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Terror and Liberalism

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria


Polyarchy by Robert Dahl

The Nazi Seizure of Power

The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen

Terror and Liberalism

Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

In Association with

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck



Down He Goes

The recent Washington Post/ABC News poll:

"Bush's overall job approval rating dropped to 59 percent, down nine points in the past 18 days. That decline exactly mirrored the slide in public support for Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, which now stands at 58 percent.

"And for the first time, slightly more than half the country -- 52 percent -- believes there has been an "unacceptable" level of U.S. casualties in Iraq, up eight points in less than three weeks."

The truth is making the ship sink.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 7:35:00 PM

Saturday, July 12, 2003  


Economic Fudgery

But it doesn't stop there. The triumph of ideology over facts in the Bush administration is not a uniquely war-related phenomenon. As compiled by Russ Baker at Slate, the administration has gone much further than any other administration to paint over economic data that shows it in a bad light.

"Of course every administration likes to trumpet its good news and hide its bad, but what's remarkable about the Bush team is its willingness to stifle data that had been widely released and to politicize data that used to be nonpartisan."

The examples though, are what really show the extent to which the Bush administration goes to to misrepresent the truth.

"The administration muzzles routine economic information that's unfavorable. Last year, for example, the administration stopped issuing a monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report, known as the Mass Layoff Statistics program, that tracked factory closings throughout the country. The cancellation was made known on Christmas Eve in a footnote to the department's final report—a document that revealed 2,150 mass layoffs in November, cashiering nearly a quarter-million workers. The administration claimed the report was a victim of budget cuts."

However, as the article notes, as soon as the Washington Post discovered this "victim of budget cuts," the report was reinstated. If it were really a budget issue, it would be logical that no amount of investigative reporting could rejuvenate such a report. All that really happened though, was that the Bush administration got caught in a lie and had to fess up (something they seem unable to do on the foreign policy front).

Read the whole article. Ideology truly defines the activities of this administration. The facts be damned, this president knows his own truth.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 3:17:00 PM


Truth Speaks

As the potential scandal about uranium from Niger develops and progresses, it is becoming apparent that the ultimate problem within the administration, and its whole basis for going to war, was that it horrifically misunderstood the golden rule of politics and intelligence. Instead of seeking to build ideology on the facts - the intelligence reports by the CIA and State Department - this administration sought to define the facts based on its ideology. It searched for only the facts that supported its position and not for all the details that would provide for the whole story.

The administration had its heart set on taking on Iraq more than a year before military action began. It would not rest, it would not cease until fear of uncorroborated and sketchy facts had convinced the majority of Americans not only that Saddam was just months away from unleashing a mushroom cloud on Tel Aviv or Washington, DC, but also that he was in cahoots with Al-Qaeda! The administration played on the September 11 fears of Americans and played their cards so well that at the end of the day a majority of the country believed Saddam was responsible for September 11.

Seeing the gullibility of the public, the administration ran with their ideology which seemed to be selling. It used the intelligence that it wanted and left out the rest. Senior officials gave dark and fearful interviews of how imminent the threat posed by Iraq was. It was a story that just kept selling because the public had fallen into intellectual paralysis after September 11. Fear was dominating the storyline of the American conscience and the administration was its author. If half truths could fool the public, why tell the whole story?

But not anymore. Now the press has stopped surrendering its duty to tell the facts, and has stood up to the conservative critics who have kept them quiet through accusations of liberal biases. Suddenly half truths won't cut it. Ideology won't be enough to define the critical decision to go to war or not. Facts will.

The truth will come out. It may take time against the sandbagging of an administration that has defined a patriot as someone who lives in fear and does as he's told, but it will come out. The truth is only a paper trail away. Let's find it. America deserves the truth.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 2:21:00 PM


The Definition Of "Is"

From CBS News (via Kevin Drum):

"Senior administration officials tell CBS News the President’s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address -- despite objections from the CIA.

"CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

"The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: "Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate."

Does that sound honest at all? It sounds like a circle of logic, with the Brits believing us because we're the superpower who leads the way, while we looked to them for claims that we could stack our betting chips on that we knew we couldn't support on our own. This is not how America should go about its business, and especially when dealing with the matter of war.

I'm amazed at the lack of foresight that Bush administration officials had for what would happen at this point. Did they think no one would notice the lack of weapons? Did they think no one would see after all was said and done that 80% of what was said pre-war was nothing more than fear-mongering? This is big, and will only get bigger as its revealed.

Oh, and speaking of, the new poll is up on what to name this whole mess. Go vote!

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 12:59:00 AM

Friday, July 11, 2003  


Affirming The Wrong Action

My Affirmative Action poll managed only 14 votes. Yet once again it seems that it honestly depicts the opinions of most Americans. It shows a very close split in opinions on this issue with a slight majority giving Affirmative Action a favorable vote.

Personally I was a bit torn, even by my own answer choices. I do tend to see the current implementation of Affirmative Action, as a racial balancing tool, as unjust. Especially considering the ends that the policy seeks, it makes me uncomfortable to support a program that is a de facto policy against that end.

Yes, society is unequal due to centuries of injustice due to slavery and discrimination, but one wrong doesn't deserve another. Society is still unequal, but it worries me that the Court is willing to act in a way that it openly acknowledges will be completely wrong in 25 years. That's not the purpose of our high court. I'm not looking to start an argument on the merits of judicial activism, for my knowledge of the pros and cons is quite limited. But I don't believe that the Court should be in the business of passing decisions that they know won't be respected years down the road.

On the actual question of Affirmative Action, what bothers me most about the concept of it is the very example that many conservatives point to when they oppose it: while an affluent upper-middle class black student can gain points due only to his skin color, a rural poor white student from a trailer park will be denied the same opportunity. Some advocates of Affirmative Action even defend this example by saying that in the long run the white student will have more built-in advantages that the black student will always lack. I simply don't buy that.

Continuing with the example, if the white student is denied entrance into that particular college and his background is nothing stellar, his options are still quite limited. Meanwhile the black student still has his affluent upbringing to fall back on. While he may face some glass ceilings along the way, his wealth and position will always give him the means to succeed. Face it, our society is based on the success of the wealthy. While something ridiculous percentage of high school kids believe that they will be millionaires in their lifetime, very few actually will be. America is a nation of tremendously hopeful people, but with far fewer opportunities for climbing the social ladder than many realize.

Which brings me to my alternative: Instead of race being the determining factor in admissions preferences, with the assumption being that blacks and other minorities are always the economically poor beneficiaries, we should flip it. Instead of racial preferences with tacit economic assumptions, we should have Economic Affirmative Action which, to the continued benefit of racial minority groups, would still benefit them 90% of the time. An economic basis would give admissions counselors a fair means of bringing up disadvantaged groups of applicants. While minorities may feel short-changed by this difference, only those who don't deserve the extra bump, those who have already "made it," would suffer from the change.

Taking race out of the equation would go a long way to heal the underlying wounds of past discrimination. As one of my progressive Republican friends (who's opinion I respect quite a bit, despite his frequent absent-mindedness) told me recently, "It's as if our parent's generation still feels the guilt of the civil rights era when racial tensions were solidified in everyone's minds. But now those feelings of guilt just throw our generation, which doesn't tend to see the racial divisions as strongly, into years of continued discrimination." This made a lot of sense to me. The generation that grew up with the civil rights era and all its racial clashes now controls the policymaking at unversities across the country and they think the only acceptable way to correct their personal wounds is by altering the nature of the next generation, my generation.

Our society needs to alter its focus and look at the real motivations for success and failure in our time. Affirmative Action programs still rely on the social understandings of decades ago. It's time to change that.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 11:54:00 PM

Thursday, July 10, 2003  


Call It Like It Is

Terry Neal's column today in the Post underscores my fundamental hesitation to go all out in support of the humanitarian argument for war that the Bush administration proposes to us now, after the fact. Now that the weapons argument is showing its lack of credibility, Bush's supporters simply point to the mass graves to justify their war. Fine. That would be great, except they shouldn't expect to have it both ways. Either the war was about stopping an oppressive dictator, in which case our hit list should include a good chunk of the world, or the argument is bogus. So which is it?

Right now Bush is trying to make it look like it was the former with his rhetoric about getting involved in Liberia. That's great, and I applaud his stance on that issue, even if it did take some substantial nudging to get him to admit Africa even exists on America's political radar.

Unfortunately though, his face save attempt will be futile. Liberia won't be a full-fledged war, it will be an international peacekeeping operation with very few Americans even involved. It's what he should have been doing all along, but not a way to prove that Iraq was a stroke of benevolence.

"[T]he argument that Hussein's human rights record alone justifies the war in Iraq would establish yet a new foreign policy doctrine for the U.S., one that could keep the nation busy with wars for years to come, considering how full the world is of cruel dictators. There's Syria, Iran and China, of course, but we'll also have to add some of our allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, to the list."

If our new policy is one of humanitarian intervention, with a long-term benefit of political stability, I'm all for it. But invading a country on false pretenses and trying to smooth it all over with the tales of horrific genocide later, that's not something the American people should stand for. Either we are a benevolent superpower bent on the betterment of all people, or we're just covering for our mistakes. With this administration that choice has become perfectly clear, and unfortunately for the people of Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan, it's not the choice that benefits them.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 9:40:00 PM

Wednesday, July 09, 2003  


Ari Strikes Again

And he said it with a straight face:

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."


(via Atrios)

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:47:00 PM


Dubious Irresponsibility

I hadn't been following Amy Sullivan's Political Aims much lately, but I certainly should have been. It's brilliant and a joy to read. She hits the nail on the head about the standoff-ish attitude of the Bush administration when answering any question, but in particular questions about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"[T]he message from the Bush administration in the months leading up to war was, Hey, trust us -- we've seen the intelligence and we can't show it to you, but just trust us that it's pretty serious. Which is apparently a corollary to the doctrine of preemption: We get to invade whoever we want, whenever we want, and we don't have to prove to anyone that it was necessary."

I don't want to sound like the pathetic John Kerry here, but I happened to make the mistake of believing that when all was said and bombed that we would find these massive quantities of mustard gas, plutonium and the like waiting for us just as Dick Cheney said. It's looking like nothing of the sort will present itself in Iraq, unless of course Karl Rove has some early-fall-of-2004 gimmicks up his deceitful sleeve ("Hey look Howard Dean! There's the sarin after all! We just captured Saddam/Osama! Good luck with that anti-war stance!").

But assuming that the lack of weapons of mass destruction remains, where does the blame fall? Amy Sullivan thinks the adminstration is at a dead end and is now running for the closest exit.

"I think they're using the rhetorical equivalent of "your shoelaces are untied! [run like hell]." It's not a terribly sophisticated strategy, mostly because this administration assumes its actions should be accepted without question."

And that's the problem in the end, isn't it? This administration assumes that no one will ask the next question, that no one will dig a little deeper into its dubious claims, that all will be accepted on face value.

When it comes to petty things (which shouldn't be anything when you're the President of the United States) this type of behavior can be brushed off. But when the issue at hand is whether to enter into war such brash dismissiveness and inflation of one's own opinions needs to be checked and rechecked against the facts that tell the story. Such is the case with Bush's unsubstantiated State of the Union claim that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium from the African nation of Niger.

"[A]s any fact-checker can tell you (except, perhaps, Ann Coulter's), the most basic thing you do with an important piece of information is double-check it. And if it's in the State of the Union address, you quintiple-check it. And if it's, oh, the lynch-pin of your justification for going to war, then you gazillion-times-with-cherries-and-sprinkles-on-top-check it. It may well be true that the administration has only recently learned that the report of a Niger uranium buy was false. But at the very least, say several intelligence sources, the initial report was "sketchy." You don't take a sketchy claim and throw it in the State of the Union just because you wish it was true."

It turns out now that much of the argument for war - the one that the administration put forth, not the humanitarian one that it leans on now - was a mere wish and hope. After September 11 it was clear that Bush became a "better safe than sorry" kind of guy, but to start wars based on admittedly sketchy or possibly even knowingly false reports is just plain dishonest, or dare I say it, lying.

Either way our nation is being led by irresponsible leaders and the sooner America realizes it, the sooner the return to prosperity can begin.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:12:00 PM


Going For Broke

In a brilliant tactical grab for real power, Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas made his puppet masters in the PLO show their cards. By submitting his resignation, Abbas effectively forced Arafat and his cronies to either show to the world that they had been running the show all along, or free Abbas up to make lasting peace with Israel. By declining his resignation letter, Abbas forced his handlers to acknowledge his true authority as Prime Minister.

"Accepting the resignation meant removing Israel's chosen partner for peace, almost certainly ensuring a swift return to the violent uprising.

"Declining it, on the other hand, meant a tacit vote of confidence for the Abbas method of peacemaking, a process that's enraged Arafat's inner circle since those first promises at the Aqaba peace summit one month ago."

Hopefully this will allow Abbas to fully step up to an equal footing in the eyes of Palestinians with the terrorist-sponsoring Arafat. He is their only chance now.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 12:44:00 PM


Savage Bigotry

Right-wing professional bigot Michael Savage was fired by MSNBC on monday for his astoundingly homophobic remarks during his Weekly Rant Against Liberals, also known as The Savage Nation on MSNBC. Here's what he said:

SAVAGE: "Alright, so you're one of those sodomists? Are you a sodomite?"

CALLER: "Yes, I am."

SAVAGE: "Oh, you're one of the sodomites! You should only get AIDS and die, you pig! How's that? [off-screen crew can be heard shouting "Whoa!"] Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig? You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage? You got nothing to do today? Go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis. OK, do we have another nice caller here who's busy because he didn't have a nice night in the bathhouse and is angry at me today? Huh? Get me another one, put another sodomite on! No more calls? I don't care. Let's go to the next scene. I don't care about these bums, they mean nothing to me. They're all sausages."

Having actually watched this portion of the show when it aired, I was startled that he could get away with saying something that offensive. Both my girlfriend and I were amazed that someone with such hateful views could get a television show on a prominent network like MSNBC. It wasn't the first time Savage had said something this hateful, for I had seen previous shows in which he had lambasted nearly every other minority group (though apparently not harsh enough to warrant his firing), but I am glad to see that MSNBC finally threw him off the air.

A person with such hateful views does not belong as a feature on a prominent cable network. Partisanship opining may get ratings, but ignorant bigotry has no place in such public channels of discourse.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 10:06:00 PM

Tuesday, July 08, 2003