I've been following the controversy over editorial cartoons published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper that show the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb under his headdress, saying that paradise was running out of virgins for all the suicide bombers, and holding a sword with his eyes blacked out. Since Islam forbids any visual depiction of Mohammed, and since these cartoons basically argue that terrorism is inherent to Islam, Muslims across Europe have taken offense, some countries have boycotted Danish goods and a few are up in arms--literally.
Armed gunmen surrounded the EU office in Gaza, and in Pakistan a crowd burned Danish and French flags as they shouted "Death to Denmark." (And while these violent demonstrations were tiny, of course, this isn't going to help dispel the images so many in the West hold of angry, teeming, violent Muslim masses.) And now the managing editor of France Soir, who republished the cartoons to demonstrate solidarity and freedom of expression, has been fired.
It's complicated, but I'm strongly in favor of supporting those who publish even right-wing, offensive cartoons, poor judgment or no. Editorial freedom, including satire, is a deeply prized and hard-won right that we shouldn't be intimidated into giving up. It's a slippery slope. Just as we can't allow Christian fundamentalists to prevent satirizing the church in American papers, or the Bush Administration from prohibiting protest, nor should we allow fundamentalists of any kind to rewrite the world in their image. Secular papers have the right, and the duty, to live by secular rules.
From the first item of National Review's "The Week" section, 2/13/06:
In Osama's latest tape, he touts an obscure left-wing American book and borrows lines from Michael Moore. We're beginning to think that when we find him, he'll be carrying a Nation tote bag.
Yep, there's no accounting for taste. But when Private Jonah Goldberg enlists for combat and finally nabs Osama, inside that stylish tote bag he'll also find this inspirational quote by none other than National Review patriarch William F. Buckley: "Senator Kerry said, on Sept. 20 , that knowing what we know now, we'd have done better not to have invaded [Iraq]. I think he's right."
President Bush's repeated jabs at isolationism in his State of the Union Address may have also been directed at the Buckleyites. "As a boy," writes The New Republic, "Buckley named his first sailboat Sweet Isolation."
The left-liberal blogosphere has been in hyper-drive critiquing Bush's SOTU address since last night. As I'm teaching a class on US empire, I couldn't resist having my students read it. One of our questions: the particular distortions and factual errors of Bush's address aside (see the Institute for Public Accuracy's fisking), how different was his imperial rhetoric from Presidential speeches of yore?
Bush's talk began and ended with references to America's "historic long-term goal," its "destiny" to "seek the end of tyranny in our world." In doing so, Bush followed the long historical arc that begins with Jefferson's memorable characterization of the United States as "an empire for liberty." I won't subject you all to my lecture, but merely point out that President Clinton likewise linked U.S. hegemony with our "timeless" mission to spread freedom in his first inaugural address.
A hard question the left has yet to take up fully is: What came before and what comes after this particularly noxious imperial presidency? As JoAnn Wypijewski points out in her brilliant article for Harper's on torture and the Abu Ghraib trials, so many left-liberals romanticize the U.S. pre-Bush. I think the kicker to her piece is particularly powerful:
We are moved by arguments to assign responsibility up the chain of command; to reaffirm the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare; to establish clear rules in Congress limiting the CIA, foreclosing "black" operations, stipulating the rights and treatment of prisoners; to shut down Guantanamo and the global gulag; to drive Bush and Cheney and their cohort from office; in other words, to set America right again, on course as it was after the Vietnam War, a chastened empire still wielding a fearsome arsenal but with liberal intentions. We have not yet learned to pull up the orchard, to forsake the poisoned ground.
Minutes before the President of the United States would tell the Congress how much he appreciates "responsible criticism and counsel," the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq was dragged from a gallery overlooking the House chamber where Bush would speak, handcuffed and arrested for the "crime" of wearing a T-shirt that read: "2245 Dead. How many more?"
Cindy Sheehan, who had been invited to attend George Bush's State of the Union address by Representative Lynn Woolsey, the California Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, did not put the "dangerous" shirt on for the event. The woman whose protest last summer outside the President's ranchette in Crawford, Texas, drew international attention to the antiwar movement, had been wearing it at events earlier in the day.
Indeed, as Sheehan, who had passed through Capitol security monitors without incident, noted, "I knew that I couldn't disrupt the address because Lynn had given me the ticket and I didn't want to be disruptive out of respect for her."
No one has suggested that Sheehan was in any way disruptive.
So why was she arrested?
Because, as Sheehan recounts, she was identified as a dissident.
Before the arrest, media reports buzzed about official concern regarding Sheehan's presence. And, as she was being dragged from a room where the President would shortly extol the virtues of freedom and liberty, police explicitly told Sheehan that she was being removed "because you were protesting."
Capitol Police and other security officials, whose rough treatment of Sheehan was witnessed by dozens of people who attended the State of the Union event, said she was arrested for "unlawful conduct." Conveniently, she was held until after the President finished speaking.
Is there really a law against wearing a political T-shirt to the State of the Union address?
The Capitol Police, who on Wednesday dropped the charges against Sheehan, have acknowledged in an official statement that: "While officers acted in a manner consistent with the rules of decorum enforced by the department in the House Gallery for years, neither Mrs. Sheehan's manner of dress or initial conduct warranted law enforcement intervention."
What they have not acknowledged, and what is truly troubling, is the evidence that Sheehan was singled out for rough justice.
Beverly Young, the wife of Representative C.W. Bill Young, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, showed for the State of the Union address up sporting a T-shirt that read, "Support the Troops--Defending Our Freedom." When Capitol Police asked her to leave the gallery because she was wearing clothing that featured a political message, Mrs. Young says, she argued loudly with officers and called one of them "an idiot."
But Mrs. Young was not handcuffed. She was not dragged from the Capitol. She was not arrested. She was not jailed.
Sheehan, who caused no ruckus, was arrested not because she engaged in "unlawful conduct." Rather, by every evidence, she was arrested because of what her T-shirt said--and, by extension, because of what she believes.
That makes this a most serious matter. Representative Pete Stark, the California Democrat who is one of the senior members of the House, is right when he says that Sheehan's arrest by officers he refers to as "the President's Gestapo," tells us a lot more about the George Bush and the sorry state of our basic liberties in the midst of the President's open-ended "war on terror" than anything that was said in the State of the Union address. "It shows he still has a thin skin," Stark says of the President who claims to welcome dissent.
It also shows that the father of the Constitution, James Madison, was right when he warned that, in times of war, the greatest danger to America would not be foreign foes but Presidents and their minions, who would abuse the powers of the executive branch with the purpose of "subduing the force of the people."
This one incident involving one T-shirt is a minor matter. But seen in the context of the mounting evidence of constraints on legitimate protest, warrantless wiretaps and the abuses of the Patriot Act, it reminds us of the the truth of Madison's warning that: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
Never misunderestimate George W. Bush. Here's a President who's gutted the Treasury, eroded the environment, divided our society, ruined our reputation, frayed our military, undermined our security, inspired our enemies and overall weakened America. But there he stood tonight and delivered a State of the Union speech disconnected from the reality we are living in.
As Tom Engelhardt has observed, the way gunmen once reached for their guns, this Administration reaches for its dictionaries to find words to deceive and distract people.
I know that the long battle to retake our country from the forces of extremism, corruption, mendacity and injustice requires bold ideas and principles. But in the meantime, remember that language is power and clever words sell really rotten policies. Or, as that savvy political philosopher George Carlin once said, "Whenever the other side has you talking their language, they've got you."
So, for all decent and truth-loving Americans, here's a quick guide to decoding last night's SOTU. All of these definitions come from my Dictionary of Republicanisms:
1. When conservative Republicans work with moderate Republicans to pass legislation that Democrats hate.
2. Another name for date rape [Grover Norquist, Third Level, Hell].
Compassionate Conservatism, n.
1. Republican pre-election concern for the disadvantaged [Gary Hunter, Thomasville, NC].
2. (a) I got mine; (b) I got yours too [Brian Kenner, Tervuren, Belgium].
3. Poignant concern for the very wealthy [Laurence Sandek, Twin Peaks, CA].
1. A product so extensively exported that the domestic supply is depleted.
2. When they vote for us; see TYRANNY: When they vote for someone else [Rebecca Solnit, San Francisco, CA].
Ending Tyranny, catchphr.
1. Bombing followed by military occupation [Kerry Jones, Houston, TX].
Energy Independence, n.
1. The Yucca Mountain renovation program [Kimberly Ellenberger, Beloit, WI].
2. The Caribou witness relocation program [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, OH].
1. God-given right of every American to agree with Bush and his policies [Ken Guarino, Miami, FL].
2. What Arabs want but can't achieve on their own without Western military intervention; it bears a striking resemblance to chaos [Matthew Polly, Topeka, KS].
Free Markets, n.
Halliburton no-bid contracts at taxpayer expense [Sean O'Brian, Chicago, IL].
Frivolous Lawsuits, n.
Those filed against corporations that donate heavily to the GOP [Fred Bonavita, San Antonio, TX].
1. The justification for tax cuts for the rich.
2. What happens to the national debt when Republicans cut taxes on the rich [Matthew Polly, Topeka, KS].
Health Savings Accounts, n.
1. Another tax shelter for the healthy and the wealthy [Ann Wegher, Montello, WI].
2. Investment capital for banks [Bill DiNome, Wilmington, NC].
Lies told in simple declarative sentences--e.g., "Freedom is on the march." [Katrina vanden Heuvel, New York, NY].
Job Growth, n.
Increased number of jobs an American has to take after losing earlier high-paying job [John E. Tarin, Arlington, VA].
Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, n.
No Drug Company Left Behind [George K. McHugh, Dublin, CA].
No Child Left Behind, riff.
There are always jobs in the military [Ann Klopp, Princeton, NJ].
Member of good standing in the Federalist Society [Mark Hatch-Miller, Brooklyn, NY].
Personal Responsibility, n.
1. Poor people trying to support their families on $5.75 an hour.
2. Rich people changing the tax code so their children never have to work [Chelsea Snelgrove, Atlanta, GA].
To end all entitlements [Herbert New, Verona, NJ].
Staying the Course, v.
Saying and doing the same stupid thing over and over, regardless of the result [Suzanne Smith, Ann Arbor, MI].
Support the Military, v.
To praise Bush when he sends our young men and women off to die for a lie without proper body armor [Marc Goldberg, Vancouver, WA].
Tax Reform, n.
The shift of the tax burden from wealth to work [Dan McWilliams, Santa Barbara, CA].
I hope this helps decode Bush's speech.
For George W. Bush, at least. In this year's State of the Union address, Bush led with his weakness--the Iraq War--and stuck to the un-nuanced and bold (if misleading) assertions he has used to justify the war and to argue for staying the course, his course.
After speaking of the death of Coretta Scott King (in which he endorsed the notion of heaven by speaking of her "reunion" with her husband), calling for preserving a "civil tone" in the "tough debates" of Washington (this from the man who during the 2002 campaign claimed the Democrats "were not interested in the security of the American people") and referring to September 11 (suggesting that it was the lack of democracy in Afghanistan that brought "murder and destruction to our country"), Bush launched into his standard comic-book defense of the war on Iraq. To protect America, he explained, the United States must fight for freedom and democracy in Iraq and elsewhere. (WMDs in Iraq? Whoever said anything about WMDs in Iraq?) "We do not forget," Bush said, the people who live in undemocratic "Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran." He did not include China in this list. And in Iraq, he continued, "terrorists like bin Laden...aim to seize power" and use Iraq as a "safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world." He added, "A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison...[and] put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country."
This is--to be polite--an absurd analysis. The insurgency, as even Bush has noted in other speeches, is mainly made up of rejectionists and Baathist remnants. Islamic terrorists are a fraction. They are fighting the United States more than they are fighting to take over Iraq. Moreover, these foreign jihadists are hardly in a position to "seize power" in Iraq. The dominant (Iran-backed) Shiite theocrats now in control are unlikely to let that happen, and they have militias of their own. But Bush depicted the mess in Iraq as an us-against-Al Qaeda clash. That is disingenuous and ignores the harsh realities and policy dilemmas created by the rise in sectarian violence in Iraq.
After laying out a false white-hat/black-turban dichotomy, Bush turned into a cheerleader. "We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it," he intoned. There can be no "retreating within our borders.... There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat.... The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil." Get the picture? And, interestingly, he equated disengagement in Iraq with "isolationism" several times in the speech. (Did a new memo come in from the pollsters?)
After rallying the public with his Americans-don't-retreat cry, he vowed he had a "clear plan for victory." He did not say when the clarity of that victory will become apparent. But he claimed, "We are winning." He did not--to borrow a term fancied by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld--offer any "metrics" for supporting this claim. Then came the inevitable we-must-support-the-troops rationale for sticking with the war. And Bush pointed out the parents and widow of Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay, who was killed last month in Falluja. They were sitting behind Laura Bush in the balcony. A bipartisan, standing ovation ensued. Was this a moment of genuine respect for the family of a fallen soldier? Was it a moment of exploitation, in which Bush was using their tragic, heart-wrenching sacrifice to prop up his war (which will produce other grieving parents and spouses)? The line between the two was thin.
When it came time to address his authorization of warrantless wiretaps, Bush was unapologetic and in-your-face. Staring at the members of the House and Senate before him--his voice rising--Bush defiantly defended what he called his "terrorist surveillance program." He suggested that if such a program had existed before 9/11 (when his Administration was proceeding slowly in devising a plan for dealing with Al Qaeda), perhaps the attack could have been prevented. (Prior to 9/11, the CIA and the FBI did have a bead on two of the hijackers, without having resorted to the use of warrantless eavesdropping, and failed to act until it was too late.) Becoming louder, Bush proclaimed, "If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaeda, we want to know about it--because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again." Republicans jumped to their feet. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton smiled, perhaps in amazement at or appreciation of Bush's brazenness. In a classic Rove-ian maneuver, Bush was daring Democrats to come after him on this point. The not-too-hidden message: Go ahead, make my day; I'll shove this down your throats in the coming elections. As GOPers shouted their approval, that long-ago-banished smirk seemed to flash on Bush's face for an instant.
Bush does this sort of speechifying well. The sentiments and arguments are stark--easy to convey. But his defense of Iraq was nothing new. It's hard to imagine this rhetoric having much, if any, impact on public attitudes here or abroad. After nearly three years of war in Iraq, Bush's words matter little. The mess there will remain once the speech is done.
In his 2002 and 2003 State of the Union speeches, Bush telegraphed the invasion of Iraq. This time, even as he promoted a global crusade for democracy, he was less bellicose. (There's nothing like having an overextended and stretched-to-its-max military to moderate tough talk.) On Iran, Bush and his speechwriters (who went through thirty drafts of this not-so-monumental speech) showed they can learn from past mistakes. Unlike the 2003 State of the Union address--in which Bush presented the unconfirmed charge that Iraq had been uranium-shopping in Africa--Bush this time was more circumspect in decrying a foe. He said that the "Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions"--"ambitions" being a somewhat vague term. And he stayed clear of any details. He also told Iranians, "We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom." Could that be read as a pledge that he will not use military force to export freedom to Iran? (I hope a reporter asks Scott McClellan about this.)
Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Jackgate, Alito, and more.
The domestic stuff was mostly the same-old/same-old. Make the tax cuts permanent. (Don't worry about the massive and structural deficit that is growing.) Cut programs. (No need to note that federal spending has ballooned under the gaze of Bush and Congressional Republicans.) On healthcare, he pushed Health Savings Account, an initiative that insurance companies support and that mainly addresses the needs of people who already can afford to buy health insurance. He declared America "is addicted to oil," urged a boost in nuclear energy and proposed a series of fine-sounding initiatives regarding alternative energy. (Look for the inevitable statements from alternative energy experts that will show that Bush's proposals are on the slim side.) He called for training 70,000 new teachers for advanced-placement courses in math and science in high schools--but said nothing about college education. (He certainly did not boast about the recent cuts in college funding.) When Bush turned to Social Security--a focus of last year's address--he essentially hoisted a white flag. "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security," he said, and Democrats began applauding and hooting. This was the closest the US Congress gets to question time in the British Parliament. Bush trudged on and called for creating a bipartisan commission to deal with the long-term fiscal challenges posed by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On the economy--no shocker--he said all was swell and pointed out that in the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs. (His speechwriters left out this factoid: To keep up with population growth, the US economy needed to add between 4.5 and 5 million jobs in this period.)
Bush twice referred to Jackgate--the Congressional corruption scandal tied to felonious GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. First, he equated public concern "about unethical conduct by public officials" with worries about "activist courts that try to redefine marriage." Seriously, he did, suggesting a moral equivalency between sleazy and criminal lawmakers and judges who decide that state Constitutions require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moments later, Bush offered the most benign comments on Jackgate a speechwriter could concoct: "A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust. Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington--and I support your efforts."
Commentators often complain when a SOTU comes across as a laundry list of overly hyped proposals meant to cover every area of policy known to Washington wonks. Bush certainly did not go overboard in this manner. Here is a partial list of subjects he did not have anything to say about: global warming, wage levels, missile defense, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, genocide in Sudan, torture, the mission to Mars (he promoted in SOTU 2004), the campaign against steroids (he promoted in SOTU 2004), Michael Brown and FEMA, and corporate responsibility.
At the end, Bush attempted a soaring-rhetoric finale. He equated his mission to change the world with the work of Lincoln and Martin Luther King, stating,
We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite.... [E]very great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?
Such rhetoric sounds good. But does it have any real meaning? There was no way for King to have achieved "half a victory over segregation." What would that have looked like? Integrated buses, but segregated lunch counters? And, as critics of Yalta grouse, the United States did accept the division of Europe, at least for decades. (The alternative was probably war, perhaps nuclear war.) And the United States has been complicit in the "oppression of others" by supporting repressive regimes and brutal armies in such nations as Chile, South America, El Salvador, the Philippines, Argentina, Iran and Iraq.
"Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage," Bush declared. "Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well." Written in courage--it's a nice notion. But can Bush persuade Americans to stick with him in Iraq (and elsewhere) by tossing out well-crafted and dramatic lines that seem suitable for a Mel Gibson historical epic and that are designed to appeal to cliche-driven sentiments? It is a simple plan--and perhaps the best he's got.
The truly tragic thing about George W. Bush's fifth State of the Union address was the president's refusal to acknowledge that anyone might remember what was said in his previous speeches to Congress and the nation.
Three years ago, Bush laid out a vision for developing democracy in the Middle East that at least sounded relatively realistic. Echoing statements he had made during the 2000 presidential debate with Al Gore -- when he decried the doomed work of "nation building" -- the president admitted that elections in developing democracies might not turn out the way that his neoconservative "brain trust" had promised they would. And he seemed to be O.K. with that.
"Time after time," Bush warned, "observers have questioned whether this country, or the people, or this group, are 'ready' for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own western standards of progress."
So far, so good.
Unfortunately, it is now clear that the president did not begin to understand, let alone appreciate, the consequences and responsibilities inherent in those words.
Bush, a man whose awareness of the world and its complex politics was scant at the time of his election and who has learned little in the ensuing years, appears to have genuinely believed that if polling stations were set up, Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians, Egyptians and others would elect the local equivalents of Bill Frist, Denny Hastert, George Allen and Jim Sensenbrenner. Maybe, in his worst nightmares, Bush imagined the prospect that a Palestinian Russ Feingold or an Iranian Howard Dean might prevail. But that would be as scary as his cloistered consciousness allowed things to get.
Then the voting began. And Bush found himself confronted with an Iranian government that seems to be interested in developing a nuclear deterrent to U.S. meddling in its affairs, an Iraqi government that has yet to embrace pluralism, an Egyptian government that maintains its hold on power by denying the most viable opposition party its place on the ballot and a Palestinian government led by a party with a campaign strategy that includes armed struggle.
Speaking last night after a series of elections where voters in fledgling democracies placed their faith in extremist parties that are unenthusiastic about "western standards of progress," Bush had a responsibility to at least attempt to reconcile the new realities created by the results of recent voting. He ranted against "radical Islam" but would not acknowledge its popular appeal. He said Middle East democracies must be allowed to reflect the values and ideals of Middle Easterners, but then proceeded to tell newly elected governments what they must do to meet his -- decidedly western -- standards.
The address raised more questions than it answered.
Does the president still believe that the United States should not act "as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own western standards of progress." If so, should he not take the appropriate, if politically and personally difficult step of accepting the choices of the Iranian and Palestinian peoples? And should he not decry moves in Iraq, Egypt and other countries to control and constrain the democratic experiment in a manner that denies the majority of citizens an opportunity to select the extremist government of their choice?
Or has the president's commitment to democracy been shaken by election results that were not to his liking?
Bush needed to resolve those contradictions last night with an honest discussion of recent developments.
Instead, he delivered an irrational address that maintained an almost childlike certainly in the prospect that, someday soon, voters in Gaza City, Tehran, Baghdad and Cairo will begin casting ballots according to the same "western standards of progress" as voters in Grand Rapids, Toledo, Baltimore and Carson City.
Everyone knows that Bush has trouble admitting his own mistakes. But how can he fail to recognize that his ungrounded idealism of the past -- as evidenced by last year's State of the Union address, in which the president declared that, "The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure" -- has crashed into the harsh reality of a Hamas win at the Palestinian polls?
Bush introduced the term "faith-based solutions" to American politics. Faith is appropriate at times. But when the unwelcome developments challenge assumptions, faith must be tempered with realism -- and perhaps even a measure of humility. Last night was the point at which Bush needed to get real. Instead, the president asked the American people to embrace his unresolved contradictions and to cling with him to increasingly dangerous delusions.
John Nichols is the author of Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books). Howard Zinn says, "At exactly the time when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift--a collection of writings, speeches, poems and songs from thoughout American history--that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country." Frances Moore Lappe calls Against the Beast, "Brilliant! A perfect book for an empire in denial." Against the Beast can be found at independent bookstores nationwide and can be obtained online by tapping the above reference or at www.amazon.com.
ExxonMobil announced on January 30 that it reaped $36 billion in profits in 2005--the largest annual profit ever by any American corporation. And, as Grist reported in its excellent online newsletter, in related news, the company is still shirking paying the money it owes fishermen and other Alaskans hurt by the Exxon Valdez spill 16 years ago.
Last week, Exxon lawyers asked a federal court to effectively waive $5 billion in punitive damages related to the massive 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, meant to compensate thousands of Alaskans who lost their livelihoods. The company argued that it has already done enough by spending $3 billion on cleanups and settling other lawsuits. Some in the packed courtroom openly laughed as an Exxon lawyer argued that "harm was largely avoided" by what the company has paid so far.
Fortunately, the good folks at ExxposeExxon have given us the opportunity to do much more than laugh at the outrageous behavior of America's largest oil company. Watch EE's new Flash cartoon, a one-minute video showing Exxon toasting the earth in celebration of its record-breaking profits. If you like it, click here to send it around. Then click here to write to Exxon's new CEO, Rex Tillerson, and tell him to put some of his company's enormous profits to good use developing clean, renewable energy, as George W. Bush proposed in his SOTU address.
You can also help get the word out about ExxonMobil's bad deeds by distributing flyers in front of your neighborhood Exxon or Mobil stations. Click here to view the full selection of materials available and download the ones of your choice to print out and distribute. Finally, the campaign is asking sympathetic readers to speed past Exxon and Mobil gas stations! This one is simple--don't buy the company's gas.
Not convinced that Exxon is behaving reprehensibly? (Exxon has also funded pseudo-scientists to obscure the facts about global warming and worked to derail international negotiations to reduce global warming pollution.) Or just want to get more informed? Read this backgrounder, put together by EE's researchers. The conclusion: "ExxonMobil is padding its ever-growing bottom-line at the expense of the world's environment and America's national security and economy."
Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who has died at the age of 78, should be remembered for many brave and selfless deeds. Chief among those deeds, to be sure, was her steady opposition to capital punishment. The widow of one of America's most famous murder victims gave voice across four decades to the most credible argument with regard to the death penalty.
"As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses," she said. "An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder."
State of the Union addresses rarely add anything of value to the national discourse. Rather, they are campaign speeches dressed up as major statements of public policy.
Until the arrival of the current administration, however, State of the Union addresses usually did no harm.
That can no longer be said to be the case. Indeed, during the Bush years, these annual exercises in presidential pontification have actually detracted from the debate -- sometimes devastatingly so.
This president has used his yearly speeches to misstate intelligence data in order to deceive the Congress and the American people about supposed threats to national security, as Bush did in his 2003 address. And he has repeatedly used State of the Union addresses to foster the false impression that misnamed programs -- such as the so-called "Patriot" and "No Child Left Behind" acts -- are actually designed to protect and serve the American people.
Tonight, the president will deliver the second State of the Union address of a second term gone awry. His approval ratings are dismal. The majority of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. And there is a growing movement to censure Bush and Vice President Cheney for abusing their authority, disregarding the laws of the land and undermining Constitutional protections that were designed to preserve basic liberties.
It is the concern about the Bush administration's assaults on freedoms that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights that ought to weigh heaviest on the president tonight.
Indeed, if there is any one statement that should to be featured in the president's address, it is a response to the demand of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, for an explanation of the thinking behind the administration's decision to illegally initiate a program of spying on U.S. citizens -- and to maintain that program even after it was exposed by the media and condemned by many in Congress.
"No Administration official who has publicly defended the NSA program in the last week, including the President, has explained why it is necessary to violate the law and the Constitution to effectively fight terrorism," notes Feingold, the steadiest defender of the Constitution in the current Congress. "Instead, the Administration has resorted to a public relations campaign, perhaps because it knows its legal arguments don't stand up. The American people deserve an explanation of why this Administration decided to violate the law and insists on continuing to do so."
Feingold's right. If the president fails to address the issue of warrantless wiretaps tonight, then he will be guilty of delivering another State of the Union address that hinders rather than encourages the honest dialogue that is essential to democracy.