The Murder of Osama bin Laden
For those who do not favor watching the dead speak, what she said in a matter-of-fact way is that Osama bin Laden is dead, "murdered" (to use her word for the happy event) by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.
Although any self-respecting conspiracy theorist worth his salt should jump at a revelation such as this, it is most likely that Ms. Bhutto simply misspoke when she said that Omar Sheikh "murdered Osama bin Laden." More than likely, she meant that Omar Sheikh murdered Daniel Pearle, a crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to hang, although, as it turned out, he probably wasn't the man who actually slit Pearle's throat.
Conceding some hope to conspiracy-oriented folks, it is not entirely impossible that Omar Sheikh really did kill the almost pathetic Osama bin Laden, the term "almost" being the operative qualifier for "pathetic" only because our own President Bush elevated the previously worthless bin Laden to the status of leader of a non-existent nation-state worthy of being engaged in global combat by the last superpower on Earth.
It is true that the life and times of Omar Saeed Sheikh are, to say the least, interesting: he might have worked for British intelligence in the 1990s, as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has claimed, and he might even have worked for Pakistan's very own Inter-Services Intelligence, a rather inconvenient complication when the Pakistani judiciary has deemed that the young fellow is to swing from the gallows. But even if he did play junior spook at one time or another in his life, "working for" spies is a terribly murky item on a terrorist's vita: many slithering sorts barely qualifying as humans serve as "assets" for one or more spy agencies (Judith Miller and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby come to mind), and it would be most surprising if Omar were the least reputable of those who have provided information to MI6 when such assistance was beneficial to both Her Majesty's secret service and the wannabe terrorist who, in Omar Sheikh's case, was just one of countless butchers in a part of the world where lawlessness is somewhat like wardrobe accessorization.
This, by the way, should be taken as a point of understanding for anyone touting the achievements of the Bush Administration in rounding up hundreds and hundreds of scrawny, brown-skinned men for permanent confinement and torture: going to South Asia to corral very mean, really nasty bad people is like going to Idaho for a bag of potatoes. You'll find them, and you will do so in embarrassing abundance. You'll be even more prolific in your claims of capture if you declare that all the dirt clumps around the potatoes are, themselves, potatoes, too. Inventing a blanket term like "al-Qa'ida" (or "al Qaeda," or whatever) to encompass every dirt bag associated with some other dirt bag connected to some total dirt bag that had something to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001, does not mean that all those dirt bags are worth even so much as the cost of the dental hygiene regimen that would make them stop looking so darned creepy. For the overwhelming majority of those idiots on which the United States has expended huge money and its respectability, the value comes in the fact that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney haul truckloads of dirt bags to the mainstream media, which immediately and compliantly declare, "Praise the Lord, there ain't gonna be no potato famine!"
Did Benazir Bhutto misspeak about Osama bin Laden? Probably, although some might consider it a little strange that Sir David, her interviewer, just sat there not having a myocardial infarction when she dropped that bombshell, but that certainly doesn't mean he already knew about the heretofore unmentioned murder of the putative mastermind of 9/11. All it means is that Sir David is British.
A more important question is this: Does it matter whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive?
The answer to that is obvious. Of course it doesn't matter. Our murderously efficient, rag-tag, thuggish allies of the 1980swho helped us make the Soviets miserable during their occupation of Afghanistantransformed in the 1990s into decommissioned, armed "companies" like those that roamed the countryside in the Middle Ages after their service to kings was no longer needed. The modern day, post-useful mercenaries kept their wretched Misery Tour going only as a regional gig in the back alley club bars of awful places no self-respecting talent scout would venture. It was up to some of the more enterprising of the mercenaries-without-a-cause to figure out that marketing is everything, and the best advertising is on a billboard provided by the global presence of a superpower.
Although a few rounds of blowing up some U.S. military assets and embassies overseas was nice, breaking into the big league required, first, an inattentive defense of the American homeland and, second, a President who would help with the post-advertising name-recognition blitz.
Sadly for the Osama bin Ladens of the world, the Clinton Administration, by thwarting the Millennium Plot, denied them the big-screen show here in the United States. Gladly for those same Osama bin Ladens, Mr. Bush was considerably more willing to do a long-term co-branding deal.
The United States of America versus al Qaeda. All terror, all the time, forever and ever. Drop what you're doing, put down that Bill of Rights, another episode is coming right up after a brief break for less important news about everything else.
Alive or dead, who really needs Osama bin Laden at this point in the game? For that matter, who needs al Qaeda? Benazir Bhutto certainly didn't. The tapes clearly show that she was dropped by a lone gunman.
That's how it usually works, of course.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
Yes, but He Still Does a Mean Cakewalk
That's right: "Obama: Mo Money, Mo Problems" is what that title says.
While not flogging what is perhaps at first glance the subtly jaw-dropping nature of this headline, it should be pointed out that Mr. Obama is what might be called in more polite circles a "non-White" fellow, so it is obvious that we should want to use words and allusions consistent with folks like that.
"Mo" is far better than "more": we all know that's how those Black people talk, what with that fiendish "r" with which they have so much trouble. Geez, being a White person, I still think of a "ho" as a pretty useful gardening tool.
"Problems": well, that one's pretty easy. "Problems" is code for "blues," and Blues music is their music; and besides, isn't "problems" what they got all the time, what with being down-and-out, and all? (That's not to say White folks can't get the "blues," too; but Caucasians wrote country music before selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were invented.)
And that whole "money" thingsame old story: those people just don't know what to do with money even when they have it. In fact, we used to have a phrase for that kind of wealth. At least some old-timers around these parts surely remember the term "****** rich"; but decent people don't talk like that anymore; instead, they write for reputable magazines, where they use much more acceptable, even cutesy code language to prime that same, auld-timey pump of racist attitudes through The Nation and, as a consequence, the nation.
The Dark Wraith, being rather on the conservative side, is glad to see old-fashioned values still have a place in the new American century.
A Modest Proposal for Radical Change in Primaries
Although a news service that carries the name "Yahoo!" might, prima facie, strain credulity (unlike news stories by a journalist who calls himself "Dark Wraith," of course), we can take the claim made in the Yahoo! News article as a point of departure for discussion about the current presidential nomination primary system in the United States; and konagod does just that:
"There is seriously something wrong and flagrantly undemocratic about our election process if Iowa can 'make or break Democrats'...
"The United States has 300 million people and Iowans represent about 1% of that total, and New Hampshire about half as much.
"If these two states have that much influence over who stays and who goes, then it's obvious we need an overhaul...
"We should have one primary which includes all 50 states. All at once. And if that's not an option for whatever reason, then at least limit us to 3 primaries. Take the 20 least-populated states and have a primary, following up a week later with a second primary consisting of the next 20 least-populous states, and finish off the following week with the final ten. Give everyone a shot at this. Because nothing, absolutely nothing pisses me off as much as going to vote in my primary after my candidate already dropped out 6 weeks earlier due to a defeat in Iowa or New Hampshire."
Never being one to miss an opportunity to offer an unsolicited opinion, your host here at The Dark Wraith Forums offered in comments an alternative, which is summarized below:
◊ Two, uniformly set days for primaries in every state.
◊ First-round primary on the second Tuesday following the first Monday of February. The top two vote-getters from each party go to the second round. In addition, each party is required to choose through an independent panel a wild card candidate to stand with the two top-dogs. The wild card can yield to another candidate if he or she so chooses; top dogs cannot (and, almost assuredly, would not).
◊ Second-round primary on the second Tuesday following the second Monday of April. The two top vote-getters and the wild card square off for each party.
◊ Winner take all for each side only if top vote-getter draws a majority; otherwise, final sudden death round of two top vote-getters from second round two weeks later.
(Yes, the smell of sports around this scheme is pungent—and I personally loath sports—but I'll tell you what: sports draws a whole heckuva lot more fans than primary politics does, and I can see the media flowing hard and fast toward the gaming, commercial aspects of and opportunities within this mechanism. It just begs for the construction of a whole "industry of excitement" around it, just like the mainstream media do with pro sports.)
This double-elimination style for the primaries would enhance interest in the process, and it could also lead to a much greater effort by both parties to ensure actual unity rather than the technical façade of numbers.
Furthermore, over a course of election cycles, a refined version of such a system could afford the nation a means by which a genuinely popular vote could be held for the President of the United States.
Personally, I think my idea is worth considering.
Professionally, I know my idea is going to get shot down about ten seconds after I push the "Publish" button, below.
The Dark Wraith now opens the floor to alternatives, discussion, and general condemnation of such a hare-brained scheme.
The Lioness Fallen
U.S. President George W. Bush, whose Administration has coddled the military junta while trying to assist in building a conciliatory relationship between the pro-democracy Bhutto and the authoritarian Musharraf, said of the assassination, "The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy." For his part, strongman Musharraf took the occasion to declare, "This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war," taking advantage of the tragedy to wave the bloody flag of Islamic fundamentalism at internal forces and to remind the Bush Administration of his alliance with the United States against terrorism, a platform of fear-mongering and repression that has served both Musharraf and Bush during their respective and otherwise troubled tenures as leaders.
The White House had gambled on some means by which Bhutto could once again become prime minister of Pakistan while Musharraf retained the office of the presidency, even though Bhutto was widely believed to have been committed, with our without the help of a former dictator of her country, to assisting the United States in continuing its war on terrorism in western Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The Administration's continuing loyalty to Musharraf further reinforced long-standing questions about the extent to which the United States wishes to deal effectively with global threats to peace and stability versus merely using U.S. military power and financial resources to construct solidly loyal spheres of political influence and economic control.
In 2003, the United States attacked Iraq despite the fact that it was Pakistan, through the long-term, ongoing efforts of nuclear scientist and entrepreneur Dr. A.Q. Khan, which was the principal wellspring from which not only the technology of nuclear weapons was spreading, but the actual parts to build the bombs, themselves, was flowing to countries like North Korea, Iran, and Libya; but instead of crushing the operation, arresting the participants, and punishing Pakistan and its leaders for their support of this global bazaar of weapons of mass destruction, the Bush Administration, through its very own top-level officials, outed a CIA non-official cover spy, Valerie Plame, and thereby destroyed her network that was tasked to tracking these very WMD proliferators. Moreover, the Bush Administration, which now expresses outrage at the assassination of the best hope for Pakistan to emerge from years of authoritarian rule, has poured billions of dollars of aid at the corruption-riddled Pakistani leaders, even as the junta-led Pakistani armed forces have been entirely ineffective in preventing the country's western frontier from falling solidly into the hands of Taliban forces and their sympathizers, who have pumped combatants, war materiel, and ideological strength into the debilitating war of attrition being waged against U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Yet, despite the fact that terrorist organizations are alive and well in Pakistan, feeding allied groups and assorted malcontents that foment trouble and kill locals and American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush is able to keep a straight face and express outrage at one more consequence of a failed war on terrorism, which commenced with tens of billions of dollars in property damage to the largest city in the continental United States and thousands of lives lost, and now proceeds across the Middle East and into Asia Minor, western Asia and the Indian sub-continent, billowing forth with American military casualties by the thousands, deaths and injuries to indigenous peoples of the region in the hundreds of thousands, the utter collapse of moral and financial leadership by the U.S., and political instability that ripples across vast swaths of the world.
Today, that death-swollen legacy of disastrously incompetent policies made a brief stop in Pakistan for the assassination of a once and future leader, a champion who died a martyred heroine even as our own President will live on as a catastrophic failure.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
The Written Peace: Open Forum of December 23, 2007
Not that solitude is always such a bad thing, mind you. The peace and quiet has given me time to reflect on this past year and begin my personal process of finding things and events for which to be thankful, chief among them being the congressional Democrats, who have done more than their fair share to elevate me to the level of Most Supreme and Intolerant Cynic, an achievement I was expecting no earlier than January of 2009, when the new President arrives at the Oval Office right about when the nation arrives at its destination in this lovely handbasket the neo-cons, Right-wingers, religious nuts, and social conservatives made for us with their very own, howlingly incompetent hands.
Now, I do not have to wait for the general election. Even more to the point, I think I know what's going to happen, and I'll be sharing that with you here next week in a new installment of my occasional series, "Dark Arts Politics." As a hint, although the probable victor is already clear, it actually doesn't matter who wins; and that is most decidedly not a statement driven by some short-term cynicism I might harbor. You'll see what I mean in a few days. The model for this election cycle has plenty of historical examples.
And, no, the sentence closing that last paragraph isn't some variation on the shallow hypothesis that "history repeats itself." History does nothing to itself; it cannot for the simple reason that it is nothing more than a constructed narrative of invention to the purpose of explaining selected events in terms of causal chains. This fallacy among even the scholarly that 'history' does things is related to such fallacies as the one about evolution 'causing' adaptations that make species what they are with traits and characteristics advantageous to their ecological niches. That's nonsense: evolutionjust like historyhas no teleological engine chugging it along some road from the prior to the now to the future. Arrows have trajectories; history and evolution do not.
All is not lost for the mystical mind, though. While it might seem most contrary to what I just wrote above, know this: while history does not repeat itself, it most certainly will permit us to fulfill our destiny. The great question is, then, so obvious: Why would we be so stupid as to choose of our own volition such an inevitably awful place as 'destiny'? Perhaps someday a good historian will look back upon our time and this empire and wryly note, "Ah, that's just history repeating itself."
Enough of the philosophical nonsense. There's far too much excitement about Campaign 2008 to get bogged down in some Grand-Scheme-of-Things nihilism. My favorites to be the next President of the United States are all far back in the pack, so I'll have lots of fun attacking, criticizing, condemning, and generally making fun of the front-runners of both political parties; and I certainly hope the eventual winner on each side remains unclear for quite a while. Right now, we have what is sometimes referred to as a "target-rich environment." About the only scandalous thing I'll probably avoid ever mentioning is John Edwards's alleged extra-marital affair and the possibility that a child was born out of wedlock as a result of that indiscretion. Yes, I think I'll avoid any mention of that, if for no other reason than that, were I to bring up such unfortunate and perhaps libelous stories, I would then have to open the ungodly gates of gossip about Rudolf Giuliani and his affairs, one of which involved an emergency center in the World Trade Center he used as his love nest, which made for some rather serious difficulties when it came to using that place for its intended purposes during the attacks of September 11, 2001. Talking about that could get mighty dangerous: whereas the worst John Edwards would probably do is make me listen to six hours of his speeches about "hope" (or is that Obama's trademark?), ol' Rudy just might send in a couple of NYPD sorts screaming, "It's Giuliani time!" and ventilate my hide with overwhelming (and noisy) firepower.
I don't like getting into sleazy gossip. It demeans journalism. Citizens need relevant information about candidates' positions on the important issues of the day. It is not our job as journalists to play to the base hunger some readers have for the crude; the crass; the salacious; the sensational; and, most pernicious of all, the sexually titillating. The journalists who shun these excesses masquerading as "reporting" will surely be richly rewarded with great praise for their unwavering dedication to high standards that elevate the political debate.
Of course, shortly after the effusive praise, such journalists usually find something else to do with their lives; but that's only because sex, gossip, violence, titillation, innuendo, and the occasional war-mongering hysteria cut from the whole cloth of unmitigated, calculated lies turns on billions of people all over the world. It always has, and it always will.
Evolution might not have a trajectory, but it sure has a mean spearpoint.
Speak your peace, have your say, bark loudly, and gripe generously. That's the purpose of these open forums. Later this evening, we'll break out the board games, turn up the dance floor lights, and see just how many people really know how to play backgammon while doing the foxtrot. If the crowd gets rowdy, we'll see if we can make a prank call to Dick Cheney asking him to comment on the five million count bribery and espionage indictment that was just handed down by a secret grand jury against the AIPAC.
Okay, we'll find something else to do. Knowing how Cheney thinks, he'd probably order an airstrike against Rhode Island or some other really relevant target.
The Dark Wraith should be more cautious when coming up with fun things to do.
O Little Shill
O Little Shill
O little shill from Crawfordsville,
how much can one man lie?
With that creep, your weirdo Veep,
you've made Baby Jesus cry.
Yet in your dark, blank mind,
you think you've done alright.
Saudis attack, so you blast Iraq,
while taking our ev'ry right.
O little shill from Crawfordsville,
how dumb do you think we are?
Tax cuts for ev'ry, rich greedy bitch,
while I'm livin' in my car.
Yet in your dark, bleak mind,
you think you've done alright.
The dollar tanks, to you give thanks;
the federal debt's outta sight.
O little shill from Crawfordsville
What else can you do wrong?
Outing spies and constant lies;
you're tokin' on a big ol' bong!
Yet in your dark, drunk mind,
you think you've done okay.
The world moves on, and we are gone:
China sold us on eBay!
The Dark Wraith takes a bow.
Lieberman Endorses McCain for President
The Dark Wraith will refrain from descriptions of what fates befell wanton traitors of earlier eras.
First Impressions from Conference Call with SEIU President Andy Stern
The call began in earnest with Mr. Stern giving a few opening remarks principally addressing a central concern of his, which is the income inequality in the United States and the relationship between closing the widening income gap and the effectiveness and pervasiveness of unionism in the country. He is, of course, correct that income inequality is a serious problem: after the disparity between the wealthiest and poorest Americans peaked in the year 2000, the income share of the top one percent of Americans again hit a high in 2006, matching its 1929 level. Going even further with the point, while median income in the United States has risen a paltry 17 percent since 1980, income of the top 0.1 percent (that's one-tenth of a percent) has quadrupled; and to continue hammering on the matter, according to Harper's Index, the percentage of people living at or below half of the federal poverty level has jumped 32 percent since 2000.
Point taken: income inequality is large and growing in the United States. Andy Stern believes that unions are part of the solution, but he also holds that the federal government must support workers, and politicians must be more responsive to their concernsprojected, at least to some extent, through union representationand less accountable to corporations and their executive interests which benefit so greatly from this ever-increasing income disparity.
To that extent, the last question I asked Mr. Stern was whether or not he would support my idea of a President-appointed Labor Czar to oversee labor issues in the United States. It is one thing to promote new lawsand I argued that we have quite a substrate, old as it is, of pro-labor law in this countrybut it is quite another to bring under the authoritative portfolio of one federal official the mass of wide-ranging, unequally enforced regulatory infrastructure that turns those labor laws into real action at the level of workers and their workplaces. Mr. Stern, if I may be so bold as to state this, agreed: he suggested a position from the Office of the Vice President, an idea I think has merit, given that OVP has acquired under Vice President Dick Cheney substantial power that is largely robust to Congress and even the President.
Returning to the earlier part of the conference call, Mr. Stern fairly thoroughly (given the time frame in which we were operating) responded to my question concerning the erosion of union power in the United States. It is his contention, to quote him, "Let workers make their own choice." In other words, removing barriers to unionization efforts is the best way to ensure that workers will make the choice that it is in their own best interest. To the extent that unions have lost the esteem of American workers, Mr. Stern made the pithy comment, "The best way to change your image is to change reality."
I had a chance to plug Part Two of my series, "The Economics of Wreckage," wherein I graphically demonstrated (indeed, I virtually flogged) the point that the erosion of real wages in this country is not something that has suddenly occurred under the Bush Administration; it is, instead, a decades-long phenomenon that I did my best to show was the result of sustained neo-Keynesian policy: as long as the average price level rises at a rate faster than that of workers' wages and salaries, those people have to work harderthat is, continually increase their productivityin order to maintain their standard of living. My graphs clearly, unarguably show that this is exactly what has been going on for years and years: average wages have unquestionably lagged overall price increases, and that's why productivity has been going up while wages, themselves, have never actually made any inflation-adjusted headway.
I'm not sure I fully understood that Mr. Stern had addressed this point in his opening remarks and in responses to questions before mine. He is surprisingly mindful of the do-nothing Congress of the present era, describing policy as "hopeless, clueless, and planless," but he is also knowledgeable of the long-term problem that this economy does not reward the common workers nearly as much as it does the executives of corporations and the generally wealthy. He believes that part of the answer, although not a panacea, is essential change in tax policy as well as legislative action that strengthens the hand of unions in bargaining for better wages and benefits.
Mr. Stern seems to be of two minds insofar as the current Congress is concerned. He charitably notes, perhaps reasonably, that the Democrats' "skills are a little rusty," which goes to some length in explaining why they have been so unable to wrest control of the legislative agenda from the minority Republicans, especially in the U.S. Senate. On the other hand, he distinguishes between the many Democrats on the Hill who show little initiative and those like Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) who are far more forward-leaning not just in their rhetoric, but also in their legislative agenda.
I should at this juncture suspend further attempts to sort through my notes on the conference call and allow the transcript, which will be published Monday, to speak for itself. In summary, it was more interesting than I had expected: the SEIU president's answers were framed to stay on-point, but he was extemporaneously able to field a variety of questions dealing with everything from immigration to education. Whether or not he is, as SEIU promotional literature asserts, a new kind of labor leader remains to be seen in the years ahead. For my own part, I would be delighted just to see an old kind of labor leader make a comeback.
Then again, I'm sort of a romantic when it comes to the occasional knock-down, drag-out fight between strike-breaking corporate thugs and union guys on a picket line.
The Dark Wraith looks back fondly on a by-gone era.
December 13, 2004
The Dark Wraith encourages all to celebrate the occasion of this anniversary.
Friday Teleconference Questions for SEIU President Andy Stern
My first of three questions to you Mr. Stern, has to do with the erosion of union strength: in numbers, in composition, in political support, and in judicial consideration, organized labor has waned considerably as a force in the architecture of American society, and this has occurred over a long period of time. Arguably, the decline had its roots in the years immediately following World War II, when the country turned to the political right, with anti-labor hallmarks that included the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 and the damaging accusations of communist infiltration leveled against unions in the 1950s. Furthermore, President Ronald Reagan's brute-force approach in dealing with PATCO in 1981 was effectively a declaration of war by the United States government on any union that dared cross it, and this ultimately emboldened both corporations and the judiciary in a long-term shift in the balance of power between a government-corporate alliance on the one hand and unions on the other.
The rate of union membership has been in a long-term decline, falling from 20.1 percent in 1983 to a current level of about 12 percent. (The erosion of the membership base actually goes back clear to the 1950s, though). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government employees have a rate of union membership of more than 36 percent versus private sector union membership rate of 7.4 percent, meaning that unionization is almost five times as high in the sector of the economy where the ability of unions to project their most effective bargaining tools, those involving work-related actions, are at their weakest. Furthermore, in terms of composition, union membership stands at an overall rate of 13 percent, but for women, at only 10.9 percent, meaning that those who are the most likely to be the victims of wage suppression and, indeed, discrimination are about 15 percent less likely to be directly represented at the bargaining table, even though they are more represented in the service sector: the problem is that this is the sector where wages are historically quite low and most likely to lag overall inflation.
My question to you is simple: In your judgment, how can the erosion of union membership rates, the disparity in union representation, and the long-term political hostility to unions in this country be turned around; and what, specifically, is your plan to contribute to this much-needed effort?
My second question involves my experience as a college teacher. I am simply stunned by the lack of knowledge students have of the history of labor movements in the United States. This is not merely a matter of minor gaps in knowledge of names and dates; this is, instead, a thorough absence of any grasp whatsoever of organized labor activities and the battles that have been fought in the streets, in the halls of power, and in the courts. There is little chance, in my informed judgment, of making this nation's electorate receptive to pro-labor legislation, and more fundamentally, to a pro-labor orientation, if we are producing one generation after another that has no sense of history in this regard.
The only way to rectify this is through a concerted, sustained, comprehensive program of support for education initiatives in primary and secondary schools to get the message across; and not just once, but over and over again through deep infusion into students' minds that the American experience is very much the labor experience, and that those kids to whom we are telling the story of labor are, themselves, going to grow up to be part of a workforce in which a fundamental, irreconcilable adversarialism will always exist between what they need and deserve as their just compensation for their labor and what their employers will want to grant them.
My question to you is this: How do you see the Service Employees International Union, specifically, and unions in this country, generally, addressing the need to foster a pro-labor, pro-union attitude in America's youth in the years when they would be most receptive to the development of such attitudes as part of their educational experience?
My third and final question to you concerns healthcare. Without going into the fatiguing and overwhelming statistics on the multi-dimensional challenge facing the United States in the coming decades with respect to dealing with spiraling healthcare costs, a graying population, and a government already facing out-years budget deficits of staggering proportions, let me focus on the role of labor unions in crafting a workable, if difficult, model. Consistent with my own suspicion of sweeping, comprehensive solutions, especially ones that involve a government that can turn on a dime from beneficent to brutish, it seems to me that the internationalization of unions, especially an internationalization into countries with younger labor forces that could make healthcare plans actuarially very sound, would be a powerful tool for union recruiting in the United States, as well as a way to make labor standards in other countries, particularly those in developing nations, far better than they are now. Offering Americans a more sound, more secure healthcare coverage basis (with, perhaps, an umbrella provided by the federal government) would attract dues-paying workers here at home; bringing higher labor standards to other countries would afford workers there a better life; and globalization of labor unions would make them politically more robust to the particulars of any given government in any given country and could, in fact, become a bulwark against tyranny. As grand as all of that sounds, I would submit that, unless unions in the United States are willing to reach out, take control of the labor side of globalization, and use it to their advantage for their members, then that globalization is going to remain in the exclusive control of corporate interests and the governments bought and paid for by those anti-worker interests.
What are your thoughts on this?
Again, the Dark Wraith will publish a follow-up post, which will include the substantial elements of Mr. Stern's responses.
Macroeconomics Quiz 1: Monetary Matters
Take this quiz, see how you do, then rant about it in comments. Ask questions if the correct answers aren't obvious to you. Above all, though, remember that it's just economics, and economics has nothing whatsoever to do with the real world.
The Dark Wraith anticipates excellent scores from everyone.
Key Democrats Knew, Did Not Object to U.S. Torture Policy
It turns out that Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Jane Harman (D-CA), and Sens. Bob Graham (D-FL) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), were all extensively, thoroughly, and fully briefed in 2002 by the CIA about its overseas torture programs. Moreover, not only did none of them raise any objections other than for a minor, mealy-mouthed whine from Harman, but apparently someone in the group wanted to know if the CIA could push any harder on the detainees.
Words cannot even begin to adequately describe these appalling conspirators masquerading as some kind of actual opposition to the outrageousness of the Bush Administration.
The Republicans were right: leading Democrats knew all along that the United States was violating federal law, flouting international treaties, and acting against civilized standards of conduct; and here those pandering, craven conspiratorsyes, conspiratorsare, now acting like somehow they're not every bit as culpable and, indeed, guilty.
Now, be sure to go out and vote for some more Democrats. Let's take this country back from the Republicans. Let's put it in the hands of people who can still make you believe their lies.
Whatever gets you through the night, people.
The Dark Wraith is delighted to have made it to a century that offers no illusion of daylight.
Update: Pelosi Statement on Washington Post Report on Congressional Briefing of Administration Interrogation Techniques
Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement on a report in today's Washington Post about a congressional briefing on Administration interrogation techniques:
"On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.
"I had no further briefings on the techniques. Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed. It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred."
The following, derived from commentary on the original story at Big Brass Blog, is the writer's rebuttal:
First, let's go with Rep. Pelosi's statement: "The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal."
She saw the techniques for herself, including what by any legal standard is torture, and she is now claiming that, because counsel for those conducting and supporting the torture told her it was legal, she is not culpable.
That dog don't bark; that dog don't even whimper.
Absolutely not. She says she was briefed; her defense of her legislative conduct subsequently is thus: CIA lawyers, supported by John "Geneva Is Quaint" Yoo at Justice, told her they were doing legal things.
Now, let's get to the beauty: "[M]y successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively..."
Caught and headed for the frying pan, Rep. Pelosi insists that the other furry creature is really the one we want for dinner.
And by the way, claiming she "...was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future" would make her a conspirator before the fact (were I to believe her now that she needs to spin what she seemed unable to recall until her enemies handed her her own two-faced backside). Conspiracy before the fact is considerably more serious than conspiracy after the fact.
The Dark Wraith wonders exactly who's handing these Democrats the shovel they're using so effectively to dig their own graves.
Time Magazine Conflates Destroyed Torture Tapes, 'Conspiracy Theorists'
Referring to the tapes the CIA destroyed of men being tortured by American interrogators, the title of the Time magazine story on the matter is thus: "The Destroyed Tapes: A Boon for Conspiracy Theorists."
Isn't that just special?! The principal crime is torture; the subsequent crime is destruction of the incontrovertible evidence; and the continuing crime is obstruction of justice in not revealing the existence of the tapes, and then not disclosing their destruction. With all of that as backdrop, Time magazine's editorsnoses high in the air of preening respectabilityframe the whole, monstrously ugly story as the essential nourishment for all those loony 'conspiracy theorists' out there.
In their faux appearance of objectivity, these same mainstream news media outletsand not just Timemake little or no effort in their own voices to roundly debunk the utterly ridiculous claim by CIA Director Michael Hayden that the video tapes had to be destroyed lest they be leaked and imperil the lives of the torturers who were filmed executing their craft. Instead, the media uniformly leave that task to quotes by outraged Democrats, thereby framing the matter as a politicized controversy rather than as a pattern of criminal acts that, taken as a whole, constitute a conspiracy in the legal sense of that term, a term Time has ensured carries in the matter the lack of seriousness with which "conspiracy theorists" should be taken.
The august editorial ranks of the mainstream media notwithstanding, however, civil and criminal proceedings are likely to result on the separate acts as well as on the acts as part of an overall scheme: the withholding of the tapes from relevant investigatory bodies, including the 9/11 Commission and committees of the House and Senate, the destruction of the tapes in 2005, and the withholding until now of the fact that the heretofore unknown tapes were destroyed may be simply too much for the dismissive wing of the reputable media, still doing what it can to curry favor with the Bush White House, to help sweep under the rug. In the event that serious legal consequences befall those involved, Time magazine and other reputable media outlets may find it necessary to find terminology other than "conspiracy theory" to denigrate those alleging a pattern, scheme, and overall plan to mislead and lie to the American people and investigators. Perhaps Time might want to consider something along the lines of "America-hating terrorist supporters." At the very least, such a description will ensure that the important people at the magazine will retain their access to the White House officials who are, at least in the eyes of Time magazine, more credible than damning evidence and glaring truths.
The Dark Wraith, for the record, does not subscribe to news magazines published and written by shills.
Democracy for the New American Century
This edition of Rant & Growl departs upon a non-linear tangent from a comment made by the bright, outspoken, and astute blogger Dusty of It's My Right to Be Left of Center and The Sirens Chronicles. Dusty, by the way, is also a contributing writer at The UnCapitalist Journal, a Dark Wraith Publishing property. (And, yes, using the word "property" to describe something having to do with 'uncapitalism' does, indeed, smack of deliciously disingenuous intellectual irony even to your host, who happens to own Dark Wraith Publishing and, therefore, The UnCapitalist Journal. Just let it go; it's too complicated to explain, even to myself.)
Setting aside the trifling, and with sincere apology to Dusty for using her comment as the launching pad for a sub-orbital flight to Rantland, here is the fuel for the current high-octane blend of my personal fusion of progressivism, paleo-conservatism, and plain old insufferability. Dusty's comment is immediately followed by the rhetorical flatus of my opinions:
Voting should be more than a right, imho. [I]t should be something that everyone must take part in, or fear legal reprisals.
There are complications with the plan to make voting a legal requirement. First, in most parts of the country, registration to vote exposes the registrants to the prospect of being called to jury duty. Aside from what could be argued is a citizen's duty to serve on juries, many people have legitimate fears about jury service. I have known two people in my life who lost job opportunities because of protracted jury duty. Furthermore, at some point I plan to describe what I, myself, will do if called to jury duty. In summary, I shall be most fortunate if the presiding judge doesn't jail me for what I say during the voir dire conducted by some assistant DA twit. I most definitely will not be seated as a juror, that's for sure; and I strongly suspect that I will not even be thanked for showing up and sharing my opinions about the law.
More to the point of a law mandating that every citizen vote, though, the very last thing I want is for virtually all of the adult citizens of this country to exercise their franchise. We live in a nation where intelligence, education, and relatively simple reasoning skills are abysmal and declining rapidly from there.
You folks don't believe me? I've spent nearly three decades of my life doing reparative work on what the primary and secondary schools of this country pump out and call "graduates." Less generously, I've spent nearly three decades of my life doing reparative work on what the parents of this country pump out and proudly call their progeny, a ghastly litter of ragamuffins who have been at the hands of ill-trained, lazy, ignorant men and women who use a combination of brutish force and wretched negligence in the hopes of fostering something more morally, intellectually, and spiritually upright than they, themselves, ever were or ever could be.
It is bad enough that a lot of the howlingly, willfully stupid people vote as it is. Do you know how many people go to the polls and just pick names at random or because they saw a sign in someone's front yard?
This is the inconvenient truth of our "democracy": we are led by those who can get the most mainstream media face time and are the meanest and most aggressive in their campaigning. To put more incompetent voters into polling booths is to ensure that the disaster of the current White House resident will become more and more the rule.
Look at what we're going to elect as the next President of the United States of America. Not one of the major candidates of either party wants to be in the same galaxy with a conversation about bringing the rule of law to retributive, blind, unwavering justice on the cabal that has driven this country into ruin through the past seven years. Not one candidate would dare say to the American people, "We're going to have a Come-to-Jesus Meeting where every elected official, unelected bureaucrat, control-freak theocrat, radical Right-wing judge, rank-and-file torturer, and garden-variety parasitic cretin of this new American century will get hauled into court, exposed for exactly what he or she has done, and then get carted off to a nice, long prison term."
The American people don't want anything to do with that kind of examination that might very well expose the mean, cruel, ignorant beast within the American psyche. It's better to just walk away because that lets us all off the hook so we can MoveOn as if that same monster will not inevitably and swiftly come back and tear us even further asunder down the road in about one or two election cycles.
Trust me on this: giving democracy to the ignorant does not make the ignorant responsible; it makes the democracy nothing but an expression of mob rule. Now, here's a little nugget of wisdom to that effect:
That's right, they suck. Exhibit A: America, circa early 21st Century.
Life would be easier if the United States would simply follow the recommendation of Aristotle, who believed that democracy flourishes best when only the best are allowed to participate. In practical application for the new American century, let the way forward be thus: we the enlightened find the candidate with the most generous bribe money consistent with otherwise responsible policies and a reasonable expression of support for mythical American values, Israel, and whatever fads entertainment celebrities are hawking for the day. We thenwith a completely straight face and furrowed brow of responsible confidenceannounce to the American people that we have appointed to the Presidency a God-fearing person who likes the death penalty, hates terrorists, approves of the law, and has an opposite-sex marriage partner for penis/vagina sex exclusively for procreative purposes (except on rare occasions when the happily married couple can otherwise stomach the site of one another grunting in the nude).
We establish official guidelines for groups to be hated in rotating fashion so no single class of people should suffer too long. Furthermore, even though they're all fakes, we assure the citizenry that the cameras we're putting in every home in America are for each person's own good; and if anyone balks, we repeatedly say, "Think of the children." We should also promise to have law enforcement personnel be above the law so cops can continue to be the thuggish brutes most civilian Americans wish they, themselves, could be.
Real democracy? Of course that plan set forth above isn't real democracy; but, then again, how many people would actually notice? As long as the television and radio keep on pumping drivel, as long as the sports scores keep rolling, and as long as responsibility is the mantra for someone else's life, the majority can be allowed to live in an illusory crêche where private sloth miraculously has no mirror image in the public body.
The will of the People? I am certainly in favor of it; but only in moderation and most decidedly only by responsible committee.
The Dark Wraith has thus set forth his platform for election reform.
Ground Lost, Turf Unclaimed in Dem Race
According to the poll, none of the other Democratic candidates is currently pulling more than four percent support, which indicates that, overall, Democratic voters are becoming less committed to any particular candidate as they begin to pay attention to what more candidates have to say and become more aware of things they might not favor in the candidate they previously supported. The loser in this political horse race is, unsurprisingly, the front-runner, who increasingly becomes the target of the other candidates' focused criticisms. As the primary season approaches, the task for Mrs. Clinton will clearly be to stop the erosion of her base of support and begin to regain the confidence of those who have drifted away from her camp but are not yet particularly committed to any other candidate.
The following graphics are drawn from polling data by USA Today. They show likely Democratic voters' sentiments toward each of the three leading candidates.
The charts above show that, while each of the top three candidates has garnered an increasing percentage of likely voters with unfavorable feelings toward her or him, only Clinton has actually had a drop-off in favorable sentiment, although the loss is barely within the range of the poll's margin of error.
A month from the dateline of this article, the Iowa caucuses will be held, and significant swings can happen in voter sentiment between now and then; however, the tide does seem to be turning away from Clinton, and continued loss of support through December could spell a closer result in Iowa than the Clinton campaign thought possible just a month ago.
The challenge for the other Democratic candidates is to find the resonance with voters that will draw them, first, to favorable sentiment and, from there, to active support at the ballot box. The lackluster performance of both Obama and Edwards in taking advantage of Clinton's loss of support could bode well for one of the dark horse candidates able to step into the spotlight and seize the opportunity to gather momentum absent from the campaigns of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.
The Dark Wraith will deliver further data results and analysis in the days ahead.