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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

Six months after Katrina, New Orleans is trying to rouse itself in a slimmed down version of Mardi Gras. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is still very weak.

The sad fact of the matter is through ineptitude, mismanagement and perhaps outright disaster ennui, much of New Orleans still bears more of a resemblance to a Third World country than to the vibrant, naughty city down in the Delta.

Party boy George Bush reminisced about his young and irresponsible days when he visited the Big Easy right after Katrina hit. Realizing the political blunder, he started an Air Force One shuttle mission to try to reinforce Bush 41's awkward "message, I care."

But as the Pentagon boys say, let's look at the facts on the ground -- as Bush 43 jets off to India and Pakistan to carry on his crusade against terror.

Billions of dollars have been spent on relief -- some wisely, some not. The compassionate conservatives who run Congress disagree on whether we should spend more; the Abramoff-DeLay wing of the party wants to spend it on their cronies.

Despite Stonewall McClellan's admonitions, fingers are being pointed and responsibilities are being ducked. In a sign of Bush Administration consistency, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is now defending the Dubai Ports World decision with the same vigor he defended his department's response. And with the same answer too: we didn't think there was a problem.

The blame doesn't merely rest with the federal government -- Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco have not covered themselves in honor. And why the Red Cross needs to spend money to burnish its image is beyond comprehension.

So laissez les bon temps roulez, Nawlins, you deserve it. You been swamped, beaten and kicked -- left in the hands of political charlatans and hacks. Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tacking to starboard

The Washington Post has a good ticktock today on why and how the Dubai Ports World deal came to cause the Bushies so much grief. The answer is fairly obvious: an administration that works in secret, doesn't listen and would never consider there might be another viewpoint but their own.

It is worth reiterating that the issue is not transfer of ownership and management of the six ports to a United Arab Emirates-owned company. Security remains the province of the Coast Guard and Customs. What is at issue is the virtual disregard of port security by the Department of Homeland Insecurity.

It is also the arrogance of the Bush team that has been on display from day one: we know best, whether the question is WMD, "terrorist surveillance," Katrina. Medicare, Social Security or which member of the "Axis of Evil" is the most worrisome. Feel free to fill in your favorite.

This is a core group of people that listens only to themselves, goes out in public only at carefully pre-screened events and ignores everyone -- whether it is just Democrats or Congress as a whole -- in their messianic pursuit of the truth as they define it.

The chicken are coming home to roost. Hopefully they don't carry bird flu, because we haven't done a real good job preparing for a pandemic either. Too busy focusing on smallpox vaccinations to worry about influenza.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The House of Cards is folding

Every day is bringing new evidence that the house of cards constructed by the Bush administration in Iraq and the Middle East is folding. The consequences will not be pretty.

Let's skip over the obvious: by focusing on the pseudo-nuclear threat in Iraq and using only nasty rhetoric to deal with the real one in Iran, Bush has fostered the election of a true hate-monger whose spurious anti-Semitic rhetoric threatens to add additional uncertainty to a region already destabilized by the Bush administration.

Let's also skip over the signs that the world, particularly the Islamic world, holds the U.S. and Bush in contempt. Here again we reap what we sowed by creating hatred and mistrust. A terrorist group has won a democratic election in a powder keg of a region where both sides have too many arms and not enough tolerance.

Rather, let's look at the truly disturbing news out of Iraq: despite "democratic" measures like daytime curfews, the sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis continues to escalate and the words "civil war" are being spoken with increasing frequency and urgency.

But it appear we are not neutral arbiters and peacekeepers -- at least in the view of the principals who are squaring off.
[Some] Shiite clerics directly assailed [U.S. Ambassador to Iran Zalmay] Khalilzad's role in the negotiations over a new government, and echoed previous accusations that the ambassador was partly responsible for the Samarra bombing. In the southern city of Basra, where thousands of Shiites rallied to protest the Samarra bombings, some were demanding Mr. Khalilzad's removal.
Talk about chilling. That is tantamount to putting U.S. troops smack in the gun sights of both parties in this out-of-control country. Tell me again how they will welcome us with flowers, Deadeye Dick?

T stands for Terrible

Since it was Tip O'Neill who said all politics is local, a timeout for a purely local rant about the MBTA and its plan to raise fares next year. I'd like to make a humble suggestion: how about living up to your promises first?

As a Green Line rider, I'm still waiting for the three-car rush hour trains that have ample room to sit or stand as we make good progress into town. Instead, I am "treated" to cattle cars made by Breda that have fewer seats, narrower aisles and still follow the tradition of passenger stop; red light; passenger stop; red light as it limps into town slower than someone can walk.

And then there is the schedule: two trains a minute or less apart followed by a gap of 10 minutes or more. That creates trains so crowded that drivers need to open all the doors to let the cattle, er, passengers on, forfeiting what is likely thousands of dollars in fares every day.

Or course they will fix that by ending "anomalies" like no outbound fare on the Green Line. That will sure speed things up by only opening one door. And wasn't the premise of the "free" outbound fare a doubling of the inbound fare many years ago?

Of course I can transfer to a bus (additional fare required), where riders are forced to tromp through foot deep snow banks in Kenmore Square to reach a bus that does not have a working destination sign.

I'm sure every rider has his or her own horror stories. All of which fall on the ears of the ultimate horror story: T chairman Dan Grabauskas who told the Globe he drives to work because commuter rail doesn't meet his work schedule.

Once upon a time I rode the T because it was easier than driving. Now I walk because it's easier than taking the T. It's time to join Charlie and fight the fare increase and get Charlie (and the rest of us) off the MTA.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gaffe of the Week Club

One thing you have to love about the Bush administration is its consistency: they never, ever make a mistake, no matter how big it is. Let's just look at recent history, say the last two weeks.

The cynic says the Dubai port flap was just a way to get Deadeye Dick off the front page. Well, it worked. The monumental political tone deafness of that soon-to-be rolled back decision was up there with the pathetic response to Cheneyquiddick.

Whether the Coast Guard or Customs runs port security is irrelevant to the unbelievable arrogance of the administration in first ignoring port security, then criticizing anyone who raised the security issue as hateful anti-Arabs.

But the ultimate in tone deafness is now being played out in Iraq. It is quite clear that the Sunni insurgents attack on a revered Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra is going to be a turning point in the U.S. tenure in Iraq. Civil war is much closer than it ever has been (if indeed it hasn't already been long-running) and U.S. troops are going to be in the middle of that civil war.

Bush's offer to rebuild the mosque is the ultimate in tone deafness. "Consternation and concern" will not work as this religious war heats up, a war predicated on the desire of the Sunni insurgents to hit at the heart of the Shias who are benefiting the most from the U.S. presence.

Watch out, this is going to get very ugly. Let's hope this is not next week's gaffe.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Trust me

Let's see now -- Saudis and other Islamic fundamentalists exploited security lapses to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Bush administration promises to make us secure, then ignores warning of a natural disaster named Katrina. Islamic country purchases right to run six US ports, including New Orleans, despite fears that the ports are no more secure today than they were on 9-11.

Faced with this sets of facts, W digs his heels in, says I'm right you're wrong and I'll veto anything you do to try to change things. Oops, one problem: he knew nothing about what he was talking about.

Adding a strange and somewhat twisted humorous twist to the saga: Arabs think we're phobic about them. Ya think?

After 9-11, and all the attendant fear and smear tactics of Rove and company, consider these words:
"This didn't rise to the presidential level," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters at the daily briefing.
The question becomes why a decision to sell six American ports -- facilities that are the entry point for all sorts of good, services and people from all parts of the world that generally hate us -- should not rise to the presidential level when the company making the purchase is based in the most hostile area of the world to U.S. interests.

Stonewall McClellan's "assurance" that operational control does not equal security control does not ring true. Who will do the hiring and firing of personnel, including security? If it is the company, then ipso facto they control security.

But frankly the issue goes beyond the facts of the case. The issue is the Bush administration follows the principle of say one thing and do another. Who can forget the venom with which Deadeye Dick accused John Kerry of being such a fluff that we would most assuredly be attacked again if voters elected him.

This is the administration that then let its guard down on one of the most natural disasters to hit the United States; that still hasn't accounted for its failings and still insists that everything would be fine if they only had a little warning (just like when terrorists warn us?)

And if we ever needed more proof about a hands-off, incurious "leader" than W, here it is. The administration that places security above all -- but has failed to do anything to improve port security -- didn't think this rose to the presidential level.

Why? Because they are no deep ocean ports in Red States (except Louisiana and New Orleans is shot anyway)? Because there are no ports in the Bible Belt? Or because this administration is just plain incompetent?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

That's for me to know and you to find out

Remember that old TV show "I've Got a Secret"? It's making a comeback these days in D.C.

Two very different pieces -- on background briefings and on reclassifying previously available documents reflect an almost maniac penchant for CYA that grips government officials, a penchant that has escalated way out of proportion during the Bush administration.

Henry Kissinger turned the background briefing into an art form. For whatever reasons, probably the ego of Richard Nixon, Kissinger chose to make most of his comments on background, meaning that reporters could use the material but could not name their source. Kissinger took the briefing to ludicrous levels -- with one perhaps apocryphal story saying he was once referred to as a senior administration official traveling on the secretary of state's plane.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for a background briefing but more often than not the reasons are ludicrous and the goal is often to say outrageous things without having the blame pinned on you. While reporters are getting better about using anonymous nasty quotes, there is a way to go to ending this abuse, which is bipartisan.

Far more troubling is the penchant to bury mistakes with a classified stamp -- or do in your enemies by lifting the top secret label. The most obvious recent example is the Valerie Plame affair -- and Deadeye Dick's interesting little comment to Brit Hume that he has the power to declassify information.

But trying to put information back into the box, after it has been public for years, to cover up embarrassments is an abuse of authority -- not to mention idiotic. It's also not surprising that the tactic has escalated over the past few years.

When a former CIA chief labels intelligence information a "slam dunk" only to be proven horribly wrong, the tendency is to cover your butt -- and hide your mistakes from the public.

This is not to say that there's never an appropriate time for secrecy. This is an effort to say that this administration abuses secrecy like no one since Richard Nixon. And you know what he was hiding.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Where's Weldo?

Bill Weld is a charming rogue, with a gift for blarney that put his Democratic counterparts to shame during his meteoric rise and fall in Massachusetts politics.

But I've always felt that Bill Weld was too smart for his own good; that the thrill of the chase outweighed the daily hum-drum of dealing with the devil in the details. That reality is coming home to roost as the erstwhile Republican candidate for governor in New York must deal with the realities left in the wake of his stint as CEO of Decker College.

My guess is that Weld did not have a clue what was going on at the Kentucky vocational school under federal investigation for fraud. Was Bill Weld the type of CEO who signed things without looking? Yes. Is he a crook or charlatan like so many of his GOP brethren? No.

Weld established a solid career as a federal prosecutor, even though he failed at getting his ultimate target, Kevin White. He rode that reputation to the Corner Office, aided by the rampant public distaste for John Silber, the BU president whose disposition makes Harvard's Larry Summers seem like Mr. Congeniality.

Big Red has some success in his first term, helped along by tax increases voted by the Legislature during the final months of the Dukakis administration. His major accomplishment, in my view, was removing some of the venom injected into state political life by Dukakis' failed presidential bid, the fiscal collapse and Silber's venomous tongue.

It was enough to win him an overwhelming re-election. And it revealed the streak in Weld's persona that had been hidden until then. The man bores easily. The quest is the challenge and when he reaches that goal it's time for another. And another. And another.

The first was his unsuccessful challenge for John Kerry's Senate seat. He put on a good fight, scared a lot of Democrats but lost when Kerry actually responded to the challenge.

After that came his quixotic bid for ambassador to Mexico. Let this sink in: He quit his job in mid-term to try to become Ambassador to Mexico? After Jesse Helms torpedoed that venture, it was back to New York to make some money (not that the Welds, who came over on or shortly after the Mayflower, needed it).

One mid-life crisis and divorce later, Weldo was out to make his mark as a venture capitalist, the saga that led him down the road to Louisville and Decker College. But even that was boring so Big Red decided he needed another challenge: being the first man since Sam Houston to be elected governor in two states.

One thing should be clear. Despite his many years in Massachusetts, Weld is not a carpetbagger. A case could be made that he wore that title here, a Middlesex School and Harvard-educated transient who returned home.

The bigger issue are what if: What if he overcomes the Decker mess and the antipathy of New York's Conservative Party? What if he beats Elliott Spitzer by casting the New York attorney general as John Silber redux? What if Weld gets bored again?

The words of someone who has witnessed it all should stick with every New Yorker tempted by this lovable, overgrown child:

"I think my dad might love the campaigns more than governing," says David Weld, his eldest son, before catching himself. "Well, he loves campaigning as much as governing."

Know any good lawyers?

Slowly but surely, reporters are starting to wake up and produce a slow drip of stories revealing the outlines of the Bush administration's illegalities.

Coming hard on the heels of the latest round of Abu Ghraib torture images comes word a civilian Pentagon lawyer, described by his colleagues as "not a door kicker," raised polite questions about the legality of the military policy toward prisoners at Guantanamo and in Iraq.

At the same time, the Bushies who arrogantly insisted the equivalent of "we don't need no stinkin' badges" in testifying about their domestic spying operation are having some second thoughts.

After snookering Arlen Specter, the Bush boys are finding some resistance to their bald-faced assertions, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. It's getting hard for W, Vice and Rummy to blame this on unpatriotic Democrats.

It's way too soon to say we are seeing a fall of the house of (Andy) cards erected by this administration. The Rove slime machine remains intact, so far, and the confirmation hearing of Samuel Alito told us all we need to know about his position of "my president uber alles" if these questions come before the Supreme Court.

Still, you can't help but get the feeling that when you throw all of this into the mix with FEMA incompetence so monumental even Joe Lieberman turns on the administration that there's a change in the air.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The state we're in

Mitt Romney is in South Carolina, trying out for the White House while insisting as always that he's campaigning for someone else. Christy Mihos is trying to figure how he is going to run for the Corner Office -- Republican on independent. Chris Gabrieli, left at the altar by Tom Reilly is trying to figure out whether revenge would be sweet. Reilly is trying to figure out how he could blow up his campaign so quickly.

Ah, Massachusetts politics.

It is hard to fathom how THE majority party (at least among those registered by party and certainly by legislative majorities and a congressional monopoly) could be so dazed and confused. But it is. Will Rogers said it best: "I am not a member of any organized political party, I am a Democrat." But this is ridiculous.

Romney, freed from the shackles of pretense that he was doing a job, is running around the country in search of a new one. Given the fractures developing in the GOP over the lies of the Bush administration, it's possible a new face would be attractive.

But as we here in Massachusetts know, there's no there there. An empty suit with an empty record of accomplishment, whose biggest asset is the claim he won as a conservative in liberal Massachusetts (of course he wasn't THAT conservative when he ran four years ago...)

The bust of the Romney administration should be the spark to get a Democrat back into the Corner Office after losing four straight elections. So let's look at the tape:
  • Reilly, who listens to no one, botched a symbolic gesture in picking a "running mate" without doing even the most basic of due diligence in vetting records;
  • Deval Patrick, who soared from far back to even based on Reilly's meltdown did win a nice victory in the caucuses, which means he has the left sown up. Which we already knew. But there's been little (apparent) movement to reach out to the suburban voters who control Massachusetts elections and he is open to counterattack from a wounded Reilly;
  • Gabrieli, a nice guy with deep pockets and an electoral track record that means he works best in the background, is making noises that sound most like trying to settle scores with Reilly who snubbed him for Marie St. Fleur.
  • Mihos is weighing his options with a team that includes someone who has been prominent in Democratic political circles -- Lou DiNatale.
A recipe for Kerry Healey if I ever saw one.

Memo to Phil Johnston: It's time sit folks down and decide what's right for a state that needs a leader in the Corner Office. Then put together a game plan. If you don't it's just a matter of time before a lot of folks will be calling 800-JOE-4OIL. And we don't want that, now do we?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Edifice complex

Violence continues unabated in the streets. The schools remain mediocre (at best). Worthwhile projects aimed at bolstering the state's medical-biotech engine in the Longwood Medical Area are dismissed as favors for the Red Sox.

So what is Tom Menino's answer to the fourth term call for new ideas? Skyscrapers. On one of the windiest days of the year, no less. Does he walk around the Hancock Tower at all?

Plenty of blame to go around

Often lost in the quail in the blind, er, fish in a barrel ease with which to attack the Bush administration's outrages is the enabler role played by the alleged co-equal branch of government. While history will certainly treat W and his cohorts with proper disdain, it should also pay close attention to the Republican Congress' abdication of its rights and powers.

The evidence of administration bullying is clear for all to see: the penchant for privacy that led to a war fought on phony pretenses; the zeal of the Deadeye Dick in covering up everything from his industry-led energy panels to his excellent adventure on the Anderson Ranch; the refusal of the administration to offer any documents or testimony on anything that could remotely be challenged -- from the failures of Katrina to its legal rationale for domestic spying.

But the Fools on the Hill, the GOP majorities in the House and Senate, who blandly and blindly accept the emasculation of congressional authority never quite get the same attention.

Let's start with Arlen Specter. For all his show and bluster, whether during the Alito hearings or the "grilling" of Alberto Gonzalez about his legal opinion that authorized warrantless domestic spying, Specter in the end rolled over. How can I say that? Look at his rationalization for refusing the swear Gonzalez in during his hearing, the most recent example of the GOP Congress allowing potential wrong-doers to skate away.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who built a reputation as a tough prosecutor and burnished it by his shameful cross-examination of Anita Hill, declaimed at the start of the hearing that Gozalez doesn't need to be sworn because:

After reflecting on the matter, I think it is unwarranted because the law provides ample punishment for a false official statement or a false statement to Congress under the provisions of 18 United States Code 1001 and 18 United States Code Section 1505. The penalties are equivalent to those under the perjury laws.
Punishment is not the issue (because the likelihood of contempt of Congress citations are nil). Symbolism is significant, particularly since the hearing was designed to be a showpiece in the first place. And let's face it, what image is most vivid from the Iran-Contra hearings? Ollie North, in uniform, raising his right hand. Or from the 1994 hearings on tobacco? The row of executives raising their right hands to swear that nicotine is not addictive.

By letting Gonzalez off that hook, Specter enabled him to offer even more slippery answers than "I do not recall". He enabled Gonzalez to express his contempt for Congress without fear of repercussion.

And how did the Bush administration repay Specter for his kindness? More stonewalling, bolstered by their umpteenth executive privilege claim and a meaningless statement from the Stonewaller-in-Chief, Scott McClellan, that the administration is "open to ideas regarding legislation."

The final judgments on this sordid piece of American history -- where an administration ran roughshod over truth and the Constitution aided and abetted by a servile Congress -- will not be pretty. In the meantime, all we need to do is survive this venality, a tough task indeed.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cheney & Associates -- PR

We know Dick Cheney must be in the market for a job, being a lame duck and all. Not sure Halliburton will take him back, even if he has been one of their best rainmakers. So what's the Veep got up his sleeve? Public relations of course.

The media-adverse image is all a charade. Deadeye Dick knows how to manipulate with the best of the flaks. Let's look at this scenario.

After the National Journal (sub. required) reports that Scooter testified that he was "authorized" by his "superiors" to disclose classified information, the boys in the bunker knew they needed a diversion. After a few seconds, Vice exclaimed, [sarcasm alert] "I know. I'll shoot my friend, stonewall, then give it to the local papers and tick the Washington press corps off royally."

Quickly, the plan was put into place, so quickly in fact, that no one bothered to tell W, not that this was a new occurrence. And it worked like a charm.

The White House press corps, which never met a gaffe it couldn't pursue at the expense of serious policy issues, was in high dundgeon, offended that the puny Corpus Christi Caller-Times got the story of the millennium.

The Right Wingnuts, led by Rush, Billy O and the boys, swung into gear, proclaiming the media as out of control by pumping up a nothing story, Heck, vice presidents shoot people every two hundred years.

That only inflamed the White House press gang even more, prompting them to find their best hunting togs to wax eloquent on the subject of hunting protocol. Cheney & Associates had an answer for that too -- let's go on Fox News Channel, the wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP, Inc.

There, with Brit Hume -- one of the few reporters to be open about his (conservative) politics -- Vice did the standard mea culpa. OK, so he was a few days late, but let's look at the results.

By creating a diversion -- giving the story to the local press -- Cheney sent the White House press corps in the wrong direction, away from the really damaging questions about what did he know, when did he know it and who did he "authorize" to tell it.

And best of all, Cheney & Associates pulled off a double play, Not only did they bump Scooter clear out the paper, they knocked Michael "Heck of a Job" Chertoff back to the classifieds with the story about FEMA's incompetence in dealing with Katrina.

Can't wait for this group to open on K Street. Get in line now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Take another little piece of my heart

Maybe Dick Cheney can volunteer to give Harry Whittington his hear if awful things continue to happen to the Texas attorney in the wake of his excellent adventure with the Veep. No check that, it wouldn't work.

But maybe someone in the GOP hierarchy can give Vice a brain transplant for his politically suicidal decision to remain silent in the wake of the bird shots heard 'round the world.

Make no mistake, this has gotten a lot more serious than the initial story when it seemed the only injuries involved dignity and pride. Hopefully the medical implications to Whittington will be short-lived.

The political tone deafness of Deadeye Dick however remains a marvel to behold. Even if he isn't running for another office, there are a whole bunch of Republicans already nervous about this administration's impact on them.

And when Bush loyalists like Marlin Fitzwater and Ari Fleischer go public in their criticism of Vice you know there's political storm rising.

And the eye of that storm is the botched quail hunt as a metaphor for the incompetence and arrogance of the Bush administration in its ability to do things right -- and its refusal to admit to any mistakes.

It's hard to guess which way this one will go. Political logic and common sense suggest Cheney has to emerge from the bunker long enough to address this publicly. An apology and explanation, however insincere it may be, is necessary to avoid the daily battering of Scott McClellan and relentless focus on the subject. As has been proven time and again, the political press corps is absolutely fixated on gaffes.

No doubt there's digging under way to see whatever else can be found about Cheney's hunting prowess, aided and abetted by what I now see is the spin that I and others fell for that Whittington is responsible for his own fate.

But Cheney is so convinced he is better than any mere mortal that there is a very real chance he will refuse to step up to the plate. The gaffe search will continue. Rush and his syncophants will continue to howl. And I will continue to think up bad puns.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Rolling snowballs

The sound you hear is the snowball picking up speed as it rolls downhill and into the web of secrecy called the White House.

In the distance you can hear the bloviated calls of the Right Wing Chorus, denouncing those gol' durn liberals for making such a big deal of a loyal NRA member accidentally blasting as fellow card-carrying disciple of Charlton Heston. But its the onrushing snowball that will soon drown everything out.

What did the President know and when did he know it? A White House press corps that could not ask a tough question about WMDs is aflame with questions about Triggerman Dick Cheney and his ill-fated meet-up with a quail disguised as Harry Whittington.

Well, my red-faced friends on the Right, here's how the Washington Post describes what makes this story so juicy.
In what one official described as a break with the White House practice of disclosing such high-level mishaps immediately, Cheney waited more than 14 hours after the shooting to disclose it publicly.
Think Chappaquiddick. It took Vice six hours longer to report the incident to the police than it took Ted Kennedy to report his car going off the narrow bridge. Teddy's carelessness left a woman dead. Cheney's put a man into the intensive care unit. Oh, and Vice also didn't bother to pay for his hunting license but a $7 check is in the mail.

The run-in with a quail has become the apt metaphor of the Bush White House. Actually, a stonewall would be the best symbol. This is a bunch of people with a contempt for truth and honesty that makes Dick Nixon look trustworthy.

FISA-less wiretaps that fly in the face of the very freedom we are trying to protect. Bad intelligence trumped up to look good to serve as justification for a rush to war. A bungled response to a natural disaster by an administration that ran a fear and smear campaign less than a year earlier that trumpeted its ability to keep us safe.

This is just a short list of the ways the Bush administration's lack of openness and honesty (or the ability to shoot straight) has led this nation down the wrong path. Each and every time they are faced with a challenge to their competence, they fire back at their critics with charges tantamount to treason. Reasoned, civil discussion is not part of the Rove game plan. Nor is the truth.

So is it any wonder that an incident so comical (except to Whittington, who thankfully will also get a chance to laugh about it), handled in the usual ham-handed, inept, double-barreled shotgun manner of the Bush-Cheney team, would get so much attention.

Here's the ultimate laugh line: this is the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

Monday, February 13, 2006

With friends like these...

I've waited to do this because it's sort of like shooting fish in a barrel, er, make that quail in a blind.

Vice has finally copped to the fact he's a bad shot (and who knows maybe a bad speller too. Maybe he was shooting for Quayle?) Two days of keeping the truth in an undisclosed location and the Veep's peeps are finally forced to admit to what a local newspaper found out all by itself -- Dick Cheney does more than shoot his mouth off, he shoots his friends.

Yes, it was an accident and yes, as I understand the etiquette of hunting the victim deserves some of the blame because he didn't announce his presence (what was he supposed to say? Duck?)

But once more we have the issue of the veracity of our nation's "leaders." It's not weapons of mass destruction stuff (though in the Veep's hands, who knows? And why couldn't he be shooting as Osama?)

But it is deceptive to say everything is hunky-dory when the victims spends time in an intensive care unit. That's not treated and released.

Scott "Stonewall" McClellan was, as usual, left to take the heat for the mysterious Veep, who has a real aversion to speaking an any location where he is not surrounded by friends (and if he continues to shoot them, well...) I could almost start feeling sorry for Scott.

But there is no sympathy for Bush and his cronies because of their sheer, unabiding arrogance when it comes to the truth. Whether the issue is Katrina records, WMDs, drunken driving records and military service, this administration seems to be into the full coverup mode.

Everything is a secret or executive privilege or unimportant for the American public. The stark refusal to be honest about anything finally caught up to Bill Clinton and it should have long overtaken W and Vice.

Maybe there will be a lesson here. Fudging on this has made it a far larger story than if they had come clean. Then again, I don't believe these people learn (and who did authorize Scooter to out Valerie Plame?)

Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

You can't make this stuff up

The ironies in today's New York Times story about the open-minded folks of Fulton, Mo. are of the kind that writers would see their scripts rejected for being too obvious: a small town banning the production of a play about intolerance and religious witch hunts because it reflects "a time in history that makes Christians look bad."

Talk about a place that doesn't have any mirrors. But there you have it. Three writers, including one who didn't bother to see what he was condemning, prompted the school system to first, drop a toned down version of "Grease," then a performance of "The Crucible."

We'll skip right over Grease, an ode to "innocence" of the 1950s in urban America. Obviously folks who live mired in the 14th Century can't understand the 1950s.

But you got to hand it to them to take their wrath out on The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller and using the Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor for the anti-Communist hysteria of that very same "innocent" decade.

You also have to hand it to the school superintendent, who in a moment of unexpected honesty, acknowledged some might consider his moves straight out of McCarthyism.

Nor can you ignore the irony of all this taking place in the very community that Winston Churchill spoke of an Iron Curtain descending upon Europe, stripping people of their freedoms.

What's next? Banning political cartoons? Or maybe the Times itself? And Osama, this might be a good place for you to hide out. Fulton, Mo. seems to share your philosophy of religious intolerance.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

It's not about ideology, it's about competence

Just back from my undisclosed location and I can see I missed a goodie. My initial thought: well, at least you know that Tom Reilly doesn't go snooping around private tax records.

The monumental incompetence in the selection of Marie St. Fleur as a running mate is another large ding in the Reilly aura of invincibility. The Democratic caucus voters (a much more liberal group than the party or the state as whole) would likely have treated Deval Patrick kindly anyway. The size of Patrick's caucus victory -- including Reilly's new hometown of Watertown -- is painful but not fatal to Reilly.

Much more damaging to the attorney general is this is the second ding in six weeks -- the other involving the back and forth over his role into the investigation of the traffic deaths of two daughters of a supporter. Instead of an isolated incident, there are two very large mistakes to ponder.

Reilly's claim that politics is "not my strong suit" is disingenuous at best. He's been in elected office since 1990 and victorious statewide twice, a better record than any other Massachusetts Democrat. You also cannot stand there and say with a straight face that politics did not enter into the picture when you bypass a rich white male for a Haitian-American woman.

And the lapse in basic reference checking is more glaring in the light of the attorney general's outfront role in leading his office's justifiable investigation into the campaign spending practices of another (on the surface) impressive African-American woman, Dianne Wilkerson.

So Reilly was offering up a rather large red herring when he says people don't care about politics. That's true, but this isn't about politics, it's about competence; about listening; about doing basic homework before making a decision.

It's significant that Kerry Healey, who shows a tendency to shoot herself in the foot with her mouth, kept her powder dry on this one. For starters, she's not exactly clean on the financial front. But the lieutenant governor can now put some distance between her and this issue thanks to the Reilly misstep and Patrick's own tax problems.

And let's also not to forget to nominate Boston Mayor Tom Menino for a Profile in Courage Award. Standing by Reilly's side when St. Fleur is announced, taking credit for a role in the decision and then backing away big time when the you know what hit's the fan.