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 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 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.