Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Despite DeLay's "Partisan Zealot" Claim, Most Politicians Investigated By Texas Prosecutor Have Been Democrats


Tom DeLay, the first House leader to be indicted while in office in at least a century, has been quick to dismiss charges against him as driven by partisan politics.

DeLay and his friends and allies have been quick to denounce the prosecutor in the case, Ronnie Earle, as an "unabashed partisan zealot."

However, it's important to note that 12 of the 15 politicians investigated by Earle over the years have been Democrats.

Since 1978, Earle, has investigated a number of high-profile Democrats, including: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough, State Treasurer Warren Harding, Attorney General Jim Mattox, House Speaker Gib Lewis, former state Rep. Betty Denton and former state Rep. Lane Denton.

Despite this, DeLay and his allies have wasted no time in portraying the indictment as politically motivated.

Typical of the comments Wednesday was that made by DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden:

"This indictment is nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat."

DeLay chimed in with his own attacks during a rambling press conference in which he labeled Earle as a "zealot" and a "partisan fanatic."

I expect the great Republican slime machine to kick into action in full force in an effort to tar the name of Ronnie Earle, a former Eagle scout, who has held office for 27 years.

But it's clear that DeLay and his goons are going to have to find another flaming necklace to put around Earle's neck besides the tired cliche of "partisan politics," as this investigation moves forward.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

For The Truth, Forget The Media And Listen To The Protesters


In the build-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the world saw the largest series of demonstrations ever, as millions of anti-war protesters took to the streets around the globe.

Fast-forward to Sept. 24, 2005. Once again, anti-war protesters are taking to the streets in Washington, D.C. and London, and elsewhere.

Bush will, of course, ignore the marching masses this weekend who oppose his evil war for oil---just as he ignored the protesters of 2003. That much is given---but what worries me more is whether the mainstream media in this country will cover the demonstrations, or give them the same short shrift it gave the massive demonstrations of 2003.

The largely middle-class, pampered and carefully groomed members of the mainstream media have already made a startling discovery about this country when they were rooting around in New Orleans, looking for sensational video footage opportunities in Katrina's aftermath. That is: that there are desperately poor people in this country.

If the mainstream media bothers to do much reporting on this weekend's demonstrations, it might also be enlightened to another fact: that a majority of the American and British people are sick and tired of this evil war and they want our troops brought home now.

One thing that I will give the Republicans credit for is that they are determined and relentless. If Clinton had launched this war and later found that it was all based on lies, there would've been a lot of agonized soul-searching within the Democratic Party.

By contrast, now that Bush's war rationale has been exposed as a fraud, he continues to draw fanatical support from his rabid followers. None of the Bush partisans seem to remember why Bush said we needed to invade Iraq in the first place. The term "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (easily the most common phrase appearing in the mainstream media in 2003) has completely disappeared from the White House's vocabulary (except to pop up on one occasion during a truly sick "comedy skit," in which Bush made light of the whole issue).

Now, the Bush Bots and the mainstream media have gone into overdrive trying to convince the American people that the Iraq war was about bringing democracy to the Iraqis all along. The media has worked hard to portray the war as an endeavor that, while perhaps somewhat flawed, is based on noble, lofty ideals.

This weekend, as thousands again march in the streets to protest the war, it's important to remember a crucial fact that's been overlooked over the past two years.

That is: the Iraq war is, and always was, about one thing: oil.

Anyone who believes otherwise is simply naive.

Are we really to believe that if a Saddam-like figure had emerged in some obscure (and resource-poor) region of the world, that the U.S. would really care?

Oh, sure, the U.S. might file a diplomatic protest, or denounce the dictator at a press conference. But there's no way on earth that we'd spend hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of U.S. soldiers' lives to launch an invasion.

Bush and his fanatical followers can babble on all day about the "noble" mission to bring peace and democracy to Iraq. But this war never had anything to do with lofty ideals. It's all about the oil.

If Bush was really a friend of democracy, he might do the following:

1. Stop trying to overthrow the democratically-elected (and genuinely popular) Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.
2. Stop propping up the evil dictatorship of Saudi Arabia---a nation where beheadings and torture are rife. (While he's at it, Bush should ask the Saudis to let our investigators examine the Al-Qaeda money trail).
3. Repeal the "USA Patriot Act," the most serious assault on American democracy in our nation's history.
4. Stop stealing elections, which, of course, the Bush team did in 2000 and 2004, with the help of a crooked partisan Supreme Court and a rabidly pro-GOP corporation, Diebold, which "counted" the 2004 votes.
5. Last, but not least, Bush ought to stop dragging the noble ideal of democracy through the mud by trying to associate it with this evil war in Iraq.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hey, Bush: Stop Digging


There's an old saying that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. George W. Bush apparently never heard that one.

In recently announcing what could become the biggest federal public works program since the New Deal, it wasn't surprising that Bush is prepared to buy his way out of yet another fiasco -- with borrowed money.

Not that I'm opposed to rebuilding New Orleans. America would be stupid to let such a rich part of our cultural heritage just wash out into the Gulf of Mexico (a la Dennis Hastert's philistine remark).

The obvious question -- or at least it should be obvious -- is how the "president" plans to pay for $200 billion worth of reconstruction without raising anybody's taxes.

Not only is he not answering the question sensibly, he's actually proposing new tax breaks for businesses to build in the hurricane-ravaged areas. And Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown and Root subsidiary, already $9 billion richer from no-bid contracts in Iraq, is up for similar deals in the stricken region, as are other companies with administration ties.

In July 2003, Nobel laureate economist George A. Akerlof told the German magazine Der Spiegel, "I think this is the worst government the U.S. has ever had ... What we have here is a form of looting." Akerlof's words are ironic now, considering the media outcry about The Big Easy's impoverished black looters, and the relative media silence about Bush sweetheart deals with corporate cronies.

It's bad enough that American "capitalism" has been largely transformed into socialism for the rich. And it's bad enough to see corporate friends of this administration given a near blank check to exploit the Treasury.

The worst part, with regard to our nation's future, is that this "president" is offering no plan to pay for this largesse, other than perhaps to strip the poor and the working class of what social safety net they have left. True, he hasn't been very specific about what cuts are planned; but don't expect shared sacrifice. With a war to pay for, and possibly more tax bonanzas on the way, it's pretty obvious who's going to be in the crosshairs -- the same people who have been since Jan. 20, 2001.

Of course, they still won't find enough money to do the rebuilding. So they'll borrow the rest, putting the U.S. economy in even greater peril.

Mr. Bush, unless it is your intention to put this economy 6 feet under -- please, quit digging.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Of Course Bush Is Responsible. Now, How About Some Action?


The biggest non-news story this week involves Bush saying that he takes "responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

There's only one problem. Bush is supposed to be president of the United States. Of course, he's responsible for the disastrous federal response. Responsibility is supposed to come with the job. Bush has simply never conceded this point before on anything else--from the disastrous Iraq war to 9/11 to the exploding federal deficit.

It's a bit of a media novelty now that Bush is claiming responsibility for a change---but one thing that should not be overlooked is the fact that Bush had already full responsibility, whether or not he admitted it.

This latest development is nothing more than yet another cynical ploy on Karl Rove's part. It would be significant only if it were accompanied by some sort of concrete action. But of course, it won't be.

In many nations around the world (Japan, for example), a leader would have stepped down in the aftermath of a Katrina-like fiasco. Of course, we cannot expect that of Bush. But it would be nice if Bush would follow up his PR ploy with some real action for a change.

After all, it's easy to mouth empty platitudes at press conferences. It's quite another thing to, say, end White House-connected crony capitalism in the Katrina recovery effort.

Millions of disillusioned Americans are asking why it is that companies with ties to the Bush White House are grabbing some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts.

Since Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, shares of Halliburton have climbed 10 percent. Fresh from raking in billions of dollars in non-competitive contracts in Iraq, Halliburton is expected rake in billions in Katrina's aftermath. As Britain's Observer newspaper pointed out, "...Halliburton has shone in the markets partly because it is expected to do well out of the catastrophe."

In short, Bush may think he's being a bold leader by taking "responsibility" for a change. But the thing he's never realized is that responsibility is supposed to come with the job of president. And responsibility is something that he's always shirked.

Bush's Rove-scripted "responsibility" PR moment aside, does anyone seriously think that anything will change with this administration?

In the end, nothing will change. In fact, I'd bet money that, come next August, Bush will again be luxuriating in yet another European-style 5-week vacation, oblivious to the worries and concerns of ordinary working Americans.

Monday, September 05, 2005

For Bush, "Damage Control" Involves PR, Not Dealing With Katrina's Aftermath


In the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in the history of the United States, the Bush White House's top priority is to contain the damage.

No, not the damage to the Katrina-ravaged areas.

Instead, we're referring to the damage done to Bush's image.

In the early going of Katrina's aftermath, Bush took a black eye in the PR stakes via a series of blunders. This resulted in something we've not seen in the mainstream media for years: stories that are actually critical of the Bush White House.

With echoes of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, a nation watched in amazement as a vacationing Bush strummed a guitar as Katrina unleashed its fury. We then watched in disbelief as Bush made astonishingly idiotic comments.

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," Bush said with a straight face to ABC's Diane Sawyer.

It seems to me that the nation's budget-starved emergency planning officials could have told Bush this years ago. (Indeed, they tried to tell him, but their cries were ignored, as billions of dollars were shifted from urgent levee projects to the quicksands of the bloody Iraq quagmire).

Bush's PR took a further beating with the growing realization that many of the thousands of expected deaths were avoidable and could be chalked up to the inept relief efforts, much of which came far too late. It's important to note that experts have long warned that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the vital time-frame during which lives can be saved with quick action.

The inadequate and delayed relief efforts actually prompted our nation's media to start asking sharply critical questions about Bush's leadership role in coping with the crisis. Bush's PR image tumbled further when Michael Brown, the man Bush appointed to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency, showed himself to be disconnected from reality.

Brown professed in an interview that he was unaware until Thursday that there were 15,000 starving, desperate hurricane victims housed at the New Orleans Convention Center---even though this had been widely reported for days.

Bush has definitely lost Round One of the all-important PR battle.

But Bush spin-doctors like Karl Rove have long known that you can lose a few early rounds and still win the war in the PR sweepstakes.

What's important is not the image in people's minds right now. It's how this whole episode will be recalled a year or two down the road.

The White House damage control and PR machine cranked into action this weekend in an effort to contain the political damage.

The New York Times reported Sept. 4 that the Rove-directed PR effort seeks to shift the blame for the slow disaster aid response from the White House to Louisiana and New Orleans officials, (who as it turns out, are Democrats).

We're already seeing the first rotten fruits of Bush/Rove's "shift-the-blame" smear campaign

On Sept. 4, The Washington Post, in remarks attributed to "a senior Bush official," reported that, as of Saturday, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, had "still had not declared a state of emergency."

This, of course, is a crock. In fact, on Aug. 28, Blanco sent an urgent, detailed letter, requesting that Bush declare "an expedited major disaster for the State of Louisiana."

We can expect the Bush White House to continue to spew lies and misinformation about its bungled Katrina response in the weeks and months to come, as Rove works to keep ahead of the PR curve.

The question is, will the mainstream media play along with this? Will the press let the Bush White House continue to slime the Democrats and shift all blame elsewhere?

In the first few days after Katrina hit, we saw a rare glimpse of this nation's media breaking out of its cozy slumber and asking tough questions for a change. For a moment there, it gave many of us a sense of deja vu as we watched the sort of media that we once admired and respected many years ago.

Now, the siren song of Bush's PR and blame-game blitz is slithering out of the White House once more---will it lull our media back into a sense of complacency and cooperation? Or will we have to continue to rely on the European media and the blogosphere to get the unvarnished truth about the White House?