Tuesday, January 16, 2007

January 1 - January 15, 2007

January 8, 2007

Fine Mess You Got Us Into This Time

At the moment all the focus is on what George W. Bush is going to do about the mess he's made of Iraq. But the larger question, looming just over the near horizon, is what we're all going to do about the dark forces Bush's policies in the region have leashed. Middle East politics is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for the faint of mind. Bush can be now safely be counted a member of the ladder. The region is a minefield of historical Pandora's boxes filled with over a thousand years worth of gripes, complaints, insults, offenses- real and imagined – and title reports written on stone, parchment, paper and computers -- none of which agree with the others, but all of which claim ownership to the same pieces of blood-soaked sand.

Bush's reckless policies in Iraq kicked open dozens of those Pandora boxes releasing demons that will, over the years ahead, try to force their own long-stifled, but never forgotten, claims and agendas. And if you think Iraq is a mess, just wait. While things in Iraq have reached a high-boil, below are just some of the other pots now simmering on the back burners, working their own way towards full boil.

Oil: A senior Iranian officer warned just yesterday that if the West continues to threaten Iran's economy over its nuclear program, Tehran will discontinue the flow of oil via the Strait of Hormuz. Something just over 40% of the world's oil is transferred through those straits. Which explains why the Pentagon has just positioned two aircraft carriers supported by large carrier groups, just outside the straits. Okay. But Iran is armed with new state-of-the-art Russian “Sunburn” anti-ship missiles. These supersonic anti-ship missiles, one of which, the SS-N-22 Sunburn, have been called "the most lethal missile in the world today." The Sunburn has a talent that makes it particularly useful against carrier groups. It's on-board computer can distinguish between support ships and carriers, and can be programed to ignore decoys and other ships and make a bee-line to the take out the carrier. It only takes one Sunburn missile to sink an entire carrier. Imagine that! This is a set up for a Gulf of Tonkin -- times 1000.

Nuclear Weapons: Bush attacked Iraq on the pretext it was developing nuclear weapons, but didn't lay a glove on North Korea which already had nukes and was building more. By so doing Bush taught Iran a valuable lesson: “Hurry up!” And that's precisely what they're doing, and precisely why the Iranians refuse to pause their deadly R&D to talk about it. Iran figures that once it has an handful of nuclear weapons mounted on their new long-range missiles, no one, including Israel, would to dare take a swing at them. Then they'll talk -- if they feel like it.

Finally, George W. accomplished what previous Iranian governments could not – he got rid of Saddam's Sunni-dominated Iraq and replaced it with an Iran-friendly Shiite government. Over the next few months Iraq will slowly settle into an orbit around Iran. Which, ironically brings us full circle. Once under Iran's wing, Iraq will really have access to weapons of mass destruction - Iran's.

Over the weekend London papers reported that Israel has been training a special unit to attack Iran's underground nuclear facilities with nuclear-tipped bunker busting bombs. Because Israel understands that once Iran has nukes Israel's clout and deterrent value as the region's sole nuclear power would be weakened, even nullified. So the clock is ticking. Israel's intelligence service estimates Iran will have a functioning nuke sometime between now and early 2009 -- and the Israelis are not likely to let that happen -- without at least trying to stop it. And to stop would require the first use of nuclear weapons in over 60-years. The fall out – physical and political – from such an attack, while incalculable, can't be good.

As the US gives up on trying to bring Iraq's Sunnis into the political process, throwing US weight behind the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, Syria will be watching. Syria is 74% Sunni, and will not stand by idly while Shiite's slaughter their Iraqi cousins. Nor will Syria allow it's eastern regions to become one giant Iraqi-Sunni refugee camp. Instead Syria will supply arms, money and fighters to Iraqi-Sunni insurgents.

This will not amuse Iran, which has had an unnatural marriage of convenience with Syria thanks to Lebanese tribal politics. Both Iran and Syria oppose Lebanon's current western-leaning government. Both would like to see it fall. But that's where the mutuality ends. Syria sees Lebanon the same way Iraq saw Kuwait – as a historical hunk of Syria. On the other hand Iran sees Lebanon as the capstone of an emerging Shia crescent, extending east-northwest across the Middle East and controlled from Tehran.

To further it's goals Iran has been funding and arming Shiite-Hezbollah in Lebanon. And to further it's goal of destabilizing the current anti-Syrian government in Lebanon, Syria has been allowing Iran to use Syria as a trans-shipment point for money and arms to Hezbollah's fighters in Lebanon. Syria's hope is that Hezbollah will cause so much trouble in Lebanon that the Lebanese people will beg for Syrian troops to return order to the country. Iran hopes Hezbollah will simply take over Lebanon thereby adding it to Iran's charm bracelet, right next to it's newest trinket -- Iraq.

Once Hezbollah has Lebanon in the bag, Iran will have a new assignment for them -- destabilize the Syria. The Assad regime is, by most accounts, weak and, while majority Sunni, Syria would find it hard to resist a well-financed campaign by disciplined, battle hardened Hezbollah fighters. And it's the prospect of just that, Iran's proxy army, Hezbollah, in control of Syrian territory, that makes Israel so unwilling to returning the Golan Heights to Syrian control. Israel isn't worried about being attacked by Assad's Syria, but by a Hezbollah/Iranian Syria -- a Syria under the influence of nuclear-armed friends in Iran.

While all this mayhem is going on to their south, Iraqi Kurds will be busy too. First they will drive any remaining Sunnis and Shiites out of oil-rich Iraqi-Kurdistan. Then, with their own source of revenue from oil, the ambitious and competent Kurds will be on a roll. Iraqi-Kurdistan is already the only part of Iraq that's functioning like a normal society. Once Kurds get the Shiite bureaucrats in Baghdad out of their hair they will consolidate their hold, declare their independence and press the west for recognition – which they probably will deserve, and would get.

But it won't end there. Turkey has been fighting with Kurdish PKK separatists for decades and an independent Kurdistan right next door will send the Turks into a mouth-foaming fit. Iran won't like it either. Because both Iran and Turkey have Kurds living in the regions that will boarder this new Kurdistan. And both Turkish and Iranian Kurds will begin demanding that their respective regions be allowed to join the new Kurdistan. This dynamic would produce a new marriage of convenience, this time between Turkey and Iran, both determined to destabilize new Kurdistan. The goal of the Turks would be to put an end, once and for all, to the Kurdish separatists, Iran's goal would be that plus the return northern oil fields to Iraq's new Shia owners. Of course the Kurds will not go quietly – not the Kurds in new Kurdistan, nor the Kurds in Turkey or Iran. Turkey's actions will further threaten that country's bid to join the EU, providing fuel for Turkey's own Islamic militant movement.


08.01.2007 16:42

YEREVAN (YERKIR) - In 2007, the Near East will still be in the
limelight of the world policy, since it's the very place where the
interests of the West with the United States at the head contact
with the Islamic world split into Shiism and Sunnism, director of
the Institute of Oriental Studies at the RA Academy of Sciences,
Dr Ruben Safrastyan told a reporter. In his opinion, the U.S. may
lose control over Iraq thus boosting the possibility of large-scale
armed collision between sunnits and shiits supported by Saudi Arabia
and Iran respectively.

On the other hand, further escalation of conflicting zones in Palestine
and Lebanon, struck by bloody battles last year, is also possible.

Tension over the Iranian nuclear program is predictable as well. "We do
not rule out that the U.S. may deal a blow on Iran's nuclear facilities
and this will be the worst scenario pregnant with catastrophic
consequences," Safrastyan said adding that the domestic situation
in Turkey that tends to involve the army in politics may lead to
unpredictable moves taken by the state in the region, specifically
in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"All this gives to understand that the U.S. program on
"democratization" and "stabilization" in the Near East so much
advertised by the Bush administration has actually failed," he

Saudi Arabia:
The Saudis are Sunnis – Wahhabi-Sunnis. (You could say that Wahhabi Muslims are Muslims in the same way LDS Mormons are Christians.) The Saudis are very worried by Iran's plans for a Shia crescent surrounding and isolating them. Therefore, any where that Shia/Sunni conflicts break out around them, the super-rich Saudis will become financiers of Sunni resistance and terror. That in turn will make Saudi Arabia's oil facilities target No. 1 for Shia fighters. That in turn would put the west's supplies of Saudi oil at risk. Should major disruptions occur -- and with that much trouble going on around them it's hard to imagine they won't be -- the US and NATO would have to step in to protect Saudi pumping, pipeline, storage, refining and port facilities. Of course the introduction of "Crusader" troops on Saudi terroritory, home to Mecca, would only further infuriate and mobilize fundamentalist Muslims.

Egypt & Jordan:
The only other Arab nations in the region besides Lebanon that want to be part of the 21st, rather than the 12th, century, will find themselves right in the middle of the Shiite/Sunni crossfire. The Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's version of Hezbollah -- is already making trouble. And the relatively enlightened leader of Jordan, King Abullah, willl find himself under attack from those in the region that see him as an America/Israeli patsy. Any serious destablization of either Egypt or Jordan would serve only to put already edgy Israelies more on so. And and edgy Israeli is a dangerous Israeli.

The only net winners in all this, besides of course the Iranians, may be the Palestinians. With so much real trouble brewing all around them, Israelis would likely be forced to release their grip on the Palestinians and most of the West Bank. They would have to do so first to free up military resources to confront the real threats around them. And second, in the hopes that giving the Palestinians most of what want they will reduce Arab resistance to Israel and undermine Hamas. Finally, getting the Palestinian issue behind them would, Israel would hope, gain them support from European nations and, more importantly, military alliances.

As all hell breaks loose throughout the Middle East, Europe's Muslim refugees will surge. These refugees will flee to Europe in search of safe refuge, not in for “freedom,” or because of a thirst for western-style “democracy.” Muslim refugees will arrive in Paris, London, Brussels and Berlin with all the tribal baggage and religious self-righteous nonsense that fueled the violence back home. This will spark the same kind of debate in Europe about border security and immigration reform as we are having here in the US -- only with much greater urgency and passion. That will spark street riots throughout Western Europe as Muslim immigrants demand Europeans change their laws to respect Islamic religious doctrine and “rights.” When non-Muslim Europeans say no, conditions will be perfect for jihadist organizers, resulting in the same kind of terrorism in European cities that drove the refugees from their own countries in the first place. (One thing you can always predict about religious fundamentalists, and that's that they always crap in their own mess kits eventually.)

The USA:
Bush will try his surge idea, and it might even meet one of the goals – to bring some degree of law and order to Baghdad. This is what I call the “Fantasy Island Strategy.” If successful Baghdad will become like Kabul in Afghanistan, an island of relative peace surrounded by boiling seas of violence. The calm in Baghdad would create a face-saving pretext for US withdrawal. That would leave Iraq firmly in the hands of Iran-supported Shiites. And, unlike US forces, the Shiites will have no qualms about doing what ever it takes to “pacify” Sunni insurgents.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, even the interest-only payments due on the half a trillion dollars Bush borrowed to fight the war in Iraq will begin pinching domestic spending. And the cost of the war won't end there. It's estimated the cost of caring from veterans seriously wounded Iraq War veterans for the rest of their maimed lives, will run the ultimate tab well past a trillion dollars.

That bill will come due at the very moment millions of Baby Boomers – this one included -- retire and show up at the Social Security to collect what's due them. There are 78 million Boomers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making up more than 25 percent of the population. An estimated 7,918 Boomers will turn 62 each day in 2008 – or 330 an hour. The SS trust fund balance will peak in 2009 and then begin to drop precipitously. By 2014 it will have declined by $60 billion--more than half its peak value. A few years later the system will begin paying out more than it takes in.

This, at a time when GW Bush doubled the national debt, for about $4 trillion to over $8 trillion by slashing taxes and starting a couple of wars on the financed with IOUs. Inflation, stagflation and devaluation of the dollar will whack Americans upside the head at some point when those IOUs come home to roost. (Devaluaton has already begun.)

I only mention all this because everyone seems to be talking about how Iraq will be George W. Bush's legacy, and that's just plain wrong. Iraq will be part of George W. Bush's legacy, but only part. The rest of his legacy will play out in the years and decades after Bush leaves office. Because, when he invaded Iraq he didn't free the Iraqi people, as he likes to now claim. He freed a thousand years of ethnic/religious/tribal demons. And while these demons may not be the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it'll sure feel like they are.

January 4, 2007

White House Chess

The Washington media spent the holidays trying to guess what the President's new plan for Iraq might be. Meanwhile in the back rooms of the White House Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten were doing what any world-class chess player does when facing defeat -- plot a series of aggressive moves to throw their opponent off balance in the hopes of regaining the initiative.

How do I know this? Well, since God only talks to Rev. Pat Robertson – and, when He can't get through to Pat, George W. Bush – I didn't get it from Him. No it came to me in this news flash late yesterday:

Washington, D.C. - As President Bush prepares a new statement and stance on the war in Iraq, his cabinet is once again in the midst of transition. In the latest change, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte will resign to become deputy secretary of state, according to a government official....The shift, while seemingly abrupt, will allow Negroponte to return to his former career path as a diplomat. Negroponte will serve under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It was that last line that gives away the strategy. “Negroponte will serve under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”

Never! Negroponte quits as head of one of the most important and powerful posts in government, a job that puts him face to face with the President of the United States every morning, of everyday of the week, to accept a position as Rice's assistant?

Fat chance.

So what's up? Here's what I think is up -- and if I were Bush I would be itching to get on with the game.

Move 1: Announce what the administration knows will be a very unpopular decision to send more troops to Iraq.

Move 2: Let the Democrat-controlled Congress throw a fit and hold hearings the administration knows will stir up additional opposition and shake loose new damning information on the administrations march to war and mismanagement of that war.

Move 3: Just when all the above is hitting the fan, Dick Cheney announces he is retiring from office early due to “health concerns," and because he does not want to be "a distraction" when he is called to testify in purjury trial of his former No. 2. Scooter Libby.

Move 4: The next day Bush announces he will nominate Condoleezza Rice to replace Cheney.

Move 5: At the same time Bush announces he is nominating Negroponte to replace Rice as Secretary of State.

The above series of moves makes political sense on so many levels that I consider it inevitable. Think about it:

For Cheney: By all reports, Cheney has been sidelined within the administration. No longer being a major player – actually the major player -- is so NOT Dick Cheney. If he can't run the show, he's not interested. Also, leaving before the end of Bush's final term would put some daylight between Cheney and the shoddy Bush legacy -- not a lot of daylight, but a lot more than if Cheney stays until January 2009.

For Bush: Appointing the first woman and the first African American to the vice presidency, Bush knows, would put him in the history books for something besides the mess his war has made out of the Middle East. By appointing Rice VP he would lock in for all history his place as the first US President to have a female and black as his No. 2 -- an historical “two-fer.”

For Rice: As an academic by vocation Rice knows better than Bush how historians rank the achievements – and failures -- of public figures. If appointed VP she would no longer go down in history as simply the White House National Security Advisor who signed off on Bush's fictional Iraqi WMD. Instead her bio would lead with the fact that she became America's first woman and first black to hold this high office. So, whether Rice leaves government service in 2009, or decides to run for President, departing as a sitting Vice President would be a personal, professional, poilitical and financial asset of immeasurable value.

For Negroponte: This man is the quintessential Machiavellian. His entire career juggling international hot potatoes working his way towards one day becoming Secretary of State:

Ambassador to Honduras (1981 - 1985)
Ambassador to the UN (2001 - 2004)
Ambassador to Iraq (2004 - 2005)

And, at this point in his long career he sure as hell isn't interested in serving as anyone's No. 2. Negroponte's appointment as the first Director of National Intelligence was an aberration in a career otherwise entirely dedicated to diplomacy. Being appointed Secretary of State would be his crowning moment. Though he'd hold the job for just two years, it promises to be a very eventful two years. And, when he leaves office, for the rest of his life, and even in death, he will be “Mr. Secretary.”

But wait – there's more. There are the huge macro-political benefits that would accrue to the administration from this series of chess moves.
  • First, when the public turns against an administration, as it has against this one, there's nothing like a high-profile personnel shake up to kindle hope – false or otherwise.
  • Cheney's departure would be met by an enormous sigh of relief by all but a handful of die-hard neocons and brain-dead Red State voters.
  • Negorponte's long career as a diplomat would also be a relief since, for the first time since Bush took office an actually diplomat is in charge at State – a guy who knows how to wheel and deal with other wheeler-dealers – a guy who, instead of shooting first and talking later, actually prefers to talk first.
  • The appointment of Rice to VP would give the GOP bragging rights in 2008, inevitably sapping some number of African American and women voters away from Democrats to the GOP.
  • Finally, Cheney's history of heart trouble may have been a risk worth taking when an untimely departure had Dennis Hassert two heart beats away from the Presidency, but not now that it's Democrat Nancy Pelosi. A VP with a good ticker is now a must.
Now let's look back at Move 1, because it's the key to all that would follow.

An audio tape of Lyndon Johnson speaking to aides in the Oval Office in early 1966 has Johnson admitting that the Vietnam war was unwinnable and that he'd love to figure how to get out. But, he quickly added that there would be no American military defeat on his watch.

A look at the casualties on the day of that early 1966 conversation is instructive; the US had lost just a over 3000 troops in Vietnam. But, instead of ending a war he knew could not be won, Johnson “surged.” (Actually they used the right term in those days, “escalation.”)

In that same conversation Johnson worried out loud that, "if Congress knew what I know, they'd cut off funding," for the war.

By the end of 1966 killed in action casualties were over 5000. The next year over 14,000 more died. Ten years after that conversaton 57,000 additional US soldiers were dead, and it was left to Gerald Ford to accept reality and bring all remaining US troops home.

Bush, like Johnson, now knows he can't “win” in Iraq. But, like Johnson, Bush is ready to sacrifice more American soldiers to insure history does not record a US military defeat on his watch. Which is why, like Johnson and then Nixon after him -- Bush will buy time by escalating – (or a “surging,” as he prefers to call it.)

Lyndon Johnson was in his first elected term and could have run for reelection. Instead he decided to bail out and leave the mess in Vietnam to his successors. Bush, in his second term, can't run again any that makes his task a bit more dicy than Johnson's. Bush needs to buy time -- 24 months to be precise -- in order to pass the burn onto his successor.

But simply escalating by sending more troops won't guarantee him that extra time. Congress is no longer in GOP hands, so there are uncertainties. Bush knows he is going to be under intense political fire to get out of Iraq before he leaves office. And, as a former fighter jet pilot, Bush knows how to divert fire by dispensing chaff. And what better chaff than tossing Dick Cheney to waiting sharks, annoiting Condoleezza Rice Vice President and putting Negroponte, a career diplomat and consummate inside player, at the helm of State.

All this is just a guess, mind you. But keep a keen eye on the players on the board, because checkmate is still avoidable. The strategy begins with that first move – pushing more pawns – US soldiers – into harms way. Then sacrificing the Queen to relief pressure on the King. Finally moving the Rook into a blocking position.

In chess it's called “Castling” And it's all about protecting the King when all else has failed.

In this administration it's called, the politics of distraction. And it's worked remarkably well for them up to this point.

This just in

Bush quietly authorizes opening of Americans' mail

WASHINGTON - President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the New York Daily News has learned.The president asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

(Full Story)

January 1, 2007

Predictions for 2007

The War: Jenna & Barbara Bush will not be part of their dad's troop surge. Ditto for any member of the Cheney clan.

The War: With polls showing support for the war in Iraq down to a paltry 11%, Democrats will decide it's almost safe to openly oppose it too.

The War: Iraqi Shiites, aligned with Iran, win the civil war. Iraq's Sunnis get to learn what it was like to be a Shiite when Sunnies ran Iraq. The Kurds go their own whey. (Sorry...)

Religion: Evangelical congregations will enact new rules requiring their ministers to wear GPS tracking devices when not within clear sight or in the pulpit.

Religion: The Pope will issue an encyclical ordering that, henceforth, altar boys must be at least 18-years of age.

Religion: Mel Gibson releases a new documentary entitled, “Jews: Can't live with them, can't have an apocalypse without them.”

New Arrivals: Lynn Cheney will claim that the grandchild born to the her lesbian daughter is only the second immaculate conception in human history.

Immigration: Real reform? Forget about it.

Career Changes: Donald Rumsfeld, encouraged by the fawning chuckles from the Pentagon press corp over the years, launches a career in stand up, appearing at the Comedy Club filling the gap left by Michael Richards.

Genocide: The United Nations announces that it would love to help those being slaughtered in Sudan, but can't because it's like REALLY dangerous there right now. Besides, no one has figured out how to wring bribes out of dirt-poor Sudanese refugees.

Hillary Clinton: After John Edwards and Barak Obama defeat her in the primaries, Hillary blames “a vast, male-dominated, left-wing conspiracy and pens a new book entitled, “Testosterone: The Real WMD?”

Bill Clinton: It takes nearly a year for Bill to realize Hillary had divorced him. He finds out only after discovering the divorce papers stuffed under his living room sofa by his former National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger.

Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell: Are named defendants in a class action brought by “Everyone else.” The court orders The Donald and Rosie to, “Immediately, and without further delay, shut the f—k up,” and enjoins the pair from “speaking on radio or appearing on television for the rest of their unnatural lives.” Attorneys for plaintiff's announced the court's decision in a brief statement: “Ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare is finally over.”

Michael (AKA, Kramer) Richards: Discloses that DNA tests confirm he is a direct decedent of “Eve.” (the name given to the fossilized remains found in South Africa of the oldest recorded humanoid. “This means I am part n----- myself. I feel your pain, man.” Richards said, raising his fist in the traditional black power salute. “I always said I was a Hebe,” Richards added. “But I had no idea I was a member of the lost tribe – an African Hebe. ---- Hey guys -- don't tell Mel, okay?”

New Year Resolutions

I'm convinced that not a single person on earth has ever, or will ever, actually keep a New Years resolution. New Years resolutions serve the same function as confession does for Catholics -- to confession – to cleanse our consciences and make ourselves feel that we really are the kind of persons we'd like to believe we are -- but of course are highly unlikely ever to become.

So this year I will pass on making any resolutions about how I will reform my reprobate ways in the coming year. Instead I want to catch up responding to emails I just discovered had been filtered to “Junk” by my ever-helpful email program:

To: Mr. Opupoo, Former Minister of The Bank of Nigeria.
Subject: $80 million urgent good help pleaze

Out of Office Reply. I will be out until January 5. I will respond to your message as soon as I get back.

FBI Special Agent Stefano Pizrato

To: Danial McMannus, Phd, DDS, DVM, OBGYM
Subject: Size matters

Thank you so much for your kind offer to help me with “my embarrassing problem.” But I don't suffer from any “embarrassing problems.”

First, at 61, I've reached a point in life where nothing embarrasses me any more. Also, I have ask, just why would “enhancing” the size of that particular part of me improve someone's life in the first place? Wouldn't it be better if you developed a drug that would increase the size of people's brains instead? After all, the world is over-populated, so the standard issue gear appears to be doing the job, and then some, and is in no need of further "enhancement." Instead what's clearly lacking is collective I.Q. When you come up with a pill that enhances human brains, give me a call, I'll be your first sales rep.

To: Classmates.com
Subject: Reconnect with high school friends.

You're kidding, right? For anyone that grew up to become a normal, well-balanced adult, high school memories are the last thing we'd care to revisit. If Human Rights Watch ever studied what high school does to a kid's self esteem they would declare high schools a violation of the Geneva Convention -- which, among other things, clearly prohibits "degrading treatment and humiliation of captives."

There are, of course, a tiny minority of Americans for whom high school represented the social/emotional/self esteem high-water mark of their lives. You know, the lead cheerleaders, the football team quarterbacks, the prom queens and kings and, of course, the class whore. They were the “in-crowd,” during high school. But that was it for them. Within a week of graduation they tumbled right off a cliff into a pit of obscurity and quiet desperation.

I only attended one high school reunion, my 25th, and found this to be true. For four years, between 1960 and 1964, they were the most admired, the most feared, the most pursued members of the the student body. They were stars, surrounded by a constellation of sycophants and adoring fans. Twenty five years later they were fat, and/or bald, divorced, remarried, divorced again and stuck in jobs a lab monkey could perform just a well, maybe better.

So, classmates.com, why would I want to pay you to reconnect me with those people? They didn't like me back then, and I don't like them now. When I was in school with them they wouldn't give me the time of day. Now they just want to sit at my reunion table, name tag and all, blubbering over a glass cheap wine about how their ex-wife (husband, kids, parents, inlaws and/or the law) took them to the cleaners and ruined their life.

So, please take me off your email list, will ya? Every time I get one of your emails intrusive visions of jocks in varsity sweaters swagger through my mind.


To: Comcast Cable
Subject: Telephone Service Offer

Let me get this straight. You guys want to provide my telephone service now too? "Voice over Internet Protocol," – yes I am familiar with it. But why should I consider switching to Comcast for my phone service? I am already being over-charged by AT&T and Cingular. Why let you in on that money too?

Oh sure, I see your low teaser rate for phone service. But you guys always promise you'll save me money, but never have. You promised me big savings when I switched from Dish Network to Comcast cable and, for three months I did save money. Then the truth sunk in; your teaser rate was just the KY jelly to get me ready for the screwing you're administering to me now. Today my combined Comcast bill for the cable TV and Internet services has soared to $156.00 a month. And I just read you're fixing to nail me with another rate increase.

So, no way Jose on your VOIP phone service. I'm sticking with my current over-priced phone services. Since either way I get screwed, I want to spread the joy around a bit.

Oh, one more thing. Stop calling me on my traditional phone and cell lines trying to get me to switch to your phone service because your sevice “is better.” Better than what? You seem to reach me on my current phones every night around dinner time. All that proves is that my existing phone services are working just fine -- maybe too well.

Sincerely Yours, Comcastically screwed

To: Internet Hall Monitors
Subject: Your criticism(s)

I did not realize that writing a blog was an open invitation to that small but annoying breed of anal retentive that, during our grammar school years, we knew as “hall monitors.” They are the Dudley Dorights of life. The little Ms. Prim and Propers, who shamelessly ratted on the rest of us, admonished us for slamming our locker doors, ordered us not to run in the hall and invariably raised their clean little hands at 2:59 PM every Friday to remind the teacher she'd forgotten to assign homework for the weekend.

Today they ... (and you know who you are,) have moved past simple anal retentiveness to full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Deprived of school hallways to police they now scour blogs, not seeking useful and illuminating content, but in search of bad grammar, misspellings and punctuation fauxpas. When an error is found, they shoot off an email, virtually dripping with condescension, pointing out the mistake and rubbing the offender's nose in the proper spelling/punctuation/usage/syntax.

(The only thing I remember from English class was a teacher's advice on the use of comma's -- “When in doubt, leave it out.” Well, I'm always in doubt. Now that's what I call useful information!)

Anyway, as a serial offender, I would like to begin 2007 by addressing the concerns of these hall monitors who have contacted over the past couple of years about the literary minefield which is – and shall remain -- my blog:

Bite me.


To: All Flavors of the Devout
Subject: Butt out.

I have a deal for religious fundamentalists out there who keep emailing to warn that I'm on the path to Hell. I know. And I'm alright with that, so you should be too. I am not hurting anyone else so what's the issue? I just don't share your superstition of choice. I also don't believe in astrology, but astrologist's don't bug me about it. And that's the way it should be.

I've asked you to leave the rest of us alone. Still, you persist. You show up at my door, uninvited. You mess with my government, our laws, our courts, our schools, even our doctors.

So I have a deal to offer you in the coming year.

Your side of the deal:
Worship as you please, at your home, your mosque, church, synagogue or temple -- and leave the rest of us alone to live as we wish.

Our side of the deal:
In return for leaving the rest of us alone, we won't revoke your church's free-ride federal and state tax-exemptions.

How's that for a win/win situation?

Your move.

Saint Stephen of The Bleeding Heart
(My liver and pancreas are probably in rough shape as well.)

Happy New Year everyone. At least we can hope.

Just Say NO
To a Troop Surge

Enough. Enough, enough, enough! Enough with the spin and re-spin. Enough with slandering those who question this abortion of a war. And enough with the war itself. The time to put a stop to this madness was long ago. But we didn't. Instead we allowed a clutch of half-mad fundamentalists unleash a bloody, unless, un-winnable war that's killed maybe hundreds of thousands. A war that has become an insatiable black hole that sucks in more lives every day.

Now the President, and his shrinking circle of fellow travelers, want to send up to 35,000 additional US troops into that black hole. He will also ask Congress for a couple of hundred billion more dollars (we don't have) to pay for two more years of war.

Enough! We should have said enough, meant it, and forced it long ago. But today is all we have, and today is a far better day than tomorrow, to say it, “enough already!”

To Democrats, like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, I say, get with it or get the hell out of the way. You've hidden behind your triangulated, mealy-mouthed, obfuscated, do-nothing, take-no-risks, non-positions for too long. And, to our shame, we have allowed you to get away with it. Enough of that too.

The time has come for Democrats to do something for change, to stand for something, for a change. We are onto your dodge, you excuses, which can be summarized something like this:

“Sure I voted to give the President permission to attack Iraq. But I did so only to give him negotiating power. I didn't think he would really do it. And I sure didn't vote for the kind of incompetence we've seen in conducting the war.”

Oh, how tidy. How minced. How nauseatingly weaselly. That vote was four years ago. Where the hell have you been since? That vote was 2951 dead US GI's ago. Since Democrats and Republicans in congress has voted over $350 billion in funding to facilitate that deadly incompetence. So shut up with that crap, Hillary. You and Democrats like you, have your own penance to do, your own crow to choke down, your own shame to shoulder. And the best way to begin is to learn how to say, “enough!”

That's what voters said in November, “enough!” Our vote putting Democrats back in control of Congress, was not a vote for anything. It was a vote against this war. It was not a vote for “Hillary for President,” it was a vote against the current occupant of that office.

The time has come for those of you elected to congress last November to act. The day you raise your hands and are sworn into office this January the very first thing you must do – Nancy Pelosi – is to say "enough!" You need to stop this war, stop it dead in its bloody tracks. And, no, Nancy, that can't wait 100 hours until you raise in the minimum wage. In fact, we can wait for every item on your first 100 hours to-do list, Ms. Pelosi. What we can't wait one day longer for is for congress to say, “enough” to this war. No more continuing resolutions. No additional funds for a “surge” of troops to Iraq. Enough! The only money the administration should get for Iraq is just enough to pay for a safe and orderly extraction of US troops out of Mad Max Iraq.

Below is a chart every member of congress should have stapled to their forehead until they get it. It shows that, when it comes to fighting an indigenous insurgency, sending more troops is simply feeding the beast. As you can see in January 1965 Lyndon Johnson was at precisely the same juncture as George W. Bush finds himself today. The US had 180,000 troops fighting Communist Viet Cong insurgents in Vietnam, and we were losing. Johnson's choices, like Bush's now, were limited; withdraw or add troops. To Johnson, Texan like Bush, withdrawal meant defeat and he was not about to stand for that on his watch. So he added troops – a lot of troops – another 360,000 troops. (See chart below.)

We all know how that turned out. Still, even to this day, die-hard right-wingers will tell you that we didn't lose that war, but forfeited it. That politicians in Washington “tied the hands of our military.”

Excuse me. Tied whose hands? We had B-52's carpet bombing North Vietnam, air tankers defoliating thousands of square miles of rain forest, free-fire zones in which anything that moved, man, woman, child or water buffalo, was shot dead, entire villages were napalmed. I'd hate to see what those right-wingers consider “unhindered” warfare.

I only mention that because that's what we will hear from those now in favor of sending more troops to Iraq. They will argue that we have not fought in Iraq as though it was a real war, and that's precisely what we must do now. And, that if we do send more troops, we can still “succeed.”

Hello. Earth to morons. Vietnam is a smaller country than Iraq -- 325,360 sq km compared to Iraq's 432,162 sq km. We poured over half a million troops into that smaller country -- far more troops than we could muster today -- and we still couldn't gain the upper hand over those insurgents. Nevertheless we are about to be asked by this an administration -- an administration with a unbroken record of failure -- to give them one more crack at it. They want us to accept the unlikely premise that, if we just let them increase US troop strength in Iraq to something around 165,000, we could still “succeed.”

Do the math. Vietnam, 325,360 sq km/560,000 US troops - and we lost. Iraq, 100,000 sq km bigger, 165,000 US troops -- and they say we can "succeed." What nonsense. Utter, nonsense. Deadly nonsense.

So, members of congress, “enough,” okay? It's arrived -- the time to put a end to the madness now – right now. Not two years from now, not four months from now, not 100 hours from now. But now. We want it stopped and stopped immediately.

Clue to Harry Reid: Harry, Harry, Harry. After all that's happened, and with all that's happening, what were you thinking last Sunday when you said on Face The Nation, “Yes, I could support a surge, if it's for a short period....” Harry, when we hear you say things like that, at this point, we want to just reach right through our TV screens and give you the mother of all dope slaps. Jeezus man. Talk about a flat learning curve. What were you thinking?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the ball in Congress' court now. It's simple and you in congress will no longer be able to sidestep it. "He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Congress pays the piper. And what additional proof does congress need that this piper is mad as a hatter?

Which is why we demand begin the new year by calling an entirely new, and long overdue, tune. “Enough!” No more. Not one more dime. Not one more bullet. Not one more US soldier. Not one more life of an American's precious son, daughter, mother or father for Iraqis who can't kill one another fast enough, or with enough brutality.

Oh, one more thing. If you in congress fail us – again --- we will remember when we see your name on the ballot in less than two years. Last November we told you what we wanted with our vote. Stop the madness now, or come November '08 it'll to you we say, “basta!”