Friday, July 27, 2007

July 21-26, 2007

July 26, 2007

Putting the Dems on
Suicide Watch

How does one go about talking a political party out of committing suicide? That's the question. No, I'm not talking about the Republicans. It's too late for them. I'm talking about the Democrats.

Recent polls show that Democratic Party faithful seem determined to do to their party what Republicans did to their party when they chose George W. Bush to be their top dog.

And that's precisely what Democrats will do if they nominate Hillary Clinton as their candidate for President.

I know, I've been saying that for months, beating that horse and beating it.. but it'll not only still kicking, but stronger than ever. So, maybe I'm wrong. I am wrong about half the time, so this could be one of those times.

Still I can't shake the ominous feeling that Democrats are sleepwalking their party off a cliff, led by Pied Piper Hillary. My gut tells me that, if they nominate Hillary there are only two possible outcomes, both bad;

1) She will run and lose, sticking us with another Republican in the White House,
2) Or, she'll run and win sticking us with another Bill and Hillary White House soap opera.

“But Steeeeeeeeve,” Hillary supporters squeal, “Bill Clinton was a great president. “Wouldn't it be wonderful to have him back in the White House, even if it's only as First Gentleman?”

Ah.... yeah... well, ah, let me mull that for a moment ......................


You can't go home again, even if that home was once the White House. And that truism is even more so if the homeward bound couple are Bill and Hillery. There's not enough storage in the nation's Capitol for the tons of emotional, political and personal baggage Hillary and Bill would arrive at the White House carrying.

Look, Republican voters had plenty of advance warning of what a GW Bush presidency would be like. All his arrogance, incompetence and history of failure atop failure in the private sector were laid out in painful detail. Yet they got smooth-talked into voting for him anyway. And in a shocking display of a mass learning disability, they did it a second time four years later.

And now look at the Republican party. Come January 2009 Republicans in Congress will have trouble gathering quorum for morning coffee. Eight years of George W. Bush have set the GOP back a quarter century – which of course it great news for the rest of us.

But, if Democrats succeed in putting Hillary Clinton in the White House they will doom their party to the same fate. If you think Americans are sick and tired of Bush's smirks and lies and incompetence, just wait til they get a belly full of a triangulating Hillary Clinton administration.

Like it or not – fair or not -- Bill and Hillary have an image problem. Madison Avenue has succeeded in crippling American's critical thinking skills. Today perception is reality. And the perception way too many Americans have of Hillary and Bill was engineered by the rabid-right. Since Bill Clinton left office such perceptions have laid dominant. But if you think it's dead, or that Hillary's term as a US Senator and Bill's charitable work have changed those perceptions, I have headache remedy to sell you that you apply directly to the forehead.

Assuming Hillary wins and serves only one term, that would mean 1460 days of news coverage speculating who's the top and who's the bottom. Would it be a week, or month into a Billery administration before the first rumors began to swirl that Bill was having White House maids doing more than just his laundry. True? Made up? No one will know, and many won't even care. There we would be once again, trapped in vicious cycle of smarmy accusations countered by dubious denials from two serial dissemblers.

Hillary says she would send Bill off as a roving ambassador, which sounds like a good idea – until you think about it. First there's the appearance problems that would cause. Face it, much of the world is still mired in patriarchy. Combine that with the fact that Bill Clinton attracts media attention like Paris Hilton – (let us pray the two never actually meet on the road) – and all that will raise the obvious questions of who is making US foreign policy – Hill or Bill?

Of course President Hillary Clinton's White House spokes-things will dismiss such questions as nonsense, stating that Bill is simply doing Hillary's bidding. But whenever Bill steps in front of the kleeg lights and cameras overseas it'll be deja vu all over again. It will be President Bill Clinton that reappears, like those visions on the Virgin Mary that folks say they see on all kinds of stuff.

Then there's Bill's rep as a randy dandy. I knew a person whose father used to work on Bill Clinton's campaigns when he was governor of Arkansas. Whenever Bill was on the campaign trail this guy's job was to bring a sleeping bag and pillow and sleep in the hall, leaning against Bill's hotel room door. Because if someone didn't do that Gov. Bill was likely to sneak out and go hound dogging at local bars.

So, who will do that job when Bill off mentoring the world's leaders for his presidential wife? (“Hi, my name is Bill, ¿Como se llama?) Would it be the same Secret Service that allowed Monica prance in and out of the Oval Office at will? Forgetaboutit.

I personally don't give a fig what Billy does with his Willy. I just don't want to hand the Ken Starr/Swift Boat nut balls lurking out there another gift. (And if you doubt that that is precisely what will happen, then it's you that's suffering a learning disability.)

Then there's Hillary Clinton, herself. No woman since Lizzy Borden has created more a fuss. Justified or unjustified, is it really more meaningless fuss we need right now? Don't we have more important things boiling over on our stove than Hillary? Yes! Yes we do!. But have no doubt about it, if Hillary runs and is elected, the issue will be Hillary -- all Hillary, all the time. (Is she making a statement on global warming by showing cleavage?)

When George Bush is asked a question about something important, he either lies or serves up answers so at odds with reality that they blow our cerebral fuses.

When Hillary answers questions her lips move, sounds come out but the experience leaves one feeling like they'd reached for cold beer but got only foam. It tastes like beer, smells like beer, but it fails to quench our thirst. After eight years of being forced to drink Neo-con Koolaide we deserve better than four years of Hillary's rhetorical foam.

The bulk of Hillary's support, according to the polls, comes form women. I get that. But roughly half the US population is made up of women. Is Hillary really the best woman we can come up with? Or are women supporting her because she's the only woman running for President? If that's the reason women are supporting Hillary, it's a really bad reason.

I know it's unfair, but women will pay a heavy price for a Hillary presidency. While most Americans are sick of George W. Bush, they won't take that out on any of the men running for President. But after four years of a Hillary presidency they will take their feelings about her out on the next woman to run for that office... and the next, and the next....

Unfair? Yes. Illogical? You bet. Wrong? Stupid? Ignorant? All true. Nevertheless, that's precisely what will happen.

The first woman president must be a slam dunk. She must be a Golda Mier. Hillary is not that person.

I'm sorry that all of Hillary's opponents are males. I wish there were more women, in both parties, running for President. There are great women in Congress, any one of which would be a better choice for the nation than Hillary. On the Republican side, Senator Olympia Snowe, would make a fabulous president, and there's Barbara Boxer on the Democratic side. While each of those women would bring the usual political baggage to their candidacy, neither would be the ruinous distraction from the real issues as Hillary Clinton.

Is Hillary Clinton smart enough to be President of the United States? Sure. (She was smart enough even before George W. Bush lowered that bar.) Is she tough enough? Yep. Tough as nails.

So what's my problem with Hillary?

My problem with Hillary is ... well, Hillary. I don't want the next four years to be all about Hillary. Instead I want it to be all about fixing the things George broke during his eight years in office. And I am as sure as I have ever been about anything before that, if Hillary is elected President we will quickly find Washington consumed with the goings on in the latest FOX series, As the Clinton's Turn, Part II.

July 23, 2007

Feel the Heat, Yet?

On July 17th President Bush signed another executive order. It should have made the front page and been the lead story on every newscast, but wasn't. In fact, unless you read the so-called “alternative” press, you probably still don't know a thing about it. Yet it could land your ass in jail and/or get your financial assets frozen or seized.

President Bush's latest order builds atop earlier “national security” executive orders Bush signed in the wake of 9/11. Here's the new order – with my annotations.

Executive Order:
Blocking Property of

Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004.

(This is what I call the “boiling the frog” method of de-constitutionalizing the US government. Put a frog in a pot of room-temperature water and turn the burner on low. As the water slowly heats the frog doesn't notice it's being boiled to death -- until it's too late. Each of Bush's national security executive orders turned up the heat provided by earlier orders. One hardly feels their liberties slip, sliding away. But read on... )

I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order,

(Hello? What's all that about? Well, among other things I figure it exempts anyone or company the US has “licensed” to do things in regard to Iraq, that have subsequently proven to have done more harm than good to the administration's stated goals in Iraq. Oh come on, you know, like Halliburton and Blackwater, et al.)

... all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(Hey look, there's two new federal deputies in town. Sheriff Bush just deputized the Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Defense. Bet you didn't know the Secretary of Defense could snatch the domestic assets of American citizens without a court order. Not only that but these two deputies don't even need to check with the Dept of Justice if they think you're up to no good, vis a vie Iraq. All the Secretary of the Treasury and the Sec. of Defense need to do is “consult,” before they freeze your ass-ets. I wish the Sec. of Treasury had that kind of power on Wall Street over sub-prime MBS and hedge funds. Oh wait.. he does. He just hasn't used it.)

Okay, let's delve into the guts of the new order. (Please keep hands and arms inside the column and try not to look suspicious.) The new order covers any person or entity deemed:

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq;

(Let's see. Over the last five years who might have done the most to “threaten the peace or stability of the Government of Iraq?” Oh, yeah... the Bush administration. Maybe the Sec's. of Treasury and Defense need to “consult” about that first.)

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(Ah, that explains why Halliburton is relocating it's corporate headquarters to Dubia. Getting out of Dodge while the gettin' is good.)

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

(Would that include US forces arming Sunni militias? Because any fool knows that, sooner or later, all that US ordinance is going to end being used to destabilize the Shiite-controlled central government.)

(iii)to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(Guess you better start checking on what your friends and business associates are up to. Because if one of them is up to no good, vis a vie Iraq – and upon “consultation” they are deemed to in violation of this new order -- your ass-ets and your friend's ass-ets could be playing drop the soap together in some federal lockup.)

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

(Do you really know what Goodwill and the St. Vincent de Paul do with the stuff you donate? Huh? Well, under this order, you just better hope that old computer desk you donated to Goodwill doesn't somehow end up in an al Qaeda safe house in Crazistan.)

Sec. 2. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(Got it? If you're against what the administration is doing in Iraq, keep it to yourself. Don't even think about it. And, while not thinking about it, you better not appear to trying to “evade or avoid” thinking about it either. )

b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is( prohibited.

(Got friends?)

Sec. 3. For purposes of this order:
(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;

(Point of clarification: The term “entity” in this order does not refer to Dick Cheney.)

(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

(Yes, that would mean you.)

Sec. 4. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

(Let's see... could that include a donation to, oh say, Cindy Sheehan? Or Or a pro-impeachment organization?.... Nah.... Couldn't happen. Although there seems little to prevent it, since the order does say that Bush is “the decider” in such matters: “I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified...”)

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

(Whoa! If you're a vocal opponent to the war in Iraq, you might want to consider putting your money under a mattress. Because this order gives the feds the power to snatch your ass-ets without even so much as a hoody-do. You could wake up the morning after attending a big anti-war march and discover none of your debit cards work, all your checks bounce and the ATM refuses to dish out any of your (former) dough. It's kinda like discovering your car, which had been parked in your garage, was towed – to Washington, DC.)

Sec. 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government, consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order and, where appropriate, to advise the Secretary of the Treasury in a timely manner of the measures taken.

(In otherwords those two new deputies, the Sec's of State and Defense, have been given the power to name their own assistant deputies. Hell, they can deputize entire federal agencies to keep an eye on your ass-ets. Remember that the next time you deduct a charitable contribution on your taxes. Because that posse of green-eyeshaded al Qaeda hunting IRS deputies might just decide that not all 501 (3) c's are created equal -- in particular, the one(s) you contribute to.)

Sec. 7. Nothing in this order is intended to affect the continued effectiveness of any rules, regulations, orders, licenses, or other forms of administrative action issued, taken, or continued in effect heretofore or hereafter under 31 C.F.R. chapter V, except as expressly terminated, modified, or suspended by or pursuant to this order.

(Okay, it's safe to laugh at that one. After all, what “rules, orders or other forms of adminstrative actions” of this administration have been in any way, “effective?” Hell, these people can't even issue passports to their own citizens or get aid to flood victims in their own country. But they can seem to get farm subsidy checks to long-dead farmers.)

Sec. 8. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right, benefit, or privilege, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

(In otherwords, if the deputies “consult,” and decide to grab your ass-ets, and turn out to be wrong, you can't sue them. Being in the Bush administration means never having to say you're sorry.)

July 17, 2007.

I don't know about you, but I think we're in deep water here ... deep and disconcertingly hot.

Video of the Day

July 20, 2007

How's Your Bullsit Detector?

Most days lately I feel like a losing boxer in the 12th round of 15-round match. Each morning I stagger out of my corner fully expecting another beating, and rarely am I wrong. How did this happen? Less than seven years ago I danced like butterfly and stung like a bee. How did I (we) fall so far, so fast?

In a word -- “Bullshit.” That's right, bullshit. I, and the rest of us, allowed ourselves to be bullshitted into weakness, hopelessness, fear and despair. I'm not kidding. It really is that simple – and just that depressing. And it's just that embarrassing.

For some months now I've had a link on this site (over there in the right frame ---> )to a remarkable address given 38-years ago to a convention of English teachers. It was delivered by author and scholar, Neil Postman way back in 1969. The speech was quite long, and some of it dealt with teaching. Which is why I suspect many folks never cut through the whole thing. So I've edited out the extraneous matter leaving intact Postman's core message, which I would summarize as, “Citizens living in a democracy, if they hope to keep that democracy, need to learn how to tell the difference between facts and bullshit."

Clearly, too many of us didn't, and as a direct result tens of thousands have died in Iraq and now our own democracy is threatened. All because critical thinking took a vacation, and the price we've paid for that lapse is staggering -- and growing.

Which is why I figured it was time to bring this piece up front for further attention, in the hopes it will prompt everyone to dust off their crap-detectors. Postman saw the danger nearly 40 years ago, tried to warn us, we didn't listen, and the rest is history.

(PS: While this speech was given to teachers in 1969 it would be even more relevant if given to journalists today !)

“Bullshit and the Art of Crap -Detection”
by Neil Postman

(Delivered at the National Convention for the Teachers of English [NCTE], November 28, 1969, Washington, D.C.)

With a title like this, I think I ought to dispense with the rhetorical amenities and come straight to the point. For those of you who do not know, it may be worth saying that the phrase, “crap-detecting,” originated with Ernest Hemingway who when asked if there were one quality needed, above all others, to be a good writer, replied, “Yes, a built-in, shock-proof, crap detector.”

As I see it, the best things schools can do for kids is to help them learn how to distinguish useful talk from bullshit. I will ask only that you agree that every day in almost every way people are exposed to more bullshit than it is healthy for them to endure, and that if we can help them to recognize this fact, they might turn away from it and toward language that might do them some earthly good.

There are so many varieties of bullshit I couldn’t hope to mention but a few, and elaborate on even fewer. I will, therefore, select those varieties that have some transcendent significance.

Now, that last sentence is a perfectly good example of bullshit, since I have no idea what the words “transcendent significance” might mean and neither do you. I needed something to end that sentence with and since I did not have any clear criteria by which to select my examples, I figured this was the place for some big-time words.

Pomposity is not an especially venal form of bullshit, although it is by no means harmless. There are plenty of people who are daily victimized by pomposity in that they are made to feel less worthy than they have a right to feel by people who use fancy titles, words, phrases, and sentences to obscure their own insufficiencies.

A much more malignant form of bullshit than pomposity is what some people call fanaticism. Now, there is one type of fanaticism of which I will say very little, because it is so vulgar and obvious -- bigotry. But there are other forms of fanaticism that are not so obvious, and therefore perhaps more dangerous than bigotry

Eichmannism is a relatively new form of fanaticism, and perhaps it should be given its own special place among the great and near-great varieties of bullshit. The essence of fanaticism is that it has almost no tolerance for any data that do not confirm its own point of view.

Eichmannism is especially dangerous because it is so utterly banal. Some of the nicest people turn out to be mini-Eichmanns. When Eichmann was in the dock in Jerusalem, he actually said that some of his best friends were Jews. And the horror of it is that he was probably telling the truth, for there is nothing personal about Eichmannism. It is the language of regulations, and includes such logical sentences as, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all.” Can you imagine some wretched Jew pleading to have his children spared from the gas chamber? What could be more fair, more neutral, than for some administrator to reply, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all.”

This is a form of talk which pays a large but, I would think, relatively harmless role in our personal lives. But with the development of the mass media, inanity has suddenly emerged as a major form of language in public matters. The invention of new and various kinds of communication has given a voice and an audience to many people whose opinions would otherwise not be solicited, and who, in fact, have little else but verbal excrement to contribute to public issues. Many of these people are entertainers. The press and air waves are filled with the featured and prime-time statements from people who are in no position to render informed judgments on what they are talking about and yet render them with élan and, above all, sincerity. Inanity, then, is ignorance presented in the cloak of sincerity.

Superstition is ignorance presented in the cloak of authority. A superstition is a belief, usually expressed in authoritative terms for which there is no factual or scientific basis. Like, for instance, that the country in which you live is a finer place, all things considered, than other countries. Or that the religion into which you were born confers upon you some special standing with the cosmos that is denied other people. I will refrain from commenting further on that, except to say that when I hear such talk by own crap-detector achieves unparalleled spasms of activity.

If teachers were to take an enthusiastic interest in what language is about, each teacher would have fairly serious problems to resolve. For instance, you can’t identify bullshit the way you identify phonemes. That is why I have called crap-detecting an art. Although subjects like semantics, rhetoric, or logic seem to provide techniques for crap-detecting, we are not dealing here, for the most part, with a technical problem.

Each person's crap-detector is embedded in their value system; if you want to teach the art of crap-detecting, you must help students become aware of their values. After all, Vice President, Spiro Agnew, or his writers, know as much about semantics as anyone in this room. What he is lacking has very little to do with technique, and almost everything to do with values.

Now, I realize that what I just said sounds fairly pompous in itself, if not arrogant, but there is no escaping from saying what attitudes you value if you want to talk about crap-detecting.

In other words, bullshit is what you call language that treats people in ways you do not approve of.

So any teacher who is interested in crap-detecting must acknowledge that one man’s bullshit is another man’s catechism. Students should be taught to learn how to recognize bullshit, including their own.

It seems to me one needs, first and foremost, to have a keen sense of the ridiculous. Maybe I mean to say, a sense of our impending death. About the only advantage that comes from our knowledge of the inevitability of death is that we know that whatever is happening is going to go away. Most of us try to put this thought out of our minds, but I am saying that it ought to be kept firmly there, so that we can fully appreciate how ridiculous most of our enthusiasms and even depressions are.

Reflections on one’s mortality curiously makes one come alive to the incredible amounts of inanity and fanaticism that surround us, much of which is inflicted on us by ourselves. Which brings me to the next point, best stated as Postman’s Third Law:

“At any given time, the chief source of bullshit with which you have to contend is yourself.”

The reason for this is explained in Postman’s Fourth Law, which is;

“Almost nothing is about what you think it is about--including you.”

With the possible exception of those human encounters that Fritz Peris calls “intimacy,” all human communications have deeply embedded and profound hidden agendas. Most of the conversation at the top can be assumed to be bullshit of one variety or another.

An idealist usually cannot acknowledge his own bullshit, because it is in the nature of his “ism” that he must pretend it does not exist. In fact, I should say that anyone who is devoted to an “ism”--Fascism, Communism, Capital-ism--probably has a seriously defective crap-detector. This is especially true of those devoted to “patriotism.” Santha Rama Rau has called patriotism a squalid emotion. I agree. Mainly because I find it hard to escape the conclusion that those most enmeshed in it hear no bullshit whatever in its rhetoric, and as a consequence are extremely dangerous to other people. If you doubt this, I want to remind you that murder for murder, General Westmoreland makes Vito Genovese look like a Flower Child.

Another way of saying this is that all ideologies are saturated with bullshit, and a wise man will observe Herbert Read’s advice: “Never trust any group larger than a squad.”

So you see, when it comes right down to it, crap-detection is something one does when he starts to become a certain type of person. Sensitivity to the phony uses of language requires, to some extent, knowledge of how to ask questions, how to validate answers, and certainly, how to assess meanings.

I said at the beginning that I thought there is nothing more important than for kids to learn how to identify fake communication. You, therefore, probably assume that I know something about now to achieve this. Well, I don’t. At least not very much. I know that our present curricula do not even touch on the matter. Neither do our present methods of training teachers. I am not even sure that classrooms and schools can be reformed enough so that critical and lively people can be nurtured there.

Nonetheless, I persist in believing that it is not beyond your profession to invent ways to educate youth along these lines. (Because) there is no more precious environment than our language environment. And even if you know you will be dead soon, that’s worth protecting.

Video Of the Week

Here's one guy whose bullshit/crap detector is working just fine. Watch this if you missed it Thursday night:

July 17, 2007

Reality Check Time

What are the odds you're going to get murdered today? Are they higher or lower than they were yesterday, or last week, or ten years ago?

Say you make it through today, what about tomorrow? What are the odds you'll get killed tomorrow... and when I say killed, I don't mean falling in the shower, or run over by a drunk driver while crossing the street – I mean killed violently by another person?

Let's take the question down one level. What are the odds someone you love, care about or just know, will be slain today, tomorrow, or even during your entire lifetime ?

I figure the odds of any of those things happening to you or anyone you know range somewhere between slim and slimmer. And, despite the steady flow of fear mongering out of Washington, those odds have changed little, if any, over the last six years.

Since none of us likes to think about dying, we try not to. Which is why we need to force the issue every now and then. Otherwise the terrorists win. Which terrorists? Both kinds. The Islamically-poisoned ones that want you to live in fear, and our own mis-leaders in Washington, who have found it most useful to leverage terrorist threats to keep you living in fear.

If you took to heart every claim or threat made by these two groups on any given day, you'd never leave the house.

Al-Qaida keeps claiming that the attacks of 9/11 were the first of many to come. And that the next attacks will be even bigger.

To get itself re-elected in 2004, the Bush administration assured us they had al-Qaida on the run, that they were weaker than ever. This month the same folks, now under pressure because of it's disastrous war in Iraq, warned us that, “they're baaaaaaaaaaacccck.” That al-Qaida has regrouped and is stronger (and scarier) than ever.

Does al-Qaida and the Bush administration employ the same PR firm? Sure sounds like it. Al-Qaida says, “We're gonna get you.” The Bush administration says, “Al-Qaida is still trying to get you.” The only change today is that the administration has ginned up it's warnings, adding now that they just don't want to kill you but also “your children and grand children too.” (At this pace, can an al-Qaida threat to our family pets be far behind? Will they plant Dandelions in suburban lawns, return VHS tapes un-rewound, litter?)

I don't mean to trivialize all this. Certainly terrorism is real and terrorists hurt and kill real people somewhere on earth everyday. And I do not doubt for a second that killing Americans here is right at the top of their lunatic wish list.

All I am suggesting is that, before we decide how to respond to that threat, we assess precisely what it is terrorist and terrorism really threatens.

So here's my reality check.

1)What threat does Islamic terrorism pose to America?
Even at it's most vicious and effective levels, could it overthrow our government, take control of our institutions, subjugate the people and impose its will on the nation? No. Not even close. The “best” Islamic terrorists can hope is to be very annoying. By blowing things up from time to time they can disrupt a few city blocks, kill X-number of innocent people and, in so doing, assure that the last thing the rest of Americans would want is a country run by murderous sociopaths like them.

2)How should we respond to terrorist threats and acts on US soil?
The same way we respond to other potentially lethal threats – with some degree of proportionality. Lots of things kill Americans every year that we don't “declare war” on. For example:

Over the last 20 Years on Average:
Americans killed each year in auto accidents 42,116
By the common flu 20,000
Murdered by common criminals 15,517

Food-borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses,
325,000 hospitalizations,
and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.

On 9/11 somewhere around 3000 innocent people were killed by terrorists. Since then only five people died on US soil tied to a terrorist-type attack (the Anthrax letters.) So, 3005 divided by six years gives us a rough average of 500 Americans a year dying at the hands of terrorists.

Could it get worse? Sure. All manners of death statically rise and fall, which is why they have to be averaged. It could also get safer, driving the average lower. All we can do is make our decisions on the things that have already happened -- or not happened.

So, as the terrorist headquartered in Pakistan and the ones dug in in Washington threaten and warn we're so to be toast, the only sane way way to respond is to stop – take a deep breath and try to put those threats into some kind dispassionate perspective. The best way to do that is to compare the likelihood of dying from various threats, not just one:

According to statisticians at The National Safety Council:

You face 1 chance in 84 of dying in an auto accident during your lifetime
You face 1 chance in 218 of dying in a fall
You face 1 chance in 1113 of dying in a building fire
You face 1 chance in 193 of being poisoned to death by something
You face 1 chance in 314 of being killed by a gun

Using the same metrics employed in that study, your odds of being killed on American soil by a terrorist attack is 1 chance in 7496. (Another way of looking at it is that every day you drive to work you are 90 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.)

Speaking of cars, John Edwards got a lot of flack for claiming that the term, “War on Terror,” was little more than a bumper sticker slogan. His point was that the current administration has used it as a propagandistic slogan to gin up fear and support for it's ruinous foreign policies and it's anti-democratic domestic actions. The numbers – and the odds – support Edward's claim.

When you look closely you see Edwards was right on the mark. How so? Because:

Your chances of dying an unnatural death are not a single iota greater today than they were before 9/11.

Nor is your nation threatened by them. Terrorists pose no genuine military, social or constitutional threat to America's democracy, Government or way of life.

In fact, the only documented threat to the American way of life has come from our own government's reaction to terrorism. To date, the only liberties Americans have lost have been lost at the hands of their own government by citing terrorism as the reason.

The Dept. of Homeland Security -- isn't. The truth of the matter is that the Dept. of Homeland Security is a giant pork distribution agency. DHS has far less to do with securing the homeland than it does in providing members of Congress and the administration a way to funnel billions of federal tax dollars into the coffers of state and local governments around the country.

While DHS forces you to take your shoes off at airport security check points and to get a passport to get back into your country after visiting the Caribbean, each and everyday over 3000 aliens successfully swim, stroll or drive across the Mexican border right into the US. Were the Dept. of Homeland Security really about homeland security it's very first act would have been to plug such an enormous hole in the country's security.

But HMS had done almost nothing to plug that hole. Instead billions of dollars have been spent on municipal bling, like new fire engines for the Dog Patch volunteer fire department, gas masks and decontamination stations Mayberry-sized police departments and high-tech HazMat gear for first responders in rural towns so poor they can't even attract a single doctor to care for its own citizens.

I only mention all this because today the administration is releasing the latest National Intelligence Estimate – or at least those parts of it they want you to know about. Most of the NIE will remain classified.

But the message will be the same as it has been since 9/11 -- “Be afraid. And stay that way. Let us do what we feel we need to do to protect you.”

Personally I would rather they protect me from those things most likely to kill my ass, and my children and grandkid's asses as well. Things like global warming, food poisoning, nuts who can get their hands on loaded guns and toxic products flowing into the country from places like China. (You know it's gotta be bad when even their dog food is deadly.)

Those are the things you should worry might kill you. Because death at the hands of some Koran-ically lobotomized terrorist is about as likely as waking up tomorrow morning to learn that Dick Cheney resigned from office, announcing he was undergoing a sex change operation so he could marry his longtime secret lover, Ted Kennedy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

July 14-July 19, 2007

Of Battered Wives
and the US Congress

Is it just me, or have you noticed it too? Something is afoot -- maybe. All of a sudden I am reading and seeing on TV individuals who wear suits and can quote the US constitution from memory, talking about the impeachment of George W. Bush and his sidekick.

My first clue was when I read last week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a radio station, “We can't take impeachment off the table.”

Holy whiplash, Batman, isn't that exactly the opposite of what she's been saying since crowned Speaker last January? What happened there?

Then there was the extraordinary interview Bill Moyers did last week with John Nichols of The Nation magazine and Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official during the Reagan administration who drafted articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton.

(If you missed it, you shouldn't have. Here are the highlights: )

Neocons may dismiss Nichol's views as those of a “known liberal,” but what about Fine? No lib there. Fine is the guy conservatives tapped to craft and pen the case against Clinton. Now he wants to do the same thing for Bush – and for precisely the same reasons.

Both men explained that impeachment, always framed by mainstream media as a “constitutional crisis,” is actually precisely the opposite. Impeachment, they explained, is the solution to a constitutional crisis. The real constitutional crisis occurs when Congress fails to protect and maintain the balance of power the Founders enshrined in the constitution.

“The Founders gave congress the power to impeach as the remedy to an imperial presidency,” Fine noted.

Of course those on the right will claim that any talk of impeaching Bush and Cheney is purely political – as though that were something bad. Hello! Of course it's political. It's a political process created and delineated by the cornerstone political document – our US constitution. You remember that the document, the user manual for our democracy. (Maybe it would be more popular if the Founders had entitled it, “Democracy for Dummies.”)

Back when Republicans pushed to impeach Bill Clinton for perjury Democrats screamed, “politics,” too. But Fine explained that Bill Clinton got himself in that jam by trying to put himself above the law. Never mind that what he lied about was hardly a matter of national security, all Fine cares about it that he lied, committed a crime – perjury. The rest is simply back-story.

Fine says that there is now plenty of evidence that Bush and Cheney too have lied -- more than once and about matters far more serious than Clinton's little walk on the wild side. Fien says that is why Congress should have begun impeachment hearings long ago. Not so much to remove Bush and Cheney from office, but as way of laying down constitutional markers, lines in the sand over which Congress was not about to allow the executive branch to simply ignore.

Fien adds that even now that their term in office is short, Congress should still proceed with impeachment hearings in order to reestablish and reinforce the constitutional balance – the whole “co-equal branches” business – as the Founders intended.

But Congress still has not done so. Will they?

Democrats worry that trying to impeach Bush and Cheney would blow back on them in the 2008 elections, by making them appear petty and politically motivated. A perception which is, of course their own damn fault. If they hadn't spent the last six years acting like such a pack of conniving little weasels maybe we'd be less likely to jump such a conclusion.

Now that they've richly earned that reputation they'll have to undo it. And the only way to do that is to start talking to us straight from the heart. Believe me, we do know the difference. We can feel it, even more than we hear it. We know when you're just jerking us off – again. We and, while far and few between, we know immediately when a pol has had it and suddenly starts blathering truth. And we love it when that happens.

If Congress proceeds with impeachment hearings all they need to do is honestly explain why they've come to that point. That they are not attacking a Republican administration, but rather circling the wagons around the US Constitution, under attack by that administration.

Republicans too need to sober up and get on the right side of this fight – just as they did when another Republican president, Richard Nixon, believed he could do whatever the hell he wanted to do, legal or otherwise – too often otherwise.

The sobering agent for Republicans should be evident. In about two years the next occupants of the White House will likely be Democrats. Do Republicans want to have to face four or eight years of being dissed, ignored and further marginalized by a Democratic administration, simply because they allowed Bush and Cheney to set such precedents?

Some also warn that the US Supreme Court, now in conservative hands, could actually validate the Bush administration's expansive view of executive powers. Not likely. While the Supreme Court may have been able to fix one national election for conservatives they can't count of being handed the same extraordinary opportunity again, any time soon. Therefore the Supremes, like Republicans in congress, are not going to want to hand a Democratic president imperial power. (Besides, once congress is neutered, might not the Court itself be next? Sure, why not. A compliant congress might be asked by the president to pass a constitutional amendment clipping the wings of the judges all the way up to the Supremes themselves. “Mission Accomplished.”)

While it's refreshing to see and hear accomplished, articulate and sane adults suddenly talking right out loud about impeachment, nothing is going to happen unless the idea catches fire in Congress. So far it has not, and I have a theory why. Since last November's switch of control in Congress to Democrats, Congress been treated by this administration like the classic battered wife.

For the first six years of the Bush presidency he hardly had to raise his voice. During that period Congress was a perfect Stepford wife, obedient, deferential and which spoke only when spoken to. Then came the 2006 elections and the new Congress got restless. (Call it the Seven Year Itch.) Congress suddenly started talking back, demanding her “rights” and questioning the head of the household.

That's when the real abuse began, and it's gotten progressively worse ever since. Like most abusive relationships the abuser in this case, Bush, et al, have succeeded in keeping the abused off balance, scared, confused and, most important, powerless.

If called to investigate, here's how the police report might read:

Police Report

Incident: Domestic Violence

Suspect(s): George W. Bush, Richard “Dick” Cheney.

Victim(s): US House of Representatives, US Senate


1. Suspect GB has consistently refused to allow victims H and S to participate in decisions involving family matters. GB perpetrated this offense through the use of extra-legal instruments he refers to as “Presidential Signing Statements.” (Claims that GB's associate, DC, shouted at victims, “Shut up bitch, we decide the rules under this roof,” could not be immediately confirmed.)

2. GB and associate, Alberto Gonzales, have repeatedly lied when victims inquired into their actions. (“There hasn't been a single violation of US law in the application of the Patriot Act.”) Said lying appears to have begun almost seven years ago and has continued and expanded to include a broad sweep of issues, including but not limited to possible perjury. These matters include lying about issues critical to the health, safety and security of the family, including but not limited to science, the environment and national security.

3. Possible obstruction of justice and/or destruction of evidence: GB, DC, AG and a number of unnamed associates, when made aware of this investigation, began hiding and destroying evidence and other community property, rather than sharing it with victims as the law requires. (“Oops, seems we deleted a 5 million – executive branch emails.”)

4. Refusal to communicate and/or obstruction of justice : When victims H & S tried to make inquiries into suspects' abusive behavior, suspects GB, DC and others in their employ, refused to communicate with victims, claiming they didn't have to. This extraordinary claim was later extended to cover friends, associates and former employees of suspects as well. (“Harriet Meirs has been told to ignore the Congressional subpoena.”)

5. Alienation of Association. When asked to follow certain laws that cover suspects GB and DC, DC claimed he was not member of that branch of the family after all, and therefore did not have to follow said laws. DC's accomplice, GB, subsequently backed DC's alibi. DC continues to maintain this position, continues to violate said laws and rules and continues to refuse to communicate with victims regarding this ongoing abuse.

The result of all the above abuse of congress and the constitution by this administration has rendered Congress cowed, confused and afraid to act in it's own interest or that of the family as a whole. The remaining Stepford Republicans continue making excuses for their abusive leaders, while Democrats fain action through procedural, “non-binding,” symbolic legislation.

What do we need to do in order to empower these poor, pathetic battered representatives of the people? Are they afraid to act because they no longer feel safe in their own houses? Must we set up a safe house for them somewhere somewhere on Capitol Hill where their batterers can't get at them?

Are members of congress so far gone that we need some kind of national intervention? Do “we the people” need to descend on Washington en mass, drag these legislative basket cases out of their offices one at time and give them the “remember us,” lecture?

Wait! Come to think of it we don't have to go to Washington to intervene after all. Because they are coming to us this August. They'll be back in their home districts (at least when not playing golf or raising money) and that's the perfect time for us to let them know that, if they stand up to their abusers, we'll stand with them.

And, if they won't then we won't be there for them come November 2008.

July 9, 2007

Here's the first story that presented itself when I logged on this morning:

Iraqis warn of civil war if U.S. troops withdraw
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi leaders warned on Monday that an early U.S. troop withdrawal could tip Iraq into all-out civil war after the New York Times said debate was growing in the White House over a gradual scaling-down of forces... "This could produce a civil war, partition of the country and a regional war. We might see the country collapse," Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, told a news conference when asked about the New York Times report. (Full)

After swallowing my first mouthful of coffee, I heard myself declare out loud, “So what!

I quickly scanned the room to see if anyone might have heard me. I mean, it was such a heartless way to feel, right? Isn't Iraq and deadly conditions oppressing ordinary Iraqis one of the things we Americans are supposed to care about? Like Darfur?

It took a moment for that first gulp of caffeine to jar awake enough neurons. When it did I blurted again; “No f—king way!” Then I reissued my initial judgment on idea that, if US troops leave, Iraq will descend into all out civil war; “So what! Let-er rip.”

The threat that Iraq would devolve in civil war if we reduce our military presence is just the latest in a long string of bogus excuses and justifications for Bush's oil and blood-stained mess in Mesopotamia. Each lie served its purposed until choked to death by the truth. Then the administration replaced it with a fresh piece of complete nonsense. The threat of an Iraq civil war is their latest offering.

So here we go again – and again the administration's little helpers are Iraqi leaders – or would-be leaders. These guys have become accustomed to living fat off US taxpayer money while being protected by US GIs. So, is it any surprise they sing backup for the Bushie band?

That's what's going on here. Both the Bushies and their pretend democratic government in Iraq are now just singing for time. Bush needs time to get out of Dodge before the whole thing blows. And Iraq's “leaders” realize that the day their US protectors depart, Maliki and friends will be swinging from Baghdad lampposts like so many auto air fresheners.

Or as the Daily Show's, Jon Stewart, put it:

“The administration warns that if we pull out Iraq, Iraq will be overrun .... by IRAQIS!”

All of which is reason for you to get ready for a blizzard of new and old "reasons" we can't just pull our troops out of Iraq. It's gonna get intense, so here's my “So what's" for when I run into right-wing family members or friends armed with their own FOX Noise talking points:

They claim: Iran will take advantage of instability in Iraq to exert influence over Iraq's Shiite majority.
The Real Deal: Ah, too late. The US-engineered deposing of Saddam's Sunni dictatorship, was the best thing to happen to the Iranians since the invention of rugs.

They claim: The Kurds in northern Iraq will attempt to set up their own independent nation and lay claim to the oil-rich areas around Kirkuk.
The Real Deal: Ah, too late, again. The Kurds have already renamed their part of Iraq, “Kurdistan,” and they treat it accordingly. As for Kirkuk, while everyone has been focused on Bush's Baghdad surge, the Kurds have been doing a bit of house cleaning of their own in Kirkuk by evicting Sunnis' transplanted there by Saddam's regime.

They claim: Al-Qaida will turn Iraq into a new base of operations, like their former one in Afghanistan.
The Real Deal: Fat chance. If US troops announced they would immediately begin withdrawing, buses heading for Syria would be packed with al-Qaida fighters trying to flee. Those unable to get a seat would turn themselves into departing American forces begging for a room at Gitmo. Because once Americans leave the “enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend,” dynamic that allowed al-Qaida to operate in Sunni areas, would vanish in a puff. The Sunnis never much cared for al-Qaida to begin with, and they like them even less now that they've gotten to know them better. The first order of business after US troops leave Iraq would be to get rid of these unpredictable, violent, and foreign controlled al-Qaida fighters. The Sunnis would begin killing them like rattlers during a Texas snake roundup. The Shiites would wait for surviving al-Qaida fighters to run to them for help and open their arms to them -- like a Venus fly trap.

They claim: Without US troops Iraq will become unstable.
The Real Deal: Too late.

They claim: We need to remain in Iraq in order to give the Iraq government time to pass an oil-sharing law and solidify a government of reconciliation.
The Real Deal: Yeah, and theoretically put enough monkeys pounding away at enough typewriters and they'll eventually produce an entire encyclopedia too. The Iraqi government is not a government. It's some kind of 12-step program for the democratically challenged. And they haven't even completed Step 1 yet. Nor are they inclined to do so. The only reason they show up for meetings at all is because their sponsor says they must if they want to keep getting paid and protected.

They claim: Iraq will break up as nation if we leave.
The Real Deal: So what? When Bush invaded he handed Iraq to the Shiite majority, and they're in no mood to give any of i it back, if they can avoid it. The whole national unity business is just another bit of bogus Bush business. Same goes for the “democracy” thing, all just one big Kabuki dance performed when members of Congress or the US media show up to check on progress. Nothing has changed except which who's in charge. Forget “one-man-one-vote.” Iraq has always been, and remains, a one-bullet-one-vote sorta joint. The fact of the matter is that Iraq is not a real nation, because it has never been one. It's three tribal areas. Oh, and they hate each other. Always have. Always will.

They claim: If we leave now before democracy takes root in Iraq the entire region will remain a democracy-free zone.
The Real Deal: Another “so what.” Go ahead and accuse me of engaging in what Bush likes to call the “bigotry of low expectations.” But it should be clear by now that the Arab Muslim world – intellectually crippled by un-reconstructed Islam – isn't ready for democracy. When it's forced on them they simply misuse it to make matters worse – worse for themselves and worse for anyone foolish enough to believe otherwise. Go head, show me one – just one -- example of a democratic vote in the Arab world leading to anything but a fresh shit storm. The Muslim Middle East is a mess. But they need to be forced to own their own messes. Because only then will they be forced to recalibrate their thinking, and behavior.

They claim: If civil war in Iraqi spreads it could throw the entire region into chaos threatening the West's supply of oil.
The Real Deal: Duh! And just how long do you want to continue being held hostage to that particular reality?

Yes, the old Bush excuses have indeed worn thin. Which is why the administration is desperately searching for a replacement excuse. They need one and need one fast, to buy time. They need just one more to get them to end of their term in office. Which is precisely what the White House is up to right now ... cooking up another reason why US troops need to continue having a “presence” in Iraq.

Pressure grows for a troop pullback in Iraq
Officials fear that political support for president's strategy is collapsing.
WASHINGTON | Defense Secretary Robert Gates has scrapped plans to go on a four-nation tour of Latin America this week and instead will stay home to attend meetings on Iraq, the Pentagon announced Sunday. The meetings are related to a progress report on Iraq that is due to be delivered to Congress by July 15. (Full)

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall during those meetings! Somehow the administration has to figure out an excuse that buys them enough time. Time for what? For democracy to bloom in Iraq? Forgetaboutit. Global warming will turn Iraq into world's biggest pizza oven before that happens.

No, what the Bushies need more than anything right now is time to get out of Dodge on January 21, 2009. After that they could care less what happened in Iraq. Because either way they get to wash their hands of the mess. One way or another the next administration will have to withdraw US troops, after which Iraq will descend into civil war. Then the Bushies will stand around looking smugger than usual clucking, “told you so.”

I suspect the next excuse they cook up to stay will simply be a retreaded version of their old “al-Qaida in Iraq” excuse. What else do they have left? At least this time -- unlike four years ago -- it will be true. Now there really are al-Qaida fighters in Iraq. They came there to kill US citizens because it saved them the danger and trouble of trying to sneak into the US do it.

Which means that, at least for al-Qaida, if not folks in News Orleans – Bush delivers.

July 6, 2007

War of The Roses
And it's Victims

As best I can tell from my email I have made about as many liberal enemies as conservative enemies -- an accomplishment I am obnoxiously proud of.

I've long believed that the solutions to most of what needs fixing in America are pretty evenly split between the two sides. Conversely, most of what's wrong with America today can be attributed directly to the policies and behavior of both parties.

If American politics were a marriage, this one has devolved into what shrinks might describe as a dysfunctional, codependency.

And what of the rest of us? Well, we're the kids, caught in the middle, half of us defending Daddy, the GOP, and the other half of us going with the Mommy party, the Dems.

And as always when marriages go bad, it's the kids that suffer most and pay the real price.

The Mommy party is an old softy. She wants the best for all her children, be they one minute old or a 110 years. She protects them with a non-stop flow of rules and regulations enforced by legions of bureaucrats and attorneys. Because, you see, Mommy is very, very suspicious of that company man with the candy.

The Mommy party is against capital punishment, doesn't like guns around the house and believes it's wrong to spend billions of dollars on the military while 45 million of her children can't afford to see a doctor. Mommy prefers talking to unruly neighbors rather than shooting at them. Trouble is, not all our neighbors are good listeners.

The Daddy party says it wants the very best for kids too, but tends to favor the kind with no arms, legs, brains, hearts, skin or bones yet -- the “unborn” kids. (A concept Dad refuses to even consider might be the mother of all oxymorons.) Nevertheless Daddy wants to make it illegal to abort any bundle of undefined human cells, but defends the right to inject lethal chemicals into the veins of prisoners in order to abort full-term humans.

Finally, Daddy is a man of action, not words. He prefers shooting first and then, only if absolutely necessary, talking to whomever might still be standing. Trouble is, once the shooting starts, it's nearly impossible to hear anything over the gunfire.

Bottom line: our parents are a couple of real nuts. They need a serious dose of counseling. They need to confront their individual shortcomings, learn how to give each other space and recognize when they are wasting the family's time, money and energy arguing over things that are only important to other nuts.

One of their most enduring, and damaging, disagreements has been over how much a role government and the private sector should each play in American's daily lives. Daddy believes his friends in the private sector can bring efficiency and cost savings to most of what needs doing, from health care to distinctly un-healthy exercises like waging war.

Mommy thinks Daddy's private sector pals are a bunch of snakes, interested only in making money, as much money as possible. She believes that, if taking care of American's basic needs gets in the way of making money, Daddy's friends will sell the kids into white slavery, if that's what it takes to turn a profit.

Sometimes Mommy wins. Sometimes Daddy wins. Trouble is, which ever one wins, we kids seem to lose.
Our health care system, for example, is a monumental mess. Mommy's pet project, Medicare is broke and getting broker by the day. Daddy's friends at private HMOs are bleeding those of us who can afford their services white. Meanwhile those who can't afford health coverage -- or are refused coverage because they might actually need it -- are dumped on Mommy's doorstep.

They've even left our home wide open. The back door has been busted for decades allowing all kinds of folks to just wander in and out, pretty much at will. Some of them are quite nice and even tidy up a bit. But others are not so nice, they hang around and run up expenses the rest of us have to pay. Some are even criminals who do what criminals do.

Still Mommy feels sorry for them and believes we should leave the doors unlocked. Daddy is conflicted. On one hand his tough side wants to lock and bolt the door shut. But his friends in the private sector want him to leave things the way they are, since the strangers work cheap, don't unionize and, when underpaid or mistreated, don't go whining to the authorities like higher-paid, Mommy-pampered American workers.

Mom hates the war in Iraq and says she wants her boys and girls to back home. But when it comes actually putting down her foot and demanding just that, Mom turns out to be a real wuss. Instead of putting her foot down -- in the way only a mother can -- she just bitches about it.

Daddy is not entirely happy with how his war turned out, but is not about to admit he should have stopped and asked directions long ago. Instead he insists we kids stop asking “if we're there yet,” and that he's going to try alternative routes until he gets us where he thinks he's going -- a place he can't describe but assures us is quite splendid. But so far all we've seen on this trip is road kill.

Meanwhile back here at ranch the place is falling apart. Some days it seems nothing works. For example, at the start of the summer season the folks inform us kids we now need passports if we want to vacation in Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico. So we obediently comply – or at least try to comply. But no passports arrive. Why? Because our folks didn't bother to hire enough people to fulfill the inevitable spike in demand for passports. Millions of vacations are disrupted. Thanks a lot Mom and Dad.

Three years ago the folks ordered that a 700-mile fence be built along the US/Mexican border and then they only built 13 miles of it. Now, three years later they are accusing us of being ungrateful children – sharper than a serpent's tooth, because we just laughed when they promised they'd really secure the place if we just agreed to something they called “comprehensive immigration reform.” Fat chance folks. We're older and wiser now. You two are going to either have to get better at lying to us or start actually delivering the things you promise us -- if we're good.

Look guys, the place is a mess. You gotta stop fighting, at least long enough to fix the things that, if left unfixed, are going to put us all into bankruptcy, poison us, drowned us, make us stupider than we already are or send more of us off to die in some godforsaken sand-pit of country that's only claim to fame is that it squats atop a huge grease spot.

Mommy, listen --- we appreciate your concern for us. But sometimes you can be, well – don't take this personally – but you can be really smothering. We don't need to be protected from every little bump in life's road. Darwinism needs to be allowed to work it's magic, otherwise humans are going to end up along with dinosaurs on bone-heap of natural history. Stupid people need to be allowed to be all they can be, until the day they run with scissors or take a hair-dryer into the tub with them or light a match to see if their SUV is out of gas. Because such are the moments when nature culls that particular batch of DNA from the herd.

And Dad, we appreciate your faith in the free enterprise system. When it works it's a powerful force, to be sure. But when it's left to it's own devices it turns predatory – like that family dog we had that started running wild with other neighborhood dogs. They went from being useful watchdogs to a wild pack, biting people, killing chickens and chasing Bambi's mother through the woods. Eventually we had to shoot the lot of them. Likewise, your friends in the private sector need limits, rules, fences. Otherwise they turn into a pack of roving predators. I know they don't like being fenced in. But it's for their own good – and everyone else's.

And can we ask for some base-level of competency out you two? Is that too much to ask from our folks? Here's where Daddy has a point. Remember Dad's old friend, Newt? What a pain in the ass he is. But he's right about how bummed up the place has become. Listen to this. It's short, if not sweet.

How did things get so fouled up? It's a direct result of this non-stop spat between the folks. Mommy thinks federal employees need to be protected from mean, self-esteem lowering superiors. Which explains why Mom and the federal employee unions have become tight as thieves. Just try to fire a federal employee. Forget about it. They could be cooking chickens on spits over open fires atop atop their desks during working hours, and the union would circle the wagons around them -- and Mom would cater the event.

On the other hand Dad has put so many of his private sector cronies in charge of federal agencies and public projects that some days our government feels like a Halliburton/Exxon/Wal-Mart subsidiary. And if you think it's impossible to fire an incompetent federal employee, just try arresting and convicting a crooked private contractor or appointee. They could be caught with their briefcases bulging with stolen taxpayer money, and get away with it – and they have.

Seriously guys, you need to get a grip. We kids have had it and are at the verge of going to court for protective orders against both of you. You're both hanging with bad crowds. You need to get out more and make some new friends.. like maybe us for a change.

Good Question Division

From Readers Pat & Pam

"Don't you think it is ironic that George Bush would define Libby's sentence of 30 month's after being convicted for, basically, treason as "too harsh," when we still have prisoners who have had no charges brought against them tortured and rotting in Gitmo for 5 years?"

July 3, 2007

Waiting For Fitz

Where's the Paris Hilton judge when we really need him? Remember? When LA's soft-headed sheriff sprung the developmentally retarded heiress the judge who sentenced her to a month in the slammer hit the roof, called everyone into his court, and sent little miss weepy back to a cell.

The sheriff tried to justify his decision to commute Ms. Hilton's sentence to home arrest by noting that he felt the original sentence was too severe. The judge disagreed, as did normal people everywhere.

Yesterday Mr. Law-in-order, George W Bush, commuted Scooter Libby's 30 month sentence, for the same stated reason -- too severe. (This from a guy who, when governor of Texas, felt that executing retarded murderers was just fine.)

Of course I understand that this the judge can't reinstate Libby's sentence, because the Prez is like the Pope in such matters, infallible and un-reversible.

But there's still one person who can remedy this outrage – prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. During closing arguments in the Libby perjury case Fitzgerald noted that Libby's lies and evasions had “left a cloud over the office of the Vice President.” Okay. Well, now is the perfect time to either dispel that cloud or let lightening strike where it will.

How? As simple as this:
  1. Impanel a new federal grand jury.
  2. Grant Libby full immunity, meaning he could not take the Fifth, and if he tried he can be jailed for contempt – just as reporter Judy Miller was for trying to protect her source – Scooter Libby.
  3. This time call Dick Cheney and put him under oath.
Simple as that. What crime is being investigated? No piddling perjury this time. No sir. This time Fitzgerald should be investigating is conspiracy to obstruct justice. It's just a suspicion. But that's what grand juries do for a living – investigate suspicion that a crime or crimes have been committed.

So, let us list the circumstantial evidence that might lead Fitzgerald to be suspicious that Bush's commutation of Libby's prison sentence was the culmination of a conspiracy to obstruct justice -- that the fix was in for Libby from day he was charged: "Keep your mouth shut and you'll be taken care of."
  1. We know that Dick Cheney was at the center of administration efforts to discredit former US ambassador, Joe Wilson after Wilson blew the whistle on the administration's uranium from Niger fraud.
  2. We know that Libby met with Cheney the day before he started leaking like a rusty bucket to Judy Miller and other select lap dogs in the media.
  3. We know Libby lied like a rug when he testified before the grand jury, refusing to implicate the vice president, or any other administration officials in what was clearly a concerted, pedal to the metal effort to discredit Wilson by outing his CIA operative wife.)We know that administration friends circled the financial wagons around Libby, paying the millions required to pay his legal team, and raising money to pay his $250,000 court fine.
  4. We know that through all that, Libby has remained as silent as the Sphinx.
  5. We know that the same day a Republican appointed appeals court panel refused to stay Libby's prison sentence during his appeals, the president commuted that sentence.
If that series of events had happened, not within the Bush administration, but within the John Gotti crime family, you gotta know the feds would be hauling associates before a grand jury -- like tomorrow.

So? Hello Mr. Fitzgerald. We;re waiting to see some “nation of laws, not men,” action out of you.