22 December, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Mwah.  Brain fried from day of reading about health care reform shenanigans.  Well, that and continuing to read about acoustics while watching a bunch of crime shows on teevee, and then fighting holiday shoppers so I could get some kibble at the grocery store, and in the midst of this who should show up but a very late Aunty Flow?

So the energy, it is lacking.  I can't even whip up a suitable cackle when I see something this blisteringly stupid:
Human Events, a relatively prominent right-wing magazine, selects a "Conservative of the Year" ever December. In its new issue, the publication extends the honor to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The article that accompanies the award was written by none other than John Bolton, the man Bush/Cheney tapped to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

It's a strikingly silly piece, characterizing Cheney as a powerful political force, striking fear in the hearts of the president, his team, the media, and the political establishment. Bolton characterizes the failed former V.P. as a champion of all that is good and right -- you know, stuff like torture -- which has made Cheney the victim of mean Democrats and journalists, who've made "assaults on his character, his judgment and his performance in office."
Cheney's quiet, inner-directed motivation is simply impervious to the attacks orchestrated against him by the Chicago machine-style politicians at the White House, a fact also plainly visible to his fellow citizens. And it is yet another important reason to have confidence that Cheney's solid policy analysis will yet prevail in the national political arena. Of course he is the conservative of the year!
The same piece, by the way, insists that Cheney may be reviled by the insider types, but outside of D.C., Americans appreciate the former vice president's background as "a very experienced, very dedicated patriot." (There's ample evidence to the contrary.)

The article ran in print, which made it difficult for Bolton to dot the i's with little hearts.

But stepping back from this reality-bending love letter, it's worth noting the larger context -- the fact that the "Conservative of the Year" is a wildly unpopular, almost clownish former vice president, who pops up on Hannity and Limbaugh from time to time, does not speak well of the state of conservative/Republican politics.

No, it really doesn't.  And if I had more vim and vigor right now, I'd be jumping up and down laughing my ass off.   This is funnier than if they'd chosen Sarah Palin.

And Cheney, proving his creds as Con o' the Year, struts his stimulus stupidity:
Today, Human Events named former Vice President Dick Cheney the “conservative of the year,” publishing a laudatory essay on Cheney by former UN ambassador John Bolton. “Cheney knows that the personal attacks on him, as offensive as they are, in reality constitute stark evidence that Obama and his supporters are simply unable to match him in the substantive policy debate,” wrote Bolton. But in an accompanying interview with Human Events Editors Tom Winter and Jed Babbin, Cheney demonstrated that he doesn’t want to actually engage in a “substantive policy debate” by claiming that there haven’t been “any results” from President Obama’s stimulus package...

They're broken records, all stuck in the same groove.  How very pathetic.

So, John Bolton hearts Cheney, but it seems the American public at large doesn't heart the Bush/Cheney years at all:
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that Americans are entering 2010 with a negative view of the events of the past decade, which was largely marked by President Bush’s tenure from 2001-2009:
According to the poll, a combined 58% said the decade was either “awful” or “not so good,” 29% said it was fair, and just 12% said it was either “good” or “great.” [...]
Asked what they thought had the greatest negative impact on America this past decade, 38% cited the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 23% picked the mortgage and housing crisis, 20% said the Iraq war, 11% chose the stock market crash, and 6% said Hurricane Katrina.
But 37% said it lost ground on the environment, 46% said it lost ground on health and well being, 50% said it lost ground on peace and national security, 54% said lost ground on the nation’s sense of unity, 55% said it lost ground in treating others with respect, 66% said it lost ground on moral values, and a whopping 74% said it lost ground on economic prosperity.
I may have to revise my opinion of the intelligence of the majority of the American public.  I was afraid far more than 12% would've rated the Bush years the bestest ever, but it appears my fears were unfounded.  Good on yer, my fellow Americans.

And for your reward, thee shall have a good laugh at Bush's expense:

A self-styled Nevada codebreaker convinced the CIA he could decode secret terrorist targeting information sent through Al Jazeera broadcasts, prompting the Bush White House to raise the terror alert level to Orange (high) in December 2003, with Tom Ridge warning of "near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experience on September 11," according to a new report in Playboy.


The man who prompted the December 2003 Orange alert was Dennis Montgomery, who has since been embroiled in various lawsuits, including one for allegedly bouncing $1 million in checks during a Caesars Palace spree. His former lawyer calls him a "habitual liar engaged in fraud."

Working out of a Reno, Nevada, software firm called eTreppid Technologies, Montgomery took in officials in the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology and convinced them that technology he invented -- but could not explain -- was pulling terrorist-produced "bar codes" from Al Jazeera television broadcasts. Using his proprietary technology, those bar codes could be translated into longitudes and latitudes and flight numbers. Terrorist leaders were using that data to direct their compatriots about the next target.

But Montgomery's "technology" could not be reproduced, and the Playboy piece explains how he fell out of favor after word of what was going on spread in the CIA:
The federal government was acting on the Al Jazeera claims without even understanding how Montgomery found his coordinates. "I said, 'Give us the algorithms that allowed you to come up with this stuff.' They wouldn't even do that," says the first officer. "And I was screaming, 'You gave these people fucking money?'" ... 
A former CIA official went through the scenario with me and explained why sanity finally won out. First, Montgomery never explained how he was finding and interpreting the bar codes. How could one scientist find the codes when no one else could? More implausibly, the scheme required Al Jazeera's complicity. At the very least, a technician at the network would have to inject the codes into video broadcasts, and every terrorist operative would need some sort of decoding device. What would be the advantage of this method of transmission?
A branch of the French intelligence services helped convince the Americans that the bar codes were fake. The CIA and the French commissioned a technology company to locate or re-create codes in the Al Jazeera transmission. They found definitively that what Montgomery claimed was there was not. Quietly, as far as the CIA was concerned, the case was closed. The agency turned the matter over to the counterintelligence side to see where it had gone wrong.
Former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend defended the use of Montgomery's "intelligence" in an interview with Playboy, telling the magazine, "It didn't seem beyond the realm of possibility. We were relying on technical people to tell us whether or not it was feasible. I don't regret having acted on it."
Excuse me while I channel Stephen Colbert for a moment: "The Bush regime - big bloody buffoons, or the biggest bloody buffoons?"

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