Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bulletin from small town America

I was in the hardware store today with my mother, chatting with a former student of hers about their mutual friend, a graduate of the high school here who went to Annapolis and has done tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They had an exchange about the war, and it wasn't pretty.

Mom: ..."It's so awful that we have people over there getting killed."

Store clerk friend: "Well, we had to do something about those people over there."

Mom: "Afghanistan yes, but there was no reason for us to invade Iraq."

Store clerk friend: "The problem with Iraq is, it's a war, but we have a rulebook yey thick that ties our soldiers' hands. Those terrorists can shoot them, but we can't shoot back because there's a bunch of so-called civilians in the way. If it's a war, let's treat it like a war and do whatever it takes to win."

Mom(trying to be diplomatic): "This is a war unlike any other war we've had. It's just terrible."

Me: "uh, anybody remember Vietnam? I think you'll find some similarities."

Store clerk: "Yes, and we weren't allowed to win that one, either."

Me: "You mean we shoulda nuked'em? Should we nuke the Iraqis, too? That's where you're going with this."

Store clerk(after an awkward silence): "anything else i can get you?"

And so, the dreary reality emerges: our clerk friend believes that even though we invaded their country, blasted the lives of thousands of people, blighted the country, and now have an insurgency that dislikes what we have done and fights us, we should have the right to destroy every person remaining there in the name of "victory." Bomb'em back to the stone age! Make it a wilderness and call it peace!

We have some great humanitarians in this country, out here in small town America, and actually pretty much everywhere. No wonder we have such high worldwide popularity ratings! What's not to like?!

My Head Hurts

George W. Bush (you remember him, right?) has just used these phrases to chide those who oppose his immigration legislation.

"[They use] empty political rhetoric"

"If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick out one little aspect out of it You can use it to frighten people. Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."

Ok, so we've got Bush now accusing OTHER people of using empty political rhetoric (and he didn't mean Karl Rove).

And, he's accusing them of trying to frighten people instead of showing leadership.

I'm sorry, has anyone seen Alice? I think I've fallen through a rabbit hole.

No, It's a Tale of Only One Iraq

And what is astounding is that as more and more Americans realize what is really going on in Iraq, Bush, Cheney & the neo-con cheering section dig their heads further and further into the sand.

Today's WaPo has an editorial "Dying for an Iraq That Isn't" by Harold Meyerson. Here's a snipit:

We are fighting for a national government that is not national but sectarian, and has shown no capacity to govern. We are training Iraq's security forces to combat sectarian violence though those forces are thoroughly sectarian and have themselves engaged in large-scale sectarian violence. We are fighting for a nonsectarian, pluralistic Iraq, though whatever nonsectarian and pluralistic institutions existed before our invasion have long since been blasted out of existence. In the December 2005 parliamentary elections, the one nonsectarian party, which ran both Shiite and Sunni candidates, won just 8 percent of the vote.

Every day, George W. Bush asks young Americans to die in defense of an Iraq that has ceased to exist (if it ever did) in the hearts and minds of Iraqis. What Iraqis believe in are sectarian or tribal Iraqs -- a Shiite Iraq, a Sunni Iraq, an autonomous Kurdish Iraqi state, an Iraq where Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani or Moqtada al-Sadr or some other chieftain holds sway.

The Iraq that exists today is invisible to Bush administration eyes. It's hard to imagine how they manage to see that nation and this war the way they do, but I'm not armed with their special set of rose-colored glasses. Meyerson makes a good case (as much as I hate to admit or agree with it) for letting the Democrats off the hook for their inability to try and override Bush's veto. The votes weren't, as he notes, there to be found. I would argue that the votes could have been there if more of those elected by the anti-war vote of 2006 worked the Hill to remind those up for election in 2008 that this could be the one vote that could keep or end their jobs.

Meyerson reminds us of the waning years of Vietnam, as Democrats slowly but surely pulled authority away from Nixon to fight that war. Hopefully Pelosi & Co., can do that here. But please, OH PLEASE, let them do it more rapidly and with more fire in their bellies. This is, above all, life and death. And after this Memorial Day's body count in Iraq, we don't need more reminders of that.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A time to remember, also to look ahead(with trepidation)

James Carroll has another luminous column today in the Boston Globe on this particular Memorial Day. He rightly calls upon us to remember and honor the fallen of this disastrous misadventure in Iraq. They did in commendable good faith what their commander-in-chief ordered them to do, and you could ask no more of a dedicated soldier.

But he also compels us to look forward, to prepare to answer some questions that are already acute for the United States and its citizens:

"How to reckon with the strategic and moral damage the United States has done and is still doing to the shared well-being of the human family? In addition to the lives it has needlessly destroyed, the war has helped ignite the most volatile region on earth; it has polluted US relations with former allies; and it has resuscitated the armed suspicions of former enemies. What of more value has been lost than the golden opportunity at the end of the Cold War to further empty nuclear arsenals, to midwife international structures of law, to heal the planet's poisoned environment, to address the global crisis of southern poverty?"

Having raised these disturbing issues, Carroll continues,

"Memorial Day is a time of social grief. We deliberately call to mind the names and faces of the dead. We attend to their selfless patriotism, and the courage with which they conducted themselves. We insist that, no matter how misbegotten the cause in which they died, they did not die in vain. In the glorious past, that faith depended on carrying wars forward to the point of victory, which alone redeemed the mortal loss. But now, we eulogize the heroes without approving the war that killed them. Because today's national desolation must include a larger grief for lost American virtue, the determination that the fallen not have died in vain requires that their sacrifice be taken as a fuller opening to the truths both of what our leaders have wrought, and of the responsibility that belongs to us all."

How do we guarantee that the fallen have not died in vain, in the wake of four years of terrible destruction on so many fronts?

"The proper memorial to the war in Iraq is its immediate end."

Repairing the damage done by this war worldwide, making up for lost time in addressing pressing concerns raised by the end of the Cold War, bringing this war to an speedy end, so that its casualties will NOT have died in vain--all of these tasks will require our best efforts over a long period of time. Are we/you ready to respond to the challenge?

Sunday, May 27, 2007


The article in this morning's WaPo by Professor Andrew Bacevich, an army veteran and prominent critic of the Iraq war, was the equivalent of a hard blow to the solar plexus. It's hard even to catch your breath when you read it.

Bacevich is a professor at Boston University who opposed the war and tried to explain why in numerous articles, columns and lectures. Ironically, his son decided to join the army and serve in Iraq, evidently to try to bring some positive change there. There's a deep strain of idealism in the American character, as we all know. You can probably guess what happened...the younger Bacevich died in a suicide bombing earlier this month, a casualty of the war his father opposed.

That's enough of a horror to contemplate right there--it turns your blood cold. But it apparently evoked no sympathy from a segment of our fellow citizens. Quite the contrary. Two of them, in fact, took time out of their busy day to plunge another knife into this grieving father, accusing him of direct responsibility for his son's death. His writings and opposition, you see, gave aid and comfort to the enemy, enabling that enemy to kill his child. Obviously, this "reasoning" goes, if Bacevich had just fallen into line and supported his President, his son would still be alive.

Please help me understand these people's worldview. Are they sociopaths, capable of inflicting grevious harm without conscience? Are they warmongers? Racists, maybe, people who get off on watching brown people get their comeuppance? Blind followers of authority? I cannot fathom the depths of bile and hatred that make this kind of outrage possible.

I don't understand.

At Least Intelligence is Hereditary

Among the crowd running for the presidency on the Republican side are three men who said that they do NOT believe in evolution. Brownback, Tancredo & Huckabee. Oh and apparently McCain hesitated a bit before saying that he does believe in it. I haven't watched any Republican debates, so don't know if they were also asked if they believed in gravity, or that the earth revolves around the sun, or even if the earth isn't flat.

And just so you don't leave thinking that this idiocy is limited to Republican politicians (would that it be so), we have the arrival of the Museum of Creation. I'm not about to encourage such silliness by providing a link to the museum, but I do have to share some of its "exhibit" concepts - which were put together with advice from a man who helped create the Jaws & King Kong attractions for one of the Universal Studios tours. The place certainly believes in Barnum & Bailey. Not to mention P.T. Barnum's "sucker born every minute" admonition. It offers a "walk through history" (oh man, it's SO hard to quote their stuff with a straight face).

According to the museum and our well, let's face it, stupid creationist citizens (ok, this may well be the start of my belief that IQ tests should be required for voting), the earth is 6,000 years old. But as any good showman knows, kids love dinosaurs. So how to fit those animatronic dinosaurs, into an exhibit? Why to argue that they were on the ark with Noah, of course! There apparently is a planetarium (stars? no, those aren't stars, they're just shinny things from heaven). A "dragon's hall" bookstore (hey, if there can be dinosaurs on the ark, why not dragons, after all, kids love them too!).

The crew in charge lists their reasoning for the museum's "creation" as it were (sorry, couldn't resist): The Creation Museum will proclaim to the world that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice and in every area it touches on. This ‘walk through history’ museum will be a wonderful alternative to the evolutionary natural history museums that are turning countless minds against the gospel of Christ and the authority of the Scripture.

Well, I would say more, but this mind has already been turned onto science and logic. Why? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I'm not an idiot.

There they go again!

President Bush never tires of underlining the connection he believes exists between al-Quaeda and Saddam Hussein, e.g. Hussein was somehow responsible for 9-11. That's a deliberate endeavor, because that was the most persuasive rationale for this war from the standpoint of public opinion. The difficulty is that Middle East specialists have all debunked this, and so have laypeople who know anything about the ascetics of Al-Quaeda and the secular excesses of Saddam. If you dwell in the realm of facts, there is NO connection whatever between the people who attacked us on 9-11 and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

But you would never know this, listening to the leading Republican Presidential candidates. For them, Saddam and Al-Quaeda and everyone else known to oppose US policy are all joined at the hip, engaged in non-stop plots against us here in the US. In today's Boston Globe, Peter J. Cannelos reminds us of the candidates' recent public statements on this matter:

"In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would "follow us home" from Iraq." Never mind that bin Laden is not now and never was there. Not to be outdone, "former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that "these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago" I guess he forgot, or perhaps never bothered to find out, that those guys are Kosovo Albanian immigrants, NOT Iraqis or Saudis. Meanwhile, "former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have 'come together' to try to bring down the United States. 'They want to bring down the West, particularly us,' Romney declared. 'And they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent.' Romney might have won the top prize for sheer ignorance and stupidity with that...he actually throws together the two major divisions in Islam, Sunni and Shiia, with known terrorist groups like Hezbollah. I'm sure the billions of peaceful followers of Islam worldwide appreciate that greatly.

There has never been a time when the United States needs sophisticated and fact-based leaders and thinkers more than right now. I think it's reasonable to conclude that these candidates and all their partisans are permanently disqualified from consideration.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Creeping Nazism(literally!)

Here's another of those essential questions for your favorite Presidential candidate:

"Sir/Madame/Senator/Congressman/Mayor/TV Prosecutor: How do you plan to address the problem of Nazi SS racoon divisions marching on Britain? Wouldn't it be better to fight them over there than before they ransack the suburbs of New Jersey?"

If you're not following, click here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Surviving the Bush Administration

Check your local news stands for the June issue of Harper's, or check it out online (Unfortunately, the online version is for subscribers only). They have a number of authors taking different aspects of American life and looking at (first) how Bush & Co., screwed them up beyond almost all hope; and (second) what we can do to save ourselves from those screw ups.

Here are some tidbits from the article - chapters, authors and a taste.

The Constitution - David Cole
For a short parlor game, challenge your friends to name a constitutional right that Bush has not sought to undermine. After the right to bear arms and the guarantee against the quartering of soldiers, the game will be over. . . .
We cannot destroy the Constitution in order to save the country, because the Constitution is the country. The first and most important step toward restoration of constitutional principle, then, will be the next election. If the public does not demand fidelity to our founding principles, our representatives will not do so on their own.

The Courts - Dahlia Lithwick
Bush's actual appointees to the federal bench don't necessarily adhere to a socially conservative worldview. What they hew to is the president's vision of executive authority. They are willing to sacrifice the conservative ideal of states' rights if it means limiting environmental protection, and they are willing to abandon the conservative principle of limited government if it means shoring up the so-called unitary executive. . . .
The best the next president can do, then, will be to dramatically reform the judicial-confirmation process. Nominees should not be able to hide their views behind claims that an issue may come before them when they sit on the bench. They should have to answer questions about their jurisprudential records, and there must be consequences if they do not. Senators who use confirmation hearings as days-long infomercials should instead use their time for rigorous constitutional inquiry.

Civil Service - Ken Silverstein
Where the Bush Administration has undeniably broken new ground is in its insistence that ideological purity and devotion to the president himself serve as a litmus test for appointees, and the rigor with which it has chosen and vetted candidates on only those grounds. . . .
How can we safeguard the civil service against future assault? To begin with, Congress should slash the number of presidential appointees, a figure that has grown from roughly 600 during the Kennedy Administration to 3,000 today -- even as the overall size of the civil service has remained the same.

The Environment - Bill McKibben
One of the best things about the departure of the Bush Administration will be the end of headache-creating cognitive dissonance. It has taken over institutions ostensibly devoted to defending the natural world -- the Department of the Interior, the EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality -- and turned them into organizations devoted to environmental degradation. . . .
There is much that can be done. As the head of a vast regulatory body, the next president can exert significant influence on environmental rules. ... Most important, the next president will have to put the environment, and especially carbon policy, at the center of every diplomatic effort."

Science - Chris Mooney
Again and again the administration has sought to "manage" inconvenient scientific information from a public relations standpoint rather than take it seriously or use it to inform policy. And it's not just climate science. A similar PR-oriented approach has been apparent across a range of issues, subjects sharing few commonalities save that they motivate the Republican base: embryonic stem cell research, mercury pollution, sex education, endangered-species protection, and many more. . . .
The first step is to choose a distinguished scientist to serve as the presidential science adviser - the government's top scientist, who heads the Office of Science & Technology Policy-- and, more important, to make sure this scientist is allowed into the president's inner circle.

The Economy - Dean Baker
The problem that a high dollar poses for manufacturing is straightforward: if the dollar is expensive relative to other currencies, then it is very cheap for Americans to buy imported goods and very expensive for foreigners to buy U.S. exports....Not surprisingly, this high dollar has led to a rapidly rising trade deficit, which in 2006 grew to more than $760 billion, or nearly 6% of the GDP. . . .
But restoring the pre-Bush tax rates (at least for the wealthy) and ending the war will free up
sufficient funds to support universal health care and a major round of infrastructure modernization.

The Marketplace of Ideas - Jack Hitt
On Thursday, June 6, 2002, FBI agent Coleen Rowley testified before Congress that 9/11 might have been avoided had her agency been better organized to manage the clues it had on hand ... By Monday, though, Americans would forget about Rowley. Her story was sidelined after then Attorney General John Ashcroft called an emergency press conference from Moscow to annnounce that federal agents had seized Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla and foiled a plot to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb." ... In 2002, most Americans reacted skeptically to the Cassandras who suggested that Padilla was dragged out of obscurity precisely to shove Rowley's story from the top of the broadcast. It is only today, after scores of similar examples, that Americans can look back at those moments and see the earliest beta tests of the Bush media-management model. ...
[Politicians need to] disagree without degenerating into name-calling. They [need to] talk about solutions. Just as the cure for bad speech is more speech, it seems that the best antidote for our debatelessness may be, quite simply, debate.

Intelligence - James Bamford
By far the most significant intelligence error of the Bush Administration has been the decision, contrary to established American policy and common sense, to treat terrorism not as a crime, to be solved by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but as an existential military threat, to be confronted with tanks and Marines. This was not an abstract choice. The administration has worked for years to embed Bush's worldview in the highest levels of the American intelligence system. . . .
The first step to avoiding future such operations will be shifting the center of gravity away from the Pentagon and back to the CIA. The country would face fewer wars, its intelligence would be more independent and less biased toward the military, and the CIA chief would again reign over the community, eliminating a thick Defense Department layer of bureaucracy.

The Military - Edward Luttwak
It has always been the case that failed wars damage armies and sometimes break them. So it is with Iraq, unless remedies intervene soon enough. The Washington Post reported this March that "senior US military and government offiicals" fear "it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials have called a 'death spiral,' in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops, and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand." . ..
Having shifted to maneuver war-fare in the 1980s, the combat formations of the Army and Marine Corps must now evolve one step further to become commando forces writ large. Such a transformation would bring great savings in itself, because today's excessively costly "Special Operations Forces" -- which, though once truly specialized, now amount to an outsized fifth service, with air, naval, and ground elements--could be reabsorbed into the regular structures. To return to a structure in which the Special Forces really are specialized would release much funding for the new and more agile Army & Marine Corps we will need, once our troops are finally disengaged from their futile role as Mesopotamian constables.

Diplomacy - Anne-Marie Slaughter

The paradox of American foreign policy today is that the United States, though more powerful than ever, has rarely been so lost in the world and never more reviled. Majorities of Turks, Moroccans, Jordanians, and Pakistanis believe the entire US campaign against Islamic terrorism is in fact meant to secure oil or even to achieve world domination. Further, majorities in those countries, as well as in France, Germany, and Russia, say that the Iraq war has made them less confident that the US wants to promote liberty or democracy abroad. ...
A new US president, of either party, must launch a diplomatic offensive to restore American moral and political leadership in the world. First we must close Guantanamo ... Second, we must get serious about nuclear disarmament. ... Third, we should join the International Criminal Court. ... Fourth, we must reform the UN Security Council and other global institutions ... Fifth, we must try to stop global warming.

The National Character - Earl Shorris
The undoing of the American character has a long history. It took m ore than half a century from a summer's day in August, when the US used the first weapon of mass destruction, to the lies the Bush Administration used to cover its invasion of Iraq. ... It is not power, but fear that corrupts -- if not absolutely, then deeply, beyond the barrier of reason. ...
We have become brave in answering pollsters and timid in pursuing action. ... The undoing of these last 6 years may not be possible; certainly it cannot happen soon. It is a comfort of sorts to think that the disposition to evil is limited to the Bush Administration and its followers in the legislature, but there is an itch in that idea. Bush and his minions in the Congress were reelected in 2004. Could there have been any cause for that but fear?

Some very well thought out essays, with troubling thoughts about just how difficult it may be, in the end, to rescue ourselves, and our nation, from the Bush presidency.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The question they just keep missing

President Bush had another news conference today. It was a lot of the same old, same old, e.g. we need to fight them there rather than here/or they will follow us home, but there was a moment of excitement when he threw a new word out there: "expeditiously." As usual, he said it slowly, with great emphasis, as if none of us out there listening were acquainted with the term. You always end up feeling like a third-grader before he gets finished with his orations.

Once again, though, no one asked the question it seems to me is so crucial about the Iraq conflict: when in the course of all of human history has a foreign occupier ever "won," or had much impact at all on, a civil war? There wasn't any great result with the French in Vietnam. Ditto with the Americans in Vietnam. Ditto with the Americans in Lebanon in the l980s. Someone should make the President explain why he believes Iraq will turn out differently. That's really the key issue in all of this: why are we standing in the middle of an inter-Iraqi conflict about the future of the state, and what are the chances we can leverage some kind of positive result, whatever that might be?!

David Gregory, you listening?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


As you've probably heard, four Congress folk took the challenge of trying to live on $21 worth of food for a week - the amount in food stamps for a family. Two recorded their experiments on blogs, Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). They've done a good job of showing just how ridiculous it is that we expect families to survive like this. The comments are interesting - everything from the knee-jerk jerks (those people should get a job) to people who are, or have been, living on food stamps sharing their stories. And a few sharing tricks of the trade on surviving and buying a week's worth of food for $21.

Something to think about as you pay for that $4 coffee at Starbucks, your take out lunch and pizza delivery. Did you just spend in 1 day what they had to last a week? I know I have.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Secretly, I'm Glad Others Failed More

There are some great dead Falwell cartoons here.

Enjoy yourself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm Failing

Not by as much as I could be failing, but I'm failing. I want to be the good person, the bigger person. I want to say that I'm sorry that Jerry Falwell is dead. But the best I can do is that I'm sorry for the pain that his family must be going through now. I am sorry for that and for them.

But that's as good a person as I'm able to be right now.

Gas Prices Bothering You?

Those of us who remain car-less don't have this agony, but I know it's something that has been causing headaches across the country. So take a moment from your ranting against the high price and ask what if you had to get your gas like this.

Those $3+ prices per gallon not so bad now, are they?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rudy's riches

I've been wondering for quite some time when the national press was going to explore Rudy Guiliani's post 9-11 career. You can look at it as taking advantage of sudden fame, or of cashing in on the WTC tragedy, but it's clear that Rudy Giuliani's financial well-being improved dramatically after September 11, 2001. His consulting firm specializes in image repair and damage control for high-profile clients like Oxycontin, who has had some difficulties with the DEA lately...not exactly noble stuff, certainly not in keeping with the larger-than-life image he likes to project to hero-worshipping Republican voters. Now, the WaPo investigative unit has taken the field and provided this preliminary report. Read the whole story here.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Strange news out of Waco--better known as Jerusalem on the Brazos--Texas today. It seems that prominent Evangelical Chrstian leader and tenured Baylor University professor Francis J. Beckwith has announced that he is re-embracing the Catholic faith into which he was baptized. That's akin to the kind of turnabouts we're talking about with Sadat going to Jerusalem, Nixon going to China, Sam Brownback acknowledging that Mrs. Clinton isn't the Antichrist, that sort of thing. Evangelical Protestants take quite a dim view of Catholics, and I think the enmity is mutual in many cases.

The question is, what does this mean in the big picture? It's beyond me why people would fight wars over whether or not individuals have a sort of natural right to God's grace, or whether you have to work for it, earn it through your deeds. The only religion I embrace is the Sermon on the Mount in the gospels, where you are urged to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The rest of it, as they say, is just details. But these theological fine points are very important to Ph.d theologists like Beckwith, so when he turns his back on one deeply held set of beliefs and re-endorses another, that's kind of a big deal.

There's one very significant hint as to What This Means in a cosmic sense: apparently Beckwith was deeply affected by the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict the l6th. Ratzinger is and was a staunch conservative in all social questions. In fact, he and Pope John Paul II established most of the current trends in the Catholic church, i.e. opposition to abortion and euthanasia, regardless of the circumstances, opposition to gay marriage, even homosexuality itself, opposition to stem cell research, and active condemnation of Catholic politicians who take issue with the church's position. If all that sounds familiar, it is: the Catholic church's main preoccupations nowadays are nearly indistinguishable from its Evangelical Protestant counterparts'.

So maybe this heresy isn't so heretical at all: Beckwith is a symbol of a broader trend in religious and social history, maybe the FIAD, Fundamentalist Imperative Across the Denominations?

[They] Swarm into our Settlements! ... Why Should [we] Become a Colony of Aliens?

The citizens of Farmers Branch, Texas, are going to the polls Saturday to vote on legislation that would make it illegal to rent to illegal immigrants. The penalty, a $500/day fine, would put any landlord out of business in no time. (The idea that someone should come up with legislation that fines landlords $500/day for providing inadequate or substandard housing to ANYONE is apparently lost somewhere in outer space.) The story in today's WaPo notes that the town was all anglo in the 1970s, but now has a large latin population. [the horror, the horror?]

So some of the population has decided they're tired of waiting for the Federal Govt. to do something (although I'm not clear on just what they expect the government to do - no doubt they're looking for one of those mass deportation ideas that float around from time to time in the bowl before getting flushed to the sewer of brain dead, racist ideas).

I'm sorry, speaking of brain dead ideas - this one is joining about 90 cities or counties that have considered similar legislation (i.e., punishing landlords or businesses). The Hazelton, Penn. law is waiting for a federal judge to determine if it's constitutional. Hopefully we'll get a sensible ruling on that and put a stop to this silliness.

But as for putting a stop to the inanity of racism? That's a long-lived tradition in this country, one that my ancestors knew firsthand. The title of this post? Well it's from none other than founding father Benjamin Franklin, who said that in response to folks like some of my father's ancestors who immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany in the 1700s.

Why? Well, not only did these new immigrants not speak English, Franklin argued that the non-English immigrants were not purely white. He maintained that the Germans, Russians, and Swedes were of a swarthy complexity. In Franklin's view, only the Saxons and the English constituted the principal body of white people on the face of the earth.

So for all of those folks down in Farmer's Branch whose can NOT trace their ancestery to Native Americans or the English -- be careful, we may be coming for you next. ;)

NOTE: Franklin's full quote
Why should the Palatine boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements and, by herding together, establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us, instead of our Anglifying them?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bye Bye Tony

Ok, is Vegas now giving odds on how long it will take Britain to pull out of Iraq altogether now that Tony "the puppet" Blair is stepping down?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Doing the math, red state-style

Overheard in a large warehouse food store, in purplish eastern Washington, earlier today:

--"Well, I don't like the killing in Eye-Raq either, but look at what happened yesterday? Those awful men were going to attack the army base and blow up our soldiers."

--"That's right, the President has been keeping us safe here. We need to be over there to keep them from following us home, over here."

--"And President Bush isn't getting much help. Those Democrats only want to mess things up for him, they just hate him so much."

--"If our President hadn't been standing tall, who knows how many thousands of our soldiers they would've killed in New Jersey!

--"Yes, I'm so proud he's my President."

Let's follow this train of "thought" for a moment. Because President Bush invaded Iraq after 9-11--a nation that had done nothing, nothing whatever to us--a bunch of third-teamers in New Jersey were unable to pull off a devastating attack, and all of us have been safe for years. Because we've been standing in the middle of a civil war, Al-Qaeda has been unable to attack. And if we give up the fight in Iraq, feuding Sunni and Shiia will "follow us here."

These people put 2 and 2 together and get 17. They are mathematically illiterate, also complete and utter morons. Such is the base of support for this President of the United States.

Must Reads - Reminder

Bucky & I have posted notices for several books well worth reading. I thought it might be a good time to remind folks of some of them - an informed citizen is a well-(mentally)-armed one.

Craig Murry
Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror

Earthworks Group
50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Right

Peter Galbraith
The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End

Anna Politkovskaia
Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy

Andrew Cockburn
Rumsfled: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy

Greg Palast
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

I can promise you that we will bring more Must Read books to your attention as we come across them.

Bush & Iraq - By the Numbers

From a CNN poll taken May 4-6, 2007.

65% of Americans oppose the war. 1% are unsure and 34% were apparently contacted in mental institutions and said they favored the war.

By 54 to 44 percent, we OPPOSE Bush's veto of the war budget.
By 57 to 41 percent, we LIKE timetables and by 61 to 36% we like benchmarks.
By 54 to 43 percent, people do NOT link the Iraq war with "war on terror"

Another poll, taken 4/25-5/1 by Quinnipiac University found that by 55 to39%, we think that going to war with Iraq was the wrong thing to do. Of course the numbers may have been even higher had the question asked, "was it the #%@!$! buttheaded wrong thing to do by an idiot president and his gutless lackies?"

Again, one does have to ask -- who ARE these 30-40 percenters who apparently live lives of total isolation from reality?

Talking Truth to Idiot

While Cheney was off in Iraq proving that every time he visits an explosion will go off nearby, his puppet king W was meeting with eleven Republican congress folk (including Mark Kirk R-IL and Charlie Dent R-PA) to talk about Iraq. It was, NBC's Tim Russert reported was "unvarnished." Now I've got to say, there have been many, MANY people giving Bush the unvarnished truth about Iraq in the past few years, including a few Republicans.

So what's the difference with this crew & this meeting? Apparently Bush claimed he didn't want to pass Iraq off to the next guy (yeah right, we'll fall for that one, NOT). One of the congressmen told Russert that they told Bush that "word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There is no longer any credibility. It has to come from Gen. Petraeus.”

Well, aside from wondering if Petraeus is hanging onto any credibility, sounds like a good meeting of party members with the party leader. And isn't it just so refreshing to see that only a mere FOUR ##%@@ YEARS AFTER WE WERE DRAGGED INTO THIS MESS that 11 Republican congressmen have found their guts?

Thanks NBC news, wake me when it's something worth actually reporting & being important.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

President Bush and King John

I saw a cartoon the other day in which unidentified pols beseech Queen Elizabeth, "Ma'am, help save us from the madness of King George." Very apropos--I would call the difficulty intransigence and obtuseness, compounded by delusional thinking, but nevermind. In today's Boston Globe, H.D.S. Greenaway finds more similarities between the President and British monarchs, namely King John, the man who signed the Magna Carta in l215. He sets the stage thus:

"This has not been a good spring for the president. Democrats, and even some Republicans, are beginning to think about choking off the war in Iraq; the Supreme Court didn't like his closing down environmental regulations; his Justice Department is under scrutiny as never before for conducting politically motivated purges. The dark prince, Vice President Dick Cheney, mutters repeatedly that the president is all powerful, and that Congress should have little to say about war. One couldn't help but think of the peevishness of King John in 13th-century England, beset with troubles at home and mismanaged wars abroad, desperately unpopular, a king who suffered in comparison to both his father, Henry II, and his brother, Richard I. John also had a strong and much admired mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine."

Greenaway goes on to review the looming conflict the intransigent king faced with his fed-up subjects:

John is best remembered for his confrontation with his rebellious barons who had simply had enough of his high-handed ways -- leading to the king's capitulation at Runnymede , outside London, and the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 , which curtailed some of the king's powers, and enhanced those of the barons.
The barons had many grievances, but if there was an immediate incitement it was John's efforts to obtain men and money for a lost war across the channel which stirred resentment. His efforts to collect scutage (shield money) to pay for war was the last straw. And, as my encyclopedia puts it, an accompanying "collapse of the judicial administration must have done more than anything else to bring the masses of men over to the baronial side."

In short, Greenaway concludes,

"The rebellious barons grew sick of the king's abuse of power and decided to do something about it. Harry of Nevada and Nancy of San Francisco had their counterparts in the 13th-century earls of England."

Let's hope our modern Congressional grandees will take serious steps to check their leader, as their predecessors did in England many centuries ago. They got precedent.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Your "commander guy" with Queen Elizabeth, l991

President Bush stumbled through a brief photo-op with Queen Elizabeth II today at the White House. He nearly told the audience the Queen was "here in l776 to help celebrate our bicentennial," before correcting himself. Her Majesty did not look particularly amused.

As it turns out, the President has a history with the Queen. The Guardian provided this bit from the last royal visit, in l991. Then first-son GW Bush found himself seated next to Her Majesty at dinner. He leaned in rather chummily and declared, "I am the black sheep of my family." Then he asked Her Majesty, "Who's yours?"

The Queen quite properly declined to answer, which only leaves us marveling at the Commander Guy's utter tone-deafness. He hasn't changed a bit since ascending the happy heights of the Presidency. The operative words seem to be, "stop him before he talks again!"

Beyond "we will bury you" with N.S. Khrushchev

We all remember Nikita Khrushchev's tendency to bluster and go off on people. First, there was the fierce argument with Nixon in the model American kitchen in l958, then the "we will bury you" speech at the U.N. John F. Kennedy emerged shaken and a little bit dazed after trying to argue Leninism with the Soviet premier in Vienna and getting threatened with nuclear war over Berlin. Well, it wasn't all threats...the late, great Nikita Sergeevich was a master of colorful scatology, as a linguist friend recently made clear:

Khrushchev's earthy language came straight from his youth, and William Taubman(Khrushchev's biographer) has
many happy examples. Time and again when under pressure, Khrushchev returned to a story about poor little Pinya, the saddest of sad sacks, who unexpectedly got his stronger comrades out of a tight spot: "That little Pinya, that's me." He had a special rustic line in animal images -- for instance, saying that the U.S. needed a fight over Berlin "like a dog needs
five legs," or asking, "What if we throw a hedgehog down Uncle Sam's pants?"Scatology came naturally to him, with plentiful references to all parts of the body and their functions. Berlin, he said as he put the political squeeze on it, was "the testicles of the West." Or again, "If Adenauer pulls down his pants and you look at him from behind you can see Germany is divided. If you look at him from the front, you can see Germany will not stand."

They just don't make pols--Russian or otherwise-- the way they used to, do they?! And what if they DID throw a hedgehog down Uncle Sam's pants?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The new French President and the US elections

So "Sarko" has la victoire en France...hooray for him, since he's a Hungarian and I like Hungarians. Plus, a sampling of pols across party lines seems to think he will be good for Franco-American relations.

What about the 2008 US contest, though? On the face of it, you would think that Segolene Royal's defeat doesn't augur well for Mrs. Clinton's chances. You Francophiles, are there valid comparisons to be made here?

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Chinese Century?

The 20th century is often referred to as The American Century. Moving away from argument as to how accurate a title that could be - I ask a question.

Will the 21st century be the Chinese Century?


Has the administration of George W. Bush sealed the US's fate as a nation of influence for good?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Onward Christian Soldiers, or WWJB?

You have to hand it to these American exceptionalist Christians. Back in the day, at the turn of the last century, the cross followed the flag. In other words, the US conquered various territories for political and strategic reasons. Close behind was always a group of Christian missionaries, determined to bring the true faith to the pagan heathens. Usually, there at least were schools and churches and hospitals established, even if the approach was paternalistic and patronizing.

The second-millenium exceptionalist Christians have taken a different approach, as James de Young, a professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, made clear in a forum in Scappose the other night. He declared that the US incursion into Iraq, with all the mayhem and chaos and civilian casualties it brought, meets all the requirements for a "just war" and are therefore not only permitted, but sanctioned by God. We had just cause, he explained, to invade Iraq "in light of 9-11." "I don't think we brought war to anyone," Professor de Young said. "The war came to us. This(invading Iraq)was simply our response and therefore justified." The problem with everyone being upset, de Young went on, would disappear if the news media would just stop obsessing about the killings and bombings and focus on the "good news."

Rhetoric like this just takes your breath away. First, it sickens you to know that there are people like this among us. Surely, warmongering on this level--from a self-proclaimed "man of God"-- should bring expulsion from the ranks of civilized humanity. Also, of course, it makes you wonder about the evolution of militant Christianity and American exceptionalism. When the cross followed the flag decades ago, at least you could argue that the residents got some benefit. Now, they get a bomb dropped on their neighborhood and/or a bullet upside the head. I guess the object now is to off the brown infidels, rather than convert them.

Which only begs the troubling question: Whom would Jesus bomb?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Was it . . . SATAN?

Apparently so. Utah Republican state delegate Don Larsen has discovered the REAL SECRET behind immigration into the U.S. It is part of SATAN'S plan to destroy the US by "stealth invasion."

Apparently Larsen has managed to frighten off the rest of his state party, as they rush to microphones to assure people that he doesn't speak for them. But really, don't you just KNOW that the party faithful are out there slapping hands to heads and exclaiming, "I KNEW IT! The Devil!"

According to the newly designated delegate from Pluto, Larsen said, "In order for Satan to establish his 'New World Order' and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nations the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness."

Of course, this does beg the big question. Which is truly the work of the Devil. Immigration? Or Rep. Larsen's existence?

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