Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lies, Lies, Lies

This administration is fundamentally incapable of telling the American people the truth, no matter the subject. Their contempt for the truth always intersects with their contempt for the public.

The latest whopper surrounds the emergency medical treatment Cheney received in Vail, Colorado last evening. The AP reports the White House lie:

VAIL, Colo. (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney visited a renowned orthopedist Friday while in town for a forum held by a conservative think tank, his spokeswoman said.

Cheney met with Dr. Richard Steadman to evaluate an old football injury to his knee, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said.

Steadman focuses primarily on sports medicine, and his Steadman Hawkins Clinic has treated a number of famous athletes. In 2003, Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant was in Vail for knee surgery at the clinic when he was accused of raping a hotel worker.

Cheney was scheduled to attend the American Enterprise Institute World Forum, which was started in 1982 by former President Gerald Ford

Nice story, but it's a lie.

Cheney must be shitting his pants that Arianna Huffington happened to be in Vail last evening as well, and upon hearing that he'd been taken to an area hospital she immediately set to work investigating the circumstances of his illness.

I just landed at Vail airport, right next to the Vice President’s Gulfstream jet (actually, there were two Vice Presidential planes, not one... how much of an entourage does one VP need?). He’s here to speak at the World Forum at Beaver Creek, sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, and held, of course, behind closed doors. The guy sent to pick me up by the Vail Valley Institute (where I’m speaking) told me that he had seen the VP’s motorcade speed towards the local hospital. Being an intrepid HuffPost reporter, I asked him to take me straight there. Upon our arrival, we encountered a high level of security -- and a lot of zipped lips: “We cannot tell you anything,” “No comment,” “That information is not available...” But one hospital staffer, obviously not schooled in the secretive ways of Cheney, let it slip: “He’s no longer here”. And since you cannot “no longer” be someplace you’ve never been, we can deduce -- though not confirm -- that Cheney did, in fact, pay a visit to the local hospital. The reason? Over to you AP...

UPDATE: Cheney’s Health: What is the White House Hiding?

VAIL -- Why is the White House still insisting that the only health issue Vice President Cheney dealt with today is an old football injury to his knee, visiting renowned orthopedist Dr. Richard Steadman? At the Vail Valley Institute dinner tonight, I kept asking what those in the know here knew. Little by little, here is the story I pieced together: After the Secret Service secured the Vail Valley Medical Center, including the parking lot, the Vice President arrived under his own power and checked in at the orthopedic center under the name “Dr. Hoffman”. He was immediately whisked to the adjacent cardiac unit, suffering from what was described to me as “an angina attack”. The security was so high that a Secret Service agent wouldn’t let an ER nurse out of the bathroom that she had gone into just before the Veep arrived. “Get back in there,” the agent told her. Confounded, she called her husband on her cell phone, telling him “something big” was going on. And indeed it was… but you wouldn’t know it from the White House. It appears that not only doesn’t the public deserve to know what is really going on in Iraq (“last throes”?) we don’t deserve to know what is going on with our Vice President’s health.

When does the lying end with these thugs? Do they even care that there's a growing credibility gap in this administration, and such an obvious lie about Cheney's condition last night is something that the public, perhaps unable to immediately grasp the lies surrounding the war, can easily grasp and be deeply offended by?

Paging "Dr. Hoffman" - tell the fucking truth for a change. Respect the American people.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It's Fuck You Friday

Susan Estrich: Fuck you.

As Dukakis campaign manager, Estrich was beaten, bullied and left for dead by George H.W. Bush in 1988, running one of the most weak-kneed and incompetent campaigns in modern history. Apparently having an El Camino rammed up your ass once isn't enough; Estrich now pretends to be a token "liberal" on Fox news, and to keep from again being beaten, bullied and left for dead she simply agrees with her conservative taskmasters and spouts their talking points. Hey, it's a paycheck.

She recently published an op-ed piece that lauds Fox news and defends Fox against charges of bias leveled at the network. Media Matters does an excellent job debunking her desperate puff piece.

I am tired to the bone of someone like Estrich claiming to be a liberal in order to earn cash, and who then betrays the very liberalism she claims to espouse by embracing the nightmare that is Fox. Liberals, real liberals, utterly reject state propaganda used to lull the masses into accepting wars of aggression, corporate greed and corruption, and the wholesale rolling back of civil rights, human rights, women's rights, gay rights, and every other bit of progress over the last century that the Neanderthals at Fox are determined to crush with the full assistance of greedy whores like Estrich.

Yet she's able to breezily write, between grunts to pass the El Camino, "I'm the blonde on the left, figuratively and literally - the one who's usually smiling because it's TV..."

Sick. I find her so abhorrent I'll say it again: Fuck you, Estrich.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bush Forces White House Color Guard to Break the Law

Bush is intent on forcing new flag desecration laws down the throats of the proles, but it appears he's breaking a law regarding the handling of the American flag that's already on the books.

The White House color guard has a strange new ritual that takes place when Bush receives a foreign visitor, and I first noticed it during Blair's visit last week. It's bizarre and gives off creepy Richard Nixon vibes, and it's also apparently illegal.

During Blair's visit, the White House color guard stood in single file, four on each side, against the walls of a corridor that Bush and Blair passed to reach their podium setups. As they passed by, the military color guard dipped their flags, giving off not only a wave effect but adding an unseemly regal touch, as though bowing down before a monarch. I'd never seen anything like it, but this week it happened again, I believe during the visit of representatives from Portugal and Luxembourg.

The whole thing seems like another method to make Bush appear like a demigod or a king, and I decided to do some checking on this new grand entrance. I know he's violated much weightier laws and this one is but a drop of rain in the ocean, but here it is:

4 U.S. Code Chapter 1, Sec. 8.: Respect for flag - "No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing."

It's difficult to find footage online of this illegal ritual, as most of the U.S. media begins their coverage of the Blair visit with Bush and his poodle stepping up to the podiums, but BBC has a brief opening shot that shows the flags returning to their upright position after being dipped. I also wondered who might be brain dead enough to actually be impressed by this pompous, pretentious act and the answer came as if in a dream: Fox News viewers.

A quick check of the FNC site has a nice clip of the tail end of the illegal flag-dipping while EU representatives visited the White House.

Isn't this something? They want to bully us about the proper use of the flag, yet Bush is openly breaking a law designed to protect the flag. The arrogance is deplorable. This dipping of the American flag to a president (and, I might add, to foreign dignitaries - shocking) shows the depth of Bush's megalomania.

When the flag burning debate reaches the United States Senate, remind Harry Reid that Bush needs to follow the current laws regarding handling of the United States flag before new laws should be considered.

Cry Me a River

I like Richard Durbin. He's a good guy with a progressive record, having voted against the Iraq War Resolution a month before his next election date in Illinois - rare courage for a politician - and he voted against the confirmation of Gonzales and Rice. He's been good on the Judiciary Committee exposing the extremism of Bush's judicial nominees. As minority whip in the Senate, he performed admirably in keeping the Democrats together to stop the Bolton nomination. Yeah, he's a good guy and a good liberal and I hate to join the piling on of him but JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.

His initial remarks in the Senate were, on the whole, true. Durbin had read an excerpt from an FBI report that described prisoners being chained on the ground in extreme temperatures without access to water or food (kind of makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?) for extended periods of time. After quoting from the report, Durbin said something that created one of the most faux displays of outrage yet among conservatives who continually defend our barbarism in the handling of detainees around the world: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings." Note that Durbin did not claim in these remarks that all atrocities are equal, simply that what he had just read reflected other forms of government-sponsored torture performed by regimes with no regard for human life. Bingo. The entire thrust of this comment had nothing to do with individual soldiers but with our government that set as official policy brutal, inhumane and un-American torture techniques of prisoners who are being held without charges for years, quite possibly for life.

The firestorm that followed was, of course, utterly predictable. Given that Durbin's remarks were made in the same week as the congressional forum on the Downing Street Minutes, the right wing created a false distraction, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing (sort of like their favorite old chestnut, flag burning). In this they were obediently aided the corporate media, who howled for Durbin's head and ran hours and hours of commentary on this nonstory while continuing to ignore the Downing Street Minutes.

Despite the demons from hell grabbing at his coattails, for a while Durbin held firm. The next day, he issued a statement that read, "This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure." Exactly right. Then the bottom dropped out for Durbin.

The Anti-Defamation League, despite being silent on Senator Rick Santorum's recent comparison of Democrats to Adolf Hitler, publicly took Durbin to task and demanded Durbin apologize for "... distorting an important issue, with an inappropriate comparison to Nazi tactics. " The big blow, however, came from Chicago mayor, political boss and all-around jackass Richard Daley, who told the media "I think it's a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military would act like that," despite the fact that there is not only ample evidence to prove otherwise but multiple court-martials of men and women in our military for acting "like that". Endgame for Durbin. He had to back down, not from right-wing nutjob pressure but from the pressure from within that loves to eat their own. Fine. I get it. Get it over with, Dick, and move on.

I figured Durbin would make a brief mea culpa on the Senate floor, followed perhaps by a clarification of his original point similar to what he had provided in his statement issued the day after his remarks. What I did not expect, as I saw him appear on CSPAN, was his complete and utter self-immolation on live television. Durbin not only apologized but collapsed on the carpet with his legs sprawled to the sky so Bill Frist could take a surgical knife to his genitals and castrate him on-air. Yes, it was that bad.

He cried. His voice broke. He stared pleadingly and imploringly into the CSPAN camera and begged. He looked like a puppy crying not to be kicked. It was mortifying for him personally, but what's more it was mortifying for Democrats who are right on this issue and saw this debacle unfold live and knew, with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs, that human rights advocacy would forever be tied in the media with the tearful visage of Dick Durbin begging for forgiveness. And the media, of course, was quick to attach his face to the issue without questioning whether he was, in truth, right on his facts from the beginning. The video clip of Durbin unspooled immediately all over cable and network news, and we should not be surprised that MSNBC aired a shameful promo in which Durbin's tearful apology was placed next to that of Jimmy Swaggert.

So, another huge whipped-up frenzy, all done with a straight face while our government not only condones but orders human rights abuses all over the world. The policy remains unquestioned and unexamined, while Dick Durbin's humiliation is now public fodder and will no doubt remain so for years.

So, to a good and decent man, a true progressive, an outstanding United States Senator, I say...JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. Make a short statement, put this behind you, but to fucking TAKE DOWN THIS ISSUE with your deplorable mewling is FUCKED UP.

On a side note: Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. His novel The Age of Reason directly applies to our lives in the current state of Bush oppression in which we find ourselves. It's less than five bucks in paperback. Read it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Buyer's Remorse in California

The sorry saga of Arnold Schwarzenegger's reign of stupidity in California will mercifully conclude when he's defeated in his bid for reelection next year, and we can only hope that his departure will signal the end of California's unseemly habit of electing half-wit actors to be the chief executive officer of the state.

Schwarzenegger and his Republican cronies seized on Grey Davis' poor public approval ratings to force an expensive special election to recall Davis, and now the chickens have come home to roost as Schwarzeneggers' own polls are at the same low levels as those of Davis when Republicans were calling for his head. In the most recent Field Research poll, 58% of all Californians now disapprove of Arnold's performance (and it is a "performance" - a bad actor playing governor) with only 31% approving. He does slightly better among registered voters at 53/37, if one can consider a 37% approval rating to be encouraging. Certainly Scwarzenegger himself doesn't, as evidenced by his remarks in Sacramento yesterday.

"All of us in this building can share blame — all of us, including myself," Schwarzenegger said. "People make mistakes sometimes, and I think we learned there was a very clear message that we must work together. I am looking forward to that. The people … feel good when things work well."

Where was the "people make mistakes sometimes" magnanimity when Schwarzenegger and his Pete Wilson sloppy-second rejects were savaging Grey Davis? Where was the "we must work together" bonhomie when Schwarzenegger took the stage at the Republican National Convention in prime time and hurled "girlie men" insults at the Democratic voters in his own state where, he might be reminded, Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a considerable margin?

There is actually little blame to be "shared". Schwarzenegger himself bears the burden for his own plummeting approval polls thanks to his attacks on the unions that represent nurses, educators, and state employees that took on such a tone of personal hostility it appeared that his grudge wasn't only against their unions but against the members themselves. Attacking nurses and teachers is hardly a formula for success, particularly as these are female-dominated professions and the violence of his rhetoric has reminded voters of his well-publicized disrepect for women. The $45 million dollar special election Schwarzenegger has called for November is wildly unpopular, being seen not only as an abuse of the initiative process but a drain on the state treasury, particularly when services are being cut throughout California.

Yes, the Schwarzenegger comedy routine is drawing to a close, but his rise is something that does involve blame that can be "shared" by Democrats. It's not a surprise that a state that congratulates itself for setting trends in popular culture would elect a pop culture cartoon character such as Schwarzenegger, even one who presented himself during his campaign as a buffoon and a clown. After years of Republican governors so deadly dull that you needed to be tasered to remain awake for their speeches (Deukmejian, Wilson), the Democrats responded by running candidates who equally failed to capture the imagination of the voters, featuring colorless stuffed suit bureaucrats (Feinstein, Davis) or party hacks (Bustamante). Californians, tired of being bored into a stupor by their governor, countered by putting an oaf into office. Democrats should take notice, and respond not with an oaf - that particular act clearly hasn't worked - but by someone who is willing to push the margins a bit, who can appeal to the younger voters of the state - critical if California is to remain Democratic in the next generation - and who isn't afraid to take on conventional wisdom and shake up Sacramento. Someone like a modern-day Jerry Brown, who was not only interesting (well, nutty) enough to engage the public but who was actually competent in his occasional lucid moments.

Does such a cutting edge Democrat exist in California today? Gavin Newsome is one, but the asleep at the switch, complacent and bloated California Democratic party will never have the vision to push for his candidacy. Look for the same ol' shit next year, with Bustamante or his ilk again being trotted out to bore the voters and keep them away from the polls in droves. The state Democratic party desperately needs reform, but I doubt they'll learn from the Schwarzenegger debacle. If they aren't careful, look for the emergence of a strong Green candidate next year, which will create the danger of a split liberal vote and the unthinkable - a full term of Arnold. Time for the Democrats in California to change or be left for dead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Real Man of the People

The Houston Chronicle recently ran a piece about the "rules of decorum" our Chimp expects at the White House.

After describing a scene in which this sociopath got pissy over a reporter's tie, the Chronicle goes on to note a particularly petulant display:

Bush recently hosted South Korean President Roh Moo-hyn in the Oval Office, where he was visibly annoyed by the nonchalance of visiting South Korean newsmen.

Members of the White House press corps understand that, as a rule, touching the furniture in the Oval Office is strictly forbidden. Even when Bush brings a group of journalists in for an informal chat, he does not invite them to sit.

So it was with unconcealed consternation that Bush sat through a brief question and answer session with the South Korean president, while two sound engineers from the South Korean press corps sprawled on a couch to get a good position for the remarks.

The generally loquacious Bush delivered his comments in short, abrupt sentences with a tone of impatience.

So profound was his air of injury that at one point, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, standing against a wall, stepped forward to peer at the offending sound technicians.

It's amazing how the media, particularly the White House press corps - the same ones who aren't allowed to touch the furniture - were able to sell our Mad Emperor as some kind of down home man of the people for two election cycles. What a fraud.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Joe

I watched Face the Nation yesterday for some odd reason, since I dislike the format of these Sunday news shows and the simplistic flacking that they feature. When Joe Biden's startling visage appeared, complete with gaudy hair plugs and a smile that beams on and off like a lighthouse in the fog, I was tempted to turn it off but doing so would require putting down my coffee cup and Biden isn't worth that much effort.

Biden is considered a "moderate" Democrat, which these days has nothing to do with political ideology. Today's "moderates" are ones who have, DLC-style, sold their souls to the big money of corporate lobbyists (Biden, both Clintons, Lieberman) or who have spouses who are war profiteers (Feinstein). Interestingly enough, our corporate media almost exclusively features either Biden or Feinstein as representatives of the Democratic point of view, trotting these two out to the exclusion of actual Democrats whenever they need an "opposition" voice (insert hysterical laughter here). This is why I wasn't surprised to see Biden and his hair plugs for the millionth time on a Sunday morning carrying water for his corporate benefactors.

Biden, it must be said, voted for the Iraq War Resolution and was one of the biggest hawks in the Senate pushing for this war. Now that the tide is beginning to turn and the majority of the public is rejecting this misadventure, Biden is trying to negotiate the head of the pin he finds himself on. How he did so yesterday morning was, to say the least, interesting. He began by taking Cheney and Rice to task for their recent optimism in assessing the insurgency in Iraq.

Ms. TUMULTY: So, do you think the administration is telling the American people the truth?

Sen. BIDEN: No, they're not telling the truth. Look, I try to put the - let me put the best face on this that I can. Why would the Vice President say what he said? Why would Secretary Rice characterize it the way she says it when I don't know anyone who believes that to be the case? "The last throes'. 'We're almost there'. 'Great progress'. Only thing I can figure out is that they don't trust the American people.

I mean, I've been saying on this program, and God love you, you've had me on a lot over the past two years, that I think the American people know how tough this is going to be. I think the American people if you lay out a plan and tell them the truth about how hard it's going to be and why you think it's important, they'll stick. I think the administration figures they've got to paint a rosy picture in order to keep the American people in the game, and the exact opposite is happening. The exact opposite. Otherwise, with all due respect, they're not fully informed or, well, they won't care.

Granted it's difficult to navigate the head of a pin, but according to Biden, the only difference between him and, say, Dick Cheney is that he'd emphasize that Iraq is a bloodbath, a meat grinder with an active insurgency that will continue to kill Americans and Iraqis alike, and that this refreshing, Biden-style frankness will keep Americans "in the game" because someone is finally doing some nasty truth-telling. And this tripe is presented with a straight face as the "opposition"!

What would Biden do differently in Iraq? Well, let's see...

Sen. BIDEN: The first thing I'd do is, I'd say, 'pick up the phone and call General Jones, our supreme allied commander, and he will tell you I believe that NATO has the capacity to take over that border on Iraq at this late date', that's number one. Number two, I'd say 'Mr. President, please take advantage of what the French, the Germans, and the Egyptians have done to offer to train up Iraqi police and Iraqi military'. Number three, "Change the way you distribute the funds there'.

Sounds like a dandy recipe for sucess, doesn't it? Make a few tweaks, do some random truth telling and keep us in Iraq for years to come. Biden, that rough renegade truth-teller, fails to note that the presence of our troops is the fuel for this insurgency, and as long as Biden and his friends keep our Imperial Army there they'll continue to be slaughtered and Iraq will continue to be in turmoil.

He almost falls off of his pinhead when, after criticizing the administration for painting a rosy picture of the nightmare in Iraq, he tells Karen Tumulty, "But the fact is, I think it still can be won, Karen."

Is it any wonder that Biden is a fixture on these "news" programs? This is the Democrat, after all, who said to torture advocate Alberto Gonzales "I think you're a solid guy" and "I like you, you're the real deal", who voted to confirm Rice, who was bought by MBNA to support the bankruptcy bill. Biden is in a perpetual green room because he's a "safe" Democrat who won't rock the corporate boat or disrupt the administration's plans for Empire. Note how he emphasizes "truth-telling" now, but is silent about the deplorable lack of "truth-telling" during the run-up to this war?

It's little wonder that the American people think the Democrats are indistinguishable from the Republicans when the only Democratic point of view the media will allow is of the simpering Joe Biden variety. The danger now, of course, is that the media will only promote Biden-like candidates for our nomination in 2008, which they've recently done with their constant hyping of Hillary Clinton and their trashing of Howard Dean, who actually is rocking the boat. An excellent, and frightening, example of this came at the conclusion of Face the Nation yesterday.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, let me ask you this. A lot of people are saying that --well, you yourself have said you're thinking about running for president. Since Howard Dean has sort of--so many Democrats seem to be disassociating themselves with remarks that he makes as party chairman, saying 'Well, he doesn't speak to me.' It seems to me more people are turning to you for comment and for the Democratic side of things. Are you--how far along are you on this idea for running for president? Is that a real possibility, or...

To this bullshit Biden nobly replied, "My intention now is to seek the nomination."

The media manipulation has begun early, and there's no doubt that they'll be shilling for the weakest pro-war "Democrats" they can find between now and the next primary season. The fact that they're promoting an execrable piece of shit like Biden should be a huge red flag for Democrats outside the beltway. He'll no doubt get the same "Joementum" that we gave his fellow piece of Joe-shit Lieberman last year, but in the meantime we'll have to suffer through dreck like the above for the next three years. Batten down the hatches.