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andee's world: September 2004

andee's world

Hello and welcome to my blog. This space will be devoted to opinions, observations, lists, articles and whatever else I feel like posting. Subjects will include music, human nature, politics, life in NYC, etc. If I paste someone else's writing up here, it is because the author said something way better than I ever could. By the way, I don't claim to be a particularly smart guy; I'm just a musician with some opinions. If you disagree with me, that's cool -- but then, you're probably wrong.

Monday, September 20, 2004

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore --by Garrison Keillor

September 19th, 2004 8:46 pm
We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore
by Garrison Keillor / In These Times

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I Think We Agree More Than You'll Admit

I suspect that most Republicans know, deep inside, that their president is doing a horrible job. But they won't own up to it, because, in the obligatory "us vs. them" style of hyper-partisanized political discourse that rules this country, it is far more important to win the argument for your party than to speak your mind.

I am fascinated by Republicans' insistence on defending George W. Bush. I am flummoxed by their refusal to admit that the man can do any wrong. It is ridiculous. If you are paying attention at all, you know he's blowing it for the United States. He's a terrible president and a shitty person; inarticulate, wasteful, arrogant and lazy. And really pretty dumb.

I know alot of you conservatives, and I know you know Bush is bad news. Furthermore, I know you don't agree with him -- you do not like to waste money, you do not hate gays, you do not believe in cutting funding for education, you do not think abortion doctors are murderers, you do not want the Bible written into the constitution, you are not happy with the abysmal health care situation in this country, etc etc. But the important thing, it seems, is to make sure you don't give an inch to "the liberals." So you continue to stand up for this man, even though you know he is an incompetent boob who is doing terrible things to this country. Defend your party first, and your personal convictions second.

"Some call you the elite; I call you my base!"
The economy is in a tailspin and you know damn well it's not doing anything for you, unless you are among the richest 20% in the country (who reap 70% of the benefits of Bush's tax cuts -- while only 1% of the tax cuts have gone to the poorest 20%). He managed to turn the budget surplus of $230 Billion that he started with (thank you Bill Clinton) at the beginning of his term into a budget deficit of $500 Billion. He will end his term as the first president to lose jobs (and millions of them) since the Great Depression. But his rich buddies will come out smelling like a rose (that is, financially speaking...of course they don't really smell good).

A "Miscalculation"
The war in Iraq. No matter where you stand on this, you have to allow that, at the very least, the operation was a misguided, convoluted, poorly planned effort with, sadly, catastrophic consequences. And what about all the deception? You weren't rooked into thinking Hussein was responsible for 9/11, were you? Or did you buy into the phony "humanitarian" vibe they tried to sell us in the heroic "Operation Iraqi Freedom" advertising? Do you appreciate being lied and condescended to?

As for the Weapons of Mass Destruction that failed to appear, well, the President does admit that he "miscalculated." Do you really believe that 1,000 dead Americans (oh, and 10,000 dead Iraqis) was worth this "miscalculation"? I'll bet you don't.

The Good Ol' Boy Network
What about the the billions of taxpayers' dollars he's wasting on absurd no-bid contracts with firms run by close friends of his administration to "rebuild" Iraq? Halliburton has been caught grossly overcharging for everything; but what can be done? -- no one else got to bid for the contract. Ch-ching! for Bush and Cheney's cronies and fuck you! taxpayers. Even if you're one of those "socially liberal and fiscally conservative" Republicans, you can't defend this nonsense. It is beyond wasteful.

Gay Marriage -- "Deeply Troubling"
I know you. You're not a fundamentalist bigot homophobe. So how in the world can you go along with Bush's stance on gay marriage? We are supposed to be a progressive country. We are supposed to be a free country. Don't you find it a little regressive that the President of the United States, in the year 2004, is trying to fight gay rights? Is he trying to drag us back to the Stone Age?!

"Subliminable" Messages
I don't know anyone who speaks as badly as our president. Seriously. Every person I know is more articulate than the most powerful man in the Free World. Dubya mangles the English language with swaggering, clueless aplomb. He uses words no one has ever heard before. His off-the-script statements are hilariously redundant, confoundingly illogical, or worse. He mixes metaphors like nobody's business. When Bush steps in front of a microphone to field questions from journalists, he reminds me of me when I was in 10th grade English class, trying to bullshit my way through a synopsis of a book I never read. Except I did a better job, even then.

Do I have to quote some examples of Bush's verbal ineptitude? I don't think so. We are all quite aware of it, and we are all very, very embarrassed.


I really think that alot of the George W apologists are more progressive-minded than they are appear in an argument. But to concede to the Democrats in any small way is out of the question -- never let them win!!

I openly admit that John Kerry is flawed. I'm not voting for the guy because I think he's a stellar candidate; I will vote for him out of desperation. It makes me mad that the Democrats can't produce a candidate who is at least as compelling as most of my more politically astute friends. I am not speaking as a "Democrat" or a "liberal," just as a citizen. I was not the biggest fan of Clinton (although, in retrospect, in these dark times, I have to say I miss the guy). Can't we agree that anyone who runs for public office is fucked? Can't the right-wingers acknowledge the fact that Bush is a rotten leader? Can't we call it like we see it? Political discourse should be about finding the truth, not winning the debate for your team. We're so petty.

I think alot of Republicans are born into their partisanship, the same way you're born into a religious faith. Some people, as they become adults, start to question the things they were taught by their parents. Some defect. Some find new faiths, different ideologies. And some stay in the fold -- and these are the ones who are the most impenetrable, because at no time in their lives have they ever considered a different point of view. It's an obtuse stubbornness borne out of pride and tradition. Granted, nobody wants to be told he's been wrong his whole life, but face it: sometimes you just are.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Rock Critics Are Going to Hell

If you know me at all, you know that I abhor rock critics. In fact, I don't have much use for anyone who considers "criticism" to be an honorable vocation, but there is no species more vile, more unctuous, more pretentious or more useless than the rock critic. There isn't a lower form of dialogue than rock criticism. Rock criticism is contemptuous, lazy, venomous, uninformed and destructive. Not to mention bad writing.

Critics are unqualified, bitter, sexually frustrated, gutless, tragically insecure cretins who undoubtedly tried actually playing music at some point in their lives and realized that it was way too hard. It was much easier, they realized, to sit in comfortable anonymity behind a word processor taking cheapshots at the people who are actually making music than to try to make music themselves.

They were right, of course. Criticizing is so easy, anyone can do it!

Now, look at me, I have succumbed to hyperbole. I sound like Chuck Eddy waxing smug n' pompous on the latest Metallica record. Of course, I'm exaggerating a bit. There are a few people out there who are writing some insightful, impassioned and informative stuff about rock music. There are some people who write about music because they really care about it.

Tris McCall is an example ( Tris is not only an eloquent, enthusiastic and extremely well-informed writer, but he is a musician. A good one. He actually knows something about music. He is a major, major fan -- and his writing is fair, spirited and carefully considered. Plus, he said really nice stuff about my band.

Another place where you can find some good rock writing is the All Music Guide ( In fact, you're gonna freak when you hear me say this but I wrote for AMG for a couple years. Yeah, me -- the big critic hater. Contributed about 300 reviews (and some bios) to that site. You're probably shouting "hypocrite!" by now, but stay with me for a minute. AMG is, first and foremost, a resource -- and the writing is, above all else, informative. The website is a consumer guide, not a place for critic types to spew vitriol (believe me, they actually have rules about this). Which, of course, is why I love the site.

I was a fan of AMG for some time before I thought about working for them. As a contributor, I was thrilled to write about many of my favorite artists -- from a fan's point of view. I picked all the albums I wrote about. I did not review any music that I didn't personally like or respect. This is an important point, so I'll repeat it: I did not review any music that I didn't personally like or respect.

And there are other places, of course, where you can read some fair, sincere and helpful rock writing. My very good friend David Adler ( writes enthusiastic and insightful music reviews for the New Republic Online, the New York Times and the aforementioned AMG, and never prints a word that's not carefully chosen. He's not out to damage people or throw careless negativity around.

But I'm not talking about people like Dave here. The stuff that raises my ire -- and the reason for this post -- is the jaded, mean-spirited, too-cool-for-you crap you will find between the covers of Spin Magazine, the Village Voice, Rolling Stone or Time Out New York. And unfortunately, these are the outlets that reach the most people.

Remember in 1996 when Rolling Stone declared Weezer's "Pinkerton" to be the "Worst Album of the Year"? That's right, of all the bands on the planet Earth who made albums in the calendar year 1996, Weezer -- you know, the guys who wrote "Buddy Holly" and "Hash Pipe" -- had apparently made the very worst one of all. This, according to the geniuses as Rolling Stone.

Not surprisingly, "Pinkerton" stopped selling after that particular issue of RS hit the stands. Alot of people read Rolling Stone, and the editors know it -- they know how much power they weild. And when those assholes don't like you, they don't just insult your work -- they try to make you go away.

Which, luckily didn't work, in Weezer's case. Years after its release and initial dismissal by the press, "Pinkerton" was rediscovered by up-and-coming pop-punkers. It has since become nothing short of the Holy Grail for the emo set. It is a much-loved and respected album. See, somehow, somebody went back and listened to the Weezer record even after Rolling Stone slammed it. Some people made up their own minds about the music instead of letting some malicious, shadowy writer do it for them. Kudos to you, emo rockers everywhere! Now, stop whining please!

Speaking of malicious. Where do I even start with the Village Voice and Time Out NY? The hacks employed by these local rags are responsible for some of the most cynical, contemptuous writing you will find anywhere. The tone of their reviews runs the gamut from A (smirking dismissal) to B (flat-out hostility).

Being a person who is occasionally interested in what's going on in NYC musically, I have found myself consulting these publications from time to time. You know, to see what's going on. Then I accidentally read a blurb. Then I get mad.

One of the Voice guys wrote this goodie in late 2002 about respected electronic music maven John Digweed:

"I hate to admit it, but I like John Digweed. I mean, like many serious electronic enthusiasts, I usually steer clear of any DJ who has appeared in a movie or on television, more than once..."

Hah?! Did I just read that?!

Oh yes, what a SERIOUS music enthusiast this is, who uses such careful criteria to decide whether something is valuable or not. I mean, can you imagine? Listening to a DJ who's been on tv more than once, what's the point? It's hardly cool anymore, is it? The music is no longer worth anything, because too many people have heard it, and what would your small-minded, cred-obsessed friends say if they knew you were listening to such mainstream, sellout product?

I'm sure Mr. Digweed is tremendously grateful to have earned the grudging ("I hate to admit it but...") approval of this small, small person who sits at a desk all day.

Another Voice dweeb wrote a beauty about Brazilian thrash metal veterans Sepultura a few years ago. I am paraphrasing, but the gist of it was this:

"Death metal sounds like guys throwing up. But Sepultura are considered 'innovators' in the genre because they incorporate Brazilian percussion and rhythms into their music -- so they sound like guys throwing up to Brazilian rhythms."

Aren't those Voice writers just the living end? Aren't they something else?

Not only does this "writer" know nothing about the band he's talking about (barring whatever references he cribbed from their press release), but he clearly has no respect for the entire genre. So why did he write the review? Was he the really best guy for the job? More importantly, why is this man allowed to draw oxygen?

Another favorite of mine comes from the fine folks at Time Out New York. When it comes to pure spite and laziness, you can't beat the scribes of TONY. My friends in the fine band 2 Skinnee J's had an upcoming show in NYC and TONY "previewed" it thusly:

"2 Skinnee J's?...please, no."

I know, you're probably saying -- "That's not even a full sentence! Where's the rest of the review?!" Nutty, huh? But that's the whole review right there. I guess they're not getting paid by the word over at TONY. Or perhaps they are just champions of brevity. Either way, you have to admire the way the author really gives you a sense of what the band is all about, just in case, you know, you were curious. If I didn't know anything about the J's before reading that, I'd sure feel alot more informed afterward.

The Skinnee Js were a great band and they worked their asses off for years, touring and making records. And this piece of shit Macintosh jockey couldn't find the time to give them more than two words.

Which brings me to a crucial point -- the problem about so much rock writing is simply this: it's not about the music, it's about the author. The rock review is a way for the frustrated music critic to air his neuroses, insecurities, and, most of all, his bitterness. What does the reader get out of it? Mainly, a headache.

Occasionally, however, you will read a review that kinda seems positive, but, you can't really tell if the guy's being for real or not. This is because, in the world of rock critics, nothing can be praised in earnest. Being sincere doesn't go along with the above-it-all detachment that you're supposed to display when you're a critic. Therefore, any and all critical praise must come wrapped in impenetrable layers of irony, so there's no real way of knowing if the guy really digs what he's writing about or whether he's just having a laugh. You see? That way, he's covered either way -- since he is so utterly paralyzed by the fickle notions of "cred" and "hipness," the ironic ambiguity gives him a way out, should there be a shift in tastes among his blase downtown friends.

I teach guitar lessons for a living. Once, I had a student who was a Voice critic (I decided to take her on anyway). I was not surprised to find that she knew absolutely nothing about music. Which is fine -- that's why she wanted to take lessons, right? Still, the fact remained: she did not know squat about music. And she was a professional critic.

Sometimes, at the end of our lessons, she would tell me what records she was reviewing that week. She would smirkingly mention, for example, that she had written a "very unflattering review" of the latest David Bowie album. Isn't that something? That a person who has no musical qualifications whatsoever would be given the authority (not to mention, have the gall) to criticize David Bowie, one of the greatest artists of our time?! And to be paid for it?!?

Anyway, she didn't last long as a student. After a few lessons, she stopped coming. I guess she realized how much work it really was to learn music.

Critics are the kind of people who, from the safety of the bleacher seats, jeer and throw trash at the bullfighter because they hate themselves for being the kind of cowards who would never get into the ring themselves.

Henry Rollins put it best: "critics are nothing more than professional ants at the picnic." Well spoken, Hank.

Andee's Top 5 Artists Who Were Dismissed by Critics:
1. Led Zeppelin
2. Madonna
3. Motorhead
4. The Cure
5. Bjork

Andee's Top 5 Critics Who Are Going to Hell:
1. Chuck Eddy
2. Robert Christgau
3. Nick Kent
4. Ethan Brown
5. that jerk from Spin who's always on VH-1

Monday, September 13, 2004

Our National Dialogue on Terrorism --by Al Franken

by Al Franken

Why do they hate us?

They hate us because they're evil.

That's it, huh? That's the entire story?

Yes. They're evil. And they hate us because of our freedoms.

They hate us because of our freedoms?

But really because they're evil.

I know they're evil. I was just thinking that maybe if we understood what specifically semmed to trigger the--

Why are you apologizing for the terrorists?

I'm not. They're evil. You have no quarrel there. It's just that maybe if we understoo--

Why are you on the terrorists' side?

I'm not! I hate terrorists. I was just saying we might be able to prevent the next--

Three thousand Americans dead. How can you defend al Qaeda?

Believe me, I was not defending them. What they did was horrific and inexcusable. They're evil. I was just--

Then why are you apologizing for them?

I'm not. I'm trying to say that maybe there are lessons we can--

Why do you hate America?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bush By Numbers --by Graydon Carter

September 4th, 2004 4:13 pm
Bush by numbers: Four years of double standards

By Graydon Carter / Independent

1 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security issued between 20 January 2001 and 10 September 2001 that mentioned al-Qa'ida.

104 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein.

101 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned missile defence.

65 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned weapons of mass destruction.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his three State of the Union addresses.

73 Number of times that Bush mentioned terrorism or terrorists in his three State of the Union addresses.

83 Number of times Bush mentioned Saddam, Iraq, or regime (as in change) in his three State of the Union addresses.

$1m Estimated value of a painting the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, received from Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States and Bush family friend.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Saudi Arabia in his three State of the Union addresses.

1,700 Percentage increase between 2001 and 2002 of Saudi Arabian spending on public relations in the United States.

79 Percentage of the 11 September hijackers who came from Saudi Arabia.

3 Number of 11 September hijackers whose entry visas came through special US-Saudi "Visa Express" programme.

140 Number of Saudis, including members of the Bin Laden family, evacuated from United States almost immediately after 11 September.

14 Number of Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) agents assigned to track down 1,200 known illegal immigrants in the United States from countries where al-Qa'ida is active.

$3m Amount the White House was willing to grant the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 11 September attacks.

$0 Amount approved by George Bush to hire more INS special agents.

$10m Amount Bush cut from the INS's existing terrorism budget.

$50m Amount granted to the commission that looked into the Columbia space shuttle crash.

$5m Amount a 1996 federal commission was given to study legalised gambling.

7 Number of Arabic linguists fired by the US army between mid-August and mid-October 2002 for being gay.

George Bush: Military man

1972 Year that Bush walked away from his pilot duties in the Texas National Guard, Nearly two years before his six-year obligation was up.

$3,500 Reward a group of veterans offered in 2000 for anyone who could confirm Bush's Alabama guard service.

600-700 Number of guardsmen who were in Bush's unit during that period.

0 Number of guardsmen from that period who came forward with information about Bush's guard service.

0 Number of minutes that President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the assistant Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, the former chairman of the Defence Policy Board, Richard Perle, and the White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove ­ the main proponents of the war in Iraq ­served in combat (combined).

0 Number of principal civilian or Pentagon staff members who planned the war who have immediate family members serving in uniform in Iraq.

8 Number of members of the US Senate and House of Representatives who have a child serving in the military.

10 Number of days that the Pentagon spent investigating a soldier who had called the President "a joke" in a letter to the editor of a Newspaper.

46 Percentage increase in sales between 2001 and 2002 of GI Joe figures (children's toys).

Ambitious warrior

2 Number of Nations that George Bush has attacked and taken over since coming into office.

130 Approximate Number of countries (out of a total of 191 recognised by the United Nations) with a US military presence.

43 Percentage of the entire world's military spending that the US spends on defence. (That was in 2002, the year before the invasion of Iraq.)

$401.3bn Proposed military budget for 2004.

Saviour of Iraq

1983 The year in which Donald Rumsfeld, Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East, gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs as a gift.

2.5 Number of hours after Rumsfeld learnt that Osama bin Laden was a suspect in the 11 September attacks that he brought up reasons to "hit" Iraq.

237 Minimum number of misleading statements on Iraq made by top Bush administration officials between 2002 and January 2004, according to the California Representative Henry Waxman.

10m Estimated number of people worldwide who took to the streets on 21 February 2003, in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, the largest simultaneous protest in world history.

$2bn Estimated monthly cost of US military presence in Iraq projected by the White House in April 2003.

$4bn Actual monthly cost of the US military presence in Iraq according to Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld in 2004.

$15m Amount of a contract awarded to an American firm to build a cement factory in Iraq.

$80,000 Amount an Iraqi firm spent (using Saddam's confiscated funds) to build the same factory, after delays prevented the American firm from starting it.

2000 Year that Cheney said his policy as CEO of Halliburton oil services company was "we wouldn't do anything in Iraq".

$4.7bn Total value of contracts awarded to Halliburton in Iraq and Afghanistan.

$680m Estimated value of Iraq reconstruction contracts awarded to Bechtel.

$2.8bn Value of Bechtel Corp contracts in Iraq.

$120bn Amount the war and its aftermath are projected to cost for the 2004 fiscal year.

35 Number of countries to which the United States suspended military assistance after they failed to sign agreements giving Americans immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court.

92 Percentage of Iraq's urban areas with access to potable water in late 2002.

60 Percentage of Iraq's urban areas with access to potable water in late 2003.

55 Percentage of the Iraqi workforce who were unemployed before the war.

80 Percentage of the Iraqi workforce who are unemployed a Year after the war.

0 Number of American combat deaths in Germany after the Nazi surrender in May 1945.

37 Death toll of US soldiers in Iraq in May 2003, the month combat operations "officially" ended.

0 Number of coffins of dead soldiers returning home that the Bush administration has permitted to be photographed.

0 Number of memorial services for the returned dead that Bush has attended since the beginning of the war.

A soldier's best friend

40,000 Number of soldiers in Iraq seven months after start of the war still without Interceptor vests, designed to stop a round from an AK-47.

$60m Estimated cost of outfitting those 40,000 soldiers with Interceptor vests.

62 Percentage of gas masks that army investigators discovered did Not work properly in autumn 2002.

90 Percentage of detectors which give early warning of a biological weapons attack found to be defective.

87 Percentage of Humvees in Iraq not equipped with armour capable of stopping AK-47 rounds and protecting against roadside bombs and landmines at the end of 2003.

Making the country safer

$3.29 Average amount allocated per person Nationwide in the first round of homeland security grants.

$94.40 Amount allocated per person for homeland security in American Samoa.

$36 Amount allocated per person for homeland security in Wyoming, Vice-President Cheney's home state.

$17 Amount allocated per person in New York state.

$5.87 Amount allocated per person in New York City.

$77.92 Amount allocated per person in New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, Bush's alma mater.

76 Percentage of 215 cities surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors in early 2004 that had yet to receive a dime in federal homeland security assistance for their first-response units.

5 Number of major US airports at the beginning of 2004 that the Transportation Security Administration admitted were Not fully screening baggage electronically.

22,600 Number of planes carrying unscreened cargo that fly into New York each month.

5 Estimated Percentage of US air cargo that is screened, including cargo transported on passenger planes.

95 Percentage of foreign goods that arrive in the United States by sea.

2 Percentage of those goods subjected to thorough inspection.

$5.5bn Estimated cost to secure fully US ports over the Next decade.

$0 Amount Bush allocated for port security in 2003.

$46m Amount the Bush administration has budgeted for port security in 2005.

15,000 Number of major chemical facilities in the United States.

100 Number of US chemical plants where a terrorist act could endanger the lives of more than one million people.

0 Number of new drugs or vaccines against "priority pathogens" listed by the Centres for Disease Control that have been developed and introduced since 11 September 2001.

Giving a hand up to the advantaged

$10.9m Average wealth of the members of Bush's original 16-person cabinet.

75 Percentage of Americans unaffected by Bush's sweeping 2003 cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

$42,000 Average savings members of Bush's cabinet received in 2003 as a result of cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

10 Number of fellow members from the Yale secret society Skull and Bones that Bush has named to important positions (including the Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum Jr. and SEC chief Bill Donaldson).

79 Number of Bush's initial 189 appointees who also served in his father's administration.

A man with a lot of friends

$113m Amount of total hard money the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign received, a record.

$11.5m Amount of hard money raised through the Pioneer programme, the controversial fund-raising process created for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. (Participants pledged to raise at least $100,000 by bundling together cheques of up to $1,000 from friends and family. Pioneers were assigned numbers, which were included on all cheques, enabling the campaign to keep track of who raised how much.)

George Bush: Money manager

4.7m Number of bankruptcies that were declared during Bush's first three years in office.

2002 The worst year for major markets since the recession of the 1970s.

$489bn The US trade deficit in 2003, the worst in history for a single year.

$5.6tr Projected national surplus forecast by the end of the decade when Bush took office in 2001.

$7.22tr US national debt by mid-2004.

George Bush: Tax cutter

87 Percentage of American families in April 2004 who say they have felt no benefit from Bush's tax cuts.

39 Percentage of tax cuts that will go to the top 1 per cent of American families when fully phased in.

49 Percentage of Americans in April 2004 who found that their taxes had actually gone up since Bush took office.

88 Percentage of American families who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes.

$30,858 Amount Bush himself saved in taxes in 2003.

Employment tsar

9.3m Number of US unemployed in April 2004.

2.3m Number of Americans who lost their jobs during first three Years of the Bush administration.

22m Number of jobs gained during Clinton's eight years in office.

Friend of the poor

34.6m Number of Americans living below the poverty line (1 in 8 of the population).

6.8m Number of people in the workforce but still classified as poor.

35m Number of Americans that the government defines as "food insecure," in other words, hungry.

$300m Amount cut from the federal programme that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes.

40 Percentage of wealth in the United States held by the richest 1 per cent of the population.

18 Percentage of wealth in Britain held by the richest 1e per cent of the population.

George Bush And his special friend

$60bn Loss to Enron stockholders, following the largest bankruptcy in US history.

$205m Amount Enron CEO Kenneth Lay earned from stock option profits over a four-year period.

$101m Amount Lay made from selling his Enron shares just before the company went bankrupt.

$59,339 Amount the Bush campaign reimbursed Enron for 14 trips on its corporate jet during the 2000 campaign.

30 Length of time in months between Enron's collapse and Lay (whom the President called "Kenny Boy") still not being charged with a crime.

George Bush: Lawman

15 Average number of minutes Bush spent reviewing capital punishment cases while governor of Texas.

46 Percentage of Republican federal judges when Bush came to office.

57 Percentage of Republican federal judges after three years of the Bush administration.

33 Percentage of the $15bn Bush pledged to fight Aids in Africa that must go to abstinence-only programmes.

The Civil libertarian

680 Number of suspected al-Qa'ida members that the United States admits are detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

42 Number of nationalities of those detainees at Guantanamo.

22 Number of hours prisoners were handcuffed, shackled, and made to wear surgical masks, earmuffs, and blindfolds during their flight to Guantanamo.

32 Number of confirmed suicide attempts by Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

24 Number of prisoners in mid-2003 being monitored by psychiatrists in Guantanamo's new mental ward.

A health-conscious president

43.6m Number of Americans without health insurance by the end of 2002 (more than 15 per cent of the population).

2.4m Number of Americans who lost their health insurance during Bush's first year in office.


$44m Amount the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and the Republican National Committee received in contributions from the fossil fuel, chemical, timber, and mining industries.

200 Number of regulation rollbacks downgrading or weakening environmental laws in Bush's first three years in office.

31 Number of Bush administration appointees who are alumni of the energy industry (includes four cabinet secretaries, the six most powerful White House officials, and more than 20 other high-level appointees).

50 Approximate number of policy changes and regulation rollbacks injurious to the environment that have been announced by the Bush administration on Fridays after 5pm, a time that makes it all but impossible for news organisations to relay the information to the widest possible audience.

50 Percentage decline in Environmental Protection Agency enforcement actions against polluters under Bush's watch.

34 Percentage decline in criminal penalties for environmental crimes since Bush took office.

50 Percentage decline in civil penalties for environmental crimes since Bush took office.

$6.1m Amount the EPA historically valued each human life when conducting economic analyses of proposed regulations.

$3.7m Amount the EPA valued each human life when conducting analyses of proposed regulations during the Bush administration.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned global warming, clean air, clean water, pollution or environment in his 2004 State of the Union speech. His father was the last president to go through an entire State of the Union address without mentioning the environment.

1 Number of paragraphs devoted to global warming in the EPA's 600-page "Draft Report on the Environment" presented in 2003.

68 Number of days after taking office that Bush decided Not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases by roughly 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States was to cut its level by 7 per cent.

1 The rank of the United States worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

25 Percentage of overall worldwide carbon dioxide emissions the United States is responsible for.

53 Number of days after taking office that Bush reneged on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

14 Percentage carbon dioxide emissions will increase over the next 10 years under Bush's own global-warming plan (an increase of 30 per cent above their 1990 levels).

408 Number of species that could be extinct by 2050 if the global-warming trend continues.

5 Number of years the Bush administration said in 2003 that global warming must be further studied before substantive action could be taken.

62 Number of members of Cheney's 63-person Energy Task Force with ties to corporate energy interests.

0 Number of environmentalists asked to attend Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings.

6 Number of months before 11 September that Cheney's Energy Task Force investigated Iraq's oil reserves.

2 Percentage of the world's population that is British.

2 Percentage of the world's oil used by Britain.

5 Percentage of the world's population that is American.

25 Percentage of the world's oil used by America.

63 Percentage of oil the United States imported in 2003, a record high.

24,000 Estimated number of premature deaths that will occur under Bush's Clear Skies initiative.

300 Number of Clean Water Act violations by the mountaintop-mining industry in 2003.

750,000 Tons of toxic waste the US military, the world's biggest polluter, generates around the world each Year.

$3.8bn Amount in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 1995, the Year "polluter pays" fees expired.

$0m Amount of uncommitted dollars in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 2003.

270 Estimated number of court decisions citing federal Negligence in endangered-species protection that remained unheeded during the first year of the Bush administration.

100 Percentage of those decisions that Bush then decided to allow the government to ignore indefinitely.

68.4 Average Number of species added to the Endangered and Threatened Species list each year between 1991 and 2000.

0 Number of endangered species voluntarily added by the Bush administration since taking office.

50 Percentage of screened workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from long-term health problems, almost half of whom don't have health insurance.

78 Percentage of workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from lung ailments.

88 Percentage of workers at Ground Zero who Now suffer from ear, nose, or throat problems.

22 Asbestos levels at Ground Zero were 22 times higher than the levels in Libby, Montana, where the W R Grace mine produced one of the worst Superfund disasters in US history.

Image booster for the US

2,500 Number of public-diplomacy officers employed by the State Department to further the image of the US abroad in 1991.

1,200 Number of public-diplomacy officers employed by the State Department to further US image abroad in 2004.

4 Rank of the United States among countries considered to be the greatest threats to world peace according to a 2003 Pew Global Attitudes study (Israel, Iran, and North Korea were considered more dangerous; Iraq was considered less dangerous).

$66bn Amount the United States spent on international aid and diplomacy in 1949.

$23.8bn Amount the United States spent on international aid and diplomacy in 2002.

85 Percentage of Indonesians who had an unfavourable image of the United States in 2003.

Second-party endorsements

90 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 26 September 2001.

67 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 26 September 2002.

54 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 30 September, 2003.

50 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 15 October 2003.

49 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president in May 2004.

More like the French than he would care to admit

28 Number of vacation days Bush took in August 2003, the second-longest vacation of any president in US history. (Record holder Richard Nixon.)

13 Number of vacation days the average American receives each Year.

28 Number of vacation days Bush took in August 2001, the month he received a 6 August Presidential Daily Briefing headed "Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike US Targets."

500 Number of days Bush has spent all or part of his time away from the White House at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, his parents' retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, or Camp David as of 1 April 2004.

No fool when it comes to the press

11 Number of press conferences during his first three Years in office in which Bush referred to questions as being "trick" ones.

Factors in his favour

3 Number of companies that control the US voting technology market.

52 Percentage of votes cast during the 2002 midterm elections that were recorded by Election Systems & Software, the largest voting-technology firm, a big Republican donor.

29 Percentage of votes that will be cast via computer voting machines that don't produce a paper record.

17 On 17 November 2001, The Economist printed a correction for having said George Bush was properly elected in 2000.

$113m Amount raised by the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, the most in American electoral history.

$185m Amount raised by the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign, to the end of March 2004.

$200m Amount that the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign expects to raise by November 2004.

268 Number of Bush-Cheney fund-raisers who had earned Pioneer status (by raising $100,000 each) as of March 2004.

187 Number of Bush-Cheney fund-raisers who had earned Ranger status (by raising $200,000 each) as of March 2004.

$64.2m The Amount Pioneers and Rangers had raised for Bush-Cheney as of March 2004.

85 Percentage of Americans who can't Name the Chief Justice of the United States.

69 Percentage of Americans who believed the White House's claims in September 2003 that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 11 September attacks.

34 Percentage of Americans who believed in June 2003 that Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" had been found.

22 Percentage of Americans who believed in May 2003 that Saddam had used his WMDs on US forces.

85 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find Afghanistan, Iraq, or Israel on a map.

30 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a map.

75 Percentage of American young adults who don't know the population of the United States.

53 Percentage of Canadian young adults who don't know the population of the United States.

11 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find the United States on a map.

30 Percentage of Americans who believe that "politics and government are too complicated to understand."

Another factor in his favour

70m Estimated number of Americans who describe themselves as Evangelicals who accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour and who interpret the Bible as the direct word of God.

23m Number of Evangelicals who voted for Bush in 2000.

50m Number of voters in total who voted for Bush in 2000.

46 Percentage of voters who describe themselves as born-again Christians.

5 Number of states that do not use the word "evolution" in public school science courses.

This is an edited extract from "What We've Lost", by Graydon Carter, published by Little Brown on 9 September

1,000 Coffins They Don't Want Us to See

I just read that we've crossed a milestone today -- 1,000 Americans have now been killed in Iraq.

All I can think about is my younger brother, who joined the Army years ago when he was 17. He didn't join because he had any clear-cut political opinions; he was just a troubled kid who needed some structure in his life. It was either the Army or jail. The Army was good for him -- he did his four years and got out with some discipline and a few valuable skills. Thank god his timing was lucky.

I think of all the impressionable young men and women who joined the service because basically they had no other recourse in life. There was little or no opportunity for them at home, so why not? Many were recruited. They thought it sounded like a good thing to do -- "serve your country!" They signed up and were sent off to war because it was their job and furthermore, they trusted their commander in chief. Did anyone tell them that the bullshit documents used as "evidence" of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were fraudulent? No. Many of them were just like my brother -- aimless, politically ignorant kids who got pulled into the machine. What a fucking shame.

A thousand of them dead now. A thousand coffins the president won't let us see. A thousand funeral services he has not attended.

My parents are Republicans. How would they feel if their son was in one of those coffins? How would they feel if the president they will vote for this November were trying to hide their dead son from public view? What if it was their son whose life was used up for this pointless game? Used up and swept under the rug.

One thousand dead Americans and 10,000 dead Iraqis. And the president doesn't want you to know.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Our Fatal Flaw?

I truly believe that our fatal flaw as Americans will be our inability to see beyond our own borders. Bombing Iraq is a fairly painless proposition for most Americans to get their heads around because most of us cannot even locate the country on a map, let alone conceive that there are real humans there who are really no different from us. The notion of Iraq is so abstract to most of us, it could be Mars. How easy was it for the prez to convince the American people that Saddam was now somehow the one responsible for 9/11? It was a piece of cake. Because to so many Americans, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same difference -- a strange desert land filled with godless savages somewhere across the ocean. Bombs away!

How different would things be if each of us had friends or family in Iraq? I think things would be radically different. I think we would be a great deal more careful about declaring war. All it takes is to know someone. Period.

Of course, our news media doesn't help. International news stories don't grab ratings over here like Paris Hilton. Americans want to be entertained, not informed -- or so the networks think. Therefore, we get more complete coverage of J-Lo's eighth honeymoon than of the 10,000 Iraqis and 900 Americans killed in "Operation Iraqi Freedom." We've got our heads pretty far up our asses.

Heck, even the president himself isn't very well-traveled. Guess how many times he visited Iraq before waging war? Zero. Isn't that something? I recently heard that most members of Congress don't even have passports. Don't quote me on that, but would it surprise you?

It may just be human nature to equate "different" with "hostile." The less you know about your "opponent," the easier it is to open fire on him. And that's the way the president and Fox News want to keep it.