Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush to New Orleans: Drop Dead

Attention-grabbing headline, yesno?

Well, that's what he in effect said to the City.

Oh, no, not right now. Right now he's all heartfelt condolences and massive mobilization and pulling all together and emergency funding.

That's easy to do. It's easy to react to an emergency. Especially if it's someone else's emergency. Throw money and whatever troops you have left at it.

The hard part? Doing what you can to prevent an emergency.

Those levees that broke? The Army Corps of Engineers was about 2/3rds of the way through repairing them in 2003. That's when the money stopped, and never came back.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

So, folks in the Big Easy knew that the levees were in need of repair. The Army Corps of Engineers knew it too. They actually went around and begged local governments for money to do at least some of the stuff that was left unfinished.

But it wasn't important enough to this Administration to finish.

It is possible that the levees would have broken whether or not they were properly repaired. We'll never know. But people knew that they had problems. People tried to fix the problem, but the White House didn't think it was important enough. Think about that the next time the Prez talks about the disaster.


Monday, August 29, 2005

My Creed

I wrote this as part of a comment on someone else's blog. In one of my rare moments of clarity, I realized it sums up exactly how I feel. I thought I would share it:

"I support my country. I support our troops. Do not confuse my protest of this war, and of this administration, with a lack of patriotism. Our loyalty to the President should be to the measure with which he faithfully serves the interests of the United States. If I feel he is not serving those interests, it would be unpatriotic for me to NOT dissent."

If you are so moved, feel free to use this. I would prefer attribution, but it's not necessary. I'd rather get that message out.

Now, somewhere in the musty back attic of my mind, a voice tells me that at least part of this creed is similar in substance to something someone else said about loyalty to the President. I tried to find the quote, but I don't remember enough of it to attribute it. If this rings a bell with someone and can point me to the quote, I will of course make those attributions.


Friday, August 26, 2005

"Bush's Obscene Tirades Rattle White House Aides"

This is the headline over at Capitol Hill Blue, but it's not the first time I've heard this. Apparantly little old W. is a walking time bomb, a biographer's wet dream, a power broker's nightmare, and the Right's only hope to continue their stranglehold on power.

But it seems like the pressure's gettin' to Mr. Values.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Real Story Behind Job Growth Numbers

When talking about job growth, why doesn't the media ever mention what they don't mention?

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. job creation remains healthy even as record energy prices stir worries about a slowdown in hiring in some sectors, reports showed on Thursday. (that's today)
and the BBC:

US jobs growth at five-month high:
The US economy created 207,000 new jobs in July, the biggest gain in five months, according to official figures. At the same time, US unemployment remained steady at 5% for the second month in a row, continuing at a four-year low. (that's from today too)
And the real story?

Middle class families can't afford health insurance, can't afford school, have to hold down two and possibly three jobs just to maintain a normal standard of living.

Add to that: the current job rolls have the highest statistics of two and three job families in the middle class. But what's not mentioned is that the second, third or fourth jobs the middle class has to take on as a household, go into the job growth numbers. The same numbers the White House proudly points to as proving economic growth.

The reality?

The middle class is dying. They can't make a living. That's what the numbers mean.

The income gap in this country is now crushing the middle class. The job growth numbers speak to a desperate class, once thriving in America, the commerical engine of the internet and manufacturing and travel, who now must pull double duty days just to make enough income to manage their liabilities.

But as any student of capitalsim knows, for capitalsim to work, you need capital. You need a buyer.

So when the middle class fails, and falls into their lack of a safety net, people won't be using the George Bush $400 tax credit to go out and buy khakis at Banana Republic. They'll be buying gorceries at Food 4 Less.

And without the middle class, or with the remains of financially crippled one, the rich won't have anyone to reap profits from. And as corporate growth is crucial to keeping stock value high, investors happy, stock holders pacified, and wall street ratings solid, watch what happens when the engine of commerce is turned off.

Woops. Trickle down just got a lot uglier, becuase it's going to trickle back up.

Pretty far thinking, these Republican leaders, hmm?

Check out: the link above.

T. E. Lawrence

Remember him? The guy in the movie? The one who lead the Arabs to independence from the Ottoman Empire (Turks) under the guise of British support? (Lawrence of Arabia).

The big swath of desert that all this fighting took place in, back in 1920, was a massive section of land the Brits and Turks fought it out in , where Arabia, Persia and Syria all glommed together.

Today we know it as Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, etc. There are more.

This is what T.E. had to say about his first hand experience with the locals slightly west and north of where our troops are:

"Syria had been a corridor between sea and desert...a prize ring of Greece, of Rome, of Egypt, of Arabia, of Persia, of Mesopotamia. When given a momentary independence by the weakness of neighbors it had fiercely resolved into discordant northern, southern, eastern and western "kingdoms". If Syria was by nature a vassal country it was also by habit a country of tireless agitation and revolt."

Sound familiar? Well, there you have it. Just an opinion, but from someone who knew what he was talking about. if only anyone in this administration would pick up a book.

He also had a theory for the tireless agitation and revolt:

"The master-key of opinion lay in the common language: where also, lay the key of imagination. Moselms whose mother toungue was Arabic looked upon themselves for that reason as a chosen people. Their heritage of the Koran and classical literature held the Arabic-speaking people together. Patriotism, ordinarily of soil or race, was warped to a language."

And now the Iraq constitution is delayed, women's rights are vanishing as America has to cede the council the right to make an Islamic Republic, the Sunnis are threatening to bow out, the Kurds hate the Shiites. When we choose to leave, or are forced out, or have to retreat with our tails through our legs, guess who the American-hating locals will make their oil deals with? Russia/China? Good guess.

This invasion thing was such a well thought out and great plan.

Gutsy Kid

Un-named soldier who had the balls to take this picture, understanding the world of S$!T that will come down on him when anyone in command sees it. On the other hand, he's already in Iraq, what that's worse can they do to him?

Wasn't it about eight months ago that Rumseld was embarrassed on location when a soldier at an open press briefing stood up and asked when they'd be getting armor that was sorely needed?

Isn't Bush's whole appeal the CEO president and his CEO friends running government correctly, finally, and towing the bottom line and making every cent count?

Why can't they attack the right country? And when they do, why can't they supply enough troops, and supply them with enough equipment? And 2 and a half years later still have this nagging problem? On the other hand Rumsfeld calls this an upgraded army, more efficient supposedly, better trained. And I suppose they're downsizing while upgrading! The directions are simple: shrink to fit a larger area, un-equip, repeat.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hate Radio Just Got A little Quieter

Right Wing extremists who blast the internet with vitriol live in the bubble of non accounatability, thinking nothing can touch them. Woops - one got touched.

Washington, D.C. radio talk show host Michael Graham was fired on Monday after refusing to apologize for comments he made about Islam. On July 25, Graham said "We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam. The problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam."

His station, WMAL, said he referred to Islam as a terrorist organization 23 times during that same show. For his part, Graham has refused to apologize, and that's, apparently, why he was fired

As reported on TalkLeft.


Caption Please

Well, the National Review On-line really knows how to make a point. Showing the pro-bush camp is flourishing in Crawford to balance out the Cindy Sheehan crowd, all they forgot to include were the people.

They show three pictures, folks. Not one person.

One, Two, Three, What Are They Fighting For?

Sometimes a picture sez it all. Taken at the Donnely, Idaho VFW, while Preznit Bush flapped his lips.

Of course, you have to go to a Canadian Newspaper's website to see it.

See? Who says this blog doesn't deal with happy news?


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bill Frist, Eternal Sophomore

From the Greek sophos, wise, and mros, stupid, a Sophomore is, literally, an educated moron.

How else could you explain a man who has a degree from Harvard Medical School, one of the nations pre-eminent heart surgeons, who has risen to a position of power and leadership in one of the most esteemed lawmaking bodies of the world, opening his piehole and spewing such lunacy as this? "[Intelligent Design]doesn't force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."


Okay, I've commented about this in several blogs, so this may sound old to some of you. You can't teach Intelligent Design as a valid scientific theory because IT'S NOT A SCIENTIFIC THEORY!

Let's make this real simple. A basic element of a valid scientific theory is something called falsifiability. In other words, for it to be right, you have to be able to prove it wrong. If you can't prove it wrong, it becomes a valid scientific theory.

How do you disprove the existence of an intelligent designer? The same way you prove the existence:

You don't. Because you can't. You can't prove or disprove the supernatural. Because once it's proven, it stops being supernatural, and becomes natural.

If you can't prove something wrong, it is not a scientific theory.

Here's a theory: When cows are introduced to zero gravity, they become sentient, and in fact become supergeniuses in the field of calculus.

That theory has more scientific viability than Intelligent Design, because this could be disproved.
And that's the beauty of scientific theories: they can be proven wrong. After which, scientists ask themselves: 'Well, if that's wrong, what else could explain this?" And on it goes, refining, sometimes retracting, modifying, moving forward, being argued over at each point. It is our best guess, so far, about the structure of life in the natural world.

Intelligent design, however, supposes a supernatural beginning, in other words:
attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.

How can you explain a natural occurrence with a supernatural 'theory' and call it scientific?

So, what we have heere is a man well-versed in the world of science, who should know about what is and is not a valid scientific theory, coming out and saying something like that?

The man has to be a moron.

Or, alternately, running for President on the Republican ticket, because this is just the sort of thing a potential candidate would say to please and placate the conservative evangelicals who control the party right now.

Especially after he broke ranks and supported stem-cell research. Which almost had me admiring him.

But not now.

So, take this little bit of bullshit, and mix it in with the Terri Schaivo instant replay diagnosis, and what do you come up with?

Well, I don't know what you will come up with but me--I see it as one of two things:

  1. He really is stupid, in which case he shouldn't be elected president;
  2. The man is willing to lie just to get to the White House, which makes you wonder what he'll do when he gets there, which means he shouldn't be elected president.
Which is worse?

And for those of you who might ask 'So what? Why is this so important?' I offer the following:

Most of high-school science is wasted on most of the students. Let's face it: most of us don't need to know anything about osmoregulation in our daily lives. There are some, however, who thrive in the field, and we call them boring at parties.

What high-school science teaches everyone, however, is the scientific approach. It teaches us that, no, we don't know the answers to everything. But here's our best guesses. It teaches us how to think rationally about stuff.

Introducing Intelligent Design into this system removes the need for thought by the students.

Why would conservative evangelicals want to prevent our kids from thinking?

Why would a man of science like Dr. William Frist go along with this?

One last thing: I'm a very spiritual man. God is a very big presence in my life. I have no problem with people of faith expressing their beliefs. I do have a problem with people of faith trying to foist their beliefs onto other people. This is another attempt at that.



Thursday, August 18, 2005

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Here's some more observations on my week in Vegas. I'm putting the new ones up top, and putting the old ones in parenthesis.

  • Cops can be funny. The El-Tee had to be requalified on his rifle before he shipped out, so he had to go out to the range. Everyone else in the class was also in Security Forces. All cops. Miles and miles of desert--serious nothing-style desert--surrounded us at the range. It was also surrounded by barbed wire. Each one of them was armed. Yet, when they all got out there, each and every one of them locked their cars and set their alarms.
  • Once, the base was guarded by Security Forces at every gate. They were well-trained. They were the first faces presented to outsiders. They were an elite group. Now, the gates are patrolled by contracters. Rent-a-cops. That's because the real ones were needed elsewhere.
  • No one in this war is doing exactly what they were initially trained to do.
  • I watched, listened to, and talked with a number of honorable men and women. None of them said anything against this war, and none of them said anything against the President. But there was no enthusiasm either.
  • You don't want to be on the wrong side of a good cop.
  • You don't want to be on the wrong side of a Master Sergeant.
  • When the good cop's a Master verrry nice. He or She can make or ruin your life without breaking a sweat.
  • I was struck by the incredibly businesslike approach that everyone I encountered displayed. Even 18-year-olds, preparing for deployment, seemed to take this all in stride.
  • That these 18-year-olds (and 23-year-old Butterbars) took this all in stride is directly proportional to the professionalism of their Sergeants.
  • Every business needs Sergeants.
  • There is a big difference between cops and soldiers. Even if the soldier is a cop, he's a cop first.
  • Everyone in the USAF is immensely proud of their pilots, their skills, and their aircraft.
  • Everyone in the USAF hates the pilots. Especially the fighter pilots. Including the other pilots, who love only themselves.
  • In the current war, the fighter pilots are the least necessary part of the military.
  • Everyone in the USAF disregards Security Forces. They don't dislike them (unless they're breaking a law), they don't like them (unless someone's breaking a law against them). They're just part of the landscape.
  • In the current war, Security Forces are the most necessary part of the military.

I will try to replace this post with a more cogent one later on this weekend.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Lieutenant Brad

That's him. He's 23. The product of a Jesuit High School, a Catholic University. Double Major: Criminal Justice and Sociology. Plus his prerequisite AFROTC courses, meant he essentialy had a triple major in college. Oh, and he was also head resident his senior year.

His troops love him. Except during PT. He can do more than a pushup a second for five straight minutes and barely break a sweat. This is in the Nevada Desert.

He's the first one in, the last one out.

He's the All-American boy.

I'm flying out to meet him on Saturday night. Because he's leaving for Iraq. "Boots on the ground, August 18th." So he needs me to help pack up his apartment.

Yeah. He needs an overweight 46-year-old to help him pack. That's not why I'm going to Las Vegas.

I'm going because he's about to go to a place where, when he looks at people approaching him, he'll have to decide whether or not to have them killed. If he guesses wrong, he could be killed.

First job out of college.

I'm going because he knows he may not come back again, or he may come back different. I'm going because he wants me there. I'm going because even though he's got all the prerequisite bravado, all the training, and all the willingness necessary to be successful in the military, he's still just 23.

I'm going because I have to.

Look at him, and think about all the other 23-year-olds with girlfriends still in college that are over there. Think about his cousin Daniel, a Marine, who's 18 and we don't exactly know where he is in Iraq because he's not allowed to tell us. We do know he carries a mortar with him just about every place he goes. Think about Cindy Sheehan's son. Think about all the other sons and daughters and mothers and fathers who won't come home, and wonder why they are there, and wonder what they can possibly accomplish over there.

God go with you, Lieutenant.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What I'm Trying to Say is:

Direct enough. Simple enough.

I received some excellent ideas from everyone. Although, Daniel, if everyone moved to Canada, where would that leave us, we'd just be importing all our problems. There were some passionate opinions given as well--about education, abortion rights, sexual predator laws, a whole gamut of ideas.

For example, Polanco Consulting wrote
I think we need to organize people like us in our communities. Instead of protesting all of our various problems, we join together on one issue:

I didn't include the issue on purpose. Because her issue is education. Which is a good issue, and one that needs some serious attention. But, while every one can agree that education reform is necessary, if you get three people in a room to talk about it, you're guaranteed to hear at least two diametrically opposed views on what constitutes education reform.

So I took a step backards. And what I came up with--no, what YOU came up with, was Accountability and Transparency.

I think this should be our starting point. This is as nonpartisan as an issue can be.

And you are all welcome to copy my little graphic and use as you wish.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

So what do we do?

That's the gist of what I've been asked ever since I wrote my last post.

To which I reply:

Law and Order.

We've conceded the Law and Order vote to the GOP for far too long. They took those votes, and painted liberals as soft on crime.

In the meantime, they've done more looting and pillaging, broken more laws, and just plain cheated than any liberal I know.

And they keep that base. They've taken it for granted. They ignore those in their own party who raise objections to the way business is conducted in Washington. No: worse than ignored--they've treated them with contempt and outright hostility.

Remember: Nixon came to power using law & order as his platform.

One thing you've got to admire about Rove: he attacks strength. Perhaps we should do the same.

Being a progressive, or a Liberal, or a Democrat does not mean you are soft on crime.

Being a fundamentalist, or a Conservative, or a Republican does not mean you aggressively fight crime. In fact, it more than likely means the higher up you are, the more actively engaged in it you are...or, at the very least, the more likely you are to break laws for political/economic gain.

So, to refine the question: how do we reposition ourselves politically to speak to this? In what ways are we NOT 'soft' on crime?

I've got some ideas. I'd like to hear yours.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

The New Silent Majority

"And so tonight--to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans--I ask for your support."
--Richard Nixon, 11/3/1969

That was what Richard Nixon said in 1969, when talking about his plans for the Vietnam War.

He also said this:

"My fellow Americans, I am sure you can recognize from what I have said that we really only have two choices open to us if we want to end this war.

--I can order an immediate, precipitate withdrawal of all Americans from Vietnam without regard to the effects of that action.

--Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization if necessary-a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom."

He chose what was behind door number 2.

Remember: he said this on November 3rd, 1969. The war ended, for all intents and purposes, May 1st 1975. April 30th was the day the US Embassy in Saigon was evacuated. So, 4 years 5 months and 28 days later, the war ended as badly as it would have had he just cut and run in 1969.

Except for this: 58 thousand Americans died in Vietnam, twenty percent of which (about eleven thousand) died after November 3rd, 1969. The source for these numbers is here.

58 thousand Americans dead. It's a bit of an abstract number. So, I thought I'd put it into real terms. Here's a list of cities that have a population of around 58,00o
  • White Plains NY
  • Lancaster PA
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Sheboygan WI
  • Shawnee KS
  • San Clemente CA
  • Carson City NV
Imagine every man, woman and child in one of those cities being killed. Not all at once, of course. Do it over a decade and a half. That's the Vietnam war in American terms.

So far, we've only lost 1,800 Americans in Iraq. Only 1,800. In two-and-a-half years. Of course, that's the same number as were killed in the first five years in Vietnam (1961-65).

But we're not going to be in Iraq for 14 or 15 years.

Oh, except Rumsfeld said we may be in Iraq for up to 12 more years.

I know, I know--apples and oranges. This isn't Vietnam. But we are heading down the rabbit hole.

Which leads me back to the opening quote of Nixon's. When he used the phrase 'silent majority,' he was referring to those folks who weren't protesting the war. The ones who, more than anything, wanted a sense of order. A sense that everything was going to be OK.

I know. I came from a silent majority family.

Nixon's gift was that he appealed to these people. He made them believe that the war was winnable. It wasn't, as we now know, but that didn't matter.

What mattered is that he was able to reach them.

I believe there's a silent majority out there still. One that's not too happy with the way things are going, but are reluctantly standing behind Bush because they believed that he was the better choice.

I'm not talking about the rabid redstaters--the ultraconservative evangelical pseudochristians who have hijacked the Republican Party and this country. Lord knows, they make enough noise.

The problem is, and remains, that we on the progressive side need to stop being patsies. We need to stop being righteous. We need to stop being incredulous. We need to start standing up together and making sense. Because it's not enough to just speak truth to power.

We must speak common sense to our neighbors.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Spin This

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

OK, Bushies: how is this acceptible? How is this showing American ideals? Or don't those matter any more? Is it now OK to be as brutal and senseless as those who we claim are brutal and senseless?

This is wrong. This is immoral. I don't care how you spin it. And it will be spun. I can already hear the typing of redstate bloggers saying it's fine to torture our captives 'because they'd do it to us.'

That's a child's way of thinking. We were supposed to be better than this. Every time crap like this happens, it's another victory for terrorists. We become what they say we are.