The Neocons And Their Wars Of Choice

          

The IRAQ WAR MEMORIAL

Even now, nine years later, my anger rises to a level even Paxil can’t control as I think about the Necons’ two Wars of Choice.  Now that it’s almost all over, let’s look at the results:  [1]2,583 coalition deaths in Afghanistan; and oh yeah, those civilians who don’t matter much:  12,793 dead.  In Iraq, the U.S. body count is 4,487 and those pesky civilians died to the tune of 162,000, which of course could be much more.  That’s nearly 200,000 dead and countless others maimed and driven crazy.  And oh yeah, $1.324 TRILLION was expended by the U.S. on both fronts. For what??

Granted, Saddam wasn’t exactly a sweetheart, and he managed to kill about 1 million of his own people in the span of 24 years.  Yet was there no way of removing him from power – or having him removed – that didn’t entail horrifying casualties, the complete disruption of life in Baghdad, and the looting of a Museum which contained some of mankind’s most precious artifacts?

Not according to the Neocons.  Per this genius brain trust, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” – Condi[2] .  Forget that Bush’s “intelligence” about Iraq’s nuclear program was completely discredited before the 2003 invasion.[3]  Ideologues like William Kristol could still proclaim: “The world is a mess. And, I think, it’s very much to Bush’s credit that he’s gotten serious about dealing with it. . . . The danger is not that we’re going to do too much. The danger is that we’re going to do too little.”[4]  Guess what, Bill?  We did too much to promulgate the Necon wet dream of “democracy promotion” in the Middle East.

Perhaps Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (a Republican!) said it best: “”So why did we invade Iraq? I believe it was the triumph of the so-called neo-conservative ideology, as well as Bush administration arrogance and incompetence that took America into this war of choice. . . . They obviously made a convincing case to a president with very limited national security and foreign policy experience. . .”[5]  Right.  Let them stand up and be counted:  Cheney, Lieberman, McCain, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Scooter Libby, Condi, so-called writer Kristol, David Brooks, and Doug Feith.  If any of them had an ounce of shame, they would self-immolate in front of the White House.

I don’t include W. among the perpetrators, since he was merely a puppet dangled from Cheney’s arm.  He was too busy praying to Jesus to listen to saner voices, like Colin Powell’s.  Who said of his embarrassing 2003 speech before the U.N., in which he cited truck movement to justify an Iraq invasion, “[it’s] “a lasting blot on my record”[6]  No duh.  Now live with it.

Let’s remember some of the classic quotes and actions from those long-ago days of ’03:  “Don’t worry, it’s a slam dunk” – George Tenet, then-head of the CIA.  “Mission Accomplished” and the flight suit.  George Bush action dolls.  General Shinseki reprimanded by Wolfowitz for saying we needed several hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq, and then we end up sending a million troops all told.[7]  Oil money was going to pay for Iraqi reconstruction.[8] (Wolfowitz again).  Find a cave, Paul.  It worked pretty well for Osama.

Let’s focus our minds on the incredible bevy of lies we were force fed prior to the Neocon Blitz.  The “intelligence” garnered from Iraqi defector “Curveball,” who has admitted he lied his ass off about WMDs. [9]   The forged documents “proving” that Sadaam had tried to purchase yellowcake powder from Nigeria.  Hell, even the Italians could tell they were fake![10]   The shoving down our throats threats of WMDs which never materialized, even though the Bush Administration continued searching for years.  The inevitability of the Iraq invasion post-9/11, which, per Bob Woodward[11], Bush and Cheney began planning by December of that year.  The ominous hinting of some “link” between Sadaam and Al- Qaeda, which, hello! never existed.

But say it enough times, and the American public is dumb enough to swallow anything.  Like forgetting that most of the hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia – but wait, those are our allies!  So let’s target an old hated enemy instead. We got him, but at what cost, in human lives and dollars?  If we’d had that trillion plus when the Neocons’ pals, Wall Street, blew up the economy, we might have been able to weather it better.  Or at least not cut food stamps and aid for the disabled.

Let’s look at the other culpable parties, starting with Congress.  Twenty-three brave Senators voted against the Iraq War Resolution, among them:  Barbara Boxer (proud to have her as our rep!), the late Ted Kennedy, Patty Murray, Harry Reed, Paul Wellstone, and Russ Feingold.  All of them, but one (Lincoln Chafee), Democrats.  In the House, 296 craven Congressman (215 of them Republicans) voted for Bush’s Folly, uh, Doctrine.

Then there were the “embedded” reporters from the networks.  Nothing guarantees objectivity like actually traveling with the troops (upon whom you depend for your safety and/or life).  And accepting every General’s briefing as if it were the Sermon On the Mount.  Because questioning the Neocons’ two Wars Of Choice would be un-American, anti-9/11, and as suspect as wearing a Che shirt.

So what have we left in our wake?  In Afghanistan, a U.S. puppet government that was “surprised” by the ferocity of recent insurgent attacks.  What do you want to bet that Mullah Omar crawls out of his spider hole and takes back control within the next few years?  In the meantime, Iraq is a mess, a “budding police state” according to Human Rights Watch.  Al Qaeda in Iraq (nonexistent before us) is having a field day.

And the Neocons?  They are actually pressing forward with dreams to attack Iran.  To quote retired General Anthony Zinni:  “If you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”  What is it that precludes these people from learning?  Is Dick Cheney embedded in their brains?

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The Fetishization of American Motherhood

Recently, a media war erupted when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen proclaimed that Ann Romney was no expert on women’s struggles considering she had never worked a day in her life.  Romney tweeted back, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”  The First Lady herself felt obliged to hoist the flag for Motherhood, tweeting, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”  Once again, we were off the races and the GOP War On Women took on the fervor of a 19th century revival.

As we know, this is when the Victorian notion of “The Angel Of the House” sprang into full flower.  (Charlotte Bronte complained that this insipid archetype was basically “half angel/half doll.”)  Teddy Roosevelt thundered in a speech to the National Congress of Mothers in 1905:  “Nothing good will happen “…unless the average woman is a good wife, a good mother, able and willing to perform the first and greatest duty of womanhood, able and willing to bear, and to bring up as they should be brought up, healthy children, sound in body, mind, and character, and numerous enough so that the race shall increase and not decrease.”

“There are certain old truths which will be true as long as this world endures, and which no amount of progress can alter. One of these is the truth that the primary duty of the husband is to be the home-maker, the breadwinner for his wife and children, and that the primary duty of the woman is to be the helpmate, the housewife, and mother.”

But (in the view of the oppressors) there is always an upside to slavery:  “The woman who is a good wife, a good mother, is entitled to our respect as is no one else…”   Then comes the ecstatic worship:  “The woman’s task is not easy–. .  and when she has done it, there shall come to her the highest and holiest joy known to mankind; and …she shall have the reward prophesied in Scripture…for all people who realize that her work lies at the foundation of all national happiness and greatness, shall rise up and call her blessed.”  Even the Virgin Mary looks a little slutty in comparison.

Still, the man most responsible for putting American Mom on a pedestal is a most unlikely figure:  a Russian-Jewish immigrant who headed MGM, Mr. Louis B. Mayer.  Mayer worshipped his Yiddisher Mama, and this sentiment (and sentimentality) made its way directly onto the screen: with the idyllic, nuclear Hardy family; Marmie in Little Women; Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver (she even captures a Nazi flyer singlehanded!); the sainted Mrs. O’Hara in Gone With The Wind; Irene Dunne in White Cliffs Of Dover (she loses both her husband and son to the wars). Mayer worshiped his new homeland (he claimed his birthday was the 4th of July), and this, commingled with the reverence he bore his Ma, did more than anything to sanctify Mom at the movies.

With the advent of television in the 50’s, we were deluged with a tsunami of perfect Moms:  Donna Reed, Harriet Nelson, June Cleaver; Mrs. Walton, Shirley Partridge, and perhaps the greatest of them all, that eternal “lovely lady” — Carol Brady.  None of these icons of womanhood had to deal with weighty problems, at least those which couldn’t be solved in a span of 22 minutes.  None longed for a career, except the redoubtable Shirley, but she had Mr. Kincaid to guide her, and besides, she was able to take her kids with her in that incredible rainbow bus!

Per the book The Mommy Myth:  The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women:[1]  “In the idealized myth, mothers and babies spend their days discovering the wonders of life, reading, playing and laughing. Mom wears her baby in a sling, never raises her voice and of course has unlimited time and patience. Baby grows up safe, happy and respectful.”  This is, of course, The Dream.  Reality can look a little different, with fractured families, single moms, women who have to work (sorry, Ann), and dysfunctionality which spans from infanticide to depression to abuse.  In 2008, one of four U.S. children were born into poverty.[2]  In a 2010 Pew Center Research Poll, when women were asked why they’d had their first child, 47% responded, “there wasn’t a reason; it just happened.”[3]   Obviously, this is a non-choice that has lifelong repercussions.

The Republicans, being by definition conservative and adverse to change, of course cling to the Old Notions of gender roles, where stay-at-Moms are as revered as anything Louis B. could come up with. Working moms, however, are in some form evil, Feminazis, and anti-men.[4]  As a result, many of them feel guilt, even though they have no economic choice.

What the GOP doesn’t understand is that we have entered the era of New Moms, one which provides entirely new role models.  Madonna, Britney, and Natalie can all be sex symbols and good moms; Angie can be smoking hot and still adopt foreign orphans.  Would Marilyn, in the 50’s, have been allowed to be a sex symbol and a Mom?  It seems highly unlikely, although she tried (and miscarried twice).  Back then, the Jungian archetypes of The Madonna and The Whore were too demarcated and ne’er the two could meet.  Now, we’re OK with an amalgam as long as that person is a celebrity and has a ton of money.  They are living the dream for single moms everywhere — one tabloid at a time.

You know what’s really funny?  After arguing that motherhood is in fact real work, the GOP just shot down a bill that would have helped poor moms achieve the life of an Ann Romney.  The reason?  “”There are lots of things we can describe as work. Is raising children as a mother work? Is raising children as a father work? Is washing the car work?” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked. “I’d like to be paid for washing my car, but we have to draw the line somewhere.”[5]

Ok, so raising kids is work if you’re Ann Romney, but if you’re not, it’s just a way to laze around the house.  The bloviating Republicans can’t even support their own platform for longer than a week!  So let’s join an anti-Republican — Jimmy Cagney in White Heat –as the cops close in, and he yells, “”Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” before going down in a hail of bullets.  Guns and Motherhood.  What could be more American than that?


[1] Susan Douglas, Meredith Michaels

The Red & The Blue: Two Nations, One Under God, Divisible

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

OK  I’ve got an idea.  Sometimes these can be dangerous – like when I wanted to enroll in law school or get an MBA – but I think that this one has merit.  Hear me out.

America is hopelessly divided politically:  hence, the stalemate in Congress; the Presidential elections that hinge on the votes of three people in Ohio — and one could be Joe the Plumber.   Let’s face it – we have evolved into two separate nations with values and beliefs as far apart as L.A. and Alabama.  Instead of sitting and crying about it (or getting vicarious revenge through The Daily Show), let’s do something for once.  Here then is my immodest proposal:

Do what Lincoln should have and break the U.S. into two distinct nations:  The United States of Tolerance (UST), and the United States Of Jesus (USJ).  Here’s how it works:

Eliminate all present federal highways which cross the country, like the I-90.  The 5 (Golden State) can stay since it traverses wholly Blue Land.  In their stead, build a road from Seattle to Minneapolis, with no exits in Montana and North Dakota.  Similarly, build an interstate from Los Angeles to New Mexico, and from NM to Florida, with no offramps in the South.  In this freeway’s mind, Dixie does not exist.  They will have their own roads (possibly dirt) for White Vehicles Only.

Now that we’ve cut off transportation between the two prospective nations, let’s examine how commerce between them will work.  The same as it does now, except that taxes in USJ will be paid to their new capitol in Montgomery, AL (I wanted to make it Richmond, after the Confederacy, but good on VA, they’re a Blue State now!).   Good luck to USJ, since they currently collect more in federal aid than they pay out in taxes.  I’m sure that Texas border vigilantes will serve as local police, and the KKK can put out the fires they start.  The Idaho Militias can provide an ad hoc National Guard.

Now onto federal laws.  The UST will still retain the Constitution, though Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts will be “encouraged” to retire.  With Originalists gone and a predominantly Democratic Congress, the following laws will be passed:

1)      National Healthcare (and not even one mention of the word “socialism”!)

2)      Equal Pay For Women  (Even though they’re not fetuses, they’re people.)  Which brings us to:

3)      Reproductive Choice – made on a personal, not governmental , level.  And oh yeah:

4)      Use of fetal tissue to cure deadly diseases

5)      Legalization of gay marriage

6)      Abolition of the NRA

7)      Proponents of hate speech and racism deported to USJ, Deep Fried Sector

This leaves the USJ to enact whatever the hell laws they want.  Such as:

1)      Combination of Church & State

2)      USJ declared a Christian theocracy, with Jesus the titular head

3)      No abortions – ever.  Ditto, contraceptives.   An occasional maybe:  the rhythm method.

4)      Teaching of “intelligent <sic> design”, i.e., Creationism, in schools

5)      Founding Fathers to be depicted riding dinosaurs (thank you, Tom Tomorrow!)

6)      Women to be stay-at-home Moms only – sorry, Nikki Haley & Elizabeth Dole!

7)      Mexican border to be guarded by Star Wars missile defense manned by slaves  captured Hispanic nationals.

8)      Every citizen required to own a gun.  NRA has its own federal department.

So what’s so wrong with my scheme?  It’s practical, and relieves the mounting pressure between religious zealots who wish to dwell in the 15th century and the “cosmopolitans” of Manhattan, with their soy lattés, NPR, and sodomy.

UST gets to keep Hollywood, the NY publishing industry, Las Vegas, and Hawaii; USJ gets nearly the entire South;  states filled with waving wheat and potatoes; and Alaska, with animals aplenty waiting to be slaughtered, preferably from a low-flying helicopter.  Florida, although a Blue State in the 2008 election, will be considered On Probation until 1) They acknowledge the existence of Cuba  2) They learn to distinguish a hanging chad from an orange and  3) Kathleen Harris is exiled to Wasila.

Likewise, Santa Cruz, CA and Eugene, OR will not be admitted to the UST until they sign an acknowledgment that it’s not the 60’s anymore.   If California objects to anything, it can simply withdraw and become its own country again (The Bear Flag Republic) .  Its GDP will still be more than the entire USJ’s.

On the other side, Texas might want to declare its independence if it decides to Remember The Alamo. JR Ewing might be brought back to head the Lone Star nation.  Mitt Romney can preside over Utah, and a hologram of Jefferson Davis can be the President-at-large.  Minorities (non-Christians, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, anyone-who-isn’t-white) might want to emigrate over to the UST.   Likewise, those who are struck by the thunderbolt of Enlightenment, as well as evolutionists, women, and the entire population of Austin, TX.

Atlanta will be declared a Neutral Zone, like Switzerland but with CNN instead of Alps.  Ted Turner, “The Mouth Of the South”, will be named Honorary Mayor, unless he remarries Jane Fonda.  Lockheed with be forced to move its operation from Marietta, GA, back to Burbank, CA (hey, we need jobs!).  USJ companies allowed to continue doing business in the UST:  Krispy-Kreme, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Popeyes.   Those we’d like to have:  Chick-Fil-A, Emeril’s New Orleans, and Lexington Barbecue No. 1.

Los Angeles and NYC will be declared “no go zones” by the USJ.  A Fundamentalist film industry will be set up in Dollywood, TN.   USJ residents will be allowed to cross over into Florida in case they want to go to Disney World (why make the children suffer?).   The inverse will be true for Nashville.  And oh yeah, country music is banned in UST — except for Willie Nelson.

I think you can see that I’ve come up with a workable solution.  No more Congressional squabbling.  No more Santorums jamming their antediluvian views down our throats , and on their side, no more exposure to “R”-rated films and Rihanna.  Let’s end this Values War once and for all.  As long as we get to keep Graceland.

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Laissez Faire Capitalism: Except When It’s Not

Tom Tomorrow

In this heated season of GOP primaries, we hear, ad nauseum, about the virtues of “small government”, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market”, and the almost holy power of “laissez faire economics”, which, in French, basically means “get the hell out.”  As in:  corporations are entirely capable of being self-regulating, both financially and ethically, and they don’t need no stinkin’ Feds looking over their shoulders.  For more elucidation on this sweet Fairy Tale, please see anything written by Ayn Rand.

What have been the results of deregulation in the past?  Let’s start with a familiar name – Leland Stanford – an infamous member of the Big Four (aka, “The Octopus”) which held a stranglehold on the nation’s transportation with their unabashed monopoly, The Southern Pacific Railroad.  It certainly gave Mr. Stanford enough money to endow a nice university in his name. And to earn the sobriquet “Robber Baron.”

Now onto the airlines.  You could say that prior to deregulation in 1978, fares were kept artificially high and the Friendly Skies loved it.  But what has happened since?  Nine major carriers have declared bankruptcy or are no more (including United, Delta, Braniff, American, Pan Am, Continental, and TWA).  The level of service has sunk beneath appalling – no food, baggage fees, potential carry on fees, seats that could barely hold a Hobbit, flight attendants who go postal due to increased layoffs and higher workloads.  Even pilots are having episodes mid-flight, and safety standards have inched down the inflatable slides.

Anyone remember Alaska Flight #261, which crashed into the Pacific because the jackscrew wasn’t properly greased?  I personally spent a fun-filled twelve hours in the Honolulu Airport (at least they had hula dancers) because my plane needed a new battery.  I didn’t realize it was like your car, where the AAA shows up with jumper cables.  Personally, I’d pay the higher pre-reg fares to get:  1) A decent meal (Alaska used to serve baked salmon!) 2) The peace of mind that some semblance of maintenance has taken place 3) A flight crew not collectively on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Microsoft’s tech version of “laissez faire” was certainly unique.  Bill Gates, before his later, humbler period, was a hyper-aggressive bastard who either bought his competition or put them out of business.  Anyone remember Netscape?  At one point, they had the browser market sewn up.  Then Bill came along, bundling IE Explorer with Windows (which was at one time on 90% of desktops), and Netscape now occupies that place where FoxPro, Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect gently sleep.  Of course, billg. and crony steveb. attained that market share by forcing PC makers to bundle their machines with Windows, or else.  Clinton’s DOJ brought this to the fore, and Microsoft was saved from breakup by the reign of King George W. Still, they must now abide by what are frequently known as rules.

Let’s look at the precursor to this Great Recession, one brought about by exactly the same factors:  deregulation, massive fraud, and greed.  In the 80’s, it was decided by the Wise Powers in Congress that Savings & Loans could now make risky real estate loans without undue supervision.  Why, they could even lend money to themselves!  This brought about the failure of 747 S&L’s.  Total cost of bailout?  A mere 87.9 billion. [1]  Those involved in one of the biggest financial scandals in US history?[2]  A certain Neil Bush (yes, from those Bushes) whose fraud was so great that he was forever barred from the banking industry; a Senator John McCain (one of the “Keating Five”), and a certain astronaut/Senator named John Glenn.  You will be happy to know, though, that the average sentence for those S&L execs who went to jail was 1/5th that of the average bank robber.[3]  Here’s another foreign phrase which should always appear next to laissez faire:  Caveat Emptor (“Let The Buyer Beware”).

Which brings us to these Modern Times.  Was it really just 2001 when Enron finally imploded?  Doesn’t that scandal seem almost quaint in the wake of 2008?  Due to greed, corruption, stupidity, and greed, the US economy tanked due to the implosion of the real estate market, subprime lending, and Wall Street’s unfailing knack for creating something (to be securitized) out of nothing.  The result?  Then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson going on bended knee before Congress, begging for a $700 billion bailout of “too big to fail” companies.  You may have heard of some of them:  Wells Fargo, B of A, CityBank, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AIG, AMEX, Discover.

Oh yeah – GM and Chrysler.  Now, in the harsh land of Capitalism where workers can be decapitated – uh, downsized – by the thousands, to increase profits and offshoring, the Feds suddenly felt sorry for the automakers (they are after all, people), and kept them from closing their massive doors.  In the theoretical realm of laissez faire, their failure would have happened (Hey, they couldn’t compete, they stayed too long with SUVS, boo hoo).  Exactly the rhetoric that the Newts and Mitts spout every day.  However, in the real world, the results would have been disastrous:  thousands more losing their jobs; the death of two great American icons; the death of a U.S. city; stowaways in allied industries going down with the ship, no more Camaros, ever.  This simply could not be.

TARP put to the lie forever laissez faire as a consistent economic policy.  America will not let Coke go out – nor Disney, GM and Chrysler.  Who would sponsor the next Olympics?  The funny part is the attitude of the bailed-out execs themselves:  they are all for hands-off  government when it comes to things like safety and profits.  But the moment they risk going under, they accept corporate welfare with more eagerness than Ismay stepping into that lifeboat.  And unlike actual welfare recipients, they aren’t required to work for it.  In fact, the more they mismanage their business, the more cash (and bonuses) they’re awarded. Talk about failing upward.

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