Above the Fray

Sunday, October 31, 2004

One of the Real Realities

Although the position of President is important, the folks that are behind the scenes should be the real concern [estimated at about 1500]. These are the people to watch.

Regardless of who is President, they do the real work. It is rare to have them be so candid in public forums. Guess he didn't think he would rise this high...

Eight months before the White House appointed him the Homeland Security Department’s top intelligence official, retired U.S. Army Gen. Patrick M. Hughes told a public forum at Harvard last year that the government would have to “abridge individual rights” and take domestic security measures “not in accordance with our values and traditions” to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.

...in previously unreported remarks at a March 2003 Harvard University forum on “Future Conditions: The Character and Conduct of War, 2010 and 2020.”

“Set aside what the mass of people think. Some things are so bad for them that you cannot allow them to have them [it is for our own good doncha know]. One of them is war in the context of terrorism in the United States

Therefore, we have to abridge individual rights, change the societal conditions, and act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions, like giving a police officer or security official the right to search you without a judicial finding of probable cause

Things are changing, and this change is happening because things can be brought to us that we cannot afford to absorb. We can’t deal with them , so we’re going to reach out and do something ahead of time to preclude them.[a pre emptive strike for freedom by narrowing freedom as it were]...

The article goes on to say that as a highly placed Director in Homeland Security, he doesn't say this any more. I feel better already. He has stopped saying, but has the 'doing' stopped?? [NBL].

If Kerry is elected, will he remain in his position.. probably, but not that important. Remember, there are a lot of other folks like him, and they think the way he does. They do not make public pronouncements, we don't even know their names...they just keep on 'doing' [remember Gen. Curtis LeMay.. brings to mind lots of scenarios..an old film, 'Seven Days in May' for one...but I digress]

CQ.com..we have to abridge individual rights

For those of you who have not kept up with this 'creeping silent' erosion of the Bill of Rights, I recommend you read the articles by Elaine Cassel. You can also get her new book, The War On Civil Liberties . Here is a teaser from her last post:
The Other War: Three Years Later
..By war on civil liberties, I am referring to the erosion of the freedoms " embodied in the first ten amendments to the Constitution - known collectively as the Bill of Rights. Bush said that “they” “hate” ‘us” for our freedoms. Well “they” have much less to “hate” three years after Sep 11. Bush talks of spreading "liberty” abroad like butter or jelly. Well, we are scraping away “liberty” at home. It is something we are told we must do, in order to “preserve” freedom.

A radio interviewer made an interesting suggestion to me recently--should we call the Bill of Rights the Bill of Restrictions? I like that idea. Restrictions on government power. We could reframe them as not freedom of speech but freedom from government intrusion into speech, assembly. Not freedom to have an attorney represent us, but freedom from government eavesdropping on us and our attorneys and on limiting our right to counsel, ...
Read the rest
[sarcasm]By now, you may be scratching your head and asking, 'How could I have missed this?... Well, try guessing the secret word.......given up? The secret word is [drum rollz] Secrecy.[/sarcasm]

A good summary [but just the tip of the iceberg] by Dan Kennedy:
Cone of silence

From the Patriot Act to presidential records, George W. Bush has presided over an unprecedented rise in government secrecy.

...To be sure, the trend toward secrecy has accelerated since the terrorist acts of 9/11, and at least some security-related measures were probably inevitable and necessary. But the evidence is clear that George W. Bush has wanted to reverse the long march toward greater government openness from the moment he was sworn in.

"My sense is that this is one of the most deeply worrying developments of the last four years, because you can’t really have transparency, which is what democracy needs," ..

"We as a society have taken openness for granted for almost 40 years now," says long-time First Amendment activist Jane Kirtley... The reality is that the Bush administration has been savvy enough to know that they just can’t categorically rescind the First Amendment or cancel the Freedom of Information Act. It’s this slow erosion [mmmm an emerging pattern perhaps] of access." Kirtley adds: "This is a Molotov cocktail waiting to go off. If Bush is re-elected, my suspicion is that the mandate is then going to be justification for even more of this kind of thing."

..On September 14, US Representative Henry Waxman... issued a 90-page report titled Secrecy in the Bush Administration. Sadly, it received almost no attention in the mainstream media....
The Waxman report defies easy summary, and deserves to be read in full, but here are a few key lowlights.

1]On October 12, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memo directing federal agencies to make aggressive use of exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a move that made it far easier to keep documents under wraps....

2]In March 2002, White House chief of staff Andrew Card issued another memo, this one encouraging agencies not to release "sensitive but unclassified information." As just one example, the Department of Defense relied on the Card memo in refusing to release an unclassified report, based entirely on public documents, regarding lessons learned from the 2001 anthrax attacks.

3]Bush appointees have issued regulations to federal agencies making it more difficult to obtain records about everything from consumer complaints to the location of energy-industry installations. Such regulations, the report contends, would have made it harder to learn about the Firestone tire-safety case, and will make it difficult to learn about potential hazards posed to a community by such things as gas pipelines. As former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta wrote in the September 2003 American Prospect, "The exemption provides a convenient way for businesses to conceal even routine safety hazards and environmental releases that violate permit limits from public disclosure. Shielded from public scrutiny, these hazards are much less likely to be addressed."

4]In November 2001, President Bush issued an executive order that makes it much harder for members of the public to obtain presidential records, thus undermining reforms that were put in place after Richard Nixon’s corrupt and secretive presidency....

5]Between 2001 and 2003, documents were classified at a rate 50 percent higher than the average for the five previous years, when Bill Clinton was president. Conversely, the pace of declassification was 60 percent slower than it was during the Clinton years. ...

6]The war against terrorism has resulted in an explosion of government secrecy, of which the Patriot Act is the most potent symbol. But the Patriot Act is far from the only way the White House has sought to hide its anti-terrorist activities from public scrutiny. For instance, the Waxman report observes that some 9000 prisoners are being held around the world in detention facilities operated by the US military and the CIA. Little is known about these detainees, and the administration refuses to provide any information. Even more egregious are the "ghost detainees" — perhaps as many as 100 suspected terrorists whose imprisonment the government has declined to confirm.

7]The administration has refused to comply with numerous requests for information from Congress, something it’s been allowed to get away with mainly because the Republicans control both the Senate and the House. On issues ranging from Cheney’s energy task force and Halliburton to Abu Ghraib and Nigerian uranium, the administration has just said no. The Waxman report cites a Washington Post article from November 2003 in which the White House made it clear that it simply would not respond to congressional Democrats anymore....Read it in full

Ok thrill seekers, lots to read for monday test, but for you over achievers, and extra credit, go take a look at the Waxman Report.
Special Investigations secrecy in government report [It is only 90 pages, but if you can't handle that, at least read the executive summary..PDF alert, blech]
PS: Don't think that this trend will change with a change in Presidents. Remember PMSS. Power once attained, will not be relinquished easily...and so it goes.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Pummeling Pundits

If you want a humor break from the barrage of PPPundit prose, go on over to Busy Busy Busy. He has a real knack for shortening the message. Some example from today:

Shorter Nicholas D. Kristof:
Pants on Fire?

Mr. Bush deploys falsehood to convey truths that transcend conventional reality, which is completely different from lying.
Shorter David Brooks:
Thus Ate Zarathustra

And then there's the vacuous, name-dropping pundit, who smugly dispenses easy demographic stereotypes devoid of original insight buttressed by obscurely detailed anecdotes and meaningless but authoritative-sounding statistics

Busy, busy, busy: What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is

Busy, Busy, Busy

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Hannity has me ROTFL

What makes Hannity's performances all the more hilarious is the fact that the Fox host does not appear to have the faintest inkling of how much his "interviews" look like a local television station's "remote" broadcast from the grand opening of a new car wash.

When the session was finished, an excited Hannity greeted the Democratic guest on his "fair and balanced" program, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. After Hannity referred to what had just finished as "the interview I had with the vice president," Landrieu corrected him. "I wouldn't call what just happened with the vice president an interview. I think it was an infomercial for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign."

Hannity blew up, screaming, "Senator, senator, I think you're a lousy senator, OK?" Then he whined, "If you don't like it, I don't really care."

But, of course, he did care.

After the Fox host repeatedly interrupted Landrieu, the senator said, "Sean, let me finish, please. You did not interrupt the vice president."

"Well, you're not the vice president," Hannity growled, "and I doubt you ever will be."

The man is serious.

That's the genius of his humor.

Reprise: ROTFL
The Smirking Chimp

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Dulce Irony

Oh sharper than a serpent's tooth..

Froggy-bashing and the French flu vaccine

The Anglosphere -- in the form of an American company with an English factory -- having let us down, our sole source of flu vaccine this year is a French firm, Adventis Pasteur.

Will those who patriotically insisted on boycotting French wines now extend that boycott to cheese-eating surrender money vaccine?

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

And, in this case, not only sweet and fitting but eugenic as well. [ouch]

Thanks to google:
DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War.

They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country. From: War Poetry, WW I

Mark A. R. Kleiman

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Faith Based Planning

Post-war planning non-existent

Prior to this little war ,I guessed this to be true. Partial confirmation has come from watching the results and actions over the last 6 months. Here we have absolute confirmation:
In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country..

We didn't go in with a plan. We went in with a theory,[faith based!]

said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy.

It appears that this was another Faith Based action...go dismember something and then let the chaos process produce some result.. and hope it is a good one.

[shrill] Hope is not a plan, and faith is only part of negotiating reality.[/shrill]

KR Washington Bureau | 10/17/2004 | Post-war planning non-existent

Some of you may be thinking that this is just an incident, not a pattern. Don't kid yourself. This is the overall pattern of thinking on all issues and programs.

This 'Ragnarok' strategy is simple: Believe you know 'truth', act, don't reflect, create by destroying, hope it all comes together later. move on and don't get any on ya...Repeat as needed...

Here is their belief, and operating philosophy, their Metaphysical base [framed as a dichotomy of course]:
..The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'

'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued.

'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out.

We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'..

A real Jaw dropper... for me, it is a 'Holy frelling PooP moment'. I knew it was bad, but not Cloud Co0co0 Land..

Excuse me while I go and take some deep Breaths.....

Food Thoughts

Not sure why, but the NYT Magazine has a series of articles with food as the theme. Here are some of the quotes I found interesting and amusing:

The Taste of Right Here By MATT LEE and TED LEE
Every corner of America has its own perfect dish.

If you drive across America via Interstate, you might conclude that the nation's palate has become smooth, homogeneous and accentless, one giant, countrywide rest stop serving the same doughnuts and hamburgers mile after mile. But if you stray a bit from the six-lane superhighways, you'll find another America, a place where the menu still includes regional delicacies like lobster rolls, buttermilk pie and tamales, foods that cling tenaciously to their native territories thanks to the powerful loyalties of personal taste.

...I do, however, expect that someday someone will subject Derby pie to the grand unified theory of Southern cuisine: ''If it tastes good now, it'll taste even better fried.''...

...Among the homeliest of breakfast foods, migas arrive at the table in an ungainly heap, typically accompanied by a reservoir of hot, lard-infused refried beans, along with fresh tortillas, which allow you to hide the stuff from view as you steer it home. The procedure is as follows: Smear the tortilla with a spoonful of the beans, pile on the migas, followed by a dollop of salsa, and tell your cardiologist to kiss your widening behind.... [Ouch]
More Pie, Mr. President?

Good political food -- it should be obvious -- must be democratic. The barbecue, the clambake, the chili contest, the fish fry, the hamburger cookout, the pancake social, the fried-chicken potluck, the spaghetti dinner -- these are the great entrees of American politics precisely because almost anyone can cook them and pretty much everybody likes them....

..And whatever people might think of Bill Clinton's candor, no one doubted his true love for democratic dishes. Clinton was honestly comfortable around political food. He had the common touch when he had a plate in his hand -- but then his recent quadruple bypass is a reminder why neither George Bush nor John Kerry eat more of this stuff than they need to...

... Food on the campaign trail is a lot like the nominee's body language or a spouse's performance in public. It seems inconsequential, yet the wizards in touch with the dark arts of internal polling know it is crucial in some primordial and awesome way. A candidate's relationship to democratic food is all about authenticity, about being one of us even as we elevate him beyond us: similar yet different. Food is to the modern candidate what a childhood spent in a log cabin was to 19th-century politicians -- a metaphor for being in touch with the life of the common voter. Every politician needs to find a way to portray himself as comfortable around democratic food. All of which, in some way, explains the Wendy's incident....

... One of the many political paradoxes of our time is the fact that the blue-state way of knowing food is in reality extremely conservative, in the old-fashioned, William F. Buckley-circa-1965 meaning of conservative. That is, slow to give up on the old ways -- in this case, of locally produced foods and methods. What is more radical, as food goes, than the hog most often cooked these days at red-state barbecues? ...

...Perhaps some anthropologist will one day figure out that it was not recent events that brought us to our current toxic politics but rather some pre-Columbian divide between, say, the Dakotas and the Mohegans, between buffalo country and the Eastern shore. Perhaps it was a prehistoric feud, long obscured by a passing ice age, that was carried forward, via the uninterrupted pleasure of barbecue and clambakes, into the current tribal warfare of Nascar and Latte.

There are 3 more articles, and if you want a break from the usual political fare, try these. One problem though, these articles will only be available for a week. The webmaster will move them into the 'pay for view zone' on Saturday. Hurry on over Ya hear.
The New York Times Magazine

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Campaign Sillyness

At least someone has their priorities straight:

The state Republican Party asked prosecutors in four counties to file charges against Moore for offering underwear and food to college students in exchange for a promise to vote. State law prohibits a person from contracting with another for something of value in exchange for agreeing to vote....

The harshest reaction came from the two Republican prosecutors, Antrim County's Charles Koop and Isabella County's Larry Burdick...

"Alleging that a person is attempting to buy votes is a serious allegation, and one that is taken seriously by this office. However, your request to prosecute Mr. Moore trivializes the intent of this section of the election code,"

Best quote:
Burdick said he chooses 'to devote our resources to prosecuting those who are delivering cocaine to our young people rather than underwear.'

County prosecutors in Michigan reject request to charge Michael Moore