Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Darth Cheney Strikes Again

So, in a recent "exit" interview, the gift that keeps on giving, Dick "Darth" Cheney, finally admitted what those of use who don't believe everything we read on the Drudge Report or hear from Hannity or Rush Limbaugh have known for years: All the reasons we were given in 2002 for going to war with Iraq were just excuses. They were going to invade Iraq anyway. Rove and Bush have been trying not to give away the game, saying that maybe we wouldn't have gone to war if the intelligence had been better. (Even though we actually had that better intelligence and they just ignored it).

But Cheney, the guy who, after all, is the one who went over to the CIA and stood over analysts' desks until they wrote what he wanted them to write, is blowing Rove's and Bush's story. In his interview Cheney just came right out and admitted that they would have went to war no matter what the intelligence said. Even if we'd know for sure he didn't have any biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons? Yep. Why? Because Saddam wanted them. Because Saddam had plans to make them again sometime in the future! Not because he had an active WMD program, mind you, but because he fantasized of having one again sometime, someday. That was enough, according to Cheney. Oh, and because, according to Cheney, Saddam was going to make chemical and biological agents, put them in perfume bottles, and send them to America! Oh no!

That not only sounds like the plot of a Batman movie, it was the plot of a Batman movie. You know, the first one, with Michael Keaton, cleverly named Batman. The Joker did put nerve agents in cosmetics and grooming products.

But get this: Cheney acts like we knew Saddam was planning to unleash this eeeevil yet unlikely plot when we went to war and it factored into the Bush regime's thinking at the time. But they didn't know. This little piece of high-school level revenge fantasy that Saddam had dreamed up wasn't discovered until after the invasion, and was only brought to light in the Iraq Study Group's report several years later.

So, even if we are to take seriously the idea that the Joker aka Saddam was really thinking about trying this B-movie terror plan, which would almost certainly fail for a whole host of reasons not worth going into here, and that his daydreaming about such a dumb plot actually constitutes a legitimate reason to invade a country, bomb the living shit out of its people, and send them on a path of chaos and civil war they are still struggling with six years later, it still doesn't matter, because despite Cheney's justification is anachronistic because we didn't know about this dipshit plan back in 2002!!!

Notwithstanding that if a bad guy wanting WMDs and fantasizing about having a WMD program someday is reason enough to invade his country and topple his regime, we'd be running all over the world invading countries at the drop of a hat. Hey, maybe that's why we invaded Iraq instead of North Korea! Saddam just wanted a nuclear program and dreamed about having one when he jerked himself off. Kim Jong-Il actually had one. So he didn't qualify. We only invade countries whose leaders wish to have a WMD program, apparently, not those that do. That'd also explain why we invaded Iraq but not Iran, right?

But, while his latest goalpost-moving justification is bullshit, Cheney has finally accidentally told the truth for perhaps the first time in his eight years in office. He has admitted the ultimate truth behind the disastrous military adventure in Iraq, one it took over half of the people of this country six years to grasp: The Bush regime and the neocons running it invaded Iraq because they wanted to. 9/11 and the "war on terror" was the excuse, not the reason. WMDs, yellow cake uranium, ties to Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin-Laden, those were just excuses too. The neocons didn't like Saddam, they wanted his oil, they wanted to go on a military/nation-building/democracy-creating/oil stealing adventure, they wanted to do it in Iraq, and they did. And Cheney has finally let the cat out of the bag.

He admitted we would have gone in even if we'd had the correct intelligence. What more do you need to know?

Oh, and by the way, he also admitted to personally sanctioning torture. Which, by our own rules, laws, and traditions, let alone international law, is a war crime. Very, very lucky for Cheney we haven't signed on to the International Criminal Court. But I do seriously wonder if Cheney will not be able to travel abroad anymore after he leaves office for fear of being arrested for war crimes, like Kissinger. I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe he'll be exempt because he's a former VP and no country will dare to piss off the US by arresting him, or maybe they won't want to take the chance of starting an international incident since they'd have to deal with his secret service detail (I don't think Kissinger has one, does he? Cheney certainly will as a former VP, right?)

It'll be interesting.

Joe Scarborough in a Lather

On MSNBC's Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough has been in a lather over the media's supposed "failure" and "bias" over the fact that the media sent people to Wasilla to pore over Sarah Palin's record and didn't send people to Chicago to check out Obama's links to Blagojevich or to check out Rahm Emmanuel's claim this summer that he and Obama ran Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign, a claim from which he has since backed off of.

Which is just stupid. Here's why.

First: The media was already in Chicago all in a lather over Obama's links to William Ayers. Second, though Blagojevich was known to be under investigation at the time, then, as now, it was known that Obama's ties with Blagojevich were never very close. Third, whatever Rahm Emmanuel said in the summer wasn't going to draw as much attention as whatever Sarah Palin said when she became the VP candidate because Emmanuel wasn't on the goddamned ticket! Sure, now Emmanuel's claim seems significant, either because it indicates stronger ties to Blagojevich or because Emmanuel was exaggerating his and Obama's importance in that campaign (or, as Scarborough says, because Emmanuel was "lying.") And, because now we know Emmanuel is Obama's Chief of Staff pick, which, of course, we didn't know back then, and so, Emmanuel wasn't all that important back then.

If we give Scarborough that Emmanuel lied about his and Obama's role in Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign, at the time Emmanuel said it, of course it didn't trigger as big a media frenzy as lies Sarah Palin told. Emmanuel wasn't on the ticket! So why would anyone care? Oooh, big story: Illinois Congressman with ties to Obama lies about him and Obama running the campaign of some Governor you've never heard of. Whoa! Hold onto your seat. That sure is as big a story as, oh, say, the Governor of Alaska, plucked from obscurity, put on the Republican ticket as the VP candidate, suddenly thrust into the spotlight, standing in front of a nationwide audience at the Republican National Convention and personally lying directly to the nation about how she said "no to that bridge to nowhere." Sure, it's just bias that caused the media to jump all over her history and career when she was under investigation for ethics violations at the time she was nominated and also started off lying about her record right off the freakin' bat but not to jump all over a lie made by a congressman who wasn't even on the Obama ticket that wasn't backed up by the Obama campaign and therefore had no real relevance to the campaign at all.

Sure. It's just bias. The media never spent any time poring over any of Obama's past and connections at all because he is a Democrat. They never spent any time on Reverend Wright or on William Ayers or his time as a kid in Indonesia and whether he was a Muslim and attended a madrasseh when he was a kid. Not at all, no. They let all that go because he was a Democrat. And they only sent people to Wasilla to look into Palin's record because she was a Republican and the media are biased and out to get her, not because she was obscure, not because no one knew who she was and so finding out was legitimate news, and certainly not because she'd only been on the national stage for five seconds and yet was already lying about her record and was already under an ethics investigation in Alaska. No, couldn't have been.

Because the only reason the media would treat one politician differently than another is party affiliation. The fact that one politician came onto the scene and immediately drew a bull's eye on herself has nothing to do with it. The fact that one politician immediately lost any possible benefit of the doubt she might have had with media or the general public by blatantly lying about her record in her first national appearance has nothing to do with it. The only possible explanation, according to Joe Scarborough, is bias.

Come on. The media went after Obama when they could and when there was a story. The media hounded Sarah Palin -- and, admittedly, they did hound her -- from almost the moment she stepped onto the national stage for one reason and one reason only: She gave them so much material to work with. She gave them story after story after story. There wouldn't have been a gaggle of reporters in Wasilla if she hadn't made it so obvious there was a gold mine of stories there.

But, what, exactly, would the story have been if the media had "gone to Chicago" to investigate Emmanuel's assertion about Blagojevich's campaign like Scarborough insists they should have done? They would have learned that, in fact, Obama and Emmanuel didn't really run Blagojevich's campaign. Woo! Big story. Wow. That'll light up the front page. Congressman lies to aggrandize himself. News at eleven. Where do you go with that?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dumb Thoughts

A few dumb thoughts that occurred to me on or around the election...

If, when Obama visited Bush at the White House, he suddenly lunged at Bush with a knife and tried to kill him, who would the Secret Service shoot? Conversely, if Bush lunged at Obama with a knife, who would they shoot? No points for answers like, "They'd try to separate them." Assume they have to shoot one to save the other.

Does the President get to pick his own e-mail address? That would rule. I'd pick something like

Can the President pick his own Secret Service codename? I know they always say that "The Secret Service has picked the President's codename," but they never say how they pick it. That is to say, do they really pick it, or do they ask the President what he wants? Because if I were the President, I would totally pick "The Pump." That be awesome. For four years (because, clearly, if the things on this list are what I am thinking about, I'm not getting reelected), the Secret Service guys will have to whisper into their little radio thingies, "The Pump is moving." Tee hee!

If I were President, every so often, I would go out into the West Wing and go into some functionary's cubicle and stand behind him (or her) while he tries to work. I would stand there for like half an hour. I wouldn't say anything. If he asks me if I need anything, I'd be like, "No." Then I'd just leave and never mention it again.

If I were President, I would start an edit war in Wikipedia under a pseudonym over my own article by constantly putting false and vicious rumors into it. I would never let my defenders know that it was me they were trying to protect my article from.

Does the President have to follow the White House computer use policy? That is to say, will the President get in trouble for surfing for porn or playing online poker on White House computers? I don't mean political trouble, like it getting out into the papers. I mean, will he get cited somehow by the IT guy or someone for violating the policy? Will he have his password taken away?

Does the President have administrator privileges on his computer in the White House? (I'm given to understand that Obama will be the first President to have a computer on his desk, so this question may not be answerable yet). Or does he have to ask the sys admin any time he wants to load software on his computer?

Joe Biden famously rides the train back and forth to Wilmington, DE, every day when he's working in Washington because he's the only Senator with no residence in DC. If I were him, I would keep riding the train every day to Wilmington (yes, I know the VP's residence is in Annapolis, but that's not as far so it's not as funny), just so that every damned day the Secret Service has to clear the train, check it out, ride the train with me, etc., etc.,

You know what would be, for me, the most amazing thing about being President, the thing that would almost make it worth it? It's that when you tell someone to do something, they have to do that shit. I'm not talking about abusing your power or doing stupid things. I mean, like seriously, there's not many other jobs where people really have to do what you tell them. People can quit, sure, except military people, but they aren't going to. Even if you are the CEO of some big company, if you tell your people they have to work over the weekend or make them stay all night to prepare something too many times they'll quit. But when you are the President and you say, "I need to have an analysis of all these options on my desk in the morning," and it's 6 pm, those people aren't going home. They have to do that shit. They're going to be there all night and there's going to be an analysis on your desk in the morning. It would be nice to be able to think big picture and know that stuff like that is just going to get done. It doesn't seem like power, but in a sense, that is real power, the most real power the President has. Within the White House, his word is law, and when he wants something, that shit gets done. Period.

Second Stringers?

My first thought, in relation to the incident of the Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at Bush, was apparently the same as everyone else's: I was impressed at how quick Bush's reflexes were. (Best joke on this topic from The Rachel Maddow Show last night: "To dodge the shoe, Bush did something he's never done before-- lean to the left.")

The second thing that occurred to me was to wonder where the hell the Secret Service guys were? I mean, okay, you're not expecting the guy to throw a shoe ("Honestly, who throws a shoe? That really hurt!"), so I can forgive the first one, but the guy manages to take his other shoe off and throw it before a Secret Service guys gets anywhere near him? What the fuck?

I mean, if that guy had a gun, or even a bunch of poison darts in his pocket he could have gotten like ten shots or throws off in that time! Isn't the President's Secret Service detail supposed to be more on the ball than that, especially when the President is in a dangerous place like, oh, say, Iraq???

I'm wondering if Bush has the second stringers now and Obama has the first stringers. Do you think? Are the young guys ready like coiled springs to leap into action in Chicago and the old guys about to retire with bad knees thinking about their pensions traveling with Bush?

One wonders.

That's What Unions Are For

I just had to post after my long absence because it's been bothering me that Republican Senators like Mitch McConnell seem to think they're making some important point by constantly highlighting that workers unionized auto workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) working at big three auto plants make a higher hourly wage than non-unionized workers working at foreign-owned plants.

Well, freakin' duh! The whole goddamned point of forming a union to represent workers through collective bargaining is to get better wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions. The UAW would be a pretty shitty union if it didn't get its workers better pay and benefits than non-unionized workers in foreign-owned plants. In fact, there would be no reason for the UAW to exist if it didn't, because there would be no benefit. It isn't surprising that UAW workers get paid more than non-unionized workers; it would be surprising if they frickin' didn't!

Which is beside the point of whether UAW workers get so much in pay and benefits that the prevent the big three from being competitive and profitable. And McConnell knows it, because though he wants us to believe that is the problem he's addressing, it isn't. That isn't the argument McConnell and his cronies are making.

No, McConnell wasn't saying he couldn't support a bailout of the big three auto companies unless the UAW agreed to cuts in workers' pay to a level that would allow the big three to be competitive with foreign-owned automakers... No, he said that he would only support the bailout if the UAW was willing to reduce workers' wages to the same level as non-union workers in foreign-owned plants like in his state.

Which, as he well knows, would defeat the entire point of the union. The point for him wasn't making sure that the domestic automakers would be competitive in the future. It was to bust the union. That's what he wants. That's why he keeps disingenuously acting like somehow the fact that UAW workers earn more than non-union workers is somehow wrong or dishonest, when, as he well knows, it's exactly what we would (and should) expect.

Maybe the UAW has negotiated too good a deal. Maybe the legacy costs of retirees that the domestic automakers are paying plus better wages and benefits are making it difficult for them to compete with foreign automakers without those costs. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that's really the problem. If domestic cars were better made and more reliable, if they had better warranties, if domestic dealers and service representatives weren't such scumbags, then more people would buy domestic. But for well-nigh thirty years no the management of these companies have been making bad decisions. They didn't start making more fuel efficient vehicles after the oil crisis in the 70s, and, in fact, lobbied for the loophole that let them build SUVs and avoid fuel efficiency standards (and also pushed through tarriffs that made SUVs profitable). They failed to make their vehicles as reliable and as high quality as foreign vehicles. And they failed to adapt to a changing marktplace. Further, even if the sweet deal the UAW has were the one of the main problems the domestic auto makers are facing, that would be management's fault too, because they were the ones who negotiated such a shitty deal for the automakers with the union!!!

The fault, then, lies with the automakers and the management of those companies, not with the union. The union's job is to get the best deal it can for its workers. We all have the right to negotiate the best possible deal for our employment with our employers and auto workers are no different. Maybe now that the automakers are facing ruin the UAW will have to and should have to make concessions to keep the companies afloat, but that should be as part of overall cutbacks and as part of a cooperative effort with the companies, not as scapegoats and not as a hostile effort forced on it by the management that drove the companies into the ground and not by a hostile Congress or administration that blames the auto workers for the demise of the auto industry while never once questioning the pay of hedge-fund managers and other white-collar Wall Street assholes who had a lot more to do with the failures in the financial industry than the UAW and its workers do with the failure of the auto industry.

Anyway, McConnell, shut the fuck up and stop acting scandalized that workers who have the advantage of being part of a union make more money than the poor bastards in your state who aren't in a union. You and I both know that's why workers form unions, that's what unions are for, to empower workers to get fairer and better wages and working conditions, and you and I both know that's why you want to break the unions: because your real constituents are rich assholes like those guys on Wall Street you gave all that money to, and you aren't scandalized at all about how much a UAW worker makes. You just want to make sure the rich people get to keep more of their money and have to pay the poor people who make their cars less.