death knell in your ears.