I read with interest Katrina vanden Heuvel's weblog in which she laments the recent decision by Alabama voters to vote down a referendum that would shift taxes from the "folks" to under-taxed business interests. I'm from the south, so I'd like to offer an explanation for this oddity.
Two reasons why this happens:
1) Ignorance. You mention this, and it's just a sad fact. So many people really do not know what the hell is going on. Noam Chomsky said it best in one of his interviews that the powerful simply want the mass of folk to stay dumb and complacent. As long as we watch our sports and soap operas, and eagerly follow the J Lo/Ben romance, they are satisfied that we will not cause too many problems by asking questions and actually being concerned. As long as most of us are mindless consumers everything is a-okay. And lest we forget, Alabama isn't reknowned for its educational system.
2) Who actually votes? I'd be willing to bet that most of the voters in this Alabama referendum could care less about most government services. They are the well-off, the affluent, the very business owners who do not want increased taxes on their business interests. A key point: it's the average folks (those outside of the power bases) that distrust and remain wary of politicians, and sadly, so many of these folks never vote. The rich and powerful slap backs and work deals with the pols. They keep them in their pockets. As long as people have their National Enquirer, cable TV, and porn, that's probably the way it will stay. Think about how things are going now: if you criticize the Bush Administration, especially on the War on Terror, you are damn-near branded a traitor, unpatriotic, and not worthy to be critical of our national policies. Believe me, I'm a soldier in the US Army.
James O. Hacker, El Paso, Texas
I am a white male born and bred in Leon County, Florida, eighteen miles from the Georgia line. I don't drive a pick-up truck with a gun rack in the back and I have never shown the Confederate flag but I wear a Seminole baseball hat, hoop and holler every fall for the FSU football team and would defend to the death the red clay foothills of the Appalachians that form this corner of what is known as the "South."
I just read "Alabama on my Mind" by Katrina vanden Heuvel in the November 10 edition of Editor's Cut. I do not have a direct answer for why people in Alabama voted against what vanden Heuvel considers their best interest but I hope to offer a clue as to why vanden Heuvel and others of her political persuasion remain perplexed by the voting ways of southerners, westerners, hunters and other residents of "red" America (Bush country).
After Howard Dean's recent reiteration of his aspiration to bring under the Democrat's tent the guys who drive pick-up trucks with confederate flags in the back windows, I heard vanden Heuvel on MSNBC's "Hardball."
She described the confederate flag with the same terminology as Mr. Dean as he tried to recover from what he called a clumsy attempt to appeal to voters. "The confederate flag is a loathsome symbol," she said.
Now, ain't that a sure fire cure for clumsiness?
This choice of words reveals a misunderstanding of white men in the South and of people in general, a misunderstanding that speaks volumes about why Democrats, the party of the people, have performed so abysmally since Nixon first adopted the Southern Strategy, in leading and maintaining the prominence in Presidential politics of Republicans, the party of the rich.
I do not dispute that the flag is justifiably rejected by many African-Americans whose ancestors suffered terribly under it and who encounter daily the legacy of slavery in their lives today. They stand on proven ground when they advocate that the Confederate flag not be flown over their state capitols. Nor will I argue that those who show the flag do not have tendencies, or worse, toward racism.
But southern white men do not normally put that flag in the back of their truck to recruit Ku Klux Klan members, advocate racist policies or proclaim that they are white supremacists.
They show the Confederate flag to make the statement "I am a man." "Look at me," they demand. "Look at my pick-up truck, my gun-rack, my flag that symbolizes as few symbols can: DEFIANCE."
"The South will rise again," they say. "And the federal government will never, ever be able to extinguish its spirit, a sprit worthy of honor because it is associated with being a god-fearing man who protects his wife, takes care of his children and makes sacrifices for the good of his family."
Conversely, that flag in the back window says of the truck owner you can tax my property, my income, charge me fees to hunt and drive my truck, educate me and mine poorly, deny me good jobs, regulate me to death, and demean me every which way but it will not work. Because you cannot rob me of my manhood."
That flag says something else, too. It says, "whenever a politician (or a pundit on television advocating for a group of politicians) tells me that my manhood is "loathsome", you can bet your bottom dollar, he'll never get my vote. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER."
Unfortunately for Democrats, George W. Bush and most of the Republicans have an intuitive grasp for what those who wave the Confederate flag intend to communicate.
And like it or not - no matter vanden Heuvel's intellectual or emotional take or Howard Dean's instinctive appeal compromised by offensive apology - their intuition will continue to attract votes.
Barring failed Bush economic policies or handling of Iraq to propel a Democrat into the Presidency, the office will remain an elusive goal for Democrats if they cannot read the obvious central message of a flag from a war that ended more than a century ago and refrain from labeling as loathsome its messenger.
Ain't it the truth?
Trent Malone, Tallahassee, FL
In "Alabama on my Mind" Katrina vanden Heuvel addresses the seeming paradox that many (mostly) poor white Southerners are voting for Republican candidates at a time when they are experiencing rising inequality and a loss of social services.
Although I think part of the explanation is ignorance of the tax codes and a basic distrust of government, I think the general trend towards voting Republican in the South is entirely consistent with rationality. The majority in the South want no gun control, are strongly in favor of the death penalty, extremely opposed to abortion, and want a "tough guy" foreign policy instead of a multilateral approach. And they are willing to trade a little inequality in order to vote for people who they know won't waffle on these issues.
We on the left must not be tricked into believing most of those people are somehow dumb and confused- they know what they want and the Republicans give it to them. Until Democrats realize this they are going to be wasting a lot of time and effort trying to figure out why people are voting Republican instead of putting forth an alternative platform that can captivate the rest of the country.
Jason Scorse, Monterey, California
As Sarah Anderson explains in a Nation web report, the outcome of the Miami trade talks represents a major failure for the Bush Administration. After nine years of insisting that all thirty-four countries must sign on to a comprehensive agreement or else be denied critical market access, the US team conceded to pressure from Brazil and other nations and significantly hollowed out the FTAA in order to get a deal done.
Meanwhile, activists have been doing their best to build a movement for social change, which hasn't been easy in Miami. Thousands of uniformed officers, drawn from a total of forty different law enforcement agencies, aggressively intimidated activists throughout the week. On Thursday, the police refused access to downtown Miami to nearly ninety buses carrying retirees who were there to participate in the permitted march and rally.
For the first three days leading up to the summit, as Anderson reports, the dozens of teach-ins held throughout downtown Miami were regularly surrounded by cops on boats, bikes and horses, which (no joke) sport their own riot helmets with plexiglass face-shields. And on Thursday, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and canisters of chemical spray at thousands of peaceful demonstrators gathered in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers.
By the end of the week, medics for the direct action protesters reported more than 100 injuries from tear gas and rubber bullets fired by the police while law enforcement agencies reported at least 141 arrests.
FTAA Protesters Describe Police State Tactics by Maya Bell, The Orlando Sentinel, November 21.
Democracy Now! Special Report: Mayhem in Miami, November 21
Police Gas Miami Trade Protestors by Michael Christie, Reuters, November 20
Protesters Tell A Different Tale of Free Trade by John Thor-Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times, November 20
Trade Talks Harmful to Health by Gustavo Gonzalez, Inter-American Press Service, November 20
FTAA/Miami: Consider the EU by Sarah Anderson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 19
Click here to sign the Free Press petition to stop the FTAA. The petition will be delivered to Congress and US Trade Representatives.
In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), The National Association of Manufacturers, Public Citizen and The Nation will host a debate with participants from Canada, Mexico and the US on the results of NAFTA and the future of trade in the hemisphere.
Taking place in the heart of downtown Miami, just blocks from the FTAA Ministerial meetings and on the heels of what's expected to be a large anti-FTAA march with associated actions that day, the debate will feature some of the foremost critics and proponents of the NAFTA/FTAA agenda directly debating the very nature of globalization.
A Debate on Ten Years of NAFTA
Thursday, November 20
8:00-9:30pmFirst United Methodist Church400 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Florida(Four blocks from the Inter-Continental Hotel/Hyatt)
Lori Wallach, Director, Global Trade Watch (US)
Naomi Klein, Nation columnist, author (Canada)
Alberto Arroyo, RMALC (Mexico)
Frank Vargo, President, NAM (US)
Peter Clark, Canadian trade consultant (Canada)
Luis de la Calle, former NAFTA negotiator (Mexico)
Moderated by Jane Bussey,International trade reporter, The Miami Herald
FREE Admission. Please arrive early.(Spanish translation provided.)
Presented by Public Citizen and the National Association of Manufacturers and co-sponsored by The Nation magazine.
At the end of October, The Washington Post published a ground-breaking 3,200-word front-page story about Iraq's prewar nuclear weapons program. Post reporter Bart Gellman's reporting provided painstaking detail and overwhelming evidence to reveal what David Kay's inspectors have concluded (that Iraq had no WMD programs) but have been afraid to admit.
After the Post published Kay's cagey rebuttal of the piece's findings, without reply, given the Post's policy of not responding to letters about its stories, some readers concluded that the paper was acknowledging that Kay's assertions letter were correct.
But, Gellman and the Post's editors say they stand by the story 100 percent, as Gellman's convincing rebuttal to Kay--which was sent to "Iraq News," a listserv run by neocon pundit Laurie Mylroie--strongly shows. Gellman's letter, which we've reprinted below, should be widely circulated to counter a campaign underway--led by rightwing newspapers like the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, internet columnists like Matt Drudge, and think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute--to discredit Gellman's invaluable reporting and obscure the way the Bush Administration willfully deceived the American public.
Out of respect for you and the readership of Iraq News, I ask that you update a controversy you described in an earlier edition. It had to do with a story I wrote about the investigation of Iraq's prewar nuclear weapons program. David Kay, who declined to provide any answers for that story, and Brig. Gen. Stephen Meekin, whom I quoted, wrote in challenge of what I reported. They said, in effect, that I rendered Meekin's remarks incorrectly and that he was, in any case, neither involved in the WMD hunt nor qualified to pass judgments.
The Washington Post does not reply in print to letters and columns about our stories. Some readers, yourself perhaps included, concluded from this silence that The Post acknowledged the Kay and Meekin letters to be correct or our story to be wrong. We did not. Quite the reverse.
Since then, Leonard Downie, the executive editor, has sent an unpublished letter to David Kay. In it he said he reviewed my raw notes, the full context of two lengthy conversations with Meekin, the identities of my confidential sources and the information those sources supplied. On the basis of that investigation, Downie told Kay the Post is standing by the story without reservation. I believe he is prepared to release his letter to other interested parties.
For our internal review, I provided line by line answers to the Kay and Meekin letters. I will summarize my replies to the three points you highlighted in your previous email. If you reread the two letters closely, you will find that none of these three points are actually in dispute.
1. Meekin's unit was, by all accounts, integrated into the Iraq Survey Group when the ISG stood up in June. As a general officer and leader of a major ISG component -- this is according to Meekin, confirmed by DOD -- Meekin reports direct to Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, the ISG's commander. Meekin is also the ranking Australian officer in the ISG, which means that he retains some elements of national command over all his countrymen there. Dayton, of course, operates under the direction of David Kay. The survey group is a joint, combined and interagency task force, which blurs "reporting" chains to some degree. Kay makes use of that ambiguity in his artful denial that Meekin reports to him.
In ordinary English, Kay is in charge of the weapons hunt and Meekin works for him. Saying otherwise is roughly like saying the leaders of the DCI Counterterrorism Center don't work for George Tenet (because those leaders report through others, and include personnel from the FBI) -- except that there are several layers between the CTC and Tenet and only one between Meekin and Kay.
2. Meekin's unit did indeed have (as Kay said) a major conventional mission -- collecting and analyzing Iraqi radars and SAMS and so on. It also had, according to Meekin and all U.S. officials who spoke of it, two major missions specific to WMD. One was to find delivery systems for CW/BW/nuclear payloads (bombs, warheads, etc.). The other was what Meekin called a "due diligence or counterproliferation mission" to prevent the dispersal of materials that could be used to produce WMD. It was in the latter context that I interviewed Meekin for most of an hour on the aluminum tubes. It's true that among the reasons he cited for calling them innocuous is that the tubes posed no conventional threat to coalition troops. But that part of the conversation took less than a minute, because Meekin did not need many words to persuade me that a rocket body without motor, fins or warhead is fairly benign. The rest of the conversation had to do with the possible use of the tubes as centrifuges, or evidence that would bear on that question.
3. Meekin is not the person responsible for making the nuclear judgment on the tubes, but he did accurately reflect the judgment of those who are. (Please note that Kay writes carefully around this point. He says for himself that it is too soon to make a judgment, but he does not dispute that my story accurately described the judgment of nuclear team leaders.) From confidential sources I know authoritatively what the nuclear team has reported, and the story noted that those sources were afraid to be named. Meekin's value was that he spoke on the record, which is highly prized by our editors and readers alike. As for qualifications, Meekin (a) is director-general of scientific and technical assessment for Australia's Defence Intelligence Organisation, (b) commands a staff of subject matter experts with similar background, including in dual use technology, (c) borrowed experts from other ISG units when his mission required them, specifically including the nuclear team for the tubes, and (d) was describing -- accurately, as I already knew -- the views of his colleagues most directly involved in the question. He need not be a nuclear expert himself to be a credible source in light of these credentials.
I think I am as surprised as anyone at the absence of evidence for Iraqi biological, chemical and missile programs. (Neither I nor most of the experts in the field thought a nuclear program had been revived.) I made some bets before the war that such evidence would be found. That's what I like about my business. It's empirical, and I don't get paid for predictions. I have followed the developing facts to the best of my ability.
It must be tempting, but it's silly, to suppose that my editors or I are looking for a story that discounts the threat. My Unscom series of 1998, linked on the home page below, did as much to highlight Iraq's obstruction of inspectors -- and the Clinton administration's inability to address it in the U.N. -- as any journalism of its day. I'd like as much as you would to find out how the story ends, and I'm not done looking.
Thank you for enabling me to reach your important audience with this reply.
Barton Gellman, The Washington Post
Every once in a while a reporter snags what I call a Naked Lunch moment. Naked Lunch is, of course, the title of the crazed and surreal novel by William Burroughs, the Beat-friendly author. Supposedly Burroughs' pal Jack Kerouac conjured up the name for Burroughs' disjointed manuscript, explaining that the title referred to the instant when a person can see exactly what is on the tip of his or her fork--that is, what is truly going on. (Remember, Kerouac was a be-bopping poet.)
Such a moment came when veteran Australian journalist John Pilger interviewed John Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control, for a documentary on the Iraq war that aired in England a few weeks ago.
Sitting with Bolton in a media room at Foggy Bottom, Pilger asked Bolton about civilian casualties in Iraq. Bolton replied, "I think Americans like most people are mostly concerned about their own country. I don't know how many Iraqi civilians were killed. But I can assure you that the number is the absolute minimum that is possible in modern warfare....One of the stunning things about the quick coalition victory was...how low Iraqi casualties were."
This was not a surprising response, nor was it the revelatory moment I teased above. Bolton is a hawk's hawk in the Bush administration. He is the agent conservateur in Colin Powell's State Department. He has led the administration's effort against the International Criminal Court. Last year, he single-handedly tried to revise U.S. nuclear policy by asserting that Washington no longer felt bound to state that it would not use nuclear weapons against nations that do not possess nuclear weapons. (A State Department spokesman quickly claimed that Bolton had not said what he had indeed said.) Bolton also claimed that Cuba was developing biological weapons--a charge that was not substantiated by any evidence and that was challenged by experts. In July, he was about to allege in congressional testimony that Syria posed a weapons-of-mass-destruction threat before the CIA and other agencies, who considered his threat assessment to be exaggerated, objected to his statement. When England, France and Germany recently tried to develop a carrot-and-stick approach in negotiating an end to Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, Bolton huffed, "I don't do carrots."
His remarks to Pilger, then, were hardly surprising. He is a no-apologies ideologue. Pilger asked if 10,000 civilian casualties in Iraq would be a "quite high" amount. Bolton answered, "I think it is quite low if you look at the size of the military operation that was undertaken."
Then when the interview ended, Bolton, as he stood up and removed the microphone, asked Pilger, "Are you a Labour Party member?" As if that explained Pilger's questions about dead and injured civilians in Iraq. Clearly, Bolton had not been briefed. Pilger is an investigative reporter specializing in national security matters who has long been seen as a left-of-center crusader. A critic of his recently dubbed Pilger "the Eeyore of the left." One wonders who at the State Department let Pilger get this close to Bolton? (By the way, when Pilger interviewed Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, a Pentagon media official ordered Pilger to shut off his camera once Pilger began questioning Feith about civilian casualties.)
Replying to Bolton's jab, Pilger explained to him the current politics of Britain: "Well, Labour Party--they're the conservatives." Pilger meant "conservative" as in supporting Prime Minister Tony Blair's embrace of the war in Iraq.
By now Bolton was walking away from Pilger, looking like he much desired a fast separation. With a mischievous (or, some might say, wicked) smile on his face, Bolton shot back, "You're a Communist Party member?"
That was the Kodak moment, and it was captured by Pilger's camera operator. On Planet Bolton, if you inquire too forcefully about civilian casualties, you must be a commie. The Cold War might be over. But at least one senior Bush aide is keeping its spirit alive.
Pilger's documentary, as far as I can tell, has not aired in the United States. I've only seen the scenes involving Bolton and Feith. So I cannot vouch for the entire film. But in a flash, Pilger captured on tape a brief but telling exchange. Call it Bolton unplugged, and it's mean and ugly.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S NEW BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." For more information and a sample, check out the book's website: www.bushlies.com.
Massive street protests--and the biggest security operation Britain has ever seen for a visiting head of state--will greet George W. Bush when he visits London tomorrow. Antiwar protesters say they will resist moves to enforce an "exclusion zone" designed to keep them from Buckingham Palace, where Bush and his wife will be staying with the Queen.
As the organizer of the Stop the War coalition said last week, "It is an outrage that the most unwelcome guest this country has ever received will be given the freedom of the streets, while a movement that represents majority opinion is denied the right to protest in the area which is the heart of government."
Meanwhile, miles away from Buckingham Palace in a rundown part of London, another kind of protest is being staged during Bush's visit. Americans: A New Century Begins with an Act of Blood, is a play about the rise and decline of imperial power. Eric Schlosser--who demolished the junk food industry in the best-selling Fast Food Nation--wrote it in 1985, at a time when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were giving old imperial attitudes a new spin for a new generation.
Empire has once again become fashionable. So, ironically a play written nearly twenty years ago, about early 20th century America's determination to replace Britain as the world's leading imperial power, is being staged for the first time as King George arrives in London.
Set in the period before and after President William McKinley's assassination, "Americans" explores the fall of the British empire, the birth of the American colossus, and the historical parallels between the late 19th and 20th centuries. "On both sides of the Atlantic," Schlosser says, "worship of the 'free market', growing corporate power, union-busting and a widening gap between rich and poor suggested the dawn of another Gilded Age."
Leon Czolgosz,, the anarchist who assassinated McKinley at the Pan American Exposition in 1901, is a central figure in the play, and many of his lines resonate today. "If America chooses to become the big bully of the world," he tells another US President, "I promise you, America will pay." Czolgosz saw himself as a Brutus warning his country against the horrors that tyranny and the misuse of power would inflict.
One of the most chilling moments in the play has the unrepentant Czolgosz going to the electric chair warning the assembled witnesses that American cities will one day go up in flames, paying the price for "your outrageous vanity."
The great Southern writer William Faulkner eloquently noted that the past is never dead. It isn't even past. Schlosser speaks for the millions of Americans who understand what Faulkner meant.
"The truth is the truth. Not just the government's truth or the church's truth or the truth that won't upset the advertisers and stockholders but THE TRUTH and the TRUTH is that when the very institutions that we depend on to inform us and guide us omit any part of the truth for any reason whatsoever then that is called a lie." -- Steve Earle
Furious with the Bush Administration's deceptions, and even more furious with the failure of major media outlets to expose and challenge those deceits, thousands of Americans are chanting, "Tell us the truth!" Their cries are being met not with the stony silence of Washington but with a protest chorus that mixes rock, rap, folk, soul and alt-country into a call to arms.
The Tell Us the Truth Tour has set the sentiments of millions of angry Americans to music, and taken the show on the road. Traveling by bus across the eastern United States on a tour that began November 7 in Madison, Wisconsin and will finish November 24 in Washington, some of the most innovative artists in American music -- and a comrade from Britain -- are raising a ruckus about the Bush administration's push for greater media consolidation and for international economic policies that are devastating the economies of both the U.S. and its trading partners.
"Media consolidation needs smashing and globalization needs unmasking," says Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, who has joined the tour along with keyboardist Mike Mills of REM, British folk rocker Billy Bragg, genre-bending singer-songwriter Steve Earle, rapper Boots Riley of The Coup and Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers. They'll be joined at a number of later shows by singer Jill Sobule and comedian Janeane Garofalo, and perhaps by other artists. Morello, who is performing as The Nightwatchman on the tour, sums up the sentiments of the musicians who have donated their time to the effort by explaining that, "When presidents and politicians lie, it is the job of the press to expose those lies. When the press fails, the lie becomes the law. The point of the Tell Us the Truth Tour is to help others make connections, and to show them that activism can change the policies of this country."
The core group kicked off the tour at the National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin, where AFL-CIO President John Sweeney joked during his remarks about "opening for Billy Bragg" and a crowd of 1,700 ended the first night of the conference dancing to a version of the Chambers Brothers 1968 hit Time Has Come Today that featured Chambers and Riley trading vocals and chanting, "Now the time has come... to tell us the truth."
Bragg, who has gained international acclaim for his work with the family of Woody Guthrie to put music to lyrics that were left without tunes at the time of the folk music legend's death, helped organize the tour and has insisted from the start that the music be as strong as the message. "Bush is a serious threat, not just to America but to the world," says Bragg, who gave up a chance to join protests against the President's visit to Britain this week in order to join the tour. "We're talking about that threat, the message will get through. But this isn't a seminar. This is a show, we want people dancing, singing, getting into the music."
People are doing just that. While Bragg performs overtly political songs, such as his anti-WTO epic "NPWA (No Power Without Accountability)," he also does favorites such as "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" and "Sexuality." Earle offers up a sampling of his recent songs, including the brilliant "John Walker's Blues." Playing acoustic guitar, Morello sings new songs, some written in preparation for the tour. Riley raps and Chambers turns in brilliant blues performances. Mills even straps on a guitar and sings, trying out a great version of Macy Gray's "I Try" at some shows. Invariably, the highlights each night are the ensemble performances, featuring all the musicians. In addition to "Time Has Come Today," the group has perfected a remarkable song cycle that begins with Chambers singing Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and then slides into Bragg singing Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey," samples some Marvin Gaye and then closes with the whole group joining Chambers again to sing: "People get ready, there's a train comin'/You don't need no baggage, you just get on board."
The music is so good at times that it is, indeed, easy to forget the politics. But the message never gets lost. Working with the AFL-CIO, Common Cause, Free Press, the Future of Music Coalition and Morello's Axis of Justice, the tour features at every stop information about the current fight to block Federal Communications Commission rule changes that would further media consolidation and the struggle to prevent corporations and the Bush administration from undermining workers rights, human rights and the environment by developing a Free Trade Area of the Americas. And, while the emphasis is on entertainment, the band members frequently draw the show back to fundamental, and often dramatic, messages. Morello closes his set in silence, holding a clenched fist above his head as, invariably, the crowd erupts in thunderous applause. But most nights the loudest sound of all are those chants of "Tell us the truth!" Riley says that's the signal to him that the crowds understand what is at stake, and what the struggle is about. "All we're doing is bringing people some more information, telling them how to get connected with these movements and getting them energized," says Riley.
After performing Sunday night in Atlanta (Variety Playhouse) and Monday night in Tampa (Tampa Theater), the tour will hit Miami where, on Wednesday night, it will join the People's Gala for Global Justice. The Gala, one of a number of protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas Ministerial being held this week in Miami, is expected to draw more than 10,000 people. After Miami, the tour roars up the east coast to the Philadelphia area (Keswick Hall: November 21), New York (Webster Hall: November 22), Boston (Berklee Performance Center: November 23) and, finally, Washington, DC (930 Club: November24).
In Washington, the tour will perform at the 930 Club, not far from the White House. Morello says they will bring some bad news to the current occupant. "I'm certain Bush won't be reelected," explains the activist musician. "From the economy being in the toilet to American kids dying every day in a war we should never have gotten into, that's not a very solid resume. All of his personal jack-assed-ness aside, the one thing that was clear at the end of the day is that The Dixie Chicks were right. They had every right to be embarrassed that that guy is from Texas."
-- For more information on the Tell Us the Truth Tour, and information on how to obtain tickets to upcoming shows, visit the official website at www.tellusthetruth.org
-- For more information on Morello's political work, check out the www.axisofjustice.org website. For more information on Billy Bragg, go to the www.billybragg.co.uk website. For more information on Steve Earle, go to the www.steveearle.com website. All of these websites contain details regarding the Tell Us the Truth Tour.
-- With Robert W. McChesney, John Nichols is a co-founder of Free Press, the media reform network that organized the National Conference on Media Reform. The Free Press website is www.mediareform.net
I originally posted this item below on November 14 because I seeDemocracy Aid '04 as an exciting sign of international collaboration inthese days when the Bush Administration has squandered global goodwilltoward America. But, these are charged days, when too many are quick tolabel Administration critics unpatriotic, and when valuable groups likeMoveOn--which is mobilizing citizens to take back theirdemocracy--confront thuggish and innacurate allegations. So when theWashington Post and other outlets characterized the work ofDemocracy Aid '04 as part of some leftwing Swedish plot to take over theUS, and the Drudge Report began falsely reporting that Move.On wasactively soliciting foreign donations, Move.On decided to beginaccepting only contributions from United States citizens. Meanwhile, Democracy Aidhas decided to focus on message rather than money. KVH, January 6, 2003
Here's an imaginativeproposal to help beat Bush. Two Swedish students are proposing thatevery citizen of the European Union contribute one dollar to MoveOn.org, the online liberal advocacy group, toensure that "an American president who believes in human rights andmultilateral solutions" is elected in 2004. They are not supporting aparticular candidate. "We leave that to the Americans."
Hanna Armelius and Kajsa Klein believe that in this increasinglyglobalized era, where the choice of the next American President will have a directimpact on the world's security, environmental and economic future, global citizenshave the right to provide "democracy aid" to the US.
Events since 9/11, they argue, have eroded the Bush Administration's legitimacy. And "ever since the scandal surrounding the Florida election results," they note, "there has been a growing sense that the US needs democracy aid...This stance can be justified by the widespread, international fear of aparanoid President, who has a strikingly limited understanding of the outsideworld--the same world he feels he has the right to treat whatever way he please, aslong as he can claim it to be in the US national interest."
Armelius and Klein wish that money was not a factor in democraticelections, but they are realpolitik enough to know that huge infusions of cash aregoing to be critical to unseat Bush in the next election. And that the onlyway this money can be raised is through small contributions by concernedindividuals. "This is our way of saying that we don't support a systemwhere rich individuals and multinationalcorporations control presidential campaigns."
One dollar from each of the EU's citizens, they point out, "wouldsuffice to raise more money than the entire Bush campaign budget for the2000 elections." Cheap compared to the cost of having Bush inthe White House for another four years. (When asked, should only EUcitizens contribute, they replied, "No! We want everyone to join us.Per world citizen it would be less than five cents. However, it doesn'tseem right to ask the poorest people on earth for money.")
And as for meddling in another country's politics--well, as they pointout, the US government has had some overseas experience of its own--with arms dealsand rigged elections--when it comes to attempts at overthrowing foreignregimes. What they're proposing involves peaceful, transparent and legalcross-border contributions.
The young Swedes' appeal has a clarity and simplicity that suggestspeople of sanity understand what America and the world have at stake in thiscoming election.
Sometimes the small stuff distracts from the big. At a recent press conference, George W. Bush suggested the White House had nothing to do with the "Mission Accomplished" banner that was hung on the USS Abraham Lincoln for his triumphant May 1 speech declaring major combat operations over in Iraq. Journalists quickly checked, and it turned out the White House had produced the banner. Bush-bashers decried his remark as a shameless lie that sought to shift blame to crewmembers, and White House defenders dismissed the matter as trivial. But during the same press conference, Bush tossed out other truth-challenged statements that were arguably more important than the banner business. But they have drawn little notice.
Bush claimed that he was the first president to advocate a Palestinian state. No, Bill Clinton had done so. (From a January 7, 2001 Clinton speech: "There can be no genuine resolution to the [Middle East] conflict without a sovereign, viable Palestinian state that accommodates Israel's security requirements and demographic realities.") And when a reporter asked how Bush could make up the $23 billion gap between the $33 billion pledged for Iraq reconstruction and the estimated $56 billion pricetag for rebuilding, he said "Iraqi oil revenues...coupled with private investments should make up the difference." Yet Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, has noted that in the near-term oil industry revenues will cover only the industry's costs. That is, there will be no oil revenues available to pay for reconstruction. More importantly, in response to a pointed question about the MIA WMDs--"Can you explain…whether you were surprised those weapons haven't turned up, why they haven't turned up, and whether you feel that your administration's credibility has been affected in any way by that?"--Bush countered, "We took action based upon good, solid intelligence."
Good, solid intelligence--that sounds like a subjective evaluation. But a statement of opinion can be deceptive if it is sufficiently divorced from facts. And a series of postwar findings indicate that Bush was not being truthful when he characterized the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as "good" and "solid."
Since the major combat concluded, several official and credible sources have publicly noted that the prewar intelligence on Iraq and its supposed WMDs was neither strong nor reliable.
* In interviews with reporters in July, Richard Kerr, a former CIA deputy director conducting a review of the CIA's prewar intelligence, said that intelligence had been somewhat ambiguous. He noted that US intelligence analysts had been forced to rely upon information from the early and mid 1990s and had possessed little hard evidence to evaluate after 1998 (when UN inspectors left Iraq). The material that did come in following that, he said, was mostly "circumstantial or "inferential." It was "less specific and detailed" than in previous years. Kerr maintained that the CIA analysts had attached the "appropriate caveats" to this "scattered" and less-than-definitive intelligence.
* In late September, Representative Porter Goss, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the panel, sent a letter to CIA chief George Tenet that criticized the prewar intelligence for relying on outdated, "circumstantial" and "fragmentary" information, noting that the intelligence contained "too many uncertainties." This conclusion was based on the committee's review of 19 volumes of classified prewar intelligence. Goss, a former CIA case officer, and Harman maintained the committee's review had found "significant deficiencies" in the intelligence community's collection of intelligence after 1998. They cited a "lack of specific intelligence" on Iraq's WMDs and the alleged tie between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The CIA challenged this assessment. In early November, Goss reiterated that there had been fundamental shortcomings in the prewar intelligence, but he nonetheless defended the administration prewar warnings about Iraq's WMDs. Still, he could offer but a lukewarm endorsement of the intelligence agencies, commenting that they "did the best they could with what they had."
* When David Kay, the chief WMD-hunter in Iraq, testified before Congress on October 2, he said that the intelligence community from 1991 to 2003 had a tough time gathering accurate information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "The result," he said, "was that our understanding of the status of Iraq's WMD program was always bounded by large uncertainties and had to be heavily caveated."
* In late October, Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said that the prewar intelligence had sometimes been "sloppy" and inconclusive. Bush, he complained, had been "ill-served by the intelligence community." His committee is continuing its review of the prewar intelligence, but Roberts has been opposing Democratic efforts to examine whether Bush mischaracterized the intelligence in his prewar statements.
So if a former deputy CIA chief, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House intelligence committee, the chief weapons hunter (who works for the CIA and the Pentagon), and the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee each say that the prewar intelligence on Iraq was loaded with doubt, and if most of this group also maintain that it was based on uncertain information, how can Bush call this material "good, solid intelligence"? Who's not being honest? Of course, Bush has a strong motive to hype the intelligence. If Kerr, Kay, Harman and Roberts are correct, then there are three options: Bush misread the intelligence, he ignored the intelligence (in whole or in part), or the intelligence was misrepresented to him (and he has taken no steps to punish those who did so). Any of these scenarios would be painful for Bush to admit. Yet each would be a far more significant act than fudging the truth about a PR stunt.
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Last week, Governor Howard Dean was the front-runner everyone wanted to attack. And he gave his opponents some good reasons. After all, his statement that he wanted to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" was wrong and stupid. Wrong because the confederate flag is a loathsome symbol, which reopens old wounds and perpetuates old hatreds. And stupid because his statement caricatured the South's white working class.
But Dean was also right politically. As he said in reply to the Reverend Al Sharpton's attack on him, the Democratic Party isn't "going to win in this country anymore as Democrats if we don't have a big tent." It is high time for the Dems to engage in a serious discussion about how to win back working-class white voters in the South. As leading civil rights attorney Connie Rice wrote, in a nuanced defense of Dean, "Without a vision big enough to embrace southern white men--angry or not--this country cannot be diverted from its current path toward corporation-focused, downwardly mobile plutocracy and turned back toward people-focused, upwardly mobile democracy...We need to get beyond fighting over Confederate symbols and get to the critical re-founding of this country for its people."
As our Washington correspondent John Nichols recently reported, polls show that rural Americans are even more concerned than urban voters about access to healthcare, education and job loss under Bush. And with the massive job loss in the South, the Dems need to pump up the populist economic volume to counter the cynical and divisive tactics of the Southern Republican right. The bottom-line should be clear: A populist Democratic nominee fighting the next election on behalf of jobs, family farms, healthcare and education could give George "Herbert Hoover" Bush a real race in a region that the GOP now takes for granted. If the Administration's economic policies continue to destroy the industrial base of the region, the South need not be solid for Bush in 2004.
Then there was the attack on Dean by the other Democratic candidates for his decision to opt out of the presidential public financing system. Progressive candidate Dennis Kucinich, for example, attacked the former Vermont Governor for dealing a serious blow to efforts to keep money from dominating politics.
But aren't Kucinich and other candidates misreading the moment? As several leading campaign finance reformers argue, what's important is that a candidate be true to the spirit of the campaign finance law (i.e., level the playing field, reduce special interest influence, enhance the role of small donors), while facing up to the fact that the system has been wrecked by Bush's decision to opt out.
The McCain-Feingold bill is not working (the doubling of individual contributions to $2,000 has enriched Bush Inc.) and what's relevant, many reformers point out, is not how a candidate operates under the current system but what proposals they offer to repair it. (Dean's proposal for a dramatic overhaul of presidential public financing system---offering a five to one match of relatively small donations--would be a big step in the right direction.)
Dean's decision to opt out--through polling his supporters in a typically savvy display of grassroots engagement (85,000 of the 105,000 people who "voted" through e-mail, internet, telephone or regular mail, supported his decision)--was virtually a foregone conclusion as soon as it became apparent that his fundraising potential could exceed the $45 million cap that comes with accepting public matching funds in the primaries. In an ideal world, no candidate would have to consider opting out of the public financing system, but when one candidate declines it and that candidate's opponent accepts a $45 million spending cap, the playing field is not level. (Bush expects to raise close to $200 million for the general election, more than twice what the campaign spending limits for those receiving matching funds allow.)
It's no secret that many of the other candidates who criticized Dean for opting out would do the same thing if they were in his position. (In fact, John Kerry is said to be strongly leaning toward following Dean's lead, though he has said he would abide by the $45 million spending limit until the Democratic nominee is known--something Dean should also agree to.) And while I admire and respect Kucinich, he is attacking the wrong guy when he accuses Dean of "attempt[ing] to kill public financing" and "taking back America--for the corporations." That guy is Bush, not Dean. If Dean were as dependent on $2,000 corporate check writers as the other leading Democrats and Bush, perhaps Kucinich's charge would have more bite.
In announcing his decision, Dean insisted that he is empowering his army of small donors to defeat "the unabashed actions of this president to thwart our democratic processes with a flood of special interest money...Our campaign has not been talking of campaign finance reform. It has been actual reform. Over 200,000 people have given an average of $77." (The value of small donors was unwittingly revealed by John Kerry's former campaign manager Jim Jordan, who just yesterday lamented that Dean's large base of small donors are "disproportionately liberal," which empowers candidates who appeal to those from "the left side of the spectrum.")
It remains to be seen whether Dean's new--possibly transformative--way of raising funds will free him, as he argued in a November 10 Wall Street Journal Op-ed, "from answering to anyone except the people themselves." (Let's hope it frees him from those like former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who reportedly told Dean last August that "I can't sell you on Wall Street," unless he reconsidered his position on trade.)
Sure, there are examples of Dean tilting toward corporate demands--both in his years as Vermont Governor and in his current campaign. But the vision of a people-powered campaign fueled by small donors challenging the most capital intensive President in US history is an enticing prospect.