October 2006

Many progressives are upset because, although the Republicans caught themselves in their own net with Foley, many feel the greatest crime of BushCo is Iraq. Certainly no one has died in the Foley scandal to date. I have been inclined to agree with this. Thousands dead and many more thousands injured in Iraq, the destruction of New Orleans, the war on the Constitution, torture, the role back of habeas corpus, the destruction of the US good name, all this and more are terrible crimes against the citizens of the US and the world. But Glenn Greenwald has written an article that makes me rethink the importance and significance of the Foley scandal.

Many people do not follow politics every day. Many are way too busy with jobs, sometimes more than one job, and diverse and extensive family responsibilities. They trust the news media, and certain trusted commentators, to let them know when something is really wrong. Their trust has been visibly betrayed. The Foley scandal is easily understood, and the duplicity of the Republican response demonstrates what the party and their supporters have been doing all along. As Greenwald says, every one of their corrupt attributes is vividly on display.

People are paying attention on their own. They don’t need pundits or journalists to tell them what to think about it because they are able to form deeply held opinions on their own. None of the standard obfuscation tactics used for so long by Bush followers are working here. To the contrary, their attempted use of those tactics is making things much worse for them, because people can see that Bush followers are attempting — through the use of patently dishonest and corrupt tactics — to excuse the inexcusable. And seeing that, it gives great credence to all of the accusations voiced over the last five years that this is how the Bush movement operates in every area, because people can now see it for themselves.

In that regard, this scandal is like the Cliffs’ Notes version of a more complicated treatise on how the Bush movement operates. Every one of their corrupt attributes is vividly on display here:

The absolute refusal ever to admit error. The desperate clinging to power above all else. The efforts to cloud what are clear matters of wrongdoing with irrelevant sideshows. And the parade of dishonest and just plainly inane demonization efforts to hide and distract from their wrongdoing.

The whole article is worth reading.

October 7, 2006

Jacob Weisberg in Slate has an entertaining, and I think highly accurate take on Bob Woodward. He traces the treatment of Rumsfeld in Woodward’s three books on BushCo. As he points out, Rumsfeld did not change during this time, but Woodward’s descriptions of him changed radically by book 3.

Woodward never acknowledges changing his mind because he regards himself as a straightforward reporting machine, with no opinions of his own and no axes to grind. He can’t say he’s revising his judgments because he claims never to have made any. But, of course, Woodward does have a consistent worldview—the conventional wisdom of any given moment. When tout le Beltway viewed Rummy as a commanding hunk, Woodward embodied the adoration. Now that we all know Rummy is a vicious old bastard, Woodward channels the loathing just as fluidly. I’m not holding my breath, but if the war in Iraq takes a turn for the better, Stud Rummy could well return in Woodward’s Buns of Brass: Bush at War IV.

What’s maddening is the way Woodward reverses his point of view without acknowledging he ever had one—then or now. You could charge him with flattering politicians only when they’re up, and piling on when they’re down. But you might as well accuse a weathervane of changing its mind about which way the wind should blow.

I think this last sentence is an excellent summation of Woodward’s entire career.

It can happen anywhere in the world, regardless of who makes the voting machines. The Register brings us a story of Irish voting machines that can not only be hacked so as to manipulate the result, they can also be hacked so you can play chess on them.

IT professionals in the Netherlands have demonstrated that the type of e-voting machines chosen by the Irish government for election counts can be secretly hacked.

Using documentation obtained from the Irish Department of the Environment, Dutch IT experts from anti e-voting group, “Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet” (We don’t trust voting computers), went on the “Een Vandaag” television programme on Wednesday to reveal that NEDAP e-voting machines could be made to record inaccurate voting preferences and even be reprogrammed to run a chess program.

Courtesy of Abu Aardvark, this joke has been around at least 15 years:

An American CIA agent, an Israeli Mossad agent, and an Iraqi Mukhabarat agent are sitting in a bar. They start arguing over who is the best at intelligence, so they decide to have a contest: the first one to come back to the bar with a camel wins. The American rushes out, calls up the King’s office, and says “King, I need a camel – now.” Five minutes later, the King comes huffing and puffing up, delivering the camel personally. “Thanks, your Royalness. You can go back to the casino now.” Grinning a cocky American grin, he saunters back to the bar with his camel… only to find the Israeli sitting in his chair, resting his feet on a camel. “Dang it!” curses the American. “How did you DO that?” Then the two sit back and wait for the Iraqi. Hours pass. Finally, they go out looking for him. They don’t have to go far. He’s in the back alley, torturing a rabbit and screaming “Say you’re a camel! Say you’re a camel!”

Trust me, it used to be funnier.

When we killed Abu Musab Zarqawi, among his documents was a letter from someone fairly high up in al-Qaeda, identified only as Atiyah. His letter made it clear that the what al-Qaeda wants is the longest involvement possible of Americans in Iraq. Abu Aardvark quotes from the letter, and summarizes it thus:

Al-Qaeda wants American troops in Iraq, not an American withdrawal. It wants a protracted war which allows it to drain American blood and treasure while producing an endless stream of the images of jihadi heroism and American brutality on which its narrative thrives . . .
bloodshed without Americans would do nothing for their global strategy.

Things you can count on the Republican leadership to screw up:

The deficit. Body armor. Medicare reform. Social Security reform. The minimum wage. Port security. The National Guard. Diplomacy. The Geneva Conventions. Fair elections. Clean elections. Intelligence. Protecting the Constitution. Protecting the Bill of Rights. Government transparency. Oversight. Separation of church and state. The middle class. The poor. Tax reform. Tax cuts. Bankruptcy law. Global warming. Disaster management. Defeating terrorists. Saying no to lobbyists. Saying yes to public opinion. Pre-war planning. Post-war planning. Competence. Civil rights. Civil liberties. Civil debate. Veterans’ benefits. Hiring based on ability. Legal surveillance. Morality. Energy policy. Energy independence. End-of-life decisions among spouses. Inclusion. Learning lessons from history. Learning, period. Drug policy. Fiscal responsibility. Trusting the generals. Trusting the spooks. Trusting the experts. Basic honesty. Basic health care. Education. Creating jobs. Keeping CIA operatives’ identities secret. Catching Osama. Playing nice. Playing fair. Refilling ice cube trays. Making paper airplanes. Or coffee. Tying their shoelaces. Making friends. Blowing their noses. Counting to ten five three. Sharing their toys. Telling the truth. Uniting the country. Protecting underage kids from a predatory congressman.

That seems to be the gist of the Republican talking points on Mark Foley. Only in their case they don’t regard it as a fair cop, just the fault of society. There is this description of how they, congressmen, all do it and it is the Democrats fault for hearing about it before an election. I also read that Jerry Falwell said Mark Foley’s problems are the fault of society. When people other than Republicans talk this way, they call it coddling criminals.

Nana Kwame Ampadu 1 now has a website where you can read his biography, view a photo gallery, see his achievements and awards, list of albums, and more. Under new release and compilations, you can purchase CDs, and hear samples from the CDs. These are well worth a listen. Nana Kwame Ampadu and the African Brothers Band have long been a driving musical force, and a source of brilliant and biting commentary on politics and society.

Nana Ampadu of Ghana formed his African Brothers Band in 1963 as one of the many guitar-based highlife groups that rose in Ghana in the ’60s. The trademarks of the group are their adherence to performing only their own songs (as opposed to the common practice of simply covering other groups’ compositions), as well as putting forth a political message within each of their songs. During the ’70s, they became one of the more innovative bands on the scene, as they experimented with influences from other areas, including the rumba, reggae, and a form of music meant to incorporate all of the African forms, Afro-hili, which was also made as a competitor to Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat. After some time, they have returned to a purer form of guitar highlife, though hundreds of albums (mostly in Ghana) can attest to their longevity and creativity. ~ Adam Greenberg, All Music Guide

Ghana’s African Brothers Band has thrived and survived through three decades of social and political transition and turmoil throughout their homeland. They have reigned supreme atop the highlife hierarchy almost since their inception. They’re currently led by Nana Kwame Ampadu the Third, and record at Ambassador studios in Kumasi. A couple of years ago, they did their first shows in England since 1984. The African Brothers emerged as superstars in 1967, with their first hit “Ebi Tie Ye.” They were part of the new highlife sound that fused rock and reggae bits into a tight, multiple guitar front line, accenting lyricist and leader Nana Ampadu’s exhaustive, metaphor-driven sermons drawn from stories of the animal kingdom. They have several releases available on the international market, plus many other cassette-only items not sold outside Ghana. ~ Ron Wynn, All Music Guide

Bush has finally told us his real message, and what he has to offer us and our country. He has been telling us this for a long time. Now he spells it out, captured by billmon.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Inaugural Address
March 4, 1933

“The only thing we have is fear.”

George W. Bush
Radio Address
September 30, 2006

And to quote Sarah Vowell:

Whenever I hear the president mention, oh, every 12 minutes, that his greatest responsibility is ”to protect the American people,” the insufferable civics robot inside my head mutters: ”Actually, sir, your oath, the one with the Bible and the chief justice and the Jumbotron, is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. For the American people are not mere flesh whose greatest hope is to keep our personal greasy molecules intact; we, sir, are a body politic — with ideals.”
Down With Torture! Gimme Torture!; [Op-Ed]
Sarah Vowell. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). Feb 5, 2006. pg. 4.13

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