Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Accountability Modeled?

You have to feel for him, you really do.

Watching Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA) humbly and tearfully confess his crimes and resign his House seat in a public appearance yesterday had to move all but the coldest hearts, even after the angry denials this past summer. Don't get me wrong, this guy committed some of the most egregious betrayals of public trust imaginable, and hopefully his sentence will reflect that. He voted for a war and then profiteered from it handsomely. And I don't know much about the guy or his record in congress outside of the headlines he's grabbed over the last 5 or so months, other than the fact that he's probably not a Rhodes Scholar. For this, one needs to look no further than the transparencies of his crimes, or the fact that he formerly marketed a $600 buck knife illegally sporting the official seal of Congress on his web site.

But something happened yesterday which we have not witnessed in a very long time, to that degree. He took real responsibility, real accountability. He admitted unequivocally that he broke the law and tried to impede an investigation. No excuses, caveats, disclaimers, evasion, spin or defense. No assertions that "it's not a real crime", accusations of prosecutorial persecution or adventurism, no claims of partisan agenda from him or his defenders as we hear from Messrs. DeLay & Libby and their crowd. No claims that "I didn't know what was going on, it was my subordinates" like we hear from the likes of Ken Lay, Dennis Kozlowski and Bernie Evers. Sure, they had the Duke-Stir dead-to-rights, he wasn't going to slip out of that noose too easily. But he didn't have to put himself through the pain and humility of his public apology and admission, with no ambiguity, no gray area. Lighter sentence because of it? Highly unlikely. This guy knows there's a good chance he'll die in prison. He's a cad of the worst sort for sure, but in the end he showed a shred of character. Not a bunch, but more than the larger bunch in D.C.

FOLLOWUP: So what happens now to the people who paid the bribes? That's just a tad illegal as well.

UPDATE: I've changed my mind, this guy is a headcase.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

One Thousand

A grim milestone right here at home.......
(click on illustration for enlarged version)

Not me! But it was....

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dialog Stoppers Redux (new improved version!)

As we enter a more complex yet promising world of intercultural understanding, one aspect of the growing pains comes in the form of that American favorite, politically correct dialog stoppers. You know them; when talking about race, ethnicity, class, defense, crime, and the perennial election trio, Guns, God and Gays, healthy dialogue can be shut down completely with powerful (but usually meaningless) accusations such as "you're a racist", "you're soft on crime by opposing the death penalty", "you support terrorists by criticizing the president, "you don't support the troops", or my favorite, "you're for abortion" (I have yet to meet anyone who is "for" abortion; but we deal with real life, not fantasy). Its the modern sound bite version of "when did you stop beating your wife?", a paradoxical statement that makes us freeze, unwilling to take the risk of continuing our statement thus continuing progress down the path of a social and political pariah.

And so goes this country's skittish relationship with the pronounced majority, the "Christians" of the right. You know them, they address every moral/ethical issue with the punitive sword/shield approach of the pre-Christian Old Testament: Denounce gays, welfare, peacemakers, poverty, tolerance, and mercy. Fear the Almighty, lest ye be smitten!

But these "Christians" (reminiscent of the Inquisition) seem to ignore the New Testament (and the Beatitudes) which encourages not exclusion and fire & brimstone theology but rather a more compassionate approach, one that includes, forgives, heals, promotes peace, tolerance, humility, and which nurtures. I hope we can all strive to be that kind of person, no matter what our religion (if any).

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Wrong Bottle

An unfortunate, dead-on summation of our middle east adventure. And the sad thing is it was so predictable.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hello, New Orleans!

I have been baffled by the comments and eMail I've received from the last post (and since revised update at the end) related to the CBS story about rebuilding New Orleans. My modest little blog doesn't deserve such attention, and perhaps my poor communication skills have contributed to the misunderstandings. I would ask this of people with opinions: read, digest, only then respond. Consider the following:

  • I don't understand how you can make this a partisan issue at this point. The FEMA rescue role is history. How you can make rebuilding a rightie/leftie issue is beyond me. But apparently you try.
  • I love New Orleans, it would crush me to see it go away. And it is unrealistic to expect to relocate 500,000 people in a humanitarian way.
  • There are irresponsible views that you are lumping me in with, like the Kill New Orleans bloggers.
  • I am simply suggesting that we need to look at the reality of this issue: Never before in the history of our country has a major city been completely evacuated, and been rendered so uninhabitable and potentially dangerous.
  • 60 Minutes is one of the most reliable, true journalistic icons of the last 35 years. To continue to trash its near impeccable record because it outed W as a fraud last year on claims (that have been proven true) with bad records is wrong.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Goodbye, New Orleans?

A few days after Katrina devastated the Gulf coast some rightie lawmaker showed the usual rightie sensitivity & judgment and questioned why we should rebuild New Orleans at all. Its a reasonable question, it was just a terrible time for a leader to publicly vocalize it while tens of thousands of people were still stranded. But as the reconstruction dollars begin pouring in the time has probably come to take a long look at the issue, and CBS' 60 Minutes took the first major shot at it last Sunday. In a very poignant and sobering segment Scott Pelley (god he's terrible! Why the hell didn't they let him fade away when they deep-sixed the mid-week faux 60 Minutes?) talks to several officials and experts about the pros and cons of rebuilding this gem of a city. The pros are mostly nostalgic and emotional, the cons chilling. Professor Tim Kusky of St Louis University, an earth sciences and flood control authority, said that in 80-90 years coastal erosion will leave the Big Easy as a bowl in the Gulf, completely surrounded by sea water and a 50 foot levee system. As it is today they estimate that about one third of the city's residents don't plan to return permanently. And its a stark and painful question the ones who plan to return need to face as well (and to a lesser extent those of us who know and love this wonderful place so).

UPDATE: The blogging community (or parts of it) are claiming the entire story to be "discredited" due to speculation as to Prof. Kusky's lack of credentials to make the assertions he did in part of the piece. (The negative passion in some of the comments against 60 Minutes would make one think Bill Clinton or Michael Moore produced the piece! Some will never forgive CBS for that W piece last year) This should not distract from the central issue, can it safely be rebuilt and if so how? The gradual disappearance of the coastal wetlands buffer is fact. So is the fact that the ACOE official in charge of rebuilding the levees said it would take 10+ years to build them to withstand a cat 5 storm. The fact that an entire city has been rendered uninhabitable for the first time in U.S. history should tell these future Darwin Award winners that there may be some fire behind this smoke. CBS' response.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


When the subject of pirates comes up most people instantly think of swashbuckling mariners, doubloons, parrots, and walking the plank. What rarely comes to mind is modern day piracy, alive and well on today's high seas. Among the most active areas for pirates today are the seas off Southeast Asia. The pirates will chase shipping vessels with small, swift craft, board undetected, seize control of the ship through violent means (often killing the small crew and throwing their bodies overboard), then proceed to a cooperative port or rendezvous with an assisting vessel to offload any valuable cargo. Then this ill gotten booty eventually is sold off for pure profit on both legitimate and illegitimate markets. Roughly 70% of the earth is covered with water, most of that having no practical law other than the agenda of the one with the most firepower (I personally abhor guns, but if I ever sailed a vessel into international waters I would definitely carry one). We almost never see these incidents reported in the mainstream media.

So it was interesting to see this incident so widely reported when it occurred a few weeks ago in the Atlantic off the coast of Somalia. What made it news I suppose was the fact that a passenger ship was the target and that they successfully escaped the attackers, as well as the use of this sonic weapon.

Another version

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Brilliance of Mr. Trudeau

I recently stumbled upon a series penned by cartoonist Garry Trudeau which never saw newsprint. Apparently he'd prepared a series to highlight during the Harriet Meirs Senate confirmation hearings, but for some reason withdrew it prior to the hearings. So here they are, for your viewing pleasure. I particularly love the reference to 9/11 as the "Swiss Army knife of answers"! A brilliant and incisive man, I always marvel at his ability to cut through the fog and get precisely to the heart of the matter, as well as his insight into the inner workings of institutions where we normally get little visibility.

Oh, and you rightie goosesteppers who will dutifully slam Mr. Trudeau for "hating America, undermining the troops", etc., etc., etc.? Go look at some of his work from the Clinton years.......

A "GARY" [SIC] Hater (and thus a "freedom" and "America" lover) who misses the point but still reads it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Unintelligent Design

Those fun lovin' righties! Here's a tee shirt sellin' web page advertising on Drudge today, once more demonstrating all the intelligence and taste we've come to expect from the Alabama crowd. It's bad enough that these RadCons love to bring up Ted Kennedy's car, but now they're picking on Che Guevara! Guys, are ya' paying attention to anything that's happened in say, the last 5 years??! Keep on inbreeding!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Well Hush My Mouth!

I was floored when I saw the link to this story in my favorite gossip e-rag, Wonkette today. As my reader may know, Senator Rick Santorum is a regular target of mine. But let me be the first to admit it when he does something right. Plus, with this he's even reversed an earlier position, and I respect him for that (ow, that hurt!)! So now he's moved from the 13th century to, say, the 18th?? One by one the rats are jumping from the good ship W.

As you read the story, please don't pass up the little gem offered up by Pat Robertson.

I LOVE the premise of the re-packaged creationism: that the universe is so complex, it has to be the work of an intelligent being...... How utterly arrogant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"I Take Responsibility....."

"I take responsibility." There are few phrases in the English language which purport to mean so much but which actually, without redress, mean zilch. I know I rarely pick on lefties these days, but former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards is begging for it with his Washington Post op-ed today titled "The Right Way in Iraq". As support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq (a sovereign nation which posed absolutely no threat to us) continues to plummet in this country, lefties who voted for the war are scrambling for the exits, feigning shocked outrage at the way they were "duped" into voting for war. Some claim they were simply led to believe that they were presenting a united front, giving Mr. Hussein incentive to cooperate fully with UNMOVIC, believing we'd never actually invade. Others, like Senator Edwards, are claiming that they were presented with invented and trumped-up evidence that Iraq was a clear and present threat to the US and its allies.

These claims are disingenuous. These public servants had access to FAR more information than we had at the time, and we had the following:
  • UNSCOM had spent about 6 years in the country dismantling Iraq's weapons program. We knew that this, in conjunction with their defeat in the Gulf war left them unable to defend themselves much less threaten anyone else. Hans Blix repeatedly told us this.
  • UNMOVIC had unprecedented access and free rein in Iraq (including the presidential palaces previously untouchable) in the weeks leading up to the war and repeatedly told us they could get the job done given more time.
  • There were several under-reported CIA leaks from mid-level intelligence analysts discounting Iraq's threat to us.
  • The invasion and occupation had no UN authorization and virtually no world wide support, with the exception of lapdogs Blair & Berlusconi, and a few insignificant countries who owe us money and/or were depending upon future aid ("the coalition of the coerced & bribed"). Oh, and "don't forget Poland!".
In addition we now know through many insider kiss-and-tells that invading Iraq was a topic in the White House the day the Bushies took power and rose to a thunderous roar on 9/12/01. Surely given the Beltway's reputation for gossip some of this would have sifted back to congress.

While I think the good senator makes some excellent points on what we should do going forward, and I hope W and Co. take them seriously, his statement "I was wrong" means nothing when he then claims to have been misled. Those two things in concert simply mean "given the same circumstances I'd do the same thing!". I am so tired of leaders using the hollow phrase "I take responsibility" without redress, and without being accountable. Accountability means forsaking image to do everything in your power to make it right, or resigning your position as a courageous and symbolic gesture. Senator Edwards could do this by either sparing us his platitudes and fading quietly into private life or by coming clean with the real reason he voted to go to war: he had future political ambitions and wanted to dodge the rightie bullet that lefties are soft on national defense. For this he has blood on his hands.

Senator, many dems had the fortitude to vote against war. You did not. You were wrong. You still are.

Wonkette's impression.......

And may I add that Rick Santorum is quite an ass. My opinion.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

W, If You REALLY Want to Help Someone.........

Here's another story about North Korea, just a tad more sobering than the last one. This place is incredible. And I'm sure we're seeing only the tip of the iceberg in terms of human suffering Imagine, defecting to China.....

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A North Korean Holiday

Got seven large burning a hole in your pocket? Why not consider a relaxing vacation on the beaches of North Korea (do you think they have clothing optional beaches there??), or shopping in Pyongyang? These 5 Americans recently made that choice, having the trip of a lifetime. What a bizarre and scary place, stuck in time for 50+ years. If I was given a choice to travel to the international space station or to go to North Korea, it would take a lot of headscratching to decide, and I think I'd end up in Pyongyang. Its funny, as the dubyas try to repackage their Iraqi adventure as humanitarian, I can't help but think the most repressed people in the world live in North Korea.

Unabashed Spin

It seems like the act of a desperate man yesterday, using a Veterans Day speech to try and salvage a foreign policy about which the country is increasingly (and FINALLY!) seeing the truth. I know, one of the percs of being the POTUS is the ability to grab the news cycle for personal gain, and free of charge, I'm OK with that. But using a day when we traditionally put partisanship aside to advance a partisan agenda is unconscionable.

One might think that the brassiest thing he could have said today was that those who are criticizing his administration are trying to rewrite history (this from a guy who brags about his aversion to reading non-fiction). This administration was the one that changed the story twice as to the reason for invasion prior to said invasion, then once more after invasion when WMDs were as difficult to find as righties at a Chelsea block party.

But as always, the man took it to far greater heights when he declared that we must continue to fight to "prevent Iraq from becoming a failed state " which would become a regional hotbed, training center and launch point for "tearists". My god! Who the heck created this cesspool of violence, this opportunity for the "tearists"? Did this exist before we invaded? Sure, prior to invasion it was a hellish place for some people. Sudan, Somalia and North Korea among others are far worse. Was it the cradle of "tearism" Mr. Bush warns us of? No, absolutely not. The unvarnished truth is that our enemies were in Afghanistan, and we blew that opportunity.

Mr. Bush, you're digging yourself in deeper. At some point I don't believe even Karl can help......

RELATED: Karl's hair

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Here's Catherine Crier

Stephen Colbert's guest on his new show last night was a woman named Catherine Crier, a former judge turned TV personality and bestselling author. I had never heard of her before. As they started discussing her background --Texas judge, Court TV, CNN, FOX "News"-- a wave of distaste and distrust washed over me; this month's token righty for a progressive show. When she started talking about her latest thesis --how we'd better wake up and see how the religious wackos want to pack the courts with true activists-- I sat up and started listening, then did some research on her past writings. She's smart, and really nails it clearly and completely; she understands where we're headed. No far-gone lefty, we'd all be wise to heed her warnings.

Friday, November 04, 2005


The media love their catchy phrases (often whether they fit or not), and one of the faves recycled every few years is how Madonna is "constantly reinventing herself". I would submit she's just super-talented. Love her or hate her (I fall somewhere in the middle), Madge has demonstrated an uncanny ability to draw headlines, fans, and dollars almost at will over her near 25 year professional career. Sure, she's had her challenges but those memories quickly fade with each new success. She has that rare ability to fuse creative talent with a keen instinct for the current cultural climate, and is very focused & disciplined with the execution. She is also very intelligent, with good street smarts.

Apparently Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone wowed 'em once again in Lisbon recently at the MTV awards where she, as this article puts it, showed the younger stars how its done. (if you don't think of her as disciplined, look at the pictures in the article. It takes some work to look that buff at 47!)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I just don't get it.
We have kids dying in Iraq for no reason, a runaway national fiscal deficit, a huge federal ideological divide, and an increasing retro approach to the environment, foreign policy, and social compassion, yet congress

This latest McCain et al boondoggle is yet one more example of how our elected officials are both insulated and isolated from average Americans, and are fixated on their own pleasures instead.