September, 2006 archive
We are selling our soul. The Local Rag gets it.
“Welcome to the American gulag.
“You have been declared ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ by President Bush. As such – and with the full consent of the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress – you can be imprisoned indefinitely. Until death.
“Your interrogations will begin almost immediately. Remain standing. You may be subject to harsh ‘alternative’ tactics by CIA personnel or U.S. military. Again, each of these tactics has been fully approved by Congress.
And it could be you. Or me.
“Buried in the complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”
What we’ve seen happen in the last five years is not something that should invoke pride or flag-waving jingoism in Americans. We’ve watched a president and vice president whose lies have become so commonplace that they seldom even make the news. We’ve watched as our military men and women are killed or maimed in a war that has nothing to do with terror and everything to do with Bush and his mindless supporters selling fear to suit their ideological and financial agenda.
We’ve seen a world go from loving us on September 12, 2001 – many governments declared “we are all Americans today” – to us becoming a global pariah, with nary a friend who believes in our word or the promise of our deeds. We saw astounding pictures come back from Abu Ghraib, in which prisoners under our watch were tortured and, in some cases, killed.
And just this week, we have watched the Republican-led Congress affirm that all of that — and more — is just fine with them. At the same time, we have become willing to let the president mortgage our present and our children’s financial future to spend money on a war that did not need to be fought, while ruining a reputation that previous generations worked so hard to build.
Yeah, they get all upset when Hewlett-Packard does it:
The saga of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s spying scandal â€” which has toppled the company’s chairwoman, two other directors and at least two high-ranking executives â€” deepened in intrigue Thursday as lawmakers exploring the imbroglio summoned comparisons to Watergate and Enron.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee demanded to know how investigators for the respected Silicon Valley anchor could use tawdry tactics such as “pretexting,” or impersonating HP directors, employees and journalists to obtain their phone records.
I have until now laid off the story about Senator George Allen.
But, as a Virginian (and, though you might take the Virginian out of Virginia, you cannot take Virginia out of the Virginian), I must say, it’s been difficult.
When he was governor, he came close to bankrupting the Commonwealth by following his Republican “cut taxes and spend” philosophy.
As a Virginian who grew up under Jim Crow, one whose roots are three centuries in Virginia, I have lots of experience with bigots.
I have found that most bigots don’t think of themselves as bigots.
I do not charge Mr. Allen with bigotry. I do not know him, nor, frankly, would I care to.
True Virginians don’t care for folks who pretend to a heritage that is not theirs.
Now comes someone with first hand memories of Allen’s behavior while he was already in political life. Doug Thompson reports:
During that time, I attended a meeting of GOP political operatives in Richmond, Virginia. Among those present was a young delegate, George Allen, son of the legendary Washington Redskins coach.
At a cocktail party that followed our meeting, Allen huddled with some other Virginia politicos and GOP operatives and discussed the upcoming Presidential election as well as a field of Democratic candidates that, at the time, featured civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
“You mark my words,” Allen said. “Jesse Jackson can’t win in Virginia. Hell, he’s so far-out that even the niggers won’t vote for him.”
Follow the link. There’s more. And it’s scarier. For it tells how little some folks have learned over the past half decade, if not about what to believe, at least about how to behave in public.
Who do these quotations refer to? (Hint: It’s not who you think.) Follow the link to find out.
About the president acting unilaterally, without seeking advice or consent: “The incompetence of his administration [has not stopped] it from vigorously defending the president’s sole authority to control the execution of the law.”
About the president’s response to crisis: “He acted with his usual strong determination, dogged stubbornness and confused insight.”
About the president’s mangling of the English language: “It reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it . . . It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”
(Aside: It’s a damn shame that all of them could refer to who you think.)
Now not just on cell phones, but also with cell phones:
Family-owned Chevy Chase Supermarket is one of the first businesses in the Washington area to begin putting in place a pay-by-cellphone system. Using radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, customers will be able to store credit card and bank account numbers in their cellphones and charge their bill by swiping the phone across a sensor in the checkout line.
According to the van I saw today, it now makes “Home Interiors.”
Which reminded me of Andrew Cassel’s column about John Walston’s The Buzzword Dictionary:
Director of first impressions: A receptionist.
Insourcing: The opposite of outsourcing – e.g., you fired the cleaning service and now sweep up the shop yourself.
Up-titling: Giving important-sounding names to jobs such as those above.
Negative profit: A loss.
Marital rupture: A divorce.
Negative patient outcome: Call the undertaker.
Monetize: Getting paid, as in “we monetize our intellectual capital” when you pay for our advice.
Mission-critical: As Walston puts it, “another sign that too many people have read too many Tom Clancy books. What was wrong with ‘essential’?”
Percussive maintenance: “Whacking the heck out of something to get it running again.”
Prebuttal: A preemptive rebuttal. Something the opposition party does days before the president’s State of the Union speech.
Then there are the nouns that have been verb-ed: “Efforting,” “dialoguing,” “actioning,” “potentialize,” “proceduralize,” “operationalize.”
And words that were jazzed up during the tech boom: “E-tainment,” “e-marketing,” “e-cubation,” “dot-corp,” “B2B,” “P2P,” “E2E.”
I’m adding Walston’s site to my links. It should be useful in decoding statements by politicians and business executives, especially statements made when they are trying to cover up something.
Professor R.K. Ramazani, professor emeritus of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, hazards a few guesses. Of course, it’s always iffy to extrapolate to today’s world what thinkers of the past would have done–though I do not hesitate to do so as I picture the Founders spinning in their graves–but, having been educated in Virginia and having studied Jefferson and his thought, as well as his practical political leadership, I think that Professor Ramazani is pretty much on target:
(I)f asked how best to spread democracy, Jefferson would have suggested three alternative and peaceful methods. First among these would be America’s own example of liberal democratic practices. In 1801, he wrote: “A just and solid republican government here will be a standing monument and example for the aim and imitation of people of other countries.”
Second would be effective use of what we now call public diplomacy. That includes widespread sharing of information and a fair degree of transparency in our dealings with other countries. He wrote in 1810: “No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its supporting free and good government.”
Third, and most important, Jefferson would have stressed support for the American system of higher education. In today’s parlance, he would have advocated expanding American educational initiatives, such as the Fulbright exchange program. Jefferson firmly believed that public education was a vital weapon in uprooting authoritarian rulers and promoting the creation of democratic governments. In his memorable words: “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”
And regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, Jefferson would have insisted on upholding the principles of international law in general, and the Geneva Conventions in particular. There are echoes of the Jeffersonian precepts of 1781 in Article 3 of the Conventions – which has been the focus of so much negotiation between the president and Senate Republicans – and in the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Both Article 3 and Hamdan bar inhumane treatment of war prisoners. More than 200 years ago, Jefferson urged that Americans should endeavor “as far as possible to alleviate the inevitable miseries of war by treating captives as humanity and national honor requires.”
Hmmmph. National honor.
Almost all gone, squandered by the current Federal Administration.
As my two or three regular readers know, my son serves with the 82nd Airborne. On his wall is a poster titled
- Personal Courage
Maybe his civilian bosses should post the same poster on their walls.
On the Media takes a look at what’s going on now in comparison with the runup to the war in Iraq. Similarities are found:
With tensions escalating between Washington and Tehran, and the IAEA trying to cut through both sidesâ€™ spin, some in the intelligence community are getting an eerie sense of dÃ©jÃ vu. Guest host Mark Jurkowitz talks to McClatchy Newspapers foreign affairs correspondent Warren Strobel about what journalists can do this time to avoid the mistakes they made in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
I’ll post the transcript when it’s up. You can listen to it directly here.
Read the transcript here.
In one of the most dramatic of the scenes in Bored, the seven Ringers (the Boggies, Frito, Moxie, and Pepsi, accompanied by Spam [Frito’s gardener]; Legolam the Elf; Gimlet the Dwarf; Arrowroot of Arrowshirt, keeper of Krona, the Sword that Was Broken; and Bromosel, prince of Minas Troney; all led by Goodgulf the Wizard), are traversing the Mines of Andrea Doria (the dreaded Nikon-Zoom of Gimlet’s people–ed.):
Before long the passageway sloped more gently down until with a final plunge it led into a great chamber lined with huge metal lockers and dimly let by a firey glow. As they entered, the rumblings grew louder: Dribble. Dribble. Fake. Dribble. Fake. Dribble. Fake. Shoot.
As Goodgulf stepped onto the bridge, the passage echoed with an ominous dribble, dribble, and a great crowd of narcs burst forth. In their midst was a towering dark shadow too terrible to describe. In its hand it held a huge black globe and on its chest was written in cruel runes, “Villanova.”
“Aiyee,” shouted Legolam. “A ballhog.”
Not long ago, with the fall of Communism (aside–Communism is dead; only a few Stalinist remnants remain, so why do certain elements of our polity still resort to calling those whose views they oppose “Commies”?), there was talk of an American Century.
Then there was talk of a New American Century:
The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is a Washington-based think tank created in 1997. Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations. They chafe at the idea that the United States, the last remaining superpower, does not do more by way of economic and military force to bring the rest of the world under the umbrella of a new socio-economic Pax Americana.
Most ominously, this PNAC document described four “Core Missions” for the American military. The two central requirements are for American forces to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars,” and to “perform the ‘constabulary’ duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions.” Note well that PNAC does not want America to be prepared to fight simultaneous major wars. That is old school. In order to bring this plan to fruition, the military must fight these wars one way or the other to establish American dominance for all to see.
Vice President Dick Cheney is a founding member of PNAC, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is the ideological father of the group. Bruce Jackson, a PNAC director, served as a Pentagon official for Ronald Reagan before leaving government service to take a leading position with the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
And now those persons, with a vision of an American hegemony enforced by arms, are in power and arguably have acted on their vision.
Like a seven-year-old who wants his way at any course, they have attempted to get their way by hitting people and breaking toys. Consider the record:
- Hitting their political opponents with lies.
- Failure to act upon warnings about Al Qaeda until awakened by the sound of buildings’ falling.
- Failure to pursue Osama bin Laden to the end in Afghanistan.
- Breaking more toys and hitting more people: Making up a war in Iraq, then botching it from the get-go.
- Reducing the moral stance of the United States of America to an extent that, when speakers cast scorn on the U. S. A. at the United Nations, those speakers are applauded.
Failure, failure, failure.
So what do they suggest now?
I guess that’s running the government like a business: If what you are doing doesn’t work, do the same thing harder.
The current Federal Administration has made the United States into a Ballhog.
The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.
A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the “centrality” of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.
Quoting from today’s Local Rag about the compromise between morality and torture:
The agreement contains concessions by both sides, though the White House yielded ground on two of the most contentious issues: It agreed to drop a provision that would have narrowly interpreted international standards of prisoner treatment and another allowing defendants to be convicted on evidence they never see.
The accord, however, explicitly states that the president has the authority to enforce Geneva Convention standards and enumerates acts that constitute a war crime, including torture, rape, biological experiments, and cruel and inhuman treatment. (Wait for the “signing statement”–ed.)
The agreement would grant Congress’ permission for Bush to convene military tribunals to prosecute terrorism suspects, a process the Supreme Court had blocked in June because it had not been authorized by lawmakers.
During those trials, coerced testimony would be admissible if a judge allows and if it was obtained before cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment was forbidden by a 2005 law. Bush wanted to allow all such testimony, while three maverick Republican senators – John McCain of Arizona, John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – had wanted to exclude it.
As a political move, this might have made sense, much as in a chess game, sacrificing the Queen can make sense.
In this case, though, the Queen (not using testimony obtained through torture, for torture is what it is, despite any alternative terms which may be used to describe it) is moral rectitude and American and–dare I say it?–Christian–values, and the sacrifice is to darkness.
Those who would torture or condone or defend torture deserve contempt, not compromise.
I recognize that domestic political realities make such a compromise seem necessary. And that says something about what our political realities have become.
But I reserve my right to be violently ill at this betrayal of the values on which this nation was founded.
Note this story about George Washington (who, unlike the current Federal Administration, which wins battles but is losing the war, lost battles, but won the war):
“During the Revolutionary War, the historian David Hackett Fischer noted, Gen. George Washington had ‘often reminded his men that they were an army of liberty and freedom, and that the rights of humanity for which they were fighting should extend even to their enemies.’ This compassion toward prisoners was extended by Washington expressly in the face of the cruel British handling of American captives. Washington ordered Lt. Col. Samuel Blachley Webb, in a passage quoted by Fischer, ‘Treat them with humanity, and Let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren.'”
The current George is not a Washington.
He is a III:
From today’s Local Rag:
At stores across the region yesterday, parents were dismayed to find shelves bare of T.M.X. Elmo, the 10th anniversary incarnation of the furry, red doll unveiled by Fisher-Price just 24 hours before.
Going online, shoppers soon learned that the shortage was made even worse by a raid on retail outlets by speculators who had listed an army of Elmos on eBay.
More than 20,000 T.M.X. Elmos – the initials stand for Tickle Me “Extreme” – were for sale on the Internet auction site at 5:35 p.m. yesterday, according to eBay Marketplace Research, which monitors listing, bidding and pricing on the site. And more than 7,000 Elmos had already been sold, at prices up to $355.
“I’ll probably buy one on the Net,” Garrison said, though the major retailers weren’t offering much hope there, either. “I don’t even know what it does. I just know the first Tickle Me Elmo was a big success.”
Who the heck are the parents here?
Of course, I’m the guy who, back in the Power Rangers days, showed up early at the last remaining store in Upper Delaware with Power Rangers costumes to get one for Second Son.
But, dammit, I paid list price and not a penny more.
We were busy today in the greater software and hardware support sphere. The boss asked me to take a look at our website (“Frank, do you know HTML?” “I know HTML 3.0; I’m weak on HTML 4.0 and xml.” Then I showed him my website–with the swimming mermaid–and he said, “Take a look at the website.”)
So when I wasn’t answering phone calls from persons who had broken our application or couldn’t find Windows Explorer with both hands, I was diagramming the website to get a feel for it, using Dia. which is an Open Source flow-charting program.
(Almost all the software I use on my PC is open source. Slackware rocks.)
But I did get a chance to do a little reading over lunch, and I thought that Dan Froomkin’s column from yesterday is worth a glance. Note that Froomkin does not cover the White House; that is, he won’t be found at White House briefings and the like.
He covers coverage of the White House.
I guess in the geeky world that Opie and I inhabit, it would be referred to as Meta-Coverage.
By most reliable accounts, three and a half years into the U.S. occupation, Iraq is in chaos — if not in a state of civil war, then awfully close. But President Bush insists it’s not so. White House Briefing
He says the people he talks to assure him that the press coverage about how bad things are in Iraq is not to be trusted.
You might think that the enormous gulf between Bush’s perceptions and reality on such a life-and-death topic would be, well, newsworthy. But if members of the Washington press corps consider it news at all, apparently it’s old news. They report Bush’s assertions about Iraq without noting that his fundamental assessment of the situation is dramatically contradicted by the reporting from their own colleagues on the ground.
And in the rare circumstances when they directly confront the president with observations that conflict with his own, they let it drop too quickly.
Once too often to the trough:
Jon Houston Eipp, 39, of Novato, pleaded guilty on Monday to the computer theft crimes along with various burglary, theft, and drug possession offences. He faces up to five years in jail.