Thursday, November 16, 2006

No More Hunger

Well, it looks like our rightie friends in DC have solved yet another of our nations many problems! No longer will any American go hungry. Amazing! They may experience some, well, er, low food security. But hunger? C'est histoire.......

Read it and weep.....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fresh Ideas From the GOP

He's baaaaaaaacckkkkkk!!!!!!

Looks like last week's mid-term election results had a profound effect on the Republican party. They seem to recognize a new direction is needed.

Christians United Against Christ

It always blows me away how many self-professed "Christian" organizations preach and emphasize the exact opposite of what Christ actually taught, prefering to spread hate and intolerance. The latest example.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ed Bradley

Wow. Knock me over with a feather. Like most folks I was shocked to read of Ed Bradley's untimely (whatever that means) death today. A fabulous reporter. A good man.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Can We Talk (Joan Rivers style)???

I don't like to gloat, and I don't like when it's done to me. It's not constructive.

But can I take a moment to say nyah nyah nyah?

We deserve it. You pompous, righteous blowhards have been slamming us with your "fair and balanced" crap for 12 years.

Time to show you get as good as you give.

I am enraptured (no pun intended) with the rightie response today. My reaction:

Now we're subjected to the big government tax 'n spend group again
  • Yeah, as opposed to the folks who have driven a record surplus into a record debt, with no end in sight. Can you say DHS?? The reality (as opposed to the empty rightie rhetoric) is that the Reps have proven they've never met a spending bill they didn't love. Except they don't tax for the revenues, they borrow. Its like dropping a teenage girl off at the mall with an unlimited credit card.

Osama bin Laden is joyful now

  • Oh, did I fall asleep just now? Oh yeah, that old Rove/Copperfield sleight of hand

Well, the Dems had better perform now or....

  • Or what? You're gonna return congress to the pedophiles, crooks and druggies?

The Dems didn't win it, the Reps lost it

  • Yeah, whatever you need to believe to relieve the sting. The Dems have learned some things about campaigning over the last 6 years. They were focused and disciplined. They worked very hard and stayed on message. They didn't get drawn into false choices or hypotheticals. Tens of thousands of volunteers made millions of phone calls, rang millions of doorbells, contributed millions of dollars, sent millions of eMails, and hosted thousands of activism parties. Air America and other underpaid (in some cases unpaid) broadcasters did tens of thousands of shows getting the message out, and did the media circuits. Maybe the Reps incompetent governance made it the huge blowout it was, but the Dems earned the victory.

As Lou Dobbs said, the voters have told you that it's now your turn to shut up and listen.....

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Someone PLEASE Pinch Me.......

If I had false teeth they'd have dropped out of my head when I saw this article this morning. It's so shocking that it seemed like perhaps it was just a prank. But it's not. Here's the man that is probably one of the 3 or 4 people most responsible for the war in Iraq criticizing the current administration for bungling the effort in interview for an upcoming Vanity Fair issue!! This, the guy who was drawing up plans to invade years before W knew there was a country named Iraq, the guy who wanted to go in with 40,000 troops and bitterly criticized General Shinseki for wanting to use 250,000 troops (the good General was then unceremoniously dumped), pointing his finger in blame!!!! He's also part of the "we'll be greeted with flowers and candy", and "oil revenues will pick up the tab" crowd.

If there was ever a shred of honor, honesty, character, responsibility, compassion and/or accountability in the NeoCon movement it surely has been choked out years ago......

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chicken Counting

Dems everywhere are gleefully antsy for next Wednesday to dawn, believing their party will definitely be in control of the House, and possibly the Senate. Not so fast, folks, remember that old admonishment about counting and chickens and hatching and such.

As much as it hurts me to say this, I believe this is what'll happen: If the Dems do pick up the House (which I doubt) it'll only be by one or two seats. This would be a disaster, as they'd not be able to get anything of substance done in the next two years, yet would take all the blame for the righties past mismanagement of government giving the Reps plenty of cannon fodder in '08. And the Senate? It will remain firmly in rightie hands. My reasons?

  • Remember, to these guys winning is not everything, it's the only thing. There's nothing, absolutely nothing that they won't do to hang onto power. If you think things have gotten as ugly as they can get over the last week, wait until their so-called "72 Hour Plan" kicks in tomorrow.
  • The Republican gerrymandering projects over the last 12+ years make a Dem win all but impossible.
  • The righties know that if the House Dems get subpoena power more than a handful of political careers and personal lives are going to be ruined. The stakes are just too high to let the people decide.
  • The vote manipulation and outright fraud we'll see next week (and are already seeing this week) will make '04 and '00 "irregularities" look like jaywalking. But this time we're much less likely to be able to prove it due to the fact that the vast majority of folks will be voting on electronic machines without a dependable audit trail.
  • Lastly, this little article in Barron's slipped in under the radar a few weeks ago with little fanfare, but it's simple and sobering. (Though WaPo is still hopefull)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Rest of the Story

While I am tired of John Kerry's bumbling public relations (see previous post), make no mistake: The righties, knowing full well what he really meant, intentionally promoted the misinterpretation regardless of what the effect on "The Troops" might be as a result, so long as there was political hay to be made from it. And what chutzpah, after all, they're the folks that did the real harm with a misguided and botched invasion of Iraq, and stripping desperately needed benefits when the vets come home. Even in my own area, that fraud McGavick is scrambling to get some of it. But the NYT says it much better than I could.

Well, as long as we're speaking of Iraq, there's a story that got pretty much buried by the Kerry flap. A classified document prepared by USCentCom leaked to the NYT shows the military's (and presumably the government's) true assessment of the "progress" in Iraq. Here is the story they ran two days ago. I'm surprised CNN didn't cover it, as they seem to have "grown a pair" in recent months. Click on the image above to see a larger version of the chart in question.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shut the %$#@ Up: Part III

Is any progressive besides me tired of John Kerry?

Senator Kerry is a talented, dedicated and effective public servant. And he would have made a decent president, sparing us 4 more years of pain under Commander Cuckoo Bananas.

But the good Senator is not the Great Communicator. He proved that in 2004.

I take him at his word, that he merely meant to deride W with his "botched joke" two days ago. Especially after hearing parts of the speech which preceded and followed the part that's gotten so much attention over the last few days. But a seasoned politician, particularly a veteran United States Senator, should have an instinct to avoid even being in the same neighborhood with the comments he made. The RNC folks are peeing themselves over this one. Those sharks know blood when they smell it.

And then his ego prevented a graceful exit. Instead he subjected us once more to that awkward, clumsy Kerry shuffle. The comments required a nuanced explanation. Then the explanation required a nuanced explanation. A painful flashback to 2004. The Great Equivocator.

Enter the leftie talking and writing heads. More explanation. Thin claims that all reasonable people would not have mistaken Kerry's comments, that the White House is intentionally making a mountain out of a molehill.

Next, righties everywhere wrap themselves in the flag once more and feign cynical, phony shock at this insult to our "brave men and women in uniform". The righteous demands for an apology. Then, on script, the declaration of the apology being either too little, or too late, or both.

Two sad things about this: First, the veneer of Iraq was finally wearing thin for the righties. So what does the good Senator do? He gives them a giant October present. Second thing? There's more than a little truth to his unintended meaning, and politicians on both sides of the aisle know it.

The good part? Any progressive who forgot the lessons of 2004 is reminded again why the Senator should not get his or her support in the 2008 presidential primaries.

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..........

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ann Richards

I was saddened to read about the passing of Ann Richards, not just for her sake, but for the inevitable partisan politicizing of the end of her life.

Yes, I feel for her friends and relatives, and morn their loss. Her's was a life to be admired, even imitated.

Then there will be the gratuitous statements from the W clan, pandering to the group which has no clue what "turd blossom" Rove did to her in 1994.

Following will be the Coulter/O'Reilly-style defamation regarding her personal problems, regardless of the strengths brought as a result of those life lessons.

But she deserves to be remembered as on of the last of the true populists, one who lived the gritty life of an icon of the "American Dream"; she actually overcame real adversity to make a real difference in peoples lives. And she understood real challenges, not just fundraising ones. Lastly, she emerged onto the national stage from humble origins, but always remained genuine, always staying true to the people she swore to serve. How refreshing.

She was a true inspiration in a world of political despair. We love you Ann. I wish we had more of you on both sides of the aisle.

A Tribute

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Weekly Wash September Style

Two absolutely brilliant columns from the New York Times (keep in mind the second is from one who often leans right):

September 12, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Starting Another War
It is quite possible that President Bush will bomb Iran’s nuclear installations over the next couple of years.
Let’s hope he looks at how Israel shot itself in the foot in Lebanon this summer and resists the siren calls of neocons who claim that a few air raids would make the Iranian nuclear menace disappear.
The argument Mr. Bush is hearing in favor of an airstrike is pretty simple: Iran is a terrorist regime that has sponsored attacks on Americans and on Jews (as far away as Argentina). The president of Iran is a hard-liner who has used language that, while subject to debate among Farsi speakers, may mean that his aim is to wipe Israel off the map.
A nuclear Iran would also have a devastating ripple effect around the region: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey might go nuclear as well. And considering how reckless Iran’s foreign policy has already been, imagine if it felt emboldened with a nuclear weapon.
Moreover, if Mr. Bush doesn’t strike Iran, there’s a good chance that Israel will — and the U.S. would still get blamed (partly because the Israeli planes would fly through American-controlled airspace over Iraq).
So if the U.S. is going to get the blame either way, why not do it right, with a combination of American bombers and cruise missiles destroying Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz, Isfahan, Arak and perhaps Bushehr? A successful strike would have to destroy not only buildings but also kill the scientists involved; this is one military strike that would surely occur during working hours.
That’s the argument. But Iran’s leaders are probably praying for such a strike; it may be the only way that they can stay in power for more than another decade.
I’ve never been in a country where the government is so unpopular as in Iran, with the possible exception of Burma. The government is so corrupt, tyrannical and incompetent that it will eventually collapse — unless we attack its nuclear sites and trigger a nationalistic surge of support for the regime.
We Americans are still paying the price for our involvement in the 1953 overthrow of the elected Iranian government of Mohammed Mossadegh; if we bomb Iran, we may cement the mullahs in power for another 50 years.
Moreover, the military options are wretched, partly because Iran is probably doing much of its work at sites we can’t destroy because we don’t know where they are. The Natanz site for now is an empty room. We might kill Russian technicians at Bushehr or elsewhere, and Iran might retaliate with terror attacks aimed at us (counterterrorism experts suspect that Iran has sleeper agents in the U.S. whom it could activate).
A military strike would also do nothing more than buy time. Ashton Carter, a former senior Pentagon official who has studied the possibility of a strike and considers it feasible (but unwise at this time), estimates that a one-time strike would delay Iran’s nuclear weapon at most three or four years. The U.S. could then go back and hit the sites again, but Iran presumably would hide the locations, so later strikes would be less effective.
Dov Zakheim, who was under secretary of defense in Mr. Bush’s first term, recalls that fears of Pakistan’s “Islamic bomb” proved exaggerated and notes that Iran doesn’t treat its 20,000 Jews as wretchedly as its rhetoric would suggest (Iran continues to be home to more Jews than any Middle Eastern country save Israel). Mr. Zakheim argues that the best way to protect Israel is to give Israel improved missile defense capabilities on the understanding that it not launch a first strike against Iran.
As for alternatives to bombs, the best option is more of the carrot-and-stick diplomacy that the West is already engaging in (including direct Iran-U.S. talks) — and keeping International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Iran to uncover the hidden sites. Few experts expect Iran to give up its nuclear program altogether, but it’s likely that Iran could be persuaded to adopt a Japanese model: develop its capacity to the point that a bomb could be completed in weeks or months, but without testing or stockpiling weapons.
Granted, expert reassurances are easier to accept if you live in New York than in Tel Aviv, and the consequences of being wrong would be horrific. But however one judges the risks, the one thing we should have learned from Iraq and Lebanon is that military “solutions” can leave us worse off than before.

September 12, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Osama’s Spin Lessons
Somewhere, Osama bin Laden must be smiling. Or at least he will be whenever his couriers deliver the next batch of press clippings.
Once again he has beaten America at an American game: public relations. He may be sitting powerlessly in a cave, but his image is as scary as ever. He doesn’t even have to cut a new video. He released an old one last week, the equivalent of a fading musician putting out a greatest-hits album, only this one’s getting played every hour.
Last night, President Bush paid him homage by quoting his warning that America will face “defeat and disgrace forever” it if loses in Iraq. Bush himself called the war on terror a “struggle for civilization,” and said it was essential to ”maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations.”
It was just the kind of apocalyptic language favored by bin Laden, except that, for all his delusions, he might realize that American civilization is not really in jeopardy. Americans can try to copy him, but they don’t understand his rhetorical technique.
They continually misinterpret his equine theory of international relations: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” This is supposedly a reason America was attacked on Sept. 11 — it was perceived as weak for failing to respond to Al Qaeda’s earlier attacks — and why it can’t leave Iraq.
If we falter in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney explained to Tim Russert on Sunday, the war on terror will falter because people will say: “My gosh, the United States hasn’t got the stomach for the fight. Bin Laden’s right, Al Qaeda’s right, the United States has lost its will and will not complete the mission.”
But bin Laden knows something else the Bush administration hasn’t figured out: You don’t actually have to be the strong horse. You just have to look stronger. You can be weak, you can be pummeled in a fight, but as long as your opponent looks more scared than you, you can save face by simply declaring victory.
As an act of war, the attack on Sept. 11 was a blunder by Al Qaeda, and not merely because of the counterattack that destroyed Al Qaeda’s training camps and ousted the Taliban. It also alienated former jihadist allies in the Arab world, and caused a rift within Al Qaeda.
One of its senior members, Abu al-Walid al-Masri, broke with bin Laden and accused him of having an “extreme infatuation” with international publicity. The attack, as Fawaz Gerges notes in Foreign Policy magazine, demonstrated that “bin Laden was prepared to sacrifice Afghanistan and Mullah Omar at the altar of his public relations campaign.”
But at least bin Laden knew his P.R. Al Qaeda wasn’t a serious military threat to America, but it could play one on television. As Al Qaeda’s losses mounted and America recovered from the attack, bin Laden and his cohorts didn’t let the facts get in the way of their campaign to promote fear (and themselves). They hid in caves and proclaimed themselves champions.
America, meanwhile, accentuated the negative. Instead of declaring victory against terrorists after routing the Taliban and sending bin Laden into hiding, it invaded Iraq, reinvigorating Al Qaeda with a new tool for recruiting. Instead of putting the terrorist risk in perspective, Bush (with the full cooperation of Democrats and the press) set an impossible standard for making America safe.
“We’re on the offense against the terrorists on every battlefront,” Bush said last week, “and we’ll accept nothing less than complete victory.”
When you define victory that way, when you treat one attack from a disorganized band of fanatics as a menace to civilization, you’ve doomed yourself to defeat and caused more damage than they could. You can’t completely stop terrorism, but you can scare people into giving up liberties, wasting huge sums of money and sacrificing more lives than would be lost in a terrorist attack.
Take it from bin Laden, who bragged in 2004 that it was “easy to provoke and bait this administration.”
“All that we have to do,” he said, “is to send two mujahedeen to the farthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.” And then Al Qaeda, no matter what losses it has suffered, will come off once again looking like the strong horse.

Copyright New York Times Corp.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Things We're Supposed to Think, Not Say

Quote of the week from W:
"Ya know one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror".

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Israel's Major Malfunction

The significance of Israel's botched military incursion into Lebanon over the last 2 months has been dismissed by some pundits as deja-vu all over again, or business as usual for the middle east (the way it is destined to be). But a closer inspection beyond the pages of reveals a few striking differences from past military efforts.

First, the legendary Israel military stalwart of old seems to be lost, maybe temporarily, perhaps forever. The perceived morally superior architect of precision, daring and surgical (not to mention successful) operations such as the raid at Entebbe appears now more like the US of Iraqi fame: if a 1,000 lb bomb doesn't win their hearts and minds, try a 10,000 lb bomb. If that doesn't work, then surely a 20,000 lb one will do the trick. Show 'em how tough you are, that's the only way to win the peace, cowboy style. What it in fact now appears to have accomplished is to demonstrate to the rest of the region that it is now possible to stand up to the most powerful military force in the area, and do it convincingly. And worse, Israel is left with nothing even approaching their original stated goals in the conflict. In fact, they are more at risk as a result.

Second, after 15 long years of invasion, occupation, civil war, and massive bloodshed Lebanon was finally free of its last occupiers, Israel and Syria. Reconstruction of its infrastructure, services and utilities was nearly complete, the economy was growing, foreign investors returning and it was well on the way to reclaiming its place as a major tourist destination (Beruit was once known as the "Paris of the Middle East"). Hezbollah was waning in significance and popularity, and seemed to be going the way of the IRA. While it was still the de-facto government in the south, military operations were slowly being eclipsed by social and governing activities. In a few short weeks Israel managed to turn Hezbollah into a regional hero again, marginalize a budding Lebanese government, destroy bridges, power plants and other new infrastructure, and remind the area whom they despise, and why.

Third, Iran has now clearly emerged as the top power broker in the area. As the saying goes, "the Iraq war is over, and Iran has won!" Israel managed to underscore that for any who missed it the first time.

Fourth, by using what was clearly a grossly disproportional show of force to what should have been seen as a relatively insignificant provocation (reminds me of W's claim that he was "tired of swatting flies"), they have lost a lot of the support they once took for granted in the world. I know this was a tipping point for me. And that of course will start the cries of "anti-semitism" much as the critics of the current US administration are accused of being unpatriotic.

One of the most stunning observations has been watching (and listening to) the reaction of lefty talkers on radio and TV. One would expect a similar reaction as the one to the invasion and occupation of Iraq: you know, can't bomb your way to peace, innocent civilians, world opinion, etc.

But suddenly the lefty talkers are sounding like sound-bite righties when it comes to Israel and Lebanon. Some of the tidbits I've heard, and my commentary:

"Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and they killed 241 marines in 1983.

Yes, and Libya killed 270 people (including 189 Americans) in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, but we've managed to patch things up there and get American oil interests going in that country again. There are literally dozens of other examples. There is a time to move on when the environment is fertile for it. Because of our lack of understanding of the region, we use the term "terrorists" indiscriminately and without makeup and functional distinction.

"They started it.

How childish does that sound....... I've even heard some of the talkers say "what's Israel supposed to do when rockets are fired into its northern areas?" Folks, the first rockets heading south didn't launch until well after they were heading north. The initial provocating was a minor firefight between Hezbollah and the IDF. Evidence suggests that Israel has been planning this for months if not years, just waiting for a reason to excuse a preemptive strike.

"Israel has a right to defend itself.

One of my faves, a soundbite right out of Karl Rove's playbook. Of course they do, no sane person disputes that. Now that that's been established, lets talk meaningfully about the current situation and stop being sidetracked by meaningless phrases.

"At least Israel is trying to avoid civilian deaths.

A noble cause, thought their stated intentions conflict a bit with the actual results. Depending on whose numbers you use, Israel has killed 3-4 civilians per Hezbollah fighter killed, Hezbollah has killed 3-4 IDF members to every Israeli civilian killed. I realize that this can be partially explained as the situation mixes conventional forces with urban guerilla tactics. But that's the path they knowingly took, and the results are still the reality for Lebanese civilians.

I do not suggest that Israel is all wrong and Hezbollah is all right; the latter has a sinister and duplicitous past. But one should expect a higher moral standard to be set for Israel, backed by the most firepower the world has ever seen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Breaking the Law

Another glimmer of hope and sanity emerged today as a federal judge ruled that the NSA's so-called "terrorist surveillance program", commonly referred to as warrantless wiretapping, not only violates the law but the constitution as well and ordered an immediate halt to the program. What this means is that the smokescreen about this activity potentially being legal is off the table. What it doesn't mean is a cessation of the program.

There are two basic reasons for this: First, the government will likely petition for (and will likely be granted) a stay pending outcome of appeal, said appeal to drag on for years potentially. Secondly, this administration has made it perfectly clear to date that they do not feel they need to play by the same rules the rest of us do. Lacking any enforcement mechanism (given our rubber stamp congress), her ruling is likely unable to be enforced.

But still, thank the heavens for "activist" judges who still recognize the law when they see it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Mr. Cheney to publicly call this ruling a "victory for al-Quaeda".

Read the complete ruling--PDF

Monday, August 14, 2006

Memoirs of October, 'O Five

I seem to get a large number of Google and Yahoo! searches (among others) leading readers of the blogosphere to my entries of October, 2005. I note this because when I occasionally look back in my archives (blush!), that month still intrigues me (blush, blush!!) and I wish I could duplicate some of the topics and writings of that time. Perhaps this fall will accommodate......

Here's a link to that collection, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Clueless Joe Lieberman

If any optimists still held out hope that Senator Joe Lieberman cared solely for the best interests of his constituents and the Democratic party, those hopes were crushed mightily last night and this morning by the good Senator himself. After suffering a narrow but historic loss in yesterday's US Senate primary in Connecticut to newcomer Ned Lamont, Joe proceeded to not only challenge his alleged party in the November generals as an independent, but continued to attack his alleged party's nominee for US Senator (note that most prominent Dems quickly endorsed Mr. Lamont after the results of the election were certain).

Further, Senator Lieberman made it more than clear that no one will be successful in talking him out of running as an independent this fall. With these statements he's essentially saying three things: first, I don't care about the schism I will help create in my "party" over the next 3 months, second, I don't care about the fact that I may be responsible for my "party" losing another Senate seat as I split the vote, and third, the one and only most important thing to me is to maintain the power and prestige I've enjoyed for the last 18 years, period. Its the same arrogance which prevented him from taking his challenger seriously until the last few weeks.

A funny sidebar, the wingnut reaction is bound to be amusing as up to now they've seen only two types of Dems: the good ones, Senators Lieberman and Miller (who consistently support the stiffs more than the Dems), and the rest who are all far left Massachusetts type abortion & gay lovin' cut and runners. So its not surprising to see them bemoaning the loss of this DINO. Here's one amusing blast (albeit a product of simple, shallow thought and weak writing skills) at those who voted for Mr. Lamont as being in the "wackadoo wing" of the party. Sure. Those way-out crazies who voted for a millionaire businessman. But of course one must consider the source, a publication a half step up from The Weekly World News.


Friday, July 14, 2006

The Weekly Wash (Premier)

I have an acquaintance, who shall remain nameless until permission to reveal is granted, who sends me weekly week-end op-ed roundups he/she calls the "wash". I intend to make it part of this blog, beginning today. It is usually comprised of New York Times columnists, which is the case today. Note these opinions do not always reflect my own (especially Mr. F):

July 14, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Left Behind Economics
I’d like to say that there’s a real dialogue taking place about the state of the U.S. economy, but the discussion leaves a lot to be desired. In general, the conversation sounds like this:
Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”
Informed economist: “But it’s not a great economy for most Americans. Many families are actually losing ground, and only a very few affluent people are doing really well.”
Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”
To a large extent, this dialogue of the deaf reflects Upton Sinclair’s principle: it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. But there’s also an element of genuine incredulity. Many observers, even if they acknowledge the growing concentration of income in the hands of the few, find it hard to believe that this concentration could be proceeding so rapidly as to deny most Americans any gains from economic growth.
Yet newly available data show that that’s exactly what happened in 2004.
Why talk about 2004, rather than more recent experience? Unfortunately, data on the distribution of income arrive with a substantial lag; the full story of what happened in 2004 has only just become available, and we won’t be able to tell the full story of what’s happening right now until the last year of the Bush administration. But it’s reasonably clear that what’s happening now is the same as what happened then: growth in the economy as a whole is mainly benefiting a small elite, while bypassing most families.
Here’s what happened in 2004. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent, a very good number. Yet last August the Census Bureau reported that real median family income — the purchasing power of the typical family — actually fell. Meanwhile, poverty increased, as did the number of Americans without health insurance. So where did the growth go?
The answer comes from the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, whose long-term estimates of income equality have become the gold standard for research on this topic, and who have recently updated their estimates to include 2004. They show that even if you exclude capital gains from a rising stock market, in 2004 the real income of the richest 1 percent of Americans surged by almost 12.5 percent. Meanwhile, the average real income of the bottom 99 percent of the population rose only 1.5 percent. In other words, a relative handful of people received most of the benefits of growth.
There are a couple of additional revelations in the 2004 data. One is that growth didn’t just bypass the poor and the lower middle class, it bypassed the upper middle class too. Even people at the 95th percentile of the income distribution — that is, people richer than 19 out of 20 Americans — gained only modestly. The big increases went only to people who were already in the economic stratosphere.
The other revelation is that being highly educated was no guarantee of sharing in the benefits of economic growth. There’s a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better — like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers — that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004.
In short, it’s a great economy if you’re a high-level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport.
Can anything be done to spread the benefits of a growing economy more widely? Of course. A good start would be to increase the minimum wage, which in real terms is at its lowest level in half a century.
But don’t expect this administration or this Congress to do anything to limit the growing concentration of income. Sometimes I even feel sorry for these people and their apologists, who are prevented from acknowledging that inequality is a problem by both their political philosophy and their dependence on financial support from the wealthy. That leaves them no choice but to keep insisting that ordinary Americans — who have, in fact, been bypassed by economic growth — just don’t understand how well they’re doing.

July 14, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
The Kidnapping of Democracy
When you watch the violence unfolding in the Middle East today it is easy to feel that you’ve been to this movie before and that you know how it ends — badly. But we actually have not seen this movie before. Something new is unfolding, and we’d better understand it.
What we are seeing in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon is an effort by Islamist parties to use elections to pursue their long-term aim of Islamizing the Arab-Muslim world. This is not a conflict about Palestinian or Lebanese prisoners in Israel. This is a power struggle within Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq over who will call the shots in their newly elected “democratic’’ governments and whether they will be real democracies.
The tiny militant wing of Hamas today is pulling all the strings of Palestinian politics, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Shiite Islamic party is doing the same in Lebanon, even though it is a small minority in the cabinet, and so, too, are the Iranian-backed Shiite parties and militias in Iraq. They are not only showing who is boss inside each new democracy, but they are also competing with one another for regional influence.
As a result, the post-9/11 democracy experiment in the Arab-Muslim world is being hijacked. Yes, basically free and fair elections were held in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq. Yes, millions turned out to vote because the people of the Arab-Muslim world really do want to shape their own futures.
But the roots of democracy are so shallow in these places and the moderate majorities so weak and intimidated that we are getting the worst of all worlds. We are getting Islamist parties who are elected to power, but who insist on maintaining their own private militias and refuse to assume all the responsibilities of a sovereign government. They refuse to let their governments have control over all weapons. They refuse to be accountable to international law (the Lebanese-Israeli border was ratified by the U.N.), and they refuse to submit to the principle that one party in the cabinet cannot drag a whole country into war.
“Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinians all held democratic elections,’’ said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi, “and the Western expectation was that these elections would produce legitimate governments that had the power to control violence and would assume the burden of responsibility of governing. ... But what happened in all three places is that we [produced] governments which are sovereign only on paper, but not over a territory.’’
Then why do parties like Hamas and Hezbollah get elected? Often because they effectively run against the corruption of the old secular state-controlled parties, noted Mr. Ezrahi. But once these Islamists are in office they revert to serving their own factional interests, not those of the broad community.
Boutros Harb, a Christian Lebanese parliamentarian, said: “We must decide who has the right to make decisions on war and peace in Lebanon. Is that right reserved for the Lebanese people and its legal institutions, or is the choice in the hands of a small minority of Lebanese people?”
Ditto in the fledgling democracies of Palestine and Iraq. When cabinet ministers can maintain their own militias and act outside of state authority, said Mr. Ezrahi, you’re left with a “meaningless exercise’’ in democracy/state building.
Why don’t the silent majorities punish these elected Islamist parties for working against the real interests of their people? Because those who speak against Hamas or Hezbollah are either delegitimized as “American lackeys’’ or just murdered, like Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.
The world needs to understand what is going on here: the little flowers of democracy that were planted in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories are being crushed by the boots of Syrian-backed Islamist militias who are desperate to keep real democracy from taking hold in this region and Iranian-backed Islamist militias desperate to keep modernism from taking hold.
It may be the skeptics are right: maybe democracy, while it is the most powerful form of legitimate government, simply can’t be implemented everywhere. It certainly is never going to work in the Arab-Muslim world if the U.S. and Britain are alone in pushing it in Iraq, if Europe dithers on the fence, if the moderate Arabs cannot come together and make a fist, and if Islamist parties are allowed to sit in governments and be treated with respect — while maintaining private armies.
The whole democracy experiment in the Arab-Muslim world is at stake here, and right now it’s going up in smoke.
And another view. I still believe that Iz has gone too far, but it has become clear to me that I do not have a firm understanding of all the factions and forces at work in the Middle East.

July 14, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Israel’s Invasion, Syria’s War
Beirut, Lebanon
ISRAEL’S incursion into Lebanon after the kidnapping on Wednesday of two Israeli soldiers by the militant group Hezbollah is far more than another flare-up on a tense border. It must also be seen as a spinoff of a general counterattack against American and Israeli power in the region by Iran and Syria, operating through sub-state actors like Hezbollah and the Palestinian organization Hamas.
If America and its Security Council partners are smart, however, they may be able to use this crisis to further their security goals in the Middle East, and to help Lebanon climb out of its political morass.
This is not to say that the cycle of attack and retaliation between Hezbollah and Israel is merely a proxy war. The two sides have long engaged in a conflict in southern Lebanon — albeit, since Israel’s pullout in 2000, one mostly limited to a disputed territory known as the Shebaa Farms and contained by unwritten rules. This week, however, Hezbollah transgressed three political lines.
The first was its expansion of military operations outside the Shebaa area. While Hezbollah has done this before — even killing some Israeli troops — the latest operation was certain to be intolerable to an Israeli government already dealing with the kidnapping of another soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, by Hamas in Gaza.
A second line that Hezbollah crossed was its evident coordination of strategy with Hamas; this went well beyond its stated aim of simply defending Lebanon and left Israel feeling it was fighting a war on two fronts.
The third line crossed was domestic. By unilaterally taking Lebanon into a conflict with Israel, Hezbollah sought to stage a coup d’├ętat against the anti-Syrian parliamentary and government majority, which opposes the militant group’s adventurism.
Hezbollah holds seats in the 128-member Parliament but has an uneasy relationship with the majority, which has been on the defensive as Syria has tried to reassert control over Lebanon after its military withdrawal last year. Hezbollah hoped to humiliate the anti-Syrian politicians by forcing them to endorse the kidnappings and showing how little control the government has over the party.
Israel wants Lebanon to pay an onerous price for its ambiguity on Hezbollah: it has imposed an air and sea blockade and is launching air attacks well into Lebanon, including several on the Beirut airport. Pointedly, however, Israel has failed to mention the regional facet of the crisis. Israeli officials have left Syria out of their condemnations, in jarring contrast to the Bush administration’s statements that have rightly highlighted Iranian and Syrian responsibility for Hezbollah’s behavior.
Iran, of course, has long bankrolled Hezbollah, and the Israeli government said yesterday it feared the two kidnapped soldiers were being taken to Tehran. But Syria is the nexus of regional instability, giving shelter to several of the most intransigent Palestinian militants, transferring arms to Hezbollah, and undermining Lebanon’s frail sovereignty.
Israel can brutalize Lebanon all it wants, but unless something is done to stop Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, from exporting instability to buttress his despotic regime, little will change.
Once the Israelis end their offensive, Hezbollah will regroup and continue to hold Lebanon hostage through its militia, arguably the most effective force in the country. Hamas leaders in Damascus will continue derailing any negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. And Syria will continue to eat away at Lebanese independence, reversing the gains of last year when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese marched against Syrian hegemony.
It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand. The popular mood here is one of extreme anger that the group has provoked a conflict Lebanon cannot win. The summer tourism season, a rare source of revenue for a country on the financial ropes, has been ruined. Even Hezbollah’s core supporters, the Shiite Muslims in the south, cannot be happy at seeing their towns and villages turned again into a killing field.
What to do? While the United Nations has been ineffective in its efforts toward Middle East peace, it may be the right body to intervene here, if only because it has the cudgel of Security Council Resolution 1559, which was approved in 2004 and, among other things, calls for Hezbollah’s disarmament.
The five permanent Security Council members, perhaps at this weekend’s Group of 8 meeting, should consider a larger initiative based on the resolution that would include: a proposal for the gradual collection of Hezbollah’s weapons; written guarantees by Israel that it will respect Lebanese sovereignty and pull its forces out of the contested Lebanese land in the Shebaa Farms; and the release of prisoners on both sides. Such a deal could find support among Lebanon’s anti-Syrian politicians, would substantially narrow Hezbollah’s ability to justify retaining its arms, and also send a signal to Syria and particularly Iran that the region is not theirs for the taking.
One important thing: No Lebanese government could legitimately help to advance such a plan if Israel were to try to, as its army chief of staff put it this week, “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.” Israel must cease its attacks and let diplomacy take over.
Michael Young is the opinion editor of The Daily Star in Lebanon and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.
A reasonable voice:
To the Editor:
Israel’s bombings of Gaza and Lebanon are an irrational and disproportionate reaction to the capture of three Israeli soldiers and the killing of three others.
So far, more than 50 Palestinians in Gaza and nearly as many Lebanese have been killed, hundreds have been wounded, and the bombing of critical infrastructure will surely kill far more.
This incredibly disproportionate use of force demonstrates a macabre equation where each Israeli life appears to be worth the lives of dozens of innocent Palestinians and Lebanese.
By threatening to “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years,” Israel appears willing to punish millions of Lebanese for the actions of a few militants.
The time has come to end United States support for the oppressive, out-of-control government of Israel.
Eric Ettlinger
Berkeley, Calif., July 13, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Losing Their Way

Its got to be tough being a mainstream, reasonable, rational Republican these days.

The party which embraced fiscal restraint is now spending like a drunken sailor, charging it to our kids' and grandkids' (and so on) credit cards. And by selling this historic debt to foreign governments, some of whom are a looming threat, they're compromising national security to a far greater degree than a group of al-Qaida operatives. Even worse, this deficit spending is not being used for investments in our future, such as infrastructure improvements, education, or health care. It's instead being pissed away to bloated defense contractors and other DOD waste that is well beyond most citizens' imagination. We spend more in sheer dollars for "defense" than the rest of the world combined, and it's increasing every year. This is on the back of ever shrinking expenditures on education and social safety net programs such as Medicare.

The party that self-identifies with morals, principles and values is now mired in scandal, hypocrisy, corruption and a cynical regard for the law. And since we have the fox guarding the henhouse, there's not likely to be any serious oversight in the near future.

The party which used to be for smaller government, state's rights and a reduction of federal intrusion into individuals' lives has now built the largest government infrastructure in the nation's history (per capita spending). It is in the process of building huge bureaucratic organizations spying on ordinary citizens to an extent that even George Orwell could not have imagined, away from the prying eyes of a bipartisan congress and pesky federal judges ensuring virtually no meaningful oversight. They govern with a fascist flair, creating knee-jerk policies which will do little to stop well funded al-Qaida operatives, but will continue to shrivel the rights of law-abiding Americans. State's rights? Can you say Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage?

The party of bold, forward thinking ideas has now degenerated into a three-word culture, winning elections solely by sliming their opponent with misleading information and outright lies. "Stay the course", "cut and run", "tax and spend", "war on terror", "September the 11th" and many other phrases that play well on Fox "News" do not describe sound, intelligent public policy.

Lastly, the party which claims to be the gatekeepers for our security has accomplished just the opposite due to the unprovoked invasion and occupation of a sovereign Arab country and our "my way or the highway" attitude toward the rest of the world on this and other issues, according to many ex-generals and other non-partisan security experts. And just as important as what they are doing is what they are not doing, the behind the scenes blocking & tackling like tightening cargo port security.

To the group I identify in the opening? It's no longer enough to say "this is not my Republican party", hold your nose and pull the "R" lever hoping you might actually get to pay a couple of bucks less tax someday or because you believe that bigger international problems just require bigger bombs (that's the naive notion, not the other way around). This is not just a couple of bad apples in the West Wing, this is Senate leadership, this is House leadership and it is increasingly State leadership. This is your party in the 21st century, denial is futile.

This is not the party of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, or even George the first for that matter. And it's not going away soon. This is your party, that's the name on the door, and you're enabling it to thrive and grow. Before you vote this fall, I'd ask you to read two of the most poignant and learned speeches of the 20th century and decide if the current bunch really represents you: Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1953 "Chance for Peace" speech and his 1960 "Military Industrial Complex" speech. He was a real Republican, and a true American.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Color Purple

I brought this up in a blog last year, but think it bears repeat scrutiny. Look at the map to the left (taken from the RNC web site) and what do you see (besides a greatly exaggerated depiction of red dominance)?

With few exceptions, all the major population centers in the US are blue, or dominated by progressive voters. The vast majority of lightly populated rural areas are dominated by regressive voters.


My theory?

Major population centers tend to have much greater access to social, cultural, and political diversity through the arts, lectures, media and educational institutions thereby exposing the population to greater thought diversity (not to mention real life outside of these United States). This results in more nuanced and considered opinions. And I also believe these areas are more exposed to the effects of poverty, as well as the work of charitable organizations.

Your thoughts (besides calling me an elitist)?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

New NEW To The Page

Check out the "Cost of the War" counter at the bottom of the left sidebar (after "About Me"). I plan to leave it there for awhile, so if you ever want to remind your rightie friends how much moolah we're pissin' away on a daily basis there (not to mention the human life) feel free to come back and check it out as often as you like!

UPDATE: New, improved! Now with W time-left-in-office countdown clock!!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Castro Convertible

Who was the first to conquer space?
It's incontrovertible!
That the first to conquer living space
Was the Castro Convertible.
Who conquers space with fine design?
And saves you money all the time?
Who's tops in the convertible line?
Castro Convertible!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Colbert Fever

You know you have a real story when folks are still talking about an event a week and a half after it happened. In modern times we discuss today what the entertainment media told us to talk about last night or this morning, then tomorrow dutifully change to the assigned topic du jour, yesterday's news a faded memory.

So now a week and a half we still have the pundits parsing the now famous Steven Colbert speech at the annual White House Correspondents dinner in D.C. One of the initial reactions right after the event was the predictable righteous indignation of the regressive talkers as they tried to kill that story early on. Shameful, disrespectful, not funny, and on and on went the critics. Excuse me?????!! Not funny???!! Or maybe did most of it go over your head?

But then stodgy, buttoned-down CSPAN awakens to find they actually have a hit on their hands!

And so Mr. Colbert has gone from emerging sidekick to the toast of the town. Well, toast of half of the town (or is it 69% now?).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The No Fact Zone

Not sure what the AP was thinking when they invited Stephen Colbert to be the keynote speaker at the White House Correspondents annual dinner last Saturday. As Jon Stewart put it, "Apparently he [Colbert] was under the impression that they'd hired him to do what he does every night on television". Colbert has come of age, the speech was nothing short of brilliant. He thoroughly spanked the DC press crowd, plus W, did it to their faces and on their turf. Enjoy (Update: As of 5/8/06 CSPAN has forced YouTube and ifilm to take down the Colbert speech. Here's the version the GOOGLE cut the exclusive deal for):
Colbert WHCD Speech
The Story
Jon Stewart's Thoughts

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ooo-ooo That Smell!

Um, can I please take a look at that Kyoto thingy again? Um, uh, I may have ovelooked something.......

Just Say No!

Reuters reports that John Kerry is deciding whether or not to run for president in '08. Senator Kerry, ponder no more! You are a wonderful statesman, and a dedicated public servant. And you'd probably make a very good president. But you blow as a candidate. Don't subject us to that, or another humiliating defeat again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


It would be amusing if it was not so sad. The guy whose only other job before the current one was as the governor of a state. And now he's trying to effectively deal with rabble like this. God help us every one.

BTW, is this a bad wig or a bad comb-over??

Flotsam and Jetsam

We have a mixed bag today. Among the gems:

I originally had 5 items, but decided one might be offensive to our female readers and the other was immature: letting a rabid regressive lure me into his lair of anger and hate (in other words, "their" comfort zone). Enjoy!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"I think we need a fresh start..."

There seems to be no end to the supply of retired military generals lining up for their turn at the microphone to lambaste Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's performance leading the Pentagon, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Just as the buzz on the airwaves and blogosphere was reaching a fevered pitch this afternoon over yesterday's Washington Post article quoting Maj. General John Batiste as saying (among other things) "I think we need a fresh start", CNN reports that Maj. General Charles Swannak has told them that "I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries too much baggage" in this interview today.

To my knowledge this is way beyond unprecedented. This makes 6 or 7 retired military commanders who have made highly critical public statements about how Rumsfeld has prosecuted this war, (and in some cases have questioned the war itself) and have called for the removal of him and those he surrounds himself with. And the fact that this man has claimed to have twice submitted his resignation to W, and was twice turned down, if true, implicates the president in this mismanagement as well.

Remarkably, of the three military leaders who have spoken out in Rumsfeld's defense over the last year or so, two still reported to him at the time they did so. And essentially all they say is that he works hard, is smart & efficient, and knows a lot of stuff. Sounds like the perfect sole qualifications for a guy leading a $500B+ (annual) military operation. They do not speak to the charges of poor judgement, not listening to the guys who know how this business works, and unhealthy cronyism.

I can't even in my wildest imagination think of how the wing nuts on the right are going to spin this.

UPDATES: New York Times weighs in, and, another day, another general

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Planning Armageddon

Question: What's more dangerous than a deranged, deceitful leader that is up for re-election? Answer: A deranged, deceitful leader that isn't.

In a new story in the New Yorker, an investigative journalist with a near impeccable track record dealing in truth tells us that the smash & pillage crowd currently in the West Wing are seriously planning a military attack on Iran, allegedly to try and terminate their nuclear weapons program. The real kicker? According to Seymour Hersh (who brought us, among other things, the first news of the Abu Graib parties) part of the plan involves the use of tactical nuclear (or "nucular" as they'd say) weapons against Iran to accomplish this.

Unlike the invasion/occupation "freedom's on the march" style operation a la Iraq (how's that one going again?), this would involve clandestine special forces and airstrikes only. I realize this crowd acts solely on single-minded, blind ideology and does not learn anything beyond political lessons. But I hope and pray that there will be enough representatives in congress who recognize that this action will only make the US and the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place for us all and will muster the mettle to stop it.

Here's another view from the Washington Post.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead (or "Tommy, We Hardly Knew Ya!")

Or is he? Is he more dangerous (& wealthier!) in private life without those pesky ethical roadblocks and whatnot?
He obviously expects to be caught up in his little sleeze web eventually, what with the plea bargains and all. Amazing how quickly the regressives got snared in their absolute power corruption. And the "national security" lemmings would probably vote for them all over again.

Weighing General Opinion

In yet another sobering interview, former CentCom commander General Anthony Zinni offered his assessment of the Iraq invasion and occupation again, this time on yesterday's Meet the Press (click on page 5 and scroll down to get to the Zinni transcript, McCain the chameleon is first). It wasn't pretty. A sample:

MR. RUSSERT: I want to bring you back to a book you co-wrote with Tom Clancy called “Battle Ready." And you wrote this: “In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence, and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption.” That’s very serious.


"I saw the—what this town is known for: spin, cherry-picking facts, using metaphors to evoke certain emotional responses, or, or shading the, the context. We, we know the mushroom clouds and, and the other things that were all described that the media’s covered well. I saw on the ground, though, a sort of walking away from 10 years worth of planning."

I'm sure the rightie airwaves are buzzing today with talk from claims of "the liberal media", to allegations about Zinni preferring woman's underwear, to "al Qaeda must be smiling with this support". Discredit both messengers, but never, ever have an intelligent, civil discussion about the subject.

But I challenge any regressive (or anyone who "supports" the war) to consider the following: General Zinni is at least the 4th or 5th retired high-ranking American general to publicly criticize the Iraq war for either it's wisdom, execution, or both. These are the guys who understand fully both the political and practical aspects of war. I am unaware of any similar individual who has spoken out publicly in support of the invasion and its execution.

I would also challenge you to read the interview in it's entirety (and the 60 Minutes one cited below) with an open mind. At that point try to make a cogent argument about the flaws in these leaders' positions. And let's forget red herrings, like he's trying to sell a book, it's the liberal media, etc., etc. The only constructive, factual, areas we should concern ourselves with in refuting this piece are the following:
  1. Has MSNBC somehow edited his comments so as to have presented them out of context or contrary to his intentions?
  2. Is General Zinni qualified to make such assessments?
  3. Are these just the personal opinions of 4 or 5 disgruntled former generals, and do not reflect the real situation?
Given the above (as well as this transcript from a 60 Minutes piece 2 years ago), if you can make a sound, rational, logical counterargument based upon provable fact, then I'm all ears.....

Note: One could plausibly argue that W was honestly misled by his advisors. I don't buy that, but think its a valid supposition. However, one can't argue that the war has been botched, and that the guy solely responsible for its success or failure, Donald Rumsfeld, still has his job. And that failure rests squarely on one man's shoulders.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

I'm So Sorry!

I've been neglectful of late about my posts, many distractions. There's lots going on, and will post one or more of the ideas I've been developing tomorrow (let me know if you have one or two ideas). In the meantime, look at some of the crazy things going on. Or, the archives, plus my favorite past month of postings.

Thanks for your visit, and, as always, I am grateful to get your comments below.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Straight Talk from the RNC

I'm sure Democratic Senator Russ Feingold knew just what was coming down the tracks following his March 13th introduction on the senate floor of a resolution to censure George Bush for his illegal domestic spying program. Now I don't know what the senator's motivation was for this move, whether it's purely political, idealistic, practical, or some combination of those. But I'll take him at his word that he is doing the citizens' work; he seems to be a good guy. On the surface it seems like a sane though largely symbolic attempt at accountability.

And yes, the backlash was predictable: Frist feigning monstrous shock & surprise, (as though Feingold had suggested a firing squad), angry talking heads like the O'Reillys of the world painting the good senator as a gay/lesbian terrorist communist alien. Then the Prince of Darkness, Dick, mumbling something about al Qaeda being the enemy, not W.

The most amusing, however, is a radio ad released yesterday to stations in the senator's state of Wisconsin by the RNC. One thing this crowd does consistently: just when you think they can't demonstrate greater chutzpah and hauteur, they prove you wrong. The ad frames Senator Feingold as wanting to "publicly reprimand President Bush for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda". The new euphemism for illegal wiretaps is the "Terrorist Surveillance Program". And it lists a hopelessly unverifiable number of thwarted terrorist plots as a result of Mr. Bush's programs. Of course, there's also no way to measure whether or not we could been just as effective without these programs. It admonishes the good senator for being "more interested in censuring the president than protecting our freedoms" (protecting real freedoms is exactly what he's trying to do!!!). One thought concludes "Is this how Democrats plan to win the War on Terror?". Well, no, they probably think getting bogged down in a country for 3+ years with no end in sight is the most effective way to go.

Its no wonder some Americans don't consider the real facts and reach reasonable conclusions prior to entering the ballot box with this misleading tripe suffocating them every day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who Cares?

It would be amusing if it were not so sad. I'm talking of course not about the ongoing Iraqi occupation, or the illegal domestic spying, or even Dick Cheney shooting friends in the face. I'm talking about the use of banned steroids in sports; not the seeming increase in their use (or their reporting), but rather the fact that we seem to care. We have serious talking head analysis about it, testimony under oath in congress, and serious water cooler banter about whether or not so and so deserves his record or to be inducted into this or that hall of fame.

I could not care less.

If they want to do the drugs, let them. Let them take as much as they want! These are games they are playing folks, games! They are not issues that seriously impact everyday people's lives (unless they're losing wagers on certain games!). How about congress and the talking heads focusing on things that can improve the lives of struggling workers, like maybe fixing health care? Let the games crowd worry about themselves.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Serious Brass

I swore I was going to leave the guy alone for awhile, what with his low poll numbers and having to take a few on the chin for the team in an election year and all (though I pessimistically suspect that if there was a presidential election today the same group of wackos and lemmings would sweep him back into the Oval Office). But W (or "Commander Cuckoo Bananas" as Homer Simpson referred to him) rose to yet another new height of chutzpah and hypocrisy today in a speech to the National Newspaper Association in DC. With a perfectly straight faced he expressed a profound concern about the message sent to the Arab Middle East by broad US opposition to the Dubai ports deal. This, from the guy more disliked globally than any president of the last 100 years. This, from the guy who presided over:
  • The unprovoked invasion and occupation of a sovereign Arab nation, causing the deaths of over 100,000 innocent civilians
  • The imprisonment of over 1,000 Arabs (and others) without due process, representation, or any glimmer of hope of justice (until the Supreme Court shot him down in 2004, at least for Gitmo)
  • The systematic abuse and torture of hundreds of Arab prisoners, including sexual and religious humiliation and insults
  • The rendition of at least dozens of Arabs to repressive regimes for "questioning"
Yeah, this guy's a freakin' hero in that part of the world, and the pile-on over the ports deal is going to jeopardize all his good work. Wonder how he'd feel about visiting Iraq protected by a security force owned and operated by the Dubai government.