Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I believe in a strong, robust executive authority. And the fascism fairy.

American ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzhad says that 2006 will be the “Year of the Police.” In Iraq, that is. He meant it to be reassuring.

Speaking of the Year of the Police, outgoing (thank God) Iraqi interior minister Bayan Jabr says the death squads in police uniform aren’t actually policemen: “Anyone can go to the store and buy a police uniform.”

The UK has been experiencing its own spying crisis, one with more wide-ranging implications than our own. 20 years ago, the security services began blackmailing a top Sinn Fein official, Denis Donaldson, into cooperating with them in ways that haven’t been fully revealed yet, but seem to include the fabrication of a scandal 3 years ago in which Sinn Fein was supposed to have been spying on other parties in Northern Ireland’s self-rule Stormont government, which was promptly abolished and direct rule from London restored. Still a lot of unanswered questions, but this is as good a primer as any other.

Opening sentence to a WaPo story: “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) could barely conceal his anger.” Not exactly man-bites-dog, is it?

Frist is barely concealing his anger about the filibuster of renewal of the “Patriot Act.” At the risk of spoiling the surprise, let me tell you now that the Patriot Act will not expire, that there will instead be a deal for a 3-month extension, that Bush won’t carry out his threat to veto it, and that everyone in the Senate knows it.

On Monday, Condi Rice reacted to the election of Morales in Bolivia, saying “We have good relations with people across the political spectrum in Latin America,” which would be news to Chavez and Castro. But of course the state of relations will be “a matter of behavior.” Theirs, not ours, of course, we’re always perfectly behaved little angels. Also, “The issue for us is will the new Bolivian government govern democratically”. Faithful readers will remember that this is the new standard whereby the US deems democratically elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, to be undemocratic, based on subjective criteria determined not by the people of the country in question, but by the Bush administration.

Many have quoted Cheney saying yesterday, “I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it,” “Either we’re serious about fighting the war on terror or we’re not,” and that the period after Watergate and Vietnam marked “the nadir of the modern presidency in terms of authority and legitimacy,” but he also cited actual examples of what he considers illegitimate limitations on a robust (dictionary definition: “uncompromising and forceful; not subtle; strong and rich in flavor or smell”) executive authority: the War Powers Act, natch, the limitation on the president’s ability to impound funds authorized by Congress, and Iran-Contra – he thinks Reagan had the authority to do all that Iran-Contra stuff. Other examples of the legitimate authority of the presidency: his own secret energy policy task force, and NSA warrantless surveillance. After all, “It’s not an accident that we haven’t been hit in four years.”

Rumsfeld goes to Afghanistan in a surprise photo op (he met with American troops, but, running behind schedule, decided to skip the actual work portion of the trip, a meeting of the Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan staff) (Xinhuanet calls it a “surprised visit to Afghanistan”). Says the US plans to reduce troop levels from 19,000 to 16,000 doesn’t mean fewer troops, because we’re sending in NATO troops. Notice there’s no talk of Afghans taking responsibility for their own security, standing up so that Americans may stand down etc. Says the reduction won’t affect the hunt for bin Laden, which will continue with just as much success. Asked whether the US runs secret prisons in Afghanistan, as has been reported this week, Rummy gave this reassuring response: “Not to my knowledge.”

Where can I get me one of those hats?

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