Monday, November 28, 2005

Cacophony! Casuistry! Conniption!

"The Webster Retort" for The News Connection, December 2, 2005 ...

What a political sea change a few short weeks can bring! Two weeks ago, the White House said those who call for a drawdown of U.S. soldiers in Iraq are “unpatriotic,” “cowardly,” and they wish to “surrender to the terrorists.” All good Republicans know this line very well. It has been the prevailing drumbeat of the last couple years. The extremists, such as the ever-dwindling numbers of avid Ann Coulter disciples, even consider Democrats like John Murtha “not only traitors, but gutless traitors,” as the hypocritical propagandist recently said.

Those salmon headed flip-floping Libbers are saying things like “[T]he coalition is not going to defeat the insurgency.” Is that not tantamount to Coulter’s definition of treason? Calamity! Dubiousness in the Highest Order! Aid and Comfort to the enemy! Oh wait, that was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on NPR. Curses! Perfidy!

Joseph Biden, leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says we should pull at least 50,000 troops out of Iraq in 2006, and a “large portion” of those remaining by 2007. Clearly his words were met with roaring disdain. I mean, come on, he’s totally trying a “cut and run” tactic. He waives the white flag, that Milksop!

Just hours later, the White House issued a statement under the headline "Senator Biden Adopts Key Portions Of Administration's Plan For Victory In Iraq." Wait, wait, wait … What? The Blue Team objects to the president, but the president already objects to himself and actually did so before his deriders?

Then there was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said last week “I do not think that American forces need to be there in the numbers that they are now […]”. Days later, The Washington Post reports the Pentagon has drawn up a plan which will have over 60,000 troops withdrawing from Iraq in 2006. Hermitage? A “vast” majority will return by the end of 2007.

A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations, and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America,” says Vice-Patriot Dick Cheney to the frantic cheers of his pre-screened, pre-approved audience. He shows every member of the Red Team how to “tow the line.” Tally-Ho, ya’ll! Indomitability, we cry!

Those Carmine Cardinals are starting to remind me of a salmon out of water, flipping and flopping and gasping for air. Looks like The Red Tide has gone back to sea. I suppose the administration was for withdrawing before they were against it. Or was it the other way around? Oscillation of the highest degree!

Steady, firm leadership. Yes. Good. Obviously, since we have been told over and over that withdrawing our troops from Iraq is a Huge Mistake, flip-flopping just like that and suddenly supporting staged withdraw is okay and not hypocritical in the least. I can come to only one conclusion: to suggest withdraw is a treasonous, unpatriotic maneuver … if you are a Democrat. But when the Republican administration does it, they are patriots of the highest order. Their resolve is to be admired. Dogged, I say!

Now the polls come marching down the sidelines, showing nearly 70 percent of Americans no longer support the war, indeed many believe the president “mislead” the public to get it. Hell of a “mandate” you’ve got there, Mr. Bush. Looks like someone is just posturing, afraid of what 2006 can and will bring. Unbelievable hypocrisy in the face of Potential Impeachment is a common trait among all presidential liars, Red and Blue alike. Cacophony! Casuistry! Conniption! Justice?

Flashback, McFly! From the New York Times, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: “United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in the election despite a terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from the Capitol, 83 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the terrorists. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in the President’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.” Sound familiar? Anamnesis!

Somewhere outside of Crawford, Cindy Sheehan and the Iraq Veterans Against the War are toasting to their first victory. What has become of the unflinching leadership of King George the Second?

It went down the toilet with his job approval ratings.


Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Columnist with North Texas weekly The News Connection and Staff Writer with the Crawford, Texas weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An opportunity for peace

From a January, 2005 issue of the New York Times (link) …

“President Bush said in an interview on Thursday that he would withdraw American forces from Iraq if the new government that is elected on Sunday asked him to do so, but that he expected Iraq’s first democratically elected leaders would want the troops to remain as helpers, not as occupiers.”

From The Associated Press, Nov. 22, 2005 (link) …

Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ’legitimate right’ of resistance. […]

The participants in Cairo agreed on ‘calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation’ and end terror attacks.

The conference was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, as well as leading Sunni politicians.”

And I put it to you, America – will Bush follow through on his own words? Is he a steady leader who does what he says he will? Only time will tell. But I believe John Murtha’s prediction: by this time next year, the Iraq War will be over. And it will be us, the American People, who stopped it.

Fight the Power.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Take a moment to be immature

On Nov. 20, 2005, our president was giving a press conference in Beijing to a group of American reporters. Critiqued by one journalist as being “off his game” during an earlier speech, Bush tried a cut and run strategy, blaming his usual ineptitude and poor public speaking skills on jetlag, then turning heel and speeding away from their prying eyes. But a locked door stood in his way.

Normally, this would not be so bad. I mean, it is just a locked door. Big deal. But Bush … made a joke of it. He contorted his face and arched his back, and looked like a complete fool in front of the AP’s photographers. Didn’t his father muster more grace after puking on a foreign dignitary?

Anyhow, I thought this story to be of enough note that readers of this blog should stop for a moment and be immature. Make fun of a simple mistake that yielded a priceless photograph.

From Reuters -

The final reporter he called on critiqued Bush's performance earlier in the day when he stood next to Hu in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square to deliver a statement.

"Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?" he asked.

"Have you ever heard of jet lag?" Bush responded. "Well, good. That answers your question."

The president then recited a list of things of that he viewed as positive developments from his Beijing meetings, including cooperation on North Korean nuclear disarmament and the ability to have "frank discussions" with his Chinese counterpart.

When the reporter asked for "a very quick follow-up," Bush cut him off by thanking the press corps and telling the reporter "No you may not," as he strode toward a set of double doors leading out of the room.

The only problem was that they were locked.

"I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work," Bush quipped, facing reporters again until an aide rescued him by pointing to him toward the correct door.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What are you thankful for?

Ah, another Thanksgiving, another cliché column topic. What are you thankful for? I am certain you have already glanced across 20 headlines with the very phrase – if you are a news junkie like I am, anyway. Oh, and if you did not notice, I have changed the title of this column to The Webster Retort. It was the feeling of the staff that a new moniker would allow more perceived freedom of topic. So be it.

By the time you read this, no doubt you will be dining on turkey leftovers. I sure will be. But as I write this, it is only the 19th of November, and I have yet to see if our faithful letter writers were hard on me. Sure held my boots up to the space heater last issue, and I am thankful for it. I am very pleased that the newspaper can still draw a strong response from its supporters and deriders alike. I’ll only say that I wrote it during a particularly bad mood, and it shows. I blame the Neo-Cons, for whom I am not thankful.

Speaking of Neo-Cons, the Republican congress just gave its self a pay raise and cut taxes for the upper class. The Administration also threatened to veto a bill increasing taxes on oil companies. As if supporting torture were not bad enough. They already struck down an increase in the current minimum wage. I have lived on minimum wage. It is not easy, and the winters are colder than I can tell you. So thanks Republicans. Another slice of the pie is on the Democrat’s plate for 2006. Warm, steaming, Impeachment Pie.

As for Democrats, I am thankful the party of quiet dissent is finally getting around to unfinished business, albeit three years too late. By the time you read this, I am certain you will have been exposed to at least five misrepresentations of Democrat John Murtha’s recent suggestion on Iraq. First of all, Murtha is a veteran of the Marine Corps. He gave 37 years of his life in service to this country. After fighting in Vietnam, he was awarded a bronze star, two purple hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Without knowing anything else of this man, he draws immense respect from everyone, and rightfully so. I am thankful for his service, and the service of all our veterans and soldiers.

I am not happy to see the smear machine wind up once again. I am just waiting for Rove to screw up again and accidentally reveal confidential information in an attempt to crush Murtha. He did the same thing to Joe Wilson, a man Bush Sr. called a “hero.” The trend of smear, I believe, is to misrepresent the other side’s argument to cement people against something, rather than being for something. This is rampant on both sides of the isle.

John Murtha relies on the realistic leadership of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. “General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, "the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency,’” explained Murtha. “General Abizaid said on the same date, ‘Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.’” Diplomacy, he says, and international involvement will bring Iraq the democracy and peace it deserves.

So, if what Murtha has called for is what the armed forces are already doing, why all the outrage? Because of the Republican bill demanding an immediate withdraw of our presence in Iraq. Murtha suggests the president bring 160,000 soldiers home “at the earliest predictable date.” The Republicans then rushed out legislation which offered another alternative, that “the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.” The bill was struck down, and for good reason. It was intended to be.

Political opportunism is an ugly thing. It has long been a pastime of Republicans and Democrats. Regardless, Murtha is a man of honor, intelligence and experience who deserves to have his opinion seriously considered. He is not the “coward” that Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt said he is. While Cheney waited for confirmation of his five deferments, and Bush was AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard working on a political campaign of all things, Murtha was staring the horror of man’s folly in the face.

Meanwhile, the only people affected by this war are the soldiers and their families. As George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace." Okay, so Murtha said that too. But they were both right. And Bush was wrong. Still is. I am thankful for John Murtha’s dissent.

Most of all, I am thankful for those I love. Particularly my beautiful fiancée Alison, who made it possible for me to be here today.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Supporting the Troops by Rewriting History

Good day, America! What were you doing last week on Veterans Day? If you were a Republican member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, you were busy gorging yourself on the flesh of war-torn soldiers and elderly veterans! In a monumental effort to honor those who have fought for this country, House Veterans Affairs Committee Director Representative Steve Buyer (R-IN) announced a tremendous first for our armed forces. In his own words, “veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.”

Veterans have been coming before their own affairs committee for 55 long years. And in one day - one acrimonious, cannibalistic bazaar - the ruling class’ ruling class completely cut veterans out. As for Buyer, the little demon that pushed this rule through, he was appointed to the committee’s board of directors by Republican Representative Tom DeLay, Houston’s most famous Used Car Salesman.

Shame. Shame. Now we can stop wondering why 2.2 million veterans are on a waiting list for healthcare. Now we can stop wondering why over 2 million Iraq and Vietnam vets cannot get treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

While all of this was happening, the rest of us were gawking at Bush’s “spirited” defense of his war, telling us his critics, many now in his own party, are “rewriting history.” So, in the vein of our glorious leader’s speech on Veterans Day, 2005, I would like to present my own rewrite of the propaganda that was regurgitated to my generation in grade school. Ready for this? I hereby decree …

- Christopher Columbus helped create the transatlantic slave trade.

- FDR knew attacks on Pearl Harbor were en route, but did nothing to prevent it.

- Red States have higher instances of Methamphetamine and Cocaine Abuse than Blue States.

- Blue States have fewer instances of Divorce and Violent Crime than Red States (so much for the “morals” debate).

- The CIA is behind vast amounts of illegal drug trafficking and actively targets poor, black communities.

- Previously placed demolition charges, not jet planes alone, brought the WTC buildings down on Sept. 11, 2001.

- The War in Iraq was started by Liars and is perpetuated by Thieves.

Every item on that list is rarely discussed fact. Well, except the last two assertions, which have been ubiquitous issues in our most recent round of national debate. But if our C.E.O. can rewrite his own lies based on “the best available intelligence,” I can take a shot at our history textbooks. At the very least, I can say with little argument that Bush is the new Nixon. Except Nixon was a liberal by today’s standards.

Consider the recent revelations of the CIA’s “black sites” littered across Europe. Regardless of what King George thinks the definition of torture is, it is commonly accepted fact that the detainees in these prisons, Guantanamo Bay being one of many, have no rights whatsoever. They are hidden from the Red Cross, denied access to legal advice, and are held without charge for an indefinite period of time. We know this much is true. I cannot attest to any prisoner’s innocence - many very well may be guilty - but history, sans presidential rewrites, chides this brand of evil.

Winston Churchill once said, "The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

Should Americans assume that Winston Churchill would consider our Executive Branch to be totalitarian in nature? Has Bush turned us into a Fascist Oligarchy? You decide. But consider the lessons of history. I do not want to believe Those Who See All have set out on a Fascist Agenda, but consider the words of the Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” He must have known what he was talking about, having run a Fascist Oligarchy himself.

As for Double-You, he’s about as “solid” a leader as John “Flip-Flop” Kerry. "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is,” said Bush as Texas Governor, referring to American troop deployment in Bosnia under Clinton’s orders. Hm.

By this time next year, it may be in the GOP’s best interest to support Democratic attempts to impeach this guy before he completely destroys his party. Can you see it? I can. Blood falls on the horizon, and morning comes at an early hour. We will march on a road of bones.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Democracy that refused to Die

As I write this week’s column, I find myself reflecting on two recent elections. I turned up late to work today, having requested a brief reprieve to cast my ballot against the ugly, Discriminatory, poorly written Proposition 2. As of this moment, I have no idea if the ever-popular Fear and Loathing of the Gay Lifestyle has prevailed in this summary of opinion. But I digress; that is not the point of today’s diatribe.

This morning I trudged in to the Bedford Boy’s Ranch, something of a community activity center down the street from my residence. As I walked inside, I was confronted with the usual long lines attributed to voting day. Standing in the queue, I watched as my fellow citizens shuffled forward, presenting their registration cards and checking their names on the rolls. Immediately apparent was the stack of paper ballots being distributed close to the polls. This put my mind at ease … for a little while, anyway.

I remember very well my experience last November, waiting for over an hour in the cold to cast my ballot for John Kerry. It was not a pleasant choice to make – like being forced to decide between Gonorrhea and HIV – but I, along with millions of others, went one way or the other. And ultimately, HIV won out in that contest. The now full-blown AIDS infection this nation is suffering under is an ugly, unbearable thing.

That fateful November, as I left the voting booth I felt a little queasy having cast a ballot on a touch-screen. I had read all about the potential for voter fraud through the use of electronic ballots, but I had not actually seen it for myself. “Oh my GOD!” screamed an elderly woman from three booths down. “It changed my vote! It changed my vote!” she yelped. “I voted for Kerry, but it changed it to Bush!”

Election workers jogged towards the woman and asked her to calm down. They assured her that it was just a display malfunction, and her vote for Gonorrhea – I mean, Kerry – had been counted as such. She was obstinate, and demanded a paper ballot. They had none to give, so she pledged to go to another polling location where her vote could be later verified.

As she walked out, I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Surely this cannot be happening all over the country. Surely her vote was counted properly. I was wrong. And it is still happening. After adding my voice to those standing for equal rights in today’s Proposition 2 vote, I was confronted with an electronic ballot scanner equipped with a memory card that essentially serves as the ballot box, carrying the tallies in its easily-modified memory bank. In spite of my paper ballot, a machine was still the overriding factor.

I later discovered that nearly 80 percent of America’s votes in 2004 were cast or counted via machine. The Diebold Corporation is responsible for over half of these devices used in approved polling places. What I learned next hit hard.

Walden O’Dell, the C.E.O. of Diebold, was a member of Bush’s “Rangers and Pioneers,” a set of particularly dedicated individuals who raised at least $100,000 for the HIV-AIDS -- I mean, Bush-Cheney – campaign. In August of 2003, good ‘ole Walden told attendees at a Republican Party fund-raiser in Ohio, “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

But everyone said that those who would question our irrefutable election system were just crazies afraid of transmitters implanted in their teeth by Major League Baseball, or some other such nonsense. Unfortunately, those who would raise such doubt had little to substantiate claims of corruption and election theft.

Until now, that is.

The Government Accountability Office, or G.A.O., is a group of legislators from both parties. The six-member panel recently issued a report about electronic voting security. Their findings do not install any confidence in the new system of voting. According to the G.A.O. …

“Cast ballots, ballot definition files, and audit logs could be modified. Supervisor functions were protected with weak or easily guessed passwords. Systems had easily picked locks and power switches that were exposed and unprotected. Local jurisdictions misconfigured their electronic voting systems, leading to Election Day problems. Voting systems experienced operational failures during elections. Vendors installed uncertified electronic voting systems.”

I am willing to bet a dollar that nine out of 10 people did not know this report existed. I did not know it existed until late last week. It was issued a month ago, yet not a single mainstream media outlet devoted a word to it. It was neglected by all the wire services, all the television news networks and all the corporate newspapers. That most citizens will learn of these findings through independent media and local, family-owned newspapers such as the one in your hands right now, is testament to how the mainstream media is, at best, neglecting the very job they are intended for – Protection of Democracy and Government Accountability.

Friends, the corporate political parties have their giant, robotic foot to the throat of our great Democracy. We will not allow them to crush the will of the people. It is time for a revolution of citizen watchdogs. We must all become empowered and informed, lest we be doomed to accept death with a passive glare. If the mainstream press cannot even discuss this dire and growing threat to the system we base our liberties on, it is time to abandon them. What am I saying?

Cancel your subscriptions. Turn off your TV and get on the Internet. Email your congressional representatives and use the harsh language you would normally reserve for conversations with friends. Make them know what you expect, and do not be afraid of retribution. It is your right. Use it while you still can.

I believe it was Joseph Stalin who once said, “It’s not who votes that counts; it’s who counts the votes.” Take that to heart, lest we fall behind an iron curtain of our own creation.


The Weird, Turned Pro.

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