Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blog #67: the Passing of “Deep Throat”

Friday morning is blog writing morning. And as the week ends the news is kind of sad. Primarily it marks the passing of Mark Felt, at one time the number two man at the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, and the man referred to as “deep throat” who confirmed information about the Watergate break-in and other Nixonian abuses to Bob Woodward whose stories with partner Carl Bernstein exposed the criminality of the Nixon presidency, and which led finally to the beginning of impeachment proceedings, followed by the Nixon resignation.

Among Nixon apologists far and wide Felt is thought of as a traitor, but to those of us who honor honesty in government he is a hero without peer. It should be pointed out that he did not feed information to Woodward, according to their story of Watergate, All the President’s Men. Rather he either confirmed or denied what the two had otherwise uncovered in their investigations. To Nixon apologists this was disloyalty to the highest degree. But the man was in law enforcement. What should he do when he is a witness to crimes committed by the president of our country and his closest aides? Should he really shut his eyes and keep his mouth shut? Or should he take some kind of role in its exposure?

Imagine for one minute if Felt had not been confirming information for Woodward as he and Bernstein pursued their quarry. If there had been no “deep throat” Richard Nixon might well have gone through his presidency unscathed, and emerged a hero. Fortunately Felt did confirm and/or deny the facts in their stories, and he ended up being the guiding light which helped to steer the two reporters through the dark recesses of the Nixon labyrinth, allowing them to finally shine the light of truth on Nixon’s excesses. Let us take the hats we no longer wear off to the memory of Mark Felt, and thank him for his courageous contribution in helping expose the criminality which was the underlying signature of the Nixon regime.

Ironically Felt himself was convicted in 1980 of authorizing nine illegal break ins to the homes of those related to the Weather Underground. Ronald Reagan later gave Felt a presidential pardon.
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What a sweet world it is when a majority of our citizens vote not from fear, but from choice. They voted for Change, rather than a continuation of the incompetence which was the signature of the Bush/Cheney regime. Choice! + Change! = Confidence!!! How sweet it is!

What a refreshing change to see the incoming president selecting his cabinet appointments because of their skill, intelligence and qualifications, rather than their ideology. Who can know what the future will bring? But I do know that I, and I suspect this applies to the rest of the 53% of you who cast your vote for Barack Obama, are facing the future with a high level of faith and hope, and with confidence not fear.

What a pleasure watching the news is these days. My television is tuned to CNN except when NBA basketball is on. CNN does seem to go out of their way to be fair, unlike the Fox News Channel which unblushingly presents the news through a prism of the Right, and MSNBC, which these days seems to be representing the Left. Back when the Bush Administration was running up to the invasion of Iraq I couldn’t bear to watch any news channel, because I knew that all, including CNN, were forced to present White House handouts as both news and fact. And it was all too clear as to just where that run up was headed.

In previous columns we discussed the average president’s penchant for playing around with foreign policy to the detriment of the country. Why this should be is beyond me, but obviously it runs rampant? I’m not writing this because I’m afraid that Barack Obama’s presidency will fall into this trap. Mr. Obama seems far too sharp to go there, and his appointment of Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State was a clear indication that he will be focussing on our domestic economic problems, leaving the foreign policy to the purview of Ms. Clinton. This is a very positive sign, and relieves any possible worry that Obama will fall for the weaknesses of those who preceded him by concentrating on aggression through foreign policy rather than the well-being of the home front.

However, this is not enough. The Bush administration, including vice president Cheney, should be held accountable for the various bizarre procedures they took that undermined the traditions and the very moral fiber of our nation. Like having the N.S.A. intercept and read the emails of American citizens without first obtaining a court warrant. Of what use are laws if they are not enforced. Take torture for another instance. Intelligent regimes reject torture as a method of extracting information from suspects not only for humanitarian reasons (it is morally wrong to commit another human being to torture). They also reject it so that their own soldiers who are captured won’t have the same techniques used on them. And finally, they reject it because the information which results from torture is often times not accurate. Human beings under stress will say anything to stop the pain.

And where in the description of the CIA’s interrogation tactics does it point out that this method of handling high interest prisoners was taken from a navy study of Chinese Communist interrogating procedures used against American airmen. Imagine fashioning an interrogation program based on a Communist developed procedure. Does that sound like the American way to you?

Just about every twenty years this country has engaged in a major war, dubbed a “president’s” war, wars which we invariably lose because there was no real attempt to go all out and take the necessary measures which might have ensured victory. To really win a major conflagration the country would have to reinstall a draft to supply the army, navy and marines with adequate personnel, and install rationing on the home front to fairly distribute those items which would become scarce during a protracted war.

But wars that presidents start for reasons other than that we were attacked are seldom won, because most often they were not in the interests of the people we were supposedly fighting for. Dwight Eisenhower later admitted that the US never held the elections in South Vietnam that were called for by the Geneva Accords, the treaty that ended the French/IndoChina war, because according to his own estimate 80% of the South Vietnamese population would have voted for Uncle Ho, as they affectionately referred to the venerable Ho Chi Minh. Of course, we Americans were never told that. Lyndon Baines Johnson who escalated President Kennedy’s advisors into a full scale war was the one to give this kind of warfare a name. He bragged that in Vietnam we were fighting a “guns and butter” war, alluding to the fact that in World War II people gave up delicacies like butter for the war effort, using vegetable margarine instead, but during Vietnam the people would never notice the war except as stories on the nightly news. The war was considered entertainment on the nightly news until the Viet Cong and its allies embarked on the Tet offensive, the ferocity of which made the American public realize for the first time that the South Vietnamese government we were supporting had little support in the cities or countryside.

The United States lost the Vietnam war and had to pull out of the country in haste, and the city that was known as Saigon is now named Ho Chi Minh city. The Korean War, twenty years before, had concluded with the Chinese army entering the fray and chasing General Douglas MacArthur back to the 38th parallel from whence the conflagration began. As yet there is no solution in sight for Iraq, but at least after Jan. 20th the country will be led by a president who recognizes the initial folly of our invasion, and who will be working tirelessly to remove our troop from Iraq.

But what is necessary for the future of our nation and the peace and prosperity of its citizens are safeguards which must be put into place to prevent future presidents from veering off into directions like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. For many years we operated on the rule that we would not attack first, but only respond if attacked. In the run up to World War II although our sympathies were with Great Britain and Europe, we did not actually enter the war formally until we were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

This tradition was ceremoniously dumped as we invaded an Iraq which was absolutely no threat to the US, except in the twisted minds of our leadership. The wars in Korea and Vietnam were entered into because our “best and brightest” believed that should the Communist insurgency succeed other far east countries would fall like dominoes. Of course, our stalemate in Korea and defeat in Vietnam did not bring on the falling of regimes throughout the region. The Domino Theory was just another twisted, arcane pipe dream of our “best and brightest” after all.

Many people consider George Bush’s obsession with Saddam Hussein resulted from intelligence that Hussein was planning the assassination of his father during a trip to Kuwait. As commendable as such feelings may be, few would give that as sufficient reason to invade a nation that was of no threat to us. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the Trade Towers and the Pentagon, Bush’s anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke reported during a 60 Minutes interview that Bush had ordered him to look for a link between the attacks and Saddam Hussein, even though he had found no connection. This was in sharp contrast to Clarke reporting that his warnings the summer before the 9/11 attacks of what he saw as a major threat from Al Qaeda and that they should have discussions, the Bush administration’s reaction was tepid. But once the attacks occurred the administration clung to every straw, real or imagined, it could cling to in trying to link the attacks to Hussein, and thereby justify the up coming Iraq invasion.
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Here’s to the bands and musicians who have demanded that their music not be used to harass prisoners. What kind of government have we become that would use overly loud music to try and break people’s spirits?
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Speaking of music, Hosannah! According to an article in the Wall Street Journal the recording industry has finally decided to end its practice of suing people who download music. The article By Sarah McBride and Ethan Smith reported that “after years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault as it searches for more effective ways to combat online music piracy.

The music industry has sued 3500 people since 2003, mostly college students who they could blackmail into paying a $3,000 fee rather than fight their case in the courts. In the first case that went to the court the RIAA won a $222,000 judgement against a mother of two named Jammie Thomas. The judge in the case later reversed his ruling and negated the trial, lamenting the high fines the jurors assessed, a six figure fine for having 25 cds online. Also the RIAA’s legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.

Instead of suing those who offer their albums for file sharing, the Recording Industry Association of America said it has plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers making music available online for others to take.

Depending on the agreement, the ISP will either forward the note to customers, or alert customers that they appear to be uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. If the customers continue the file-sharing, they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether. The RIAA said it has agreements in principle with some ISPs, but declined to say which ones. But ISPs, which are increasingly cutting content deals of their own with entertainment companies, may have more incentive to work with the music labels now than in previous years.

The new approach dispenses with one of the most contentious parts of the lawsuit strategy, which involved filing lawsuits requiring ISPs to disclose the identities of file sharers. Under the new strategy, the RIAA would forward its emails to the ISPs without demanding to know the customers' identity.
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We led off last week’s blog with the story about our erstwhile president ducking a couple of shoes during a press conference in Bagdad. To me it was a fitting end to Bush’s Iraq experience, enshrouded as it was in an air of poetic justice. Below are opinions of several other Houstonians commenting on the story in the Houston Chronicle. The letters appear in the order the Chronicle placed them:

Not hero or heel
Regarding Tuesday's Page One article "Heel or hero? Iraqis split on shoe-thrower": If I had witnessed the entry into my country of 150,000 foreign troops, seen more than a million of my fellow citizens driven from their native land, observed the destruction of my country's infrastructure and realized that that invasion caused approximately 100,000 attendant deaths, I might feel like slinging something at the perpetrator, too. I would not consider myself a hero or heel — I'm hurt. VINCENT MAGGIO Houston
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What's forgotten
What a paradox! The journalist insults the very man who freed him. Does anyone question what would have happened to him if Saddam Hussein was still running things? No doubt a bullet in the head moments later. How soon they forget. JACK CONNOR Cypress
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A hand to thrower
Bravo to the Iraqi shoe-thrower. I think he did what many people have been wanting to do for the past eight years — and it spoke volumes. What a perfect ending to a perfectly disastrous presidency. K. BERNSTEIN Houston
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The list grows
It would appear that to his list of failures President George W. Bush may add restoring honor and dignity to the office of the president. JEFFREY BEAN Kingwood
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Service was scary
Much has been made of the shoe-throwing incident, but I have not heard a word of the lackluster performance of the president's protectors. That the guy got one shoe off was disturbing, but both shoes? After the incident, one Secret Service agent tentatively (he seemed to be in no rush) approached President Bush, who waved him off.

Bush is a decent man, so I am sure there will be no penalty for such a pitiful performance by our vaunted Secret Service. It is very scary. It is a long way from the agent who flung himself on the back of John F. Kennedy's limo to take a bullet. HERB MANN Kingwood
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Time for another installment in our greatest hits extolling the Bush administration, to celebrate his waning days in office.

SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008 BLOG #31: The Petraeus Dog and Pony Show
Well the big day came and went. Tuesday was THE Red Letter Day, the day that brought testimony in front of two Senate committees from General David H. Petraeus, the army’s commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, and on Wednesday the two House committees had their turn. The testimony was billed as a progress report, and SURPRISE, SURPRISE!, the “SURGE” has been SUCCESSFUL! However, don’t let your enthusiasm RUN AMOK. The success is VERY, VERY FRAGILE. Like Fred Astaire dancing on egg shells, the general and the ambassador never strayed from the basic Bush message, a continual troop presence is needed in Iraq to continue to provide stability.

And despite polls that show two thirds of Americans feel that the war was a mistake and we should not be there, neither man would entertain ideas of any kind of a drawdown any time soon, nor would or could they even indicate any kind of condition it would take in which the troops could begin returning home. It is quite obvious that during the Bush/Cheney watch there will be no troop reductions. Whether or not the general lived up to his moveon.org nickname of General Betrayus of course, depends on your point of view about the war and the Bush administration. This much is clear, he most certainly did not betray Bush. Far from it, he didn’t waver an iota from Bush’s line. Show just enough success to show the world there has been progress, enough to justify the surge, but not enough for people to get the idea that there could be any kind of meaningful troop reduction, even in a small, limited way, any time soon.

The Democritics who have experienced total failure in their repeated attempts to alter the nation’s war policy (despite the polls) this time around tried questioning our continuing funding the war in the face of Iraq having billions stashed away in various banks throughout the world, its newfound riches thanks to the high price of oil. It turns out Iraq has over thirty billion stashed away in US banks alone, and at least fifty billion in other banks, Germany for one, and yet we US taxpayers are still funding basic Iraq programs, like the training and equipping of its army, the running Iraq’s electric power plants, etc. When senators asked the general and the ambassador when Iraqis might begin paying their share of the expenses, they both said they could understand the senator’s concerns and would press the Iraqi government for answers upon their return. But of course they could and did promise nothing.

All three presidential candidates used their time period for questions to promote their own view of the war. Each potential presidential candidate got a crack at the Iraqi road-show. Republican John McCain, an unblushing believer in the conflict, tried the delicate distinction of approving of the war’s direction while trying to distance himself from the many failed policies of the Bush administration. Senator McCain pointed to the “success” of the surge (which he had called for in advance of its being instituted), but as usual warned against “cutting and running” as that would endanger the stability of the entire operation. Senator Hillary Clinton pointed out that recent outbreaks of fighting in Basra and Bagdad call into question once again the wisdom of the strategy, and asked how long such a failed policy should be carried on before some kind of change of course is called for? Obama also stressed the lack of progress and the futility of the operation, and reiterated that upon election he would take steps to remove American forces by seeking talks with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran, to help stabilize the region so we could leave.

In short nothing has changed. The situation in Iraq, according to Petraeus, is “fragile and reversible,” and he sees absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. His basic recommendation after the surge is drawn down would leave 140,000 American troops in Bagdad, he didn’t put a time limit on it, but it could quite possibly be forever. After all, we still have troops in Germany and in Korea, and bases in Japan. So why not Iraq? Besides such a long term military commitment insures the future relevance and power of the military. The only possible deterrent to a Republican outcome is the possibility that with over sixty-six percent of the American people seeing the economy as a priority and our Iraq involvement as a mistake, that these two-thirds of us just might go to the polls in November and vote the rascals out. We at the Real Little Eddy Blog of course second that motion, and we’ll even offer Senators Clinton and Obama a campaign slogan, “American Dollars for the American People! For a Real Change.”

A communist government uses its dictatorial powers supposedly for the benefit of the workers, the masses. A fascist state uses its dictatorial powers for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Both types of governments attempt to make a religion 0f the military, as the military is instrumental in keeping those governments in power, as well as extending their influence to other parts of the world. The Bush attempt to portray General Petraeus as all wise and all knowing, as well as the way it has conducted the war in general, substituting an understaffed military with highly paid civilian private contractors certainly puts the Bush administration in the realm of the fascist state. The various illegal forays into the gathering of information on American citizens under the pretense of trolling for terrorists, drives it even deeper into the corner with the likes of Hitler and Stalin. However, there is one characteristic of the Bush/Cheney governance that has probably saved our country from completely going over the edge. At least so far. And that is the extreme measure of incompetence which has characterized their entire operation. God help us, if they had any measure of efficiency to go along with their ideas.
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Before we leave the Petraeus/Crocker dog and pony show, I would like to point you to Dick Cavett’s caustic assessment in Saturday morning’s NYTimes online. Cavett minces no words as he dissects both gentlemen’s language like a middle school English teacher on steroids. Cavett sums up the general thusly: “Petraeus uses “challenge” for a rich variety of things. It covers ominous developments, threats, defeats on the battlefield and unfound solutions to ghastly happenings. And of course there’s that biggest of challenges, that slapstick band of silent-movie comics called, flatteringly, the Iraqi “fighting forces.” (A perilous one letter away from “fighting farces.”) The ones who are supposed to allow us to bring troops home but never do.”

“But I must hand it to his generalship. He did say something quite clearly and admirably and I am grateful for his frankness. He told us that our gains are largely imaginary: that our alleged “progress” is “fragile and reversible.” (Quite an accomplishment in our sixth year of war.) This provides, of course, a bit of preemptive covering of the general’s hindquarters next time that, true to Murphy’s Law, things turn sour again.

But Cavett saved his most vituperative cut for the General’s hapless sidekick: “Back to poor Crocker. His brows are knitted. And he has a perpetually alarmed expression, as if, perhaps, he feels something crawling up his leg.

"Could it be he is being overtaken by the thought that an honorable career has been besmirched by his obediently doing the dirty work of the tin-pot Genghis Khan of Crawford, Texas? The one whose foolish military misadventure seems to increasingly resemble that of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn? Not an apt comparison, I admit. Custer only sent 258 soldiers to their deaths.”

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Saturday, May 17, 2008: Blog #36: Bush Going Down in Flames

Surprise, surprise. Our most revered leader, our resident president and would-be ruler George W. Bush, like the ex-Air National Guard member that he is, has evidently decided to go down in flames of glory as described in the Army Air Force song “Wild Blue Yonder.” Never mind that his approval rating among the American people is at its lowest point in the history of presidential approval ratings, at 28% (even during the height of Watergate Nixon’s ratings never dipped below 33%), and with 72% of Americans feeling he has taken us down the wrong road. I guess it was in the spirit of “what have I got left to lose?” that the illustrious Mr. B. denounced those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” — a remark that was widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, who has argued that the United States should talk directly with countries like Iran and Syria. Mr. Bush obviously prefers emulating the reaction of the ostrich, hiding one’s head in the sand while pretending that all is well in his immediate world, rather than negotiating with whatever are the powers that be.

In a speech celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, our leader of extremely low esteem said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush was heard to say. He went on to rant, “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” He was alluding to Senator William E. Borah, an Idaho Republican noted for his powers of oratory and his isolationist views.

In 1938, when Hitler was gobbling up parts of Europe, Borah expressed admiration for him, and in 1939 he did indeed lament that he had not been able to talk to Hitler before the Nazi invasion of Poland. “We have an obligation to call this what it is" Bush ranted on, “the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

In the lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II in making the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis. Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House was quick to point out that his remarks were not aimed at the senator, though nobody believed that and they created a political firestorm in Washington nonetheless. The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”
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And that is how it all lays out on Saturday, December 20th, 2008. Only 31 days left until liberation. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

The Real Little Eddy

2 comments:

Meagan said...

Mr. Badeaux,

I am writing on behalf of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife's Folkways Recording label. We are in the process of drafting a blurb for our website on your American Guitar album. We are wondering if you have a preference on how we make reference to your name as well as what historical events to mention that you have been involved in. Thank you for your feedback and happy holidays!

Meagan Hughes
meg8202@aol.com

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