Thursday, May 29, 2008


"This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I've ever seen."
-Bill Clinton 1/8/08

Bubba was right. But he had no way of knowing which fairytale this primary was turning into.
All credit to the Public Service Admini.

Republican of the Week!

What Happened to Scott?

Scott McClellan has released his memoirs, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

Chapter headings are brutally revealing:
  • The Permanent Campaign
  • Deniability
  • Triumph and Illusion
  • Revelation and Humiliation
  • Out of Touch
The most intriguing issues raised from the excerpts emerging so far is suggested in the title: McClellan seems to blame it on 'Washington' and the 'Liberal Press'.

On one hand McClellan says the Bush White House suffered from a “permanent campaign” mentality, and that policy decisions were inextricably interwoven with politics because,
I think the concern about liberal bias helps to explain the tendency of the Bush team to build walls against the media ... Unfortunately, the press secretary at times found himself outside those walls as well.
OTOH, he blames it on the so-called liberal press:
If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.
Equally revealing and diagnostic is McClellan's uptake on the issue of cocaine in Bush's life. The author traces Bush's penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days. The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite "somewhere in the Midwest." Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat:
"The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,"I heard Bush say. "You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember."

I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense.

Bush isn't the kind of person to flat-out lie.

So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It's the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true. And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious -- political convenience.

..... It would not be the last time Bush mishandled potential controversy. But the cases to come would involve the public trust, and the failure to deal with them early, directly and head-on would lead to far greater suspicion and far more destructive partisan warfare.
That and other character flaws led to Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq:
History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided -- that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder.

No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.

President Bush has always been an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader. He is not one to delve into all the possible policy options -- including sitting around engaging in extended debate about them -- before making a choice. Rather, he chooses based on his gut and his most deeply held convictions. Such was the case with Iraq.

Bush is plenty smart enough to be president. But as I've noted his leadership style is based more on instinct than deep intellectual debate.
Bush's top advisers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
played right into his thinking, doing little to question it or cause him to pause long enough to fully consider the consequences before moving forward ... Contradictory intelligence was largely ignored or simply disregarded.
Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" mysteriously directing outcomes in
every policy area he cared about, from the invasion of Iraq to expansion of presidential power to the treatment of detainees and the use of surveillance against terror suspects .....Cheney always seemed to get his way..
In Iraq, Bush saw
his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness ..... Bush and his advisers knew that the American people would almost certainly not support a war launched primarily for the ambitions purpose of transforming the Middle East.

.... Rather than open this Pandora's Box, the administration chose a different path -- not employing out-and-out deception, but shading the truth ..... President Bush managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible .... The Iraq war was not necessary ..... Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake ..... The lack of candor underlying the campaign for war would severely undermine the president's entire second term in office.
Policy determined by politics: perpetual campaigning:
Over that summer of 2002, top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage.

The president had promised himself that he would accomplish what his father had failed to do by winning a second term in office .... And that meant operating continually in campaign mode: never explaining, never apologizing, never retreating. Unfortunately, that strategy also had less justifiable repercussions: never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned.
Scott McClellan's resignation on 19-Apr-06 was greeted by George Bush with his typically simplistic Pollyannaish and Panglossian fervor:
First of all, I thank Scott for his service to our country. I don't know whether or not the press corps realizes this, but his is a challenging assignment dealing with you all on a regular basis. And I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity. He really represents the best of his family, our state and our country. It's going to be hard to replace Scott ... One of these days he and I are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days and his time as the Press Secretary. And I can assure you I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.
This use of inappropriate and insincere platitudes is not evidence of a fawning naiveté on the part of our current POTUS. It's just a signature part of the script used by Busheney to dramatize the primary organizing principle of their government: a two-way life-time coda of personal loyalty between superiors and subordinates.

Because Scott McClellan values his future reputation more than being offered a Presidential Medal of Freedom, he broke this code of silence.

Better late than never.

For that, I have to acknowledge that he deserves recognition in these pages as the Republican of the Week.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Duty Calls Me Back

It felt so good not having to blog every damned day, I thought I might take some more time off.

And, I had hoped that in my absence that all debates would have been resolved, all questions answered, all rough places made smooth, but no. No, nothing of that substance has been achieved.
There is nothing 'new' in the news: just the same ol' crap.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On Vacation .....

Lockin' the doors & windows 'n packin' up. Trophy Wife and I'll be back when we're outta energy or gas money, whichever comes first.

In the meantime, if there's Someone upstairs looking down on all of us, I wish, hope, and pray that You protect Mr. and Mrs. O.America needs them, now more than ever.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Charlie Wilson’s War: America’s First Jihad

Lessons to be drawn from the largest covert operation in history

When the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, it was an international emergency. The Cold War was still on, and we were bitter enemies with the Soviet Union. President Jimmy Carter's response, tepid at best, was one of his worst moments. Carter declared Afghanistan the "greatest foreign policy crisis confronting the US since WW II", and ordered a boycott of the Moscow Olympics – basically an empty gesture.

From the Afghan side, there were no such empty gestures. As George Crile tells the story in Charlie Wilson’s War, the Ruskies quickly became acquainted with Afghan customs of Honor, Hospitality and Revenge:
At sunrise on the second day of the after the Invasion. a Soviet sentry spotted five large size bags on the edge of the tarmac at Bagram Air Base in Kabul. The soldier was not initially concerned - until he pushed his rifle against the first of the burlap bags and noticed blood oozing on to the tarmac. Explosive experts were called in to check for booby traps. What they discovered was far more menacing. Within each bag was a young Soviet soldier wrapped inside his own skin. As best the medical examiners could determine, the men had died a particularly gruesome death: their skin had been sliced at the stomach while they were still alive and then pulled up over their heads.
Crile adds that the Russians were destined to learn the same lessons the British learned in 1842 when a tribal chieftain who explained his laughter by saying,
I can see how easy it was for you to get your troops in here. What I do not understand is how you plan to get them out.
Enter Charlie Wilson

Charlie had graduated 8th from the bottom of has Annapolis class. As a naval officer he joined Jack Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Late in 1960, an opening occurred in his local congressional seat and Wilson(while still in uniform) he ran, won and was sworn in to office the same time his hero, JFK was. He rapidly made his reputation as the “Liberal from Lufkin (TX)”. By the time The Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Wilson was influential in the House Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee. Wilson had been firmly in the AIPAC camp, and owed his rapid ascension to power and influence in Appropriations to Friends of Israel. But a 1982 trip to the Middle East exposed him to the plight of Muslim refugees in Pakistan and Lebanon affected him deeply and won him over to the mujahideen.

Wilson saw first-hand the effects of the Soviet scorched earth campaigns: unperturbed by any embedded media, the Russians were carpet bombing villages, poisoning wells, killing livestock and causing half the Afghanistan population to flee their homes. You can definitely throw in there an ample amount of raping and pillaging.

The Reagan administration had been content to titrate its aid to the Afghani Mujahideen. They were content to have both Afghanis and Ruskies slowly bleed each other. The CIA bought up and shipped in WWI-era Lee-Enfield .303 bolt-action rifles for the Mujahideen. On his first of many trips to Pakistan, Charlie resolved that this was no way to ‘kill Russians’. For their unwarranted invasion of Afghanistan, Charlie resolved to become personally instrumental in a more punitive retaliation.

It helps to understand Charlie Wilson's predisposition toward reprisals if you know something about Charlie's dog, Teddy. My own abridged version:
In 1946, Charley was 13. Charlie was inseparable from his dog, Teddy. He also had a cranky neighbor named Charles Hazard who was an elected city official and who threatened all dogs that pooped on his lawns. One day Teddy died a slow and agonizing death as Wilson and all his friends watched helplessly. It turned out that Teddy had been fed some hamburger mixed with ground glass. Charlie knew who was responsible. That night, Charlie poured gasoline over Hazard's exotic plants and front lawn and touched it off. But Charlie wasn't finished. He scammed a learner's driver’s license so that he could carpool all of the town's Afro-Americans to the polls on election day. En route to the polls, he would tell his riders about Teddy’s death. When the votes were tabulated the morning after the election, Hazard couldn't understand what had happened. Just so he got the message, Charlie came around in the evening to yell at him.
As the movie makes clear, there was a strong desire to “get even” with the Soviets by tying them down in a quagmire in Afghanistan comparable to the one into which the U.S. sank in Vietnam. Working back-channels, Wilson helped procure millions of federal dollars and funnel the money to Afghan resistance fighters.

The CIA had a time-honored policy of never introducing into a conflict weapons that could be traced back to the USA. So the first response of the CIA was to ship all of the Soviet Weapons they had been stockpiling for this purpose.

The CIA hadn't been willing to provide Afghanis with an effective mule-portable anti-aircraft gun. The mujahideen wanted to shoot down the Russian aerial gunships, especially the Mi-24 Hind helicopters. In Washington, Wilson developed a back-channels contact within the CIA named Gust Avrakotos, definitely a maverick. Before they were through, their underground Afghanistan desk had a weapons acquisition scheme which had separately enlisted the participation of the Israeli, Pakistani, and Polish (Communist!) armed forces.
Soviet SA-7 surface-to-air missiles were acquired, along with small arms, sniper rifles, mine detectors. Ultimately, USA's very own Stingers from General Dynamics were supplied. Charlie Wilson's underground CIA clique provided mujahideen with Tennessee mules to transport heavier weapons, and turned a deaf ear to rumors that their freedom fighters abused them by copulating and eating them.

The eventual cost-benefit analysis demonstrated that the Wilson-Avrakotos team had a dramatic effect. In the end they were directing the off-budget expenditure of $750,000,000 annually on the Afghan resistance. A million Afghans were killed and there were 28,000 Red Army KIA’s:
...every dollar that the United States slipped into the insurrection cost the Soviets at least ten to counter. That was the beauty of being on the right side of a guerilla war; it's expensive to fight men who are not afraid to die. They just go around blasting hardware and soldiers without warning - bleeding the occupiers at will.

There was another factor. The Soviets were not using their old weapons in Afghanistan; they were deploying front line troops along with their most sophisticated Hind helicopters, MiG fighters and T-72 tanks - men and machinery that otherwise would be committed to the European battlefield, where as many as 50 divisions of U.S. and Soviet troops sat eyeball to eyeball. Every ruble they spent and every soldier they committed to Afghanistan was one less available for the European front.
Criley correctly comments that, despite Wilson’s wishes, that only the legacy left behind in Afghanistan were their weapons and the confidence on the part of the Mujahideen that Muslims had been able to bring the second greatest world power to its knees. This confidence was reinforced by the fact that Afghans and Pakistanis were thrown back on to their own resources and self-reliance. Along the way, Wilson had lost his Pakistani partner, General Zia ul-Haq, to a plane crash. George H.W. Bush became absorbed in throwing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait (rightly so) and Clinton became absorbed in the wars of Yugoslavian Dissolution. (again, understandably so). All aid, military and non-military was completely cut off by the end of 1993.

In a Criley’s retrospective epilogue, Charlie Wilson is unapologetic:
I truly believe that this caused the Berlin wall to come down a good five, maybe ten, years before it would have otherwise. Over a million Russian Jews got their freedom and left for Israel. God knows how many were freed from the Gulags. At least a hundred million Eastern European are breathing free today, to say nothing of the Russian people. It’s the truth, and all those people who are enjoying those freedoms have no idea of the part played by a million Afghan ghosts.To this day no one has thanked them.

They removed the threat we all went to sleep with every night, of World War III breaking out. The countries that used to be in the Warsaw Pact are now in NATO. These were truly changes of biblical proportion, and the effect the jihad had in accelerating these events is nothing short of miraculous.

These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. And then we fucked up the end game.
I am fully aware that, on the theme of 9/11 unintended consequences, each informed reader has his own individual epilogue to offer on Charlie Wilson's war. I'll record mine as Charlie's above-stated judgment. In the way of a post-epilogue epilogue, I'll offer Charlie's recent conversation with Charlie Rose.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

George Bush Flunks His Final Exam in Foreign Policy 101

Wikipedia is usually useful in establishing a neutral frame of reference:
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states. It usually refers to international diplomacy, the conduct of international relations through the intercession of professional diplomats with regard to issues of peace-making, trade, war, economics and culture. International treaties are usually negotiated by diplomats prior to endorsement by national politicians. In an informal or social sense, diplomacy is the employment of tact to gain strategic advantage, one set of tools being the phrasing of statements in a non-confrontational, or polite manner. Diplomatic recognition in international law is a unilateral political act, with domestic and international legal consequences, whereby a state acknowledges an act or status of another state or government. Recognition can be accorded either de facto or de jure, usually by a statement of the recognising government. Recognition of a government implies recognition of the state it governs, but not vice versa ... De jure recognition is of course stronger, while de facto recognition is more tentative and more connected with effective control of the recognized state over its territory .....
To save time this morning, I'll let a couple of other articulate observors make my points.

Jon B. Alterman is director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to joining CSIS, he served as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State and as a special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

So, first I present exhibit 1, Alterman on Bush:

It has become impossible to credibly argue that the Bush Administration's Middle East policies have advanced the national interests of the United States.

On every issue that the administration has prioritized -- promoting Arab-Israeli peace, liberating Lebanon from Syrian and Iranian influence, democratizing Egypt, stabilizing Iraq, and containing Iran -- America's foes have grown stronger and its allies have grown weaker. Even more troublingly, virtually all of these problems are worsening as the administration prepares to leave office.

The problem is not merely one of happenstance or bad luck. Instead, it has to do with fundamental errors in analysis and planning, an intolerance of ambiguity, and a deeply flawed assessment of the capacities of American power. . . .

But there was an equally important failing. That was the conviction that among the most powerful tools that the U.S. government could use against its foes was withholding recognition and refusing dialogue. It is hard to find a single instance in which such boycotts were effective. Rather than being on the ropes, the targets of those efforts -- Hamas, Hezbollah, the Syrian and Iranian governments, and more -- are all far more secure than they were two years ago. That's not a birth pang of democracy, it's a whiff of failure.

Next, exhibit 2, a conservative columnist who needs no introduction, David Brooks, channels Barack Obama from his interview notes:

. . . . . Obama being Obama, he understood the broader reason I was asking about Lebanon. Everybody knows that Obama is smart (and he was quite well informed about Lebanon). The question is whether he’s seasoned and tough enough to deal with implacable enemies ... Obama compared Hezbollah to Hamas. Both need to be compelled to understand that
they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims ... [but] ... if they decide to shift, we’re going to recognize that. That’s an evolution that should be recognized.

The debate we’re going to be having with John McCain is how do we understand the blend of military action to diplomatic action that we are going to undertake. I constantly reject this notion that any hint of strategies involving diplomacy are somehow soft or indicate surrender or means that you are not going to crack down on terrorism. Those are the terms of debate that have led to blunder after blunder.
Obama said he found that the military brass thinks the way he does:
The generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.
I asked him if negotiating with a theocratic/ideological power like Iran is different from negotiating with a nation that’s primarily pursuing material interests. He acknowledged that
If your opponents are looking for your destruction it’s hard to sit across the table from them ... There are rarely purely ideological movements out there. We can encourage actors to think in practical and not ideological terms. We can strengthen those elements that are making practical calculations.
Obama doesn’t broadcast moral disgust when talking about terror groups, but he said that in some ways he’d be tougher than the Bush administration. He said he would do more to arm the Lebanese military and would be tougher on North Korea.
This is not an argument between Democrats and Republicans ... It’s an argument between ideology and foreign policy realism. I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush. I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In the early 1990s, the Democrats and the first Bush administration had a series of arguments — about humanitarian interventions, whether to get involved in the former Yugoslavia, and so on. In his heart, Obama talks like the Democrats of that era, viewing foreign policy from the ground up. But in his head, he aligns himself with the realist dealmaking of the first Bush. Apparently, he’s part Harry Hopkins and part James Baker.

This column by Brooks corroborates my thinking. Obama can insert a terminal punctuation to the Bush-McCain apostasy in American foreign policy. We can believe in our hopes and Obama's promise for a restoration of our American traditions of realism, sanity and legitimate leadership of the free world.

Obama is the one who can put America Barack on track!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes! It's Republican Friday!

Republicans say RINO's are an endangered species.

Yes, it's that time of the week again, where I try to stand up a live Republican who's a true conservative, meaning a non-Neo- conservative. It's getting progressively harder to find real conservatives. I think that's probably because party neo-purists are in the process of purifying putrefying the Grand Old Party, shrinking the G.O.P.'s tent. It's as if The Club for Growth is actively preoccupied with hunting RINO's down. In preparation for a 2012 comeback, the RNC has been directed to return to 'basic principles'. But about what basic principles, I think there's a lot of confusion.

This morning, I misspent an hour trying to read and understand some anti-McCain Republican blogs, and I have come away with my mind completely at sea. It's like they are talking and writing in a completely different language. The Vigil's staff has an opening for a Lexicographer!

Anyways, nominations are open for an authentic, reality-based, budget-balancing, constitution-defending, non-warmongering Republican.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Burma Problem

Robert Kaplan entertains the idea of providing Myanmar with Aid at the Point of a Gun:
60,000 people may have died as a result of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, and at least 1.5 million are homeless or otherwise in desperate need of assistance ... France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has spoken of the possibility of an armed humanitarian intervention, and there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta ... As it happens, American armed forces are now gathered in large numbers in Thailand for the annual multinational military exercise known as Cobra Gold. This means that Navy warships could pass from the Gulf of Thailand through the Strait of Malacca and north up the Bay of Bengal to the Irrawaddy Delta. It was a similar circumstance that had allowed for Navy intervention after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.
I am going to opine on this problem presented by Myanmar.

This is the same old generic problem that comes up with all issues pertaining to intervening to prevent holocausts. Relevant provisions in international law would be most important components of any discussions of this scope, but I'm setting that aside because that's above my expertise and pay grade. I'll just stick with my level of non-expert, non-elite understanding of how things work.

In the first place, nations do not intervene militarily purely for the purposes of preventing holocausts. The American Civil War was not fought to stop slavery, our own national holocaust. Our entry into World War II was not motivated by a need to prevent the genocide of 6 million Jews. Where nation-states intervene in cases of genocide, they do so because of their national interests. This presents two questions.
  1. Where do national interests of states encourage intervention in incidents of mass mistreatment of populations? The most obvious answer is where ethnic cleansing and like abuses of populations infringes on national interest of other states in the neighborhood. The creation of tides of refugees can become an actionable national interest issue. An influx of refugees can gravely affect a neighboring nation's economy. Or it can destabilize a region. On these grounds, I enthusiastically approved of our intervention in Haiti, since 1990, anyways. And for these reasons, I actively urged NATO and American intervention in the Balkans. Serbia's wars of Yugoslavian dissolution threatened the demographic stability of the entire region. The most egregious current case is now Zimbabwe, which has caused a considerable (three million) emigration of refugees. Outsiders such as myself wonder why member states of the African Union do not intervene in this case.

  2. Where do national interest of states permit intervention in incidents of mass mistreatment of populations? The most obvious answer is location, location, and location. Where do the would-be interventionist powers have sustainable technological access to intervening? This is what prevented Clinton from intervening in Rwanda. This is what prevented intervention in the Cambodian killing fields. This is what put the kibosh on intervening in the currently infamous case of Darfur. And, this is what prevents great powers from intervening in Burma. With the exception of China and/or India, no one has logistical access to Burma.
A final consideration bears mentioning. Elective invasions have a tendency of breeding illegitimate, indefinite and costly occupations. Thus,
  • the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq
  • the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia
Kaplan correctly concludes his piece in the NYT:
Sending in marines and sailors is the easy part; but make no mistake, the very act of our invasion could land us with the responsibility for fixing Burma afterward.
Enough said on this point, eh? Where there's no exit plan, exits do not come easily.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities?

The question is, which city is ours?

The answer is, of course, that both are.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who Should Be Barack Obama's Vice-President?

This is really the next question.

We all need to get up to speed on this. I am really curious as to how readers see the final Democratic ticket shaping up. Which one of tomorrow's leaders best complements Barack Obama's ticket as he takes on John (Bush III) McCain?

I have prepared an Instant Recount Vote (IRV) by which readers can register their choices. Under IRV balloting, you can vote for as many or as few candidates as you choose. Your preferences are indicated by the order of your selections.

Below, I have clipped some brief bios from Huffington Post or candidate web sites. At the end of this post you will find the link to the ballot.

Candidate List
Evan Bayh: Senator Bayh continues to break through the partisan gridlock of Washington to help more Hoosiers make a better life for themselves and their children. His commitment to making real progress instead of participating in political showdowns has set Bayh apart as a leader on a wide range of important issues facing the nation.

Joe Biden:
He is Mr. Foreign Policy. He also claims the best line of the primary season thus far. Too bad no one told Iowans he was running for President. He trumps any foreign policy claims that McCain brings to the table. He can hit McCain hard.

Mike Bloomberg: The current mayor of New York has been a darling of the media, as they spent months seeing if he would get into the Presidential race. Coupled with some private conversations with Obama that caused a tizzy in the fall, a Bloomberg candidacy could cause some media attention that would rival that of even John McCain. Excellent economic record. Interested in policy minutiae. Post-partisan (former Republican switched to Independent). Media darling.

Sherrod Brown: Brown is a favorite among progressives for his economic populism and outspoken criticism of the war. Could help deliver an important swing state.

Wesley Clark: Rhodes Scholar turned four-star general and once-presidential candidate. A star resource for Democrats on military affairs. John McCain would have to salute him. And he has Southern appeal.

Hillary Clinton: This ticket is either a dream or a nightmare. Some see it as the only way to reunite the Democrats in time for November. Other see it as the fastest way to destroy the Obama brand. Strong appeal with working class voters and women.

Tom Daschle: The former South Dakota senator, Daschle has been a strong supporter of Obama's campaign; he's a national co-chair and is rumored to play a big part in the campaign strategy. Can bring in votes from his home state.

Chris Dodd: Chris Dodd is a senior Democratic leader in the United States Senate. A respected legislator who works in a bipartisan fashion to better peoples’ lives, Chris Dodd is best known for his work to make America safer, stronger, and more prosperous.

John Edwards: John Edwards' bold ideas have shaped the debate in this election. Whether it’s creating universal health care or halting global warming, ending poverty or ending the war in Iraq and restoring America’s moral leadership around the world, John has led with the boldest and most comprehensive plans for overcoming the challenges we face today.

Chuck Hagel: A Republican senator who has fought with Bush tooth and nail over the Iraq war, Hagel is one of three Republicans who voted with the Democrats over a withdrawal plan. He also has served on the Banking, Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees. Hagel has also said he's considering endorsing Sen. Obama. Broad Senate experience. A living embodiment of Obama's commitment to work with like-minded Republicans. Also is a veteran with experience in Reagan's administration

Dennis Kucinich: Congressman Kucinich is Mr. Impeachment, who introduced H Res 333: Impeachment of Dick Cheney. Congressman Kucinich has been at the forefront of the anti-war movement in Congress. In the 108th Congress, he voted against both Supplemental Appropriations Bills that would continue to fund a failed policy in Iraq. The Congressman believes that supporting additional funds for the war in Iraq will only serve to keep our troops inside Iraq indefinitely.

Janet Napolitano: Another popular Western governor, Napolitano has settled into a second term in McCain's very red home state. She also backed Obama early in the race. She has proven her executive capacity in Republican territory, as well as the Southwest, which will help sway Obamicans. A female candidate could also help reunite the Democrats.

Bill Richardson: You know him, you love him; he's the New Mexico governor with a heart of gold, a kickin' mustache, and -- thanks to James Carville -- a new nickname. A foreign policy resume a mile long, executive experience, and a lock with Hispanic voters. And he picked Obama, despite his Clinton ties.

Brian Schwietzer: Schweitzer has been Montana's governor since 2005, and is currently one of the most popular governors in the country. In addition to his executive experience, Schweitzer has spent a good amount of time around the world (including the Middle East) in his former life as an irrigation developer. His popularity and his pro-gun stance could help Obama in the Mountain West area. He also refused PAC and special interest money during his 2004 campaign. He's also criticized the economic consequences of the Iraq War, an approach that Obama has recently adopted.

Kathleen Sebelius: This Kansas governor convinced a Republican to leave his party, become a Democrat, and run as her lieutenant governor. Kansas is rife with stories of Republicans undergoing conversions, and Sebelius gets a good amount of credit for this. Another Red-state governor with an excellent post-partisan record. Having a female VP could be a strong ticket.

Jim Webb: A former Republican, he served as Secretary of the Navy for Ronald Reagan. Webb defeated George "Macaca" Allen to become a junior senator in Virginia. Webb is a good foil for Obama's post-partisan message, and he's got the military credentials to match up with John McCain. He's good at playing the attack dog, which will let Obama take the high road. And he's from trending-blue Virginia, which would be a great pickup in November for Democrats. He's also pro-guns.

There you have it!

Shame on me if the eventual Vice Presidential candidate is not on this list. If readers have a write-in candidate, they should mention him in comment sections below and restrain from voting until I have a chance to consider adding your suggestions! Also, politicking is permitted in the comments. I certainly intend to do so!

Here is the link to the IRV ballot.

Friday, May 9, 2008

For Mothers' Day: I’d Banner Out a Warning...

As the song goes, it’s sometimes (unfortunately) necessary to issue a warning.

That was the case last Halloween when Bush-Cheney and their neo-con advisors deliberately pitched their desire to bomb Iran in the mainstream press. This was before the Administration was forced to release the Intelligence Community’s NIE refuting their claims of imminent danger from Iran’s nuclear program.

But that NIE has turned into nothing but a small speed bump in the road for committed neo-cons. In addition to Bush intelligence officials (DNI) Michael McConnell’s and (CIA) Michael Hayden’s constant backpedaling and discrediting of their own NIE intelligence product, Bush was successfully able to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (QUDS) as a “terrorist” group. With their incessant attempts at publicizing “proof” that “special groups” of Iranian QUDS are helping the Iraqi “terrorists”, comes a shift in what the rationale for a strike will most likely be: from pre-empting Iran’s nuclear threat to countering “terrorists”. This is good news and bad. The good news, little as it is, is that the plan of a year ago which called for massive bombing of hundreds of sites may have morphed now to a more limited one designed to “send a message”. (Some people, it seems, do still believe in the “Shock and Awe” theory.)

The problem is threefold with any such plan for a more limited strike on Iran:
  1. The significant chance is that this method of sending a message won’t work.
  2. It could escalate quickly.
  3. It’s easier to start than finish.
By all accounts, the Administration’s plan to bomb Iran does not involve getting congressional or public approval this time but hinges on a stealth campaign (with assistance again of “message multipliers” in the mainstream press). Bush believes he’s the Decider after all and that it will be a simple matter to manufacture a pretext “casus belli” after the fact, given the tense circumstances of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Last fall’s fluorescent “orange alert” in the Twin Cities did catch many motorists’ attention. So we think it’s high time to do it again. Our banner brigade will issue a second warning both legally and effectively. If you’d like to help us by holding the side of one of the orange banners, please meet us this Sunday at 3 pm at the arched footbridge just west of Snelling that spans 94 in St. Paul. There’s plenty of street parking on both frontage roads that run just north and just south of 94 where the footbridge starts. The warning will hopefully look a little like the photo below only it will be more nicely arched, twice as long, and, in all probability, it will get the attention of about ten lanes of traffic safely moving underneath it.

So come bring your mother and celebrate Mothers Day* in the same true way that inspired it ---not waiting in line at a busy restaurant!

American Politics Draws Strange Bedfellows

Not to mention under-the-bed perverts and voyeurs...

American politics draws all kinds of kibitzers from abroad. That's to be expected, because our USA - until five years ago - was the 'leader of the free world'. Even still, millions across the world pay more attention to our politics than we do to theirs; in fact, millions of people in the 'rest of the world'(ROW) pay more attention to our politics than millions of our own people. Witness the last eight years. That's because those in the ROW are stakeholders in who leads America.

Sometimes our politics draw partisan attention from unexpected protagonists.

During the 16 April Democratic debate, Barack Obama once again refused to condemn former President Jimmy Carter- for holding talks with the Hamas terrorist group. That fact won him praise from Hamas leaders. John McCain's camp swooped in on this so-called endorsement as a fail-safe fund-raising 'gotcha'.

Well, Juan Cole has turned over the fact that al-Qaeda No. 2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri has declared that he is actually in John McCain's camp! Not surprising: both want to destroy Iran. Al-Zawahiri is miffed that McCain keeps confusing hyper-Sunni al-Qaeda with radical Shiism. During a new online Q&A session, al-Zawahiri said al-Qaeda wants to see the destruction of Iran - a Shiite nation battling the terrorists. He hopes that the US struggle with Iran will destroy the latter and weaken the former, putting al-Qaeda in a position to administer the coup de grace.
We hope that war 'saps' both Washington and Tehran. The dispute between America and Iran is a genuine struggle, and the possibility of the US striking Iran is real. Whichever country that emerges victorious will find itself in an intensified and fierce battle with al-Qaeda.
So, take care, my fellow Americans. As we do our politicking, be aware that the rest of the world is watching you.

Republican-of-the-Week Day!

This space is reserved for the celebration of any decent, critical thinking, honest member of the GOP.

Nominations are in order.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Top Ten Reasons I'm Voting for . . .

Well, I've made it very clear before in these pages.

It's not even close.When everything else is said and done, it comes down to words. Whose face, voice and words will I invite into my home on the nightly TV news for the next four years? Whose words will be inspirational, informative, trustworthy, and transformative? Words are critically important to me.

Like I said: it's not even close.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Plaschke on Scully

The World’s Best Sportswriter on the World’s Best Sports Talker

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ radio and TV announcer Vin Scully is 80. For 59 years his has been the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His current contract is up at the end of the year. The Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke speculates about whether it will be renewed, and if so, on what terms will it be negotiated.

In part:

Let Scully announce only the home games. It's not ideal for Dodgers fans who still wish he worked every inning of every game on both television and radio, but it's better than the alternative.

A half of a season with Scully is better than a full season with anyone else.

Now, more than ever, the drought-stricken Dodgers need him.

Now, more than ever, a city with few sports or civic leaders worth trusting needs him.

Vin Scully has the only sports voice in this town that really matters, doesn't he?

Vin Scully is this city's last civic treasure that everyone still believes, isn't he?

This is why I reacted so swiftly to his innocuous quotes. This is perhaps why we all should listen to Scully the way we've never listened to him before.

He apparently won't retire after this year, but one day he will, and it will come sooner than we think, making every syllable worth cherishing.

Did you ever wish that a batter would foul off a couple of more pitches so Scully could finish telling a story before the end of the inning?

Did you ever hope the TV cameras would leave the field and capture a malted-milk-stained child in the stands, just so Scully could say something sweet about the kid?

With Scully in their ear, Dodgers fans are the only ones in the country who wait for their baseball games to turn into a history class or a Hallmark card.

And when something truly spectacular happens on the field? The next day at work, isn't somebody always asking, "How did Vinny describe it?"

Like nothing the Dodgers do is real until we hear it from him?

So we can relax now, he says he's staying. But make no mistake, he's also leaving.

His recent comments remind us that the voice of the dawning of baseball in Los Angeles has become a deep, glowing, wondrous sunset.

We need to sit still for a while and stare at it, embrace it, cling to it in hopes of keeping it there forever.