Friday, January 06, 2006

A look back... Seriously, Could It Get Any Worse?

Todays posting needs little comment from me... Seriously, IT SAYS IT ALL! Thinkingblue

The Bonfire of the Inanities; Seriously, Could It Get Any Worse? By Barry Crimmins The Boston Phoenix
Thursday 22 December 2005
For 2005, my annual task of reviewing the past year has been complicated by an old adage: oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Here I sit, tangled in a web that many people began weaving way back when the Gipper was protecting us against deadly pollutants released by old-growth forests. It was a jumble out there this year - one that defies linear documentation.

So let me borrow from our friend Mark Twain and offer this admonition: persons attempting to find chronology in this narrative will become lost; persons attempting to find morals in its subjects will be generally disappointed; persons attempting to find a plot will be overwhelmed (because it contains more plots than Arlington National Cemetery).
And anyone expecting a comprehensive review will end up feeling they have a lot more coming.

Scandalous to the End

California Republican congressman Duke Cunningham had a narrow window of opportunity. It was late November, and he had 15, 20 minutes tops, to become a late entry in the scumbag sweepstakes that was 2005. The aging Navy fighter-jock did not miss his chance. At an impromptu press conference, Cunningham announced both his resignation from Congress and his guilty plea to several corruption charges. On that sunny autumn afternoon, the Dukester secured his place in history - as a simpering, blubbering jellyfish.

Most years, Cunningham's weepy guilty plea and resignation would have been a major news story for weeks, but in 2005, it barely merited a "So what else is new?" shrug of the shoulders.
By the time we got to Cunningham's sobbing exit, no one - absolutely no one - could keep track of all the scandals involving the Bush-Cheney administration, the Republican Congress, and state and local Republican leaders and their corporate and evangelical cronies. There were procurement scandals, media scandals, emergency-preparedness scandals, even treason scandals. These people stole everything, from coins in Ohio to billions in Iraq - including, in the estimation of some, the 2004 election, giving George W. Bush a matched set of nebulous claims to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Which is where we entered 2005: believe it or not, Bush and Cheney's second inaugural was a scant 11 months ago. Feels more like 11 years, doesn't it? I've suppressed almost all memory of the inauguration except for two things: a hazy recollection of the halftime show for the Crusades and the faint hope that Bush-Cheney arrogance would lead to such brazenly incompetent and unconstitutionally criminal behavior that not even Rupert Murdoch would be able to conceal it.

In mid December, Wally O'Dell, a big GOP fundraiser who promised to deliver Ohio's electoral votes for Bush, resigned as CEO of Diebold, the company whose electronic balloting machines at least in part delivered Ohio to Bush. O'Dell left over allegations of insider trading. The same week, a Florida county announced it would no longer use Diebold machines because they're vulnerable to backdoor hacks and could be used to manipulate vote tallies.

You know that saying "the fix is in"? Well in this case, was the fixer an inside trader?

I mean how much more naïveté can we afford? We have a president who has twice been "elected" despite polling data that told us it wasn't going to happen. And then his administration is fraught with every possible insider scandal. They fix intelligence, they fix the media, they fix government contracts, and now the man that promised to hand them Ohio leaves his job at the secret voting-booth company because he was caught insider trading. Is it paranoid to connect the dots and understand that we have been living, for the past five years, under an unelected criminal regime? Or is it, to put it in W-era parlance, a slam-dunk? Use your own intelligence and trust it.

The Ever-Helpful Press Bush-Cheney's cynicism and contempt for the media, and their administration's repeatedly exposed practice of fabricating and/or planting stories became so blatant in 2005 that newscasts should have begun with the disclaimer "I'm George W. Bush and I approved of this message."

In January, we learned that neo-con columnist Armstrong Williams was on the federal dole to tout Bush's No Child Left Behind program. In February, "Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert" the "Washington Bureau Chief" of "Talon News," who had been given media access to the White House more than 100 times, was exposed as a male prostitute by bloggers who decided to investigate the "reporter" whose Nerf-ball questions made him White House press secretary Scott McClellan's go-to guy when things got sticky. (It's simply impossible to write this without cheap jokes.)

The bloggers no doubt figured the guy to be an escaped mental patient but soon learned that he was the driving force behind several pornographic gay-escort sites that promoted his patriotic desire to continue the rigid discipline of military service to America long after he'd been ... um, discharged. (Simply impossible.)

He even asked a question of W from the fourth row of a rare presidential press conference. As I recall it was "Who do I have to blow to get in the first row?"

Who's to Plame?

Perhaps the answer was whomever it was on Bush's staff assigned to disclose to "Jimmy-Jeff" the identity of the soon-to-be world's most famous secret agent, Valerie Plame. Plame was a CIA WMD expert working undercover for the "brass plate" front firm, Brewster Jennings & Associates. Blowing her cover was meant as revenge against her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, after he went to Niger in 2002 and established that the Saddam Hussein/yellowcake-uranium story was nonsense and then wrote about it later in the New York Times. Within days, Robert Novak, a man with a voice so shrill only dogs can hear it and a column so odious only rodents read it, outed Plame. And then, in a follow-up piece, he disclosed Brewster Jennings and its true purpose, endangering not only Plame but dozens of other operatives as well.

I'm no fan of the CIA, but treason is treason, and although betraying our nation is nothing new for this administration, this time the charge just might stick. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is still preparing the case, but if justice is served, presidential puppeteer-in-chief Karl Rove, clearly up to his splotchy pink neck in Traitorgate, could be back in Texas for good by the new year.

Vice-President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was indicted for obstruction of justice and perjury in the case. Cheney, a man who makes Donald Trump look like a hands-off guy, would have us believe that he was shocked to learn that his top aide had become a rogue operative in this criminal conspiracy.

Traitorgate was the epicenter of the snarl in the Bush-Cheney web of deceit, combining as it did the administration's media manipulation, its phony case for war, and its low-blow tactics. New York Times reporter Judith Miller was the gray lady down on the administration for exclusive access to every falsehood it wanted planted in the paper of record to make its phony case for war in Iraq. Miller, a viciously ambitious, narcissistic journalist made up of equal parts tenacity and wrong-headedness, had been informed of Plame's identity by Scooter Libby.

This was a cynically wise move considering how furious she had become with Wilson's Times op-ed piece that refuted some very specific lies she had run above the fold in the mislead-up to war. Miller spent several weeks in jail for contempt of court rather than reveal Libby as her source in the Plame leak. But really all she was covering was her own complicit ass, which eventually was booted out on the street by the paper that allowed her to so compromise it.

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward also traded ethics for access and got caught in the swirl of Traitorgate. As the story was exploding, Woodward went on Larry King and matter-of-factly implied the whole affair was a tempest in a teapot. He failed to disclose his own involvement, but we soon learned that he was just another rat in the sewer that ran between the White House and the corporate media. Richard Nixon would be so proud of him!

Congressional Record/Rap Sheet

The Republican Congress was a disgrace throughout the year. Low points included the ethics scandals that embroiled both the House and Senate majority leaders. Congressman Tom DeLay was indicted for money laundering, the only known connection to anything clean in his sordid career. A primary player in DeLay's K Street (soon to be renamed Shakedown Street) Project was lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who funneled funds, goods, and junkets to DeLay and others in exchange for right of first refusal on all legislation. The scandal is complicated and far-reaching and, as such, is my pick to click in 2006 - an ideal year for all Americans to take a good look at just how bought and paid-for their legislators really are.

Dr. Bill Frist, the Senate's majority leader, was plagued by vision problems that actually caused him to see too much - like the contents of his blind trust, which now has him under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. His super vision also allowed him to use a home video to pronounce that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state. Of course he was wrong - she was in Florida.

Camp Followers

By July, polls showed 51 percent of the country felt it had been misled into war. The slide has continued. Dick Cheney is now trailing cholera in opinion surveys.

In early August, with Traitorgate unwrapping and the country, his war, and his administration collapsing around him, Bush did what he always does in a tight spot. He went on an extended vacation. Prior to leaving for his Crawford, Texas, ranch, where he raises photo-ops, he made one of his boilerplate comments about why the war had to continue. It would be a disservice, he maintained, to abandon the "just cause" for which so many brave Americans had died.
This raised a question in the mind of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of one of those brave slain soldiers, Sergeant Casey Sheehan. Since she was in nearby Dallas speaking at the Veterans for Peace conference, she decided to take a ride on the VFP bus over to Crawford to see if the president would take a moment from his busy leisure activities to see her. All she wanted to know was, "Exactly what just cause had Casey died for?"

She let the gatekeepers know she was there and asked if she could please have a word with the president. The answer, more implied than articulated, was "NO!" And one of the great standoffs in American political history ensued. Soon, other members of Gold Star Families for Peace, the fledgling but instantly morally authoritative Iraq Vets Against the War, representatives of Military Families Speak Out, local activists from the Crawford Peace House, and concerned citizens of the United States and the world joined Sheehan. Camp Casey sprung up, then Camp Casey II was pitched on land loaned by a courageous Crawfordian who had become disgusted by the behavior of some of the locals toward the respectful assembly of citizens who still clung to the belief that the president of the United States is accountable to the people he serves.

This attracted the national media, myself included, who was dispatched there by Air America's Randi Rhodes. Nineteen days later, I returned inspired by the rebirth of the American peace movement. Bush could have avoided the whole mess by facing one sincere mother; instead he stuck to form and hid from conflict that would require his actual participation. Sheehan gave Bush a shove down a slope that was about to become much slipperier.

A Mighty Wind

Camp Casey was so traumatic for W that he was probably relieved when Hurricane Katrina's epic storm surge washed Cindy Sheehan out of the headlines. As ever, Bush was careless about what he wished for, and soon the world was looking at shocking aerial views of a country run by dim frat boys.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sold themselves as offering the kind of adult supervision this country needs in time of crisis. Homeland security is their alleged strong suit, but apparently someone forgot to brief them on the fact that the most important part of homeland security is land itself. Their slow response to thousands of stranded victims made many realize that terra firma is an even bigger concern than terror.

Bush sent the Federal Emergency Management Agency's director Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown (W has such a knack for nicknames!), who had risen to the top of our nation's crisis-management team because he was the most qualified former college roommate of a Bush crony available. Ever detail-oriented, Brown immediately distinguished himself by surveying the area for suitable restaurants and carefully considering the proper attire to wear to a massive human calamity. As the water rose and the evacuees' plight grew worse, Brown assured a concerned nation that there was really nothing we could do right away for those thousands of people yelling, "Help! Help! Help!" in unison. Now what's for lunch?

Eventually, FEMA distinguished itself by evacuating the one most truly helpless person on the Gulf Coast: Brownie. Bush then made a series of visits to the region, promising all who would listen that rebuilding the area, and particularly New Orleans, was his top priority - at least until he could distract the American people from the crucial city that had been lost on the "watch" he's always reminding us he's on.

Bottoms Up?

After Katrina, it began to seem that Bush's actions and policies were nothing more than the result of drunken bar bets. In fact, the very reputable National Enquirer posited that W was back on the bottle. That would explain Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers: Watch this, this'll be funny - the next person that walks in here, I'm naming to the Supreme Court.

Two interesting stories came out in December. The first exposed Bush's practice of wire-tapping American citizens without so much as clearing the microscopic hurdle of obtaining a special secret-court warrant. But hey, if you don't have anything to hide, what are you worried about?

And then the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group at Syracuse University, discovered that the administration, breaking with a tradition of openness that began in 1816, has decided to withhold the names and work locations of about 900,000 government civilian workers. If we don't know who's working for the government, we don't know who to ask what the government is doing. If they don't have anything to hide, why are they hiding 900,000 people? Too bad they didn't have this policy when Valerie Plame still had her job.

And They Call It Democracy

Shortly following Bush's feudal fiesta of an inauguration was the first of three Iraqi elections. The January 30 vote was memorable because it marked a novel approach to democracy - the candidates for the interim government were anonymous but the voters were fingerprinted. The Bush-Cheney administration touted the vote as a major turning point. Ditto for an October vote for an Iraqi constitution and for December's permanent-legislative elections. In each case, this wildly optimistic assessment was then parroted by the mainstream media and accepted as an important marker on the invaded nation's road to democratic self-rule. Unfortunately, after the first two votes, that road was lined with improvised explosive devices, and the year in Iraq was to become much more notable for bloodshed than watersheds.

In the lead-up to the December election, Bush finally attempted to answer Cindy Sheehan's question in a series of four identical speeches. In each of them, he'd open with a joke and then immediately mention 9/11. He reminded us that everything has changed since 9/11. Yeah, since the year 911 when torture was a widely accepted governmental investigative device. Within a few hundred years, civilization broke out and large groups of human beings began denouncing the practice. Not only was it unjust and unspeakable, it was also highly ineffective. Torture victims were notoriously compliant and would tell interrogators anything they wanted to hear. Even worse, when people learn that torture is being committed, they tend to rise up in anger and seek vengeance against the torturers.

The Bush-Cheney team has ignored these obvious truths. It's become clear that one of the reasons they wanted Iraqi oil was so they could boil it for use in interrogations. It used to be that an "extraordinary rendition" involved William Shatner singing "Mr. Bojangles"; now it has to do with re-opening Eastern European gulags.

Notwithstanding attempts by Bush-Cheney to rig Iraqi and American news with phony stories planted by its media operatives in the slimy Rendon and Lincoln Groups, the truth has been announced in the blood-curdling screams of agony from the victims of its torture. Whether at the hands of US military personnel, CIA agents, private contractors, or collaborating thugs from other nations, torture has become synonymous with our nation's foreign policy.

Despite Bush's strong denials and Condi Rice's assurances that this administration has a strict policy of probably never committing torture, Dick Cheney's legislative arm-twisting on the matter tells the real story. Any agreement the administration may make with John McCain or anyone else will be entered into with all the sincerity of its promise to rebuild New Orleans.

Regardless of what Bush makes of the latest election in Iraq, his game is up there. Congressman Jack Murtha, a man who never met a military action he'd question, has become the voice of the generals Donald Rumsfeld has censored. He knows the cause is lost, and that it's time to get out. He knows that US troop presence will do nothing more than provoke perpetual violence. And he's earned a crisp salute for saying so.

History's Stooge

Bush keeps accusing the Dems of rewriting history - excuse me, George, but a point of literal order. You never write the history of the rise and fall of any Reich until after the fall. In this case, we're hoping for the fall of 2006.

The majority of Americans now know that Bush justified this needless fight by lying to Congress, the American people, and the entire world. His premises were false, his motives were megalomaniacal. The results are tragic.

Bush picked a fight he didn't need to pick. And lost. In doing so he weakened our nation and allies, and strengthened our enemies. And he did one more thing: he secured his place in history as a dangerous and soulless lunatic. It would require serious generosity to simply label him as pathetic.

You know, pathetic like Duke Cunningham.

When a common streetwalker gets busted, he or she behaves with dignity that Cunningham couldn't buy with all the money in the Pentagon's vault. But then, a common streetwalker is nowhere near the whore Duke Cunningham became. The streetwalker trades in what is his or hers to exchange. Cunningham was just a red, white, and blue pimp, profiteering on what wasn't his to trade.

But say this much for Cunningham. He set a good example for his fellow Republicans by resigning in disgrace. If by next year at this time we've seen several more Republicans blubbering like defrocked beauty queens after copping pleas, 2006 will seem blessedly shorter than 2005.

George W. Bush picked a fight he was sure he could win - because the con artists who own and operate him told him he could. So in front of every other kid in the world, he called his victim out to the playground and had six or seven of his goons restrain the little guy while he hit him with everything he could find. In doing so, he pissed off everyone else on the playground.

So when Bush turned away from his bloodied victim to raise his hands in triumph, he was hit squarely from behind with a two-by-four. Repeatedly.

And it hasn't stopped for two and a half years.

Curly or Larry would have thrown in the towel by now.

Unfortunately, Moe's our president.

Political satirist Barry Crimmins is a writer for Air America Radio's Randi Rhodes Show and the author of Never Shake Hands with a War Criminal (Seven Stories Press, 2004). He can be reached at


For whom the bell tolls a poem (No man is an island) by John Donne
No man is an island,Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,