Saturday, January 13, 2007

Four Great Periods

Well, the New York Rangers seem to have beaten off whatever funk they were in and have played four straight outstanding periods of hockey. Unfortunately, they only have one win to show for it.

After two periods against Ottawa Thurday night, they were down 5-0. Tom Rennie must have given a helluva a speech, because they stormed back and scored four unanswered goals, until Ottawa suddenly found their skates and netted one into an empty net for a 6-4 win.

Today against Boston, on the premiere weekend of Hockey "Night" On NBC, the Rangers fought off a furious defensive Boston first period and scored a 3-1 win, Jed Ortmeyer scoring the final goal on a penalty shot, his first goal after returning from a pulmonary embolism last week.

Finally, the Rangers decided to stiffen up and play a little defense, and I don't think it's any coincidence that they've played brilliantly in four periods where they've worked the other team deep into their own zone, and come up with the puck.

They had allowed 11 goals in the past two games, hearkening back to a week or so ago when they were giving up goals like Britney Spears was giving up beaver shots.

tags technorati :

Dick's Turning Japanese

Ironic that I just music blogged this song for next week, but I noticed this story in Reuters this morning and couldn't resist a "foreplay":
OKYO (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney may visit Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, possibly as early as next month, a Japanese daily reported on Saturday.

Quoting U.S and Japanese diplomatic sources, the Asahi Shimbun daily said that Cheney would visit Japan to explain Washington's plan to send an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq.

[...]Abe told Bush in a phone call earlier this week that he strongly expected U.S. efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq would proceed in an effective manner and bring about good results, according to a statement.
You'd be correct to ask, "Why Japan? Why do they care? Are they even IN Iraq?"

Yes, they are...about 600 humanitarian workers sent by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. And even those aide workers are causing a deep divide in Japanese public opinion:
And Japan has not “re-upped” yet, though news reports Friday said the Japanese government was considering extending a special law that authorizes the deployment of its 600-member humanitarian mission for another year.

Japan’s military involvement has been unpopular with the public. Some say it violates the nation’s pacifist constitution and makes Japan a terrorist target.

“I feel like it’s going to go in the same direction as the Vietnam War,” said Yoshikazu Nagashima, 57, who runs a trading company in Tokyo. “Japan should withdraw from Iraq. There is no benefit in staying.”
The Coalition of the Bribed Willing is falling apart quite rapidly, in fact:
The Italians have left, and the Slovaks are about to. Britons want to start getting out, and so do Danes and South Koreans.[...]

In the months after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the multinational force peaked at about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries — 250,000 from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain, and the rest ranging from 2,000 Australians to 70 Albanians.[...]

Italy, once the third-largest partner with 3,000 troops in southern Iraq, brought the last of its soldiers home last month.
Now Britain, America’s chief ally, hopes to cut its 7,000-member force in the southern city of Basra by several thousand in the first half of the year. Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing to announce a withdrawal of about 2,600 soldiers, the Financial Times reported Friday.[...]

South Korea, the current No. three contributor, plans to halve its 2,300-member contingent in the northern city of Irbil by April, and is under pressure from parliament to devise a plan for a complete withdrawal by year’s end.[...]

Although Britain welcomed Bush’s announcement that more U.S. troops would be deployed, it has ruled out sending in any additional forces. Australia, with 1,300 troops in and around Iraq, also is “unlikely” to chip in more, Prime Minister John Howard said this week.

Poland has extended the mission of its 900 troops through the end of 2007. But most of the other coalition members that have extended their commitments are small, mostly symbolic contributors. They include the Czech Republic, which has 100 military police in Iraq; Armenia, with 46 peacekeepers under Polish command, and the 40 Estonian infantry serving with U.S. forces in Baghdad.

Latvia also has agreed to keep its 120 infantry in Iraq until year’s end, and Lithuania has hinted it may extend into 2008.

In Romania, however, continued involvement has touched off a bitter squabble between Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who wants the 860 troops home, and staunchly pro-U.S. President Traian Basescu, who refuses to cut and run.

Denmark is also trying to scale back its 470-troop contingent serving near the southern city of Basra. Six Danish soldiers have been killed since the 2003 deployment, and recent surveys show six in 10 Danes want out of Iraq.

Ordinary citizens in Slovakia, which is bringing home its 103 soldiers early next month, know the feeling.

“It’s an American war, and we have nothing to do with it,” said Mikulas Krkolak, a bartender in Bratislava, summing up the souring mood in many coalition countries.
Uh oh. So basically it will be us, some shires of England, and the Republic of Palau...

So given that, what's the focus on Japan? Why is Cheney taking great pains to visit there, and not Australia, which has committed far more troops, or Romania, or Denmark?

I'm going to take an educated guess by tying in one other piece of information to this story: on January 7, the Treasury department held its most recent T-bill auction and was forced to raise short-term interest rates on them in order to attract enough bidders to finance the deficit.

Japan is the second largest buyer of American debt. Granted, they'd be fairly happy getting a better return on their investment, but this also signals that America is perceived as substantially weaker because of its involvement in the war, particularly as it becomes more and more drawn out.

Why aren't you reading more about this? Mostly because the war is being funded "off the books", so to speak. Bush has been waging this war thru a series of "emergency supplemental appropriations," which don't get counted against the deficit, believe it or not. So when a Republican tells you the deficit is down, remind him that most of the costs of Iraq, something along the lines of $500 billion dollars, have not been included.

And yet, it is money that we owe. To Japan. And England. And China. And Saudi Arabia. And many other countries.

It seems that the Democrats have decided to dig in their heels, finally:
Democrats in Congress plan to crank up pressure on President Bush by voting this month on a resolution opposing his plan to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq and following up quickly with efforts to pass tough restrictions on future war funding.

Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., an influential member of the Appropriations Committee and top ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warned Friday that he might seek to close the controversial U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as a condition of approving more money for the war.

"If he wants to veto the bill, he won't have any money" for the war, Murtha said at a forum of anti-war Democrats.[...]

(House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is under pressure from her party's most liberal members to cut off all funding for the war unless the money is tied to a withdrawal of U.S. forces. For now, the speaker is opting for a more cautious strategy of first pushing a nonbinding resolution that would serve as a rebuke of Bush's planned increase in the number of troops.
Even if they tie it up for a while, Cheney's trip to Japan becomes all the more clear.

He's there to ask Japan to fund the war effort, at least until they can break Congress.

tags technorati :

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy

Maybe the most haunting song ever written. This might be the first video that actually told the story of the song in a narrative rather than descriptive form. Certainly it was the first openly gay video that didn't parody the lifestyle.

When Republicans Commit Crimes

"I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into the hospital. She calmed down and at the end of the conversation happened to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to kill the ants. I told her that she better bring her daughter into the emergency room right away."

Early this year, some Boeing employees on the airfield decided to steal a life raft from one of the 747s. They were successful in getting it out of the plane and home. Shortly after they took it for a float on the river, they noticed a Coast Guard helicopter coming towards them. It turned out that the chopper was homing in on the emergency locator beacon that activated when the raft was inflated. They are no longer employed at Boeing.

A man, wanting to rob a downtown Bank of America, walked into the Branch and wrote this. "Put all your muny in this bag." While standing in line, waiting to give his note to the teller, he began to worry that someone had seen him write the note and might call the police before he reached the teller's window. So he left the Bank of America and crossed the street to the Wells Fargo Bank. After waiting a few minutes in line, he handed his note to the Wells Fargo teller. She read it and, surmising from his spelling errors that he wasn't the brightest light in the harbor, told him that she could not accept his stickup note because it was written on a Bank of America deposit slip and that he would either have to fill out a Wells Fargo deposit slip or go back to Bank of America. Looking somewhat defeated, the man said, "OK" and left. He was arrested a few minutes later, as he was waiting in line back at Bank of America.

A motorist was unknowingly caught in an automated speed trap that; measured his speed using radar and photographed his car. He later received in the mail a ticket for $40 and a photo of his car. Instead of payment, he sent the police department a photograph of $40. Several days later, he received a letter from the police that contained another picture, this time of handcuffs. He immediately mailed in his $40.

A guy walked into a little corner store with a shotgun and demanded all of the cash from the cash drawer. After the cashier put the cash in a bag, the robber saw a bottle of Scotch that he wanted behind the counter on the shelf. He told the cashier to put it in the bag as well, but the cashier refused and said, "Because I don't believe you are over 21. "The robber said he was, but the clerk still refused to give it to him because she didn't believe him. At this point, the robber took his driver's license out of his wallet and gave it to the clerk. The clerk looked it over and agreed that the man was in fact over 21 and she put the Scotch in the bag. The robber then ran from the store with his loot. The cashier promptly called the police and gave the name and address of the robber that he got off the license. They arrested the robber two hours later.

A pair of Michigan robbers entered a record shop nervously waving revolvers. The first one shouted, "Nobody move!" When his partner moved, the startled first bandit shot him.

Arkansas: Seems this guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he'd just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back knocking him unconscious. It seems the liquor store window was made of Plexi-Glass. The whole event was caught on videotape.

Please note that all of the above people are allowed to vote... and reproduce!

Friday Kitten Blogging Featuring Special Guests

Some of the very special kitties of much does it suck that their entire day is spent on Bermuda, huh????

Kick Him When He's Down!

Why doesn't anybody like me???

A couple of items in the news today demonstrate why being a failure as President is the world's loneliest job...

Bush team faces hostile Democrats over new plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush and his top military and diplomatic team tried to convince a hostile Democratic-led Congress and a skeptical U.S. public on Thursday that his plan to send more troops to Iraq will work.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, heading to Capitol Hill for an expected grilling from lawmakers, insisted to reporters that Bush's new plan will put more pressure on Iraqis to take over their own security.
From a different article:
One of Rice's testiest exchanges came with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Obama noted that when Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, testified before the committee last July, he said the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had six months to bring the sectarian violence under control or the fledgling nation could fall into an intractable crisis.

"Six months have passed. The sectarian violence has worsened," Obama said. "What leverage do we have that would provide us some assurance that six months from now, you will not be sitting before us again saying, `Well, it didn't work'?"

Rice responded that the al-Maliki government would have to achieve certain benchmarks in the next few months, such as showing it would be even-handed in defending its population.

"Or else what?" Obama pressed.

"Or this plan . . . is not going to work," Rice responded.
OK, so the Dems got their kicks in, but...check out some of the Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a Vietnam veteran, called the plan "the most dangerous foreign-policy blunder in this country since Vietnam," and accused the administration of sending American troops into a civil war.

"To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives, to be put in the middle of a civil war, is wrong," he said. "It's . . . morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong."

[...]Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., expressed concern about whether Iraqi security forces were up for the fight.

"I just have my doubts that the Iraqis will show up," McHugh said.
The House, as is its wont as the more tumultuous and partisan of the two houses of Congress, was more generally supportive of Bush, altho Senator (and Steve Forbes lookalike) Mitch McConnell (R-KYJelly) threatened to fillibuster any resolution that openly disapproved of the President's escalation.

McConnell....fillibuster....hmmmmm....that sounds sort of familiar, don't you think? Can you say "nuclear option"?

The House got its kick in from a different direction, however:
WASHINGTON // After an emotional day of debate in which lawmakers invoked their own medical tragedies and those of families, friends and constituents, the House of Representatives voted yesterday to expand federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
The vote was 253-174, short of what is necessary to override a promised presidential veto. But the third major piece of legislation to pass the House this week fulfilled a key campaign promise Democrats made on their path to winning the majority.
True PromiseKeepers...

Even his own administration is doing an end-around on his war policy:
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday changed the Pentagon's rules to allow for shorter and more frequent call-ups of the National Guard and Reserves.

Instead of calling up individual troops for 18 months of active-duty service, the Pentagon now will mobilize entire units for no longer than one year, Gates announced, speaking at a White House news conference.

"This change will allow us to achieve greater unit cohesion and predictability in how Reserve units train and deploy," said Gates, appearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Pentagon's goal is to ensure that part-time military forces are called to active duty no more than once every six years. But Gates acknowledged that a "select number" of Guard and Reserve units would be recalled sooner than that.
Shorter tours and more infrequent call-ups will force Bush to either fight using the full-time Army more and more, or call for a draft, neither being particularly good politically. Currently, although they make up nearly half the fighting forces in Iraaq and Afghanistan, only ten percent of the Guard and Reserves is eligible for call up again. This sort of sets an outer limit to the length of the Iraq war, which is being fought on the backs of the poorest Americans who joined the Guard and Reserves (and Army) for the college tuition and signing bonus, while they were able to work full time jobs if Guardian or Reservist.

"Were" being the operative word. Although by law employers were forced to keep jobs open for anyone in the Guard and Reserves who were called up, tens of thousands of the hundreds of thousands called up have been so severly injured and of course killed, that jobs may be moot, even allowing for the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires "reasonable accomodations" be made for an emloyee's disabilities. Expect this to be a larger issue during the next administration.

Even Saddam got one last kick in, going out the door:
CAIRO, Egypt -- Hours before Saddam Hussein's execution, the ousted Iraqi leader asked his lawyers not to appeal for his life and accused the United States and Iran of collaborating to hang him, according to a copy of his will.
Thus neatly tying Bush into his own "Axis of Terror".

It's going to be a lonnnnnnnnng two years.

, ,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Story You're Not Seeing On Your News

Interesting that simultaneous to the, um, new direction we're supposedly taking, comes this:
ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces stormed an Iranian consular office in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil early on Thursday and arrested five people, including diplomats and staff, Iranian officials said.

The U.S. military made no direct mention of Iranians but in answer to a query issued a statement saying six "individuals" were arrested during "routine" operations in the area.

As the overnight raid was in progress, President George W. Bush was vowing in a keynote address on American television to disrupt what he called the "flow of support" from Iran and Syria for insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
Agreed that no nation should interfere in the sovereignty of any other nation unless it directly affects that nation's safety.

So the question has to be asked, why are we still there?

This was my problem with this war from the very beginning. Since there was no direct link between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks, nor was their any credible evidence that he either had weapons of mass destruction or intended to use them against American interests (one wonders if he actually had WMDs, would he threaten us with them?), we had no business invading Iraq, just because we didn't happen to like the leader of that country, at this particular moment.

It's at times like these that I'm drawn to history, and indeed, history provides an excellent example of what not to do:
I can, however, add a footnote [to the Bay of Pigs, the failed invasion of Cuba]. As fall approached, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, the irascible and slightly infamous patriarch of the Kennedy clan, called me up to muse a bit about that hot summer (Berlin Wall, Khrushchev blasts at the Vienna Summit). The conversation went something like this: "I tell you, Hugh, Jack is the luckiest guy I know. He could fall into a pile of manure and come up smelling like a rose. The Bay of Pigs and the other things were the best lessons he could have gotten and he got them all early. He knows now what will work and what won't, who he can trust and who he can't, who will stick with him and who will not."

Old Joe was right. Kennedy stood up to it, took the blame for the Bay of Pigs, rearranged his staff and a year later when confronted by the Cuban Missile Crisis steered a steady and successful course through that nuclear peril.
Likewise, Bush had his lesson handed to him early, twice, in fact: once during the September 11 attacks, and once more in June 2003, when it became apparent that the swift and clean military operation that he initiated had turned into an embroilment of American troops being called upon to police a people they had nothing to do with. Or you could call us, as Bush has, "occupiers", with all the negative connotations of that word).

But a sidenote: imagine if an honest-to-God crisis threatened the United States during this debacle? JFK learned enough from the Bay of Pigs to be able to steer us through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Imagine a similar scenario tripping up this tangle-footed booby.

Curiously enough, it's not like we were expecting, despite Vice President Cheney's assertions to the contrary, to be greeted as liberators. As US Today has noted:
• Military and civilian intelligence agencies repeatedly warned prior to the invasion that Iraqi insurgent forces were preparing to fight and that their ranks would grow as other Iraqis came to resent the U.S. occupation and organize guerrilla attacks.

• The war plan put together by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Tommy Franks discounted these warnings. Rumsfeld and Franks anticipated surrender by Iraqi ground forces and a warm welcome from civilians.

• The insurgency began not after the end of major combat in May 2003 but at the beginning of the war, yet Pentagon officials were slow to identify the enemy and to grasp how serious a threat the guerrilla attacks posed.
Take a closer look at that last one. Even prior to the "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" gambit, the military was wrestling with an entrenched insurgency that threatened to keep us there for years to come, "last throes" notwithstanding. The precise moment of this revelation is even known:
At precisely 9 a.m. on March 22, 2003, the third day of the war in Iraq, GIs riding armored vehicles through the southern town of Samawah waved at a group of civilians gathered near a bridge. Instead of a friendly reply, they got automatic weapons fire. The men charged the armored column in waves, attacking with AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

With their superior firepower, the Americans cut down the attackers by the score. But the incident stunned U.S. soldiers and commanders, according to an account by Staff Sgt. Dillard Johnson, who helped beat back the attack that day. Lt. Col. Terry Ferrell, one of Johnson's superior officers, had half-jokingly told his troops to "expect a parade."

The searing experience, recounted in "On Point," an official Army report on the conflict, has since become daily fare for the 138,000 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq. "For the first but not the last time, well-armed paramilitary forces — indistinguishable, except for their weapons, from civilians — attacked the squadron," the account notes. The difference now is that the Iraqis have become wilier fighters, increasingly adept at using remote bombs and hit-and-run tactics while avoiding counterattack.
Sounds like the Viet Cong, but what do I know?

OK, this has been a roundabout journey to get back to the Iranian question: if we are making the case that Iran has no business interfering in the affairs of Iraq, we shouldn't.

In fact, we should welcome their overt involvement in supplying arms to the Shi'a, in my opinion, since the burden for policing this war will now fall to them, and not us. we can quietly slink away, and lick the wounds of yet another failed large-scale war fought unilaterally for the liberation of a people threatened by a totalitarian regime. Too, this would force the Saudis (who owe us at least one) to fund the Sunnis. We could protect the Kurds as a sop to nascent EU member and staunch NATO ally, Turkey.

I, for one, doubt that things would get much worse in Iraq, and seriously doubt that the conflict, under this scenario, would extend beyond Iraq. Iran's army is too big for Sunnis to push into their borders, the Sauds would simply buy the best army money could buy (ours), so that even if Iran asked the Russians and Chinese to assist, their involvement would end up being quite minimalist (particularly as we would have some influence over them as well). Effectively, we would have pinned the Shi'a factions in between us in the Kuridsh north and the Saudi-backed Sunnis in the south, thus de facto creating a tri-partite Iraq, which is what most sensible folks think should happen there anyway.

It's not war by proxy, to be sure, but a mutually-assured security arrangement. Yes, there will be turmoil and unrest until things sort themselves out, but I think this is a plan that Americans could get behind, and certainly the Middle East would prefer to daily unrest and violence between factions. Call it a "cooling off period".

, ,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

War Powers And Impeachment

I have an interesting question and if anyone would be so kind as to drag a constitutional lawyer into this thread, I'd be much obliged.

Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, Congress specifically claimed the authority to declare wars as granted to them in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11). Since many Presidents had circumvented the Constitution by declaring a "police action" or some such, and committing troops to long term engagements overseas without Congressional approval, Congress decided that no war could be waged without Congressional authority. Portions of the War Powers Resolution require the President to consult with Congress prior to the start of any hostilities as well as regularly until U.S. armed forces are no longer engaged in hostilities.

Now, since Dumbya declared in May 2003 that combat operations in Iraq were complete and the US and its allies were victorious, cannot Congress now declare the war over and bring the troops home, sine die? And if Bush refuses, wouldn't that be grounds for impeachment?

Just asking...

tags technorati :

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Curly Explains How Bush Got Caught Up In Iraq, and Then Promptly Failed

An Interesting Thought For You This Morning

Everyday, part of my rite of passage into my office is an elevator ride. My building has those godawful video screens run by, which while occasionally useful for things like current weather, really just rehash headlines and such from the day's news, which is thoroughly useless to me (I wish they'd show more art).

Today's "quote of the day", however, caught my eye.
As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
Charles Darwin, of course.

One could accuse Captivate of being a liberal-biased media outlet, given that tonight, George W. Bush will be addressing the nation on a "new course" for the Iraq war. After all, evolution is a shibboleth to the small number of Americans who remain his base, loyal to him to the end, perhaps 30% of Americans.

Which got me thinking a little. Roughly 51% of Americans believe in Creationism, and I'd be willing to bet that the lion's share of folks who still support this devolutionary President probably believe in Creationism.

Further, I'd be willing to bet that their understanding of evolution can be summed up in one incorrect phrase: "Survival of the fittest".

Too many people believe that "evolution" refers to survival of the strongest, biggest, most powerful (when evolution that is happening before our very eyes tells us otherwise). Herbert Spencer invented the phrase, and describes it thusly:
"Thus by survival of the fittest, the militant type of society becomes characterized by profound confidence in the governing power, joined with a loyalty causing submission to it in all matters whatever."
Hmmmmmmm...which while not describing evolution at all, certainly describes politics in America in the Aughts. The thinking prevalent in the administration and its supporters is "We're the sole superpower. We ought to flex our muscles." You know, "survival of the fittest".

See, evolution is a celebration of diversity. It says that, given the right circumstance, an alteration from the norm may actually be better adapted to breeding than the normative entity. It's when a bird is a little smaller than his cousins and can slip into a bug's nest so it lives longer by eating better and has more opportunity to leave offspring which will share this characteristic.

Spencer was, in fact, applying a rudimentary form of evolution, warped and twisted, to ecnomics, in particular the free market system. Mind you, what he describes in his books was no different than what Adam Smith defined capitalism as (the individual self-interest ultimately creates a largere societal self-interest, altho Smith was careful to put limits on capitalists and capitalism by insisting on government oversight to avoid predation), except that he extended it to exclude governmental interference, and to state categorically that, by applying Darwin's theory, those that can do better business should survive and dominate the market, including the market of ideas.

Look again, however, at the quote and apply this economic thinking to it: it implies that the best form of governance is one in which utter fealty to the administrators is given. The past six years have been about as close to that as we've had: one party rule over all three branches of government.

Nothing got done, and in fact, the country is the worse for it.

The GOP intolerated and indeed punished dissenters, which stifled an unfettered dialogue around the issues, and eliminated any possible alternatives that might have worked better (and certainly couldn't have worked much worse). By insisting on lock-step loyalty, the GOP in fact ate its young.

It's not just in governance that we see this decay and warping. Many churches, for example, will socially ostracize a sinner, despite the axiom "hate the sin, love the sinner." On a football team, it doesn't pay to get too creative, since the entire game is drawn around a plan that doesn't allow for very mjuch deviation, and soon you'll find yourself on the bench.

Hell, we see this behavior in various groups around the 'Net. Go on any conservative (or rigidly liberal) blog, and you'll find enormous numbers of people who will disown any politician or member who deviates in any small way from a perceived consensus, despite that politician's or person's general agreement with the underlying philosophy.

What happens is ultimately people begin to peel away as less and less is accomplished and more and more "bitching", for want of a better word, goes on. Think about how the Republicans in Congress finally got the balls to talk back to the White House, when they realized how far the party had fallen in the eyes of the American people, and how in danger they really were about losing both houses. The overlords then insist on even tighter adherence to the party line, which leads, as Princess Leia so aptly put it in Star Wars:
The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
Evolution away from the rigid dogma, in other words.

I think you know where my feelings are on this subject. I'm all for free thought, so long as its truly free and independent. Mealmouth platitudes and bromides to me, and I'll ignore you, or worse, make fun of your blank slate.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Weblog Awards Are Open!

NOTE: This post will be "stickied" until January 11th

If you like what you've read/seen/heard here this past year, I'd appreciate a mention at this site.

I figure I stand a chance in Best Writing, a far-outside chance at Best Political Blog. Also, of course, Best Kept Secret, since goodness knows I get a few less hits than Kos or Atrios...

Onward and Upward!

Bush To Somalia: Wag The Dog!

Can you say "Wag The Dog"?:
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Navy AC-130 gunship attacked suspected al-Qaida members inside Somalia, government officials said yesterday.

Under cover of Ethiopia's move into Somalia to help rout Islamist forces in recent weeks, U.S. officials have mounted an intensive effort to capture or kill key suspects of the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania more than eight years ago that killed 224 people.
Let me refresh your memory:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying "there will be no sanctuary for terrorists," President Clinton on Thursday said the U.S. strikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan and a facility in Sudan are part of "a long, ongoing struggle between freedom and fanaticism."
Now, remember this?:
"Look at the movie 'Wag the Dog.' I think this has all the elements of that movie," Rep. Jim Gibbons said. "Our reaction to the embassy bombings should be based on sound credible evidence, not a knee-jerk reaction to try to direct public attention away from his personal problems."

Massachusetts acting Gov. Paul Cellucci, a Republican and a movie buff, said: "It popped into my mind, but I do hope that that's not the situation and I trust that it isn't."

One of the first questions asked of Defense Secretary William Cohen at a nationally televised Pentagon was how he would respond to people who think the military action "bears a striking resemblance to 'Wag the Dog."'

"The only motivation driving this action today was our absolute obligation to protect the American people from terrorist activities," Cohen said. "That is the sole motivation."
Thus was born a Republican stalking point in reference to President Clinton. If it worked for them, clearly this can work for us.

The US had chosen to fight the Islamists in Somalia by proxy, sending in Ethiopian troops to flush out the Islamists and drive them out of Mogadishu. Unfortunately, although they were successful in that respect, there's a limit to what Ethiopian troops can do in our name, as Eritrea, a staunch rival to Ethiopia, was about to arm itself and get involved in Somalia. Together, the Islamists and Eritreans likely would have defeated any further incursions by Ethiopia. Too, many Somalis are distrustful of the Ethiopian government, so you'd likely see a replay of the Vietnam War, only on a regional scale.

Further, it's pretty clear that the US can't sustain a drawn out ground campaign in Somalia, meaning all we can really afford to do is use naval forces to lob some shells.

Maybe you recall who said this:
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, this is true. In the 9/24/01 issue, Fineman says this statement was made in the Oval Office at the White House during a meeting with the president and four U.S. Senators.

Fineman says Mr. Bush briefed them on plans for action against the terrorists and said, "“When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.”
Uhhhhhhh....guess again....Only this time, truly, the tail is smarter than the dog.

, ,

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Future Headline We'd Like To See


Another New York Day

This sort of stuff happens all too often in New York City, but here's the latest:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A mysterious, powerful smell of natural gas throughout much of Manhattan forced evacuations of some buildings and a temporary suspension of a commuter train service on Monday morning as authorities scrambled to determine the source.

But there were no immediate reports of injuries and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the odor was not dangerous.

"It may just be an unpleasant smell, but at this point we do not know any more than that. The one thing we are confident about is, it is not dangerous," Bloomberg told a news conference.
OK, I confess that Bermuda fish chowder had me a little gassy, and being rather stocky, one good fart could conceivably pollute the ambient air for a few miles, however, this was not me. It did, tho, cover most of Manhattan from the Battery Park area up to and just beyond Grand Central Station. Fortunately, my office is hermetically sealed from the air...I work for hypochondriacs, what can I say? I never smelled the stuff, and it cleared by lunch.

This is the third such mysterious smell incident in NYC in the past year and a half, it should be noted. In October, 2005, a maple-syrup-like smell permeated most of Manhattan Island and the adjacent parts of Queens and Brooklyn. Back in August, a methane smell was detected in large chunks of Staten Island, cause undetermined, as well as Queens (altho the Queens eruption seems to have been the result of an underground oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn). My calendar indicates I had left on vacation that day...


Spocko's Brain, which has always been a friend to yours truly, had a run-in with Disney over some lame-assed right wing fascist station that they own as part of their radio network.

Using the ridiculously measly excuse of copyright infringement, because Spocko had posted audio excerpts of the hate speech of Melanie Morgan and Brian Sussman (a fair use, we might point out), Disney issued a cease-and-desist letter to the company that was hosting his blog.

Now, many heavy hitters, including Firedoglake and Jesus' General, have taken up Spocko's cause, distributing his files across the Net, practically daring Disney to come after them.

I don't want to be left off this wagon :-)

"Allah is a whore"

"Bomb their mosques!"

"Liberals Should Be Executed" (bonus Ann Coulter appearance!)

"Target Nancy Pelosi For Assassination"

Ad infinitum, as nauseatum...

Cmon, Mickey...bring it!

A New Paradigm

As the Democrats have claimed their rightful control of Congress, I thought it would be time to throw off an idea that's been stuck in my head for many many years.

I think one of the big problems with America is we Americans take an awful lot for granted, something driven home by this past week's vacation. I think nothing of turning on a faucet and having the various levels of government provide fresh drinking water, sanitized and purified for my consumption. In Bermuda, each house collects its own rain water (supplemented, presumably, by some town water system, if feasible).

We have rights, but in exchange for these rights, we have damned few responsibilities, it seems. Abide by the law, yes, but in truth, that's it. And this leads to an awful lot of fingerpointing: you must support the troops, or you're a traitor, for example, which would be a lot more difficult a charge to make if we had a Bill of Responsibilities to go along with our Bill of Rights.

So in that spirit, I offer the following ten civic responsibilities, that ought to be included in the Constitution:

1) Vote. If you're 18 or over, and you don't vote, barring a valid reason from a very narrow list of exceptions, you should be fined at least $100. Period. There's no excuse for not voicing your opinions.

2) Serve. When turning 18, everey American will dedicate two years of his or her life to public service. It can be military service, it can be AmeriCorps service, it can be cleaning up your local park. You'll be paid a minimal wage, with a bankable bonus for college or towards your first residence accrued for every hour worked, and will force the various governmental agencies to compete for the pool of talent, so not many people will suffer unduly before they are twenty. The exceptions to THIS responsibility will be even fewer than for voting, since anyone can lend a hand somewhere.

3) Learn. Nearly every profession has what are called "continuing professional education" credits that you are required to earn in order to keep your professional certification intact and active. I envision this working outside of professions in this way: if you produce a CPE certificate that is related to either your work or your general education every five years, you are rewarded with a ten percent credit against your taxes. An informed, voting public is far more valuable and will save the government far more money than an ignorant passive citizenry.

4) Save. I would eliminate the Federal income tax on savings accounts holding less than $100,000, and held in an individual's name and Social Security number. If you can save more than $100,000, you'll be asked to open the account in a second bank in order to gain a tax break on that, in order to mitigate any FDIC problems should a worldwide Depression hit again.

5) Contribute. I would eliminate the need to itemize deductions in order to take a deduction for charitable contributions. I'd lower the standard deduction accordingly, and then allow people to take as much in charitable contributions as they can prove. And they'd be asked to submit the proof with each return. We have a long and deep history in this country of good people doing good deeds. We ought to codify it. It seems the people worse off do the most for other people in trouble, so we ought to make that a centerpiece of our society.

6) Recycle. This should be a no-brainer, but apparently with as much waste as we still create, way out of proportion to our population, we ought to be doing more here. I'd create a strong disincentive to throw away anything that can be reused. We're talking possible jail time, particularly for corporate polluters.

7) Decide. Jury duty is a responsibility that most Americans duck whenever possible. I'd toughen the penalties on ducking jury duty, and further, I would make jury duty harder to finagle your way out of. The trade-off here is, by making jury duty mandatory for anyone over 18 who has a social security card, people who are unlucky (like me) will get called less than five times in a decade and a half. I'm picking up someone else's slack. I don't like it.

8) Speak. While the right of free speech includes the right to keep silent, we should encourage people to speak up on public issues and to take stands. In this light, there are a few things I would propose. First, re-instate the Fairness Doctrine, which forced television stations to air opposing viewpoints of reponsible spokesmen for free. Second, remove the incentive for corporations to fund "free speech" disguising a marketing campaign or political agenda that benefits them. Individuals have rights. Corporate entities should have less of them. Finally, I would encourage people to run for local offices by incentivizing this process for municipalities by fully funding all campaigns below the state level, with some exceptions (it seems silly that the mayor of New York would be publicly funded when clearly private money can be judiciously applied and save us a buck or two).

9) Instruct. Hand-in-hand with the two-year service at 18, I believe that retirees ought to be encouraged to pass along the knowledge and wisdom they've received over the many years of service they've committed. With that in mind, I'd propose a fifty-percent premium in the Social Security benefit for any American who is willing to commit to two years of instruction, either at the school or corporate level. This will be on a sliding scale dependent upon how much compensation they receive from the institution they will be teaching at.

10) Vigilance. This nation was founded on the Millsian principle that you are free to behave as you wish, provided that your behavior doesn't disturb the neighbors. We ought to get back to that philosophy and stop trying to keep people from marrying or doing what they see fit for their own best life. However, "vigilance" comes from paying attention to our neighbors, and making sure that they aren't imposing their will on our lives. Instead of leaving it up to the government and the courts, perhaps the time has come to insitute some form of civic court, along the lines of small claims, that allow each of us to have a mediated hearing over an issue that affects us, but may not be illegal. We see this in some arenas, like small claims court or zoning commission hearings. I'd like to see it extended to such things as property lines, parking violations involving one's driveway versus on-street, and little nuisance things like that. Those are important to the people involved, but usually not important enought to get civic action unless enough noise (or money) is involved. We have a duty to keep small problems small and preventing them from snowballing into bigger problems.

Welcome Home Music Blogging

Bill Withers - Lovely Day

'Cuz that's what it was all week in Bermuda...I returned yesterday to the crisp chill of a New York City "spring" day, and now to a torrential downpour and chilly temperatures. It has taken me a long time to adjust myself to the surroundings I'm in, as I quickly adapted to island time.

I'll post a full trip report later this week.