Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dead-eye Dick gets lawyer

Can satire keep up with reality of New American Century?
GI asks Halliburton's Dick Cheney "any options for my buddy?"

TEXAS lawyer and landowner Harry Whittington was reported to be "in a stable condition" this morning, after being shot in the face neck and upper chest by US Vice President Dick Cheney. The vice president was hunting quail (not Dan Quayle?), using a Perazzi 28-guage shotgun loaded with birdshot..
Whittington had walked away and was returning when he was hit at a range of thirty yards.

The shooting happened on Saturday, February 11, but news was not released until 2pm Eastern Standard Time the following day. Secret service men refused to allow local law enforcement near to interview the vice president.

People my age may have been reminded by this incident of a Hunting Song recorded by Tom Lehrer nearly half a century ago, inspired by a trend he noted in rising shooting accident statistics:

I always will remember,
'Twas a year ago November,
I went out to hunt some deer
On a mornin' bright and clear.
I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow,
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

I was in no mood to trifle,
I took down my trusty rifle
And went out to stalk my prey.
What a haul I made that day.
I tied them to my fender,
and I drove them home somehow,
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

The law was very firm,
itTook away my permit,
The worst punishment I ever endured.
It turned out there was a reason,
Cows were out of season,
And one of the hunters wasn't insured.

People ask me how I do it,
And I say, "There's nothin' to it,
You just stand there lookin' cute,
And when something moves, you shoot!"
and there's ten stuffed heads in my trophy room right now,
Two game wardens,
seven hunters,
and a pure-bred Guernsey cow.

Like his boss in the White House, the patriotic Mr.Cheney missed the opportunity of doing his shooting in the Vietnam war. Though classified on May 19, 1965 as 1A "available for service", he obtained a reclassification 3-A and his fifth draft deferment after his daughter was born. The future Defense Secretary said he had "other priorities than military service".

Maybe others who did serve will wish they'd thought of that, but after this incident they could consider that had Dick Cheney been drafted US casualties might have been higher.

Since then Cheney served as the Secretary of Defense from March 1989 to January 1993 under President George H. W. Bush. He directed Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East. In 1991 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for "preserving America's defenses at a time of great change around the world."

Cheney has had a distinguished business career outside politics too. Well not quite outside. In Janauary 1993, after the Democrats came back to the White House, he joined the American Enterprise Institute, and from 1995-2000 he was chairman and chief executive officer of Halliburton. While he was in charge the number of Halliburton subsidiaries in offshore tax havens increased from 9 to 44. Meanwhile, Halliburton went from paying $302 million in company taxes in 1998 to getting an $85 million tax refund in 1999.

As CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney lobbied to lift U.S. sanctions against Iran and Libya, saying they hurt business and failed to stop terrorism. He also sat on the Board of Directors of Procter & Gamble, Union Pacific, and EDS. In 1997 together with Donald Rumsfeld and others, he founded the "Project for the New American Century," a think tank whose aim is to "promote American global leadership". He was also part of the board of adviser of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) before becoming Vice President. This is the "think tank" that was matchmaker between the previously antagonistic Bush oil interests and Zionist Lobby, arguing for aggresssive US weight behind Israel's war party.

Vice President Cheney is estimated to have between $30 million and $100 million to his name, largely from his time with Halliburton. The Texas-based company was granted a $7 billion no-bid contract for reconstruction in Iraq, where it also has military contracts, and this has attracted attention from US government auditors, the media and political opponents. Vice President Cheney has cleverly avoided the "conflict of interest" accusations by getting his continued payments from Halliburton insured, so they are not adversely affected if the company's fortunes fluctuate.

Halliburton and its Kellog Brown Root subsidiary are active in Britain, with contracts ranging from NHS computerisation to Plymouth Naval dockyard, and army tank transporters to Ealing council's dustcarts. Unlike the United States, where its offices had a visit from the FBI, the company's pricing here has not been challenged by officialdom.

Opponents accusing Cheney of following policies that indirectly subsidize the oil industry and major government contractors, say he strongly influenced the decision to go to war in Iraq. The vice president is also the leading proponent within the Bush administration of the right of US forces and agencies to use torture as part of the "War on Terror". He lobbied Congress to exempt the CIA from Senator John McCain's proposed anti-torture bill. Among Halliburton's contracts was the construction of cages at Guantanamo bay.

Getting back to Tom Lehrer, maybe Cheney would provide a subject for satire, except the singer has not been writing songs the way he used to. It's not that he has mellowed with age or come to respect those in authority. Quite the reverse. "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, " Lehrer said a few years ago.

As for the present: "I'm not tempted to write a song about George W.Bush. I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them."

Word about Whittington

Lest we thought Vice President Cheney went shooting in the woods with any old lawyer, I looked up Harry Whittington in Wikipedia. Seems he may be a bit of a liberal by Texas Republican standards, having voiced doubts about the use of the death penalty in the state, especially to mentally retarded prisoners.

He is a major land owner in Travis County, with property amounting to at least $11 million. Beginning in 2000, he has been fighting a legal case over the eminent domain seizure of a city block of his property in Austin, Texas, which the city wants to use to build a parking garage. Although he has been successful so far in court (the Texas Supre Court refused to consider the case, effectively ruling in his favor), the city went ahead and built the garage anyway. Depending on the final outcome of the trial, it is unclear what will become of the parking garage or if ownership of the land would revert to Whittington.

He is also the current chairman of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, a position he was appointed to by George Dubya when governor of Texas. Whittington was named presiding officer of the Funeral Service Commission after a major shakeup of the agency in 1999. His board reluctantly agreed to pay $50,000 as part of the settlement to end the two year-old Funeralgate case, in which Jewish graves were desecrated and the corpses left in the woods to be eaten by wild pigs.. The company involved in the Menorah Gardens scandal, Service Corporation International, was later awarded a no-bid contract to count and collect corpses in Louisana after Hurricane Katrina.

Try putting those images in a cartoon.



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