Monday, December 19, 2005

The joke about the mushroom. . .

From the Washington Post.
After five years in which the GOP-controlled House and Senate undertook few investigations into the administration's activities, the legislative branch has begun to complain about being in the dark. . . .

"In an interview last week, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said 'it's a fair comment' that the GOP-controlled Congress has done insufficient oversight and 'ought to be' doing more. . . .

"Democrats on the committee said the panel issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party between 1997 and 2002, at a cost of more than $35 million. By contrast, the committee under Davis has issued three subpoenas to the Bush administration. . . .

Oh, you know the old joke, the punchline has something to do with being kept in the dark and fed shit. . .

Friday, December 16, 2005

1 Step forward, 2 steps back

Step forward: 1000 days after invading Iraq against UN Security Council approval, Bush finally wakes up to the concept that many of us think he made a huge mistake. So he says something like, yeah, the intelligence was wrong, but I'm not. No contrition, no acknowledgement that we might even have a problem with that. Just I made a decision and it was a hard one.

And that was the step forward.

The step back was following the embarrassment of Condi Rice telling the Germans we don't torture people, sure enough someone pops up who might have been rendered away and strongly persuaded. After that, McCain finally had the momentum to get his Anti-Torture bill passed over Bush and Cheney's opposition.

Then, to top even that embassasment, the NYT fesses up that it sat on a story for a year (not good NYT. . .) that Festus signed off on domestic spying that from all initial reports was clearly illegal albeit well intended. That prompted enought revulsion in Congress such they they knocked down the Patriot Act provisions that are now going to expire.

Festus continues to wallow in failure. 2006 and his impeachment can't come soon enough. . .

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dude can write

Harold Pinter is a playwright who won a Nobel prize recently. During much of his acceptance speech he takes to opportunity to rip Festus a new one which is actually pretty interesting to read. (Sorta reminds me of Le Carre's tirade.)

The following is the best part, though, where Pinter nails Festus's third grade diction and monosyllabic delivery perfectly:

"I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers," Pinter said, "but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

It's worth revisting Le Carre as well. Here's part of his letter dated 1/15/2003

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it.

It is with some shame that I recall discussing Le Carre's statements on my local AMUG bulletin board and besmirching Le Carre as being radically past it and better off sipping off another toddy and going back to bed. His words were pretty prescient then and a lot more timely than Pinter's. Needless to say I've come around to their thinking.

Outrage fatigue

My Blog Fodder folder is filling to the brim with links I've been meaning to rant on. But it's all too much lately. So I offer you another link-fest. . .

Festus: Today they have more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee: The number of Iraqi army battalions rated by U.S. officers as capable of fighting without U.S. help had dropped from three to one. Casey said 75 percent of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army was at least capable of engaging in combat, albeit with U.S. troops providing support in most cases. He declined to give an exact breakdown of Iraqi combat readiness, which he said was classified as secret, but he said more than 30 battalions are judged capable of taking the lead in an offensive, with U.S. support. Only one can operate entirely on its own.

I can appreciate that dispensing propaganda is a part of what goes on during war, but this is so sleazy. This report is two years old.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has asked a team of lawyers to check the proposals' legality. The Pentagon is forbidden from spreading black propaganda in the American media, but there is nothing to stop an American newspaper picking up a story carried abroad. The Pentagon is well versed in what it calls "psyops", dropping leaflets and using radio broadcasts to undermine enemy morale. But these kind of activities have always been confined to the battlefield, such as Afghanistan. Using covert tactics on media outlets of friendly countries is much more controversial.

Guess they did it anyway. Reports abound that Iraqi newseditors were paid off to publish US friendly propaganda. Were those the stories Bush keeps citing when trying to convince us that things in Iraq are improving? It's hard to know, isn't it?

Here's an update on The Denver Three
White House event staffers unlawfully removed two Denver residents from a town hall discussion with President Bush because of an anti-war bumper sticker on their car, charged the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal lawsuit filed today.

"The government should not be in the business of silencing Americans who are perceived to be critical of certain policy decisions," said ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Chris Hansen, who is the lead counsel in this case. "The president should be willing to be in the same room with people who might disagree with him, especially at a public, taxpayer-funded town hall."

Everyone's favorite batsh*t crazy Uncle Rumsfeld lowers the bar. in Iraq:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says you can't judge progress in Iraq based on the number of Americans killed.
Rumsfeld tells students of international studies at Johns Hopkins in Washington that Americans should be optimistic about what's happening. He says people have to stop defining success as "the absence of terrorist attacks."

Speaking of terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Commission came out with it's last report card on how the Federal government has responded to it's recommendations to improve our safty and response to the next terror attack on our shores. The report card is not good, no Gameboy for either Congress or Festus until those guys straighten this out.

After 5 years and unsuccessful lawsuits by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, it's finally revealed by leaked Secret Service records of White House security logs that, yes indeed, Oil company executives were granted secret meetings to advise VP Cheney on oil policy prior to Cheneys submission of his Enery Task Force manifesto. But the CEO's are still lying about it:
Toward the end of the hearing, Lautenberg asked the five executives: "Did your company or any representatives of your companies participate in Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001?" When there was no response, Lautenberg added: "The meeting . . . "

"No," said Raymond.

"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.

"We did not, no," Mulva said.

"To be honest, I don't know," said BP America chief executive Ross Pillari, who came to the job in August 2001. "I wasn't here then."

"But your company was here," Lautenberg replied.

"Yes," Pillari said.

Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, who has held his job since earlier this year, answered last. "Not to my knowledge," he said.