Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New National Security Threat: Bicycles

WASHINGTON (XF) - The Xsociate Files has learned that just like his pretzel comrade before him, a bicycle involved in an accident last year with President Bush was detained shortly after the incident and charged with attempting to disrupt the US lead war on terror. Both suspects have been held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where they have undergone intensive questioning. Thus far, however, neither suspect has given up any information to Army interrogators.

When questioned about the detentions, Press Secretary Scott McClellan stated that the US is at war with an elusive enemy that can take on many forms. He also reaffirmed President Bush’s inherent authority to designate and detain ‘enemy confections and conveyances’ in the war on terror.

President Bush has weighed in on the issue in the past. He is quoted as saying “you are either with us or you are with the snack and exercise loving enemies of freedom.”

Also revealed to XF are some of the enhanced interrogation techniques used on the suspect nicknamed 'Al-Huffy'. These have included prolonged periods of lubrication deprivation and being forced to watch as scantily clad female interrogators rode stationary exercise bikes.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Kristol: We aren't serious

Leave it to Weekly Standard editor and PNAC chairman Bill Kristol to make comments about how we aren't serious about waging war.

Bill had this to say on Fox News Sunday:
we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq

I guess almost 2,300 US soldiers dead and $250 billion dollars spent is not what Bill would consider 'serious war'. Tell that to the families of those dead soldiers. I'll bet they have a difference of opinion on just how 'serious' this war has been.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Opening The Files: 2/26/06

Dubya and Dubai

Here are some of the more interesting blogs and editorials I have read regarding the flak that Bush is getting over the Dubai ports deal.

The Anonymous Liberal: What I think about the Dubai Port Deal.

Paul Krugman: Osama, Saddam, and the Ports.

Maureen Dowd: GOP to W: Your Nuts!

William Greider: The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The Mahablog: The Snapping Point.

Cynthia Tucker: Professor Bush

FYI, all of these editorials take time to point out how Bush has now become the victim of his own rhetoric. Rather poetic if you ask me.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

War on Americans?

According to Nat Parry of Consortium News, some of the things the Bush administration has been doing lately is enough to give one pause and not dismiss that notion outright.

Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'

This editorial is a must read. As thorough as the piece was, it failed to mention how the Bush administration also seems hellbent on knowing just what we Google, has a program designed to probe the net for 'patterns of terrorist activity', and just concluded a war-game exercise in which 'bloggers' apparently played a major role.

This confluence of 'programs' seems to make me wonder just how soon I, and many of my dissenting brethren in the blogosphere, will be rounded up and sent off to 'Repatriotization Centers'.

Update: I received an email from Bob Parry at Consortium and he tells me those items were in the original draft of the article but were edited out for reasons of length and because they went off in slightly different directions.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sen. Roberts memory problems

Obviously Sen. Roberts forgot to take his memory pills again.

From the AP:
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, breaking ranks with the president on domestic eavesdropping, says he wants a special court to oversee the program.

But less than a day later, a top aide to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sought to clarify his position.

Roberts told The New York Times that he is concerned that the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could not issue warrants as quickly as the monitoring program requires. But he is optimistic that the problem could be worked out.

"You don't want to have a situation where you have capability that doesn't work well with the FISA court, in terms of speed and agility and hot pursuit," Roberts said Friday.

While he didn't know how such a process would work, Roberts also said the much-discussed National Security Agency program "should come before the FISA court."

Roberts was not available on Saturday. The Senate Intelligence Committee's majority staff director, Bill Duhnke, said the Times story did not reflect "the tenor and status" of the negotiations between Congress and the White House, as well as within Congress.

Duhnke said Roberts is looking at changes within the federal law but not necessarily involving the approval of the court. (Emphasis added)

So was this a case of Sen. Roberts saying something he didn't really mean? How very Bush like of him. And notice how they blamed the messenger (the NY Times) for failing to reflect "the tenor and status" of the fact that Roberts apparently didn't really mean what he said.

Update: The Washington Post had a nice article on just how hard the White House has been working to suppress any kind of investigation into their warrantless surveillance program. Glenn at UT opines that this just shows you how afraid the White House is of this scandal.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The truthiness shall set you free...

In a previous post, I discussed the James Frey "memoir" scandal and the term 'emotional truth' and how that term seemed to relate well to the spin spouted by the Bush administration. I thought it was a good term to describe why anyone would continue to believe something regardless of the facts because of the 'emotional truth' behind the words.

But someone coined a much better (and dare I say catchier) phrase.

Stephen Colbert, on the premiere episode of his hit show The Colbert Report (pronounced coal-BEHR re-POR, it's French) last year used the term 'truthiness' during a segment of his program called The Wørd. He used the term to describe the rationale behind such decisions as President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and the decision to invade Iraq.

As Stephen put it:
Consider Harriet Miers. If you think about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination's absurd! But the President didn't say he thought about his selection, he said this:

Bush: I know her heart.

Notice how he said nothing about her brain? He didn't have to. He feels the truth about Harriet Miers. And what about Iraq? If you think about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn't taking Saddam out feel like the right thing...right here in the gut? Because that's where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen...the gut.

Truthiness has become so popular it was given it's own section on Wikipedia.com and was even selected by the American Dialect Society as the 2005 Word of the Year.

Props to Stephen, a fellow South Carolinian, for giving a name to the blind allegiance to a particular 'truth' regardless of the actual facts. Sadly I feel too many in this country are thinking with their hearts and not enough with their heads.

Update: A poster over at Martini Republic weighs in on how telling the truth may be on its way to becoming a crime. Sedition, as defined by the Right.

The Spin Doctor is in...

Well it didn’t take long for Sen. Pat Roberts to spin his stunt on Thursday to try to make himself look less like the BushCo. lackey that he really is.

From the NY Times:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 — The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that he wanted the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program brought under the authority of a special intelligence court.

The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said he had some concerns that the court could not issue warrants quickly enough to keep up with the needs of the eavesdropping program. But he said he would like to see those details worked out.

Mr. Roberts also said he did not believe that exempting the program from the purview of the court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "would be met with much support" on Capitol Hill."I think it should come before the FISA court, but I don't know how it works," Mr. Roberts said.

Roberts is saying he chose to delay a vote on an investigation because he wanted to give the White House time to bring the program within the purview of the FISA court. He also doesn't think exempting the program is such a good idea. Too bad that idea seems to be more to the administration's liking.
White House officials favor a proposal offered by another Republican senator, Mike DeWine of Ohio, whose bill would exempt the eavesdropping from the intelligence court.

And what about those pesky accusations of Roberts caving in to pressure from the White House? Why it was the exact opposite of course.
"The irony of this is that it is portrayed now as administration pressure brought to bear on us, meaning the Republicans on the committee and basically me," Mr. Roberts said Friday. "It's just the reverse. It's the Republicans on the committee, my staff and myself, who have been really — I don't want to say pressuring, but trying to come up with a reasonable compromise that will settle this issue. It was our activity that brought them along to this point, plus the possibility of an investigation."

See it was Bush who caved, not the mighty Pat Roberts. Face it Pat, no amount of spin will help make it seem like you are the bulwark to the Bush administration that you think you are.

BTW, how's that Phase II report coming along?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bouncing checks and balances

Congress is set once again to abdicate their oversight responsibility.

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.

"We are trying to get some movement, and we have a clear indication of that movement," Roberts, R-Kan., said.

Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides "a fix" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

There is one sentence in this article that sums up the GOP thinking succinctly:
Democrats have been demanding an investigation but some Republicans don't want to tangle the panel in a testy election-year probe. (Emphasis added)

The only thing Republicans care about is getting re-elected. The unfortunate thing for the rest of us is they don't bother to do their f'ing job when they do. They might as well demolish the Capitol Building since we don't seem to be using it for anything important, like upholding the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

I have a good nickname for Senator Roberts: Mr. Fix-It. Because apparently there isn't much that the good Senator from Kansas wouldn't help 'fix' for the Bush administration.

Update: Glenn Greenwald over at Unclaimed Territory helped put this apparent setback into perspective for me. It will indeed be a Long Hard Slog.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It ain't a secret...

...unless the Veep says so.

From the Associated Press:
Vice President Dick Cheney says he has the power to declassify government secrets, raising the possibility that he authorized his former chief of staff to pass along sensitive prewar data on Iraq to reporters....

In a recent court filing, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed Libby's assertions to a grand jury that superiors had authorized him to spread sensitive information from a National Intelligence Estimate. The administration used the NIE assessment on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction as part of its justification for going to war.

At the time of Libby's contacts with reporters in June and July 2003, the administration, including Cheney, who was among the war's most ardent proponents, faced growing criticism....

...Cheney said an executive order gives him, and President Bush, power to declassify information.

I assume that Cheney is referring to Executive Order 13292. How ironic that this was an amendment to an earlier EO and now gave the Vice President authority to 'declassify' information of his choosing. And it just happens that this 'authority' was granted prior to Libby leaking WMD info to the press.

Too bad Scooter's 'Ollie North' defense doesn't really help him that much (barring the disclosure of another Executive Order that gives Cheney the authority to order his underlings to commit perjury, obstruct justice, and lie to the FBI).

Update: Georgia10 over at Daily Kos does a detailed analysis of the Executive Order Cheney cited.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So much for checks and balances

Well it would seem that Karl Rove's black list is working out well.

Daily Kos - Let the Whitewashing Begin...

Just like with the stonewalling on the Phase II investigation into the abuse of pre-war intelligence by the administration, Congress looks like it will once again let President Bush off the hook.

If the members of Congress will not stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law, they might as well disband. Because otherwise they are just political eunuchs to be paraded before the cameras to give the impression we are not a country ruled by the monarchy of George W. Bush.

Update: David Mark over at JABBS brought up a good point about the proposed DeWine legislation. Isn't it also funny how the Bush administration didn't like the idea of amending FISA until legislation was proposed that would exempt their illegal activities.

Dead Constitution

According to US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, it certainly isn't 'living'.

From the Associated Press:

Scalia Dismisses 'Living Constitution' - Yahoo! News:
People who believe the Constitution would break if it didn't change with society are "idiots," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says.

In a speech Monday sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society, Scalia defended his long-held belief in sticking to the plain text of the Constitution "as it was originally written and intended." (snip)

Scalia criticized those who believe in what he called the "living Constitution."

"That's the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break."

"But you would have to be an idiot to believe that," Scalia said.

"The Constitution is not a living organism, it is a legal document. It says something and doesn't say other things."

Proponents of the living constitution want matters to be decided "not by the people, but by the justices of the Supreme Court."

I guess if Justice Scalia had his way, we would all still be shooting each other with muskets, riding around in horse drawn carts, owning slaves, and keeping our women bare foot and pregnant at home were they belong. Because that was the way society was when the US Constitution was written.

Unfortunately life does not move at a snails pace. I doubt any of the founding fathers could have foresaw the invention of such technological marvels as machine guns, telephones, or computers. I can bet you they probably would have given great consideration to the 'right to bear arms' had they been able to pump 900 rounds a minute into their fellow human beings.

To not allow the Constitution to change as society does is to argue that it no longer applies.

And there are ways for the Constitution to keep up with the times. They're called Amendments. Perhaps Justice Scalia should take some time to read a few of them so he can see just how 'living' our Constitution really is.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What plot?

President Bush revealed details of a plot to bring down a building on the west coast shortly after the September 11th attacks.
We now know that in October 2001, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door and fly the plane into the tallest building on the West Coast.

We believe the intended target was Liberty Tower [sic] in Los Angeles, California. (snip)

Their plot was derailed in early 2002, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key Al Qaida operative.

Too bad no one bothered to tell the Mayor of Los Angeles.

Associated Press:
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he was blindsided by President Bush's announcement of new details on a purported 2002 hijacking plot aimed at a downtown skyscraper, and described communication with the White House as "nonexistent."

"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president — but somebody."

We all know what yet another timely announcement of yet another foiled terrorist plot means: Propaganda time! Bush hoped to use the publicity of this 'revelation' to bolster his defense for authorizing warrantless wiretapping. Doesn't hurt that it also helps draw attention away from the fact that it would seem his pal Cheney authorized the leaking of classified information.

Keith Olbermann over at Countdown weighed in on the revelation, the timing of it, Bush’s slip of the tongue with the name of the building, and even the Orwellian overtones. Crooks and Liars has the video.

TDS: NSA Hearing

I think this clip from The Daily Show does a pretty good job of summing up the Senate hearing on domestic spying last Monday.

Too bad they did not include this pearl of wisdom from Attorney General Gonzales:
President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.

Just think. If Washington hadn't gotten ahold of the contact list from General Cornwallis' Blackberry, we might still be under British rule today.

Afraid to blog?

You should be.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

US plans massive data sweep:
The US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity....

The core of this effort is a little-known system called Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE)....

A major part of ADVISE involves data-mining - or "dataveillance," as some call it. It means sifting through data to look for patterns....

What sets ADVISE apart is its scope. It would collect a vast array of corporate and public online information - from financial records to CNN news stories - and cross-reference it against US intelligence and law-enforcement records. The system would then store it as "entities" - linked data about people, places, things, organizations, and events....

The key is not merely to identify terrorists, or sift for key words, but to identify critical patterns in data that illumine their motives and intentions....

For example: Is a burst of Internet traffic between a few people the plotting of terrorists, or just bloggers arguing? ADVISE algorithms would try to determine that before flagging the data pattern for a human analyst's review.

This program seems rather scary to me, especially the part about ‘patterns of terrorist activity’. Does this mean all because someone attended an anti-war rally, gave money to a Pakistani charity to help earthquake victims, called their sister whose attending school in India, blogged about how fed up they are with the President’s shenanigans, withdrew cash to buy the new Xbox 360, and ‘googled’ the words ‘Bush’ and ‘domestic spying’, this ADVISE software will flag this as ‘patterns of terrorist activity’. And check out the example they cited: terrorists plotting or bloggers arguing. In the eyes of the Bush administration, I don’t think there is a difference.

The Senator has the floor

Here is an impassioned rebuke of the President’s domestic spying program by Sen. Russ Feingold. The Senator does a thorough job of discrediting the arguments that Bush and his defenders have been using to try to justify why they broke the law and continue to do so. This statement is definitely a must read for those who, like Sen. Feingold, understand what is at stake for the future of this country.

Statement of Senator Russ Feingold On the President’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program

Thursday, February 09, 2006

One more injury

I was enraged when I read this article from the Charleston Gazette. It tells the story of how 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV was forced to repay $700 for the body armor that was damaged and lost in Iraq when he was wounded by an IED a year ago. He was told he had to repay or his discharge from the Army could take weeks or possibly months. He had to get help from friends to come up with the money. This definitely fits the definition of adding insult to injury.

It is bad enough that the Army is sending brave soldiers like Lt. Rebrook into combat without adequate protection but now they are making the soldiers pay for it when it becomes lost in the meat grinder that has become Iraq. I guess having a shattered arm and bleeding to death in the middle of the desert, at least in the eyes of the Army pencil pushers, is no excuse for not keeping track of your gear.

Only after the mainstream media got wind of this outrageous travesty did the Army decided to reimburse Lt. Rebrook. At least the media is still good for some things.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Really Wrong Number

I came across this hilarious animation in my meanderings thru cyberspace. Kinda makes you afraid to answer the phone.

Al-Qaeda Caller ID

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Out with the old...

President Bush has been aggressively defending his authorization for the NSA to monitor persons inside the US without a warrant, which violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that covers domestic spying. One excuse that Bush has used is that he chose to bypass FISA because it is out of date. The law was enacted in 1978.

"We're having this discussion in 2006," Bush said. "It's a different world."

What I find rather ironic is the fact that Bush has twice sworn to uphold the Constitution, a document written 200 years ago and one that is, by his own rationalization, ‘outdated’ as well.

Another Downing Street Memo

Well it would seem yet another damning memo has come out of Downing Street that sheds light on how President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair were determined to wage war in Iraq no matter what.

This from the Guardian:
A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr. Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.

"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning", the president told Mr. Blair. The prime minister is said to have raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam"....

Mr. Bush told Mr. Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr. Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

As I discussed here, this new memo is just the latest to show a clear pattern of resolve to wage an aggressive war by the White House no matter what. I just wonder if this memo will be considered ‘old news’ by the same mainstream media whose overzealous coverage of the now debunked WMD scare helped pound the war drums all the more louder.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Fear Factor: SOTU Edition

President Bush was at it again during his State of the Union address: playing up the fear factor. Below are some excerpts from the speech.
Bush: It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack – based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute – I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have – and Federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed. This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talkin' with al-Qaida, we want to know about it – because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again....

Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder -- and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder.

Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world....

A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, would put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little.

As is his usual, Bush mentions 9/11. He does so because of the emotions that the events of that day invoke, chiefly fear and hatred. Indeed, images of the towers falling on that lonely Tuesday morning will forever be ingrained in our minds. Truly there is a life before and a life after 9/11 (or as Karl Rove likes to call it a 'pre-9/11' vs. a 'post-9/11' world). But the Bush administration has only exacerbated the fear and hatred that September 11th burned into the American consciousness.

Bush mentioned 9/11, and the idea that it could have been prevented, as an excuse for his authorization of domestic spying without a warrant (don't try to sell me on this whole 'terrorist surveillance' junk, but I’ll get to that in a minute). He talks about how two of the hijackers made calls outside the US prior to that day (see that is what is known as an international call, boys and girls, not a domestic call and in case you can't figure out the difference: Domestic vs. International). Bush is suggesting that had this ‘terrorist surveillance’ program been active then, we might have been able to prevent the attacks.

What Bush does not note is the fact (and this was documented by the 9/11 Commission) is that it was not a lack of intelligence but rather inter-agency fighting that lead to the inability to find out about the plot in time. You also have the fact that a shortage of Arabic translators at the NSA meant that two key communications which were intercepted on 9/10 were not translated until 9/12. So even if the current 'terrorist surveillance' program that Bush is defending was active then, who’s to really say it would have thwarted the attacks.

And speaking of 'terrorist surveillance' program I have only this to say: why the hell are we surveilling them at all? If there are terrorists in this country, and we know who and where they are, shouldn't we be conducting a 'terrorist apprehension' program? How come we aren't hearing about all the arrests that can be attributed to this 'terrorist surveillance' program? Now granted there are probably instances were it is better to let them go about their business in the hopes they will give away critical information (like the location of a major player in the network for example). But if, as the Bush administration claims, the program is limited to some 500 people at any given time, isn't that a bit too much to just let them go about their business? Every day that they are at large is just one more day they have to plan, plot and perhaps execute some attack the government hasn't been able to figure out from their 'conversations'.

But apparently 'terrorist surveillance' program might not be as 'limited' as the administration claims. According to James Risen's State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Bush not only authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans without seeking a warrant but to listen in a whole new way: intercepting large volumes of communications among categories of people and then analyzing or 'mining' the data for patterns that might offer 'potential evidence of terrorist activity'. So it may be more accurate to call the program a 'terrorist mining' operation.

And it would seem that whatever software the NSA is using doesn’t work too well. According to a NY Times article, shortly after 9/11, the NSA began flooding the FBI with phone numbers, emails, and names in search of terrorists. Most lead to dead ends or innocent Americans. Apparently it became so bad that some of the field agents began making the joke that more tips from the NSA meant more 'calls to Pizza Hut'. I guess the key to winning the ‘War on Terror’ is being able to ascertain what toppings a terrorist likes on his deep dish.

Or, as I expand on here, politics may have been a motivating factor for the surveillance.

Later Bush mentions that the 'terrorist surveillance' program has helped to prevent attacks. And yet in the same NY Times article, it seems that the only plot the administration can claim was thwarted with the help of this program was the almost laughable plot to topple the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch. Trust me there are far easier ways of taking down a bridge. Even then the plot was already known because of prisoner interrogations and other means.

The President's comments on Iraq are as equally lame, only in so far as they were merely ‘copy and paste’ rhetoric from previous speeches. Yet again he raises the specter of Bin Laden (how convenient for Bush that Ole BL released an audio tape recently to remind us he is still out there and kicking). Bush again makes the claim that Al-Qaeda wants to take over whole nations, starting with Iraq.

Bush says this despite the fact that he has admitted in a previous speech that only a small percentage of the Iraqi insurgency are terrorists. Then there is the fact that the Iranian backed Shiites currently in power would hardly sit idly by and let Al-Qaeda take over. Plus they have their own militias who memberships I’m sure far outweigh the number of Al-Qaeda operatives that may be inside the country. The President is constantly praising the new Iraqi government and boasting about how more Iraqi battalions are taking the lead in fighting the insurgency.

Yet whenever he trots how his ‘If we leave, the terrorists take over’ excuse, he gives the impression that the Iraqis are so weak that they couldn’t even defend themselves against a small group of radicals whose number is probably a thousand, and perhaps even less than that. It’s no wonder more and more Iraqis are worried that the US will never leave their country; no matter how strong they become, they will never be strong enough in the eyes of the Bush administration.

Let’s face it; Bush is still trying to use the fear factor to draw our attention away from his increasingly imperial exploits both here and abroad.

See what he meant to say was...

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependency on Middle Eastern oil. To fulfill this goal, Bush vowed to fund research on better hybrid vehicle technology and production of more alternative fuels in hopes of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

"America is addicted to oil" Bush said and vowed to "break this addiction".

But apparently he didn't mean what he said. Less then one day after Bush made this vow, his energy secretary and national economic advisor said Bush did not mean it literally when he said the US would be reducing its dependency on Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent. Rather the hope is that domestic alternatives could reduce our dependency on all oil imports by 2025. When asked why the President singled out 'Middle Eastern' oil, an administration official said that Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands."

Many may remember a similar 'clarification' last November when Bush proclaimed "We do not torture." The next day, National Security Advisor Steven Hadley had to 'clarify' Bush's statement. He said that because the war on terror could sometimes present a 'difficult dilemma', the use of torture could not be ruled out in order to thwart a terrorist attack.

It would seem that in order for Bush to 'dramatize' the issues so that Americans can understand them, he has to say stuff he doesn't really mean. I wonder if this means we should ask ourselves what he really means the next time we are asked to take him at his word.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From the Frey playbook

Everyone I'm sure has already heard the story of James Frey, the author of "A Million Little Pieces". The book was touted as being a memoir of Frey's life and his struggle with alcohol, drugs, and crime. The book gained even more fame when it was featured on Oprah Winfrey's book club list, skyrocketing it to best seller status. Then the ugly truth came to light.

Thanks to The Smoking Gun, we now know some of what Frey recounted in the book to be either exaggerated (in the case of his time in jail for example) or merely embellishments (such as the method in which his girlfriend committed suicide). To try to defend his claim, Frey went on Larry King Live, at which point Oprah called in defending the 'emotional truth' of the tale. Oprah later apologized to her viewers, saying she regrets making the statement that made it sound as if the truth did not matter.

The aspect I find most intriguing is the idea of 'emotional truth', maybe because this idea sits well with the way the Bush admin has been running their PR campaign on a variety of topics. Bush, or rather his speechwriters, are adept at using 'feel good terminology' to cloud the issues. This is particularly true when describing events in Iraq (Spreading Democracy, Fighting the enemies of freedom, etc). And yet news comes out on almost a daily basis that seems to reveal a different version of Iraq then the one the President speaks of. Facts on the ground are obscured by the 'emotional truth' of Bush's rhetoric.

Bush also uses another prevailing emotion in the American psyche to gain support: fear. Mentioning 9/11, and the fear and anxiety it invokes, has become the trump card Bush has used to defend many a questionable decision, from invading Iraq to domestic wiretapping without a warrant. Bush and his GOP allies have politicized the 'emotional' aspect of 9/11 quite well and are preparing to do so again as we head into the 2006 midterm elections.

Whether it be 'feel good terminology' or 'fear-mongering', both tactics are designed for one purpose: to quell dissent. Making people feel good or scaring the bejesus out of them makes it less likely they will complain or show dissent on the truly important issues.

But sometimes that 'emotional truth' just needs a good dose of reality.

What's in a blog.

The internet has become the pinnacle tool of convenience for those seeking information about any number of subjects. The web offers an infinite amount and within easy reach. We have all become knowledge seekers, querying that which we seek to imbibe and ponder over. And with the advent of blogs, we can now add our voice to the chorus of so many others. Indeed that is the ultimate goal of maintaining a blog: to express ones opinion for all the world to hear. Many of us who write blogs will never gain the recognition of an op-ed piece in any prominent newspaper. But blogs allow us some semblance of what that is like. As with all opinions, there will always be those who share the sentiment of the poster or those with opposing views. Humans are drawn to debates, to engage one another. It is how we learn new things and pass those new things onto others.

Society has advanced far in the short time we have had on this spinning globe in the heavens. From scribblings on cave walls to the virtual dais of cyberspace, humanity has sought to express itself. There is an old saying that everyone has an opinion. And that statement will forever be true.

For those who decide that my opinions are worth the time to read, please be aware that whether or not you share my view on a particular subject, be as respectful of my view as you would expect me to be respectful of yours. Neither of us will benefit from hate-filled comments that do little to engage in serious and thoughtful discussions. Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoy hear my opinions.