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saturday, may 21, 2005

What James Watt Really Said

I want to begin this post by reminding readers what a flaming idiot James Watt, Secretary of the Interior in Ronald Reagan's first term, truly is. For example, in 1983 he banned the Beach Boys from the 4th of July celebration on the Washington Mall, saying rock 'n' roll bands attract the "wrong element." You've got to admit only an idiot would have done that.

Today the Washington Post embarrasses itself by publishing an op ed by Mr. Watt. This nearly unreadable screed claims that "the religious left" is out to destroy "the Christian community," which makes one wonder what religion the "religious left" subscribes to. They can't all be Jewish, and I know they aren't all Buddhists. I would have noticed.

But let's look beneath the surface. What seems to have lit a fuse in Watt's dim little brain was a speech made by Bill Moyers last December. In this speech, Moyer said of Watt,

James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Watt threw a fit, saying that he had never said that (although the quote, or variations thereof, is widely attributed to him). Moyers apologized in February. But Watt is now worked up into a white-hot holy righteous snit, and cannot let it go. "There has been no apology for the affront to major segments of the Christian community," he roars.

Indeed, I have been waiting for this apology. There have been a number of heinous assaults on the Body of Christ in recent years, led by people like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. The damage these men have done to Christianity is beyond calculation. I suspect it will take generations for the Christian community to rid itself of their pernicious influence, if it ever does. I believe James Watt also owes the Christian community an apology, but as he appears to be in an advanced state of senility (judging by his WaPo op ed) I suppose that will never happen.

Watt's point is that the Religious Right never called on wasting the environment in the name of Jesus. They don't get up in the morning thinking of ways to capture and kill the last whooping crane. Probably not, but this misses Moyers's point. What Moyers said, with considerable justification, is that the Right refuses to acknowledge the many ways environment is endangered by man. And this is at least partly because the extremist religious Right is determined that Armageddon is just around the corner.

In his confirmation hearings, Watt really did tell the Senate "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns," but he insists his next statement was "whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations." From their environmental policies, I infer the Reagan and Bush I Administrations assumed there wouldn't be very many future generations. Considering Bush II, they may have been right.

A quickie web search turned up another Watt quote, said to have been published in the Washington Post on May 24, 1981: "My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures, which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns." I actually don't remember that from the Gospels, but maybe I missed something.

For your reading enjoyment, here are more quotations attributed to James Watt:

"We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."

"A left-wing cult dedicated to bringing down the type of government I believe in." (Comment on environmentalists)

"They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers." (Newsweek 8 Mar 82)

"I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple." (Describing his staff in a Chamber of Commerce speech, September 21, 1983; Mr. Watts resigned 18 days later)

If attempting to make sense of Watt's column gives  you a headache, let me recommend the text of the Bill Moyers speech from December. It has been corrected, with the controversial quote removed. The rest of it rings true to me.

12:29 pm | link

Oh, Good. Now We've Pissed Off Sweden
Will it never end? Last year CIA operatives carried out an "extraordinary rendition" in Sweden involving two Egyptian men suspected of terrorism.   Details of the raid were released recently, and the Swedes are pissed. Craig Whitlock writes in today's New York Times:
The practice has generated increasing criticism from civil liberties groups; in Sweden a parliamentary investigator who conducted a 10-month probe into the case recently concluded that the CIA operatives violated Swedish law by subjecting the prisoners to "degrading and inhuman treatment" and by exercising police powers on Swedish soil.
The two suspects had been arrested by Swedish authorities, searched, and handcuffed. The CIA offered to fly the suspects to Egypt where they were to be tried, and the Swedes said, sure. Or whatever "sure" is in Swedish. So far, so good. But then the story gets strange.
By 5 p.m., Swedish police had arrested both men and were waiting for the plane to arrive. Already, however, problems had begun to surface.

Two unnamed officials from the U.S. Embassy informed Swedish officers that there would be no room on the jet for them on the trip back to Cairo. The Swedes complained and were ultimately given two seats on the plane, but raw feelings persisted.

"I felt that they were backing into our territory," an unidentified female Swedish security officer told investigators, according to a transcript of her interview.

More conflicts arose after the plane landed. One Swedish officer walked up the steps of the aircraft to greet the crew and was surprised to see that the agents -- a half-dozen or so Americans and two Egyptians -- were wearing hoods with semi-opaque fabric around the face, even though the small airport was essentially deserted.

"I told them that you don't need to wear hoods because there is no one here," the officer recalled in his statement to investigators. The foreign agents ignored him.

The Swedish police said they were also perplexed by a demand from U.S. agents that they be allowed to strip-search the prisoners, even though the two men had already been searched and were in handcuffs. The Swedes relented after the captain of the plane said he would refuse to depart unless the Americans were allowed to do things their way, the documents show.

The prisoners were taken into the airport police station, one by one, to be searched.

One agent quickly slit their clothes with a pair of scissors and examined each piece of cloth before placing it in a plastic bag. Another agent checked the suspects' hair, mouths and lips, while a third agent took photographs from behind, according to Swedish officers who witnessed the searches.

As the prisoners stood there, naked and motionless, they were zipped into gray tracksuits and their heads were covered with hoods that, in the words of one Swedish officer, "covered everything, like a big cone."

The Swedes were disturbed by the search itself:

Inside an airport police station, Swedish officers watched as the CIA operatives pulled out scissors and rapidly sliced off the prisoners' clothes, including their underwear, according to newly released Swedish government documents and eyewitness statements. They probed inside the men's mouths and ears and examined their hair before dressing the pair in sweat suits and draping hoods over their heads. The suspects were then marched in chains to the plane, where they were strapped to mattresses on the floor in the back of the cabin. ...
..."Should Swedish officers have taken those measures, I would have prosecuted them without hesitation for the misuse of public power and probably would have asked for a prison sentence," the investigator, Mats Melin, said in an interview. He said he could not charge the CIA operatives because he was authorized to investigate only Swedish government officials, but he did not rule out the possibility that other Swedish prosecutors could do so.
Of the two men seized in this particular raid, one was eventually convicted of terrorism by an Egyptian court. The other was exonerated and released. But after this episode, why would the Swedes want to cooperate with us to apprehend terrorists? Why would anybody?
8:52 am | link

friday, may 20, 2005

Be sure to read Dan Froomkin's column on how Bush is exploiting young people hand-picked for their obliviousness to destroy Social Security.
President Bush's meticulously stage-managed presentations on Social Security have slowly shifted into a new phase, in which White House aides find misinformed young people to share the stage with the president and assert that Social Security won't be there at all when they retire.

And rather than correcting them on their misconception -- government estimates, after all, say that after 2041 Social Security will still be able to pay at least three-quarters of currently promised benefits without any changes -- Bush congratulates them on their perspicacity.

Froomkin says Bush is skillfully using carefully selected youth in his scare campaign:

He's still telling seniors not to listen to all those unspecified people trying to frighten them by saying their benefits are about to be cut.

But he himself is forcefully asserting to young people that for them, when it comes to Social Security, the sky is falling.

Froomkin also links to this Los Angeles Times story about how these poor little stooges are chosen.

However, Froomkin notes, less and less of the national media are bothering to cover the road show. And the President's push for Social Security seems weirdly disconnected from the struggle on Capitol Hill. And yesterday,  Robert C. Pozen, the business executive who developed the theory behind Mr. Bush's benefit cuts plan, "urged the president today to drop his insistence on using a portion of workers' taxes to pay for individual investment accounts," according to the New York Times.   

5:00 pm | link

Dissing Our Troops
Maybe you're the kind of idiot who reads a story like this and has no reaction except "How dare the liberal media undermine our troops?" If so, listen up: The people responsible for this are the ones who are undermining the troops. The people who are too stupid to know that you don't do this when you're in a global battle for hearts and minds are the ones who betrayed our country.

And I'm referring less to the torturers than to the high mucketymucks who gave the go-ahead for this kind of interrogation or suggested with a nod and a wink that it was a good idea, while turning the job over to callow amateurs understandably flush with post-9/11 righteous indignation...
Speaking of idiots, this is a fairly typical rightie reaction:

... the ugly truth is that there are a lot of liberals in this country, perhaps a majority of them, who don't support the troops, who -- as one poster on the Democratic Underground put it -- look at the our troops as "Cannon fodder and killers doing what they're told to do".

Of course, since most Americans have a very high opinion of our soldiers, liberals would face enormous political ramifications if they were honest about what they thought. So instead, we get surreptitious assaults on our military.

For example, part of the reason Abu Ghraib has gotten so much attention & the press keeps churning out 2 and a 1/2 year old stories about soldiers working over prisoners is because liberals can use it to smear the troops. "See? That's what they're all like behind closed doors! Sadistic savages."

Many on the Right cling to the belief that "liberals hate the military." I believe this dates from the post-Vietnam era, when all the spitting-on-soldiers-in-airports incidents that didn't happen were being "remembered." And many righties perpetuating this myth are too young to remember the Vietnam era and never faced being drafted into a pointless war, but never mind.  
Unfortunately, one runs into the occasional youngster who thinks that, being liberal, he's supposed to hate the military. To these people, I say: Grow up and stop being a stoodge. We have a nation because soldiers were willing to fight for it. Never forget that. And, anyway, it's not "the military" that's our problem.
Re "liberals" digging out 2-1/2-year-old stories to "smear the troops," I agree with Steve. It's brainless twits who make excuses for behaviors like torture and sadism who degrade the troops. I suspect most professional soldiers are as disgusted with these news stories as I am. The people ultimately responsible for the torture and murder are the civilians--in the Pentagon and the White House--who are in charge of the military; the hired, non-military "advisers" who always seem to lurking at the edges of the stories; and finally the military brass who went along and allowed it to happen.
(And I do not believe any of this would have happened had not some officers with more than a couple of stars on their uniforms allowed it to happen; encouraged it to happen. An occasional incident might be soldiers "acting out," but a pattern of behavior this pervasive is the fault of either bad leadership or incompetent leadership. Take your pick.) 
The ultimate responsibility for these atrocities sits in the Oval Office, at least during those brief quiet periods between vacations and "town hall" meetings. Bush seems just the sort of sniveling weenie who mistakes meanness with strength. Bush is the one who thought Bernie Kerik would do a swell job of running national security, and the bullying, abusive Bolton is just the guy to go to the United Nations. Yeah, and let's torture some prisoners to show 'em how tough we are. 
But like the cowards they are, Bush, Rummy, et al. are allowing privates to be scapegoats and do the time.
You want to know about supporting the troops? Henceforth how can we, as a nation, ask that our troops be treated humanely when taken prisoner? When did we decide we don't have to hold ourselves to the same standard that we would want from others?
Update: See David Corn, "Pentagon Caught in Fib about Koran-Gate."  
Update update: "Bush Promises Probe Into Saddam Underwear Pictures." No word on a probe into the death of Dilawar the innocent taxi driver.
When I think of some of the truly great men who have held the office of President of the United States, and then I look at Bush ... what's the word I'm looking for... disgusted? nauseated? mortified?
1:39 pm | link

The Natives Remain Restless
Having decorated their huts with Mark Whitaker's shrunken head, and having confined Michael Isikoff in a little cage so that the tribal children can poke him with sticks, the rightie tribe has moved on--to the Newspaper Guild and Editor & Publisher.
The Rectitudinous Righties are not worked up over anything published as news by the evil "MSM," however. A week ago Linda Foley, national president of The Newspaper Guild, made some comments at a National Conference for Media Reform that put her on the tribal hit list. At the conference in St. Louis, Foley said of U.S. forces in Iraq:
Journalists are not just being targeted verbally or politically. They are also being targeted for real in places like Iraq. And what outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there's not more outrage about the number and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it's just a scandal.
It's not just U.S. journalists either, by the way. They target and kill journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries, at news services like Al Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and blow up their studios, with impunity. This is all part of the culture that it is OK to blame the individual journalists, and it just takes the heat off of these media conglomerates that are part of the problem.
Like it or not, Ms. Foley is not pulling these charges out of her butt. Jeanne d'Arc has documented incidents that look suspiciously like journalist targeting. Please follow the link and read what she says. It is clear that either these journalists were deliberately targeted, or the troops involved were being unusually careless even by war zone standards. Certainly, it bears outrage. Investigation also seems in order. And proper investigation was what Ms. Foley requested; last month Ms. Foley sent a letter to President Bush critical of the "investigation" into these incidents so far.
Of course, the outside possibility that these charges might be true and want looking into is not an issue to the Right. The issue is that a person representing the news media said something they didn't want to hear. Writes Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher:

The backlash became so severe Thursday that staffers at Guild headquarters in Washington, D.C., stopped answering the phone because of abusive phone calls and "people screaming at us," Foley said. Instead, callers were required to leave messages on voice mail and await a return call.

"We don't want people to be subjected to that kind of abuse," Foley said, adding that the angry calls began early Thursday. "It is annoying, but it isn't deterring us from doing what we have to do."

You can watch some of the war dances via Memeorandum. Here, for example, is La Shawn "we don't need no steenking freedom of speech" Barber:

A journalist named Linda Foley, president of the Newspaper Guild, has been caught on tape pulling an Eason Jordan. Watch and listen to her make vile, inflammatory, and unsubstantiated claims about American troops military (Pardon me!) targeting Arab journalists on this RealAudio video.

Among the "unsubstantiated claims" mentioned in the E&P article are the bombing of Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office in April 2003 (which a State Department spokesman said was "a mistake") and the deaths of Taras Protsyuk, a Ukranian reporter who worked for Reuters, and José Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish television station, Telecino, also in April 2003. These two and another Al-Jazeera reporter were killed when when an American tank fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where most international journalists were staying.

These deaths occurred during the initial phase of the Iraq War (pre flightsuit prance), but Jeanne (link above) lists more such incidents dated through May 2004. And yes, war zones are very dangerous places, and yes, innocent people do become collateral damage. Maybe these sites were not deliberately targeted. Maybe these actions were mistakes. Maybe U.S. soldiers really did confuse Mazen Dana's camera with a rocket-propelled grenade. In a place where death can come at any moment from unexpected sources, I don't doubt soldiers get twitchy. I do not discount the possibility that these journalists were not targeted and that these deaths were accidental.

But Ms. Foley's charges are not "vile, inflammatory, and unsubstantiated." And in America citizens are not supposed to be bullied into silence when they question their government.

World Nut Daily quotes Sinclair Broadcasting bobblehead Mark Hyman:

Hyman called on Foley to immediately present evidence to support her claims or resign.

"Unfortunately, the damage may have already been done," he said. "Her remarks could lead to further bloodshed, including against Americans."

Hyman concluded: "The question is whether Newspaper Guild members will hold Foley accountable or will they give her a free pass in endangering American lives with inflammatory remarks without any proof?"

What "free pass"? There is a pattern of journalists in Iraq being killed by "mistake."  This is well substantiated. Ms. Foley believes these deaths were not "mistakes," and said so. This is called "free speech."

I wish I knew who said this--

I think what really creeps people out about fascism is that it allows the mob to oppress others, either inside or outside the state, willingly. The mob runs amok and controls itself and others in service of some ideal like national honor or virtue or glory. For the sake of these ideals, the mob votes away its freedoms. The state doesn't need to suppress dissent, at least initially, because the mob only too happily does it for itself. It really is like a democracy that has suddenly mutated and turned cancerous, its institutions rampant and without its usual curbs.

This quote was a comment left on Orcinus about a year ago that I kept, and now it is no longer online. All I can tell you is that the commenter's name is Melissa. But whenever the righties form their goon mobs to punish people who dare say what they don't want to hear, I think of this quote.

I assume the mob will be howling for Linda Foley's head for the next several days. Heaven help us all if they get it.

7:14 am | link

wednesday, may 18, 2005

Losing It, the Sequel
Glenn Reynolds has had a high old time this week, dancing around the victory fires and shaking his mighty blog spear. Today he writes that we've reached the tipping point that will cause the decline of the "influence" of "big media." 
Somewhere, right-wing power brokers are rubbing their hands and saying, "excellent."
"Big media" has its flaws, but the most likely alternative--swarming packs of partisan news goons--does not comfort me. Andrew Sullivan, whose wires do connect from time to time, writes [emphasis added],
We have yet to see what's at the root, if anything, of the Newsweek story. But I think it's telling that some bloggers have devoted much, much more energy to covering the Newsweek error than they ever have to covering any sliver of the widespread evidence of detainee abuse that made the Newsweek piece credible in the first place. A simple question: after U.S. interrogators have tortured over two dozen detainees to death, after they have wrapped one in an Israeli flag, after they have smeared naked detainees with fake menstrual blood, after they have told one detainee to "Fuck Allah," after they have ordered detainees to pray to Allah in order to kick them from behind in the head, is it completely beyond credibility that they would also have desecrated the Koran? Yes, Newsweek bears complete responsibility for any errors it has made; and, depending on what we now find, should not be let off the hook. But the outrage from the White House is beyond belief. It seems to me particularly worrying if this incident further intimidates the press from seeking the truth about what the government is doing in the war on terror. It is not being "basically, on the side of the enemy," as Glenn Reynolds calls it, to resist the notion of government-sanctioned torture and to report on it. It is patriotism and serving the cause that this war is about: religious pluralism and tolerance. The media's Abu Ghraib?? When Mike Isikoff is found guilty of committing murder, give me a call. Austin Bay still insists that Abu Ghraib did not constitute "deadly torture." The corpses found there (photographed by grinning U.S. soldiers) would probably disagree. (Will Bay correct?) Three factors interacted here: media error/bias, Islamist paranoia, and a past and possibly current policy of religiously-intolerant torture. No one comes out looking good. But it seems to me unquestionable that the documented abuse of religion in interrogation practices is by far the biggest scandal. Too bad the blogosphere is too media-obsessed and self-congratulatory to notice.
Listen up, Glennie: If telling the truth about actions of our government is "treason," then we're not a free people any more. Got that?
Newsweek legitimately can be criticised for publishing a statement that is, as Eric Alterman puts it, lightly sourced; see also Jay Rosen. But it's all too obvious (to everyone for a rightie, that is) that the White House is fanning the flames of outrage against Newsweek to deflect outrage away from where it should be aimed--the White House. The Newsweek story did not cause the riots in Afghanistan (hat tip to Avedon for this and other links). Once again, the Bushies use the nearest available scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility for their own messes.
We’re seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age old ambition of power and ideology to squelch — to punish the journalist who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.
Moyers also says,
Hear me: an unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical. And just as a democracy can die of too many lies, that kind of orthodoxy can kill us, too.
I have big gripes about "big media," too. But Glennie and I have different gripes. Glennie, essentially, wants to destroy news media that is independent of (and able to provide damaging information about) the current right-wing regime. He believes good little citizens must repress conscience for the sake of loyalty.
And I say, bleep that. The bleeping media are not nearly independent enough. Moyers again:
...the rules of the game permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.
I doubt many rightie bloggers see themselves as mere tools of power, but of course that's what they are. Just tools.
See also:  "New York Times Falls Back in Line" by eRobin at American Street.
Speaking of Big Media--there has been much growling over the New York Times's announcement that, in September, the editorial and op ed pages will no longer be free web content. I regret this, but I've also been expecting it. Newspaper circulation and revenues are falling. They've got to make money somehow, or they can't pay the reporters who write the stories we all blog about. I expect more major newspapers to go this route.
I'm not at all happy about this, but hissy fits aren't going to solve the problem of falling print edition revenues. Instead, I'd like to see the bloggers and newspaper publishers work out some kind of compromise about web content to their mutual advantage. I'm not sure what that would be, however.
12:19 pm | link

Losing It
''Despite the widespread belief that the US remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe or in Canada has had a better chance at prosperity."
That's from the Wall Street Journal, mind you. I regret I don't subscribe to WSJ so I don't have access to the article. I got the quote from Derrick Jackson's column in today's Boston Globe. Jackson says,

In an echo, the [New York] Times wrote vitually the same thing, adding that in America, a child's economic background is a better predictor of school performance than in Denmark, the Netherlands, or France. The best that could be said was that class mobility in the United States is ''not as low as in developing countries like Brazil, where escape from poverty is so difficult that the lower class is all but frozen in place."

Oh joy. This is what we have come to? Comparisons to developing countries?

The New York Times article Jackson quotes (from May 15) is here. The authors, Janny Scott and David Leonhardt, write [emphasis added],

Today, the country has gone a long way toward an appearance of classlessness. Americans of all sorts are awash in luxuries that would have dazzled their grandparents. Social diversity has erased many of the old markers. It has become harder to read people's status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. The contours of class have blurred; some say they have disappeared.

But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and lifespan are wide and appear to be widening.

And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe. [Click here for more information on income mobility.] In fact, mobility, which once buoyed the working lives of Americans as it rose in the decades after World War II, has lately flattened out or possibly even declined, many researchers say.

The Times article links to supporting data. A couple of other promising resources, mentioned by Derrick Jackson, are the organizations United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies.

The New York Times article, which promises to be the first article of a series, admits that on the surface class divisions in the United States are eroding. These days, unlike in generations of the past, you can't always tell where a person falls on the socioeconomic continuum by his dress, his speech, his race, his religion. In the U.S., just about everyone who considers himself "middle class," which is most of us, has a standard of living our grandparents might have envied. We live in bigger homes and have dishwashers and enormous color televisions sets that get 300 channels (showing Law and Order reruns, but still...) and big refrigerators with built-in ice dispensers; and we have computers and cell phones and need to join gyms to get enough exercise. So what's the problem?

I wrote a couple of weeks ago, in a different context, that we're living in an era of pretend normalcy. "Normalcy" in the United States is upward mobility, increasing standards of living, more and better technological doodads to make our lives easier or more fun. For the past thirty years or so, vast numbers of Americans who call themselves "middle class" have worked more and more frantically to make their world "normal." A second income is no longer extra money, but essential to survival. Personal debt grows to cancerous proportions. In fact, we're no longer just stuck on treadmills; we're performing high-wire acts. One slip, one missed paycheck, one injury not covered by health insurance, and down we go. And don't expect a safety net.

How much longer can we keep this up before we notice it ain't normal?

(By contrast, after World War II, the government launched a public service campaign to persuade people it was OK to spend money and buy themselves nice things. The children of the Depression were so accustomed to hard-core frugality that, even when they had more money to spend, it took some doing to get some of them to spend it).

Last Sunday the Cabbage burbled that  "The G.O.P. succeeds because it is seen as the party of optimistic individualism." No, the G.O.P. succeeds because it is the party of cognitive dissonance. The difference between low-income Republicans and low-income Democrats is that the Dems accept reality; "normal" isn't normal. Low-income Republican voters, on the other hand, still believe in the Upward Mobility Fairy.

Let's go back to Derrick Jackson:

In 1973, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay was 43 to 1. By 1992, it was 145 to 1. By 1997, it was 326 to 1. By 2000, it hit a sky-high 531 to 1. The post 9/11 shakeouts and corporate scandals of recent years on the surface narrowed the gap back to 301 to 1 in 2003. But a much worse parallel global gap is emerging in the era of outsourcing. United for a Fair Economy published a report last summer that found CEOs of the top US outsourcing companies made 1,300 times more than their computer programmers in India and 3,300 more than Indian call-center employees.

Such groups say if the minimum wage kept up with the rise in CEO pay, it would be $15.76 an hour instead of its current $5.15. Looking at it another way, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, another often written-off liberal think tank, published a report last month that in the last three years, the share of US national income that goes toward corporate profits is at its highest levels since World War II, while the share of national income that goes to wages and salaries is at a record low.

How did this happen?

This completes a perfect storm over the last quarter century of corporate welfare for those with the most among us and vilification for those with the least. Americans have been seduced by simplistic notions of rugged individualism to vote more to punish people (welfare mothers, prison booms, and affirmative action in the 1990s, and gay marriage in 2004) than for programs and policies that might lead to healing the gaps (national healthcare and revamped public schools).

And this, folks, is what's the matter with Kansas, and it goes back a lot further than the 1990s. The Greatest Generation saw nothing wrong with helping themselves economically through government programs. But I remember well that by the mid-1960s, the glory days of the Civil Rights movement, the white middle class was telling itself that the evil ol' "welfare state" had to be dismantled. This is not a coincidence. Domestic "entitlement" programs were fine when the white majority perceived that these programs helped them, their aged parents, and their growing children. But by the mid-1960s the middle class was floating in a seemingly inexhaustible pool of expanding prosperity. And when they started thinking of domestic spending as a transfer of their wealth to other (and darker) people, those spigots got turned down pretty durn fast. "Values" issues, certainly, also have been used skillfully to drive a wedge between people and their own economic interests, but social wedge issues aren't the whole story.

As Jackson says, and as I've been writing over the past several days, the real transfer of wealth in America has been from working, salaried people whose labor creates the wealth to their corporate overlords. Wage-earning Republican voters continue to support this transfer even as the tightrope gets longer, the balance pole gets shorter, and the safety net beneath them is being dismantled.

(Remember the Philip Agre essay, "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong With It"? Agre defines conservatism as "the domination of society by an aristocracy," and  "it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them." Further, he says, aristocracy prevails by tricking the rest of society into deferring to it. Well, here you go.)

Derrick Jackson concludes:

It is obvious that Americans believed that none of the inequalities long endured by the poor (because it's all their fault, right?) would seep into our lives. We were wrong. With suburban schools slashing their budgets, healthcare costs rising, retirement funds in doubt, and the next generation facing a drop in their life span from obesity and diabetes, the nation is sliding into a dangerous place.

A quarter century of a ''mine, all mine" ethos continues to work for CEOs and the upper class. The rest of America finds the ladder taller and steepening. Much of the nation is now one catastrophic injury away from falling into poverty. It should be a national emergency that stratification in the richest nation in the world has us fading from the relative mobility of Europe and sinking toward the discouragement in developing countries.

It is no wonder why politicians who protect the wealthy scream ''class warfare" every time someone talks about inequity. It is a diversion to keep those who vote against their own interests from realizing they are victims of friendly fire.

Scott and Leonhardt of the Times write, "Blind optimism has its pitfalls. If opportunity is taken for granted, as something that will be there no matter what, then the country is less likely to do the hard work to make it happen." Blind optimism is the snake oil the Republicans are selling to working people. Ownership society! Best health care system in the world! Tax cuts! Step right up and get your prosperity!

Let's face it; reality is a harder sell.

8:26 am | link

tuesday, may 17, 2005

What Was That About UNscam?
Julian Borger and Jamie Wilson of the Guardian dropped a bomb on the UN oil-for-food scandal so beloved by the Right, but don't hold your breath waiting for the righties to acknowledge it.
The United States administration turned a blind eye to extensive sanctions-busting in the prewar sale of Iraqi oil, according to a new Senate investigation.

A report released last night by Democratic staff on a Senate investigations committee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them.

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua.

In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

"The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions," the report said. "On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.

The righties are still holding victory orgies to celebrate the slaying of the great beast Newsweek, but they might want to take a break and pay attention to this new twist in UNscam, because it could be huge. The best  blog analysis I've seen so far is from Steve Soto at The Left Coaster: 

We already know that Bush let Zarqawi get away several times in the year before the war, and now the man is killing our soldiers. We now find out that Bush allowed Hussein to enrich himself illegally at a time when Bush was planning to invade his country and commit our troops to toppling him. Worse yet, Bush had the US Navy provide escort to the ships of Odin Marine, who were shipping Saddam's crude from an unauthorized Iraqi port to Jordan, with Saddam getting kickbacks for these transactions as late as early 2003. Bush was helping Saddam line his pockets in the months leading up to the invasion, and some of that money probably helped finance what our soldiers are enduring now. What was the reason for allowing Saddam to profit from illicit oil deals circumventing the UN program? To allow Jordan and Turkey to get a source of oil that was hindered by the UN sanctions against Iraq,and to buy their support in other areas. Yet the US not only knew about it and condoned the enrichment of Saddam, but provided a navy escort for the oil shipments.

Bush and the GOP have the gall to call for Kofi Annan’s head over the administration of the Oil for Food program, and now it turns out that Bush let a member of the Axis of Evil profit from illegal transactions when just months later it was Saddam’s noncompliance with UN requirements that was cited by Bush as a reason for going to war? And we now find out that the Bush Treasury Department stonewalled the Volcker Commission's efforts to find out the US role in these illicit transactions, even after Colin Powell's State Department pressed Treasury.

You'd think the depths of Bushie corruption wouldn't surprise me any more, but I'm stunned. It's been obvious for several months that the Bushies were hyping UNscam to discredit the UN and keep the natives stirred up. They must have figured no one would notice they were the biggest scammers.

A little background: A Senate subcommittee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chaired by Norm Coleman (the Republican who occupies Paul Wellstone's seat) has been holding hearings on the oil-for-food scandal. You'll remember the United Nations oil-for-food program, which was designed to let Saddam Hussein to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods to benefit the Iraqi people. However, it is charged that Saddam sold vouchers for oil to some journalists and politicians, including Koji Annan, son of Kofi. These vouchers could be sold at a profit. . The Bushies have made robust use of this scandal to innoculate the Bush Regime from UN criticism.

Sen. Coleman has been releasing reports that accused several people, including the above-mentioned Mr. Galloway, of being on the take (see, for example, this Power Line post). But in advance of Mr. Galloway's Senate testimony today, Democrats on the committee (the ranking member is Carl Levin, but I don't know if he was directly involved) released information that, apparently, Coleman was sitting on. Namely, that the biggest "taker" was the Bush Administration itself.

An amusing sidebar: Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs (to which I do not link) refers to Mr. Galloway as a " pro-terrorist antisemitic"  because of his alleged participation in the kickback scheme. So what does that make George W. Bush? And can we hang him yet?*

The Times of London reports today,

Last week the seven Republicans and six Democrats on the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations claimed to have uncovered “significant evidence” that Mr Galloway was allocated millions of barrels of oil by Saddam’s regime as it systematically abused the UN’s Oil-for-Food programme.

But Mr Galloway, the former Labour MP who won an upset victory as an antiwar Respect Party candidate in the general election, was in fighting form yesterday as he prepared to board an aircraft at Heathrow.

“I am going to accuse them of being involved in a huge diversion from the real issues in Iraq, which are the theft of billions of dollars worth of Iraq’s wealth by the United States of America and its corporations, and the deaths of more than 100,000 people in Iraq, the destruction of the country, the opening of the doors to Islamic extremism of the al-Qaeda variety, tremendous crimes they have committed in Iraq,” he said.

When he arrived in Washington, he added: “I have no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neocon George Bush who is pro-war. I come not as the accused but as the accuser.”

Here is Steve Soto's review of the Galloway testimony, plus Galloway's reaction.

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo links to an Associated Press/International Tribune story that says another person accused by Coleman's committee, former interior minister of France Charles Pasqua, accuses the Bush Administration of carrying out a campaign against France because of its opposition to the Iraq War.

Also: Don't miss "Bush to Retract War." And this is why "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann is the only cable news show I can stand to watch.

*Note to thought police: This is a joke. I am opposed to capital punishment. I retract the hanging suggestion. Please don't decapitate any more horses.

11:47 am | link

monday, may 16, 2005

Film at 11
I was working on something other than the blog today, so I didn't get a chance to weigh in on the Newsweek/Q'ran flap. I didn't read the original story and have been following the violent reactions to it only superficially. All I know for sure is that Newsweek has retracted the story, and as I keyboard the righties have painted themselves a bright victory red and are out dancing around their tribal fires.
From here, right now, we can't say what happened. It may be that Newsweek was careless with facts, or it may be that Mark Whitaker woke up with a severed horse's head in his bed. There have been other reports of Q'ran desecration.before this. For the record, the Pentagon denies these stories. For the record, I don't trust the Pentagon as far as I can throw it.
While the Right Blogosphere enjoys its wallow in triumphalism, Muslims in Afghanistan are skeptical.

But Muslims said they suspected that pressure from Washington was behind the magazine's climbdown, Reuters reported Monday.

"We will not be deceived by this," Islamic cleric Mullah Sadullah Abu Aman told Reuters in the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan.

The triumphant righties and the offended Muslims--flip sides of the same coin. BTW,  and not unrelated, go see "Kingdom of Heaven" while it's in theaters, unless you're very squeamish.
Speaking of films, George Lucas is out promoting Start Wars episode 3 and saying there are parallels between the Empire and the Bush Administration. Dan Froomkin writes,

Lucas said he has long been interested in the transition from democracy to dictatorship.

"In ancient Rome, 'why did the senate, after killing Caesar, turn around and give the government to his nephew?' Lucas said. 'Why did France, after they got rid of the king and that whole system, turn around and give it to Napoleon? It's the same thing with Germany and Hitler.'

" 'You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling, there's corruption.' "

Plus, this will be Yoda's final film appearance. I'm going.
Eric Alterman has a pocket history of American liberalism here that I partly agree with, but not entirely. I'd like to hear your reactions.

9:42 pm | link

This Is Why
I hope somebody sends a clip of today's Paul Krugman column to Peter Beinart.
You may remember that Beinart is the New Republic editor who thinks Democrats need to become hawks to win back American voters. Beinart wrote last December,

Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

Beinart reached back to the liberal establishment of the late 1940s, which he says was divided between the "hards" who favored aggressively anti-communist policies, and the "softs" who were less interested in the struggle against communism than in the preservation of rights and progressive policies at home.

The hards...believed anti-communism was the fundamental litmus test for a decent left. Non-communism was not enough; opposition to the totalitarian threat was the prerequisite for membership in American liberalism because communism was the defining moral challenge of the age.

The softs, by contrast, were not necessarily communists themselves. But they refused to make anti-communism their guiding principle. For them, the threat to liberal values came entirely from the right--from militarists, from red-baiters, and from the forces of economic reaction. To attack the communists, reliable allies in the fight for civil rights and economic justice, was a distraction from the struggle for progress.

Beinart argues that the "hards" were correct and the "softs" were wrong in the 1940s. Therefore, liberals must be "hards" today and support military action against Islamic terrorism, e.g., the war in Iraq.

First, even if "hards" were right in 1947, that doesn't necessarily mean that "hards" are right now. It's a different world out there.

Second, it seems to me that neither the "hards" nor the "softs" were entirely right, or entirely wrong. Surely, the "softs" were right to be concerned about civil liberties during the glory days of HUAC and Joe McCarthy. And among the "hards" were people who genuinely wished America would launch all-out nuclear war against the USSR, or China, or both. In truth, although the fact of our military was critical during the Cold War (e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis), the few times we actually used military might--e.g., Korea and Vietnam--the outcome was, shall we say, unsatisfactory.

Communism lost the Cold War because of a variety of factors, not the least of which were economic. The western democracies mostly steered a middle course between hawkishness and dovishness, or between hardness and softness, if you will. We carried the big stick more than we swung it, and most of the time we spoke moderately, if not softly.

Eric Alterman took apart Beinart's New Republic article advising "hardnness," linked above, and I endorse his arguments. But my biggest gripe with Beinart beside historical distortion is that he falls into the Right's false dichotomy about Iraq, which is that one EITHER (1) supports the war in Iraq and any other war the Bush Administration wants to start, OR (2) you don't care about national security.

Before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, I bet most of us opposed to the invasion had this conversation with a "hawk."

HAWK: You're a Saddam lover. 

DOVE: My objections to this invasion have nothing to do with supporting Saddam. I'm opposed to the war because ... [listing the many reasons--Saddam Hussein was not behind 9/11; the inspectors were in Iraq and not finding WMDs, so Iraq was not an imminent threat to anyone; most of Iraq's neighbors begged us not to invade, because it might destabilize the region; the invasion was a distraction from the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and whoever else was responsible for 9/11; the invasion would take resources out of Afghanistan and allow the Taliban to return; the invasion would cost a ton of money; the invasion would cost a lot of lives; the invasion would cost a lot of money and take a lot of lives and do nothing whatsoever to make America safer from terrorism, etc.] 

HAWK: [tapping foot impatiently] Like I said, you're a Saddam lover.

Then, of course, the Dove said Arghhhhh! and possibly threw in some explitives, at which point the Hawk said, see? You can't give any logical reasons for opposing the war.

By the way, if you run into people who still think we needed to invade Iraq to put an end to the mass graves, send them here.

Paul Krugman, bless him, is a man whose insights cut straight through the crap. The fact is, he writes, our little adventure in Iraq has "demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies."

America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating.

Next year, reports Jane's Defense Industry, the United States will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the Pentagon now admits that our military is having severe trouble attracting recruits, and would have difficulty dealing with potential foes - those that, unlike Saddam's Iraq, might pose a real threat. ...

... In effect, America has been taken hostage. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the terrible scenes that will surely unfold if we leave (even though terrible scenes are unfolding while we're there). Nobody wants to tell the grieving parents of American soldiers that their children died in vain. And nobody wants to be accused, by an administration always ready to impugn other people's patriotism, of stabbing the troops in the back.

But the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger: what threats, exactly, can we make against the North Koreans? That John Bolton will yell at them? And every year that the war goes on, our military gets weaker.

And, while America gets weaker and weaker, North Korea and Iran are growing more dangerous.

What was that about us "softs" not caring about national security?

The bottom line is that you can't solve every problem by shooting at it. Military aggression, while sometimes necessary for national survival, is not the first tool one reaches for to enact foreign policy. Sometimes, the best policies cannot be explained on bumper stickers or catchy sound bites. Sometimes, just carrying the big stick effects a better result than swinging it.

Our "President's" foreign policy consists of him talking about "democracy" while he buddies up with dictators. He knows how to strut around in a flight jacket; he knows how to talk tough; he doesn't want to be bothered about security threats that don't threaten him. This is being "hard"?

As Krugman says, "Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?"


Speaking of the astonishing obliviousness of righties, this guy thinks we should meet Army recruitment quotas by conscripting illegal aliens. Well, OK, not conscripting exactly; giving them the opportunity to volunteer or be deported.

I can see the fliers littering the streets of Tijuana--Come on up north and join the U.S. Army! And while you're overseas, your women can cook for the gringos and raise their children! And do you have any siblings who can pick fruit?

Like I said, obliviousness.

Update: Send this to Jonah Goldberg.


8:10 am | link

sunday, may 15, 2005

Meet the Poor Schnooks
davidbrooks.jpgBobo's latest effort, "Meet the Poor Republicans," looks at a recent Pew Research report called "Beyond Red and Blue" that attempts to map our current political landscape. The Cabbage is most interested in the difference between low-income self-identified Republicans and low-income self-identified Democrats.

"The G.O.P. succeeds because it is seen as the party of optimistic individualism," the vegetable gushes.

Yet these "poor Republicans" may not have swallowed the Party line whole.

Poor Republicans aspire to middle-class respectability, but they are suspicious of the rich and of big business. About 83 percent of poor Republicans say big business has too much power, according to Pew, compared with 26 percent of affluent Republicans. If the Ownership Society means owning a home, they're for it. If it means putting their retirement in the hands of Wall Street, they become queasy.

Remember, these Republicans are disproportionately young women with children. Nearly 70 percent have trouble paying their bills every month. They are optimistic about the future, but their fear of their lives falling apart stalks them at night.

I've been looking at the Pew report, and I find it confusing. The data is organized and presented in a way that seems haphazard and illogical to me. Maybe it's in there somewhere, but I couldn't find a side-to-side comparison of the beliefs of "Democrats" and "Republicans" whom Bobo might consider "poor." However, Bobo says (and I have no reason to doubt this) the biggest distinction is the way "poor" Republicans and Democrats respond to these questions: (1) Most people who want to get ahead can make it if they work hard; and (2) Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people.

Bobo says a large majority of "poor Republicans" agreed with the first statement. However, 79 percent of people identified by Pew as "Disadvantaged Dems" agreed with the second.

Bobo interprets this, thus:

Many people have wondered why so many lower-middle-class waitresses in Kansas and Hispanic warehouse workers in Texas now call themselves Republicans. The Pew data provide an answer: they agree with Horatio Alger.

These working-class folk like the G.O.P.'s social and foreign policies, but the big difference between poor Republicans and poor Democrats is that the former believe that individuals can make it on their own with hard work and good character.

I'd put it another way: Poor people who vote Republican think the established order--the "system"--works for them. Poor people who vote Democratic think the system works against them. Are we looking at Democratic pessimism versus Republican optimism, as Brooks thinks? Or are we looking at realists versus schnooks?

Brooks's own words reveal that these optimists are distrustful of Wall Street and big business, but they still have faith that they can improve their own lives through hard work, determination, and good character. And maybe they can. But seems to me that "optimists" who are stalked by fear "their lives will fall apart" are cultivating cognitive dissonance of Godzilla proportions.

As I've mentioned in the past, I grew up in a little Ozark Mountain mining town that was not exactly affluent. My dad was a machinist for the mining company, and our family was "upper class" because we could speak standard English (when we felt like it), took baths every day, and didn't have spare car parts and discarded appliances strewn about the front lawn. When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, it was an article of faith among the adults that a man could always make a living and support his family if he was willing to work hard. And, I genuinely believe that was true then, at least for white men.

Do not forget that the Greatest Generation must have been the most upwardly mobile people in human history. The children of the Depression retired to luxury condos in Florida. But they got there in part through the New Deal, through the GI Bill, and through post World War II programs that built affordable housing and provided bargain mortgages, as well as through the consumer-driven economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s. So, yes, they worked hard, but they got a lot of help from the government.

Thanks mostly to Republicans, this is help that is denied young people today.

Further, the hard-working men of the 1950s weren't competing in the same labor market with Third-World factory workers. The town I grew up in was a one-industry town, but the one industry always seemed to be hiring. Young men counted on employment in the mines as soon as they graduated from high school. And since these were Union jobs, the pay was good and the benefits outstanding. An ordinary guy with a high school diploma could put in his hours and pay for a home and a car and major appliances and vacations to Disneyland with the wife and kids.

Those days are gone, just as they are gone in other "rust bucket" communities. And, frankly, they are not likely to come back. But "normal" is whatever you've known in your own life, and young workers today have no memory of what was taken for granted forty and fifty years ago. Their "normal" is a harder, meaner normal than was true for their grandparents.

Yet they retain their grandparent's faith in the benevolence of the system. It's been passed on to them the way tribespeople of old passed along myths and folklore. Someday, young ones, you will grow up and slay the great cave bear, and then you will be rewarded with many sacred tortoise shells and a Winnebago, and you will never struggle with paying the bills again. But these youngsters are doomed to struggle many years before they realize the cave bear is extinct.

Democrats are not off the hook. This section of the Pew report reveals that the same "Disadvantaged Dems" who no longer believe hard work guarantees success also believe (66 percent) that "Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good." Unlike more affluent Democrats, they disagree that government regulation is necessary to protect public interest. Seems to me Democrats have a job to do re-educating people of the truth of what Theodore Roosevelt said nearly a century ago:

The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare. Understand what I say there. Give him a chance, not push him up if he will not be pushed. Help any man who stumbles, if he lies down, it is a poor job to try to carry him; but if he is a worthy man, try your best to see that he gets a chance to show the worth that is in him. No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so that after his day's work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load.

TR understood that government has a role to play to insure that the hard work, determination, and good character of workers really is rewarded and is not just exploited. Young workers today have their heads stuffed with "government is the problem" and "trickle down" aphorisms and don't yet see how their lives are being sucked dry by the system they helped put into power.

And in recent years the Democratic Party, dependent on campaign contributions from big business (Democrats generally get the second biggest checks), has not done nearly enough to protect these young people. So it's no wonder the party seems irrelevant to many of them. The Republicans, at least, promise to protect them from marauding tribes of swarthy foreigners and hip-swishing married gay people. And Republicans assure them there are still plenty of cave bears out there to slay.

See Armando at Daily Kos for another perspective on Brooks's column.


9:51 am | link

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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