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!