Thursday, January 31, 2008

R.I.P., Red October

1 Oct 1994 - 31 Jan 2008
A.K.A. Brandeis, Diceman, Bando, Redoct, B-Dawg, Bandokins, Mr. Dawg, Special Dog, Alpha Dog, Marine.

This guy was a Dawg among dogs. In his day, he:
  • Dominated different off-the-leash parks like a congenial and gentle bouncer in his immaculate, three-piece suit which no quadruped or biped would dare sniff or touch without permission.
  • Made the Brown Trout Doberman Pinscher calendar three times in four years.
  • demonstrated Frisbee and tennis virtuosity with breath-taking hang-times and over-the-shoulder catches.
  • Learned how to swim and surf at the age of seven so that predatory Labradors could no longer steal his Frisbees or sticks.
  • Serially killed intruders (no cats!) in home and yard, recording a two-digit body-count.
  • Risked his life foolishly pursuing coyotes and Snowy Plovers for hours.
  • Always welcomed grandchildren (6!) as a host, playmate and protector.
  • Never lost a family wrestling match or game of 'lap-nip'.
  • Maintained a perfect record as a watch-dog for one and a third decades, barking only at barkable offenses.
  • Learned how to walk the neighborhood without no stinkin' leash. (the most reliable early morning, crack-of-dawn blogger in the neighborhood).
  • Served as extra, living, and breathing bed-warmer and blanket in winters.
  • Exhibited perfect table manners - always walking through the house after a meal to find and thank the cook.
  • Enthusiastically washed dishes 24-7 (never drying!).
  • Loved, parks, hills, forests, beaches and car rides - even if they were just for errands - to the very end.
We aged and grew wise together. From where will my wisdom come now? In the end, the best we could give you is a comfortable, painless release from a long life, fully lived. No tears from here. Only cheers....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Economics 101

It's not the economy, stupid.
It's the war occupation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Iraq in the Fog of Invasion and Occupation

The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future

I buy few books these days. (You know what they are: floppy rectangular things that fold out when you put them in your lap?) Budget is one reason; shelf space in my beach cottage another; time spent on the Internet, still another. Because of the last, I probably finish 10% of the books I currently buy.

When I shop in the field of political non-fiction, I have one criterion: how much can the writer promise to tell me that I already don’t know? I don’t look on the flyleaf for the answer.

Once I’m in a bookstore, browsing through a book, where do I look? In the index, I scan it to determine if it’s topically and hierarchically detailed. Next I look for annotated foot notes or end notes. Once I find both elements, it’s a deal-maker and I make the purchase. The only problem is confronted at home: which tome I have to throw out to make space?

Craig Unger’s new book, The Fall of the House of Bush, is my most recent prized acquisition. From the standpoint of data to be mined, this monograph on Busheney’s Iraq experiment is a must-have resource. Absolutely documented with original sources, it is richly endowed with colorful anecdotes, lengthy foot notes, end notes, and a detailed index. Armed with Unger you can unearth long buried bodies. I found a note about a devious ex-graduate school classmate of mine: he turned even out worse than I expected. One small problem is that some notes are a digit or two out of sequence, and a typo here and there renders an incorrect date: all of which could be cleaned up by paying a striking writer half a day to straighten out. But all in all, these few downside quibbles of mine cannot tarnish Unger’s excellent scholarly effort.

On the plus side, I have found many references which will help me fill out my menu of Kool-Aid and Coffee flavors.

Unger especially shines in his description of the early Neocons’ 30-year war against the national security apparatus. He describes Richard Pipes’ Team-B's undermining of the Kissingerian establishment's consensus on the Soviet Union: this group of bureaucratic worms was driven by an apoplectic animosity toward the Soviet Union. For them, the worst (possible) case scenario was reality. At one point they argued that the Soviets had non-acoustic submarine systems and were already deploying them. When challenged that there was no factual basis for this assertion, the Neocon response was that this proved just how secretive and devious the Soviets were. Their combative, full-spectrum court-press to obtain control over American foreign and defense policy was epitomized by a Churchillian quotation framed on the wall above Richard Perle’s desk:
Never give in,
Never give in
Never, never, never, never
In nothing great or small,
Large or petty –
Never give in
Unger is also at his best chronicling the selling of Bush’s unprecedented preventive war against Iraq. In all likelihood much of his scholarship may have been surpassed by the database recently presented by the CPI, at least in terms of Cheney’s warmongers on the public payroll. But Unger is peerless in relating the parts played by would-be journalists, pundits and ideologues led by William Kristol and such. I’ll mine these at a later time.

In his concluding pages, Unger delivers his judgment on the Bush legacy:

Yet through it all, Bush remained unfazed - besieged, but somehow utterly certain, unquestioning, and oddly at ease with himself, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence that he had created the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history. Ultimately, he had a fatalistic approach to his legacy.
Look, everybody is trying to write a history of this administration even before it's over. I'm reading about George Washington still. My attitude is that if they are still analyzing number one, forty-three ought not to worry about it and just do what he thinks is right.
. . . .when it came to the most crucial policies of his administration, choices that cost thousands of lives . . . Bush seemed curiously confused and disengaged . . . .

Even if Bush preferred to think that judgment of his administration would be rendered only many years in the future, with more than fourteen months left in his last term, his legacy was largely sealed . . . . Bush had indeed destroyed his father's legacy. The family's political future appeared to be dead as well . . . Jeb Bush . . . explained it simply . . . Yo no tengo futuro."

. . . . . historians had already amassed enough information with which to assess the damages wrought by the Bush administration. Driven by delusional idealism and religious zeal, Bush, after all, had already made one catastrophic blunder, the true historical dimensions of which have yet to emerge. To fully appreciate its consequences, one cannot overlook the fact that the Iraq War took place in the twilight of the hydrocarbon era, during China's extraordinary ascendancy. Far from safeguarding America as promised, the Iraq war had jeopardized the country's security and with it, potentially, America's access to the Middle East oil so crucial to fueling the most powerful economic engine in history.

Who knows how much stronger America's geostrategic position might be if the Bush Administration had not squandered the incalculable goodwill the United States had after 9/11? Who knows how much better off America might be, if instead of wasting its time and money on Iraq, it had invested those same resources in education or the health care system that was in crisis, or in developing alternative energy resources and a strategy to free the country from its dependence on Middle East oil? Such losses are truly impossible to calculate.
The morning after his final State of the Union address it's fair to judge his tenure by his stewardship. By any standard, the Bush administration has weakened the nation.

Leaving aside the domestic state of the Union:
  • Bush inherited a military that had all active-duty Army divisions rated at the highest readiness levels and that was capable of fighting a two-front war. He will leave us with a military facing the worst readiness crisis in a generation, sprawled across two endless fronts of ineffectual and endless occupations and war, hemorrhaging $2 billions a week, two continents away.
  • Bush inherited a nation that was respected on the international stage; he will leave behind one reviled by many around the world. In 2001 our USA had an approval rating of 58% (Pew poll of 10 nations). In 2008 it's 39%.
  • Bush's cabal of un-indicted war criminals are still at large in our political system and will remain so long after this presidency.
The past eight years cannot be annulled. The 21st century cannot be re-started. In the near-term, the best we can hope for is to avoid another Republican presidency. If we can manage that, then the best years for America may be those yet to come. Nevertheless, as Unger argues, the toxic residue bequeathed by Busheney still leaves our future in peril.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barack Wins by a Tsunami in South Carolina

And the torch is being passed...
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans . . . proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Everyone knows Caroline Kennedy is the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She is also the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.” At the moment she published her column A President Like My Father for today's New York Times, she was still listed on the Hillary Clinton Org site as a supporter.

A President Like My Father
Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Billary: Do You Still Think They Are Re-Electable?

Bumper-sticker of the Day:
Coming to streets near you,
as Republican bumpersticker-of-the-year.

On Fridays We Salute Meritorious Republicans

No! No! Not this guy!This is State Representative Douglas Bruce who represents my home town, Colorado Springs, Colorado. I do not have an affinity for either home town or its state congressman.

Douglas Bruce has distinguished himself in this still-young 2008:
  • This jerk was not even elected; he was appointed to his office in mid-term.
  • Leading up to his swearing in, he got in a sustained dispute with the House Speaker about the time of his being sworn in.
  • On the day he took office, Jan. 14, Bruce outraged the entire body. Minutes after the photo at the top of this thread was taken during a ceremonial prayer, he kicked photographer Javier Manzano, of the Rocky Mountain News in the knees!
No, I'm not celebrating this anti-tax turkey from my home town.

Instead, I'm celebrating all of the Republicans who joined with their democratic peers to pass a motion of censure. The
censure motion was carried by a vote of 162-1. So, a whole lot of Republicans felt Bruce
failed to uphold the honor and dignity of the House of Representatives and reflects poorly on the state.
It was the first censure in the 131-year history of the state house.

Mr. Bruce, an anti-tax crusader who was appointed by his party to fill a vacancy, became the first member of the Colorado General Assembly to face censure. Just before he was censured, Mr. Bruce gave a speech on the House floor comparing himself to the main character in the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in which he said Jimmy Stewart plays a rookie senator who is hounded by the press until he physically attacks them. Republican Representative Al White derided him,
You’re not Jimmy Stewart. This is not a 1939 movie. This is today. Your actions were wrong.
Representative Frank McNulty, also a Republican said,
What I find particularly disturbing is that after the incident, Representative Bruce failed to take responsibility for his own action.
This degree of bipartisanship has not been much in evidence since the rise of George Bush, Tom DeLay and Karl Rove.

So, this Friday, I salute Mssrs. Frank McNulty, Al White, et. al.,
all those Republicans who put the interests of their normally deliberative body ahead of narrow partisan support.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Evidence of War Crimes

The Chain of Custody Is SecureThe Center for Public Integrity has provided a service of inestimable value, deserving of a Nobel Prize for truth. I was not able to get any links to CPI's War Card site to work before now; perhaps because their bandwith was overloaded. But this database is extremely user-friendly and useful. I urge every one to try it, at least once. I know it won't inform many readers and lurkers of my pages because you already know this stuff. But everyone now knows where to refer lingering doubters that Busheney lied us into war in Iraq.The one problem with this site is that it doesn't tell the full story. It details the war crime of the White House stampeding our congress into invading Iraq on the basis of national security. But it doesn't detail Busheney's lies which have kept us there. That war crime continues...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

One Man's Terrorism Is Another Man's Freedom Fight

If this be terrorism. . . .
Then make the most of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How Are We Measuring Progress in Iraq?

'Bench marks'? 'Quantitative metrics'? 'Key indicators'? 'Body-counts'? 'Kill ratios'? Passage of 'hydrocarbons bill'? Elections?

General Petraeus recycles back the Friedman unit!!Gen. David Petraeus appeared on NBC this morning and rebutted the declarations of mission accomplished:
We think we won’t know that we’ve reached a turning point until we’re six months past it. We have repeatedly said that there is no lights at the end of the tunnel that we’re seeing. We’re certainly not dancing in the end zone or anything like that.
The careful reader will recall that it was Thom Friedman, intrepid optimist, NYT columnist and Iraquagmire cheerleader who inadvertently gave birth to the 6-month interval as a definitive measure of progress. His repetitive invoking of overlapping 6-months periods constitutes one of many false prophecies which have coaxed my fellow Americans through this costly, bloody, and unremitting occupation for the last five years. My guess is that Friedman is not especially proud of his namesake, the Friedman Units. Nevertheless, they have broken his credibility as an Iraq pundit, and he has had to own them. As Craig Unger has chronicled in his book, Fall of the House of Bush, for years Friedman has been promising his faithful readers their deliverance just around the next corner. Starting in the NYT (28-Sep-05):
Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time.
Face The Nation (18-Dec-05):
We teed up this situation for Iraqis, and I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it's going to come together.
Charlie Rose (20-Dec-05):
We are at the beginning of - I think - the decisive - I would say - six months in Iraq, okay, because I feel this election - you know, I felt from the beginning Iraq was going to be ultimately, Charlie, what Iraqis make of it.
NYT (21-Dec-05):
The only thing I am certain of is that in the wake of this election, Iraq will be what Iraqis make of it - and the next six months will tell us a lot. I remain guardedly hopeful.
Oprah Winfrey Show (23-Jan-06):
I think we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. In which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand.
CBS (31-Jan-06):
I think we're in the end game here, in the next three to six months, Bob. We've got for the first time and Iraqi government elected on the basis of an Iraqi constitution. Either they're going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case America will stick to it, or they're not, in which case I think the bottom's going to fall out.
Today-NBC (2-Mar-06) :
I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq.
CNN (23-Apr-06):
Can Iraqis ever get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So one way or another, I think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us.
Hardball-NSNBC (11-May-06):
Well, I think we're going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months - probably sooner - whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we're just going to have to let this play out.
Friedman may have experience an epiphany in his A Time for Plan B NYT (4-Aug-06):
It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are baby-sitting a civil war.
Friedman senses himself exhausted and over extended (like our troops). It's time to call in fresh false prophets. Enter General Petraeus and Senator McCain.

Yesterday, It was a cold day at the Dome in Columbia, SC

But it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for Hillary Clinton
As long as this guy is still beating on his drum for hope.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates Takes a Canadian Shot Across his Bow

It will resonate around the world.

All Defense Secretary Robert Gates did was to complain that the contribution our NATO allies were making in our anti-Taliban campaign was not amounting to heavy lifting.In an interview, all Gates said was,
I'm worried we're deploying NATO advisors that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations. . . Most of the European forces, NATO forces, are not trained in counterinsurgency; they were trained for the Fulda Gap.
I wonder how many of my fellow Americans have ever heard of the Fulda Gap? I certainly haven't. But Gates may have a point. Since the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union unraveled, the Fulda Gap probably shouldn't have remained the central objective in the NATO training mission. Not until you remember that George Bush has done his level best to restart the Cold War, anyways.

But be that as it may, go figure Gates' surprise at the reaction to his 'observations'. The Dutch Defense Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation. In Britain, Conservative lawmaker and former British infantry officer, Patrick Mercer told The Associated Press that Gates' reported comments were,
. . . bloody outrageous. I would beg the Americans to understand that we are their closest allies, and our men are bleeding and dying in large numbers. . . These sorts of things are just not helpful among allied nations.
Col. Nico Geerts, the Dutch commander in Uruzgan, responded,
Our troops, men and women, are well-prepared for the mission. Everyone in the south, the British, the Canadians, the Romanians and our other allies, are working hard here. ... I wouldn't know what the secretary of defense of America is basing this on.
I could go on, if I had the patience and time to do additional Googling this morning. But what really got my attention, right off the bat, was the Canadian reaction in the form of a lead editorial from the Toronto Star:
American Defence Secretary Robert Gates may well be right when he says that Canadian and European troops in Afghanistan are not well equipped to fight a counter-insurgency campaign. But what has been lost in the controversy over his impolitic remarks is that we did not sign on to fight insurgents – there or anywhere else.

The International Stabilization and Assistance Force, which NATO now commands and which includes some 2,500 Canadian soldiers, was set up in late 2001 by the United Nations to do just what its name suggests – stabilize a country emerging from years of civil war and assist the fledgling Kabul government in its redevelopment efforts.

Fighting the Taliban (or, as they were called then, the Taliban "remnants") was a job that Washington insisted on reserving to itself through what it called Operation Enduring Freedom.

Canada helped out in that one too, sending troops to serve under U.S. command in 2002. But in those days, America wanted to keep its sometimes squeamish allies well away from a dark war that was aimed primarily at capturing terror suspects and transferring them to interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.

It was only after 2003, when the U.S. found itself troop-short and bogged down in Iraq, that Washington changed the rules of engagement for its allies. Gradually, Afghanistan became NATO's war. Washington's plan then was to gradually reduce its 20,000 troop commitment to Afghanistan and switch them over to Iraq.

Which is why, since 2006, Canadian troops have found themselves under fire in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

It's worth remembering that we keep sending soldiers to Afghanistan not because Canada has been attacked by the Taliban, but because our friends, the Americans, feel they are at war with them.

The Dutch are in southern Afghanistan for the same reason. So are the British – who have paid a severe price at home for their decision to support Washington's various anti-Islamist wars.

That's why Gates' comments rub so raw in this and other NATO countries. Since 2001, one Canadian diplomat and 77 soldiers have died in Afghanistan. More than 250 more have been wounded in action. Yet this was never our war. It was always America's.

The U.S. chose to declare Afghanistan the enemy after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Had Washington elected to avenge 9/11 by invading the country from which most of those terrorists came, Canadian troops would now be fighting in Saudi Arabia.

Their call, their war, their show.
Which lays it all out.

Frankly, I wonder what took so long for this thinly veiled allied grievance to rear its ugly head and bite our American
Pentagon asses on their butts. The central organizing tenant of NATO is that an attack on one will be treated as an attack upon all. 9-11-01 was certainly an un-provoked attack on the USA, I would argue. So our very good allies sprang into line against al Qaeda, only to be rebuffed initially, because Bush wanted to go it alone in Afghanistan.

Imagine the growing concern of our trusting allies, however, as they watched Busheney pour the vast preponderance of our military and economic assets into an unprovoked invasion and endless occupation of Iraq? Certainly, NATO's covenant did not envision an attacked member, supported by every one else, would dare to go off on another tangent altogether? While they're working to pull our chestnuts out of the fire in Afghanistan, we go off and start an even bigger and more expensive and expansive fire in Iraquagmire?

You really have to wonder at Gates' naiveté, not to have anticipated sparking this righteous anger and rage. The Pentagon is as much in a bubble as is their outpost in the Green Zone.

The Bradley Effect

The text for this rant is the Kelly Tilghman - Dave Seanor (Golfweek) affair. Thanks to readers Boris and Get-a-Life for broaching the (Tom) Bradley Effect, even if obliquely. And thanks to Bill Dwyre who has a has a piece in the L.A. Times which provokes me to make a few points.

Racist comments and jokes, however inadvertent, constitute intermittent clues that we have not yet crossed over into the Promised Land envisioned by Martin Luther King in 1968.

  • These inconvenient reminders cannot be excused away. A defense of Kelly Tilghman or Don Imus might be:
    Well, they're always talking, 24-7! Some things, during some understandable lapses, are bound to slip out.
    The solution is to spend less time in front of the open mic and more time in front of an open book. Try reviewing American history, for example. Checkout the American holocaust about which you're apparently in denial.

  • Print journalists are in jeapardy if they try to be as colorful as bloggers. In the blogosphere, we constantly review, revise, and ultimately delete if we recognize our clay feet in our mouths. But it's hard to recall the cover of a national magazine.

  • Additionally, Politicians on the primary campaign trail, 24-7. You boys and girls are in a very risky situation, what with all of the minicams out there recording any unguarded moment. This came to me watching a close-up of JRE in a recent debate. Edwards looked like he had gravel in his stomach, gravel in his mouth, and gravel in his ears. His whole exhausted countenence indicated that he was thinking, "How much more of this unadulterated bull shit can I take." The fatigue has got be a 100 times more for the candidates than for the rest of us. I totally excuse their guarded, carefully worded responses to specific questions. But they too, like talk journalists, need to take some down time and read a little, reflect and re-charge.

  • Finally, as Dwyre writes,
    Racism needs to be reported. Blatant, inadvertent, miscalculated, all kinds.
    We can't afford to lose all persepective, but it has to be recognized for what it is and talked about. And a Tilghman or Imus might have to take a time out before we can move on. But this stuff has to be aired out in the sun.
Only in this way can we put to rest the Tom Bradley Effect. Eventually.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Is Be-Kind-to-a-Republican Day

For that reason, I salute
Governor Bobby Jindal.

Jindal was elected the first non-white governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction, the first elected Indian-American governor in U.S. history, as well as the second Asian American governor to serve.

Jindal was born in Baton Rouge to recently arrived Punjabi Indian immigrants Amar and Raj Jindal, who were attending graduate school. His family is of Punjabi ancestry; his father left India and his ancestral family village of Khanpura in the 1970s. According to family lore, Jindal adopted the name "Bobby" after watching The Brady Bunch television program at age four. He has been known by that name ever since—as a civil servant, politician, student, and writer although legally his name remains Piyush Jindal.

Congratulations to the people of Louisiana for electing a Rhodes Scholar to become their governor!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Debate Withdrawal: Politics – vs – Policies

A mid-week rant!

Obviously I wasn’t much of a business major because I can’t tell whether this primary season is over-marketed, over-merchandised, over-booked, or over-sold. It is definitely over-done. That’s majorly true as far as the debates are concerned.

I am no longer debating with myself about watching any more debates. I am done. These vacuous events are totally without any socially redeeming qualities. Moderators are more like prize fight managers, bent on evoking from the participants fighting words – snarky little video clips and sound bites to feed the frenzy of the next day’s news cycle. The candidates are hip: their handlers have schooled them into thoroughly cautionary tales and threads. I’m not about to blow 90 minutes of time in the hopes of witnessing a campaign-significant gotcha falling out on stage and making history. I’d rather risk the time watching a Bush Q-and-A. Those are much more fertile intervals for gotcha’s.

The second reason for boycotting debates, is that they are not informative. They are designed not to be informative. If they were intended otherwise, there would be no reason for them to exclude candidates who still wish to campaign for nominations. I am speaking of Senator Mike Gravel and Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. These three all have something to say, and are much better at framing questions for the real, ‘top tier’ contenders than the poor excuses for neutral interlocutors we have. Not for nothing are these referees called ‘moderators’. When anyone of these above-named clear-eyed, plain-spoken true progressives is on the stage, the stuffed suits have no place or way to hide except by waiting for the next moderated question.

Well, some people might be saying that Paul is a retrogressive, but I think he is a breath of fresh air - by GOP standards, anyways.

When these three are present, the live studio and TV audiences are educated as to (A) what the real issues behind present policies are, and as to (B), the distance from which the top contending candidates are from grappling with our nation’s present circumstances. But that’s not the way the National Committees wish it to be. The Republicans don’t want to see Bush’s clusterfuck of invasion and occupation aired out; the Democrats don’t want to have their cruise control on Iraq challenged.

As a result, our troops are sentenced to a decade-long slow-bleed destiny in Iraq. We have these well-spoken and well-dressed gladiators paraded in front of our teevees so that these fake debates bread and circuses keep our minds away from the debacles of neglect in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraqistan. FUBAR is what it is.

If Trophy Wife and I want to be entertained, we’ll go with NetFlix.

Memos to Bill and Hillary

Grow Up Already!

I've been tuning out this week's hysteria. Not having a play-by-play and (later) blow-by-blow account of it, I know I'm a little late getting to the game (like about the 6th inning). But I'm not liking what I've been hearing as I walk by the kitchen TV. Not any of it. And, since I don't watch 'debates' any more (more on that later), I don't know how it played out. But I have a pretty good idea as to how it got started.

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think Hillary gave Lyndon Johnson equal credit with Martin Luther King for the civil rights legislation of the 1960's. This, on the week of MLK's 79th birthday. As has been pointed out more than once, that's a little like giving Clement Richard Attlee equal billing with Mahatma Gandhi for winning independence for India. You ask WTF was Atlee? You make my case. (Google him.) Additionally, if Hillary wants to pose as today's LBJ, she should remember that he inherited JFK's Vietnam project and presided over the Bay of Tomkin fraud. All of which causes me to ask if Hillary anticipates inheriting GWB's Iraq project, does she also anticipate presiding over a future Strait of Hormuz incident? But that's another story, I guess.

Anyway, there are two really fine, excellent and spot-on statements on Billarygate which I encountered in my early morning comatose hour today, which I feel compelled to share with my faithful reader(s). Because they give expression - perfectly - to the anger and angst I have experienced this week.

The first is from Clarence B. Jones. former personal counsel, advisor, draft speech writer and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jones is a Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute at Stanford University.
His forthcoming book titled What Would Martin Say? will be published by HarperCollins in April 2008. Here is the last part of what he posted on the Huffingtonpost this morning:

The candidacy of Senator Barack Obama may just be part of the Promised Land that Martin believed we as a people would get to, even though he prophetically said he may not there with us. The possible election of Senator Obama in 2008 as President of the United States may very well be more powerful than the march of mighty armies -- an idea for which the time has come.

Finally, a caution, if not a warning, to President Clinton, Senator Clinton and their campaign advisors: You run the risk of dissipating, corrupting, if not destroying, the justifiably deserved and accumulated positive capital and goodwill you have earned among black people from President and Senator Clinton's own history of struggle for racial justice. Few public officials, especially President Clinton, like Senator John Edwards, a son of the white south, have transcended the segregationist's racist conditions of their southern upbringing, and committed their lives to racial justice. As such they have earned their "credentials" among black people. Prior to the current election contest, President Clinton was belovedly characterized by many African Americans as "America's first black president". However, the Clinton presidential campaign's apparent blind ambition for power runs the risk of destroying Clinton's reservoir of earned political integrity and affection among black people.

I suspect to some African Americans, especially older parents and grandparents, Senator Obama is symbolic and/or represents their sons and grandsons, for whom most have sacrificed to get them an education and succeed. Good faith questions about qualifications and experience are always appropriate about a candidate who seeks the nomination of his party to be president. However, gratuitous attacks against Obama or sarcastic paternalism dismissing his "qualifications" to be President of the United States are offensive and carry a tinge of "we know what's best for you" racism. This only serves to embolden Senator Obama's younger supporters; as they appear to resent such condescension and respond by saying "Yes we (he) can!!" Despite perhaps knowing less about the legacy of Dr. King, these young people nonetheless sense that Senator Obama's campaign for president may also be "an idea whose time has come."

In the name of my beloved friend Martin, I beseech all candidates to pause in a moment of reflection and consider whether what you do and say to get elected as president either enhances or diminishes the ultimate sacrifice that Dr. King made so that you are in a viable position to be in the presidential race in 2009.

The second piece of advice is by Matt Bai, one of my favorite political writers. Here is the last portion of his Primary Argument:

. . . . What's most confounding about this latest turn into ugliness, though, is the Clintons' remarkable capacity to cast themselves as the victims in every fight. And so here is Hillary Rodham Clinton accusing Barack Obama of somehow injecting race into the campaign, because she found herself in a world of trouble for her own comments about Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson. Now, I really do think she was intending only to make a sensible point about the value of experience in the White House, but look, the Clintons embody the generation that invented identity politics and political correctness. If Mrs. Clinton couldn't guess at how that comment was going to land in the black community, then she must have been suffering amnesia.

I wrote last week about how Mr. Obama was facing a perilous moment in his campaign. It seems to me that the same is true of the Clintons, and they may need to step back and briefly reflect. Both Clintons now find themselves in an unfamiliar reality, the kind of all-out war for the nomination that Bill Clinton twice managed to avoid. They will get all kinds of advice from people whose career opportunities are at stake and who will do or say anything to win. They are surrounded by overzealous politicians and interest groups willing do whatever it takes to shut down Barack Obama and deliver their states to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It must be a kind of nightmare for both Clintons to be running, at this moment, against a talented black man, to be caught in an existential choice between losing their mythical status in the black community or possibly losing to a candidate they feel certain does not deserve to win. But only they can afford to be concerned right now with their own historical legacy, about seeing all that they have accomplished on behalf of their party and its commitment to fairness and equality blown away in the space of a few months. No one else is going to protect all that for them. No one around them is going to take the long view, because that's not the way supporters think.

No one expects Mrs. Clinton to stand down and let Mr. Obama make his case unchallenged. She could, however, send a clear message to the cogs in the machinery she's built that there is a line she will not cross. She could tell her Nevada allies that the job of the Democratic Party she grew up in is to make it easier for people to caucus, not harder. She could tell Robert Johnson that he needs to apologize, the same way she forced Bill Shaheen, her New Hampshire co-chairman, to resign last month. She can make it plain to all those people trying to get jobs in the next Clinton Administration that there is way to win-a rough and combative way, even-that nonetheless won't destroy all the good that the Clintons, at least for a lot of Democrats, have come to represent.

Progressives have a unique opportunity to reset America's national agenda domestically and internationally. The leadership team in the Democratic party is talented and deep.
But team chemistry is still critical, even for teams at the championship level. Our opponents, the Retrogressives in the Wall Street Journal and Faux News, are falling over themselves in revelry. They are celebrating what they call the racial divide in the Democratic party. We know the Reich has never been right about anything. They are certainly mistaken about a racial fracture between Progressives and Liberals. But we cannot afford the risk that the casual, inattentive voter might become confused by the GOP noise machine.

It's not too late for our people to stop running against each other; and it's not to early for them to start running against the party of war and greed. Let's put the A-Team on the field. Whoever it may turn out to be.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Finding Our Way Back to Traditional American Foreign Policy from the Wilderness of Neo-Con Fairy Tales

Let's hope the trail back is marked with white stones and not bread crumbs.

Madeleine Albright might have been a negative backdrop on the stage of Hillary Clinton's Concession speech at the Iowa Caucus. Standing cheek and jowl (emphasis on the latter) with Bill Clinton, she did not suggest change so much as a cultural retrogression to the 1990's.

But appearances are misleading. Not as svelte as Condi Rice (by a few decades), Albright nevertheless cuts an iconic figure, delineating a positive alternative to the Neocon mutation in U.S. foreign policy and directing a path back to realism.

Secretary Albright points the way out of the forest with her
Ten rules for No. 44:

  1. You must honor our troops by always keeping their sacrifices in mind, limiting them to essential missions, equipping them to do their jobs, and bringing them home safely and as soon as circumstances permit.

  2. You must recognize that the American flag includes both red and blue and that bipartisanship is not a four letter word. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a monopoly on wisdom.

  3. Bear in mind that our country is exceptional because of its resources, traditions and ideals, not because we carve out exceptions for ourselves to the rules we insist that others obey; torture is not a weapon with which to fight terror; on the contrary, it has been a humiliation to us and a gift to Al Qaeda.

  4. Understand that, to many overseas, America today is identified more with violence and arrogance than justice and liberty - more with Guantanamo than Omaha Beach. Your actions and words can change that, but you are not the only story-teller on the street (or Internet). This means that you will have to work hard to resurrect confidence in the American brand. Speak carefully; listen patiently; earn respect without assuming or demanding it; and do battle each day with the axis of evil: poverty, ignorance, and disease.

  5. Attack Al Qaeda at its weakest point. These terrorists are not warriors but murderers who kill the unarmed, children, and Muslims. They offer no vision for the future except the sword. They should not be accused of Islamic terrorism for their crimes are profoundly un-Islamic. As president, you should make reference frequently and with favor to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

  6. Don't allow President Bush's mistakes to dissuade you from promoting democracy. Subtract the passion for liberty from America and we would not be America. Remember, though, that democracy must evolve; it cannot be imposed. It is forged through the blending of lofty ideals with street level experience, as people dare to entrust their rights to others while gaining confidence in the rule of law.

  7. Believe in the American people. We're not cowed by danger and we are far more willing to sacrifice than most politicians suspect, provided we're treated like adults and told the truth.

  8. Reward honesty, not flattery; the advisers you need most are those who will be unafraid to warn you when you are about to go astray.

  9. Learn from the past, but don't rely on historical clichés to dictate future actions. The world never stops in the same place twice. Not every enemy is Hitler and intelligent acts of diplomacy should not be confused with appeasement.

  10. Forget Mt. Rushmore; if you are to leave the White House with your head held high, you must be ever mindful of your own capacity for error and that the voters, not God, made you president.
In her prescriptions for No. 44, Secretary Albright does not approximate my wish to have the Busheney apostasy annulled. Elsewhere, I have called for the restoration of the pre-Bush Overton Window. But if Albright's 10-step recovery program is followed by a future Clinton-Obama or an Obama-Clinton administration, there can be hope and promise for a restoration of American traditions of realism, sanity and legitimate leadership of the free world.


Iraq: We Are In Occupation Mode

Permanently. . .
Not to be confused with pacification.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Can The Dems Cash In?

Memo to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid:

If you continue to persist in attempting to back into a national mandate for change, both in Congress and in the White House, we Democratic progressives are going to go down in flames - and we shall get a Supreme Court which gleefully drives the final nails into the coffin containing our Constitution and our cherished democratic way of life.

In an article entitled: "Can the Dems cash in?", which appears in today's L A Times Opinion section, Robert Kuttner writes:
Many economic forecasters are predicting an election-year recession - seemingly a windfall for the opposition party. Yet it's not at all clear that the Democrats will pin the economic distress squarely on the policies of the Republican administration or offer a politically convincing alternative to them. ... One of the most misleading clichés of politics is the advice that when your opponent is doing himself in, just get out of the way. Democrats will not win a resounding mandate by backing into the presidency. In the absence of truly big ideas that promise change at more than a rhetorical level, voters are just as likely to back the candidate who offers tax cuts.
(My emphasis added.)

Why in the world does the Democratic leadership remain so timid and fearful? Do they dare not speak the truth about the multitude of lies, distortions, and manipulations foisted upon our nation by the clever Republicans because they are complicit with the Republicans? Do they feel guilty and responsible for the widespread destruction of America's Constitutionally guaranteed values, goals, and (former) way of life which has been visited upon our nation these past seven years under the Republicans because they (the Dems) have spent the last seven years trying to "go along to get along"?

What can we voters do to inject integrity and courage into their seemingly absent spines?

I am angry, frustrated, and despairing that this dysfunctional so-called "strategy" espoused by Pelosi-Reid is being allowed to continue one more day. When are Democrats going to rouse themselves from their stupor and cry out: "Enough is Enough"?

Let me share an example of how the Democrats might try to think "outside of the box" in order to offer more thoughtful alternatives, encourage a national dialogue and better educate and inform the nation's voters.

How about a national campaign of "Straight Talk" of our own in which "The Facts, Ma'm, ,just The Facts..." are clearly laid out for the Body Politic to see and understand.

Rather than additional Democratic "Debates", why not have nationally televised "Brain-stormiing Discussions" in which, for example, one subject is addressed in an evening by all of the candidates. The goal would be to lay out the problems we face in each area of concern and then to hear each candidate's thoughts and proposals for addressing that evening's topic. Perhaps each candidate could speak for no longer than ten minutes.

Programs could begin with a clear factual statement of where we find ourselves today with regard to the evening's selected topic. Perhaps a national snail mail-email combination could identify three areas that are of the greatest concern to we voters. I might suggest that the three most pressing issues facing our nation are the economy, healthcare, and energy independence.

Don't anybody tell me, "Give it up, Emily. Impossible. Never gunna happen. This is only a pipe dream."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fighting Them Over There So We Don't Have to Fight Them Over Here?

But our self-made demons are coming home to roost amongst us.New York Times Special Report:
121 Veterans Of Iraq And Afghanistan Charged With Killing Upon Returning Home.

Friday, January 11, 2008

This space is reserved to salute a politically redeemable, socially corrigible Republican. (Every Friday we do this. Or attempt to do so.)

But today, I have nothing. So I'm soliciting recommendations.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hillary Has Found her Voice

And so have I….

In her New Hampshire victory speech, Hillary Clinton said,
I come tonight with a very, very full heart. I listened to you and in the process, I found my own voice....I felt like we all spoke from our hearts...
Well so have I -- I have found my voice.

Tim Rutten reminded me when he wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times,

Obama's, obviously, was the stunning victory speech after Thursday's Iowa caucuses; he's been riding a wave of enthusiasm ever since. Even the sort of seasoned political analysts inclined to cynicism recognized that the junior senator from Illinois had delivered the sort of soul-stirring, landscape-altering address that deserves to be reckoned in a rhetorical lineage that includes, most recently, memorable public speeches by John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan.


There were, in fact, two things about Obama's speech that remain as remarkable as the campaign heads toward Tsunami Tuesday on Feb. 5 as they were in the moment of delivery. The first is that it was, at bottom, a discussion of race in which race never was mentioned. The second is that both red and blue America seem to have heard the same thing -- something worth noting in this bitterly partisan era. Thus, even a reflexively Republican commentator such as Bill Bennett praised the speech for appealing "to the better angels of our nature."

Race is America's perennially unfinished business, but what Obama did in Iowa was to offer a new way of talking about it, and it is that -- more than any policy he yet has advanced -- that marked him as a candidate of change. Race remains the great American problem, but it's a problem whose contours have been dramatically reshaped in recent years.


America is no longer a country of the dream deferred but of the dream realized in unexpected, but perplexingly uneven, ways. Obama, the 46-year-old product of both Harvard Law and community organizing in the Chicago projects, speaks in a new emotional vocabulary that recognizes both achievement and need. It's a language he has in common with younger voters, who thus far are turning out in huge numbers.

Senator Clinton's voice is not my own.

I prefer the voice of that other Senator: the one who fires me up and gets me ready to go!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

U.S. Corporations vs. The American People

"Get Back, Get Back! Populist Democrats & Republicans - Whoever You are!"

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce used to be a notably bipartisan trade association with a limited budget and limited influence. But no longer.

It has hugely increased its political fund-raising and developed new ways to spend money on behalf of pro-business candidates. The chamber has become a significant force in state and national politics and more and more aligns itself with GOP priorities. In the last presidential cycle, 2004, it invested $60,000,000.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that it's a player in 2008. This year's election campaign occurs against a background of mounting popular concern over the condition of the economy beset by a seemingly endless, revenue-draining, occupation of Iraq. A weak record of job creation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, declining home values and other problems have all helped make the economy a major campaign issue.

Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, is issuing fiery promises to spend unprecedented millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business. Their targets are candidates using the code words
  • restore the middle class
  • reverse global warming
  • rescind tax cuts for the rich
  • excessive bonus pay for corporate chief executives
  • unfettered globalization of workers
And the like. That includes Senators John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Governor Mike Huckabee - three democrats and one Republican.

With this investment, Donahue expects Democrats
. . . will be gone from power for at least 40 years. . . . I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media. It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them . . . . We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed.
There is special concern about Republican Governor Huckabee. Club for Growth President Pat Toomey has targeted 'Two-Buck Huck':
Over the past ten months, Governor Huckabee’s embrace of his liberal economic record as governor and his populist, protectionist rhetoric on the campaign trail has only confirmed the Club for Growth’s original assessment. Huckabee himself admits that he is a ‘different kind of Republican,’ a code word for more government involvement, less personal freedom, and greater dependence on government bureaucrats.

Huckabee is proud of his tax hikes, his spending increases, and his regulatory expansions as governor, and he has not indicated that he would govern any differently as president. Nominating Mike Huckabee for president or vice-president would constitute an abject rejection of the free-market, limited-government, economic conservatism that has been the unifying theme of the Republican Party for decades.
Mention of class war used to be forbidden in the Republican playbook. This year the dogs will be unchained.

Monday, January 7, 2008

War? What war?? The Economy Trumps Iraq in US Primaries???

The implications from this mythology is that Republicans may be given a boost from Bush's semblant improvements in Iraq.
My Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Myths and Realities of the Primaries

Reuters reports:
The Iraq war, once the key issue in the U.S. presidential election, is taking a back seat to the economy as voters fret over a possible recession . . . . Polls in Iowa, the state that kicked off the process for choosing a president on Thursday, showed people pushing the war lower on their list.
The other night, I heard establishment pundit David Gergen say,
The entrance polls in Iowa certainly suggested that Iraq has receded ... as the central issue in the campaign, partly because the 'surge' is working and fatalities are down, and partly because the economy is getting worse. . . .

The latest numbers on jobs that came out (on Friday) ... are being interpreted by investors as yet another sign we may be heading toward a recession.
Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who argued Iraq's diminishing role in the election would be positive for Republican candidates, argues
It means that domestic issues, from what we can tell today, are likely to play a relatively greater role in determining votes. Anything that drives Iraq down the agenda helps Republicans because a majority of Americans think it was a mistake to have gone into Iraq in the first place, and there's very little that Republicans can say at this point to persuade people otherwise.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center, which tracks media coverage of the war, goes along:
At this moment in time, the daily accounts [of the occupation] have subsided, the daily concern over 'Is the situation getting worse?' has eased off, and people are beginning to think about things closer to home.
Not! Not the way I see it.

The point is, we are in the Thermidorian Reaction of the Neo-Conservative revolution.
For historians of revolutionary movements, the term Thermidor has come to mean the phase in some revolutions when the political pendulum swings back towards something resembling a pre-revolutionary state, and power slips from the hands of the original revolutionary leadership.
At this point, we are at the same juncture (parallel - not exact) where we were when Lyndon Johnson announced on 31-Mar-68 that he was not running for re-election. Now, as then, the issues, pro- and con- the Iraq Occupation/Vietnam War are/were well settled.

Take a look at some clips from this late December Los Angeles Times Poll.

The vision of a protracted occupation of indefinite duration in Iraq eats at the soul and confidence of Americans. Its continuing and spiraling expense cast doubt over our being able to fund solutions to the myriad domestic problems and challenges which our nation faces. Internationally, Iraq remains an unmitigated public relations disaster.

For Americans, the problem of Iraq is no longer at issue. Because verdict is in. It is settled that Iraquagmire has been the worst self-inflicted shock to the American republic since the civil war. The terminal punctuation of the Busheney chapter in American history looms palpably in sight. Beginning in 378 days from now, Americans can begin the demolition of Bush's warfare state and his doctrine of preventive war. If they cannot annul this Overton break with the past, they can at least hope for its systemic repudiation.

It is this determination defines the profile of 'change' that animates voters in this primary season.