Tuesday :: May 24, 2005

A True Conservative At Work - FOR ONCE!

by pessimist

I'm beginning to have some real respect for Senator George Voinovich! In spite of all of the recent interferences he's posed to Bu$hCo's plans and the likelihood that Karl Rove has already ordered his voodoo image to use as a pincushion, he continues to exercise that rarest of Congressional rareties - a conscience.

In doing so, he's put himself on the record - and in the crosshairs:

G.O.P. Senator Sends Letter to Colleagues Opposing Bolton

Senator George R. Voinovich attending a hearing on the nomination of John Bolton on May 12.

Text: Letter From Senator Voinovich (May 24, 2005)

A copy of Mr. Voinovich's letter, dated May 23 but not circulated until Tuesday, was provided by a Senate Democratic aide opposed to Mr. Bolton.

In his letter to colleagues, he repeated a statement made earlier this month to the Foreign Relations Committee, in which he questioned whether Mr. Bolton would "have the character, leadership, interpersonal skills, self-discipline, common decency and understanding of the chain of command to lead his team to victory."

"In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation's ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations," Mr. Voinovich wrote.
Mr. Voinovich, a former mayor of Cleveland and governor of Ohio, previously described his decision to oppose Mr. Bolton's nomination as one that was based on conscience. He urged colleagues to "put aside our partisan agenda and let our consciences and our shared commitment to our nation's best interests guide us."

Considering that the Father of Our Country, George Washington, desired this - and said so - I'd love to hear how this goes against the wishes of the Founders!

But I digress.

The letter from Senator George R. Voinovich was sent to all senators, but it was aimed particularly at fellow Republicans in a chamber in which the party holds a 55-44 majority (with one independent). At least five Republicans would have to join Mr. Voinovich in opposing Mr. Bolton if the nomination were to be defeated. It is not clear whether any Republicans might join Mr. Voinovich in breaking ranks with the White House, which has strongly supported Mr. Bolton's nomination despite strong opposition from many critics, including senior officials who worked with Mr. Bolton at the State Department during President Bush's first term.

Among the 10 Republicans on the Senate committee, 3 joined Mr. Voinovich in expressing reservations about Mr. Bolton's nomination. Today, however, spokesmen for two of those Republicans, Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, said their bosses expected to vote in favor of Mr. Bolton when his name came before the full Senate.

A spokeswoman for the third, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the senator had told reporters from her home state that she was "likely to support Bolton's nomination on the floor."

A spokesman for another Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, said this afternoon that Mr. Thune "hasn't made any decisions" about Mr. Bolton's nomination.

Beware the Senate Democratic Moderates

One Democrat, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, has sought to block a Senate vote on Mr. Bolton, saying that she would oppose any vote until the State Department provided documents related to the nomination that the department had so far refused to hand over.

This afternoon, however, a spokeswoman for Ms. Boxer said that she had decided to lift a hold on Mr. Bolton's nomination.

Ms. Boxer's spokeswoman said she would join with Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware in agreeing to a Republican plan to move toward a vote on Mr. Bolton after allowing up to 40 hours of debate.

It appears unlikely that any Senate Democrat will try to use a filibuster to block a vote, Senate Democratic officials said.

It's now clear that the Democrats are afraid of their own shadows, and will believe everything they are told by the Rethuglicons rather than risk these pseudoconservative authoritarian bastards screaming 'BOO!' at them.


A pseudoconservative coup on its last, wretched breath

America’s post-9/11 behavior was not a transformation in, but merely a symptom of, the Bush administration’s fundamental personality. That personality has us cornered because it’s a reckless one -- both authoritarian and pseudoconservative.

Those terms, used in the post-WWII era by philosopher Theodor Adorno and historian Richard Hofstadter, loosely applied to McCarthyite types with a crypto-fascist streak who were much less “American” than those they denounced.

And from their unwitting vantage point of a half-century past, no one portrayed the current administration better than Adorno and Hofstadter -- 9/11 merely helped to put that portrayal in stark relief.

Hofstadter’s pseudoconservative -- so named because of the subject’s radicalism, not traditional conservatism -- was, deep down, the living antithesis of American ideals. He was “a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their destruction” (emphasis added).

This flag-waving, cliché-spouting, dissent-hating patriot both loathed democratic government and endorsed its worst oppressions.
>Again, think McCarthy.

Adorno’s associated authoritarian personality possessed, among others, these traits: a generally hostile frame of mind; an obsession with characterizing groups and individuals in terms of the 'strong' and 'weak'; a fixed adherence to what he holds as 'moral values'; an urge to punish whoever violates those values; and an animosity toward stereotyped 'bleeding hearts'.

Sounds like someone I present below!

Frame them together -- the authoritarian and pseudoconservative -- and you have a creepy psychological snapshot of this country’s leaders and the retrograde population that still supports them.
It’s an oddly antiAmerican-values bunch that, even though in the minority, managed to gain a foothold because so many in the majority just didn’t give a damn soon enough.
We permitted a bloodless, ideological coup.
Consider the above disorders in relation to the Bushies.

* They and their domestic cheerleaders got us into the madness of invasion and occupation, which invited the madness of detainee abuse, because it was the feel-good, muscular thing to do.

* They cooked up a threat and then devoured it. They manipulated democratic consent.

* They showed the world who’s strong and who’s weak (the foreign ninnies not joining us, the critical ninnies at home).

* They exploited 'moral values' as political cover.

And above all they pushed the notion that our actions were the ennoblement of American ideals -- when they decidedly were not.

A Fine Example Which Proves The Premise:

This sign posted in front of Danieltown Baptist Church has sparked debate in Rutherford County [NC] about religious tolerance.
- (Josh Humphries/Daily Courier)

Church sign sparks debate

A sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church, located at 2361 U.S. 221 south reads "The Koran needs to be flushed," and the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the church, is not apologizing for the display. "I believe that it is a statement supporting the word of God and that it (the Bible) is above all and that any other religious book that does not teach Christ as savior and lord as the 66 books of the Bible teaches it, is wrong," said Lovelace. "I knew that whenever we decided to put that sign up that there would be people who wouldn't agree with it, and there would be some that would, and so we just have to stand up for what's right."

Seema Riley, a Muslim, who was born in Pakistan and reared in New York, was one of those upset by the sign. She moved to Rutherford County for the "small town friendly" atmosphere, she said. When she saw the sign on the side of the highway Saturday she felt angered and threatened. "We need a certain degree of tolerance," said Riley. "That sign doesn't really reflect what I think this county is about."

She said that according to Islamic faith, a follower does not even touch the Koran without going through a ritual cleansing. Muslims believe the physical book to be a sacred item that is treated with respect and reverence, much like the image of Jesus in Christianity, according to a report on National Public Radio.

"For someone to put that sign up -- the person just didn't understand -- didn't take into consideration what putting up that sign means," said Riley. "I don't think it should be posted on a sign in public viewing on the highway to create a hostile environment for me."

The appearance of the sign follows a national news story from last week. Newsweek magazine retracted a story reporting that military guards at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet during interrogation of a detainee. The Newsweek story sent Washington in a frenzy and was blamed for igniting Muslim riots and deaths abroad, including a particularly violent outburst in Afghanistan.

"Putting such a sign in a public place is an un-American example of intolerance, of aggressive disrespect for other citizens' deeply held views," said Donald Searing, Burton Craige Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "This is the sort of attitude and action that seriously endangers the liberty which lies at the heart of our democracy. It is also a good reminder that just because one may have the legal right to say something, doing so may not be morally, socially or politically desirable."

The Rev. Billy Honeycutt, of the Green River Baptist Association said that he hopes that those who see the sign keep tolerance in mind.

"Respecting religion is important and respecting other people is important," said Honeycutt.
"Hopefully, a lot of people will have that thought when they see the sign."

Following the religious controversy at a church in Waynesville where several members were asked to leave in what was termed a dispute over politics, several groups threatened to boycott the entire town due to the actions of one preacher.

Director of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Bill Hall said he does not think that the Danieltown sign will have a negative impact on the county's tourism or economic vitality. "It is unfortunate that things like that happen and it certainly doesn't represent Rutherford County," said Hall. "I think that most people will understand that that is not a common attitude in this community."

Somehow, I desire to be convinced.

N.C. pastor stands by sign saying Quran should be flushed

The Rev. Creighton Lovelace of Danieltown Baptist Church said he expected the sign in front of his 55-member church to also stir anger in some people. "If we stand for what is right and for God's word and for Christianity then the world is going to condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint I said, 'Well somebody's mad, somebody's offended, so we must be doing something right,'" Lovelace said. "I believe that it is a statement supporting the word of God and that it (the Bible) is above all and that any other religious book that does not teach Christ as savior and lord as the 66 books of the Bible teaches it, is wrong."

So is allowing that curmudgeon Bolton loose in the world community!

Senator Voinovich has a point when he says "we cannot afford to put at risk our nation's ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations". But then in addition to having a conscience and a desire to do what is right for the nation, he obviously can read:

Guantánamo Comes to Define U.S. to Muslims

For many Muslims, Guantánamo stands as a confirmation of the low regard in which they believe the United States holds them. "The cages, the orange suits, the shackles - it's as if they're dealing with something that's like a germ they don't want to touch," said Daoud Kuttab, director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah, in the West Bank. "That's the nastiness of it."

The Bush administration's response to the Newsweek article - a general condemnation of prison abuses, coupled with an attack on the magazine - apparently did little to allay the concerns of many Muslims. Then on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a report detailing the many complaints from detainees at Guantánamo about desecrations of the Koran.

For many non-Muslims, regardless of their feelings toward the United States, [this] has emerged as a symbol of American hypocrisy. In India, a secular country by law whose people and government are growing increasingly close to the United States, a cartoon appeared in Midday, an afternoon tabloid, on Friday showing a panic-stricken Uncle Sam flushing copies of Newsweek magazine down a toilet.

To the cartoonist, Hemant Morparia, it appeared as though the Bush administration's answer to the problem was to bury the truth.

"People suspect American intentions," Mr. Morparia, a Mumbai-based radiologist who doubles as a cartoonist, said. "It has nothing to do with being Muslim."
On many Arab streets, there was as much conspiracy seen in the retraction of the Newsweek story as in the story itself. "People already expect the U.S. to deny it, because it already has no credibility in the region," said Mustafa al-Ani, director of the Security and Terrorism Studies Program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "So the initial story will have an impact, and the response simply will not."

Or as a Jordanian pharmacist, Farouk Shoubaki, said of the original report, "It is something the Americans would do."

As Mr. Shoubaki's remark reflects, Guantánamo offers disconcerting testimony that for many Muslims, the America they used to admire has sunk to the level of their own repressive governments.

Najam Sethi, editor of The Daily Times, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan, said the Guantánamo accusations were seen in his country as 'further proof' of hypocrisy and anti-Islamic sentiment in the government of the United States. To many, he said, it was taken "as evidence of how America and the West makes the war against terrorism synonymous with the war against Islam."

"Everyone is focused on the desecration of the Koran and attempts to hurt the feelings of Muslims," he said. "The tenor of the debate is acquiring 'civilizational' dimensions."

Even a former Afghan commander, Abdul Khaliq, who said he was happy to see captured Taliban members sent to Guantánamo, is now upset by the stories of sexual abuse and insults to Islam reportedly perpetrated there.

"The Americans were good people before," said Mr. Khaliq, who now works on a road construction project. "Definitely, people are changing their minds towards the Americans."
In a country like Pakistan, the issue is especially vivid because Guantánamo prisoners who have been released are often interviewed by a local news organizations. As far back as November 2003, a television talk show, modeled after The O'Reilly Factor, featured an interview with Mohammad Sagheer, the first Pakistani to be released from Guantánamo.

As recently as Friday, an Urdu-language television talk show taped interviews with two ex-prisoners who said they witnessed the desecration of the Koran there. The latest issue of Newsline, a Karachi-based magazine, featured a story titled, "Back from Camp," which chronicled the story of a former prisoner, Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, a poet who pleaded for the Americans to return his writing.

"These are issues that sink into people's minds," said Samina Ahmed, the Pakistani representative of the Brussels-based research and advocacy organization, International Crisis Group. "Their religion is being demeaned in the context of the war on terror. That's an issue the U.S. is going to have to address."

In Britain, Guantánamo has entered the political lexicon along with Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad as an emblem of American injustice and abuse. During the London marathon in April this year, David Nicholl, a neurologist, ran the race in an orange jumpsuit to protest the detention of five former British residents at Guantánamo.

"We are all against terrorism but we are not obliged to close our eyes to the excesses of our allies," Chris Mullin, a former British Foreign Office minister told Parliament on Wednesday.
In India, one human rights advocate who routinely takes the Indian military to task for its alleged abuses against insurgents in Kashmir and the northeast, said the United States stance on things like torture and interrogation of suspects at Guantánamo signaled what he called "a human rights disaster" for everyone.

On Friday afternoon in an Islamabad bookshop, Maheen Asif, 33, leafed through a women's magazine, and paused for only a moment when asked for her impression of Guantánamo Bay.

"Torture," she said, as her daughters, 8 and 5, scampered through the stalls. "The first word that comes to my mind is 'torture' - a place where Americans lock up and torture Muslims in the name of terrorism."
Accounts of abuses at the actual American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, including Newsweekmagazine's now-retracted article on the desecration of the Koran, ricochet around the world, instilling ideas about American power and justice, and sowing distrust of the United States. Even more than the written accounts are the images that flash on television screens throughout the Muslim world: caged men, in orange prison jumpsuits, on their knees. On Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, two satellite networks, images of the prisoners appear in station promos.

In one of Pakistan's most exclusive private schools for boys, the annual play this year was Guantánamo, a docudrama based on testimonies of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, the United States naval base in Cuba. The cast was made up of students between 16 and 18 years old, each playing the role of a prisoner being held on suspicion of terrorism. To deepen their understanding of their characters, the boys pored through articles in Pakistani newspapers, studied the international press and surfed Web sites, including one that described itself as a nonsectarian Islamic human rights portal and is called cageprisoners.com.

It didn't matter that the boys at the Lahore Grammar School, an elite academy that has sent many of its graduates to study in American universities, lived in a world quite removed from that known by most prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The more they explored, the more the play resonated, the director of the school's production, Omair Rana, recalled Friday in a telephone interview. The detainees were Muslim, many were Pakistani and one had been arrested in Islamabad, the country's capital. "It was something we all could relate to," Mr. Rana said of Guantánamo, a play created 'from spoken evidence' by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, a Briton and a South African, that was staged in London and in New York last year. "All that seemed very relevant, very nearby - in fact, too close for comfort."

In Europe, accusations of abuse at Guantánamo, as much as the war in Iraq, have become a symbol of what many see as America's dangerous drift away from the ideals that made it a moral beacon in the post-World War II era. There is a persistent and uneasy sense that the United States fundamentally changed after September 11, and not for the better.

"The simple truth is that America's leaders have constructed at Guantánamo Bay a legal monster," the French daily, Le Monde, said in a January editorial.

Cue the peasants with the torches and pitchforks!

Ah, America! We hardly knew ye!


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