Friday, October 28, 2005

An Honorable Man

What Patrick Fitzgerald is doing is demonstrating what it means to be an honorable man. He is living proof that the highest calling is public service, where the true coin of exchange is substantive adherence to the principles of law and justice.

Juxtapose the clean operation of his office with the smear-and-slander antics of Ken Starr. Fitzgerald demonstrates what it means to live by and for the law, and to put country before party. If this were a Democrat White House, he would not change a thing in his investigation.

He is also an exemplar of liberal values and virtues, not in the common parlance of liberal = people to treat with contempt by ideologues of left and right, but somone who demonstrates the necessity of governing according to the framework of civil liberties and abstract property rights established in the 17th and 18th centuries, and which have proved to be the best of all possible human systems. There is respect for persons, adherence to unbiased procedure, deference to proof, and deployment of reason.

That he is also one formidable mother-f*cker should not distract from the fact that his power comes precisely from playing by the rules, deploying them with both integrity and intensity. The whines of the intolerant, illiberal left that we need to use Swift-Boat tactics to get the bastards can be dismissed. Guess what? You have been ineffective. It is the moderates who have won this battle. Not the ravings of the Kossacks, but the careful investigations of TPM and TAP are what have added firepower to Fitzgerald's operation.

Who will stand up and be an honorable man? How many Congress Critters, particularly Republicans, are willing to apply these same standards to themselves and to their colleagues? Is there a Howard Baker to be found among the liars and crooks now wandering the Rethuglican side of the aisle? Are the Democrats finally ready to be an organized party, to put power behind their principles?

The current administration is a criminal operation. It is no more loyal to this nation than it is competant to run the country. It has no patriotism, though it wastes no opportunity in which to exploit that public virtue. It will kill Americans for no greater reason than to satisfy its own whims. It is without honor.

And that is what Fitzpatrick has utterly exposed.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Exploding Whales


The rumors and stories and stabs in the back and other lovely stuff is coming so quickly I can scarcely keep up with the revelations.

The closest thing I can compare the current collapse of the White House to is the dead whale that washed up on an Oregon beach some years ago. It was stinking and rotting and they could not figure out how to be rid of it. A sherrif got the bright idea of packing a lot of explosives around the whale and "vaporizing" it in the blast. Alas, when they blew up Moby Dick, it simply spewed large chunks of bloody decaying whale matter all over the observors. Some of the chunks were so large that they damaged cars parked several hundred yards away.

The rotting whale is the WHIG and related White House foreign policy escapades.The whale has been dead for a while, but the carcass is still with us. The beach is the Plame Affair. The explosives are the actions of the operatives trying to remove all evidence of the whale. And large, bloody, putrefying chunks are all around.

We're the people watching the video and snickering.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Too Late, Unfortunately

I'm glad theat Fitzgerald is going to indict the whole miserable lot at the White House, and I hope it will serve to chasten the idiots in this country who voted for them, but it does nothing to address the fact that the Rethuglican oligarchy has robbed the nation blind and butchered all sensible foreign policy.

We are poorer, weaker and in greater danger from more directions than we were in 2000. All the "conservative" bluffing in the world does not change what international markets think of the dollar.The invasion of Iraq has made the middle east more unstable and has increased the level of violence there. American children are still more likely to die of disease and preventable infections than children in Europe. Our infrastructure of roads, dams, bridges, highways, waterways, etc., is deteriorating. Our debt levels increase.

We will be a generation undoing the damage of the last six years. Four years of repair for every year in office, more or less. At some point, all the money in the world will not buy air you can breath, water you can drink, or fuel to heat your house if those resources simply do not exist.

The environmental catastrophe looming on the horizon like a hurricane probably could not have been stopped, even with Al Gore running the country, but the political and military crises would not be so extreme. As I said in an earlier post, all I can hope for is that the people who have and continue to vote Rethuglican against their rational self interest will suffer mightily and intensely, with lost jobs, poor health, crushing debt, and their children dying in a pointless war on the other side of the world. It is, after all, what they voted for, whether they acknowledge it or not.


Monday, October 17, 2005

The Great Unravelling

So, indictments on Wednesday, eh?

No, this will not "bring down" the Cheney White House. That would take an aggressive and focused press. They still think of it as a great episode of reality TV.

But it does point out that monolithic power centers have points of weakness, that those points tend to be institutional and irreducible, and that concentrations of power have a tendency to come undone abruptly and violently when the keystone is removed.

Fitzpatrick will not remove the keystone. That's Cheney, the man who appointed himself Vice President. He will whack it out of alignment a good space. Then, power lies in the street for whomever is daring enough to pick it up.

The polls are dropping, the scandals are colliding, but there is yet no strong, coherent voice that offers a way out of the mess.

Calling the Democrats. Calling the free press. The moment to act is now.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Subject-Object Agreement

I've followed the Plame Affair since it first broke in 2003. It is the equivalent of the Watergate break in, except that it has uncovered something far, far more deadly. With Nixon, we had a dirty-tricks master trying to figure out how to screw over his electoral opponents. With Plame, we have a dedicated insular group within the government trying to run it to expand their personal power over, well, the world. Plame points to WHIG, and WHIG exposes the key players - led by Cheney - who have been jockeying for unfettered and unregulated control over the largest arms stash in the world, the US military, and the largest piggy bank in the world, the US treasury.

They've been trying to gain control of this since Nixon's downfall. They got a good toehold during Reagan, but overreached with Iran-Contra and had to regroup. It is absolutely not a mistake that we're dealing with the exact same people, plus a little window dressing courtesy of the Mayberry Machiavellis. The W loyalists are the smoke screen for the Cheneyites. W wants to have the limelight and Rove wants to be known as a kingmaker, but both are bumblers. Compare Rove and Libby in this scandal. Rove joined cheerfully and loudly in the Wilson bashing, then has tried to excuse himself with typical smoke blowing and obfuscation. Libby went about things quietly, used prime news sources, and set things up to entagle his chief leak source in his own criminality (if I go down, so do you, Judy). Rove wants attention. Libby wants power.

It makes sense to look at what I like to call the subject-object agreement: what is the subject of the discussion and what is the object of having it? For some time, the conventional wisdom has been that the subject was Wilson and the object was to initmidate White House critics. I agree with this to some degree, and say that this is clearly in keeping with the Rovian modus operandi of sliming critics. It fits into the Swift Boat style.

Except it was unnecessary. By the time Wilson's op-ed came out, indeed by the time any of his significant statements came out, the Iraq invasion had already occured. Once the order to invade came, it was too late for any critic to stop it. Perhaps they could help to make the war "unpopular", but it never was very popular to begin with. So, while there was a certain satisfaction to slamming Wilson (using sexual/gender role humiliation, another favorite from Rove's bag of tricks), it was not needed. From a strategic point of view, it would have been better simply to cast Wilson as a partisan.

But what if the subject was CIA "disloyalty" to the Cheney administration, and the object was to intimidate the Company into going along with what the WHIG wanted? Then the outing of Plame takes on a different cast, and is to be laid at the feet of a different cast of characters. If the only thing that came out was Plame's name - or even just that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie, worked in the CIA and got him the trip to Niger - then the object would be punishing Wilson, but the other key part of the information was the name of Plame's front company, Brewster-Jennings, and what they were involved in, WMD tracking and intervention. Revelation of that information crippled a significant operating group in the CIA and endangered operatives and informants around the globe. The damage was to the CIA and the message was unmistakable - "You think you can thwart our desires? Go fuck yourself."

The real fight here in the Plame Affair is not the press versus the White House, nor even Joe Wilson against the pro-WH press, though it certainly encompasses those possibilities. This is a battle between the CIA and other professional Intel groups against the Cheneyites, much like Watergate at base was a battle between the CIA and the Nixonians. It is not a mistake that the one reporter who is actually in legal jeopardy is Judy Miller, who is up to her eyeballs in the WMD circus and a fellow traveler (if not a full-fledged co-conspirator) in selling the Iraq War.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Year of Living Dangerously

From November 2004 through October 2005 has been a sobering 12 months - and we're not quite over. Undoubtedly, I will have missed a few.
  • Tsunami
  • Continuing drought throughout Africa
  • The series of hurricanes in the Carribbean, most notably Katrina, Rita and Stan
  • The emerging Avian flu
  • The earthquake in Kashmir
  • Shrinking of Arctic ice cap (though this is a disaster in waiting)
  • World temperature rises by over 1 degree F.
  • Bush's election
  • Continued descent into civil war in Iraq
  • Continued sectarian violence in Afghanistan, along with a resurgence in the opium trade and drug trafficking violence
  • Bombings in London Tube
  • Bombings in Bali
  • Rising levels of terrorism around the world
The first part of the list are mostly natural disasters, though the hurricanes, rising global temperatures and shrinking ice cap are interrelated and appear to be correlated to the increase in greenhouse gases. The latter are all political in nature. The former are more difficult to deal with because of the latter. The amount of world wealth tied up in the "War on Terror" is directly affecting the ability of governments around the world to respond to the massive natural disasters, most obviously the US. The American debt crisis is a shackle upon other nation's ability to respond.

On both fronts - the disasters arising from our ecosphere and those served up by domestic and international politics - we are caught in a willfully self-crippling situation. The earthquake in Kashmir is a clear case in point. That region is one of the most dangerous in the world, as two nuclear powers face off over a piece of land that would probably be best served by belonging to neither. On the Pakistan side of the border, we have a teetering state, a nuclear program selling to the black market (AQ Khan), and a fundamentalist population in partial rebellion against a corrupt and autocratic secular government. Toss in Osama bin Laden wandering around, dispensing large amounts of cash to buy loyalty, and you have a powder keg.

Now, consider the reports that there are tens of thousands dead, approximately one milion homeless and displaced, disaster management incompetance at a level that makes Drownie Brownie look pretty talented by comparison, and the first snows of winter descending. We are talking massive suffering and conditions ripe for a violent reaction against the Islamabad regime. We are talking about bin Laden getting that much closer to possessing not a dirty bomb, but a strategic nuclear device.

Back to the US. Valerie Plame's front company was on the trail of AQ Khan and his attempt to provide nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. Particularly an Islamic high bidder. Pakistan is now in disarray, and we have been hobbled in our spy efforts thanks to George Bush's fanaticism for invading Iraq. The open rat-hole that is Iraq is greedily drinking down billions of dollars of wealth that are not available for rescue, relief, and rebuilding after any of the major disasters. This means more dead, more suffering, and more long term harm to domestic and foreign populations. It also means less ability of the US to influence people in strategic areas of the globe.

The two largest Muslim nations in the world, Indonesia and Pakistan, have bracketed this period with monumental catastrophes. Each is involved in internal struggles against portions of their populations who are increasingly drawn to radical Islam as a route to power against repressive regimes. The initial Bush administration response to each was to offer a pittance (less than $1 million), and had to be slapped to even change their rhetoric, let alone the amount. Indonesia has been more open to direct support by the US military, most notably allowing the USNS Mercy to offer extensive aid in the archipelago. After watching the FUBAR that followed Katrina, the Bush adminsitration may benefit from the soft bigotry of low expectations where Pakistan is concerned.

What's the point? The point is that we are caught in an increasingly self-destructive situation. Earthquakes happen in their own time, as will volcanoes, but climate change is obviously going to be a fact of continued human survival on earth. I don't much care if it is "caused" by human actions or by natural cycles - either way, we are dealing with an dramatically changing environment. If it is natural, we can't stop it. If it is human, it's too late to stop it, though we might ameliorate the worst effects of a half-century ahead if we start now.

As long as our wealth and attention is tied up in a fake contest that is better dealt with through spy rings and stealth operations, we cannot address the issues of climate change which is, in the end, far more dangerous to humanity than a pack of terrorists.

And I haven't even started on the flu.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wrong, Major Bob

Eric Alterman, Altercation blogger, has a recurring guest, Major Bob Bateman. Major Bob is a fascinating voice amid the usual shrill arguments of Iraq War support/opposition, mostly becauses he is an Army officer currently serving there. I highly recommend checking out Eric's blog and looking for the submissions by Maj. Bob.

In his latest post, the Major makes a major mistake with language. He misunderstands what he is saying. Here is the text of his argument. It is eloquent and thoughtful, and I do not want to shortchange him:

Today, here in Iraq, we are struggling against a perception in the Arab world which is just as misrepresentative of the larger reality as that of the myth of [Sherman's] March to the Sea. I just cannot see any way to counteract that myth either. The developing macro-myth of the American treatment of prisoners will be with us, like it or not, for generations. And this is important: It will not matter when we have completely fixed all the institutional, or individual, or systemic problems that led to the various accounts of abuse. It will not matter at all. We could turn over the entire military judicial system, hell, we could turn over control of the whole U.S. military, to the combined powers of the ACLU, Doctors Without Borders and the Hague, and it would not matter. The power of myth is that strong.

Now let me note that from a moral standpoint it should not matter that tens of thousands have processed through or been held by American forces. Human Rights, when you absolutely boil them down, are not about the many, but the few. So what should matter to all of us is what happened to those who have been abused. Morally, this is the right way to approach the issue. But at the same time the focus on the few means that their image is amplified, and over time the amplification of that image will result in the solidification of a larger myth.

Perhaps not soon, but eventually, more of the images of what took place here two years ago at Abu Ghraib will enter the public domain. These will coalesce with the stories such as those revealed by Captain Fishback of the 82nd Airborne. The end result of which will be an iconic image of this war which was not imagined before it started. From this will derive two situations. The first, here, in the Middle East. The second occurs back there, at home.

Here the images and the facts will blur. What will remain is an iconic perception which will tar the United States for decades if not centuries.

At home the blame game will really start. Within academic halls the images will be deconstructed, their effect analyzed, and the “inevitability” of their appearance retro-forecasted. But on the political side, the only debate from that point forward will be, “Whose fault is it that the pictures landed on the Internet?”

The real question, however, should be, “What are we going to do about this coming reality?” We cannot stop the myth from developing, and we probably cannot erase the myth. So how will we live with it?

On one level, he is right - the damage that was done will live on in retellings, becoming ever more embroidered and expansive, until it becomes a matter of faith that such-and-such happened. And he is most certainly right that the pundits and apologists will focus on the presence of proof as the true problem, not how the US will be forced to live with this for generations.

But he is terribly, egregiously wrong on the most basic premise. It is not a myth. The tale, in the telling, may reach mythic proportions, but the foundation, the originating act (or, shall we say, the incidents that have coalesced into the condition we can shorthand as "Abu Ghraib", a concept encompassing acts conducted across the world), that is anything but myth.

That is the deliberate, conscious and preferred policy of the current US administration and senior DoD leadership (civilian and military). It is precisely what the US intended to do. It is the institutional normalization of torture as part of US foreign policy. There is no myth or maybe about it. George Bush has recently vowed to veto any attempt to limit or even criticize his desire to torture other human beings as part of his war games.

Without this very concrete policy, we would not be facing the myth. Large numbers of armed men put into direct conflict with each other produces barbarity and act of torture. This is as old as humanity. Perhaps it is one of the primal conditions under which the East African Plains Ape was transformed into something resembling a human - when we looked at ourselves doing such things and recoiled in horror. But, to return to the point, had Abu Ghraib taken place under the common place uncertainty and chaotic conditions of war, it would not engender this myth. It would be another instance of soldiers run amok.

The power of the myth, what will catapult it beyond propaganda, is that it was and remains how our administration defines its relations to other humans - as lesser, as irrelevant, as disposable. A myth, to be durable, requires a firm foundation in truth. Not so much facticity as experience undergirds this truth. The myth of Noah's flood was grounded in the breaking of the Bosphorous and the creation of the Black Sea. The myth of American savagery is just as permanently planted in the soil of the current administration's dedication to torture, and the way it is trying to ensconce it in the heart of American law and military practice, to ensure it is a touchstone of our national identity.

America is a country that tortures as a condition of everyday operations. Now that this fact has been established, it is not to be undone, for once done well is to be done forever. This country has always prided itself on being a nation of laws, not men, and now this barbarity has been woven into our law. There is no unravelling of it now. Like the dream of equal justice for all, careers open to talent, and the possibility of escaping the castes and classes of the Old World, it is indelibly a part of our mythos - because it is a part of our reality.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What Josh Says

Josh Marshall focuses on the center of the entire dirty deal:

In any case, an article (sub.req.) in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal contains this pleasant sounding sentence: "Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy."

And then further down there's this: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims."

First of all, it did play a big role. That's where the push back came from.

If this description is accurate, it must have many folks at the White House in cold sweats.

If Karl Rove goes down in this investigation it'll be a disaster for the president, both in terms of the damage occasioned by such a high-level White House indictment and, frankly, because he needs the guy like most of us need legs.

But this WHIG thing is a whole 'nother level of hurt.

Indeed. The WHIG is the rotten core of the entire meshuggah. The key players here were Unka Dick and auxilliary wife Condi. The WHIG's sole reason to exist was to sell the war. In other words, ladies and gents, what we're looking at is the lie machine that got us into the single worst foreign policy blunder in American history. They were ready to destroy one of country's deep cover WMD spy operations (the front company Valerie Plame "worked" for) to make sure they could get their war on.

No, for the last time, there weren't any WMDs in Iraq, there were never any WMDs in Iraq, and the White House knew there were never any WMDs. They wanted to go to war, and that was all that mattered. The WHIG sent US soldiers and innocent Iraqi children to their deaths because they wanted war. Period.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Back after a hiatus this summer. So why the absence? Both of my parents have suffered falls and broken bones in the last year, which has not been fun to deal with. They are doing better. My husband was incapacitated with a back injury in late spring, and spent most of the summer in therapy. He is more than 95% recovered. That was the worst. The budget at the hospital was cut and I've lost some team members, so the work load has gone up. So, all in all, some stress and worry, but nothing unmanageable.

Thankfully, fandom hissy fits have kept to record lows the last few months. A few folks have tried to get in my face over problems they brought on themselves. I decline to answer those emails. Aside from some very frustrating JRun server errors, the site pretty much runs itself. Playlists launched, I posted an HTML editor for stories and forums, and a some database efficiency tweaks have been done.

The HotK writing comes along slowly but steadily. I was outlining the next few chapters and realized I probably have only 10 to 12 more to do before I end. If I stay on track, that means I should wrap up the alpha writing by June 2006. Good grief, have I really been writing for three years? My first draft of chapter 1 was written in September/October 2002.

And politics. I haven't had time for much commentary besides an occasional snark here and there, but I've been watching. Grimly, all of my predictions about the Iraq war are coming true. Not that it takes much brains to have figured that out. The corruption machine begun by Bush the Elder during the early 80s is beginning to run out of gas, just like the rest of the country.