Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm Not Celebrating a New Year This Year.

I'll have to wait a year. Or more . . .

Tonight is just 31 December 2007.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Remember When Bush Rescinded His Fatwa on Osama bin Laden?

Way back when?

That was back when Bush's preparations for his unnecessary, ruinous - not to say pestilential - invasion of Iraq were well underway. . . .
Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission ... he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed ... You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you ... I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him ... He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore.
That was then...
This is now.
Mass murderer Osama Bin Laden threatened Saturday to expand his holy war to Israel in a chilling threat delivered in a 56-minute audiotape posted on the Internet:
We intend to liberate Palestine, the whole of Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the sea ... We will not recognize even one inch for Jews in the land of Palestine as other Muslim leaders have ... I assure our kin in Palestine especially that we shall expand our jihad ... The most evil of the traitors are those who trade away their religion for the sake of their mortal life.
What a difference five years makes...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ten Top Myths about Iraq in 2007

By Juan Cole

Juan R. I. Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam, and lived in a number of places in the Muslim world for extended periods of time.

For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context.

Cole's most recent book is Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (2007). An earlier book was his Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shi`ite Islam (2002). A complete Cole bibliography can be found here.

Cole's daily blog is the renown Informed Comment and he also writes a column for Salon. His Top Ten Myths about Iraq are taken from Informed Comment:

  • Myth 10: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.
    Fact: In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!
  • Myth 9: There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007.
    Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned the government. Sunni Arabs, who are aware that under his government Sunnis have largely been ethnically cleansed from Baghdad, see al-Maliki as a sectarian politician uninterested in the welfare of Sunnis.
  • Myth 8: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
    Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital.
  • Myth 7: Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla groups in Iraq.
    Fact: Iran has not been proved to have sent weapons to any Iraqi guerrillas at all. It certainly would not send weapons to those who have a raging hostility toward Shiites. (Iran may have supplied war materiel to its client, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI), which was then sold off from warehouses because of graft, going on the arms market and being bought by guerrillas and militiamen.
  • Myth 6: The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women.
    Fact: Iraqi women have suffered significant reversals of status, ability to circulate freely, and economic situation under the Bush administration.
  • Myth 5: Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in meeting the "benchmarks" worked out with the Bush administration.
    Fact: in the words of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, "Those legislative benchmarks include approving a hydrocarbon law, approving a debaathification law, completing the work of a constitutional review committee, and holding provincial elections. Those commitments, made 1 1/2 years ago, which were to have been completed by January of 2007, have not yet been kept by the Iraqi political leaders despite the breathing space the surge has provided."
  • Myth 4: The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants.
    Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have polished off al-Qaeda. A major pollster working in Iraq observed, Most of the recent survey results he has seen about political reconciliation, Warshaw said, are ". . . more about [Iraqis] reconciling with the United States within their own particular territory, like in Anbar. . . . But it doesn't say anything about how Sunni groups feel about Shiite groups in Baghdad. . . . In Iraq, I just don't hear statements that come from any of the Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish groups that say 'We recognize that we need to share power with the others, that we can't truly dominate.' The polling shows that "the Iraqi government has still made no significant progress toward its fundamental goal of national reconciliation."
  • Myth 3: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth.
    Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi north is now undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey.
  • Myth 2: Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007 and the Iraqi public, despite some grumbling, is not eager for the US to depart.
    Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police. Across the board, Iraqis believe that their conflicts are mainly caused by the US military presence and they are eager for it to end.
  • Myth 1: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."
    Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.
But, as one of Cole's readers comments, the biggest of all-time myths about Mesopotamia is that Iraq was even partially responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

Iowa Republicans Are Concerned

Friday is Grand Ol’ Party Day

When I do my weekly radar scan for redeemable Republicans, I usually only turn up retiring or retired office holders. Such is the case in Iowa.

On a recent ice-swept morning, a group of self-described moderate Republicans met in a hotel convention room. About 60 people attended a the meeting convened by former Iowa Lt. Gov. Joy Corning, who served eight years under Gov. Terry Branstad until Democrats took over the governor's office in 1999. Their concerns had been heightened by a Republican presidential primary campaign that finds most of the leading candidates advocating a conservative social agenda. There, Corning is quoted as saying
Our goal is to get traditional centrist moderate Republicans to get to the caucus and make their voices heard. The moderates who are out there, they've been rather quiet for a few years. Many of them have dropped out of the party or become independents, and so this is an effort to regroup and encourage people to be active.
Christine Todd Whitman, a former New Jersey governor and former Bush Cabinet member who now leads the Republican Leadership Council, observed,
It means building the farm team and taking back the word 'Republican' to say we don't have to be the way we are perceived now at the national level, as a mean-spirited narrow-minded litmus-test party.

We can be moderate, conservative, liberal as long as we agree on the basic fundamental principles that make us Republicans. You can disagree with someone and not hate them. That's where we need to get, so that we can have the kind of campaigns at the federal level that actually talk about the important issues and try to solve them instead of trying to outflank the other person -- 'I'm more conservative than you are.'
Iowa resembles Illinois, where Republicans were a tighter organization until losing the governor's office in 2002 after a quarter-century of GOP chief executives. Chuck Laudner, executive director of the Iowa GOP, explained that his party was beset with a political free-for-all:
The governor was the rudder of our Republican Party. Without that, we've fractured up a little bit.

We've all fractured up, and everybody's gone and done their own thing. We've got to change the mind-set and bring everybody back in.
Former Congressman Greg Ganske, who is backing Sen. John McCain of Arizona, acknowledged that the presidential contest leaves some Iowa Republicans cold:
Probably all the people who are here are fiscal conservatives. We haven't been real happy with what has been going on with the federal budget and our deficits, our balance of trade, things like that. We have an unpopular war going on started by a Republican president, so I think it's fair to say there's less enthusiasm right now.
Redeemable Republicans’ taking stock is way overdue.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto


An unfathomable loss.


Barnett Rubin's interview with the Veracifier (03-Oct-07),
thanks to BrassCheckTV:

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Before dawn, off my front porch.
I have nothing else.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Best Wishes for . . .

I find that my discretionary spending power is severely depleted at the end of this year.

According to best estimates, my family has - or soon will have had - $4,100 squandered (in its behalf) on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

So, alas, I can not afford to send out Christmas cards this year.

You know, what I mean: those cute & colorful folded cardboard salutations that arrive in the mail that communicate:
  • Merry Christmas
  • Happy New Year
  • Seasons' Greetings
  • Happy Holidays
  • Good Tidings
  • Happy Hanukkah
  • Happy Winter Solstice
  • and etc.
Consequentially, and embarrassingly, I have felt the need to resort to using 'recycled' or 'previously sent' cards. Of course, I'm concerned it might appear to be a bit unseemly, cheap or tawdry. But, on the plus side, I can rationalize saving a few trees.

So. . .

Friday, December 21, 2007

This Week's Respectable Republican is. . . Senator Chuck Hagel

Friday is the one day each week when we single out a singularly notable and redeemable Republican.

Retiring Senator Chuck Hagel is joining the American Security Project (ASP), an upstart think tank launched by two former Democratic presidential candidates, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart.

The ASP's bipartisan Board of Directors-General includes Anthony Zinni (USMC, Ret.) and former Bush administration official Richard Armitage, who are working together to build consensus around a new strategy to enhance American security and improve U.S.-foreign relations around the world. ASP president and chairman Gary Hart welcomed Senator Hagel:
His willingness to question assumptions and his courage to speak difficult truths are qualities that are needed to end the paralysis that dominates the discussion of national security issues today. He has been an eloquent advocate for the use of all the instruments of American power, and we enthusiastically welcome him to the board.
Of note, is the ASP's most recent white paper, Are We Winning? Measuring Progress in the Struggle Against Violent Jihadism. The following summary shows promise:

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. foreign policy has focused largely on confronting the violent jihadist threat worldwide. There have been numerous successes and failures over the past six years in this so-called "war on terror."

The American Security Project has developed ten criteria to measure progress – or lack of progress – in the struggle against violent jihadism. These metrics are designed to be both reproducible and as objective as possible. They are intended to comprise a holistic approach, examining causes and processes associated with violent jihadism, in addition to outcomes.

On balance, these metrics indicate that the United States is not winning the "war on terror." The lack of measurable progress on most indices, the collapse of international public support for the United States, and the dramatic increase in jihadist violence since 2003 paint a bleak picture.

I. Number of Terrorist Incidents
There has been a massive and dramatic increase in Islamist terrorism since 2003. Terror attacks by Islamist extremist groups have increased significantly during this time, even when excluding attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and those related to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
II. Health of the Jihadist Movement
The jihadist movement remains vibrant and dynamic. Early claims about disruption of the al Qaeda network were dramatically overstated. Only five of the twenty-two most wanted terrorists in 2001 have been captured or killed. Though some high ranking al Qaeda members have been eliminated, the organization has been able to promote or recruit members to replace losses.
III. Al Qaeda Affiliated Movements
Al Qaeda has expanded its reach globally by forging closer relationships with previously autonomous groups.
IV. State Sponsorship of Terrorism
Active state sponsorship of terrorism has diminished worldwide.
V. Public Attitudes in the Muslim World
U.S. foreign policy is perceived throughout the Muslim world as an aggressive, hostile and destabilizing force.
VI. Public Attitudes in the United States
American citizens remain very concerned about the terrorist threat. Significant numbers fear attacks on themselves or their family and friends. Increasing numbers of Americans believe the U.S. is losing the "war on terror."
VII. Economic Prosperity and Political Freedom
Broad measures of economic prosperity and political freedom show slow but steady improvement throughout most of the Muslim world.
VIII. Ungoverned Spaces
There has been minimal progress on reducing ungoverned spaces. Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer state sponsors of terrorism, but vast ungoverned areas within both of those states make them homes to vibrant jihadist movements that are less vulnerable to traditional instruments of statecraft.
IX. International Cooperation Against Terrorists
The number of countries committed to combating terrorism has increased since 9/11.
X. Terrorist Financing
International cooperation has led to some successes in curtailing terrorist financing, but there is no clear evidence that Islamist terror groups are being starved of resources. Trends in Afghan poppy production suggest a disturbing new source of terrorist financing.
The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is in dire need of new leadership and new ideas. Our present leadership has produced self-inflicted problems every time and everywhere it promised us solutions. Good ol' Al Einstein observed,
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
I'll be looking for ASP's appearances on C-SPAN.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Torture Not Intended for General Audiences?

This poster has been censored by the
Motion Pictures of America Association (MPAA)
Alex Gibney's documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan's Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. The image in question is a news photo of two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them.

According to Variety An MPAA spokesman said:
We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.
Is the real reason for MPAA's objection is that the hood makes a documentary about torture seem more like a horror movie?

We can't have that.

Final Presidential Press Conference of 2007

QUESTION: Mr. President, you maybe saw that President Clinton said recently that one of the first actions of a new Clinton administration would be to send Presidents 41 and 42 on a worldwide goodwill mission to restore the country's good name abroad. I wonder if you think such a thing is necessary?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

WTF? Where's This So-Called Liberal Media?

Warning! Wednesday Night Rant!

I Know where the liberal media isn't.

I don't think it's on National Public Radio. It certainly is not on C-Span:According to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research,
right-wing think tanks got 51 percent of C-SPAN’s total coverage in 2006, while left-of-center think tanks only got 18 percent of their coverage.
Maybe Liberal media is to be found on MSNBC's Keith Olberman's Countdown. I don't much like his show, however. Especially with that bimbo who's taking his place recently: the one who devoted 12½ minutes of noninterupted air time to the Clinton clowns last night.

However, I'm not really looking for 'liberal media'.

For me, all I want is objectivity, fact-based, reality reported by journalists with integrity and funded without strings controlled by corporate bosses.

The gold standard for me is the British Broadcasting Corporation. I am fortunate to get the BBC on my local AM radio station (owned by a conservative newspaper).

Listening to 'Beebe' for a year convinces me that my brothers and sisters who live in the notorious fly-over states are not stupid. They are just not informed. They would be, could be and should be fact-based, but they do not hear of facts. All they hear is American teevee, American gospel, American gossip. Their politics is full of polemics and bumpersticker superficialities. Because that's the only way their media 'informs' them.

My brothers and sisters are enslaved by our dysfunctional corporate-controlled, ratings-driven media which enshrouds our continent from sea to shining sea. We can do better.

Set my people free.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Any One Who Votes for Clinton in the Primaries is Rolling the Dice

I have never seen such craziness.

Not, anyway, since John Kerry was flirting with John McCain as a potential running mate in 2004.

To Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton describes Sen. Barack Obama as a callow, highly ambitious political prodigy who is asking voters to "roll the dice" and elect him president. Clinton should know - that's a fair description of himself when he first sought the presidency in 1992.

And then,Hillary says Obama hasn't done the 'hard work' she has. That can only remind all of us that HRC sounds more and more like GWB everyday.

Finally, in Orangeburg (SC) on Monday, Bill Clinton said that the first thing wife Hillary will do when she reaches the White House is
to dispatch him and his predecessor, President George H.W. Bush, on an around-the-world mission to repair the damage done to America's reputation by the current president - Bush's son, George W. Bush.
Well, the first thing she intends to do, because you can do this without passing a bill, the first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again.
Well, any one who would believe this crap, would also be taken by surprise to hear that Lieberman would endorse McCain.

Sure enough, Daddy Bush's (President #41) office came out in the same news cycle with an adamant denial. Former President Bush’s chief of staff Jean Becker said that he
wholeheartedly supports the President of the United States, including his foreign policy. He has never discussed an ‘around-the-world-mission’ with either former President Bill Clinton or Sen. Clinton, nor does he think such a mission is warranted since he is proud of the role America continues to play around the world as the beacon of hope for freedom and democracy.

President Bush is excited about several of the excellent Republican candidates running for president, and looks forward to discussing their candidacy once the Republican nominee is determined.
Of course, Clinton wasn't serious. Bill 'Big Dog' Clinton is still the callow youth. He'll say anything, tell any story to grab the spotlight for entertainment. He likes to have a good time as a loose cannon. His Presidency was too boring a job to keep him interested. Hillary's presidency will be likewise a drag on him. I don't know if Hillary is presidential, but I think it's too bad that we can't entertain her as POTUS without having to entertain her spouse as well.

Speaking as someone who voted to put the Clintons in the White House for eight years, I have to say that the pair of them are so over.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Senator Chris Dodd Wants to Un-Redact the Constitution

Showdown on the FISA Bill

He's making his stand today in a one-man filibuster. He needs help!
The latest word from the Dodd camp regarding what will happen on the FISA Bill is that today, Dodd will take the floor and not yield.

He can take "questions" from other senators during the filibuster, which can be no more than 20 minutes. We understand that Kennedy and Feingold so far have agreed to do this.

They're asking for people to contact their Senators. Dodd is going to have plenty of time to read, so there's time for you to drop a couple of dimes and make the calls. Click below and join the Dodd Squad!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why Al Gore Is Not Running for President

When you address an inconvenient truth,

and when you address the world,
you can't afford
to pander.
Big Al made the right call. He has a larger constituency.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Baseball: Who We Used to Be

Jacques Barzun and Tim Rutten on America's Past National PastimeThe historian Jacques Barzun once remarked,
Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game.
SNIP (a big one)

Barzun is right about baseball's intimacy with the American spirit. What other game could have coaxed poetic sentiment from both Walt Whitman and Calvin Coolidge? The game of baseball speaks to us of that idyllic national past we imagine in common. It is played in a green and open space -- as if such things were not now the luxury they are for so many. Every baseball game -- not match or contest, but game -- is rich with infinite promise, just as we believe American lives once were. We chalk the diamond's boundaries and we allocate each game nine innings, but -- theoretically -- once the first pitch is thrown, every baseball game could go on indefinitely and every ball once hit could, if it stayed between the foul lines, remain in play forever, pursued through all eternity by some tireless fielder.

Alone among the games we play, baseball records -- and rewards -- individual effort, team play . . . and sacrifice.

Baseball's seasonal rhythms are those of our own rural paradise lost -- hopeful promise in springtime; diligent toil through summer; harvest and reward in autumn; the warmth of well-earned rest in winter. So it was in that long ago America of our collectively imagined past. So, somehow, it seems it might be still -- or, perhaps, again -- as we sit in the sunlight and pass a couple of hours of time that stands apart from normal time, watching the young, the strong and the fleet play our game.

It would be lovely to believe that honest, sober, fearless George Mitchell -- having done the impossible by bringing peace to Northern Ireland -- might now work a domestic miracle, and somehow recall us all to the memory of our better sporting nature.
There's a lot more to read from Rutten's column, in its original. I just couldn't go deep, down and dirty on the negatives.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Question: How Much Longer Can We Endure the Torture of Our National Pride?

Answer: As long as our leaders remain certified.

How much longer will Senator Kit Bond remain a certified life guard?

How much longer will Brig. General Thomas Hartmann remain a certified liar?

How much longer can we afford to wait?

No longer.

Thirty retired admirals and generals have penned a letter to Senate and House intelligence chairmen John Rockefeller and Silvestre Reyes - urges the passage of Section 327 of the Conference Report on the Intelligence Authorization Act. It would restrict the CIA from waterboarding by confining the agency to interrogation techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual:
Dear Chairman Reyes and Chairman Rockefeller:

As retired military leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces, we write to express our strong support for Section 327 of the Conference Report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, H.R. 2082. Section 327 would require intelligence agents of the U.S. government to adhere to the standards of prisoner treatment and interrogation contained in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Human Collector Operations (the Army Field Manual).

We believe it is vital to the safety of our men and women in uniform that the United States not sanction the use of interrogation methods it would find unacceptable if inflicted by the enemy against captured Americans. That principle, embedded in the Army Field Manual, has guided generations of American military personnel in combat.
The current situation, in which the military operates under one set of interrogation rules that are public and the CIA operates under a separate, secret set of rules, is unwise and impractical. In order to ensure adherence across the government to the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and to maintain the integrity of the humane treatment standards on which our own troops rely, we believe that all U.S. personnel - military and civilian - should be held to a single standard of humane treatment reflected in the Army Field Manual.

The Field Manual is the product of decades of practical experience and was updated last year to reflect lessons learned from the current conflict. Interrogation methods authorized by the Field Manual have proven effective in eliciting vital intelligence from dangerous enemy prisoners. Some have argued that the Field Manual rules are too simplistic for civilian interrogators. We reject that argument. Interrogation methods authorized in the Field Manual are sophisticated and flexible. And the principles reflected in the Field Manual are values that no U.S. agency should violate.

General David Petraeus underscored this point in an open letter to the troops in May in which he cautioned against the use of interrogation techniques not authorized by the Field Manual:

What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight. . . . is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect.... Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone "talk;" however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

Employing interrogation methods that violate the Field Manual is not only unnecessary, but poses enormous risks. These methods generate information of dubious value, reliance upon which can lead to disastrous consequences. Moreover, revelation of the use of such techniques does immense damage to the reputation and moral authority of the United States essential to our efforts to combat terrorism.

This is a defining issue for America. We urge you to support the adoption of Section 327 of the Conference Report and thereby send a clear message - to U.S. personnel and to the world - that the United States will not engage in or condone the abuse of prisoners and will honor its commitments to uphold the Geneva Conventions.


General Joseph Hoar, USMC (Ret.)
General Paul J. Kern, USA (Ret.)
General Charles Krulak, USMC (Ret.)
General David M. Maddox, USA (Ret.)
General Merrill A. McPeak, USAF (Ret.)
Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret.)
Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Donald L. Kerrick, USA (Ret.)
Vice Admiral Albert H. Konetzni Jr., USN (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Charles Otstott, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Harry E. Soyster, USA (Ret.)
Major General Paul Eaton, USA (Ret.)
Major General Eugene Fox, USA (Ret.)
Major General John L. Fugh, USA (Ret.)
Rear Admiral Don Guter, USN (Ret.)
Major General Fred E. Haynes, USMC (Ret.)
Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, USN (Ret.)
Major General Melvyn Montano, ANG (Ret.)
Major General Gerald T. Sajer, USA (Ret.)
Major General Antonio 'Tony' M. Taguba, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General David M. Brahms, USMC (Ret.)
Brigadier General James P. Cullen, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General Evelyn P. Foote, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General David R. Irvine, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General John H. Johns, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General Richard O'Meara, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General Murray G. Sagsveen, USA (Ret.)
Brigadier General Anthony Verrengia, USAF (Ret.)
Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, USA (Ret.)

Friday Morning GOP Blogging

The last decent Republicans?

All right! I may be cheating. But I'm desperate enough to reach all the way back to March.Fired attorneys, left to right, Carol Lam, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California; David Iglesias, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, Daniel Bogden, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada; Paul Carlton, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, H.E. "Bud" Cummins, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arkansas, and John McKay, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, as they were all sworn in before testifying to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill last March.

I have zero respect for Republicans. I caught a moment from their last so-called 'debate' on C-Span the other night. I think they had a rule that there would be no questions on the two I's, Iraq and immigration.

Tancredo asked some other candidate a question about immigration and was shouted down by a chorus of multiple voices.
No! No!
Not fair!
You can't ask that!
Any answer will be disallowed!
That last was from the moderator!

Pertaining to the other I-word, Moira Whelan of Democracy Arsenal compiled the table below, comparing the last two Iowa debates as far as their coverage of the subject 36% of Americans consider the most important- Iraq:
I hear a lot of the spinelessness of Congressional Democrats these days. But the spinelessness of this crop of Republican presidential candidates - with one notable exception, apparently not debating - is without parallel. This collection ranges from twits to twerps, not one of which is worth warm spit in a cold bucket.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Walter Cronkite, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and the Occupation of Iraq

I used to listen to Cronkite (every night) and Winfrey comes up more than a day late and a dollar short.

Marty Kaplan says that Oprah is to Iraq as Walter was to Vietnam:
. . . I watched Oprah Winfrey stump for Barack Obama this weekend . . . It's about reassuring the overwhelming majority of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq that they are, in fact, an overwhelming majority. It's also about giving courage or cover to every Democratic member of Congress . . . .

How do people know what other people think? The sad truth is that it doesn't come from talking to one another; it comes from the media.

. . . . no journalist can today occupy the place that Walter Cronkite did when, at the end of a CBS documentary about the 1968 Tet offensive, he said the U.S. was in a stalemate in Vietnam and should get out . . . . Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert actually do tell the truth, and they mercilessly deconstruct the biases of "fair and balanced" faux news and fatuous "narrative" narratives, but their audience sizes limit their impact, and their matter is more than matched by Republican media anti-matter.

But Oprah -- well, in an age that has thoroughly blurred the boundary between news and entertainment, Oprah may actually be the twenty-first century's de facto national anchor. She really does channel -- and change -- Middle America.

. . . . Oprah's audience will take from this the message that their own opposition to the war isn't a betrayal of the troops, as the Republicans claim; isn't giving comfort to the terrorists, as the administration asserts; isn't moral cowardice, as the Right's bile-spewing whiner intelligentsia insists. And maybe the message that current and aspiring members of Congress will take from Oprah's unembarrassed anti-war message is that it's not political suicide to stand with the decisive majority of the American people, that being called bad names by your opponents will not kill you. . . .

If Oprah can feel it and think it and say it, then you can feel it and think it and say it. What's not in question is the message to Democratic politicians, especially incumbents, still weaseling on Iraq: If you've lost Oprah, you've lost Middle America.
I concede that Kaplan makes some strong and eloquent points here. No Doubt. But let me review the historical antecedents involved here.

In the wake of his visit to Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite concluded his 27-Feb-1968 broadcast with his famous and unusually personal Report from Vietnam:
. . . we'd like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective.

Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I'm not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. Another standoff may be coming in the big battles expected south of the Demilitarized Zone. Khesanh could well fall, with a terrible loss in American lives, prestige and morale, and this is a tragedy of our stubbornness there . . it is doubtful that the American forces can be defeated across the breadth of the DMZ with any substantial loss of ground. Another standoff. On the political front, past performance gives no confidence that the Vietnamese government can cope with its problems, now compounded by the attack on the cities. It may not fall, it may hold on, but it probably won't show the dynamic qualities demanded of this young nation. Another standoff.

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds . . . it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. . . .

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. . . . But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
Cronkite had been either neutral or pro-war before he was against it. But with this single and unique (for him) editorial, this peerless broadcast journalist opened an immense credibility cap for Lyndon Baines Johnson who immediately reacted by turning to his aides and saying,
If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America.
LBJ knew at that moment he would have to change course. A month later Johnson declined to run for reelection and announced that he was seeking a way out of the war. David Halberstam wrote that this "was the first time in American history a war had been declared over by an anchorman."

Against this Cronkite standard, how does Oprah's out-of-the-closet anti-war endorsement of Barack Obama measure up?
  • Oprah's conversion is late. Winfrey was pro-Iraq invasion and occupation before she was against it. She has arrived late to an anti-war position. As a matter of fact, coming out of the closet last Saturday, she is 62 months later than then State Senator Obama (Oct'02), who was publicly against the invasion before it was launched. Compare Cronkite and Winfrey statements relative to LBJ's and GWB's 2nd-term elections (1968 and 2004): Cronkite's editorial was delivered 8+ months before LBJ's re-election and Winfrey's coming-out followed GWB's re-election by 37½. Assuming Winfrey's opinion-molding influence was on a par with Cronkite's, how much would have her more timely conversion saved our country and the world in terms of unnecessary blood, treasure and delay in national redemption?

  • Cronkite and Winfrey had/have different audiences. In 1964, Cronkite was the TV anchor of record. He was peerless in terms of delivering an objective and authoritative version of the day's news, sort of what we are supposedly treated to by Jim Lehrer and the PBS News Hour currently. His audience tuned in because they were stakeholders in the consequences (economic and political) of the current events of the day. As such, they were voters. Winfrey's audience, I would wager, are significantly less likely to be voters. Cronkite's viewers were policy wonks; Winfrey's day-time listeners are a different kind of junky, pursuing a little encouragement and information about weight loss, stress, fashion, etc.

  • Cronkite addressed the fortunes of a war effort and his remarks had consequences for a sitting (and conscientious) President; Winfrey is primarily addressing the fortunes of a favored presidential candidate who might force an early end of our current Iraq war occupation.
Don't get me wrong. I am glad that Oprah Winfrey is endorsing my favored candidate. She brings incredible heat to any table she draws her chair up to, as the You-Tubes from the past weekend attest. I have to cop to having had her pull me to my feet in front of my C-Span with her Miss Jane Pittman routine.

Winfrey reflects on the Ernest Gaines novel which later became an iconic, Emmy Award-winning movie, "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," (a story of a woman born into slavery who lived to see the day when she could drink in the "Whites Only" fountain in a segregated town). Winfrey recalled actress Cicely Tyson's performance:
When Miss Jane Pittman would encounter young people throughout that film, she would ask, 'Are you the one?’ I remember her standing in the doorway, her body bent, frail, old, holding the baby in her arms, saying, 'Are you the one, Jimmy? Are you the one?'

I believe in '08, I have found the answer to this question. It is the same question that our nation is asking: Are you the one? Are you the one?

I am here to tell you, Iowa, he is the one.
Deep down, I get Oprah Winfrey. Neither of us are single-issue voters. If we were only voting for peace, we would be pushing for Senator Gravel, Representative Kucinich or the pandering governor from New Mexico. Both of us see more is at stake in the 2008 election than filling in the latrine of mass graves Bush has left us Americans in Mesopotamia. If Oprah can prevent Hillary Clinton from playing Richard Nixon to George Bush's LBJ, more power to her. She may have missed or fallen short of her Walter Cronkite moment. But Oprah Winfrey is right on the one key point.

Now is the time.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Belief In the Separation of Church and State Ought to be a Litmus Test for the White House

It's happening again. The press and media gave Bush a pass for his intellectual one-downsmanship to Al Gore in 2000.

Now, it's cutting slack for two front-running Republicans contending for the 2008 nomination, Massachusetts Ex-Governor Mitt Romney and Arkansas ex-Governor Mike Huckabee.

In its treatment of both, the MSM is ignoring the issue as to whether acceptance of the separation of Church and State ought to be a requirement for the highest state in the land.

Tim Rutten says the Press Is Preying on the wrong Question, and has three of his own:

. . . . Start with the fact that nearly all this week's political coverage focused on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the speech he gave in Texas on Thursday, asking voters not to reject his candidacy because he's a Mormon. Much of the media response to that address was built on superficial, mostly misleading comparisons to John F. Kennedy's landmark 1960 address before Protestant clergymen hostile to his Catholicism. What was missing was any discussion of the numerous and very legitimate questions that ought to be asked about religion and the candidacy of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose surging popularity in Iowa sent Romney to the podium in the first place.

Romney, after all, simply does what most religiously affiliated Americans do; he practices the faith into which he was born. Huckabee, by contrast, is a Baptist minister. Has the notion of distinct temporal and spiritual spheres -- each with its proper concerns and distinct competency -- really been so utterly obliterated that the political press simply shrugs at this?

1. Doesn't anybody think it's worth asking whether it's proper or even desirable for a clergyman to occupy the White House?

One of the suspicions Romney was forced to address was the notion that, as a Mormon chief executive, he would be compelled to accept direction from his church's leaders, even if it means acting in ways contrary to the nation's interest. In other words, some ancient Mormon elder in Salt Lake City is going to pick up the telephone and order President Romney to do something kooky. Huckabee, by contrast, already believes kooky things for religious reasons -- in things like creationism, which he thinks should be taught in the public schools.

2. Doesn't anybody thing it's worth asking whether a nation fighting to remain technologically competitive can afford a president who -- for religious reasons -- wants to encourage as many children as possible to join him in scientific illiteracy?

Then there's the issue of the Iowa campaign ads in which Huckabee declares he is "the Christian candidate." We're all sophisticated enough to understand that's a not-so-subtle way of saying that, as a Mormon, Romney isn't a Christian in the eyes of most evangelicals. However, neither are Catholics, Unitarians or Quakers, let alone Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Bahais or -- God help them -- the despised atheists. That's the thing about religious bigotry -- and the ad is nothing less -- once it is set loose, like the angel of death, it has a logic of its own.

3. Surely, somebody in the national campaign press corps must think this is an issue worth raising with the avuncular Arkansas pastor?

Obviously not, and that sort of institutional blindness to what is at stake in the current struggle over religion and politics made it all but inevitable that Romney's address Thursday would be misunderstood by much of the media. First of all, it was nothing like Kennedy's storied speech in setting, intention or content.
  • Kennedy was straightforward; Romney was clever.
  • Kennedy spoke to a hostile audience of Protestant clergymen and took their questions afterward; Romney spoke to a hand-picked crowd at a Republican presidential library and took no questions.
  • Kennedy defended -- indeed, insisted on -- separation of church and state; Romney simply asked that what is essentially a religious test for office be expanded to include his religion.
  • Kennedy and his advisors sought the advice of one of American-style religious liberty's foremost defenders -- the great Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray; Romney sought the counsel of political handlers skilled in stage managing the religious right.
Much of consequence flows from that difference. . . . Kennedy, who used the word Catholic 14 times in his speech, could tell the ministers:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. . . . If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.
Kennedy pointed out that, as a member of Congress, he had opposed government aid to parochial schools or even the appointment of an ambassador to the Vatican.


Romney, who used the word Mormon only once, told his audience:
In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism.
It was, beginning to end, an appeal to a single GOP constituency, the evangelical right, which now applies a religious test for office. Unlike Kennedy, Romney doesn't have any problem with such a test -- he just wants it graded on a steep enough curve to include Mormons.

Just as, when as a candidate, Bush displayed ignorance of the world around him and an impaired English speaking ability in 2000, so Huckaby and Romney display denial of one of the major working principles of the American democratic experiment. These ex-governors ought not be given a pass on the separation of church and state. It's a deal-breaker.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bush Loses Ground With Military Families

Democrats No Longer Seen as the Anti-Soldier Party

A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll has measured a sea-change in the opinions of our military and military families.

Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does.

The son of poll respondent Mary Meneely, 58, is an Air Force reservist, and served one tour in Afghanistan. Meneely commented that Bush,
...went into Iraq without justification, without a plan; he just decided to go in there and win, and he had no idea what was going to happen. There have been terrible deaths on our side, and it's even worse for the Iraqi population. It's another Vietnam.
Previous surveys had demonstrated an erosion of support for Bush and the war among military personnel, including a 2005 poll by Military Times of their active-duty readers.

Now the disapproval of Bush appears to have transferred to his party. Republican leanings of military families that began with the Vietnam War -- when Democratic protests seemed to be aimed at the troops as much as the fighting -- have shifted, the poll results show.
David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland, concludes,
You generally expect to see support for the president as commander in chief and for the war, but this is a different kind of war than those we've fought in the past, particularly for families.
That's because it's not war, Davey, but an occupation. An illegitimate, un-welcomed, and unwanted occupation.

This is Praise-a-Republican-Friday

And, as promised, this space is reserved for any readers and lurkers so disposed to do so.

Personally, however, at this early hour, I cannot summon the effort to do so. At the end of the day, I'll paste up something from repeaters such as Chuck Hagel or Ron Paul, etc., just to serve as a space-holder.

In the meantime, since some of my best friends are Republicans, maybe I'll take one to lunch.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

All of a Sudden, Iraq Is Off the Table?

What's missing from our radar screen?
I mean, the above graph does not even represent the total NEWZ. None of this flack has to do with today's domestic mass terrorism (9 dead) in Omaha, courtesy of the NRA; the missing snowboarders courtesy of the storm in the Northwest; the death of Southern rap innovator 'Pimp C' at the age of 33; the arrest of 'Canoe-Man' five years after his official death; late-nite TV hosts paying their own writers out-of-pocket; Mr. & Mrs. Dennis Quaid suing a major pharma over an overdose to their twins! None of this non-political non-news is a factor for the table that produced this chart.

This chart tells us that nothing of material concern has happened in Iraq in the last 24. This graph ignores all news from Iraq, good or bad.

Such as (in no particular order):
  • Five British families are appealing to the Shia kidnappers for the safe return of their sons.
  • US State and Defense Departments are tightening rules for security mercenaries and contractors.
  • US Military Deaths in Iraq have reached 3,886.
  • 1,100 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq in November.
  • The cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq is projected to be $1.9 trillion (in 2002 dollars); and is now running at $6 billion a month or about $200 million a day, (according to the CBO), and increasing about $200 million a day.
  • New Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is pulling the entire Australian deployment out of Iraq.
  • Giving up on attaining any progress toward political cohesion through cajoling and bankrolling Iraqi politicians cowering in the Green Zone, our occupying forces are now betting on subsidizing and retaining all tribal level volunteers, vigilantes, bounty-hunters, privateers, gangsters and militias with their hands out for a grubstake.
  • The newest and latest surge being the exponential growth of Sunnis expelled from Syria, returning at a rate faster than they can be serviced by the NGO's. (1.5 million are yet to return.)
(I hope some reader who is knowledgeable can supply me with the required number of 0's and commas to numerically represent $1.9 trillion.)

The point is, we are not at war. Not in Iraq, anyways. Maybe in Afghanistan (sometimes referred to as the 'forgotten war'), where war in the form of self-defense and retaliation was mandated upon us by the attacks of 9-11. Maybe we ought to be at war with the self-afflicted militarist occupation of our own country. (There's a thought.)

But we are not at war in Iraq. If we were, Iraq would be front-page, or front-of-the-hour news 24-7. My fellow Americans would be sucking our multi-media's spigots for each little morsel of news we could get. But the truth is, instead of warfare for glorious victory, our insanely brave, professional and competent troops have been assigned to a grinding, toiling, pointless, hopeless and endless task of policing a hostile nation. Forcibly occupying a hostile nation is the most inglorious of all missions to which troops can be assigned.

That is why our misleaders don't want Iraq and Iraqis spoiling our nightly news. They are not embarrassed. But they know the American people are increasingly embarrassed. Soon, their embarrassment will exceed the guilt of their earlier compliance. So our own occupiers, the Busheney junta, is unbelievably grateful for the premature opening of the American political primaries (the more 'debates' the better) and for all the Hugo Chavez's, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's, Vladimir Putin's and Pervez Musharraf's of the world. Anything to deflect the glare of the spotlight away from the scene of their original crime in Mesopotamia.

If it's not on teevee, it's not happening. Out of sight, out of mind.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Apparel for the Immobilized

Re-Hab Will Be Painful

It's been "hard work" mounting a quick comeback from this surgery. In the moments where my previous 24-7 blogging routine is triggered, I have felt myself recoiling in pain. Keyboarding is painful and full of errors and the mouse-movement even more so. Soul-searching has satisfied me that my quietus is not about avoiding issues which earlier had impelled my writing. In those recurrent sleepless 2:30 a.m. moments, ideas come to me and the spirit says, "Yes! YES!". But the flesh protests in favor of comfort and procrastination.

I find some consolation in my confidence that I have said in these pages just about everything I can say or that can be said. I feel tempted to say that just as I have had my fill of Busheney, I have also just as fully had my say. Having spoken up, I could now shut up and sit down. Spend some time and energy on physical rehabilitation and reconditioning: maybe say nothing more and let politics take care of itself.

The facts are that our nation is locked into a policy immobility over Iraq.It's similar to the immobilisme of Algérie française which eventually nailed the 4th Republic and to our own political paralysis during the Vietnam War which eventually nailed LBJ's 2nd term. In all these cases the sides - pro and con - of the debate were long-settled and well-rehearsed. But the politics were not adequate to forcing the debate into a timely cloture. The resultant costly and slow bleeding continued onto the threshold of Fascism in the case of French-Algieria, into the aborted Nixon administration of the 70's and, in our current circumstances, toward continuing irresolution of our prospective Clinton administration.

I have been gifted by friends and relatives of the reverse Bush countdown gags such as the reverse clock and the EndOfAnError 01.20.09 sweatshirt. They are treasures only in that they signify that people feel my pain. These do not amuse or encourage me; in fact this shirt is discouraging every time someone asks me what happens on 1/20/09? How can any one be oblivious? But more than that, these novelties are for me merely brutal reminders that in exactly 414 days Bush and Cheney get to blow town with their legacy assured because their Overton Window will be firmly in place. Preemptive pardons, maybe. But no indictments. No impeachments.

For me to stop posting at this point could be misconstrued as being patient or passive. I'd rather be accused of being repetitive or redundant.