Monday, October 30, 2006

October 29, 2006

October 26, 2006

Of Jack and Jill

A few years back author June Stephenson wrote an interesting, though sadly overlooked, book entitled,
Men Are Not Cost-Effective: Male Crime in America. In her book Ms. Stephenson compared the rates of incarceration for men and women over the entire scope of white collar, street crime, violence, child molestation. And guess what, men won. Whoa, men didn't just win, it was a blow out. The hard statistics she listed in the book supported the title of her book.

I only bring this up because last night I was watching the news about the growing trend in some schools of separate classes for boys and girls for certain subjects.

Some experts argued that separate classes are a good thing because they remove social pressures that tend to be intimidated girls, especially in science and math classes. On the other hand, feminist groups worry that segregating boys and girls would return girls to the bad old days when teachers short-changed girls and favored boys in education.

First let me say I was boy myself for my entire childhood. And my wife Sue and I raised two of the little critters. So I know all about boys. Been there. Done that.

Girls, I'm bit fuzzy about. Except that my observations over the years tells me that, at any give stage of childhood development, girls are more mature and a more fertile ground for the seeds of education than boys.

I'm not dissing boys. I'm just saying we need to stop pretending that boys and girls are wired the same during their developmental years. They are not the same. They are different, and not just in the obvious ways. And, therefore, accommodating those differences should help both. And that does not mean a return to the bad old, pre-feminist days either. We've come a long way since then. Women CEOs, women in Congress and the Senate, women astronauts and women warriors.

So I agree.. it's time to reconsider same-sex classes. Why?

First because boys are disruptive. It's not their fault, we're born that way. Put a bunch of 10-year old boys in room together, close the door and force them to sit quietly in a small chair and pay attention for an hour. Go ahead – I double dare you. Just try it. Unless you're ready to sedate the little buggers you're going to have a squirming, snickering, spit-wad throwing, note-passing, kicking the desk in front of them, staring out the window day-dreaming, fest on your hands.

Now add ten girls to that same classroom and close the door. What? Are you out of your mind? Now you have all the above behavior plus a frenzy of showoff, oneupmanship as boys compete for the coveted Moe, Larry and Curly trophy.

It didn't used to be that way. There was a time, and not all that long ago, when boys behaved in school. Not because they wanted to, but because they feared the consequences of misbehavior.

I attended an all-boys Catholic high school. There was a dress code and a code of behavior and, for the most part, we behaved. Why? Because they hit us when we didn't. Oh, they didn't beat us or waterboard us or anything cruel. It was more along the lines of a dope-slap to the back of the head or getting slammed up against a locker when caught horsing around in the halls. I remember one football game during which the bleachers emptied onto the field when a fight broke out. One kid on our side came running down towards the field and was grabbed by the dean..

“And just where do you think you're going lad?” he asked.

“I'm going to join the fight, Father,” the kid replied.

“Oh you are, are you?' Father replied, after which he dispensed a fatherly whack.

“There, now you've been in the fight,” Father said, “Now get your butt back in the stands before I call you parents and tell them you've been expelled.”

Ah, those were the days. Today that kid would have had a team of ACLU lawyers and the Pope would be hocking St. Peter's to pay the judgment.

My point: To thrive in school boys need a different kind of classroom environment than girls, and a firmer hand -- preferably around the nap of the neck.

And, contrary to what some feminist groups fear, I don't believe girl-only and boy-only math and science classes would result in girls getting the short end of the stick. Just the opposite. The days when teachers used to believe girls were being prepared only to be either housewives or nurses are long gone. I believe girl-only classes have the potential of vaulting girls and young women past men. In fact, I believe this idea has the potential to create just the opposite problem – boys getting short-changed.

Of course I am speaking here in the broadest generalities. I fully understand that there are boys who are scholars and gentlemen right from the get go. And I know some girls are born hopeless little tarts who, no matter how much knowledge we pour into their empty little head, will still end up in prison or living in a trailer with some loser in wife-beater tee-shirt who can't hold a job.

But as a rule, girls do their homework, turn it in on time, have nicer penmanship and -- unless otherwise annoyed and distracted by some little Dennis dude -- pay attention in class. Which says to me that if girls had their own classes in subjects traditionally skewed towards boys, like math, science, physics and engineering, girls would not only do as well, but “get it” faster, than boys of the same age.

Already the number of girls attending and finishing college has soared ahead of boys.

College Enrollment Indicators
In the fall of 2000 there were 5,578,000 men and 7,377,000 women enrolled in college as undergraduates. In 1969 there were 4,008,000 men and 2,876,000 women undergraduate students enrolled in college. Between 1969 and 2000 the number of men undergraduates increased by 1,570,000 or by 39 percent. During this period the number of women undergraduates increased by 4,501,000 or by 157 percent. The number of women undergraduates surpassed the number of men in 1978. The share of college undergraduates that are men has declined from 58 percent in 1969 to 44 percent in 2000. (National Center
for Education Statistics) (More)

So, I'm all for separating the sexes for some classes when it makes sense to do so, at least in grammar school, to a lesser degree high school as well. But if we do that then we also need to turn our attention to the growing “boy problem.” Because if we don't ten or twenty years down the road we are going have a new glass ceiling, this one limiting the upward potential of young men.

If Ms. Stephenson were to update her book today I would encourage her to compare how much trouble those one-time little boys have caused as adults when elected to public office. I mean do you doubt for a second we've got Moe, Larry and Curly running things today – and with predictable results?

I don't know, maybe a constitutional amendment requiring the representatives in the House be female and Senators be male would at least put the brakes on some of the boyish mischief that got us where what we're stuck with today.

But I'd watch your back during those joint-secessions of the House and Senate, like the annual State of the Union. Spitballs will fly.

October 25, 2006
Bush Announces
A New (Wrong) Course

I was among the morons who bought the administration's claims that Iraq had WMD. So, initially, I supported the war. (Admitting that is part of an act of penance and contrition I imposed upon myself. I'm so sorry.)

But it' didn't last long. Not finding the WMD flicked my brain back on. That happened a long, long time – and about 2000 dead GI's -- ago. Almost immediately I could see clearly again. I saw the error of the Bush strategy and where it was heading. What I envisioned years ago was precisely what we've got in Iraq today – an artificially created nation, freed of the iron hand that forced its waring tribes to behave, flying apart.

I'm not claiming I am some smarter than average fellow. Hell, I flunked out of college in my freshman year -- junior college. No, my point is that anyone should have seen this coming. Anyone that is, but the folks in Washington.

Then when President Bush promised elections in Iraq would put the country on the path to democracy and stability, I saw a completely different outcome. I saw those three waring tribes, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, strapping on their guns to defend ancient territorial and tribal claims against this unfamiliar kumbaya form of western governance. Under this new form of governance the three tribes would “share” the nation, “share” the infrastructure and “share” the oil.

Excuse me, “share?” All the Sunnis ever wanted to share with the Shiites is misery, and visa versa. And the Kurds have never been interested in sharing anything with either of the other two tribes. Anyway, now they already have what they want, and it's called Kurdistan. The only message they want to share with the other two tribes is “NO TRESPASSING: Violators will be Persecuted.”

The elections we forced on the Iraqis simply threw these dogs, cats and chickens into a sack together. And the fur and feathers have been flying ever since. Lambs and lions lay down together only in fables.

Two years of bloodshed have now made that clear to anyone that reads the morning paper or watches the evening news . Which is why, ten days from a election Republicans are fixing to lose, the administration pivoted away from “stay the course,” to “change course.” Karl Rove hopes that hinting at a change in strategy will lull a few percentage of disgusted GOP voters back.

There's only one problem with that -- and it's the same problem. These guys are about to make another predictable mistake. This time their mistake is believing that increasing troop levels in Baghdad will turn the tide. Not. Not, NOT.

Pin this to your refrigerator so you can hold me accountable if they're right this time and I'm wrong.

If they send more troops to secure Baghdad, and succeed, all they will get for all the additional deaths, money and trouble will be a second Afghanistan.we also transplanted a western-style government in Afghanistan. The bad news is that Afghan government can't even begin to actually govern their unruly nation. Instead the US-supported Afghan government governs only Kabul, and even that just barely.

Securing Baghdad with additional US troops will simply free up Sunni and Shiites to get about the business of ethnically cleansing villages and cities throughout the rest of the country. This process has been underway already within Baghdad and, once the insurgents are forced out they will simply move their execution squads to other towns, as they already did last week when they struck in Amara.

If Bush's “change of course” plan, should it succeed, it would leave the region with two strategically isolated US-protectorates smack in the center of a hostile Arab world. Baghdad and Kabul would be rendered islands surrounded by a roiling sea of primitive, passionate, bloodthristy Islamic hordes. There they would be -- Kabul and Baghdad -- secure yet infinitely insecure, defended yet indefensible. Two foreign bodies, transplants being rejected by the very bodies they were intended to save.

It's abundantly clear to any one with a measurable IQ that we can't “win” anything in Iraq. Particularly if “winning” means Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds living peacefully together under a single coalition government. That's no more in the cards than it was that Yugoslavia would survive the end of General Tito's dictatorship. Both Yugoslavia and Iraq have more in common with Humpty Dumpty than civil war-era America. All the king's horses and all the kings men could not put Yugoslavia back together again, and they won't be able hold Iraq together either. Period. End of report.

If George W. Bush really wants to “change course,” he should call Rep. John Murtha and ask if he could expropriate Murtha's plan for a phased redeployment of US troops out of Iraq, leaving a significant contingent in Kuwait and other friendlier nearby countries. If al Qaida builds bases in Sunni territories of Iraq we can bomb them into rubble and/or send Special Forces in to clean them out and then leave again.

That's a plan for Iraq that the west can live with.

Afghanistan calls for the same kind of change of course. Afghanistan will remain a mess so long as Pakistan refuses to take full control of its now autonomous border areas where Taliban and al Qaida cells operate with impunity. Let NATO troops do what they can on the ground inside Afghanistan. But withdraw most US troops to nearby nations and, as in Murtha's Iraq plan, use them to launch surgical strikes against known al Qaida and Taliban bases along both sides of the Afghan and Pakistan borders. And when the Pakistanis complain that we are violating their national sovereignty, tell them that as soon as they stand up and secure their own side of the border, we will stand down.

The goal of a unified, self-governing Iraq, is already lost. Afghanistan hangs by a silk thread, ruled by a flashy dresser installed and kept in power by the US.

The administration likes to describe Pakistan as stable and “an ally in the War on Terror.” That would be funny if it weren't such a pernicious lie. In reality Pakistan is a potential Afghanistan, times 1000. The second President Musharraf is gone – Islamic militants have tried to kill him three times already -- Muslim terrorists aligned with bot al Qaida and the Taliban will take control of Pakistan. At that moment terrorist groups will be armed with nuclear tipped intercontinental missiles -- precisely the worst case scenario Bush claimed he was going to short circuit by invading Iraq.

When that day arrives -- thanks largely to this administration's fatally flawed policies -- it'll be too late to “change course.”

Heck of a job, Georgie.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October 13 - October 24, 2006

Mark today, October 20, 2006, on your calendar. When the history of George W. Bush's Iraq misadventure is written this is the day that will mark the beginning of the end. Today militias loyal to Iranian backed mullah, Muqtada al-Sadr, took over the southern town of Amara. Al-Sadr has been waiting for his Tet moment, and it came today. The fat man has sung. It's over. George W. Bush's vision of “a free and democratic Iraq,” will be replaced by an Iranian style Islamic theocracy.

Funny how things happen. Just yesterday I was cleaning old files off my computer when I came across a column I penned on August 23, 2005 – 14 months and several hundred dead US G.I's ago. This morning that file was still on my screen. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to delete it. So instead I read it again. And lo and behold, I didn't have to change a single word of it.

Here it is again -- because it's where we are now.

It's Boy!

Congratulations George W. Bush, you are the father of a bouncing baby Islamic Republic!

What-ya mean you want a paternity test? Who else could be the father? Saddam was a dictator and despot, but a secular one. He used to have troublesome mullahs whacked. Anyway, you have him locked up. So we know he didn't do it.

No, George, I am afraid you have to take responsibility for fathering the world's newest little mullah. Come on now, don't be ashamed, stuff happens. You thought you were just going in for some heavy petting and, wham ! – the next thing you know you've created a another Islamic brat that's going to blame you for everything that's wrong with the world. Sharper than a serpent's tooth, huh?

Of course you may have a hard time explaining this to your fundamentalist Christian “base” back home here. Lots of us tried to get you to abort this thing before it got to this point, but now it's too late. And you'll have to explain why a few thousand US kids had to die just so Iraqi men can marry girls as young as nine, and then legally beat the crap out of them if they don't toe the radical Islamic line. I have to wonder what your pal, the most reverend Jerry Falwell, will have to say about grown men marrying pre-teen girls?

But there's no escaping it George, it's your doing. Maybe you can make Rev. Jerry feel better if you explain that Muslims also oppose abortion. Now if some Iraqi guy knocks up some little girl, she'll have a playmate in nine months. You can tell Jerry that and see how it floats.

Half the humans on earth are women. But in your new Islamic Republic, George, half of all Iraqis will be less equal than the other half. Women will have to cover up or risk being beaten by misogynistic thugs masquerading as "religious police." Whatya gonna say when TV footage of that reaches Red State women voters -- they were asking for it dressing like that?

Maybe you should ask those women who camp outside your Texas ranch every August about all this. After all, their kids died helping deliver your new baby. You might first notice that none of those women are wearing burquas. It's hot in both Iraq and Crawford. But at least in Crawford women can wear shorts. Not so soon in your new Iraq where, despite temperatures over 100 degrees, women will be pressured to cover up in heat-absorbing black, head to toe – and not because black is slimming, either. As they sweat and look out at the world through eye-slits, they will have you to blame for that .... daddy.

You may also start thinking about how you are going to break some bad news to those in your administration hawking traditional marriage. They may be surprised to discover that under Islamic law, when a guy is done with a wife, all he has to do is say, "I divorce you," three times in a row, and she's out. Talk about quickie divorces! Eat your heart out, Nevada.

How about alimony? Forget about it. Women have no community property rights under Islamic law, not even the right to the children they bear during a marriage. But you may find some allies for this in Utah because Muslim men can have more than one wife – at the same time! (I wonder how your pal, Tony Perkins, of the Family Researach Council, will feel about that? Your evangelical base likes to chant that marriage means, "One man married to one woman." is a marriage. Yikes! Maybe you can soothe your born-again eligious base by reminding them that homosexuality is a capital crime under Islamic law. (Talk about don't ask don't tell!)

Oh George, George, George -- we tried to tell you to pull out early, but oh no, you just had to go all the way. Now you've done it – created a bad seed of a kid that's destined to grow up to become an ally of that militant Iranian gang next door.

It's too late to do anything about this now, George. But don't be too hard on yourself. You're not the first father to have a kid go sideways on him. Jeffrey Dahmer, Charlie Mason, Ted Bundy, O.J. Simpson, Adolf Hitler, Richard Nixon, all had daddies.

All you can do now is spend the rest of your life trying to convince history that you gave the kid every opportunity to straighten up and fly right, but he still went bad on you anyway. Of course, it won't work. History is cruel that way. There are no spin doctors in history books. Just facts.

You're under arrest
For what?
None of your business

As of yesterday we, all of us, are just one indiscretion, misunderstanding or set up away from disappearing.

Maybe that neighbor you pissed off a couple of years ago will be the reason. Or a phone call to an old buddy during which you vented your frustrations with the president. It could be an email someone sent you that you liked and forwarded to someone else.

But the reason you end up in federal custody, refused a lawyer, or a trial, may never be known, to you or anyone else.

“Get outta here, Pizzo. I'm a US citizen. That kind of stuff only happens to foreign terrorists.”

No. You get outta here. As of yesterday it can happen, and it can happen to YOU.

Here's the full text of the law President Bush signed yesterday. Read it yourself. Senator Chris Dodd did and concludes that,

"Anybody deemed by the president to be an enemy combatant or alleged enemy combatant can be arrested and held indefinitely," he said. "That's incredible. Today, an American president signed that bill into law. What a sad day for our country."

So, be warned. Today would be a good day to reconsider almost everything you think you know about what it means to be an American citizen. In fact, as of yesterday, common criminals... murderers, thieves, rapists, even child molesters, now have more legal protections than any American accused by the government of “providing material aid to terrorists.”

For example, if someone is accused of murdering their entire family, burning down their house and raping the family pets, they still have the right to:

* One phone call
* To refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present
* The right to a preliminary hearing forcing prosecutors to prove they have a case
* The right to Habeas Corpus
* The right to examine and refute the evidence against them -- all the evidence.
* The right cross examine your accusers - all accusers.

But, should the US government accuse you of "providing material aid to terrorists:"

* You have NO right to phone anyone – maybe ever again
* You have NO right to any kind of evidential hearing
* You have NO right to Habeas Corpus
* You have NO right to see the evidence against you
* You have NO right to confront, or even know the identity of, witnesses against you
* You haver NO right to a jury of your peers.
* And you can be subjected to extreme interrogation techniques the government says do not constitute torture, but refuse to describe.

Think I'm kidding? Nope. Even I'm not that sick. This is no joke. I wish it were. No this one is the real deal folks. And since it's now the law of the land, you better get rid of your pre-10/17/2006 thinking. It's a new day and a new way in Bush's America.

Piss off someone in government and you could find yourself in front of precisely the kind of military tribunals the US once condemned in other countries. Here are some of the “highlights” of the new law.

Who can be accused of being an “Unlawful Enemy Combatant?” Anyone they decide. And oh, by the way, it's retroactive (ex post facto) to boot.

“Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive- A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.

And forget sentencing guidelines. Under this law your punishment can be affected by whether Don Rumsfeld is in a good mood that day or a bad mood.

“Punishments- A military commission under this chapter may, under such limitations as the Secretary of Defense may prescribe, adjudge any punishment not forbidden by this chapter, including the penalty of death when authorized under this chapter or the law of war.

And just who can convene a Military Tribunal under this new law?

“Military commissions under this chapter may be convened by the Secretary of Defense or by any officer or official of the United States designated by the Secretary for that purpose.

Who will judge you?

“In General- Any commissioned officer of the armed forces on active duty is eligible to serve on a military commission under this chapter.”

Once seated a Military Tribunal assumes a status once reserved only for the Pope: infallibility.

“ No authority convening a military commission under this chapter may censure, reprimand, or admonish the military commission, or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the military commission, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings.”

Well, at least we can watch the proceedings, right? Forget about it.

“The military judge may close to the public all or a portion of the proceedings under paragraph (1) only upon making a specific finding that such closure is necessary...”

There's nothing in the new law that requires a speedy trial. So after months, or even years, of cooling your heels in solitary you may finally be led before a tribunal for your day in court. Will you find out now why you're under arrest. Maybe not.

NATIONAL SECURITY PRIVILEGE- (A) Classified information shall be protected and is privileged from disclosure if disclosure would be detrimental to the national security. The rule in the preceding sentence applies to all stages of the proceedings of military commissions under this chapter..... The privilege referred may be claimed by the head of the executive or military department or government agency concerned based on a finding by the head of that department or agency...”

And just who can claim the evidence against you is “privileged?”

“A person who may claim the privilege referred to in subparagraph (A) may authorize a representative, witness, or trial counsel to claim the privilege and make the finding described in subparagraph (B) on behalf of such person. “

In other words, anyone on the prosecution side of the case, including their witnesses against you, can declare that the evidence they have against you is privileged and therefore can be kept from you and your attorney.

K. broke off here and looked at the judge, who said nothing. As he did so he thought he saw the judge use a movement of his eyes to give a sign to someone in the crowd. K. smiled and said, "And now the judge is giving a secret sign to someone among you. There seems to be someone among you who is taking directions from above. I don't know whether the sign is meant to produce booing or applause, but I'll resist trying to guess what its meaning is too soon. It really doesn't matter to me, and I give his lordship the judge my full and public permission to stop giving secret signs to his paid subordinate down there and give his orders in words instead; let him just say "Boo now!," and then the next time "Clap now!". (Franz Kafka, The Trial.)

If there is anything more extraordinary than the law Bush signed yesterday it was the lack of commotion about it. It would seem American's, who once warned authorities “Don't tread on me,” are now resigned to a Kafkaesque future.

So, from today on, until and if a future congress and president repeals this assualt on “equal justice for all,” you all better watch your step -- and your mouth.

Brother, Sister...
Where Art Thou?

Hello. My name is __________________________. I am the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States of America, and I approved this message.

A growing majority of Americans feel the nation is on the wrong course in both it's domestic and foreign policies and actions. I would like to take just a moment of your time to tell you how, if elected, I would lead my party and our nation back onto the righteous, just and enlightened path that made America great and respected at home and abroad.

1) I would give the Iraqi government 180 days of additional US military assistance before I begin redeploying US troops out of that country. National Guard troops would be the first troops to leave Iraq, returning them to the states and communities they are supposed to serve. The balance of American troops will be redeployed to neighboring countries to provide security for those countries in the event Iraq descends into chaos.

2) I will provide Congress a plan for balancing the federal budget within 24 months of my election. This plan will require both spending cuts and tax increases. Tax increases would be aimed at the very top 2% of earners and will have no impact whatsoever on individuals making up to $40,000 a year or couples that earn less than $80,000 a year. (More)

3) I will provide Congress a plan for providing affordable health care coverage for every American citizen. My plan will sweep away the current inefficient and expensive maze of private health plans and replace it with a single payer insurance plan. This plan will blend the strengths of the private sector with the cost savings and bargaining power that can only be attained by a single heath insurance provider. Medicare and Medicaid will be slowly phased under this plan assuring adequate funding and converage for the poor and retirees into perpetuity. This national health plan will be run by the private sector but regulated by a federal agency - much the same way banks and the security industry's have been run for nearly a century. (More)

4) I will immediately reopen talks on the Kyoto Treaty, asking all participating nations to consider updating that treaty to expand it's limits on greenhouse gas emissions to all nations, including China and developing countries. I would commit the US to signing a Kyoto treaty and agressively implementing its provisions once so amended. (More)

5) I would ask Congress to rescend any authority it previously gave the executive branch that allows US troops or intelligence agents to employ dehumanizing, degrading or cruel interrogation techniques. I would also ask Congress to clearly establish that any person(s) captured in what has been come to be referred to as “the war on terror,” shall be considered a prisoner of war, as defined in the Geneva Convention and other international laws of which the US is a signatory. (More)

6) I would ask that Congress explicitedly outlaw military tribunals except for when there has been a formal Congressional declaration of war, as provided for in the US Constitution. (More)

7) I would ask Congress to update US immigration laws and enforcement. Key to these changes would be to, within one year, make sure that employers, large and small, have fast and accurate online access to information already on file with the US govenment that can confirm a employee's citizenship or immigration status. Once that service is in place I would then make sure INS and ICE agents are deployed in sufficient numbers to enforce workplace compliance. American workers and foriegn guest workers in the country legally, deserve nothing less.

8) I would ask Congress to raise the national minimum wage to $10 an hour and index further increase to inflation. (More)

9) I would ask Congress to pass legislation to double minimum millage standards for all cars and trucks by 100% in 10% increments over the next ten years. (More)

10) I would ask Congress to create a Manhattan Project for Energy Independence and fund it fully with the goal of discovering, developing and deploying energy solutions that would free the US from dependency on oil-based fuels by no later than 2020. (More)

11) Our democracy has been purchased by special interests. A democracy that can be bought is a democracy in peril. Therefore I will ask Congress to pass a constitutional amendment requiring that all campaigns for Congress and the White House be funded solely from public funds. (More)

12) My defense policies will reflect that we are the most technologically advanced nation on earth, and should therefore play to that strength. Sending troops halfway around the world made sense in the days before we had the ability to drop a cruise missile within 36 inches of any object or person on earth, but it makes no sense today. (And, as we have seen in Iraq, troops on the ground are no guarantee of victory anyway.) Therefore I believe the US needs to make it clear to our would-be adversaries precisely what kinds of behavior towards us is acceptable and unacceptable. Our goals should not be so much to "win" wars, but to modify behavior. So I will let those who would confront the US know where the red lines are. After that it would be up to them to decide if they want American products and technology delivered to them by Dell and WalMart or Lockheed/Martin. (More)

13) I will never employ signing statements. If I disagree with all or portions of a bill Congress puts on my desk to sign, I will veto that bill. It will then be up to Congress, as dictated in the US Constitution, to either override my veto, or revise the bill and send it back to me. I will also ask the US Solicitor to seek a definitive ruling from the US Supreme Court on the legality of Presidential signing statements so that no future president will ever again attempt such an egregious end run around Legislative Branch constitutional authority. Should the Supreme Court rule otherwise, I will ask Congress for a constitutional amendment explicitly banning presidential signing statements. (More)

14) I will ask Congress to pass legislation imposing a five year limit on the Patriot Act. This will allow future congresses to reconsider that act and adjust it's provisions to reflect both actual future threats and to adjust this controversial law to reflect future court rulings.

15) I will restate the American traditions that, for two centuries, considered it anathema the notion the US government should or could eavesdrop or spy on US citizens without a court order. And, restate clearly and unequivocally, that anyone accused of wrong doing by local, state or federal authorities has the right to a fair and open trial and the right to confront all the evidence and witnesses against them, and possess the inalienable right to Habeas Corpus. Anything less turns the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” on it head, by forcing the accused to prove that they are innocent before their rights are returned to them.

That's my program. If you like it, vote for me and I give you my word I will work night and day to see each of those promises are kept and turned into US law and policy before my first term in office is over.

If you don't like those policies then don't vote for me. Instead vote Republican and guarantee at least four more years of what you've been getting.

It really is as simple as that.

Thank you.

Candidate for President of the United States of America

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Keep this and fill in the candidate's name when (if) one ever gives this speech.)

Why Republicans Should
Vote Democrat in November

We are less than a month away from what is arguably be the most important mid-term election in half a century. Voters will be faced with a tough choice. Should they continue letting Republicans control both houses of Congress, or put Democrats in charge of one or both?

Republicans have controlled both the executive and legislative branches of government for six years. So, there's little mystery in what they believe and what policies they support:

Taxes: GOP tax cuts benefit Americans in direct proportion to how much they earn. The more you earn, the more the GOP's tax cuts benefit them. The less they earn, the less they get out of them. Republicans argue that's just the way it should be, that it's unfair to ding the rich for a disproportionate share of the nation's upkeep. And – though they won't say so right out loud – Republicans believe -- but would never admit it) that, since the poor contribute less to society, they should get less from society.

The Bush administration and Congress have scaled back programs that aid the poor to help pay for $600 billion in tax breaks that went primarily to those who earn more than $288,800 a year....To offset the loss of the tax revenue, the administration has amassed record federal deficits and trimmed social spending....The affected programs — job training, housing, higher education and an array of social services — provide safety nets for the poor. Many programs are critical elements in welfare-to-work initiatives and were already badly underfunded. (More)
Foreign Policy: The GOP reduced American foreign policy to a simple, in-your-face, formula: “It's our way, or the highway.” Nice, if they could get away with it. The trouble is they can't, and they didn't. Our traditional allies around the world were offended. (Duh) And, while they not as strong as we are, they have retaliated by going passive aggressive on us when we turned to them for help when “the highway,” turned out longer and rougher than US smartypants Neocons figured.

WASHINGTON - The national security adviser under the first President Bush says the current president acted contemptuously toward NATO and Europe after Sept. 11 and is trying to cooperate now out of desperation to "rescue a failing venture" in Iraq and Afghanistan. (More)

Science: If they agree with scientific studies, they embrace them. If they don't agree, or their big-business contributors don't like the findings, they dismiss and/or suppress such findings. Like Big Tobacco before them, the GOP fights back with their own “science,” which, remarkably, produces results that support the political/social/religious beliefs of their conservative base. Global warming, the Morning After pill, stem cell research, evolution – all highly suspect as far as the GOP base – and their science-for-hire researchers -- are concerned. (If the Vatican had hired it's own astronomers rather than just jailing Galileo, we might still be teaching that the sun and all the planets orbit the earth.)

What sort of pluperfect arrogance prompts a scientifically illiterate MBA to reject the considered conclusions of 2000 world-class scientists, and then, to arrange the ouster of the scientist in charge of the intergovernmental panel that came to those conclusions?...Be advised, my fellow Americans, that this very arrogance resides in the Chief Executive of our Republic – or perhaps more correctly, among those who sponsor and "advise" that Chief Executive....But you knew that already, didn't you? To be sure, George Bush's indifference to informed scientific opinion is no secret. However, the extent of this indifference is not fully appreciated, even less the serious implications thereof. (More)

Iraq: Need I say more?

Human Rights: Republicans believe that human rights are conditional. They believe that some humans can, under certain circumstances, be mistreated in the name of national security. They reject the term “torture,” preferring the Orwellian, “Aggressive Interrogation Techniques.” And, they claim to be completely comfortable that these techniques are not cruel or a violation of international human rights – though they are apparently not comfortable enough with the techniques they authorized to describe them.

"Can’t the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness? Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America?"

- Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean-American writer, professor at Duke University, author of "Death and The Maiden"

On the other hand voters have the Democrats. While we are now painfully aware of what the Republicans stand for, we have no idea what Democrats have up their sleeves. We don't know how they plan on getting us out of Iraq without making things worse. We don't know how, or even if, they would roll back the Bush tax cuts. We don't know if they would buck the US Chamber of Commerce and raise the minimum wage to a livable wage and index it to inflation. We don't know if they would seriously tackle our energy problems, by slapping down automakers, doubling CAFE standards over the next decade, and funding a Manhattan Project for energy independence, whose goal would be to have us entirely off oil by 2020.

I have no doubt such a platform would sweep Democrats to victory in this time and sweep them into the White House in 2008. But don't hold your breath. Democrats are notorious scardycats. Rather than risk taking a straight line position on a hot issue, they hedge their – which they call “triangulating.” By the time they fine-tune their position enough to touch all those bases there's very little there in it any longer.

Democrats have been AWOL from the fight for right for a decade now. We miss them. American workers have suffered, the poor have suffered, our national defense has suffered, our fiscal health has never been worse. At least “tax and spend Democrats,” understood you had to “tax” before you spent. Clinton understood that, raised taxes on those who benefited most from society and balanced the budget. Republicans did just the opposite and have left us, your kids and their kids saddled with biggest credit card bill in the history of mankind.

So what are voters to do on November 7?

Vote Democrat. Why?

Because voting Republican sends a message. It means saying okay to tax cuts that have benefited the wrong people. It means two more years of inaction on greenhouse gas emissions. It means no real pressure on automakers to more quickly switch to cleaner technologies. It means more international isolation. It means critical policies being decided and driven by junk science. It means fewer reproductive rights for women. It means further erosion of constitutional rights, more right-wing judges on the federal bench.. and.. well, you get the point. As the old saying goes, “Keep doin' what you been doin' and you'll keep getting' what you got.”

One more thing. I know a lot of people who voted for Bush are now having second thoughts. They don't like Democrats and have never voted for one of those critters. But they also don't like that Republicans have doubled our federal debt.. increasing it by $4 trillion in just six years. And while they may have supported Bush's invasion of Iraq, but are appalled by his incompetence that have gotten so many people killed for what is increasingly looking like nothing.

So reach out to the Republicans in your family and circle of friends. Encourage them to do something they never dreamed they would do... vote straight Democrat on November 7.

When they balk, and most will, explain that they are not voting for Democrats, but for the restoration of American democracy. Explain to them them that if Democrats get the House and/or the Senate genuine oversight of the executive branch will return to the legislative branch. The GOP Congress has avoided genuine oversight like the plague, giving the executive branch far more power than our founders intended. Simply put an unsupervised executive branch is un-American. I don't know exactly how to describe American governance over the last six years of GOP rule. It would be hysterical to call it a dictatorship. Maybe it's been more a kind of monarchy.

Whatever it's been, it sure as hell hasn't been a representative democracy.

Which is why even Republicans should vote Democrat this November. Even those who, after all this, still believe in President Bush's policies are just and right and defendable, then they should not be afraid to subject them to Democracy's crucible – congressional debate and oversight - genuine debate and oversight.

Also tell them that you agree with them about the empty suits calling themselves Democrats. And how potentially entertaining it could be to give two years during which they can't just talk, but have to either shit or get off the pot. Hey, I'd like to watch that show myself.

October 12, 2006

America the Frivolous

I hate it when that happens. There I was. It was 6 a.m. I was settling into my Barko lounger cradling that precious first cup of coffee of the day – cream, one sugar. I grabbed the remote and click the TV on and, while it warmed up, switched to CNN. As I brought cup to lip CNN's chattering weatherman, “Chad,” chattering in front of a large object covered with a blanket of some sort. Chad was beside himself. I had not seen him this excited since he lost it on the air during Katrina.

Anyway as I took my first sip of coffee Chad had the blanket removed to reveal what it was that had him so wound up. It was ..... ta.da.....

“Warrior One,” the Humvee CNN reporters had used to cover the invasion of Iraq. A California outfit called “Overhaulin,” had given “Warrior One,” a new paint job... No wait.. not just any paint job, no siree. This was one of those fancy airbrush artsy-fartsy custom jobs you see on those one-off custom Harley's. Atop a shinny new undercoat were added images of little army tanks a-tankin', little fighter jets a-jettin', tiny troops a-troopin' and CNN reporters reportin'.

Since Warrior One was about a close to combat as “Chad” had ever been the experience overwhelmed him. Microphone in hand he rushed around Warrior One gushing over each little airbrushed image of war. He was especially thrilled by the large logo emblazoned on each side announcing that this was indeed, “CNN - WARRIOR ONE.”

Monday, October 09, 2006

CNN Hummer Overhauled

Source: CNN Press Release: One of the Hummer off-road vehicles CNN employed during the war in Iraq returns to Atlanta after a major renovation project as part of The Learning Channel’s highly rated series, Overhaulin’.

Overhaulin’ co-hosts Chris Jacobs and Adrienne “A.J.” Janic and hot rod designer Chip Foose will present the refurbished Hummer – nicknamed “Warrior One” – to CNN employees on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 8:30 a.m. (ET) in front of the CNN sign on Centennial Park Drive. The Overhaulin’ program featuring the Hummer will premiere on TLC on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).

After the unveiling, Warrior One will tour military bases and other sites across the country before it is auctioned. Proceeds of the auction will be donated to a charity to be determined later.
CNN purchased the Hummer in 2002 from the King Hummer dealership in Kuwait . Network producers, video journalists and correspondents used the vehicle when they were embedded with coalition forces in the war in Iraq in 2003.

This summer, Overhaulin’ took the Hummer to the show’s workshop in Irvine, Calif. Crews overhauled the Hummer’s engine and body and installed an extensive entertainment system that includes a DVD player, four LCD monitors and a state-of-the-art sound system. Airbrush artists Dru Blaier, Mickey Harris and Mike Lavallee painted images of journalists and military men and women onto the vehicle as a tribute to those who served during the war in Iraq or covered the war.

I was dumbstruck. That first precious sip of coffee just dribbled down the front of my shirt. It was new low, even by CNN standards.

What the hell were they thinking? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know... it's a Learning Channel promotion. And the thing will be auctioned off for charity. But here it was on my TV, on CNN, being hawked and fawned over. Here was CNN, just a day after they reporting that researchers estimated since George W. liberated them, as many as 650,000 could have been killed.

Okay, so that number is suspect. I agree. There have been several lower estimates. George W. (Rainman) Bush contends it's “only” 36,000, “or so.” Others say 55,000, maybe 100,000. The truth is certainly somewhere between those numbers. But whatever the precise number, it's appalling.

So why was CNN participating in the memorializing of it's reporting on that ongoing slaughter with a tricked out Humvee?

CNN might argue that its reporters risked their lives covering the action over thee, so they have a right to glow in the reflection of their bravery.

Nonsense. I was a reporter and, let me tell you a dirty little secret -- reporters do what they do because they love it... every stinking second of it. And the gritter it gets, the more they love it. Reporters live a privileged lives. We get to actual experience up close the kind of stuff ordinary folks only see at the movies; crime, romance, glamor, glory, gore, war, the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. We love it all, because reporters are the biggest drama queens on earth.

And sure, sometimes reporters get hurt and even killed doing what they do. So do truck drivers, construction workers and farmers.

As for the corporate end of CNN/Time Warner, we know what they do during war -- they sell commercials between reports from the front. Duh.

CNN's “Warrior One,” really got me going... as you can tell. For me it represented, more than anything I've seen so far, just how frivolous America and Americans have become. We are simply no longer a serious people. We've become a spoiled, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, self-conscious, frivolous and needy lot.

Partly that's the fault of our mass media. Because they've taken it upon themselves to airbrush reality from it. The mainstream media softens hard news from the front before it reaches us, so as not to spoil our dinners. We get to see cars and trucks laying in pieces on Baghdad streets after a roadside bomb goes off. But to look at American TV news reports from Iraq one would think it was war of the machines.There they are, the gearboxes, fenders, burning tires, dismembered chasis. But no dismembered occupants, or dismembered bystanders. Because our media's self-censors understand we we don't want to see that kind of stuff, especially at dinner time. It's hard to enjoy a medium-rare T-bone when confronted with a picture of ten pounds of raw flesh that, just minutes before, had been up and walking around.

Real reality can be, well, real upsetting. So American media kindly takes the edges off it for us.

Then we are left to wonder why so many of our young men and women come back from Iraq all screwed up; sad, angry, disturbed, changed -- forever.

But we brush that aside as well. After all, we have the VA to take care of them. We know that because CNN tells us so, generally in a reassuring way.

But what's really important is that you know CNN reporters covered the war in Iraq, and they covered it in Warrior One. CNN brought the war right into your living rooms and dinning rooms, every night, every morning, everyday. And, they even cleaned it up for you. (No humans were actually hurt during the making of this report.)

Hurricanes and earthquakes are okay. But war.. whoooah! Now you're talkin'. War is pure, unadulterated cable news nirvana.

And CNN was there baby, there in Warrior One. And Chad couldn't be prouder.

I don't know if any CNN reporters killed in Iraq. But I do know nearly 3000 US soldiers have died there so far and 45,000, “or so” have been wounded.

Meanwhile, Iraqi bodies pile up by the thousands each month, every month, month in, month out, year in and year out. Has it been 36,000, 55,000, 100,000 or 650,000? Who knows? Too many, that's for sure.

Maybe CNN can hire Overhaulin' to airbrush something cool on some coffins for them.

It's all so sad.

October 11, 2006

Burqa Babes Gone Wild

Have you been following the latest The West v. Islam flap? Last week British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, suggested that if Muslim women who have chosen to live in Europe wanted to lessen tensions they should consider getting rid of the full-body burqa, which westerners see as not only strange but demeaning and oppressive towards women.

Well, of course all hell broke loose as Muslims in Europe and around the world condemned Straw for being a bigot and anti-Islam, and worse. But Straw was right, and who would better know just how right than fatwa-beleaguered author, Salman Rushdie, who came out foursquare in support of Straw's remarks:


LONDON: Writer SALMAN RUSHDIE has reignited the row over Muslim dress codes, insisting the veils worn by Islamic women "suck". Rushdie made the inflammatory comment after former British foreign secretary JACK STRAW sparked a scandal by asking Muslim women in the UK to remove their veils in order to integrate into Western society.

THE SATANIC VERSES author, who became the subject of a death edict issued by Iran's revolutionary leader AYATOLLAH RUHOLLAH KHOMEINI in 1989, backed Straw for raising the issue.

He says, "The battle against the veil has been a long and continuing battle against the limitation of women, so in that sense I'm completely on Straw's side. "He was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck - which they do."

Here's the deal. When Western women visit Muslim countries they wouldn't dream of walking down the street in a see-through blouse or a bikini. And if they did, they'd deserve what ever misery came their way. When female western journalists cover stories in Iran or Saudi Arabia they don't wear a burqa, but they do go out of their way to show respect for local sensitivities and customs by wearing a stylish head scarf.

That's really all Jack Straw was suggesting. Muslim women living in Europe don't need to dress like little tarts to get by. No one is suggesting that. But they also should not show up dressed like they're out tricker-treating and expect no one to take notice – or offense.

Nor should they expect to be treated like everyone else on the street in times like these. Here's someone clearly from a Muslim country walking around a western city in a full body disguise. Gee, no reason for worry there, huh? (Are those male eyeballs or female eyeballs? Only her – his - hairdresser knows for sure.)

Here's a handy tip for Muslim women planning a trip to the West: Westerners don't like talking to a set of disembodied eyeballs. Westerners like face time – preferably a whole face -- when they have to interact with another person, be it a man or a woman. Having to talk to a woman through, what amounts to mail slot, is a formula for inter-cultural friction.

I also understand that the burqa is supposed to be all about feminine modesty. Fine. I have no problem with that. But if a Muslim woman is so modest that she can't even show her face in public, the moving to the West is a bit like a born again Christian deciding to take a room in a brothel. Not a good idea.

Listen, I'm no xenophobic. I love cultural diversity. Hell, in my pre-teen years National Geographic Magazine was my reading material of choice – but I diverge.

The point I would like to make – and that Straw was trying to make as well – is that, as quaint and beloved as they may be back in the old country, there are some cultural habits that simply don't translate. Bikinis in Tehran – don't translate. Martinis in Damascus – don't translate. Pickled pigs' feet in Tel Aviv – don't translate. A beef slaughterhouse in New Delhi – forget about it.

And women dressed like the brides of Zorro roaming the streets of London – don't translate.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oct. 3 - October 11, 2006

October 9, 2006

Free Wheeling

When the history of this era is written, historians will report there was no one at the wheel. No one at the wheel in the US Congress. No one at the wheel in the volatile Middle East. No one at the wheel in the dying continent of Africa. No one at the wheel in fastest growing Asia. No one at the wheel at the United Nations. They may dub it the "Do Nothing Era." But only if we survive it.

Let's face it, the human race has put itself on auto pilot, and no one has the foggiest idea where it's taking us. All we know is where it has taken us over in the past decade, an itinerary that can best be described as "unsettling."

North Korea: The craziest nation on earth just went nuclear. Almost every major nation in the world agrees this should not be allowed, but it will be. The US, Russian, China, Japan and South Korea are to North Korea like milquetoast parents. They just keep moving the punishment goal posts further down the field with each deliberate challenge to their authority. “Okay, but if you do it again....” When it comes to dealing with North Korea's nuclearization, no one is at the wheel.

Radical Islam: Arab governments know fundamentalist Islam is eating away at their societies like termites on steroids. Still they refuse to confront it for fear it has already become more powerful than they are. So instead they issue statements denouncing radical Islam as “un-Islamic,” and then they go right back to ignoring the problem. When it comes to dealing with the spread of fundamentalist Islam within the Arab world, no one is at the wheel.

Islamic Terror: The success of Western societies has been due largely to embracing open societies, secular governance that tolerates religious without codifying it into law. Suddenly the West is faced with a religious movement that has no tolerance for tolerance -- or the secular governments that embrace tolerance. Instead fundamentalist Muslims have declared a world wide war against both. Rather than than treating this as the threat it is, the West thinks it can reason it's way out of trouble. So the West continues talking the talk of tolerance to a growing enemy that has no word or use for tolerance in its language, customs or theology. Therefore the West talks to itself. In the war on Islamic terror, no one is at the wheel.

Iran: Combine the "all-talk-no-action" policies that frame the North Korean nuclear crisis with the West's la-de-da, la-de-da response as radical Islam metastasizes with its own societies, and you have the no-one-is-at-the-wheel policies towards Iran. Once again the world's grown-ups keep warning, “Don't do that, or else...” Then, when the Iranians lock themselves in their room and continue developing nukes, the world's grown-ups puff themselves up and warn, “Okay, but don't do it again, or else...” Of course, there never is an “or else,” because no one is at the wheel – and the Iranians know it.

Global Warming: Every (sane) person in the developed world now understands global warming is real, advancing at a frightening rate and could exterminate a good hunk of humanity – potentially all of humanity – if not reversed in our lifetimes. Even with such terrifyingly high stakes, slashing greenhouse gas emissions has generated more hot air than action. Because, when it comes to fighting the man-made causes of global warming, no one is at the wheel.

Iraq: George W. Bush is not the only reason for the mess in Iraq. The United Nations and the United States Congress are equal partners in creating that mess. Congress delegated it's constitutional responsibility to either declare war or refuse to declare war. Instead they signed a blank check to Forrest Gump's evil twin and walked away from the problem. Then, when the US went to war against the UN's wishes, the UN did nothing about it. Nothing. Neither Congress nor the United Nations wanted to be the designated driver, so no one is at the wheel.

Torture: Never in the history of warfare has the world had more graphic or ironclad evidence of torture; torture by Iraqi insurgents, by Iraqi police, by US soldiers, by US intelligence agents. Yet no one has been brought to account, not before the World Court, not by the UN, not by US courts. Why? Because, no one is at the wheel.

Wealth: Money is the blood supply of civilizations. When it's evenly distributed, the body is healthy. But when one part of the body monopolizes that blood supply the rest of the body whithers. If such restriction continues for too long, the body dies from depression. Over the past decade the world's rich have gone from being comfortably wealthy to grotesquely wealthy. The average CEO now earn nearly 500 times what one of their workers earns. (Except at Wal-Mart where the CEO earned nearly 1500 times more than his average worker last year.) The middle class struggles harder each day just to maintain it's past vigor, while the working class and poor wither. As the rich became richer, they have also became more powerful. When it comes to the economy, they have the wheel.

I know pundits can tease out a host of geopolitical and realpolitik issues to explain why nothing is getting done, or likely to get done, about the above problems. Talk is usually cheap. But, when it comes to the magnitude of the problems facing us talk could cost us big time. It could cost us our livelihoods, our environment, our peace, even our lives. Whatever the reasons, it's the job of leaders to come up with solutions and then take action; though negotiations, accommodations, sanctions, prosecution and, in the worst case, militarily when justified.

Instead no one is taking truly curative action on any of these daunting problems. Pick the problem and take a good look, no one's at the wheel. Humanity has always been an iffy proposition – a ship of fools. But, until now at least, whenever most endangered, genuine leaders seemed to appear out of nowhere to take the control and steering mankind clear of the shoals; Abe Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, Mikhail Gorbachev.

So far though, no leaders are in sight. No one has grabbed for the wheel. Instead we're adrift, all of us, Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Asians – fools, huddled together in steerage, aboard the same ship as it plow full speed through hazardous seas. The band plays on, but no one's at the wheel.

Risky Business

Democrats are shorting the GOP. If they're right they will win big this November. But if the GOP's stock, now in free fall, should reverse, the Dems will be toast.... milquetoast.

Here's the deal. In the stock world a short seller doesn't actually buy the stock they short. Instead they contract to supply that stock to a long buyer at the other end of the transaction at the price the stock was selling the day the contract was signed. If the stock keeps going down the short seller is able to buy it at a lower price and the long buyer is obligated to buy it from the short seller at the higher price set the day the made the deal. The difference if the short seller's profit. If the stock goes up instead of down, then the guy at the long end of the contract gets to buy the stock the low price and sell it at the current high price.. the difference being the long buyer's profit, and the short-seller's loss.

In short, shorting is risky business.

Democrats are doing just that. They are not investing any of their political capital in policies for fixing all the things GOP and Bushies have broken; the bank, Iraq, the environment, America's international prestige, the US Constitution. Instead they have bet all they have on the GOP's stock dropping like a rock and then, come Nov. 7, collect their gains.

That could happen, but it's gamble -- a gamble that, if they are wrong, could cost us two more years of GOP rule, at least.

Right now shorting the GOP looks like a smart move.

But what if...

* The nuclear standoff with North Korea goes – well, nuclear,
* Ditto Iran,
* There's a mass-casualty terrorist attack on US soil,

If any one, or any combination, of the above occurs between now and November 7 Democrats have no policies on the table telling voters, if they were put back in power, how they would respond.

I'm not suggesting that Democrats are incapable of dealing with such emergencies, or that they wouldn't do a better job than the GOP. I just don't know. I haven't a clue because Democrats haven't given me a clue.

And if someone like me, who wallows daily in political news and trivia doesn't have a clue, then I assume normal voters out there don't either.

Which is why I think Democrats should hedge their investment, take some of their eggs out of that short-sellers basket and invest them in some actual policies. You know, just in case. Because the investor at the other end of Democrat's short contract is Karl Rove – a guy with a nearly unbroken record of suckering Democrats.

So, I ask, exactly what would Democrats do if they retake Congress in November, and the White House in '08? What would they do about:

Terrorism: It's clear that the GOP's all-military all the time, solution hasn't worked. In fact, it's made things worse. So, would Democrats take a different course? Something more along the lines Europe has chosen. In other words, if terrorists are operating on US soil, they are a law enforcement problem. If overseas, they are an intel problem. And if terrorists are being supported by a foreign country they are State Department problem and if that doesn't work, a military issue. Are Democrats ready to take the predictable heat for reinstating that kind of sane balance to the mess the GOP has made with it's fuzzy, global “war on terrorism?”

North Korea: No one doubts that a nuclear North Korea, with missiles that could reach New York, is not something the US should be ready to live with. Democrats and Republicans agree on that. But Republicans have done nothing (effective) to make that reality less likely. So, what's the Democrat's plan? We know what doesn't work, but what would Democrats do if we vote for them?

Iran: The guy running Iran is smarter than the nut running North Korea, but may be even crazier. At least Kim Jong Il doesn't believe he's doing Allah's work on earth. All Kim wants is to be allowed to continue lording over his serf-like population, drink an endless supply of Hennessey's and have sex with underage girls. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to pick up were the Germans left off with the Jews. By going nuclear he figures he can do better at it too. Instead of having to haul all those Jews to the ovens, he could bring the ovens to the Jews.

And that's just for starters. Iran views the Arab states around them pretty much the same way the French view everyone else. Iranians are quick to remind the world that, while they are Muslims, they are decidedly NOT Arabs, but Persians. And they are Shiite Muslims, not Sunnis, (whom they feel towards the same way the Catholic Church feels about Mormons.)

Iranians believe they are the rightful leaders of the Muslim Middle East. And, now that Saddam is out of their hair, thanks to George W, they are getting about that job. Once they “deal” with Iraq's Sunnis, the Syrians will be next. Then Egypt. After that it's just a short hop across the pond to southern Spain to reclaim their former luxurious digs at Alhambra. After which the European left will revamp their old, “better red than dead,” Cold War slogan, to “better Islamic than catatonic.”

And with nukes, the missiles to deliver them, coupled with a mind set that dictates, “if we win, great – if we lose, bring on the virgins,” – just who's going to confront them?

So, Democrats, what's your plan for making sure the world never faces such a Hobson's choice?

Iraq: Talk about a mess needing a solution! We know what GOP's plan is, “stay the course.” That's not a plan, it's stalling for time. The GOP has the proverbal tiger by the tail – they don't want to hold on but they dare let go either.

So, what's the Democrat's plan besides the mushy “phased withdrawal,” idea. Withdraw to where? With what goals? What about Iran? Are Democrats ready to just let Iran do to Iraq what Syria tried to do to Lebanon – turn it into a defacto vassal state? I'm not saying that's good or bad. I'd just like at least some idea what Democrats would do in such a case. Because it is highly likely that sometime over the next four years that's precisely what our national leaders, whomever they may be by then, will face. So far we know the GOP has the wrong solutions. What we don't know is if Democrats have any right ones.

The economy: We are now nearly $9 trillion in the hole. Baby Boomers are retiring by the thousands each day and both Social Security and Medicare hang by a thread. Middle class and working class income has shrunk, inflation is on its way back -big time -- 48 million Americans can't afford health insurance, high-paying jobs are still being shipped off-shore and low-paying jobs are being snatched up by legal and illegal Mexican immigrants flooding across a wide open border.

What's the Democrat plan for fixing those ticking time bombs? Those of us who live in the physical world understand what needs doing. Taxes need to be increased and spending has to be cut. Duh.

But the devil is in details on both, and I'd like some of those details before I vote. Would Democrats repeal the portions of the Bush tax cuts that benefit just the top 1% of wage earners? Do they have the balls to withstand the GOP's predictable “tax and spend liberals” slander? Or will the weasel off into the shadows like they usually do?

And then there's the thing Democrats fear most – cutting programs. Democrats would rather die from gangrene than amputate a popular, but dysfunctional social program. To get such programs passed in the first place they give them the warmest, fuzziest titles possible, making it dangerous to even think about cutting something named “The Mothers' Milk Protection Act,” or “The Crippled, Blind Children of Wounded Veterans Relief Act. (Not real programs – yet.)

So, will Democrats cut programs to get our national checkbook back in balance? Yes? Which ones. No? Why not?

The Patriot Act: Is that constitutional obscenity permanent? Or would Democrats revisit that laws most un-American features? Yes? Which ones? No? Why not?

Energy: What would Democrats do to get us off oil – not in a few decades, but in one decade? Would Democrats create a Manhattan Project for energy independence, and fund it? Would Democrats declare America's dependence on oil what it really is, a full blown national security emergency, a crisis waiting to happen? Then act accordingly? Yes? When and how? No? Why not?

The environment: Would Democrats reopen talks on the Kyoto Treaty, this time insisting that all nations, including China and developing nations, participate fully in it's greenhouse gas limits? Will Democrats set an example by slapping CO2 standards on US industry and sharply increase CAFE standards on automakers? Yes? How much and how soon? No? Why not?

Voting: Would Democrats outlaw any voting device that does create a certified and secure paper audit trail in the even a recount is required?

Health Care: Will Democrats back a single-payer national health care system that blends the best of the private sector with the buying power of government to assure every American, regardless of health or social status? Yes? When and how soon? No? Why not?

I have more questions, but that covers the biggies. I hope the Democrat's short selling strategy pays off in November because America needs a change. After six years of Neocon rule, even voting for a Democrat pig in poke seems a safe gamble.

But I worry. I worry about what Karl Rove is up to. I worry about what that fruit basket in North Korea has up his sleeve. I worry that Iran might push matters beyond the point Israel can tolerate and ... well, you know.

If “s---t happens Democrats -- and it usually always does -- Dems might be in trouble. With all their capital riding on shorting the GOP, and no investment in policies of their own, I worry it's the Democrats who could come up short on Nov. 7.

In Defense
Cut & Run

You don't have to be a coward to cut and run from a battle. Even a casual study of military history shows that cut and run comes in more flavors than the cowardly rout. Sometimes cutting and running is simply strategic or tactical retreat.

Strategic retreat: a partial solution to the bitter-end problem. When confronted with a losing situation, the losing party accepts defeat in a way which allows them to preserve as much of their resources, (both moral and physical) as possible.

Tactical retreat: not a bad response to a surprise assault. First you survive. Then you choose your own ground for response and/or counterattack.

The North Vietnamese and their VietCong insurgent allies in the south were masters of both the tactical retreat. By retreating “to live and fight another day,” they wore down superior US fire power.

Of course, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wouldn't know anything about that, since both successfully avoided fighting in Vietnam. But, had they spent a few months chasing the “cut and run” Viet Cong through the jungle they'd have more respect for cut and run as a tool of war.

Military history is also filled with cautionary tales about stubborn commanders who refused to cut and run, and instead “stayed the course.”

General Custer, for example. Cutting and running would have been the right thing to do at Little Big Horn. But Custer stayed the course instead, and ended up dead. No fighting another day for Custor or his troops.

But what if Custer had cut and run? Would it have been such a disaster? Would it have emboldened the Indians? Probably, at least for a while. But would it have significantly changed the course of American history? Forget about it.

Napoleon is another guy who would have been a lot better off cutting and running at Waterloo rather than staying the course.

But let's talk more about Vietnam, because it's now obvious to anyone paying attention that we are repeating that deadly mistake. (Hey, even Dr. Very Strangelove, Henry Kissinger is back pulling the strings and getting American kids killed. During the Vietnam war Henry told Nixon that there simply was "no substitute for victory." Today Henry is telling George W. Bush that "the only acceptable exit strategy from Iraq is victory."

“All the wrong people remember Vietnam. I think all the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it.” -- Anand Singh

Back in the 60's and early 70's I was a “cut and runner,” on Vietnam. I wanted us out of there at a time when "only" 10,000 GI had been killed, then 20,000, then 40,000. But Henry Kissinger would have none of it. The Nixon administration and their conservative supporters in Congress and private sector warned an increasingly restive public that what we were fighting for in Vietnam was nothing less than civilization as we knew it.

“This war in Vietnam is, I believe, a war for civilization. Certainly it is not a war of our seeking. It is a war thrust upon us and we cannot yield to tyranny.” (Francis Cardinal Spellman)

Today we hear the same from this administration about the war in Iraq:

“Iraq is no diversion. It is a place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror, we must not waver.”&nbs George W. Bush

We kept fighting in Vietnam until the US death toll exceeded 60,000. Then we cut and ran.

Did civilization as we know it end? Forget about it.

Today American corporations are tripping all over themselves to get a piece of a growing, prosperous Vietnam. Sure it was messy in the beginning. But no more messy than having US aerial tankers spraying Agent Orange over their country's fragile rain forests, burning entire villages to the ground and fathering an entire bastard generation.

Anyway, things are just fine in Vietnam now. And today the US Chamber of Commerce and State Department can't say enough nice things about those little buggers.

“The biggest lesson I learned from Vietnam is not to trust our own government statements. I had no idea until then that you could not rely on them.”
J. William Fulbright

Bob Woodward's new book, “State of Denial,” is simply codification of what has been painfully obvious for months. We've been lied to. We are still being lied to. And this administration and it's Neocon advisors started a war they can't win. Since the war in Iraq is the only thing of historical consequence these guys have accomplished while in power, they're loath to admit it was a mistake and now a failure. Instead they are furiously trying to run the clock, finish Bush's second term, leave town and then blame the inevitable failure in Iraq on their successors.

“The Democrats’ response is, well, we’ll just leave,’’ Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “That would lead to a humanitarian disaster...(and) would be devastating to the preservation of civilization.’’

Ah yes, Mitt Romney, the devout Mormon -- who wants to be the next president -- testifying that, while incarceration without representation and torture have been the only fruits of this war, it would be leaving that would be “devastating to the preservation of civilization.”

“The war in Vietnam poisons everything. It has disrupted the economy, envenomed our politics, hurt the alliance, divided our people...” James Reston

So here we are, about the same place we were 40 years ago when I became a Vietnam War cut and runner. Had we cut and run in 1967, instead of cutting and running in 1974, tens of thousands of American kids would have survived to live another day. And how many Vietnamese? A million dead, maybe more.

That war, the lies that led us into it and the lies that kept us there long after it was clear it was a mistake, hurt America in ways it took four decades to heal.

“Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yet here we are again, fighting, dying, torturing, burning, only this time in Iraq. It was called Mesopotamia 86 years ago when T.E. Lawrence penned these fateful words about his government's colonial war there:

"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. We are today not far from a disaster". T E Lawrence (of Arabia), The Sunday Times, August 1920:

But Democrats, like John Murtha who are urging a strategic redeployment from Iraq, are accused of wanting to "cut and run," by George W. Bush.

Richard Nixon had his own way of accusing American's who urged a strategic retreat from Vietnam as cut and runners:

“Let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.” Richard M. Nixon, 1969

Nixon had it quite backwards. It was not the the American people, but bad leaders who defeat and humiliate the United States. Nixon did, and now George W. Bush has done so. The only question now is how many kids will have to die for George before someone calls for an utterly predictable and inevitable strategic withdrawal from Iraq? The longer it takes to do so, the larger the crime.

“Using the Oval office to cheat on your wife makes you a bad husband and an irresponsible leader. Using the Oval office to lead your troops into a war born of blatant deception makes you a murderer and a war criminal.” Jules Carlysle

Which in no way let's the rest of us off the hook. We are either members of a genuine representative democracy, or we're kept pets. You will have a chance November 7 to decide which.

“Numbers have dehumanized us. Over breakfast coffee we read of 40,000 American dead in Vietnam. Instead of vomiting, we reach for the toast. Our morning rush through crowded streets is not to cry murder but to hit that trough before somebody else gobbles our share.” Dalton Trumbo, Introduction, Johnny Got His Gun, 1970.

Quote of the Year (so far)

"Woodward's book claims we are in denial. We deny that."
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Monday, October 02, 2006

September 22 - October 1, 2006

US Senate's Vote
That Will Live in Infamy
History is prologue. It also tends to repeat itself. So, to understand today, you first have to understand yesterday. To predict the future, you often need only look in your rear-view mirror.

So let's just do that today. Take trip back in time with me. It's a short trip, so you can leave your carry-on's at home. (But no liquids, please. Folks have been known to spill them in the worm hole, and that really plays hell with the fabric of time/space.)

But before we jump let's orient ourselves to our own time, so we recognize it on the way back. Since we will be returning in just a few minutes, a quick review of the top news stories of the day should be enough.

Year: 2006
Date: 29 September
Place: USA

In the News:

US Senate & House approve strict limits on the legal rights of terror suspects.

Yesterday Congress approved landmark changes to the nation’s system of interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects, preparing the ground for military tribunals for those accused or suspected of being terrorist fighters. (More)

* The bill creates military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects.
* It also grants the president flexibility to decide what interrogation techniques are legally permissible
* It denies detainees the right of Habeas Corpus.
* Those subject to commission trials are described only as “any person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents."
* The administration says say the definition would not apply to U.S. Citizens – thought the legislation itself does not explicitly preclude US citizens.
* The bill embraces President Bush’s view that the battle against terrorism justifies “extraordinary limits on defendants’ traditional rights in the courtroom.” The limits include restrictions on a suspect’s ability to challenge his detention, examine evidence against him and bar testimony allegedly acquired through coercion of witnesses.
* The Republican-controlled House also approved a bill to authorize Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, leaving just the Senate to act to make the it law.
* These measures follow passage in 2002 of the “Patriot Act,” which greatly expanded the government's domestic law enforcement powers and surveillance of US citizens.

Okay, oriented? Great. Stay close together and don't wander from the group as we jump three-quarters of a century back in time:

Year: 1933
Date: 23 March
Place: Germany

In The News:

Reichtage Passes Law to Protect Citizens/Nation

The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany's parliament (the Reichstag) this day, March 23, 1933. It was the second major step after the “Reichstag Fire Decree” through which the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means. The Act enables Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag.

It's legislative title was, “The Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich.”

It read as follows:

The Reichstag has enacted the following law, which is hereby proclaimed with the assent of the Reichsrat, it having been established that the requirements for a constitutional amendment have been fulfilled:

Article 1
In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich. This includes the laws referred to by Articles 85 Paragraph 2 and Article 87 of the constitution.

Article 2
Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.

Article 3
Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a different date. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich government.[2]

Article 4
Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies of the legislature. The government of the Reich shall issue the regulations required for the execution of such treaties.

Reichstag Fire Decree
On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [ habeas corpus ], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

(It becomes clear as we move forward a few years, to 1937-1940, that whatever the stated purpose of the Reichstag Fire Decree (which the Nazis used exactly as the Bush administration used 9/11) and the Enabling Act, the Nazis actually used the new powers to gain complete political power without the need of the support of a majority in the Reichstag and without the need to bargain with their coalition partners. The Act essentially allowed the chancellor and his cabinet to enact legislation without the Reichstag, including changes to the constitution. )

Okay gang, back through into the worm hole. Time to go home.

Hey, what, the hell......!?

Oh, we are home.

Hardly noticed.

Save For November

Pin this on your frig so you don't forget to take it to the polls with you in November. Here's who voted for Bush's Enabling Act in the Senate this week. These votes provided terrorists their biggest win in the war so far. They have succeeded in getting us to abandon the founding principle -- "Justice for All," upon which America was founded. Shame, shame, shame!

The NOT Justice for All - Senate 65

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Frist (R-TN)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Santorum (R-PA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)


We demand of those we put in the White House only two things:

1) Keep the nation safe
2) Don't screw up the economy.

I charge the Bush administration with dereliction of duty in both regards. And, if it please the court, would like to submit evidence to support this charge.

Count 1
US Economy:

Your Honors, when George W. Bush, et al, took office in 2000, the economy was indeed heading south. Bush blamed his predecessor, Bill Clinton. “Clinton left us with a recession,” he whined.

But, I submit, how do the defendants explain the billions of dollars in budget surpluses Clinton left behind? And how do they explain that Clinton had not only balanced the budget but begun to shrink the national debt by paying it off at an astronomical rate?

“Oh that was just the effect of the boom,” the Bushies retorted. “It was just a phony bubble, not a real, sustainable economic accomplishment.”

Your Honors, I agree, the bubble was indeed unsustainable. All bubbles are. But at least Clinton had the sense to make hay while the sun was shinning, to wit, he taxed that hot money, assuring the government got it's share.

Now, let's look at Bush's bubble – the housing bubble.

Skyrocketing housing prices and easy credit fueled much of the economic activity underlying the Bush economy. But instead of making sure the government got a share of the housing bubble booty, Bush slashed taxes by $1.6 trillion.

So here's the difference: Clinton raised taxes on the wealth during the bubble and created surpluses,

Bush slashed taxes on the wealthy during the real estate bubble and created deficits.

Clinton paid down the national debt with some of that hot bubble money.
Bush let the rich keep most of it and deficits and the national debt has exploded.

But wait, there's more.

Because Bush failed to assure the government got enough in taxes to fund it's obligations, existing and anticipated, he issued IOUs by selling bonds to other countries. But just as anyone who has charged their VISA over its limit, the end has arrived. This from yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

US Foreign Debt Shows Its Teeth
“...the nation's consumption, investment and other outlays have exceeded (its) income by a cumulative $2.9 trillion – the largest gap on record. ... As of the end of 2005, total US foreign debt stood at $13.6 trillion – or about $119,000 per household... By buying US Treasurys, foreign investors put more than four-fifths of the $1.3 trillion the federal government borrowed since 2001 to help pay for (the Bush) tax breaks...”

“Your standard of living is going to be reduced unless you work harder,” says Nouriel Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics. “The longer we wait to adjust our consumption and reduce our debt, the bigger will be the impact on our consumption in the future.”

“You end up having to pay more and borrow more, adds Pierre-Oliver Gourinchas, professor of economics at UC Berkeley. “Things could get out of hand very quickly.”

Just as Bill Clinton's bubble burst, so too has Bush's housing bubble. One would assume that, since Bush had pointed to the inevitability of the bubble's burst, he would have known another bubble when one developed on his watch. But no. Instead Bush has repeatedly pointed the rising home ownership and prices as one of the crown jewels of his economic, tax cut and borrow, policies.

Now the housing bubble has burst too.

Annual Existing Home Sales Prices Tumble
Annual existing home prices declined in August for the first time in more than a decade as sales fell for a fifth straight month....The year-over-year drop in median sales prices represented a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the once high-flying housing market, which last year was posting double-digit price gains...."Pop goes the housing bubble," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. He predicted prices will tumble farther as home sellers struggle with a record glut of unsold homes. (More)

I rest my case on the economy. The “healthy economy” Bush rhetorically brandishes is nothing but a Potemkin Village economy, built and maintained on a foundation of borrowed money. The US is no longer the world's banker.. but the world's biggest debtor. (That muffled scratching sound you hear is Barry Goldwater trying to scratch his way out of his grave, drag himself to DC and strangle the Bushies in their sleep.)

Count 2
On National Defense

Your Honors, if it pleases the court, I would like to begin by entering into evidence the most recent National Intelligence Estimate.

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks....The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.” (More)

And about that, “we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here,” strategy – how's that going?

US extends deployment of Iraq troops
The United States is to extend the combat tours of 4,000 soldiers in Iraq amid ongoing violence in the country....The US defense department said it would keep one unit in Iraq 46 days longer than scheduled and send another unit 30 days earlier.... Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a private research group, said: "The [US] army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq.... "It simply does not have enough active-duty military personnel to sustain the current level of effort." (More)

Well hell George, if it's the "central front in the war on terrorism," as you claim, why not send more troops and equipment to Iraq?

Oh, I see. You're broke.

Army chief tells Bush: not enough money for Iraq war
Six weeks before midterm elections in which the war is a crucial issue, the protest from the army head, General Peter Schoomaker, exposes concerns within the US military about the strain of the war on Iraq, and growing tensions between uniformed personnel and the Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld."It's quite a debacle," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank. "Virtually everyone in the army feels as though their needs have been shortchanged."

Gen Schoomaker's defiance gives a voice to growing concern within the military about the costs of America's wars, and the long-term strain of carrying out operations around the world."There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," he told a Washington audience.

If the court will bear with me, I have just a couple more pieces of supporting comments before I close.

First, why do you suppose the administration extended the troop's stay just long enough to get past the November elections? Because they fear an October Surprise – a Tet Offensive by insurgents in Baghdad, Kabul or both. The administration wants as many troops there as possible just to keep a lid on the inevitable until after the midterm elections.

That's it. The People rests its case. The defendants are guilty.

Guilty of screwing up the economy by slashing taxes on the rich and borrowing from our kids and grandkids to make up the shortfall.

Guilty of making the nation less secure, the world more dangerous, and using the lives of American soldiers as pawns in domestic politics.

The People rest -- (though not in peace.)

Who's Your (Real) Daddy?

Have you noticed? Gas prices are down...way down. Have you noticed? The Saudis hope so. And, if you haven't noticed, they are going to make sure the price goes even lower.

Because the next time you wonder just who's running things around here, put the Saudi “Royal” Family at the top of the list – at least when it comes to the choices Americans make in the cars they buy and the politicians they elect to high office.

I'm not insinuating that there is a connection between the following stories – I am guaranteeing there is:

Gas Drives Politics
Gas up, president down. Gas down, president up. You could almost plot it on a graph....Some of my colleagues extrapolate from this that lower gas prices have caused voters to smile upon the man in the White House, or those in the Republican Party up for election....the general correlation is strong over time — strong enough to take seriously...” (More)

Prius Sales Skyrocket
Since the Prius hit the U.S. market in 2000, more than 288,000 have been sold nationwide. Sales jumped from 5,788 in 2000 to 110,394 in 2005 and since this August, 68,210 have been sold. (More)

Consumers Turn to Fuel Efficient Cars
Three thousand Americans dead in oil-financed terrorist attacks didn't do it. But $3-a-gallon gasoline did....Although gasoline prices are now tumbling from that high (temporarily, we suspect), Americans are finally demanding fuel-efficient vehicles. And American automakers say that -- duh -- they're getting the message. (More)

Saudis Pumps More Oil
SAUDI Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, is planning to boost future production capacity by 1.5m barrels a day to counter potential supply disruptions expected from Iran, Venezuela and Iraq. The Kingdom, which owns 25% of the world’s proven reserves, has previously said production capacity would be sustained at 12m barrels. But in a private briefing to investment bankers on Thursday, executives at Lehman Brothers in London were told by representatives of the Kingdom that the revised figure for production will be up to 13.5m barrels a day by 2011....They were presented with an “updated assessment” document entitled Saudi Arabia’s Strategic Energy Initiative: Safeguarding Against Supply Disruptions which has been prompted by “regional conflict and high oil prices”. (More)

Other OPEC Nations Object to Saudi Over-Production
OPEC may ask member countries to cut from current production now, leaving the thorny quota discussions for later, according to one senior OPEC official....Crucial to any decision to cut, however, will be Saudi Arabia and its oil minister, Ali Naimi, de facto leader of OPEC. The kingdom accounts for nearly 30 percent of OPEC output, and any decision would have to be backed by the Saudis to work. (More)

Forget about Karl Rove. When it comes to reading the political tea leaves, Rove can't hold a candle to oily Saudis. They keep one hand on the pulse of American markets and the other hand cupped firmly around the balls of American politicians.

When times are good the Saudis cut oil production and prices rise. When they go too far and high energy prices spark economic or political disruptions that threaten their racket, the Saudis “ride to the rescue,” by flooding the market with oil and driving the price down – temporarily.

I am quite sure that when the history of the 20th century is written the Saudis will be credited with operating the longest running and most profitable junkie operation in history. Cali Cartel, eat your hearts out. You guys are pikers compared to the oil pushers of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis pay close attention to all things American. And they didn't like what their hearing and reading lately. The oil-friendly GOP could lose control of one or both Houses of Congress. Americans were dumping their gas guzzlers for hybrids and billions of dollars or R&D money was going into developing vehicles that would only need oil to lubricate their wheel bearings.

Time to pump and dump.

So, enjoy your cheap gas, you petroleum whores out there. Because it won't last. Just as soon at the elections are over, and you change your mind about switching to a hybrid, the Saudis will cut production and gas prices will go back up. And there you'll be, stuck with a GOP House and Senate for two more years, and with a 60-month loan on a brand new gasoline burning albastros aound your neck. Suckers!

I don't know for sure whether the Saudis can pull it off again, but my gut tells me they will, Because too many Americans still don't get it. Red State voters tend to love their big cars and trucks more than Blue State voters. ( Cheap gas ranks right up there with cheap beer and free tickets to a NASCAR event.)

That's largely the fault of Democrats for running on a vacuous “vote for us because we're not them,” campaign. (Oh, and when was the last time you heard a leading Democrat dare to take a swipe at the Saudis? Forget about it.)

That's all I have to say about this. I'm not optimistic, which is why I'm slowly retrofiting my rural abode towards energy independence – mostly solar. Sure, there are glitzier things I'd prefer spending that money on. But I'm pretty sure I'm making the right choice. Because I don't trust the Saudis. And I don't trust spineless American politicians.

But most of all I don't trust American consumers. Because they have shown time and time again their willingness to sell out, not only their own governance, but the very environment that supports life itself, for a cheap gallon of gas.

So, they next time someone yells, “Who's your daddy?” -- here you go.

Quote of the Day
"My head is getting tighter now its starting to squeak
I was talking to the mailman late last week
He had a letter in his sweater from stuttering don
He said things are getting better back in sa, sa, sa, sa, sa, Saigon"

(John Prine's Pink Cadillac)

Bleeding the Beast

Here's a question the folks in the White House and Pentagon should mull. First the question: (This is a multiple choice test)

“How did the West defeat the Soviet Union – the “Evil Empire?”

A) By fighting them over there, so we didn't have to fight them here.
B) By invading and occupying Eastern Bloc nations and force-feeding democracy.
C) By turning the US into a surveillance society.
D) None of the above

The correct answer is “D,” None of the above.

We won the Cold War in a very boring way – we broke the Soviet Union's fiscal back. By luring the Soviets into trying to keep match us in a technological weapons race, we bankrupted th Evil Empire. (Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), “Star Wars,” was the $100 billion straw that broke the Soviet Union's back.)

I only bring up this piece of ancient history because I believe the shoe is on the other foot now – our foot. And we are falling into the same trap the Soviets did.

Again we are engaged in a war. again against an evil an “Axis of Evil.” Over the past few years this enemy has swollen form three Evils to so many now I've lost count. While they are still largely Islamic Evils, there's also that little fireplug of fellow who runs North Korea, and recently we've added a South American, Hugo Chavez, to the list.

I have no idea if this new enemy of ours realizes it or not, but they are doing exactly to us, what we did to the Soviets, only at the opposite end of the technological scale.

While we bankrupted the Soviets by luring them into an expensive high-tech showdown, our new enemies are bankrupting us by luring us into a low-tech showdown. Not only has this tactic rendered most of our high-tech weapons useless, but old-fashioned conventional war is proving enormously expensive. If we allow ourselves to continue being suckered into these low-tech fights we'll end up just like the Soviet Union, broke.

First of all, the enemy holds a trump card in this low tech conflict we cannot, and will not match. As the old saying goes, “never pick a fight with a man with nothing to lose.” These guys have nothing to lose. The disaffected masses of the Middle East already have nothing and therefore nothing to lose. We, on the other hand, have everything, and therefore everything to lose -- and they want it.

During the Cold War we had money to burn and were willing to pour all the money required into high-tech weapons. The Soviets did not, and ultimately could not. Game and match, USA.

But this time the other side has all the dough, so to speak. Their capital is lives. “We have to die just as much as you (in the West) have to live,” an al Qaida fighter warned in a recent video. In other words, they are willing to spend as many lives as needed, for as long as it takes to win. They can, and will, match and raise us each time we call their bluff.

Blood is all they have to invest, and they have plenty of it. In our effort to bleed them dry we are bleeding ourselves dry. Red ink flowing like a river from the US Treasury. The war in Iraq has already opened an artery, costing us over $8 billion a month -- $316 billion so far, and counting.

And, even though NATO troops are now helping out in Afghanistan, we're still fighting there too. And, three years after we chased the enemy out, he's back, and getting stronger.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Foreign troops in Afghanistan will not be able to end attacks by Taliban militants unless "terrorist sanctuaries" outside the country are destroyed, President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday, in a clear reference to Pakistan....NATO troops are battling to quell the heaviest bout of violence in Afghanistan since 2001 when U.S.-led forces overthrew the Islamic-fundamentalist Taliban, which had been sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his al Qaeda organization. (More)

The Bush administration addresses these setbacks in their War Against Terror, the same way the Soviets responded to US advances – throw more resources at the problem. Open more arteries to the Treasury, borrow more money from Chinese banks. Deploy, pursue, fight them over there, spend more, borrow more. It's the path to national bankruptcy. The same path the Soviets grunted their way down until they exhausted their resources, forcing them to release their grip on an empire that then vanished in just weeks.

I don't question for instant that we don't have real enemies out there that want to do us real harm, if given half the chance. But is chasing them around the world with US troops the smart way to fight this new enemy? Or are we simply playing right into their hands, spending money we don't have sending hundreds of thousands of US troops for them to shoot at and be shot by?

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the big talking Neocons that surround them should ask themselves; “Are we the Soviet Union of the 21st Century?”

It would appear so. Already our military resources have been spread thin, equipment is wearing out at alarming rates, our troops are wearing out even faster. And, of course, we are broke, reduced to living on the credit of strangers.

So, you ask, if that's the wrong way to fight this new enemy, then how?

By the numbers:

1)Begin by stopping feeding the beast. Stop sending US troops. All that does is let them fight us there instead of going through all the trouble and dangers of coming here to kill Americans.

2)Spend a fraction of the $8 billion a month we are now wasting over there, to secure us over here.

3)Embrace my “Don't Do That” defense policy.

What that would do is place the onus on the nations of the Middle East to deal themselves with the radical Islamists. Nations that harbor, fund or otherwise facilitate terrorist acts on America will be dealt with at arms length – militarily speaking.. as outlined in the Don't Do That policy.

Will oil supplies be disrupted under this plan? You bet. Which is a sword that cuts both ways. Who can least afford oil disruptions, the West or nations that have no other revenue base but oil? Anyway, the sooner the West is forced off oil, the better for the West, and the environment. So in that regard I feel good about declaring, “bring it on.”

Anyway, I just wanted to inject this notion into the debate. Are we the new Soviets? Big, brutal, dumb, lumbering, out of touch, out of ideas, and soon to be out of money?

Just asking.