Saturday, March 17, 2007

A St. Patrick's Day Apology Gift - Updated

Unfortunately, because of the absolutely horrific non-searching capability of the archive site, I am not going to be able to produce “Where The Rubber Meets The Road” for the week ending March 9th. I tried multiple times to obtain the voting record for that week using their search engine which yielded an endless list from my query which was totally irrelevant to what I was looking for.

Apparently, if I don’t retrieve this information by no later than the Friday of the following week, I’m basically screwed. Nice.

So instead, please allow me to bring you something which is infinitely better, actually, and that is “The Foggy Dew” by Sinead O’Connor and the Chieftains, absolutely appropriate for today. The song pertains to the Easter Uprising of 1916.

As down the glen one Easter morn
To a city fair rode I,
Their armed lines of marching men
In squadrons passed me by.
No pipe did hum, no battle drum
Did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus' bells o'er the Liffey swells
Rang out in the foggy dew.

Right proudly high in Dublin town
Hung they out a flag of war.
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar.
And from the plains of Royal Meath
Strong men came hurrying through;
While Brittania's Huns with their long-range guns
Sailed in through the foggy dew.

The bravest fell, and the requiem bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Easter-tide
In the springing of the year.
While the world did gaze with deep amaze
At those fearless men but few
Who bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew.

And back through the glen I rode again
And my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
Whom I never shall see more
But to and fro
In my dreams I go
And I kneel and pray for you
For slavery fled
Oh, glorious dead
When you fell in the foggy dew
(It feels weird to watch The Chieftains and not see Derek Bell and his harp.)

I’ll have the area votes for the prior week next Friday (and by the way, please partake of these).

I'll Be Back Soon

I've had some technical difficulties over the last couple of days, but I hope to be back posting shortly - have to catch up on a few things, I know.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A "Big Time" Fluffing

I happened to turn to the editorial page of the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning and expected to read more chamber-of-commerce boilerplate about how to make Philadelphia a better city (more walking trails, more emphasis on mass transit, developing the waterfront – yawn – all good ideas that have been proposed about a million times already, so can we pleeeze move onto something else?), when I saw that the paper’s august editorial board decided to let Kevin Ferris propagandize some more (gosh, since the paper brought Smerky on board, that’s seriously cut into the allotted time for Ferris to inflict us with right-wing propaganda, though swapping Ferris for Smerky isn’t much of a trade).

The theme of Ferris’ column is that Dick Cheney was “speaking truth to power” when he criticized Nancy Pelosi on Iraq.


Dick Cheney would sooner accidentally shoot the truth in the face than know what is really is, let alone “speak to” it, and why any intelligent life form at this point wouldn’t understand that is an insoluble mystery (though, with this column, I suppose Ferris should automatically be disqualified as an intelligent life form).

Speak truth to power.

The phrase conjures visions of Old Testament patriarchs or civil rights prophets stepping forward in difficult times to utter unpopular, discomfiting truths.

Of course, the phrase loses its power when commonplace. There's nothing biblical or righteous about an MSNBC promo for an announcer who "speaks truth to power," or a senator asking at a confirmation hearing, "Will you speak truth to power?" That's just politics.

So it was encouraging to see a recent example of the real thing.

During a trip to Asia last month, Vice President Cheney, in an ABC News interview, said the troop withdrawal ideas promoted by some leading Democrats were similar to al-Qaeda's plans for Iraq:

"If we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al-Qaeda strategy. The al-Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people - in fact, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit... .
These remarks are so childish that they almost don’t even merit a response (almost).

I suppose it’s necessary to point out for the thousandth time that at least two-thirds of this country no longer support the Iraq war and have not for some time. So Cheney is saying that we don’t want to fight the legitimate fight against terror?

The Democratic party won Congress last year by stating that we should be redeploying out of Iraq and into Afghanistan and starting to bring our people home in the process (and oh yeah; remember that bin Laden guy? The Democrats want to focus on either capturing him or killing him, which is what all of this should have been about from Day One).

"You can't look at Iraq in isolation. You've got to look at it in terms of its impact, what we're doing in Afghanistan, what we're doing in Pakistan, what we're doing in Saudi Arabia. All those areas are part of the global battlefield... and you can't quit in one place and then persuade all your allies who are helping you in all those other theaters... to continue the fight."
Why not? Most of our other allies are quitting. Why should we be the only ones left “holding the bag” in Iraq?

And by the way, Cheney could have given this speech in this country, and did in fact after his Asia appearance, in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization in the U.S. As usual, Bushco uses props – in this case, an overseas audience and location – to try and make domestic political points.

How does he know the enemy's intent? They tell us.

Here's Osama bin Laden in a 2004 audio message: "The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad."
How sad and tragic that Bushco apparently employs bin Laden as its chief foreign policy consultant.

Bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, laid out a plan in a July 2005 letter: "The jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals. The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or emirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate - over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq. The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. The fourth stage:... the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity."
I guess it’s appropriate than one madman would give so much credence to the words of another (dutifully recorded for posterity by Ferris and others of his ilk, of course).

So Cheney was speaking a simple truth: Al-Qaeda wants the United States out of Iraq. And congressional calls to give up, regardless of conditions on the ground or what happens next in the wider war, validate that strategy.
Is it worth pointing out to Ferris yet again that he’s saying that the vast majority of the people of this country, by virtue of their opposition to the war, “validate that strategy” also?

That doesn't mean there can be no dissent to current policy. A free society debates issues, and there are plenty of reasons offered to quit: War itself is a mistake. The initial invasion was a mistake. The occupation has been a series of mistakes. Refereeing a sectarian struggle that goes beyond fighting al-Qaeda is a mistake.
You could also add that the rationale for this war, being a series of mistakes itself, changed from week to week until it degenerated to its current state (WMD, supposed humanitarian reasons, democratic reforms, the evergreen idiocy of “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” etc.)

People will advocate as conscience dictates. All Cheney did was point out that advocacy doesn't occur in a vacuum.
That’s “all” he did, huh? No, of course Cheney didn’t engage in name calling or attempts at demonizing the opposition, did he? Only Democrats do that, right Ferris?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) called the vice president's remarks "beneath the dignity of the debate we're engaged in." Wrong. This is precisely the debate we should be engaged in. Everyone wants the war to end, to see the troops safely home. The question is how? Under what terms?
But of course, if we engage in the debate, then as far as Ferris and Cheney are concerned, we’ll be “throwing in the towel” and “validating al Qaeda’s strategy.”

Ferris has no problem with a debate. Of course not. As long as we agree with him when the “debate” is over, everything’s fine.

As U.S. leaders try to answer these questions, they can't pretend the discussion is an exchange of theories in a college seminar with no real-world implications.
Well, that automatically disqualifies Victor Davis Hanson, doesn’t it (and he wrote something particularly brainless lately that I promise to get to as soon as I can).

Words have meaning. They reassure allies and troops, or worry them. They dishearten enemies, or comfort them. If al-Qaeda's hopes for a precipitative U.S. withdrawal are echoed in congressional resolutions, that's got to be comforting. It may not be the intent, but it's the reality.

Pelosi said Cheney was questioning the "patriotism of those in Congress who challenge the Bush administration's misguided policies in Iraq."

Wrong again. And Cheney's reply was characteristically blunt and on target: "I didn't question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment."
So, as far as Cheney/Ferris are concerned, Pelosi is merely a delusional nut instead of a coward (takes one to know one, I guess). What a thoughtful response.

There's reason to question many judgments when it comes to Iraq, but in this case Cheney is right. And he speaks from experience. He worked in the White House 32 years ago, for President Ford, when Southeast Asian allies were abandoned to their enemies. Millions were killed and displaced.
Maybe the factors contributing to the outcome of Vietnam are that simple as far as Ferris is concerned, but they are hardly that (geopolitics tilted towards our favor undone by Watergate that shredded Nixon’s credibility, involvement of the Soviet Union in supporting North Vietnam, the blunder of South Vietnamese President Thieu in Campaign 275 after we left that led to the “column of tears” and the eventual fall of Saigon, etc.)

And today, Vietnam has developed into a country with a capitalist economy, so as horrific as the war was, they seem to have rebounded somewhat.

If that nightmare is replayed in Iraq, Pelosi and the anti-war powers will have to answer for the truths they've left unspoken.
Wrong, Ferris. You, Cheney and the rest of your neocon sycophants (and, sadly, some Democrats also) will have to answer for your callous disregard for the will of the vast majority of the people of this country, which you treat as something that is utterly irrelevant. As with Vietnam, we want our men and women in the military to start coming home. Now. Today.

And with that in mind, here is the latest from Democracy For America.

All we can do is work as best we can for an end to this Iraq misery.

And actually, in addition to hoping and praying for an exit so our people aren’t targets any more, I’ll also wish that Ferris’ columns in this newspaper are cut back even further, if not removed altogether.

More Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Confessions

In light of this story (strangely timed as always for Bushco whenever the doo-doo hits the fan for them), here are some more revelations…

Update: And speaking of doo-doo, I have four words concerning this story: "Gee Arlen...ya' think??"

- It turns out he was the one who made the programming decision at NBC to cut away from the Oakland Raiders/New York Jets playoff game to broadcast the movie “Heidi” on “Walt Disney” in 1968 (yes, he’s really that old).

- He was the toll operator at the George Washington Bridge who wouldn’t give me change for a $20 bill a few years ago even though EZPass was supposed to be accepted in that lane, but he claimed my transponder was broken and I had to pay the cash amount from Exit 7 instead (and even though I didn’t pick up a toll ticket and couldn’t verify the amount, I know it wasn’t $20).

- He taught former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith the moves that helped him win the grand prize on “Dancing With The Stars” a couple of months ago and thus believes he deserves part of the money.

- He once gave tax advice to Richard Hatch, the first “Survivor” contest winner (he also gave him child care advice).

I’ll provide more late-breaking updates as they are forthcoming (and no, I suppose making jokes about this murderous cretin really isn't funny, but what else can you do given the clowns running this circus that passes for a presidential administration?).

Talk About A Foreign Language

This comes courtesy of reporter Jim Rutenberg and the New York Times (and I’m sure “the earth moved” for all concerned)…

Even Mr. Bush’s friends in the region displayed an uncomfortable unpredictability in their public comments this week. The prize for the most off-color commentary during one of Mr. Bush’s joint news conferences goes to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

Appearing with Mr. Bush in São Paulo last week, Mr. da Silva was asked about the prospects for a conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks, important for nations like Brazil that seek freer access to American and European markets.

According to the real-time translation pumped into the ears of the American visitors, Mr. da Silva said, “We’re moving on solid ground to find a chance for the so-called ‘G-point’ to come to an agreement.”

President Bush blanched, and the Brazilians in the room broke out in uproarious laughter and gasps as the other Americans in the room puzzled over what initially appeared to them to be perhaps a local term used when speaking about trade talks. What the slightly erroneous translation meant was a certain erogenous zone in the female anatomy.

American officials said aides traveling with Mr. Bush — among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley — were initially in disbelief. But alas, it was true.

Perhaps they could have seen it coming had they seen Mr. da Silva’s quotes to local reporters the day before, when he promoted open talk about sexuality as a way to combat AIDS: “Sex is something that almost everybody likes. It’s an organic necessity for the human species and animal species.”
If only Dubya had acted on these suggestions I proposed awhile back, I’m sure he would have acquired more insight into this area of study by now (and kudos, actually, to Lula for feeling uninhibited enough about this to talk so freely - screw the notion of "uncomfortable" unpredictability).

And there was no word on whether anyone smoked a cigarette afterwards.

Eat This Fruit, And The Terrorists Win

Am I the only one who thinks that this story is more than a little ridiculous?

As you read the article from this link, it becomes almost laughably obvious that the U.S. (Chiquita, Dole and Coca Cola) and Switzerland (Nestle) have known the influence the drug cartels exert (Medellin in particular) in Colombia, where paramilitary organizations intimidate the workforce to the point where workers are scarce and wages are suppressed (I thought that was supposed to work the other way around, but I never was an economics whiz). Given that, why wouldn’t Chiquita “engage in transactions with a terrorist organization” to protect its workforce?

I think this excerpt is particularly noteworthy…

Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, who are frequent paramilitary targets. Although private armed groups have long existed in Colombia, today's paramilitary groups emerged in the early 1980s, financed by landowners to fight the leftist guerrillas, who were kidnapping and extorting wealthy ranchers. The collaboration between paramilitaries and the armed forces has been well documented by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, and Colombian government investigators, who hold the paramilitaries responsible for the lion's share of the atrocities committed in Colombia's four-decade civil war. The two main leftist rebel groups, the powerful Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN), both emerged in 1964. The government of rightwing President Álvaro Uribe, who took office in 2002, negotiated a controversial demobilisation of many of the groups making up the paramilitary umbrella organisation, the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), many of whose top leaders are drug traffickers.
And as noted in the CNN story…

In 2003, Chiquita admitted that it had paid the AUC paramilitary network for what it called "protection" for its employees.
So why is what Chiquita did a big deal now?

Besides, if U.S. Attorney for the District of Colombia Jeffrey Taylor wants to go after an American company on this, he should go after Coca-Cola, which has been accused of using paramilitary death squads to murder, torture, kidnap and threaten union leaders at its bottling plants in Colombia, as noted in the article.

Also noted is the subsequent increase in non-unionized contract labor for the Coca-Cola, which has played no small part in its eight-fold increase in profitability in Colombia, though other companies have profited also – the accusations noted in the preceding paragraph were part of a lawsuit filed against the company by United Steelworkers of America and the International Labour Rights Fund on behalf of SINALTRAINAL (the Colombian Food Service Workers union).

(Hmm, I haven’t seen Jeffrey Taylor mentioned in any of the stories related to Buscho’s attempted purge of the U.S. attorneys by Harriet Miers. Is it too much of a stretch to think, then, that Taylor is one of Bushco’s favorites and is just doing their bidding here?)

Another thing – I’m singling out Coca-Cola here a bit, but this story points out that a whole host of multinationals have a stake in Colombia also (and, subsequently, any effort to diminish Hugo Chavez of neighboring Venezuela in some fashion).

Something else to note from the CNN story about Chiquita is that they are cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation, so don’t use this as a reason to avoid their produce when you see it at a grocery store. Besides, if we were truly socially conscious about every company that did unsavory business somewhere in the world, we’d probably have to wear a barrel instead of clothes and never leave the house for work in the morning (sad to say).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday Videos

Seether ("The Gift")...

...Happy Birthday to David Byrne of the Talking Heads (the acoustic version of "Psycho Killer" that opens "Stop Making Sense," one of the greatest concert films of all time...sorry about the 5-6 brief stoppages I counted in the video).

Global Warming, Here And Now

The latest from John Edwards...

Global warming isn't a problem our children will face—it's a reality today and it’s accelerating much faster than ever predicted.

We cannot wait until the next president is elected to take action. We all must take responsibility and do our part to stop global warming today—even if the current government refuses to act.

That's why today I’m announcing my commitment to make my campaign "carbon neutral"—meaning we will offset the impact of all our energy use to ensure that our campaign does not contribute to global warming.

To achieve carbon neutrality, we’re taking two big steps. First, we’re implementing a number of simple but effective techniques to conserve energy in our national and field offices. And I’ve asked my staff to take concrete steps to reduce their own energy consumption. Conserving energy now is the single biggest thing we all can do as individuals to combat global warming.

But presidential campaigns by their nature use an enormous amount of energy for travel and operations. Which is why today I have also directed the campaign to purchase carbon offsets that support alternative energy production to neutralize the global warming impact from our travel and office energy use.

Carbon offsets are an expensive proposition for a national campaign—but I believe it is an investment for our planet that we simply must make.

Global warming is bigger than any political party, any election—and certainly any one campaign—and good ideas for achieving carbon neutrality should be shared freely.

I'd like to hear your ideas on how we—all of us on this campaign, and throughout America—can reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide.

Tell me your ideas by visiting our campaign blog

We weren't the first campaign to declare our efforts to become carbon neutral. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack had announced carbon neutrality for his campaign shortly before he withdrew a few weeks ago.

Currently, we're the only campaign in either party to make the carbon neutral pledge—but we hope we won’t be for long. Global warming doesn't stop at party lines and neither should our commitment to preventing it.

I hope that you will do your part as well to stop global warming by taking action to conserve energy in your home, office and personal life.

Thank you for doing your part,

John Edwards
To learn more about the campaign and find out how you can help, click here.

Also, here is John Edwards speaking out on the Iraq war in partnership with Democracy for America.

Good News For Duncan Hunter

The Repug U.S. House Rep. from California will never have to worry about Marine “unit cohesion” again if The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr. of New York has his way (and this nut resides in a “blue” state? Horrors!).

It seems that the head of a Baptist seminary there has determined somehow that homosexuality is biologically based, which is actually a pretty enlightened thought for some of these troglodytes. However, Mohler then states that “prenatal treatment to reverse gay orientation would be biblically justified.”

I know Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride made the following observation already in the article, but I’m going to build on it a bit.

Putting aside the fact that it is ludicrous (to say nothing of highly dangerous) to perform some kind of invasive, pre-natal surgery to try and remove “gayness” from an infant, aren’t Mohler and his ilk, along with culprits from other faiths, the ones who are putting up the biggest roadblocks when it comes to funding embryonic stem cell research?

Since the fundies aren’t going to be successful in stopping gay marriage apparently, then it looks like they’re going to try and find a way to try and eliminate the gay before anyone ever gets a chance to risk a romantic union with anyone else (I guess they got a hold of a copy of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley…I hate to break the news to them, but it's a work of fiction).

And one more thing: I want to emphasize that, though I do not personally support gay marriage, I do support same-sex civil unions with all attendant legal rights (GLBT folks should have every opportunity to mess up their relationships, deal with bratty kids and ruin their credit with debt just like heterosexuals do :- ).

How We Got Here (3/14/07 - Updated)

I started this a few days ago, and to follow up, here's more from Bob Woodward’s “State Of Denial,” the third book in his "Bush At War" series (the first post in the series I started is here)…

As noted earlier, former Gen. Jay Garner was appointed Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq by Dubya and Rummy in January 2003 before the Iraq war started. This describes Garner’s first cabinet meeting:

(pp. 131-132)

Six weeks into his assignment, Garner went to the White House, mid-morning on Friday, February 28, 2003, to meet President Bush for the first time and brief him on what his team had been doing. Waiting outside the situation room, where the president and the war cabinet were meeting, Garner recognized Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Looks like we’re both out of the loop, Garner said nervously, trying to break the ice.

Ashcroft responded with what Garner thought was a “go to hell” look.
Garner comes across as a pretty astute man who didn’t take any BS, by the way, so my guess is that Garner would be absolutely right about Ashcroft in this case (also because this appeared to be a typical circumstance for Ashcroft anyway).

In the Situation Room, Garner took a seat at the far end of a small, well-polished table. The president was at the other end, with the principals seated alongside, including Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, and (former Director of Central Intelligence George) Tenet. General (Tommy) Franks was also there, and Cheney was on a secure video teleconference screen. Frank Miller, director of the NSC staff for defense, was in the middle of a briefing. Garner was nervous. He could see the president had no idea who the hell he was.

As Miller talked, Bush shifted his attention between Miller and Garner, staring intently at Miller, and then glancing quickly at Garner, before turning back to Miller. Then again, a quick look at Garner before turning back to Miller. Then a third time.

This is going to be a long day, Garner thought. Somewhat out of the blue, Bush flashed a high-in-the-air thumbs up sign at Garner. Garner instantly felt better. He thought the president sensed his discomfort and was trying to put him at ease.

“Okay, what’s next?” the president asked when Miller finished.

“General Garner’s in the postwar planning group,” Rice said, “And he’s going to brief you on that.”

“Before you do that,” the president said, “tell me about yourself.”

No, I’m going to tell you about him,” Rumsfeld interrupted, and summarized Garner’s Army service, his success in Operation Provide Comfort, and his service on Rumsfeld’s space commission (prior to Garner’s Iraq work; the commission studied space-based and missile threats).

“That’s fine,” Bush said. And then to Garner: “Go ahead” (Garner then briefed everyone on Iraq postwar plans to date).
Somehow I have a feeling that, if Clinton asked someone in a meeting with other Cabinet members to “tell us about himself or herself” and former Defense Secretaries Bill Cohen or Bill Perry had stood up and said, “No, I’m going to tell you about him (or her),” then Clinton would have made sure that Perry or Cohen would have been walking differently by the end of the meeting, if you know what I mean.

I think Woodward’s interpretation of Bush’s action towards Garner is probably accurate, though. Dubya is somewhat cagey in the ways of the world or else he wouldn’t have gotten into a position where he could be installed as president, though he has obviously come up thoroughly short in that duty throughout his failed presidency.

No, this isn’t a particularly earth-shattering revelation, but this moment in Woodward’s book speaks volumes to me about how the total vacuum at the top of the chain of leadership in our government (with certainty replaced for analysis and interpretation of the evidence at hand) has contributed to the horror of the mismanaged Iraq war.

And there are plenty of other moments described in detail that foretell the ruinous reality we currently face, and I’ll try to get to them all in due course.

Update: Upon further consideration, I thought I should let you know what happened in the meeting as Woodward described it through the end of the chapter, to really get an idea of the disconnects prior to the commencement of the war…

Garner passed around copies of the handout, an 11-point presentation, and dove right in. Addressing his nine basic assignments in NSPD-24, Garner said essentially that four of them shouldn’t be his because they were plainly beyond the capabilities of his small team. The four tasks included dismantling WMD, defeating terrorists, reshaping the Iraqi military and reshaping the other internal Iraqi security institutions. In other words, four of the really hard ones. They would have to be handled by the military, Garner said.

The president nodded. No one else intervened, though Garner had just told them that he couldn’t be responsible for crucial postwar tasks – the ones that had the most to do with the stated reasons for going to war in the first place – because his team couldn’t do them.

No one asked the follow up question of exactly who would be responsible, if Garner wasn’t. Were the issues going to be left hanging in the air? Were they important? Maybe Garner was wrong. Maybe he could or should have those issues. The import of what he had said seemed to sail over everyone’s heads.

Garner next described how he intended to divide the country into regional groups, and moved onto the interagency plans.

“Just a minute,” the president interrupted. “Where are you from?”

“Florida, sir.”

“Why do you talk like that?” he asked, apparently trying to place Garner’s accent.

“Because I was born and raised on a ranch in Florida. My daddy was a rancher.”

“You’re in,” the First Rancher said approvingly. His brother Jeb was the governor of the state, and the president visited regularly.

Garner went on, explaining that each department and agency had to “operationalize” its plan and have a “vision” about its end state, particularly for the first 30 days to one year.

He raised his notion of Show Stoppers, problems that might jeopardize or even stop the mission in its tracks. They were struggling for money, he said.

The president listened.

Referring to the rock drill (re: the pre-planning exercise undertaken by Garner and his staff), Garner explained how they planned to maintain stability in Iraq after combat.

Garner’s talking point was “Postwar use of Iraqi Regular Army.” He said, “We’re going to use the army. We need to use them. They have the proper skill sets.”

How many from the army? Someone asked.

“I’m going to give you a big range,” Garner answered. “It will be between 200,000 and 300,000.”

Garner looked around the room. All the heads were bobbing north and south. Nobody challenged. Nobody had any questions about this plan.

Next, Garner said he wanted to internationalize the postwar effort. Immediately, he noticed some discomfort in the room. Not from Powell, but from most of the others. He thought there was a lot of squirming going on, and Garner figured most of the others were thinking, Don’t you get it? We’re not trying to internationalize this thing. It’s a U.S. operation.

He continued, saying that he would send his advance party to the region in about 10 days, with the rest to follow 10 days later. The president didn’t say anything. No one indicated when the war might start, but it was obvious that it was coming soon.

“Thank you very much,” Bush said when Garner was done. Rice started talking about something else, so Garner figured he was dismissed. As he started to walk out of the room, the president caught his eye.

“Kick ass, Jay,” Bush said.

Garner waited for Rumsfeld outside. Soon, Bush and Rice came out and walked three or four steps past Garner. Suddenly, Bush turned back.

“Hey, if you have any problem with that governor down in Florida, just let me know,” he said.
It gets even more interesting than this when Woodward discusses what Garner and his team run into in Iraq, as well as the whole process of bringing Paul Bremer into this mess and all of Bremer’s screwups.

Fire Elaine Chao

Let’s just cut to the chase and call for her head, OK (re: Bushco’s Labor Secretary); even though she’s a symptom as opposed to the disease and we would no doubt get someone in her place just as bad or worse, it would still send a message.

This notes the new restrictive overtime pay guidelines instituted in August 2004 (and note who is leading the charge against them) as well as many other ways that this administration fights the rights of workers to organize, fights family leave, appointed Eugene Scalia as the country’s top labor attorney (given his record in lawsuits against workers, if that wasn’t “the fox raiding the hen house,” I don’t know what was), and fights the SEIU and UAW in particular.

This also notes how Chao’s labor department encourages outsourcing/offshoring at every opportunity and fights workplace safety regulations with equal vigor.

The last straw for yours truly, though, is this story in USA Today stating that Chao and her Labor Department are sanctioning agreements written by employers that fire whistle-blowing employees, and a follow-up article tells the story of Matthew Zipoli, who was terminated for reporting safety and security lapses at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Lawrence Livermore makes nuclear weapons, by the way. Of all the places where I would be concerned about safety and security, that might very well top my list.

The eternal Molly Ivins once noted that Elaine Chao was the most anti-labor labor secretary she’d ever seen (a sentiment echoed by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney). Again, though Chao’s only following orders, as they say, it’s long past time for her to meet the same fate as those courageous individuals such as Zipoli who have suffered for doing the right thing.

Fire Elaine Chao right now.

Update: This is the Wonkette link from the commenter, by the way (thanks you more than a bit of a clue of what this woman is all about).

"Unit Cohesion" My Ass!

This is a response to U.S. House Representative and former Marine Duncan Hunter (R-CA, pictured) who wrote this editorial today defending the indefensible, and that would be the ban of gays in the military (with “don’t ask, don’t tell” serving as barely a fig leaf for the sake of intolerance), reflected by Gen. Peter Pace’s comments about gays being “immoral.” Hunter also states that it’s wrong to make our troops face this argument at this time because we’re at war, and it’s an unfair burden to them.

No. Sending our troops into battle without proper armor or proper training, or sending them back to battle when there is a question of how fit they are to serve from prior injury in wartime, or raising fees for their medical care while cutting budgetary funds…these are all unfair burdens. I would venture that the issue of gays in the military isn’t even on the radar, so to speak, for our service people (unless they themselves are serving while trying to hide their orientation).

I’m not saying Gen. Pace isn’t entitled to his beliefs, however wrongheaded they may be. But as this country’s highest ranking Marine, he should know better than to spew them for the whole world to see.

And as the USA Today editorial Hunter responded to originally noted, the first U.S. Marine wounded in Iraq was Eric Alva (editorial does not mention his rank), who lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine. The editorial also mentions that Alva “came out of the closet” last week, subsequently beginning a whole new fight.

I would ask that Hunter read prior posts here and here on this subject (assuming he’d ever read this blog, which is wishful thinking I know). Also, this prior post notes that there are other countries that do not have a problem with gays in the service, as well as additional countries that do (the USA Today editorial notes this also).

Yes, I know this is hypocritical because I didn’t serve myself. But this notion that our workplaces and other areas of interaction with each other will become automatically contaminated if we accept gays is reprehensible.

Silly me – I always thought each of us were Americans, not to be judged by physical appearances or guided in our judgment of others by prejudice acquired over time, but instead by assessment of each other’s character, intelligence, and compassion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tuesday Videos

The Capitol Years ("You Won't Be There")...

...System Of A Down ("Such A Lonely Day") more from James Taylor even though his birthday was yesterday ("Rainy Day Man" from 1971)...

...and for no particular reason, here's Bruce Cockburn ("Child Of The Wind," live - not sure what's up with the foreign language subtitles; have to come back to the next tune another time).

Liberal Pundits Or Concern Trolls?

That’s the question I have to ask myself upon viewing the fallout from the cancellation of the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Nevada, which was to be sponsored by Fox.

I’ve had a bone or two to pick from time to time with “the great orange Satan,” but I have to give credit where it’s due; Kos was absolutely right when he said that those who were merely “concern trolls” towards the Democrats in general (such as Morton Kondracke) wouldn’t even bother to go through the niceties of pretending to care about that party’s point of view and would just go right for the jugular instead when the debate gets cancelled, which happened of course.

And this morning’s column from Dick Polman in the Inquirer concludes with this bit of nonsense (excerpted from this blog entry)…

If the Iraq Study Group is right to argue that we’d be better off talking to our enemies abroad, then why shouldn’t U.S. politicians talk openly with those whom they perceive to be their enemies at home?
The juxtaposition of those two vastly different scenarios is absolutely astonishing to me.

Also, am I crazy to wonder why anyone would leapfrog over the supposition (fact, actually) stated in that highlighted sentence that we have a major television network that airs sports, prime time programs and what passes for news and political commentary that is hopelessly biased against one of the two major political parties, but instead blame the aggrieved party for not allowing itself to be victimized?

Is it a leap of logic to wonder why the Democratic Party would cancel this debate when the network scheduled to moderate the debate has given aid and comfort to all manner of nonstop smears regarding one of the party’s candidates and has provided a safe have for others who have smeared another candidate?

The question to me isn’t why this network was removed from the assignment of moderating the debate. The question to me is why they were ever considered seriously as a moderation option in the first place.

Polman also cites the example of how the Repugs supposedly play fair by allowing Helen Thomas to pose questions at White House press conferences (gosh, I’d forgotten, those press conferences being so frequent and all that – this Boston Globe column noted that Bush held the fewest press conferences of any president in the TV age in his first term), though the Repugs never get around reporters they don’t like by allowing their favorites to lob softballs at them, do they?

Another attempt by Polman to justify his argument is noting that Dem House Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Carl Levin have appeared on Fox “news and analysis” programs. Yeah, but neither Waters nor Levin are running for president, are they, Dick? Neither one of them are the same lightning rods, so to speak, as the presidential candidates, right?

And as far as Polman's statement that the "why can't we catch this guy?" joke (sort of) by Roger Ailes was directed more at Bush than it was at Barack Obama, it is absolutely to laugh for Polman to ignore Ailes' lame attempt yet again to somehow link Obama with Osama in the minds of Fox's largely-single-brain-celled audience.

And speaking of fair weather friends, Bill Maher has apparently decided to criticize the Democrats for pulling out of the debate also (there’s a video of his remarks from the CNN web site that I am unable to link to at the moment).

Oh well – I really wasn’t planning to watch any episodes of “Real Time” this season anyway, so this just sealed it.

I’m tired of this notion that the Democratic Party is always supposed to assume the role of “professional victim” in our national dialogue (and Fox’s typical rabid demonization instead of making some kind of gesture of conciliation betrays their malicious intent). And I’m glad that we’ve been able to turn that around for the time being.

And I could care less whether Bill Maher or Dick Polman get that or not.

Ad Nags Channels Jayson Blair?

I just read the front page of the New York Times, and Adam Nagourney is at it again (in an article written with Megan Thee), concerning the latest New York Times/CBS News poll on the presidential candidates and major political party support, as follows…

Even as Republican voters continued to support President Bush and the war in Iraq, including the recent increase in the number of American troops deployed there, they said a candidate who backed Mr. Bush’s war policies would be at a decided disadvantage in 2008.”
The second half of that sentence makes sense, but the first half is completely illogical.

However, I thought I should read further in the article to see if I missed the numbers showing that the majority of Republican voters support Dubya on the war, including the surge (I know Nagourney doesn’t say “majority,” but that is clearly implied).

Well, the problem is that no polling numbers are presented to support Nagourney’s claim (further, this TPM/Greg Sargent link provides a clearer picture of the non-support towards Dubya and the Repugs on Iraq).

Here is another excerpt from the Times column…

…the poll found that Republican voters remain largely loyal to Mr. Bush and his positions on the issues. Among Republicans, 75 percent approve of his job performance, and by overwhelming numbers they approve of his handling of foreign policy, the war in Iraq and the management of the economy.

Propelled by this Republican support, the poll registered an increase in the percentage of Americans who say they approve of Mr. Bush’s performance; it has increased to 34 percent now from 29 percent last month.
I’ll tell you what; here is a link to the Times story, including the graphic of the poll Nagourney is talking about. Don’t take my word for it, as they say – check it out for yourself.

I see absolutely nothing in this graphic that measures Republican support of Dubya’s overall job performance, as well as that up-tick to 34 percent of an approval rating from 29 percent (both of those numbers are beyond pitiful, of course).

If I were to somehow get a job as a New York Times political correspondent, could I make up imaginary polling numbers for John Edwards showing him far outpacing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and get them printed on the front page also?

An Unlikely Ally

According to Editor and Publisher, it seems that Ann Coulter (not the Bucks County Courier Times letter writer, but you-know-who) has picked up some unexpected support.

Cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall (pictured), believe it or not, has come to Coulter’s defense (sorry to pick this “story” up again, but I think this is an interesting development).

I should point out as clearly as I can that Rall still considers himself a foe of Coulter, and he mentions Coulter’s attacks on him and Garry Trudeau of “Doonesbury,” alleging that they “had both entered Iran’s Holocaust cartoon contest.”

Rall is encouraging the Human Rights Campaign and Media Matters for America to give up their attempts to get Coulter’s column dropped from syndication, and his argument is based on freedom of speech and the prospect that, while prevailing political winds seem to be blowing in our direction, to paraphrase, that could change, and those calling for Coulter’s removal could find themselves facing the same fate one day, perhaps merely for criticizing an unpopular president. Rall is also saying that we should be know better than to employ something akin to right-wing tactics in his view, and that those blaming Coulter for her typically sick and twisted remarks at CPAC should blame that group instead of her.

While I applaud Rall for his thoughtful stance, I must criticize him for it also.

It should be pointed out that Coulter is getting dropped from syndication at this moment not so much because of the calls of HRC and Media Matters to do so, but because the vast majority of the people of this country have had it with confrontational right-wing garbage (and that doesn’t mean automatically that they love liberals/progressives now either; we can’t get into too much of this “tit-for-tat-payback” BS, or we’ll turn people off also, something else Rall is warning against). The drop in Coulter’s circulation within these news vehicles (print and online) is a reflection of that fact. If Coulter’s awfulness generated more “buzz” and more people were interested in what she had to say, the news organizations who stupidly grant her a forum for her bilious garbage wouldn’t care what HRC and Media Matters had to say (to say nothing of yours truly, of course).

Rall also chides Media Matters a bit by saying, if you get Coulter and her ilk to shut up (which will never happen, by the way – I believe the right-wing shouters are here to stay, sadly, and all we can do is marginalize them as best we can), then who else will you analyze and report on, or words to that effect, which is a silly criticism.

As I alluded to above, it’s actually getting a bit harder (just a bit) to find nonsensical right-wing blather in the Inquirer and the Bucks County Courier Times, for example (make no mistake, it’s still there, but not with the same frequency, and it’s being leavened a bit more by the progressive point of view; I saw a column by Arianna Huffington in the Courier Times yesterday, and I almost fell out of my chair). Also, the dyed-in-the-wool corporatists and warmongers (Friedman, Brooks, and Victor Davis Hanson – I may have more to say about him later) have toned down their act slightly and pretended to criticize both of the major political parties equally; hell, even J.D. Mullane hasn’t gone around the bend in a couple of weeks (but of course, watch what happens tomorrow now that I've said that).

I think that is the answer by our corporate media to Coulter’s typical hate speech; they are moving to the center ever so slowly as they read the mood of the people of this country as best they can concerning Iraq, the economy, the environment, and a host of other issues to maintain their circulation.

Finally, I have a question for Rall; if he opposes any attempt to make Coulter pay a price for her words and actions (and all CPAC will ever do is continue to grant her a forum for her sick, twisted act), then how does Rall feel about the attempts to make ABC and Disney pay a price for foisting “The Path to 9/11” on us last year? If he opposes any effort to hold Coulter accountable, then shouldn’t he also oppose any effort to hold ABC/Disney accountable, and thus be wrong on both counts?

Don't Ask, Don't Tell...Don't Think Either

(Note: This is a post from four years ago - just doing some cleanup...)

I know I shouldn’t speak badly of our military, but I wonder how Gen. Peter Pace could be more of an idiot with these remarks?

Well, this is a result of our wonderful, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, General. Gee, do you think we could have used these Arabic language translators in Dubya’s Excellent Iraq Adventure?

And this is an attempt at humor concerning Pace and Rumsfeld that, as far as I’m concerned, is only slightly removed from the truth.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday Videos

Drummer Mike Gibbins of Badfinger would have been 58 today ("Carry On Till Tomorrow," featured in "The Magic Christian" from about 1970, an occasionally funny but utterly strange movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr - a photo retrospective accompanies the song; so much talent in the band, but so much tragedy also)...

...and Happy Birthday J.T.! - "You Can Close Your Eyes," from waaay back also; I should probably include a bunch of videos here, and I may do that one day, but this is fine enough for now.

Oil And Slick Characters

So David J. Lesar, chairman, president and CEO of Halliburton, announced today that the company is going to move its corporate headquarters from Houston, Texas to the Middle East…

"The Middle east would be the seat of our operations," said Lesar. "As we invest more heavily in our Eastern Hemisphere presence, we will continue to build upon our leading position in the North American gas-focused market through our excellent mix of technology, reservoir knowledge and an experienced workforce."

He said the opening of a headquarters in Dubai was the next step in a strategic plan announced in 2006 to focus on expanding Halliburton customer relations with national oil companies.
And by the way, I completely agree with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont (quoted here)…

"This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years," said judiciary committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.
Update: Good for HRC!

I don’t want to say that the conduct of these companies is almost past the point of outrage, because that could be interpreted as an excuse to do nothing, and that is the last thing in this world that I intend to communicate.

However, this is yet another cautionary lesson teaching us this simple moral: Dubya and the rest of Bushco are nothing but pirates. They are out to take a profit, no matter the consequences (and anyone who thinks the “invisible hand” of Dick Cheney isn’t present surely must think that Roger Ailes actually earned the journalism award I mentioned earlier).

And with profit in mind, Halliburton is moving to cozy up even more to our old buddy Vlad Putin (I guess ol’ Dick subscribes to the notion “out of sight, out of mind”).

I noted briefly in the post on slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya last week that Putin’s ascension in Russia has been marked by murderous ruthlessness against his enemies, but also by an economic resurgence of sorts in the country built on oil. These have contributed to Putin’s popularity within Russia as a “strong leader” (versus the economic chaos marked by Boris Yeltsin’s administration, to say nothing of Yeltsin’s personal baggage from that period).

However, as Politkovskaya noted (and the link to the Specter article in The New Yorker has expired, by the way)…

In today’s Russia…stability is everything and damn the cost. Yes, stability has come to Russia…It is a monstrous stability under which nobody seeks justice in courts that flaunt their subservience and partisanship. Nobody in his or her right mind seeks protection from the institutions maintaining law and order, because they are totally corrupt. Lynch law is the order of the day, both in people’s minds and in their actions. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
And this shows how Russia has learned how to flex its newly-acquired energy muscle in ways other than raising that country’s decrepit standard of living somewhat and silencing anyone who opposes its “strong leader” (as Specter notes)…

The Kremlin recently provided a particularly audacious example of how it sees its role as an “energy superpower”: Royal Dutch Shell, which had invested billions of dollars to develop the world’s largest oil-and-gas field, Sakhalin II, in the Russian Far East, was forced by the government to sell its controlling stake in the project. The company had endured a year of regulatory harassment – including ludicrous threats that the pipeline would not meet’s Russia’s environmental standards. The moment Shell surrendered to Gazprom (the huge Russian oil interest, a Halliburton equivalent of sorts in terms of exerting its influence on the government), however, those environmental concerns vanished. And what was Shell’s response after its holding in the project was reduced from fifty-five percent to twenty-five? “Thank you very much for your support,” the company’s chief executive, Jeroen van der Veer, told Putin at a meeting three weeks ago. “This was a historic occasion.”
I would imagine that what Putin did with van der Veer was the corporate equivalent of throwing a wad of twenties at a “business girl” and telling her to go call a cab for herself (sorry, but that's an appropriate metaphor for these people).

And, as noted here, Putin is also working on alliances with other Muslim countries, including Qatar. And my guess is that a move like that is what has spurred Halliburton into making the Dubai move; they know Putin and Russia are the big dogs, and they want to be part of the pack too.

So David J. Lesar wasn’t really lying in his explanation. He and Halliburton aren’t stupid.

But, as pointed out by Patrick Leahy’s remarks, no one will ever accuse them of having a conscience either.

No Good For What Ailes Us

Somehow I missed the news last Friday that Fox “News” head Roger Ailes received the 2006 First Amendment Leadership Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation at its annual awards dinner last Thursday night in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, Will Bunch did not.

So what’s next, a lecture on temperance in personal conduct from Britney Spears? Dick Cheney participates in an antiwar march? Dubya is granted a membership to MENSA? Dogs and cats living together!!...

Why am I not surprised that the heart of the media-political establishment in this country would so graciously award a sanctimonious panderer like Ailes? I’m glad I’m not a member of the organization that extended this ridiculous gesture to the chief Repug propagandist, but if I were, I would immediately cancel my membership.

Cenk Uygur of HuffPo chimes in with this, and in case you missed it, the blogger Welcome to Pottersville put together the definitive photo collection capturing Fox in all its “glory” over the weekend (and despite anyone's outcry, I'm sooo glad that sham "debate" in Nevada was cancelled that Fox was supposed to moderate - how many smears did you think they had lined up for each participant?).

And please allow me to extend the following gesture to Rupert Murdoch in honor of his 76th birthday yesterday (I'll revisit the issue of trying to revoke his U.S. citizenship one day).

How We Got Here

After reading this post from Glenn Greenwald yesterday via Atrios, I decided to try something a little bit different.

I’ve noted in the past that I’m reading “State of Denial” By Bob Woodward about Iraq, a good third book in a series about the war that I wish Woodward had written two books ago, actually. As I read it, I’m trying to note items that I think are interesting, under-reported, outright ignored by our corporate media, or fall under any of these scenarios.

At a certain point, I know it gets to be a bit redundant to keep rehashing all of this; the indisputable fact it that our people continue to fight, suffer, struggle and die as a result of this horror, and as John Edwards among others has said, we need to leave, and the best way to leave is to actually start leaving (despite the fact that even under the most optimistic of scenarios, that isn’t going to happen any time soon, and like you I’m sure, I find it hard to put my utter disgust into words concerning that fact).

And speaking of disgust, that begins to also describe my reaction to the Washington Post (Woodward’s newspaper as we know, ironically enough) for granting a forum to Robert Kagan to spout more propaganda that gets our people killed, which is echoed thoroughly by Greenwald in his fine post.

So to try and counter the steady drumbeat of garbage from the right-wing echo chamber on the war in particular, I’m going to note some excerpts from Woodward’s book from time to time, representing the reality-based perspective. The only other recurring feature I have is “Where The Rubber Meets The Road” usually on Fridays, but I’ll try to do the same thing here, beginning with this item…

(pp. 153-155)

(On about March 22, 2003…) No WMD had been used or found since the first days of the invasion. The intense pace of (Major Gen. James A. “Spider”) Marks’ intelligence team only got more frantic. The quality of the intelligence on the hundreds of remaining sites on the WMD site list (946 assumed total) was still unsatisfactory and the unanticipated Iraqi opposition was jarring. It had been part of the intelligence shop’s job to figure these things out, and they hadn’t done it.

“Thousands (of Iraqi Army soldiers) are just taking off their uniforms and going home,” Bush told Prime Minister (Tony) Blair on the phone.

“Yes, they are melting away,” Blair added.

“Just melting away,” Bush echoed.

Bush didn’t really have a lot to do once the fighting started. Notes of his conversations and meetings show he spoke repeatedly about victory, but they also reveal a president concerned that the U.S. could win the ground conflict but lose the propaganda battle.

“We need to remind people why we are here,” Bush said in a Pentagon meeting on March 25th. He told Rumsfeld: “You will remind the world of who we are fighting.”

The Air Force had three giant, four-engine Commando Solo transport planes in the air – flying TV and radio stations – broadcasting over Iraq.

“How does this look to the average Iraqi?” Bush asked at an NSC meeting on March 28th. The answer was that the broadcasts were reaching Baghdad for five hours a day, from 6 to 11 p.m. They weren’t broadcasting video, just still photographs.

Not enough, was Bush’s reply. “You have to calibrate it. You have to market programs. People don’t turn on the television if there’s nothing to watch.”

Three days later, he had General (Tommy) Franks on a secure video teleconference. “Are you pleased with our information ops?” he asked. “Can you broadcast our message to Baghdad?”

Franks said he wasn’t pleased that Iraqi T.V. was still on the air, and he needed more translators “to turn up the quality and volume of Arab language broadcasts.”

Bush said, “If you need help from the States, we’ll give it to you.”

On April 4th, towards the end of another NSC meeting, somebody mentioned that the electricity was off in Iraq’s capital city, which U.S. forces had not yet reached.

“Who turned out the lights in Baghdad?” Bush asked.

“Most probably the regime to reposition its forces,” Franks said on the video screen. “But we don’t know for sure.”

“Well then, if it’s the regime, put the word out that we didn’t do it,” Bush said.

Still, the president appeared confident. “Only one thing matters: winning,” he said at one NSC meeting, as he dismissed “second-guessing regarding the post-Saddam world.” In a private moment, (National Security Adviser Stephen) Hadley asked him how he was doing.

“I made the decision,” Bush said. “I sleep well at night.”
Please keep in mind that, up to this point, Dubya is portrayed pretty much as a follower by Woodward in the run-up to the war as well as during actual conflict. The excerpt above is easily his most active participation to date in this book.

And how appropriate for “The Decider” that he thinks marketing and propaganda can put an end of the misery of Iraq. And what a tragedy for us all that it took everything to date for him to learn (?) that you can’t win a war the same way that you can start one.

Please Say Never, Tom

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Friday that Tom Ridge, as national co-chairman of the “Straight Talk Express” for John McCain, is in the process of doing a political “fan dance” of sorts about whether or not he’s interested in the role of McCain’s running mate (assuming of course that the two-faced opportunist from Arizona gets the nomination next year…must have been another slow news day for the Inky).

Here’s is what Ridge has to say about this…

"I never say never, but it's probably unlikely," said Ridge, sitting in the office of the international consulting company he formed after resigning as head of the Department of Homeland Security in 2005.
And of course, this is titillating somehow to Repug party operatives…

"I think he would complement and be of value to almost any Republican presidential nominee," said Republican pollster and adviser Whit Ayres. "He was a popular, successful governor of one of the largest swing states in the country. He's probably popular enough to bring that state into the Republican column. That makes him a very valuable commodity."
Whit must have been ingesting SEPTA bus fumes to come up with a prognostication like that (God, waaaay too early for this stuff, I know).

As we know, there are an infinite number of variables that determine who will win PA’s electoral votes next year, such as how well the candidate can hunt, turn a blind eye to rampant graft, and remember to do the “Philly flip” with the tie when eating a cheese steak sideways at Pat’s (and I can envision Hillary Clinton having an issue with at least two of these scenarios).

But for anyone to think any one candidate with a link to this commonwealth (not a state, let’s not forget) can accomplish this by himself or herself is a fairy tale (probably making too much of the obvious, I realize).

This is also true because, though Ridge did show flexibility as a governor on choice and as a congressman on an assault weapons ban (something that truly takes guts in this state), he also has some baggage, in particular (as noted here)…

In July the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated a law enacted under Ridge that compelled teens charged with certain crimes to be tried as adults. The paper found that "the law has proved to be both unfair and ineffective," noting that "teens sent to adult lockups are more likely to commit new crimes when they get out than teens sent to juvenile reform schools, where they get education and counseling."
David Corn of The Nation also notes that, under Ridge, thirty seven crime bills passed, mostly increasing the power of police and prosecutors, though courts in Pennsylvania determined later that some of this legislation was unconstitutional.


Ridge was an ardent fan of the death penalty, signing more than 200 death warrants; three people were executed on his watch. While he was governor, state funding was shut off for the Center for Legal Education, Advocacy and Defense Assistance, which in five years had won more than 160 stays of execution and overturned a dozen death sentences. Ridge declined to undertake a statewide review of death-penalty cases, and after the legislature in 2000 approved $614,000 to train defense lawyers handling death-penalty appeals, a spiteful Ridge administration delayed releasing the money. Ridge also championed a roving-wiretap bill. He did not complain when state police infiltrated political groups planning protests at the Republican convention (in 2000) in Philadelphia.
Corn also notes Ridge’s anemic response to the Anthrax scare that followed the 9/11 attacks, for which no one has ever been convicted or even prosecuted (I know that ultimately falls on the shoulders of Ashcroft and Gonzales, but as former head of Homeland Security, Ridge shares some of the blame also).

And going back even further to Ridge’s military service, Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn bring us this…

Like Bob Kerrey, Ridge won his Bronze Star for an operation that seems to have been little more than outright murder by ambush which was almost immediately sanitized as an act of heroism. Ridge's own account has made the operation seem like a firefight between US troops and regulars of the North Vietnamese Army.

But in fact it appears that on March 30, 1970 Ridge and his squad sneaked up on a group of Vietnamese who were having lunch under a tree near the hamlet of Vinh Lac 4 and opened fire on them. The subsequent incident report claimed that one 25-30 year old man wearing "a blue uniform" was killed. They recovered a rifle, a grenade, US Army ammo pouch and "15 bushels of potatoes and a small amount of rice". The report says the lethal shots were fired from the unlikely distance of "500 meters".

Ridge was later credited with firing the shot that killed the young man, an action that led Harris to belatedly put him up for the Bronze Star. "I'm not 100 percent sure who fired the shot", said Ridge. "I have a pretty good idea. I think it was (me).''

But Ridge's radio man doesn't think that Ridge was the triggerman. In fact, he doesn't even remember finding a body. "I don't remember T. Ridge getting a KIA", the radio man wrote to a website maintained by veterans of Ridge's battalion. "I could be wrong and wouldn't want to swear to it because it was 30 years ago. I do not remember finding any bodies that day. 500 meters is a long distance."
By the way, I might have decided to give Ridge a pass on the matter of his bronze star, but with the example of the Swift Boat Liars who maligned John Kerry in 2004 fresh in all of our minds sadly, I think the military service of any candidate running for office, particularly Repugs, deserves the highest possible level of scrutiny (and I’m at least endeavoring to report the truth).

Among others in his party, Tom Ridge is not too bad of a candidate, and I have no evidence to conclude anything but that he’s a fundamentally good man who served our country as well.

But he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Repug who would flip in a heartbeat for the fundamentalist nut jobs who call the shots in his party of pretenders (during the election anyway, since those people always get “played” to ensure victory, to the point where the “status quo” returns once the hoopla is over, and if Richard Viguerie and CPAC are to be believed, they’re becoming wise to that fact only now).

Update: Oh, and I forgot to point out that, as former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Ridge unveiled his fabulous color-coded alert system five years ago today.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Videos

Happy Birthday to Katie Kissoon of the duo Mac and Katie Kissoon who brought us the unforgettable "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep," performed here by Middle Of The Road in 1971 (tongue planted firmly in cheek all the way here)...

...Happy Birthday to Lisa Loeb ("Stay" - a little chatty for a "relationship" song, but good)...

...Linkin Park ("Numb")...

...and it sounds like James Brown has found a temporary home while his final resting place is being built in Augusta, GA, the place of his birth (here's "Ain't It Funky Now," performed in Paris in 1971).