Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gort, Klaatu barada nicto.

As it is Halloween evening, I’ll take a break from ranting about politics for a bit. I am really getting into a rut. So, I’ll talk about one of my other favorites subject, films.

Because of my training and employment as an engineer and scientist, I tend to analyze a movie to death. The first time I see a film, I usually just sort of “go with it” as the filmmaker probably intended. But on a repeat viewing, I’ll sit and go “Wait a minute, didn’t this just happen? So, what’s up with this new thing here? That doesn’t make any sense.” Or, “Now, that was really a cheap trick there, that wasn’t necessary.” In other words, I am an overly anal retentive, overly analytical engineer. (When you get right down to it, is there any other kind?)

One of my favorite sci-fi films is THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. It’s still a classic, although I wonder how it could have been directed by the same person who did THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY. Here are some of the things that occurred to me when watching it for about the fourteenth time. O.K., I’ll admit up front that most of these can be attributed to “artistic license” or “the need to advance the plot regardless if this makes sense or not”. Still, these things bug me as obvious discontinuities.

Anyway, here’s the deal. A flying saucer from somewhere in outer space has landed on the mall in Washington D.C., rather close to some very special national landmarks. There’s a large robot standing there that has already evaporated a number of jeeps and tanks with his death ray. An alien, whose intentions are as yet unknown, is on the loose in the city after having escaped from Walter Reed hospital. Yet, at night, there are a total of TWO soldiers standing guard at the ship, and there are absolutely no gawkers around checking out this once in a millennia event!?! Where’s the National Guard? The Army? Multi-departmental civilian force? If an interplanetary spaceship complete with giant robot just landed in my city, I would be standing there taking pictures and checking that thing out, no matter the time of day or night. But there’s a total of two guards with a couple of rifles just standing around like some sentries at a desolate Army barracks somewhere in the middle of Montana! Weird.

Next, after Klaatu was shot by the Army and his body was being held in some downtown jail, Gort the giant eight foot tall robot is able to stroll through downtown Washington D.C., find the jail, blast a hole in the prison wall with his death ray, grab Klaatu’s body and then walk back to the spaceship, all without anyone ever seeing him!?! I don’t think so. If nothing else, someone should have at least tried to mug him.

And what was Klaatu’s ultimate message that he had to deliver to all mankind? “Don’t be violent, or we’ll blow you up.” Wow, that’s a real uplifting message, although just a tad on the hypocritical side. It is rather a one-sided version of the Cold War’s philosophical approach of Mutual Assured Destruction. I suppose if it works for the rest of the universe….

One of my later thoughts about the film is that, given what I know now about computers and how they are continually screwing up, crashing, and doing things that generally you would prefer they not do when you are in the middle of entering vast amounts of data in a multi-dimensional spreadsheet, I would be really hesitant in putting the fate of all civilized worlds into the hands of a bunch of all-powerful robots who can never be turned off. More than likely, we would instead end up with HAL, the psychotic computer with a persecution complex, only this time he would have his own spaceship complete with weapons that could vaporize the Earth or any other planet whose inhabitants accidentally entered an incorrect keystroke and caused a system crash.

What a cheery thought. And here I was, looking for something to distract me from politics, the war, the election, North Korea with The Bomb, Iran with The Bomb, Pakistan with The Bomb…..

Cut and Run ex-general!

This is a pretty amazing column by one Lt. Gen. WILLIAM E. ODOM (Ret.) that was run in the L.A. Times today. I don’t know if you have to be registered at the LATimes web site in order to get this story or not. Just in case, here it is. I’ve highlighted some very interesting sentences.

THE UNITED STATES upset the regional balance in the Middle East when it invaded Iraq. Restoring it requires bold initiatives, but "cutting and running" must precede them all. Only a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops — within six months and with no preconditions — can break the paralysis that now enfeebles our diplomacy. And the greatest obstacles to cutting and running are the psychological inhibitions of our leaders and the public.

Our leaders do not act because their reputations are at stake. The public does not force them to act because it is blinded by the president's conjured set of illusions: that we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; creating democracy there; preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; making Israel more secure; not allowing our fallen soldiers to have died in vain; and others.

But reality can no longer be avoided. It is beyond U.S. power to prevent bloody sectarian violence in Iraq, the growing influence of Iran throughout the region, the probable spread of Sunni-Shiite strife to neighboring Arab states, the eventual rise to power of the anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr or some other anti-American leader in Baghdad, and the spread of instability beyond Iraq. All of these things and more became unavoidable the day that U.S. forces invaded.

These realities get worse every day that our forces remain in Iraq. They can't be wished away by clever diplomacy or by leaving our forces in Iraq for several more years.

The administration could recognize that a rapid withdrawal is the only way to overcome our strategic paralysis, though that appears unlikely, notwithstanding election-eve changes in White House rhetoric. Congress could force a stock-taking. Failing this, the public will sooner or later see through all of the White House's double talk and compel a radical policy change. The price for delay, however, will be more lives lost in vain — the only thing worse than the lives already lost in vain.

Some lawmakers are ready to change course but are puzzled as to how to leave Iraq. The answer is four major initiatives to provide regional stability and calm in Iraq. They will leave the U.S. less influential in the region. But it will be the best deal we can get.

First, the U.S. must concede that it has botched things, cannot stabilize the region alone and must let others have a say in what's next. As U.S. forces begin to withdraw, Washington must invite its European allies, as well as Japan, China and India, to make their own proposals for dealing with the aftermath. Russia can be ignored because it will play a spoiler role in any case.

Rapid troop withdrawal and abandoning unilateralism will have a sobering effect on all interested parties. Al Qaeda will celebrate but find that its only current allies, Iraqi Baathists and Sunnis, no longer need or want it. Iran will crow but soon begin to worry that its Kurdish minority may want to join Iraqi Kurdistan and that Iraqi Baathists might make a surprising comeback.

Although European leaders will probably try to take the lead in designing a new strategy for Iraq, they will not be able to implement it. This is because they will not allow any single European state to lead, the handicap they faced in trying to cope with Yugoslavia's breakup in the 1990s. Nor will Japan, China or India be acceptable as a new coalition leader. The U.S. could end up as the leader of a new strategic coalition — but only if most other states recognize this fact and invite it to do so.

The second initiative is to create a diplomatic forum for Iraq's neighbors. Iran, of course, must be included. Washington should offer to convene the forum but be prepared to step aside if other members insist.

Third, the U.S. must informally cooperate with Iran in areas of shared interests. Nothing else could so improve our position in the Middle East. The price for success will include dropping U.S. resistance to Iran's nuclear weapons program. This will be as distasteful for U.S. leaders as cutting and running, but it is no less essential. That's because we do share vital common interests with Iran. We both want to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban (Iran hates both). We both want stability in Iraq (Iran will have influence over the Shiite Iraqi south regardless of what we do, but neither Washington nor Tehran want chaos). And we can help each other when it comes to oil: Iran needs our technology to produce more oil, and we simply need more oil.

Accepting Iran's nuclear weapons is a small price to pay for the likely benefits. Moreover, its nuclear program will proceed whether we like it or not. Accepting it might well soften Iran's support for Hezbollah, and it will definitely undercut Russia's pernicious influence with Tehran.

Fourth, real progress must be made on the Palestinian issue as a foundation for Middle East peace. The invasion of Iraq and the U.S. tilt toward Israel have dangerously reduced Washington's power to broker peace or to guarantee Israel's security. We now need Europe's help. And good relations with Iran would help dramatically.

No strategy can succeed without these components. We must cut and run tactically in order to succeed strategically. The United States needs to restore its reputation so that its capacity to lead constructively will cost us less.

This is pretty frank talk from an ex-military man who probably prefers twelve simultaneous root canals while getting a screening for colon cancer at the same time than to go public with such hard hitting criticisms of the current “commander in chief”. That is usually a “not done” thing. However, many ex-military types have been lining up these days to give their assessment of the situation in Iraq.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lie, Damn Lies, and Presidential Press Secretaries

I would hate to be Press Secretary for President Bush. The gyrations these guys have to go through to avoid stating the obvious is amazing. I think maybe Scott McClellan had a great approach – that of a fencepost being asked to extract a cube root of a integer. He didn’t even acknowledge that he looked like a complete idiot. However, he was effective in his job. It has been reported that Bush once congratulated him after a press conference for not saying anything. I am paraphrasing here, but that is essentially what he said.

However, Tony Snow is something else entirely. He’s obviously a bright guy. However, when you have an obviously bright guy trying to defend something that cannot be defended or try to avoid answering a question by linguistic tricks, he cannot come off as anything but a smarmy hack that will say anything. Watching him last week trying to explain Bush’s “We’ve never been stay the course” bit has now been followed by his “tortured” explanation of Cheney’s assertion that it is a “no-brainer” to “dunk someone” if it could save American lives. Was he referring to waterboarding? After WWII, the U.S. prosecuted people who used this technique as war criminals. Oh, no, declares Snow. Cheney would never talk about specific techniques when questioning suspects. And beside, everyone knows that the U.S. does not torture. O.K., so if he wasn’t talking about waterboarding, what was he talking about? Several people have commented in the last few days that anything involving water and interrogating terrorists suspects has to induce some sort of fear into the detainee. So, it is isn’t waterboarding and the threat of imminent drowning, what are we talking about here? There just isn’t anything else that fits. Yet, Tony Snow pretends that he doesn’t know what the press is so upset about and why they won’t accept his non-answers as answers.

I don’t understand how these people can really live with themselves. O.K., if you really believe in what you are doing, if you would stand before God and be judged on your actions, then why not tell the American people the truth? The obvious answer is that they know they can’t do that. If they were to tell the American people what is really up with torture, or illegal wiretapping of phone conversations, or any one of about one hundred other nasty little secrets that the Bush administration doesn’t want anyone to know, they know that most of the true Americans would howl in protest. They absolutely know they are in the wrong and cannot defend their answers. Therefore, all we get is this little tapdance between the press and Bush or his mouthpiece where they try to trip each other and score cheap points as if someone is keeping a running tally. We hardly ever get the truth. And when we do happen to get a truthfully nugget now and then, it is almost always by accident.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My personal confusion and uncertainty about the Iraq war.

I am going to admit something here that I have been considering privately for the last year or so, ever since it became evident that, not only were things going very badly in Iraq, but very badly, we had and continue to have no idea of what victory might look like, and it is making our own country less secure.

I want us out of Iraq. I absolutely detest the idea that the men and women of our military are dying and are suffering horribly even when they aren’t maimed for life, all because of the blinding stupidity and hubris of a few individuals of this country who came to power in this country with a pre-formed agenda and who will lie and manipulate facts and emotions in order to do whatever the hell they want to. I hate that. We are not accomplishing anything good over there. All the commentary and reporting I have seen on this, some of it from some ex-high level military and government people, is that our only option is to give up on this pie-in-the-sky idea of a democratic Iraq being a beacon in the Middle East which serves as the tipping point for the entire region. We must now accept whatever we can figure out might be the course that will do the least harm.

That is the rub with me. The “least harm” from whose perspective? I want the military out as soon as possible. But I also believe that if we were to just pull out totally, like we did in Vietnam, the situation on the ground in Iraq will go from very, very bad to much, much worse. Yes, it’s pretty much anarchy now, with death squads from each side roaming freely and doing whatever they want to with the innocent civilians on the other side. We are not going to cure the fact that the deep animosity that the Sunni and the Shia have for each other, not to mention the Kurds. The most that can be done, I believe, is to keep them from slaughtering each other in a wanton fashion.

The problem is, how do we do that? Can it even be done? I doubt it. But I also think that the U.S. military is currently acting as some sort of brake on Iraq. We have seen what such hatred spawns when unchecked in the Balkans after the breakup of the Soviet Union and its’ satellite state of Yugoslavia. Are we to just pull out and leave the Iraqi people, many innocent people who just want to be left alone to live their lives without the constant threat of violence, to the same fate?

That does seem totally immoral from our perspective. We are not going much good in Iraq right now, many very knowledgeable people are saying our presence is making things much worse. But what is going to happen if we leave? I am not at all worried about “emboldening the enemy”, another emotional catchphrase of the Bush administration. I am worried about the people we would be leaving behind. This isn’t about terrorists wanting to harm the U.S. This is about unleashing Pandora’s Box among the Iraqi people. George Bush and his cronies are responsible for this. They are the ones that opened the door by invading the country without provocation and without the slightest idea what would come of it. Our country, the United States of America, was the cause of this. And to just pull out by saying “Well, you’re on your own. Sorry this didn’t work out” is heartless and cruel. We went in without a plan, and now we are probably going to leave without a plan. Many more tens of thousands of Iraqis will die until things are “sorted out”, just the way they were “sorted out” in Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Croatia. It was an incredibly bloody and brutal 10 years for those people. Are we going to wish the same on the Iraqi people?

This isn’t even getting into the political situation and what could happen on the world stage. Iraq and the Middle East, unlike the Balkans, is hugely important strategically. It is in the middle of a pressure cooker, with Israel and the Palestinian conflict in the middle of it. Iran is a growing threat and wants nuclear weapons. The Middle East is sitting on top of the greatest reserve of oil the world has left. Fundamentalists who desire nothing more than to destroy their enemies and make the world into a Muslim theocracy are exerting more and more influence each passing day in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, and Egypt. Turkey is most likely not going to accept having a Kurdish state sitting on its’ southern border.

In short, it is hard to imagine the situation being any worse than it is now. The conflict in the Balkans, bad as it was, was at least self-contained. It didn’t really affect world events. This is not the case in Iraq and the Middle East. Things could spiral out of control on “the Big Stage” very quickly. Yet Bush and his minions have no clue other than to keep doing what we have been doing, which is patently obvious to anyone with a brain that it isn’t working.

That is why I am torn. “Least harm” for whom? What are the ramifications if we pull out? It doesn’t matter if we pull out slowly or all at once; the results will pretty much be the same if we don’t have a game plan on how to control the logical outcome of this situation. What are we going to do?

That is why I get furious when I hear how the Democrats “don’t have a plan” for Iraq. I have actually heard of several. Whether or not any of them would actually do any good, I do not know. But it isn’t like they don’t have “a plan”. On the other hand, we know, for a fact, that the Republicans have no clue of what they are doing and haven’t for the last six year. They have proven themselves to be incompetent, corrupt, cynical, and will do anything just to remain in power. How could giving the Democrats a chance to act as oversight to this mayhem be any worse than what we have now?

We are all in a very, very dire situation and the Bush administration has been lying to the people about the real situation. We have no idea really how to extricate ourselves without unleashing total anarchy. By electing a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress would at least put some people in some sort of oversight role who at least acknowledge that we are in deep trouble.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

George Bush stops even attempting to make sense, Part II.

George’s latest limbo attempt with the English language comes as he is attempting to explain whether we are winning or losing in Iraq, what winning means, and why “staying the course” is our only option, except now that we aren’t really “staying the course” anymore.

Here is a comment from a reader of Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing.

"That struck me as an unbelievable contradiction of all logic -- 'the only way we can't win is if we leave, but if we can't win, we'll leave' -- so is he saying that if we don't stay in Iraq, we'll leave? I'm confused -- what's winning?"

He’s apparently not the only one who’s confused. Here is a comment (via the same Froomkin article) from Kathleen Parker, a conservative writer.

"Bush tried to clarify what 'winning' is.

"This is a little tricky, so pay attention.

"First, 'winning' is closely tied to 'staying the course,' another term seeking definition the past few days. As of this writing, 'staying the course' means 'winning,' which means 'not losing,' but you knew that.

"And what does 'not losing' mean? According to Bush, it means not leaving. Which no one wants to hear, but there it is. . . .

"At this point, the only real question, said Bush, is whether we can help the Iraqi government succeed. 'Not only can we help them, we must help them,' he said.

"Which means not leaving. Which means not losing. Which means winning, maybe, as currently defined."

So, how confusing is that? This from the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, whose own supporters can’t even figure out how to explain what the hell this guy is talking about and what point he is making.

I’ll be glad when this election is over.

I am just so overwhelmed by all that is going on and the kitchen sink of dirty tricks and downright sleaze that the Rethugs are throwing up in their desperation. Maybe that’s why I haven’t posted much in the last few days. I’m overwhelmed.

How despicable is it when an ad such as the one the Republican candidate Corker is using in Tennessee against Harold Ford that has shown to be full of demonstratably false accusations, and yet the RNC refuses to pull the ad? Or that the hidden racism of a large percentage of the southern supports of the Republican party is now pretty much out there on the table for all to see? Karl Rove and his pals seem to believe that the negatives (such as the exposed racism) outweigh the positives of dragging their hard-core, good ol’ Southern boy out of his house on election day.

I am just so depressed about how mean and nasty people can be when they get scared. There is nothing noble about this at all.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The monster within.

The Rethug party sure is finally exposing what is really inside its' soul. This is being exposed sort of like the Monster From The Id showing up in the classic sci-fi film, FORBIDDEN PLANET. Except in this case, unlike Dr. Morbius in the film, the Rethugs know EXACTLY who they are and what they stand for. They just hardly ever say it out loud, because they know that most of the people in the U.S. would be repelled. However, the threat of imminent defeat and loss of one or both houses of Congress sure put the fear of.... something or someone into these jerks. Their true nature is being shown on national television and in the press.

This is how the Rethugs are finally exposing themselves for what they really are.

This amazing commercial put on the RNC is nothing more than an ad for Osama Bin Laden himself and all the other terrorists who would like nothing more than to do harm to this country. However, the Rethug party has decided to pick up the tab and do the job for them! The approach is no less than “Let’s scare the everlovin’ bejessus out of everyone! Death! Mayhem! Destruction! Then they’ll have to vote Republican!” As Keith Olbermann pointed out on his show the other night in his special comment, this is clearly a terror tactic in and of itself. This time, however, it comes to you courtesy of the political party in power.

There is the ad being run in Tennessee against the Democratic challenger, Harold Ford. Jr. It is in every way racist to its’ very core, and yet the defenders of this piece of garbage are saying, “Come on! It’s funny! Get over it!” Ken Mehlman says that the ad is fair. How very commendable of him.

There’s Rush Limbaugh, the bag-o-flatulence extraordinaire, who is accusing Michael J. Fox of exaggerating or even faking the effects of Parkinson’s disease so that he will appear more sympathetic on his series of commercials supporting candidates that favor stem cell research. This from a convicted drug abuser who got off lightly because he is a Personality.

Here and here are a couple of other good links to well written posts regarding the current cesspool of slime and excrement, otherwise known as GOP Standard Operating Procedures.

And there is so much more going on just recently that I haven’t even touched on. Their conduct is nothing less than shameful, disgusting, hypocritical, and bigoted. I am beside myself to even think that these people consider themselves as Americans or Christians.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Was this what it was like during the 60’s?

I was in my early teens during the late 60’s, and was terribly unaware of what was going on in the country. Almost all I know about that period was what I have learned after the fact. I was vaguely aware that there was a war, but didn’t understand who or why we were fighting. I knew my oldest brother was in the Army but was in Korea, supposedly out of “harm’s way”. I remember seeing all those infamous body count numbers on the evening news. I remember being confused as to who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. I knew that the U.S. was one of the good guys, but there were three other labels on the screen with their own body counts. I didn’t quite get the distinction between North and South Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.

I didn’t really understand the huge split in the country at the time. I was vaguely aware of various student demonstrations and takeovers of this or that building. I remember the students being killed by the Guardsmen at Kent State. I knew that one of the kids from our little town in Colorado that went to school with my brothers was killed in Vietnam. I knew there was a draft, but I was still years away from that.

All in all, I was a very self-absorbed kid with little understanding of any events going on beyond my own little sphere. I was too busy just trying to survive adolescence, including my mom and dad’s divorce when I was in the third grade and my mom’s continual struggle to survive what must have been at near poverty levels. So, I suppose it isn’t too surprising that I didn’t have a clue at the time.

Still, from what I can piece together from my own memories and from my vantage point looking back at what is now a past national trauma, it seems like what is happening in this country is different than the cultural rupture that occurred in the 60’s.

I suppose the Vietnam War will always be associated with the “hippy/peacenik movement”, drugs, rock and roll, and a new sense of sexual liberation. It wasn’t just that society was split on the war, it was split along cultural lines that would have existed without the war. The war just made it easier to rip society along that pre-existing perforation. On the one side, you had Spiro Agnew and his legion of blue-haired ladies and white men with thick jowls. On the other side, you had Jimi Hendrix, the Black Panthers, Timothy Leary, and Abby Hoffman. The Establishment vs. the Counter-Culture. The war loomed large, but that was not the only thing going on.

Today, there is still a split in society. There are many of the same players on the same sides as before. But there are also some new and very influential players as well that I don’t remember being around at that time. The fundamentalist evangelical is the biggest new player. They can no doubt be seen as being a direct outgrowth from the blue-haired set as a result of the free-wheeling Counter-Culture that looked like was taking hold of the college campuses back then. But this represents a fundamental new movement in the direction tug-of-war going on in society. This faction would like to see America become some sort of fundamentalist Christian theocracy with a heavy dose of military might and unfettered capitalism. So, one could say that the division in this country’s psyche moved to the right. No one is out there advocating drug use to free one’s mind, free love, or any other such nihilistic behavior. But the extreme right seems a lot further to the right than it was before. Maybe the difference is the major pull from the center is to the right now, where back in the 60’s, it was to the left.

Where am I going with this rambling discussion with myself? I have no idea. I suppose I am trying to get some perspective on what is going on with this country today. I have no idea how we got to the point that a very large percentage of the people in this country think that torture is an acceptable practice, invading a country that wasn’t directly threatening us is not only acceptable but required, habeas corpus and other parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights can be deleted without discussion, the press should function as a propaganda arm of the government, and science as a discipline has been reduced to something akin to astrology. How in the world did we get here?

I do know one thing. This country has been hovering on the edge of a cliff, where the bottom of that cliff is a very nasty dictatorship where the freedoms that we currently take for granted are non-existent. It seems like to me that we have backed a few steps away from that precipice in the last few months. Perhaps people are finally beginning to wake up as to what has really been going on in this country for the past six year. Maybe. I hope it isn’t just wishful thinking on my part. We will see what the landscape looks like after the November elections. I am hoping for an outright repudiation of the thuggish tactics employed by the Republican party. It’s currently looking pretty positive, but I won’t rest easy until Wednesday, November 8th.

Make sure you vote!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Breaking news: Bush abandons even the pretense of making sense!

Sooo….. George Bush went on TeeVee this last weekend, being asked some interesting questions by George Stephanopoulos. Here is something that he just sort of let fly and left flopping around the studio floor like a dying carp.

Anchor George Stephanopoulos was asking Bush about comments from James A. Baker III, who has said that the independent commission he co-chairs is pursuing alternatives to "cut and run" or "stay the course" in Iraq.

Said Bush: "Well, listen, we've never been stay the course, George. We have been -- we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly."

“We’ve never been stay the course.” Hmmm…. Let me roll that around my mouth a bit, sort of like sampling a wine before spitting it back in the cup. “We’ve never been stay the course.” And that wasn’t -- couldn’t have been -- just a slipup. Not after White House counselor Dan Bartlett said almost the same thing the next day. This must be yet one more Bush talking points, where all his minions are sent out to their favorite media outlets and repeat the same thing. Lately, it was “cut and run Democrats”. Earlier on, I remember the phrase “historical revisionist”. Everyone was saying that for about three days, then that catchphrase that never caught fire must have been shuttled off to the dustbin.

This week, it is “We’ve never been stay the course.” This is just so astounding to me. I really and truly cannot figure out which one of the only three things that this can possibly represent.

The first is that Bush truly believes what he says and cannot remember that, for the last several years, “stay the course” has been his one and only answer to any question about Iraq. It’s the opposite side of the coin from “cut and run Democrats”. Sort of like “yin/yang” and “Abbott /Costello”, one cannot exist without the other, at least in the mind of Bush and his neocon followers. That’s all I have heard from Bush and his supporters for the last eight months or so.

The second possibility is that Bush knows exactly what he is saying and what a load of cow flop that it really is, but he is banking on the stupidity and gullibility of at least a majority of the voting American public to take him at his word and continue to vote Republican in two weeks time. After all, this has worked out fine many times in the past (e.g., WMD in Iraq), so why not this time as well? It isn’t as if they have a lot else to offer. Obfuscation as a tactic works very well, so why abandon it now?

The third and final possibility is that Bush doesn’t even care if his answers make sense, and doesn’t really care if anyone believes him or not. I have been noticing this tendency in some people, mostly conservative Republicans for some time now. As long as they can utter anything in response, as long as they can appear that they are in control and have a retort to whatever comes their way, that is all that it takes to make them happy. It doesn’t matter if they believe if themselves, and they don’t even care if it makes sense or convinces the person or persons they are talking to. It isn’t important. Their psyche is satisfied; they have made the effort. It isn’t their fault if no one believes them.

So, I can’t really say which category that Bush really falls into. I have seen a number of people argue for the first. Bush is a non-recovered dry-drunk who is heavily into denial about his own shortcomings and has a lot of emotional investment into his defensive ego protection mechanisms. It is no surprise that such a person could utter something that totally contradicts what he was saying just last week, so long as that protects himself from any possible blame or criticism. I could certainly buy this argument. However, I don’t really like to consider the possibility that the current President of the United States of America is out-and-out delusional. That is what a person would really have to be in order to act the way he is acting just to cover up his own shortcomings. Who knows what a person might do if really pushed on a bad day? Dropping a nuke on Iran just to spite Democrats isn’t that much of a stretch.

The second possibility is also very plausible. It depends greatly on 1) Bush’s ego, 2) his utter contempt for the American people (or anyone else he decides is beneath him), and 3) his love of unfettered power. This is a very, very cynical view of the man and his handlers. However, if it were true, he wouldn’t be that much different that the people who were in power in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. It is extremely possible to find people in today’s supposed Enlightened and Rational Age that are indeed that power hungry, who would do anything at all in order to remain in power and destroy their enemies. Again, that possibility is very disturbing to contemplate. On one hand, it might be a bit of a relief to know that Bush is using logic and understands the most likely outcome of his actions. He wouldn’t be considered to be a “madman” in the clinical sense of the word. However, this would mean that Bush will do almost anything to retain power and subjugate anyone who opposes him. Unfortunately, Bush’s own actions when viewed through this lens, show that this second possibility is very likely.

This last possibility is actually the one that I favor. I don’t know why. I have just had experiences with other, similar thinking people. I don’t mean that I know people who would use a national tragedy like 9/11 to go invade a country they were itching to go after before they even got into office and were just looking for an excuse. No, I mean that I have met people who would say just about anything when you hit them up with a question or point that they can’t answer. They just blurt out the first thing that comes into their heads. It doesn’t have to really address the point that was being made. It doesn’t even have to be rational or consistent. The important thing was that they need to have some pat answer that could, somehow, be justifiably seen as answering their critics. That’s all that is required, in their minds.

I suppose that this last possibility is actually part and parcel of the first possibility that I laid out. No doubt, psychologists have worked that all out long ago.

The main thing that comes from this sort of “thought experiment” is that, no matter which option you pick, it isn’t a very good conclusion for America. This is a man who has been handed the stewardship of the richest and most powerful country that has ever existed. He is treating it like his private plaything. He doesn’t consider the possible results of any of his actions after he leaves office. He takes no responsibility for any of the terrible things that have occurred as a direct result of his decisions. Having absolutely no fear or concern for any future events because you know that they can’t touch you removes all possible constraints for any decision you might want to make, no matter the reason.

I am hoping that a newly elected Democratic majority in the House, the Senate, or better yet, both, can put the brakes on this guy for the final two years of his term. If we get neither, then I really fear for the future of this country. What might happen in the last two years of Bush’s reign might make the first six look insignificant by comparison.

UPDATE: O.K, based on what has been going on about this "flip flop by any other name", it is obvious that the real answer for this particular question is #2. This renaming is now such a transparent political ploy, it is almost incomprehensible. Yes, this shows the absolute distain that Bush and his cronies have for the American public. Watching Tony Snow trying to do the linguistic equivalent of Chinese contortionists has been surreal. His feigned amazement that anyone would actually think that "stay the course" really meant... stay the course has been a wonder to behold.

The letter from Pat Tillman’s brother, Kevin.

This (via Truthdig) is all over the internet, but is not reaching the mainstream media. I did see that the Washington Post had a story on it, but I haven’t seen much on it elsewhere. I wonder why that is?

His letter is a powerful statement. I wish I could write something like this. It is all the more powerful because of who he is, what he has personally experienced, and his moral standing from what he has lost. Please pardon me for posting his letter in its’ entirety. That’s usually a no-no in the blogging world. However, I think that was probably the reason Kevin wrote this, so as many people as he could reach would read it.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we got out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.
Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,
Kevin Tillman

Friday, October 20, 2006

Is the war in Iraq really a “war”?

I am just musing on the actual meanings of words vs. what the person who utters that word would like everyone else to believe. To me, this whatever it is that we have going in Iraq seems actually very little like a war. Yes, we have a lot of military men and women in action, in harm’s way, and it is an unfortunate fact that many of them have been and will continue to be killed or severely wounded. If that is the definition of a war, then yes, that is what it is.

Maybe I have been too influenced by movies about World War II or documentaries on the History Channel. To me, a war is actually fought between two armies, with competing goals. There is strategy involved, objectives to be reached. Governments are involved, and each side has a recognizable command and supply structure. They wear uniforms. Generals have stars on their shoulders. Even though what the U.S. was involved in on the Korean Peninsula was formally called “a Police Action”, it was a war by any other definition. It fit all the items I described above.

I have absolutely no idea what is going on in Iraq or why we are there. Yes, at the beginning, it was a war between the military of the United States and the military of Iraq. That lasted only several weeks. Now, we have a mish-mash of all sorts of violence. Sunnis and Shias are at each other’s throats, with brutal slaughter of mostly civilians on both sides each and every day. There is a group of people who can legitimately be called terrorists who are intent on inflicting as much damage to the U.S. military as they can. They are not out to “defeat” the U.S. in a traditional sense. They just want to blow up their enemies. We are not there fighting a traditional army that has the backing of a government. We have no overall objectives or strategy. “Victory” is neither an objective nor a strategy. It is a goal. And we have absolutely no defined method to achieve that goal.

This would be a ridiculous situation if it weren’t so grim. Estimates of Iraqi dead range now anywhere from 20,000 to 600,000. Even if one assumes actual totals on the lower end of the estimates, that is still an appalling number. Our military is taking an incredible beating, in manpower, moral and equipment. It will be many years before it recovers. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea know that the U.S. is in no position to do anything other than bluster and threaten. We might drop a bunch of bombs on someone, but there is no way we are going to commit any sort of ground force to yet another war with a more formidable enemy than the two that we have going right now.

Whatever we are doing in Iraq, it certainly isn’t fighting a traditional war. To me, it seems more like the U.S. military is being used as a target in target practice. Rick Santorum, who I sincerely hope gets his hat handed to him in the upcoming election in Pennsylvania, said as much the other day with his very weird “Lord of the Rings” analogy. He said that our military in Iraq was drawing the focus of the Eye of Sauron so it wouldn’t be focused here in our country. So, to decode what he really said, it seems to me he was saying that our brave men and women in the military are being used as a distraction, an easy target for terrorists, something on which they can focus their hatred and violence, just so we can sit here in our country on our fat duffs, driving our 16 mpg Hummers and watching “Dancing With The Stars” and not be at all worried about getting our trains blown up or buildings knocked down. Unless George Bush and his cronies pop up on their predetermined scheduled to tell everyone how terrified they should be.

Like I said, ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Yet one more savage attack on the Constitution.

Yesterday, Bush signed into law a piece of putrid legislation that rips yet another cornerstone from the Constitution that protects our essential freedoms. Gone is the writ of habeas corpus. I don’t care what anyone else says, it is gone. Hardly anyone (except a number of bloggers and a few newspaper articles) has picked up on the fact American citizens are now included. Americans can be arrested, held for an indefinite period of time, never charged with a crime, never allowed access to a lawyer, and never shown the evidence against them so that they might be able to defend themselves. They could just be “accused” of something by someone in the good graces of the powerful. That might be all it takes for you to “disappear” into the system. All it takes is for the President to stick a label on you. “Enemy combatant”. That’s all it takes.

This could be the Salem witch trials all over again. Or the Soviet Union. People could start “exposing” their neighbors. How many people believe that no abuses will occur? We already have evidence that the FBI and CIA have monitored, and no doubt continue to monitor, anti-war groups, most of whom anyone with half a brain could tell in an instant pose absolutely zero threat to this country. Just in the last few weeks, this story broke about a man in Colorado who was arrested for “assaulting” the Vice President because he went up to him and said that Cheney’s position on the war was “reprehensible”. That was all. The man was with his son. No physical contact occurred, although the man admits that he may have brushed the VP’s shoulder while walking past, just as many others in the crowd did. And then the man walked off. Minutes later, a secret service agent came up to the man and arrested him. When the man objected and said that he couldn’t leave his son, the agent replied that someone from social services would take care of the boy.

This completely undermines one of the major concepts that define this country; innocent until proven guilty. This is more than a travesty. This is shocking beyond belief. Never before has this country depended on a person to safeguard the abuse of power, even if he is the president. The very framework protected us. Now, that framework is gone. I am beyond despondent. This country has changed and not for the better. Not by a long shot.

The terrorists have won.

(Here's a little more from Jane at Firedoglake.)

UPDATE: Bob Cesca at HuffPo says it much better than I ever could.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, someone is confused. I'm not sure who. Many national news outlets are saying that this removal of the rights assured by habeas corpus only apply to foreigners. However, I have seen several credible people say that this could also be applied to U.S. citizens. All it takes is for the president to label the person, U.S. citizen or not, as an enemy combatant. That's all it takes for that person to be deprived of all his or her legal rights. I have seen this asserted in several places. Helen Thomas said as much this morning. The most damning statement was by Jonathon Turley on Countdown early this week. I tend to believe that version. I just think the newspapers and major television news programs either haven't figured it out or don't really want to report on it. That is what is amazing me. This hughly significant attack on the Constitution is being met with total apathy. I think we, as a country, deserve what we get if we are this unaware of what is going on.

Very good article in Salon regarding Bush’s war.

This article rather tells it like it is. (The article in Salon is free. You just have to watch a short advertisement and then you get a free Day Pass to Salon. It’s pretty harmless.)

For Bush, the day of reckoning is at hand. After years of talking tough, smearing war opponents as appeasers and demanding "total victory," he must confront the fact that his Iraq war has been a catastrophic failure. Terror attacks are up, American casualties are soaring near record levels, and a credible study claims that at least several hundred thousand Iraqis have died as a result of the war, demolishing whatever moral rationale it had. Of more immediate concern to Bush, Americans have turned against the Iraq war so strongly that the issue now threatens to take down Bush's party, not just in the midterms but in 2008 as well.

James Baker has been brought in to pull Junior’s chestnuts out of the fire. It will be very interesting to see what his great revelation turns out to be. From the “leaks” that have already appeared in the press (such as in the article linked above), it would seem that the U.S. must get used to the fact that we are not going to achieve any of our stated goals, other than the fact that Saddam is no longer in charge. We certainly achieved that. However, we have nothing else. Nothing. And it looks like Baker might be attempting to soften up Bush and his cabal of neocons, getting them ready to accept what the rest of us have been painfully aware of for quite some time. This war is a failure. It is not going to achieve any stated goal of stability, democracy, reduced levels of terrorist activity, secure source of oil…. Nothing.

All that is left to be done is to figure out how we can extricate ourselves from the carnage and chaos in the least harmful way possible. Talk about lowered expectations. We are not going to see the reverse domino effect of flowering democracies springing up around the Middle East. We are just trying to figure out the least possible additional damage we can do at this time.

It will be very, very interesting to see how Bush reacts to this advice. Given that his modus operandi, every single time, has been to dig in, not recognize any sort of criticism or any suggestion that another method may yield better results, I would say that it’s a good bet Baker and his committee will be given the big brush off. Thanks but no thanks.

(Here’s another story about Baker’s involvement and probable recommendations.)

So, God and Moses are sitting around, discussing politics.

This sounds like the setup line in a bad joke about religion or politics or both. I wish this were a joke, but it isn’t. Here is the real story. God and Moses are starring together in a political ad on television in Colorado, in which they are discussing the concept of an increase in the minimum wage. I haven’t seen the ad, but from the sound of it, they apparently hate the idea of giving minimum wage earners any more money than what they get now. This is in spite of the fact that the national minimum wage hasn’t been raised in years at a time when corporate profits are going through the roof, along with CEO compensation packages, and in a number of states, a single worker earning the minimum wage for the year qualifies that person as being below the poverty line. I guess God may have changed His mind about tending to the poor and looking out for other people’s needs and all that.

So, talk about putting words in someone’s mouth. You can’t get any more presumptuous than putting words in The Creator’s mouth.

Again, I have to say, how do these people live with themselves?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

O.K., this is a good one. References to the Flying Spaghetti Monster have been around for some time. I thought they were funny but was not quite sure where it came from or what exactly was being referred to. So, I finally looked it up.

From Wikipedia: The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of a parody religion founded in 2005 by physics graduate Bobby Henderson to protest the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to biological evolution. In an open letter on his website, Henderson professes belief in a supernatural Creator that resembles spaghetti and meatballs called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and calls for Pastafarianism to be taught in science classrooms, essentially invoking a reductio ad absurdum argument against the teaching of intelligent design.

Followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) call themselves Pastafarians, a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarian.

I love the quickie artwork of TFSM creating mountains, trees, and a midget and the graph showing the Average Global Temperature (in degrees C.) vs. the Number of Pirates. Make sure you look up the open letter to the Kansas School Board. I am going to have to use this in many upcoming arguments.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Gays in the Republican party and other inconvenient facts.

According to “Accuracy In Media”, via Marty Kaplan at HuffPo, "Republican Gays are Closeted Dems”. So, the Rethug party, after only just now "finding out" that their membership has gay members, fires back with the only weapon they have. Why, of course! Gays cannot be “real Republicans”! And, as everyone knows, “not Republican” equals “Democrat”.

Never mind that it has been rather common knowledge that the Republican Party has a fair number of homosexual members. Names such as the Lavender Bund are well known, and the Log Cabin Republicans have their own web site. Exactly why gays think they should be active members of the Republican party, whose overall philosophy toward gays could be classified as medieval, is a question I have long wondered about and has no convenient answer. But that is not the point here. Nor am I making any statements that gay people should not be politicians or be around children. The Rethug party does that plenty, and for them to try to turn that around on the Democrats making hay with the Mark Foley scandal is ridiculousness to the nth power.

There are two things going on with this disingenuous claim that closeted gays in the Republican party are actually Democrats. (I can’t even type that without shaking my head in disbelief.) The first is that this is the only way that many Rethugs know how to respond. Nothing is ever the fault of the Republican party and it will never, ever admit to any error in its’ methods, actions, or ways of thinking. However, this whole mess with Mark Foley and his terrible fondness for male pages is clearly their mess. The Democrats have nothing to do with this. However, that is their first and sometimes only weapon. Try to pin everything on the Democrats and/or President Clinton. So many Rethugs are giving it a go, in hope that some of it sticks.

The other thing that is going on is that many within the very conservative ranks of the Republican party had no clue that any homosexuals might be members of their party. And this, if it becomes a well known and documented fact (they could just try looking around for a bit), a lot of the base that the Bush and the Republicans count on is going to not be terribly motivated come election day. This scares the crap out of them. So, they must do anything to sling mud at their opponents and distract everyone from finding out the real truth. There are homosexual members of the Republican party and a couple of them have turned out to be sexual predators. This, for a party who has donned the cloak of moral superiority, hits home in several ways.

This, coupled with that nice new book from David Kuo, "Tempting Faith" about how Bush and his minions have taken the right wing conservative Christian branch of the party for a ride, has the makings of really undermining that thirty percent base for the Republican party. The hard-core “faithful” want to be myopic in their political views. New information is hard to process for them, especially information contrary to their “set in cement” views of the world. One can only hope that all this will finally break down their door of denial and expose how hypocritical Bush and the Republican party has been, and continues to be, regarding gays and lesbians.

Friday, October 13, 2006

What Christian schools are teaching in “science” class.

I’ll forgo my usual tirade about Bush and the Rethug party for a post here on another subject that has really gotten my goat for the last few days. I won’t go into the personal details behind this, as I really want to keep that kind of discussion out of this blog. I’ll just leave it at this. My wife’s 11-year-old niece from Taiwan is here in the U.S. living with us and going to school here. To take advantage of smaller classroom sizes and to let her English really get solidified, we thought a local private Christian school might be better for her in the beginning than throwing her in the vast, impersonal public school system.

I originally thought that this would mean an hour a day of Bible studies along with her normal classes, which I was perfectly fine with. However, this is what I learned last night when I was helping her with her “science” homework.

- All science can be divided into two different camps, evolutionists and creationists.
- Unless you are very careful when looking at the fossil record, you will come to conclusions that are not supported by the Bible, such as the Earth being more than 6000 years old.
- Dinosaurs lived at the same time as man. The Bible clearly shows this, as it mentions creatures such as “behemoth” and “leviathan”. Also, Chinese literature talks about “dragons”, so this proves that mankind observed dinosaurs first hand.
- Originally, all dinosaurs were herbivores. The large curved ripping teeth of dinosaurs like T. Rex were for stripping the bark off of trees. Some dinosaurs only became meat eaters after Adam and Eve sinned.
- Noah carried two of each land-based dinosaurs on the ark, and therefore survived the Great Flood. Some dinosaurs that flew or swam also survived.
- Scientists and paleontologists that have concluded that modern day birds are either descended from dinosaurs or are somehow related to dinosaurs are mistaken. The resemblance just means that God “reuses” the same design for all living creatures. Fossils showing feathers really aren’t feathers at all, and there is no connection with birds at all.
- Scientists cannot prove any theory about why dinosaurs became extinct. Therefore, they became extinct because of the Great Flood, because that is what the Bible says about all creatures that didn’t get taken on the Ark. (How this exactly ties in with the earlier statement about the dinosaurs aboard the Ark is not explained.)
- Some dinosaurs are probably alive today. We just don't know where to look for them.

I am just so upset with this at so many levels. I could spend many pages discussing the logical holes in these arguments. Exactly how was it that Noah managed to coax the largest animals that have ever lived onto a boat? What did they eat for those 40 days and 40 nights? They must have needed to eat several tons of plant matter every day to keep alive. And since the story of Noah came after the Original Sin, how did Noah keep T. Rex, the allosaurs, and the velociraptors from eating everyone else on board? Why did dinosaurs go extinct after they were saved from the flood? What about all the geologic evidence they are ignoring in this fabricated fairy tale? And I had another, more interesting question. If all dinosaurs were originally plant eaters but somehow “changed” after Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, doesn’t that mean that they somehow “evolved”? They did not remain constant; they changed their functionality. That is the definition of evolution, which fundamentalists assure us is not true.

But I am much more distressed about how this could all be taught under the guise of “science”. The fundamentalists have decided to totally change the true meaning of the word science and entirely dispense with the scientific principle of formulating hypotheses based on observable evidence, having your theories peer reviewed, and altering your original theories based on new evidence. Their brand of “science” calls for twisting facts and convoluting logic just to make them fit in with their beliefs. That is a travesty. I don’t understand why they don’t just go all the way and declare the Sun revolves around the Earth. That is essentially what they are doing.

As I have stated before, you can get people to believe anything if you start early enough on them and repeat it every single minute of every single day. What they don’t seem to understand is that they are undermining the scientific integrity and knowledge base of the entire country. If everyone looked upon science as something that can be manipulated to support their religious (and political) beliefs, how long is this country going to remain a leader in technology and knowledge? Already, a very large percentage of the doctoral students in this country are not U.S. citizens. In fact, in some schools, foreign students are the majority of postgraduate studies.

My niece is going to the public school system next year.

Monday, October 09, 2006

So, North Korea now has The Bomb.

News about the North Korean nuclear bomb test is all over the news and blogs today. Taylor Marsh’s prediction this morning is that this will all somehow be the fault of Bill Clinton. Just as everything is the fault of Bill Clinton. That’s a rant for another day, I suppose.

Several points are being made this morning that I wholly agree with. First and foremost, this happened on George W. Bush’s watch, and he has had six years to deal with this emerging threat. It is especially telling that, since he labeled NK as one of the “axis of evil”, he might actually consider doing something about it. However, all he did is bluster and threaten, just like he always does. But since NK wasn’t going to be the pushover that Iraq was (at least in the initial stages) and that they could immediately throw about a million men against our ally, South Korea, there was no way Bush was going to take military action. And NK knew it.

This is so much worse, in my opinion, if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon. First, I think the Iranians are a little bit saner than Kim Jong Il. They have self-preservation as one of their primary goals, and I doubt they will go around threatening to use a nuclear weapon on whomever they feel like it. They won’t go “shopping” it around to other groups. Not to say that I think that Iran having a bomb would be a good thing. No, this world has way too many nuclear weapons as it is, and the more people who have their fingers on the trigger, the more likely one of them will pull it. But I think the North Koreans might do almost anything, especially if their country really starts to collapse. They are close to that point right now, but mass starvation is right around the corner. It hasn’t taken them long. I saw something on the news last night where NK demanded that SK pay large sums of money to the North as their “share” in protecting the Korean peninsula. Sounds like a nuclear version of the Sicilian protection racket. If they really start getting desperate, I could imagine them demanding vast sums of money and whatever else they want or else they will drop a bomb on Japan or Korea. Blackmail on a global scale. It might work, if it gets to that stage.

It appears that the Chinese have had enough, however. Perhaps they can put the brakes on this situation. They have apparently started withholding their advice and technical expertise. (As an aside, about damn time.) Because it is obvious that the United States not only has no power to change this particular situation, we are acting as an agitator. Since all we know how to do is threaten and bully, when the NK’s know that we aren’t going to do anything about it, that just makes that much more likely that they are going to do exactly what we don’t want them to do.

This is what happens when we won’t negotiate with anyone we don’t like and who doesn’t already agree with. That would be seen as “rewarding” bad behavior. I want to repeat that. The Bush administration believes, wholeheartedly, that we cannot negotiate with anyone who doesn’t already agree with us. In which case, there really isn’t much to negotiate. All the administration says about anyone, like Syria, Iran and North Korea, is “they know what they have to do”. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Bush approach to diplomacy.

Personally, I have a feeling that this situation will resolve itself peacefully. First, I take it that there is some doubt that NK can “weaponize” their bomb making material. It is one thing to set off a pile buried underground somewhere. It is entirely another to make a bomb that can be placed in a rocket and detonated at a particular target. However, that won’t take them that much longer to achieve, if they are giving the time and no incentive to stop. But I think the big powers in the region, such as China and Japan, will step in and something will happen. It is obviously not in their interests to have a nutcase with a nuclear weapon on their doorsteps.

But, whatever happens, I doubt the U.S. will play a big role. We have painted ourselves into a corner that we really can’t get out of. And that is no one’s fault but George W. Bush.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I gotta stop putting mescaline in my coffee.

This is the only explanation I can come up with that involves any semblance of logic at all. How else can I explain the full-out bizarre spectacle of a couple of Republican congressmen (from Florida and North Carolina, I believe, but am not absolutely certain) on Hardball with Chris Matthews, who were absolutely demanding that Nancy Pelosi (a Democrat, mind you) “come clean” about what she knew about the still unfolding Foley scandal? They were there, berating Pumpkinhead about his “naivety”. It is their firm belief, apparently, that just because Pelosi won’t submit to questioning under oath proves she has something to hide.

There was no word on all the steadfast Republican refusals to answer questions under oath about the run up to the Iraq invasion. Nor was their any word about the fact that it doesn’t even matter if the Democrats knew about Foley prior to ABC breaking the story. Many, many Republicans knew about it, and they didn’t even bother to tell the only Democrat on the committee that oversees the page program. Nor is there any mention about the absolutely disgusting behavior of an elected official toward minors. Nor was there any mention (except by Chris himself) that Republicans have been in the majority for 10 years now, that they hold the chair on every single committee in the house, and that many in the Republican House leadership knew something of Foley’s conduct long before the last two weeks. No, somehow, according to them, this is all the Democrats fault and we should all be outraged at all Democrats.

These apologists, enablers, and “always blame the opposition” types have just gotten pathetic. Again, I ask, how can these people live with themselves? How can they call themselves Americans, or wrap themselves with the twin mantels of “patriotism” and “family values”, when they not only allow, but actively participate, in this kind of disgusting behavior?

I don’t believe in the Christian concept of God, Heaven, and Hell, but if I did, I think I might get some satisfaction regarding the ultimate judgment that awaits these fellows.

Friday, October 06, 2006

One of the Founding Fathers speaks out on today's society.

Poputonian has a great post at Hullaballo

I don’t know how to get the link to the individual post at Hullaballo. They don’t seem to have an archive that I can access to get the individual links. Sorry. However, this quote that poputonian came up with is too good not to repeat.

John Adams speaking of the Clergy in 1765:

... they even persuaded mankind to believe, faithfully and undoubtingly, that God Almighty had entrusted them with the keys of heaven, whose gates they might open and close at pleasure; with a power of dispensation over all the rules and obligations of morality; with authority to license all sorts of sins and crimes; with a power of deposing princes and absolving subjects from allegiance; with a power of procuring or withholding the rain of heaven and the beams of the sun; with the management of earthquakes, pestilence, and famine; nay, with the mysterious, awful, incomprehensible power of creating out of bread and wine the flesh and blood of God himself. All these opinions they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity, and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge. Thus was human nature chained fast for ages in a cruel, shameful, and deplorable servitude to him, and his subordinate tyrants, who, it was foretold, would exalt himself above all that was called God, and that was worshipped.

I cannot belief how low the right wing echo chamber will go to defend “their own”.

Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge are leading the charge to blame the victims of this whole sordid mess. Drudge first calls all pages “beasts” and blames them for “egging the congressman on”. Now he claims that it is all some prank gone awry. Limbaugh starts the rumor it is somehow the Democrats fault; that they were intentionally holding on to this information until right before the elections, without offering any sort of proof whatsoever. They are just slinging mud against the wall in the weak hope that some of it will stick. After all, THEIR guys are the good guys and everyone knows all Democrats are evil. Which must have been the reason that Fox News got “mixed up” and identified Mr. Pedophile himself as D-FL.

The latest attempt at sliming the victims of all of this is outing the pages that were the target of Foley’s unwanted attention, publishing the names of these kids. Yes, how nice. Very professional.

What disgusting, unethical, hypocritical slimeballs these people are turning out to be. Most of us knew that already, but they are showing it to the world in spades. What is really ironic, all of this is turning the stomachs of many of their erstwhile hardcore supporters. I don’t agree with most of what the evangelical Right says, does, or thinks, but many of them are very sincere. And preying on kids in an overt sexual manner and then everyone lying about it, blaming everyone else in sight, is really upsetting the conservative Christians.

These people really turn my stomach. I’m not sure who I am most upset with right now: Foley himself, all the “leadership” in the Rethug party who covered it all up and who let politics take the lead when they should have been worried about the kids, or all the right wing “defenders of the realm” who will do and say absolutely anything in order to further their cause and slime their opponents.

How can these people live with themselves?

And for a little more on some of the perversity of the Rethugs, take a look at this link.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My shortcomings as a "up to the second" blogger

O.K., I admit that my stuff isn't really all that leading edge. I maybe get within a time window of two or three days if I am lucky, but this would certainly not be the place for someone to go find out what is going on just this minute. On more than several occasions, I have had posts that I wrote during lunch at work and have forgotten to post them when I get home for several days. By the time I remember them, they have been overrun by fast moving events. If you want up to the minute breaking news, go try Huffington Post instead.

Between being in all day meetings all this week and reading a book at lunch that I need to write a review of before the end of October, I didn't get a lot of personal writing done this week during the day. At at home, there is the grass to mow, Countdown with Keith Olberman to watch, dinner to eat, homework to be helped with. I don't know how bloggers with jobs actually do it. Or bloggers without jobs, for that matter.

The Stupidest Thing I Have Heard This Week

Bill Frist wants to allow the Taliban back into government in Afghanistan.

These are the same people who shielded Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, the people who were REALLY responsible for 9/11. The Taliban are the people who make their women become invisible to society. Who allow honor killings.

How can people say such stupid stuff? Have all their neuron endings in their brain come unloose and are just in their skulls, flapping around like broken clotheslines in the wind?

Can we all just say “Cut And Run” now, Mr. Frist?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Rice was warned about Bin Laden prior to 9/11, and then lied about it.

She has categorically denied that anyone briefed her that Bin Laden was getting ready to attack the United States. However, Bob Woodward has backed up the information in his book with documents and corroborating testimony that were at the briefing. I don’t have a link for this, as this information just came out today in a Bob Woodward interview by Andrea Mitchell. Both the NBC Evening News and Countdown on MSNBC hit this pretty hard. Pumpkinhead Tim Russert agreed that the documents show that Woodward is correct. I am paraphrasing, but apparently the people that briefed Rice felt that they were just blown off.

These people just lie and lie and hope that no one catches them in their lies, and then have no idea how to respond when they are caught.

I am so disgusted with Bush and his cronies and pretty much 95% of the Republican party in general, I can’t even think straight about it. How dare they portray themselves as the party of values and of being good Christians. They have raised the definition of hypocrisy several levels of magnitude.

Oh, yeah. Another crazy with guns kills innocent kids.

I'm really pissed off tonight.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Is the Republican Party finally imploding?

Things are just going downhill so fast for the batch of thugs that currently run the Republican party, it is enough to make your head spin. I can’t even begin to keep up with all the developments.

There’s George “Macaca” Allen, of course, who went ballistic when it was revealed that his mother has Jewish roots. First came the obligatory denial, then the acceptance when confronted with the fact, although that acceptance came with several caveats. He was unaware of her origins until just last year, and that she still makes great pork chops. I don’t suppose he ever asked any questions about why his grandfather was in a German concentration camp during WWII? He still wears his cowboy boots and hat to engender his supposed bonds with the right wing voters of Virginia. But things aren’t really going too well for him, since he can’t get anyone to talk about anything else these days. Actually, probably the best thing he has going for him now is Jim Webb comes with a bit of a tarnished reputation as well for his statements about women in military academies. At least he had the good sense to say his views on the subject seventeen years ago were juvenile. It remains to be seen if he is really repentant or not.

But the bigger distraction for everyone these days is the revelations about Mark Foley. Another little sordid barnacle on the underbelly of the Rethug party is revealed. Of course, this all does serve as a distraction from the Big Debacle that is Iraq and from our foreign policy in general that is in tatters. But it is a sorry state of affairs when the only positive thing that can be said is that when a sordid affair distracts everyone’s attention from the Big Debacle.

Where will it all end and how much of a blind eye can be turned by the Republican’s core supporters? Foley and Allen are just the latest in the long line of black eyes for the right. Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Bob Ney, “Dutch” Cunningham, the New Hampshire phone jamming scheme, Haliburton and all the rest of those “private contractors” who are getting rich without delivering the goods, the continuing reprehensible lack of response to Katrina, not to mention the recent refutation of Habeas Corpus and the acceptance of torturing anyone designated as an enemy of the state without trail, all of these show how absolutely morally bankrupt our current leadership actually is.

I have great hopes but am also very fearful about the upcoming mid-term elections. I would like to believe all the reports that seem to be pointing toward a Democratic landslide. However, given what has happened in the past, I am very concerned that the elections will do nothing but maintain the status quo. The Democrats will pick up some seats in both the House and the Senate, but will lose some that they were expecting to win. There will be renewed suspicions regarding the accuracy of Diebold voting machines. There will be very incidents that look very much like efforts by the Right to suppress the votes from groups that tend to vote Democratic. People will cry “foul”, and will be sneered at as sore losers and labeled as conspiracy theorists. This will, of course, be taken by the Right as validation that they style of governance is what the country wants.

I personally cannot believe that the current leadership of this country will go unpunished for the complete mess they have gotten this country into. However, I also believe that they will find someway to escape any punishment for their misdeeds. I am very worried indeed.