Archive | July, 2008

Borat visits Southern Methodist University

21 Jul

A new twist turned the fabric of sleazy good ol’ boy Texas politics last Sunday.  Our dearly beloved state’s most recent dirty laundry was exposed to the world at large courtesy of the Sunday Times of London.

Perhaps you’ve forgotten that George Bush is president.  I have tried to, but he keeps trying to build a $250 million presidential library at Laura Bush’s alma mater, Southern Methodist University.   In addition to the controversies of whether or not the institute will be a pro-Bush propaganda outfit not subject to academic review and whether George W. Bush’s views on torture, war, and human rights violate Methodist teaching, Bush pal Stephen Payne has put the George W. Bush Presidential Library in hot water again.

The Sunday Times sent a reporter and hired an exiled Kazakh politician (Eric Dos) to pretend to be lobbyists for the former president of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev.  Askar Akayev served as the first democratic president of Kyrgyzstan but later became a dictator.  He was overthrown in the Tulip Revolution of 2005 after stealing the presidential election.

Two years ago, Eric Dos used Stephen Payne, a Houston lobbyist, businessman, and fixer, to improve the dictator of Kazakhstan’s image by arranging Dick Cheney’s visit to Kazakhstan in May 2006.  Cheney praised Kazakhstan’s democracy and denounced Russia as undemocratic despite the fact that both countries are equally bad on freedom.  Pay Stephan Payne money, and Dick Cheney will say what you want him to say about your nation.

Now using a new country in the same neighborhood, the Sunday Times taped Stephan Payne promising the same kind of treatment for Kyrgyzstan in exchange for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in donations to the George W. Bush Presidential Library.  He could arrange a meeting with “maybe” Dick Cheney and definitely Condoleezza Rice.  For $600,000 to $750,000 (with $200,000 in donations to the presidential library), Stephan Payne can rehabilitate the image of your post-Soviet kleptocracy.  Now a congressional committee is investigating whether or not donations to presidential library, which are unrestricted and can come from foreigners unlike donations to presidential campaigns, have a corrupting influence on American politics.

Ain’t America great?  Even a foreigner can get access to a president…. if you know who to pay off.

P.S.  Clinton family supplemental!

  • Bill Clinton pardoned a multimillionaire tax cheat who ran away to Switzerland after his wife donated $450,000 to the Clinton presidential library.

Because the Constitution isn’t a Special Interest

10 Jul

“When the President does it, that means it is not illegal”
Richard Nixon

In 2005, President George W. Bush’s illegal program to spy on American’s phone calls and e-mails without a judge’s warrant was exposed by the New York Times. The President clearly and unequivocally broke the laws that protected Americans’ privacy since the dark days of Watergate when it was shown that Richard Nixon routinely spied on innocent Americans and political enemies. This program was ruled unconstitutional and illegal by the courts.

Today the United States Senate overwhelmingly voted to legalize the President’s program and grant immunity to the telecommunication companies like AT&T which broke the law in cooperated with the National Security Agency (Qwest did not cooperate). Dozens of lawsuits will now be dismissed, and we may never know the extent of the illegal spying that occurred. I suppose the Constitution doesn’t win many votes these days (even from a particular Illinois senator).

Has the United States fallen so far in thirty-five years with respect to the rule of law and the Constitution? Has 9/11 permitted brazen lawbreaking and lying by the executive branch and the undoing our Constitution? Does it even matter that Congress is controlled by the Democrats to give their “enemy” George Bush his power trip?

On August 8, the anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, a left-wing and right-wing coalition of groups will be holding an online fundraiser “moneybomb” to hold the politicians accountable for their crimes against freedom.

Because this isn’t about liberalism or conservatism or about politics. It’s about the one thing that holds this strange, diverse, and fascinatingly interesting Union of fifty states together.

Don’t we owe it a favor or two?

Links
Glenn Greenwald – On Telecom Immunity

Bhatany Report – Issue V: Civil Liberties, Torture, and the Constitution

Issue XVII: Rumble in Rhodesia

5 Jul

The first and only president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, cruised to an opponent-less win in the Zimbabwean presidential runoff. Despite beating the head in of his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, and ruining the economy with an inflation rate of one million percent, old man Mugabe will stay president for another term.

What’s the story behind the story?

The long Rhode
Rhodesia was a British colony named after Cecil Rhodes, the great British imperialist who carved up Africa for the glory of the Queen. As the OG of the blood diamond trade, Rhodes started up De Beers Mining Company with mines in South Africa. In his quest for more mining profits, he moved north into present-day Zimbabwe bringing British settlers to colonize the land. And, perhaps feeling bad about his dirty money, he gave the world the coveted Rhodes Scholarships.

Rhodesia, like South Africa until recently, was a racist apartheid state where a minority of white settlers owned all and governed all of the land. When the British government in the 1960s started pushing the colony towards democracy for all, Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence rather than follow instructions from the motherland.
Vowing that “not in a thousand years” would blacks rule Rhodesia, Ian Smith fought against the black majority and a guerrilla war against his government.

He lasted fifteen years. His main opponent? A certain Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party. Mugabe’s gang took over in 1980 when the new nation of Zimbabwe was born. Bob Marley played at the independence ceremony. Nice…. right?

Outstaying his welcome
Mugabe is a classic example of an independence hero and first president who stays around too long and forgets the classy exit after a term or two à la Washington or Mandela. With a grudge against the British, his veterans and he run the whites off their farmlands to redistribute the land to the black majority. I don’t disagree with land reform and redistribution, but in the process he depopulated the one population able to run large farming estates. Mugabe also still accuses anyone who opposes him of being traitors in league with the British settlers (most of whom have emigrated). Now even his lifelong supporters can’t get food to eat.

Now with a basketcase economy, international sanctions, and pariah status comes the presidential election of 2008. The Movement for Democratic Change ran Morgan Tsivangirai hoping to defeat Mugabe in the first round while Mugabe was still deluded that the people still loved him. Tsivangirai probably landslided Mugabe (who was caught off guard) and even despite all the votes his party stole (in the countryside where 80% of people live and Zanu-PF is strongest), Tsivangirai beat Mugabe 48% to 45%, with the rest going to another opponent. The opposition won a majority in Parliament for the first time.

The election results took days to announce, and Mugabe apparently decided to accept defeat but his generals told him to stay because they were afraid they would all go to jail for their crimes. Mugabe delayed the second round until he could beat up enough of the opposition and intimidate enough people that Morgan Tsivangirai quit the second round knowing the vote would be a joke. Mugabe won without an opponent.

And where were Africa’s leaders? The regional power, South Africa, sat on its hands during this multi-month crisis doing nothing. The always unimpressive, AIDS-denying President Thabo Mbeki never took charge on the issue and let it fester into this pathetic sham election while his political enemy Jacob Zuma showed much more foresight months ago. The African Union allowed Mugabe to attend their meeting this week.

Thabo Mbeki now says that “we need to move with speed” with Zimbabwe now. He wasn’t in a rush before. I guess he’s never spent one billion dollars for bread before.

Links
Washington PostAnonymous report of life in Zimbabwe
Guardian – Video of election stealing

  • Who is worst dictator you have never heard of? Slate.com has the answer.
  • One of the most repulsive creatures in American politics died, Jesse Helms. Jesse Helms, of North Carolina. He battled the gays, the women, the communists, and the liberals. We all owe a debt to him.
  • Unless you have been under a rock, you may have heard that the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that individuals have a right to bear arms in the first ruling on the Second Amendment since 1939. And if you were a privileged Bhatany Report reader, you would have known this case was coming because I mentioned it in November.
  • My favorite election blog has changed locations and is now at www.narconews.com/thefield