Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Not The Change I Was Hoping For."

From today's SF Chronicle, Jon Carrol's column on bigotry and the selection of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural celebration next month.

(For another take on this subject, check out the Courage Campaign's Please Don't Divorce... slideshow -- but you might want to be sure to have some Kleenex on hand.)


The Purpose-Driven Bigot

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Here's a lovely quote you may wish to put in your scrapbook:

"For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion - not just Christianity - has defined marriage as a contract between men and women. There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called 'gay marriage.' Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC, oppose watering down the definition of marriage. ... Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue. ... This will be a close contest, maybe even decided by a few thousand votes. I urge you to vote yes on Proposition 8 - to preserve the biblical definition of marriage. Don't forget to vote!"

There's so much wrong with that quote, I don't know where to start. Islam, a reasonably well-known religion, has defined marriage as a contract between one man and as many as four women. I note that the speaker skillfully slides over that well-known custom; would he, one wonders, support a law allowing for polygamous marriages, since it is sanctioned by a popular monotheistic religion? No, he's just cherry-picking.

Homosexuality was and is permitted in many cultures around the world. Even where it is not sanctioned, it is common and tolerated. Sometimes it is forced underground, turning gay people into criminals and making them more susceptible to both blackmail and disease. Does the speaker believe that criminalizing that private and nonviolent behavior constitutes an action of Christian charity?

The Bible also allows for slavery and the stoning of adulterous wives. Would the speaker support those holy injunctions? God has clearly spoken about them, if you believe the Bible to be the word of God. But apparently God has a kind of variable infallibility index. The speaker is cherry-picking again.

And in what sense is the definition of marriage "watered down" by allowing gays to marry? Surely legalizing same-sex unions strengthens bonds, gives gays a greater stake in a free and peaceful society and makes the care of children of gay couples more stable and more loving.

I have said most of this stuff before, as longtime readers know. The problem here is that the speaker is Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" (clearly his purpose here is to prevent gay people from attaining equal rights) and, not incidentally, the man chosen by Barack Obama to give the invocation at his inaugural.

If Rick Warren had been a preacher who suggested that blacks not be allowed to intermarry with whites, or not allowed to vote, or not allowed to own property, he would not even be in the running for invocation giver. But somehow discrimination against gays is different. Gays must be made "different" in some way, so that the righteous will know whom to shun. Most of the ways of officially discriminating against gays and lesbians are prevented by the civil rights laws. But gay people shouldn't be first-class citizens. They shouldn't be able to marry the way "normal" people can.

Barack Obama apparently thinks that belief is OK, that people who hold it are part of his "big tent" philosophy. I agree that people of faith should be included in the administration, should be listened to and their concerns addressed. I believe in government support of faith-based charities, and oh what a terrible liberal I am. (Look at the work they did in the wake of Katrina. They're better at it than our secular government.)

We don't invite Nazis to speak at the inauguration. We don't invite Holocaust deniers. We don't invite officials of the Ku Klux Klan. There are plenty of ministers who personally oppose same-sex marriage but do not get involved in political battles, allowing their parishioners to vote their consciences as opposed to ordering them to support one side. For that matter, there are plenty of ministers who support same-sex marriage. They are men and women of God, scholars, people who minister to the sick and watch over the dying. They too have purpose-driven lives, and their purposes are rather more admirable than leading a fight to take away previously granted rights from gays and lesbians.

It was an easy trap to avoid, is what I'm saying. It was an easy statement to refrain from making. But Obama has chosen to start his administration with a bigot addressing God on behalf of the American people. Not the change I was hoping for.

There are all sorts of swell people streaming into Washington to celebrate the election of Barack Obama and to work for him. Also not swell people.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jerry Brown Comes Around

Maybe Jerry Brown took Derald Granberg's advice after all. Maybe he did the research and discovered that he was not legally obligated to represent in court a law which he does not support and which is not legally defensible. Maybe he just had a change of heart. But for whatever reason, the California state Attorney General has reversed his earlier position and done the right thing: He has announced that he will not argue in favor of the divisive anti-civil rights initiative passed in November and will instead ask the state Supreme Court to overturn Prop. 8, and restore the freedom for all citizens of the Golden State to marry whomever they choose. This is very good news, especially given that the bigots behind Prop. 8 are now asking the court to nullify some 18,000 marriages that were performed in this state -- including the one that united my mother and her partner -- since the ruling allowing marriage equality came down. How these hate-mongers can say with a straight face that they are "not trying to take away anyone's rights," is beyond me. They are attempting to institute discrimination, to codify bigotry, plain and simple. They want to deny rights that should be absolute to every citizen in this state and this country to an entire class of people based solely on their sexual orientation. This is wrong. It's hateful and divisive and it's wrong.

Jerry, good on you for seeing the light. Now we all just hope and pray that the court will also do the right thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

If you haven't yet read the NY Times editorial The Torture Report, concerning the newly released Senate Armed Services Committee's findings that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration committed what amount to war crimes, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Here are just the first few paragraphs:

Most Americans have long known that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the work of a few low-ranking sociopaths. All but President Bush’s most unquestioning supporters recognized the chain of unprincipled decisions that led to the abuse, torture and death in prisons run by the American military and intelligence services.

Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The report shows how actions by these men “led directly” to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret C.I.A. prisons.

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

The officials then issued legally and morally bankrupt documents to justify their actions, starting with a presidential order saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners of the “war on terror” — the first time any democratic nation had unilaterally reinterpreted the conventions.

That the men who authorized these heinous acts will most likely escape prosecution is, simply put, criminal. After World War II, Japanese officers were executed for waterboarding prisoners. It seems to me that Rumsfeld and his sadistic cronies deserve to be punished for their crimes, and that we, as a nation, deserve some measure of justice for their having taken our country to the depths of moral depravity that torture represents. By not prosecuting these individuals, we, the citizens of the United States, all share in their culpability. If they are not brought to justice, then we are all guilty.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Glenzilla On Torturers And Patrons Of Prostitutes

Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com posts a good piece today comparing the media treatment of disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who committed the apparently unpardonable sin of consorting with prostitutes, to the blase, so-what reaction to Evil Dick Cheney's admission that yes, the administration did engage in torture, and so fucking what? What are you gonna do about it?

Here are just a few of the most cogent paragraphs; I urge you to read the entire article.

As a result of his minor, consensual, victimless, private crime (not because of his actual sin of hypocrisy as a former persecutor of prostitution rings), Spitzer was forced to resign as Governor, had intimate details of his sex life voyeuristically dissected by hordes of people driven by titillation masquerading as moral disgust, and was as humiliated and disgraced as a political figure can be.


Yet unlike Eliot Spitzer, Dick Cheney -- just like Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo; think tank scholar, author and former Georgetown School of Foreign Service Professor Doug Feith; Georgetown's current Distinguished University Professor George Tenet, and so many others -- isn't going to be forced to endure any humiliation or remorse rituals whatsoever. As Cheney is feted by network news anchors a year or two from now upon release of the book he plans to write, there will be no real objections that this monstrous war criminal and perverter of our constitutional framework is treated like some sort of retired royal dignitary. Cheney is and will remain a symbol of profound seriousness, entitled to respect and endowed with permanent wisdom.

What's most striking is not that we have zero intention of prosecuting the serious crimes committed by our leading establishment figures. It's that we don't even recognize them as crimes -- or even serious transgressions -- at all. To the contrary, we still demand that those who are culpable be treated as dignified, respectable, serious and inherently good leaders. Real outrage is never generated by the crimes and outrages they have undertaken, but only when they are not given their proper respectful due as leading American elites. Hence:

An Iraqi citizen throws his shoes at an American President who -- all based on false pretenses -- invaded, occupied and obliterated his country; set up prisons where his fellow citizens were encaged without trials and subjected to brutal treatment; slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions more. And the outrage is predominantly directed at the disrespect, irreverence and the "ingratitude" displayed by the shoe-thrower, not the murderous and inhumane acts of the dignified American leader.

Tom Friedman goes on national television and sociopathically justifies the attack on another country by the need to make its citizens "Suck. On. This," and while Friedman is universally treated as one of America's most cherished and important public intellectuals, it's the college student who throws a harmless pie in Friedman's face to protest his deranged and highly damaging war-cheerleading that prompts angry condemnation ("absolutely horrifying," protested vocal Iraq war supporter Jonathan Chait). Dick Cheney -- on his way to a lavishly rich and respectful retirement full of five-and-six-figure-speech-fees -- giddily admits to war crimes and other brutal and illegal acts, and TNR is angry that Eliot Spitzer is allowed to opine in public before being humiliated and humbled some more.


There's more, plenty more. As I said, read the whole thing.

New Blog On The Block

I just discovered this new blog for people who are tired of cute puppy and kitty pictures (at least I think it's new -- it's certainly new to me). It's called Fuck You, Penguin, and yes, it's got some attitude. It's also pretty amusing. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So What The Fuck?

Getting back to George Bush and the thrown shoes and subsequent fallout from that incident, this bit from an ABC interview about his recent trip to Iraq has me wishing I was within throwing distance of Preznit Duck 'n' Cover myself -- and that I was wearing heavy shoes with shit on the heels:

The remark "So what?" perfectly encapsulates just how completely oblivious the man is to the damage he has done to this country -- and the world -- in his eight years in office. His is an evil born of monumental incompetence, disregard and an utter inability to empathize with other human beings. He just doesn't fucking care. "So what" if thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and wounded as a direct result of his disastrous, deceitful and disingenuous policies? "So what" if the world community holds America, and especially its current leader, in contempt? "So what" if he has spent the last eight years lying to Congress and the public and breaking laws with impunity? "So what" if much of the Constitution has been rendered null and void under his watch?

Regarding the shoe incident, there are many -- including even Rachel Maddow, for whom I otherwise have great respect -- who say that it is an insult to the US, that even if we dislike and disagree with George W. Bush, he is still the president and figurehead of this nation, and that the action of Muntadar al-Zeidi is one that we should condemn. I contend that the office of the president was long ago sullied and besmirched by Bush himself, and that he not only earned those thrown shoes but a lot more. The man is a war criminal, plain and simple. He has committed numerous high crimes and misdemeanors while in office, and deserves to have shoes thrown at him wherever he goes.

In fact, forget about shoes -- if there were any real justice, the World Court -- hell, the United States Congress and DOJ -- would be throwing the book at him. Instead of heading toward a leisurely retirement cutting brush in Crawford, he should right now be facing a long stretch in Leavenworth, if not the end of a swinging rope.

"Yeah? So what?"

So fuck you, George Bush. Consider this my shoe aimed at your face.

A Letter To The Editor? Oh, They Won't Print That

Editor --

The headline on the front page today (GOP plan would slash schools, Chronicle, 12/16) speaks volumes about the priorities of the Republican party as it is currently constituted. Of course they want to cut funding for education; every study and poll out there shows that the more educated a person is, the more likely he or she is to vote Democratic. In these times of dwindling registrations and outright rejection of the Republican brand, it is to their distinct advantage to attempt to dumb down the population of California even further. After all, it's a heck of a lot easier to manipulate uneducated people who lack critical thinking skills into voting against their own best interests than it is to try to sell the bankrupt policies of the GOP to people who can see those policies for what they are, and have experienced just what a mess they've made of this country over the past decade.

Love, Generik

Monday, December 15, 2008

If The Foo Shits, Wear It

Man, I could watch this all day:

I just wish that guy had had better aim. Still, he's my new hero.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Vampire Story

My good friend Walt recently made a short film about vampires that is now up on YouTube. Check it out:

Joe Conason On The Big Three Bailout

The mighty Joe Conason offers his take on the potential auto bailout, and what many Americans don't know or are ignoring on the subject.

Dangerous Bias Against Detroit
Posted on Dec 11, 2008

By Joe Conason

Nearly every current poll shows that most Americans oppose federal assistance to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, which must be worrying news for members of Congress as they ponder whether to support the proposed $15-billion emergency loan package. Political analysts warn of the consequences for lawmakers who support the “bailout everyone loves to hate.”

Like any survey that asks people to answer simply yes or no, however, the polling on the auto bailout reveals little or nothing about the information (or misinformation) behind the negative response. As they prepare to vote, the legislators should also consider how voters would feel if the nation suffered the full consequences of a cratering auto industry—and those voters then found out that the facts were not quite what they seemed to be.

Media coverage of the auto crisis has been powerfully biased against assistance to the industry, in part because reporters, editors and TV producers—not to mention the corporate owners—have yet to shed the outdated free-market fundamentalism that has shaped American journalism for so many years. The worst example in recent weeks has been the constant repetition of skewed statistics on autoworker compensation, which was said to exceed $70 per hour.

Such stories were meant to emphasize the supposed greed of the unionized work force. Yet that $70-plus figure, which actually includes pensions and health benefits to retirees, grossly distorted what Detroit’s assembly mechanics receive in their weekly paychecks. And it most certainly stoked hostility to those workers and the industry among Americans who listened to the crude propaganda.

Then there was the incessantly repeated story of the stupid auto executives who flew to Washington for congressional hearings on their private jets. That was true and deplorable, of course, but scarcely of great relevance to the issue of whether America should preserve its manufacturing base and a million jobs in auto and related industries.

What Americans may not know about the problems of the automotive business seems at least as pertinent as what they have been told so far. The chances are that voters outraged over those mythical $70-an-hour wages have no idea how heavily the livelihood of auto workers in competing countries is subsidized by their governments—starting with health care and moving on to child care, pensions and a host of other benefits that American workers have not begun to imagine.

Such comparisons tend to be absent from most mainstream analysis of the auto crisis. Equally relevant and usually missing, too, is the news that competitor nations are preparing to provide many billions in aid to their car companies. Right now, the European Union is considering a loan package to the Continent’s auto industries that may exceed $50 billion.

Washington’s first $15-billion loan to the Big Three will likewise come from a Department of Energy program to encourage new green technology. So what is the difference? In Europe, there is far less controversy over preserving critical jobs and the industrial base. And in Europe, there is broad recognition of a basic fact: The precipitous drop in sales confronted by the automakers has been caused by economic conditions beyond the control of those companies. As credit dried up, so did car sales.

None of this is meant to suggest that the management of GM, Ford and Chrysler—or the United Auto Workers, for that matter—shouldn’t pay a high price for their failure to restructure in years past and their resistance to modernizing their products and processes. Taxpayers must be protected, just as they were when the government loaned billions to Chrysler.

But it is ironic to think that the Bush administration and Congress would swiftly appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars to save the same firms whose stupidity and criminality drove the economy down—while begrudging a far smaller amount to a major industry brought to ruin by the financial crash.

As each Wall Street bailout receives approval, with or without appropriate conditions, we are assured that the risks of bankruptcy are simply unacceptable. If American International or Citigroup went down, who knew what hell might break loose? There was some merit in that argument. The truth is that we are just as ignorant of what destruction would ensue in the broad economy should government allow the automakers to go broke. If and when that happens, the opinion polls will shift overnight. But it will be too late.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eugene Robinson On The Blackwater Indictments

(To see the original article and read comments, go here.)

Sweeping Blackwater Under the Rug
Posted on Dec 9, 2008

By Eugene Robinson

The federal manslaughter indictment of five Blackwater Worldwide security guards for the horrific massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad may look like an exercise in accountability, but it’s probably the exact opposite—a whitewash that absolves the governmental and corporate officials who should bear ultimate responsibility.

If what Justice Department prosecutors allege is true, the five guards—Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough—should have to answer for what they did on Sept. 16, 2007. The men, working under Blackwater’s contract to protect State Department personnel in Iraq, are charged with spraying a busy intersection with machine-gun fire and grenades, killing at least 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 others. One man, prosecutors said Monday, was shot in the chest with his hands raised in submission.

The indictment, charging voluntary manslaughter and weapons violations, demonstrates that those who engage “in unprovoked attacks will be held accountable,” Assistant Attorney General Patrick Rowan claimed.

But it demonstrates nothing of the sort. As with the torture and humiliation of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, our government is deflecting all scrutiny from the corporate higher-ups who employed the guards—to say nothing of the policymakers whose decisions made the shootings possible, if not inevitable.

Prosecutors did not file charges against the North Carolina-based Blackwater firm—the biggest U.S. security contractor in Iraq—or any of the company’s executives. The whole tragic incident is being blamed on the guards who, prosecutors say, made Baghdad’s Nisoor Square a virtual free-fire zone.

The Blackwater guards were nervous because of a car bombing elsewhere in the city earlier that day. The company says the Blackwater convoy came under attack by insurgents, prompting the guards to fire in self-defense. “Tragically, people did die,” defense attorney Paul Cassell told reporters.

There is a huge difference between self-defense and the kind of indiscriminate fusillade that the Blackwater team allegedly unleashed. Proper training and supervision—which was the Blackwater firm’s responsibility—would have made it more likely for the guards to make the right split-second decisions amid the chaos of Nisoor Square. Rather than give Blackwater a free pass, the Justice Department ought to investigate the preparation these men were given before being sent onto Baghdad’s dangerous streets.

Blackwater no doubt has rules and regulations about when and where its people can discharge their weapons. But were those rules enforced? Did the guards who were indicted Monday have any reason to believe they would be punished for their rampage? Or were the shootings considered acceptable inside the Blackwater bunker? Company executives should have to answer these and other questions—under oath.

But a real attempt to establish blame for this massacre should go beyond Blackwater. It was the Bush administration that decided to police the occupation of Iraq largely with private rather than regular troops.

There are an estimated 30,000 security “contractors” in Iraq, many of them there to protect U.S. State Department personnel. The presence of these heavily armed private soldiers has become a sore point between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Until now, the mercenaries—they object to that label, but it fits—have been immune from prosecution by the Iraqi courts for any alleged crimes. This will change on Jan. 1, when the new U.S.-Iraqi security pact places them under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law. Blackwater and other firms likely will have a harder time retaining and recruiting personnel, given the prospect of spending time in an Iraqi prison. Yet it is presumed that more private soldiers will be needed, rather than fewer, as the United States reduces troop levels.

Barack Obama has criticized the Bush administration’s decision to outsource so many essentially military tasks in Iraq and elsewhere. The officials who made that decision, however, are not being held accountable—not yet, at least. We deserve, at a minimum, a thorough investigation of what security contractors have done in the name of the United States.

Putting national security in the hands of private companies and private soldiers was bad practice from the start, and incidents such as what happened at Nisoor Square are the foreseeable result. The five Blackwater guards may have fired the weapons, but they were locked and loaded in Washington.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.

© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Take His Advice, Jerry!

From today's SF Chronicle:

Jerry Brown has a legal obligation to oppose Prop. 8

Derald E. Granberg
Thursday, December 4, 2008

I heard Jerry Brown say on Nov. 5 that, as the California attorney general, he was obligated to represent in court the political majority that had voted for Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. His statement, which I heard on the early morning news radio, told me two things: First, Brown did not understand his duties as attorney general under the state Constitution and, second, that he was unaware of some significant history of that office.

Accordingly, I called Brown's office in Sacramento to inform him that in 1964, then-Attorney General Stanley Mosk had opposed in court a ballot proposition that had been approved by a majority (65 percent) of the electorate. Mosk opposed Proposition 14, which would have amended the state Constitution to nullify the Rumford Fair Housing Act. The Rumford act, a law passed in 1963, said landlords and property owners could not discriminate based on "ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status." The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Mosk's opposition by holding that Proposition 14 violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Brown's executive secretary assured me she would convey my information to Brown, and request the litigation file from archives to confirm that the office had opposed Proposition 14.

Given the foregoing information, which by now must be in Brown's hands, I am surprised that he still insists he is obligated to represent the position of the majority of the electorate.

I hope that one of the parties before the state Supreme Court would move to expand the issues before the court to include federal equal protection and the federal constitutional requirement of separation of church and state. In my opinion, those issues hold more persuasive ability to invalidate Proposition 8 than does the issue of amendment versus revision, which is the only issue now before the court.

The attorney general should recognize that when the will of the majority is discrimination against a minority group, the courts have a legal and moral obligation to protect fundamental rights.

Derald E. Granberg is a retired lawyer who devoted his entire legal career to the California attorney general's office (1961-1995).

W Stands For "Worst"

Having read about and viewed some of the excerpts of Charlie Gibson's ABC interview with lame duck Preznit I Wish The Intelligence Had Been Better (so do we, George, so do we), there are two things that I can say with absolute, 100% guaranteed certainty about Bush's reign of terror and Republican administrations in America in general over the past forty years:

1. Republicans always fuck it up, and they fuck it up in monumental ways. They leave the country far worse off once their terms are over than it was before they gained office.

2. It's never their fault. Nothing is ever their fault. They will not accept blame for anything that they've done, no matter how blatant or obvious it is to everyone else.

The last decent Republican in the White House was Dwight Eisenhower, and by today's standards, most people would consider him a somewhat left-ish Democrat. He would certainly not fit into today's Republican party. The face of the Republican party now is George W. Bush, morphing into Sarah Palin. Can you imagine what a national disaster a Palin presidency would be? We might end up pining for the halcyon days of the second Bush debacle.

Think about it -- in his eight years in office, Bush has presided over (in some cases caused or exacerbated) four major disasters -- the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, the bungled response to hurricane Katrina, and now the financial meltdown -- any one of which would have been enough to relegate the person in the White House at the time as one of the worst presidents ever. He has four of these crises under his belt, and to say he has mismanaged them all is to engage in the most hyperbolic understatement ever. There is no question but that the country will be in much worse shape when he leaves office than it was when he was installed by a partisan Supreme Court in 2000.

The same could be said about Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush I, though not nearly on the same scale as the disastrous Bush the Lesser. He has taken incompetence and malpractice to new, unprecedented depths. He can't leave office soon enough. And his recent attempts at revisionism -- as witnessed by the Gibson interview, and recent comments by the evil Karl Rove -- just underscore how how very, very destructive his tenure was, and how much in need of whitewashing. However, to quote a well-known cliche, you can put lipstick on a pig, but...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Michael Moore On The Automaker Bailout

(Thanks to my pal robo for sending this to me. -- Gen)

Saving the Big 3 for You and Me... a message from Michael Moore

I drive an American car. It's a Chrysler. That's not an endorsement. It's more like a cry for pity. And now for a decades-old story, retold ad infinitum by tens of millions of Americans, a third of whom have had to desert their country to simply find a damn way to get to work in something that won't break down:

My Chrysler is four years old. I bought it because of its smooth and comfortable ride. Daimler-Benz owned the company then and had the good grace to place the Chrysler chassis on a Mercedes axle and, man, was that a sweet ride!

When it would start.

More than a dozen times in these years, the car has simply died. Batteries have been replaced, but that wasn't the problem. My dad drives the same model. His car has died many times, too. Just won't start, for no reason at all.

A few weeks ago, I took my Chrysler in to the Chrysler dealer here in northern Michigan -- and the latest fixes cost me $1,400. The next day, the vehicle wouldn't start. When I got it going, the brake warning light came on. And on and on.

You might assume from this that I couldn't give a rat's ass about these miserably inept crapmobile makers down the road in Detroit city. But I do care. I care about the millions whose lives and livelihoods depend on these car companies. I care about the security and defense of this country because the world is running out of oil -- and when it runs out, the calamity and collapse that will take place will make the current recession/depression look like a Tommy Tune musical.

And I care about what happens with the Big 3 because they are more responsible than almost anyone for the destruction of our fragile atmosphere and the daily melting of our polar ice caps.

Congress must save the industrial infrastructure that these companies control and the jobs they create. And it must save the world from the internal combustion engine. This great, vast manufacturing network can redeem itself by building mass transit and electric/hybrid cars, and the kind of transportation we need for the 21st century.

And Congress must do all this by NOT giving GM, Ford and Chrysler the $34 billion they are asking for in "loans" (a few days ago they only wanted $25 billion; that's how stupid they are -- they don't even know how much they really need to make this month's payroll. If you or I tried to get a loan from the bank this way, not only would we be thrown out on our ear, the bank would place us on some sort of credit rating blacklist).

Two weeks ago, the CEOs of the Big 3 were tarred and feathered before a Congressional committee who sneered at them in a way far different than when the heads of the financial industry showed up two months earlier. At that time, the politicians tripped over each other in their swoon for Wall Street and its Ponzi schemers who had concocted Byzantine ways to bet other people's money on unregulated credit default swaps, known in the common vernacular as unicorns and fairies.

But the Detroit boys were from the Midwest, the Rust (yuk!) Belt, where they made real things that consumers needed and could touch and buy, and that continually recycled money into the economy (shocking!), produced unions that created the middle class, and fixed my teeth for free when I was ten.

For all of that, the auto heads had to sit there in November and be ridiculed about how they traveled to D.C. Yes, they flew on their corporate jets, just like the bankers and Wall Street thieves did in October. But, hey, THAT was OK! They're the Masters of the Universe! Nothing but the best chariots for Big Finance as they set about to loot our nation's treasury.
Of course, the auto magnates used be the Masters who ruled the world. They were the pulsating hub that all other industries -- steel, oil, cement contractors -- served. Fifty-five years ago, the president of GM sat on that same Capitol Hill and bluntly told Congress, what's good for General Motors is good for the country. Because, you see, in their minds, GM WAS the country.

What a long, sad fall from grace we witnessed on November 19th when the three blind mice had their knuckles slapped and then were sent back home to write an essay called, "Why You Should Give Me Billions of Dollars of Free Cash." They were also asked if they would work for a dollar a year. Take that! What a big, brave Congress they are! Requesting indentured servitude from (still) three of the most powerful men in the world. This from a spineless body that won't dare stand up to a disgraced president nor turn down a single funding request for a war that neither they nor the American public support. Amazing.
Let me just state the obvious: Every single dollar Congress gives these three companies will be flushed right down the toilet. There is nothing the management teams of the Big 3 are going to do to convince people to go out during a recession and buy their big, gas-guzzling, inferior products. Just forget it. And, as sure as I am that the Ford family-owned Detroit Lions are not going to the Super Bowl -- ever -- I can guarantee you, after they burn through this $34 billion, they'll be back for another $34 billion next summer.

So what to do? Members of Congress, here's what I propose:

1. Transporting Americans is and should be one of the most important functions our government must address. And because we are facing a massive economic, energy and environmental crisis, the new president and Congress must do what Franklin Roosevelt did when he was faced with a crisis (and ordered the auto industry to stop building cars and instead build tanks and planes): The Big 3 are, from this point forward, to build only cars that are not primarily dependent on oil and, more importantly to build trains, buses, subways and light rail (a corresponding public works project across the country will build the rail lines and tracks). This will not only save jobs, but create millions of new ones.

2. You could buy ALL the common shares of stock in General Motors for less than $3 billion. Why should we give GM $18 billion or $25 billion or anything? Take the money and buy the company! (You're going to demand collateral anyway if you give them the "loan," and because we know they will default on that loan, you're going to own the company in the end as it is. So why wait? Just buy them out now.)

3. None of us want government officials running a car company, but there are some very smart transportation geniuses who could be hired to do this. We need a Marshall Plan to switch us off oil-dependent vehicles and get us into the 21st century.
This proposal is not radical or rocket science. It just takes one of the smartest people ever to run for the presidency to pull it off. What I'm proposing has worked before. The national rail system was in shambles in the '70s. The government took it over. A decade later it was turning a profit, so the government returned it to private/public hands, and got a couple billion dollars put back in the treasury.

This proposal will save our industrial infrastructure -- and millions of jobs. More importantly, it will create millions more. It literally could pull us out of this recession.
In contrast, yesterday General Motors presented its restructuring proposal to Congress. They promised, if Congress gave them $18 billion now, they would, in turn, eliminate around 20,000 jobs. You read that right. We give them billions so they can throw more Americans out of work. That's been their Big Idea for the last 30 years -- layoff thousands in order to protect profits. But no one ever stopped to ask this question: If you throw everyone out of work, who's going to have the money to go out and buy a car?

These idiots don't deserve a dime. Fire all of them, and take over the industry for the good of the workers, the country and the planet.

What's good for General Motors IS good for the country. Once the country is calling the shots.

Michael Moore
P.S. I will be on Keith Olbermann tonight (8pm/10pm/midnight ET) to discuss this further on MSNBC.

Monday, December 01, 2008


If you haven't yet read this editorial on torture from yesterday's Washington Post -- written by the pseudonymous Matthew Alexander -- you owe it to yourself to check it out. The author discusses his personal experiences interrogating Iraqis and other captured fighters in Iraq, his first-hand knowledge of the torture that was practiced there (and that he, to his infinite credit, refused to participate in) and the consequences of those actions condoned and encouraged by the most bloodthirsty and criminal administration ever to disgrace the White House.

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

Read the whole thing, seriously. It's chilling. Just like the policies our military and the CIA have engaged in over the past eight years.
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