Friday, July 31, 2009

Moving On!

The Movie!
It all started with one email!

Order the DVD for $20!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


My gigantic, intolerable, nightmarish 3-day Internet outage is finally over. I feel like I was suspended like Manny Ramirez and Michael Vick by Al Gore, the Founder of the 'Net. Talk about dropping the A-bomb on Orangeburg! WTF did I do? Even more important, what have I missed?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Max Baucus (DINO) Refuses to Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Max Baucus is the Democratic (Blue-Dog Wing) Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

He represents a relatively conservative state, he isn't up for re-election until 2014. He seems more interested in negotiating with Republicans than with his own party. Baucus says he wants a bipartisan Medical Health Plan bill out of his committee.

Why is he so passionate about Bipartisanship? Is it because he is representing his constituency?

Lawmakers have two constituencies: one, the voters back home; and the other, the people and interests that finance much of their re-election campaigns. These donors often live out of state.

When Baucus ran for his sixth term last year, his campaign raised $11.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly half of the funds came from out-of-state donors, including millions from health care and other industries overseen by Finance and Baucus' other committees.

Clicking on the chart to the right will disclose which constituency senators Baucus and Grassley are representing.

All five of his Baucus' former Senate staffers now lobby Congress for various interests. Among their clients: drugmakers Wyeth, Merck, Amgen and AstraZeneca, plus the third-largest corporation in the world, Wal-Mart.Baucus' patrons and handlers understand Baucus when he says "Sloooow" on the Public Option portion of the legislation, he actually means "Noooooo". He's only doing what he's been paid to do.

I'll Give You Socialism!

Glen Beck cries Socialism:
Raping the pocketbooks of the rich to give to the poor? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's socialism. The tougher question is this: What is America? Here's the One Thing: America is in a transition period — only no one knows what we are transitioning into. Are we capitalist? Are we socialist? Are we communist? Are we an oligarchy?
You want socialism? I'll give you Socialism:

Frank Llewellyn is the national director of Democratic Socialists of America. In Socialism And The Politics Of Fear, Llewellyn writes, that Republicans And Their Media Allies Never Really Define What They Mean By Socialism:

"Socialism" is now an active part of the Republican lexicon, among the litany of routine charges to be trotted out whenever they cannot come up with a substantive critique of policy initiatives they oppose. Beginning with a steady drumbeat from the far-right blogosphere during last year's Democratic primary campaign, Republicans have attacked health care reform and modest progressive tax reform proposals as somehow "un-American," "European," and, God-forbid, "socialist!"

When the Republicans lost the election and the Obama administration filled its Treasury positions with former Goldman Sachs executives, we socialists thought that was the end of these baseless charges. But when the Republicans found themselves with nothing to say about how to shore-up an economy in free-fall, they deemed the stimulus bill socialist - even though the architect of such policies, John Maynard Keynes, advocated a capitalist economic system.

Republicans and their media allies never really define what they mean by socialism ….. Whatever their definition of socialism is, the term is gaining currency among some Republicans as a form of blanket condemnation of the President and Democratic reform proposals. …..

….. Just, like the New Deal-era Roosevelt haters, these Republicans erroneously term a president who is trying to save capitalism from itself a socialist.

Contemporary democratic socialists want to mitigate the many adverse impacts that unregulated capitalist markets have on the lives of ordinary people by supporting intelligent democratic regulation of the economy (particularly the financial sector) and by using progressive taxation to finance high-quality public goods that can satisfy all citizens' basic needs for health care, education, unemployment insurance, and job training. We do not wish to destroy markets for consumer goods or to confiscate personal property. Rather, we want to establish efficient government regulation of financial markets so that ordinary citizens can secure stable financing for the purchase of such important personal property as an affordable home.

In other developed democracies, national health care systems are so popular that once they have been established it is politically impossible to eliminate them. In a recent Gallup poll, while only fifty-seven percent of United States residents said they were satisfied with their health care, over seventy-five percent of Canadians and Western Europeans said they would not trade their health care system for the current U. S. model. That is the real reason that Republicans are trying to sow doubt and prevent passage of a national health care bill: they want to protect the for-profit health care and pharmaceutical industries.

American socialists (and many more non-socialists, including 86 members of Congress) support HR 676, John Conyers' Medicare for All single-payer national health plan, which would replace the private insurance industry with a government agency but would preserve personal choice of physician and hospital care.

We socialists are deeply suspicious of the Democratic Party leadership proposals for health care. We worry that these proposals lack a sufficiently robust public insurance option to provide an effective check on the private insurers. Any comparative analysis of health care systems indicates that the greater the role of private, for-profit health insurance companies in the delivery of health care, the higher the cost. This is why the United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world but trails well behind on crucial indicators of public health, such as infant mortality, longevity, and death of women in childbirth.

The insurance companies don't like the Democratic leadership plan because in theory they might have to face effective competition from a public insurance option. Democratic socialists don't trust the insurance companies enough to keep them in the health insurance market. But President Obama does, which makes it much more likely that the pay-or-play predominantly private insurance plan we distrust is likely to pass. So exactly how does that put the President in a "cabal," to use Michael Steele's word, to advance socialist goals?

This socialist-baiting is more than just name-calling. We are in the middle of a prolonged economic crisis brought on by unrestrained and unregulated capitalism. Since it arose from a crisis in the banking and housing sectors, this economic crisis in particular cannot be solved by normal market mechanisms. There is not sufficient private purchasing power to rejuvenate demand, and capital markets remain very tight. Financial institutions are unwilling to renegotiate under-water mortgages and are even reducing credit lines to borrowers with strong credit ratings.

Absent government efforts to strengthen the rights of working people and organized labor, we face the likelihood of another jobless recovery and declining wages. The devastating decline in value of pensions, retirement accounts and housing means that many near retirement age and even many not so near to retirement will not be able to retire on schedule - and certainly not with dignity and security.

If the United States fails to democratically restructure its economy, we face a future of increased inequality and poverty. But the constant drumbeat of right-wing "socialist-baiting" makes it less likely that this administration will consider the public initiatives - such as investments in alternative energy, education, and health care - that could engender productive jobs at good wages.

Reactionary forces have always utilized anti-socialism to oppose democratic reforms that constrain corporate power. Corporate America tried to red-bait Social Security, the GI Bill, and Medicare. But ordinary Americans rejected the politics of fear, and reforms passed that significantly improved the lives of average Americans. It will take Americans once again rejecting mindless anti-socialism to create sufficient support for the extensive reforms needed to address this deep and systemic economic crisis.

Let's have change we can believe in. If it be socialism, then make the most of it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We Americans Can’t Face the Truth about Afghanistan - Yet

The English, however, are always ahead of the curve.

"Hell is truth seen too late...duty neglected in its season."
- Tryon Edwards
I hate to be negative. It would be quite irresponsible of me to be deliberately negative. Every time I write about foreign lands, far from my quiet central California coast, I say to myself,
"Why me?
What presumptions do I exercise,
that I can sally forth and cast
sarcasm, skepticism and pessimism
against the wind?
Especially now
when the White House is occupied
by arguably its smartest or second
smartest resident in my life time?"

Well, I will tell you. I am seven decades old this month, and I have seen all this shit go down before.I do not think I am shouting against the wind. Denial is a peculiar American trait. We not see geopolitical hurricanes before they arrive - long after they've appeared on others' radar screens.
Lately, I've been looking over the shoulders of some Brits and observing their CRTs'. What I see squares completely with what I've been feeling
for some time in my old bones.

The The U.K.’s conservative Daily Express declares the Afghanistan war lost:
….. After the losses of the past few days, this half-hearted approach has become utterly unsustainable. Britain and indeed the whole of NATO must now decide whether this fiendishly difficult bid to tame a hitherto untamable land is worth all the blood that is being spilt.

This newspaper’s assessment is that the chance of outright victory in Afghanistan vanished the moment US and British forces went into Iraq. The focus on Afghanistan was lost and the coalition against terror broke up. There is now little prospect of the rest of NATO committing wholeheartedly to the fight against the Taliban. In a war of attrition, such as is presently being fought, victory will not be achieved, but heavy losses will certainly be sustained. Our brave soldiers deserve far better than that.

….. when a military entanglement has no plan, no metrics for success and no end in sight. The Tories are just getting out ahead of the curve.

….. renowned British military historian Correlli Barnett ….. that Britain must unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan.

Why won't an American journalist confront the Obama administration and simply ask them, "How will we know when we've won?" Unless they can answer that in tangible terms, all we're doing is condemning more troops to death…..
The obvious answer is that we do not have a Cronkite to take full measure of this Afghanistan project of Obama's and tell us what the score is.

Correlli Barnet of the Daily Mail asks another question,
Who has the guts to pull out?

We should remember, they say, that thanks to the Western occupation, five million Afghan children now go to primary school, compared with one million in 2001. Surely that makes our servicemen's sacrifice worthwhile?

Yet many of us, especially those who have worn the King's or Queen's uniform, or know about our military history, believe it is not the role of the British Armed Forces to fight and die so that foreign children can go to school. Their proper role is, or ought to be, to safeguard the wealth and security of the British people - in short, to defend the British realm.

…. The toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001 has not prevented a string of Al-Qaeda outrages, including Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

….. the London bombings were perpetrated by British-born Muslims with no direct connection either to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. The truth is that Al-Qaeda is no longer an organization centered on Afghanistan, but a global franchise.

….. The Duke of Wellington once said that the real test of a general was to know when to retreat and dare to do it. A cool-headed and objective examination of the military and political evidence about the state of play in Afghanistan ought to convince HM Government that Britain must retreat from Afghanistan, and that they must now dare to announce a future date for this.

…..It would take more moral courage on the Government's part to distance Britain from President Obama's positively Bushite pursuit of 'victory' in Afghanistan, and announce a firm date for the final evacuation of British forces.

….. But without such a brave decision, British servicemen and women will go on pointlessly dying, while a more and more disillusioned nation simply wants our troops home - - not in coffins draped with the Union Flag, but marching through cheering crowds.
Simon Jenkins of the Guardian, has an answer:
Britain must tell Obama: the alliance of denial has to end.

..... Diplomacy, your hour has come. There is no way soldiers will find an exit from Afghanistan. They can deliver defeat or they can deliver bloody stalemate. They cannot deliver victory and every observer knows it. This conflict will end only when the courage being daily demanded of soldiers is also shown by politicians.

..... Obama made a serious error on coming to power. To honour his pledge to disown Iraq he felt obliged to "adopt" Afghanistan. What had begun as a punitive raid on the Taliban for harbouring Osama bin Laden morphed into a neocon campaign of regime change, counter-insurgency and nation-building. Obama rashly identified himself with this crusade and leapt from the frying pan of Iraq into the fire of the Hindu Kush.

..... Terrorism does not need bases. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany. The safety of Britain's streets is secured not by boys dying in poppy fields, but by sound intelligence and domestic policing. We learned last week that MI5's former head, Eliza Manningham-Buller, specifically warned the government that British security would be harmed by intervention abroad. Ministers know this. Why do they lie?

..... as it suited Bush to identify the Taliban with al-Qaida, so it should now suit Obama to do the opposite. The Taliban has never shown any interest in international terrorism, only in ridding their country of foreigners. On this truth should some eventual deal be built.

The idea of establishing a western-style democracy is dead. The dreams of Kabul's NGO groupies, to install technocrats or elevate women or eradicate poppies, have vanished in a morass of corruption and aid extravagance.

..... Only colonialists build nations, and the will for empire was never present.

..... The Canadians, who have suffered terrible losses, have shown their sovereignty by signalling their intention to leave in 2011. Why not Britain?

The denouement will come only from negotiation. For British generals and politicians to talk of fighting in Helmand "for decades" is absurd, not least as neither the British public nor the Taliban believe it. Like the Canadians, they should give a date for withdrawal, to stop wasting British lives and to isolate Obama in his wrong-headed policy.

..... Tony Blair's failure to influence Bush over Iraq was humiliating. The mix of political obsequiousness and diplomatic smugness Washington detected in Britain then is being replicated today over Afghanistan .....
Dear readers, depending on your age, here's the truth without jokes: we are ensnared in the 2nd costly military quagmire in your lifetime, and the 3rd in my lifetime.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Surge in Afghanistan

The Light at the end of the TunnelDo you see what I see?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mellow in Mid-Summer

Feels Like Home

Heard this song on the car radio as my Doberwoman and I returned from the beach yesterday. I think it was Pat Donahue performing it on Garrison Keillor's show.

Here it is with Chantal's interpretation.My thoughts are about loves, family, friends, homes, and time passing.

My hopes? My hopes are that those in my small but highly esteemed readership and commentariate are well and mellow, too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, R.I.P.

My recollections and reflections pertaining to the epochal life of Walter Cronkite are fragmented and scattered tonight. Random anecdotes registered on my conscious from the car radio on my way home; like the revelation that Cronkite so defined the role of TV news anchorman in the English-speaking world that in several European countries, a good anchorman was referred to as a "Cronkiter".

In my life, one 'Cronkiter' moment stands out and casts its shadow over all the other momentous Cronkite anchorages in America's passages through the 20th century.

1968 was a pivotal year in American political history. It was an election year. President Lyndon Johnson's reelection was challenged by determined primary opponents within his own party. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was to be assassinated on April 4 of that year; and after him, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot down on June 5th.

In Vietnam, The Vietcong and People's Army of Vietnam (from North Vietnam) launched what came to be known as the
Tet Offensive, striking military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam. The initial attacks stunned allied forces and took them by surprise, but most were quickly contained and beaten back, inflicting massive casualties on civilians Communist forces. By April, the last vestiges of the offensive were vanquished by American forces with horrendous casualties on the Communist forces.

Up until this point in the war, Walter Cronkite had believed in LBJ's intervention in this Vietnamese civil war. Even though the Tet Offensive was an American military success, it shocked domestic opinion, already rent with anti-war demonstrations: those of my fellow Americans who had been undecided about the war were incredulous as to how our enemy could sustain such an effort after we had been told by out leaders for so long, that there was "light at the end of the tunnel".

As the Tet Offensive subsided, Walter Cronkite decided to go to Vietnam himself and seek the answers to LBJ's Vietnam puzzle. After his return, Cronkite concluded his nightly broadcast of 27 February with a uniquely personal editorial report to his network audience:
Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we'd like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective.

Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities?

I'm not sure.

The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. Another standoff may be coming in the big battles expected south of the Demilitarized Zone. Khesanh could well fall, with a terrible loss in American lives, prestige and morale, and this is a tragedy of our stubbornness there; but the bastion no longer is a key to the rest of the northern regions, and it is doubtful that the American forces can be defeated across the breadth of the DMZ with any substantial loss of ground. Another standoff.

On the political front, past performance gives no confidence that the [South] Vietnamese government can cope with its problems, now compounded by the attack on the cities. It may not fall, it may hold on, but it probably won't show the dynamic qualities demanded of this young nation. Another standoff.

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi's winter-spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition, and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations. It would improve their position, and it would also require our realization, that we should have had all along, that any negotiations must be that -- negotiations, not the dictation of peace terms.

For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer's almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster.

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations.

But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.
Lyndon Johnson said, as he turned off his TV set that night, "If I've lost Walter, I've lost middle America". On March 31st, LBJ announced his withdrawal from his presidential reelection campaign.

The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the election of Richard Nixon "saved" the
Vietnam War for another seven years.

The GOP -vs- (Her Honor) Sonia Sotomayor

What was at stake for the Republicans?

They appeared to be tilting (once again!) at windmills of their own making.

But there is always method - be it twisted or perverted - to their madness. I always say, if you want the truth out of any Republicant, the onliest one you can go to is Pat Buchanan.

And Uncle Pat's the guy who Rachel Maddow dialed up last night:

The Good Ol' Party is still mired in 20th Century.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Natalya Estemirova, R.I.P.

Human rights activist shot dead in

An award-winning Russian human rights activist was murdered today after dedicating much of her life to investigating abuses by the Chechen regime.

Natalya Estemirova was shot twice in the head at close-range after she was bundled into a car in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

The activist, who was one of Anna Politkovskaya's key collaborators, was found dead near the city of Nazran in Ingushetia. A single mother in her early 40s, Estemirova had collected evidence of human rights abuses in Chechnya since the start of the second war there in 1999.

As well as the murdered Politkovskaya, she worked with Stanislav Markelov, a prominent lawyer and another opponent of rights abuses in Chechnya, who was shot and killed on a Moscow street in January.

Estemirova took part in a rally to protest his murder, reading out one of the numerous threats he had received for his campaigns against disappearances, false imprisonments and rights abuses.

A year after Politkovskaya was gunned down in her Moscow apartment building in 2006, Estemirova became the first recipient of an award in her name for work for the leading Russian rights group Memorial.

As she received the Anna Politkovskaya prize, she said: "Nothing has been done to investigate the crimes that have been committed in Chechnya since 2000.”

The Memorial rights group said in a statement today that Estemirova “was forcefully taken from her house into a car and shouted that she was being kidnapped” at 8.30 am (0330 BST) in Grozny.

“Chechen authorities had expressed dissatisfaction with her work more than once,” Memorial said. The group’s statement did not give any indication of who might have carried out the abduction.

Concerns have grown in the last weeks about the stability of the Caucasus after Ingushetia’s leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was seriously wounded in a car bombing on June 22.

Security forces are being killed in clashes with militants on an almost daily basis and ten Chechen police officers were killed in a militant ambush in Ingushetia last week.

Memorial and Human Rights Watch had earlier this month issued a report accusing Chechen security forces of punishing families of alleged militants by burning down their homes.

The authorities have failed to secure any convictions over the 2006 killing in Moscow of Politkovskaya, who exposed abuses by Russian security forces in Chechnya and vehemently criticised the Kremlin. Also unsolved are the January murders of young journalist Anastasia Baburova and Mr Markelov, who were gunned down in central Moscow as they left a news conference.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

I have always observed Bastille Day in a wide variety of ways.

Back in my radical days 1960's I used to have a huge back yard party around a punch bowl full of an elixir which I dubbed my Bastille Day Massacre. It was suitably named. this traditional observance lasted a few years until Trophy Wife put her foot down: it was always our furniture that was getting busted up.

Long story short, today I have less irreverent, more solemn feelings.

The French Embassy (somewhere) explains it thus:
Bastille Day, or the Fourteenth of July, is the symbol of the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the Republic. The national holiday is a time when all citizens celebrate their membership to a republican nation. It is because this national holiday is rooted in the history of the birth of the Republic that it has such great significance.

… The people of Paris rose up and decided to march on the Bastille, a state prison that symbolized the absolutism and arbitrariness of the Ancien Regime.

The storming of the Bastille, on July 14, 1789, immediately became a symbol of historical dimensions; it was proof that power no longer resided in the King or in God, but in the people, in accordance with the theories developed by the Philosophes of the 18th century.

On July 16, the King recognized the tricolor cockade: the Revolution had succeeded.

For all citizens of France, the storming of the Bastille symbolizes, liberty, democracy and the struggle against all forms of oppression.
To me, this grand anthem communicates a sense of arrival, of self-deliverance from the forces of tyranny. In a sense, in 2009, I feel I'm just short of such a destiny. Here, in America, I feel we are in a state of limbo. We have bit more of a path to navigate. We have walls which still have to be torn down.
Be that as it may, let's celebrate Bastille Day for its Audacity of Hope!
Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Bothers Me about Sarah Palin...

Has very little to do with the ex-governor of Alaska.
But it has a lot to do with the current senior Senator from Arizona as well as the mounted posse with whom he rides around.

Not long ago, in the company of two bloggers whose respect I dearly covet, I swore up and down with my hand on my copy of Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope, that I would never, ever post on Sarah Palin.

So, this column is really about the superannuated warmonger who headed last year's Republican ticket. I'm really only going to post a couple of excerpts from writers who really hit their nails into the pustule of what's been bothering me, going forward, through 2009 and beyond. They both make the same point, but their spot-on eloquence demands my sharing.

First, Joe Conason, in Salon, answers the question that's been roiling around in my head for these last several months:

Who cares about Palin now that it's half a year after she lost her bid to become the 1st woman Vice-President?

..... Plainly there is no reason why anyone should care, except for one small nagging concern. It is worth remembering that these are the same people who chose Palin, a manifestly unqualified and incompetent politician unable to string together a series of coherent sentences, as the potential presidential successor to a 72-year-old cancer survivor. So it would be refreshing and salubrious to see the perpetrators of that contemptuous and cynical tactic held accountable for endangering the country.

..... McCain, Schmidt, Davis and Salter chose to listen to Kristol, almost always a political mistake with consequences ranging from the merely absurd to the utterly dire. (The latter category includes the invasion of Iraq, with an astronomical cost in lives and treasure that should be charged to him and his magazine, as he used to boast.)

Enormous as Kristol's errors in judgment surely were, at least he can plausibly claim to be loyal. If anything he is too steadfast, still insisting that Palin deserves to be considered a serious candidate for the presidency and that her qualifications for that position are comparable to those of Barack Obama.

..... Rarely is anyone in Washington, from politicians to operatives to journalists, held accountable for the damage they inflict on the body politic. Those who banged the drum for disastrous war flit from one editorial page to the next; those who insisted on ruinous deregulation return as economic advisors to the president. The men who told us that Sarah Palin should be next in line of succession to the presidency may quarrel among themselves now, but they will all be back with yet more stupid advice -- and we can only blame ourselves if we listen.

Secondly, the inimical Andrew Sullivan on his Daily Dish:

..... McCain knew full well that Palin was unqualified to be commander-in-chief at this period of time; and he knew there was no way she could ever learn enough to do the job. So his decision to pick her was pure cynicism and irresponsibility. The MSM knew full well that there were very serious questions about this unknown person’s background, lies, mental stability, and secrecy - but they were so terrified of being called biased they refused to do the proper vetting.

The Republican establishment has long condescended to the pro-life, anti-gay, de facto soclialist, de iure capitalist heartland voters - and they cynically believed they had found a formula to get them to vote for McCain on ground of pure class resentment and sex appeal to older white males ..... I agree with Richard Cohen this morning:
Naming Palin to the GOP ticket — a top-down choice by McCain — was the most reckless decision any national politician has made in the longest time, and while it certainly says something about McCain, it says even more about his party. It has lost its mind.
The reason we need to get to the truth of what happened is that these people nearly took this country off a cliff. They need to be held accountable. They need to be removed from their positions of power. We cannot move on until they are. And John McCain should retire from public life. After that decision, nothing he says can be taken seriously on the national or international stage.

That's the point I have been trying to isolate and frame: it's not about Palin.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Honduras, Si! Zelaya, No! (Part II)

Last week, when I published Honduras Si, Zelaya No, my usually liberal commentariate sat on their hands in mute silence. Clearly, they are uncomfortable with any criticism of Obama. I have also broken knuckles in both hands, pounding on the walls of closed minds in a couple of Pro-Zelaya Diaries on the Daily Kos. But, as Blomberg reports, the Honduran power struggle fairly splits Democrats, Republicans.

In the meantime, I have seen nothing which encourages me to move off of my original anti-Zelaya position.

Admittedly, Miguel A. Estrada is a conservative attorney. But everything (again) I have read indicates that his chronology, Honduras' Non-coup: Under the country's Constitution, the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya was legal, published yesterday is accurate and reliable. Excerpts:

Something clearly has gone awry with the rule of law in Honduras -- but it is not necessarily what you think. Begin with Zelaya's arrest. The Supreme Court of Honduras, as it turns out, had ordered the military to arrest Zelaya two days earlier. A second order (issued on the same day) authorized the military to enter Zelaya's home to execute the arrest. These orders were issued at the urgent request of the country's attorney general. All the relevant legal documents can be accessed (in Spanish) on the Supreme Court's website. They make for interesting reading.

What you'll learn is that the Honduran Constitution may be amended in any way except three. No amendment can ever change
  1. the country's borders
  2. the rules that limit a president to a single four-year term and
  3. the requirement that presidential administrations must "succeed one another" in a "republican form of government."
In addition, Article 239 specifically states that any president who so much as proposes the permissibility of reelection "shall cease forthwith" in his duties,
Article 239 — No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.

Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.
and Article 4 provides that any "infraction" of the succession rules constitutes treason. The rules are so tight because these are terribly serious issues for Honduras, which lived under decades of military rule.

As detailed in the attorney general's complaint, Zelaya is the type of leader who could cause a country to wish for a Richard Nixon. Earlier this year, with only a few months left in his term, he ordered a referendum on whether a new constitutional convention should convene to write a wholly new constitution. Because the only conceivable motive for such a convention would be to amend the un-amendable parts of the existing constitution, it was easy to conclude -- as virtually everyone in Honduras did -- that this was nothing but a backdoor effort to change the rules governing presidential succession. Not unlike what Zelaya's close ally, Hugo Chavez, had done in Venezuela.

..... The attorney general filed suit and secured a court order halting the referendum. Zelaya then announced that the voting would go forward just the same, but it would be called an "opinion survey." The courts again ruled this illegal. Undeterred, Zelaya directed the head of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vasquez, to proceed with the "survey" -- and "fired" him when he declined. The Supreme Court ruled the firing illegal and ordered Vasquez reinstated.

Zelaya had the ballots printed in Venezuela, but these were impounded by customs when they were brought back to Honduras. On June 25 -- three days before he was ousted -- Zelaya personally gathered a group of "supporters" and led it to seize the ballots, restating his intent to conduct the "survey" on June 28. That was the breaking point for the attorney general, who immediately sought a warrant from the Supreme Court for Zelaya's arrest on charges of treason, abuse of authority and other crimes. In response, the court ordered Zelaya's arrest by the country's army, which under Article 272 must enforce compliance with the Constitution, particularly with respect to presidential succession. The military executed the court's order on the morning of the proposed survey.

..... As noted, Article 239 states clearly that one who behaves as Zelaya did in attempting to change presidential succession ceases immediately to be president. If there were any doubt on that score, the Congress removed it by convening immediately after Zelaya's arrest, condemning his illegal conduct and overwhelmingly voting (122 to 6) to remove him from office. The Congress is led by Zelaya's own Liberal Party (although it is true that Zelaya and his party have grown apart as he has moved left). Because Zelaya's vice president had earlier quit to run in the November elections, the next person in the line of succession was Roberto Micheletti, the Liberal leader of Congress. He was named to complete the remaining months of Zelaya's term.

It cannot be right to call this a "coup." Micheletti was lawfully made president by the country's elected Congress. The president is a civilian. The Honduran Congress and courts continue to function as before. The armed forces are under civilian control. The elections scheduled for November are still scheduled for November. Indeed, after reviewing the Constitution and consulting with the Supreme Court, the Congress and the electoral tribunal, respected Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga recently stated that the only possible conclusion is that Zelaya had lawfully been ousted under Article 239 before he was arrested, and that democracy in Honduras continues fully to operate in accordance with law. All Honduran bishops joined Rodriguez in this pronouncement ......

Watching the on-line comments on Honduras news items, the comment from Hondurans is decidedly anti-Zelaya. That's not a scientific poll, admittedly. But I'm totally fatigued by global statements that the 'rest of the world' agrees that Zelaya should be restored to power. The rest of the world is not paying attention.

Reich-wing, Weimar Republicans may be correct half as often as broken watches. This is one such instance.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Old & New Media: Arianna Huffington Sets Me to Thinking

Nothing new about that!

But here are some unvarified fragments of her words about media at the Guardian's Activate 09 Conference:
Old media has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It can't focus on anything for longer than a standard newscycle. Therefore most things fail to change.

New media has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It gets hold of something, and just can't let it go. This means that things are more likely to actually change...

The vested interests fighting reform and the past which they represented are very well organised, and the future that they resist is very poorly organized ….

The government tried to control the message, but there were so many people taking pictures with camera phones that they failed …. I'm interested in how technology can be a countervailing force ….

You consume old media sitting on a couch. You consume new media galloping on a horse….

I want to shift the debate from how to save newspapers to how to save journalism….

Data alone is not enough. Data needs to go viral…..
The blogosphere is now the most vital news source in our country. Rightly or wrongly, I've veered away from the reading of books and magazines. (Those floppy and irksome objects that fold up in your lap when you reach for your coffee or beer).

I like the interactive and liberating blogosphere where random and spontaneous thoughts are expected and accepted, and where passion reigns. Old journalism resembles stenography repeating the narrow conventional wisdom, without any semblance of passion. Bipartisanship or non-partisanship is pursued by the old journalism as if it represented some kind of state of perfect objectivity or Byzantine symmetry. Such a goal is un-attainable. It's not worth pursuing. The late great Hunter S. Thompson had it down perfectly in his Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail:
The only thing I ever saw that came close to Objective Journalism was a closed-circuit TV setup that watched shoplifters in the General Store at Woody Creek, Colorado. I always admired that machine, but I noticed that nobody paid any attention to it .... So much for Objective Journalism. Don't bother to look for it here -- not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market quotations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.
There are two or more sides to every question. I like a logical fearless presentation of ideas on one side of the question. If I want to examine the other side(s), I know where to go to find them. Reading, viewing, and listening to partisan reporting gives me an opportunity, ultimately, to discern fact from fiction. The passionate interactive interchange of versions of reality to be found on the Internet informs me also of the vitality of fact(s).

But use of the Internet falls short of its potential. Few political consumers reach out and walk in the shoes of those who disagree with us. Way too infrequently. Of those commenting in my pages, I can think of only two or three with whom I expect to find lively disagreement: The Commentator, Petro-Sexual, and Wizard. Of these, only Wizard stays long enough to cobble together some coherence in his alternate 'reality'.

I make an effort to reach out to Righty and independent sites, whenever I have something to say with enough energy and time to deliver it. Again, Wizard's site is one of my favorites.

But too often I am confronted with having to "join" a blog, because "membership" is a prerequisite for participation in conversation. Another objective barrier to spontaneous dialogue is "comment moderation", wherein the site's Administrator has to pass on a reader's response's propriety before it appears in a thread. That leads to disjointed conversation, because I cannot view the last comment offered for publication before I compose mine. Secondly, I cannot view my comment immediately after posting; thus, a glaring error is missed which could have been corrected by deleting and reposting.

Finally, a major disappointment. My tripping across the 'Net to new and unfamiliar blogsites, is really a gift of my time. It all too often is not received as such. Righties, especially, interpret my comment as "trolling". Does that mean I'm trying to hook them up? I never figured that epithet out. All I'm trying to communicate is that, "Hey! I'm out here and I have a different point of view." What I get, usually, is a verbal slam upside the face. Occasionally, a reasoned reply. Rarely do I get what I'm really looking for which is a visit in return.

The newest thingies on the Internet is the Twittering and the Face-Booking. I haven't figured out what to call one who twitters. Would it be a 'twit' or a 'twat'? When I figure I'm willing to be called whatever it turns out to be, I might try Twittering. Just not yet.

I've been trying Face-Booking for about a week. My first impression is that it's crap. I haven't figured out how it supports embedded HTML links; naked links are hideous, esthetically. But FaceBook does offer a way to allocate your time and multiply your contacts on the Internet without fragmenting your blogging. You just have to be careful as to how many minutes you burn and how many "friends" you allow into your "virtual" Book.

I'll see how it goes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

George Soros on Barack Obama

Creditable job, short of perfect, well short of perfect.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Robert S. McNamara

(June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) R.I.P.

What are the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq? These are the two catastrophic wars in the history of American foreign policy, so it is critically important to ask that question. Even if we can't remember the answer longer than 1½ generations.

What I have learned is that it is not the generals and their uniformed subordinates who are responsible for the massive killing, maiming and burning in unnecessary wars. Not the uniforms. It is the suits and ties in the Pentagon, the White House, and within the august corridors of Congress. From each generation, they are self-recruited as among the 'Best and the Brightest'.

As far as Vietnam is concerned, McNamara was present at its conception. (Pretty much so, anyway.) Present at JFK's elbow in 1961, he's rightfully pegged by history as The Architect. He was a second-tier technocrat. He had been president of Ford only a month when Kennedy offered him the post as secretary of defense.

Names are indelibly burned into my mind. Not only McNamara, but there was McGeorge Bundy (NSC). And there was ubiquitous Dean Rusk, Secretary of State: a bloodless, tireless man who would endlessly repeat his answer to the last question he was asked.

All of them - the architects - are gone now, except Henry Kissinger.

I can't improve on a comment made by a listener of Talk Radio News Service named Bennett who recalls that, in part,
.... Unlike Mr. Rumsfeld, McNamara admitted he was wrong. He told President Johnson numerous times that we did not know enough to escalate. It was Johnson’s own desire to look as tough on Communism as Goldwater to politically neutralize the Republicans. The Vietnamese foreign minister was almost right in his accusing McNamara of not knowing history and the final mistake was not learned by McNamara or do our leaders today seem to understand it. Our country was founded in a guerrilla war. We won two major battles, Saratoga and Yorktown. Lost all the others. No standing army in history has ever defeated a guerrilla force. The only exceptions to this is when the military power fought a war of annihilation. That is our choice when fighting unconventional foes. We must make a conscious decision to become genocidal war criminals or get out. There are no other political or military options. I do not know if we would have been better off if Mr. McNamara had decided to get rich and stay at Ford. He saved thousands of lives with safety improvements in a few months .... Sent 58,000 Americans to their deaths and ruined a million more American lives. Cost millions of lives of our enemies. The man worked by numbers and those are his numbers....
Robert McNamara does not sit in the first tier of seats of our America's great unindicted war criminals. His incomplete mea culpa, along with LBJ's, places him in a row behind Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Doug Feith.

But he's in the room with them. He's there. Forever.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Manny Ramirez Day!

The Dude of Swing is Back

When Manny Ramirez was suspended eight weeks ago, the Dodgers had a -game lead in the National League West. Now the lead is seven. But that's hardly the whole story.

With Manny, in the first 29 Games, the Dodgers were the best team in Baseball. They are still the best team in MLB, but just barely:

Dodgers (50-29)

Red Sox (48-30)

Yankees (45-32)

Rangers (42-35)

Angels (42-34)

Without him, they played 29-21: good enough to be the best team in their division. Maybe good enough to stay there for the rest of ther season. Definitely not good enough to get through October.

I'm glad he was suspended for PED's. And I'm glad he's back!

Honduras, Si! Zelaya, No!

I have to believe,
up to this point in time anyways, that
Mr. Obama & Ms. Clinton
answered their
3 A.M. phone calls
from the wrong sides of their respective beds.

I have read from a variety of sources since this so-called "constitutional coup d'etat" occurred. My current position has not moved beyond my initial tentative impulses.

A correspondent on Beautiful Horizons, Tambopaxi, gives a succinct summation of my evolving thinking: S/He writes:

... I gotta go against conventional wisdom pronounced by all, including Obama (whom I support on most other things), the OAS ... et al, on the Honduran coup. References to rule of law, due process, and so on, are all well and good, and valid only so far as all parties to a given dispute are willing to adhere to said rules, processes, and so on. Zelaya violated several Constitutional articles expressly written to prevent his kind of referendum initiative. As well, he ignored Constitutional and legal actions taken by the Honduran Supreme Court, the Electoral Tribunal and the Congress there to force him to comply with the Constitution and the law. In short, Zelaya went rogue and went off the legal reservation in his push to keep himself in office. Absolutely no one, including the OAS, or the USG (Obama) can assert that Zelaya would have submitted himself to the due process of impeachment, which he certainly deserved. On the contrary, had the other branches of government been foolish enough to play by the rules that Zelaya flaunted, they would very soon have been subjugated to executive authority as has happened in Venezuela (and will happen soon in Ecuador, I'm afraid).

I lived in Honduras two times for a total of seven years. While I wouldn't qualify Honduran politicians as the most honest or visionary of their kind, I think they got it right this time in
  1. establishing rules to prevent Presidential dictatorships we see springing up elsewher in the region

  2. acting on those rules to try and head off Zelaya's move toward continuance (and almost assuredly consolidation) of power; and

  3. having the courage to act swiftly and decisively - and by exactly the same rules used by Zelaya - to get this rogue out of the country.
I know none of the above is politically correct in this day and age, but unfortunately, Chavez, Correa, Morales, Ortega - and pretty quick here, Uribe - are all using politically correct rules (Constitutions) to keep themselves in power indefinitely, suborn democratic institutions, and abuse the democratic rights of their countrymen. This is morally and politically wrong, and it's injurious to long term development interests of the region. Somehow, in contrast, little backward Honduras got it right both in terms of its Constitution and in terms of being willing to get down and play dirty just like the bad guys. It ain't pretty, it ain't clean, but Honduras showed someone like Chavez that if you play by the very same rules, you can whip them at their nefarious game...

I read that Zelaya was Latin America's least popular leader. Only 25 percent of the nation supported him. Survey found that 67 percent of Hondurans would never vote for him again. A huge majority of the country -- including the two major political parties (including Zelaya's), the Christian churches, the other branches of government and the armed forces -- do not want him as president. People were agreed to put up with him until his term ran out and he left power in in January 2010. And then he pulls this so-called non-binding plebiscite to override his constitutional terms limits? With ballots flown in from Venezuela?

Come on, People!