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Friday, June 30, 2006

I hate to finish a week of commenting in this space on a down note, but I’ve been holding on to a couple of disturbing e-mails about anti-Semitism that were sent to me a week or two ago - trying to decide whether or not I should reproduce them here - and the decision to do so was reached just this morning. They emphasize that this particular kind of hatred and bigotry is still as strong as ever around the globe. The days of the pogroms may be gone, but the ignorance and hatred that fueled them persist.

One of the e-mails spoke of conditions in France where there are now between 5 and 6 million Muslims and about 600,000 Jews and cited comments from a French woman who had just emigrated from Paris to Israel because she and her family literally feared for their lives.

My wife fell in love with Paris when we were there and wants to go back the next time we’re close - such as in London. I certainly enjoyed Paris the one time I was there - but it was a long time ago and things have changed in France. I’m not sure that I would want to go back or that I’d feel comfortable or even safe - even though we know Jewish Parisians who could squire us around and steer us away from danger areas. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that there are any safe areas in France if you happen to be Jewish.

For example - the same e-mail about a Jewish woman who left France because she feared for her very life, also included the content of a message received from a French Jew still living there. He wrote as follows:
I AM A JEW -- therefore I am forwarding this to everyone on all my e-mail lists. I will not sit back and do nothing. Nowhere have the flames of anti-Semitism burned more furiously than in France: Recently In Lyon, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire. In Montpellier, the Jewish religious center was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles; so was a Jewish school in Creteil.

A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails, and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, the words "Dirty Jew" were painted. In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with sticks and metal bars. The bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months.

A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop (and, of course, the butcher) in Toulouse. A Jewish couple in their 20s were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne. The woman was pregnant. A Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles. This was in the past week.

According to the Police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents PER DAY in the past 30 days. Wake up, world! Walls in Jewish neighborhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming "Jews to the gas chambers" and "Death to the Jews."

Will the world say nothing - again - as it did in Hitler's time?
Disturbing stuff - but I was even more disturbed by another e-mail sent to me from England which depicted the kind of garbage that is still being spewed by hate groups in our country. . The sender said - and I reproduce his own unedited words here:
I still can't believe what I just watched and heard!!!!! Not in Germany, but in the US... Not in the1940's, but right now... How many of us really know what's happening in our own back yard?? They’re not scared anymore. In broad daylight, in the middle of downtown, by cynically manipulating the freedom of speech, and with police protection they spread their hate everywhere they can. The movie is from Israel and it's about the Nazis of Minnesota filmed on 4/23/2006. Please take a couple of minutes and watch.
And I did - and I invite you to. The introductory titles are in Hebrew - but all of the dialogue of course is in English. After all, as my correspondent pointed out with horror - this isn’t something from Nazi Germany in the forties but from the State of Minnesota in April of this year!! It’s a little more than five minutes - if you can stomach it for that long.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I am heartsick this morning over the tragedy unfolding in the Gaza strip. The Chicago Tribune and the New York Times both editorialize about it today - and both place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. I don’t know what other major papers say. I don’t have the time to check everything that’s being written and I assume that the Arab press blames Israel.

I agree that one need look no further than Hamas or any of the independently operating Palestinian "militant" groups who seem to be beholden to no authority but their own. Can you imagine any western democracy operating as the so called Palestinian "democracy" functions? With this or that "faction?" With "military wings" of political "factions" wandering the countryside and engaging in attacks against Israel at will - or sometimes in deadly clashes with "military wings" of other Palestinian "factions?" It’s a nightmarish scenario.

So no matter which "military faction" tunneled into Israel proper and killed two Israeli servicemen and kidnapped a third, they were the precipitating cause of the current turmoil. But that does not mean that I can automatically support every aspect of Israel’s response.

I understand the agony of Gilad Shalit’s family and of two nations - Israel and France, of which nation Shalit is also a citizen. And I realize that Israel had to do something and that a so called "prisoner exchange" was out of the question, because if Israel released jailed prisoners - people who had been convicted of crimes in a court of law and not just "detained" - there would be no end to it. Militants - or whatever you want to call the idiots who have no idea how to work towards peace - would make kidnapping for prisoner exchange a permanent part of their modus operandi. On the other hand, it would make perfect sense to exchange the Palestinian MP’s who have been arrested by Israeli forces for Sergeant Shalit. That would be sort of an "exchange of the kidnapped for the kidnapped" - although many supporting the Israeli reaction would never consider the arrests of Hamas officials as "kidnapping."

I don’t know what I would have done if I had been in Ehud Olmert’s position. Any time something like this happens, I am sure Israel’s leaders agonize over how to respond and I am sure that they weighed the consequences of the actions that they have undertaken. But I am reasonably certain that I would not have approved of at least one aspect of the military offensive.

I hasten to say that I can’t condemn Olmert. He’s the guy on the ground - responsible to all his citizens and compelled to make some decision in response to the murders and kidnapping. I on the other hand am sitting in the comfort of my computer room. (A spare bedroom converted into a computer room). But I can’t agree or condone the extent of the response.

I know it needed a strong enough response to get the attention of the kidnappers. And I would agree that if Israel had reasonably good intelligence that Shalit was being held in a particular area of the Gaza strip, the destruction of two bridges which could prevent him from being moved to another location was justified. Bridges can be re-built. But what on earth was to be gained by destroying a power plant - plunging most of Gaza into darkness? News reports say that it will take months to repair the damage and get the plant working again - so perhaps long after the current crisis has been resolved or come to a close one way or another, there will be residual damage as residents of the strip struggle to exist without electricity.

If Olmert believed that a military incursion was necessary, I can understand and accept that. If he felt that detaining elected Hamas officials would help bring pressure to bear on the kidnappers, I can understand and accept that. I can even accept and understand the threat to assassinate exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal if the Israeli teenage sergeant is harmed. And I understand the warning that the situation could become deadly with civilian casualties if the crisis isn’t swiftly resolved. But to inflict what will be long term damage on the civilian population at the outset of Israel’s military response is something I find hard to understand and accept.

Incidentally, I didn’t know this before I began typing this piece - I learned it by checking in on Israpundit - but the destroyed plant is insured by an agency of the U.S. Government!! It’s worth looking at this article. It makes for interesting reading about the madness of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I have to say that I was please to learn of the Supreme Court decision forbidding military war crimes trials for Guantanamo detainees and even more pleased to observe that even if Chief Justice Roberts hadn’t recused himself, it still would have been a five to four rebuke to the President.

But as pleased as I was, I couldn’t help but be dismayed at the reaffirmation of the political nature of the nation’s highest court. This was a decision - like many other decisions that have been handed down before and after the departure of Sandra Day O’Connor - that had less to do with interpretation of law than with personal and political philosophy. Five reasonable conclusions that Mr. Bush overstepped his authority in the case of this issue - and of course in dozens of other instances which, unfortunately, the Supreme Court has yet to be asked to consider - and three "to hell with the law" dissents, led by knee jerk Clarence Thomas’s assertion that the decision would "sorely hamper the president's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy."

The need for a Democrat to win the White House in 2008 is critical. Justice Stevens is 86 and Ginsburg 73. Both would be likely to retire during the term of the next President - and if it turned out to be another Republican - just think what kind of a Supreme Court we’d have then - and what kind of decisions they would be likely to render. Can you imagine another Thomas and another Scalia joining the present Thomas and Scalia - along with Roberts and Alito, making a solid conservative majority - no matter which way Kennedy and Souter vote?

Dunno about you but it gives me shudders just thinking about it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

That this is a nation divided politically, there is no doubt. It’s just about fifty fifty - despite the fact that the polls are showing that a majority of us disapprove of the way our President is performing his job - and the same kind of majority give low marks to Congress. But the division doesn’t seem to end with political preferences. It spills over into areas that one would think have nothing to do with politics. You probably wouldn’t be able to find Democrats and Republicans arguing over whether or not Florida is a warm state and Alaska usually cold. But when it comes to the issue of the earth getting warmer and the role of greenhouse gases, there does indeed seem to be a strong political component to what we think of the problem - a large percentage of those who accept the scientific evidence being Democrats and a large percentage of scoffers - Republicans.

When I offered some advice to Al Gore on how he should present his warnings on global warning a couple of weeks ago, a Republican reader of this blog sent me an article quoting "scientists" who disagree with Gore and with the majority of the world’s scientists who have studied this problem. They say it isn’t happening. But just the other day, as we all know, we got the news that our planet is warmer than it has been in centuries.

So who are these scientists who disagree with the vast majority of their colleagues around the world and what is it that makes Republicans want to believe them rather than the overwhelming majority of climatic scientists? I suppose it’s possible that there are those among this small group of global warming deniers who truly believe that their conclusions are dictated solely by science as they perceive it. And certainly majority belief is not necessarily proof of efficacy. The name Galileo Galilei comes to mind.

But it’s also true that if you dig deep enough, you can always find "experts" to refute the irrefutable. I am sure that there are Jewish Holocaust Deniers out there - but I’m not about to lift the corner of any rocks to prove my point.

But I will refer my Republican friend to other information that might shed some light on the "why" of scientists who argue against global warming. One piece of information that might be helpful is to take a look at who these deniers are - and who is funding them. Not that the source of funding for scientific research necessarily influences scientific conclusions - but it does make you kind of wonder.

Look - it’s basic common sense. There are about six and half billion of us right now and our numbers are growing in leaps and bounds. We’ve spread millions of acres of concrete where grass and trees once grew in abundance. We’ve polluted rivers and oceans. We and our animal co-habitants produce trillion of tons of waste material. We burn fuels and pump immeasurable amounts of noxious fumes into our atmosphere. There is no question that our presence and our activity has an effect on the state of the world. There is overwhelming evidence that the planet is getting warmer and that we are contributing to that temperature increase. How serious that is can perhaps be argued - but doesn’t it make more sense to err on the side of caution rather than poo poo the warnings that are coming from the scientific community? Isn’t it likely that our climate would be better if we weren’t pumping so much noxious gas into the atmosphere?

Not too many people would argue that if you pull too many fish out of the sea or hunt and kill too many of the earth’s rapidly disappearing animal species - there wouldn’t be some kind of deleterious result. How difficult then is it to grasp the concept that if we continue to do the things that are contributing to changes in the earth’s climate and temperature, there could be a similar deleterious result? Maybe not ten years down the pike. Or twenty or thirty. But at some point, can’t you conceive of our great or great great grandchildren saying whoops - how did we let this happen.?

The Surgeon General has just come out with a pronouncement that no amount of second hand smoke is safe. I don’t want to believe it because I was a smoker for a lifetime - 2 ½ to 3 packs a day. And I’m not convinced that there has been a long enough and large enough study to back up that kind of conclusion. But I quit smoking a few years back because the scientists kept saying that it - and the second hand smoke that others in my immediate proximity breathed in - was a cause of cancer. I wasn’t totally convinced then and I’m not know and I miss the hell out of my cigarettes - but I erred on the side of caution and I’m glad I did. Certainly the choice to quit was a smarter one than to continue.

Right now we have two extremes when it comes to the dangers of global warming. At one end there is Al Gore who is presenting the scientific consensus on global warming, but who I think makes a mistake when he tries to put a time frame on when it will be "too late" to stop the deterioration, other time frames having come and gone without cataclysmic outcome. And at the other end - there is the "head in the sand" view of scientists on whose work Gore relies, as being - as the unofficial leader of the denial crowd calls them, "environmental whackos." I suppose one can excuse Rush Limbaugh for his point of view. It’s his natural reaction to anything proposed by anyone who isn’t as nuttily to the right politically as he is. That - and the combination of oxycontin and Viagra taken at high altitudes. But others who come at this issue from a political perspective are hard to understand. I look inward and can find nothing political in my belief that the huge scientific majority opinion on this issue is more likely right than wrong.

This doesn’t apply to all Republicans and all Democrats of course, but the difference that I see between the views of many Republicans and many Democrats on global warming, is that the Republicans just don’t want to believe it and look for that small minority of denial scientists to confirm their pre-conceived beliefs - whereas the Democrats look at the scientific evidence being presented and are persuaded by it. Or at least are willing to agree that we should err on the side of caution.

On the other hand it could be as simple as the fact that those of us who look at life through reasoned spectacles - don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh - other than to have the occasional good laugh.

Speaking of nuts - I note with horror that Ann Coulter’s book is at the top of the New York Times best seller list. (Damn that liberal, commie, traitorous paper. The Justice Department should indict the hell out of them). Just a few months ago, I was decrying the gullibility of the public in making a best seller of that piece of con-man garbage about "cures" that the pharmaceutical companies "don’t want you to know." Right. They know how to cure cancer and diabetes and kidney failure and a whole bunch of other diseases - but they’re hiding it because the want to keep selling you drugs that won’t cure them.

And now the purveyor of hate as a way of making a (darned good) living - has her piece of garbage at the top of the same list. What does that say about us as a people? Who is buying Coulter’s book? Could it be the same people who bought Kevin Trudeau’s scam Or could it be the people who refuse to acknowledge any evidence of global warming? I tell you friends - it’s confusing and scary as hell at the same time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Iran. According to Reporters Without Borders, those are the nations with the most restrictions on freedom of the press - meaning, more or less, that they have zero freedom of the press. Those four nations are numbers 164 to 167 on a list of 167 countries - and surprisingly, the United States , for the year 2005, is ranked 44th!!! - saying that we have less press freedom than such countries as South Korea and El Salvador.

I don’t know what criteria Reporters Without Borders uses to determine its rankings of degrees of press freedom. It’s based on a questionnaire sent to reporters and organizations around the world and I don’t know what questions are asked. But even making allowances for bias, I was surprised to find us ranked so low - behind Slovakia and Slovenia for example.

But if the Bush administration has its way, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find the 2006 rankings place the United States at the same level as Cameroon and Liberia!! Politicians - particularly Presidents and Vice Presidents, have long railed against the press when they don’t like what the press is saying. Who can forget Spiro Agnew’s "Nattering Nabobs of Negativism." But the onslaught against the New York Times by the Bush administration leaves Spiro’s memorable turn of a phrase choking in a cloud of dust. This is way beyond the pale of criticism. Asking the justice department to prosecute the paper and its editors and reporters for Pete’s sake? Do you right wing readers of this blog really want to live in that kind of country?? Particularly since the tracking of possible terrorist financial dealings is no big secret. After 9/11, didn’t we announce to the whole world that we would be going after the terrorist finances? That we would be tracking their banking transactions?

The Bush administration needs to cool it. They’re traveling down a very dangerous path.

On the other hand, I would be a lot happier and I think the country a lot better off if some very specific restrictions were placed on the press - the kind of restrictions that have long been in place in the United Kingdom - ranked 24th - twenty spots above us on the Reporters Without Borders list.

Here’s a scenario for you to consider. There’s a trial wrapping up in Chicago right now. On trial is one Robert Sorich, the former patronage chief for the current mayor - that’s Daley the younger. He is accused of recommending people for city employment based on their political clout - or the political clout of their sponsors.. The government has presented its evidence. Thomas Durkin, Sorich’s defense attorney, has called the prosecution case ridiculous and has delivered a passionate closing argument which may or may not have sounded convincing to the jury. One never knows what will influence a jury. The O.J. Simpson seemed pretty close to open and shut, but the jury didn’t seem to care about evidence. They had their own agenda.

Most juries however, are influenced one way or another by the evidence presented to them and by the persuasiveness of the opposing attorneys. This jury may have listened to the defense attorney’s closing argument and have thought - maybe he’s right. Maybe the government hasn’t proved that any crime was committed here. After all, Durkin didn’t call any witness for the defense. His approach was to cross examine the government witnesses and demonstrate to the jury that the government had simply not proved its case. Theirs is the burden of proof - not the defendant’s - and if there’s a glimmer of doubt of the defendant’s guilt, the verdict should be not guilty.

I don’t know how the members of this jury felt when they went home yesterday at the end of the day’s proceedings. It’s entirely possible that they bought the defense’s impassioned closing argument and were leaning toward acquittal - even before the start of deliberations. But when they got up this morning, they had access to today’s Chicago Tribune. There they’ll be able to read other people’s opinions of that closing argument. They’ll read the words of John Kass who says that the defense attorney arguments were charming and passionate - but after all just rhetoric because he didn’t have more!! Or Eric Zorn’s column with his conclusion that the closing defense argument was "magnificent and, at the same time, transparently desperate."

And those jurors who might have gone home with a warm glow in their hearts for Mr. Sorich, might read those comments and think to themselves - hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I was hoodwinked by that smooth as silk attorney. After all, these columnists know a lot more than I do about the inner workings of hiring for city jobs and what goes on hidden from public view. They’re saying that Durkin was magnificent because magnificence was all he had. That the weight of evidence was against his client. And their view of the case before them might be changed by something outside of the courtroom in which it was being tried.

This is something that could never happen in England. Once a criminal trial is underway, the press is banned from reporting on the proceedings until a verdict has been rendered. Then it can report to its heart’s content. But British papers can’t publish anything that could influence a jury while a trial is ongoing. Canada has the same kind of law.

I wouldn’t suggest the same kind of total restriction here. I think it would render a public service to publish daily transcripts of any interesting trial - but no more than that. No columnists presiding and publishing as judge and jury with their opinion of who’s right or wrong or telling the truth or lying or winning or losing. Nothing that could influence the thinking of any juror charged with the awesome responsibility of deciding guilt or innocence - of incarceration or freedom - of life or death.

That would be a restriction that in no way would take away the public’s right to know. Publishing transcripts of a trial’s proceedings would be more revealing than anything a columnist might dream up. Maybe not as colorful. Maybe not as inciting. But more concerned with truth than with bias or prejudice. And isn’t that what the American Press is supposed to strive for? To present the truth in as unadorned and unbiased fashion possible?

Particularly about what our government is trying to do behind closed doors!!

Monday, June 26, 2006

I’m not sure what to make of it, but the conventional press in the United States seems to be falling down on the job. This morning, the headlines were all about the Iraqi peace plane - amnesty - coalition forces withdrawal and the rest. And it was the subject of Sunday morning talking heads as well. But where were they before yesterday and today?

Last Friday, I listened to Ed Schulz wonder why the hell no one was paying attention to THE big story of the day - the one that was headlined in June 23 edition of The Times - the Times of London that is!!

Were we so badly scooped or was it that our mainstream press simply isn’t going to pick up on a major story that they didn’t break until they are left with no option - as they obviously were on Sunday and today.

The same thing has happened with Bobby Kennedy Jr’s article in Rolling Stone, asking if the 2004 election was stolen. (Probably. Why change from what worked in 2000)?

You have to wonder if people are asleep at the switch or if they have been lulled into some kind of stupor by the imperial Presidency of George W Bush.

But they finally caught up over the week-end and are now publicizing the 28 point package which includes an offer of amnesty to Iraqi insurgents - though it isn’t totally clear which insurgents are being offered a deal. It also talks about a timetable for all foreign troops to leave - something that undoubtedly is sticking in the craw of Bush and the Republican "stay for ever" crowd.

But the super hawks don’t have to worry. They don’t have to do anything to put the kibosh on the proposed deal. The Democrats will do it for them. Though both Republicans and Democrats are objecting to the idea of amnesty for anyone who has killed American servicemen and women, the word "amnesty" has been jumped on by certain key Democrats as a bull would charge at a red flag - and if they keep at it in the same vein, they will give Bush all the ammunition he needs to keep the occupation going indefinitely and the Democrats will have a hard time pushing for a timetable to bring our troops home when they themselves are standing in the way of Iraqis making peace with each other.

Let’s face it. If there is to be peace, the warring factions in Iraq will have to make a deal with each other. There will be no end to the violence by one side defeating another . Amnesty will have to be part of the deal to induce certain factions to join in seeking a political arrangement. Although the offer is to "those who have not shed innocent Iraqi’s blood" - there will be no real way to separate out who did what to whom to decide who gets amnesty and who doesn’t. Some of the people who were responsible for the deaths of Americans for example - those who didn’t blow themselves up in the commission of their murderous attacks - will have to be granted amnesty if they are being asked to lay down their arms and join with the ruling faction in seeking some way to live together in peace.

Unlike our "stay the course" solution, which of course is neither solution nor policy - the Iraqis seem to have come up with at least a working formula - and rather than trying to discourage them from the idea of granting blanket amnesty - we should accept the fact that we will never be able to track down and punish every Iraqi or every foreigner operating in Iraq - who was responsible for the death or injury to American military personnel.

That would be one way for us to stay in Iraq for ever and for Iraq to remain in a permanent state of turmoil.

Speaking of permanent states of turmoil……… it seems that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about to enter a new phase of violence precipitated by continuing attacks from Gaza and responses to those attacks. Now that an attack on an IDF post killed two soldiers and resulted in a third being taken prisoner - the IDF is poised on the borders of the strip, ready to do whatever it is ordered to do if the young man is not returned soon and unharmed.

All of this on the heels of an announcement by Ehud Olmert that more outposts on the West Bank would be shut down and suggesting - I think for the first time ever by an Israeli leader - that settlers could decide to move to Israel proper - or remain on the West Bank under Palestinian rule!!

He’s being condemned all over the place - but I think he’s on to something, if he would only pick up on the ideas that I published here in October of 2003 and float them to the Palestinians and to the world.

I posted a comment on the Y Net News site and provided a link to the commentary referred to above.

I had the perfect solution then and it’s just as perfect today. The only problem is - it requires sane people to put it in place. I think a referendum on proposals such as these would stand a good chance of passing in Israel. I wish I could say the same about Palestinians - but I see what they’ve done as free people able to vote in a democratic election - and sadly, I hold out little hope that they would endorse such an imaginative idea. At least not in my lifetime.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

As I’ve said here before - beware the polls oh you Democrats, because your own disorganization and lack of a consorted and understandable attack on the stupidity of the opposition that has pushed those polls in your favor - is going to come back to bite you in the voting booth - and you know how painful that can be.

I have a hard time understanding what the hell Democrats think they are doing. The conflicting proposals on how to get out of Iraq for example. Of what possible benefit is it when they can’t even decide among themselves on a single resolution - and what good is it to propose any resolution for debate and vote when they know it will be overwhelmingly defeated with a majority of their own party voting no?? I’ve never seen a party look so stupid as the Republicans gloated over their disarray and then continued blabbering their own nonsense about staying the course and victory!!

But it’s not just in debates about nonsensical topics that we all know about because they get wide media coverage that demonstrate the disarray of the Democrats. All you have to do is watch C-Span and see the House vote on almost any proposal - and more likely than not, there'll be 4 or 5 Republicans disagreeing with the Republican majority and 30 or 35 or more Democrats disagreeing with the rest of their colleagues. A disturbing lack of unity.

Democrats don’t even seem to know how to respond to the most ridiculous statements that the Republicans make in these waste of time debates. In the House debate for example, when Louie Gomert said that if John Murtrha had been in charge at Normandy and in the Pacific during World War ll, we’d all be speaking Japanese today - the best Murtha could muster was to ask Gomert if he’d been there - at Normandy and in the Pacific. And of course he hadn’t. But that isn’t something that crushed Gomert or pointed out the stupidity of his statement. All Murtha had to do was ask a different question - such as: "Is the gentlemen suggesting that if I’d been President when we were attacked by the Japanese, that my response would have been to surrender to the Japanese Empire ? And that I would have offered Germany our surrender the moment they declared war upon us?" That would have put the Texan idiot on the spot as he tried to explain exactly what he did mean. And if he tried to avoid answering, Murtha could have pressed him. "What did you mean???"

Oh how the Democrats need someone with the wit of a Winston Churchill. When Lady Astor told him
"If you were my husband I would flavor your coffee with poison," he answered. "Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it!" And an exchange also attributed to Lady Astor and Winston with him saying to her in frustration "Madam, you are ugly," and she responding "Sir you are drunk," and Winston’s coup de gras - "Yes, but I shall be sober in the morning."

The Republicans talk of "stay the course" and "victory" and any talk of withdrawing "sending messages to the enemy." There may not be any Churchills among the Democrats , but I don’t hear them countering this nonsense and putting Republicans on the hot seat by at least asking the right kind of questions. "What do you mean by "victory?" Are you saying that American troops have to stay in Iraq until attacks on civilians - and on US have totally stopped? We’ll be there for ever!!" Make them define "victory." " And what do you mean by "the enemy?" Again, make them define what they mean. They shouldn’t be allowed to toss out accusatory words without being challenged on them. The so called insurgents weren’t our "enemy" until we came to Iraq - and if you’re talking about Al Qaeda - the followers of that terrorist organization or philosophy are everywhere. Are you really trying to tell the American people that we can defeat Al Qaeda by staying in Iraq - a country that was far removed and had no connection with that organization until we invaded? What kind of convoluted logic is that?"

And finally, with regard to Iraq - which most certainly will be at the heart of debate during the mid term campaign, we need to stop calling it a war. The "war" - such as it was, is long over. As the President himself said on May 1, 2003 "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." Yes, we won. Easily. And what we have had since then is an OCCUPATION and we’d better start hammering that home to counter all the macho appealing nonsense about "cutting and running" and "surrendering" and all of the other stupidities that the Republicans have been using in the place of reasoned dialogue.

Ending an "occupation" is not exhibiting weakness or lack of resolve. It’s acknowledging that our mission has been accomplished. We have made sure that there were no weapons of mass destruction. We have deposed Saddam Hussein and his government. A democratically elected Iraqi government is in place and Saddam is on trial for his life. Anything we do beyond that is police work and nation building - something our President said he would never advocate as a role for the United States.

And then there is the Rove factor…. Democrats seem to be worried to death that now that Rove has dodged the indictment bullet, he’ll be able to devote his time and his alleged super political skills to getting Republicans elected and re-elected. But what are those supposed skills? Nothing more than lies and dirty tricks. Saying that "after 9/11 Republicans prepared for war while Democrats wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers" was both a lie and a dirty trick. Saying that "Democrats may be with you for the first shots but they’re not going to be with you for the tough battles" is also a lie and a dirty trick.

In the coming campaign, there will be Rove himself and there will be candidates using Rovian tactics. Responding to Rove will be simple. Use his own words to condemn him. The things he says are so ridiculous that all that is needed to reveal them - and him - for what they are - is to have his face and voice on the television screen with an appropriate sarcastic comment from an announcer. In the Illinois Governor’s race, the challenger has yet to mount the beginning of a campaign, but Governor Blagojevich has been running television ads of challenger Judy Baar Topinka saying stupid things. Just a head shot of Judy saying something nonsensical with a voice over, dripping with sarcasm, making a brief comment and ending with the question, "what was (or is) she thinking?" It’s devastating. The official race has yet to begin - but it’s already over.

Responding to Rovian tactics will call for opponents to identify the source of whatever lie or dirty trick is being used and then ask - "what would you think of someone who tried to get you to believe that John McCain fathered a black child out of wedlock or fathered a child with a prostitute, or that his wife was a drug addict and that he had abandoned his crippled first wife?" That was a campaign tactic used by Carl Rove against Senator John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. And Carl Rove is the evil genius of the Republican party’s campaign for this election and the author of the lying, dirty tricks tactics being used by Candidate X. It’s time to reject him and everything he stands for and every candidate who stands with him and lowers himself to use the same despicable tactics."

But if the Democrats continue the way they’ve been acting lately and carry it into the mid terms, they will not win back the House and Senate - and they’ll probably never know why. It’ll be because they haven’t been reading this blog - stupid!!!

I don't watch C-Span all the time, so I guess that's why I missed the passage of the law under which the FBI saved the Sears Tower from being blown to Kingdom Come this week-end. TRASH TALKING!!! Punishable by who knows how many years in the hoosegow. Maybe even the gurney and the needle.

All I can say is - look out NBA players!!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I don’t remember how long ago it happened - sometime earlier this year - but it was an Iraqi named Georges (strange name for an Iraqi) Sada, who claimed to be some kind of wheel in Saddam Hussein’s air force - and he was making a guest appearance on The Daily Show. I guess he wasn’t one of the faces on the deck of wanted Iraqis or they would never have allowed him to sit down with Jon Stewart.

Jon joked with the guy - as he usually does with a guest - but there was serious stuff too because he had written a book claiming that Saddam indeed had weapons of mass destruction and that they had been smuggled to Syria - and there he was on the Daily Show repeating that same claim.

I would surmise that the book didn’t make any big splash because I’d never heard of the guy and his claims until I saw him on The Daily Show. With the kind of information he had to impart, you would have expected the Bush administration to have been trumpeting the news all over the place - but I don’t recall a single press conference in which the President explained what happened to the WMD’s. But after the same information was made public by TDS - which as we all know is THE major news source for millions of Americans, I fully expected it to be the lead headline in every metropolitan newspaper the next morning.


But nothing. Nada. Zilch. It was as though nobody was watching Comedy Central the previous night. The hook off which Dubya and his fellow weapons chasers could have been - remained solidly in place.

I was reminded of all this last night and again this morning as I experienced a painful sense of deja vu. It began last night as I made use of my handy zapper to glide gently from one cable TV outlet to another. I could have punched in the number of the station I was traveling toward - but "gliding" - moving through stations is often more fun. For example, I sometimes stop for a nanosecond on Hannity and Colmes to see what kind of silliness is being promoted . I did it again last night - but instead of hitting on silliness - I arrived in time to witness a veritable jackpot. Big news was breaking. WMD’s had been found in Iraq. Chemical weapons. Five hundred of them. And there, sitting next to Hannity, was Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Rick Santorum saying "we told you so."

Here I’d been under the impression that Hannity was a jerk - but the news that every red blooded Republican had bee waiting for for three years - was being broken in front of my eyes by his exclusive report. The print media might not be fond of Mr. Hannity, but there was no way they could overlook this kind of breaking news - even if they were sneaky enough to avoid crediting Sean.

I probably don’t have to write an ending to this story because like me, you’ve most likely already seen your morning paper - and you know what was in the headlines about these weapons. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. It was Georges Sada on The Daily Show again. The mainstream media simply wasn’t about to be led around by the nose by a cable performer!!

On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible that the mainstream media knew that Hannity was trying to trot out an old discredited story and present it as "news" and wasn’t going to bother to take him or Santorum to task.

But that’s a shame - because the legitimate news media should take these idiots to task - because there are people who listen to them, hear only what they say and accept it as truth. As legitimate, verified news!! And that can be incredibly dangerous. For example.

On her broadcast yesterday, Randi Rhodes played a clip from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. A listener had sent an e-mail and asked Limbaugh if he agreed that the "liberals" were probably glad that Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Lowell Tucker, had been tortured and murdered. Chuckling away, Limbaugh said absolutely - that he had checked "liberal blogs" - and they were all happy. Here’s a transcript of what he said and you can also listen to him spewing his garbage if your stomach can stand it.

It is of course a lie. That Limbaugh was able to check "liberal kook" blogs and found them happy about the torture. That he found them saying "Good riddance. Hope Rumsfeld and whoever sleep well tonight."

You would think that a google search of that phrase would at least lead to one "liberal kook" blogger who was rejoicing at the torture and death of two of our brave young men. It does lead somewhere. To two sites - that of Rush Limbaugh and Crooks and Liars, which is the link above.

It’s kind of ironic that all this was going on on the day when Dan Rather announced he was leaving CBS after 44 years with the company. CBS pushed him out and hope to capture a different kind of news watcher/listener with Katie Couric . He had one hell of a career - but just as the 2006 US Open Golf Championship will be remembered more for the collapse of Phil Mickelson than the triumph of Geoff Ogilvy, so will Rather be remembered for a report on President Bush’s military service that relied on un-authenticated documents.

The irony is in the difference between Rather and the right wing pundits who are piling on as he leaves the public stage. Rather may not have been 100% accurate in every story he ever reported - but I don’t believe he ever made up anything out of whole cloth. Some of your right wing ranters and ravers however - Limbaugh notorious among them - simply lie when they feel like it - and present their lies as truthful items of news. Like telling a large radio audience that believes everything you say - that there are "liberal kook bloggers" expressing their glee at the torture and death of Menchaca and Tucker.

If Limbaugh was a man of principle, he would list those blogger URL’s on his web site for the rest of us to peruse. They don't exist of course but his ditto heads don’t need any proof. If he says it’s true - that’s good enough for them. And if that isn’t as scary a thought as may pop into your head, I don’t know what would be. Maybe somewhere on the Internet there are Al Qaeda blogs rejoicing over the death of Americans - but that’s not what Limbaugh says. He says, categorically - he checked personally - that those enemies of all that is pure and decent - liberals - are rejoicing over this horrible affair.

I keep reading about the various things the Democrats will do if they regain control of congress. Surely one of the first things they need to do is reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. There may not be any way to stop Limbaugh - though there should be because I think what he does goes far beyond and should no longer be protected by the free speech doctrine - but at least broadcasters would be compelled to allow equal time to present something to counter his lying diatribes. Something like The Truth!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I must admit that I am confused and conflicted over the current outbreak of violence back and forth across the border between Gaza and Israel. Following the death of seven civilians on a Gaza beach, Hamas declared that their "truce" with Israel was over and fired a flock of Kassam rockets. Then it pulled back and talked about continuing a "truce." Meanwhile, more Kassam rockets are being launched - just as they were during all the period of the so called truce - but the news reports say that these rocket attacks are not the work of Hamas but by - who knows? Independent "militants?" It isn’t clear.

What is clear is that Israel is continuing to respond to these attacks with attacks of its own - but it’s those attacks about which I’m confused and conflicted. This morning’s news included a report of three Palestinian children killed in a failed assassination attempt against what Israel describes as two Fatah terrorists - members of a terrorist cell that had been involved the day before in Kassam attacks against the Negev. This time, there isn’t any question about what killed those kids. It was an Israeli missile.

I guess I can understand a response to a rocket attack against Israel if that response is swift and recognizable as a response to a specific attack - an exchange of fire if you will. But that doesn’t seem to be happening - at least not quite that way. It would appear that Israel knows the identity of unknown numbers of "terrorists" who are either attacking or planning attacks against the Jewish state - and has it’s own plan to find and assassinate them - not necessarily as a response to a specific attack - but as a matter of continuing policy.

I try to put myself in the position of Israeli officials who have lived under continuing attack or threat of attack since UN Resolution 181 in 1947 and whose responsibility it is to defend against those attacks, but I have a hard time buying into this "assassination" policy when some of the assassinations seem to be carried out in isolation - far removed from any ongoing violent clashes between the two sides - and when so many of them result in death or injury to innocent civilians. What military folk call "collateral damage."

Once again, I turn to the authors of Mideast On Target for a perspective on this topic. These are people who live in Israel and are the potential targets of Kassam rockets or any other kind of attack against Israeli civilians, so their perspective is colored by those circumstances. Nonetheless, I think it’s instructive for people outside of Israel who have strong feelings about the conflict, to be exposed to different ways of looking at incidents that may shock and dismay you when you read about them in your local paper. Here’s part of what Mideast On Target said in a recent newsletter.
The IAF missile attacks last week and today, in which noncombatants were killed during strikes against missile carrying vehicles or terrorist organization leaders, have attracted considerable criticism in some sectors of the Israeli press, based on the claim that the killing of innocents is an immoral act, especially since there have been no Israeli deaths recently as a result of terrorist attacks, rocket or otherwise.

These commentators display a distinctly distorted sense of morality, as international law and military ethics are rather clear on the issue. The targeting of noncombatants is a war crime, and those who perpetrate it should be captured and punished. We, of course, are referring to the terrorist organizations’ leaders and members, who are directly responsible for the combat situation that prevails to day in Israel, particularly along the Gaza border. Having instigated a war, the Palestinian terrorist organizations are horrified by the fact that Israel is responding with military force. The media commentators are often no better, as they seem to forget that the mission of the IDF is to defend Israel and its citizens from attack. The fact that is it succeeding in that mission is in no way a lessening of its morality.

In a combat situation, combatants are legitimate targets. There are no "innocents," only combatants and noncombatants, as innocence and guilt are categories related to law enforcement, not war. In the event that noncombatants are in the vicinity of the battle zone, certain rules of conduct apply. These generally revolve around two principles: discrimination and proportionality.

Discrimination refers to the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and requiring military forces to take care to implement that distinction whenever possible. The IDF does this; the terrorist organizations do not. To be fair, we must admit that the terrorists are equal opportunity violators of this principle: they make no distinctions between Israeli civilians and soldiers, and they do everything possible to make it nearly impossible for the IDF to make the same distinction among Palestinians. It must be emphasized that the presence of noncombatants does not, in principle, protect combatants; the presence of combatants endangers noncombatants.

Proportionality attempts to limit the danger to noncombatants of the presence of military targets in their midst, based on the military value of that target. Contrary to the moralizing of the media, proportionality does not refer to some hypothetical balance between damage absorbed and damage inflicted. There is no moral or logical basis for the argument that aggression lite is any less serious than aggression on a larger scale. In any event, the 1,000 Kassam rockets fired at Israel in recent years certainly qualify as full scale aggression. The proportionality limitation is meant to restrict the amount of force used to attack a target to that which is necessary to achieve the objective. Simply put, destroying Gaza to prevent a single Kassam launching fails this test. The IAF, using precision guided munitions (PGM) with shaped-charge warheads, falls well within the limits imposed by the proportionality principle.

Noncombatants’ behavior is often taken for granted when discussing the results of attacks; it is anticipated that they will either flee the battle zone or take cover for safety. Unfortunately, Palestinians have a penchant for moving toward the battle rather than away from it, taking their children with them, and unnecessary casualties are often the outcome.

Fighting a counter-terrorist war in a hostile urban environment has strained the physical ability of the IDF, as it would any military in the world. But given the circumstances of the conflict, as well as the determination of the terrorist organizations to cause harm to civilians – Israeli and Palestinian alike – the IDF has displayed remarkable skill in keeping noncombatant casualties to an absolute minimum.
That may be true - that the Israelis make every effort to avoid causing civilian casualties and are pretty good at it. And it may well be true that there are far more assassination attacks on known terrorist leaders that do not result in civilian casualties . But those kinds of attacks don’t call for the same gut wrenching headlines as the ones that do result in civilian deaths.

I have to say that reading the Mideast On Target comments reassures my belief that the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid causing harm to innocent civilians - but I’m still bothered by the deaths that have been reported as I am by this assassination policy.

There are of course views from the Palestinian side that can be easily found on the Internet and that claim that Israelis do not go to great lengths to avoid harming innocent civilians - and have, on occasion, deliberately and without provocation, killed noncombatant civilians. As an example, Nigel Parry - a pro- Palestinian and pro-Arab supporter, writing for the current issue of the Electronic Intifada, describes violent clashes on the ground during the Intifada in the mid 1999’s and asks - Does Israel Have a Policy of Killing Palestinian Civilians? You can believe him or not, remembering that he , like Israelis, comes at these things with strong feelings and a lot of pre-conceived notions - and that there most likely is an Israeli version of the incidents that he describes that would make his version read like fantasy fiction.

I’m inclined to accept the Israeli version that the rules of engagement call for all possible effort to avoid the killing of civilians - just as our own rules of engagement call for similar restraints and both nations will and have brought charges against their own military personnel when violations of these restraints appear to be provable.

But accidental or not, it’s still upsetting when one reads of innocents being killed in this ridiculous conflict without end.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Maybe I’m just feeling my age after Father’s day. Maybe I’m just worn down by years of observing the human condition - which is in a sorry state no matter how deep the color of spectacles through which one may want to view it.

I never thought it would happen, but the older I get, the more I’m inclined to consider the possibility that the origins of the human race were not single celled creatures that crept out of the slime and evolved over millions of years from one species to another, finishing up with homo sapiens. Not that there weren’t critters crawling out of the slime or that that they evolved into other critters and into the vast array found in fossil history and in today’s animal kingdom. I certainly accept all of that. The proof is overwhelming - and of course the non human creatures with whom we share this world are there for all to see. I just think it’s possible that our ancestry - the ancestry of the human race - can be found elsewhere - perhaps one day will be found elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean that I agree with those who believe that we were "created" in the image of "God." I just don’t necessarily believe that we’re the end result of an evolutionary process. I’ve come to this conclusion by looking around the world and considering the possibility that it is and always has been - a madhouse - a planetary asylum for the incurably insane. If you can accept that premise - at least as a possibility - then all else becomes crystal clear and entirely logical.

Along with my religious fellow humans, I’m quite ready to believe that our ancient ancestors were not monkeys or apes or orangutans - though they may have been planted here at the same time we were with their similar DNA. I’m not going to attempt to put a time frame on this - but I think it possible that our ancient ancestors were people just like us. Not Neanderthals, not Homo Habilis, not Home Erectus - but human beings who looked pretty much like today’s humans. And I think there is enough evidence to suggest that they were all incurably insane individuals from another planet or planets - incapable of conveying their origins and the fact of their insanity to their offspring, most of whom thus grew up similarly insane. I believe our ancestors were brought here and placed in isolation to prevent them from infecting their fellow creatures with their insanity.

I don’t know what advanced race or races of beings brought us here. Perhaps when we do eventually venture into space we will be able to find them. Or perhaps one day, I will no longer have to write a blog post explaining "why they don’t come" because they will have returned to see if we have been able to find a cure that they - the wise and sane ones from those other worlds - weren’t able to find.

Of course even though we are all descended for that original colony of insane humans, not all of today’s humans are insane. That’s where evolution has worked advantageously for us. I’m sane. I hope readers of this blog are sane. But millions of us still are nutty as fruit cakes - and all you have to do to be convinced it to look around you and observe.

Just look at the millions who have devised and/or accepted a mythology of our ancestry in the form of a supreme being who they worship. Those are the nuts who do indeed believe that we were all "created." Evolution did nothing for their inherited insanity. Over the centuries, we split into groups that devised differing versions of that "supreme being" and how "he" should be worshipped. By itself, that form of insanity is relatively benign. But when - as we know happened in the past - (think Crusades) - and as we now observe almost daily - acts of criminal violence are committed "in the name" of one of those religions, we can see how incurable it still is for many of us.

But we don’t need the nuttiness of religious beliefs and the acts committed in the name of those beliefs to conclude that the world is a planetary asylum. Just look at us. We’ve divided ourselves into close to 200 separate nations populated by people who communicate with each other in hundreds of different languages. At any given moment in one or more of these separate nations, the insanity we inherited from our ancestors can be witnessed in stark relief as one group of those nations’ humans slaughters other groups by the thousands or hundreds of thousands for reasons that are incomprehensible to those of who have been cured through the evolutionary process but that make perfect sense to the insane committing the acts of insanity.

Cast a glance elsewhere and see one nation warring against another or threatening to war against another. There has never been a time when the human inhabitants of the earth have lived together in a total state of peace.

What can you call any of this but insanity?

But perhaps the most compelling evidence to support my theory of our origins, is who we have selected or allowed to emerge as the leaders of the various nations - from ancient times to the modern era. In the past century alone, look who we have allowed to dominate our world. Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong ll , George W Bush

I ask you. Would a race of sane sentient beings allow such people to lead them into committing the acts of insanity for which they have written their epitaphs on the pages of history? The acts of Bush are still a work in progress.

Paleontologists, Archaeologists, Anthropologists and all the other "ologists" may have convincing looking evidence to support their theories of who we are and how we got here - and for most of my life they had me convinced. But once you accept the possibility of my planetary asylum premise, the evidence for that theory of our origins is not just equally convincing - it makes more sense.

After all, how much crazier an idea can there be than humans evolving from an amoeba crawling out of a primordial slime? No wonder they dumped our forefathers on this planet.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sometimes I’m almost sorry that I can watch CNN. Reading some of the nonsense that our illustrious elected officials spout isn’t nearly as bad as watching them actually do their spouting.

Thank heaven for the zapper. Its judicious use helps my brain avoid exploding as I become transfixed in disbelief watching the House "debate" the Iraq misadventure as it was doing on Thursday. What a disgusting waste of time and effort - to bring this phony "debate" to the floor of the House. Everyone knows its only purpose is political - Republicans trying to make it look like anyone who criticizes what we’re doing in Iraq is against the "war on terror." Nothing that is said in the House will change anything. They could come out with a unanimous vote to withhold all further funding for Iraq and Bush wouldn’t blink an eye. And if the Senate concurred, he’d attach one of his infamous "signing statements" - which say that the law doesn’t apply to this imperial President.

With zapper in hand, I only watched bits and pieces, but one particular piece of nonsense came to mind as I was sitting at my computer this morning. For the life of me, I can’t remember which Republican congressman it was, but there he was in front of the microphone speaking of his recent visit to Iraq where all the Iraqis that he spoke to, told him that they didn’t want us to leave until they can handle their own security. According to this Congressman, that was their main topic of conversation with him. Not the car bombs. Not the lack of electricity. Not the lines and hours of waiting to get gasoline. No. "They" just don’t want us to leave.

As I sat there watching and listening to this guy, I was asking myself which Iraqis he was talking about. Did he, unlike our President, actually leave the Green Zone and wander the streets of Baghdad, stopping ordinary citizens to ask what was on their minds? I think the answer is pretty clear. These kinds of "visitors to Iraq" never really leave the country, because the Green Zone, where our super embassy is being constructed, is sovereign US territory!!! Pure demagoguery.

Then there was Louie Gomert of Texas praising Congressman John Murtha for his compassion and his service but adding that if he had been in charge of things early in World War ll , we’d all be speaking Japanese now. And later I heard someone call in to a radio show to report that Rove had just given a speech in which he actually called Murtha a coward!!

The whole affair is sickening. If the American voting public buys this kind of Rovian garbage - as they have now for TWO Presidential elections - all I can say is that they will deserve the kind of country into which we are already rapidly evolving - or perhaps I should say de-volving!! The only problem is - the rest of us, who don’t deserve it, will be stuck with it too.

But there is something these guys can do to redeem themselves. Urge their President to take to the road to alert the American people to an impending financial disaster that has been revealed following an intensive secret actuarial study by a special committee of the Departments of Defense and State.

This is a problem far greater than that of Social Security - though it is intimately related to the problems of Social Security.

I speak of funding for the pursuit of war!! The special committee, which has been operating under a cloak of secrecy for more than two years, has projected Federal revenues and known obligations into the future, including the national debt, the interest on the national debt, the size of the deficit and its rate of growth - and have come to the sorrowful conclusion that there will be no money left in the coffers to fund even the most modest of invasions by the year 2021 - even earlier if the Chinese cut us off before then.

They have proposed a drastic series of actions to ward off this impending disaster, not the least among them is the abolition of Social Security by the end of President Bush’s second term. With the projected savings , the committee estimated that we would be able to delay running out of war money for an additional 14 years - until 2035, depending of course on the number and size of invasions that we launch in the intervening years. It has been estimated that any year in which we did not launch any invasions would likely extend the period in which money would be available for future military action. A few quiet years and we could be looking at 2045 or 2050 before we’re forced go out of the war business - again, our Chinese benefactors permitting.

The committee findings have been sealed and as far as I know have not been exposed anywhere other than here. Not in the rag sheets that you can buy at the supermarket check out counters - not at any other blog site. My contact on the inside has sworn me to secrecy - but only as to his/her identity. I am otherwise free to do with the information as I wish - and so I’m reporting it here in the hope that the Rovians will seize the moment and demand that the House and Senate debate what is perhaps the biggest challenge to this nation’s future that has arisen in modern times. I know that the idea of abolishing Social Security by 2008 may not sit that well among voters - particularly since the proposal is to cut only the benefits - not the tax, which will be called the "war on whatever" tax - and that even the most loyal Republican voters might throw their Representatives and Senators to the wolves once the plan is revealed, but if they are true patriots, they will bite the bullet and tell the nation what it needs to hear.

And what is that?

Simply that if we don’t begin to do something now - there will come a time when we will no longer be able to afford the pursuit of WAR. And what then will become of the United States?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I watched part of Larry King’s interview of Al Gore the other night. I say "part" because I have a short attention span when I’m watching television, I have control of the zapper and there are few programs on the boob tube that can hold my attention from beginning to end. Maybe the evening news and the Daily Show are exceptions.

I like Al Gore. He should have been President after he won in 2000. Instead we got a "Full Monty" look at how a national election can be stolen - and if you read Bobby Kennedy’s piece in Rolling Stone - you have a pretty good idea that there was a repeat steal in 2004. Gore said he has no intention of running again and that he thought he could do more good in another role - and particularly in the role that he has taken unto himself to warn the world of the dangers of global warming.

I have no personal knowledge of the science involved in making predictions about the earth’s future - but I do know - as Gore emphasizes - that when it comes to the matter of global warming, you have - on the side that says it’s happening and it’s dangerous - scientists of various stripes. Presenting an opposing view - that it isn’t happening - that those who say it is happening are "environmentalist whackos" - are pundits, people with zero scientific education or knowledge.

It isn’t hard to pick the side to believe. What the scientists have is evidence - what the pundits have is disbelief.

The message may be beginning to penetrate a little further than in the past. Gore’s film - "An Inconvenient Truth" is said to be extremely compelling for a documentary and may be helping to spread the word - that the nations of the world need to do something about their contribution to the warming process - before it’s too late. And that’s where Gore and the good guys run into trouble. With that "before it’s too late" argument. Even worse is a time certain that Gore claims we have before indeed it will be too late. And he’s talking in terms of ten years.

I think he’s making a big mistake. Concern over global warming has been around for quite a while. It didn’t crop up yesterday. And I can remember other people who have spoken about how long we have before we’re in big trouble - and those time frames have come and gone and of course - as the pundits would point out - the earth’s still here - and so are we. And now Gore is talking in terms of 10 years. That’s a blink of an eye in terms of world history. Time can whiz by without its passage even being noticed. I frequently watch the television channel where I once worked and comment on what’s happening on camera as though I was still working there - but it was decades ago. A little more than year has passed since our dog Cody left us - and that seems like yesterday!!

And while Gore is promoting his movie and the cause it triumphs, Steven Hawking has jumped into the
"time is running out"
business, saying that a disaster could befall us at any time and that we need to be looking to establish colonies somewhere in space. At least Hawking doesn’t put a time certain on when this disaster will destroy us all.

My advice to Gore - which of course he won’t take - would be to stop talking about how little time we have before it becomes "too late." There are ways to stir people without giving them that precise a time frame - specially when other time frames have come and gone without disasters occurring that could be pointed to as absolute proof of global warming. It can be just as effective - perhaps even more so - to say "I don’t know when we’ll reach the point where it will be too late - but I do know that if we do nothing - if we ignore the warnings - that point will be reached - and the condition of the earth’s climate will be going in only one direction - and it will be unstoppable."

Goodness. I almost scared myself writing that. I’d better stop and pull myself together. If I have anything else to say today, you’ll read it here.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I heard it first being discussed on Air America Radio - (and yes, despite the constant references by O’Reilly and others to the "failed" Air American Network - it’s still going strong ) - but can find little reference to it anywhere else. Left leaning bloggers are all over it but not the main stream media.

I’m speaking of the provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have prohibited the establishment of a permanent military presence - read "bases" - in that country. According to the Air America pundit, Republicans staffers "sneaked in under the cover of night" to remove the wording of that prohibition.

The Reuters report was much kinder, merely reporting that the provision had been "killed."

I have to admit that my initial reaction was similar to that of the LLB’s (left leaning bloggers). Huh!! Typical Republican shenanigans. But then I had second thoughts.

Of course I don’t want us to have permanent bases in Iraq. Surely we have enough bases in too many countries around the world as it is. No other nation has the kind of military presence in the world that we have. Think about it for a minute. How would you feel if wounded military personnel from some other nation - pick one at random - Germany say - were flown in regularly for their wounds to be treated at a hospital less than a mile from your home? You might wonder why they weren’t being flown to a hospital in their own country. I would imagine that’s what some Germans must wonder about as our Iraq wounded are flown to our military base hospitals in their country.

To many Americans - myself among them - reducing our military presence around the world is - as Shakespeare might have put it - "a consummation devoutly to be wished." But it isn’t something that can be done with the wave of a magic wand. In many countries, our bases are part of the infrastructure and the economy. It’s almost as though we, in the presence of our military, are a natural part of the landscape. There are large populations of a certain age bracket in almost all of the countries where we maintain a military presence - who have never known a time when we weren’t there!!

Strangely enough, the country where it would make the most sense for us to maintain a military presence is the one where we have none - and that of course is Israel. The Arab world would go nuts if we had even a token base in that country. The Israelis probably wouldn’t be too happy about it either. They like to be in complete control of their military options.

But I digress. I don’t automatically buy into the idea that it was a sneaky thing to remove the language that would prohibit a "permanent" military presence in Iraq. It’s likely that we will indeed maintain a long term presence there. We’re certainly not building the biggest embassy compound ever built to accommodate tourists from Indiana. And only the brain dead still believe that we invaded Iraq for any of the multiple choice reasons offered up by this administration to what they must truly believe is a gullible public.

We don’t know what the future holds, so it makes little sense to attach grandiose statements to a funding bill that may cause us embarrassment down the road. Particularly in view of what I predict the future holds for our relationship with Iraq. We will be maintaining some sort of military presence in that country for the foreseeable future - and that fact will hold true no matter who is elected President in 2008 or which party controls congress then or after this year’s mid-terms.

As Colin Powell was reputed to have said, evoking the Pottery Barn rule - If You Break It, You Own It. We’ve broken it - that’s for sure - and we’d better get used to the idea that whether or not we are able to bring most of our troops home at some time in the future - young Iraqis coming into the world today will likely live their entire lives never knowing a time when American military personnel were not part of their lives and their country’s infrastructure.

Is Rove Free and Clear??

So Bush’s brain isn’t going to be indicted after all - or so we’re being told. I find the wording of the letter allegedly sent to Rove’s lawyer interesting. The news reports say that special prosecutor Fitzgerald’s way of telling Robert Luskin that his client was off the hook was that he didn’t anticipate indicting Mr. Rove. To me, that’s not a definitive "off the hook" statement. If and when he ever does indict Mr. Rove, he can always say - well, I didn’t anticipate being able to indict him at the time I wrote the letter - but now that the law has been changed and made retroactive - I’m going for the jugular and a lifetime sentence.

What law am I speaking of? The one that Congress - in its wisdom - will surely enact, if not in the current session, then in the next, making it a crime to be an amoral scumball.

It’s a pity that Fitzgerald can’t say what I’m sure he believes. That Rove is indeed a scumball who was involved in as filthy an act as someone in a seat of power could commit - trying to inflict personal harm on someone who exposed your bosses political lies by revealing to the world at large that his wife is an under cover agent of the CIA. And using that fellow scumball to help inflict the damage - Robert Novak.

I’ve heard pundits declare that this is a good week for the White House. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead - and the President’s closest adviser isn’t going to be indicted. Well, whoopdidoo. Someone on the White House staff not being indicted is the standard for good news for the President.

How low can we go??


Monday, June 12, 2006

When I heard of the horrifying deaths of seven Palestinians as they picnicked on a beach in the Gaza strip - my reaction was probably the same as any sane person wishing to live in a civilized world. What on earth are they doing there? Will it never end? And I was quick to assess blame for the incident. I’m a supporter of Israel but I find it difficult to support these kinds of attacks even if they are in response to Kassam rockets being launched into Israel from Gaza. After all, most of those rockets seem to land harmlessly. It’s usually "in a field" somewhere. And of course all of the news reports about the dead civilians had them killed by an Israeli shell - albeit one that might have gone astray.

That was until I got the Mideast On Target newsletter yesterday - which suggested another possible culprit and also painted a different picture of the dangers of terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza - since the Israeli withdrawal, totally under Palestinian control. Even though some of the news reports of the death of the seven civilians refer to them as possibly caused by Israeli artillery fire - the overwhelming news thrust has been that it was caused by the Israeli Defense Forces and even the Israeli expression of regret and promise to investigate adds to the general acceptance of who was responsible. But not by all, including the authors of the most recent Mideast On Target newsletter which is reproduced in full below.
At last count, 25 Kassam rockets have landed in Southern Israel since Saturday night, seriously wounding one Israeli. Many more have been fired that have landed in Palestinian territory, as these weapons are far from accurate and their terrorist shooters are poorly trained at best.

The escalation in rocket fire, combined with an unprecedented 97 terrorist attack warnings recorded by Israeli security services, follows the Hamas declaration of the termination of the cease fire announced some 16 months ago. Ostensibly responding to the explosion on a Gaza beach that killed 7 Palestinians on Friday, and the elimination of Jamal Abu Samhadana, who topped Israel’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, by and IAF air strike on Thursday night.

It matters little to Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian terrorist organizations that the Gaza beach explosion was most likely an errant Kassam (which should lay to rest the oft repeated claim in the Western media, that the Kassam is a "primitive" – and therefore not dangerous – weapon) and not an IDF fired shell. Nor does the fact that Samhadana was a terrorist wanted by Israel for years of lethal attacks against civilians in any way reduce the calls for revenge by the terrorist organizations that see him as a hero and martyr. The time is ripe for escalation of violence, and any excuse will do the trick for Hamas.

Two related issues are the underlying causes of the increase in terrorist violence today. The first is the threat of civil war between Hamas and Fatah that has threatened to erupt over the past few weeks. On again off again surges in internecine violence, particularly in Gaza, have left casualties and threats of revenge as the two groups maneuver for power, their traditional positions having been reversed with Hamas’ recent electoral victory. Fatah, now in opposition, maintains an advantage in firepower, as Hamas holds the position of legislative authority.

The second issue was introduced recently as Fatah jockeys to regain its lost position. The delicate balance of power and authority was upset by PA Chairman Abu Mazen’s threat to hold a referendum, against Hamas’ wishes, on a plan to establish sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza, tacitly recognizing some of the prior agreements with Israel. Tacit recognition of anything related to Israel is anathema to Hamas, and the referendum threat is a direct challenge to its authority. An attempt by Abu Mazen and his Fatah followers to implement the referendum is likely to be violently opposed by Hamas and could be the spark that would ignite the primed powder keg in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Hamas solution, as is frequently the case with terrorist organizations, is to escalate the violence against Israel. From the Hamas perspective, violence now produces a win-win situation. The simple act of ending the cease fire and launching dozens of rockets puts the organization back in the headlines as the primary fighter against the Jewish State, avenging the deaths blamed on Israel, regardless of the true perpetrators. If a large number of Israelis are killed or injured, so much the better. And if the attacks instigate an IDF military response, which is sure to be the case if civilian casualties mount or life in the town of Sderot continues to be disrupted, the conflict between Fatah and Hamas will be papered over as no group can afford to remain on the sidelines of an IDF operation.

In the long run a Fatah-Hamas battle may be inevitable, but the current escalation may delay that eruption as Israeli security requirements necessitate IDF intervention despite the political consequences on the Palestinian side of the fence.
There is of course a totally different conclusion that can be and is drawn looking at the same set of circumstances through Palestinian eyes. Here’s one, found on the Electronic Intifada. This writer asserts without a doubt that the civilians killed in Gaza were victims of an Israeli artillery shell. I presume he must be in touch with forensic scientists who have gathered fragments of the exploded shell and identified its Israeli origins. He also sees any military action by the Israelis as political ploys - and his analysis is that Israel wants Hamas to resume violent attacks against Israel. I gather the rockets that have been landing in Israel regularly during the so called Hamas truce had nothing to do with them and were being launched by independents.

Anyway, here are two views of the same set of circumstances. It demonstrates the difficulty of ever resolving the conflict between the two sides. The only glimmer of hope one can cling to is that a majority of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians - not politicians, not pundits, not religious nuts - just ordinary people - DO want to live in peace - and eventually their voices will be the ones that will dictate the future of the region.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And to add to the above, Israel has now officially denied responsibility for these deaths, though most of the news stories of the denial, like this one in the UK Times On Line, include skeptical comments. Of particular interest to me is the inclusion of observations by a member of Human Rights Watch. If you Google this organization and add the word Israel to your search parameters, you will find nothing but condemnation of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza but not a word sympathetic to Israel. Perhaps these comments of a couple of years ago will gave you an idea of how to view "conclusions" of Human Rights "experts" about incidents such as this tragedy in Gaza.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Math was never one of my strong subjects at school - or later in life for that matter. A pity, because I know that if you have knowledge of numbers and how they can be manipulated, you can often work miracles. Take accounting for example. I have owned small businesses in the past and I kept my own books in a manner that I could understand. But I also used an accountant who would make accounting entries in another set of books - and trying to understand his figures was like trying to understand the Martian language without even knowing if there was such a thing. He could make my tiny operation look like a business that rivaled Big Board companies - either worth a bundle or losing more money than ever flowed through our coffers. It was all Greek to me - and I don’t speak, read or understand Greek.

And speaking of such public companies, another aspect of financial gobbledygook that I was never able to understand in my youth was the losses that some of them reported - quarter after quarter after quarter! It amazed me that they were able to stay in business if all they ever did was lose money. I’m not sure that I understand it any better in my senior years - but at least I’m able to accept that such things happen because not all of these companies filed for bankruptcy.

I thought about all this when I read of the financial machinations going on at Delphi Corporation as it struggles to manage its current state of bankruptcy. Unlike individuals wanting to file bankruptcy under the recently changed law - a Publicly Traded company has options!! More leeway for them than for a lowly humanoid!! One thing that Delphi wants to do is make large reductions in the hourly wage to its employees. Its union employees make pretty big bucks so the company is dangling even bigger bucks in front of their eyes to persuade them to pack up their union suits and look elsewhere for work. If they’ll leave - the company and the contract that guarantees them their cozy income - Delphi will honor their pensions and will cut them a check for seventy or a hundred and twenty thousand dollars - depending on how long they’ve worked there. And according to the news story that I read this morning, the offer is being made to as many as 24,000 workers!!

Assume for a moment that the work force is equally divided between those who would qualify for the $120,000 and the $70,000 buyouts - and that they all opt to take the money and run - the total cash outlay by this struggling, bankrupt company would be $2,520,000,000. That’s two and a half BILLION dollars. A bankrupt company in all kinds of financial trouble - but apparently able - if their offer is accepted by all - to come up with two and half billion bucks cash money.

I have no doubt that is all perfectly logical to people used to dealing in high finance and particularly those familiar with publicly traded company accounting, but as I say, this sort of thing is Greek to me. Every once in a while, stories surface about another company that struggled through bankruptcy and as far as I can determine is still struggling out of bankruptcy, and that is United Airlines. What always struck me as peculiar about that company’s troubles was that the news reports about it’s various efforts to become profitable, frequently spoke of their huge cash reserves!! They were in bankruptcy. They were losing millions quarter after quarter - but they were cash rich!!

I have no brilliant observation to make here. I just think that such things are sufficiently nonsensical to be included from time to time in my observations of the passing parade. And to remind readers that the next time you hear news of a public company’s stock moving substantially in one direction or another - rejoice if you own the stock and it’s going up - or if you don’t own the stock and it’s going down - but pay zero attention to whatever reasons are offered by the financial "reporter" bringing you the news. Even if he can read and understand Greek.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

As I said yesterday, it’s hard to cut back on commentary when so much silliness - some of it pure madness - is going on in the world.

Last week-end - or was it the week-end before - it was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. What do they call them - "Brangelina?" They produced a baby. Or at least Pitt made his contribution and Jolie did the rest - the real hard work. It was reported as a news item , which didn’t surprise me that much. There is a strain of paparazzi in the news rooms of the western world - both the print and the broadcast kinds. But what I observed in the space of a few minutes while trying to watch television network news was beyond the pale. WAY beyond.

As a male, I am master of the zapper - and in my den, I can easily watch two to four television programs at the same time. So it was that I was watching network news - I believe it was ABC - and when a report of the Brangelina baby came on, I made the instant decision to eschew that portion of the evening’s news and "zapped" over to another network. I don’t remember which one but it isn’t important to the story. What is important is that my zapping brought me to that portion of network number two’s newscast where - you guessed it - the arrival of the Brangelina baby was being revealed. I zapped again. Network number three’s newscast. All three networks must have collaborated, knowing full well that multiples of me with zappers in hand would be trying to do what I was trying to do. Get away from the Brangelina "story." But there it was on network number three - just as on networks one and two, The Brangelina story being reported on all three networks at exactly the same time.

If this isn’t The Year of the Jackpot - I don’t know what it is.

Ann Coulter - In a (Low) Class Of Her Own

I have never listened to any Ann Coulter commentaries nor read any of her writings - so, until last night , I have had to accept the judgment of those who have - and who describe her as a vicious hatemonger.

But yesterday, I got a glimpse of what they were talking about on the ABC network evening newscast when Charles Gibson introduced a piece about some vicious comments she had made about widows of some of the 9/11 victims. In a book she has written and is currently on the road promoting, she has, among other things, called some of the women who lost their husbands in the 9/11 attack "self obsessed" and "enjoying their husbands deaths." I gather that there’s lots more along the same lines in her book - and you can find some of them in the article linked above - but I wouldn’t for a moment encourage anyone to buy the book and put money in her purse. If witches carry purses that is.

I don’t know why she would choose to launch such a vicious attack against people who you would think would be the last people anyone would want to attack - other than to deliberately provoke the kind of reaction she is getting . Maybe it’s the kind of thing that sells books to a certain segment of the market place. But what absolutely floored me was the clip that ABC aired showing Coulter defending her comments or her right to make such comments. With her face contorted with anger that I believe was real and not some kind of act to reinforce her money making image as a professional hater - she said - defending herself against critics in the form of a rhetorical question - "These women can make a commercial for John Kerry and I can’t respond??"

You have to take a step back and let that sink in for a moment. I nearly fell off my couch when I heard it. The woman’s reputation doesn’t come close to describing the utter immorality of what she projected in that brief news clip. Apparently some of the women who were widowed on 9/11 were supporters of John Kerry’s candidacy and appeared in a political commercial on his behalf. And Coulter, who obviously supported Mr. Bush, thinks it’s an appropriate "response" to their support of Kerry, to make these kinds of hateful comments about them in a book - eighteen months after the election.

The concept boggles the mind. It’s a level of hate that’s outside the parameters of Ku Klux Klansmen or neo Nazis. Coulter represents a different category of bigotry that’s more frightening to me than the garbage spouted by the run-of-the-mill hatemongers that most of us are familiar with. I haven’t paid much attention to her in the past, but I will in the future. I’d like to know how deep this kind of hate goes and how far it reaches.
Ed Schultz Should Read My Blog

One of the places where Coulter was trying to promote her book was on the Ed Schultz radio show. Ed is a syndicated talk show host and that rare breed of radio punditry - a liberal. The other day I heard him talking about Coulter’s request to be a guest on his show and about his flat refusal to help her sell her ultra conservative garbage. If that’s an appropriate word to describe it. I’m still trying to find a category for what she represents. "Ultra Conservative" just doesn’t seem to capture it.

I also heard Schultz ranting and raving about the election to replace convicted bribe taker Randy "Duke" Cunningham to represent the 50th congressional district until the November election. I’m usually talking about right wing radio hosts when I refer to then "ranting and raving." RWRAR is an acronym you’ll find scattered among my blog commentaries . But pundits of the left can rant and rave with the best of them - and Schultz is one of the best RAR’s when he gets going.

As I say, he was ranting and raving about the election to replace Cunningham, won by the Republican Brian Bilbray and what he was ranting about or at - was the Democratic party!! According to Schultz, the party didn’t do what it should have done to win this seat. They didn’t pump in enough money. They didn’t bring in truckloads of Democratic movers and shakers - or field workers. Had they done so, according to Schultz, this is a seat they should have picked up.

Which makes little sense to me. The 50th is a heavily Republican district. A "safe seat" if you will. The Republican candidate was a former congressman who had not been indicted or convicted of any crime and Francine Busby, the Democratic candidate, was not only not particularly attractive but made a terrible gaffe when she said something that could have been interpreted as meaning "you don’t have to be legal to vote."

This wasn’t anything like the 5th Congressional district in 1994 when an indicted Dan Rostenkowski lost his reelection bid to an unknown Republican who served one term before this totally "safe" Democratic seat, currently represented by Rahm Emanuel, was returned to the Democrats. And George W Bush, with whom the Republicans of the 50th Congressional district might be disenchanted, wasn’t on any ballot anywhere.

Maybe Schultz should read my comments of May 12 . The polls showing disapproval of the current administration don’t mean that much when it comes to individual Congressional districts and neither Mr. Schultz nor anyone else should be surprised when an election doesn’t turn out the way they hoped it would!! The November elections will be no slam dunk for Democrats or Republicans - but it should be no surprise if Democrats hold on to traditionally Democratic districts or if Republicans hold on to traditionally Republican districts. That’s what happened on Tuesday - and while there’s a chance that the majority in both houses might change in November - there’s a 50/50 chance that they wont - and all the ranting and raving on the airways isn’t going to change those odds one percentage point.