Wednesday, March 30, 2005

March 29, 2005

First This Just in From Vulture Watch
What circus would be complete without an appearance by Rev. Jesse Jackson? And so it has come to pass. The most reverend wife-cheatin’ financial shakedown artist appeared at the Shiavo bedside this morning to, he told assembled cameras, “bear Christian witness.” Randall Terry arrived earlier. And then today Jesse Jackson.

You know death is near when the vultures come to roost.

CIA: Jackass or Sacrificial Lamb?
Okay, let’s get this straight once and for all.. the President didn’t lie about WMD. He was just misinformed. But that begged the question, by whom? Someone had to take the fall.

Well, it took a while to get to the bottom of it, but now we know. The final report of a presidential commission on American intelligence failures arrived on Capitol Hill yesterday and it hangs the entire blame on the CIA under the now long-gone George Tenet. Yes, the same George Tenet President Bush awarded the civilian equivalent of the Medal of Honor to a couple of months ago.

Meanwhile the presidential commission had nothing but a “hearty commendation” for Don Rumsfeld’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Bush administration hopes this report will put the whole lying about WMD issue to rest. But, inquiring minds now want to know this: Why, if the CIA got it all wrong and misled the President, and the DIA was doing such a great job, the DIA/Rumsfeld didn’t warn the White House that the CIA/Tenet had the facts wrong? Curious, huh?

Well, let's see if we can figure it out. Maybe the DIA didn’t know that the CIA was getting it wrong? But, if that's so, then the DIA wasn’t doing a great job after all. Okay, could it be, that the CIA’s bogus WMD intel was left to stand because it served other Rumsfeld/DIA/administration purposes? Or maybe when the shit hit the fan Tenet/CIA voluntarily took a dive for the administration by accepting the blame in return for a wink, a nod and shinny medal?

Some future historian will surely eventually sort it all out. Until then, feel free and pick the reason that makes the most sense to you. Chances are excellent you'll be right.

Wonderfully Strange Bedfellows
I love stories like this because they come right out of nowhere. Just when you think there is not hope left, hope appears in the strangest places. And, I never saw it coming.

A letter arrived at the White House today signed by 26 former US national-security officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations. The letter called pleaded with President Bush to support a $1 billion initiative to curtail U.S. consumption of oil and to back measures that would price oil in a way that accurately reflects its real cost to our economy.

“The price at the pump is not all we’re paying,” said Robert McFarlane. “We are also paying $400 billion a year for a defense budget,” much of which he noted is because of the growing cost of providing security for oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia. McFarlane was Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor.

The letter was organized by the Energy Future Coalition a bipartisan group working to reduce US dependence on oil. While it is not surprising to find liberals signatures on the letter, some of the names are truly startling – and encouraging; Ultra-conservatives like Frank Gaffney and C. Boydon Gray for example. Holy brain twister, what’s going on?

Well it’s pretty simple actually. Liberals have long worried about our burning fossil fuels is ruining the environment. But conservatives were unimpressed and instead worried that energy conservation would ruin business. Stalemate.

Then came 9/11, which besides, killing 3000 people, also put a serious kibosh on business. Overnight conservatives realized that our ever-growing dependence on imported oil was a sword just hanging over their bottom lines.

Voila! Suddenly both environmentalists and business folk agreed that we must kick the oil habit.

“I do think there is common ground,” said “There is now a critical mass of national-security-minded people coming together to make the argument that this is no longer something we do at some point. (Reducing U.S. oil consumption) is no longer a nice thing to do. It’s imperative.” (Conservative national security consultant Frank Gaffney)

Welcome aboard fellas! (Please take off your wingtips though. They mark up the deck.)

Another Surprise
Here’s one more story that will lift your spirits and renew your faith in our democracy.

Pro-business conservatives just love to brag how we are moving towards President Bush’s vision of an “ownership society.” The proof, they say, is the huge number of ordinary working Americans who, thanks to their 401Ks, now own stakes in corporate America.

Ah yes, but there was a flaw in their plan, a wrinkle they had not planned on when they got that ball rolling. Owning shares in a corporation means a person also has voting rights. Corporate democracy… damn, they never saw it coming.

But come it has and as “ordinary” American shareholders are increasingly exercising those voting rights. And conservatives are discovering that “ordinary” folks don’t necessarily see the corporation’s place in the world the same way they do.

Example: Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC has ruled that ExxonMobil Corp. must allow a vote on two shareholder-sponsored resolutions. The two measures demand that the oil company explain to shareholders exactly it’s position on global warming and what it plans to do to comply with the provisions of the Kyoto treaty which mandates cuts in global-warming emissions.

The SEC ruling comes after years of legal wrangling by shareholders.

The action by Exxon’s pro-environment shareholders would force the company to come clean – no pun intended – on what it’s own scientists are telling management about global warming. No wonder the company didn't want to comply. The shareholder action smacks of actions that forced tobacco companies to come clean about what they knew and when they knew it on the dangers of smoking.

“The SEC staff’s decisions show how prickly an issue global warming is becoming for the oil industry. Earlier this month ChevronTexaco Corp. and several smaller U.S. oil companies that faced similar global-warming related shareholder resolutions got shareholders to withdraw these measures after the companies agreed to take more action on environmental issues.” (WSJ)

All we need now is a Congressional hearing in which oil company CEOs swear under oath that they believe burning is not causing global warming.

Yikes.. More Good News
I can’t handle this much good news in a single morning. I will have to lay down with a cold cloth on my forehead when I finish here.

Another letter, this one signed by 59 former American diplomats, has been sent urging the Senate to reject John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"He is the wrong man for this position," they said in a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We urge you to reject that nomination," the former diplomats wrote.

And, as with the letter signed by former National Security Advisors, the anti-Bolton letter was signed by diplomats who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. They include Arthur A. Hartman, ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Carter and Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Nixon, James F. Leonard, deputy ambassador to the U.N. in the Ford and Carter administrations; Princeton N. Lyman, ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under Presidents Reagan, George H. Bush.

In their missive, the former diplomats listed the numerous international treaties Bolton opposed and claimed he made "unsubstantiated claims" that Cuba and Syria were working on biological weapons. And, not incidentally, they pointed out that at this sensitive moment in the relationship between China and Taiwan, was it really wise to appoint a man who had been on Taiwan’s payroll as a consultant and supported recognition of Taiwan’s independence from China?

Bolton, they noted, had also been an outspoken opponent of the U.N.

"Given these past actions and statements, John R. Bolton cannot be an effective promoter of the U.S. national interest at the U.N.," the former diplomats concluded. "We urge you to oppose his nomination."

Hope Springs Eternal
Could it be that the worm has finally turned? That our Neo-con nightmare is approaching an end? There would seem to be some hope that this is so.

The stories above show support within the GOP’s corporate and pro-business constituency splintering into two groups: stubborn nuts and realists.

In Congress Tom DeLay appears to be losing his grip on power as the accumulated stink of his personal and professional sleaze offends even those Republicans he helped get elected.
Finally this week we saw Red State GOP voters shifting nervously in their BarkOLoungers as they watched on TV the GOP’s fundamentalist Christian wing engage in a full-scale, praisin’ the lord, crucifix waving wingding over the Terri Shiavo matter. It was unsettling.

They suddenly had images of Randall Terry-whackos loudly witnessing at the foot of their own deathbeds. Suddenly they weren’t so sure they wanted to be foot soldiers in the GOP’s Christian Crusades after all. And some went AWOL. Will more follow?

I believe so, and this is why. Tip O’Neil used to say, “all politics is local.” I think he was off a bit. Politics is local when you are talking about passing bonds to fund local schools or fire stations.

But, when you start talking about genuine homeland security, the degradation of our life-supporting environment and matters involving sex, marriage and death, politics get personal -- very personal.

And that’s what we see happening. Individual voters asking themselves if this is the kind of world they really want to live in.

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