Thursday, December 15, 2005

December 14, 2005

Harry Putter,
Milquetoast Prince

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..... huh?

Oh, sorry. I had just begun writing when Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, began presenting his formal remarks on Iraq and tomorrow's elections there. Whoa. Had someone just dragged this guy out of bed or something? Is he on some kind of stress relievers? Did he O.D. on them. Did he run out of Geritol?

Jeeeze Louise, what's wrong with those people? The nation is up to its hips in the blood of war and what do the Democrats do? They send a semi-conscious Harry Reid out to "give em hell, Harry!" Hell it was too -- the morning of the walking dead. I've heard more lively speeches at funerals – pet funerals.

So as Harry Putter droned on I stayed awake reading the morning headlines. As I did I had to wondered if Reid had today's papers. If he had he sure gave us no hint. This morning's papers are chuck full of anti-administration ammo. If he'd simply read the front pages of the NY Times and Washington Post out loud, the administration would be scrambling for cover right now.

Here, look at these three stories, beginning with the blind leading the blinder story:

To Halt Abuses, U.S. Will Inspect Jails Run by Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 13 - American military officers will inspect hundreds of detention centers and embed with Iraqi police commando units and other Interior Ministry forces to try to halt widespread abuses uncovered by raids on two Iraqi-run detention centers in Baghdad in the last month, the American ambassador pledged Tuesday.

Followed by this story:

Secret Army Torture Rules Issued
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 - The Army has approved a new, classified set of interrogation methods that may complicate negotiations over legislation proposed by Senator John McCain to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees in American custody, military officials said Tuesday. The techniques are included in a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army field manual that was forwarded this week to Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence policy, for final approval, they said. This is a stick in McCain's eye," one official said. "It goes right up to the edge. He's not going to be comfortable with this."

Which was followed by this story:

Investigator Sees Signs of CIA Role in Abductions
PARIS, Dec. 13 -- A European investigator said Tuesday that information he has gathered suggests U.S. intelligence operatives have abducted and transferred terrorism suspects in Europe "without respect for any legal standards" and that he has formally asked Poland and Romania whether the CIA operated secret prisons on their soil. he said he believed that the CIA has since closed its jails in Eastern Europe and transferred its prisoners to North Africa. That statement echoed a report last week by ABC News.

Holy moly, I could have made all kind of hay out of the contradictions, absurdities and outrageous administration behavior detailed in just those three stories. But No. One Dem, Harry, didn't mention even one of them. (Though he did "congratulate American troops." Dems are told to do that whenever they mention Iraq so they don't look like anti-military wimps. He read that part the same way auto companies read the fine print at the end of their TV ads.)

But wait, there's more – more missed story opportunities. But before I list them, let's review; The nation is broke. No, wait, that's wrong. We should be so lucky to be just broke. The nation is hemorrhaging red ink. We''re treading, just barely keeping our aching head above a rising tied of government debt. So, why didn't Harry mention these stories?

Administration to Request up to $100B For War
The Pentagon is in the early stages of drafting a wartime request for up to $100 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers say, a figure that would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars.Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress has approved more than $300 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, including military operations, reconstruction, embassy security and foreign aid, as well as other costs related to the war on terrorism, according to the Congressional Research Service, which writes reports for Congress.

Or this one:

U.S. Trade Deficit Hits All-Time High
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly rose to an all-time high in October as oil shipments soared and the United States set deficit records with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico. The Commerce Department reported that the gap between what America sells overseas and what it imports rose by 4.4 percent in October to $68.9 billion, surpassing the old record of $66 billion set in September. So far this year, the trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $718 billion, far surpassing last year's $617.6 billion imbalance. Critics say the soaring deficit is evidence that President Bush's policy of pursuing free trade deals around the world is not working.

Or this one?

U.S. Budget Deficit Up in Nov. to $83.1 Billion
The federal government's budget deficit rose sharply in November as spending raced ahead of tax receipts. The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit totaled $83.1 billion, the highest imbalance ever recorded in November. For the first two months of the 2006 budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $130.3 billion, 13.1 percent higher than the $115.2 billion in red ink run up during the same period last year.

Nope. Ole Harry could have given them hell with the day's news, but he didn't mention any of those enormously relevant items.

But, for a second I though he might be going to do just that. It was when he slowly.. oh so slowly, reached into his coat pocket and, slowly, oh so slowly, unfolded a piece of paper. Then he began to read, softly, slowly, like a third-grader forced to read aloud to the class.

But it wasn't any of the timely news items above. Instead Harry decided to use his time on the national stage to read excerpts from a 62-year old speech by President Franklin Roosevelt. But Harry was himself so obviously uninterested in the matter his eyelids kept closing. Still, he soldiered on, stumbling his way through the five or six lines as though he'd never seen them until that very moment. It was a disjointed presentation I'm still not quite sure why he decided we needed to hear from Franklin at this point in time. It apparently had something to do with Roosevelt asking Americans listening on the radio to roll out a map of the world and follow along. I suppose he was suggesting President Bush do the same.

Strange. No one (in their right mind) questions the premises on which WWII was waged. Was Harry suggesting that President Bush's use of maps might clear up the host of moral, ethical and legal ambiguities that dog his war in Iraq?

Anyway, Harry, old bean, let me tell ya, we all know where Iraq is now. And, unlike during Roosevelt's days, we have this newfangled thing called "T.V." with which, not just maps, but actual live pictures can be sent through the air to the folks at home. We've all seen more of Iraq than we care to already. As for maps, most Americans are now more familiar with the geography of that sandbox of a country than they are of our own states.

Yikes! Maps? Holy clueless senator, Bat Man! This week Newsweek Magazine's cover shows George W. in a bubble. After Reid's speech this morning it clear that Bush is not the only high US official living in a bubble. (The only difference is Medicare pays for the oxygen pumped into Reid's bubble. Up the dose!!)

It's not as though Democrats don't have firebrands who could have given a shit-kicking speech. They do. They just won't let them do it. Howard Dean is one. But every time he lets loose members of his own party tackle him, throw a blanket over him and drag him back to DNC headquarters to be tranquilized.

It won't come as news to regular readers when I say I'm disgusted with both parties. Disgusted is actually too mild a word. I am working on inventing a new word able to capture just how discombobulated I am. But so far, no luck. Just when I think I have the right word, one or both parties says or does something that moves the goal posts further into "no-mindsland."

So what's a progressive minded voter to do? There's the old "throw the bums out" strategy, you know, vote against all incumbents. The trouble with that one is we end up throwing out the few good members of congress we have. Then again, if those few are too few to affect change anyway, what's the loss? The handful of certifiably sane members in both parties are rendered ineffective by their own party's which operate on the old Japanese warning that: "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down."

Worse yet, bad members of Congress have ways of always getting reelected. They reapportion, lie, smear, outspend, what ever it takes. And they win. Almost always, they win to live on for another term. They're just like cockroaches. No matter how bad conditions get, they survive. Sometimes the only way to get rid of an established nest cockroaches is to fumigate the whole damn house.

I don't know. Just don't know. I continue to hope I'll awake one morning to discover the Democrats were, over night, born again – so to speak. But every time there's the slightest glimmer of such hope it whithers, as it did during this morning's embarrassing dog and pony show by Reid et al.

Of course we could hope Reid is replaced as the party's leader in the senate. Not likely, unless he dies in office. Even then it might be months before anyone notices.

Oh, here's two more headlines. Both tell a chilling story about the condition of our own democracy"

U.S. Sixth Among Countries Jailing Journalists
The United States has tied with Myanmar, the former Burma, for sixth place among countries that are holding the most journalists behind bars, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And, what have you been up to? Have you been naughty, or nice? Rummy wants to know.

Secret Pentagon Tracks U.S. Anti-War Groups
WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. Military. A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.