Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm Back

I was off on holiday and forgot my password, making it impossible to log on and post. But I'm back. I only have a few minutes, so here are some predictions for Iowa.

Clinton wins narrowly. Huckabee wins narrowly.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On the Ropes

Look who is polling third in Florida. If this is true and not a polling outlier, Rudy is in big trouble.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Where Was Cheney? reports that a "Mystery Beast" is loose in South Carolina, killing puppies and other animals.

Congress and Religion

Earlier this week the House of Representatives passed resolution recognizing the importance of Islam. Here is the text:

Whereas Ramadan, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Muslims throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 1.5 million Muslims in the United States, making Islam the third largest religion in the United States;

Whereas there are approximately 1,780,000,000 Muslims throughout the world, making Islam the second largest religion in the world and the religion of almost one-third of the world population;

Whereas Muslims and Islam have contributed greatly to the development of civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its monotheistic roots;

Whereas each calendar year, American Muslims observe Ramadan, the holiday celebrating the revelation of the Koran to their prophet, Muhammad;

Whereas for Muslims, Ramadan is celebrated as a recognition of one's willingness to suffer for Allah; and

Whereas many Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to honor Allah: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Muslims in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Muslims and the Islamic faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Muslims and Islam in the founding of civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Muslims and Muslims throughout the world.

Surprised? Well you should be. In fact, the House did nothing of the sort. Instead it passed a resolution much like this one, but recognizing Christians, Christianity, and Christmas as important. It makes me a tad uncomfortable to have the House of Representatives singling out a religion, any religion, for praise. You?

Sean Hannity's Solution to the Health Insurance Crisis

Two days ago, I heard what might have been the dumbest thing Sean Hannity ever said (and I've heard him say a lot of dumb things). It demonstrates the Right Wing's problem with the health care issue. An unemployed, uninsured accountant called Hannity's radio show and complained that he needed prescription drugs that were too expensive. Hannity suggested the accountant look into various government and private programs, and the caller said he already had, but they were for people under the poverty level, and he was not yet that poor.

Mr. Hannity then recalled days from his youth when he was having trouble paying rent. His landlord had agreed to let him clean other properties in lieu of paying rent. Mr. Hannity suggested that his caller ask the pharmaceutical companies if they needed any accounting done in trade for the drugs he needs. That is his solution to the middle class not being able to afford health insurance - ask the drug companies for a job. Wow! Why didn't I think of that. Maybe an unemployed licensed teacher could offer to teach the Novartis executive's kids how to read. And maybe an unemployed GM factory worker could offer to build Pfizer a car. Brilliant, Mr Hannity, brilliant.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whatever Happened To . . .

Douglas E. Lute? Who, you ask? He is our War Czar. Did you forget we have a war czar? I almost did.

What brought him to mind today? Absolutely nothing. Somewhere in the deepest, darkest, alcoves of my wandering mind, I just remembered we have a war czar. Do you think he gets angry when General Petraeus gets all the credit (if credit is due)?

More I Will Not Support

My reason for not supporting Romney, McCain, or Thompson is the same in each case: Why should I? It shouldn't be news to any regular reader that I don't agree with much of their policies. But, even more, could there be a less inspiring bunch? Romney wants to be President because that's what rich ex-governors do. McCain wants to be President because he lost in 2000. Thompson wants to be President because . . . well, I'm not convinced he wants to be President.

A Partial Defense of Mike Huckabee

I'm still not going to vote for him, but I think he is taking way too much heat for his role in the Wayne DuMond case. In case you have not been paying attention to the minutiae of the Republican battle for the nomination, Wayne DuMond was a convicted rapist in Arkansas. After his arrest, but before trial, DuMond claimed that two men entered his home and castrated him. He was convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years. Some conservatives alleged DuMond was not guilty and that then-Governor Bill Clinton had pushed for the conviction too hard becasue the victim was a distant relative of his.

Well, time passed and eventually the governor immediately preceding Mike Huckabee, Jim Guy Tucker, commuted DuMond's sentence to around 39 years - thereby making him eligible for parole - because the jury had never heard of the castration. Apparently, after a certain amount of dithering about a possible complete commutation of DuMond's sentence, Governor Huckabee influenced the parole board to grant DuMond parole. Subsequently, DuMond raped and killed a woman in Missouri. Now, Huckabee is taking the heat for the parole.

I think blaming Huckabee is ridiculous. It is pure 20-20 hindsight. Procedures in criminal law and sentencing exist for a reason. Obviously, the people of Arkansas, speaking through their legislature, approved of parole for some prisoners. It makes sense to put the power of parole in a parole board. That board, admittedly with the support of Huckabee, concluded DuMond should be paroled. That is the board's job. If no one should be paroled, change the law. But at the time, parole was an option in Arkansas law. Should DuMond have been paroled? Apparently it was an error in judgment. But humans makes such errors. And committees make them even more frequently.

The whole debate reminds me of the debate over capital punishment. Candidates for executive positions are routinely required to state that even if they oppose the death penalty, they will allow it to occur. The argument is that if the people of the state, speaking through their state government, have decided the death penalty is sometimes appropriate, it should be used on occasion. It seems to me that parole is the same. If the citizens of a state want it to exist, it should be used in appropriate cases. And mistakes will be made.

Huckabee made a judgment. It was incorrect. But was it unreasonably so? Was he negligent? Probably not. There were some who believed that DuMond's conviction was wrong. And there was evidence that DuMond had suffered vigilante justice that might convince someone he should receive some leniency. Wrong decision? Clearly. Wrong decision at the time it was made? Not obvious.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why the GOP Will Stay Lily-White For A While

This post from Mark Krikorian over at the Corner tells you all you need to know about why the Republicans will have to wait at least a generation to get the Hispanic vote. Look at this gem:

What right does Jorge Ramos, one of Univision's anchors, have to moderate a debate for American citizens about the American presidential election? The man is a foreigner — I don't mean foreign-born, I mean a foreign citizen. As this profile explains, Ramos "maintains Mexican citizenship in order to have the option to return there one day." Ramos (a "minority" champion who's one of the whitest men I have ever seen) has written, among other books, No Borders: A Journalist's Search for Home and is an explicit cultural separatist; from a 2002 column (original here, Allan Wall's translation here):

"The famous and stereotypical idea of the melting pot is a myth. The European immigrants — Italians, Germans and Poles, that preceded the Latinos assimilated rapidly to the American culture. But the Latinos have achieved the feat of integrating economically to the United States without losing their culture. Such a phenomenon has never occurred before."

As Allan asks, "Would Mexico allow Lou Dobbs to moderate a debate for Mexican presidential candidates? Of course not."
What right does he have? I'll tell you what right, Mr. Krikorian - the right to ask candidates to attend and the right to ask them questions if they do. And would "Mexico allow Lou Dobbs to moderate a debate?" I don't know and I don't care. Is Mr. Krikorian suggesting that the United States not allow Mr. Ramos to have the debate? Should U.S. Marshals have stormed the building and stopped the debate?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Who I Don't Support

Annie V. has asked me who I am supporting for the Presidency. I don't think my answer will surprise anyone, but just in case its a nailbiter for anyone, I'll keep you hanging for a while. But I will tell you who I am not supporting. Today I will explain why I will not vote for Giuliani or Huckabee.

As for Giuliani, just see these. He's a megolamaniac with poor judgment and an overriding concern in Rudy Giuliani above all else.

Huckabee is a more interesting case. He has expressed a concern for the environment and poor that I believe is true and admirable. I guess he'd have a chance with me if he would actually adopt reason, science, and the Constitution as his guiding principles. Oh, and if he didn't think I was going to hell.

Romney's Blinders On Faith

Well, I read Mitt Romney's speech on faith in politics, and was I disturbed. It demonstrates Romney's huge blinders when it come to American culture. The speech reeks of a purely evangelical world-view, while claiming to reflect an understanding of all. It has been widely commented that Romney's speech ignores the atheists and agnostics among us, and it certainly does that. Romney said a President "will need the prayers of the people of all faiths." Notice that he doesn't mention the good will of non-believers. He said that "[w]e should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders." Why should we? What if we don't believe in a Creator? He also says "Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God." Oh really? All Americans? I think not.

Note how all his rhetoric assumes a Christian belief system for all. He talks of placing his had on a Bible when he takes the oath of office, as if it were assumed that he should. But I encourage all of you to examine Article II of the Constitution. Neither the Bible nor God is mentioned - as they are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. I wish Romney had commented on this absence. But instead he suggests those who have a real discomfort with God having any place in government are establishing a religion of secularism - and repeats that America must be considered a nation "Under God" and that in God "we do indeed trust." Who is this we? Surely not all Americans.

The most disheartening part of the speech is rightly the most quoted in the press. Romney argues that "Freedom requires religion," but offers no explanation. What does it mean? I read it as excluding non-believers from the truly American and patriotic. If someone does not have a religious faith, apparently he cannot truly believe in freedom or the American experiment.

Romney included one paragraph that I think expresses the correct way to examine a politician's. Sadly, he sets forth his standard as if it is only relevant to "a person of faith." He said:

Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of humankind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?
Remove the phrase "of faith" and I think Romney is on to something. What Romney does not notice is that none of his three American values require the existence of God, or the belief therein.

To be honest, I don't think Romney meant to be exclusionary. Instead, I think he is blinded to the existence of those with a significantly different cultural understanding from his own. Romney pictures America as a a Christian postcard. He travels the country and sees the "many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven." Does he not know that many houses of worship do not have steeples? Even some Christian houses of worship are steepleless. But in an America where all believe in the same God, in Romney's America, all places to worship have steeples.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bush Infatuation Syndrome at the Corner

If you ever had any doubts about the Right Wing's Bush-Infatuation-Syndrome, consider David Freddoso's comment about the Energy Bill. The key quote:

Recall that when President Bush came to office advocating an energy bill, the whole point was to increase the amount of energy available. Given that the pending bill will not make even a single extra KiloJoule available, there is really no reason the American public should care at all whether this bill passes.
Consider what that means. Americans should not care if the energy bill passes because it is not what President Bush advocates. Anything less than the President's goals and programs are simply a waste of time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Big Tent, My Ass

Ron Paul supporters not allowed to participate in Republican straw poll.

Military Tribunals Reach Ridiculous Results

If this report doesn't piss you off, nothing will. In late 2001, a 19-year old German, Murat Kurnaz, was taken from Pakistan to Guantanamo. The intelligence community found him not to be a threat, concluding he was in Pakistan to visit religious sites and had "simply chosen a bad time to travel." But for some reason, the military decided to put him before a military tribunal, which concluded he should be held indefinitely. The evidence against Kurnaz included a memo that he prayed during the U.S. National Anthem and was interested in prisoner transfers and guard rotation. It also stated that Kurnaz was possibly estimating the height of the detention fence when he asked how high the basketball hoop was. The evidence for him included intelligence reports that he had no connection to terrorists. But the tribunal found for the military. A federal court ruled for Kurnaz, but the military appealed and it is before the Supreme Court today. Kurnaz was finally released in 2006, but the case continues.

Perhaps the most troubling statement by the Government in this case is that one of the factors used to determine if someone is an enemy combatant is "the passage of time." That suggests to me that even if Kurnaz wasn't a threat when he was picked up, if his treatment has created a dislike (oh let's say it - hatred) of the United States (a seemingly reasonable result) we can keep him locked up as long as we want. To some extent, therefore, Guantanamo is filling a need it itself creates.

Look, it might be necessary to have some sort of military tribunal process (although I'm not convinced), but unless the military is hiding some incredibly convincing evidence in this case, it seems clear the current system does not work if Kurnaz wasn't let out much earlier.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


There is nothing more annoying to a novice and unknown blogger than having your great idea independently spewed forth by a well-known blogger, and having him get recognition for it.

Another Reason Iran Might Have Dropped Its Nuclear Weapons Program

Well, this is familiar. The President claims a middle-eastern country has a WMD program, and then it turns out it doesn't. but the President keeps talking tough. Iraq? Yes, but it is not alone anymore. Now there is Iran. There are two questions that the new National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE")raises. First, when did the President know that his own intelligence community did not think Iran was engaged in constructing a nuclear weapon. Could it be when he said

I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon…So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
Look at the weasel words in that: "capacity", and "knowledge". The President denies he knew about the NIE conclusions when he said it. I'll let you reach your own conclusions.

The other question be bandied about is why did Iran cease its nuclear program in the fall of 2003. So far I have heard three theories. One is that the Iranians got scared by the invasion of Iraq and therefore, ceased its program. Another theory is that Iran was responding to international pressure (that seems to be the one adopted by the NIE). The third, what I call the NeoCon Wishful Thought, is that the NIE is wrong and Iran is still trying to make nuclear weapons.

But there is a fourth possibility. Before the invasion of Iraq, there were two huge military presences in the Middle East that were both seeking dominance in the region - Iran and Iraq. The only way for Iran to equal Iraq's threatened or actual nuclear program was a program of its own. After the Iraqi army was decimated by the U.S. invasion, and it became more clear there were no WMDs, Iran no longer had to engage in a financially costly and internationally reviled program to be the biggest guy on the block. Sure, the US was still there, but by the fall of 2003 it was becoming clear that the US might be the military threat to Iran it might have thought earlier because of the Iraqi insurgency. (This would especially be true if Iran was aiding the insurgency). And anyway, even Iran realizes that even with nuclear weapons, it cannot equal US power. So, Iran recognizes that the geopolitical advantages of a nuclear program have disappeared, and stops its program. In other words, prior to the invasion there was a military balance of power in the region. After the invasion, Iran was the only local power remaining, and a nuclear program was useless.

In short, President Bush created the conventional monster of an unopposed Iran by invading Iraq, but might have destroyed a potentially nuclear Iran that was subject to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. Which is better? Don't know.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What Is the Plan, Hillary?

Usually, when a candidate goes negative, he or she denies it. But Hillary Clinton is apparently trying a different tactic. She has announced that she is going negative. The most interesting paragraph in the Washington Post article is:

Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama's character, she replied: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."
This announcement is, in my opinion, a mistake. First, it plays into Obama's position that he is the new voice of reason and that Clinton is desparate and calculating. Second, Clinton cannot argue that she is just demonstrating policy differences if she admits she is "raising questions about Obama's character." And perhaps most importantly, given her reputation, a campaign that focuses on the candidates' characters will probably hurt her more than Obama.

So why did she do it? I think she is a tad flustered by the recent polls. As someone put it on one of the Sunday shows, the "inevitable candidate" is beginning to look "evitable." Hillary's sole strategy has always been that she was inevitable. Now that that strategy looks like a loser, her campaign has to find a new strategy, and it is floundering for one. I'm not sure what the correct strategy is. I think Obama is almost the perfect candidate to be fighting Clinton. She can't argue that she is the only candidate who will make history, becasue Obama is an African-American. She can't claim she is the only electable candidate because Obama is very likeable and comparable to Hillary in head to head polls against Republicans. Her best argument, that she will continue the peace and prosperity of the 90's that was lost in the '00s is an ok strategy, but the "we don't want two political dynasties" meme is starting to catch on.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I think Hillary is making a big mistake announcing her negative campaign, but maybe its all she has left.

UPDATE - Robert Reich agrees with me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Karl Rove Must Have Been a D Student

Just when I thought Math (see 6th, 7th, and 8th answers) was Karl Rove's worst subject, it turns out it was history.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Songs I Love II

Here is the second installment of Songs I Love. "What a Wonderful World This Would Be" by Simon, Garfunkel & James Taylor. Beautiful! I think it was originally done on Saturday Night Live. If anyone knows where I can find it on CD, please let me know. Again, I vouch for the song, not the video.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Road Map to Peace is Replaced by Bush's Road Paved With Good Intentions

Oh boy! According to President Bush, the Israelis and the Palestinians have agreed to agree by the end of 2008. Well, now I feel better. I guess we've torn up the Road Map to Peace that was going to put an end to the conflict by 2005. Now we have a "joint understanding." Even better, they haven't really agreed to agree. They've agreed to try to agree. In the statement read by Bush, the parties: "shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008." Oh, I am bursting with optimism.

And note the three reasons Bush feels now is the time for success.

"First, the time is right because Palestinians and Israelis have leaders who are determined to achieve peace," Bush said. "Second, the time is right because a battle is under way for the future of the Middle East and we must not cede victory to the extremists. Third, the time is right because the world understands the urgency of supporting these negotiations."
Let us examine these, shall we?

1. "Palestinians and Israelis have leaders who are determined to achieve peace." Well, not exactly. Abbas doesn't control his people and Olmert is very unpopular. So calling them "leaders" is pie-in-the-sky thinking.

2. "a battle is under way for the future of the Middle East and we must not cede victory to the extremists." That is not a reason why "the time is right" for an agreement. It is only a reason why Bush hopes the parties can reach a sustainable agreement.

3. "the world understands the urgency of supporting these negotiations." Great, other countries understand it is important for the parties to negotiate. Whereas before now I guess the world didn't think it was that important. And what part of the world does he mean? given that the most important player in the Middle East is Iran, if it doesn;t think negotiations are urgent, what hope is there?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Is the Bush Administration Lying to Us About Mid East Peace?

I don't think anyone actually believes the mid-east peace conference in Annapolis will be a success. Not even the administration that planned it. Iran isn't coming. But Condi Rice herself recently said that the biggest obstacle to Mid East peace is Iran. If the latter is true, the chances for success in Annapolis are small at best. There is no power in the region capable of confronting Iran effectively, so without Iran (and through it Hamas and Hezbollah) a peace deal just ain't going to happen. Add to that the unpopularity of Prime Minister Olmert in Israel, and the lack of control of Prime Minister Abbas is Palestinian territory and you have a recipe for nothing. It seems to me that we are looking at a huge PR push by a lame duck President. Expect an announcement of success coming out of the conference, but with no real progress.

ALERT - Fox News Unfair

Trivia question: What candidate recently accused the Fox News Network of demonstrating an unfair bias against his or her campaign?

A. Hilary Clinton
B. Barack Obama
C. John Edwards
D. Fred Thompson

Answer: D. Don't you just love watching Right-wingers eat their own?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Later, Folks!

See ya after the Holiday Weekend. Travel safely. Eat well. Don't work too hard. Thanks for stopping by.

Huckabee Platitudes

I don't think I've ever read a more vacuous Op-Ed piece than this one from Mike Huckabee in the Des Moines Register. Some of the more meaningful lines from this great thinker:

"We need leadership that will instill hope in the future for every American family"

"America's strength is in its people"

"Strong families need better schools with higher standards that incorporate personalized learning to enable every student to master basic skills while also developing their individual talents so they can exceed those higher standards."

"Strong families need a stable economy, rich with opportunities"

"Strong families need a health-care system that makes sense."

"Above all, strong families need a free and secure society."

"I'll also protect the Second Amendment to ensure American families never lose the right to defend themselves."

And as an afterthought:

"I'm committed to winning the war on terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever radical Islamists seek the means to harm our nation."

Can anyone tell me what the hell he wants to do to make this glorious Eden come about? He is for Opportunities, Standards, Sense, Freedom, Security, Self-Defense, and Winning. Didn't he forget Apple Pie and Baseball?

Does a newspaper have to accept a column from a Presidential candidate, even if it is without any substance whatsoever?

A Rant On Oprah

Well, Oprah is going to campaign for Obama. (Sounds like a David Letterman joke, no?) Is anyone else unmoved by the news? I will now admit to my one failing as an American. I don't like Oprah. I remember when Oprah first hit the national consciousness. She was just Phil Donahue without the political connections. Now she is some sort of spiritual icon for thousands or millions of people. From age 19, she has been in the TV business. (most if not all facts on Oprah's life from Wikipedia.) If years of TV news experience makes someone a spiritual icon, why aren't we all listening to Bill O'Reilly for Spiritual advice.

Also - what an ego! Even Martha Stewart doesn't put her own face on every edition of her magazine. But Oprah does. Anyway, I wish Oprah would go away and stop advising all of us on how to live. Do we really think she reached the level of fame she now has without stepping on the toes of some lower beings?

And the last (for now) reason to dislike Oprah - she brought us this.

Hey Ms. Rand, What Are You Thankful For?

John Stossel's lesson from Thanksgiving? Socialism is bad. He argues that without a free market economy, the Pilgrims would not have had a Thanksgiving in 1623. Ok. Maybe. But I bet you they had a doctor who would come to even the poorest among them, without needing the permission of the Plymouth HMO. And I bet that the Pilgrims tried their damndest to make sure that no one starved. In other words, I bet the Pilgrims understood the advantages and limitations of free markets.

Fantastic Campaign Ad

Sadly its from Mike Huckabee and features Chuck Norris. But it is hysterical!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Congressional Approval

I am so sick of the Conservative canard that the fact that Congress' approval rating is below President Bush's means the public prefers Bush's policies to those of the Congressional leadership. Let us make it very clear. People are pissed off at Congress for failing to end the war and take other actions promised by the Democrats. what is the cause of the anger? Republican's in the Senate refusing to allow votes on significant bills, and the Presiden't veto. I suspect Congrtessional approval would go up of Republicans would allow Congress to act, and if President Bush signed bills into law.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Over at the National Review, there is a lot of discussion of the push polls in NH an IA regarding Romney's Mormanism. Jim Geraghty doesn't think Romney planted the polls in order to make his opponents look bad. Instead, he has another theory:

The more I hear angry accusations from campaigns, and the more bad blood that is stirred, and the accusations that some campaigns employ bigoted arguments against a candidate, I start wondering... isn't this what some deep-pocketed Democrat would want to see in the GOP primary?
Ah yes. If there is a religious smear, it must be a Democrat. My guess is Soros. Republicans have too much class to pull a stunt like this.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Whole New Meaning For "Pixie Dust"

Odd, odd, odd. To freak out kids, do this on the "It's a Small World" ride.

A Blog's Untimely Death

Who Are You To Accuse Me, a great help to the birth of this blog, and a very insightful blog in its own right, has died a premature death. A sad day in the blogosphere.
It is very difficult to blog. Without comments and few people checking in regularly, you start to feel you are talking to yourself. As you can see, I have been posting less often because of that sense. I'll keep trying, maybe because I like the sound of my own voice, but I encourage all, if I say anything interesting or that you find reprehensible or enlightening, to let me know and tell your friends. Thanks to all, and especially Phillipe Duhart, who leaves the blogosphere too early.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tancredo's Ad

Speaks for itself. No shame.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Campaign Money From Evil-Doers

A current blog dustup over Ron Paul's acceptance of campaign contributions raises an interesting question. Why should a campaign return (or contribute to charity) money it receives from a group it finds repulsive? It always seemed to me that if the KKK or Nazi Party wants to throw its money away by giving it to someone that disagrees with them, then great! Should we examine the views and history of a politician who receives such contributions? Sure. But then again, we should examine the views and history of any and all politicians seeking our votes.

It reminds me of the kudos Rudy Giuliani received for turning down a $10 million contribution from a Saudi Prince after 9/11 because the Prince suggested that American policies contributed to the attacks.

[Side note - will Rudy turn down any support from Pat Robertson given his belief that 9/11 was a punishment of God for America's sins, and that liberals "helped [9/11] happen."]

Why not take the money? Isn't it possible that some of that $10 million went to the madrasahs that teach the hatred that actually led to 9/11? I can only imagine that Rudy and his supplicants would prefer the money going to the victims of 9/11 than madrasahs or Rolls Royces, or another palace for the Prince.

In short, I say to Ron Paul, assuming you are not a neo-Nazi, take the money and run!

I Wonder What O'Reilly Thinks Of This

Bill O'Reilly over at Fox News likes to complain of the coarsening of American culture. I can only assume he is proud of his own company. So I had to wonder what he would think when the Fox website had this as its Breaking News headline this morning: "Body of Illinois Police Sergeant's Third Wife Being Exhumed: Watch Live."

Watching an exhumation. Entertainment? News? One step above a snuff film?

UPDATE: They have already taken the headline down. Maybe someone over there has a soul.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Born Again, Again

Craig Unger at explains how there are two conflicting versions of George W. Bush's salvation. The official campaign 2000 version has George saved by Billy Graham. That's a pretty good story, that puts George in rarefied air. But, wait! If he was saved by Billy, it was a re-rebirth. According to Unger, George was first saved by a guy named Arthur Blessit. Here is Unger's description of Blessit:

His evangelicalism was rooted in the Jesus movement of the sixties counterculture. To the extent he was famous it was because he had preached at concerts with the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, and others, and had run a "Jesus coffeehouse" called His Place on Hollywood's Sunset Strip during that turbulent decade. His flock consisted of bikers, druggies, hippies, and two Mafia hit men. The most celebrated ritual at Blessitt's coffeehouse was the "toilet baptism," a rite in which hippies announced they were giving up pot and LSD for Jesus, flushed the controlled substances down the toilet, and proclaimed they were "high on the Lord."

In 1969, however, Blessitt was evicted from his coffeehouse and, in protest, chained himself to a cross in Hollywood and fasted for the next twenty-eight days. Over the next fifteen years, "The Minister of Sunset Strip," as he was known, transformed himself into "The Man who Carried the Cross Around the World" by lugging a twelve-foot-long cross for Jesus through sixty countries all over the world, on what would become, according to the "Guinness Book of World Records," the longest walk in human history. Blessitt delivered countless lost souls to Jesus. He went to Jerusalem. He prayed on Mount Sinai. He crossed the Iron Curtain. Finally, in 1984, he came to Midland, Texas, to preach for six nights at the Chaparral Center before thousands of Texans night after night on a "Mission of Love and Joy." He did not know it, but he was about to bring George W. Bush to Jesus.
Not quite as impressive a leader to salvation as Billy Graham. But then again, if in 2000, you are lying about the roots of your salvation, have you really been saved? Problems appears to be having problems, limiting my ability to post. When Its fixed, I will be posting again. Please be patient!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Musharraf, Chavez, and Administration Response

The latest power grab by Pakistani President Musharraf demonstrates that I am not nuts. Apparently, the biggest criticism of Hugo Chavez' proposed constitutional amendments is the most democratic one - the ending of term limits. We all know the reason Chavez wants this change is to stay in power. But assuming the elections are free and fair (which I do not believe will be the case), ending term limits is very democratic. But because Chavez called Bush a devil, any act he takes is touted as anti-democratic and, by definition, wrong. Musharraf, on the other hand, completely suspends his constitution and jails lawyers and judges. The administration response? Please stop. Pretty please.
Can anyone else remember a time when the United States supported an autocrat in a Muslim nation in times of upheaval? How'd that turn out?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

More Dubai (Our Ally)

Dubai, which George Bush has praised as an important ally in the "War on Terror," has an interesting deficiency in its criminal law. Apparently, in Dubai, there is no such thing as raping a man. The two men who are alleged to have raped a French 15-year old boy have been charged with "kidnapping with deceit and illicit sexual intercourse." I'm guessing that "illicit sexual intercourse" is Dubai's way of saying "homosexual act."

What this proves is that the realist vision, so adamantly rejected in the rhetoric of the current administration, that we will support immoral regimes so long as they are our immoral regimes is alive and well in the actions of the same administration.

Executive of Arab Airline Doesn't Like Al Gore. Whoda Thunk It?

The Executive Vice-Chairman of Emirates airline, based in Dubai, said An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore is "rubbish." Shocking isn't it. I would imagine that it is in the interest of all airline executives to poo poo global warming seeing as how their businesses burn tons of fossil fuels daily. And even more shocking that someone who works for a company based in Dubai, which gains its wealth from oil profits, would criticize the movie.

Also, the executive claims to have watched the movie three times. Why? Did he see it as one of those movies that was so bad it was funny? Or maybe he had to watch it three times to find all the piddling little nit-picks he is sure to find.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Giuliani in a Nutshell

As you may have noticed, Rudy Giuliani scares the hell out of me. Here is a guy with megalomaniac impulses who sees the war on terrorism as his best chance for a power-grab. And what he lacks in restraint, he makes up for in complete lack of class. Yesterday, after the Democratic debate, his campaign put out the following press release:

As the pundits work to figure out who won the debate tonight, it’s pretty clear Rudy Giuliani was the real winner. It is increasingly apparent Rudy is the one the Democrats are most worried about running against in the general election.

Senator Biden’s comments were of particular interest. The good Senator is quite correct that there are many differences between Rudy and him. For starters, Rudy rarely reads prepared speeches and when he does he isn’t prone to ripping off the text from others. And, Senator Biden certainly falls in to the bucket of those on the stage tonight who have never had executive experience and have never run anything. Wait, I take that back, Senator Biden has never run anything but his mouth.

Such a desperate attack from Senator Biden is to be expected considering I – Katie Levinson – have a better chance of becoming President than he does.
The campaign's first instinct is not to explain policy differences, but to attack Joe Biden for past controversies and his speaking style. Boy, that sure makes me want to vote for him.

Rudy has to resort to such tactics for two reasons. First, it is his instinct. Second, what else does he have to say? He obsessively speaks of his role immediately after 9/11. But what did he do after he left the Mayor's office? He made money. that's it. He was a member of the Iraq Study Group, but had to leave to raise money. Rudy's own Presidential website describes his entire post-Mayoral career thusly:
Limited by New York City law to two terms as mayor, Rudy founded Giuliani Partners in January, 2002, quickly establishing the consulting firm as a leader in the fields of emergency preparedness, public safety, crisis management, energy and health care. In 2005, Rudy became a name partner in the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani. The sixty year old firm, previously known as Bracewell Patterson, has over 400 attorneys practicing in nine offices around the world.
How inspiring! If that's all Rudy himself can come up with, think of how pathetic the truth must be.

In fact, as far as I can tell, not one governmental entity has asked Giuliani or his company, Giuliani Partners, to advise it on anti-terrorism efforts. According to a partial client list published by the Washington Post, the only governmental entity that hired Giuliani Partners was Mexico City - but to advise it on crime prevention generally - and it is unclear how well he did that:
In 2002, Giuliani Partners landed a $4.3 million contract from a Mexican civic organization to advise authorities in Mexico City on how to tackle the city's vexing crime problems. Giuliani touted the deal during a splashy nighttime tour through the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, and his firm delivered a 146-point plan that the city's public security secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, trumpeted as an antidote to the city's entrenched crime.

Ebrard, now the city's mayor, said in a recent local television interview that many recommendations were implemented; the city put panic buttons on public buses and put surveillance cameras in high-crime areas. But other prominent figures disagreed. Jorge Castañeda, former foreign minister of Mexico, called the contract a "$4 million publicity stunt." Jorge Montaño, former Mexican ambassador to the United States, said the "people who paid Mr. Giuliani and his associates really made a great mistake. With all honesty, nothing that they suggested was successful."

The problem, Montaño said, was that Giuliani expected ideas that worked in New York to work elsewhere. "His recommendations were not based on the Mexican reality," Montaño said.
So what am I saying? In essence, Rudy is all about Rudy's power over others. His suggestion he stay on as Mayor past his term, and the way he told his second wife they were separating by press conference demonstrates exactly that. There is no evidence that he has given a damn about the long-term terrorist threat until he started running for President.

How in the hell can Republicans or anyone else support this guy?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jonathan Chait on Rudy Giuliani

Jonathan Chait has a short piece on Rudy Giuliani's economic beliefs over at the New Republic. But the best part of his article has to be the opening sentence:

Most of us have come to know Rudy Giuliani as the candidate of choice for Republicans who like President Bush but wish his Middle East policy were a little less restrained or that he invoked September 11 a bit more frequently.

I would be laughing heartily at Chait's humour if the Republican polls weren't making me cry.

Moment of Silence or School Prayer

Andrew Sullivan is upset that an atheist and his daughter are suing a school over a moment of silence. He asks for "mutual respect." Two points:

1. I'm not an atheist, but I suspect the atheists out there would say that they will give respect to what Andrew calls "Christianists" when there is any sign that Christianists will reciprocate. For example, one movie made from one successful fantasy series that might be read as having atheistic themes sends the Catholic League into spasms of distress and offense. the Catholic League's leader worries that the books "sell the virtues of atheism." But I guarantee if someone had said that the Narnia books were offensive because they were "selling the virtues of theism" the Catholic League would have a fit.
Similarly, when an atheist suggests he shouldn't have to have God thrust at him everytime he goes to the Courthouse, visits Congress, or looks at his legal tender is ridiculed and told to grow up and show some tolerance. In other words, tolerance has to go two ways, and usually it is the majority who needs to show tolerance before we should expect it from the minority.

2. As we saw during the "Intelligent Design" debate, atheists and other supporters of the separation of Church and State are legitimately worried about ulterior motives of the Christianists. As the federal judge in Pennsylvania said about the "Intelligent Design" curriculum: "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom." Some, like me, remember when the same people now advocating moments of silence were pushing for school prayer. And that raises an interesting question - what purpose does the "moment of silence" serve? Obviously, it is a method of formalizing a time of prayer. The kids aren't stupid. As one Seventh Grader said: "It’s a time to thank God for my day." But even without the Illinois law requiring a moment of silence, that Seventh Grader has time to thank God. Before lunch. During study hall. Before she goes to sleep. And without the moment of silence no one should be told he cannot pray in school. There just won't be a time set aside for it. No harm, no foul.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Petraeus and Recent Events

Check out Phillipe Duhart's find over at Who Are You to Accuse Me. He discovers that General Petraeus' claim that the Shiite Government is happily backing the training of Sunni police is a bunch of crap. Phillipe asks if Petraeus is an incompetent or an adminstration shill (not mututally exclusive - see Alberto Gonzalez, Michael Brown, etc.). I certainly tend to believe the latter.

Also, over the weekend, Petraeus found a new reason we're going to have to stay in Iraq:

As the terrible extremist threat of al-Qaida has been reduced somewhat, there is in some Iraqi neighborhoods actually a focus on crime and on extortion that has been ongoing and kidnapping cells and what is almost a mafia-like presence in certain areas.
One might think that this new threat is an internal police matter. But given what Phillipe mentioned, the United States is what keeps the Iraqi police an even potentially effective force. So we'll have to stay to stop the "mafia-like presence." How? I have no clue, and I suspect neither does Petraeus or Bush.

Friday, October 26, 2007

General Mood

Well, my Red Sox are up 2-0 on the Rockies. If Joe Torre is the greatest manager ever because he won four series in five years seven years ago, I guess Terry Francona will be the second greatest if the Sox win two in four years.

Anyway, I should be happy. But, I'm a tad cranky. I think I've been watching too much Fox News. I just feel that the political dialogue of this country is so skewed. For example, On the O'Reilly Factor last night, Bill complained that George Carlin, while on the View, blamed some of the people in Southern California for their plight. O'Reilly was outraged that no one challenged Carlin. Does O'Reilly not know that Carlin is a comedian appearing on an entertainment show?

And then I hear that President Bush is gaining political capital because of his visit to Southern California. Why? Because he didn't screw up like he did with Katrina? If I go to San Diego this week, can I be President too?

And we seem to have forgotten about Iraq. Apparently, very few American Solders are dying this month - so we must be succeeding. If that's the metric, I know how to have no American casualties. Get the soldiers the hell out of there. Oh, and by the way, any oil law, constitutional reforms, or amnesty yet? Where is that reconciliation we were promised? I guess it will come after the civil war ends in about ten or a thousand years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are We Losing the War on Terror, Incompetent, or Both?

Apparently, the federal Terrorist Watch List has grown to have over 750,000 names. The list is growing by about 200,000 names per year. If we were winning the "War on Terror" wouldn't you expect the list to get shorter? Don Rumsfeld once pondered, in a famous memorandum,

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?
If the Terrorist Watch List is getting bigger then maybe we have found a metric. Or . . .

Maybe the Terrorist Watch List is incredibly unreliable. Consider, for example, how badly the Department of Justice updates information. Look at the FBI's own "Most Wanted" poster for Usama Bin Laden. Notice what's missing? Any mention of 9/11. And don't forget that the military took credit for killing the same guy in Iraq twice.

So, I'm voting for incompetence in the domestic war on terror, not necessarily that we are losing that war. But then again, if we are so incompetent in fighting the war, odds are we are losing, too.

How will Giuliani One-up McCain?

John McCain says he wants to shoot Osama bin Laden. how long until Rudy Giuliani proves he is more anti-terrorist by saying he wants to sodomize Osama with a broomstick and then shoot him 41 times.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faith in Politics

In his column today, E.J. Dionne writes:

Let's say it unequivocally: Mitt Romney's Mormon faith should not be an issue in this presidential campaign. Period.
Wrong. Period.

What is true is that the fact that Mitt Romney is Mormon should not be an issue, but his faith must be. With pride, Romney says things like
"What is it about America's culture and values that makes us such a successful nation and society? Part of that is we love liberty, we love our country, we're patriotic," Romney said. "I believe it's also because we are a people who love God and look for a purpose greater than ourselves in life."
Well, what purpose is Romney looking for? Is it to be found in his Mormonism? It is a relevant question to ask.

The latest rage in the Republican Party is Mike Huckabee. As I noted early in the life of this blog, Huckabee said at an early debate
But what I'm saying is, when a president is elected president, he's elected president to make decisions that are going to be basically balanced between two immovable things that ought to govern every decision he makes. One is the Constitution, that he's sworn to uphold. And the other is his own conscience and
If that is so, we must examine his conscience to know what kind of President he would be.

Dionne only wants Romney (and I presume he would ask the same of Huckabee)
to explain how he can fairly ask that we not hold his faith against him, even as he insists that religious people should vote for him because of the values his faith has taught him. Mormonism should not be an issue. Consistency is another matter.
But it is clear that Romney believes that his faith is important to his decisionmaking. Therefore, I think we have every right to expect him (and every other candidate who claims a belief in God informs his or her judgment) to explain how his faith influences him.

Songs I Love

Occasionally, I will post links to YouTube videos of songs I think are beautiful. I do not vouch for the quality of the videos, just the quality of the songs.

First is Rufus Wainwright's version of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. there are so many versions of this song that are wonderful that it is hard to choose one. But I think this is my favorite version.

And if anyone can tell me how to put a YouTube video directly on the blog, I'd appreciate it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Everyone Should Read Fareed Zakaria's Work

I love Fareed Zakaria. He writes very clearly, and with a great deal of knowledge. His latest column regarding the United States' absurd rhetoric about and policy towards Iran is a case in point. I really can't say anything to improve Zakaria's piece, but I do want to point out that he implies Ahmadinejad is not the "dictator" of Iran:

When the relatively moderate Mohammed Khatami was elected president in Iran, American conservatives pointed out that he was just a figurehead. Real power, they said (correctly), especially control of the military and police, was wielded by the unelected "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now that Ahmadinejad is president, they claim his finger is on the button. (Oh wait, Iran doesn't have a nuclear button yet and won't for at least three to eight years, according to the CIA, by which point Ahmadinejad may not be president anymore. But these are just facts.)
All I can say is that great minds think alike.

Credit Where Its Due

Just when I think he has become just another hack for the Right Wing, George Will writes a column that makes complete sense (save one small section - more later) and makes me remember he is better than Fred Barnes.

The Line-Item Veto is a joke. It assumes that the President is above politics and political trading. How's that assumption working? As Will says in his column:

After a century of the growth of presidential power and after eight years of especially aggressive assertions of presidential prerogatives, it would be unseemly to intensify this tendency with a line-item veto.
Let's hope George Will can change the minds of his conservative compatriots.

Which brings me to the one section of Will's column that I think is misleading. He says: The
line-item veto expresses liberalism's faith in top-down government and the watery Caesarism that has produced today's inflated presidency. Liberalism assumes that executive branch experts, free from parochial constituencies, know, as Congress does not, what is good for the nation "as a whole." This is contrary to the public philosophy of James Madison's "extensive" republic with its many regions and myriad interests.
I'm not sure if he means to use "liberalism" in the classic philosophical sense, or the modern political one. If the latter, he should note that his own natural allies have been the biggest proponents of the line-item veto, as his own column suggests. If he is using "liberalism" in the philosophical sense, I think Will is smart enough to know that most readers would wrongly assume he means "liberalism" in the political sense. In other words, Will is either wrong on facts, or is misleading his readers.

A Quick Break From Politics . . .

GO SOX!!!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Republicans, Children, and Macro Thinking

I am reminded of a time many years ago when I was still in High School and my parents had gone to visit my older sister at college (not Annie). I got a call from the Electric Company saying that unless we paid the bill by the end of the day, we would be cut off from the grid. I informed the caller that I was a minor whose parents were out of town, and asked who the Electric Company wanted to punish by shutting off the electricity. Because if the company intended to cause my parents to suffer, it was failing desperately as they were out of town. After some discussion with a supervisor, I received a temporary reprieve until the day my parents returned.

What reminds me of that story? The Republicans attitude towards children. Consider, for example, the S-CHIP debate. As I have noted before, some parents might not enroll their children in an insurance program because of cost. SCHIP can be used to create an incentive to financially reluctant parents to get their children insurance. The Right Wingers oppose this concept, as David Fredosso said to me, "health care is a private choice." But, like the Electric Company in Vermont, Fredosso would keep insurance from children because their parents are screwing up.

Similarly, consider the current movements in many areas to take away benefits from illegal immigrants, including some that benefit the children of illegal immigrants. For example, Prince William County in Virginia has chosen to deny housing assistance to illegal immigrants. Who gets hurt by this? Certainly the adult illegal immigrants do. But so do their children. Why do we punish the kids for the behavior of the parents?

I think the difference between my thinking and that of the Right Wing on these issues comes from the Right Wing's macro way of looking at things, while I consider things from a more individual way. Just like the Right Wing thinks our economic problems are solved if the GDP rises regardless of individual problems, it tries to solve other problems in easily measurable ways where a a more appropriate response might be difficult to implement and measure. Illegal Immigration? Cut all benefits. Some middle class parents shouldn't get SCHIP? Don't give it to any middle class parents. They don't seem to care who gets hurt, as long as it might solve whatever problem they perceive.

This might explain the Iraq war actually. The bluntest of instruments is a war; and the most subtle is diplomacy. Will people get hurt if we invade? Sure, but who cares. Its the price we pay for the easiest of answers to our problems.

How Bad Is Bush?

This article in the New Republic is a wonderful primer on how incredibly bad a President our current one is. The scariest part, if you ask me, is the section on the "rebuilding" of Afghanistan. This I did not know or had forgotten:

based apparently on its aversion to allies, the administration blocked any non-U.S. troops from deploying outside Kabul for the first two years of the occupation. Not only were we unwilling to police Afghanistan; we weren't going to let anyone else do it, either. The absence of Western boots on the ground meant that responsibility for security was often entrusted to local warlords--whose increased clout, in turn, slowed the formation of a real Afghan national army.
Peter Bergen, the author of the piece, then compares Iraq of late 2003 with Afghanistan of now, and finds them to be eerily similar:
today, Afghanistan resembles nothing so much as Iraq in the fall of 2003, when the descent into chaos began. In 2006, IED attacks doubled, assaults on international forces tripled, and suicide bombings quintupled. In fact, last year saw the highest number of U.S. military and nato casualties since the fall of the Taliban. And 2007 is shaping up to be even worse, with suicide bombings up 69 percent from last year.
Read the piece. Your skin will crawl, and if you weren't angry before, you will be now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Have We Got That They Haven't Got?

I love my country. I consider myself lucky to have been born here. But when visiting Italy and Greece I was forced to ask myself - what do we have that they don't that lets us say our country is the best in the world. In general, what I saw were people working in "First World" countries. Driving cars. Going to school. Eating lunch. Working. Smiling. Laughing. So why do we claim to be better? I think the answer is limited and almost purely philosophical.

First, there is our Constitution. I haven't read the counterparts in other countries, but I suspect they don't do as well as ours. Second, and I think this is where I saw the greatest difference, is the American ability to believe in true upward mobility - in other words, the American Dream. While in Catania in Sicily, we saw graffiti almost everywhere, and wondered why? My wife wisely suggested it was that the youth there might feel a lack of ability to escape their island. We certainly see similar problems in the inner cities and Indian reservations that lead to crime and substance abuse.

While the belief in the American Dream is significant for our happiness, I'm not sure whether the American Dream is anything more than an optimism without any real difference from European lives. I certainly didn't get the feeling that the Italians and Greeks were stuck in their lives without any actual opportunity to move up. And I haven't seen any evidence that we actually have greater upward mobility. (Feel free to show me some).

Many people will point to our economy as evidence of our superiority, and maybe we do have more wealth. But so what? If I am working all the time to increase our so-valued productivity, am I better off than if I had the entire month of August off? Sure, I like having 137 channels on TV, but as Springsteen noted, there is often nothing on. Our houses are probably bigger - but many of us (including me) have more room than we know what to do with.

In essence, I think we should back off on the rhetoric of superiority of our country unless we have something real to point to.

Knock Me Over With a Feather

Lynne Cheney doesn't trust Hilary Clinton.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Better Forgotten Mr. Will

George Will has a remarkably unremarkable column in the Post today. His thesis seems to be that Democrats are ignoring simple "arithmetic and logic" in making their political arguments. He points out three separate instances that he believes proves his point. They are all flawed in some way.

First, he claims that the Democrats misuse the words "working poor" and "low-income" when discussing those the proposed SCHIP expansion will cover. Will notes,

Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?
Let me explain, George. If we have 11 households, and 5 make $20,000, four make $50,000, one makes $1,000,000 and one makes $48,201, the median is $48,201. That is, there are five incomes above the median and five below the median. Under Mr. Will's analysis, it would be illogical to grant benefits to those making a single dollar over the median income. But a good social policy would be to cover those whose incomes require it, not based on some possible statistical anomaly. George, if you are going to accuse others of illogic, better check yours.

Second, George suggests that Hilary Clinton is being illogical or even hypocritical (my word, not his, but the thrust of his argument is clear) by proposing that
Any family that earns less than $60,000 and puts $1,000 into a new 401(k)-type plan would receive a matching $1,000 tax cut. For those earning between $60,000 and $100,000 the government would match half of the first $1,000
while at the same time opposing President Bush's argument for personal accounts to replace a portion of Social Security. But, as George describes her plan, Hilary would not replace any part of Social Security with private accounts - she would encourage the supplementation of Social Security with private accounts. There is nothing illogical about supporting the latter and opposing the former.

Lastly, George quotes John Edwards as saying to Iowans
We need to take the power out of the hands of these insiders that are rigging the system against you.
Then, George points to a Cato Institute study that demonstrates that Iowans receive an average net of almost $2,000/person from the Federal Government per year. This, George argues, is evidence that the Democrats are illogical. Ok, there are a few problems with his analysis. In the first place, it only demonstrates something about John Edwards, who is running an extremely populist campaign based on income inequity, not the Democrats. Edwards should be expected to make more sweeping statements about those who have taking advantage of the have-nots given his campaign themes. But, in any event, much like George's first contention, his numbers do not prove anything. If a small number of Iowans gets all the Federal money, Edwards' claim of insiders "rigging" the system might still be true no matter how much the average amount Iowans receive is. Politically, George's argument is weak as well. He ignores the fact that the Republicans pander to Iowa just as much as the Democrats. Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain have all been supportive of ethanol production, which George gives as his best example that Democrats are illogically pandering to Iowans. What's good for the goose, George, is good for the gander.

In conclusion, whether you agree or disagree with Will's political analysis, and whether his numbers are correct or not, it cannot be gainsaid that a columnist charging illogical positions by others make sure his claims have no logical flaws themselves. Will has flunked that test today.

My vacation

Some quick comments:

1. Alitalia sucks.
2. Rome hotels cost way too much.
3. Rome is a beautiful city that can be walked at leisure.
4. St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican is the biggest room I've been in other than a domed stadium.
5. The Euro/dollar exchange rate is a problem.
6. I like cruises.
7. In Sicily, anyone wearing a dark suit and wearing sunglasses scares me.
8. According to the English-speaking cruise hostess, Austrians sleep in the nude.
9. Italians don't understand elevator etiquette.
10. Good coffee is hard to make.


Let's give a round of applause to my sister Annie! It was entertaining to learn how truly liberal she is. Annie, I advise you to look harder at Bill Richardson. He is for the death penalty. He supports the line-item veto. He is pro-NRA. He is certainly a Democrat - with left-of-center views on most issues. But he has some significant problems.

And Dennis Kucinich does think he is at a Grateful Dead concert. Hallucinogenic drugs are the only explanation for his continued candidacy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Charisma? Or Can do?

My family and I were in Manchester, New Hampshire this weekend while my husband attended the Clean Air, Cool Planet conference at the Radisson hotel.
There were hundreds of energy entrepreneurs and representatives from environmental non-profits.
All in all, it was decidedly less granola than one might expect. Way more Bill Blass and less LL Bean.
Four presidential hopefuls took the stage to try their hand at convincing the crew that they were the "clean energy candidate."
The speakers included Sen.John McCain, Dennis Kucinich, Gov. Huckabee, and Gov. Phil Richardson.
Richardson made the boldest promises; including the willingness to cut $60 billion from defense and redirecting it to renewable energy.
McCain was gruff and somewhat dismissive of many questions. For example, when one woman expressed her concern about air quality in Arizona, he said that the air quality in AZ is fine and would not address strategies to make it cleaner.
Kucinich weirded out the crowd by talking about the "web of life" and how we must reconnect to nature. Did he perhaps think he was at a Grateful Dead concert? Wrong venue Dennis.
All in all, the most striking thing about all four candidates was their utter lack of charisma.
I couldn't help but think how eminently unelectable they all seemed.
As much as I agreed with much of what was said, I could barely keep my eyes open to listen to it.
Which bring up the question: What do I want in a president?
Is it necessary that s/he be easy to listen to? Or would I rather someone who is focused on the issues as opposed to talking about them in a polished and exciting way.
Would it be possible to have both?
Maybe this millenium will be the one where we finally get a president who is both charismatic and capable.
Or maybe not.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Someone else's Civil war

I just watched a video of presidential hopeful Bill Richardson delineating his strategy for exiting the conflict in Iraq and reinvigorating the US military.
I was impressed. Besides the fact that he actually looks and moves like an actual human being,
his ideas echoed thoughts I've been having for a long time.

Mr. Richardson believes that the American presence in Iraq is now exacerbating violence as opposed to curbing it. He says that 90% of Sunnis and 50% of Shia feel that it is acceptable to shoot at an American soldier. Just the sight of an American brings issues of violence to the forefront of the Iraqi mind.

Bill Richardson believes that all US military presence should be removed from Iraq immediately.
Only then can the world try to figure out what really must be done: starting from scratch as opposed to cleaning up a self-regenerating mess.
He suggests that any outside force in Iraq should be comprised of a UN peacekeeping group of Arab troops.
The people of Iraq may look at a soldier who looks and thinks like them in a different way.
They may actually feel like someone is trying to help them.
After over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, they could use some familiar policing as opposed to alien invasion.
I will be watching Bill Richardsons campaign closely and eagerly from now on.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Introducing....In Person........

I am Annie, sister of Peter.

I am shamelessly liberal.

I mean that…literally no shame.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to follow the happenings of the political world as closely as my brother; However, I care deeply about the stories and issues which I do follow.

I could not begin to live up to Peter’s standard of scathing yet humorous remarks.

But I will do whatever it is that I do.

For now, I must attend to my 18 month old. (Not a soccer mom yet.)

I shall return and try not to bore or scandalize you.

Until then…

Thursday, October 4, 2007


My wife and I will be celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversery on a cruise ship in the Eastern Mediterannean. I will be away from cheap internet access from tomorrow through October 16. While I know this saddens all of you, just think of my sacrifice. I am going to miss the Red Sox beating the Angels and the Indians. And I will have no way to have five to six family members or friends thereof read my random musings.

But - to make your time easier, I have given Annie, my younger sister, the keys to It's Better Left Said. Hopefully, she'll be great, but not so great that I am deposed (they say coups are more likely when the leader leaves the country for whatever reason). Enjoy, and see you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Political and Personal Courage

If you want to be moved by personal and political courage, watch the video near the bottom of this post. And then heap scorn on any who would not only be unimpressed by that courage, but actually suggest it lacked courage.

Vermont Secession Tainted

Being from Vermont, I have always been entertained by my home state's secessionist movement. I have never examined its tenets, but found its self-seriousness to be humorous and endearing. I always assumed that it was based solely on a libertarian, if somewhat granola, platform, and its website does nothing but bolster that view. But according to the AP, some of the leaders of that movement are holding a "Secessionist Convention" with members of the League of the South, a Southern secessionist group. Here is what the Southern Poverty Law Center has to say about the League. It quotes the leader of the League as saying:

[I]t is time we demand that respectable members of the 'minority community' control their debased 'brothers and sisters.' If they refuse, then we can only believe that they secretly condone such behavior. Let us not flinch when our enemies call us 'racists'; rather, just reply with, 'So, what's your point?'
What does the Second Vermont Republic have to say about the controversy and the League's racism: Its leader, Thomas Naylor attacks, not the League, but the SPLC, describing it as
a well known McCarthy-like group of mercenaries based in Montgomery, Alabama, who routinely engage in ideologically driven witch hunts and smear campaigns on behalf of their wealthy, techno-fascist clients.
Just take a look at the SPLC's award-winning program "Teaching Tolerance." I wonder why Mr. Naylor feels a need to make such injudicious remarks about a widely respected organization that is known for supporting the public good. As this article demonstrates, the relationship between the Second Vermont Republic and the League of the South is extremely troubling. I'm not so entertained anymore.

Civilian Contractors In Iraq

My problem with Blackwater and other civilian contractors performing quasi-military services in Iraq is not only the apparent lack of accountability for those contractors. I also worry about the responsibility the U.S. military, and the American public, might feel for the contractors. Lest we forget, in March 2004, four Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah. In response, the military began "Operation Vigilant Resolve" after President Bush was quoted as saying he wanted "heads to roll" for the slaying of the contractors. Operation Vigilant Resolve was a disaster. Pat Buchanan called the siege of Fallujah the "High Tide" of the American Empire. In essence, we took a major military defeat because the President felt a necessity to take military action in response to civilian casualties; even though those casualties were contractors performing military actions. I do not think the reaction to the deaths would have been so drastic if four Marines had been killed. This is war and we expect soldiers to be killed in war - but not civilians. Unless we can be certain that the military and the public will view contractors such as Blackwater as no more than tools for the war, and not civilians to be protected or avenged, we should not have them there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A War Tax's Possible Unintended Consequence

House Appropriations Committee Chair, David Obey, is offering a bill for a War Tax. Obviously, he thinks such a tax would pressure lawmakers to get out of Iraq quickly because of pressure from their constituents. But I think there might be a different, unhappy result of a War Tax.

I think one of the reasons Bush has lost support for the Iraq War is that he told us early and often that he would handle it and we did not have to worry. Americans tend to believe that if something is important, it will cost them a lot. By saying we did not have to sacrifice, Bush was saying the Iraq War was not really that important. His poll numbers are so low because the American people don't understand why he is so stubbornly remaining in what is clearly not such a big deal.

If a War Tax passed, perhaps Americans would start to feel as if the Iraq War was actually worth fighting. If we have to pay for it out of our own pockets (and not our children's) it must be important.

Anita Responds

For those of you without ready access of the New York Times, here is Anita Hills' response to Clarence Thomas.

Just Stop Whining - A Remedy?

Kevin Merida of the Washington Post has a great piece on Clarence Thomas' new memoir. He takes Thomas to task (mildly) for comparing himself to Tom in To Kill a Mockingbird and Bigger Thomas in Native Son. The most fascinating quote, to me, was:

During a 1998 appearance before a group of black conservatives, Thomas was asked what would be "the best way to help our young people overcome the tag of victimization."

"We've got to stop whining and get up and go do it," he said, invoking his grandmother and neighborhood women who worked as maids and suffered under segregation "without a complaint except a little ache and a pain."
What an astonishing statement. Does Thomas really believe that Africa-Americans gained civil rights by suffering silently? Would he have had Rosa Parks hide her anger with a smile and move to the back of the bus without a complaint? Under his prescription, shouldn't he have taken the "high-tech lynching" without a fight - just a complaint about "aches and pains?" If not, his meaning escapes me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Spend! Please Spend!

Barack Obama has raised about $80 million for his Presidential run. But I get the feeling that someone forgot to tell him he's running. He needs, now, to engage in the Mitt Romney strategy - that is to spend a great deal of money in NH, IA, and SC. Why? Well, Obama got into the race with the Big Mo. But he has lost it, and now Hilary Clinton has the "aura of invincibility." Obama needs to spend his money and start taking a lead, if possible, in some of the early states. This might take away the aforementioned aura of Hilary's and bring back some momentum for Obama. I'm reminded of Kerry's '04 campaign in which he ended the campaign with money in the bank. Obama can't do that. He has to spend. It may be too late. He probably should have begun a large swath of TV ads in early caucus and primary statestwo or three months ago at least, but now, his only choice is to spend like there is no tomorrow - because there won't be if he doesn't.

Chechnya In Iraq

Phillipe Duhart at Who Are You To Accuse Me has a scary idea. I can't be sure how serious he is that we should use Russia's model in Chechnya as our guide in Iraq, but I think he is making the Mother of Understatements when he says: This might offend our liberal sensitivities. Ya think?

Political Schadenfreude

Does anyone else get any joy listening to Al Michaels, a contributor to the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign, have to tease Keith Olbermann's appearances on the Sunday Night Football halftime show? What fun!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rudy Is Pathetic

Does anyone believe Rudy anymore? Apparently, he had to take that cell phone call from his wife while he was explaining that he believed in gun rights because of 9/11, because of 9/11. He is liar and a panderer, and a megalomaniac. Other than that, he's great. A friend, who is going to vote for Rudy, once told me that he knew Rudy would be tough on terrorists because what other candidate would you want to have next to you if a mugger was approaching. I thought, well I'd rather have Mike Tyson, but he shouldn't be President.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Update: I forgot to add "shameless."

Michael Medved Said What?

Michael Medved has written one of the more astonishing pieces at Townhall, in which he explains that . . . wait for it . . . slavery wasn't so bad and the United States gets too much blame for having allowed it until the mid-19th Century. I kid you not. There have been good responses to it at Sadly No, and Mahablog (which led me to the column). But to be honest, I think the best reaction is "What the Hell? Are you nuts? What are you smoking? Are you feeling ok? Are you joking? What's gotten into you? Have you lost your mind? When did you last speak to your therapist?"

Conservative SCHIP Response

I sent a link of my earlier SCHIP post to David Freddoso, who contributes to the Corner. I know nothing about him except that he opposes the SCHIP expansion and writes for the National Review. He responded:

I'd say that parents are in charge of their children, and health care is a private choice. If the govt wants to say otherwise, they can start taking children away from bad parents who make the money and won't insure them.

In fact, the parents have to enroll them anyway if they're going to be on SCHIP, it's not like the kids have any say in it anyway.
I was a bit confused by the last sentence, as I thought SCHIP was meant to be an incentive to enroll your children in a health insurance program and I responded:
No matter who is providing the insurance to the children, a private
company or the Government, the parents have to enroll them. But the
question is who pays. Why not make it cheaper for a financially
reluctant parent to get the child (who has does not have what you call
a "private choice") insurance. Obviously, if a parent is going to
take no action to protect his children, the options are limited. I
just wonder what do we say to children who, through no action on
their own part, have no insurance because of financially strapped or
skinflint parents. Sorry? It seems a pretty meager response.
Freddoso had the simplest (and most confusing) response:
I don't want to subsidize bad parenting, that's all.
I think he misuses the term "subsidize" and said:
Actually, subsidizing bad parenting would be paying people not to
insure their children. What SCHIP subsidizes is good parenting; that
is, insuring your children.
His final response was:
Government pays because they won't -- in that sense, you subsidize bad parenting.

What next? Are we going to give parents a food allowance in case they decide not to feed their kids?
Well I think we do the latter in the form of Food Stamps, WIC, and other programs. But anyway, I think Freddoso's final e-mail was a good example of Right Wing thinking about social programs. I am not suggesting the Government should pay because the parents won't; that would be classic Socialist thinking. I am suggesting the Government pay because the children need health care; that is classic social responsibility. No matter what Freddoso thinks, a responsible community ethic encapsulated in a democratically chosen social program is not the first step to the USSR.

And by the way, I looked up "subsidy." The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "Monetary assistance granted by a government to a person or group in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest." The enterprise the Government is supporting through SCHIP is health care for children - not bad parenting.

Sammon Swimming Upstream II (Part 2)

It was my original intent to write five pieces on the five excerpts from Bill Sammon's new book "The Evangelical President" found in the Washington Examiner - a free, daily, commuter paper in D.C. But after reading all five, I concluded they all share the same inherent quality - no actual journalistic analysis or questioning of anything by Bill Sammon.

The excerpts remind me of a portion of a 1996 speech by Al Franken wherein he discusses Bill Bennett and his "Book of Virtues." In the speech, Franken says:

Would you please, all of you in the press, stop calling him a best-selling author? He is a best-selling compiler. (Scattered laughter.)
Now in fact, I was reading "The Book of Virtues" the other day. It includes George Washington's Rules of Civility, and Rule Number 12 is if someone mistakenly calls you a best-selling author -- (laughter) -- when all you are is a market-savvy compiler of writings that are in the public domain, it is immodest not to immediately correct the person by saying, "I'm sorry, but you mistook me for a writer. I am, in fact, a compiler."

Bill Sammon, at least in the excerpts from his book, is not a journalist - he is a "a compiler" of the Administrations opinions and apologias. For example, in the third excerpt, entitled "White House misjudged how presidential campaign would radicalize Dems against Iraq war," Sammon simply quotes Administration officials who allege that Democrats have opposed the war in Iraq for political reasons. Sammon takes as gospel Chief of Staff Josh Bolten's claim that:
“A lot of us probably underestimated the potency of presidential politics in all of this. The need of every candidate to remain in good stead with the Democratic Party’s left wing has pretty dramatically dragged not just the candidates, but the whole party to the left.”

Similarly, in excerpt four, headlined "Pork projects, scandals doomed GOP’s majority in Congress, say White House officials," Sammon does not challenge the Administration's ignoring of the Iraq war's influence on the 2006 election. The best he can do is point out that some GOP politicians wondered why Rumsfeld wasn't canned prior to the election. But, of course, Sammon responds with an unanalyzed quote from Bolten explaining the wonderousness of our Dear Leader:
“It would have looked like the cheesiest political maneuver on the planet and would have undermined something that the president cherishes, which is the confidence of the military, up and down the line. He cherishes that, and it’s something that I forget about often, but he always reminds us as he’s working on a speech draft. He says, ‘I’m talking to not just the American people here, but I’m talking to Iraqis, I’m talking to our enemies, and most importantly, I’m talking to our troops when I give a speech. If anybody’s listening to what I say about the war in Iraq, it’s got to be them.’ ”

I also encourage you all to read the fifth and final excerpt about the President's faith, how it supports him, and how his opponents (and Muslims) misunderstand it.

So, I now suggest the Washington Examiner change Sammon's title from "Chief White House Correspondent" to "Chief Compiler of White House Talking Points."

Dog Bites Man

Clarence Thomas has gone public. The stunning news? The real issue at his confirmation hearings was . . . abortion! He says:

That was the elephant in the room... That was the issue. That is the issue that people are apparently so upset about . . . [That is the issue] that you determine the composition of your Supreme Court and your entire federal judiciary, it seems now."
What insight after 16 years on the court.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Don't They Understand?

Currently in the Congress there is a lot of arguing about the SCHIP program. Now, I will be the first to admit that I don't understand everything about the program - other than it grants health care coverage to children. My understanding of the debate is that some on the Right feel that an expansion of SCHIP is unnecessary because the families of some of the new beneficiaries can afford health coverage themselves. But doesn't that miss the point? Children cannot buy their own health insurance. What if the parents in a middle class family, upper or lower (according to Investors Business Daily the expanded SCHIP will cover children in families of four making under $83,000/year) choose not to spend the money on coverage. Maybe they have a small business and do not feel they can afford the insurance? What if they are deeply in debt? Or what if the parents are simply callous and do not care about their children's well-being enough to spend the money?

In short, I wish to remind those who do not want to expand SCHIP because a family might be able to afford health care for its children, that it also might not choose to do so - and there is nothing the children can do about it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sammon Swimming Upstream II

How did I miss this? My favorite White House Correspondent has written a book: The Evangelical President. And it is my pleasure to announce to you - the Washington Examiner is posting excerpts. Now, were you to assume that the softball "reporting" Sammon engages in was just a cover for the hard-hitting journalism needed for a good analysis of a Presidency, you would, alas, be wrong.
Let us look at the first (of five) excerpts in the Examiner. It is entitled "President predicts GOP will keep control of White House after 'tough race' in 2008." Shocking, isn't it, that a leader in the Republican Party would predict a Republican victory.

But what does the excerpt actually say? Does it explain why the President believes the Republican strategy and platform will be better? No. It is, for the most part, an opportunity to air the Republican talking points against Senator Obama. My favorite quote is from an anonymous "official" who says Obama has "a laziness, an intellectual laziness." No wonder he wants to remain anonymous. He'd be laughed out of Washington, D.C. In fact, a full 13 of the 26 paragraphs consist of the President and the unnamed official slamming Obama. The next five paragraphs, offer the Republicans a chance to trash Senator Clinton.

Thank you Bill Sammon, for such an insightful look into the Republican opinion of the leading Democratic candidates. I'm just glad we didn't get another Republican take on John Edwards.