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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It’s my birthday today and my daughter tells me that I am officially old. I choose to ignore that conclusion and concentrate on the fact that - despite annoying physical obstacles, some of which persist - I have survived this long. Whether I’m wiser as well as older is a matter yet to be determined - but I think I’ve learned a few things along the way.

One thing that I’ve come to understand over years of looking at far off places and events from the comfort of my living room - or in recent years from my computer room - is that it’s easy to pass judgment on something you know nothing about - and more often than not that judgment turns out to be wrong precisely because it’s being made from a distance and without first hand knowledge So in the full knowledge that it probably isn’t fair for me to be judging day to day incidents in Israel or Gaza or on the west bank - I have to say that I was dismayed to read of the military operation in Nablus - sealing off the city and imposing a curfew affecting some 50,000 people - all in the name of finding militants who might be connected to explosive "labs" and weapons caches that were found in the city. And today there’s news that a man was shot dead standing on his rooftop and there’s no information about him being one of the wanted terrorists.

I know that Israel does what it feels it has to do to preempt deadly attacks and that they have very likely been able to forestall such attacks in the past with preemptive moves against suspected or known terrorists or militants or whatever you want to call them. . And I know that Nablus is considered a militant hotbed. But the images of dozens of jeeps and tanks and bulldozers pouring into the city, only strengthens the view held by many that Israel is as responsible - if not more so - than groups such as Hamas - for the lack of any progress towards peace.

Even though I’m probably wrong - even though the operation was probably the lesser of two evils - the other being to do nothing in the face of the knowledge of explosives and arms being readied to inflict harm on Israeli citizens - it looks bad. It may be a small victory in the never ending armed conflict between the two protagonists but it looks very much like a defeat in the parallel and also seemingly never ending public relations battle for world approval of each side’s positions and arguments.

Having said all that, it was sobering to read this analysis of the overall problem in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post. If the author is right - that "peace with Israel" would be considered humiliation and defeat for Arabs - we’ll be reading about Nablus type incidents for a few more generations to come.

There’s more interesting news arising from a site a few miles from Nablus - that of the claim of movie producer James Cameron that coffins discovered in an archeological dig in 1980 contained the bones of Jesus and members of his family - including a son. His documentary of these claims airs on the Discovery Channel on March 4.

Religious and archeological experts are dismissing Cameron’s claim as nonsense - just hype to create interest in his film and make money. Cameron says wait and see what’s in the documentary before you decide that he’s wrong.

I don’t know who is right. Even with all of the knowledge and wisdom acquired in the process of reaching official old age - I can’t say for sure whose "evidence" is more believable. So I leave it up to you. Which of these two scenarios do you find more believable?

Scenario 1: Jesus was executed. He was dead. Three days after his death, he came back to life. After that, he "ascended" to "heaven."

Scenario 2: Jesus was executed. He was dead. He was buried until his body decomposed, whereupon his bones were placed in an ossuary which in turn was placed in a family tomb. Later, the bones of his wife and son were placed in the same tomb. They were discovered in 1980 during an archeological dig and James Cameron of "Titanic" fame - made a movie about the discovery.

Happy birthday to me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It’s a good thing I wasn’t one of those passengers stuck on a Jet Blue plane for eleven hours. I would have gone berserk. I’m sure the rest of the passengers would have applauded my performance because for sure the plane would have gone back to the terminal to kick the crazy man off. I get irritated at a short confinement on a jet waiting to take off or waiting for a gate after landing. An hour would seem like an eternity to me - and I’m sure to a lot of other passengers.

It’s nice that Jet Blue has come up with a Customer Bill of Rights and will be handing out travel vouchers to compensate for a variety of potential future goofs. But it’s not nearly enough. Not by a long shot. They’re still talking about compensation for being stuck on a plane or in the terminal for hours!! Lots of hours. They miss the point. Passengers don’t want to be compensated for being locked in a jail cell for hours on end with 150 other people and without food or water or working toilets. They don’t want it to happen in the first place.

When commercial aviation was deregulated in 1978, things were supposed to improve for airline passengers through the magic of "market forces." Whether or not it accomplished its purposes is a matter of subjective opinion - that of the people who fly - not the airline "analysts" and "experts."

I’ve written about airlines a couple of times here. Once about the disingenuous advertising of flight times - with competing airlines trying to sell you on the idea that they could take off for the same city at the same time or fifteen minutes earlier than each other - an impossibility unless each airline had its own runway - parallel to all the others. And once about the sneaky way airlines advertise their fares.

The conclusion that I reached on both if these occasions was that airlines tend to be disingenuous in how they present themselves to the flying public.

Since the Valentine’s Day debacle, there has been talk of proposing "passenger bill of rights" legislation to force airlines to cut down on the number of hours they can hold people trapped in a plane - waiting to take off. Airlines "experts" pooh pooh such a proposal. They say that the Jet Blue Customer Bill of Rights is a good idea and suggest that other airlines will likely be forced to offer the same sort of program. But they say that the airline industry is far better equipped than the federal government to make decisions about how long and under what circumstances to hold passengers on the ground waiting for take off approval.

Oh yeah?

From what I’ve been able to observe, airlines operate on a par with doctors who triple book so that they won’t have an unprofitable moment in their day - but if an emergency arises, people can get backed up to the point where there is no place to sit or stand in the waiting room. At least a patient can walk out on such a ridiculous and thoughtless situation - as I have done on more than one occasion. The airline patient/passenger has no such option available.

The problem is a simple one. There are just so many gates at major airports. When an extreme weather problem hits, airlines have two options. They can cancel flights or they can do what Jet Blue and other airlines did during our recent weather emergency. They can pull away from the gates, get in line and hope that there will be a sufficient change in the weather to take off. Once in line - even if they wanted to return to the terminal - the chances are that there would be no gate available to unload passengers.

So called airline experts say that these kinds of decisions are best made by airline personnel - most importantly the pilots. Well maybe people who work for airlines would feel comfortable taking off in a plane being flown by pilots who have been stuck on the flight deck as long as they have been stuck in their seats - out of food - out of beverages - toilets not working - but I would want the engines turned off and the plane towed to some safe corner of the airport before I would let exhausted pilots who have probably already exceeded their allowable working hours in a given period put that plane in the air. Those hours sitting on the ground may not be flying hours - but I would lay odds the strain on the pilots is just as great.

The bottom line of course is money. Airlines will cancel flights of course - but if there is any chance that a scheduled flight can take off - they will push that chance to the limit.

The kind of time "restrictions" being discussed - by Jet Blue and by those proposing federal regulation - are ridiculous. Three hours. Five hours. They are still talking about subjecting passengers to something approaching jail confinement for hours on end - just because their system is so damned screwed up. With no federal regulation - it’s open season on nonsense. As I wrote on April 26, 2003 (link above) competing airlines advertising flights from one city to another at the same time - or worse yet - trumpeting that they will leave 15 minutes before the competition - are lying to you. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realize that with X number of gates, Y number of planes leaving those gates one after the other to proceed down Z number of taxi ways to the active runway - is going to result in a long line of planes, inching forward for who knows how long before they reach the runway and are cleared for take off. And if there are weather problems - pick your multiplier to estimate how long any plane in that line will sit on the ground.

There needs to be strict regulations. No plane should be allowed to taxi away from a gate without assurance that it will be able to take off within 30 minutes. An hour at the most. The idea of restricting the time that passengers can be trapped on the ground for three, four or five hours before the airline will offer compensation - or, in the case of proposed legislation - before the pilot will return to a gate or allow passenger to de-plane and maybe get back to the terminal in a bus - is ridiculous.

The major regulation that is needed of course, is one that will restrict the number of flights that can take off or land - and thus not have the problem of more planes than available gates - to pull into or to wait at until there are favorable take off conditions.

To a certain extent, the FAA exercises control over the number of operations during daylight and early evening hours at a handful of the nation’s busiest airports - but that number of operations continues to go up and up - and with almost any kind of weather problem - delays are inevitable. But there are different kinds of delays. If the choice is between waiting in the terminal or in a plane that might sit for three, four, five hours or more on a taxi-way, I think most people would prefer the freedom to move about in the terminal and have access to restaurants and bathrooms that do not have overflowing toilets.

Jet Blue says the insult that it inflicted on passengers on Valentine’s Day will never happen again. But at the same time, it’s talking about compensating passengers for delays on the ground of three, four or five hours. Sitting in the plane. On the tarmac. Running out of food. Air getting staler by the minute. No access to the bathrooms.

So my question is this. Will Jet Blue and/ or its CEO David Neeleman, be indicted as accessories to murder after the first deranged passenger loses his or her mind and self control somewhere between hour four and five and kills the person sitting next to, in front of or behind him?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Such as Silly Headlines of the Moment….

"Peace Summit Talks Falter." "Mid East Summit Fails to Make Progress." And on and on in newspaper after newspaper around the world. They’re talking about the fact that Condi Rice sat down with Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas - or Abu Mazen - you never know when the guy is using his real name or his nickname - and nothing happened. That’s news? That’s a reason to create a silly headline? We’re dealing with fantasy land here.

The conflict between Israel and those calling themselves Palestinian Arabs is in as intractable a mode as has existed since it began. You have an Israeli Prime Minister who seems to flip flop as often as John McCain - and a Palestinian President who made a deal with a Palestinian Prime Minister who says Israel doesn’t exist and will never be recognized. And a chit chat between these two men and Condoleezza Rice was expected to produce something?

If there is ever to be peace in the Middle East, the United States will need to be involved We are Israel’s main sponsor. We have been a financial supporter of the Palestinian Arabs. We provide billions in aid to Egypt. We provide millions in economic aid to Jordan. We are, without a doubt - a major player in the region. But we are unable to cure madness with a few words over coffee and donuts with the other players - and any expectation that such a miracle can be accomplished only adds to the madness.

Perhaps it was nice of Condi to drop in while she was in the area, but that’s about what the headlines in the world press should have said. Talking about her visit not yielding "progress" in the "peace process" belongs on the comic pages - not in any part of the serious news section of any newspaper.

Disingenuous Headline….

McCain Blasts Rumsfeld

Actually it’s the subject of the headline(s) who is being disingenuous. One John McCain. He’s been critical of Don Rumsfeld before - but now he’s raising the ante - calling Rummy one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in history!! Contrast that with what he said about Rumsfeld when he was ousted by Bush after last year’s election. "While Secretary Rumsfeld and I have had our differences, he deserves Americans’ respect and gratitude for his many years of public service." I guess the good Senator hadn’t reached full "I’m running for President" mode by November 8, 2006. Note that he has no words of criticism for Mr. Bush - the man who gave the O.K. to start the Iraq war in the first place - the man whose South Carolina primary campaign in 2000 smeared McCain with the worst kind of dirty lies - and the man whose rear end McCain has been kissing ever since the Supreme Court appointed him President!

And now the Senator from Arizona has hired some of advertising people that Bush used to help trash him in 2,000.

Is there any doubt that McCain is now fully in the mode of saying whatever he thinks he needs to say to win over whatever segment of the Republican vote he thinks he needs to win the nomination? Not that other candidates from both parties won’t do the same. It’s just harder to take from Mr. Straight Talker.

Riverbend - the young blogger from Baghdad (Baghdad Burning) - hasn’t had anything to say since December 31. But today she has a lot to say about what’s going on in Iraq. By all means listen to American and BBC correspondents stationed there. By all means listen to what Bush administration spokespeople say about how the campaign to pacify the country is going. By all means listen to comments that senior military officers make.

But go to this site once in a while to get a close up view of someone who is living through this and who talks about things you will never learn from these other sources. There are two posts here. Scroll down to read both. It’s worth your time.

February 21, 2007

An update on the topic of Riverbend’s post. The February 21st edition of the Chicago Tribune actually reported the same story. The difference between what it says and what Riverbend says in her blog is highly instructive. The Tribune reports it - sort of. She explains it - and unlike the Tribune, doesn’t withhold names.

I like Keith Olbermann. I watch as much of his Countdown program on CNBC as often as I can. It’s a shame that his first half hour is opposite the next day re-broadcast of The Daily Show - except on Mondays. I just can’t stay up to watch Jon Stewart in his regular late night slot.

I watched all Olbermann’s program last night - there’s no new Daily Show on a Monday - and he either reads my blog - or his is a great mind thinking in concert with mine. Talking to a guest about the Republican support of the contention that our involvement in Iraq has some direct connection to the so called "war on terror" - Olbermann asked - "is this like the guy who is looking for his keys under a street lamp etc?" See my comments of yesterday.


I hope Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and other members of the administration are staying in close touch with our British allies and keeping up with their efforts to combat terror - domestically and internationally. And I hope they have been duly impressed and are truly grateful that a member of the Royal family has expressed his absolute determination to join in the good fight. Prince Harry has graduated from Sandhurst and is absolutely committed to joining the fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And I am sure that in order to avoid any embarrassment, they will all now begin to put their money where their stridently loud mouths have been for the past five plus years and send their kids into harms way.

Just as they did when duty called during the Vietnam era. Wait a minute. I’m talking about Bush and Cheney

As the late, great Gilda Radner would say……..

Never mind.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What a week we’ve just had. What a wonderful display of our Democratic process to present to the rest of the world. How impressed they must all be. Especially our friends in the Islamic world.

As I indicated in my comments on this topic on February 9 - the debate about whether to have a debate about Iraq that occupied our elected officials in the Senate for days on end , was - and I quote myself - "one of the most disgusting displays of uselessness by this august body in my lifetime." And it didn’t get any better when the nonsense was repeated this past Saturday!!

I don’t feel exactly hat way about what happened in the House. At least they actually did debate - and they actually voted on the resolution
Resolved by the House of Representatives, that - (1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and (2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
But my conclusion about the effort is the same as my conclusion about the Senate’s non-effort. The 246 to 182 passage of the resolution was another exercise in futility. The President will do whatever he wants to do and he can’t be stopped by political rhetoric.

But perhaps there is something to be gained by these exercises in futility. Senators and Representatives have to run for re-election if they want to continue to be in Congress - and each time they say something about this issue, we - if we pay attention - learn something about who they are , how they think and what they consider their priorities to be.

The Iraqi debacle is one of the critical issues of our time - so one would hope that our elected representatives would consider it on its merits with no thought of any political implications of the conclusions they reach and the stand that they take. If we believe that logic would guide their deliberations and decisions, we would not expect to see divisions along party lines. But that is exactly what we are seeing. A handful of Republicans crossed over to agree with Democrats that the so called "surge" is a bad idea - but that was it. Otherwise, it was a purely political vote having nothing to do with the reality of the situation.

The debate over whether or not there should be an increase of troops in Iraq - even over whether or not we need to get the hell out of that country now - is going on everywhere in the United States except in that great deliberative body - the United States Senate. There the discussion is about procedure - which the Republicans are using to protect their President from being criticized by the legislative branch of government.

Can you imagine what it would be like if political party affiliations and loyalties played the major role in decision making in other areas of life? In medicine. In law. In fire and police protection. It would be ridiculous of course. The public wouldn’t stand for it. But here we have the people who we have entrusted to make our laws and set standards for us all to follow who abandon all sense of responsibility in favor of political partisanship.

Some of the arguments that were made by Republicans were sickening to read and to hear. I suppose it’s possible that some of them actually believed the outlandish accusations that they hurled at the Democrats, but for the most part it was obvious that they were following a party line and trying to gain points with the constituents they’ll be looking to for their re-election effort by alleging that any critique of the "surge" plan will be harmful to our troops and that any subsequent vote to curtail funding for additional military action in Iraq will put our troops in harm’s way.

This has been a Congress that let us - in the words of Donald Rumsfeld - "go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." This has been a Congress that stood by while our military in Iraq scrounged for ways to protect their vehicles and themselves from enemy fire. They didn’t come supplied with appropriate armor. This has been a Congress that supports a President and an administration that cuts veteran’s benefits while accusing critics of the war as not being supportive of our troops. The demagoguery is thicker than an ancient London fog.

But what sticks in the craw more than the pure partisanship of this non-binding debate, is the way so many on the Republican side mimic the administration’s revisionist history of why we invaded Iraq and what connection it has to the ill named "war on terror." Over and over, Republican congressmen parroted the White House line that if we were to fail in Iraq, our enemies - whoever they are - would be emboldened. There’s that word again. Again and again they couched our situation in Iraq in terms of victory and defeat. As though there was a definable enemy that could be defeated militarily and forced to surrender. As though our invasion and occupation of Iraq has anything to do with the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. And as though anything we are doing in that country can lessen the danger that we face from irrational terrorists bent on wreaking as much havoc as they can on their hated enemies - the infidels of the western world.

The Republicans supporting even greater military involvement in Iraq - the so called surge - undoubtedly to be followed by more "surges" - remind me of the story of the man searching for his car keys under a street lamp and the passer by who offers to help. "Where exactly did you drop them?" he is asked "Over there by the car" he replies. ‘Then why are you looking over here?" asks the helper. "Because the light’s better."

Let’s hope that a light will be shining brightly on the ridiculous arguments that continue to be used to justify our endless involvement in Iraq when election time rolls around in 2008. With a new president - and perhaps with a larger Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, we might be able to bring this tragic period of our history to an end. But the continuing tragedy is that no matter what the rhetoric and from whom it emanates, we’ll continue to be bogged down in Iraq for the next two years - and our young kids will continue to be killed and horribly injured - while those responsible for getting us into this mess will suffer not at all - other than how historians will view their "legacy."

It’s enough to make you puke.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It was to be expected of course that there would be letters to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in response to former congressman Paul Findley’s op-ed defense of Jimmy Carter’s anti-Israel book - an opposite view of which you can read here.

There were pro and con responses. The Tribune seeks to provide "balance" in its publication of letters about controversial subjects, even if some of the letters it selects display simplistic ignorance of the complicated problems of the controversial subject.

Here is just one such letter that appeared in the paper the other day. I selected it because of the naiveté it displays and the simplistic way in which it is presented. That same kind of naiveté was an underlying theme in other letters supportive of the Cater view - but this one didn’t couch it in any attempt to be more analytical.
Regarding the criticism of Jimmy Carter’s book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," I have three questions:
Have you met a Palestinian?
Have you visited Palestine?
Have you ever lived under occupation?
Enough said.
Sally Kruse
La Grange Park
Enough said!!

How about that for an answer to a 60 year old problem? Actually a centuries old problem - but I’ll confine my comments to the history of the last six decades. Working backwards - because, just as past is prologue - so the present provides all that is needed - even for the Kruses of this world if they will only stop and think - to understand how the particular past of the Israeli/Palestinian "problem" came about and grew to where it is today.

The "present" is the government of the Palestinian people. I originally put government and Palestinian in quotes because there are arguments to be made about the use and understanding of both those words - but that’s a topic for another day.

Today, we have a so called "unity" government of Palestinians. Hamas and Fatah are going to share power. Well there’s a solution for you. The Palestinians have a government. Israel can now withdraw from all areas that it didn’t occupy prior to 1967 and the Middle East can live happily ever after.

But wait a minute. The Palestinian Prime Minister - Ismail Haniyeh - has made it clear that he would never recognize Israel. According to him, there is no Israel. And a two state solution? Don’t make Haniyeh laugh. How can you have two states ands Jihad at the same time? But, the optimists say - Hamas and Fatah have agreed on a unity government. Doesn’t that change things? Sure it does. It adds another chapter to the never ending story of suicidal madness.

Jimmy Carter blames the lack of a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on Israel’s "occupation" of "Palestinian territories." I put those terms in quotes as well because they too are subjects that could be discussed at length. But not today.

Let me try to be as simplistic as Ms. Kruse. Israel withdrew it’s settlers and the military that protected them from the Gaza strip. Did the Palestinians look upon that as the first step toward a peaceful creation of two sovereign states living side by side in friendship? It’s a rhetorical question of course. Anyone who follows the events of the area knows what happened and what continues to happen. I won’t bother to dwell on the destruction of industrial structures that Israel left behind and that could have been used for the benefit of Gaza Palestinians. I’ll just remind us all of how the liberated Gaza Palestinians decided to relate to their Israeli neighbor. With war!! With rocket attacks. Daily rocket attacks. With cross border kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. With Jihad.

What Jimmy Carter, Paul Findley and all of those who support an "even handed" approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or an open review of our policies choose to ignore, is that the major reason for the absence of peace is not Israeli occupation of any Palestinian land - but the absence of any willingness by any responsible Palestinian leaders who have the backing of their people - to make peace with Israel.

There was an opportunity in 1948 when the original "two state solution" was authorized by the United Nations - and we all know what happened then. Even Ms. Kruse should know. I’m sure people in La Grange Park have access to history books.

There was an opportunity after the six day war but all that came from the Palestinian and Arab side generally was rejection. I don’t necessarily approve the idea of creating settlements in the midst of a population that would like to kill you - but had there been a peace negotiated in 1967 - there would never have been any settlements. Or maybe there would have been settlements - of friendly Israeli neighbors who would be welcomed as contributors to the local economy. After all, more than a million Palestinian Arabs live in and are citizens of Israel. Many claim that they are looked upon as second class citizens and many sympathize with their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza - and maybe that’s not too hard to understand considering the absence of peaceful relations between their adopted country and the land of their ethnic ancestry. But they don’t need military force to protect them from the rest of the Israeli population.

The point is that there has never been a negotiating partner that would agree to reasonable peace terms and that could guarantee and enforce a guarantee that violent attacks against Israel and Israelis would cease.

Anyone who believes that Israelis want to be occupiers of territory where the native population hates your guts and wants you dead, has to be a little light-headed. Not that they don’t exist. There are some ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews who think that the West Bank and a great deal more of the area is all part of the Israel that was given to them by their God. On the other hand there are other orthodox Jews who believe that Israel should not exist and that no Jewish state should be created before the coming of "The Messiah." No one claims that all Jews are sane. But the average Jewish citizen of Israel doesn’t want to be an occupier. He/she wants to live in peace. Just - I am sure - does the average Palestinian Arab who has not had his or her mind poisoned to believe that all Jews are descendants of Pigs and Apes.

I will agree with one aspect of Carter’s book. I too disapprove of any kind of occupation by Israel of territories populated by Palestinian Arabs who seek sovereignty over their own land. And if Mr. Carter can persuade the Hamas/Fatah "unity" government and the rest of the Arab and Islamic world to make peace with Israel so that it can withdraw from those territories confidant that its citizens would be able to live without fear of any kind of attack from any Arab or Islamic country - I’ll nominate him for the Nobel Peace prize.

Until then, he needs to shut up and spend more time helping to build more Habitat for Humanity houses. He might even get a few Israelis to help him.

Friday, February 09, 2007
A Tragicomedy by Members of the U.S. Senate

I know that The Daily Show is a comedy show - using the news of the day as its premise - but it often seems that it does a better job of putting so called real news into a more understandable perspective than a forest of talking heads can on any given Sunday morning. Come to think of it, much of the news is so ridiculous nowadays that it doesn’t need The Daily Show crew to put its fake spin on it to make it laughable.

A few nights ago, Jon Stewart and company zeroed in on one of the president’s favorite words - one that he uses when trying to convince us all how right he was to order the invasion of Iraq and how important it is that we keep our troops in that misbegotten mess of a country until it darn well acts like a western democracy and rescues his "legacy" from the garbage dump.


He told us that it would happen if we elected Democrats. It would embolden "the enemy." I guess that means they’re pretty emboldened right now. But if they’re not - well that’s what would happen if we talk among ourselves about what we should be doing in Iraq. It would embolden that same enemy That’s what would happen if anyone publicly questioned the president’s wisdom in the conduct of our Iraq adventure. It would embolden the enemy. It isn’t quite clear who the enemy is - but we could probably assume that it is anyone doing anything violent in Iraq plus the other members of the axis of evil - and of course Al Qaeda.

The Daily Show put on quite a montage of Mr. Bush warning us that just about anything that questioned his conduct of our operation in Iraq would just keep emboldening all of our enemies - to say nothing of confusing not only them but our own fighting men and women by sending "mixed signals" - another of his favorite phrases.

I looked up the word in the dictionary because I wanted to see if it had any meaning that would correlate with the reaction that our enemies must be having to what they see unfolding in the Senate of the United States. I’m assuming that they get their emboldening or mixed messages by way of CNN and other cable media outlets. Sure enough there was a synonym that seemed to fit. Cheer. So I looked up cheer - got ten definitions plus the synonym that I was looking for. Actually four. Joy, mirth, glee and merriment. They gotta be laughing their socks off at what they see going on in the so called world’s greatest deliberative body. But I would imagine not too many of the people that these bozos were elected to represent are laughing.

At a time when a majority of Americans have reached the end of their patience with this horrendously fouled up effort to export democracy by way of military action to the Middle East - the members of the U.S. Senate are playing political parliamentary "can you top this" exercises in a futile attempt to make us believe that they are asserting their co-equal governance rights with the executive branch. What is so ridiculously futile is that no matter what they do - debate - not debate - decide or not decide on what resolutions to debate or not debate - it is all an exercise in futility.

No matter what they do or don’t do, our military will continue to operate and be in harm’s way in Iraq - with or without a "surge" of additional troops. And no matter what they do or don’t do, our young people in uniform will continue to be killed and maimed.

This has to be one of the most disgusting displays of uselessness by this august body in my lifetime. We have the two party leaders playing their parliamentary tag games - getting absolutely nowhere and achieving absolutely nothing while the President goes ahead with whatever he wants to do. There are a few voices calling for some action that the Senate could take and might have some effect on presidential actions. Russ Feingold has made clear what the Senate should and could do. But it’s like a voice in the wilderness.

Now we have some brave Republicans who just the other day voted against having a debate - saying that maybe we should debate one of these non-binding resolutions that say we don’t think the President’s ideas are very good and we’d rather he came up with new ideas. But it doesn’t really matter. Nothing that the Senators say, whether they say it in a binding or non-binding fashion - will make the slightest difference. Mr. Bush will do what he wants to do and there will be no stopping him short of a bill of impeachment or a military coup.

Let’s face it, we have a virtual dictator in the White House - exerting powers that I doubt the founding fathers and the authors of the constitution ever dreamed of. There is no stopping him and I think the Senators know it. Yet they persist in this comic opera - with the newly elected leader of the new minority using his parliamentary skills and rights to provide political cover for his President - even though he knows that a ninety eight to two vote disapproving of presidential actions will be a meaningless gesture. (I’m assuming that even if the Republicans other than Mitch McConnell are won over, he and party of one Joe Lieberman will still be Bush cheer leaders for endless military action).

Come November, 2008, 33 of these clowns - of which 21 are Republicans - will be up for re-election. Let’s hope we remember the fiascoes of February, 2007 when we go to the polls.

The Chicago Tribune never ceases to amaze me in their op-ed misjudgments. They persist in publishing the rants of Jonah Goldberg posing as a knowledgeable pundit, who just two years ago wanted to bet $1,000 that there would be no civil war in Iraq and that by THIS date - by this month in 2007 - a majority of Americans would agree that the invasion was worth while.

And just the other day it chose to publish an op-ed piece by ex Congressman Paul Findley praising Jimmy Carter’s anti-Israel book - ‘Palestine - Peace not Apartheid." This the same Paul Findley whose anti-Semitism has been well know for years. This is the same Paul Findley who, speaking on his favorite topic at Northwestern University in 2004, said
"Sept. 11 would have never occurred if any president in the last 35 years had had the courage and the wisdom to suspend all U.S. aid to Israel." And "Jews, mainly Jews set in motion events that were calamitous in the Middle East and later in America."
And even in his op-ed piece, he blames the pro-Israel lobby for his ultimate defeat after a 22 year congressional run and says the message is clear. "Criticize Israel and pay with your congressional seat." How far removed from that is the ridiculous canard that "Jews Rule the World?"

The Tribune is up for sale. Maybe the new owners will establish some new guidelines for the op-ed page. Like making it a nut-free zone.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Joe Biden has done it again but he can repair the problem quickly if he now does what he should have done in 1988.

He needs to say that of course he himself would never have chosen to speak of a black skinned political candidate in such terms as being articulate and bright and "clean!!!"

He needs to say that he just forgot to attribute those words to Neil Kinnock who had used them to describe a black M.P’s campaign many years ago to be named Prime Minister by his party and that what he meant to say was that just as Neil Kinnock was expressing his admiration for that long ago fine English gentlemen, so was he expressing his high regard for his fellow Senator who coincidentally - though virtually no one notices - also happens to be black- and that he didn‘t stop to think that they sometimes say things differently in England and what is perfectly acceptable there might be considered insulting here..

And he should make a campaign vow to discontinue the practice of quoting Neil Kinnock without attribution.

Particularly since he’s now LORD Kinnock and a member of the House of Lords.

A Scary Night on the Daily Show….

Usually, I tune in Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to get a few laughs. And of course to catch up on the real news - but yesterday, watching a re-run of Tuesday night’s show, I got neither. Instead I was presented with a picture of doom. Your doom. My doom. Everyone’s doom. And everything’s doom.

Jon Stewart’s guest was astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium. Tyson is always interesting - explaining the ins and outs and mysteries of time and space. And last night was no exception - talking about black holes and how the "big bang" took place fourteen billion years ago - give or take a billion. It’s a little like federal spending under the Bush administration.

It was all very interesting up to the point where Tyson was explaining how the Universe is expanding at ever increasing speeds and that one day, the stars that we can see with our eyes and the galaxies that we can see with our telescopes - will all disappear from view. They’ll be that far away. And then, said Tyson, everything will slow down and eventually stop - and then there’ll be nothing. No you. No us. No galaxies. No universe. Nothing. Just like the nothing of pre Big Bang time. No, not that. There was no time before the Big Bang. Nor any space for that matter. Just nothing - if you can picture it. At any rate, it will all come to an end. It might take a few more billion years - but eventually there will be nothing but nothingness.

I must say that Stewart took it well. Maybe because Tyson said it with a chuckle. But he meant it. I know he meant it. It isn’t anything new. We’ve all read about it before. But it didn’t really bother us. It’s so far off. Billions of years away. But when Tyson said it on The Daily Show, it suddenly became very real. And a lot closer. We’re all doomed.

I may just start watching the first half of Countdown with Keith Olbermann instead of The Daily Show and instead of switching back and forth between the two. But then a lot of Olbermann’s stuff is gloom and doom too - specially when he’s talking politics and the Bush administration.

I’m not sure which topic is scarier. Some days you just can’t seem to win.