Monday, September 03, 2007

Cuba Libre!

And no, I don't mean the rum drink.


Could someone please explain to me the current travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba?

And please, if you've a mind to, please read Steve Benen's thoughtful post over at the Daily Dish (congrats Andrew on your marriage!), and explain to me 1) why he's wrong and 2) why Hillary's satisfaction with the status quo makes any sense what-so-ever.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Republicans go on record against mother's milk

Lest you forget that GOP protestations of patriotism are limited to war at the expense of any other American values like, say, liberty, or the rule of law, it's now official: Republicans are against breast-feeding:

In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

So, in an effort to assuage their corporate masters, the GOP has come out against mom.

Next on the agenda, government reports touting the benefits of mock-apple pie and tee-ball?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dogs of War

Glenn Greenwald has the call on Bush's most dangerous speech to date regarding the impending (so the neo-cons hope) war with Iran.

After outlining the mendacities upon which Bush is building the case for war, Greenwald makes the scariest observation I've read:

The true danger here is that even if there would be marginally more political opposition to an attack on Iran than there was for an attack on Iraq -- and surely there would be, perhaps considerably more opposition -- those who favor an attack are still politically strong within the administration. And there simply are no factions which would oppose such an attack that are anywhere near strong enough to stop one. Who and where are they? What are the political factions which have sufficient political strength and who are willing to risk political capital to stop such a confrontation?

By stark and dispositive contrast, those who are pining for an attack on Iran -- from the Weekly Standard to the AEI and various generic warmongers of the Dick Cheney/National Review strain, as well as our most pious evangelical Christian warriors -- are zelaous adherents, True Believers. Bringing about a military confrontation with Iran has always been, and continues to be, their paramount priority.

Where oh where is the outcry against Bush's transparent warmongering?

If you want to nip this lunacy in the bud, please, please, please contact your representatives and let them know you'll support anybody who stands up to Bush and the war-machine.

[NOTE - Here's the text that I sent to my reps. Feel free to copy/paste it and send it to yours:

Yesterday President Bush gave a speech to the American Legion in which he outlined his case against Iran.

I found the similarities between this speech and the rationales given in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq to be as disquieting as they were border-line mendacious.

Too many Democratic leaders appear to feel that opposing the President's war-mongering will lead to charges that they are "weak" on defense.

Please let me assure you that I and many like me understand that strong defense does not require an unending series of needless wars and that we are prepared to fully support any politician brave enough to stand up and say so.

I hope to count you as such.

Monday, August 27, 2007


And though you'll never hear it from MSM accounts, the blogosphere was incredibly important in exposing this hack.

Congratulations to Josh and the gang at TPM.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

House alleges administration crimes

Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee released a report alleging that WH and DoJ officials engaged in illegal activity in its firings of the Gonzales 8 US attorneys.

From the Washington Post:

The report says that Congress's seven-month investigation into the firings raises "serious concerns" that senior White House and Justice Department aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year may have obstructed justice and violated federal statutes that protect civil service employees, prohibit political retaliation against government officials and cover presidential records.

The key importance of this report, which the article fails to point out I might add, is that a presidential "executive privilege" claim is much weaker in the face of an actual criminal investigation.

Should this go to the courts the administration will now be much harder pressed to show why their blanket claim of that privilege is valid.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Government of the crooks, by the crooks, for the crooks

Of late, the trend in the political blogosphere has been towards group blogs and I have a theory as to why.

The Bush administration.

I know I've talked about this before, but I suspect BushCorp™'s myriad sins have simply left solo bloggers like your CaliBlogger too exhausted for proper outrage.




Abu Ghraib.

Illegal surveillance.


Global warming.

War in Iraq.

War in Afghanistan.

War in Iran.

"Justice" Department.

Alberto Gonzales.

Right wing Supreme Court.

And now, Scooter Libby.


I started this blog in order to express my rage and incredulity over the outcome of the '04 elections. At that time I couldn't bear the thought that my fellow citizens had really re-elected this idiot.

And in the intervening time I've done my level best to keep up, but, in the face of so much incompetence and corruption I'm frankly overwhelmed.

So, though I suppose that commuting the sentence of a convicted perjurer in a country where possessing an ounce of pot can land you in jail should put me in a proper lather, I find it does no such thing.

It just makes me feel tired.

So, for those of you seeking some proper outrage I can only recommend checking out a few of my brethren in the blogosphere:

Shaun Mullen:

It would have been one thing if the Libby commutation had been an aberration. But here is a man who as governor of Texas openly mocked a woman whom he had just put to death by pursing his lips and squeaking “please don’t kill me” after she had appealed to him for clemency.

Digby (multiple posts).

mcjoan (at Daily Kos) has a nice roundup of candidate reactions.

And if you want some true hair-singeing, read the comments to MissLaura's news post on Libby (also at Kos).

I could go on, there's plenty of well-earned bile out there.

But frankly I need a nap.

And a shower.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dogs of War: The New York Times

As BushCorp™ hawks continue to push for war with Iran, no-one serves them so obsequiously as the press.

And especially guilty in this regard is the nation's "paper of record", the New York Times and this week's stenographer, Michael Gordon.

So, unsurprisingly, given their cheer leading for the fiasco in Iraq, the Times is now frontpaging more Dod dictation.

Read Glenn Greenwald for the gristly details.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Immigration bill bites dust

Other than as yet another sign that Bush is now doomed to irrelevancy, the death of the immigration overhaul is not a good thing.

Yes, it was flawed. Among other things the proposed guest worker program, offering no avenue for permanent residence and citizenship, could have the effect of creating a permanent underclass similar to those troubling England and Europe as a source of radicalism bred from hopelessness.

But the failure to address and normalize the status of the purported 12 million undocumented workers currently residing in the US accomplishes much the same thing on a far vaster scale.

So, since it becomes ever clearer that the GOP represents the fraction of the US that is ever given to resentment and fear of the "other", the only possible solution is to elect Democrats.

But you probably already guessed that.

Jump Al, Jump

I'm just sayin'.

Monday, June 18, 2007

With God on our side

One of the enduring paradoxes of current American politics is the question of how, in the face of overwhelming evidence, George W. Bush can continue policies so widely viewed as destined for failure?

And even more exasperating, how can 29% of Americans still support him in that effort?

In his new book, now available to pre-order at Amazon, Salon contributor and CaliBlogger must-read, Glenn Greenwald, posits a fairly straightforward explanation:

At the heart of this process lies a binary moralistic view of the world, one which seeks to define every conflict and political challenge, both foreign and domestic, as a battle of Good versus Evil. The crux of this mindset is the continuous identification of an Enemy, one which embodies Evil and which must be stopped, typically destroyed, at all costs. No competing considerations, no rational arguments, no counter-balancing objectives, not even constraints of reality or resources, can compete with the moral imperative of this mission. The mission of destroying Evil trumps all.

And the converse then also falls comfortably into place: those who seek to destroy Evil -- whether it be America, or President Bush, or the right-wing political faction that has supported the Bush presidency -- are, by definition, the embodiment of Good. Thus, whatever steps they take, whatever instruments they employ in service of their mission, are intrinsically justifiable because, by definition, they are employed in service of the Good.

Your CaliBlogger has long held the belief that portraying the world in terms of Good and Evil enables those who would think of themselves as Good to commit, or at least abide, the most unspeakable acts. Thus the collective yawn with which most Americans seem to greet news of torture and murder, all committed by our government, and in our name.

So, discerning reader, please be ware of any polemicists characterizing world events as a struggle between good and evil (or its secular counterpart, madness). Either they are deluding themselves, or they are trying to delude you.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dogs of War: New York Times

One of the worst failures leading up to the invasion of Iraq was the unwillingness of the nation's media to question BushCorp™ assertions about the need for war.

Especially egregious was the New York times whose front-page placement of stories by warmongers such as Judith Miller lent the prestige of the US' "paper of record" to the neo-con line of bullshit.

So, it is especially troubling that, despite its mea culpas on its Iraq coverage, the Times is doing it again, this time transcribing, and therefore giving credence to administration assertions about our next target, Iran:

Even beyond its nuclear program, Iran is emerging as an increasing source of trouble for the Bush administration by inflaming the insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and in Gaza, where it has provided military and financial support to the militant Islamic group Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.

But as Glenn Greenwald points out:

Note that the numerous claims here are presented not as assertions, not as arguments, but as facts. And they are not even accompanied by the qualification that these were asserted by the article's anonymous "administration officials." Rather, they are simply stated, by the Times itself, as unquestionable facts. And they are obviously inflammatory "facts," as they depict Iran as, more or less, at war with the U.S. in multiple countries, arming and funding groups directly at war with our military.

I recommend Mr. Greenwald for a point by point break down of the inaccuracies and fallacies behind the Times' assertions, but the key point is this, when administration lies go unchecked and unquestioned by the MSM, the only victors are the dogs of war.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A third party run for Ron Paul?

While most talk on the web concerned with possible third party candidates for the 2008 presidential election focuses on that dying species, the liberal Republican, mostly in the form of New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, I'd suggest keeping an eye on another type of Republican altogether, once (and future?) Libertarian Ron Paul.

Why, you ask, does your CaliBlogger think the still obscure Texas congressman might make a flanking run at the presidency?

First, of course is that Paul's consistently libertarian views put him at odds with Bush's Republican party which is increasingly authoritarian, Christianist, and interventionist. Paul doesn't just mouth platitudes about small government, he actually believes that government has no business meddling in foreign countries, has no business spying on its own citizens, and has no business monitoring what people do in their bedrooms, and who with.

Secondly, Paul, unlike Ross Perot whose Reform Party was more personality cult than political organization, would presumably be running under the auspices of an existing party, the Libertarian.

And while small compared to the major parties, the Libertarian Party is the largest of US third parties, and most importantly, consistently shows the ability to put a candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

Finally, perhaps because of his libertarian leanings, Ron Paul is an even rarer bird than the liberal Republican, a Republican with actual grassroots support.

While Republicans are typically funded through astroturf groups that are funded by just a few wealthy individuals or corporations, Paul is getting support and interest from that most democratic of modern amalgamations, the Internet. From the Washington Post:

Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

No one's more surprised at this robust Web presence than Paul himself, a self-described "old-school," "pen-and-paper guy" who's serving his 10th congressional term and was the Libertarian Party's nominee for president in 1988.

"To tell you the truth, I hadn't heard about this YouTube and all the other Internet sites until supporters started gathering in them," confessed Paul, 71, who said that he's raised about $100,000 after each of the three debates. Not bad considering that his campaign had less than $10,000 when his exploratory committee was formed in mid-February. "I tell you I've never raised money as efficiently as that, in all my years in Congress, and all I'm doing is speaking my mind."

And someone who just speaks his mind would be a refreshing change for Republicans who are more adept at fear-mongering and feigning the sort of flat-earth ignorance that appeals to the knuckle-draggers that form the party's base.

Now to be clear, your CaliBlogger is far from enamored of some of Paul's rather extreme anti-government stances (eliminating the Department of Education), but someone who also advocates the repeal of the Patriot Act and the liquidation of the Department of Homeland Security, is at least demonstrating an appealing level of unaccustomed intellectual consistency.

And the fact that a Paul candidacy would continue the destruction of the crumbling Republican party is only and added side benefit.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bush: the bizarro Midas' touch

One of the key features of BushCorp™ policy making is becoming increasingly apparent, its penchant for governance by unintended consequences.

In North Korea Bush's dissolution of Clinton era accords led to Pyonyang's unsupervised development of nuclear capability.

On the Gulf Coast, Bush's hack appointees combined with the Republican penchant for the privatization of government responsibilities led to the exacerbation of the devastation by Hurricane Katrina.

And in Iraq...well 'nuff said.

So Hamas' recent takeover of Gaza should really come as no surprise to anyone watching the unfolding of BushCorp™ policy in the area.

For a good overview of this sorry situation you might try this Washington Post article, but let me break it down for you.

First the US, typically, blindly backed Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza leaving a power vacuum in the area.

Then Bush, drunk on his own pro-democracy rhetoric, if not NA beer, encouraged Palestinian elections on the assumption that US backed Fatah, despite its record of incompetence and corruption (wonder how Bush missed that?) would win handily.

Funny thing though. Hamas, whose consistently anti-Israel rhetoric and behavior, as well as its more effective humanitarian activities (relative to Fatah anyway) makes it popular with the Palestinian street, won the election and took over the government. Hey, Hamas might be fundamentalist terrorists, but at least they get things done.

And, in an unsurprising betrayal of its pro-democracy rhetoric, rather than recognizing the need to talk to Palestine's democratically elected government, Bush organized a global effort to cut off support for Palestine in hopes of toppling the regime in favor of US backed Fatah.

Another funny story. It turns out that Palestinians, on seeing their already desperate plight worsened, apparently are focusing their hatred, not on their own elected government, but on Fatah, a group now seen not only as incompetent and corrupt, but also as a US/Israeli collaborator.


You know, if five years ago you had asked me whether the Israeli/Palestinian conflict could get any more hopeless, I'd have been hard pressed to envision a situation worse than the cycle of violence which already gripped the region.

Then again, five years ago I didn't know then what I now now about Bush's bizarro Midas' touch.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Defeat in Iraq

President Bush has claimed that the only way we can lose in Iraq is if we leave.

But what if that assertion is no more accurate than any other assertion he makes?

What if the US Army, for all its might, stays in Iraq and is defeated none-the-less?

James Wolcott puts into words an idea that's been rattling around your CaliBlogger's brain for some time now:

On the op-ed pages and the pundit panels and in the presidential debates, the onus is put on those who advocate withdrawal, even wimpy, slow-mo, phased withdrawal. They're put on the defensive as the questions are posed, "What happens if the US withdraws? What would that do to American credibility? Are you prepared to take responsibility for a bloody aftermath?"

But the counter-question also needs to be asked:

"What happens if the US stays--and loses? How prepared are you to deal with that eventuality?"

Mr. Wolcott's article should be read, as always, in full to appreciate the depth of his analysis, but especially this time for the citations from William S. Lind, Larry C. Johnson, and Timothy Garton Ash, which flesh out the increasingly real possibility of American military defeat.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dogs of War: Joe Lieberman

Joe Lieberman (I-BushCorp™), fresh from his fact free fact-finding trip in Iraq, now has some sage and sober advice.

With the conquest of Iraq moving along swimmingly despite the continued efforts of a few bad apples, it's time to move on to our next conquest: Iran.

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman said. "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."


"We've said so publicly that the Iranians have a base in Iran at which they are training Iraqis who are coming in and killing Americans. By some estimates, they have killed as many as 200 American soldiers," Lieberman said. "Well, we can tell them we want them to stop that. But if there's any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can't just talk to them."


But before we follow blood-soaked Joe's advice, perhaps we should look more closely at his justifications.

I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq.

Perhaps it's a conspiracy of silence by the ever controversy averse (ahem) MSM, but I don't recall reading about or hearing any evidence about Iranians killing Americans, in Iraq or anywhere else. Saudis, sure, Jordanians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghanis, Yemenis sure. And let's not even get into the whole Iraqi civil war thing, please, let's not.

But Iranians?

And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.

Good evidence? But then, if you're a BushCorp™ toady yourself I suppose anonymous leaks by other BushCorp™ toadies is good enough.

We've said so publicly that the Iranians have a base in Iran at which they are training Iraqis who are coming in and killing Americans.

Hey, if "we've said so", gosh it must be true. After all, BushCorp™ is widely well-known for the truthful and open approach to the facts, especially when it comes to matters of war.

But if there's any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can't just talk to them.

No, how could we think that talking could help. After all these years of open fleeting moments of limited dialog between Washington and Tehran, what more could talking possibly gain us?

Like I said, brilliant.

But what do you expect from the dogs of war?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dogs of War: a reading tip

As the Bush administration continues its efforts to distract Americans from the disaster in Iraq by drumming up support for an attack on Iran, it's well to keep in mind some of the lessons from its previous efforts to manipulate a compliant media.

Today's case in point, an article by Robin Wright in to day's Washington Post breathlessly describing Iran's purported efforts to supply weapons to both Shia insurgent groups in Iran and the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan. Just read the first paragraph and see if you can spot the problem:

Iran has increased arms shipments to both Iraq's Shiite extremists and Afghanistan's Taliban in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to pressure American and other Western troops operating in its two strategic neighbors, according to senior U.S. and European officials.

Catch it? Let's try that again with highlights:

Iran has increased arms shipments to both Iraq's Shiite extremists and Afghanistan's Taliban in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to pressure American and other Western troops operating in its two strategic neighbors, according to senior U.S. and European officials.

And why do these "officials" need to go un-named? Why should they? The article certainly doesn't tell us.

Since they are talking about (not showing, mind, but merely describing) evidence of Iranian malfeasance, it seems unlikely that the anonymous officials are in danger of running afoul of higher ups, the usual reason for anonymity.

The likely reason said officials seek to remain anonymous is that they don't want to be publicly caught in a lie.

That being the case my advice is this, the history of BushCorp™ lies and deception being what it is, save your self a few minutes in the day and just skip any article that refuses to name names.

Life is to short.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bush's autocrat ally

For someone whose self-proclaimed mythology portrays himself as dedicated to his ideals to the point of obstinacy, President Bush has shown a remarkable ability to betray those ideals for political expediency.

This has been most clearly obvious in the support that an administration purportedly dedicated to spreading democracy shows for some of the worst tyrants in the world.

Take Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf...please.


Musharraf has ruled Pakistan since 1999, when a military-led coup toppled the democratically elected civilian prime minister. The country is due for elections later this year, but Musharraf has said he wants the outgoing parliament to give him another five-year term before the public votes. He has also indicated he is reluctant to shed his role as head of the army, as the constitution requires.

Musharraf is allegedly a crucial ally in the GWoT, though, when he's not cutting deals to cede Pakistani territory to terrorists, seems mostly useful in capturing one of the seemingly limitless numbers of No. 3 ranking al Qaeda honchos when Bush needs a political boost here in the US.

So one must wonder what BushCorp™'s stance will be in the face of increasing pro-democracy challenges to Musharraf's dictatorship? So far the silence is deafening.

Fighting them over here

If nothing else, the one thing the current administration is good at the memorable catch phrase.

But a good catch phrase doesn't make it true.

A case in point is the president's repeated assertion that "we're fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them here", or the equally catchy, and its equally misguided cousin, SecDef Gates', "It's important to defend this country on the extremists' 10-yard line, and not on our 10-yard line".

As witnessed by today's news of a home-grown plot to blow up the jet fuel lines to JFK airport, fighting the civil war in Iraq is hardly helping.

In fact I would call Iraq irrelevant to such plots except for this: it serves to further inflame and bolster the wills of those who hate American behavior both around the world and, as we see, here in the US.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It was 40* years ago today...

You'll be reading the above headline on many an article today as we mark the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest, and most talked about albums in pop music history, the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Talked about? How about obsessed over? From Rolling Stone:

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song's regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of "A Day in the Life," the thirteen tracks on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

From the comments section comments section:

To remove Sgt. Pepper from the context in which it was originally released can only hurt it’s reputation. The Beatles put together albums full of stronger songs both before (Revolver) and after (Abbey Road) it’s release, but Sgt. Pepper has to be their masterpiece simply because nothing else approaches the ambitious, sweeping, sonic majesty of it all.

From the opening murmurs of an expectant crowd on the title track to the crashing piano chord at the end of ‘A Day in the Life’ thirty nine minutes later, the album pays tribute to almost every musical influence Paul McCartney ever had and John Lennon ever dreamed (from english dance hall on ‘When I’m 64′ to LSD hallucinations on ‘Lucky in the Sky with Diamonds’).

Calling it a ‘failed’ concept album (Lennon said they stopped caring about ‘Sgt. Pepper’ by track three), is missing the point. An album that should be taken as a whole, not a couple hit songs plus filler, was the point. And it was understood immediately, as Sgt. Pepper was the first album radio stations played in full.

The Beatles took everyone who ‘bought the ticket’ to places where popular music was never intended to go. A symphony for a young girl leaving home. Making the boredom of the morning a frantic mix of guitars and animals. An ode to a meter maid.

It was new and different, and because of that it was taken up as a representation of the social and political changes of the sixties, even though all it was and all it intended to be was a great set of tunes.

Or this from the Washington Post:

A hundred years from now, musicologists say, Beatles songs will be so well known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people won't know who wrote them. They will have become sufficiently entrenched in popular culture that it will seem as if they've always existed, like "Oh! Susanna," "This Land Is Your Land" and "Frère Jacques."

But whatever your take on what RS named as the greatest album of all time (and I suppose your take may well be generational depending on whether you're a boomer of a member of generations x, y, or z), the tunes still sound great.

*And by the way, as a correction to all those headlines, it would be 60 years ago today that Sgt Pepper taught the band to play as the band was putatively 20 years old when the album was released.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

During his Tuesday interview with Al Gore, Keith Olbermann referred to America's continued state of fear as "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder".

And while that might be somewhat overstating the thing, certainly the government and the MSM still seems, earnest in its attempts to keep the public looking over its collective shoulders (c.f. today's hysteria over the great TB scare).

Certainly though it does sometimes seem that, in addition to non-Texan hot sauce, the biggest import from NEW YORK CITY?! is the paranoid spirit behind its "See Something, Say Something" campaign.

For the latest expression of American PTSD (APTSD) we go to an innocent looking fax machine in Ashland, Mass. From the AP:

ASHLAND, Mass. --A faulty bank fax printed a message that was misinterpreted as a bomb threat Wednesday, leading authorities to evacuate more than a dozen neighboring businesses and a day care center.

The branch manager of the Bank of America called police about 10 a.m. after receiving a fax containing images of a lit match and a bomb with a fuse, bank spokesman Ernesto Anguilla said.

I have no idea how to break the media of its love affair with scary stories, but it would help if individuals at least recognized them for what they are, sensational attempts to garner ratings being promoted out of all proportion to their real importance in our daily lives.

Dying for nothing

In his op-ed in the WaPo Harold Meyerson succinctly sums up the futility of our occupation of Iraq:

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

In other news, Sisyphus, noting that he's half-way up the mountain, claims that his struggle with that damn rock is "in it's last throes".

Good economic news!

With first quarter economic news dour at best, it's good to know that some American industries are thriving.

TB scare: typical balanced media response

With my internet connection temporarily down, I had the distinct, um, pleasure, of getting my morning news fix from cable.

Apparently the nation is about to be hit by a devastating outbreak of untreatable tuberculosis, causing, judging from the wall to wall coverage, deaths in the millions.

Or not.

Amid all the breathless coverage bewailing how someone so infected could slip through the security dragnet that envelops the US (or, at least it seems, should), one quote seems to be missing:

"We believe that his degree of infectiousness is quite low," Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told a news conference.

Whew, I feel better already. Be a shame if the country got distracted all worked up about a non-threat, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Pasadena favorite son

Your CaliBlogger's lived in Pasadena for going on four years now, which, by California standards, makes him a "native".

That being the case I feel obligated to engage in a wee bit of local boosterism.

Pasadena is well known for the parade and the bowl game, and is as well home to Caltech and JPL (sidenote: because of this latter, don't be surprised if you confront a loudmouth standing next to you in line at the Laemmle when he responds that yes, he is a rocket scientist thank you).

And for such a relatively small city (approximately 140,000) Pasadena has been birthplace or home to some remarkable individuals. Actress Sally (yes we really do like you) Field, cooking show grande dame Julia Child, and renowned director Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz) were born here.

Jackie Robinson moved here when he was 1 and graduated from Pasadena's John Muir High School before going on to break Major League Baseball's color barrier. And General George S. Patton was born in neighboring San Gabriel, his father serving as Pasadena's first City Attorney.

To this illustrious group we can now add a, perhaps, future president, Bill Richardson.

As it turns out Richardson, who formally announced his candidacy yesterday, was born at Pasadena's venerable Huntington Hospital. Not that he hung out for long. Joel Achenbach writes in the Washington Post:

The Constitution limits the presidency to people born in the United States. Richardson meets that provision only because his father sent his mother by train to California just before she went into labor. He was born in Pasadena, Calif. Then his mother took him promptly back to Mexico City.

"My father had a complex about not having been born in the United States," Richardson said. His father, son of a biologist who collected museum specimens, had been born on a boat heading to Nicaragua. "If my father didn't have this complex, I wouldn't be able to run for president. I wish I'd thanked him. One of the regrets I always have is that I never thanked him."

But despite the self-acknowledged paucity of his SoCal roots ("My roots are about three hours"), it's no surprise that Governor Richardson decided to make his announcement in LA. As Dan Schnur notes in the LA Times:

But Richardson's problem is that Latino voters don't know he's Latino. And although there's no guarantee that they will vote for him simply because of his ethnicity, his trailblazing endeavor would certainly bring him a much greater share of attention from the nation's fastest-growing minority community once they do find out.

So rather than an Iowa cornfield or a New Hampshire gymnasium, or even his home state, which has the largest percentage of Latino residents — 43% — he came to Los Angeles. California's earlier Feb. 5 primary has inflated the importance of the state's role in the nomination process, but the driving force behind Richardson's unusual announcement location is the growing role of Latino voters in American politics.

And despite his short tenure hear in the Rose City, should bill Richardson manage to win the uphill battle he faces for the Democratic presidential nomination, I have no doubt Pasadena will happily claim him as a favorite son.

[P.s. If you haven't yet seen Richardson's terrific (and funny) campaign ads be sure to check them out here.]

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Good news in Iraq?

Unsurprisingly for a foreign policy whose main point of consistency is its subservience to the law of unintended consequences, the Iraq escalation surge may actually be working, sort of.

Ostensibly intended to give the Iraqi government breathing room (or at least vacation time) in which to seek the political compromises EVERYBODY recognizes to be necessary to a reasonably peaceful Iraq, the surge may be assisting one of the militias we are ostensibly battling.

But while the ineffectual government appears no closer to resolving the differences between the various factions in Iraq, another group is, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

From the Washington Post:

The 33-year-old populist is reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders, from politicians to insurgents, and purging extremist members of his Mahdi Army militia who target Sunnis. Sadr's political followers are distancing themselves from the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is widely criticized as corrupt, inefficient and biased in favor of Iraq's majority Shiites. And moderates are taking up key roles in Sadr's movement, professing to be less anti-American and more nationalist as they seek to improve Sadr's image and position him in the middle of Iraq's ideological spectrum.

"We want to aim the guns against the occupation and al-Qaeda, not between Iraqis," Ahmed Shaibani, 37, a cleric who leads Sadr's newly formed reconciliation committee, said as he sat inside Sadr's heavily guarded compound here.

Whether Sadr can be successful in his attempts to reach out to Sunnis is far from a settled question. But given that his Mahdi Army, now lying low during the American surge in order to let the US do his dirty work for him, represents the largest indigenous Iraqi military force and holds sway over a far larger portion of Iraq than does the Iraqi government which can barely govern the heavily barricaded Green Zone, little less the rest of the country, Sadr's initiative needs to be taken seriously.

But should Sadr be successful one wonders how the US will react. Would we continue to support the beleaguered Iraqi government against a combined Sadrist-Sunni force?

Would we want to?

Or, will BushCorp™, desperate to extricate itself from this quagmire of its own making, accept a new strongman to replace Saddam?

Should it?

Friday, May 18, 2007

An endgame for the American empire

For the past few days I've been meaning to mention a must-read article by author and UC San Diego professor emeritus Chalmers Johnson, but with scandals and revelations about the Bush administration coming at an hour to hour clip it's been hard to find the time.

None the less, professor Johnson's analysis of the state of the nation and its place in the world is a must read for those who hold hope that the dream of America can yet be salvaged, though his prescription isn't easy:

I believe that there is only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge (still growing) military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic -- becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force.

Professor Johnson's article at TomDispatch should be READ IN FULL, as should Tom Engelhardt's introduction.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thanks for playing and we hope you enjoy these lovely parting gifts.

Much like when Al Capone got sent up the river, not for murder or racketeering, but for tax evasion, key Iraq war designer and cheerleader Paul Wolfowitz gets the boot from the World Bank.

Too bad Wolfy won't have the opportunity to be further pilloried for his crimes in the run-up to the war in Iraq, but oh well, gone is gone.

Would you torture?

By the way, as a public service to Democratic presidential candidates (and Republicans too, if they would only listen), a good response to the Jack Bauer terrorism question does exist:

  1. As president I would use every and all means available to the the most powerful nation on the planet to prevent and respond to any attack on the United States.
  2. That being said, I would never seek short-term political benefit from using means that denigrate the memory and sacrifice of all those American patriots who have died in the name of liberty.
Further points can follow about the unlikelihood of the "24" scenario, the ineffectiveness of torture as a means to elicit truthful information, and the corrosive effect torture has not only on its victims, but on those that practice it, both the torturers and the nation they represent.

But the most powerful points must be made first, let me repeat:

  1. As president I would use every and all means available to the the most powerful nation on the planet to prevent and respond to any attack on the United States.
  2. That being said, I would never seek short-term political benefit from using means that denigrate the memory and sacrifice of all those American patriots who have died in the name of liberty.
Your CaliBlogger will never vote for or support any candidate who would say less.

UPDATE: I posted the above in the comments section over at Kevin Drumm's site in a discussion of the ethics of torture and asked for better suggestions, here's a response I received from lampwick:

What's wrong with your hypothetical response is that it's not emotionally satisfying at all; it's cliched and cerebral, like Dukakis' reaction when asked about how he would respond to news that his wife had been raped.

An emotionally satisfying answer would be 'No one under my command will torture enemy prisoners. Period. End of discussion' or 'Many Americans believe in the existence of the devil. Torture is pure evil, it is the devil's work, and I abhor and reject it.'

Cliched and cerebral? Moi?

But seriously, while I don't believe l's first suggestion to be sufficient for a hypothetical debate setting (as opposed to orders to one's generals, where it would be entirely appropriate) I think the second suggestion has some merit, especially when trying to appeal to that apparently large majority of Americans who believe in Evil with a capital E.

GOP debate: Big win for ignorance and torture

Two points on the GOP debate.

First, I find it incredible that the Fox audience, and the vast majority of MSM commentators, applauded Giuliani's take-down of Ron Paul for suggesting that al Qaeda's attacks were in some way a reaction to US policy in the mid-east.

The distance from reality that suggests is truly scary.

Further, I'm stunned at just how many people seem to be OK with torture. Not surprised mind you, I've always suspected that the lip service pay to freedom and the rule of law was about as deep as a yellow ribbon.

But for those of you who think American values has meaning beyond militarism, corporatism and gay-bashing, I recommend a couple of articles, yet again, exposing the damage torture does to both the tortured and the torturers.

Though I'm not a big believer in Evil since I think that minimizes the extent to which average people can commit acts that are themselves evil, Andrew Sullivan makes the case that torture is not only evil, but represents a threat to America which no terrorist could possibly match.

The evil of torture is therefore not just a moral one. It is a political one. A constitutional republic dedicated before everything to the protection of liberty cannot legalize torture and remain a constitutional republic. It imports into itself a tumor of pure tyranny. That tumor, we know from history, always always spreads, as it has spread in the US military these past shameful years. The fact that hefty proportions of US soldiers now support its use as a routine matter reveals how deep the rot has already gone. The fact that now a majority of Republican candidates proudly support such torture has rendered the GOP the party most inimical to liberty in America. When you combine torture's evil with the claims of the hard right that a president can ignore all laws and all treaties in wartime, and that "wartime" is now permanent, you have laid the ground for the abolition of the American experiment in self-government. Imagine another terror attack, with Rudy Giuliani as president, and a mandate to arrest and torture at will, with no need to follow or even address the rule of law. We would no longer be a republic. We would be in a protectorate of one man.

And in the Washington Post, no lesser personages than former Marine Commandant Charles C. Krulak and former Central Command commander-in-chief Joseph P. Hoar provide an analysis of how the use of torture both degrades our military and succors the terrorists.

As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture -- only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works -- the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone -- the rare exception fast becoming the rule.

To understand the impact this has had on the ground, look at the military's mental health assessment report released earlier this month. The study shows a disturbing level of tolerance for abuse of prisoners in some situations. This underscores what we know as military professionals: Complex situational ethics cannot be applied during the stress of combat. The rules must be firm and absolute; if torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality.

This has had disastrous consequences. Revelations of abuse feed what the Army's new counterinsurgency manual, which was drafted under the command of Gen. David Petraeus, calls the "recuperative power" of the terrorist enemy.

Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld once wondered aloud whether we were creating more terrorists than we were killing. In counterinsurgency doctrine, that is precisely the right question. Victory in this kind of war comes when the enemy loses legitimacy in the society from which it seeks recruits and thus loses its "recuperative power."

The torture methods that Tenet defends have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy. This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

Both pieces should be read in full, and frankly memorized if possible. As the GOP debate showed, significant portions of our country are still ruled by fear and misinformation from those who seek to use that fear for their own political benefit.

But fear can be combated, not with bravado and volume, but with reason and knowledge. And for those of us in the reality-based world, reason and knowledge serve as our best armor against the forces within America which would betray its promise for an illusory promise of safety.

[And kudos to John McCain, for standing against torture. How has the GOP fallen that such a stand would be controversial?]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gonzales-gate: I can hardly wait for the sequel

Interrogator: Sign ze papers old man.
Prisoner: I can not sign ze papers.
Interrogator: You must sign ze papers! Why will you not sign ze papers?!
Prisoner: Because you have broken both my hands!

[Stolen Adapted from Cheech and Chong]

In a tale fit for a Tom Clancy novel, or perhaps a dope-inspired comedy, routine your current Attorney General and former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez (I'm thinking Benicio del Toro for the movie), along with his co-conspirator White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (I see James Woods in the role) wend their way to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft (sure the black thing might be a problem, but I'm rooting for James Earl Jones). Meanwhile, racing from his office at the DoJ, Deputy Attorney General (and acting AG) Jim Comey (in the Harrison Ford role) fights the clock in a desperate attempt to intercept the evil-doers before they can reach his boss' bed.

I can see it now, the quick cuts from Comey's speeding car to the random beeps of hospital monitors, to the steady incessant footsteps of the villains. Indeed, very cinematic.

And I suspect that's what presents the crux of the problem for Gonzales. The recent investigations into the corrupt politicization of the Department of Justice are, I suspect, a little too arcane to capture and hold the public's attention.

But how's this for a narrative that'll hold your attention. Mr. Comey, against all odds (while still obeying all traffic laws - he's that kind of guy) beats Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft's bed in the ICU. Dana Milbank takes up the narrative in the Washington Post:

"The door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card," Comey told the spellbound senators. "They came over and stood by the bed." They wanted Ashcroft to sign off on an eavesdropping plan that Comey and others at the Justice Department had already called legally indefensible.

Ashcroft "lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter" -- that Comey was right. "And as he laid back down, he said, 'But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney general.' And he pointed to me."

Gonzales and Card "did not acknowledge me," Comey testified. "They turned and walked from the room."

Fade/dissolve to congressional hearings where Comey testifies to a stunned panel of Senators"

"I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man," Comey told the quiet chamber. His voice grew thick and he cleared his throat as he explained how he prepared to resign. "I couldn't stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis."

Pretty gripping stuff you'll agree.

I can hardly wait for the movie.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell is dead

You know it's odd, but when someone like Rev. Falwell dies, and even though I don't believe in them, I can't help but sometimes wish that heaven and hell truly did exist.

Just so that people like Mr. Falwell can reap the eternal reward they so richly deserve.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dying for the status quo

Why we fight?

In an article that encapsulates stuff you already knew about Iraq but never expressed in so many words McClatchy lays it out: Our soldiers are dying to maintain the current positions of Iraqi politicians who are incapable of compromise because they are too jealous of their own current status and the narrow interests of their own power base.

And be clear this is not just a Sunni vs. Shia thing, but is caused by the divisions within those groups as well as with the Kurdish Iraqis.

U.S. officials warn that the longer the impasse persists over laws on provincial elections and the distribution of Iraq’s oil wealth among Shiite Muslims, Kurds and Sunnis, the greater the risk that the surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops into Baghdad, which is intended to provide a security umbrella for political reforms, will be for naught.

Until the political feuding ends, “we are just maintaining the status quo,” said a U.S. military official who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The whole sad article should be read in full to appreciate the futility of our current engagement in Iraq.

But can I, once again, point out the glaringly obvious?

The only way to change a stalemate is to change the facts on the ground. That being said I see no reason to revise my earlier analysis of "the surge": it's too little, too late.

Insanity, it is said, may be defined as the expectation that repeating the same behavior will somehow yield different results.

How then can a sane person defend allowing the current Iraqi ruling class the continuing luxury of using American soldiers as shields from their own unwillingness to compromise with one another?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

More Kurt Vonnegut

As I mentioned when I first heard of his death, I was, and remain, incapable of properly eulogizing one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut.

I am, happily, quite capable of linking to interesting articles about him.

Case in point, this article from the Onion AV Club: 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will


Bill Richardson's job interview

Ever have a tune float around in your head for no apparent reason? Happens to me all the time. Sometimes for long periods of time.

In fact for most of this winter I've been walking around with the strains of California Dreamin' whisping about my brain.

Well, like all those brown leaves and gray skies, another thought keeps echoing in my mind, gosh its too bad Bill Richardson is stuck in the second tier of candidates 'cos, whatever his deficiencies as a campaigner, he'd sure make a good president.

I find it heartening that the governor has, at the very least, some very smart media people working for him.

And, as I've mentioned before, after 8 years of a know-nothing presidency, the country could really use a president who has a clue. Couldn't it?

So with no further ado, but with help from this new-fangled YouTube thingy, a couple more looks at Bill Richardson. (H/t Andrew Sullivan).

I find it heartening that the governor has, at the very least, some very smart media people working for him.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Katrina revisited

I just wanted to note an article in the Post by John M. Barry about the nation's still inadequate response to hurricane Katrina. His article should be read in full, but his main point is that much of the continued devastation still being faced by the gulf coast is the result of infrastructure changes (levees, canals) to the Mississippi river made for the benefit of the nation as a whole rather than to Louisiana in particular. That being the case, not only is it the nation's responsibility to amend these effects, but also it is the nation as a whole that will suffer if changes are not made (though certainly Louisiana will suffer most directly.

Like I said, read the article.

Also, in other Louisiana news, outgoing governor Kathleen Blanco expresses her outrage at the Federal government's continued foot-dragging response to the needs of Katarina's victims.

"It's all political," she began. "You know, this country's run on politics. But when a disaster comes that is not what you expect, you expect a human reaction, not a political reaction. And I will tell you, there's a void," Blanco drawled, "a total void of human response. And it's extremely discouraging as an American citizen. It makes me angry and extremely disappointed."


The experience of securing that funding and trying to get access to it has not been pleasant. "I absolutely hated the idea of having to go to Washington, D.C., to deal with the last Congress, because their attitude was brutal," she said. "The old Congress made us feel like we were pretty stupid for standing in the way of the hurricane and that we were asking for far too much assistance.

"They ignored the fact that it wasn't the hurricane, per se, that caused our damage," Blanco explained in a forceful, yet measured, tone. "It was the failure, an engineering failure, of the federal levees that caused our enormous grief. If we had not had levee failures, people would have walked home, and today we would not even be sitting here talking about it." She did say the new Congress was "definitely more interested in trying to help us."

No doubt the Iraq war will remain BushCorp™'s signature disaster, but the politicization of government agencies whose missions should make them apolitical (FEMA, Justice, etc.) are the starkest domestic evidence of the failures of Bushite Republicanism.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Condi's weapons of mass distraction

One of my new favoritist websites is Watching America which features translated articles from the foreign press.

The views the world press hold of the US can be eye-opening, alarming, refreshing, and, on occasion, amusing. From Al Anbat, Jordan:

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki fled before sitting down next to American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The reason given for his departure was the red see-through dress worn by a violinist who performed at dinner. The dress apparently offended the dignity of Mottaki, who is said to be a deeply religious politician. According to the media at Sharm al-Sheikh, this was the reason that there was no rapprochement or meeting between Mottaki and Rice.

We are not necessarily convinced by this explanation. We have followed carefully the mutually destructive war that has been raging between Washington and Tehran, and it must be said that if we were to accept this theory, one would have to conclude that mutual understanding between the United States and Iran will be impossible so long as there is an American Secretary of State who wears miniskirts … and who shows her legs and her bust to those sitting near her. Naturally, this would result in unequal negotiations between Rice and Mottaki because the Minister would be at a loss as his eyes wandered from her mind to her legs!!

The tone of the article is firmly tongue in cheek, but it does illustrate one of the problems facing the west in its contacts with fundamentalist Islam, its rather peculiar, some would say barbaric (to western minds anyway) view of a woman's place in society.

What I find most heartening though is that this article appeared in a newspaper based in Jordan which, though gingerly allied with the US, is none-the-less still a state with a dominantly Islamic population. I feel a strange bit of the kinship with an author mocking the most extreme of his coreligionists.

It somehow gives me hope.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Permanent Vacation

So, Darth Cheney visited Iraq to urge lawmakers there to forgo their usual 2 month summer vacation.

"I'll be blunt: I told some of the Iraqis with whom I met that we are buying them [time] for political reconciliation, and that every day we buy it with American blood," [Defense Secretary Robert M.]Gates said at a Senate hearing Wednesday. "For this group to go out for two months, it would, in my opinion, be unacceptable."

Unacceptable to say the least.

But what really sticks in your CaliBlogger's craw is the fact that this is the first time since the invasion they have been asked to do so.

Which means that since the general election of 2005 the Iraqi legislature has enjoyed 2 two-month vacations.

During its July and August vacation in 2005 139 American soldiers died, during the same period in 2006 the number of American deaths was 108.

247 Americans died in Iraq while its government was out of town.

And despite the much vaunted surge, expectations are that the level of violence will hold steady, if not escalate in the coming months.

But whether or not the Iraqi's heed dead-eye Dick's admonition to not play hooky this year, as William Arkin points out, the Iraqi National Congress is so ineffectual even when it is nominally in session that their presence or absence makes little real difference.

Which, in a nutshell, is why Bush's hopes for "victory" continue to prove so elusive.

No-one, not the military, certainly not the majority of Americans, not even the Republicans in congress, no-one but believes that the chaos in Iraq demands a political solution. Military activity can only buy an ever shrinking amount of time. And BushCorp™, in its wisdom, has thrown in its lot with a group of politicians who have made the GOP do-nothing congress of the last six years look like a beehive of activity.

Meanwhile 3,384 American men and women, soldiers and Marines, have been sent on a permanent, one might say eternal vacation.

[Mortality statistics thanks to]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fighting them over there

As you may or may not know, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann has, over the last year or so, has become a go to news show for left wing moonbats across this great land of ours.

One of your CaliBlogger's favorite segments is the "Worst Person in the World" bit wherein Keith lists the most egregiously offensive words and actions from the day's news. Done with tongue firmly in cheek, as is much of Keith's show, "Worst Person in the World" frequently quotes noted wingnut figures such as Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and others of that ilk, using their own words against them.

The May 8th segment (link to video here) culminated in a quote from Fox "News" commentator Dick Morris. For those who might not be aware of Morris' history he provides ample evidence that, gender aside, hell hath no fury to match a political hack scorned.

(Morris, a former Clinton operative, resigned in disgrace after revelations that he let the prostitute with whom he was having an extra-marital affair, listen in on conversations between himself and president Clinton. Since which time he has become a vehement critic of the Clintons, and a go to guy when rightwing outfits like Fox need a Democrat to criticize Democrats or provide BushCorp with bi-partisan cover (for other examples of the type see Lieberman, Joe and Miller, Zell).)

If you watch the video, Keith is quoting from statements Morris made on the May 7th edition of Hannity & Colmes in a discussion of Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri's recently released video about the war in Iraq, in which Zawahiri claims that Democratic efforts to withdraw US troops from Iraq would "deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in a historic trap".

Morris' reaction? From News Hounds:

Staying in Iraq, Morris continued, "gives (Al Qaeda) the opportunity to kill more Americans which they really like." Morris made the dubious assertion that it's better to have Americans stay in Iraq because it's easier for terrorists to kill them there. "They don't have to come to Wall Street to kill Americans… And convenience is a big factor when you're a terrorist." [Emphasis mine-CK]

And while both Olbermann and News Hounds mock Morris for his idiotic statements, I would suggest we ponder the truth behind these words: that, al Qaeda strategy notwithstanding, BushCorp certainly seems intent on making it easier to kill the innocent.

From an article in today's Washington Post discussing the results of the recent escalation surge:

Commanders said that even with the ongoing increase in Iraq of tens of thousands of American troops, violence could increase in coming months, and some indicators in Baghdad suggest that is already happening.

Partial data on attacks gathered from five U.S. brigades operating in Baghdad showed that total attacks since the new strategy began in February were either steady or increasing. In some cases, certain kinds of attacks dipped as the U.S. troop increase began, only to begin rising again in recent weeks. Overall, "the number of attacks has stayed relatively constant" in Baghdad, said one U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name.

The U.S. military commands that oversee Baghdad and Iraq as a whole have so far failed to meet requests to release current statistics on attack trends, with some U.S. officers voicing concern that the information would be skewed by critics to argue that the strategy is not working

So, the surge will, by the military's own admission, have the net effect of increasing the carnage in Iraq.

In fact it seems increasingly obvious the only thing really being accomplished by current policy (aside from giving war apologists an excuse to call for yet another Friedman Unit's worth of patience) is to increase the number of American targets in Iraq.

See, Morris is right, we're making it more convenient for terrorists to kill us over there. Gosh, with all those targets walking around withing sniper range, we're keeping al Qaeda just too darn busy to attack us here.

And just think, if we stopped providing them targets, all those darn terrorists would just be sitting around idly with nothing to do.

One can only wonder what sort of mischief they'd get up to then.

So you see, it's important we fight them over there, just like Dick Morris says.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The costs of war

One of the most intriguing aspects of the war in Iraq, aside from the misinformation which served as its raison d'etre and the incompetence with which its been run, has been its impact on the average citizen: zero.

Fought by an "all-volunteer" army (stop-loss aside) and financed by the national credit card of foreign debt, BushCorp™'s war of choice has had strikingly little impact on most US citizens.

But hidden though they have been, the costs of war are beginning to dawn on the American people, at least some of them.

And I don't mean that I believe my fellow Americans have come to a belated understanding of this geo-political disaster's ramifications for America's standing on the world stage.

What I mean is this (from McClatchy):

With much of their equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, state National Guards face profound shortages in responding to natural disasters, particularly as they get ready for the hurricane season, which begins June 1.

The Guard has been shipping gear to hurricane-prone states in an effort to ease concerns, but a large disaster affecting several states would tax the Guard's ability to respond, according to National Guard officials and government reports. Some deficiencies aren't correctable. The Texas National Guard's helicopters, for example, are in Iraq and can't be replaced easily.

The potential impact of the equipment shortages became apparent over the weekend when a tornado devastated Greensburg, Kan. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that the state's National Guard couldn't respond as quickly as it should have because much of its equipment is overseas. About 300 Kansas National Guardsmen have been sent to Greensburg.

"Fifty percent of our trucks are gone. Our front loaders are gone. We are missing Humvees that move people," Sebelius told NBC's "Today" show. "We can't borrow them from other states because their equipment is gone. It's a huge issue for states across the country to respond to disasters like this."

That problem is likely to worsen in the event of a major hurricane, which generally affects a much larger area than a tornado does. Guard officials in hurricane-prone states say they're ready, but only if they can get help from other states. That will slow critical response times, emergency managers say.

We got a taste of things to come with Katrina, but the top to bottom incompetence of the emergency response served to mask the effect the depletion of national guard personnel and equipment had on the disastrous disaster relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. "Heckofa job" Brownie's incompetence is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Your Caliblogger finds it especially ironic that shortages of Guardsmen and equipment are most acute in the states of the deep south most supportive of the president's warmongering:

In interviews with McClatchy Newspapers, National Guard representatives in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas said they had at least 50 percent of the equipment they needed. Only North Carolina officials said they expected to have all the equipment they needed by June 1.

Those hurricane-prone states also benefit because most of their Guard units aren't currently in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Alabama is in the weakest position, with 4,000 of its 11,400 Air and Army National Guard deployed, or about to be, overseas. Total deployments for the other states total only about 2,000, state National Guard officers said.

And as global warming (now generally accepted as fact, Bush's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding) increases the intensity of any hurricanes that might impact these states, one wonders just how bad the suffering will have to get after the next national disaster before Bush loses the support of the die-hard 28% who still support him.