Archive for August, 2005

W Hits New Low

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Rising gas prices and ongoing bloodshed in Iraq continue to take their toll on President Bush, whose standing with the public has sunk to an all-time low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found Bush’s job approval rating at 45 percent, down seven points since January and the lowest ever recorded for the president in Post-ABC surveys. Fifty-three percent disapproved of the job Bush is doing

Had to Make it Look Good

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Army Contract Official Critical of Halliburton Pact Is Demoted

Does the Pentagon and the U.S. Army really expect us to believe that after 20 years in military procurement, the last several spent as “the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers,” it is just a coincidence that Bunnatine H. Greenhouse suddenly started performing poorly at her job?

Do they really expect us to believe that there is absolutely no chance that this is a reprisal for her criticism of the no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root.

Do they really expect us to believe the fact Vice President Dick Cheney formerly headed up Halliburton played no role in their decision to demote this woman, who told a Congressional committee that the contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root was “the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career” and also criticized Pentagon interference?

Of course they do.

Will they get away with it?

Not if her story is kept alive.

Response to “Greatest Movie Line Ever”

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Have you been getting ribbed by your NeoCon/Repub friends and family with the “Greatest Movie Line Ever” email? Check it out here.

The email has an attachment from an old Bob Hope flick where a guy is describing the characteristics of zombies, to which Hope replies, “Oh you mean like Democrats?”

Witless NeoCons have seized on this clip and blazed a trail across Cyberspace with it. After a chuckle at their originality, I always respond thusly:

Ha, funny!

Here’s my favorite movie line:

George W. Bush:

” I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you,” [Bush brandishes a golf club] “Now, watch this drive.”

–Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

***
I have to add, by the way, that I always loved Bob Hope. When he was at the top of his game, nobody could beat his timing. A true great.

Don’t Miss Wes Clark on Meet the Press this Sunday

Friday, August 26th, 2005

General Clark will be appearing this Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press with Tim Russert to discuss the war in Iraq and the success strategy he outlined in today’s Washington Post op-ed. Check your local listings for time and channel.
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Pat Robertson: An embarrassment to the church

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

by Jim Wallis
Pat Robertson is an embarrassment to the church and a danger to American politics.

Robertson is known for his completely irresponsible statements - that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were due to American feminists and liberals, that true Christians could vote only for George W. Bush, that the federal judiciary is a greater threat to America than those who flew the planes into the World Trade Center Towers, and the list goes on. Robertson even took credit once for diverting a hurricane. But his latest outburst may take the cake.

On Monday, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson is worried about Chavez’s critiques of American power and behavior in the world, especially because Venezuela is sitting on all that oil. We simply can’t have an anti-American political leader who could raise the price of gas. So let’s just kill him, the famous television preacher seriously suggested. After all, having some of our “covert operatives” take out the troublesome Venezuelan leader would be cheaper than another $200 billion war, he said.

It’s clear Robertson must not have first asked himself “What would Jesus do?” But the teachings of Jesus have never been very popular with Robertson. He gets his religion elsewhere, from the twisted ideologies of an American brand of right-wing fundamentalism that has always been more nationalist than Christian. Apparently, Robertson didn’t even remember what the Ten Commandments say, though he has championed their display on the walls of every American courthouse. That irritating one about “Thou shalt not kill” seems to rule out the killing of foreign leaders. But this week, simply putting biblical ethics aside, Robertson virtually issued an American religious fatwah for the murder of a foreign leader - on national television no less. That may be a first.

Yesterday Robertson “apologized.” First he denied saying what he had said, but it was on the videotape (it’s tough when they record you breaking the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus). Then he said that “taking out” Chavez might not require killing him, and perhaps kidnapping a duly elected leader would do. But Robertson does now say that using the word “assassination” was wrong and that he had been frustrated by Chavez - the old “my frustration made me say that somebody should be killed” argument. But the worst thing about Robertson’s apology was that he compared himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German church leader and martyr who ultimately joined in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

Robertson’s political and theological reasoning is simply unbelievable. Chavez, a democratically elected leader in no less than three internationally certified votes, has been an irritant to the Bush administration, but has yet to commit any holocausts. Nor does his human rights record even approach that of the Latin American dictators who have been responsible for massive violations of human rights and the deaths of tens of thousands of people (think of the military regimes of Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala). Robertson never criticized them, perhaps because many of them were supported by U.S. military aid and training.

This incident reveals that Robertson does not believe in democracy; he believes in theocracy. And he would like governments, including our own, to implement his theological agenda, perhaps legislate Leviticus, and “take out” those who disagree.

Robertson’s American fundamentalist ideology gives a lot of good people a bad name. World evangelical leaders have already responded with alarm and disbelief. Robertson’s words will taint and smear other evangelical Christians and put some in actual jeopardy, such as Venezuelan evangelicals. Most conservative evangelical Christians are appalled by Robertson’s hateful and literally murderous words, and it’s time for them to say so. To their credit, the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals have already denounced Robertson’s words. When will we hear from some of the groups from the “Religious Right,” such as the Family Research Council, Southern Baptists, and other leaders like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Chuck Colson?

Robertson’s words fuel both anti-Christian and anti-American sentiments around the world. It’s difficult for an American government that has historically plotted against leaders in Cuba, Chile, the Congo, South Vietnam, and elsewhere to be easily believed when it disavows Robertson’s call to assassinate Chavez. But George Bush must do so anyway, in the strongest terms possible.

It’s time to name Robertson for what he is: an American fundamentalist whose theocratic views are not much different from the “Muslim extremists” he continually assails. It’s time for conservative evangelical Christians in America, who are not like Islamic fundamentalists or Robertson, to distance themselves from his embarrassing and dangerous religion.

And it’s time for Christian leaders of all stripes to call on Robertson not just to apologize, but to retire.

Venezuelan Prez Offers Cheap Gas to Poor in U.S

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

Chavez Offers Cheap Gas to Poor in U.S.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, popular with the poor at home, offered on Tuesday to help needy Americans with cheap supplies of gasoline.

“We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States,” the populist leader told reporters at the end of a visit to Communist-run Cuba.

Chavez did not say how Venezuela would go about providing gasoline to poor communities. Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA owns Citgo, which has 14,000 gas stations in the United States.

The offer may sound attractive to Americans feeling pinched by soaring prices at the pump but not to the U.S. government, which sees Chavez as a left-wing troublemaker in Latin America.

Gasoline is cheaper than mineral water in oil-producing Venezuela, where consumers can fill their tanks for less than $2. Average gas prices have risen to $2.61 a gallon in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Chavez said Venezuela could supply gasoline to Americans at half the price they now pay if intermediaries who “speculated … and exploited consumers” were cut out.

Venezuela supplies Cuba with generously financed oil and plans to help Caribbean nations foot their oil bills.

Chavez, in Cuba to attend the graduation of Cuban-trained doctors from 28 countries, was seen off at the airport by Cuban President Fidel Castro. Washington has accused the two leaders of being a destabilizing influence in South America.

Chavez and Castro offered to give poor Americans free health care and train doctors free of charge.

B.S. Protector

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

/archives/date/2005/08/bs.jpg

Bill Moyer, 73, wears a “B.S. Protector” flap while President Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their 106th convention Monday in Salt Lake City.
Moyer served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.–From Capitol Hill Blue

Rev. Robertson’s Call to Assassinate Hugo Chavez

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

Pat and Hugo: The Real Story - Part 1
Rev. Robertson’s Call to Assassinate Hugo Chavez

Baltimore Chronicle - reprint
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

For BBC Television and the Guardian newspapers of Britain, Greg Palast has conducted two award-winning investigations of both Pat Robertson and Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela. To understand who these guys are — why Robertson would shoot at Chavez, and why Chavez would laugh at Robertson, read on …

WHY DICK CHENEY WON’T PLAY IN HUGO CHAVEZ’ BAND

There’s so much BS and baloney thrown around about Venezuela that I may be violating some rule of US journalism by providing some facts. Let’s begin with this: 77% of Venezuela’s farmland is owned by 3% of the population, the ‘hacendados.’

I met one of these farmlords in Caracas at an anti-Chavez protest march. Oddest demonstration I’ve ever seen: frosted blondes in high heels clutching designer bags, screeching, “Chavez - dic-ta-dor!” The plantation owner griped about the “socialismo” of Chavez, then jumped into his Jaguar convertible.

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the “socialist” manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag. It was a new law passed by Venezuela’s Congress which gave land to the landless. The Chavez law transferred only fields from the giant haciendas which had been left unused and abandoned.

This land reform, by the way, was promoted to Venezuela in the 1960s by that Lefty radical, John F. Kennedy. Venezuela’s dictator of the time agreed to hand out land, but forgot to give peasants title to their property.

But Chavez won’t forget, because the mirror reminds him. What the affable president sees in his reflection, beyond the ribbons of office, is a “negro e indio” — a “Black and Indian” man, dark as a cola nut, same as the landless and, until now, the hopeless. For the first time in Venezuela’s history, the 80% Black-Indian population elected a man with skin darker than the man in the Jaguar.

So why, with a huge majority of the electorate behind him, twice in elections and today with a nearly two-to-one landslide victory in a recall referendum, is Hugo Chavez in hot water with our democracy-promoting White House?

Maybe it’s the oil. Lots of it. Chavez sits atop a reserve of crude that rivals Iraq’s. And it’s not his presidency of Venezuela that drives the White House bananas, it was his presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. While in control of the OPEC secretariat, Chavez cut a deal with our maximum leader of the time, Bill Clinton, on the price of oil. It was a ‘Goldilocks’ plan. The price would not be too low, not too high; just right, kept between $20 and $30 a barrel.

But Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry’s (and Saudi Arabia’s) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists.

Why should Chavez worry about what Dick thinks? Because, said one of the oil men, the Veep in his bunker, not the pretzel-chewer in the White House, “runs energy policy in the United States.”

And what seems to have gotten our Veep’s knickers in a twist is not the price of oil, but who keeps the loot from the current band-busting spurt in prices. Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the “Law of Hydrocarbons,” which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors - like PhillipsConoco - keep 84% of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16%.

Chavez wanted to double his Treasury’s take to 30%. And for good reason. Landless, hungry peasants have, over decades, drifted into Caracas and other cities, building million-person ghettos of cardboard shacks and open sewers. Chavez promised to do something about that.

And he did. “Chavez gives them bread and bricks,” one Venezuelan TV reporter told me. The blonde TV newscaster, in the middle of a publicity shoot, said the words “pan y ladrillos” with disdain, making it clear that she never touched bricks and certainly never waited in a bread line.

But to feed and house the darker folk in those bread and brick lines, Chavez would need funds, and the 16% slice of the oil pie wouldn’t do it. So the President of Venezuela demanded 30%, leaving Big Oil only 70%. Suddenly, Bill Clinton’s ally in Caracas became Mr. Cheney’s — and therefore, Mr. Bush’s — enemy.

So began the Bush-Cheney campaign to “Floridate” the will of the Venezuela electorate. It didn’t matter that Chavez had twice won election. Winning most of the votes, said a White House spokesman, did not make Chavez’ government “legitimate.” Hmmm. Secret contracts were awarded by our Homeland Security spooks to steal official Venezuela voter lists. Cash passed discreetly from the US taxpayer, via the so-called ‘Endowment for Democracy,’ to the Chavez-haters running today’s “recall” election.

A brilliant campaign of placing stories about Chavez’ supposed unpopularity and “dictatorial” manner seized US news and op-ed pages, ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times.

But some facts just can’t be smothered in propaganda ink. While George Bush can appoint the government of Iraq and call it “sovereign,” the government of Venezuela is appointed by its people. And the fact is that most people in this slum-choked land don’t drive Jaguars or have their hair tinted in Miami. Most look in the mirror and see someone “negro e indio,” as dark as their President Hugo.

The official CIA handbook on Venezuela says that half the nation’s farmers own only 1% of the land. They are the lucky ones, as more peasants owned nothing. That is, until their man Chavez took office. Even under Chavez, land redistribution remains more a promise than an accomplishment. But today, the landless and homeless voted their hopes, knowing that their man may not, against the armed axis of local oligarchs and Dick Cheney, succeed for them. But they are convinced he would never forget them.

And that’s a fact.

****
Read the SoonerThought interview with Greg Palast here.

Greg Palast’s reports from Venezuela for BBC Television’s Newsnight and the Guardian papers of Britain earned a California State University Journalism School “Project Censored” award for 2002. View photos and Palast’s reports on Venezuela at www.GregPalast.com.

Originally published August 16, 2004 in the Baltimore Chronicle
http://www.baltimorechronicle.com/081604GregPalast.shtml

Ladies and Gentleman, An Evil “Christian”

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

CNN.com - Robertson: U.S. should ‘take out’ Venezuela’s Chavez - Aug 23, 2005

Robertson: U.S. should ‘take out’ Venezuela’s Chavez
Christian broadcaster calls leader ‘a terrific danger’

(CNN) — Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has called for the United States to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him “a terrific danger” bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.

“If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson told viewers on his “The 700 Club” show Monday. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.”

Robertson, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, called Chavez “a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly.”

“We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,” Robertson said. “We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

Robertson accused Chavez, a left-wing populist with close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, of trying to make Venezuela “a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.”

“This is in our sphere of influence, so we can’t let this happen,” he said.

Chavez has said he believes the United States is trying to assassinate him, vowing that Venezuela, which accounts for more than 10 percent of U.S. oil imports, would shut off the flow of oil if that happens.

Robertson’s comments Monday were the latest in a string of controversial remarks in recent years by the religious broadcaster and founder of the Christian Coalition.

Last October, during the heat of the presidential race, Robertson told CNN that during a meeting with President Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq, the president told him he did not believe there would be casualties. The White House strongly denied the claim.

In May, during an ABC interview, Robertson ignited a firestorm with his response to a question about whether activist judges were more of a threat to America than terrorists.

“If they look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings,” he said.

Defending his remarks in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Robertson insisted he was not being cavalier about the 9/11 attacks. But he also refused to apologize, saying Supreme Court rulings on abortion, religious expression in the public square, pornography and same-sex marriage “are all of themselves graver dangers in the decades to come than the terrorists which our great nation has defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

In October 2003, Robertson, criticizing the State Department during an interview on “The 700 Club,” said “maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up,” referring to the nickname for the department’s headquarters in Washington.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the remark “despicable.”

In July 2003, Robertson asked his audience to pray for three justices to retire from the Supreme Court so they could be replaced with more conservative jurists. “One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition,” he said.

Robertson insisted he was only calling for prayers for the justices to retire and was not asking his followers to pray for their demise.

In November 2002, Robertson charged that the Muslim holy book, the Quran, incites followers to kill people of other faiths and disputed Bush’s characterization of Islam as a religion of peace.

“It’s clear from the teachings of the Quran and also from the history of Islam that it’s anything but peaceful,” Robertson said in a subsequent interview with CNN. “Of course there are peace-loving Muslims. But at the same time, at the core of this religion … is jihad, and it is to subject the unbelievers either to forced conversion or death. That’s what it teaches.”

Truest Quote of the Week

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

“As we left, I pointed out that it didn’t surprise me that the supposedly big man President was scared shitless of a sweet, middle-aged woman, as he is the very definition of a sniveling coward.” — Amanda Marcotte, writing about her trip to Camp Casey.

Scary Quote of the Week

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

“We need to tell both parties, ‘It’s our way or the highway. You and I can bring the ruling reign of the cross to America.” — Bishop Harry Jackson, speaking at Justice Sunday II

Mr. Bush, You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Dear Mr. President,

Accustomed though you are to running and hiding when things get tough, there comes a point when you have to face up to your troubles. No, not in some antiseptic, loyalty-oath-signing group of fawning sycophants, drunk on the Kool-Aide of NeoConservatist jingoism, but in the court of public opinion.

Your lack of courage in the face of a grieving mother says it all. You see, her kid actually wore the uniform you use as a costume. Casey Sheehan was killed in your trumped-up war, based on lie after lie after lie.

You drove right past this mother of one of our fallen soldiers on your way to a $2 million fundraiser. Did you look out your tinted, armored windows? Did you see her tears? The crosses mowed down by one of your Fox News-addled groupies? Ah, the irony. Any of your robber baron oil company buddies mention that at the fundraiser you sped off to?

You know, even though you were not legally elected in 2000, and probably were not again in 2004, don’t you think you at least owe us one day out of your record setting five week vacation to do something more unpleasant than clearing brush? Can’t you be a man and face your critics?

Okay, don’t. But as I said, you can run, but you cannot hide. Public opinion is leaving you, and so are your allies. The tide is turning.

You truly are a piece of work, Mr. President. View image Shame on you.

SoonerThought