Friday, May 29, 2009

Letting War Criminals Walk . . .

and letting their mind-sets prevail.

Just a quick comment.

At work yesterday, I fought off sleep listening to NPR's Intelligence Squared. (Don't hit the link, please, until you hear me out.) It was an Oxford-style debate on the question:
Resolved: Is Diplomacy With Iran Going Nowhere?

For the Affirmative: Liz Cheney & Daniel Senor

Against the Motion: Nicholas Burns & Kenneth M. Pollack
Burns and Pollack did a sub-par performance, IMO, defending Obama's 'new way forward' policy. I was on pins and needles waiting in vain for two shoes to be dropped or thrown.

The Shoes?
  • Before you can ask if 'diplomacy is working' you have to ask 'what diplomacy'? There are no diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington. Is it not patently clear that the proper question is:
    What will it take to open diplomatic relations with Tehran and Washington?
    If one does not recognize a government diplomatically, that is tantamount to denying the legitimacy of that government. Until you recognize a government by opening an embassy, you cannot be considered to be carrying on diplomacy with it.

  • Instead of establishing diplomatic relations with Tehran, the participants assumed the only appropriate goal of any negotiations with Tehran had to do with nuclear proliferation. Wrong and inverted priority, IMO. Non-Proliferation is a critically important goal in American foreign policy, I concede. But, theoretically and legally speaking, Iran has as much a right to possess nukes as does Israel. No one in the room wanted to take U.S. military options off the table; in fact everyone affirmed quite the contrary. Therefore, I conclude the Busheney doctrine of preventive war was still ensconced in the highest strata of America's foreign policy thinking.

  • Thirdly, Liz Cheney's feckless review of Iranian-American non-diplomatic relations was allowed to stand. Artistically, she omitted the 1953 CIA called Operation Ajax, conducted from the US Embassy in Tehran, which organized a coup to overthrow Moussadeq. This has poisoned the well in U.S. - Iranian relations.

  • But finally, and most outrageously: at the beginning of the debate, the Moderator publicly acknowledged the presence of former Vice-President Cheney. There was applause. There was no booing. No shouts of "War Criminal".
At the end of this civil debate, I turned off my radio in disgust. The civility of this debate convinced me more than anything else: the additional photos from Abu Ghraib need to be released. The world, including my fellow Americans, need to see what Busheney have wrought.

If the perps get to walk, they should not be allowed to walk in peace.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Justice Sonia Sotomayor!

A Slam-Dunk for SCOTUS!

President Obama elevates Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court!

More fluent in Spanish than in English, Sotomayor started school at Blessed Sacrament in Soundview. Then she moved on to Cardinal Spellman in Wakefield. In 1972, she made a huge leap to Princeton University, an Ivy League school that had started accepting women undergraduates only in 1969.

She aced the place, graduating summa cum laude and going on to Yale Law School, where she was an editor of a law journal. She moved on from there to work as a trial lawyer in the Manhattan district attorney's office, as an attorney in private practice and then as a federal judge.

The first President Bush, a Republican, appointed to Sotomayor to Manhattan Federal Court in 1992. President Clinton, a Democrat, elevated her to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Favorite Part of Obama's Notre Dame Speech his ending.
Mr. Obama was observing that he was speaking in South Bend on the 55th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education SCOTUS decision. He goes on to explain that progress in civil rights also required demonstrations, jailings and bloodshed.

The President then went on to recall Eisenhower's appointment of the Civil right Commission and how it drafted 12 resolutions which formed the essence of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
There were six members of this commission. It included five whites and one African American; Democrats and Republicans; two Southern governors, the dean of a Southern law school, a Midwestern university president, and your own Father Ted Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame. (Applause.) So they worked for two years, and at times, President Eisenhower had to intervene personally since no hotel or restaurant in the South would serve the black and white members of the commission together. And finally, when they reached an impasse in Louisiana, Father Ted flew them all to Notre Dame's retreat in Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin -- (applause) -- where they eventually overcame their differences and hammered out a final deal.

And years later, President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how on Earth he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs. And Father Ted simply said that during their first dinner in Wisconsin, they discovered they were all fishermen. (Laughter.) And so he quickly readied a boat for a twilight trip out on the lake. They fished, and they talked, and they changed the course of history.

I will not pretend that the challenges we face will be easy, or that the answers will come quickly, or that all our differences and divisions will fade happily away -- because life is not that simple. It never has been.

But as you leave here today, remember the lessons of Cardinal Bernardin, of Father Hesburgh, of movements for change both large and small. Remember that each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we all seek the same love of family, the same fulfillment of a life well lived. Remember that in the end, in some way we are all fishermen .....
The full transcript can be found on Fox News.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Don Rumsfeld Played Pious Bush with Scriptures

All Americans with a scintilla of intellectual integrity (yeah, I'm addressing Republicans who voted for BushenCheney in 2004 when you should have known better) should read Frank Rich's NYT column today, Obama Can’t Turn the Page on Bush, in its entirety. Today, I just want to key on two or three paragraphs:
Robert Draper .... author of Dead Certain .... reports that Rumsfeld’s monomaniacal determination to protect his Pentagon turf led him to hobble and antagonize America’s most willing allies in Iraq, Britain and Australia, and even to undermine his own soldiers.

But Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations.
Today, GQ publishes seven covers of Rumsfeld's Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Updates. Readers are recommended to follow the link to GQ's Slide Show. Otherwise, these screen-shots need clicking for expansion:

Frank Rich Continues:
What’s up with that? ... Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible. But the secretary’s actions were not just oily; he was also taking a risk with national security. If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world’s apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war.
The real point being, Bush the - fundamentalist sap that he was - was being played by Rumsfeld. Rich concludes:
I’m not a fan of Washington’s blue-ribbon commissions, where political compromises can trump the truth. But the 9/11 investigation did illuminate how, a month after Bush received an intelligence brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” 3,000 Americans were slaughtered on his and Cheney’s watch. If the Obama administration really wants to move on from the dark Bush era, it will need a new commission, backed up by serious law enforcement, to shed light on where every body is buried.
Rich is right. Obama must be made to understand that in order to move on, he must dig up and air out these cadavers from their unmarked graves.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jeff Buckley

It's Friday, and he's made me late to work.

Because I had to stay with him until the very end.
When I am at my very end, on my last Friday, I will not regret the days I was late to work. Being late to work can be a good thing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Cheney Legacy

Lawrence Wilkerson
is a retired
United States Army Colonel
and former chief of staff to
United States Secretary of State
Colin Powell.

Last night
he was interviewed on
Rachel Maddow's show.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Gitmo Should Remain Open: Exhibit One

Mas Selamat Kastari

The dude who's sneering at us from the 2003 photo to the right is Mas Selamat Kastari, the suspected Singapore leader of the radical Islamist group, Jemaah Islamiah. Jemaah Islamiah is blamed for attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 200 innocents.

Mas Selamat Kastari is also the alleged mastermind of a plot to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore's Changi Airport.

Since the bombings, Mas Selamat has been in and out of custody.

In February 2003, tip-offs by the Singapore authorities had led Indonesian police to monitor
Mas Selamat’s movements after he arrived in Indonesia. They tracked him to Tanjung Pinang in Bintan, arresting him just after he arrived by ferry from Dumai in Riau.

After Mas Selamat was released in August 2005, the Singapore police made another request to their Indonesian counterparts to track him again.

In January 2006, they found him at a neighborhood mosque in Sengkaling, East Java. Mas Selamat was handed over to Singapore the following month.

But Mas Selamat escaped the maximum security Whitley Road Detention Centre in Singapore while on a toilet break on Feb 27, 2008. He was recaptured on April 1st. (No fooling!)

How to keep dangerous jokers like Mas Selamat locked up? A netizen from Singapore's Online Community, SgForums, suggests:
Build a high-security prison on an isolated island. It would have a natural barrier - the sea - so detainees will not be able to go far.
What a concept!

We already have such a perfect facility. Of course its international reputation has been defamed by the abuses of the Busheney abuses. I'm talking torture here.

But instead of ending Gitmo, we should be setting about mending it:
  • Internationalize it: staff it with a multi-national guards.

  • Make it transparent: subject facilities to un-announced visits by the International Red Cross or the like.

  • Humanize it: reasonable diet, sanitized quarters, etc.

  • Seal it: No visitors or internet privileges. (It's a prison!)

  • Assume indefinite custody: no "enhanced interrogation". Kid gloves counseling, maybe. But inmates might hope to talk their way out through open, on-site hearings attended by an attorney and presided over by some sort of judicial figure.
All this needs work and refinements. Many of my readers will find fault with this and call it a half-baked scheme, which it is.

But there seems to be a liberal stampede to raze Guantanamo and/or give it back to the Cubans. It's a resource we are going to need. We're going to be catching a lot of bad guys around the world, hopefully. Not just us, the USA, but all of the countries holding on to their stature as part of the global economy. I'm speaking of Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Columbia Phjiilipnes, Nigeria and others. These polities do not have stable politics or secure prisons. And American courts do not have jurisdiction over combatants or bombers caught overseas. Needed is a international destination-certain for these bad boys and girls to be sent to for protective custody. Gitmo will serve better for this purpose than the Hague.

We just have to internationalize the security and make treatment of inmates residents transparent to the International Red Cross, Amnesty International and other interested parties. Maybe the U.N. can provide a constabulary presence. (That's a detail.) Make Gitmo a secure, escape-proof resort. No golf or swimming, of course. Just an extended stay, until guests can convince their therapists that they are too mellow to raise hell.

Think of the possibilities. There are quite a number of terrorist perps in captivity around the world. Their captors are often unstable, failing states. Not wanting to risk prisoners escaping, their option might often be just to take 'em out back and shoot them. By opening up L'Hotel Guantanamo, think of the lives we could be saving!

So, I say I say mend Gitmo, don't end it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fragging in the American Occupational Army in Iraq

A Brief History & Perspective

A term from the Vietnam War, used primarily by U.S. military personnel, most commonly meaning to assassinate an unpopular officer of one's own fighting unit, often by means of a fragmentation grenade, hence the term. Fragging incidents have been seen far less often in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, five American service members were killed at a counseling center on an American military base in Baghdad on Monday, gunned down by a fellow soldier who was later taken into custody. The killings appear to be the single deadliest episode of soldier-on-soldier violence among American forces since the United States-led invasion six years ago.

The suspect had been disarmed after an earlier incident at the center but returned with another weapon. As well as those who were killed, three other military personnel were wounded.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, said the shootings occurred “in a place where individuals were seeking help” for combat stress. The violence, he said, was a tragic reminder of the need for greater “concern in terms of dealing with the stress” and also “speaks to the issue of multiple deployments” as well the need for finding ways of “increasing dwell time,” so that military personnel spend more months at home between deployments.

It is time to review the previous record with respect to fragging within the ranks of the American Occupational forces:
  • Most recently, in September 2008, an American soldier was arrested after the shooting deaths of two comrades at their patrol base near Iskandariya, about 25 miles south of Baghdad. The soldiers had been assigned to a unit based at Fort Stewart, Ga. The case is currently in military court.

  • In June 2005, two officers serving with the New York Army National Guard at a base near Tikrit died after an antipersonnel mine was placed next to a window, and a supply specialist was charged in the deaths. The supply specialist was acquitted in military court last year.

  • In April 2005, Sgt. Hasan Akbar, of the 101st Airborne Division, was sentenced to death for a grenade attack on fellow soldiers in March 2003 in Kuwait, at the beginning of the American-led war in Iraq. Sergeant Akbar, who was the first American since the Vietnam era to be prosecuted on charges of murdering a fellow soldier in wartime, was convicted of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder after he threw grenades into tents and then opened fired on soldiers. He killed two officers and wounded 14 soldiers at Camp Pennsylvania.
The death toll from today’s shooting was the highest for American service members in a single attack since April 10, when a suicide truck bombing killed five near the police headquarters in the northern city of Mosul.

Prosecuting Torture

Is Time Really Running Out?

Elizabeth de la Vega says no! Don't Panic!

It turns out that, on all of the various charges, the statute of limitations is actually between eight years and never.

It pays to at least scan her entire argument here, but here are her salient points with my emphasis added:
When the highest officials of our nation flung open the gates of law and morality and let the wild dogs of torture run, they set in motion a constellation of potentially-indictable federal crimes .... the Attorney General must not rule out prosecutions for these violations .....

So Many Crimes, but How Much Time?

Won't it be too late if we wait much longer? Absolutely not. There's a lot of misinformation out there on this topic, mainly as a result of gross oversimplification of the law. However, notwithstanding anything you may have heard - about charges disappearing in 2010 and all hope being lost after 2011 - time is not running out to prosecute Bush administration officials either for torture itself or for the many crimes they committed to keep their program alive throughout their tenure .....

Obviously, if the rampage of prisoner abuse that the Bush White House triggered in the fall of 2001 - along with the ongoing concealment of the program - were a "case," it would not involve a simple set of facts. On the contrary, it encompasses a huge universe of evidence - eight years' worth - and scores of possible defendants. There is a raft of possible federal crimes and each would have to be analyzed separately, first to make a charging decision and then to determine the statutory indictment deadline.

....I do not know if these former White House officials are finally listening to attorneys who give them legal advice they don't want to hear. But if they are, they well know by now that their defense can never rest.

The Bottom Line

I'm trying to emphasize that people should not throw in the towel prematurely. Keep up the pressure, absolutely, but brace yourselves for the long haul.

Most important, in the near-term, think twice about fueling the inaccurate impression that it's game-over in eighteen months in order to create a sense of urgency, when it is the gravity of these crimes that should be paramount. And gravity and urgency are not the same thing. Many powerful people from across the political spectrum would be utterly delighted if the millions of Americans now pushing for accountability gave up in despair in a year or two because they mistakenly believed that prosecutions were no longer possible. But it is self-defeating in the extreme for those who want Bush, Cheney et. al. held responsible for their actions to foster this misconception. A widespread false belief that prosecutions are a limited-time offer provides a ready excuse for ultimate inaction to any and all who wish to "move on" as if eight years of torture were merely an unpleasant incident on the sidewalk. At the same time, people who don't know options still remain will be helpless to argue otherwise. In the world of criminal prosecutions, this is not a short story; it's a sprawling Icelandic saga. And - as any attorney who has prosecuted complex federal cases could tell you - it will be many years, if ever, before legal time limits will bar the hearing of this horrific epic in a US criminal court.
Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and chief of the San Jose Branch of the US attorney's office for the Northern District of California.
Her pieces have appeared in a large variety of print and online publications. Most notedly, she is the author of the authoriative United States v. George W. Bush et al.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Manny Ramirez

Mannywood is busted! And am I disgusted!?

Manny Ramirez will be missing from the Los Angeles Dodger's line-up for the next 50 games. In his presence for the first 29 games, Ramirez
  • Batted .348
  • Knocked in 20 RBI's
  • Homered 6 times
  • Attained a 641 slugging percentage
  • Lifted the Dodgers to a 21-8 record, the best in baseball
It seems to be woefully out of place and of questionable taste to write about baseball in a week of Sturm und Drang raining down over my local homeland. It's just that sometimes you just got to write what's in your head even though it may pale next to the real important stuff. I just have to exorcise the superficial and the superfluous in order just to move on.

Manny Ramirez' mere presence transformed a mediocre line-up into a slam-dunk contending offense. He was not just a guy who happened to be hitting 350 at the moment; he is a lifetime 350 hitter destined for the hall of fame. Because opposing managers knew what he would do if they allowed their pitchers to challenge Ramirez on any given at bat, they had to pitch around him and throw unvarnished strikes to those Dodgers batting in front or in back of him. Ramirez simply made every other Dodger palpably more formidable.

The Facts:
  • On Nov. 15, 2005, Major League Baseball and the players association reached agreement on a plan that significantly strengthens penalties for steroid and other illegal drug use. Under a regime of random testing, the agreement specified penalties for steroid use to be 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

  • Ramirez tested positive for HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. The brand names are Chorex, Novarel, Ovidrel, Pregnyl and Profasi. HCG helps men produce male hormones such as testosterone, which helps increase the production of sperm, the site says. Men with fertility problems — which can be a side effect of steroid use — may have HCG prescribed.

  • A 50-Game suspension will cost Ramirez $7.65 million in forfeited salary. I think that comes to about a third of Ramirez' salary for missing a third of the Dodgers' season.
My Take:

Ramirez was is one of the most natural hitters I've watched. Fluid and relaxed. He's stepping up to the plate, not to run up the pitch count, but to apply wood to rawhide; to hit the ball into play. Manny's looking for the first pitch in his roundhouse. Striking out does not noticeably mitigate his enjoyment of the game. It's part of the game, isn't it? Beyond the winning and the losing, the play's the thing. His approach to the game was equally infectious for the team in the club house and the fan base in the Los Angeles market.

2009 was going to be a magic year.

Only now am I emerging from one of the 12 steps of denial - the one of disbelief. The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan can’t believe the news, either.
If there’s a profile of a banned substance abuser — and I’m not sure there is — Manny does not fit it ... Sudden change in body configuration? Nope. Big surge in power output? Nope. Manny never even hit 50. He did have a homer jump from 26 in 1997 to 45 in 1998, but that was after hitting 31 in 1995 and 33 in 1996. He was a maturing young slugger; that’s all. I think. But Manny has otherwise been a consistent power hitter for the last dozen years. There have been no red flags.
My job for the last decade has taught me that the greatest optimists are to be found among thieves and cheaters: they are the ones who don't believe they will ever be caught.

There's no question in my mind that MLB's anti-doping regime has to stand. Otherwise we will be paying zombies to compete against each other and eventually we will have zombies for high school athletes.

For myself, born with Dodger-blue blood in my veins, I have to hope players and fans will come to treat this event as just another injury-enforced absence: just adjust the roster, offensive plan, and marketing strategy. Just show up and play the game as Juan Pierre plays it. He's the talented, non-power hitting left fielder who has been playing behind Ramirez. Pierre always arrives at the park earliest, and is the last to depart. And in between he leaves all of himself out on the field. More should be written about Juan Pierre. Hall-of-Fame announcer Vin Scully opened Thursday night's broadcast appropriately:
Hi everybody, and a very pleasant Thursday evening to you, wherever you may be. The Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles and all of California and for that matter, all of baseball, still shocked and stunned over the suspension of Manny Ramirez. We’ll have more to say about that a little bit later on, but no one man stops baseball.
Hopefully, Manny will be back. Hopefully, when and if he's back, he will lift us back into contention.

But, whatever happens, the game is on.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Jesusita Fire

Day 3?

It seems to have been burning weeks or more.

Yesterday, this was one fire in Mission Canyon. Today it is two fires inside Santa Barbara, threatening Goleta to the west and Montecito to the east. Thousands of people have evacuated. I have close friends who, I hope, have escaped with their clothes on their backs. I could not enter Elings Park to exercise Ballou because it is closed to everyone except the Fire Department. Air quality is abysmal. Water pressure is down. This event is effecting everyone in the community and, when over, will have changed Santa Barbara forever.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Red Sunset over Santa Barbara

The Jesusita Fire

Locals in my hood are expected to greet each other, especially on the weekend with,
Ho-Hum... Another day in paradise.
Well, for the last two days, Paradise has hosted a visit from hell. Hellacious, 50-knot winds bearing a firestorm.

Some call it a flaming dagger aimed at the heart of the city.

Too much for this old man: check the boat, knock down a few Coronas with friends in the harbor, and locate a couple of serviceable flashlights in the house, before crawling onto the bed and watching Mannywood and the Dodgers. Let my Dobie do what she does best: answering the door.

Blue Dawn over Afghanistan?

In a right-wing cult classic movie of the 1980's,
Red Dawn, a Cuban-Russian coalition waged a counter-insurgency (COIN)
war against the American people.

Because between them, they did not have enough troops to effectively occupy America, they attempted to make up the difference with air strikes. The only realistic element in the movie's scenario was that the would-be Russian and Cuban occupiers were ultimately unsuccessful.

That's what Obama's trying to do with Bush's legacy in Afghanistan.

Obama simply cannot accomplish anything tangible in Afghanistan using a fraction of the number of troops the Russians used decades before when their COIN effort ended in bloody and costly failure. He cannot get substantially additional troops from European allies. He certainly can't make up the difference in American troops. In light of our over-extended military forces, not to mention our straining economy, it should be apparent that there is not that much more "there" to throw at the Afghani insurgents.

Clearly, the use of air power to replace boots on the ground encourages the use of bombs, missiles and other attacks by war planes that directly increase the risk to civilians. In counterinsurgency operations, from a strictly military standpoint the excessive killing of civilians is counterproductive. It increases opposition to the forces who employ the weaponry that unnecessarily places civilian lives at risk.

If we can't do it right with enough ground troops, why are we - and how long will we persist in - trying to do it ineffectively? Obama's Afghanistan policy is unsustainable.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Kentucky Derby

Such miracles don't happen in Politics.

Am I right? Or, am I right?

I join Bill Plaschke in mid-column on Mine That Bird this morning:

Mine That Bird was a 50-to-1 nag who arrived here in a trailer pulled across the country by a Ford pickup truck driven by his trainer.

Bennie Woolley Jr. was a hobbled trainer who this year had as many motorcycle wrecks (1) as victories.

Mark Allen was a cowboy co-owner whose truck broke down on the drive here from New Mexico.

Borel was a jockey who never even sat on the horse until six days ago.

When Saturday's 135th Derby began with some of the best horses in the world, Mine That Bird was arguably the worst.

After a quarter of a mile, he was absolutely the worst, 19th out of 19, in last place.

After a half mile, still last.

After three-quarters of a mile, still last.

"My heart sunk," co-owner Dr. Leonard Blach said.

"I about quit watching," Allen said.
Borel found the rail. The rest of the field lost its breath. A nation of viewers rubbed their eyes.

From 19th place to 12th place to the lead down the stretch, Mine That Bird thundered past millions of dollars of horses and a whole bunch of history in becoming the most unlikely of Derby champions.

A champion who was originally purchased for $9,500.

A champion who had not won a race in seven months.

A champion who prepped for his moment of glory by finishing fourth in something called the Sunland Derby, on a track somewhere in New Mexico.
A horse handled by a bunch of black-hatted cowpokes straight out of "Blazing Saddles"?

A horse ridden by a former Derby-winning jockey who took this ride only because he couldn't get a better mount?

Borel wasn't surprised when the horse started like something out of a parking-lot pony ride.

"I didn't think I would win," he said.

But then when the competition -- missing late-scratched favorite I Want Revenge -- didn't run away from him, he began thinking.

"I was just chilling," he said. "But the other horses weren't going that much faster than him."

So Borel, who charged to victory with a late rush on the rail on Street Sense in 2007, decided to make a move and -- surprise, surprise -- the horse was ready to move with him.

"I asked him and he kept getting closer to them and then I thought, 'God, he's going to get here!' " he said.

He began that move on the rail, darted around a couple of horses, then moved back to the rail for the final push, and you think you were stunned?
Not only did none of them win it, Mine That Bird's run was so quick, so furious, he won by nearly seven lengths.

In the end, it was so easy, Borel turned and pointed repeatedly to the stands before reaching the finish line.

He said he was recognizing his fiancee, Lisa Funk, probably because she was the only one who always believed the horse could win?

"Um, no," she said.

Borel was so stunned, afterward he wouldn't leave the track, as if he thought the victory would disappear when he did.
That is the true beauty of the Kentucky Derby, the element makes it so endearingly cool even for folks who wouldn't know a stirrup from a bit.

It's America's one sporting championship where you can actually just "give it a shot," and still hit. Because of the size of the field and the trickiness of the track, it is a championship where the best doesn't always win, where money doesn't always rule, where two minutes can change lives and careers.

It's nice to know there still exists a place where greatness -- like Mine That Bird on a cloudy, glowing Saturday -- can come streaking out of the pack.

As Borel summed it up: "I didn't know he would gimme the response he gimme."

Neither did anyone else, and wasn't that a hoot?

Roses raining on us all.

It's a hoot! Look at these and watch for the movie!

A Two-State Solution for Palestine?

Give it up!

Israel's hard-liners dream of turning Jordan into a Palestinian state (where the population is already 65 percent Palestinian) and keeping the West Bank as a buffer state with the Jordan River as the final frontier.

Blame it on the Iranians! Iran's theocracy serves as a Nazi-Germany surrogate. As long as that existential threat to Jews hangs over the region, there is no reason Israel should make concessions to the Palestinians, now increasingly influenced by Hamas, one of Iran's clients, along with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Even if conditional aid to Israel were politically possible in the United States, which it most certainly is not, Jewish settlements in the West Bank - now some 300,000 Jews in 140 settlements - that straddle the region's water aquifer have made it physically impossible to establish a "viable and contiguous" Palestinian state.

Does anyone see a road map here?

All the future portends are pockets of Palestinian 'reservations'.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Specter = Lieberman

News to no one:

Arlen Specter is not guided by any enduring principles.

In 2001, when Senator Jim Jeffords from Vermont left the Republican Party, Arlen Specter rose from the floor of the Senate to propose a Senate rules change to prevent this from happening again in the future. A Senator's "organizational" vote, Specter said, belongs not to him but to the party which elected him.

12 minutes:

Specter is garbage, and should be accepted as such.

Last night the Dodgers won 1-0 because Russell Martin held up on ball four with the bases loaded: an excellent outcome to a beautiful game.

In politics, beauty is illusory. Only results count. Democrats already have garbage - Lieberman - in their party. One more bag won't hurt them.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Frivolous yacht race meets life and death struggle.

Wednesday night's race was another light no- wind struggle. Well, I always say there's always some wind. The problem arises when there's not enough wind to contend with current.

But Wednesday night's race from start to finish was a doldrums drifter. Boats were so close together for so long and so slow that you could talk to each other, without VHS.

15 minutes into the race a sea lion pup swam around the fleet, and then hitched a ride on our boat. Now, isn't that slow - even for a sailboat race? He (gender assumed) plopped up on our stern swim platform, for a bask in the failing sunlight. All the boats around us were greatly amused.

Our stowaway abandoned yacht after about 20 minutes to swim around the fleet looking for a more comfortable roost. Within five minutes he came back and boarded us again. After deliberation, we decided to name him Tipperary.
He definitely made like he wanted to ascend into the cockpit, but couldn't master the steps on the folding ladder. We offered ol' Tip some Coronas but all we had was cold. He/she would have preferred it warm, me thinks.

Tip stayed with us into the slip. Against all advice - I couldn't resist -
I patted him (with gloved hand) on the pate as we left the Marina.

Because Tip was obviously a sick puppy, all of us reported his presence to the local Marine Mammal Center and the Harbor Patrol. Between them, he was rescued later that evening. Our predominant fear is that his behavior is attributed to Domoic Acid Poisoning. I wish a Tip a full recovery and a long life, but that's without any knowledge of his prognosis. Whether he makes it or not, I feel warm that he picked our rescue-friendly stern for some of his last moments. That's probably close to what I'd pick for myself, too, if allowed such an option.

We finished this particular race in last place. But the 1st-rate company aboard made that bearable ...