Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Elmer Gantry

This is not your father's Republican party.

I don't know what the Republicans stand for these days. They used to claim to be the party of smaller, less intrusive government, fiscal restraint & responsibility, personal accountability, defender of the military, and states' autonomy on personal issues. They believed in habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights. But over the last 12 years their actions, incredibly, demonstrate the opposite intent on all these issues. And they are incapable of civilized, constructive dialogue about any national issue, preferring to spread fear and hate with clever, meaningless, mean-spirited sound bites. And like the German Reich of the 1930s (as well as many other autocratic repressive governments in history) they angrily brand a dissenting voice as being in bed with some simplistic two-dimensional enemy, like the fictional superhero villains. They only speak in negative terms, never in hopeful possibilities.

I hear people defend the party, calling the current bunch in charge NeoCons, a temporary fringe religious bunch who are not true Republicans.

But the name on the door is still "RNC" (and if you want a taste of their positive message, check this out).

But trying times can make strange bedfellows. I find myself reading some sane, constructive conservatives like George Will. I actually listen to Pat Buchanan (though I don't agree with most of his opinions, they are well reasoned). And Lou Dobbs has clearly turned a corner

Toward the former, Mr. Will, I recently read a column of his where he quite astutely separates and analyzes two flavors of modern conservatism (I believe there are three). He uses the Mark Foley debacle as a backdrop.

Speaking of Foley, I actually read a female rightie columnist trying to minimize the Foley thing by saying we have to "separate true children" from teenagers, and that men between the ages of 16 & 18 at their "muscular peak", as if that explained everything (others have made similar arguments, though not to this extent). So much for black & white right and wrong. Equivocation and nuance where it serves us. Definitive clarity where it does.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Meet Chris Hedges

Every so often a talk host on radio or TV introduces me to a remarkable individual, someone who has the background and experience to honestly and authentically reflect a position. They're usually not a household name due to the fact that their opinions and theories take more than a clever soundbite to impart, but nonetheless they bring a brilliant, enlightened insight on a given subject shared with a laser-like focus.

I heard such an inspired individual on a radio program today, his name is Chris Hedges. This is not a political guy; his wisdom spans many years and many administrations (some progressives, myself included, see Bill Clinton as a guy who had much promise but mainly squandered opportunity). Take a look at this article he wrote, google him to find other info, or look up his books highlighted in the right column of his article. He takes a painfully honest look at war; not just the horrors and waste of it, but also the seductive allure.

One great line:
"We are allowed to taste war's perverse thrill, but spared from seeing war's consequences."

What a powerful, truthful, and moving piece of writing. I'm awestruck........

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

"The Defeat-o-crats"

Of all the colossal blunders and missteps of the current Bush administration, by far the colossal-est is the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a sovereign nation which we knew at the time posed no clear and present danger to the U.S. (in fact one could make a strong argument that due to our destruction of its military capabilities in the Gulf War and the daily patrols of the "no-fly zone" it was one of the world's smallest threats to us). This single act has significantly damaged our country economically, militarily, morally (congress just passed legislation essentially giving the president the ability to spy unchecked on any citizen, to suspend habeas corpus, and to approve torture; can you say alien and sedition?), and diplomatically, perhaps permanently.

This is the first in a series of posts regarding the occupation of Iraq. I thought I'd start with a link to this very well done op-ed piece from yesterday's Washington Post, written by Representative John Murtha. It does a great job of simply laying out the current situation in Iraq, from a 30,000 ft view, with unvarnished facts.

But of course we know rule #2 in the RadCon playbook is to tar & feather the messenger when you don't like the message, and are at a loss to intelligently refute it. So when Rep. Murtha originally came out with his plan months ago on how to start moving in a positive direction in Iraq, rather than have a constructive discussion he was attacked as a "cut-and-runner"; some even implied he was a "coward".

Now I don't know if the man's a saint or a sinner, but let's look at his CV: 37 years in the Marine Corps. Birthday is June 17. 32 years in Congress as a staunch supporter and defender of the military. In fact, he states in that 32 years he's always supported the president on matters of war. Until now. Just like 7 former generals.

The issue is not the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq. The issue is that the meaningless yet clever slogan crowd keeps declaring victory is near and the current course the only right one.

So read the piece, then you decide. Look for more interesting links in the next few days.

Faith-Based Politics

One of the NUMEROUS developments of the early days of the W administration raising alarm bells was the announcement of the so-called "faith-based initiatives' or the promise to pour billions of dollars into evangelical "christian" organizations. Among the concerns (aside from the obvious assault on the separation of church & state) was the fact that the federal government has a long reputation of spending unaccountably; there would be virtually no meaningful and effective oversight with regard to how the funds were being used. Well, worry no more. As with most promises made by this bunch, this particular one turned out to be boldface pandering to the religious right for political support through two elections.

The wheels have been coming off that bus for a couple of years now as the leaders of this extreme wing are realizing that they were duped along with the rest of us. The only money being doled out generously is to defense contractors in Iraq and elsewhere (nearly $1 trillion over the last 5 years). This hoax was very plainly and thoroughly spelled out in a 60 Minutes interview with a former Bush and "faith-based initiative" supporter, David Kuo, who has a new book (of course) out on the subject. He alleges that only $100M or so of the predestined $8B has materialized so far.

Among the tidbits in the piece:
  • He himself dreamed up an idea "to hold events at taxpayer expense for Republicans in tight races as a way of energizing religious voters". The white house was "thrilled" by the idea.
  • The evangelical "christian" movement, instead of pursuing the promised course of "compassionate conservatism" helping the poor and needy instead relentlessly pushed agendas attacking homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research, and divorce. This on the government dime.
  • Administration staffers frequently ridiculed religious leaders.

One gentleman in the piece alludes to Kuo as "naive" for not recognizing the realities of the political environment, that no one comes away with 100%. But I'd call him naive for believing that the RadCons ever intended to spend one thin dime on the poor.

A side note: If you read the transcript of the interview take the time to scroll down about 3/4 of the way down the page into the reader comments. There is one (entered 3 or 4 times) that is the epitome of righty debate techniques. The writer says "It comes down to a matter of trust and credibility. Since 60 Minutes has been known to fabricate stories in an attempt to manipulate upcoming election results, their journalistic endeavors are seen as tainted and are dismissed as such". And there you have it. State something as an absolute fact (when it is not) then build your case on it. When you can't dipute the facts, simply kill the messenger, and thereby the message. 60 Minutes has been producing award winning journalism for 38 years, and has had only 3 or 4 credible challenges to the complete accuracy of a story in that time; there's no evidence that they're "known to fabricate stories". What the writer is no doubt referring to is the 2004 piece on 60 Minutes II regarding W's AWOL incident from years ago. First, it was on a program that had nothing to do with Don Hewitt's award winning 60 Minutes, other than sharing a name in an attempt to bring credibility to the knockoff show. Second, the underlying facts and assertions of the W AWOL piece were essentially upheld as true. It was one of the documents presented as evidence that was questionable. Lastly, Mr. Kuo was telling the story in his own words, and has a book out with which anyone can verify if CBS was accurately reporting his allegations. How could 60 Minutes be "fabricating" this?

WaPo followup

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ernie Pyle, Iraqi Style

One of the many things lacking in the current media coverage of the occupation of Iraq and it's implied sibling, the so called "war on terror", is the unvarnished factual account of what the hell is going on there. The far left is painting a picture of total and irretrievable chaos, an exponential spiral with no hope. The RadCons are selling "freedom on the march", "with us or agin us", "fight there instead of here", "stay the course", "no cut 'n run" among other meaningless rhetoric. Most serious journalists see the "embeds" as, well, whores!

We have many examples of high placed government officials who have laid out the facts as to the admin's folly, both Republicans and Dems. Then we have a steady stream of officials and retired generals saying the same things. They have no strong political or financial agendum.

Now Time magazine has printed a very interesting letter from a GI, a Marine who's done a tour or two in Iraq. Time claims to have validated the authenticity of this letter, and I have to take them at their word (I had my suspicions when I first read it, it sounds like professional writing). He's probably a Sergeant, or a possibly a Lieutenant. This report is brave, honest, clever, critical, and cynical all at the same time. It is also very well written. But along the way he inadvertantly (or perhaps intentionally) shares some wisdom about taming this hydra, with practical language, and without the tired RadCon rhetoric (note the military is fed up with them). It's interesting that this communication was vetted and released by the Pentagon bureaucracy. Are they trying to tell us something? Perhaps we have the beginning of unvarnished acounts.

Regardless, I love the part about the PITA VIP visits, and of course about Bill O. Of course, given Bill's vast combat experience he always refers to..... Whatever.... Read it, more to come.

Here it is, enjoy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Shut the #@%* Up, Part II

What the hell are Mark Foley's handlers thinking? "I take full responsibility but I'm an alcoholic and I was abused as a teen"? Your life as a public official is over, dude, fade to black. Quit the damage control, the train is totaled. You had your bite at the apple, and you blew it. We don't care how you became a perv. Go deal with your issue, and stop trying to capture headlines. Let Denny McTubby bumble it from here.

Rocky Time of Year

Happy the one, sis..........