Feb 10, 2005

The Terror At Home

Vol6No53Yourdime80

Feb 10, 2005 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (4)

Jan 19, 2005

More Washington Non Scents

Vol6No48Bushsrose80

In watching Condi's confirmation hearings, I kept wondering: When did "contempt of congress" switch from being a governmental offense to part of a job description?

Jan 19, 2005 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Jan 13, 2005

Feathering the Nest

Vol6No47Yournestegg80


Jan 13, 2005 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Jan 06, 2005

From Racks To Riches

Vol6No45Twothumbsup80-1

Jan 06, 2005 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dec 31, 2004

$35 Million Before Breakfast

Vol6No43Newyearsmemo80

The fact President Bush didn't respond to the devastation in Asia until the forth day couldn't have been more telling.  And, if you were following closely, you'd have noticed he only did so "that quickly" because the U.S. was beginning to draw criticism for not offering enough resources--let alone, attention.

If you have a chance to see the press briefing that morning, it makes for interesting viewing.  When the barely put together Bush finally stepped in front of the cameras, his "expression of concern" was read straight off a piece of paper.  The self-billed "compassionate conservative" had no trouble marshalling emotion, however, to heap scorn on a U.N. official for daring to criticize us.  ...By the way, it took just a few hours for the $35 million dollars Bush offered to turn into another embarrassment -- an amount eclipsed by the pledges of many smaller countries.  As Senator Leahy added: "We spend $35 million in Iraq before breakfast."

Perhaps Bush was just caught off guard.  Maybe he was tired from all that Presidential "hard work."  Or, maybe he is was just distracted by his "war on terrorism."  Still, this suggestion doesn't wash, since they country hardest hit by the disaster, Indonesia, is the world's most populous Islamic one.  On the other hand, it might be that the President doesn't really take notice unless the tsunamis are of the political variety.

Dec 31, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Nov 24, 2004

Won't Float In a Parade

Happy Thanksgiving to all my visitor and readers. I can't tell you how appreciative I've been for all the insights and encouragement as the site finds its voice.

I'm going to be off for a few days to give my eyes, brain, hands, patient family, computer, camera and drawing pad a short rest. Then, I'll be back on Monday to break down more pictures with you.


vol6no40mostlystuffing80

Nov 24, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Nov 18, 2004

...And You Thought Bush Didn't Believe in Cloning


vol6no38georgeleezzarice80

Nov 18, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nov 16, 2004

The New Lightweight Bush Administration


vol6no37ringingaccomplish80

The rats aren't jumping ship, they're being pushed.

With the Powell-for-Rice swap, there is now a clear pattern emerging. Bush is removing anyone who could be tagged with problematic policies, or who can cast a shadow longer than his own. Instead, he is mostly putting in place long time associates who are discernibly weaker than himself and completely subservient. Welcome to the Stepford White House!

Personally, it's going to be painful to watch the rough-edged Peter Principle poster child, Condi Rice, try to play Secretary of State. For a preview, you can see a clip of her testimony before the 9/11 commission here.

(clip source: Eschaton)

Nov 16, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 14, 2004

The Senate's New (Dis)Order

Apparently, James Dobson, founder of the Christian organization "Focus on the Family," wants Arlen Spector blocked from taking over the Senate Judiciary Committee (CNN). According to dailyKos, Dobson is now the most powerful fundamentalist force in the country, and he's looking to flex some muscle on this one (link).


vol6no36kangaroocourt80


Nov 14, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 11, 2004

Do You Hear A Blairing Noise?

Memo to Tony: George Could Care Less About the Palestinians.

Nov 11, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nov 08, 2004

Been There, Done That


vol6no32reachingout80

Nov 08, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nov 03, 2004

From the Cruel to the Unusual

vol6no30senatorsclothes80

Okay, turning to the Senate, we now have a whole crop of Republicans who are either certifiably crazy -- or who hold such hateful or prejudiced views that they might as well be.

In Kentucky, we have Jim Bunning, who has been experiencing paranoid delusions. Mr. Bunning recently mistook his opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, for one of Saddam Hussein's sons, and also accused Mongiardo of beating up his wife. (Even nuttier, though, is the fact he doesn't read the papers and stays informed exclusively through Fox News.)

Then, there is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who assumes that being the daughter of the previous senator makes her qualified to succeed him.

In Florida, Mel Martinez --who opposes abortion rights and minimum wage increases--accused one of his primary opponents of siding with "the radical homosexual lobby."

Jim DeMint, in South Carolina, feels that gays and unmarried pregnant women shouldn't be allowed to teach in a classroom. DeMint, by the way, is in favor of outlawing abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

Finally, new Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn performed sterilizations on women without their consent, and thinks blacks are genetically inferior. He calls treaties between the U.S. and Indian nations "a joke", complains about "rampant" lesbianism in Oklahoma public schools, and advocates the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions.

Welcome to Bush World!

Nov 03, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Oct 20, 2004

Map Quest

I've been put out about Congressman Tom ("Reprimand Me Again") Delay's redistricting power play for over a year now. That's six Texas congressional seats he secured for the Republicans, in spite of the courageous battle state Democrats waged before going down.

This week, however, the Supreme Court ordered a review of the revised Texas map. In general, the court has avoided interceding in redistricting maneuvers. The concern, however, is that redistricting out of political motivation could, as Justice Kennedy wrote, possibly deny voters "the rights of fair and effective representation."

The composition of the court, and the case history, suggests the revised Texas map will stand. But one can still hope. (And continue to raise the court's future as a vital issue in the presidential election.)

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Oct 20, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Oct 08, 2004

Latest BAGnews Cartoon: Multipronged Approach

vol6no14prezonachip80

With the suggestion that life imitates art (think: Manchurian Candidate), there was a lot of internet buzz this week about how George Bush supposedly receives talking points through an earpiece. As evidence for this, various sites posted photos allegedly showing an electronic device showing through Bush's suit jacket. Also cited as evidence was the fact that Bush uttered the statement: "Let me finish" at a point in the first Presidential debate when neither Jim Lehrer nor John Kerry were talking.

Even if the story is utterly false, however (which I assume it is), what is relevant about the rumor is how well it fits. George Bush might not be remotely controlled in a literal or physical sense, but what is wildly obvious is how tightly he's programmed.

10.11.04 UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback on my previous comments. Given the White House hasn't disputed the story, and the pictures don't appear to be doctored, I rescind my skepticism. In fact, I'm even working up another BAG on the story....


Oct 08, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sep 27, 2004

Making Sausage

As a rule, I don't repost other commentary. However, the recent "Talk of the Town" piece in the September 27th New Yorker ("The Political War") by George Packer not only splits wide the administration's fictionalization of the Iraqi campaign, it does so in a way that also implicates the press and Senator Kerry (on behalf of the Senate, as well as himself, I assume) for the lack of sound.

If I can be excused the liberty (surely, no challenge to Dangermouse), I have "mixed in" a couple of BAGnews editions I created following 9/11 in which I sought (in my humble way) to point out the scorpions.

THE POLITICAL WAR

Earlier this year, the United States Agency for International Development, or U.S.A.I.D. hired a team of independent experts to go to Iraq and evaluate the agency’s programs there The experts came back with a mixed review that included plenty of reason for worry: the reconstruction of Iraq was taking place in an ad-hoc fashion, without a consistent strategy, without the meaningful participation or advice of Iraqis, within paralyzing security constraints and amid unrealistic claims of success. But something happened to the report on the way to publication. U.S.A.I.D. kept sending parts of it back for revision, draft after draft, weeding out criticism, until the agency finally approved a version for internal use which one member of the team called “a whitewash” of his findings Another expert said, “It’s so political everything going on out there. They just didn’t want to hear any bad news.” Pointing out that some of the numbers posted on the agency’ Web site were overly optimistic, he concluded, “They like to make their sausage their way.

vol4no72longandshortRevised
(Making Sausage 1/29/03)

This would be a minor footnote in the history of the Iraq war, if only the entire story didn’t read the same. President Bush has been making the sausage his way from the beginning, and his way is to politicize. He forced a congressional vote on the war just before the 2002 midterm elections. He trumpeted selective and misleading intelligence. He displayed intense devotion to classifying government documents, except when there was political advantage in declassifying them. He fired or sidelined government officials and military officers who told the American public what the Administration didn’t want it to hear. He released forecasts of the war’s cost that quickly became obsolete, and then he ignored the need for massive expenditures until a crucial half year in Iraq had been lost. His communications office in Baghdad issued frequently incredible accounts of the progress of the war and the reconstruction. He staffed the occupation with large numbers of political loyalists who turned out to be incompetent. According to Marine officers and American officials in Iraq, he ordered and then called off critical military operations in Falluja against the wishes of his commanders, with no apparent strategic plan. He made sure that blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib settled almost entirely on the shoulders of low-ranking troops. And then, in the middle of the election campaign, he changed the subject.

Vol4No93MarionetteCongressR
(Congress Hanging 3/16/03)

No one can now doubt the effectiveness of the President’s political operation. Here’s one measure: between May and September, the number of Iraq stories that made page 1 of the Times and the Washington Post dropped by more than a third. During the same period, the percentage of Americans who support the President’s handling of the war increased. It’s the mark of a truly brilliant reëlection campaign that these trends at home are occurring against a background of ever-increasing violence and despair in Iraq. The latest reports from mainstream think tanks, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, show every indicator of progress moving in the wrong direction. In July, the National Intelligence Council issued a classified and quite gloomy analysis of Iraq which had no effect on the President’s rhetoric or on his policy. After a year and a half of improvising and muddling through, there seems to be no clear way forward and no good way out. But because the President—as his chief of staff, Andrew Card, recently said—regards Americans as ten-year-old children, don’t expect to hear an honest discussion about any of this from the White House. (The President’s party, however, is trying to force congress to vote, just before the election, on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning—no doubt to bring the country a little closer to victory in Iraq.)

Vol4No92MarionettesMini2
(Press Hanging 3/15/03)

The problem with making sausage the President’s way—other than the fact that it deceives the public, precludes a serious debate, bitterly divides the body politic when war requires unity, exposes American soldiers to greater risk, substitutes half measures for thoroughgoing efforts, and insures that no one will be held accountable for mistakes that will never be corrected—is that it doesn’t work. What determines success in this war is what happens in Iraq and how Iraqis perceive it. If U.S.A.I.D. releases a report that prettifies the truth, officials here might breathe easier for a while, but it won’t speed up the reconstruction of Iraq. Covering up failures only widens the gap in perception between Washington and Baghdad—which, in turn, makes Washington less capable of grasping the reality of Iraq and responding to it. Eventually, the failures announce themselves anyway—in a series of suicide bombings, a slow attrition of Iraqi confidence, a sudden insurrection. War, unlike budget forecasts and campaign coverage, is quite merciless with falsehood.

In refusing to look at Iraq honestly, President Bush has made defeat there more likely. This failing is only the most important repetition of a recurring theme in the war against radical Islam: the distance between Bush’s soaring, often inspiring language and the insufficiency of his actions. When he speaks, as he did at the Republican Convention, about the power of freedom to change the world, he is sounding deep notes in the American political psyche. His opponent comes nowhere close to making such music. But if Iraq looks nothing like the President’s vision—if Iraq is visibly deteriorating, and no one in authority will admit it—the speeches can produce only illusion or cynicism. In what may be an extended case of overcompensation, so much of the President’s conduct in the war has become an assertion of personal will. Bush’s wartime hero, Winston Churchill, offered his countrymen nothing but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Bush offers optimistic forecasts, permanent tax cuts, and his own stirring resolve.

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(War as Expression of President's Will -- 13 days after 9/11)

As the campaign moves toward its finish, Senator Kerry seems unable to point any of this out, let alone exploit it. On Iraq, he has said almost everything possible, which makes it difficult for him to say anything. It’s understandable that the war fills him with ambivalence. The President’s actions have led the country into a blind alley; there’s no new strategy for Kerry to propose, and the press should stop insisting that he come up with one when the candidate who started the war feels no such obligation. But the Senator has allowed the public to think that the President, against all the evidence of his record, will fight the war in Iraq and the larger war against radical Islam with more success. If Kerry loses the election, this will be the reason.
— George Packer

Sep 27, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/War On tErrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 01, 2004

Latest BAGnews Cartoon: Land of Opportunity

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If you follow Arnold, you know there's nothing he does that isn't highly calculated. The "immigrants are true Americans" pitch was not only perfect "RNC night two" material, it was the official kick off of his campaign to give the foreign born claiming rights to the West Lawn.

Sep 01, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Aug 17, 2004

On Speed

bushrunning1
(I run, therefore I am.)

In the lead story in this weekend's NYTimes Week in Review ("Intelligence: Why a Fix Is So Elusive"), David Sanger discusses why our intelligence apparatus is so difficult to reshape. Besides the political obstacles, Sanger believes the problem also has to do with the expectation for instant answers. He writes:

"In an age when voters are accustomed to near-instant action - quick tax cuts to spur a lagging economy or the quick toppling of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein - retooling the early warning system is an entirely different matter. Even if the problem weren't so complex, what Washington calls the "intelligence community" is so big, and so turf-conscious that this is a project condemned to move at the speed of landing an astronaut on Mars."

To his credit, Sanger doesn't attribute "instant action" to any specific person or cause. He doesn't even say there is an outcry for it. All he states is that speed has become the rule of the day.

It's interesting, in his attacks on Kerry, how adamantly Bush ridicules "complexity" and "nuance." Of the many ways Bush has reshaped the terms of society, one is to value action at the expense (even the absence) of deliberation. If Bush's reputation with the electorate is starting to show cracks, I suggest it might have less to do with ideology than with stamina. (Not his, ours.)

I'm not a big fan of time management theories. However, they do describe an interesting phenomena in lightweight, impulsive, "Type A" folks like Bush. Often, for such a person, everything is so urgent, no time is left to deal with what's important.

(image: cincinnati.com)

Aug 17, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Latest BAGnews Cartoon: Disasters Natural and Man Made


vol5no146hurricanegeorge80

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Aug 17, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jun 16, 2004

Getting A Handle On The Economy

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What Steve Roach at Morgan Stanley had to about politics and interest rates (complete comments):

"Hans Tietmeyer [former president of the Deutsche Bundesbank] went out of his way to venture into perhaps the most delicate and important aspect of monetary policy — political independence.  Fiercely independent in his own right, he maintained that central banks should not even be located in the same city as the seat of government.  The monetary authorities need to be removed totally from the political debate.  In this vein, he was clearly worried about the political pressures currently bearing down on America's Federal Reserve in this election year.  He framed his concerns in the context of a simple but powerful counter-factual example: He was reasonably certain that if there were not an election looming in the US, the decisions to tighten would have already been made.  Some of the most difficult moments in economic history have been accompanied by the politicization of central banking.  As I saw it, Hans Tietmeyer was sounding the alarm in that regard."

(thanks to eric at umass)

Jun 16, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:Campaign 2004, BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jun 08, 2004

The BAGnews Cartoon: The Lord And The Flies

White House preparing for memorial speech like it's the Super Bowl.

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Jun 08, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jun 06, 2004

BAGnews Cartoon: As Compared To Reagan

Is the tremendous fawning over Ronald Reagan just nostalgia, or is there more to it? During the last presidential campaign, the Bush people did their best to foster a comparison between Bush Jr. and the Gipper. Perhaps the strong reaction to Reagan's death this week is as much a denial of present circumstances as anything else. While Reagan's passing helps to temporarily distract attention from Bush's troubles, the strong reaction to it only highlights how little stature Bush has in comparison.

I am disappointed that the media is doing such a soft shoe in recollecting Reagan. His voodoo economics (a philosophy Bush has replicated) did severe damage to the country. The defeat of communism had had to do with various factors, including Gorbachev's emergence; it was not simply the result of our military build-up. And, Reagan's penchant for covert operations and destabilization of governments might have also served as a blue print for this current bunch.

Regardless how out of touch he was and how much I might of disagreed with him, however, there are a number of things that can be said for Reagan. Regardless of its simplicity, Reagan had an ideology. Bush, on the other hand, never gets beyond semantics. And Reagan was a truly amiable, unselfconscious person whereas Bush is all subterfuge.

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Jun 06, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

The Cambone's Connected To The Scandalbone

What's incredible is not that the Pentagon is denying any high level role in the intelligence scandal, it's that their whole strategy has become so transparent.

Of course, Sy Hersh has been the lead flack catcher. (Sadly, the NPR profile I heard on him today seemed to go out of its way to make him look bad. Even more sadly, the best they could do was play up his personality flaws, highlight an instance when he retracted content just before a deadline, and describe a book he wrote as "dark.")

If you've been off the planet for a week or so, you wouldn't of heard about Steve Cambone, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. Hersh has drawn a circle around Cambone and his role in the torture policy by tapping information from CIA and Defense sources. On the other hand, Jason Vest has written a piece in The Nation, along with a follow up piece, which basically exposes Cambone solely through unsuspecting public statements and actions.

What I'm starting to find refreshing is that the Bush Administration is so blatantly arrogant, no one even thinks to try and cover up.





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May 19, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/War On tErrorism, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

BAGnews Cartoon: Oh, For The Good Old Days

What was that about restoring honor and dignity to the White House?

I was surprised to find this link in which The Guardian endorsed Bush for President. ...I thought they were so liberal. Anyway, it's pretty hilarious.


May 14, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 07, 2004

Latest BAGnews Cartoon: The Buck Stops Here ...Or Here ...Or Maybe Over There

What Al Queda PDB? What memo about prison abuse?

(I guess Paul O'Neill's accusation about Bush being disengaged is looking pretty good right now.)

vol5no122buckstopshere80
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May 07, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 25, 2004

Wicked Witch Of The White House

Last January, Condoleezza Rice sat down with a NYTimes reporter to talk, for the first time, about her job as National Security Adviser.

Near the end of the conversation, throughout which Rice seemed to swing between an aggressive and defensive stance, she offered an interesting metaphor about her role in the White House. She said she would look back on her job as that of a pianist in a chamber music group.

"The pianist is always facing the fact that this beast that is the grand piano can just overwhelm in sound and volume and drama any string, or all of the strings together," she said. "So you want your playing to have personality, but you don't want it to be front and center, overwhelming. It has to be part of the team." 

As someone as guarded and concerned with appearance as Ms. Rice is, the disclosures made by her former subordinate, Dick Clark, regarding the Bush Administration's disregard for the terrorist threat, has obviously unleashed the beast.

Rice has been nowhere if not front and center the past few days, hardly able to contain her rage. Unfortunately, as she soaks up more and more television time, what is mostly coming across is that sound, volume and drama she typically works so hard to drown in personality.

...As for team play, I'm sure Dick Cheney (another grand piano) hit some interesting notes when Rice openly contradicted him in order to salvage her image.


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Mar 25, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 23, 2004

The Unrevised History Of The Bush-Iraq Conflict (Or: Where Our "Tough Problems, Easy Answers" Logo Originally Came From)

It's amazing the Administration would find Dick Clark's comments about Rumsfeld's desire to bomb Iraq in retaliation for 9/11 far-fetched. If you were following the Bush administration from the beginning, it was no secret they were looking hard for any chance to hit Hussein. And, let's not forget to mention that a bombing campaign began almost before W's Oval Office seat was warm.

The signs were everywhere. For example, an early "retrospective" article on ABCnews.com (April 4, 2001), recounting the new Administration's "first international challenges," stated the following:

"In February — less than a month after Bush was sworn in as president — a U.S. Navy submarine accidentally sunk a Japanese fishing boat, killing nine. Bush dispatched a top naval officer to Japan to issue a formal apology for the incident.

That same month, he ordered airstrikes against Iraqi command-and-control sites outside of Baghdad. The operation was the most aggressive military action undertaken against Iraq since Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. "

Even our own humble publication--admittedly in an early and rudimentary state--was on top of the story. Less than a full month into the new Administration, our February 19th issue (reproduced below) played up the idea that the fishing boat was something of an appetizer.


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Mar 23, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mar 17, 2004

Bush Out Of His League (Or: Terrorism Fight Going From Bat To Worse)

Although originally created to mark the second anniversary of 9/11, our "Bush League" cartoon seem even more appropriate today. Even if we manage to run down Ayman al-Zawahiri, as is currently rumored, al Queda's ability to morph and improvise, combined with our morass in Iraq and our alienation from Europe, indicates that we're more than ready for a line-up change.


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Mar 17, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mar 15, 2004

President of La Mancha

"This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ..."


vol5no108georgequixote80.jpg


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Mar 15, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 09, 2004

Never Let 'Em See You Sweat (Or, Has Someone Seen The Keys To My Airplane?!#%!)

Everyday, another crack appears in the Bush team's veneer.

I've seen Colin Powell get testy in numerous interviews in the past few years, but yesterday was the worst (or, should I say, the best). On NPR, Juan Williams asked Powell for a reaction to John Kerry's comment that Powell 'had never been permitted to fully be a secretary of state,' and that it appears the administration sometimes tends to "lock the keys" to Powell's airplane.

First, Powell lost his cool, calling the comments nonsense. Then, after reassuring (himself more than) Williams that "I have not had my keys either locked up or lost," he went on to basically prove Kerry's point with a recitation of all the "important" situations he is currently dealing with.

...Such as Liberia, and the Sudan.

Mar 09, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mar 08, 2004

Milking 9/11

Even though I created this cartoon two years ago (right after the one year anniversary of September 11), I felt it was fair game to run as President Bush's new tv commercials have commenced a whole new "milking" cycle.

(Just as an aside, the cartoon has been, far and away, my most popular. For some reason, it's huge in the Netherlands.)


vol4no7milking91180.jpg


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Mar 08, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 01, 2004

Oils Well That Ends Well

It was a great relief to read in today's NYT about the sudden revival of the Iraqi oil industry. Thanks to the $1 billion we have invested in infrastructure and another $1 billion on gasoline imports, Iraq is now exporting almost as much crude oil as it was before the war.

With another $1 billion of American investment slated for this coming year (a good chunk of it probably going right in the pockets of good old American contractors), Iraq is now projecting $14 billion in oil exports, compared to about $5 billion last year.

What's great about politics is that it creates scenarios that you would never find in any other profession.

How often, for example, could you walk into a hospital and find a patient who is on the critical list suddenly walking around with a clean bill of health? On top of that, could you also imagine that hospital -- after initially agreeing to treat this patient for free -- discovering he had a huge inheritance, and deciding to foot the bill for him anyway?

Mar 01, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Feb 19, 2004

Wierd Science

In a dramatic attempt to remove the lead from Administration science policy, top researchers, scholars and academics signed a protest letter accusing the White House of interfering with all manner of government research, statistics and analysis.

The quote I found most profound was the one from Lewis Branscomb (who served as National Bureau of Standards director under President Nixon). Referring to President Bush's wierd science, he said:

"I'm not aware that [Nixon] ever hand-picked ideologues to serve on advisory committees, or dismissed from advisory committees very well-qualified people if he didn't like their views.... What's going on now is in many ways more insidious. It happens behind the curtain. I don't think we've had this kind of cynicism with respect to objective scientific advice since I've been watching government, which is quite a long time."

Periodically, wierd elements show up at the table of government and must be removed.


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Feb 19, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Feb 09, 2004

George AWOL Bush Meets The Press. (Or: "I Worked It Out With The Military!")



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It's interesting to listen to the President's language and logic. Here's the exchange between Bush and Tim Russert on Meet the Press this morning regarding Bush's AWOL status:

RUSSERT: The Boston Globe and the Associated Press have gone through some of their records and said there's no evidence that you reported to duty in Alabama during the summer and fall of 1972.

BUSH: Yes, they're -- they're just wrong. There may be no evidence, but I did report. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been honorably discharged.

RUSSERT: When allegations were made about John McCain or Wesley Clark on their military records, they opened up their entire files. Would you agree to do that?

BUSH: Yes. Listen, these files have been -- I mean, people have been looking for these files for a long period of time, trust me, and starting in the 1994 campaign for governor. And I can assure you in the year 2000 people were looking for those files, as well. Probably you were.

And absolutely, I mean, I...

RUSSERT: But you will allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period?

BUSH: Yes. If we still have them, but I -- you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records.

Basically, what Bush is saying is that it's his word against whoever elses, and nobody is going to find those records.

The other interesting comment, which the President made off-handedly, involved his use of family connections to avoid extended service:

RUSSERT: You were allowed to leave eight months before your term expired. Was there a reason?

BUSH: Right. Well, I was going to Harvard Business School and worked it out with the military.

Listening to the interview, I though Bush said "we worked it out with the military." In any case, the comment clearly reveals Bush's use of family privilege. That fact that he would mention it so casually and obviously reveals how much he takes it for granted.

Bush Senior got nailed in his re-election bid when he revealed the same attitude. In his case, he was taken to task for failing to recognize that supermarket checkout counters used scanning equipment.

It will be interesting to see if the public latches on to the same perception about Junior.

Feb 09, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:Campaign 2004, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Feb 08, 2004

George AWOL Bush: "Be Right Back!"

So, did George A"W"OL Bush report to Alabama, or didn't he?


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Feb 08, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:Campaign 2004, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Feb 04, 2004

Guns And Guns And Guns And Guns And Guns And Guns And Butter

The wackiest part of Bush's budget--and something that few of the major media seemed to call him on--was his circumvention of what a budget is.

If you happened to notice, the President provided a detailed, itemized proposal to spend $2.4 trillion dollars. Then separately, he added his intention to spend an additional $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Isn't a budget defined as an accounting, all in one place, of everything you plan to spend? (Personally, I don't ever remember going to the grocery store, having the cashier quote me a final sale, and then being told that the cookies and the bananas were going to cost extra.)

However, I think I understand what's behind this "piece-meal" strategy: The reason is, the entire budget this year is going to defense:

The 7% Defense Department increase is defense. The extra $6 billion for Homeland Security is defense. The boost for the Justice Department is defense. The 6% NASA increase is defense. The defense of marriage act is defense. (And what about the extra $60 million to the FDA? It's to protect the safety of the food supply.)

I guess, when you break it down, apocalyptic paranoia can get pretty expensive.


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Feb 04, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Duck And Cover: Cheney And Scalia's Conflict Of Interest

If a powerful litigant in a conflict-of-interest case (i.e. Vice President Cheney) engages a powerful judge about to hear that case (Justice Scalia) to go duck hunting, isn't that a conflict-of-interest?

As the Justice points out, going hunting with Cheney doesn't violate the letter of the law.

The problem is, when you're that arrogant, you think people don't see you as a duck when--right out in the open-- you look, walk and quack like one.


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Feb 04, 2004 in BAGnews/Conservatives Most Wanted, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jan 26, 2004

Cheney WMD Trailer Claim Comes Unhitched

The interview in today's New York Times with former U.S. Iraqi weapons inspector David Kay includes a dramatic repudiation of Vice President of the United States in hiding, Dick Halliburton.

Regarding Cheney's assertion that Iraq was producing bioweapons in mobile trailers, the Times story states the following:

"...Dr. Kay added that there was now a consensus within the United States intelligence community that mobile trailers found in Iraq and initially thought to be laboratories for biological weapons were actually designed to produce hydrogen for weather balloons, or perhaps to produce rocket fuel. While using the trailers for such purposes seems bizarre, Dr. Kay said, 'Iraq was doing a lot of nonsensical things' under Mr. Hussein."

Kay goes on to body slam the Administration's argument that there are, or were, biological weapons in Iraq anytime in the last five or ten years:

"I'm personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction," Dr. Kay said. "We don't find the people, the documents or the physical plants that you would expect to find if the production was going on. ...I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990's. Somewhere in the mid-1990's, the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated."

Although this is certainly a profound and dramatic blow to the credibility of the Bush Administration, it is hard to tell what kind of profile the media will give the story, and to what extent it will permeate the consciousness of the American population.

After all, the public is still getting over last week's passing of Captain Kangaroo.


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Jan 26, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jan 25, 2004

Dick Cheney Talks Trailer Trash (Or: We Found "The Weapons Of Mass Destruction Program Activities!")

It was bizarre that President Bush tried to pass off the failure to find Iraqi WMD by saying we discovered "WMD-related program activities." What was surreal was that the Vice President, emerging from his underground lair, actually lied to several news organizations about it.

Cheney insisted to NPR that a couple of trailers found after the war provided conclusive proof that Iraq possessed biological weapons. He said:

"We know, for example, that prior to our going in that he [Saddam Hussein] had spent time and effort acquiring mobile biological weapons labs, and we're quite confident he did, in fact, have such a program. We've found a couple of semi trailers at this point which we believe were, in fact, part of that program. Now it's not clear at this stage whether or not he used any of that to produce or whether he was simply getting ready for the next war. That, in my mind, is a serious danger in the hands of a man like Saddam Hussein, and I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did, in fact, have programs for weapons of mass destruction."

It would be interesting, if not psychologically diagnostic, to find out how Cheney arrived at his conclusions.

According to an article in the London Observer last June, the British government determined that the trailers were used to produce hydrogen to fill artillery balloons. (In other words, the Iraqi's were guilty of deploying technology barely half-a-step up from what Barnum and Bailey has in its arsenal.) Also in June, the New York Times, citing CIA sources, reported the same conclusion. (This probably wouldn't have impressed the Vice President, however, since he has proved he doesn't consider the CIA a credible source.)

Even David Kay, the Administration's "weapons water boy," was reluctant to put stock in the discovery. Apparently mindful of the few shreds of credibility he has left, Kay, who stepped down as head of the U.S. inspection team this week, insisted the issue of the trailers "is still something that's very much being examined."

Right.... Until the cows come home.


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Jan 25, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jan 22, 2004

Bush, God And A Stiff Drink

Apparently, the Bush Presidency has become so distasteful, a record number of people had to resort to State of the Union drinking games to get through the event. For those not familiar with this practice, it involves taking a drink every time the President says any one of various predetermined statements or phrases.

Doing a quick survey of "SOTU Drinking Game" sites, here are just a sample of statements that would have earned a swig:

“The state of our union is strong…”
"Weapons of Mass Destruction"
“nukular”
"aliens" (as reference to immigrants)
"aliens" (as reference to extraterrestrials)
"Don't mess with Texas!"
mention of a spending package totaling $1 billion or more
Any word of 5 syllables or more
Anything in Spanish

After hearing the speech, we fear for anyone playing the game who had gone heavy on the religious terms. The person using the mention of "god," "faith," "blessing," "special calling," "the grace to go on," "trust in that greater power," "abstinence programs," "the sanctity of marriage," and "value in God's sight" would have most likely ended up in the hospital with a blackout.


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Jan 22, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jan 18, 2004

Tap The Rockies

Remember that commercial where the giant hand suddenly appears and drives a beer tap into the Rocky Mountains? Being a baseball fan, "W" must have seen it dozens of times.

While the concern is that Bush wants to militarize space, its seems just as likely that he wants to sell it off.

If he could figure out how to acquire a sports stadium with the public's money, why couldn't he help his corporate buddies piggyback on the publicly-funded space program to start carving up the moon? After all, the moon is apparently conducive to various applications, including solar power generation, radio broadcasting and certain kinds of manufacturing. Supposedly, mining is also a possibility.

According to a recent piece in the Village Voice, the moon is legally "fair game" for private development. According to the article:

"The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 barred nations from owning property upstairs but left companies with an all-clear. Later, the 1979 United Nations Moon Treaty declared Earth's satellite part of the Common Heritage of Mankind, exploitable only for the mutual benefit of all nations. But the U.S. and the Soviet Union never signed on."

In spite of the recommendation to concentrate on Mars, it's easy to see why "W" would try to throw in the moon for a "two-fer."

It's how he's always done business.


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Jan 18, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jan 14, 2004

Marriage By Any Other Name

Thank the Lord (and the Christian Coalition) for the $1.5 billion "Healthy Marriage" initiative.

On the surface, the goal of this political blessing is to help people--particularly the darker and poorer folks among us--either get hitched up or stay hitched up.

Unfortunately, the extreme right wing has gotten much slicker about the way they spin legislation these days. They've moved far beyond the banter of "traditional values" and "compassionate conservatism." Their strategy is to sound like leftists. To hear it, you would think this huge hunk of dough is earmarked for secular programs to help couples with conflict management. Who among us could possibly oppose teaching problem-solving, negotiation and listening skills to married couples?

However, under this guise of social work and social support lies a political mission, as well as an agenda of religious social engineering:

It's about using public funds to lobby state and federal lawmakers to legislate marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. It's about fighting the legal recognition of civil unions. It's about capturing federal money to attain institutional control over social services. It's about folding those services into fundamentalist religious institutions. It's about leveraging those services to influence the public to abstain from sexual activity before marriage. And it's about exercising influence over women who are considering abortions.

You'll know the legislation is doing well if, during the debate, the Congressmen start speaking in tongues.


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Jan 14, 2004 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dec 22, 2003

Lord Of The (Right) Wing -- The Bad Hobbits Of George Bush

The White House lords of p.r. rule the realm again.

Despite solid defeats in the courts last week over his suspension of constitutional rights, the President emerged unscathed. And now, like an end-of-year entertainment, the Administration is using the Saddam boost and the cover of the holidays to project that familiar tone of moral superiority. Like the funny Gollum creature, Bush projects a naive innocence. However, he is never far from the dark side.


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Dec 22, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dec 17, 2003

Santa Hussein

The spinmeisters at the White House get especially crafty around the holidays. Taking advantage of slow news periods (Congress away, lull in Mid-East violence, Arnold laying low), you can count on them to deck the halls with faux news filled with not-so-subliminal themes and political auto-suggestions.

After doing a wonderful job hijacking a group of reporters to cover a stage managed “George Bush Thanksgiving Special In Iraq” (“Top that, Bob Hope!” “Take that, Hilary!”), they got a yule tide bonus this weekend when Saddam Hussein fell into their laps still early in the weekend (unless that was staged managed too).

By sitting on the story for 16 hours, the White House was able to completely control the story, the images and the timing. More impressively, because the announcement came just after the press deadline for most major newspapers, the administration guaranteed itself a huge splash for two full days, the first day on TV, the next in print.

Of course, the capture of Saddam has spurred a tremendous amount of speculation about whether it really helps or hurts the administration in the middle- and longer run. Although this the logical place to take speculation, it actually departs from the way this administration functions.

In Bush World, there is no “longer term.” As an organization that acts almost entirely on impulse, with various sub-constituencies pursuing contrary agendas, the “reason for being” of Bush and Company is primarily to spin the best narrative around the latest calamity. In the case of the Saddam capture, the issue for Bush is not what this implies for some greater strategy. It’s about milking the story for as long as possible, as well as using it to demonstrate that (once again) we’re winning and somebody else is losing.

So, if your looking for what the capture of Saddam Hussein meant most to the President, it’s this: Christmas arrived early in Washington.


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Dec 17, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dec 11, 2003

Earth To Bush!

I have to take issue with my friends at DailyKos for their recent comments about the President and the moon. Although nobody I tell believes me, apparently President Bush is about to announce that we're going back. (Perhaps Neil Armstrong forgot a golf club?) Though Kos did point out the inherent impracticality of the idea (particularly the inordinate cost), it seems they also got caught up in some nostalgia for the idea.

I think it's important to remind ourselves that there is absolutely nothing this administration does that isn't political. On one hand, it's easy to see this as nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors play to distract from how badly things are going "down here." On the other hand, if they are serious, it serves up a nice opportunity for them to direct more patronage into the hands of their industrial friends.


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Dec 11, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 23, 2003

AAR(i)P Off

85 members of Congress are now carrying one less card around in their wallets. That's how many congresspeople quit the American Association of Retired People over their endorsement of the Republican Medicare bill.

What would induce this respected caretaker of senior interests to back such an initiative, especially when 65% of their members oppose it? Conflict of interest, of course. You see, the AARP derives almost a quarter of its $635 million dollars in revenue from insurance-related activities, including royalties on the sale of Medicare health policies and mail-order drugs.

Because much of AARP's insurance business is tied up with HMO's, it's no surprise they would support a program to eventually hand Medicare over to these organizations. Because the AARP also profits from higher drug costs, it also makes sense that they would endorse legislation that bars the government from negotiating lower drug prices.

In 1995, Newt Gingrich wrote a book that established the roadmap for the current bill. His concept was to introduce private insurers into the Medicare system, allowing them to destroy the system from within. The person who wrote the forward to that book? Bill Novelli, the CEO of the AARP.


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Nov 23, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Up Capitol Hill Without A Paddle

You thought the administration was only unilateralist in foreign policy?

This past week, Bill Frist, the tin eared physician who the White House surgically implanted into the Senate Majority Leader's chair last year (the Paul Bremer of Capitol Hill) tried his stealthy best to slam two enormous, special interest-laden pieces of legislation past Congressional Democrats in the closing hours of this year's session. Cooked up in the "back room" by industry lobbyists; Dick Cheney; the Republican leadership; and key Democratic impersonators, these bills were conceived in such a clandestine way that the process even alienated some of Frist's strongest congressional allies.

We won't know the outcome of these extremely destructive bills until Monday or Tuesday, but it's obvious collaboration from this White House is not in the game plan.

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Nov 23, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 20, 2003

Wrong Side Of The Embed

Remember back seven or eight months ago when everybody was smiling for the camera, and the Iraq campaign was one big photo op? (Actually, Z Magazine had a great image in a recent issue showing a wide angle shot of the square as Saddam's statue came down. From the longer view, it's apparent there were hardly any Iraqi's on hand.)

Since then, either things have gotten uglier, the Pentagon has been losing it's touch with the p.r. campaign, or a combination of both. As a result, there has been a steadily rising number of incidents in which troops have had run-ins with journalists and photographers. In some cases, media people have been detained. In other instances, disks and equipment have been confiscated. Of course, these acts are all in violation of the Pentagon's own guidelines.

The Defense Department, of course, is keeping on its game face. When asked for comment, a defense official appropriately responded: "We will take appropriate action when appropriate." What the spokesman should have said is: if you're a journalist in Iraq, you can either get embed or not get out of bed.


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Nov 20, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 19, 2003

Hands Off The Cheese

What's interesting is not how quickly Dick Cheney's role in selling the war has become commonly acknowledged, it's how unremarkably it's been accepted. Apparently, the level of power and intimidation Cheney's exercises is so great that nobody dares call him on anything.

Incredibly, just as his twisting of American intelligence comes into full view, he is also in the midst of engineering the imminent passage of his controversial energy program. Written in secret by congressional Republicans, this gift to the oil, gas, electricity and nuclear power industries (which runs about 1700 pages) was dropped on the Democrats with only 48 hours notice before they were expected to vote on it.

Don't ask if there is serious opposition.

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Nov 19, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

God Save The Queen...And The King...And The Prime Minister...And ....

The emperor of America is off to England.

He would probably prefer not to go, but he was invited over two years ago by the Queen, and that's not an invitation you turn down. Waiting for him is Tony Blair, his prayer mate, who tries (weakly) to serve as his conscience. Blair, who the British left wing refers to as Bush's Poodle, will likely subject Bush to some mild nagging (just to assuage himself he's not invisible).

Also looking forward to Bush's arrival is a large and well organized contingent of protesters. American media has been projecting about 40,000 of them, but it's possible the figure will be higher--probably much higher.

Whether higher figures will actually be reported is another story. (Or, not another story.)

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Nov 19, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 16, 2003

Axis of Evil Eel

In their latest salvo in the war on the environment, the Administration has steered a defense spending bill through Congress that contains various provisions which undermine the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

The legislation allows Bush appointees to undermine “habitat protection” for endangered species, freeing up more land for “Friends of W” to log, mine and drill.

The bill eliminates habitat protection on all lands “owned or controlled” by the military. (The Defense Department controls 25 million acres of land, some of it home to the nation’s most endangered species.)

The act also contains provisions for the “harassment” of marine mammals by way of increased oil and gas exploration and high intensity sonar testing.

Finally, the law provides the Defense Department with an exemption from any MMPA regulation for two years, with the option for an unlimited number of renewals. In the name of national security, the Department can take any action it wishes--related to defense purposes, or not--without review by wildlife agencies, states, Congress, or the public.

(By the way, did we mention the bill also lifts the ban on research and design of a new generation of "low yield" nuclear weapons?)


Nov 16, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nov 02, 2003

Sliver Me Timbers

We continue to marvel over the ability of conservatives to disguise their true legislative intentions. One of their favorite ways to do this is to give altruistic names to shady initiatives.

This “black means white” (or “black means green”) strategy was on display again last week when congressional conservatives used the California fires to promote their so-called “Healthy Forests” agenda.

All summer, Bush and company pushed the claim that “thinning” (we believe it used to be called “logging”) was needed to clear hazardous brush from our forests. Last week, they added a new twist: They insisted their program would help prevent disasters such as the one California had just endured.

What they forgot to add is that the target areas for this “thinning” are far from civilization. Besides degrading the environment, cutting in these zones, which lie deep in our national forests, do nothing more than clear profits for their Big Timber friends.


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Nov 02, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oct 28, 2003

Bush 43’s Catch-22

The title of the classic novel, Catch-22, is based on a paradox in which a character’s willingness to fight in battle proves he is insane, but the recognition that he feels this way is what justifies his sanity to the medical authorities.

In Iraq, the White House is caught in a similar conundrum. According to the President, the fact that terror is becoming much worse in Baghdad means that the opposition is becoming desperate, which he sees as a reaction to the fact that things are getting better. Of course, the President does acknowledge that things are bad. But he also maintains that this is good. In fact, it’s very good, because it’s proving how bad it’s becoming for those who are bad.

So, let’s look at this past week. It started off with a White House p.r. offensive to demonstrate how things in Iraq are much better than everyone thinks they are. Then, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz almost got blown up in an attack on the supposedly secure Al Rashid Hotel. The following two days saw so many catastrophic attacks, the press couldn’t chronicle them all. And today, the Red Cross--a target of one of the attacks--is threatening to pull out of the country.

That’s just great.


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Oct 28, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 26, 2003

Bush And "The Vision Thing" -- Part II

Last week, the President was in Asia. (Well actually, he was at a few Asian airports, and also at a couple restaurants just beyond a stone's throw of the airports.)

In the Philippines, he made a point of saying that country was "on the front line" of terrorism." In Thailand, he told them the same thing. In Indonesia, he told them too. When he got to Hawaii (where he got to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial...which he was talked out of renaming The Pearl Harbor 9/11 Memorial), those folks got the same treatment.

Last month, of course, Dick Cheney said that Iraq was "the front line of terrorism." And that was after Bush bestowed the same distinction on Afganistan, Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

The tendency, of course, is to conclude it's just hyperbole. Like it's Bush's way of making sure the nations of the world (especially those with lots of Muslims) continue to keep an eye out for bad guys.

We think Bush, however, is much sharper than that. We think he is keeping on top of this terrorism problem like you can't believe. As a result, when he calls a particular country "the front line of terrorism," we think he means it 100%. Because Bush is looking, and he's got a lot of people looking. And he can see it like it's right in front of his face.


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Oct 26, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 24, 2003

Has Rush Limbaugh Gone Looney (Or Was He Always That Way?)

If you are following the Rush Limbaugh story, it seems to be going in two directions. The main path has to do with his hypocrisy and the tendency to rail against his own kind:

(According to Rush: “… too many whites are getting away with drug use…. The answer to this…is to…find the ones...getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river….")

The other play on the story is the more salacious one, involving how he kept his drug problem a secret, and how his enabling housekeeper finally did him in.

What we’re not hearing much about is the “why” story. There have been the customary bio pieces that hint at personality problems, but our culture generally doesn’t know how to think about such things. (Just like Limbaugh and his followers, the predominant tendency is to view“ dysfunctional” behavior through a moral lens.)

The bottom line is that Rush is a very depressed guy with a pervading sense of inferiority. Those who are the closest to him say that he has few friends and an impoverished personal life. What is killing him, however, is also what makes him fabulously popular: it is the ability to deflect the inferiority and self-loathing away from himself, and redirect it toward the weakest members of our society.

In this regard, a truly rehabbed Limbaugh would probably be the first to admit that his life is cartoonish, with a tone more characterized by Warner Brothers than Brooks Brothers. While most liberals would compare him to Wil E. Coyote, his character indicates something else. He is actually a likable, yet exceedingly lightweight figure who becomes easily upset and vengeful. Sort of like, Porky Pig.

Actually, there are a number of parallels between the two figures, even in their mannerisms and expressions. For example, whereas Porky is famous for the sign-off line: "Th'-th'-th'-th'-th'-th'-that's All, Folks!" Limbaugh likes to use: "I'm not making this up, folks" (when, in fact, he is).

More significantly, though, Rush’s father was overbearing and caused him to feel insignificant. Porky also had problems with his father, who passed his tendency to stutter on to his son. According to Gerald F. Johnson of University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, in a short paper called "A Clinical Study Of Porky Pig Cartoons," Porky's father referred to Porky as a "good for nothing boy.”

Initially, Limbaugh also had problems speaking out. The one year he attended college, his father pushed him to take communication classes. Limbaugh recalls failing Public Speaking.

Both figures have struggled with weight. Limbaugh, at one point, was 320 pounds. Gerald Johnson reports that Porky was often derided for his weight with terms such as "fat boy," "ham", and "fatso."

Similarly, Johnson, describes how Porky was often cast in the role of an inferior: “Porky Pig often starts out as a placid pig, usually minding his own business, but soon he becomes traumatized either by events going on around him or by another character-especially Daffy Duck.”

The off-air Limbaugh has a similar profile. In the cover article in last week's Newsweek, Randall Bloomquist, an editor at Radio & Records newspaper, said: “It was almost as if every step away from the studio, he grew smaller and less confident, shrinking with each step into the real-life Rush Limbaugh.”

Pent-up anger is a central feature of both characters. Johnson describes how: “…Porky Pig went from one trauma to another, causing him great mood swings. Often, Porky would get angry at his tormentors and strike out in a highly emotional manner.”

Rush’s mother described him as “passive-aggressive.” She recalls that he wouldn’t even leave his room on Halloween. Rather, he would drop water balloons on trick-or-treaters from his bedroom window.

Obviously, just listening to his radio program for a few minutes is demonstration enough of Limbaugh’s anger. He is famous for it. For example, he once called Kurt Cobain, another prominent drug user, “a worthless shred of human debris.” He also said that: "Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream." (In general, the three-times married Limbaugh seems to favor the idea that women exist to exert their will over men.)

Is it odd or disrespectful to compare a public figure with a cartoon character? If it once was, maybe its not anymore. Because, in the world of politics, who can say what distinction remains between fiction and reality? (Which makes you wonder which comes off worse in the comparison.)

Limbaugh was especially put out about President Clinton’s involvement with Monica Lewinsky. More than anything, what he couldn’t stand was Clinton’s deceptiveness, his duplicity. There is a phrase Limbaugh grew especially fond of throughout that period. "There's a pathology here, folks," he used to say. "There's a pathology here.”

The man definitely knew what he was talking about.


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Oct 24, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 21, 2003

Power Strip

It’s been two months since the Great Blackout of Summer ’03 and the culprit has now been identified. It’s us

According to the Energy Secretary, the problem is the transmission system, and the responsibility for that system belongs to the rate payer. We know this because the President, having implemented a state-based deregulation policy, freed utilities from having to invest rate payer funds into the transmission network. (On top of that, the bipartisan energy legislation working its way through Congress will once and for all free the Energy companies from the kinds of disclosure rules and investment requirements that made them responsible for the transmission system in the first place.)

Before the blame is completely transferred, however, lets look at where some of the confusion exists. In Ohio, there is a big utility company called First Energy that came together out of the merger of seven smaller regional companies. Unfortunately, a lot of people have had a lot of negative things to say about First Energy. For example, through the misfortune of a longstanding relationship with their unscrupulous accounting firm, Arthur Anderson, First Energy had to restate 2002 earning due to “irregularities.” Also, the company had a few small problems with their Davis-Besse nuclear reactor, including an incident where some boric acid ate through the reactor head and nearly caused a meltdown. That's in addition to the urgent warnings state regulators had been issuing about the region's transmission system.

Which leads us to last August, when one of First Energy’s well-run coal plants suddenly gave out, causing the company to suddenly withdraw twenty percent of the energy it sends to Michigan. We all know what happened after that.

The other bit of confusion in this whole situation involves the close ties between FirstEnergy, Congress and the Bush Administration. It started off with the company volunteering $100,000 to help pay for the presidential inauguration. From there, the company became a proud member of Vice President Cheney’s infamous energy task force. Then, in 2001-02, the company and its management spent almost $4 million in lobbying, as well as several million more in donations to Republican and Democratic candidates, as well as the Bush re-election effort.

So, now that we understand what all the confusion was about, when do we rate payers get to start paying for that new transmission system?


Oct 21, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 17, 2003

Al Gore Reaches For The Remote

What goes on in the mind of Al Gore?

His latest brainchild is the creation of a television network, slanted to the left, to compete with Fox News. To accomplish this, Gore, along with a team of investors, is poised to purchase a minor news channel from Universal, called Newsworld International.

As word of the ex-Veep’s plans have circulated through the liberal braintrust, the conventional wisdom is that this idea is not well thought out. Some of the obstacles are practical ones, including the tremendous costs involved, and the difficulty of carving out more space on the dial.

The more substantial difficulties, however, would seem to be behavioral. The main school of thought among media-savvy liberals is that television and radio are primarily conducive to conservatives, who thrive on endless doses of hostility, sloganeering and fear-mongering. Liberals, on the other hand, gravitate toward niche-programming tailored toward high-minded conversation (MacNeil-Lehrer); humor (Jon Stewart); or ribald parody (Bill Maher). On radio, liberals seem to orient toward the tame and somewhat generic (see NPR). If anything, the medium the left seems most adapted to print (consider: Michael Moore, Al Franken, Michael Moore, Jim Hightower, Molly Ivans, Paul Krugman, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore).

So if conservatives salivate to Fox, while a liberal would rather watch C-Span, what does Gore see that others don’t? One possibility is, nothing. If you believe The New York Observer (which has been obsessesing over this story for months), Gore is on an ego trip—he wants to be a mogul. In our view, however, it’s more of a Don Quixote-thing. We think Gore sees himself as a visionary. (Remember the “I discovered the internet” debacle?) Given the Democratic establishment’s intense preoccupation with, and mental anguish over Fox, we think Gore just convinced himself he could figure out a way to go head-to-head.

Interestingly, the media platform most ripe for a liberal champion is the internet. (The reason no one knows it is because big media is too threatened to pay attention.) The left-wing has practically mind-melded with the ‘net, building dramatically evolving and rapidly growing vehicles for activism, community-building, news dissemination, grass-roots organizing, political commentary and satire (the Dean campaign; Move-On; Meet-Up; the Blog phenomenon; IndyMedia: and White House.org are just the most notable examples.) (Hey, even BAGnews is getting 5000 hits a day. And, like everybody else, the trendline is only up.)

So, what does this say about Al? Maybe he does see something that nobody else does. Maybe he can make a passive medium work for people who are craving more consciousness, more unsponsored interconnection, more spontaneity.

On the other hand, maybe he’s just reaching for the remote.

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Oct 17, 2003 in BAGnews/MediaWatch, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oct 15, 2003

Everything We Didn't Find Out About Schwarzenegger (Before We Forget To Ask)

Well, we can’t say anything about Arnold anymore. When you win, the vetting period ends. That’s how the game works.

At least, with a Presidential candidate, you have up to a year to not learn who you’re dealing with. This time, the window closed after three weeks.

So, what didn’t we find out about Arnold?

*As we previously reported, we didn’t learn about Arnold and Enron. In fact, we didn’t hear anything about Arnold’s business dealings at all.

*We didn’t hear about Arnold’s power in Hollywood, and how women have been intimidated from discussing his advances for fear of being blackballed from the industry.

*We didn’t learn that the supposedly news breaking reports in the Los Angeles Times regarding Arnold’s harassment of women were basically a rehash of a story that appeared in Premiere Magazine back in 2001.

*We didn’t learn about how Arnold has manipulated the media, consistently suppressing news stories and biographies through various forms of intimidation.

*We didn’t learn about how Arnold’s film career was basically on the skids by the end of the 90’s.

* We didn’t learn about the man who buys airplanes out-of-state to avoid paying California sales tax (about $900,000 worth).

*We didn’t learn about Arnold’s health problems, including his open-heart surgery and aortic valve replacement in 1997 (possibly due to heavy steroid use during his weightlifting career). Certainly, we didn’t hear about the life-limiting odds of that surgery.

This Thursday, the Governor-elect who we don’t really know, will be meeting with the President, who we really don’t know, covered by a press that can’t afford to let us know.

But, we’ll be back.



Oct 15, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oct 07, 2003

Guantanamo Breakdown: Terrorists Winning War Games With Word Games

It leaves up speechless to consider how Islamic spies could possibly have infiltrated the American prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Although utterly incredible, it appears men posing as translators suceeded in corrupting prisoner interviews and securing unspeakably valuable information. In a press conference, Secretary Rumsfeld dictated a towering babel of rationalizations. Although reporters sounded him out as to whether a conspiracy was involved, the Secretary stuck to the soundbite that counterinterintelligence activities are typical in wartime. Athough tripping over their tongues not to sound any more foolish, the Pentagon says that up to 10 translators may be involved.

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Oct 07, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 05, 2003

Breaking Story: Bringing Arnold's Power Interests To Light

As the California recall election reaches a potentially electrifying conclusion, it's shocking how little information about Arnold Schwarznegger has come to light. Of course, a number of high voltage stories have appeared about his revolting treatment of women and his propensity for getting wired. Unfortunately, what has has yet to draw significant wattage is the central element of Arnold's character: his political dealings and his thirst for power.

Many people thought the story about Arnold's interest in Hitler didn't deserve currency. It was Arnold himself, though, who drew the connection between smoke and fire. If Arnold has the tendency to light up over someone like Hitler, it is because Hitler is the ultimate example of someone who overcame the dimmest of circumstances to catalyze himself into a person of extreme strength, status and authority.

Given Arnold's preoccupation with power, it is ironic that his connection with Enron and the California utility crisis has yet to be illuminated. According to an investigation by California's respected Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Arnold met with Ken Lay, Chairman of Enron and close friend of George Bush, at the height of the California power crisis to help protect Enron's interests and to fight re-regulation.

Also looking into the connection, investigative reporter Greg Palast alleges that Arnold was meeting with Lay to help stop a (still-active) civil lawsuit, sponsored by Governor Davis and Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, that could force Enron and the other power companies to pay back the $9 billion dollars they juiced from the state. Palast goes so far as to suggest that the recall is about putting someone else in the Governor's mansion just to short-circuit the lawsuit.

Actually,when you consider that up to $9 billion dollars could be at stake, it's not hard to understand why California might be going through this current surge in its political power lines.

Oct 05, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 04, 2003

Kofi Teed By Bush Cuttings?

By most press accounts, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan got publicly upset yesterday at President Bush's refusal to give up sovereignty over Iraq. Well, we wouldn't go that far. Perhaps he departed from his typically wooden manner. Maybe he branched out beyond traditionally diplomatic speech. Perhaps he did even bark a little. But we wouldn't say he went out of his tree, or anything.

We would even make the argument that the Secretary General (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) has shown considerable emotional restraint in the face of the President's ultra-unilateralist behavior. Considering that Bush has refused to set any timetable for the transfer of authority to an Iraqi administration, and has been unwilling to offer any credible role to the U.N., we'd say that Mr. Annan's temperment has actually remained firmly planted in the rational. If anyone could be accused of taking leaf of his senses, on the other hand, it is President Bush, who is known to speak in a timber that carries no carrots, but plenty of sticks.

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Oct 04, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 03, 2003

France Leapfrogs to Head of U.S. Enemy List

It is sad to consider what American foreign policy has been reduced to since this administration took office:

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Oct 03, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 30, 2003

Texas Legislature Rearranges The Big Top

The Texas GOP's redistricting circus has finally produced a new congressional map. The ring masters in the state senate have approved it, and passed in on to the clowns in the state house. Of course, the actual arrangement of districts always comes out contorted when one party forces the other through these kinds of hoops.

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Sep 30, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 25, 2003

Iraq/WMD Quest Comes Up With A Bagel


All right-wing hawk and former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay has to show after 4 months of looking for WMD in Iraq:


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Sep 25, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 22, 2003

Introducing, Bush Lite

Apparently, last Thursday marked the introduction of a new version of George W. Bush.

With the all the hits the President had been taking on the economy, Iraq, domestic security, terrorism, the environment, education, health care (and everything else he has screwed up), the public had started to entertain the perception of Bush as arrogant, blaming, controlling and someone who thinks he has all the answers.

Before the public had a chance to get used to these perceptions, the Rove P.R. machine moved quickly and quietly to fashioned a new Bush, one more in tune with the difficult times we are living in (or, as one might say: that he has created for us). As opposed to the previous model, which was secretive, dogmatic, doomsaying and absolute, the newer, lighter Bush is to be primarily known as forthright, pragmatic, hopeful and certain that nothing in life is for sure.

The new Bush was officially unveiled last week in a joint press appearance with the King of Jordan. During the event, held in an aircraft hanger near Washington, D.C., the new version of the President took the opportunity to admit that the Mid-East peace plan was stalled. Although flashes of the old Bush were clearly in evidence (especially blaming Bush, and "know it all" Bush), the President was clearly able to display the new style without it being screamingly obvious.

In analyzing the performance, it is clear that, at least initially, new Bush is more comfortable with some parts of the persona than others. For example, he seemed particularly at ease sounding forthright. On the other hand, his efforts at being hopeful came off fairly canned. However, this might have simply been due to the fact that he used the words "hopefully" and "hope" too closely together without the use of a synonym.


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Sep 22, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 17, 2003

Chad's Back

Perhaps there isn't a right wing conspiracy dedicated to exploiting holes in the electoral process. Maybe conservatives are just better at puncturing the political groundrules when it suits their advantage. Even so, after a piercing series of victories (the Florida presidential vote; Colorado and Texas redistricting; the California recall), it's ironic a California court has, at least temporarily, pricked the insurgent's initiative by applying their own "Gore vs. Bush" "voting rights" argument against them.

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Sep 17, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 16, 2003

Presidential Intimidation: The Full Circle



First He Intimidated The Press:

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Then He Intimidated The Congress:


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Then He Intimidated The U.N.:


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Then He Intimidated The World:


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Sep 16, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 14, 2003

Naked Gun

What's the saying? Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it?

W has been so careful to avoid Dad's mistakes, he hasn't bothered to look back any farther. Anyway, what's a cheap little tank ride when you can comandeer an entire aircraft carrier?

What was that address to order the Bush GI Joe doll?

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Sep 14, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:Campaign 2004, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 09, 2003

Reflections on 9/11 (III)

Oct 9, '01 -- (Volume 3, No. 27)

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Sep 09, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reflections On 9/11 (II)

Dec 5, '01 -- (Volume 3, No. 66)

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Sep 09, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reflections On 9/11 (I)

Jan 9, '01 -- (Volume 3, No. 80)

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Sep 09, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 07, 2003

The Best That Can Be Said For Bush Speech To Nation On Iraq


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Sep 07, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 01, 2003

Administration To Seek Billions For Iraq After "Low Cost" Promises

In just a short time, don't be surprised to see small sprites from a white house climbing a big hill to cobble together more than a wee bit of green for their merry adventures.


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Sep 01, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Aug 29, 2003

Our Revised Presidential Seal

Howard Dean's advise for understanding Bush: Just take whatever he says, and assume he means the opposite.


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Aug 29, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Aug 27, 2003

Bush Miffed Over Loss Of Spotlight


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Aug 27, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jul 28, 2003

Vol 4, No 152 I Left My Heart In Saudi Arabia

Bush Performs Major Surgery On 9/11 Report. Press Offers No Second Opinion

SUMMARY: Intensive care taken by Administration to make sure U.S.-Saudi ties escape check-up.

While members of Congress have been screaming for blood since the White House took a scalpel to 28 pages of the House-Senate Intelligence Report on 9/11, the story has shown little pulse with either the public or the press.

The thrust of the missing information appears to surround two chest-thumping conclusions. One is that the White House failed to react to clear symptoms of a bin Laden threat. Second is that an open financial valve exists between the Saudi government and terrorist networks (which the U.S. knows about but chooses to bypass).

Any fibrillation on the part of the President over this material is understandable. Saudi blood money has been pumping through the Bush circulatory system for decades. Saudi petrodollars served as a pace maker for several of President Bush’s businesses (and were there to resuscitate him when those companies were on the critical list). Also, the Bush and bin Laden families have enjoyed large profit infusions from many interrelated business operations.

Unfortunately, press treatment of the suppressed 9/11 material has been short of breath. And the coverage of Bush-Saudi conflict-of-interest has been dizzyingly light-headed (to the extent it has been afforded examining room at all).

Apparently, the pathology between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia touches so many nerves, every attempt to dissect it ends up dead on arrival. Until that examination can take place, however, the disease that broke out on 9/11 can only continue to spread.


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Jul 28, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jul 20, 2003

Saint Colin of Washington

Summary: Why Does Colin Powell’s Cup Continue To Run Over While Everyone Else Around Him Ends Up Answering To Higher Authorities?

The saintly perception of Colin Powell involves two traits that ultimately contradict each other. One is deep personal integrity. The other is deep loyalty to those he serves. Given the devilish and diabolical actions of the teams he’s played for, however, its miraculous how Powell manages to look like he’s cut from different cloth.

Whether the issue is the suppression of the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, the sheparding and cover-up of the Iran Contra affair, America’s support of ruthless African overlords, the bloody crusade against the Nicaraguan government, the avoidable ground war in Gulf War I, and now the “misleadership” scandal surrounding the selling of Gulf War II, Powell seems to maintain his choirboy’s innocence.

Yea, though the Secretary of State walks through the valley of the shadow of scandal, he fears no evil because… nobody ever associates him with it. And it’s not as if he’s simply perceived as an innocent bystander in these unholy activities. It’s as if—like a phantom or a ghost—he was never there!

Even in the midst of the current scandal, his station remains blessed. Commentators, bearing witness to Powell’s supposedly reverent principles, believe he might even resign on moral terms! And while the President is chastised and called to account over 16 words in the State of the Union, Powell’s almighty speech to the U.N.—one that was far more evangelical and soulless than the President’s was—has been largely overlooked.

If one cannot bestow honor on Powell for being a “team player,” one has to feel some reverence for Powell for being a great player. To the extent the public and the press have come to confuse demeanor with character and discretion with moderation, Powell is the angel who never falls.


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Jul 20, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jul 16, 2003

White House WMD White Wash Machine: Running Four Loads At Once

The Controversy Over Why The U.S. Went To War Is Agitating The Media And Throwing The White House Spin Machine Into Overload. The Question Is: Will The President Run Out Of Quarters Before He Can Get Things Ironed Out?

Famous for its ability to treat stains quickly, the Bush Administration has been unable to get its justification for invading Iraq to come out clean. Although the White (House) Washing Machines have been running overtime, the story continues to build a larger load of seemingly permanent press attention. (Even the Democratic candidates, who up to now have been regarded as fluff, sense Bush can be taken to the cleaners on this.)

Given his track record, the President will most likely find a way to bleach the story out of the immediate news cycle. The situation threatens to create a much larger spot, though. If the Bush Presidency cannot cleanly refold it's motive for war, the mess threatens to permanently fray the fabric of Bush's credibility. With an indelicate nine point fade in opinion polls this week, its possible a permanent crease has already begun to show.


Jul 16, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jul 02, 2003

51st State

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BAG
"51" And Counting
How Many American States Can You Name?

7.2.03 -- I started to count the references to Iraq as America's "51st" State. It seems the term started showing up in a number of blogs in September 2002. It then appeared as the title of a piece by James Fallows in the November '02 Atlantic Monthly. What is striking, though, is the rate the term is picking up frequency. The last search I did on Google referring to Iraq as our 51st state showed almost 12,000 citation. The references began a dramatic climb around February.

Yesterday, President Bush once again reiterated his "long term" commitment to our presence in Iraq. Although people inside and outside the administration are now talking incessantly about bringing other countries and agencies on board, Bush made no mention of sharing the job.

At a cost of $3 billion per month, Bush's stubborness is truly impressive. Today, in fact, Bush was talking about sending U.S. troops to Liberia.

I guess the real question is: "Why stop at 51?"

Jul 02, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jun 04, 2003

You Say Tomato, We Say: "What's Going On?"

BAG: vol 4 no 126 To-MAY-to, To-MAH-To
Summary: "Post-War" Iraq Situation Has Funny Tone To It


Now that the war is supposedly over, the volume of the Iraq story has dropped considerably. As a result, discordant notes have been few.


In this sound vaccum, however, it seems a lot of strange things are going almost completely unamplified. For example, the Financial Times (citing Reuters) published a story on May 25th stating that the Iraq Oil Ministry had cancelled or frozen their oil production contracts with Russia and China.

Most of the story consisted of comments from Phillip Carroll, the U.S. "advisor" to the ministry who is a former top executive at Shell Oil. According to Carroll, the contracts were simply deemed "incomplete"; "flawed" or "unfair"; and were thus set aside. He also suggested Iraq might not maintain OPEC its membership. Of course, he added: "It's not something I have an interest in, it is a decision of a sovereign government of Iraq."

The most interesting thing, though, is that, besides the Financial Times, this story did not seem to get coverage anywhere.

Jun 04, 2003 in BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack