What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

Agree? Disagree? Tell me

My Other Blog

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
With Apologies to Bill Saphire and Spiro Agnew

My first reaction when I heard the not unexpected announcement that Ralph Nader had once again decided to play his patented quadrennial game of Running For President, was to think of how many synonyms for egotistical nitwit I could put in an angry e-mail. But it only lasted a few seconds. My wife did indeed send him an angry e-mail even though she knows better - as do I. There is simply no way to have a sane dialogue with this man on the subject of running for president.

I probably said all that can be said about this idiot in two previous blog posts, responding to the last time he made such an announcement - one on February 23, 2004 (The Nader That Won’t Go Away) - and on April 7, 2004 (The Nader Ego). Nonetheless, here I go again because just when you think there’s nothing more you can say about the man’s ego or how divorced he is from reality, he opens his mouth and demonstrates that his ego is even larger and his distance from reality further than you ever imagined.

He announced his "candidacy" on Meet The Press by responding to Tim Russert’s question - "Will you run for president as an independent in 2008" with the opening line - "Let me put it in context, to make it a little more palatable to people who have "closed minds." Emphasis added.

Closed minds??? Nader is explaining why he is running for other people whose minds are closed? If the man wasn’t a potential danger, he would be a national joke. If ever there was a walking synonym for "closed mind" it is Ralph Nader. But now that he has announced his candidacy, the electronic media has opened up for him, and we have to be prepared to see him, as we did just the other night, asking why Obama and Clinton weren’t speaking about issues and taking positions that he advocates.

Yes, he is able to sucker the networks and cable outlets to treat him as though he was a legitimate candidate and that is truly an annoyance. There may not be any way to stop Nader from running - if you can call it that - but there’s certainly no obligation of the media to treat him as a legitimate candidate. In 2004, the two major candidates garnered more than 121,000,000 votes between then. Nader managed less than 400,000. If you could get Mickey Mouse on the ballot in enough states, you could persuade that many comics to put their X by that name.

He wasn’t a factor in 2004 and he won’t be a factor this year But there is one thing about his "candidacy" that worries me. If the media continues to give him face time, they will also be giving him a platform to spread his anti-Israel bias with the kind of statement he made on Meet The Press, saying of Obama that
" He's supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn't have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli"
and with performances like this.

Nader insists that his anti-Israel bias doesn’t mean that he’s anti-Semitic - but then again, he also insists that he’s a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

You decide.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talk a lot about the differences between them - Hillary somewhat more than Barack. You can take these alleged differences at their face value - or just dismiss them as so much campaign rhetoric. But one difference that becomes more transparent with each passing day of campaigning is that with Barack Obama, what you see is what you get - and with Hillary Clinton it’s hard to know which Hillary Clinton is the one running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

I like Barack Obama but I don’t find his stump speeches that inspiring - and they certainly wouldn’t persuade me to select him over Hillary Clinton. There are plenty of other reasons why I’m persuaded to support Obama. But when you look at him and listen to him - on the stump or now in nineteen debates - he is pretty much the same guy all the time. He isn’t kind one day and nasty the next. He isn’t conciliatory one day and accusatory the next. He isn’t cool, calm and collected one day and tearfully emotional the next.

Hillary Clinton on the other hand, appears to be in tactical mode much of the time - so it’s hard to know which Hillary Clinton is the one who is asking voters to make her the next president of the United States. I know that human beings are complicated animals and liable to have mood swings and present different sides of themselves on different occasions - and for a while, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was really tearful in New Hampshire and could have won that primary dry eyed. But it seemed to help and it seems that Hillary has been trying to find different approaches that would help her rapidly fading chances ever since.

I thought both her opening and closing statements during the Texas debate were - if not rehearsed - at least pre-planned - and there is no way I can believe her statement about being honored to be on the same stage as Barack Obama as anything but a tactical move. It certainly impressed a lot of people in the media. Some thought she was giving a valedictory speech - but it didn’t strike me that way. But even if I had had any doubts, they would have been blown away with what she did over the weekend. It has been widely reported that there has been dissension in the Hillary camp about which way to stave off what is seeming more and more inevitable - the selection of Obama as the Democratic candidate - which might explain the wild swings from friend to foe - from acknowledgment of Obama’s appeal to a varied voter population - to mocking his themes of hope and change and the voters they attract.

And now we have the scene right out of Casablanca. Hillary is shocked, shocked to discover that Obama’s campaign has mailed out fliers that criticize her positions. She was probably shocked while she was debating him in Texas - but expressing shock there didn’t fit in with her being honored to be on the same stage with him - which statement almost rescued her from her boorish, rehearsed nonsense about "change you can Xerox." As I said, her closing comments seemed to impress a lot of media people.

Obama’s reaction to Clinton’s "shame on you" harangue was exactly what you would expect of him - calm and to the point -that the timing and the over the top performance was more tactical than anything else. And that is my impression too - that the Clinton camp hawks held sway over the dove contingents for that display. Depending on whether or not and how much it backfires, based on polling that is likely asking for voter reaction even as these words are being written, we could see still another Hillary in tomorrow night’s debate. But it’s late in the day. There isn’t time to make too many course changes between now and next Tuesday’s primary, so we may indeed see Hillary in the all out attack mode for this final debate. And Obama should let her rant and allow her to destroy what little chance she has left of being the Democratic nominee in August.

Friday, February 22, 2008
Or it will be if they can’t curtail its growth and influence

It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to visit old haunts in England. My spinal stenosis and twice postponed second surgery to correct it (I hope) - has taken quite a bite out of hoped for travel plans. But I’m beginning to wonder if there’ll be any England that I’ll recognize - if and when I get back there.

On a few occasions in the past I’ve written about the deterioration of the British Isles that I once knew. For example, on January 12, 2006 - I asked the question - Is there hope for the England of old? A few months later, on May 22, 2006, I discussed the implication of Ken Livingstone being elected Mayor of London for a second term. And in the late fall of 2006, on October 23, I asked if the Islamization of the U.K. could be stopped. And as a final example of past expressions of dismay about the land of my birth -on April 3, 2007, the headline of my piece was "LESS AND LESS LONDON AND MORE AND MORE LONDONISTAN."

There was no reason for me to believe that things would get better in the near future - if at all - but I continue to be surprised at how much worse it continues to get. With close to 1.6 million Muslims now living in Britain, they are able to exert a fair amount of influence in several areas. Witness the election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London - he who welcomes Islamic terrorists as honored guests. Without the Islamic vote, he probably couldn’t be elected dog catcher. But now he has what might be considered an ally in the person of - of all people - the Archbishop of Canterbury!!

The Right Reverend Rowan Williams has suggested that Sharia law be given an official stamp of approval - that some members of the public be allowed to be judged by Islamic law rather than by the laws of England. Those members of the public of course being individuals who practice the Islamic faith. The suggestion is outrageous - though his reasoning is telling. It describes the dilemma that the nation faces by virtue of its absorption of Muslim immigrants and their descendants. "Some Muslims do not relate to the British legal system" says Dr. Williams. Or any other part of British society. Reverend Williams didn’t say that - but he might as well have. There are other minorities in the British Isles that are indistinguishable from the majority population in their relationship to the laws and customs of the nation. Some - like orthodox Jews - may utilize religious law to adjudicate disputes or to grant a religious divorce - but those laws are in addition to the laws of the land, not instead of them.

What has happened in England is that a population has been allowed to grow as a nation within a nation. Its citizenship may be English, but its loyalties lie elsewhere. That is not true for all British Muslims - but for enough of them to add up to a national crisis. In a way, the Archbishop’s pronouncement is a recognition of that crisis - but in no way is it a practical way to deal with it. It is rather a surrender to what Dr. Williams calls "unavoidable" - which is another way of saying "inevitable." Williams has come in for lot of criticism, including from a Muslim member of Parliament, but the fact that he felt compelled to tackle the subject at all, speaks volumes about the seriousness of the problem that a large, separatist, Islamic population represents. The government has to find a way to deal with it that doesn’t seem to be oppressive - but it may be too late. Had it recognized the potential of the problem many years ago, it perhaps could have pushed programs to integrate the Muslim population into the general society - with major emphasis on children - trying to catch them before they’re indoctrinated beyond redemption.

British Muslims may never be given official approval to substitute Sharia law for British law - but maybe they don’t need such approval. They seem to be able to exert influence over existing British law. Years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a British court to try to establish jurisdiction over disputes between nations or peoples at war with each other. But today, it seems that all that is needed is for one of the warring parties to be Muslims. And so it was that an Israeli general came close to being arrested when he landed at Heathrow, on his way to visit some Jewish communities in England. Why? Because a Palestinian group claimed that in conducting military operations in Gaza, he violated the Geneva accords and a British judge, sitting in a British court, thousands of miles away from the 60 year old conflict still raging in the Middle East - was persuaded to issue an arrest warrant and police were waiting at the airport to arrest him.

Fortunately, the Israeli Embassy learned of the attempt and was able to warn the general not to get off the plane - and police were reluctant to try to board the plane for fear that there would be deadly force exchanged between them and Israeli security forces. The general returned to Israel and the British foreign secretary issued an apology. But the fact that a British firm of solicitors was able to persuade a judge to become involved in the Israeli Palestinian conflict in this manner is not a reflection of British respect for international law - but of the strong pro-Palestinian sentiment extant in England, fueled by a rabid Islamic population. It could never happen here - and neither could it have happened in the England I once knew.

But with Ken Livingston as the mayor of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury reeling under an Islamic spell, it’s the sort of thing we should expect to keep happening in what was once the Mother Country. The only way it will ever change is if and when British Muslims view their religion as incidental to their citizenship instead of the other way round.

Don’t hold your breath!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
With Attribution Of Course…

If I were advising Barrack Obama, I would advise him not to engage in any more debates with Hillary Clinton. They’ve already had - I believe it’s eighteen debates - most with others - but the last one with just the two of them. And that last one was like none that preceded it. It was a lovefest. No attacks and counterattacks. No sharp digs. It was a good way to end their rivalry. Except that the rivalry’s not over. Who will be the nominee is still up in the air. Obama seems to have the momentum and some of the Democratic movers and shakers are moving (and shaking maybe) in his direction. And Hillary is getting desperate. This was her nomination. And now this Obama-come-lately is interfering with - maybe even canceling - her coronation. So she has done what politicians often do in similar circumstances. She has gone negative. Big time, And she has stooped to terminal silliness in accusing Obama of plagiarism, because - in a response to one of her negative attacks, he used the same technique as a friend of his did a year and a half earlier.

I use the word "technique" deliberately, to show the weakness of the "plagiarism" allegation. You’re reading this blog so I have to assume you are a person of intelligence - likely superior intelligence. So I ask you to put yourself in Obama’s shoes for a moment. You’ve been moving people with your oratory in ways that Hillary Clinton has been unable to do. So she tries to play down your oratorical skills. She’s a woman of action she says - not "just" words (like Obama). Words don’t mean anything she says - or at least implies. And you need to respond. I would be willing to bet that anyone reading this blog would respond in pretty much the same way. Words don’t mean anything? Really? "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Just words? "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! " Just words? "That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Just words??

I selected different examples from the ones that Obama - and his friend, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick used to make the same point - but does the fact that Obama didn’t come up with different ones make him a plagiarist?? Plagiarism occurs when you use someone else’s original material as though it was yours. Without attribution. It was what sunk Joe Biden 20 years ago. In speech after speech, he used words originally spoken by British M.P. Neil Kinnock about his life, giving appropriate attribution. But in one speech, he forgot the attribution and so it sounded like he was talking about his own life. That was plagiarism. Unintended, but plagiarism nonetheless.

But what did Obama plagiarize? The words of Martin Luther King? Or of the Declaration of Independence? Did he at any time speak such words as though they were his own? Of course not. To make his point, he used the technique that I used above - and that Deval Patrick used to make the same point a year and half ago. And Governor Patrick says the idea that Obama plagiarized his words is nonsense. Would the Clinton camp be making the same accusations if Obama had used samples from Winston Churchill, Patrick Henry and Abe Lincoln as I did above? Probably. They’re that desperate. But if what Obama said over the weekend is the standard for plagiarism, we’re in for some strange terminology in future political speeches.

"What’s the first thing I’ll do when I’m elected President? As my friend Joe Biden said when he quoted Will Shakespeare the other day - The first thing we do - let’s kill all the lawyers."

Of course that won’t just avoid any possible charges of plagiarism. It’ll probably win over a host of voters ready to cheer that Presidential first act.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A little more than a month ago, on January 15, I wrote a few lines about Paul Harvey (second item) with whom I worked decades ago, noting that he’ll be 90 this September and he’s still working!! The other day, punching radio buttons in my car, I paused to listen to a voice that was vaguely familiar . It should have indeed been familiar because it was Paul Harvey. I haven’t listened to him on purpose for years. If I happen to be listening to a station that carries him, it’s been my habit to switch it off or switch away from it whenever I hear him being introduced. If I want to be entertained, I have a wide selection of television and radio programs to choose from. I don’t need to hear Paul pitching products as though the pitches were news items. But on this occasion I listened for several minutes because - as I said - the voice was vaguely familiar but not the voice of the Paul Harvey I once knew. It was, sadly, the voice of an old man. Quavering - little more than an echo of what was once a distinguished sound.

Paul is a good number of years older than me - but hearing him that day made me wonder. If the ravages of age can catch up to a Paul Harvey - is it something I’ll be able to avoid? I’ve done a fair amount of voice recording in my career - and as of the last time I laid down an audio track, my sound was the same as it was when I first started in the audio recording business. I could go back to something I recorded decades ago and drop in a line or even a word - and defy you to notice any difference in timber or cadence or anything else. I’ve done it - more than once. I might have some slight difficulty doing a lengthy drop in today because I still have some residual effects from a bout of Bell’s Palsy that hit me in November of 2006. But a couple of sentences or a few words? I would lay odds that you couldn’t distinguish between my voice in 2008 and a recording done in 1978!! But probably so could Harvey have made the same claim ten or fifteen years ago.

No great philosophical insight here. Just an observation on the passage of time reminders that seem to come with increasing frequency as we move deeper and deeper into our golden years.

Preventing Future Campus Tragedies - A Likely Impossible Task

The tragedy at Northern Illinois University has elicited comments of all kinds from people trying to understand how things like this can happen and what - if anything - can be done to prevent them from happening. As with the killings at Virginia Tech, there has been much discussion about gun laws, the easy availability of guns and how to keep them out of the hands of mentally unstable people. But there has also been discussion about guns that is ridiculously dangerous.

I heard one Illinois state legislator on the radio intimating that the outcome might have been different if the shooter’s guns hadn’t been "the only guns in the room." And later I heard that others were expressing the same sentiments but without any hint of subtlety. They were making the case for carrying concealed weapons. If others in the room - students or faculty - were carrying guns, they say, the killer could have been stopped.

These people are almost as crazy as the one who committed the atrocity. Think about what they claim could happen if a situation like this arises and students are carrying their own guns. Why - they simply whip them out and shoot the shooter dead. And if they just think he’s a shooter and not some prankster - too bad. But in order for gun carrying students to stop a mass killing, here’s what has to happen. First, the guns have to be carried in a manner that provides for instant use. Like a quick draw. Maybe in a holster on a belt. Second, the guns have to be loaded at all times. No time to stop and load bullets. Third, the safety catches have to be off. And fourth - the gun carrying students have to correctly decide that they are about to be shot at - to make that decision instantly and in time to pull their weapons and kill the one who wants to kill them.

But that is not likely to be the situation - even in a state where carrying a concealed weapon is allowed. it won’t be on someone’s hip, ready for a fast draw - like high noon in Tombstone. By the time any gun carrying student is able to react and retrieve a gun and aim and fire - people are already dead - maybe even the shooter himself. It only takes seconds for an assault like this to occur. And to suggest that gun carrying students could prevent a tragedy of this nature is an invitation to madness. It suggests that students - or faculty members - can anticipate the actions of someone who appears before them who seems to be armed and about to start shooting at them. It suggest that in no more than a split second, they can correctly gauge the situation - retrieve their own guns and kill the shooter before he fires a single round.

What’s more likely to happen with students carrying guns and with the knowledge that there have been a string of on campus mass murders - is that someone will be mistaken for a killer and that deaths will result for absolutely no reason. Our record of gun deaths in this country is bad enough with expanding the number of concealed weapon laws already on the books. Among industrialized nations, the United States is the leader in gun deaths. Advocates of allowing guns to be carried by just about anyone, insist that it will reduce gun deaths. They visualize a scenario where bad guys would think twice about assaulting good guys with guns out of fear that the good guys would pull their own guns and kill them. Unfortunately, life is not a movie and what would be more likely to happen with a laissez faire approach to carrying guns is that more family members and friends and acquaintances will kill each other and that more accidental deaths will occur when people think they are in imminent danger.

There may be no way to anticipate who might explode in a murderous rampage - on a college campus or anywhere else. Steve Kazmierczak’s girlfriend described him as being about as normal as can be. Not a hint of the madness that possessed him and drove him to commit mass murder. It isn’t possible to put metal detectors everywhere and to have armed guards checking anyone who sets off a metal alarm. And this gun loving country will never enact the kinds of laws that will keep guns out of the hands of the Steve Kazmierczaks of the world.

So there’s probably nothing that can be done to prevent these kinds of things from happening. It’s a grim conclusion - but one that we have to live with because - much as I hate to say it - it’s part of who we are.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

You would think that the news that the Iraqi government has actually passed three laws - two of which met benchmarks that we set to measure political progress, would be front page news. Screaming headlines. And you would think that supporters of the Bush/McCain Iraq policy would be flooding the airways with cries of triumph. But in my morning newspaper, the news of the Iraqi legislation was on page twelve. A third of a page - but the page number was twelve. And if the President or Senator McCain have been trumpeting this spectacular example of the "progress" that they say we have been enjoying for months, it hasn’t reached my ears. Maybe they’re too preoccupied with the really big news of the day - the front page news.

The picture on the front page of my newspaper measures 6 X 7 inches - the copy below four columns wide - and it continues on two thirds of an inside page. It is of course a picture of Roger Clemens - and the big news is his testimony before a Congressional committee about steroid use. Did he or didn’t he? Our government needs to know. And the question that I have in mind is why? And why aren’t the leading Republican politicians of the country asking the same question? They who insist that government should stay out of just about every aspect of private life. What in the hell is the government doing investigating which baseball players did or didn’t use steroids to bulk up their bodies and hit more home runs or throw faster fast balls? If this is an issue at all, it’s one that needs to be handled by major league baseball - not a Congressional oversight committee. What might Congress take up next - whether football players who practice transcendental meditation have an unfair advantage over players who get dizzy when they close their eyes? It’s getting close to being that ridiculous.

Like so many Congressional hearings, this one promises to be a colossal waste of time where nothing will be concluded but, astonishingly, with members choosing up sides - Republicans seemingly in support of Clemens’ testimony and Democrats tending to believe his former trainer. It’s a little like the nonsensical division on global warming. Democrats tend to accept the scientific evidence. Republicans tend to view it as a political issue - which doesn’t allow for acceptance of scientific evidence.

The Clemens et al hearing will decide absolutely nothing. Two men are telling diametrically opposing stories and there’s no way that the committee members can determine which is telling the truth. That doesn’t stop a Democratic member from telling Clemens that it’s hard to believe his version or from a Republican member telling Brian McNamee that he doesn’t believe him. Or from committee members making fools of themselves - Indiana’s Dan Burton being a perfect example of that behavior. .

With all of the vital issues facing the country, hearings of this nature are a luxury that hard pressed taxpayers can ill afford. Government needs to keep its nose out of baseball’s business and let the sport’s governing body set its own rules and decide whether or not anyone has broken them.

And continuing the same theme….

I don’t think a week goes by without me getting one or more offers in the mail to sign up for an Internet connection or cable television or a phone service - or all three. And invariably at a bargain price. For three months. Or six months. Maybe even for a year. But try hard as I might - even with the assistance of a magnifying glass, I can’t find what the price will be after three months - or six months - or a year. It just isn’t there. And I don’t accept any of the "bargain" offers.

People who buy houses and take on a mortgage that calls for an initial "bargain" monthly payment don’t have that kind of problem. Or shouldn’t have. Somewhere in the mortgage agreement, the details are spelled out. Maybe not specific numbers - but the essence of the arrangement. The "bargain" monthly payments are for a limited amount of time, after which a different interest rate and monthly payment will kick in. There’s no way not to know that or to understand it. Even of you don’t want to read the fine print, you have to understand the basic premise of your loan. That "bargain" rate and payment is temporary! Down the road it’s going to be higher. Maybe much higher.

Which is why I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who buys a house with that kind of loan - who now finds himself in trouble because he can’t afford the increased monthly payment and is maybe facing foreclosure because he’s fallen behind on his payments - and is looking for sympathy. And help. I don’t care whether it’s a so called "sub-prime" loan or not. It’s not as though the borrower didn’t know that his payments were going to increase after a set period of time. He isn’t being hit with a big surprise. No one defrauded these buyers when they were given their mortgages. Some of the lenders are being blamed for giving mortgages to people who didn’t qualify for them - and we are seeing the price they paid as they report enormous losses. It was bad business all the way round - and maybe enough will be learned from the experience to prevent it happening again. People who can’t afford to buy a house will have to wait until they can afford to do so - and then - if their circumstances change for the worse and they default on their loan and maybe lose their house - at least it won’t be a national crisis and won’t call for government involvement - and neither, in my opinion, should the current "crisis."

Here I go again, sounding like a true Republican- insisting that government should stay out of people’s private affairs. But my feelings in this matter aren’t the outcome of political philosophy. The government certainly has a role to play if it is revealed that people were defrauded by criminal mortgage companies and were responsible for the thousands of foreclosures and pending foreclosures that comprise the current "crisis." Legislation could be enacted to halt the foreclosures and to re-write the mortgages. But the current mess wasn’t the result of fraud. It was the result of a mixture of greed and stupidity - equal doses of which were contributed by lender and borrower.

If left alone, the situation will resolve itself. Greedy companies that got stuck with loans that never should have been made in the first place will suffer losses. Home owners who are not in a financial condition to make increased mortgage payments will either lose their homes and become renters - or be successful in refinancing their mortgages with payments that they can afford. Government involvement isn’t going to solve the problem. At best it might provide a temporary band aid. At worst - it will make things worse. Government should stay out of it and let the free market work its wonders.

Of course if the beleaguered homeowners can hang on until May or June, our government will be giving them $600 or $1200 or even more - maybe $1500 or $1800 - depending on how prolific they have been for the past few years - and that will solve every economic problem plaguing us at that time - home foreclosure crisis included. Yes sir. Just when we think all is lost - at the darkest moment just before dawn, a Deus Ex Machina will emerge to utter those immortal words - I’m from the government and I’m here to help you!!

And to all a good night.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

There’s no question that if it wasn’t for Barrack Obama, Tony Rezko wouldn’t be getting the kind of press coverage that he gets whenever he goes to the bathroom or when his lawyer hiccups. His case isn’t just local and national news - it’s been covered around the world. It’s international news!!

You have to wonder what effect it has on a judge who gets this kind of case - when suddenly the whole world is watching. In the Rezko case - Judge Amy S. Eve is showing the world that she’s one tough lady by throwing him in jail for what she says is a violation of his bond agreement.

I don’t know whether or not Rezko is guilty of anything. Nowadays, almost any kind of activity that involves government officials can be thought of as "criminal." It all depends on how you look at it and who’s doing the looking. What I do know is that Rezko is being treated like a guilty man - in the media - and now by the judge who will be presiding over his trial. She has signaled in as clear a way as possible that she considers him guilty as charged. She would deny it of course - but then she’d probably tell you with a straight face that a critter who walks and quacks like a duck isn’t necessarily a duck.

Her excuse for putting Rezko in jail until his trial begins is that he is a "flight risk." He’s a flight risk because he told St. Eve that he had no access to big time money - and suddenly she learns that he was able to borrow $3.5 million bucks from a foreign associate and has been spending like a sailor. And that makes him a flight risk?? Rezko was already out of the country when he was indicted - and if he didn’t want to stand trial, he could have stayed where he was - in Syria - which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. But he came back - and family and friends put up their properties to cover the $2 million bail.

If Rezko had changed his mind about standing trial and was planning to sneak back to Syria - or any place else - you would think he’d be trying to move his assets out of the country, not bring money in. But Judge St. Eve didn’t see it that way. She also didn’t "buy" the insistence of Rezko’s lawyer that he was responsible for any confusion over the state of his client’s finances and that no violation of bond restrictions had taken place. Which is another way of saying that the judge didn’t believe Rezko’s lawyer. Which is another way of saying that she thinks Rezko’s lawyer is a liar.

So let’s summarize. Judge St. Eve called the fact that Rezko said he was broke and that friends and family put up his bond and that he subsequently got a $3.5 million loan and used it to pay debts including legal fees, a "shell game" - dismissed the insistence of his lawyer that any confusion about Rezko’s finances was his fault and not Rezko’s and threw Rezko in jail because she considered him a "flight risk."

Any bets on how this trial is going to go?

Speaking of trials, I see that six of our Gitmo guests are about to be afforded one - which likely will result in their being executed. Six and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, the six will be given a military trial calling for he death penalty if convicted. I didn’t put those last two words in quotes - but I might as well have. Or I could have inserted my question above about the Rezko case. Any bets on how this trial is going to go?

I find it fascinating that we’ve finally reached this point of the post 9/11 era and it will be interesting to see whether or not conducting a trial will provide any clarity to what has been a confusing six and a half year search for "justice." It was on June 22, 2005 when Karl Rove, in a speech to the New York Conservative Party, said
Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.
It wasn’t a statement that had the enthusiastic backing of the Bush administration - but it was an interesting statement nonetheless. It gives rise to interesting speculation about today’s news. Could it be that the Pentagon is populated by liberals who are seeking to follow the rule of law - or by conservatives who are seeking the death of these Gunatanamo prisoners and are just using a liberal approach to achieve that end?

I don’t know about you folks - but I find it all very confusing. We keep hearing that we are in a state of war. A war in Iraq. A war in Afghanistan. A "war on terror." Yet these prisoners about to face the death penalty do not seem to be prisoners of war. Under the rules of war, POW’s are not supposed to be subject to the death penalty. But - as our president has pointed out on more than one occasion - the battle in which we are engaged is like no other. It can’t be compared to what we normally think of when we speak of war. There is no country named "Al Qaeda" or "Terror" and there is no Al Qaeda or Terror army or navy or air force. And there will never be am unconditional surrender ceremony - after which there will be peace and an exchange of "prisoners of war." Instead, we have a conflict with no clearly defined enemy and with "rules" of war - or whatever we want to call this conflict - that we make up as we go along.

Now we have one likely candidate for the presidency who is telling us that we may have to stay in Iraq for a hundred years. Not that there can be no defeat of the Iraqi "enemy." We defeated what there was in the way of an official military resistance to our invasion in a matter of weeks. The invasion began on March 20, 2003 and on May 1, 2003, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush told the world that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." But the "war on terror" persists and if we say that some of it is taking place in Iraq, then we’ll continue to be there. And if we have a president who maintains that we are engaged in this never ending "war," we’ll continue to take prisoners who are not necessarily prisoners of that "war" and who can thus be held in captivity for years without any charges being filed against them , possibly tortured - and then tried, found guilty of the kind of crimes for which people are normally charged and tried under a nation’s criminal laws - and then executed.

Don’t get me wrong. If we are able to capture anyone who we believe was involved in the 9/11 attack and can muster sufficient evidence to prove their guilt, then we have the right and obligation to demand justice - in whatever form it might take - through international courts or through our courts - civilian or military. Unfortunately, without rules of war as they have been understood in the past, we are venturing into unknown territory as we try to bring alleged terrorists to justice. And since the scourge of international terrorism is going to be with us for a long time - with the United States as the likely major target - the pressure is going to be on us to get it right. I hope we do, but so far, at least to me - it just looks downright confusing

Thursday, February 07, 2008

So Super Tuesday is all over. The Democrats still don’t have a winner - but despite the rallying call to turn the White House into the Pennsylvania Avenue First Baptist Church of Evangelical Governance - which resulted in Minister Huckabee winning Republican primaries in five southern states - it’s now almost certain that John McCain will be the Republican presidential candidate in November and I don’t see how anyone can not vote for this heroic visionary.

I know that he’s coming close to winning me over. I’ve tried to resist. I really have. I’ve tried to be true to my values and to my hopes and dreams and to the presidential candidates that best represent them. But the lure of the pocket book and the assured vanquishing of all our enemies is becoming so powerful - that I’m not sure that I won’t surrender to the siren song and vote Republican. Not just for president but for every office on down - all the way to dog catcher - if that should become an elective office.

I don’t know how Republicans do it. Maybe I don’t want to know how they do it - or plan to do it. All I know is what they keep telling me over and over - and it must be true or they wouldn’t dare keep saying it - that they’re going to create a world without taxes. I don’t know about you but I hate taxes. I hate income tax and property tax and sales tax and the multitude of other taxes that government launches to assault us every waking day. Every time you turn around, there’s a government body of one kind or another finding something new to tax. So far, no one has come up with a suggestion as outrageous as the one immortalized by the Monty Python group some years ago - a tax on "Thingie" - but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. On the other hand, there are candidates who would ban "Thingie" altogether if they get elected. Certainly gay "Thingie." But I digress.

As I said, I’m not sure how they do it - or plan on doing it - but John McCain and all the other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are promising to cut taxes and at the same time increase military spending. To make us the strongest military power on earth. Stronger than all other nations combined - as befitting our role of the world’s policeman. I’m not sure how that will work without taxes. Maybe - since it’s an all voluntary military - they’ll call on individual non-tax paying citizens to support individual servicemen and women. A little like one of those "adopt a highway" programs.

I was switching around from station to station in my car the other day and caught right wing radio talk show host and sometime film critic Michael Medved, saying that in all his years in the Senate - McCain had never voted for a tax increase. Medved is a McCain supporter, so he brushes aside his refusal to vote for Bush tax cuts in 2001 and again in 2003 that he now says he wants to make permanent. But Medved was probably right about McCain’s overall position on taxes - a favored position adopted by many Republican legislators - which is to oppose taxes so you can say you opposed them even though there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of your vote stopping them from being imposed. It’s a Republican election and re-election gimmick, usually coupled with "tax and spend" accusations against their Democratic opponents. And despite his new pledge to make tax cuts permanent that he previously opposed, he is assuring us that we will have enough money to have a strong enough military to capture Osama Bin Laden. Yes, he promises - he vows - that if we elect him, he will capture Bin Laden. Now how can anyone resist that? Tax cuts. No new taxes. And our arch enemy in shackles.

So we’re shaping up for a contest between "change" and tax cuts - more money in your pocket - and between winding down our involvement in Iraq and capturing Bin Laden - a guaranteed capture of Bin Laden

All through he Bush presidency, I thought the salvation of our nation rested on our ability to survive his disastrous policies and decisions and to elect a Democrat in 2008 - just in time to stop us from going over the edge. And then along comes another Republican with a bag full of magic dust to persuade us to continue with those same policies and decisions. And if he’s making me waver - imagine the effect he could have on boobus americanus in November!!

Oh yeah. About me wavering - just kidding of course. My vote will be for whoever heads the Democratic ticket. But I’m not kidding about the siren song of John McCain. The conservatives aren’t going to stay home and hand the White House to the Democrats by default - so he’s going to get the Republican vote. And it seems that no matter what nonsense he spouts, he attracts a goodly number of independents. And while Hillary and Barrack battle each other over the next few months, McCain will have already been crowned and will be singing his siren song from sea to shining sea - and people will be listening.

I think either Democrat can beat him - but they’ll need to take time out from bashing each other to challenge his Pied Piper act - because by the time they leave the Denver Pepsi Center at the end of August, he may have already lured a host of children into a cave - never to be seen again by grieving Democratic parents.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I watched some of the Republican debate on Wednesday and almost all of the mano a mano Democratic debate on Thursday. Anyone looking for fireworks between Hillary and Barrack was undoubtedly disappointed. It was more like a joint press conference than a debate. There were a couple of mild digs by both candidates - but really there was nothing said to persuade an undecided voter that one would be a better candidate - and a better president than the other. Obama has the better story - but it’s difficult for him to express it himself - and particularly on a night when both candidates kept their gloves on.

If I was running the Obama campaign, I would push two themes as hard as I could between now and super Tuesday. Hillary is ahead in the polls and there may not be enough time for Barrack to catch up - but his surrogates need to get out there and say the things that it would be hard for him to say about himself. At rallies and with radio and television commercials. What things? First, as I said here a year go - on January 22, 2007, there would be an international advantage to having an African-American President of the United States - an advantage that would not be created by having a female president.

Obama can’t say that sort of thing himself. He’s been careful not to inject race as an issue in the campaign. It’s there of course - in both a positive and negative fashion - but he gently and skillfully defuses it as an issue whenever it arises Maybe if the issue of the international ramifications of an African-American president comes up in a question posed by a reporter, he can say some of things I said a year ago - carefully. Otherwise, it should be left to others.

And the other thing that he could push - or that could be pushed on his behalf is the "past versus the future" issue that he’s brought up himself in past debates - but that will acquire a new emphasis if McCain is the Republican nominee. If he is, then by November, we’ll have a 72 year old who was defeated by dirty tricks in the Republican primaries eight years ago - and then became a boot licker for the beneficiary of those dirty ticks - versus the 61 year wife of the man who occupied the White House for the eight years before McCain’s failed bid . That could reasonably be described as "a journey back in time" and compared unfavorably to a 72 year old McCain versus a 47 year old Barrack Obama. The past versus the future. It would be an easy comparison to make and Obama could milk the hell out of it.

I can’t think of any similar advice to offer to the Republicans. A more dysfunctional crowd you’d be hard pressed to find - and they certainly showed their ownership of that description with their Wednesday night debate.

I suppose Huckabee and Paul are there to provide moments for McCain and Romney to catch their breath, though both act as if they are actually competing for the Republican nomination. Paul is even running radio ads in the Chicago area. I guess he’s got the money and figures why not spend it? Maybe a better way to spend it would be to hire an investigator to find out how all that hate material got into the Ron Paul Newsletters that Ron Paul says he knew nothing about. And this man seriously wants to be considered a legitimate candidate for his party’s presidential nomination?

But the real fun of course was the McCain-Romney show - which would have been better if we’d just seem the animated cartoon characters of the two kids squabbling in the school yard and just heard the two rivals doing their voices. It’s beginning to look like McCain will emerge as the candidate - which has it’s good and bad aspects from the Democrats' point of view. The "bad" aspects are that McCain is treated gently by the news media - letting him get away with the "straight talk" nonsense - and of course his "hero" past. The "good" aspects are that a skillful opponent should be able to reveal the shortcomings of this militaristic relic which were manifest in moments of Wednesday’s debate that should, if you’ll pardon the allusion - "live in infamy."

What could be more ridiculous than this exchange between Romney and McCain beginning with a question to Romney?
Obviously Iraq is still a major issue in this campaign, and over the last few days there's been a real back-and-forth going on here. Senator McCain has said over and over again that you supported a timetable for a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Is that true?
ROMNEY: Absolutely, unequivocal -- if I can get that word out -- unequivocably, absolutely no. I have never, ever supported a specific timetable for exit from Iraq.
ROMNEY: And it's offensive to me that someone would suggest that I have.
And I have noted that everyone from Time magazine to Bill Bennett over there to actually CNN's own analysts, he said it was a lie and it's absolutely wrong.
I do not support that, never have. We've had -- we've -- and Senator McCain pointed to an interview I had back in April with ABC, when I said that our president and their prime minister should have timetables and milestones.
We have timetables and milestones for progress that we're making together. But I never suggested a date specific to withdraw and, were to give you a date specific for withdrawal, would you, Senator, veto it?" I said I'd veto it.
I'm opposed to setting a specific date for withdrawal. By the way, we've had, since that time, 10-12 debates. Senator McCain never raised that question in any of those debates.
If he ever wondered what my position was, he could have raised it. I instead have pointed out time and time again, and let me make it absolutely clear again tonight, I will not pull our troops out until we have brought success in Iraq, and that means, for me, that we do not have safe havens for al Qaeda or Hezbollah or anyone else, that our troops have secured the population from that kind of threat, that they will not have safe havens from which they could launch attacks against us.
And if there's any misunderstanding, those words should make it perfectly clear, as have every single debate that I've attended...
COOPER: Senator...
ROMNEY: ... 15 debates. I do not propose nor have I ever proposed a public or secret date for withdrawal. It's just simply wrong.
And by the way, raising it a few days before the Florida primary, when there was very little time for me to correct the record, when the date of withdrawal," sort of falls in the kind of dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found to be reprehensible.
COOPER: Senator McCain, tough words.
MCCAIN: Well, of course, he said he wanted a timetable. Before that, we have to understand that we lost the 2006 election and the Democrats thought that they had a mandate. They thought they had a mandate to get us out of Iraq.
And I was prepared to sacrifice whatever was necessary in order to stand up for what I believed in.
Now, in December of 2006, after the election, Governor Romney was won't weigh in. I'm a governor."
At the time, he didn't want to weigh in because he was a governor, I was out there on the front lines with my friends saying, "We not only can't withdraw, but we've got to have additional troops over there in order for us to have a chance to succeed."
Then in April, April was a very interesting year (sic) in 2007. That's when Harry Reid said the war is lost and we've got to get out. And the buzzword was "timetables, timetables."
Governor, the right answer to that question was "no," not what you said, and that was we don't want to have them lay in the weeds until we leave and Maliki and the president should enter into some kind of agreement for, quote, "timetables."
"Timetables" was the buzzword for the...
ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote, Senator?
MCCAIN: ... withdrawal. That...
ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote? Why do you insist on...
MCCAIN: I'm using the whole quote, where you said "I won't"...
ROMNEY: ... not using the actual quote? That's not what I said.
MCCAIN: The actual quote is, "We don't want them to lay in the weeds until we leave." That is the actual quote and I'm sure...
ROMNEY: What does that mean?
MCCAIN: ... fact-checkers --
ROMNEY: What is the meaning?
MCCAIN: It means a timetable until we leave.
ROMNEY: Listen, Senator, let's...
COOPER: Let me jump in, because the quote that I have...
ROMNEY: Is it not fair -- is it not fair to have the person who's being accused of having a position he doesn't have be the expert on what his position is?
How is it that you're the expert on my position, when my position has been very clear?
I'll tell you, this is...
MCCAIN: I'm the expert. I'm the expert on this. When you said...
ROMNEY: This is the kind -- this is the kind -- this is...
MCCAIN: ... "I won't weigh in. I'm a governor." You couldn't weigh in because you were a governor...
ROMNEY: That's a separate point.
MCCAIN: ... back when we were having the fight over it.
ROMNEY: That's a separate point.
MCCAIN: The fact is...
ROMNEY: That's a separate point.
MCCAIN: ... that I have fought for this surge. I have said we need to have this succeed. I know the situation in Iraq and I am proud to have supported this president and supported the fact that we are succeeding in Iraq today.
ROMNEY: There's...
MCCAIN: If we had done -- if we had waited and laid in the weeds until we leave, then al Qaeda would have won and we would be facing a disastrous situation in the...
COOPER: There's two separate issues being discussed...
MCCAIN: ... today.
COOPER: ... and I just want to clarify both of them. First of all...
MCCAIN: These are...
COOPER: ... Senator McCain...
MCCAIN: ... quotes that I am giving you that are direct quotes.
COOPER: So, Senator McCain, the quote is from Governor Romney on GMA that you've been quoting. The actual quote is, "Well, there's no question that the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones"...
MCCAIN: Timetables and milestones.
COOPER: ... "that they speak about, but those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone."
MCCAIN: You don't have to...
COOPER: He does not say he is supporting a withdrawal.
MCCAIN: ... wait until the enemy lays in the weeds until we leave. That means that we were leaving.
COOPER: It's open to interpretation.
MCCAIN: If we weren't leaving, how could the enemy lay in the weeds?
And on and on it went with McCain, childlike, repeating again and again - "You said timetable. You said timetable." Even with the moderators trying, gently, to tell him that he was misquoting Romney, he insisted that he was right and that he knew what Romney said and he was the expert on Romney’s position - not Romney.

Add to that his refusal to say which way he would vote on his own 2006 immigration bill if it came to a vote on the Senate floor - and you have a picture of man who should be looking for an old age retirement home rather than his party’s presidential nomination. Yet he may be the Republican candidate and millions of people would vote for him and he could become our next president with his "stay in Iraq forever" plan -- and if that doesn’t scare you to death then you haven’t been listening and you need to start listening - and urgently if you’re getting ready to vote in a presidential primary.