Monday, January 31, 2005

Election Day in Iraq: One Voter's Story

BAGHDAD – It is election day in Iraq. The mood is tense. Ground-shaking blasts can be felt and heard in nearby neighborhoods. Sporadic gunfire echoes through the alley’s of this ancient city. Today, I will be shadowing my trusted translator, Fadel Zeki, on a daring journey through the streets of Baghdad to his polling place where he will cast the first vote of his life. Despite the crying and pleading that we stay barricaded in his small apartment, I can sense that Fadel is genuinely excited to participate in this historic event in his county’s history.

After Fadel finished writing out a crude will, we strapped on our bullet-proof vests, stuffed as many revolvers as we could into our pockets, and began our journey to democracy. I pried Fadel’s hands off of the door frame and we exited into the dusty, noisy streets of Baghdad.

The polling place was roughly ten blocks from Fadel’s apartment. The air was pungent with the smells of burning rubber, gunpowder and unwashed humans. Wary eyes followed as we walked briskly past the shops and homes of this poor Baghdad neighborhood. It didn’t take long before we were challenged by three young men carrying AK-47s.

They asked if we were going to vote. A puddle darkened the sand around Fadel's feet, but the men did not seem to notice. Fadel told them that we were only going to the market to steal fruit and bread for his family. After some debate among the gunmen, which included one of the men dragging a thumb across his throat, they let us pass.

Fadel was so traumatized by the incident he lost his sense of direction and headed back toward his apartment. I insisted we turn around. He insisted I spend eternity in hell having jackals feed off of my genitals. But with much patience, and a fifty dollar bill, I persuaded Fadel to turn back toward our original destination.

Only two blocks from the polling place, we were again stopped by armed Iraqi citizens. This time, they were as interested in me as much as they were our purpose for being on the street. Fadel told them I was his second cousin on his mother’s side, from France. I thought this was quite clever on Fadel’s part until one of the men addressed me directly in French. My clothes became instantly sweat soaked, and all I could think to do was indicate in sign language that my tongue had been cut out. Oddly enough, such is the climate in Baghdad these days that they bought my story with little discussion, and we were allowed to pass on.

We finally reached the polling station, which was heavily guarded by American military personnel. Fadel entered after showing his papers, but when I produced my journalists credentials I was told to sit on a nearby bench where Iraqi’s who were voting had tied up their dogs, goats and various other animals. I spent the next half-hour fending off the amorous intentions of a three-legged mongrel, when Fadel finally returned from voting.

Excitedly, I asked him how it went and for whom he’d voted. He shrugged his shoulders and said he had no idea. He just picked “anonymous” or “other” in every category. But, he said, they gave out candy when he was done. I knew at that point that true democracy could be decades, perhaps centuries, away. It made one wonder about the whole business of invading a country that did not ask to be invaded. But now, after all was said and done, we had to consider far more immediate concerns, such as how to get back to Fadel’s apartment alive.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Administration Brouhaha: Who’s Got the Biggest Unit?

WASHINGTON – The Office of the Vice President issued a statement today announcing that Vice President Cheney will create his own special undercover unit for clandestine operations in the United States and abroad.

This announcement comes only one week after Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld divulged the existence of his formerly secret unit, the Strategic Support Branch.

An unnamed administration official said that Cheney was “very upset” to learn that Rumsfeld has his own commando squad and Cheney did not. “There were a lot of expletives thrown around the office that day,” said the official.

Cheney’s unit will be called “Big Dick’s Brigade,” (BDB) and serve under the Vice President’s direct control. The BDB will consist of members drawn from all branches of the military and various federal prisons throughout the United States.

The BDB will be an intelligence gathering organization like Rumsfeld’s unit, but, according to Cheney’s spokesperson, “…it will be bigger, badder and have the ability to open a can of whoop ass on Rumsfeld’s girl scout troop anytime, anywhere.”

In a brief statement from the Secretary of Defense later that afternoon, Rumsfeld wrote that this was an unnecessary duplication of intelligence gathering operations, and the next time he meets with Cheney, he’s going to “….wrap those wire spectacles around his scrotum.”

The President, at his Texas ranch clearing brush, issued a statement indicating his unwavering support for both Cheney and Rumsfeld, and said that he had been thinking of creating his own military unit for espionage and intelligence gathering purposes for some time. “The more Americans we have around the world carrying weapons and a license to kill, the safer we all are,” noted President Bush.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Media "Cheat Sheet" Exposed

That’s Going Too Far! obtained the following document from a network news employee who pirated it out of his building in a body cavity. The source of the Cheat Sheet is not known, but the stationary bore “Senior Advisor to the President” letterhead. Oops!


For all anchors, reporters and producers in our news department. Please refer to these definitions for consistency of message. Thank you.

Conspiracy theorist/nut – Any liberal who asks questions.

Knowledgeable source/expert/reliable source – Any conservative who asks questions.

Washington insider – Any administration official or representative from right-leaning think-tank.

Differing/alternative viewpoint – Any liberal (inside or outside DC) or university professor.

Conventional wisdom/common sense – The Administration’s viewpoint.

Unsubstantiated allegations – The liberal viewpoint.

While most Americans believe… - Those with middle-of-the-road to right-leaning political views.

Others say… - Liberals.

Embedded American reporters – Safe, reliable.

Non-U.S. news sources – Highly questionable.

Cheering throngs/Americans/crowds – What we show around President Bush.

Protestors – What we don’t show around President Bush.

Wall Street/industry lobbyists/industry leaders – Spin positive.

Consumer groups/Rights organizations/liberal activists – Minimal air time.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Homeland Security

Fearful that abolishing the color-coded terror alert system would leave his city vulnerable, Sheriff Tom Novarri called upon the citizens of Cornerville, Ohio (pop. 21,955) to call or e-mail his “Terrorist Hotline” with any suspicious activity they might encounter. Over the three months it was in existence, the “Terror Hotline” received 458 calls and 394 e-mails from citizens. Below is a sampling of e-mails and call transcripts.

May 21

“Terrorist Hotline. Would you like to make a report?”
“Damn right I would. One of the guys who picks up my trash…looks like an Arabian.”
“An Arabian horse?”
“No, dammit. An Arab. The thing is, every time he goes to my garbage can, he stops and looks around. I think he’s doing reconnaissance.”
“Of your yard, Sir?”
“I used to be in the military. God knows what information they could pump out of me before they cut my head off.”
“Thank you, Sir. I will pass along your information.”
“Damn right you will.”

May 24

Dear Sheriff Novarri,

At the Mall yesterday, there were like these two Middle Eastern guys who followed me and my friend Tammy around for like three hours. Even when we tried to ditch them by going into Victoria’s Secret, they came right in and started touching the bras. We were so creeped out. I thought, “What if the guys are like strapped with explosives. And they stand next to us when they push their little buttons.” Tammy thought one of the guys was really cute and said she wouldn’t mind dying in his arms. I said, “Shut up.” They were creeeeepy. Please have them checked out.

May 25

“Terrorist Hotline. Would you like to make a report.”
“Yes. I am being held captive by terrorists.”
“Terrance. Is that you?”
“My Mom and Dad are terrorists. They are holding me hostage.”
“Boy, did you get your homework done?”
“Please, send the SWAT team to my house.”
“You’re gonna see the swat team when I get home and swat your butt up one side and down the other.”
(hangs up)

June 3

Dear Sherif

My name is Lisa. I am seven. I want you to arrest my brother Kenny. He hits me and pushes me down. He is a teroristic. Thank you.


June 9

“Terrorist Hotline. Would you like to make a report?”
“Yes. Thank you. I would like to report that I was abducted by terrorists last week.”
“Really, Sir? Please give me the details.”
“Absolutely. They landed in my backyard about 11:00 p.m. I was having a bowl of Cap’n Krunch when I saw the lights blazing through my windows. Well, I got up and went to the door, and three terrorist wearing shiny metal suits burst into my kitchen and demanded to see Jerry Springer.”
“Thank you, Sir. I will—“
“But I’m not done. They tied me to the kitchen table and started to operate on me with my Salad Shooter and a butter knife….”
“Thank you so much. Goodbye.”

June 23

I am a terrorist. I want to turn myself in, but can't. I have tried many times to quit my terrorist activities, but I am addicted to explosives and human carnage. Please, stop me before I bomb again.

July 29

Dear Sheriff Novarri,

I believe my husband could be a terrorist. I first became suspicious when I would call his office at noon and get his answering machine over and over again. Then, he started traveling more than he ever did before, being away from home three and four days at a time, yet I never once saw him with an airline ticket. And then there are the calls. I’ll answer the phone, and the person on the other end immediately hangs up. It’s happened many times. The only explanation I can come to is that he is sneaking off to a terrorist training camp somewhere nearby to train for a new attack on the U.S. I love him, but I think he is lying to me. Please, stop him before he hurts someone.

August 4

“Terrorist Hotline. Would you like to make a report?”
(heavy breathing)
“Would you like to make a report, Sir?”
(breathing grows louder)
“Sir, we have caller ID..
(hangs up)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

January 20, 2005. Mourning in America.

Only days before George Bush is to be sworn in for his second term as President, Secretary of State nominee Condoleeza Rice told Senators during her confirmation hearing that, “The goal [in Iraq] is to get the mission accomplished.” According to Rice, “the Mission” has something to do with spreading democracy in the Middle East, but I could find no mention in the Associated Press article of any Senator making her state bluntly what “the mission” is or when we decide it is finished. There were also no apologies for misleading the nation into war nor any timetable for ending our occupation of Iraq.

“Ms. Rice. Is the earth round or is it flat?”
“Mr. Senator, the President assures us daily that the world is flat, and it is undermining our work in Iraq to state otherwise. So it is flat.”
“Well, that’s good enough for me. Next question.”

In related articles recently, we are told of a president who refuses to listen to negative assessments about Iraq. He will hear only progress reports and nothing else. A primary factor in Colin Powell’s exit from the inner ring was his tendency to tell the President the truth about the situation on the ground, a no-no in the Oval Office. So we are stuck with a President who is clearly out of touch with reality and an administration all but willing to enable his otherworldly views.

During the first four years of the Bush administration, the press was handed scandal after scandal, a number of which make Whitewater look like a case of shoplifing. But the corporate press failed us at every turn, and continues to do so now. Bush and Rice and the rest of the inner circle can tell the press virtually any lie they wish without fear of anything more damaging than a mild follow-up question, just for old times’ sake.

Why are we not holding anyone responsible for the lies which lead us into Iraq? The death toll of American’s rises daily. Towns are destroyed in order to save them, and if you think Iraqi civilians don’t die every time we blow up buildings or send rockets into town squares, you are as delusional as Bush.

Inauguration day this Thursday will be a day of mourning for millions of Americans. As talk of invading Iran grows and the sense of unending war in Iraq deepens, the Inauguration of George Bush will be a milepost in the rapid decline of America as a world leader to an isolated island of bigotry, hatred and fear, which just happens to possess a butt-load of nuclear weapons.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Truth. American Enemy #1

That’s Going Too Far! recently obtained this furndraising letter sent from the Republican National Committee to select Republicans nationwide

January 11, 2005

Dear ,

Well, here they go again. The liberal media is up to its old tricks, trying to use the truth to bash President Bush and his policies. We’ve seen it before. They tried to discredit the glorious liberation of Iraq with “facts” and “proof,” tried to derail the Patriot Act by pointing to so-called “truths” in the Constitution. And now, fellow patriots, thy are using this same dirty trick to attack President Bush’s proposed changes to Social Security.

Is this underhanded, un-American tactic as abhorrent to you as it is to me? Is it right that they think they can attack the President’s policies simply because the numbers don’t add up and the arguments are unsubstantiated? Is it good for this country to continuously question the Administration’s proposals, even when they’re wrong? There is something insidious about haranguing the President of the United States over whether he knows what he’s talking about or not. Who cares? Only those “blame America first” liberal elites, that’s who

This is still America. Isn’t it? Land of the free, home of the brave? We are a proud people who don’t need to have the “truth” to know what’s right and wrong. This great country wasn’t founded by scientists and philosophers, but by unshaven mountain men who smelled like the rotting carcass of a week old dead beaver, but who weren’t afraid to shoot first and ask questions later. Believe me, friends, your gut is the ultimate truth.

There is a political agenda behind this “truth” thing, mark my words, and it’s time to fight back. Help the Republican National Committee launch a campaign to combat truth, in all it’s ugly visages. Our President needs us now, more than ever. Thank you for your past generous contributions. I ask for your help once again in battling an enemy of formidable, but not unbeatable, strength—the truth. Thank you.


Ed Gillespie
Republican National Committee

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Oh Grow Up!

I caught a few minutes of Bush on TV this morning. Thanks, I’m okay and the eye twitch usually subsides in a day or two. Microphone in hand, buffed and polished “citizens” seated behind him, Bush jacked his jaw (with the help of notes just below camera level) about everything he claims is wrong with Social Security in his attempt to sway the American people that we need to take this program out of the hands of government bureaucrats and put it into the hands of Wall Street vampires.

The twitch began as Bush explained his problems with Social Security as if reading “My Pet Goat” to school children. “A trillion dollars. That’s trillion, with a ‘t.’” The smirk followed. Then the pause, while he read his notes or received his next line in his earpiece. Arrogant. Patronizing. Dangerous.

There are problems with Social Security, but the reality is far different than what Bush is telling the public today on television. In fact, the math isn’t all that difficult, even for the numerically-challenged such as myself. As John Marshall in “Talking Points Memo” succinctly puts it:

“The Social Security Trustees estimate that over the next 75 years the program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion.

But how much will the president's Medicare drug benefit plan cost over the next 75 years?

$8.1 trillion, say the Trustees of that program.

And over the next 75 years how much will the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts cost if made permanent, as the president wants?

$11.6 trillion.

So you add that up and you get $3.7 trillion we need to cover Social Security's shortfall and $19.7 trillion we need just to cover the costs of the two major domestic policy initiatives of the president's first term.”

But it is ideology, not facts and logic, which drive the President’s policies. Bush treats the American people as if they are children in need of a big, tough daddy instead of an informed citizenry in need of a head of state. Through our acquiescence, we are giving away our hard won democracy to Bush and his cronies, one policy at a time. Isn’t it time we grow up?

Monday, January 10, 2005

We Need a Plan. Quick.

Today’s lead story: Four CBS executives were fired over the forged documents related to Bush’s National Guard service that made up the basis of a “60 Minutes” report. Dan Rather stepped down from his anchor post last year, many feeling he was nudged out because of his involvement in the document fiasco. Heads rolled, as they should, because of poor judgment on the part of CBS news reporters in a rush to scoop other stations.

But it’s funny. I don’t remember anyone at CBS or any other station losing their job for reporting the lies of the Swift Boat Veterans during the presidential campaign. I don’t recall anyone being fired for neglecting to report on the myriad election day mishaps, incidents of intimidation and obfuscation, and malfunctioning voting machines…a true national scandal. And, other than a few red faces, I am not aware of any reporters, editors or broadcasters being let go for their uncritical acceptance of the Bush administration’s lies leading up to the Iraq war. Even the worst offender, Judith Miller of the New York Times, whose erroneous stories of WMDs were fed to her by the discredited Iraqi dissident Chalabi, was not fired, even after the New York Time’s apologized for her work.

The axe fell at CBS over the National Guard documents for one reason—CBS is trying to make nice with the Bush administration. No one was fired over the other missed stories because it is not in the media’s interest to do so. They would have to make nice to the American people. As long as ratings are good, what would be the gain in that?

It is not in the media’s interest to tell the American people that there are still unexplained gaps in Bush’s National Guard records, forged memos or not. No, it is almost never in the media’s interest to anger the administration, which means it is often not in their interest to report the truth.

The greatest challenge progressives and liberals face over the next few years is figuring how to bring the truth to the people in places like Paducah, Kentucky and Laramie, Wyoming and Selma, Alabama. Their hometown newspapers are more than likely conservative. The churches that they attend every Sunday are conservatively oriented. And, the television or radio news they watch and listen to is either the “How high should we jump?” networks or the rabid Right cable stations.

How do we break into the Red State enclave with the truth? We did learn a valuable lesson from the Right, which has spent the last three decades building a communications infrastructure, or “echo chamber,” with Think Tanks, cable TV programming and radio talk shows. But we don’t have three decades to catch up, and with the damage being done by the Busheviks growing daily, we need a media plan, and we need it quick

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Temporarily Out Of Order

I have had some upheavels in my life the past couple of weeks, hence, the lack of postings. I will be back ranting and raving like a blind man swatting flies with a baseball bat very soon. Check back!