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Friday, September 28, 2007

It’s hard to know what to make of Congress nowadays - both the House and the Senate. The unmistakable message of the majority shift in the House was - get us the hell out of the Iraq quagmire - but it’s a message that so far has produced a lot of lip service from our representatives - and little else.

Even harder to understand are the actions of the Senate. Here, Democrats, almost en masse - are insisting that they made a mistake in voting to authorize military action against Iraq in 2002. Had they known then what they know now - many of them say - they would never have voted for the war resolution. Besides, some say, it was never a war resolution - just the authority to use force as a last resort if all else fails - and besides, it required the president to report back to the Congress before embarking on any military operations - which presumably would have given the Senate a chance to have second thoughts. That sounds like a feeble alibi of someone who didn’t make the effort to actually read what the resolution said.

But here we are five years later - and Democrats are given an opportunity to redeem themselves. A "sense of the Senate" amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 was proposed by Arizona Senator John Kyle and co-sponsored by - among others - Republocrat Joe Lieberman, that looked like an opening maneuver toward authorizing military action against Iran. The last word that I heard on the amendment was that the third and fourth paragraph of its key elements had been eliminated under pressure from both sides of the aisle - but I’ve cited them here because they reveal the push to do something more than conduct a war of words - and what is left of the original five key elements is enough to convey that strong impression.
It is the sense of the Senate--

(1) that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy;

(2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224;
So what was the vote on this amendment? Well, I think it’s instructive to look at two votes. This one and the Iraq war authorization in 2002. In 2002, the vote was 77 to 23 in favor. 77to 23 said it was O.K. to invade Iraq.

On the Kyle amendment, calling the Iran Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization and saying that it’s in our vital interest to prevent Iran from running a proxy, Hezbollah type force in Iraq - the vote was 76 to 22 in favor. McCain and Obama weren’t available to vote - but you can maybe guess that if they’d been in the Senate, the final vote would have been 77 to 23 - exactly the same as in 2002.

I don’t know about you, but I look at those numbers and I’m mightily confused. How could it be? What happened to all those Democrats who say they were coerced into supporting a resolution that they would have rejected hands down had they been in possession of the true facts of the situation in 2002? Were they coerced again in 2007. Did they not know what they were voting for this time around? Have they been presented with unimpeachable evidence of an imminent attack on this country by the military might of Iran? Are they that mad at Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia University? Even if the original wording by Kyle et all was watered down - why would anyone fearful of an Iraq type of approach to Iran vote for any amendment of this type??

Well, you decide for yourself - and here’s a helpful suggestion. Open two tabs in your browser and put the 2002 vote in one and the 2007 in the other, so that you can flip back and forth and look at the yeas and nays - and gulp when you see such stalwarts as Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin and Diane Feinstein voting yes on both occasions. And to save you some time, here are eight Senators who voted no in 2002 and no on the 2007 Iran resolution. There were others who voted no in 2002 but are no longer in the Senate or in this world. The eight "good guys" - all Democrats - are:
Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Barbara Boxer of California, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts , Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Maybe one of the puzzling "yeah"voters will be on one or more of the talking head programs this Sunday and explain it all to we confused voters - and maybe even explain why the Senate took time from the serious business of the people to vote on a resolution condemning that Move On ad in the New York Times. Not Hillary. She had the idiot box all to herself last Sunday and we need a new face and voice. But for sure we need somebody to try to explain why the Senate continues to waste its time and taxpayers money on these stupid and/or dangerous "sense of the Senate" resolutions.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I have to comment once more on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia University, because arguments are raging back and forth and neither side seems able to understand the other. I am one who thought that Columbia had made a mistake in inviting this idiot to spout his nonsense into still another microphone. And from the "introduction" to Mahmoud’s harangue delivered by University President Lee Bollinger, he appeared to agree with me - or at least regretted that he had extended the invitation or made the statement that it had been made in the spirit of "robust debate," considering the insults he hurled at the Iranian president.

And of course, despite all of the arguments advanced by supporters of Columbia’s invitation, it had nothing to do with "free speech" or the danger inherent in "suppressing" free speech. Nobody was stopping him from saying anything he wanted to say. Like all diplomats attending the UN session, Ahmadinejad’s visa allows him to roam within a 25 mile radius outside of the city - and he could have spouted his nonsense on a street corner had he wished to do so - and there probably would have been a small army of New York cops to protect his right to do so.

The issue of course is the criteria for inviting someone to speak at a seat of learning. Obviously, any well known individual who says outrageous things would attract a high level of interest from students and - unless it was a closed meeting - the cameras that would broadcast whatever nonsense was spouted to the outside world. Given the amount of media attention paid to the likes of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and O.J. Simpson, - a university could pretty much assure itself of national - and, depending on which crazy person they ask to speak - international publicity arising from such an invitation.

But universities are not vaudeville theaters. They can invite comedians or singers or contortionists to perform their acts for the amusement and amazement of their student bodies - but they would be rightfully scorned if they described such performances as contributions to "robust debate."

The Jerusalem Post asked if Columbia University would invite a scholar or politician who denied that American slavery took place, or alleged that its effects on African-Americans was benign or exaggerated. I don’t know whether or not Columbia would invite such a person to speak, but if they did, they would be turning their backs on what I would think would be expected of anyone a university asks to speak to its students - and that would be intellectual honesty. To invite anyone lacking intellectual honestly but guaranteed to make the same ridiculous statements that he or she has made many times in the past is tantamount to staging a freak show. Which is what they got with Ahmadinejad. I watched part of his appearance and was mildly entertained - but that’s a far cry from witnessing "robust debate."

It’s hard to avoid this kind of nonsense at the United Nations because anyone who has a right to speak there can say whatever outrageous things pop into the empty space between their ears. But they don’t have a legal or moral right to take their freak show anywhere else - and I simply don’t think a university is the appropriate place for staging a freak show.

On a totally different topic… It’s not a freak but the Hillary show….everywhere you look.

If I didn’t know any better, I might have concluded that I had traveled through time last Sunday. It was 2009 and Hillary Rodham Clinton was President of the United States and had something important to tell the nation because she was on all the television networks at the same time. Switch from one to the other and there she was. All Clinton, all the time. Admittedly it wasn’t evening prime time and her appearances were pre-recorded and what she had to say differed slightly from network to network depending on the program hosts and the questions they asked. But still, it was all Clinton, all the time. Just like a president.

The Sunday morning talking head shows usually compete with each other to get exclusive interviews - so I don’t know what happened with Hillary, except that maybe she already has that kind of influence over the networks - and she just told them that she was going to appear and they fell over themselves saying yes and thank you.

Now the obvious question lingering in the air is - are they going to offer the same opportunity to all the other candidates? Can we look forward to an all network Sunday morning with Barack Obama - or Rudy Giuliani or any of the other candidates - and if not, why not?

It seems to me that the broadcast media has joined with the Republican party in anointing Mrs. Clinton as the once and future Democratic presidential candidate - and that strikes me as dangerous if not downright undemocratic. The Republicans seem to think that their best chance of holding on to the White House is to run against Hillary and here the networks are practically conceding the nomination to her.

What I find truly interesting about the situation is that it’s happening against the backdrop of complaints from so called liberal or "progressive" talk show hosts about the lack of opportunity to compete with conservative radio and television talk shows because of station ownership. Owners who don’t want no liberals spouting their un-American views on their airways. (Never mind that they’re our airways.) There’s even talk from the right that the Democrats want to revive the fairness doctrine - and while that’s denied, there’s certainly talk of trying to do something about the imbalance of political views being aired over the nation’s radio and television stations.

But last Sunday it was liberal Hillary on all the networks at the same time - and I’m just wondering if we’re going to hear talk of media bias from the rest of the Democratic candidates and from all of the Republican candidates. And if not, why not?

Monday, September 24, 2007

There I was just a few days ago saying that Iran wasn’t all that bad because their television series "Zero Degree Turn" - which, disagreeing with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that the Holocaust is a myth, is about that mythical segment of history and the heroism of an Iranian who saves Jews - is getting huge ratings. And there are other reasons why they’re not all bad. The average citizen there does not think of the US as The Great Satan. They are, for the most part, kindly disposed toward us and our "western values" Absent Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs, Iran could be one of our allies - or at least not a potential enemy.

But while there are Ayatollahs in charge and Ahmadinejad as their mouthpiece - they are at the very least an irritant and an obstacle to further peace in the region - and with us. Every time Ahmadinejad opens is mouth, he spouts defiance and nonsensical threats at us and Israel - and now is about to do so here - in a city full of satanic infidels - more than a million of them Jews!! He is able to do so because he’s here as the president of his country to attend a United Nations session where anyone with the appropriate credentials can say anything. Remember Hugo Chavez calling Bush "the devil" from his UN bully pulpit? So we can’t stop Ahmadinejad from bringing his vaudeville act to the UN stage. But for sure we don’t need to provide him with other venues where he does not have a right to appear by virtue of his title and position. Apparently, Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, doesn’t understand that.

Those who are supportive of the invitation to speak at Columbia cite free speech and the advantage of having the president of a country with whom we are at odds being subjected to "hard" questions from students - who have been described as our future leaders - and from faculty. Wow. That will sure put Ahmadinejad on the spot. Tough questions from probing students. They’ll be so intense in the framing and asking of their questions that they won’t realize that they’re participating in a stunt. Just as Scott Pelley participated with Mahmoud in a stunt on "Sixty Minutes" last night - as did a faltering Mike Wallace some months ago.

I note that the available seats for the Columbia appearance were gone almost as soon as they became available. Probably at about the same pace as the demand would be if there were such things as public executions. The attraction of the bizarre. The surreal.

We’ve seen Ahmadinejad being "interviewed." We’ve seen him grinning merrily while parrying questions about life and death - about peace and war. There are no answers that he will give to students or college professors that will differ in any substantive degree from those he gives to journalists who we have seen are no match for him. They ask their "probing" questions and he answers by lecturing the American administration and its policies. They accuse him of having blood on his hands by virtue of Iran’s supply of weapons to insurgents in Iraq or Hezbollah in Lebanon - and he simply grins and asks - where did you get such incorrect information?

There is a place for Ahmadinejad to be heard and for questions to be asked of him that I would heartily support and applaud. It would be around a negotiating table with representatives of our government and other western governments. In private. Not as a televised stunt but in an effort to use diplomacy to diffuse the growing tension between our nations. And for even that to have any real meaning, it should include Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - or at least the assurance that any agreement reached has his approval.

The Jeruslem Post takes Columbia University to task for its invitation, calling president Lee Bollinger’s assertion that the invitation was in keeping with "Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum of robust debate" - nonsense - and they ask if Columbia would invite the Grand Wizard of the KKK who called for African nations to wiped off the map. As far as I can determine from what Bollinger has said on the subject, the answer would probably be yes. President Bollinger doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that there is some "speech" that is so far beyond the pale that it is in no one’s interest to offer it a public platform - even at a seat of higher learning. Especially at a seat of higher learning.

On the other hand, if he truly believes that it will enhance the educational experience of the Columbia student body to attend and even participate in a vaudeville show, more power to him. Maybe he’ll start a trend and schools will be bidding against each other for the likes of Mahathir Mohamad - maybe paired with Northwestern University’s Arthur Butz to give it that special "academic" flair.


Oops. Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. I was wrong. I just watched part of the Q&A following Ahmadinejad’s speech and he revealed new information that he had not revealed in previous Q&A sessions with professional journalists.

For example, we now know that his problem with the Holocaust is not so much that it’s a myth but that there hasn’t been enough scientific inquiry into what really happened. After all, he said, should inquiry into an historical event be closed forever? Well I’m relieved. Here I thought he was saying that the Holocaust was a myth whenever he said it was a myth, but what he was really saying was that there needed to be more scientific study to determine whether or not something had been missed. That’s what happens sometimes with casual translations. One word can sound so much like another and can really lead to misunderstandings.

We also learned that there are no homosexuals in Iran, so how can these rumors about homosexual Iranians being executed because of their sexual orientation be true? So, for example, the stories of the allegedly gay kids who were executed in 2005 were lies -

and the picture of the event a fake.

We also learned that the president of Iran is deeply concerned about the root causes behind the 9/11 attack - and - as with his desire to see more scientific inquiry into the alleged Holocaust - he would like to know what really happened on 9/11!!!

And finally, when it comes to terrorism, he told us that Iran is number one in opposition to terrorism of all kinds. And those rockets that Hezbollah was able to launch against Israel by the thousands were most likely manufactured locally. In small villages. In the mosques and schools in those small villages. That they looked and acted exactly like Iranian manufactured missiles was just a remarkable coincidence from which no conclusions should be drawn. O.K. He didn’t say any of that, but he did say that Iran opposes all forms of terrorism, so you have to conclude that someone else is providing Iranian look alike arms to Hezbollah.

The audience gave him a good round of applause and he invited them all to come to Iran and visit with university students and faculty there. It might not have been as much fun as an old time vaudeville show - but it was an entertaining hour and a half and a good time seemed to be had by all.

However, in the interest of free speech and fairness and balance, I refer readers to the opinion of New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin, who didn't see what I saw in terms of the entertainment value of Ahmadinejad day at Columbia University.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I’ve been trying to come up with just the right word to describe what I think about what is going on today in Jena, Louisiana. I’ve gone through bizarre and ridiculous and puzzling and dangerous and disruptive - but none of them quite fit. There needs to be a word that would convey all of those descriptions - because they all apply.

When you read about the precipitating incident - the beating of a white kid by six - count them - six black kids - you might tend to agree that the original charge of attempted murder was a bit much. With six on one and the availability today of any kind deadly weapon - from a gun to a baseball bat - if the kids had wanted to commit murder, it wouldn’t have taken much effort. Reducing the charges to aggravated battery was a step in the right direction and throwing out the one conviction on that count against Mychal Bell on the grounds that he should have been tried as a juvenile makes sense. Usually, when a decision is made to charge a juvenile as an adult, a more serious charge is involved. Like murder!! As in there is a dead victim.

From what I’ve read of the case, I think charges should have been brought against the six for "aggravated battery with cowardice." A six on one beating is a little more than a school prank or kids letting off steam, so I have a hard time agreeing with those who say that it should never have become a criminal issue - that it should have been handled at the school level. That’s a little like saying that priests accused of sexually molesting children should only answer to the Catholic Church and not the law that applies to the rest of us.

On the other hand, I think the original charges that were brought were way out of line - and unless the six kids had a prior history of engaging in that kind of activity - ganging up on a single kid and beating him severely - they shouldn’t be looking at any hard time. Unfortunately, young Mister Bell does have a past criminal history and has already been on probation for battery - so maybe this is one kid who needs to spend some time in a juvenile pokey.

I suppose if this case hadn’t become known outside of Jena or La Salle Parish, the charges might not have been reduced, Bell’s conviction might not have been thrown out and the rest of the kids would be looking at trials for serious crimes with serious time as an outcome of a guilty verdict. But the case did become known - and whether or not extralegal pressures played a role in charges being dropped and convictions being overturned, a more reasonable resolution of the whole affair seemed to be underway.

But now the Jackson/Sharpton led overkill casts a shadow on the possibility of there ever being a resolution that would be acceptable to the black and white residents of Jena and specifically to beating victim Justin Barker, or to his parents or to the parents of the six black kids. Thousands of people have swarmed into Jena - normal population less than 3,000 - to protest what they claim to be "excessive" criminal charges brought against the six black kids. Originally, the protest rally was planned to coincide with the sentencing of Mychal Bell on a charge that has now been dropped - but the organizers decided to protest anyway.

Now, no matter what the judicial outcome, it is likely to be perceived as tainted. If charges against all six are dropped or reduced to minor misdemeanors with token punishment - assuming guilty verdicts - there will be many who will believe that the authorities yielded to the pressure of thousands of protesters filling and overflowing the tiny town of Jena - and to the fear that guilty verdicts on more serious charges might bring those crowds back in even greater numbers with the potential for violence a very real threat.

On the other side of the coin - if the prosecutors insist on bringing all six accused youngsters to trial for assault in juvenile court, that could be seen as a backlash reaction by them to a perceived invasion of thousands of "outsiders" trying to interfere with due process of the law.

In any event, there’s no way that I can see thousands of protesters led by Jackson and Sharpton as doing anything to improve race relations in Jena - or to help eliminate perceived or real racial discrimination that some may practice there. In fact, at this moment in history, I can’t see any alleged civil rights protest led by these two as having a beneficial effect. The opposite is more likely to be true - as was the case in New York in 1995, when eight people died in the wake of a Sharpton led "civil rights" protest. And wasn’t it the "rights" tandem of Jackson and Sharpton who wanted three white Duke University Lacrosse students hung, drawn and quartered after a black girl accused them of rape but before one iota of credible evidence had been presented?

From all that I have read, it does appear that race relations are in need of some improvement in Jena - and it is possible that perceived inequality in the treatment of black and white kids by school authorities may be real. But descending on that tiny town by the thousands to protest these conditions and comparing the argument about how to treat six kids who beat another kid senseless with Selma, Alabama as a "seminal moment" in history is ridiculous.

What may be a "seminal moment" is the actions of these protesters who may finish up creating a greater problem in Jena than was there in the first place. I wouldn’t exactly call the decision to charge these kids with serious crimes and try them as adults a "molehill" - but the Jackson/Sharpton protest comes close to making whatever it was into a mountain of increased tension and resentment that is likely to linger long after those two stalwarts have moved on to other headline grabbing events.

September 21, 2007: 11.45 a.m. I have to add a word to the above comments posted on September 20. There is a disturbing aspect to the story that I didn’t dwell on yesterday, but that perhaps I should have. Today, I discovered an on-line petition to the Justice Department, asking them to determine if the civil rights of the "Jena Six" have been violated. It describes the beating of Justin Barker as a "school brawl."

While there are those who might find this hard to believe, I was once young and attended school and got into occasional fights on school grounds. Most school fights that I observed in my young days were one on one - but occasionally, fights that might be described as a "brawl" took place. That was when a small group of kids - maybe two or three or four - fought with another group of kids. I never witnessed as many as six kids beating up one lone kid - but had I done so - even as a child - I would have described that as an assault. A violent act of cowardice. As described by Kansas City Star sports columnist Jason Whitlock. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton need to read the words of their fellow African American.

The people who are advocating on behalf of the Jena Six are playing fast and loose with semantics - and that detracts from their alleged cause of seeking equal justice for all and an end to all forms of racial discrimination..

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Well whoop-de doo - the Fed lowered interest rates by half a point - or to state it in professional, foo-foo terms - 50 basis points!! Bonds may move in odd fractions of a percent - but did the Fed ever change interest rates in any percent other than a quarter of a point or multiples of a quarter of a point? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that like Mighty Mouse the Fed has roared into battle and saved us all. Or at least some of us.

People holding some of Dow 30 stocks are happy today. In the strange world of evaluating the worth of a public company from day to day, some of your biggies are worth a lot more than they were couple of weeks ago. Not that they expanded their market share or created new and innovative products or increased their profit margin in that short period of time. Just that their stock prices rose in the never ending real life monopoly game.

Banks are happier - with more liquidity and more ability to borrow at a lower rate of interest - and the banks that are deep into the sub-prime mortgage market are probably the happiest.

It’s said that the trickle down effect of this bold Fed move is going to help everyone. Folks stuck with adjustable rate mortgages that they can’t pay will be getting a break - as will people loaded up with credit card debt.

Sure they will.

Give me a break.

People who were in financial trouble before the rate cut are in the same kind of trouble today. They get bupkus!! You’re already struggling to pay a mortgage that you can’t afford - or you’ve defaulted. How is the rate cut going to help you? Or if you’re facing a reset of your adjustable rate that you know you won’t be able to pay - will you be any more able to pay it if the interest rate is a quarter or half a point less?

And how about people who carry credit card balances? Maybe - if their credit card company has a kind heart, the interest that accumulates each month will be a fraction less than the 14 or 15 or 17% that they’re paying. It won’t lower the monthly minimum that they have to pay to keep from defaulting - and they won’t even notice the dollar difference in accumulated interest on their statement.

It all sounds so noble - that the rate cut will stimulate the economy and calm the choppy stock market - but for the average person - particularly those caught up in the mortgage crunch or maxed out on credit cards - it won’t help one bit.

New loans will cost a fraction less maybe - but interest earning investments will be less attractive.

I don’t have any mortgage to pay and I pay my credit card bill when it comes due each month. As I type this, I swear I don’t even know what the interest rate is on the card, though I know it’s there on the bill somewhere. I’m not planning to borrow any money and any interest bearing investments are being left where they are. So the Fed move affects me not one iota - other than any Dow stock I might own - and I would imagine there are millions like me who have greeted this Fed move that is supposed to be so dramatic with a disinterested ho hum.

I’ll sit up and take notice when the housing market gets new life and new borrowers get fixed rate loans that they know they’ll be able to pay - and when no credit card rate is more than prime plus a point or a half point - and when I read that a local bank has been taken over by a banking behemoth without the loss of more than 10,000 jobs!

That will be an economic uptick that I’ll be able to understand - and that maybe ordinary people can benefit from.

And in other news.....

I voted for John Kerry in 2004 because there was no way I could have endorsed the four years of George Bush’s governance. I have no way of knowing what kind of president Kerry might have been - but I’ve had enough glimpses of the man to conclude that he might not have been much better in the job than Mr. Bush.

Almost from the moment he accepted the Democratic nomination with his silly salute and "reporting for duty" - through the slow uptake in responding to the disgusting "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" and his botched "joke" about getting stuck in Iraq if you didn’t get an education, I kept getting the feeling that there was something a little "off" about him. That’s the best way I can express the uneasy feeling I had about supporting him and how I’ve felt about him since. And the latest incident involving the Massachusetts senator serves only to heighten that feeling of discomfort.

I’m speaking of course about the incident that’s been all over the news. Kerry’s appearance at the University of Florida and the journalism major who - admittedly was trying to be confrontational in posing a question to Kerry - had the mike cut off before he had finished everything he wanted to say - and was suddenly surrounded by a horde of security people who grabbed him and dragged him to the back of the hall while he kept asking why it was happening and protesting that he done nothing wrong - and was subsequently tased, causing him to scream in anguish.

Most of the discussion on radio shows and on the Internet and elsewhere has been about the kid - one Andrew Meyer - and whether or not the campus police were out of line. Meyer, it seems, is a some time performance artist and his behavior at the Kerry lecture pretty much in character - perhaps even designed to cause an incident. The video of the fracas is all over the Internet - and if you want to see it - it is of course on You Tube.

I don’t know about you, but from what I saw on this video , he wasn’t causing a disturbance - just being aggressive in his questioning - and Kerry said that he would respond to the question. But at that very moment, the campus police descended upon Meyer and began to drag him to the rear of the room as he yelled and screamed that he had done nothing wrong - and it certainly didn't appear that he had. During all of this time, Kerry had control of a live microphone on the stage - and if you can understand what he’s saying - all the way up to the moment the kid is tased - you have better hearing than me.

What he should have said at the very moment that the campus thugs grabbed Meyer and started to pull him toward the rear of the hall was " What are you doing? Leave that young man alone. He’s asked a legitimate question and I’m trying to answer it. There’s no need for these strong armed tactics. He’s not disrupting this meeting. He’s exercising his right of free speech and I’d appreciate it of you would allow both he and I to do so."

Do you think the campus police would have continued to drag Meyer away and to arrest him? In my view, Kerry blew a chance to show us that he really isn’t the person who votes for something before he votes against it and expects us to applaud him for that kind of inanity. Carpe diem was his for the asking. It could have been a Reaganesque "I'm Paying For This Microphone" moment. Instead, he issued a namby pamby written "statement" about the affair. You read it and see if you agree with me that Kerry comes out of the incident looking a lot worse than Andrew Meyer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Strange things seem to be happening in the Middle East. I’m not referring to the Petraeus report - but from the things I read in the newspapers and in Mid East blogs.

The hawks in the administration and the Senate keep telling us that we are in mortal danger from Iran. They are developing nuclear weapons - the purpose of which of course is to attack the United States. And they are helping insurgents and Al Qaeda in Iraq and - says the Senate’s resident Republocrat Joe Lieberman - we should just jolly well bomb ‘em!!

Meanwhile our pure - sometimes - Republican Iraq hawk, John McCain, is even more jolly when it comes to bombing Iraq. He sings about it.

And now the French, who just didn’t want to become part of the "coalition of the willing" - but who thought our invasion of Iraq was - to put it mildly - ill advised - are suddenly echoing the words and singing of Lieberman and McCain and saying that we might just have to go to war with Iran

But some of the news coming out of the Middle East doesn’t seem to dovetail too well with those hawkish views. For example, we all know that Mahmoud Ahmendinajad is the crazy Iranian president who says that the Holocaust is a myth and that Israel should be wiped off the map. So what’s with the new Iranian hit television mini-series about that Holocaust myth? "Zero Degree Turn" isn’t exactly a series title that might grab American viewers - but maybe it sounds more dramatic in Farsi. Certainly the theme is dramatic in the context of Ahmendinajad’s ranting and raving. It’s about a Holocaust that not only took place, but about an Iranian diplomat who saved French Jews marked for transportation to concentration camps and extinction. And it’s enjoying ratings that Katie Couric wishes she had. Obviously not all Iranians are Ahmendinajads - or devotees of Ayatollahs for that matter.

And what’s happening in that evil nation that almost made the "Axis of Evil" list - except that Dubya thought there’d have to be a different word to describe four evil nations ? Israel says that a true member of the axis - Iran - is sending weapons to Hezbollah by way of Syria!! Of course Syria denies it - but what else would you expect from that outlaw country? Well, perhaps one thing you wouldn’t expect if you buy all the rhetoric that flows from so many sources about the middle east - is that Syria has no humanity at the core of its being. Not like our friend and ally, Jordan - whose current and late kings were our partners for peace in the region - except for King Hussein’s support for his namesake during the first gulf war. So when millions of Iraqis flee from that war torn nation, they automatically head for the Jordanian border, where that Mid Eastern ally of the United States welcomes them with open arms. Or not.

When our girl blogger from Baghdad re-surfaced from 133 days of silence a few days ago, she described her journey from that city - after enduring four years of violence wrought by our invasion of Iraq - to a safe haven in - of all places - Syria. I guess she and her family didn’t feel as sanguine about our "surge" as did Dubya and General Petraeus. But what would she know? She’s just an Iraqi who lives in Baghdad. And she probably doesn’t have any charts to illustrate her life there.

But for the first time in four years, she feels safe. She’s able to go to bed without one eye open and one ear tuned to the sound of a home invasion. As you can see from her blog entry, our ally, Jordan, has no room for Iraqi refugees. And only a handful who want to flee to America - including interpreters and others who have helped the American military and whose lives are subsequently in danger - have been allowed to come here. But they cross into Syria by the hundreds of thousands and are welcomed.

I take note of these things to cast a somewhat different perspective on how "news" about some countries is reported in our media. Some of the countries that we think of as enemies of the United States are usually presented to us as monolithic in nature, while in actuality, they are - if not as diverse as we are in the United States - at least partially so. And some of the countries that we count as "allies" - are perhaps those of whom you could say - with friends like these, who needs enemies?

And what about the dangers we face from Islamic extremists? Some people, including a reader of this blog who insists that we are already engaged in a "religious war" - and who I assume thinks we can "win" such a "war" by invading and defeating - who? Aye, there’s the rub. Asking such a question reveals the inanity of the proposition. And as I learned about the Iranian Holocaust series and where Iraqi refugees are welcomed or rejected from reading newspapers and blogs - so I leave you with a link to some sober and reassuring thoughts on the threat of Islamic extremists from Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman.

As the primary season moves further and further into high gear, you’re likely to hear a lot more on the subject of the danger from Iran and the evil of Syria and the threat of world wide Islamic extremism - particularly from the Republican candidates for their party’s presidential nomination. At such times, it would behoove all thoughtful people to pause for a moment and take a look at things from a somewhat broader perspective, as I’ve tried to do here today.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Here we are at another anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States that has become known simply as "9/11." I looked back at yesterday’s date and what I wrote last year - and there is really nothing to add. Last year’s comments could have been written this year - or in 2003 or 2004 - as you can see if you click on the links to those years in my 9/11/06 comments. Bin Laden is still at large and is still pulling our chain - or at least attempting to do so. And we are still embroiled in the Iraq debacle - if not more so - the assurances of Gen. Petraeus that we are "making progress" notwithstanding.

The appearances of General Petraeus before the House and Senate committees are - as expected - a charade. They are no different from the appearances of White House spokespeople appearing on the Sunday morning talking heads programs. Those folks may get some hard questions from the likes of Tim Russet or Bob Schieffer or George Stephanopoulos but would you really expect any of them to vary from the White House position on any topic? Of course not. That’s why they’re there - to push and/or defend the White House agenda.

The only difference here is that the General is appearing before congressional committees instead of studio cameras at the networks. But there was no way he was going to contradict anything that the president has been saying - literally for years - that "we’re making progress." I’ve seen a comedy montage of him saying exactly this year after year more than once. I wish I could find a link to one of them so I can include it with these comments. Maybe I will - which would render the foregoing sentence redundant.

The General says that he wrote his opening statement himself and it hadn’t been cleared with the Pentagon or the White House. If you can believe that, you must be a big time investor in Brooklyn Bridge Preferred. I’m not calling Petraeus a liar. If he says he wrote his statement himself, I believe him. But if you believe that he hasn’t been in constant communication with the White House and that his statement was as much a surprise to Mr. Bush as it was to you and me, then I’d like to give you a tip on a new stock that’s coming to the OTC market in the near future. Yakov’s Elixir - a breakthrough in the burgeoning field of longevity. It’ll be offered at seven dollars. Buy ’til you drop. It’s guaranteed to go to eight by the year 2057!!

It doesn’t really matter if the report uses selective statistics to show an alleged reduction in violence or not - or ignores the fact that the month of August has been the second deadliest month since the "surge" began last winter - or that 81 US troops died in August - up from 79 the month before. What is clear is that General Petraeus isn’t about to make the same mistake as General Casey. If the president wants a surge, you give him a surge. If the president wants to see progress, you report progress. If the president will accept nothing less than "victory" - then you don’t disagree with him. This way, you don’t get fired.

I didn’t watch the hearings - just the highlights - but from those highlights, the most telling moment was when John Warner, a Republican who is obviously deeply troubled at this mess that we find ourselves in - asked if it would make the United States safer if we continued the current strategy in Iraq. The General’s answer was that it was "the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq." But when Warner pressed him and asked "Does that make America safer?" - the answer was a pained "I don’t know." How’s that for a message to our young military personnel, laying their lives on the line, every day, 24 hours a day in that God forsaken, sun baked nation? Their general doesn’t know if their efforts and sacrifices are making our nation any safer.

Six years after the 9/11 attack on our nation and Osama Bin Ladin is mocking us with videotapes on the Internet, the Taliban in Afghanistan is on the rise and we are bogged down in Iraq with no end in sight. How anyone can be proud of or endorse what we have done in response to that attack over the past six years is hard to understand.

I’m sorry to hear that John Warner and Chuck Hagel will not run for re-election. They helped balance out the blind partisanship of the likes of Lindsey Graham - and the unconscionable positions adopted by the man who used to be regarded as the conscience of the Senate. Today, I have nothing but contempt for Joe Lieberman. My hope is that the 2008 elections will result in a sufficient Democratic majority for the Senate leaders to strip him of his committee chairmanship. They could give it to a Republican for all the difference it would make. As a matter of fact, Susan Collins would probably be more in tune with the Democrat’s view of what to do about Iraq than the "Republocrat" from Connecticut.

By the time September 11, 2008 arrives, we might have a better idea of what the post Bush era U.S. government will look like - and perhaps be able to see a glimmer of light at the end of what for now seems like an endless tunnel. But I’m not holding my breath. Not even symbolically. I expect to be writing a Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose commentary again at this time next year.

I can only pray - in my non- theistic way - that I’m wrong.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Let me make it perfectly clear. I am a supporter of Barack Obama. I voted for him when he ran for the U.S. Senate. There are a number of Democrats vying to be their party’s Presidential candidate who I think could do a good job - and Obama is among them.

Having said that, I am not thrilled at the news that he has picked up the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey - nor at the rumor that she may even campaign on his behalf!! It’s pretty much routine nowadays for show biz celebrities to be politically active and to endorse and campaign on behalf of candidates for political office. Some celebrities - as we well know - become candidates themselves. Just the other day for example, Fred Thompson told us the he wanted to quit acting in TV and movie dramas and take on a new role - President of the United States, which, after he is elected, will have a government small enough to fit into a Motel 6 bedroom - impose zero taxes on the U.S.. population - and make it mandatory for all women over the age of seventeen to have at least two babies. Or something like that.

But most show biz celebrities stick to just working on behalf of their favorite candidates - and while it might add a little glamour to the campaigns, it probably doesn’t account for too many votes that wouldn’t have been cast for that candidate without the celebrity endorsement. But Oprah might be different - and in more ways than one.

Four years ago, I wrote a piece here wondering why Oprah’s recommendation of a book would make it an immediate best seller. I understand rave reviews and word of mouth pushing a book to the top of the best seller list. I sort of understand the scam artists who write about miracle cures that "they" are hiding from you appealing to the gullible and getting a book on that list. And of course I understand the special category known as Harry Potter. But as popular as Oprah is, I was and still am a little puzzled at the knee jerk reaction of her audience when she says nice things about a book. I don’t know of any other popular performer with that kind of influence - and it worried me a little bit then as it does now. My closing lines on that four year old commentary - in case you don’t want to bother to click on the link and read them there - were as follows:
I don’t know this for a fact, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a single book recommendation from Oprah creates a bigger boost in sales for that book than rave reviews published over a period of weeks by the top book critics in the nation. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Oprah could make a best seller out of a terrible book that those same top critics panned in unanimity.

I guess most people wouldn’t see anything wrong with that. To me, it’s positively scary.

I just hope Oprah doesn’t start a presidential candidate club.
Well, she may not have started a presidential candidate club - but she’s leapt into the 2008 presidential race with both feet and everyone is waiting to see what kind of splash that’s going to make. On the positive side - if you can call it positive - are some Oprah fans who will react to the Obama endorsement the way they react to a book recommendation. If he’s good enough for Oprah - he’s good enough for them. I’ve heard some people being interviewed who actually said something along those lines. I think the majority of voters who also happen to be Oprah fans, will not be influenced one way or another by her presidential candidate endorsement - even if they might be influenced by a book recommendation from her.

But I think there might be others who will be influenced in ways that Oprah never intended. With this kind of endorsement, Oprah is all alone and the spotlight in which she routinely basks is now shining at a much higher intensity. No one else in her general category has endorsed anyone for president. Fred Thompson went on the Jay Leno show to announce his candidacy - as did Arnold Schwarzenegger - but while we might guess who Leno will support for president, it won’t be anyone he’s publicly endorsed and held a fund raiser for. You can say the same for Letterman and Jon Stewart. These talk show hosts want the candidates as guests on their shows - not in their homes with reciprocal invitations for a night in the Lincoln bedroom in the offing.

There are those who will feel that Oprah has overstepped whatever boundary they think should confine her and their reaction might be a negative one. Such as - "who the hell does Oprah think she is, telling me who to vote for?" She’s not telling anyone who they should vote for of course, but since it’s Oprah, it comes across that way. And then there will be those who wonder why she would endorse a bi-racial dark skinned man over a fellow woman of power. Is Oprah making a racial endorsement they might ask? Obviously she’s a Democrat, so why wouldn’t she endorse Hillary Clinton?

I guess what I’m saying is that an endorsement by Oprah might be a mixed bag. Only time will tell, but if I use my own reaction as a barometer, it’s likely to move as many undecided away from Obama as toward him. Anything that Oprah says or does isn’t going to influence me one iota - whether it’s something she’s selling, recommending or endorsing - but when it comes to endorsing a presidential candidate - with all the hype that comes with it - I am more likely to be negatively than positively influenced - and I have a gut feeling that I have a lot of company in that regard.

For example, though the much publicized Oprah fund raiser increased Obama’s election coffers by some three million dollars - all the hype seemed to be about Oprah, her wealth, her trademark largesse, her mansions - and all the rich and beautiful people in attendance and their limited but required four figure donation. Plus the rules and regulations. No entering the mansion. I guess if nature called, you went behind a bush - although if Oprah caught you abusing her shrubbery, you’d probably be banned for life - and for one of the beautiful people, that would be severe punishment indeed.

Up to now, Obama has seemed to be a candidate of the people. Yes - a rock star with two best seller books - but nonetheless someone who understood the hopes, dreams and struggles of ordinary people and someone who you could believe spoke from the heart. Nothing phony about him. A candidate for high office who you could actually trust. And this has been reflected in the response of ordinary people with their on-line 25, 50 and 100 dollar donations adding up to millions.

Will he still be regarded this way in the wake of the Oprah endorsement and with the anticipated active support of the television super star? As I’ve said, only time will tell - but by the time the Illinois Democratic primary rolls around, the candidacy might be all locked up for Clinton or Edwards or one of the dark horses - and a vote for Obama a meaningless gesture - Ms Winfrey’s desires notwithstanding.

But it should be fun on the way to that potentially watershed moment.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I must admit that I haven’t paid much attention to the clash between political science professor Norman Finkelstein and DePaul University until recently, but now that the matter has been resolved, I find it worthy of comment.

Finkelstein - someone who I would describe as a self hating Jew, taught at a few places before coming to De Paul, but it was at DePaul that he sought - and was denied tenure. His reaction to the denial was that he was going to engage in civil disobedience, go on a hunger strike and hold his breath until he was blue in the face. All right, I made that last one up - but that doesn’t detract from the childishness of the threats that he did make. So the first and obvious observation about this sorry affair is that no university - no private company for that matter - could continue to employ anyone who reacted in such a ridiculous manner in response to a denial of promotion. Denial of tenure is not that uncommon or unusual - nor are challenges to that kind of decision - but for a challenge to have a chance at being successful - it has to be done in a calm and measured manner. Scholarly, so to speak.

I don’t know what concessions DePaul made to quiet Finkelstein - but I’m happy at the end result - the departure of the renegade professor. Would that Northwestern University had made the same decision when Arthur Butz came up for tenure in 1974 - two years before he published his garbage about the Holocaust being a myth. At least we won’t have two tenured anti-Semites in seats of learning a few miles apart.

I describe Finkelstein as a self hating Jew - not because he has been critical of Israel or of those who he thinks "use" the Holocaust inappropriately - but because he seems to have made an industry out of it - just as Butz has made an industry out of Holocaust denial. Part of the deal between DePaul and Finkelstein seems to be that they would say nice things about him as he walks out the door. They called him "a prolific scholar and outstanding teacher." Alan Dershowitz, with whom Finkelstein has had a long running battle reacted by calling that statement false. According to Dershowitz, Finkelstein is more of a propagandist than a scholar - and from what I’ve been able to learn about the guy - Dershowitz is right on.

No one would criticize a Jew for being critical of Israel. I have been critical of Israeli policies on many an occasion in this blog. And apart from world wide dedicated anti-Semites - the biggest critics of Israel and Israeli policies are Jews who happen to be Israeli citizens. Journalists. Politicians. Ordinary citizens But other than some ultra-orthodox nuts who think that Israel shouldn’t exist - those people don’t make an industry out of their criticisms. Finkelstein isn’t just critical of Israel - he’s made career out of being something much more fashionable - an anti-Semitic Jew. And, regrettably, he’s got lots of company.

To get a little more of who he is and what he’s done than you’ll find in your local paper - take a look at this web site’s collection of anti-Semitic Jews . Click on "F" and scroll down to Norman Finkelstein and get an outline of this "scholar’s" career. And while you’re there - look at one of his big time supporters. Go to "C" and scroll down to Noam Chomsky But don’t just stop there. Take a look at Finkelstein’s own web site - and ask yourself the question that I asked. Is this the web site of a political science assistant professor? If you’re the Dean of a distinguished university, would you grant tenure to such an individual? Would you even hire him in the first place?

The purpose of academic tenure is to guarantee academic freedom - to allow teachers to air unpopular views and to challenge prevailing opinion. In many cases it works extremely well - but like the guarantees of the first amendment - it was never intended to be without reasonable limits. The University of Colorado struggled to get rid of Ward Churchill. Northwestern University is either stuck with or doesn’t have the guts to remove Arthur Butz. I’m sure that Finkelstein will show up somewhere to continue to peddle his garbage under the guise of academia - but at least it won’t be close enough where we in the Chicago area can smell him.

DePaul University made the right decision, for which I congratulate them

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I looked at the "freedomswatch.org" site to see who is behind the organization that has been airing the disgusting series of television ads trying to convince voters that anyone who recognizes the Iraqi adventure for what it is - possibly the biggest foreign policy blunder in U.S. history , further destabilizing an already unstable region of the world - is some kind of anti-American defeatist.

The names aren’t that well known - at least not to me. There’s Bradley A. Blakeman - a former Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush for appointments and scheduling as the group’s president - and people listed as "supporters" - among them former press secretary Ari Fleischer - and several former ambassadors - all moneyed men and big time GOP fund-raisers. Then there are "supporters" without titles or past positions in the Bush administration - but all disgustingly wealthy - including one who ranks number three on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans and number six on the world list of billionaires. I guess they need those kinds of people as "supporters" because they plan to spend around fifteen million dollars on radio and television ads.

It’s listed as 501 (c) non-profit organization - but it smacks as little more than an extension of the White House - echoing everything that Bush keeps saying about Iraq. With his bully pulpit, you wouldn’t think there’d be a need for a bunch of his wealthy cronies to get together to spread the same propaganda. But maybe it’s because they can say it with sixty second television and radio dramatizations and Bush can’t. At least up to now Alberto Gonzales hasn’t suggested a loophole in the constitution that would allow him to do so.

I suppose I should no longer be astonished at the lengths to which some people on the right will go to achieve a political advantage - or how low they will stoop. They are almost Orwellian in nature - with their reliance on misinformation and manipulation. The purpose of this ad campaign of course is to lead us to believe that our involvement in Iraq is some kind of "good war" against an enemy that wishes to destroy us. Thus they couch the alternatives facing us as "surrender" or "victory" - which they present as "our only option." "Surrender" to whom isn’t indicated in the mini-movies. There are no visuals of thousands of GI’s being led away to some Iraqi POW camp by "the enemy" - whoever he may be. And there’s no hint of what is meant by "victory." It’s just presented as the alternative to those yellow bellied among us who want our troops to "surrender" and render the sacrifices that have already been made "defending our freedoms" - as meaningless.

It sickens me to watch these ads and even more so to have to write about them. But if I want to be true to my set task of recording "the passing parade" - this is an assault on reason and decency that cannot be ignored. It is, first and foremost, little more than a Madison Avenue campaign to rescue Bush’s "legacy" from the disaster that it has become. To try to convince the gullible that Iraq is something that it is not. It does what both Bush and Cheney finally had to state unequivocally never happened. That Iraq had something to do with 9/11. In these ads, Iraq and 9/11 are joined at the hip. We have a soldier saying that he joined the military after 9/11 and if we "surrender" in Iraq, there’ll be more 9/11’s. We have a women saying she lost an uncle in the 9/11 attack and her husband "to Al Quaida in Iraq." We have another woman saying that her husband is fighting in Iraq so her children won’t have to. And again - the key words are there to be drummed into gullible brains. "Victory" and "surrender" as though these were real optional outcomes of our occupation of Iraq.

In some ways, I see this sort of propaganda campaign as just as insidious as the Nazis blaming Jews for all of Germany’s problems in the thirties. Rather than engage in any rational argument about the problem that we have created through our invasion of and continued presence in Iraq - or of the problem of international terrorism - these first cousins of the immoral swift boat attack of the 2004 campaign , insult the intelligence of all Americans with their simplistic, black and white invention of a war between good and evil that does not exist and than can neither be won nor lost.

For those whose heads are buried in the ultra-conservative sands from which the creators of such drivel dwell and emerge when needed to do their dirty work - the messages of this ad campaign serve to reinforce the fantasy world in which they have come to believe . They love it. This is their reality. A simple world of black and white. We have to fight "them there" so we won’t have to fight "them here." No "surrender." "Victory" at all costs.

Fortunately, the rest of us make up the huge majority of the population that thinks Bush and his policies are a disaster and want us out of Iraq as fast as humanly possible. So if there is any "good" aspect to this despicable campaign, it is that it may backfire among those of us who consider ourselves independents and more likely to vote for the candidate rather than for his or her party - and decide that at the next election - under no circumstances can we vote for a Republican candidate. Not as long as Republicans remain silent at the hypocrisy of "Freedoms Watch" and its disingenuous propaganda campaign.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I suppose if I was pushed to make a definitive statement on how I feel about the death penalty, I would have to say that I’m against it for a couple of reasons. One is its finality - and we know that innocent people have been condemned to death and later found to be innocent - because lucky ones among them have been released from jail after years on death row. If you execute someone and then discover that he didn’t do the deed, it’s to late to correct the mistake.

The other reason is the matter of what it says about a society when it stoops to the level of the condemned murderer in order to inflict punishment. We are pretty much alone among western societies in our retention of the ultimate punishment - and it doesn’t seem to help reduce the murder rate - which is the highest among modern industrial civilizations - ahead of France, Italy, the UK, Germany, Japan, Australia and New Zealand to name a few.

I will agree that there are crimes so heinous and killers so depraved - that they cry out for them to be executed - to have them and their memory permanently removed from society. Unfortunately, the way our death penalty system works, decades can pass between sentence and the execution of that sentence - and by that time we are not executing the same person that we sentenced. That’s not necessarily the case in Texas, where they tend to get to the end of the road a little faster and in greater numbers than any other state.

During his tenure as governor of Texas, George W Bush presided over the execution of more than 150 convicted murderers. He commuted only one death sentence - that of Henry Lee Lucas, who was condemned to death for a Texas murder he couldn’t possibly have committed because he wasn’t in the state at the time. The current governor, Rick Perry, has commuted 30 death sentences - but he isn’t that much better than Bush because 28 of them were kids under eighteen that the Supreme Court had ruled cannot be executed - in Texas or anywhere else. But last Thursday, he commuted the death sentence of Kenneth Eugene Foster who didn’t kill anyone but was driving the car in which a since executed killer was riding. And he did it just in time, which is what prompted me to make these observations.

We’re all familiar with the scene because we’ve seen it so many times in the movies. It’s the death house. The chair. The gas chamber. The gallows. The injection equipment. The mood is somber. The colors are dark and ominous. The phone on the wall is prominently displayed. The camera cuts to it again and again. The warden stands nearby. The officers on duty have pained expressions. And we all know why. The condemned is innocent!! The guards know it. The warden knows it. The audience knows it. There have been desperate attempts by (a) a crusading reporter, (b) a local cop who came to believe in his innocence,(c) a private detective hired by the condemned’s family and of course, (d) the guy’s lawyer - to get (1) a stay of execution, (2) a new trial - or at the very least - (3) a commutation to life imprisonment.

In the movies of course, there would be no tension if any of these efforts had been achieved in a reasonable manner and in a reasonable time frame. No, we have to wait until the condemned is strapped in the chair - or the pellets are about to drop in the gas chamber - or the noose has been placed around the neck and the hangman has stepped back. And then - only then does the phone ring. Sometimes it rings after the switch is half way down to send electricity to the chair - or the first pellet has been dropped in the gas chamber. Then the tension is even higher as there is a rush to save the reprieved/innocent man from certain death. Sometimes, in a film noire - it’s too late. But in the movies, it’s always late - so you’d expect it to go wrong once in a while. Depends on who’s directing I guess.

But in real life?? I love the Muppets and miss their television show but I have to disagree with their contention that "life’s like a movie - write your own ending." When someone has been condemned to death and has spent years on death row and exhausted all the appeals available through the courts and the only hope of escaping the ultimate penalty is an appeal to the governor for a commutation - if there is some logical reason why the response to that appeal has to wait until the moment of execution is hours - sometimes minutes away - I would like to hear it. Surely there is no deliberate decision to wait until the last minute to file such an appeal. That would be gross misconduct by the condemned’s attorney. So we have to assume that the appeal is on the governor’s desk in plenty of time for him to make a decision before the scheduled day of execution - and for him to make his decision known - even if other efforts to stave off the execution are pending.

But then our whole death penalty system is so convoluted - with decades passing from sentence to execution and with the death sentence being a penalty in one town but not a few miles away in another state - that maybe the last minute decision on life or death - as the prisoner walks the "Green Mile" so to speak - is the perfectly logical norm. And maybe it tells us that not only do we have this convoluted system of which we should be thoroughly ashamed - but that some of our governors are little more then muppets - with a lower case "M." After all, we’re talking about a TEXAS case where George W. Bush used to be the governor!!