Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Did he give the crowd the finger?

Dick Cheney Booed When Shown On Screen At Yankees Game
The other day I heard (for the umpteenth time) a tape of Howard Dean’s now infamous rallying cry, where he increasingly goes ballistic over a mike to the point where he sounds downright, well, unpresidential. And yet I’ll read something where it’s said that Dean’s downfall was due perhaps to the fact that he was “too real.” Huh? Leaving aside any of the substance he brought to the debate, I believe the reasons for his failing are not a mystery. In fact, it was quite predictable based on past precedence.

For “your guy/gal” to be successful at running for president, it’s not simply the message that is important. It always comes down to the two V’s: Views & Vehicle (or Vessel). Yes, that person’s views must ring true to you (as Dean’s did) but for better or worse in this country, the vehicle or vessel must be appropriate also. Of course this introduces a lack of substance debate, but so what, it is what it is in this country. Wake up people! With that blaring speech, Dean offered us a hint of the non-presidential side of him, even if it was just for a moment. Too late, that’s all many needed to see. Make all the excuses you want, the scorecard on “temperament” suddenly gets a very bad grade, end of story.

On top of this, when we saw Dean standing beside Kerry at debates, Dean received another demerit under the category of “height,” the lack thereof. Yes, again something not of substance, but we’re not in a time when TV doesn’t matter. Ever since TV has become a big factor in elections, the tall guys have beaten shorter guys. Just look at Dukakis or Paul Tsongas – both of whom had great things to say but in reality had no chance. Another: Ross Perot.

So when we read about what happened to the mighty Dean train, and no doubt it’s often filled with high-minded excuses, let’s not forget – warts and all – what the voters of this country look for in a candidate. One can resist and take the higher route, but the tradeoff being a much less likelihood of getting someone in office who will represent their views. Clinton was not perfect, but he was the right vehicle or vessel (he was very electable!). To completely stick to higher principles on this matter is to then not have someone in the highest office that can at least effect change.

So go ahead, cry and sulk about Kucinich not getting a fair shot. In this country, he simply embodies wrong vehicle, right message.

Bush & Co. have made the case on more than one occasion that the world changed after 9-11. If that is indeed the case and they wanted us to truly believe this assertion, don’t you think at the very least Bush himself should have made changes to how a sitting president operates under such changed conditions? In other words, wouldn’t it have been smart for him to spend less time on his ranch, or vacationing in general, if everything did indeed change? An intelligent person would’ve at least put up the appearance he was hard at work, hunkered down to help his nation, by spending most of his time in Washington, at work. Instead, this idiot spends more time than any president in recent history vacationing.

Once again, this administration says things they don’t really mean in hopes that most of the ignorant public will just buy into it. Again, it’s not as if this slacker president suddenly has to actually appear as if he cares via performing hard work, but rather he doesn’t even put up the appearance, choosing instead to offer sound bites from his nature trail, golf courses, etc.

To be a part of this guy’s base, who will vote for him no matter what, is to simply be a blithering idiot.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

With the turnover of power, Paul Krugman discusses the failures of the Iraq occupation. He states in blunt terms, "Future historians will view it as a case study of how not to run a country." Interestingly, he offers us an insider's view of Bremer's thinking, what he feels is most important for Iraq at this point in time. The answer? You guessed it, tax cuts. As Krugman puts it, "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time — but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." As a side note, Krugman identifies the current person in charge of supervising privatization of Iraqi businesses. Hmm, perhaps a notable economist or expert in this area? Nope, it's Michael Fleischer, Ari's brother.

So we've managed to import to this country the two predominant themes of the Bush administration: tax cuts and cronyism. What next for Iraq? I predict the first free election will require a recount.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Some enlightening quotes from today's NY Times and Washington Post:

NY Times:
"What we are seeing is other nations joining to resist U.S. unilateralism and exacting a higher price," said Cliff Kupchan, vice president of the Nixon Center, an institute in Washington created by former President Richard M. Nixon that specializes in foreign policy. "We've seen pounds of flesh being exacted before. Now it's an aggregate pound of flesh."

Mr. Kupchan said international skepticism and domestic pressure from Americans seeking a more collaborative role with the world had prompted the administration to adjust its tone. But it may be too late, he said. "I don't think you can turn around three years of U.S. foreign policy with some midnight initiatives," he said. "The image of this president in the public's and the world's eyes is pretty much established."

Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former national security council official in the Clinton administration, agreed. "More and more countries are saying we're just not willing to play your game anymore," he said. "They're saying, `We're not going to contribute forces to what we view as a failed policy in Iraq.' "

But, "The Europeans have a bit of a dilemma," said Stanley R. Sloan, a former Europe specialist at the Congressional Research Service and now a visiting scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont. "They don't want the United States to fail in Iraq because it would hurt their interests as well." At the same time, Mr. Sloan said, such nations are loath to provide Mr. Bush with anything he could turn into a political victory at home. "They don't want to give George Bush something that will get him re-elected," he said.

Washington Post:
When the war began 15 months ago, the president's Iraq policy rested on four broad principles: The United States should act preemptively to prevent strikes on U.S. targets. Washington should be willing to act unilaterally, alone or with a select coalition, when the United Nations or allies balk. Iraq was the next cornerstone in the global war on terrorism. And Baghdad's transformation into a new democracy would spark regionwide change.

But these central planks of Bush doctrine have been tainted by spiraling violence, limited reconstruction, failure to find weapons of mass destruction or prove Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, and mounting Arab disillusionment with U.S. leadership.

"Of the four principles, three have failed, and the fourth -- democracy promotion -- is hanging by a sliver," said Geoffrey Kemp, a National Security Council staff member in the Reagan administration and now director of regional strategic programs at the Nixon Center.

"There's already been a retreat from the radicalism in Bush administration foreign policy," said Walter Russell Mead, a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow. "You have a feeling that even Bush isn't saying, 'Hey, that was great. Let's do it again.' "
When The "Saints" Come Marching In....

You would think that with the Republican convention fast approaching, that New York City would be readying itself for a bevy of clean, wholesome, family-oriented activities. Yeah right, guess again. The NY Daily News has an article today about how escort services are gearing up for what they expect to be huge demand for their, uh, services.

While it's made clear that any convention is normally big biz for hookers and the like, my point is the hypocrisy that will surround this one. As we've seen countless times, over & over, the GOP is so often guilty of what they rail against. Based on their judgmental, sanctimonious rhetoric, Republicans are supposed to be above this kind of behavior, but we see them prove otherwise almost on a daily basis. Just take a look at Cheney, who recently said the "F" word to a senate colleague, on the heels of the indecency bill being passed 99-1.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

With all of the advances in medical science over the last several decades, isn't it at least a curiosity as to why cancer incidence rates in this country would rise during that time? As an example, from 1973-1991, cancer incidence rates have increased 31% for white males, 15% for white females, 34% for black males, and 18% for black females. And this despite a significant decrease in cigarette use.

Well, perhaps the rise in cancer is due to environmental pollution. Have you ever driven by a smoke-spewing factory and wondered to yourself if that industrial plant was being monitored for emissions? A recent report shows that such toxic emissions have likely been underreported for quite some time.

This subject (the environment & your health) is not (or should not be) a left- or right-wing issue, but for whatever reason it always appears to be defended by the left and either ignored or attacked by the right. Call me naive but I just don't get it.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

An informative post on

Recent words from Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup poll:

Based on historical patterns, Bush's job approval rating is thus underperforming the pattern of presidents who have won re-election. In the broadest sense, Bush's job approval rating has generally been remarkably stable this year, averaging about 50% (which is a symbolic dividing line for an incumbent seeking re-election) since mid-January. The current downtick in his ratings puts him below the pattern of successful presidents. Having a rating below 50% (as is the case with his last four ratings) is not a good sign for an incumbent. If Bush wins this November, he would be the first president since Harry Truman to come from a below 50% rating to win re-election.

The fact that Bush has been behind the likely Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, in several Gallup Poll re-election trial heat ballots this year, means that Bush's re-election probabilities are lower than those of his successful predecessors. None of the five presidents who won re-election were behind their eventual opponent in any trial heats after January in the year prior to their election. If Bush wins this year, he will become the first president to come from behind in election year spring polls to win.

Great news! However, still has Bush's chances of reelection at 58%. Although this figure has been steadily declining, it's still high in my mind. I have great respect for such market-driven projections.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Be very afraid.

If you want to see in black-and-white just how bad things can get with a Bush second term, read Robert Reich's projection. It's frightening. He's correct in pointing out that if you thought the first term was bad, just wait till you see the second. With no reason to hold back due to no third-term opportunity, Bush & Co. will pull out all of the stops to reward every crony and special interest, tear down those things they don't believe in, try every trick in the book to get things done as they see fit, etc.
Yes Virginia, there is a Christian Left!
From bad-to-worse continues:

69 Killed in Series of Attacks Across Iraq
More than 268 are injured and three U.S. soldiers die as insurgents launch an apparently coordinated offensive. <The Washington Post>
As posted here on May 20th, I wrote then about how I thought (and hoped) that Nader's run this time around was simply to have influence on Kerry's campaign, and then he'd drop out. One can construe Ralph's strong urging for Kerry to select Edwards as VP as an overture along those lines.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Excellent, enlightening point that should wise-up the fawning Reagan devotees -- but most likely won't:

Newly released Soviet documents reveal that Reagan indeed played a role in ending the cold war. Yet, it was not so much because of SDI or the support of anti-Soviet forces around the world. Rather, it was the sudden emergence of another Reagan, a peacemaker and supporter of nuclear disarmament--whom conservatives opposed--that rapidly produced a new U.S.-Soviet détente. This détente facilitated Gorbachev's radical overhaul of Soviet domestic and foreign policy--changes that brought the USSR crashing down and that would have been impossible had Reagan remained the hawk conservatives now celebrate.

-- Vladislav M. Zubok, The New Republic, 6/21/04

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

In The New Republic, Wesley Clark brings up a good point about what Iran & Syria may be up to in the next several months:

In essence, the Bush administration has scared Iran and Syria into believing that, if the United States is successful in its occupation of Iraq, they will be the next targets. To the Iranians and Syrians, the implication is that their survival depends on dragging the U.S. mission in Iraq into failure.

The good news just keeps coming.
If true, another in a series of now-absurd examples of a "family values" Republican acting -- well, non-family-values-like.
Thanks to Howard Stern for pointing out that religious zealot Senator Brownback (R-KS) is attempting to sneak into a military spending bill an increase in the amount the FCC will be able to fine so-called violators of decency, boosting the amount up to a whopping $3 mil.

This act of deception occurs often in our nation's capital, thanks to the cowardice of our elected officials. So if Kerry decided this snuck-in provision should be stopped, for him to vote against it would set the trap for him to then have to also vote against the military. Ah hah! The Republicans have him, and the dopey public won't spend two minutes to look past the lies to see why Kerry voted as he did.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer had editorial page editor Chris Satullo writing about Clinton appearing on 60 Minutes. I must say that what he ends up discussing in the column I said the exact same thing to my wife many years ago. During the initial stages of the Clinton/Lewinsky mess, I remember being on a skiing vacation and during one evening telling my wife pointblank that if in fact Clinton did do something sexual with Monica and he's lying about it, he should just resign and make way for Gore, allowing him to establish himself a full two years before the 2000 election. My thought was lameduck Clinton at that point should've thought of his party (and country) first and himself second.

As much as I believe Clinton to be light years better than the current boob in office, Bill recklessly threw away what could've been a glistening legacy (now, forever to be tarnished). In the process, he ended up greatly compromising Gore's run at the office because 1) voters could not help but associate Gore with Lewinsky -- oops, Clinton, 2) Gore was afraid to mention all the good things about the Clinton years, 3) it gave ammo to the Republicans to use against Gore in 2000 (recall Bush repeating often, "I will return honor to the office," etc. etc.).

Here's a segment from the column:

Happy with how it all turned out? Face it: Clinton's refusal to do the right thing, more than any other factor, elected George W. Bush.

More than Al Gore's bumbling, Ralph Nader's toxic ego, Katherine Harris' machinations, William Rehnquist's hideous ruling.

Alternative history is a shaky exercise. But think on it: Clinton resigns. Gore becomes president. A popular wave of remorse turns into revulsion against the philandering hypocrites of the GOP caucus. Even more are swept out of office in the '98 midterms.

Gore gets two years to become as comfortable in the seat of power as such an awkward man could. In 2000, he runs as President Gore, so Bill Bradley doesn't run. No primary wounds.

Under this scenario, do you doubt Gore could have won the one measly state, perhaps his home state of Tennessee, he needed to keep W. away from the red phone?

Would Bush even have run? Against an incumbent, in peace and prosperity, unable to harp on restoring "honor and dignity" to the White House?

So, again, I ask those who backed Clinton until the last dog died: Happy with how it turned out?
Example #842 of the "liberal media bias" -- not!


CBS to air new "anti-Clinton ad"?

Citizens United ad would apparently violate CBS's stated policy not to run "advocacy" ads on "controversial issues of public importance"

CBS is apparently set to run a new TV advertisement attacking former President Bill Clinton that appears to violate the network's stated prohibition on "advocacy" ads that deal with "controversial issues of public importance." Under the headline "Citizens United Launches New Anti-Clinton Ad Campaign to Air during '60 Minutes' Interview," Citizens United (led by David N. Bossie) announced on its website the new ad is to air during Clinton's June 20 appearance on CBS's news program 60 Minutes. The self-described "advocacy" group explained, "Amidst the hype surrounding the release of former President Clinton's new book, 'My Life', Citizens United sets the record straight by exposing the real legacy President Bill Clinton left for America."

The Citizens United ad claims that Clinton is "responsible" for "leaving us vulnerable to terrorists."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

A NY Times editorial criticized the Bush administration for granting trade eligibility to oil-producing Angola, a country the Times points out appears to be corrupt and stealing from its own citizens. While this action is indeed deplorable, I would relate it back to the Mother Jones interview I cited a few days ago, where it was made clear that demand for oil is just about equaling production limits. In other words, our appetite for energy usage will only drive prices higher given supply constraints. In that sense, one could say (though I don't completely agree with it) that Bush is simply giving the people what they want (more oil) since very little effort is being made to conserve. In part, SUV drivers are contributing to the coffers of corrupt countries like Angola.
Yesterday, the best columnist in America, Paul Krugman, wrote this regarding AG Ashcroft:

No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

While this statement may at first appear to be bold and audacious, it's actually not. Krugman is just telling us a fact, plain and simple. Read his column as he lists several examples backing up his assertion.

After that, read Sen. Patrick Leahy's blistering June 8th opening statement before Ashcroft. He states, "Even those of us who have served through several presidents cannot recall a worse performance record when it comes to responsiveness." And, "We often learn more about what's really happening in the Justice Department in the press than we do from you." I strongly encourage a word-for-word reading of Leahy's stinging commentary -- he's absolutely on-target and it's long-overdue criticism.

In a sense, Ashcroft is the perfect AG for this administration, not just in temperament and ideology but in his complete lack of competence for the job.
One thing is clear: a GW presidency is the best thing ever to happen to Michael Moore! Secretly, he must be rooting for Bush in November....
The rich continue to get richer. And note the last paragraph, which points out that the super rich are getting richer at a faster pace than those in the less-than-super rich group. Glad to see the ultra-minority are not suffering (!), for in time this massive wealth will trickle down -- in theory anyway. Anyone still buying that load of crap? (Recall Bush Sr. never did, ala his coined term "voodoo economics").
Surprise! Not. CNN reports:
Commission reports "no credible evidence" that al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated in 9/11 attacks on United States.

Let's see if we hear any retort from the Bush/Cheney camp.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

As I've been writing, Reagan was clearly a different kind of conservative president than George Jr. Here's another article on the matter.
It's a disease for this guy....

The pillar of family values just can't help himself, he apparently must tell lies. In today's right-wing NY Post:

Most people who heard that Rush Limbaugh and his wife, Marta, had split, assumed she dumped the bombastic broadcaster. That's what we reported on Saturday. And that's what happened — she moved out. But Limbaugh, who has trouble telling the truth — remember his silence on his drug addiction before he went into rehab — wants us to believe that he dumped his wife. "Marta has consented to my request for a divorce, and we have mutually agreed to seek an amicable separation," he told listeners yesterday.
Saudi election-year-promise to Bush update: click here.
Although a few days old, a great piece by Peter Dizikes on concerning Ralph Nader, looking into the claim that Ralph will suck more votes away from Bush than Kerry. Yeah, I know, absurd. Read the article and you'll find this near-laughable assertion by the Nader campaign to be highly suspect at best. In his attempts to discover the truth, Dizikes writes, "What I did not find, however, was a single supporter of Ralph Nader who voted for George W. Bush in 2000, or who had been planning to support Bush this year before Nader entered the race." In addition, he cites where there's been suspicion that the GOP has been financially supporting Nader's efforts to get on state voting ballots.

It's been said before but Nader's perplexing choices over the last several years will certainly cast a strange, dark cloud over his otherwise notable legacy. For shame.
In case you haven't heard, a group of 26 former diplomats and military leaders have joined together to form Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change and will be issuing a statement that calls for voting Bush out of office.

Some of the more interesting facets of this story include:

* Many of those in the group were appointed by Reagan and Bush Sr., so it will be very difficult for Republicans to simply brush this off as a partisan attack.

* It's very rare for former high-level diplomats and military leaders to come out publicly and criticize a sitting president, particularly during an election year. Speaks volumes.

* One member points out that several on the list have never spoken out about anything political, preferring instead to keep a low profile -- again, very telling.

Who will be next to speak out? Barbara Bush? George H.?

Monday, June 14, 2004

Excellent interview in Mother Jones about the oil situation. Paul Roberts discusses how we're likely to see even higher prices at the pump over the next several years if we don't take notice and begin to aggressively deal with the problem now. Look for the popularity of SUVs to wane. An urgent read.

Here's a revealing segment: With the occupation and the insurgency, there have been attacks on oil terminals. You can make the argument that the Iraq war hasn't stabilized the Middle East.

PR: No, I think it has done just the opposite. Right now we have attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia, attacks on oil tankers, and oil-loading ports, such that the oil market now assigns what it calls a “war premium” to the price of oil. It’s between $5 and $10 dollars a barrel. So the market thinks that it hasn’t worked. I happen to think that this war premium is overstated. The contention there is that were it not for the instability in the Middle East, the price of oil would be much, much lower. And I think that although it would be somewhat lower, there is a fundamental tightness in the oil market -- it’s not simply driven by politics. The market is aware that we use 80 million barrels of oil everyday and that our maximum production at this point is 82.5 million barrels of oil a day. So it’s two and a half million barrels of margin -- that’s our cushion, what we call our spare capacity. Most of that margin is in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. What that means is that if Venezuela -- which produces two and a half million barrels of oil a day -- were to fall into civil unrest, as it did a year and a half ago and let’s say it took off its oil production, which happened -- Venezuela basically shut down its exports a year and half ago. The market simply lost that oil. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were able to pump up their production and fill that gap before the prices went too high. Now if that happened, that would pretty much tap out all the spare capacity we’ve been talking about. There would no more room for accidents. There would be no more room for disruptions. What if production in Iraq fell because the chaos continued to grow and oil companies stopped wanting to send their people there? What if Saudi Arabia has some sort of political upheaval?

The above picture from today's NY Times has the following caption, "The scene following the truck bombing revealed not just the continuing anti-American resentment but the growing tolerance for disorder."

As I wrote a few days ago, can someone send me the good news that we're not seeing or hearing about in Iraq because it certainly appears to me as if this situation is going from bad to worse -- quickly.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I was just watching CSPAN and I saw Sen. Bill Nelson introducing the featured speaker, John Edwards. Before Edwards came out, Nelson had somewhat oddly referred to gambling, stating that the bookies felt Edwards would win the VP nod setting his odds at a very low 6 to 5 (or near even money). I must say that I greatly respect the opinions of bookies (they're not in the business of losing) and I also respect the opinion of the free market. I did check Nelson's figures and by gosh, he was right. I would say Edwards is the clear front runner at this point.

Granted, Gore shocked many when he picked Lieberman. But I would "wager" that Kerry has greatly learned from the Gore campaign and I don't believe he'll try to mimic much of it.

In researching these odds, I came across odds on who will win the November election, Bush or Kerry. Although Kerry has pulled ahead in the polls and has remained there for weeks, these bookies still have Bush favored to win by about -140 (i.e. bet 140 to win 100). Kerry's odds of winning are +110 (bet 100 to win 110). Either they know something we don't, or they're setting these odds to satisfy the many "squares" (i.e. non-wiseguys) wagering. It could be a gift!
For those still under the delusion that GW's term is similar to Reagan's time spent as president, I strongly urge you to read this terrific piece in The Boston Globe that points out several reasons why they're starkly different. As I wrote previously, Bush makes Reagan look like a lukewarm moderate. In addition, Reagan was a religious man but did not impose his religious beliefs on the country (well, at least not as explicitly as Bush). The list goes on and on.
Oh, by the way, in case you missed it, NATO will not be providing troop assistance in Iraq. Surprise! Bush & Co. decide to cowboy-it, snub their noses at the world, and then when the going gets tough and they come a calling, is it any wonder that the world answers back, "take a hike!"....? And for those dopes out there who had originally responded to this arrogant posture with "what do we care what France et all think?" at this point why don't you pose that question to the weary U.S. troops that are long overdue to be relieved of their duties and come home.

The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/neocon choice to go it alone concerning this war has effectively screwed up troop management, and in doing so has endangered their lives as stretched-thin, tired troops do not function nearly as well under difficult circumstances. The idiot-reaction is to be angry at NATO today, but in truth it's Bush & Co. that should receive the blame. They made our bed....

Friday, June 11, 2004

It's nearly official: any chance at a Kerry/McCain ticket is dead. ABC News reports McCain has privately turned Kerry down. Oh well, back to the drawing board. One name I'm hearing as a potential VP pick: Iowa governor Tom Vilsack.
Today's Washington Post has an article about the generally inappropriate attire of all-too-many Reagan mourners.

I must ask: is this what the Post considers newsworthy? Couldn't the valuable copy space have been used for an Iraq-situation "think" piece? Or at least anything that required the sparking of at least three brain neurons?

For one thing, the very existence of the article manages to reaffirm the appearance of the Reagans as an American royal family: how dare the common folk show up in casual attire! Take them out & flog them in the public square, I say!

Also, it suggests that many Americans attending are, shall I say, not your more typical Republican, meaning upper-income, well-to-do, fully attired in appropriate clothing. It brings to mind that for whatever reason, many "average Americans" are Republican and yet if they sat down and conducted a thorough analysis of what each party truly stood for, I would venture to say it would be an eye-opening exercise. The Republican Party plays on (preys on) this deceptive, bait-and-switch tactic to garner their votes. Example: the Bush tax cuts meant very little to these more/less average Americans, and yet Republicans went out of their way to convince such folks that the cuts would translate into significant tax savings to them. Not so. Instead, they take advantage of the popular anti-tax sentiment in this country and further whip up that frenzy to win votes. The same can be said for the environment as the average American supports environmental protections, but seemingly gives the Republican Party a "pass" when it comes to their litany of anti-environmental measures.

How could this be? Is the average American that mindless? I don't pretend to have the definitive answer but I will offer a guess or two. My feeling is many have simply adopted the party that their parents favored when growing up. As one matured into a young adult, to question one's parents' party affiliation is to in effect question your parents' judgment -- and we know what a slippery, difficult road that leads down! Thus, party affiliation ties in with the widely-dysfunctional child/parent, Mommy/Daddy-can-do-no-wrong dynamic.

In addition, unwavering party affiliation often comes down to something all too American: team mentality. Similar to someone growing up their entire life as a NY Yankee fan, a Chicago Bears fan, a Houston Rockets fan, etc., one sticks with their party affiliation through thick & thin, not questioning the issues at stake or even considering the notion that perhaps it's time for a change. I feel many will laugh at this observation, but go ahead and laugh. The fact is it's all too true. There are many folks who are Republican (and Democrat for that matter) who defend their party, yet have no idea what their party stands for on an issue by issue basis. They grew up with the Republican Party as their "team" and gosh darn it, they're going to defend that team no matter what! It's just ludicrous & idiotic. Obvious point: political party affiliation is a far cry from sports team allegiance.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

NY Times reporting on Kurds seemingly getting screwed once again by USA (recall first time by Bush Sr.), portraying an already-fragile and fracturing governmental transition process. Then I read of Bremer barring Sadr from political involvement, as Sadr’s popularity continues to grow. Then the USA Today reports that the Marines are stretched razor thin in Iraq, with a general stating he’s “not sure” how things will go in 2005.

Do I dare say the above sounds less than reassuring that the Iraq situation sounds like it’s getting any better? Conservatives complain that we’re not hearing about all of the good news over there (liberal media bias) – can someone send some examples?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Another day, another environmental setback. The LA Times reporting that the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of allowing trucks from Mexico to cross the border, not requiring them to be properly tested for air quality standards. The reason? NAFTA. Apparently, this trade agreement overrules any existing environmental laws and concerns in this country.

In addition, a good point:

Stephanie R. Williams, senior vice president of the California Trucking Assn., which was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the trade group was "very disappointed." She said California-based trucking firms were already at a disadvantage because of the high cost of the cleaner-burning diesel sold in the state.

"We use cleaner fuels, cleaner engines and we are required to retrofit our older engines, all of which is very expensive," said Williams. "We can't … compete against people who don't have to do all those things."
Is it safe yet to tag the Iraq situation as a "quagmire"? NY Times is reporting that the U.S. plans to pull a third of its troops in South Korea for repositioning around the globe. The story goes on to state that at least some of these troops are expected to be reallocated to Iraq.

Okay, just so I understand, what we have is a possible forced reallocation of troops away from a country known to have WMD to fortify a country that does not. Huh?
Washington Post reporting on torture getting the "OK" by the Justice Dept. concerning al Qaeda terrorists held captive. Although the administration denies any of this was acted upon, it clearly portrays their seeking of advice regarding this matter -- disturbing enough.

I wonder what Dershowitz would say about this matter, given torture became his "thing" last time I heard (whatever happened to that camera-shy (!) fella?). Well, here's some quotes from him in a CNN interview:

My basic point, though, is we should never under any circumstances allow low-level people to administer torture. If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice. I don't think we're in that situation in this case.
If we ever came close to doing it, and we don't know whether this is such a case, I think we would want to do it with accountability and openly and not adopt the way of the hypocrite.

I believe that Dershowitz would not approve of the Justice Dept. memo because as far as I can tell it does not mention anything about a low-level officer ban, for it to be done openly, & with accountability.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Yesterday on, William Saletan helped to put some perspective on Reagan's passing. I feel much of this kind of clear-the-air commentary is worthwhile since you will no doubt be reading & hearing about how Reagan was one of the best presidents in history. Granted, such glowing retrospection will further shatter the myth of the liberal media bias, but nonetheless it will be interesting to see the degree of objectivity in the expected onslaught of revisionist analysis.

Saletan discusses what he refers to as "Reagan's Law," that being "As government expands, liberty contracts." He argues against it attempting to instill a sense of grey area which so often is lacking from the starkly black/white world of conservatism (you're either with them on an issue -- or against; there's no icky in-between). Just give a listen to Sean Hannity's radio show and get back to me when you hear him wrestling with the complicated grey area. I am willing to wager I won't be hearing from you anytime soon as he -- like Rush et al, and a 6-year old child for that matter -- views the world simply as right & wrong, 'nuf said.

Saletan states, "Liberty doesn't necessarily contract as government expands. Sometimes, you need more government to get more liberty." Of course, this introduces "messy" subtleties and nuances, something not tolerated by the far right. However, on May 11th, I wrote about a similar point, that being that the everyday apparatus of the federal government actually got many things right prior to the 9-11 attack and it was the higher-up, appointed administration figures that got it wrong. A reprise of that post:

One big realization that comes to mind when reading through James Fallows' excellent "Blind Into Baghdad" is that during these trying last few years our government has continuously worked, or gotten it right, and repeatedly it's Bush & Co. who have gotten it wrong. As taxpayers, we should understand and appreciate that the non-appointed aspects of the federal system appear to have functioned just fine, but as citizens we have been ripped off when the higher-ups have chosen to ignore or discard such terrific work.

Fallows points out that,

Almost everything, good and bad, that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime was the subject of extensive pre-war discussion and analysis.

All this, and much more, was laid out in detail and in writing long before the U.S. government made the final decision to attack. Even now the collective efforts at planning by the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marine Corps, the United States Agency for International Development, and a wide variety of other groups inside and outside the government are underappreciated by the public.

The problems the United States has encountered are precisely the ones its own expert agencies warned against.

In other words, the departments and agencies had it right, yet our appointed, senior government leaders chose to look the other way concerning such prescient warnings and words of advice. The same can be said for Richard Clarke, a "lifer" in government who performed superbly over his years of service, a true American, and yet he too was treated like the crazy aunt locked in the cellar. Look at the actuary for Medicare who also had it right and yet his reward was to have his livelihood threatened. Or consider the several EPA officials who have reluctantly resigned over the years, mainly because they realized that their many years of work and dedication were being reversed under Bush's direction.

The point being that Americans should not blindly adopt the cynical, anti-government stance of this administration, particularly since it's the administration itself that is inept and incompetent -- not the government system as we've come to know it.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Ron, I hardly knew ya!

They say none are more zealous than the newly converted. Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat and converted to Republican. In 1964, he said in a speech, "I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course."

Yet, thanks to the Bush II presidency, it has helped to shed new light on the Reagan legacy. Whereas there was a time when Reagan could've been regarded as a staunch right-wing representative of his party, Bush Jr. and in fact the entire Republican Party over the last ten or so years have worked to revise the way one could regard The Gipper. Compared to Bush, DeLay, Ashcroft, Gingrich, etc., Reagan now looks like a moderate. It's as if he now represents somewhat rational conservatism compared to the radical-fringe, extremist conservatism that GW enforces. Whereas one could have a serious debate concerning the pros and cons of Reagan's policies, Bush's policies simply don't merit such debate -- most are simply astoundingly misguided, dishonest, and not in the country's interest.

I did have my complaints at the time concerning what Reagan was doing for the country, but based on what has occurred during the last three years, I'd take him in a heart beat over our current clueless, embarrassment of a leader.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

The May 31st issue of The New Republic has a letter-to-editor from a professor of anthropology and he reminds readers that with regards to Iraq, "maybe, just maybe, democracy is not for export." He takes the stance that big badboy USA is imposing its will "upon conquered peoples" and perhaps the way of America is not suitable for everyone around the globe.

I think the more interesting point that could come from this observation is that perhaps societies deeply rooted in a religion may find it very difficult to then adopt to a more secular form of democratic government. That's not to say that Iraq was a theocracy under Saddam's thumb, however it goes without saying that most citizens in Iraq are Muslims, with Islam the state religion.

I can't help but see how this parallels with what's going on in our country. We supposedly have a secular democracy, but with the Christian Right making huge inroads into our way of life thanks to GW, DeLay, and Ashcroft to name a few, I firmly believe that democracy as we've known it, and as the founding fathers intended for it to be, is in great jeopardy. Those at the religious extreme in this country are attempting to curtail our rights and democratic freedom the same way democracy serves as a primal threat overseas in those religious-dominated countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Democracy only works if tolerance and acceptance exists in the society. The irony is knee-deep.
Ronald Reagan, dead at age 93

May he rest in peace, and let's not see the Republicans exploit this for all it's worth up to November -- would be quite revolting.
On Thursday, I wrote about how it appeared as if the draft would soon have to be reinstituted. What timing as a story in Newsweek, titled "Could the Draft Come Back," came out yesterday.

A revealing insight:

The possibility of a reviving the draft, says Rep. Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, would only come up should there be a “massive surge requirement” over that demanded by current military operations abroad.

My sense is the massive surge is occurring. I regret to utter: get ready.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Tenet resigns and Bush's announcement of it has been described as "almost bizarre" (NY Times.... Is the press finally coming around to telling it like it is re Bush?). And of course, the reason given for Tenet resigning: to spend time with the family. The more likely reasons: 1) a soon-to-be-released congressional report harshly criticizing him and the CIA, 2) the administration needed a fall guy to take some of the heat off, and 3) Tenet heeded to Al Gore's resignation demand (we can dream).

Of course, Tenet's exit pales in comparison to those who truly deserve such a fate: Vice President Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Remember this in mid-April?

Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election - to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day.

Woodward says that Bandar understood that economic conditions were key before a presidential election: “They’re [oil prices] high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly."

And then this in today's USA Today. Bandar appears to be coming through on his promise.
A disturbing story in today’s NY Times about the growing lack of soldier power in the military. A key quote:

“The Army is just running out of creative ideas for coping with the level of commitment that Iraq requires," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "It's clear there was a fundamental miscalculation about how protracted and how intense the ground commitment in Iraq would be."

A fundamental miscalculation? Quite the understatement. And it’s not as if facts weren’t already out there predicting the likely failure of this decision (see my May 11th post citing a Summer 2003 RAND study). This increasingly dire problem provides just one more reason for Rumsfeld to resign (it was his decision to go lean and mean).

In addition, the military is apparently forcing soldiers who have fulfilled their duty and left to come back. Isn’t this the first sign before the draft is reinstituted (likely after the November election)?

A former Army captain described this forced-back-into-duty action as "a gross breach of contract." Meanwhile, last night’s 60 Minutes II profiled a soldier who was AWOL in part due to this policy, as he protested the fact that after 8 years of properly serving out his contractual time, “the Army did what it’s done to thousands of soldiers and ordered him to serve more time because of the war.” Is this even legal? If this policy continues, I think we can expect to see more and more AWOL soldiers, which will fast become a PR nightmare for the military.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Al Franken's blog cites this wonderful piece of research from the Center for American Progress, a Top-20 list of GW flip-flops. Compare this list with the supposed Kerry flip-flops displayed on the Bush web site. Putting aside the many distortions employed concerning the Kerry list, just read through each list and ask yourself which strikes you as more germane or pertinent with regards to running for office. For example, Kerry supposedly flip-flopped on medical marijuana use and Burma sanctions (?), versus Bush who flip-flopped on WMD in Iraq and the idea of nation building. Hmm, that's a tough one.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

More proof that our country is fast becoming the Have-Much vs. the Have-Less: concierge doctors. All together now, “My country tis of thee, Sweet land....”
Is this regarded as establishing law & order?

In today's Washington Post:

Over the past year and a half, the Army has opened investigations into at least 91 cases of possible misconduct by U.S. soldiers against detainees and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, a total not previously reported and one that points to a broader range of wrongful behavior than defense officials have acknowledged.

The figure, provided by a senior Army official, extends beyond the much-publicized abuse of detainees in military-run prisons to include the mistreatment of dozens of Iraqis in U.S. custody outside detention centers. It covers not only cases that resulted in death but also those that involved nonlethal assaults. It also includes as many as 18 instances of U.S. soldiers in Iraq allegedly stealing money, jewelry or other property.

Death? Assault? Stealing?? What is going on over there?

To a point it's another example of what can happen when those in positions of leadership put out a message, it's heeded & acted upon, and then said leaders are surprised at the end result(s). In 1991, Bush Sr. encouraged Iraqis to "take matters into their own hands to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside," and then he did nothing to help the Iraqis in their uprising. Compare this to Rumsfeld's public statements about how the Geneva conventions would not apply to Iraq -- and then the resulting prison abuse violations.

Just more proof of the reckless irresponsibility & incompetence of this administration.