Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Go Larry Go!

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and support for Senator Larry "family values" Craig in his quest to proudly strike a defiant "wide stance" and remain a national punchline until the bitter end of his congressional term. It just doesn't get any better than this. Despite the best efforts of his party's leaders such as Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, he has decided to remain "the turd that won't flush" -- another shining example of Republican hypocrisy for voters to ponder all the way up to election time. It takes a special kind of jerk to spend your entire career voting against rights for gay people when you're a closeted gay yourself -- to troll nasty, stinking public restrooms in search of clandestine encounters to satisfy your sexual desires, while you publicly vilify people who are honest about their sexual preference and just want to be accepted as human beings like everybody else. To whip out a Senate ID card when caught in the act, in an attempt to intimidate the arresting officer, and when that doesn't work, to try lying your way out of it under interrogation. To plead guilty two months later, while trying to hide it from your family, your colleagues, and your constituents. To promise to resign, and then renege on that promise, all the while still righteously proclaiming that you are "not gay" and that you were "entrapped", trying in vain to withdraw your guilty plea. To drag your poor wife on national television time after time to suffer public humiliation in the name of a selfish, petty, delusional game that you can't possibly win.

I salute you Larry Craig. You epitomize the modern Republican Party.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"The Terrorists"

"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

George W. Bush
September 20, 2001

From the moment that this shallow, trite, idiotic, ridiculously simplistic phrase "the terrorists" began to work its insidious way into the American lexicon, our political discourse has descended to a level of childishness never before seen in our history. I stifle my gag reflex every time I hear it. It's as if we're all children, and "the terrorists" have taken the place of "the bogeyman" to scare us into submission when we're being unruly. And it has worked like a charm! The media and the public have swallowed it hook, line and sinker. The administration has kept them all looking under their beds and checking closets for "the terrorists" while proceeding to start a war of aggression, eviscerate the Constitution, break the law of the land, and conduct an unprecedented executive power grab, all in the name of "protecting" us. Even the president's opponents have been suckered into this ruse by allowing him to frame our national political debate in such juvenile terms.

"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses."

-- George W. Bush, Oct 30, 2006

"I wonder if they are more interested in protecting the terrorists than they are in protecting the American people."

-- John Boehner, Sep 12, 2006

"Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."

-- Dick Cheney, Sep 10, 2006


Look people, every time these assholes say "the terrorists", instead of pissing yourself in fear like they want you to, think about who really attacked us on 9/11. It wasn't some fearsome, omnipresent enemy who represent the greatest threat to western civilization since the USSR or the Axis powers of WWII. It was 19 hijackers, financed by one rich Saudi, who penetrated our lax airport security and took advantage. That's all. The rest is all ridiculous bullshit hyperbole, designed to:
  1. Start a war they wanted to start all along, strictly for the financial gain of the Republican Party's cronies.

  2. Expand executive power in furtherance of the "unitary executive theory".

  3. Make you forget the fact that these incompetent shits still haven't caught the perpetrator of the crime.

Sure, there's an Al-Qaeda problem in Iraq now, but you can thank George W. Bush for that. It didn't exist before the invasion, no matter how many lies Dick Cheney tells you. There's a bigger Al-Qaeda problem elsewhere. Bin Laden is rebuilding his organization right now in northwest Pakistan, thanks to George W. Bush failing to kill or capture him when he had the chance. So every time you hear them say "the terrorists", just make it singular and think about:

The Terrorist

If Bush would have simply done the job right in the first place and captured this animal and his buddies, and put them on trial like civilized nations do:

  1. The big bad Al-Qaeda figurehead would be in prison instead of coming out with videos making a monkey out of Bush.

  2. We wouldn't have lost another 4,000 people and spent half a trillion dollars in Iraq.

  3. The rest of the world would still respect us, instead of considering us a pariah nation.

  4. George Bush might not have destroyed his own political party.

If one were prone to express things in the childish, moronic way that George W. Bush is so fond of, they might say that he's letting "the terrorist" win. They might say that "the terrorist" is doing a fine job of kicking Bush's ass, actually.

But I would never do that.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Desperation Is A Stinky Cologne

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va) has put up a website beseeching you to sign a petition and STAND WITH RUSH, because "conservative free speech is under direct attack". Yes, those same "liberal extremist" Democrats that Rep. Cantor excoriated for their evil, nefarious plans to "import terrorists to America" are at it again. They're trying to push poor Rush around by censuring him for his "phony soldiers" remarks. Oddly, Rep. Cantor had no problem voting for the resolution to condemn MoveOn.org's free speech just last month. Apparently free speech is only worth defending if it's "conservative". Response to the petition seems rather tepid, considering Limbaugh supposedly has a weekly audience of 13.5 million listeners. Perhaps his audience was a little put off by the remarks as well. One would think that a quick apology would go a long way toward smoothing things over, but as usual with the egotistical Limbaugh, that won't be forthcoming. He'll pigheadedly continue questioning the patriotism of his critics, just like George W. Bush. One look at the Bush approval ratings over the past few years should clue Mr. Limbaugh in to the obvious. That tactic isn't cutting it any more.

The uber-patriotic rhetoric of the Right cannot disguise the Republican record of abject failure, but still the water-carriers sing the same tired old "attack the messenger" song. To them, I suppose the chart above indicates that close to 70% of us are "with the terrorists" now. And with soldiers daring to speak up, they are fair game for attack.

Examples of this aversion to self-reflection are abundant. Ann Coulter rushes to Limbaugh's defense, gracing us with another of her vitriolic screeds. Like her pal Rush, she is completely oblivious to the sea change of public opinion going on all around her -- so consumed and blinded by hate that simple concepts such as success and failure, right and wrong, truth and lies, escape her. All that matters now is the lashing out -- the belittling of her opponents by any means possible. She has no qualms jumping on the "phony soldiers" bandwagon.

"True, all Democrats in the military are not phony soldiers, but all phony soldiers seem to be Democrats."

Especially telling is the following, where she quotes poll numbers from 2004, and without skipping a beat pretends that they apply in the here and now.

"According to a Military Times survey taken in September 2004, active-duty military personnel preferred President Bush to Kerry by about 73 percent to 18 percent. Sixty percent describe themselves as Republican and less than 10 percent call themselves Democrat (the same 10 percent that MSNBC has on its speed-dial). Even among the veterans, Republicans outnumber Democrats 46 percent to 22 percent." So there aren't a lot of anti-war military types for the media to turn into this month's "It Girl."

That's right. If you're a veteran opposed to the war, Ann Coulter questions not only your patriotism, but your manhood.

Republican Party propaganda outlet Fox "News" breathlessly informs us that Obama is not loyally wearing his American flag lapel pin, as if that is some sort of weighty campaign issue. I'll bet when you get in the voting booth, just before you cast your vote you'll be thinking, I really like this candidate's platform and his stand on the issues, but he doesn't wear a flag pin on his lapel so I couldn't possibly vote for him. Am I right? I wonder, do you Fox viewers ever get the feeling that your intelligence is being insulted? Do you ever stop and think about the mindless pablum that's being presented to you as "news"? I implore you. Please stop. Please think.

We're also told that you heathen Democrats don't pray as much as Republicans do, and that 1 in 5 of you America-hating surrender monkeys want the U.S. to lose the war in Iraq. Fox has poll numbers to prove it! I'll bet if you Democrats prayed more like those nice Republicans you wouldn't be such traitors.

One has to wonder if Fox actually thinks that this sort of asinine preaching to an ever-shrinking choir is going to do anything to prevent the well-deserved ass kicking the Republicans are going to receive in the coming election of 2008. Fiscal conservatives, the classic base of the Republican party, are bailing out in droves, due to the insane Bush policies of increased spending, government expansion, and a war, combined with tax cuts. Maybe somebody should have taught the frat boy how to subtract. Once the real conservatives leave, all that will remain are the bible-thumpers, gun nuts, homophobes and racists. Karl Rove's strategy of appealing to the "base" with "wedge issues" will finally come home to roost, and the Republicans will end up an angry, frustrated minority with virtually no power at all. Maybe they'll all move to one of the "Red" states and build a wall around it so they can have their White Paradise and their wives won't by God have to wear bhurkhas. Praise Jesus and pass the ammo!

There is one thing that would restore the Republicans to their former glory. I suspect those quasi-fascist nut jobs at Fox include it in their little prayers every night. One of them even had the balls to say it live on the air. Here's John Gibson, Fox "News" anchor, telling us what he really thinks America needs.

With statements like this, maybe we should all think long and hard about who the "phonies" really are.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's About Time For The "Incident"

August 1964 -- The war hawks were conducting business as usual. Covert operations against North Vietnam had been ongoing for quite some time -- attacks on radio transmitters and radar sites in coastal areas by South Vietnamese Navy patrol boats -- planned, equipped and financed by the Pentagon, and supported by the US Navy. The war hawks got what they wanted on August 2nd when the destroyer USS Maddox, on patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin, came under fire in international waters from three North Vietnamese gunboats. No real damage was done to the Maddox. The torpedoes missed, and one machine gun bullet lodged in one of the boat's stacks. The gunboats were driven off by return fire from the Maddox and planes launched from the carrier USS Ticonderoga. President Johnson decided not to retaliate just yet, but warned Hanoi against "any further unprovoked offensive military action against United States forces". Unprovoked? Yeah right. Both sides knew the score. Hanoi had already lodged a formal protest over the attacks on its territory by American "puppet" forces. They knew the Maddox was involved in an operation attacking the islands of Hon Me and Hon Nieu just the day before, their mission being to sniff out fresh targets by monitoring the spike in radar and radio signals just after the attacks. The gunboat attack on the Maddox was a personal message to Johnson. Not to be out-hawked, Johnson ordered another destroyer, the USS Turner Joy, to accompany the Maddox on further patrols in the same area, ratcheting up the tension another notch. He had shown restraint to the American public, but now he was itching for a fight.

Two days later, "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing his ship's own propeller beat" caused a panic aboard the Maddox and the Turner Joy. The infamous "Gulf Of Tonkin Incident" had begun. For two and a half hours the sailors evaded ghost torpedoes, called in air strikes from the Ticonderoga, and fired wildly at boats that probably never existed -- all the while sending frantic "Flash Priority" messages to Washington, reporting on the progress of the ongoing "engagement". When the smoke cleared, Captain John J. Herrick issued this message:
"Review of action makes many reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen may have accounted for many reports. No actual visual sightings by Maddox. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action taken."
Any sane, prudent leader would order that complete evaluation before taking further action, but not a war hawk like Lyndon B. Johnson. He ordered immediate "retaliatory" airstrikes against targets in North Vietnam. Old Lyndon later confided: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

The rest is sad, shameful history. The press immediately started cheerleading. Congress didn't ask any questions. Johnson got his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The military-industrial complex got their billions of taxpayer dollars. The American people got over 58,000 deaths and 350,000 casualties, and the Vietnamese deaths numbered in the millions. Quite a legacy for old Lyndon the bad-ass Texas war hawk.

October 2007 -- The war hawks are conducting business as usual. Forget the fact that Iraq is an unmitigated clusterfuck. That doesn't matter to a bad-ass Texas war hawk like George W. Bush or a hell-bent psycho like Dick Cheney. They aren't up for re-election, and the Republicans are screwed next time anyway. The Democrats are going to have to clean up the mess. Besides, everything is going great for the all-important cronies in the military-industrial complex. They're raking in billions and ready to go for more. Forget our nation's future, and the future of the world for that matter. Strap on your pig snout and think like a heartless, greed-driven warmonger for a minute. The next target is Iran, and we almost have them surrounded.

To the east -- Afghanistan is occupied and Pakistan is our ally. Well, Musharraf is anyway. To the west -- Iraq is occupied and Kuwait is practically our own private military base. The Saudis to the south are allied with us and certainly no friends of Shiite-led Iran. But what about that pesky Strait of Hormuz? If Iran could disrupt shipping there, they would immediately cut off 20% of the world's oil supply. It's imperative that it be kept open. Three U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups operating in the Persian Gulf should do the trick. The USS Enterprise strike group has been there for a while, and the USS Nimitz and USS Truman groups just arrived at the end of September. All of the pieces are in place to keep the strait open while also raining a heap of good old "shock and awe" down on the heads of those uppity Iranians. The propaganda campaign has been pretty successful so far. Nobody fell for Iran as an imminent nuclear threat, but the "Iran meddling in our business in Iraq" campaign seems to be getting some traction. We got our Kyl Amendment from Congress, didn't we? Hell, that's almost as good as a preemptive Gulf of Tonkin Resolution! The plans are all drawn up. Now all we need is the "incident".

So what will the "incident" be? An "unprovoked" attack on our Navy in the Persian Gulf, just like in 1964? An "engagement" on the Iran-Iraq border? A "terrorist attack" blamed on the Iranians? The possibilities are just about endless, but the "incident" is inevitable, and no matter what it is, the "reaction" is predictable. The "retaliatory" bombing will immediately begin. The press will start cheerleading, and Congress won't ask any questions. The cronies will get more billions, and the corpses will pile up. As usual, the long-term consequences haven't been planned for, or even considered. The next president will have to deal with them, and Bush will leave us three wars as a parting gift. Quite a legacy for old George the bad-ass Texas war hawk.

Update: October 6, 2007 -- Today, White House mouthpiece General David Petraeus, speaking at a US military base 20 miles from the Iranian border, escalated the accusations of Iran's interference in Iraq and accused Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad of being a member of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds force. According to Petraeus: "They are responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers".

The drumbeat grows louder.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Republicans - Where's The Outrage?

All that noble sacrifice -- and now yet another slap in the face for our poor, beleaguered American hero, General Petraeus:

"The general's relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly."

American Conservative Magazine

September 24, 2007

Don't get me wrong. I think The American Conservative has the right to print any article they wish -- as long as it isn't libelous. That's what the First Amendment is all about. They're saying basically the same thing that MoveOn.org said, but for different reasons. I'm just waiting for the reaction from the Right. Will there be more useless, time-wasting resolutions of condemnation introduced in the House and Senate by outraged Republicans? Will they be clamoring for air time on the television networks to defend the general's honor against this treasonous attack, like they did with MoveOn's ad, or when John Kerry botched a joke, appearing to insult the troops? Or will they once again show us their hypocrisy and just let this slide, simply because it was written by a conservative publication?

I'm also waiting to see if this gets as much attention from the news media as the MoveOn ad did. I'd be willing to wager a considerable sum that it won't. It seems things like this are only newsworthy if they come from the Left. I wonder why that is. Could it be that the "liberal media" the Right whines so much about isn't so liberal after all? Could it be that the corporations that profit from the war many times end up being the same corporations that own the television networks and newspapers? Could it be that large chunks of the so-called "liberal media" are actually owned by people with a conservative agenda?

Needless to say, the next week or so should provide a few laughs. It will be especially entertaining to watch the right-wing pundits like Rush "phony troops" Limbaugh try to either justify, or ignore this. I suspect they will choose the latter option.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Surprise! - An Independent Judiciary

The founding fathers' spinning in their graves slowed down a few revolutions per minute yesterday. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has ruled two provisions of the Orwellian-titled Patriot Act unconstitutional. Judge Aiken's strongly worded, 44-page decision states that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment". What should have been obvious to Congress before they violated their oath of office by passing this legislation has been pointed out to them by a member of the Judicial Branch. Hopefully, since Congress didn't take the time to read the Patriot Act before passing it, they will now take the time to read Judge Aiken's decision -- perchance to gain a semblance of an education in constitutional law. That might be a valuable thing for lawmakers to acquire. Here are some selected quotes from the ruling:

"It is critical that we, as a democratic nation, pay close attention to traditional Fourth Amendment principles." -- [The Act] "holds that the Constitution need not control the conduct of criminal surveillance in the United States." -- "In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate." -- [The Justice Department] "is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. The court declines to do so."

Look at that set of nuts on Judge Aiken! And she's a lady! Hey Congress! That is how a patriot acts!

The case that led to this decision was yet another nightmare of authoritarian abuses carried out by the Bush thugs in their endless quest to prosecute somebody, anybody, for terrorism-related charges in order to justify all of their shiny new draconian laws. Their culprit -- Portland, Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield. His crimes -- being a convert to Islam, and the victim of a bungled fingerprint identification which led investigators to suspect him of involvement in the Madrid train bombings of 2004. The FBI proceeded to secretly search his home and office without his knowledge -- a flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment -- copying his computer files and planting bugging devices on their way out. They also recorded his telephone calls and subsequently threw him in jail for two weeks. When they finally did their homework and properly matched the fingerprint to an Algerian man, they released Mayfield, but they had messed with the wrong guy. He sued, and the government settled for $2 million. But Brandon Mayfield wasn't done. He challenged the portions of the Patriot Act that allowed those secret searches and surveillance on the grounds that they violate our constitutional rights -- resulting in Judge Aiken's decision yesterday. Once again the overzealous Bush administration's trademark combination of arrogance, brutality, and incompetence comes back to embarrass them. After being granted all of this new power in the aftermath of 9/11, they immediately start abusing it -- as predicted.

Of course we can expect this ruling to be appealed, all the way up to Bush's slanted Supreme Court if necessary. But for now, the wisdom of the founding fathers in setting up that third coequal branch of government, the Judicial Branch, has come shining through.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Tragicomic Plight Of The Democrats

Today, a Republican minority in the Senate proudly passed a resolution condemning a newspaper ad, a mere day after obstructing, by procedural filibuster, bipartisan legislation to restore the right of Habeas Corpus, against the will of a 56-43 majority. Bravo, Republicans! May historians remember you always. After all, in this supposedly free country, it's infinitely more important for the United States Senate to "strongly condemn" a group of people for exercising freedom of the press than it is to restore one of the inalienable human rights upon which our very nation was founded; a right recognized by civilized nations since the Magna Carta was issued in 1215. They ruffled a General's feathers? Big deal. Blame his Commander in Chief, George W. Bush for turning him into a politician. And let's not forget the fact that Petraeus' superior, CENTCOM Chief Admiral William Fallon has called him much worse names than "Betrayus", but you won't see Bush parading Admiral Fallon before Congress to express his opinions. This only emphasizes the nature of the cynical farce being played out on Capitol Hill.

Even worse is the fact that 22 Democrats voted for this ridiculous resolution. If the shoe was on the other foot and a General that disagreed with Bush's policies was being criticized by a Republican organization, do these Democrats think for one minute that a single Republican would vote in favor of a resolution condemning them? Think again. Then there's the mind-numbing, incomprehensible fact that spineless, gutless Senate Majority leader Harry Reid did not even force the Republicans to show their faces on the floor of the Senate and actually filibuster the restoration of Habeas Corpus in front of the people, to be recorded for posterity. The legislation was timidly withdrawn, simply because the Republicans threatened to filibuster it. Perhaps MoveOn.org should come out with another "betrayal of trust" ad, this one featuring the Democrats. These hapless asses are so worried about trying to please everyone that they are going to end up losing their base. Maybe they ought to take a good, long look at their 11% approval rating and realize that it stems from them not standing up for their supposed convictions. Until they do, they are going to continue to get steamrolled by the minority party and a lame duck President with a 29% approval rating. Pathetic.

The real losers here are the people, who elected these clowns with the hope of ending the war in Iraq. Look what they got -- an escalation of the war from Bush, and impotent whining from the Democrats -- even though they always had, and still have, the power to end the war. That power is the power of the purse, granted to them by the Constitution. But they won't use it. They're cowards.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Meet Ray Hunt - Shameless War Profiteer

Ray is a cheerful guy -- and he should be. His company recently signed the biggest oil exploration contract to come out of Iraq since the war began. Much to the chagrin of the Iraqi parliament, while they were trying to reach an agreement on their much-touted oil revenue sharing law, Ray cut his deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, contributing to the collapse of the negotiations in Baghdad. Yet another benchmark missed, as if they were ever legitimate goals in the first place. Was there any flappy-jowled howling outrage from the Republicans in Congress? Any bellowing accusations of undermining the mission of our troops from right-wing loudmouths like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh? Nope! Not a peep. Why? Ray is golden. Ray is untouchable. Ray is a "Loyal Bushie".

Ray Hunt is your typical George W. Bush "fox in the henhouse" government appointee. You know the kind. His father, the late Texas oil man H. L. Hunt, started the company that Ray now owns and passed it on to him, so he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He subsequently did quite well for himself, getting on the board of directors for Dresser Industries, EDS, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Pepsi, and (of course) Halliburton. He's also on the board of the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying organization for the oil and natural gas industry. He donates plenty of money to the Republican party; so much money that he got himself appointed finance chairman of the Republican National Committee’s "Victory 2000" Committee. Why, he's such a good friend to the Bush family that he's even on the board of trustees for Poppy Bush's Presidential Library Foundation!

In October 2001 (one month after 9/11) all of those contributions paid off in a big way for our pal Ray, when George W. Bush appointed him to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. According to the
White House website:
"The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) provides advice to the President concerning the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection, of analysis and estimates, of counterintelligence, and of other intelligence activities. The PFIAB, through its Intelligence Oversight Board, also advises the President on the legality of foreign intelligence activities."

"Through meetings with intelligence principals, substantive briefings, and visits to intelligence installations, the PFIAB seeks to identify deficiencies in the collection, analysis, and reporting of intelligence; to eliminate unnecessary duplication and functional overlap; and to ensure that major programs are responsive to clearly perceived needs and that the technology employed represents the product of the best minds and technical capabilities available in the nation."

"In carrying out their mandate, the members of the PFIAB enjoy the confidence of the President and have access to all the information related to foreign intelligence that they need to fulfill their vital advisory role."
A billionaire Texas oil man who also sits on the board of Halliburton, advising the President on foreign intelligence collection? I wonder what kind of "vital" advice he was giving during the run-up to the Iraq war, considering all those no-bid contracts Halliburton got. I wonder what sort of relevant expertise he brought to such an important advisory board. I wonder if, as a member of this board, he might be privy to certain secret information long before it became public knowledge -- such as the fact that negotiations on the Iraqi oil revenue sharing law weren't going well, or that the Kurds were getting ready to pass their own law. A shrewd businessman with that type of insider information would know to get his people up to Kurdistan and cut a deal ahead of the competition; to "strike while the iron is hot", as the saying goes. I wonder who is really benefiting from Ray's position on the PFIAB -- the President, the intelligence community, the American people, or Ray?

One thing we do know -- Ray appreciated his appointment so much that in November 2005 he donated $35 million for a land purchase to build the George W. Bush Presidential Library! If you ask me, that's too much to pay when a woodshed behind old Poppy Bush's library would do just fine. I mean, how many books could this guy have?

It's an old cliche that war has no winners, but it isn't true. The winners are people like Ray Hunt and the other Loyal Bushies. You won't see their sons and daughters going to war. They'll just use their wealth to influence politicians and loot your treasury; putting your nation in ever-increasing debt; sending your sons and daughters off to do the killing and dying necessary for them to secure those lucrative contracts. It's basically legal bribery, plain and simple, going on in plain view -- right in your face. They will also use that wealth to buy ownership in, and commercial time on television networks, so they can influence the content of the so-called "news" being piped into your living room every night, designed to convince you that the war is a just cause -- that you're going after WMD, fighting terrorists, spreading democracy, etc. And the propaganda works! Hey, Bush got re-elected, didn't he? Now you know why Ray is such a cheerful guy. He's laughing at you!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Edwards To Congress - Grow A Pair

At least one Democrat is reminding his colleagues what their duty to the American people is:

No, this is not an endorsement of John Edwards for President. Let's not forget -- this dipshit voted to authorize the war in the first place. But every once in a while, one of these stuffed suits accidentally gets the right idea. He's trying to get Congress to exercise the war powers granted to them under the Constitution. Imagine that! Congress as a coequal branch of government! Yes, the President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, but he is not a dictator -- not yet anyway. Congress controls war spending for a very good reason. The founders foresaw a president like George W. Bush; one who would prosecute a war against the will of the people. When 70 percent of the American people disagree with the way the President is handling the war, and he completely ignores them (like a dictator), it is up to the Congress to reign him in by refusing to finance his future war plans. This can be accomplished in a responsible way without endangering our troops. So far the Democrats have failed to do this, even though they were given a mandate by the people. In case they've forgotten, it is the people they represent, not their own self interest. They don't need a two-thirds majority to do it either. Sure, they could try to be statesmen and come up with some kind of compromise with the congressional Republicans on how to proceed that reflects the will of the people, but when was the last time the Republicans compromised on anything? They will simply use the same tactics they used the last time this debate came up -- accuse the Democrats of undermining the troops. What the Democrats need is legislation that ties gradual troop withdrawals to any future war funding, and the backbone to keep sending the same legislation back to the toddler-in-chief unchanged, every time he vetoes it. It wouldn't be the first time it's been done. It was exactly how Congress forced an end to the Vietnam war.

Now that they are faced with the prospect of having Bush's clusterfuck dumped in their laps come 2009, maybe the Democrats will realize it's time to make him take responsibility for cleaning up his mess, instead of wasting yet another year on his ludicrous policies, designed not to produce results, but only to prolong the war.

Nah. It'll never happen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Truth Behind The "Surge" Strategy

AP Photo

Now that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have delivered their report to Congress on the "troop surge" in Iraq, an assessment of the overall situation seems to be in order. What are the implications of the surge strategy? What have we achieved, and where do we stand in comparison to how we stood before the surge was implemented? Let's ask, shall we?

General Petraeus, how's that surge going
"As a bottom line up front, the military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met."

Outstanding! That means we bought the Iraqi government some time to achieve its political objectives, which was the stated purpose of the surge. What were those objectives again, President Bush?

"Those objectives are a nation that can sustain itself, govern itself and defend itself.”

Those are important things for any nation to achieve. But how are we to measure their progress toward those objectives?

"We continue to encourage and press them to achieve the established benchmarks, since we believe that those efforts will contribute to Iraq’s stability, its ability to provide for its own security, and to the international effort to counter violent extremism."

So, how much progress have the Iraqis made toward achieving those benchmarks, Comptroller General David Walker of the GAO?

"The Iraqi government met 3, partially met 4, and did not meet 11 of its 18 benchmarks. Overall, key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds."

Oh my! Only 3 of the 18 benchmarks achieved? That's terrible! Ambassador Crocker, this sounds like it might be your area of expertise. Do you have any comments?

"I do believe that Iraq's leaders have the will to tackle the country's pressing problems, although it will take longer than we originally anticipated because of the environment and the gravity of the issues before them."

You want more time? Every time we talk to you it's more time! Our troops are dying while this joke of an Iraqi government fails, time and time again, to take charge of their own country! What's that, General Petraeus? You have something to add?

"I believe we will be able to reduce forces to a pre-surge level by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains we've fought so hard to achieve."

And there it is, folks. We are still failing to accomplish our strategic objectives, but by next summer, Petraeus believes we can return troop levels to what they were before the surge started. By the way, this grandly-announced drawdown of troops is not due to the success of the surge. It is a military necessity. Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the president's nominee for head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked about it in his July 31 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He stressed the need to "plan for an eventual drawdown" due to the strain the war was putting on our military. Are you smelling the bullshit yet? Could it be that the White House had planned to pull these troops out by next summer all along?

By sheer coincidence, next summer just happens to be the run-up to the 2008 elections! So basically, we will be in almost the same situation we were in when the Republicans got their "thumping" in 2006. The difference? This time the Republicans will be able to say they've brought some troops home -- even though there will still be the same number of troops in Iraq as there were in 2006. It's just "stay the course" by a different name! It's nothing but a cynical political ploy aimed at the Republican base, to give the congressional Republicans some cover so they won't jump ship and start voting with Democrats to end the war. Politics, like Chess, is a game of long-term strategies and cut-throat tactics. In Chess, pieces are sometimes sacrificed to achieve the more important objectives of the overall strategy. The heartless politics of war are no different, except the pieces being sacrificed are real, living, breathing human beings. The next president will most likely be a Democrat, and the Republicans know this. The real strategy behind the "surge" is, and always was, to drag the war out until the end of Bush's term so it can be dumped into the lap of his successor. When (or if) the Democrats finally end this fiasco, the Republican strategy will then be to blame them for losing the war, even though it was never winnable in the first place. This deception has Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. When I think about all the lives they are cruelly sacrificing for this crude, transparent ruse, it truly sickens me. The Republicans should be made to pay for this crass and despicable gambit.

Your move, Democrats.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Some Advice For The "Commander Guy"

Dear Commander Guy,

While reading the accounts of your recent surprise visit to the troops in Iraq, I noticed a couple of photographs by Charles Dharapak of the Associated Press which regularly appeared in several of the articles. Frankly, I must say that I was very disappointed in the production quality of your photo op. It appears to me that your recently departed chief political advisor, Karl Rove, is sorely missed. If I may be so bold, how do you expect to sell your completely unnecessary, massively unpopular, hopelessly unwinnable war for profit with such shoddy presentations as this?

Being the Commander Guy, you can order these people to stand anywhere you like, and you indeed have them well placed under that sign, with yourself casually dressed and centrally located in the shot -- your hand warmly extended, exuding a friendly demeanor. Nice touch there. But in case you haven't noticed, those three troops on the left don't exactly look thrilled to be shaking your hand. Then there's that gal in the middle. She doesn't look very happy to me. In fact, she appears to be giving you a rather contemptuous look. What's up with that? You might also want to take a second look at that fellow on the right. Is that a smile, or a smirk? Is he laughing at you? I wonder.

When you send these brave men and women off to be killed and maimed in a war, first to find weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist, then to capture Saddam Hussein, then to create a democracy, and now for... whatever justification you're using this month so your cronies can continue their war profiteering, the troops naturally tend to develop morale problems. When you go before the nation and mouth platitudes about "supporting the troops" while you oppose their pay raises and widow's benefits, their resentment of you tends to grow, and it shows on their faces. This ruins the desired effect of that all-important photo op. If you're going to continue to use these people as meat puppets for your press productions, then you need to start doing it in a more professional manner. Since Karl Rove isn't around to help you any more, I thought I might step up and give you a few pointers on how to put on a better show.

1) Bring your own photographer

Don't let the Associated Press take the photographs! Bring somebody from Fox News or the Republican National Committee and keep the press away from these events. That way you can order those bullet sponges to smile on cue, over and over again if necessary, until you get that perfect shot for later release to the press. Those liberal-biased A/P photographers tend to take candid shots. You want photographs that capture the spirit of undying love and devotion your troops have for you, the Commander Guy. Here's a great example from somebody I think you might know.

Now that guy knew how to stage a professional photo op! Of course his troops had an actual mission, and they went home when it was accomplished. That always helps to keep the morale of the troops up.

2) Lots of soldiers -- no faces

If you don't have the stomach to order those grunts to smile, you might try this approach. Who cares if they smile? You don't need their faces anyway! Not enough troops? Give Halliburton a no-bid contract for mannequins to use as stand-ins. All you need for the desired effect is lots of helmets and backpacks!

This very impressive technique was perfected by a fellow named Goebbels back in the 30s and 40s. He was a master of this type of shot. You may have heard of him. If not, give Karl Rove a call. I'll bet Karl can tell you all about him. Just think how patriotic you'll feel as you stand up there on that podium and exalt the troops on to victory after victory in defense of the "Homeland".

3) Paint Shop is your friend

Say you've got a pesky A/P photographer with an ominously unAmerican sounding name like Charles Dharapak hanging around with a camera, snapping unflattering pictures of you with the troops. No problem. Just have his camera confiscated, download the photographs, and with the magic of Paint Shop or some similar software ... presto!

Look at those smiling shrapnel magnets! I did a crappy job of it but hey, you're the Commander Guy! You have the CIA at your disposal. Those guys have been doing jobs like this since before computers were around. They'll have the doctored photos e-mailed back to you before the folks over at Abu Ghraib are finished giving that asshole Dharapak his waterboarding! He'll be more than happy to send the new, improved versions of the pictures down the A/P wire when he gets back. Just remind him that if he doesn't keep his terrorist-loving yapper shut that you'll be forced to exercise your new powers under the Military Commissions Act and declare him an enemy combatant.

4) Spend more time with the brass

Let's face it. Those four-star generals make for a much more impressive production than hanging out with the enlisted personnel. They are experts at things like photo ops.They know exactly when to smile for the cameras, and they go out of their way to make you look good. They've spent their whole careers sucking up and kissing ass. They wouldn't have all of those stars otherwise. They sleep in comfortable quarters, eat good food, and don't have to worry about things like getting shot, so their morale is normally pretty good.

These are your people. They are fellow Commander Guys like you -- until they retire of course. Then they become pundits and write books ridiculing you. Oh well, it's lonely at the top.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is It Still An Oath If A Politician Takes It?

Presidential Oath Of Office

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

We don't really expect this guy to remain true to his oath, do we? As a matter of fact, in light of the all out assault on our Constitution carried out by this halfwit and his corporate handlers, I'm surprised he was able to keep a straight face while mouthing the words. Let's move on, shall we?

Congressional Oath Of Office

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Our founding fathers certainly thought it was important to defend the Constitution. So much so that they set up three coequal branches of government; all sworn to defend the Constitution; all keeping each other in check to make sure we remained "a nation of laws, not of men". But during the first six years of this administration something went horribly wrong. The Republican majority in Congress decided, like their wannabe dictator of a president, to ignore their oath of office and become rubber-stamp enablers for every policy he wanted. No longer were they a coequal branch of government, but merely an extension of the Executive branch, dedicated not to defending the Constitution, but to defending a permanent Republican majority, and to furtherance of the unitary executive theory. No oversight, no limits, no questions!

And so it went until the election of 2006, when the public finally had its fill and kicked the bums out, giving the Democrats control of the House and the Senate. Finally we would have some restraints on this out of control president. Finally the Legislative branch would keep their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" instead of the interests of their own political party. Right?


Case in point, the torn and tattered Fourth Amendment to our besieged Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That bit about warrants and probable cause is very important. Not all searches and seizures require warrants, but the Supreme Court has interpreted warrantless searches and seizures as unreasonable, unless there is probable cause to suspect you of a crime. This means the government isn't allowed to, for example, have the NSA seize the records of phone companies and internet service providers without a warrant, and run data mining software on the telephone calls, e-mails, and web browsing of millions of completely innocent Americans. That would be unconstitutional, and a felony. But the Bush administration has been, by their own admission, doing just that since 2001, in violation of the law, and your constitutional rights. So much for the Fourth Amendment.

Your Democratic Congress was so outraged by this that they recently passed legislation, modifying the FISA Act, allowing Bush to do it with impunity! Why? They were afraid that he would make political hay out of them trying to protect your constitutional rights, thereby threatening their precious re-election prospects. They were afraid that he might call them "weak on terrorism" for not passing his legislation before going on vacation. To hell with their oath of office, they had the Democratic majority and their own miserable hides to protect first and foremost, just like the Republicans they replaced. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

This is precisely the same reason they caved (and will continue to cave) on funding of the Iraq war, and why they won't impeach Bush or Cheney, no matter what these serial felons do. It wouldn't fit in with their political strategy of maintaining a Democratic majority. If you think these people are in this game for anybody but themselves you've got another thing coming. Sorry kids, but you've been had. There is no Santa Claus; there is no Easter Bunny; and the Democrats are going to continue giving Bush everything he wants for as long as he wields the "terrorism" club over them with elections coming up.

The only thing that would fix this broken government of ours is a thorough house cleaning -- voting every single incumbent out of office and replacing them with someone new, just to send a message. This is, of course, a naive thought. The two parties are too entrenched, and long-time incumbents are rarely defeated. Sadly, this state of affairs will probably one day spell the end of our system of government. It is already well on its way to becoming a plutocracy, and if this trend continues, the number of disaffected people in this nation will continue to grow until they eventually decide to follow the instructions Thomas Jefferson left us in the preamble to the Declaration Of Independence, as to what our duty is when the government stops deriving it's powers from the consent of the governed. These will be dark, violent times for our nation, and I hope I'm not around for them, although it would be nice to witness some prominent members of the ruling class get their long-overdue comeuppance.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Doublethink" And The Neocon Mindset

The Neocon mindset is a strange and shocking thing to behold. I have encountered it many times in my discussions on Web forums and Usenet. Surprisingly, this mindset still survives in a hardcore ~29% of Americans, and in a smaller minority of Internet users -- the ones who still indignantly recite Republican talking points spoon fed to them by right wing pundits on cable "news" programs and talk radio. For the uninitiated this mindset can be simultaneously infuriating, nonsensical, and terrifying. The most crystalline example I have ever read of this bizarre mindset came from an article in the New York Times by Ron Suskind.

"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality- based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

If you're a member of the "reality-based community", the first thing you have to try and get past is the unmitigated arrogance of that statement. That's the infuriating part. Next -- the nonsensical part: What's all of this craziness about reality being irrelevant to how the world works today? Are these guys "kookoo for Cocoa Puffs" or what? Finally, the terrifying part: Arrogant pricks like this, deluded enough to espouse this doctrine, actually possess real military power -- and won't hesitate to use it since they are, they condescendingly boast, an empire! An empire creating reality as they, "history's actors", deem reality to be.

How was this pernicious mindset foisted upon that barely sufficient number of voters required to get these madmen into office twice? How could some people (still today!) read that paragraph above and not cringe at the bleak picture of authoritarianism it so vividly paints? Why, after all of the obvious miserable failures of the Neocon "empire" in the face of real world reality, do you still find people willing to defend these jokers? How did they pull it off?

The key word here is "Doublethink".

Anyone who has read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four will be familiar with this term. According to the novel,
Doublethink is:

"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies-all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."

In the totalitarian society depicted in Orwell's book, doublethink was a thought control tool of the regime, used to help reinforce their ever-changing version of reality. Sound familiar? This process of "reality control" was necessary to make sure that the regime was never viewed in a critical manner, no matter what happened in the "reality- based" world. The "Ministry Of Truth" took care of re-writing the history books and government documents to correspond with the current reality, always casting the regime in a favorable light. Note the doublethink: a "Ministry Of Truth", whose job it is to write lies. It was every citizen's duty to loyally exercise doublethink and forget the previous version of reality, unconditionally accepting the new one. Not to do so would be a "thoughtcrime".

Fast-forward to post 9/11 America. Spooky echoes of Orwell's "Ministry Of Truth" abound. Think "Patriot Act", "Clear Skies Initiative", "Healthy Forests Initiative". Doublethink! Orwell's "Big Brother" turned out to be a bumbling, folksy, born-again Texan backed up by a legion of right wing pundits and preachers ready to lay some major league doublethink on a poorly-educated, frightened, "red state" voting populace. The assault began with some clever euphemisms.

The violent overthrow of a foreign government became "regime change"; bombs became "ordnance"; the civilian deaths caused by the bombs became "collateral damage"; dropping bombs without causing too many civilian deaths became a "surgical strike". Words like "friendly fire" rolled off their tongues without one second's pause as to the striking contradiction inherent in the term.

Once they got their foot in the door there was no holding back. "Regime change" had now morphed into a liberation! The mission was accomplished and yet we were planning to build permanent military bases. Bin Laden, once "wanted dead or alive" was "not that important". Doublethink was now boldly on parade.

When the new Neocon reality didn't "sort out" the way they had planned, the doublethink assault intensified: Kidnappings of foreigners overseas became "extraordinary rendition"; sleep deprivation became "sleep management"; the torture of prisoners became "enhanced interrogation techniques". The ultimate insult to the intelligence of any thinking human being came when Rear Admiral Harry Harris dropped the
mother of all doublethink bombs, claiming that the suicides of three Guantanamo Bay prisoners were "an act of asymmetric warfare" against the American military.

Let that one sink in for a minute.

When the public got restless, commissions were appointed by the administration (but their recommendations weren't followed). Bush and Cheney even testified (but not under oath). The president listens to his generals (but fires them if he doesn't like the advice). Cheney isn't in the executive branch (but claims executive privilege). Clinton should have been impeached for perjury (Libby should be pardoned for perjury). The doublethink blitzkrieg rages on.

Today, words are redefined at will, depending upon the analogy the pundit or politician wishes to make. Take the word "insurgent" for example: The rag-tag insurgents valiantly outlasting the Redcoats at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War are called "Patriots", and the brave insurgents fighting back against insurmountable odds in France during WWII are called "The Resistance". But the Iraqi insurgents are fanatical "terrorists", impeding our noble mission of peace and democracy.

And all the while these right wing blow-hard pundits conveniently forget that their hero, Ronald Reagan called Bin Laden's CIA-backed Taliban insurgents "freedom fighters". Somebody better call the Ministry of Truth!

So my "reality-based" friends, if you run into one of these die-hard 29 percenters, don't get frustrated. They are nothing more than victims of their own propaganda techniques. They have performed the ultimate act of doublethink by forgetting the fact that they have been employing doublethink. They just don't know it yet.