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Factinista Archives, May 2006


 

 

 

The Vietnam Syndrome
May 29, 2006

On Memorial Day, it seems an appropriate way to commemorate our soldiers who have served and those who have died in service to our country by reminding people how my generation promised to never fight another wrong war in the wrong way - ever again. We swore that soldiers would never again be sent into battle under false pretenses, and certainly not with too few troops, ill-equipment to do the job.

After the US military failure in Vietnam, Colin Powell formulated the modern US military strategy appropriately named The Powell Doctrine, which stated that future US wars would be fought with properly equipped troops and overwhelming, combined military force. This new approach would ensure that the US would not get bogged down in lingering insurgent wars, and would not take heavy casualties in future conflicts. The military would not lie about how wars were going, and would not lie about enemy casualties to make the case that things were going well.

Then came Colin Powell's UN speech. Somehow it seemed like a complete reversal of his earlier stance on when and how the US should engage in military conflict. He was now talking about preemptive action with a relatively small, unilateral force against a country that did not threaten the United States. It made no sense in the context of the Powell Doctrine.

We now know this as “Rumsfeld's Doctrine”; do it small and on the cheap, and try to make up for the lack of troops and equipment on the ground by using high tech gadgets. He ignored the generals and did it his way. The Rumsfeld doctrine states that a small, relatively lightly armed ground force, preceded by large air strikes, could accomplish the task of taking and holding the entire country of Iraq. Don't even bother retaining captured ground by keeping troops there; Rumsfeld's Doctrine states that you can take it, and then head back to the Green Zone or forward fire base, and thus give captured territory back to the enemy. The same mentality that failed in Vietnam.

The attempt to prosecute the war on the cheap backfired, and has now ended up costing almost 2500 troop's lives, over 15,000 troops seriously wounded, and almost $300 billion. It would have been far cheaper in both blood and money to put in twice as many troops on the ground for six months, put the Iraqi army and police under new leadership, have elections, and then turn the country over to the Iraqis so our troops could come home.

Which doctrine was right? Apparently Colin Powell’s was. Secretary Powell has now resigned from the Bush administration and has admitted publicly that his speech at the UN was one of the most regretful things he had ever done in his life. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld never spent a single day in the military. They sat out the Vietnam War, while brave draftees were suffering and dying overseas. Some of those troops who survived the Vietnam War are now generals in the US military, but Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld believe they know better despite having never served in the military themselves.

Congressman John Murtha said last week that our troops are so strained and under such constant pressure that some units are cracking under the weight. War crimes like those committed against civilians in Vietnam are starting to occur in Iraq, and the country is now inflamed in a civil war that may not end for years, or even decades. Keeping our troops in this pressure cooker indefinitely will only cause continuing pain and suffering for everyone involved, and will certainly cost more lives on both sides.

What’s the best way to support the troops on this Memorial Day? Work to impeach Bush and Cheney, and put Rumsfeld in jail for war crimes (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, faked intelligence for war, botched war plan, etc.).  Our troops deserve far better civilian commanders, ones who actually know what they are doing, rather than faking it.

Dr John
 


 
  Deranged US Drug Policies
May 26th, 2006


Tens of thousands of US service members who are serving, or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffer from stress disorders and depression. When the stress or depression become too severe and soldiers seek help at the infirmary they are often given drugs, including antidepressants, and sent back to the front lines. An alarming number of soldiers who have been prescribed antidepressants have committed suicide.

An article at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America web site claims that this practice is increasing due to pressures to maintain troop strength. According to the report, antidepressants which can have serious side effects are given to troops who are then not monitored for bad reactions. Indeed, the type of antidepressants prescribed, serotonin uptake inhibitors, often have negative side effects for the first few weeks that they are taken. The beneficial effects only show up weeks later. Therefore, prescribing such medications to troops on the front line without monitoring their reactions may be partly responsible for some of the associated suicides.

Throughout the Iraq war the US military has evaluated the success of its mental health programs based on how many troops are retained in or returned to combat. The numbers of troops sent home for mental disorders and depression have dropped significantly since the first year of the war, as medications have become more accessible. We are not doing our over-extended troops any favor by handing out Prozac like candy in a war zone. It is irresponsible in the extreme, and must be stopped. If a soldier has substantial mental health issues, they must be removed from the battlefield.

On a completely different note concerning deranged US drug policies, the results of a large study were released recently showing that moderate to heavy marijuana smoking did not increase lung cancer rates, and in fact may have provided a mild protective effect against lung cancer. The results completely surprised the researchers who expected that heavy marijuana use would be similar to heavy tobacco smoking. Instead, they found that smoking two packs of cigarettes a day was associated with a twenty-fold increase in lung cancer, whereas heavy marijuana smoking was associated with a slight decrease in lung cancer rates.

The list below shows the estimated number of deaths associated with various drugs and activities each year in the United States.

Tobacco - 435,000
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity - 365,000
Alcohol - 85,000
Microbial Agents (germs) - 75,000
Toxic Agents - 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes - 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs - 32,000
Suicide - 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms - 29,000
Homicide - 20,308
Sexual Behaviors - 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use (excluding marijuana) - 17,000
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (aspirin, etc) - 7,600
Marijuana - 0

Tobacco usage by far tops the list at 435,000 deaths per year, with alcohol a fairly distant third in the list at 85,000 deaths per year. Marijuana usage was at the bottom of the list with zero deaths reported per year. And this is almost certainly not due to a lack of marijuana usage in the United States. According to the numbers, marijuana is far safer than aspirin.

The fact that our government is still attempting to prevent doctors from prescribing marijuana to terminally ill patients in order to allow them to hold their food down during chemotherapy is inexcusable. It is perhaps the most misdirected medical policy in our country. The results are now in that marijuana smoking is not harmful, removing any excuse for prohibiting doctors from prescribing it when no other medications are available.

Dr John


 

  Attention Democrat Disorder
May 25th, 2006


Progressive patients arrive at the doctor's office with a variety of symptoms including disorientation, mental confusion, and political aphasia. These are clear signs of Attention Democrat Disorder (ADD). Currently there is no known cure, so symptomatic treatment with focused Democratic talking points is the only remaining option.

The incidence of ADD has been increasing in recent years, and is now reaching epidemic proportions in the United States. The cause has been well documented; a constant onslaught of conservative talking points from every news outlet, dozens of Republican scandals swept under the rug, unchecked executive powers and a colluding White House press corps. The result is that Democrats are dazed and confused, and constantly distracted from the actual problems facing the country.

Cases in point; 1) the immigration debate - why exactly is immigration such a pressing problem all of a sudden? 2) gay marriage - what does this have to do with anything affecting the country right now? 3) bird flu pandemic scare, is this really the most pressing health issue facing the world today?, 4) Iran nuclear threat - so what? North Korea and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and we’re not going crazy about that, 5) Moussaoui trial - the guy probably didn't even have anything to do with the attacks on 9/11.

What can you do if you think you might be coming down with symptoms of ADD? Simple, focus on these easy to remember topics:

1)      Bush lied us into war in Iraq and people are still dying over three years later

2)      Bush, Libby and Cheney outed a CIA agent for political payback purposes

3)      Jack Abramoff and the Republican bribery scandals

4)      Dismantling of FEMA and the resultant death of over a thousand people in New Orleans due to the Katrina flooding

5)      Bush never found Osama bin Laden, and now we see the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan

6)      Bush and Cheney ordered the torturing of prisoners

7)      $9 billion of your taxes have gone missing in Iraq

8)      Halliburton still getting no-bid contracts in Iraq

9)      Bush and Cheney's energy policies have led to the current price on gas

10)  Republicans control everything and govern like drunken sailors

The Republicans are going into overdrive in their distraction campaign. Don't let them give you a case of ADD. Fight back by focusing on their malfeasance, and ignore their distractions and fear tactics. If they raise the terror alert, laugh it off and think about Scooter Libby going to prison. It works every time.

Dr John


 

Attack of the Killer Chickens
May 23rd, 2006


They are not 50 feet tall with a taste for human flesh. But considering the level of media attention and fear mongering from our government, you would think that chickens could be the doom of us all. Is all this bird flu brouhaha just common sense preparedness by the Department of Health and Human Services? Is it a timely Bush administration preemptive attack on the next human pandemic disease?

Not to my way of thinking, and I have been a biologist for almost 30 years. In ancient times there were many human pandemics ranging from bubonic plague to smallpox. In the last century there has only been one worldwide pandemic known as the Spanish flu, which occurred in 1918. Soldiers from World War I were shipped all around the world and carried the flu virus with them infecting millions of people in many countries. Tens of millions of people died in a single year from pneumonia-like symptoms.

Is the current concern over a bird flu pandemic a prescient stroke of genius meant to deal with a deadly virus, or a devious stroke of propaganda meant to distract the news media and public from government malfeasance and exceptionally low popularity levels? I suggest that it is the latter, and others are starting to agree with me.

The best scientific evidence to date suggests that the current bird flu virus is relatively unlikely to mutate in just the correct way that it can easily infect humans, and transfer by air from one human to another. Currently, only poultry workers who are in constant contact with birds, and bird droppings, are getting the so-called bird flu. It is not passing from person to person, and in fact, it seems to be spreading through the wild bird population far more slowly than predicted.

I would rate the chances that this particular virus will be able to mutate in just the right way that it could easily infect human beings at about one-in-a-thousand. That might be a generous overestimate of the danger, but it sounds like it's in the right ballpark. As such, I believe it would be far better for our government to prepare in general terms for any type of disease outbreak rather than concentrating on one unlikely suspect. Disease outbreaks occur with little or no warning and cannot be predicted ahead of time because of the nature of mutation and its relation to viral evolution. You can't prepare for a future unknown pandemic by making vaccine to a known virus, because in the end a completely different virus might be the one that mutates to become deadly to humans. All of the bird flu vaccine would be worthless in such a circumstance.

I believe that the excessive focus on a possible bird flu pandemic has more to do with politics, and an attempt to make it look like the administration is doing something, rather than actually being a serious focus on human health. One good reason for believing this is the excessive public hand-wringing surrounding the issue. Most public health issues are dealt with behind-the-scenes without dramatic press releases pumping up the fear level in the populous. Warning the public for months on end that a virus might mutate and might cause problems in the future seems to be a dubious method of keeping the public abreast of important health issues. It seems more like the terrorist color code alert system, both brought to you by the always comforting Bush administration.

Currently, there is an ongoing human pandemic that is receiving very little attention from the civilized world. Millions of people die every year from malaria, and hundreds of millions suffer from the ravages of this terrible disease. Pharmaceutical companies will not touch malaria research because most of the victims are too poor to pay for expensive drugs. The one person to step forward was the world's richest person, Bill Gates who has donated $400 million to malaria research, by far the largest donation for such research in history. Other human pandemics ranging from AIDS to cholera also get less air time on the news nowadays than the bird flu, despite the fact that they infect millions of humans every year.

I predict that the bird flu scare will evaporate much in the same way that the SARS scare dissipated several years ago. It was difficult to turn on the news or open the newspaper several years ago without hearing about this new deadly human disease that was supposedly going to kill thousands, maybe millions. It did no such thing, and now SARS is just a footnote in medical history.

There may be a terrible human pandemic arising sometime in the next few years, but I'll wager that it has nothing to do with the bird flu. Preparedness is a good thing, but medical preparedness needs to be geared more towards mobilization and response capabilities than towards stockpiling vaccines to specific viruses. Of course it's always more lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to lobby the government to pay for and stockpile huge quantities of vaccines, even if they are vaccines for non-existent diseases. But this is not a sound public health policy; it is just a sound business policy for pharmaceutical companies.

Dr John


 

  Failure of the Reverse Domino Effect
May 22nd, 2006


Anyone who lived through the Vietnam War era remembers talk of the domino effect. The domino effect was why we were in Vietnam, supposedly, in the first place. Forget about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was the “weapons of mass destruction” ploy used on the American public to sell the war in Vietnam. That had nothing to do with the war in Vietnam, just as “threatening weapons” had nothing to do with the current war in Iraq. Anyone who thinks Iraq was actually a military threat to United States needs to re-examine the evidence.

The domino effect was the name given to the theory that communism would spread like a virus throughout the world. Soon, every Third World country would be communist, and the “free nations” would dwindle to just a handful. Communism was the boogieman coming to get all of us, and if we didn't make a stand, then we would all be doomed as free countries toppled like dominoes. There was never any evidence of this, and certainly the countries that fell prey to the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s did not go gently into that union. Indeed, after the fall of the Soviet Union many of those countries, ranging from Czechoslovakia to Yugoslavia, broke away from the Soviet Union, which we now know again by the name of Russia. The domino effect did not seem operative, it seemed more like a propaganda tool to keep the public in support of a massive military buildup.

It is curious that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, two early proponents of the domino effect theory, have now decided that they can institute a reverse domino effect on the Muslim world. Despite the failure of communism to initiate any domino effect throughout the world, Dick and Don decided that maybe a “reverse domino effect” might work - perhaps forcibly toppling a Middle Eastern country and instituting a puppet democracy could spread democracy throughout the Muslim world. Not exactly what you would call brilliant international policy, more like rehashing old unworkable ideas in a new, perhaps more dangerous context. I suppose what they say about old dogs may be true.

As sectarian violence escalates in Iraq and as the puppet government, sheltered within the heavily fortified Green Zone, tries in vain to settle age old disputes, you have to wonder how long it will be before the administration realizes that the reverse domino effect is a fantasy? Rather than spreading democracy throughout the Middle East like falling dominoes, we instead see Islamic fundamentalism spreading there like wildfire. In countries from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Egypt, anti-Western sentiment is at an all-time high. If the violence in Iraq persists for six more months, or continues to escalate further, will the Bush administration stay the bloody course, or pull the troops out? I expect they will make many more mistakes over the next several months, perhaps more mistakes than normal because this is an election year and they are beginning to panic. But it is hard to believe that they could make any more mistakes than they already have, as this is the most disastrous administration in my lifetime.

Dr John

 


 

 
  Wedge Politics Make a Mockery of Democracy
May 19th, 2006


In our democracy, the government derives its power through the consent of the people, theoretically. If modern politicians win elections by being demagogues, dividing the electorate with inflammatory rhetoric, can they claim that they have the consent of the people? Does 50.1 percent of the vote mean you have the consent of the people? Do the other 49.9% have any say?

What would George Washington and Thomas Jefferson think of wedge politics? They would consider it to have one of the most insidious and corrosive effects on the body politic of any tactic, turning one half of the country against the other to win an election.

When you hear Republicans, who are running scared due to low poll ratings, declare that there's not one whit of difference between Democrats and Republicans, don't believe them. There are numerous significant differences that affect the way they run campaigns, and the way they govern. Most Republicans got elected to their positions by employing wedge political tactics, ranging from running on an anti-gay marriage platform, to pushing for draconian restrictions on a woman's right to choose. Or maybe they will scare rural voters by telling them Democrats are going to take their guns away. All of these are wedge tactics meant to inflame and divide the electorate. They are not the critical, pressing issues facing America today.

Other wedge issues used by Republicans to divide and conquer include the evolution/creation debate, school vouchers and denigrating public education, and flag burning amendments. They also use the threat of terrorism to erode our civil liberties and turn Americans against each other as Democrats argue that we cannot sacrifice liberty for security, and Republicans say you can't have liberty if you're dead. Not a very productive debate. It's pure demagoguery meant to inflame one group of Americans against another. That's not leadership, that's criminal malfeasance under the guise of public service. Does a good political leader derive legitimacy through the consent of just barely over half the people? Is that what the consent of the people means?

Republicans rarely actually pass laws, or even actually vote on any of their wedge issues in Congress. If they did, their wedge issue would go away, and they would lose their ability to divide the electorate. If the Republicans have their way, these issues will be used to inflame the electorate indefinitely.

One of the most ironic and hypocritical statements coming from Republicans, after spending their careers dividing the nation to win elections, is the quip that impeaching the president would be bad because it would divide the country. They have already done that job admirably, and it would be hard to imagine that anything could divide it much further.

Dr John


 

 

Scandal Overload
or, "a scandal a day keeps the press away"
May 18th 2006


I've been thinking that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all of the major scandals swirling around the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration. I have started to develop a theory about this ”scandal-a-day keeps the press away” strategy. It almost seems as though Karl Rove hatched a plan to ramrod the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld agenda down America's throat while simultaneously overloading the press and the public with too many scandals to keep track of. (By the way, has Karl Rove been indicted yet?).

It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but considering how difficult it has been for the press to concentrate on any particular scandal, it is perhaps one of the sneakiest ways to slip malfeasance past the bumbling press corps and the distracted American public. Eventually, if a new scandal is announced practically every day, the press and public will reach scandal overload. They will be unwilling, and moreover, they will be unable to pay attention for that long.

A comprehensive list of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld scandals and malfeasance would be almost impossible to fully compile without making a career out of it. Nonetheless, I will enumerate a quick, partial list of some of the Republican scandals, just to make the point that there are so many scandals that they are hard to keep track of.

Iraq War:

Ø      Lying to the American people about weapons of mass destruction and imminent threats

Ø      Not sending enough troops

Ø      Permitting looting

Ø      Disbanding the Iraqi army and letting soldiers go home with their guns

Ø      Not taking and holding territory - allowing insurgents to retake captured ground

Ø      Not enough body armor or vehicle armor

Ø      Stop-Loss and overextension of duty

Ø     Torturing prisoners (Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, “renditioning” detainees to Eastern European secret prisons, etc.)

Ø      Indefinite imprisonment without lawyers or trial

Ø      Killing innocent Iraqi civilians

Ø      Billions of taxpayer dollars gone missing and unaccounted for

Ø      Straining our military personnel and National Guard to the breaking point

Ø      Cutting veterans benefits and reducing veteran care

Ø      Not treating returning vets for traumatic stress disorder

Ø      Huge no-bid contracts to Cheney’s company, Halliburton

National Debt and continued tax cuts for the rich:

Ø      Another $70 billion tax cut bill just passed in a drunken-sailor orgy of Republican fiscal irresponsibility

Ø      $9 trillion debt ceiling: is a $10 trillion debt ceiling coming to a Congress near you soon?

Ø      Massive interest payments to Chinese banks

CIA leak and cover-up:

Ø      (Has Karl Rove been indicted yet?)

Ø      Leaking a covert CIA agent's identity for political payback

Ø      Endangering overseas contacts and CIA front companies

Ø      Two years of attempted cover-up about Cheney and Rove’s involvement

Ø      Indictment of Scooter Libby, Cheney's top aide        

FEMA dismantling:

Ø      Delayed and wholly inadequate Katrina response

Ø      Continued lack of rebuilding the Gulf Coast region

Ø      Abandonment of displaced people from the Gulf Coast region

Ø      Lack of preparedness for upcoming natural disasters

Stacking the courts with ideologues:

Ø      Installing two extremely conservative judges on the Supreme Court

Ø      Stacking the lower courts with extremely conservative judges

Ø      Pulling prosecutors off of investigations into government wrongdoing by nominating them to federal courts

Afghanistan:

Ø      US troops did not finish the job and are still fighting

Ø      Pulled troops out to send to Iraq

Ø      Never found Osama bin Laden

Not Securing Ports:

Ø      Ports still not secure, cargo not being checked

Ø      Attempt to sell port control to Dubai

Overt Propaganda - paying journalists to write nicey-nicey about the Republican agenda

Secret US spying and wiretapping

Voting scandals in 2000 and 2004

Tom Delay - indicted Republican Congressman

Jack Abramoff - convicted Republican lobbyist

Bob Ney - corrupt Ohio Congressman

James Guckert - phony White House journalist

Duke Cunningham - Republican Congressman convicted for bribery
 

Phew! I'm exhausted, and I probably missed a whole bunch of scandals because I forgot about them.

See!! The tactic is working!

Even the new border security debate is a façade for giving huge contracts to defense contractors such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman to put high-tech surveillance equipment all along the border at a cost to us, the taxpayers, of billions of dollars. Another military-industrial-complex bonanza at your expense.

I should also mention the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld push to put the president above the law. Republicans should be somewhat worried at the now all-powerful imperial US presidency, because in 2008 there is a significant chance that this newfound power will be turned over to a Democrat. Oh horrors! Maybe that should give Republicans a little pause before giving Bush any additional unchecked powers, unless they can figure out a way to make them expire in January 2009, just in time for President Gore to occupy the Oval Office.

Remember what the Republicans promised in 2000; to bring honor, dignity and accountability back to the White House? Maybe Al Gore could actually do that.

Dr John


  Every (Republican) Vote Must Be Counted
May 17th, 2006


If you thought the 2000 and 2004 elections were controversial, just wait for the 2006 election. It is shaping up to be one of the most controversial, and possibly corrupt elections in American history.

You will probably never hear about this simmering controversy from CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, but it is creeping into print news, including the newly conservative New York Times. And you guessed it, it's all about Diebold electronic voting systems, and security issues.

Tests over the last several months have revealed serious security flaws in Diebold's voting systems. Computer scientists have said that the vulnerability could allow knowledgeable persons with access to a voting machine to tamper with the machine's software, and possibly infect them with a virus that could propagate to other parts of the voting system. These vulnerabilities have been discussed at length previously, especially at Blackbox voting.

If you think electronic voting is secure and reliable, check out the articles I've linked to and decide for yourself. A paper backup trail is absolutely essential to make sure the US voting system is accurate, reliable and secure. We need a standardized voting machine system in the United States with paper backup, and the ability to retain data during power outages or computer glitches.

It’s time to end this corrosive cancer on our democracy. Voting in the US in the 21st century should be a model for the rest of the world, not a laughing stock.

Dr John


 

 

 

Reporters Phone Records are Being Tapped
May 16th, 2006


The Washington press corps has been a cloistered lot for much of its history, but it now seems they are stuck in a reality distortion bubble from which they are unable to extricate themselves. Washington reporters typically talk mostly to Washington reporters, and occasionally to the politicians they're supposed to be covering, (usually over an expensive lunch or dinner). The desire to retain access to the politicians that spoon feed them pro-government drivel inexorably drives reporters to play nice with the people they are supposed to scrutinize.

There are few things more dangerous for democracy than alliances between the press corps and politicians, but are there other, even more nefarious reasons why the press corps has become so docile in the face of so much government malfeasance? We already know that Dick Cheney often voices his disapproval of news stories to the editors of major newspapers and news outlets, and we know that whoever the current press secretary is, he or she will not call on reporters that don't play ball with the administration.

Now it turns out that the administration may be using the Patriot Act, and the NSA and FBI to tap the phone records of journalists in order to determine the sources of unwanted leaks from the administration (desirable leaks are never investigated). John Nichols has published an article at The Nation detailing how two reporters from ABC found out that their phone records had been acquired by the FBI, and that this was becoming a common method for determining which government officials reporters are talking to. The FBI has admitted not only that it is doing this, but also that the Bush administration's policies have made this practice far easier to do.

One FBI official told the reporters at ABC that they should get new cell phones quickly. I guess even some folks at the FBI are uneasy with this slide towards Stalinist Soviet Union tactics being used against the already exceptionally compliant Washington press corps. So when you hear President Bush saying that the government is not "data mining", maybe you should believe him. They know exactly whose phones they want to tap.

Against the backdrop of the administration's draconian efforts to prevent investigations into the Valery Plame CIA leak, this abuse of Patriot Act powers to investigate reporters and quell whistleblowers in the government seems particularly pernicious. But the so-called liberal mainstream media haven't touched this story, despite the fact that they are now the focus of at least some of the phone tapping being done within the United States.

Stalin would wholeheartedly approve.

By the way, did Karl Rove get indicted yet?

Dr John


 

  Low Poll Numbers Prompt Desperate Move to “Close Borders”
May 15th, 2006 - For Peter


It's an election year and the Republicans need a hot-button topic to get people riled up. Hence, the current immigration debate. Anything is better than having to discuss Iraq, or the national debt, or Jack Abramoff, or Scooter Libby, or rebuilding New Orleans.

President Bush will give a speech tonight where he is going to propose sending 5000 national guards to patrol the US Mexican border. Just like in Iraq, he has decided not to send enough troops to do the job. Just kidding there - he shouldn't be sending any troops to any part of the United States in the absence of martial law. But that's another topic.

If Bush was so worried about our borders being too porous, he should have started doing something about it back in late 2001 when he had plenty of political capital, and when it made sense to try and regulate border security more intensely. Now you have to ask yourself, why is this so important all of a sudden? Is it possible that it has something to do with Bush's very low poll ratings, and those of the Republican Congress?

I doubt Bush is going to send any troops to the border, but he does have to at least sound like he's talking tough. Yet again, this plan may backfire as many recent Karl Rovian plans have. Bush's speech tonight will no doubt anger many immigrants, it will anger the Mexican government, and it may even anger business interests in the United States. Additionally, as always, anything Bush says will anger Democrats for its sheer arrogance and absurdity.

By the way, did Karl Rove get indicted yet?

Dr John


 

  Are Liberals Terrorist Lovers?
May 13th, 2006


With the Republican Congress approval rating at 18% and the Bush approval rating at 29% you can bet that conservatives are going to turn even nastier on Democrats. Watching the Larry King show from last night with liberal and conservative radio talk show hosts was simultaneously painful and infuriating. Both sides talked over each other and past each other, and seemed to genuinely despise each other. It's a shame that America has come to this point.

It became clear during the course of the show that the Republican tactic for the upcoming election was going to be an attempt to tie liberals to terrorists. As ludicrous as that sounds on its face, my guess is that Republicans have done focus groups on this, and that line of ill-reasoning resonates well with the conservative base.

The question posed by the conservative talk show pundit, put forward under the guise of wanting to “understand how liberals think” was: “do you believe the people we are fighting in Iraq are evil?” This question naïvely presupposes that our troops are only fighting against foreign terrorists who have come to Iraq to attack US troops. In fact, accounts from troops on the ground in Iraq indicate that over 95% of the insurgents they are fighting are locals from the towns were the insurgencies are ongoing.

The Iraqis have always disliked foreign fighters in their own country, even those fighting on their side against the common enemy. As one sheikh was quoted as saying in Christian Parenti’s book, “The Freedom”:

“We do not like the occupation. Look, everything is smashed - no electricity, no security, nothing gets fixed. People have no work. They are sick of waiting. The Tartars occupied us, the Turks occupied us, the British. All were driven out. The West cannot win this fight”.

The sheikh's brother added; “When the resistance is from inside Iraq I put my hand with them. But we do not like the foreign fighters, the Saudis or the Syrians”.

It's hard to spin that sentiment in such a way as to make it appear evil.

As the midterm elections approach in the US, I expect the Republicans to constantly challenge the patriotism of Democrats and liberals. It's a cheap trick, but it works with their base. Yet the fact of the matter is, 90 to 95% of the people we are fighting in Iraq believe that they are fighting to free their country from foreign occupation. I don't see how that makes them evil. If Iraq militarily occupied the United States, we would be fighting them just the way they're fighting us.

Liberals obviously do not support terrorists, and our stating that the Iraqi people are not “evil” does not make us terrorist sympathizers either. On the contrary, most liberals I know want to pull the troops out of Iraq and send them back into Afghanistan where more of the terrorists we are seeking are hiding. To my mind, that makes the Republicans who want to keep the troops in Iraq “terrorist enablers”, because we are fighting the wrong fight in the wrong place, and allowing the terrorists to regroup in the mountains of Afghanistan. The recent increase in attacks on our troops in Afghanistan stresses that point very clearly.

As long as the rhetorical war between pro-war conservatives and antiwar liberals continues by setting up erroneous strawmen, and knocking them down, the discourse will be circular and nonproductive. A much more productive discussion may have to await the midterm elections because conservatives will be in pure attack mode against Democrats, and will be doing everything they can to make their base hate Democrats as much as they hate “the terrorists”. This time around, I have a feeling that their wedge tactics, meant to divide the electorate, we'll leave them with less than 50% of the vote no matter how much anger and hatred they direct towards liberals. It's an argument that wore thin a long time ago, and now it just makes them seem like bitter losers who care more about retaining power than they do about the good of the United States.

Dr John


 

  “Al Qaeda is Our Enemy, and We Want to Know Their Plans”,
May 12th 2006


said George W. Bush. A simpleminded statement coming from a simple man. Perhaps a little too simple for reality. Al Qaeda doesn't phone home on AT&T.

The idea that logging all phone calls made in the United States will permit analysts at the NSA to look for “calling patterns”, thus leading them to Al Qaeda terrorist cells in the United States, is ludicrous on its face.

The idea that members of Al Qaeda are chatting away about their upcoming attacks on the telephone is so irrational that it defies all logic. Terrorists determined to attack the United States, no doubt few and far between in relation to the overall population, know that phone conversations can be tapped, and therefore would obviously communicate by other means. As such, all of the effort put into data mining the vast sea of phone calls in the United States is a complete waste of time and money, at least if your objective is to catch terrorists. I'm sure it would be more useful in tracking the discussions that Democrats are having on the phone.

Remember “Total Informational Awareness”? It was the ill-fated program under John Poindexter to monitor all communications in the United States. After it became public, John Poindexter and Total Informational Awareness slipped off the radar screens. Obviously, it was still being run behind the scenes by General Hayden at the NSA, who has now been nominated to head the CIA by Bush. I suppose that's a way to keep it all in the family.

So again, the Bush administration's approach to the serious problem of international terrorism is to monitor phone calls in the United States, rather than sending Special Forces to terrorist strongholds throughout the world. It's hard to imagine they could handle the situation more poorly.

The next time you're on the phone, don't forget to say hi to the nice NSA people listening in. They probably could use the moral support.

Dr John


 

 
  Is a “War on Terror” Possible?
   May 11th 2006 


If you were president of the world's greatest superpower and your country was attacked by a small loosely knit band of fanatics from various countries around the world, what would your response be? Would you militarily invade a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the original attack on your country? If that would not be your first choice, then ask yourself why it was the Bush administration's first choice.

Everything that our government is doing wrong now is being justified as necessary because of an ongoing “war on terror”. The Bush-Cheney “war on terror” is a political strategy, not a series of implemented policies meant to reduce international terrorism. Indeed, the implemented policies ranging from torturing detainees, to the “collateral damage” deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, to our protracted occupation of Iraq, have all combined to incense the Muslim world and thus increase the level of international terrorism directed against Western countries, their assets, and peoples.

Republicans have ridiculed an international law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism as weak, and ineffective. The purpose of ridiculing international law enforcement is to take that discussion off the table. The only remaining argument then is either to use our military, or to not use our military, and that leaves most people saying to go ahead and use the military. But that is a false choice. International law enforcement is the only way to bring small bands of fanatics to justice. The Israeli method of sending large guided bombs into apartment buildings to kill a single suspected terrorist, thus killing dozens of innocent people in the process, is an example not to be followed by rational persons. A SWAT team would have been just as effective without the innocent death toll.

Putting aside the Bush-Cheney administration's obsession with oil, and the administration's desire to put Moslems that control oil in their place, are there other important reasons that drove this administration to war in Iraq? Follow the money. Is anyone benefiting from the Iraq war? How about Halliburton? How about oil companies? How about defense contractors? Any increased profits there? The $300 billion windfall reaped by these and other companies in Iraq would not have been possible without the war. But the money was not available, and instead was borrowed from European and Chinese banks, adding greatly to our nearly $9 trillion debt. That is one gigantic credit card bill that we will all be paying off for decades to come.

Any time you hear a politician talking about a “war on something”; beware. This is a cheap trick to rouse public support, often for an unworkable policy or agenda. There can be no “war on terror” because you can't have a military war against small bands of people scattered throughout the world. You can have a war against Iraq, if you really think that is going to benefit the people of the United States, but you can't have a war against a violent political tactic used by small bands of people. Instead, you need international law enforcement to track down those groups of people and bring them to justice. That is something that jet aircraft and tanks cannot do. An honest president would cooperate with other government’s national law enforcement agencies to coordinate efforts to disrupt, find, and eliminate terrorist cells around the world. Unfortunately, we do not have an honest president.

Dr John


 

  When Will Democrats stand up to Bush?
   May 9th, 2006


Yesterday Russ Feingold called for the Democrats stand together in opposition to the Bush administration's excruciatingly disastrous political/social agenda. It doesn't take a brainiac from the nerd patrol, nor a member of the Factinista, to see that we are bogged down in an insurgent war in Iraq because of Bush’s, Cheney’s and Rumsfeld's failed plans, that the CIA is in meltdown mode due to the cluelessness of Bush appointees (cronies), that increased international terrorism has resulted from these failed policies, that our national debt is higher than it's ever been due to criminal fiscal irresponsibility, and that America has lost all credibility among the international community.

The malfeasance list goes on and on, and the result is that Bush is down to about 31% in the polls. You would think that fact alone would be enough to put some spine into the Democrats and get them back up on their soap boxes. Apparently not. Again Russ Feingold seems lost in the woods, calling for Democrats to do something, anything, with no response other than the wind blowing through the trees.

Just the other day Democrats came out with an agenda of their own, meek as it was. They called for a return to fiscal responsibility, full implemen-tation of the 9/11 committee recommendations, and increasing the minimum wage. Hardly a sweeping new agenda to turn the country around. Because the Democrats seem unwilling to take on the challenge of declaring a strong agenda for renewing America, I will do it for them.

Here is a sound workable 12-point agenda for the Democrats:

1) Full public financing of all elections, and campaign finance reform that removes all private money from politics.

2) Full lobbying reform that forbids any contribution of any type to any politician from anyone. The idea that disclosing bribes makes them better is ludicrous.

3) Return of the fairness doctrine, forcing stations to offer opposing views rather than just one side of the story. Failing that, I would accept all pundits to reveal at the beginning of every show where their money comes from, and label their broadcast or print as political opinion rather than news.

4) Strengthened antitrust laws that prevent large corporate mergers, consolidations, and a tendency towards monopolization.

5) Simplification of the tax system with dramatically reduced tax rates at the low end, higher tax rates at the upper end, and very few deductions for anyone.

6) Increase the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour.

7) Strengthening of the FISA court laws and the anti-domestic spying laws.

8) Passage of new laws that specifically forbid any US citizen from breaking accepted international laws including the Geneva conventions, within the United States, or overseas. We need a Humane Treatment of Detainees law, with severe consequences for breaking the law. The law would also forbid secret detention centers overseas, or the “renditioning” of US prisoners to foreign governments.

9) New government accountability laws that permit a congressional minority to initiate investigations of the majority.

10) Pull all troops out of Iraq, and redirect government spending towards the US infrastructure, port security, and rebuilding along the Gulf Coast.

11) Propose and implement an alternative energy plan that cuts our dependency on oil and coal.

12) Perhaps the most important of all, a nationalized voting machine system where all voting machines in the United States are manufactured identically, with open source software, power-loss backup (nonvolatile flash memory?), and a full paper trail. In order for all the votes to be equal, the voting systems must have equivalent error rates and reliability rates.

Unfortunately for the US populace, the Democrats will probably maintain much of the status quo even if they are elected. But then again, at this point anything is better than Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.


Dr John
 


 

NIH Bird Flu Contingency Shut Down Plan
May 6th, 2006


I have been told by the spouse of an NIH administrator that an agency-wide meeting was held where it was revealed to top-level NIH employees that a contingency plan was being prepared for dealing with an anticipated bird flu pandemic.

All this sounds quite reasonable until you hear the details. I have so far been unable to confirm this with other sources, but I was told that NIH administrators were briefed on a plan to shut the NIH campus down for the months of August, September and October of this year. The reason given was that it was thought that the bird flu pandemic would hit America in that timeframe. Personnel would be put on leave without pay for the duration.

Several things struck me immediately. First was the fact that the main thing occurring in that timeframe was the run-up to the next election. Second was the implausibility that the officials involved could predict something as unpredictable as a pandemic. Third was the ludicrousness of the idea that the government would be disbanding the premier medical research organization of the United States just when that medical research organization was needed most; during a pandemic outbreak.

Since news of this meeting came to me (indirectly) from an NIH administrator I have to assume that such a meeting concerning this topic must have occurred. But I'm wondering if it might not be a way for Bush appointees at the NIH to test the political waters among NIH administrators, rather than an actual plan to shut down the NIH. The plan does not sound rational, but rather, it sounds politically timed for the next midterm election.

In any case, if you start to hear stories in July or August about the flu pandemic coming to the United States, just keep in mind that it was all planned well ahead of time, probably not for medical reasons, but for political ones.

Dr John



The Oil Will Flow Like Water
May 3rd 2006

That is what George Bush and Dick Cheney were thinking when they attacked Iraq. That is why they said that the Iraq war would pay for itself through oil revenues. Almost $300 billion later, we're still waiting for the oil to flow at all.

Recent moves in Russia, Argentina, and Bolivia have nationalized their oil and gas infrastructure. In other words, the governments in those oil-rich countries have taken over the oil and gas wells. While this story is getting very little play in the mainstream media, it certainly has experts concerned that other oil-producing countries may soon follow suit.

Why should you care? Maybe because gas is costing you three dollars a gallon now and is sure to go up further. The governments of Russia, Argentina and Bolivia have told foreign oil companies that they have six months to renegotiate their contracts, or forfeit their assets. These moves almost certainly mean that oil supplies will be tightened, profits for larger oil companies reduced, and eventually the price of gas will be forced upwards even further.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. These are all the unintended consequences of the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq, their constant threats about attacking Iran, their inability to protect the oil infrastructure of Iraq, their veiled threats towards Venezuela, Bolivia and Nigeria, and the dramatic worsening of world opinion towards the United States that is the direct result of these poorly thought out foreign policies.

Of course, the Cheney energy plan had a big hand to play in worsening the situation. Cheney's energy bill gave huge tax breaks to oil companies, who have reaped the largest profits in US history in the last year as a result. In part these outrageous profits helped fuel the sentiment in countries such as Argentina and Bolivia that they were not being properly compensated for their natural resources, which were being pilfered by foreign oil companies. By nationalizing their oil and gas infrastructure these countries will now be able to fully control how their natural resources are utilized. That means lower profits for companies like Exxon, Mobil and BP.

So you can thank Bush and Cheney for the prices you're paying at the pumps now, and as the prices continue to rise you can thank them even more. It would be especially helpful in driving up gas prices to all new highs if they would just hurry up and attack Iran, and get it over with. Then they could attack Africa, South America, Russia - oh what the hell - the whole rest of the world. That ought to help.

It's a sad state of affairs we are in now where Americans will not get out to protest against what our government is doing in our name, and yet immigrants in America turn out by the millions to protest about immigration reform. The news media refuse to take on the Bush administration, leaving that function to courageous comedians like Stephen Colbert. America needs a goodly dose of the type of activism that helped get us out of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. But that seems unlikely, perhaps at least until gas reaches four dollars a gallon.

Dr John
 


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