Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Goodbye Cruel World... Today is my last day as The Workday Blogger. I've posted about this previously, but just to reiterate... my job has been outsourced. I'm not just saying that in order to play the victim in tough economic times. I work(ed) as a customer service agent for a major corporation and last year they opened a call center in the Philippines. Then on the last day of February our center found out we were closing on 04/30. Oddly enough, in late March our company opened another center in Panama... So if that is not the definition of having my job outsourced I don't quite know what is.

I don't want to leave the wrong impression about my perception on this. My company is offering a very nice severance package. If I had been given the chance to move along, keeping my job in the states but being given my severance to move along, I would have taken the offer.

I do feel bad for our customers though. My company is renowned for being American. I know from taking calls since the center opened in the Philippines that many of our customers are not happy about reaching an overseas center when they want customer service, and that experience is about to increase dramatically. I don't want to sound xenophobic, but the fact is that there is a fundamental communications gap, and many mannerisms and quirks which Americans understand about one another which are lost on overseas operators. Everyone I have spoken with in my center considers this to be an unmitigated disaster for the customer service provided by our company.

Now maybe my new job, whatever it may be, will afford me the same opportunity to go online every now and then to spout off. In which case The Workday Liberal will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. But I've considered myself very lucky to have been able to do this from my current job and I will be surprised if another job allows the same sort of activity.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jet-Gate Proves Once Again, McCain PWNS The Media

The N.Y. Times story about Senator John McCain's use of his wife's corporate jet starting last summer has gotten quite a bit of attention in the last couple of days. The consensus from the mainstream media is that McCain followed the letter but not the spirit of the law. If you watch the talking heads on television they will harrumph about the shady ethics this story demonstrates and quickly shift the topic over to the Jeremiah Wright controversy. It is the safest bet possible that Jeremiah Wright coverage will dominate the news and we will be hard pressed to find any coverage at all on Jet-Gate in the mainstream media.

The fact is that Jet-Gate would prove to be disastrous if Senator Obama were caught in such a circumstance, and following are several reasons why.

First, as noted by ABC on August 24, 2007 (August '07 was the month in which McCain started using his wife's corporate jet), "Early in the campaign McCain pledged he wouldn't take flights on private corporate planes."

Despite this pledge, the jet McCain was using even as that story hit the wires was, according to the N.Y. Times report, owned by "Hensley & Company, through a holding company, King Aviation. Mrs. McCain is the chairwoman of Hensley, which is one of the country’s biggest distributors of Anheuser-Busch products." This could not be clearer. McCain was tooling about in a corporate jet which he had access to because of his wife.

McCain thinks he can score political points by insisting that Obama uphold a supposed pledge to only accept public financing in the general election, which pledge Obama never actually made. Just imagine the uproar from the McCain campaign (and of course Senator Clinton would be adding volume to the Republican assault on Obama) if it turned out that Obama skirted federal election law while breaking a pledge from early in the campaign. There can be no doubt that the talking heads would be savaging Obama over such a transgression. But when McCain does this type of thing, you have to scan the lefty blogosphere for any real commentary on the event because the mainstream media can't get over their Wright obsession.

Here is another way that this story shows that the media just adore McCain. You may remember back when McCain's campaign was down and out and there was a flood of media stories about the shoestring operation which he had been reduced to. Here's one example of a cream puff story by a local reporter in New Hampshire:
[T]he Straight Talk Express bus has been sidelined due to a lack of campaign money.

McCain... is flying commercial to campaign stops in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and he travels with the smallest cadre of aides.

[McCain] is enjoying the leaner campaign that requires him, literally, to carry his own bags
This story was filed on August 10, 2007... which just so happens to be the very month in which McCain started using his wife's corporate jet. Believe you me, this wasn't the only story about McCain's becoming the commoner in his travel schedule. There were stories about him standing in line waiting to catch a flight, campaign supporters giving him rides from the airport to campaign events because the campaign could not afford local transportation... and so on and so forth.

It is now very apparent that McCain was able to foster an image as the hard scrabble shoestring budget campaigner. As soon as that image had settled into the media narrative, he started accepting perks from his wealthy wife that hardly matched the narrative, but were there any stories about John breezing around the country on a corporate jet? Of course the answer to that question is a resounding no. So it's a big story when McCain makes a show of traveling coach and carrying his own luggage, but no reporters seem to notice for the next several months that he is mysteriously arriving at events without having traveled with the little people. Did the reporters think that McCain was being beamed to his destination, or did they lose interest once McCain started breaking campaign pledges and benefiting from the largess of his wildly wealthy spouse?

In fact, McCain has used these supposed campaign travails to demonstrate that he is in touch with everyday working folk. As recently as April 22 he was in Ohio telling the crowd that his roughing it early on meant that he felt their pain in struggling from paycheck to paycheck. The difference here is that when McCain didn't want to struggle along like the working poor do, he could place a call to Cindy and have a corporate jet at his beckoning. The working poor don't have such a luxury. McCain says that his campaign was given a second chance, but now it turns out that he called in his wealthy wife when the chips were down.

The only thing that could have been more dishonest is if Cindy had made a big show of helping McCain carry his luggage through the terminals and hitch rides to campaign events immediately prior to opening her purse and helping grease the wheels to the Republican nomination.

Oh yeah... since I'm already giving Cindy McCain the what for, let me end by asking the reader one simple question. What do you think would have happened if Michelle Obama had been caught plagiarizing recipes, and posting them on Obama.com as "family favorites"?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Defending The (Seemingly) Indefensible

Reverend Jeremiah Wright has given an interview to Bill Moyers and the media has taken this chance to commence pounding on the Obama/Wright target again. There are several segments of past Wright sermons being used against Obama, but the most damaging is the one where he reaches a crescendo, shouting: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That's in the Bible. For killing innocent people."

It is simply a given in today's political environment that the mass exposure of such a statement will disqualify the speaker, and by extension anyone associated with the speaker, from any possibility of serving in public office. But... believe it or not there are very fundamental precepts of Judaism, Christianity and, I presume, Islam which Reverend Wright may call upon to buttress his inflammatory statement.

The mainstay conservative fundamentalist preachers very commonly use the same precept, if not the inflammatory language. The reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson famously claimed that 9/11 was Gods punishment for the ACLU, Pagans, lesbians, abortion and various other social issues. Reverend John Hagee still refuses to recant his position that Hurricane Katrina was Gods wrath upon New Orleans because of a gay pride parade that was scheduled to take place.

The traditions which lead preachers to thunder about the punishment of God upon a sinful nation is hardly a modern day phenomena. In fact this tradition has roots directly connected to the days of the old testament prophets who caused a lot of problems for the rulers of their times. Ahab was the unfortunate king when the prophet Elijah started denouncing the religious duality of the nation of Israel. When Ahab met Elijah the King of Israel called him "thou troubler of Israel". This would be the equivalent of President Bush denouncing the Reverend Wright as being un-American. I'd be willing to bet that if the people who automatically think that Wright was wrong to condemn America could be beamed back into a past life they would be shocked and appalled at that loud mouthed Elijah fellow. Just to prove Ahab's point on how much of a troubler of Israel he was, Elijah then personally slew all of the prophets of Baal... which would probably be frowned upon in modern times, and actually did land Elijah in hot water with Israels first lady... who lent her name (Jezebel) to women of loose moral character from that time until this.

When the kings son sent soldiers to arrest him, Elijah called down fire upon them, killing two groups of fifty. Can you imagine the outrage in this nation if a wild eyed overtly unpatriotic and wanted preacher man ever oversaw the deaths of 100 law enforcement or military personnel sent to arrest him? Imagine the uproar if all the ATF agents sent to arrest David Koresh had been slaughtered, and Koresh fled to Mexico and escaped prosecution. Yet most main stream Jews, Christians and presumably Muslims are certain that Elijah was a man of God, divinely inspired and worthy of veneration as a true prophet.

Elijah is hardly the only example of old testament prophets telling the state of Israel or the kings who lead Israel that they were doomed to various punishments by God for wrong behavior. But this post is already turning into a book so I'll forgo compiling more examples...

Which brings us to the modern day examples of preachers warning America of impending doom, or pointing the finger at some portion of society they do not agree with as responsible for calling Gods judgement upon the neighborhood. The particular message about Gods role in national suffering from Hagee, Robertson, Falwell and Wright are essentially the same, save that Wright comes from a different political perspective, and the word which Wright uses is commonly accepted as a vulgarity. Compare the message of Wright: God damn America for killing innocent people, with the message of Pat Robertson: being struck by terrorists and natural disaster is Gods retribution for "those who shed innocent blood". It seems to me that the only difference between making one socially acceptable and the other a social outrage is the political perspective of the preacher in question.

Does anyone call Robertson's, and/or Hagee's love of America into question? It certainly seems to be a given that they are patriotic. In fact I'm certain Elijah was patriotic as well. All of these firebrands just have impassioned beliefs about what is or isn't the right way forward for their nation. And I for one am willing to extend the same benefit of the doubt to Reverend Wright.

It may come down to purely a question of the vulgarity which Wright uses in his message. In fact, I do find that sort of language coming from the pulpit to be startling. However, if proper language is the only objection, we have come a long way towards understanding Wright's meaning. Hearing a preacher curse should hardly serve as a reflection on the parishioners of that preacher.

Besides, reluctant as I am to go here because this is partially me playing devils advocate... there is a case to be made that what Wright said was what he meant in the literal sense. Damn may be used literally, in proper context, and not considered a vulgarity, as demonstrated many times in the bible. In modern society the expression used by Wright would typically be used in an off handed context not literally dealing with God's opinion on the issue in question. Yet Wright was preaching on Gods reaction to a nation killing innocent people. It is most likely his opinion that the expression he used literally meant just what Wright intended to say.

Be that as it is, I think that it was appropriate that Obama disavowed the Wright remarks. I don't appreciate that type of sentiment from the right wing preachers, and I'm not about to start liking it from the lefty preachers either. We may be able to trace this type of inflammatory rhetoric back to the old testament but there are many thousands of examples of people who were flat out wrong about what God told them who did more than just prophecy the ruination of their country at the hand of God. Some of these apostates wrought death and destruction on a biblical scale, and this type of mistaken inspiration leads me to doubt the efficacy of firebrand type preachers.

Now we just have to figure out how long it will take McCain to disavow Reverend Hagee's comments, which I must add go far beyond anything I've mentioned in this post.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quite Possibly The Least Intelligent Blather I've Read This Week

Warning! The following is a long winded post which devolves into military history and so on and so forth which you may find completely boring. If you manage to read all the way to the end, you have my admiration.

Check out this bit of back and forth on Megan McArdle's blog at the Atlantic. McArdle has gotten into a bit of a dustup with Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald over the Bush administrations use of torture. In one of the responses on McArdle's blog she writes:
I said that what the Bush administration has done was not the result of choosing what Glenn Greenwald called an "aggressive" war in Iraq. (To be distinguished, presumably, from the peaceful, passive sorts of wars that other countries have.)
I'm certain that McArdle intended for this riposte to be construed as obvious and witty, but she seriously misses the mark. Nearly by definition, if a war is not aggressive it is defensive. Wars may be fought to defend your own nation or another nation we have treaty obligations to defend without being aggressive, so the substance of McArdles half witted parenthetical riposte to Greenwald is manifestly vapid.

Of course one would expect a widely read blogger on a very popular website to take some heat for such a weird statement, and the comments section of the post in question does not disappoint. Unfortunately for McArdle, she chooses to engage one of her commenters in defense of her wrong headed point, and that exchange is as follows:
I thought that a war is supposed to only be fought as a matter of self-defense. If you aren't defending yourself or an ally against aggression, then you are the one initiating violence without cause. And I'm pretty sure that there's a word for killing people without a defensive justification. It starts with the letter M...
Posted by thoreau |
I don't think that's quite right, Thoreau. We weren't defending ourselves against the Japanese or the Germans, who had zero capability to conquer the United States or even inflict much serious harm on us. Nor was the north defending itself against the south, which had no interest in occupying it. We chose those wars, in my opinion rightly, as payback for attacks on our territory that did limited damage to non-military capacity. (And for other reasons besides, of course, but that was at least part of the basic motivation.)
Posted by Megan McArdle
Now there are certainly many examples of past American wars of aggression (the Mexican war and the Indian wars are striking examples, and in fact the crimes committed during the Indian wars in particular provide backing to Greenwald case) but McArdle is widely off the mark in describing the causes of WWII and the Civil War. In fact she so completely twists the causation of those wars as to seriously call the credibility of her opinion on this entire matter into serious doubt.

I am particularly interested in the Civil War, and McArdle's take exactly mirrors that of the southern dead enders and modern day Confederate sympathizers whose favored name for that war is "The War Of Northern Aggression". It is certainly true that the South did not immediately invade the north, but it is also true that President Lincoln was not wrong in asserting his rights as commander in chief of the entire United States of America. In fact the South did initiate hostilities against Fort Sumter after the commander in chief attempted to provision the fort.

One would be hard pressed to favor the terminology of the southern lost cause crowd under any other situation in world history. When one part of a nation attempts to overthrow the central government and establish their own self rule through force of arms, that is the definition of Civil War. It is not aggression for the central government to assert control of their own territories.

The McArdle/lost cause, war of aggression logic provides the building blocks for the recent and widely ridiculed assertion from the wingnuts at Redstate that McCain's 100 years in Iraq makes perfect sense... IF we consider that the United States has peacefully occupied the south, with a standing army, for longer than that!

All of this is certainly fascinating from my perspective, but I'm a big civil war buff and anyone reading this post has probably had their eyes glaze over. So let me move onto the other citation by McArdle in reply to Thoreau. Just to refresh our memories McArdle opens her mouth and inserts her foot with the following sentence: "We weren't defending ourselves against the Japanese or the Germans, who had zero capability to conquer the United States or even inflict much serious harm on us."

This is one of the most patently absurd statements I've ever seen. I feel goofy for even rebutting it to be honest because the history is so obvious. But I suppose if I'm going to flame McArdle for that quote I have to justify my take, so here goes.

Has McArdle ever heard of Pearl Harbor? There is this very famous quote from the president at the time... who said that December 7 1941 was a date which "will live in infamy." It's not like America went willy nilly across the Pacific ocean looking to pick a fight with Japan.

McArdle's take about Japan and Germany posing no real threat to American security is belied by the damage done with the attack on Pearl harbor, as well as the harvest of dead and wounded taken from the ranks of the American services during the course of the war. Nations which don't represent a real threat to America do pretty freaking well when they wipe out our pacific fleet and kill us by the hundreds of thousands... which doesn't even touch on the German near miss with their nuclear weapons program. It certainly was a grave error in judgement when Japan initiated war with America, but they weren't bringing boxing gloves to a gun fight.

As for Germany, I would tend to be more forgiving of McArdle for getting this wrong than I was at the Japan gaffe, because the bit of trivia I'm about to give is hardly as infamous as Pearl Harbor. But the fact is that Germany and Italy declared war upon us four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The notion that the war would extend to Europe in the days after Pearl Harbor but prior to Germany's declaration of war was hardly a settled issue. The first hostilities between America and Germany were initiated in mid January when German U-boats began patrolling the eastern seaboard and the toll they took on shipping was enormous.

McArdle just digs herself in deeper by asserting that America chose to march into aggressive warfare in the Civil War and WWII "as payback for attacks on our territory that did limited damage to non-military capacity." At this point you just have to throw your hands up and surrender to the dingbattiness. Pearl Harbor was an attack which did "limited damage to non-military capacity"?! Just exactly what does she mean by non-military capacity anyway? Is she under the impression that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was intended as a mighty blow against Hawaii's international sugar distribution network which went horribly awry? McArdle seems to be under the misapprehension that we were facing opponents who learned their methods from the Vikings, Atilla the Hun and General Sherman. The way they meant to defeat us was to rampage throughout the land, bringing ruin to society as we know it... but thank goodness, their success was limited.

It may be the case that McArdle is extremely intelligent and well spoken on many issues, but her take on American military history is simply mind boggling. She would be well served to remember that there are quite often times when the best thing one can do in order make oneself seem more intelligent is to leave ones mouth closed in the first place. I suggest the next time the subject of aggressive vs defensive war and American military history are raised in her presence that she just clam up.

The Mass Media: Right Wing Megaphone

In the last couple of weeks I have found myself feeling... well 'bitter' is a good way to put it, and wondering why I have to go to the left wing blogosphere in order to find sanity in our national discourse. We've known for years that the national media are carrying water for the right wing, but it's really gotten out of hand lately, thanks to the threat they (they being the right wing, and by proxy the corps who run our mass media) perceive in the candidacy of Barack Obama.

Let me just say that if Obama survives this onslaught he will have proven to be one of the most resilient and enduring politicians in this nations history. He is facing a full bore onslaught by the Republicans, and slightly less than half of his own party. The media are doing their best to bring him down. I will just be inspired if he survives and goes on to win the general election.

The role of the media in the full throated attack of Obama was evident again yesterday on Hardball with Chris Matthews. (Oh yeah... What's up with MSNBC making it just about impossible to find transcripts of their daily shows?!) During the segment of his show called the politics fix Matthews focused on two ads which are set to be run against Senator Obama. Both ads have not been aired yet, and the national Republican party along with John McCain are asking that the North Carolina Republican party not air one of the ads. The other ad has been produced by Floyd Brown... who is the sleaze merchant behind the 88 Willie Horton ads. Both ads are targeted at the North Carolina Democratic primary.

What I find galling about the coverage of these ads are not the ads themselves. It is the fact that Hardball saw fit to air both ads on national television. The ad producers are given free national exposure and their ads haven't even been shown in a paid spot in the piddling local markets they are targeted at.

This mirrors the swift boat ads of 2004. The initial swift boat ad was aired in three states following the Democratic convention, until it was pumped around the nation poisoning the discourse with lies and distortion free of charge by the national media.

It would be fine for Hardball and the rest of the national media to discuss political ads but giving these groups national air time which greatly exceeds any time they actually pay for magnifies their message beyond all reason. I don't think there should be a law, but there should at least be a sort of journalistic ethic which does not allow the actual advertisement in question to be given more running time than what has actually been paid for.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Cognitive Dissonance Is Fritzed, And I'm Not Happy

Pennsylvania Democrats have voted to extend the primary debacle at least another two weeks. If they have their way evidently this bloody intra-party warfare will continue through the convention.

There are many ways to spin this outcome. Obama was behind by over twenty points a month ago. This result only cements Obama's position by giving Clinton a mere handful of delegates more than her opponent, in effect moving the race as it was prior to Pennsylvania into territory more favorable for Obama. Clinton had the entire Democratic party establishment in Pennsylvania pulling for her with the one exception of Senator Bob Casey, and she spent part of her childhood in the Scranton area. So Pennsylvania was a tough nut to crack for Obama, and he did as well as could reasonably be expected. Obama goes into the home stretch of this primary in decidedly better financial shape, having driven Clinton into debt during the last couple of weeks.

To be honest though, as hard as I've tried to see the bright side of last nights vote, I can't help but feel a bit peeved about the entire situation. The most irritating thing for me right now is that I'm sick of hearing Republicans from Joe Scarborough to Pat Buchanan to Richard Scaiffe to Rush Limbaugh openly root for Clinton and delight in her successes against Obama. She is providing them with aid and comfort, plain and simple. Anyone with half a brain knows full well that these right wing characters and the people who support their ideals have precisely ZERO probability of voting for Clinton in November.

For example, Crooks and Liars has the video of Pat Buchanan trying to befuddle Rachel Maddow on what the super delegates should really be basing their considerations upon. Buchanan trots out the Clinton camp talking point that Obama isn't beating Clinton in big states, which somehow reflects on Obama's electability against McCain. Now Buchanan has forgotten more than I'll ever know about politics, so he just HAS to know that this is specious logic. Yet there Buchanan is, the long time ultra conservative bomb thrower, authoritatively stating that Democratic superdelegates should not move for Obama, based upon a positively inane Clinton campaign talking point. Rachel Maddow actually has good liberal credentials and more credibility on matters which concern Democrats than Buchanan will ever have, but Buchanan tries to convince the audience that Maddow is misreading the Democratic primary. Just for good measure, Buchanan goes back to his glory days as a cold warrior speech writer, and calls Maddow's dialect Marxist... which really has no meaning but sure sounds all patriotic!

Then there is the wrong headed and oft repeated anti-Obama point by Joe Scarborough which has Joe asserting that what Obama has faced to this point is child's play. In fact Joe has taken to calling Obama a whiner of late because Joe considers a tough campaign to be Kerry swiftboating or McCain in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary. Those certainly are examples of dirty campaigning, BUT... can there possibly be a more insidious and underhanded campaign smear tactic in today's political environment than to start a whisper campaign that Obama is a secret Muslim? I mean being an openly practicing Muslim would disqualify him from serious consideration for the Presidency, but accusing him of harboring a secret devotion to Islam, a veritable Manchurian candidate with the secret desire to surrender us to our implacable enemy... that is not real dirty beanball? Honestly? Just as a bit of an aside on what is or isn't tough campaigning, let me note that the whole Jeremiah Wright flare up wasn't exactly softball either.

Republicans hyping Clinton when they have no real desire to see her elected is not the only reason I'm feeling a bit on edge today. I'm angry at Pennsylvania for voting for a candidate who told the world six days prior to the vote that she was an admitted liar. The mud which has been flung at Obama mainly has to do with stuff which really has no bearing on his ability to lead the nation. No one I'm aware of has accused Obama of being a flat out liar. I mean what could possibly be more important than the integrity of the candidate. Yet somehow Reverend Wright and a mangled quote about small town America are worse than a bald faced admission from Clinton that she is a liar, plain and simple. Oh yeah... don't forget he's a freaking horrible bowler, which means it is somehow ok to vote for someone who doesn't mind telling the world that she is a straight up liar.

Here's another thing that has me on the verge of throwing a tantrum and demanding that Pennsylvania Democrats turn in their voter registrations. They have validated the filthy rotten stinking campaign being run by Clinton and now we can expect the fetid monstrosity she has wrought on our party to live on for at least two more weeks. Thanks to Pennsylvania Democrats, Republicans around the nation rejoice as they prepare to harvest an abundant crop of anti-Obama talking points for mass consumption in the general election from the fields being planted and tended by the Clinton campaign.

So try as I might, I can't flip the switch for my own cognitive dissonance. The results of the Pennsylvania primary have strengthened the Clinton campaign, damaged the Democratic party and I don't see anyway of putting lipstick on that pig.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Unqualified Success Of G.W. Bush

Andrew Sullivan features the following paragraph from Richard Cohen's column in the Washington Post:
The Financial Times last week billboarded an opinion column "Bush's worst legacy" and wondered whether it was Iraq or fiscal policy. The menu of choices in this case is so vast as to induce vertigo, but let me suggest that Bush's "worst legacy" is what he has done to whatever trust Americans still had in their government. This administration's incessant lying, its secrecy -- its creepy Cheneyism with its petty justifications for torture and violation of privacy -- is its worst legacy, one that will endure long after Wal-Mart opens a branch in Sadr City. Only an idiot would trust this government.
The context of this paragraph is Cohen reflecting on the candidacy of Senator Clinton. Wide majorities of people asked say she is not honest or trustworthy. Cohen believes Senator's Obama and McCain could each restore a little trust in our government but Clinton would have much more difficulty.

Sullivan lifts the above quoted paragraph from all context (normally this charge is pejorative in nature, but it is not intended to be so in this particular case) and headlines his post "What hath Bush wrought". His only commentary is this brief introduction for the quote: "Richard Cohen focuses on the real damage".

It occurs to me that what Bush has wrought is to bring us the end result of the core meaning of conservatism. The goal of the right wing movement since I've been politically aware is to denigrate and devalue the role of government. After Bush has his turn at the helm, our government will be distrusted and loathed more-so than at any other point in American history, including amazingly enough the immediate aftermath of Water Gate.

This is reminiscent of the President's campaign promise to be a "uniter, not a divider". The nation naturally assumed that he meant to unite us in constructive ways, bringing both sides of the political divide together and leading us to solve our problems in a bipartisan manner. To be fair, after seven years of Bush Presidency the nation is united, not divided, but it is in opposition to this ongoing trainwreck of an administration. In fact the disapproval rating of this President is at an all time high as measured by over 70 years of Gallup polls. Yet, when Vice President Cheney answers a question based upon a wide majority of the American people opposing the war in Iraq with the one word answer "so?...", one is left wondering if this administration really gives the slightest care in the world as to how the citizenry thinks about the President.

In fact, given the wishes of the conservative movement that Americans distrust the government we may actually have a situation in which they consider the success of President Bush to be in inverse proportion to his popularity. When it comes to uniting the nation, and turning the populace against faith and trust in their own government, President Bush has been an unqualified success. Maybe future generations of conservatives will look back upon this president in much the same way one considers a soldier who heroically throws themselves upon a live grenade. President Bush insured his own destruction in order to make government a perceived plague upon the land and in order to unite us all. He sacrificed his own good name in order to save America from that horror of horrors, big guvmint, and future generations of conservatives will have to respect that.

Bill Press touches on the lessons of the Bush error in his book 'Trainwreck' by pronouncing that conservatives, as they are currently understood, must never be allowed to lead the nation forever and for all eternity. Press asserts that the conservative take on the role of government should serve as a default disqualifier for good governance, and that Bush's reign is the end result of a self fulfilling prophecy. If conservatives denigrate the worthiness of the governmental institutions set up at various points in our history, when they are called upon to run those functions after an election we can expect those agencies to be mismanaged.

I wouldn't be willing to go so far as Press in calling for the complete disqualification for future leadership by conservatives, but I do think it is not too much to ask that the people chosen to serve their offices do so with the intent of faithfully performing the role envisioned for their job. One would presume that this would include the very top levels of governance, meaning that appointments and nominations for advice and consent be of people understood to be well qualified to serve. Mayhaps with that fundamental understanding as a given going forward, many conservatives would realize that government work in some bureau which they have attacked for years is not for them.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pro-War Elitists

Glenn Greenwald has written another stellar post in which he destroys Bill Kristol for getting all uppity about Americans not being willing to sacrifice sufficiently to win in Iraq. Kristol's recent whining about sacrifice is a bit odd, considering that he only calls on a very small segment of society to sacrifice, and that segment does not include Kristol's family or himself. In fact Kristol's lament that society is not willing to sacrifice enough to win is perverse, not only because he does not share in the burden, but because he benefits from those who do carry the load. He makes a very good living writing columns, and making the rounds on television calling on more sacrifice.

Greenwald briefly touches upon a truth which I would like to further develop when he writes:
Given that accusations of "elitism" are all the rage, is there anything more definitively elitist -- more repulsively elitist -- than continuing to sermonize to a tiny segment of the population that they must continue to give up everything -- even their lives -- while the sermonizers give up absolutely nothing?
Greenwald labels the call to sacrifice from those who refuse to sacrifice "repulsive elitism", but that hardly scratches the surface. What could possibly be more elitist than the following exchange between ABC News White House reporter Martha Raddatz and Vice President Dick Cheney:
RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
First, there are not "fluctuations" in the polls. This war has been seen for the disaster it is by wide majorities of the American people for years now. But the larger point here is how blithely the administration just disregards the will of the people if the people do not agree with them. It's like we are a fiefdom being ruled by the unquestionable decree of royalty. If the serfs do not agree with the royalty, so? This attitude nearly defines elitism. Unfortunately, John McCain only promises more of the same: no matter what the people think we are there for the duration.

This arrogant attitude is the height of elitism. President Bush has declared time and again that he doesn't pay attention to the polls. This lack of care about what Americans think may have it's place in certain circumstances but to continuously tweak us for having the wrong opinions by setting policy irregardless of the peoples wishes is the height of elitism. This nation was founded in large part upon the notion that the will of the citizenry would guide the nation. Even if the citizenry of the time was only considered to be land owning white males, the founding concept should remain as we evolve in our politics.

The administration has even practiced a form of generational elitism, claiming that the threat posed by terrorism was great enough to revoke traditions and constitutional precepts which guided this nation for over 230 years. The threat was not great enough to have a war tax in order to pay for Bush's Iraq bungle. There was no need to ration foodstuffs or oil, or to have a draft... all measures which past generations resorted to in order to respond to the emergencies they faced. So this generation was not asked to actually sacrifice, yet Bush saw fit to mangle several constitutional amendments, and article one of the constitution, while putting article two on steroids...all in secrecy. What sort of twisted elitist outlook lead this administration to dispose of the rule of law and the constitution, remaking the fundamental meaning of our nation in response to a conflict which has not yet claimed 10,000 American lives? Just look at the widespread catastrophic death attendant with America's past national crisis' and try to convince me that Sept. 11 meant the Bush administration had to toss away our national heritage to keep us safe, while calling upon us to go shopping in order to do our part in the war effort.

The elitism of the Bush administration goes beyond domestic politics. America now purports to determine which foreign citizens may be disappeared from their own nations, tortured, held without charge and given perfunctory show trials allowing evidence gained by the torture of the accused and others to be used against them. There was a time not long ago when American citizens could count upon our government to defend us from the depredations of foreign governments. But now, because of the Bush administrations wretched policy's, we are witness to the top legal minds of the State Department being expressing confusion as to whether or not Americans would be considered torture victims if they were waterboarded by a foreign government. All of this because the Bush administration found that the Geneva conventions were "quaint". This reeks of elitism. Geneva was lawfully ratified and guided our international conduct for decades prior to the Bush administration, yet they determined to do away with those conventions in secret because they could not be held to codes of international conduct which did not allow them to torture detainees.

This administration was boorish and impudent with our longtime allies who disagreed with us over our invasion of Iraq. This President has instituted a distinctly imperialistic approach to foreign policy, named the Bush doctrine, which policy purports to give America rights no other nation in the world is allowed: The right to engage in pre-emptive war based only upon the perception of threat against our interests. They have even disdained the longstanding policy of this nation during the cold war for no American first use of nuclear weapons. We have loudly condemned nations going to war without having been first attacked themselves, and we would freak if a nation nuked another nation in a first strike. George Sr. termed this the new world order, but George Jr. flushed the new world order and replaced it with good old fashioned bellicose imperialism. All of these policies have been wrought by an insidious mindset that Bush inherently knows what is best, that he is the actual hand servant of God, and to question the efficacy of Bush's ways demonstrates weakness. The result of these policies wrought by the elitist attitudes of the administration during the last seven years has caused lasting harm to Americas international image and standing.

Frankly, the Bush administration and their water carriers can not help but be elitist in order to continue this travesty. They MUST disparage the opinion of the wide majority of the American people, and the international community with their curtly snide one word "so" responses when confronted with the will of the people. The neocons pad their wallets while calling on a slim portion of the populace to continue sacrificing.

So ask me which type of elitist I think will be more harmful to the nation. Someone who puts the wrong sauce on a southern dish and couldn't bowl himself out of a wet paper bag, (I can't believe I brought that up for no good reason) or someone determined to ignore the opinions of a wide majority of the American people in order to keep us involved in a manifestly disastrous military quagmire for the foreseeable future? I think the tone of the question probably betrays my answer...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

History Proves Bush And His Ilk Wrong Again!

TimesOnline (hat tip Raw Story) has an article which sheds new light on the circumstances that led to the capture of 15 British sailors by Iran last year.

According to documents obtained from the British Ministry of Defense, the sailors were captured in disputed waters. It is noteworthy, however, that the dispute on the demarcation of Iranian territory stemmed from the fact that "the coalition unilaterally designated a dividing line between Iraqi and Iranian waters in the Gulf without telling Iran where it was". This might explain why Iranian forces had patrolled the waters in question an average of three times each week prior to the capture of the British sailors. On the ill-fated day in question it was the British who first pointed their weapons at the Iranians, before the Iranians came alongside.

So how does this report by the British Ministry of Defense jive with the contemporary narrative by the Bush administration and their domestic toadies? Well, here is a quote by President Bush from March 31, 2007:
The British hostage issue is serious because the Iranians took these people out of Iraqi water. It's inexcusable behavior.
The only way that quote can be squared with the truth is if Iraqi water means an arbitrary line which the Iranians have not been told about and which their forces regularly patrolled. America would be justifiably outraged if some nation half the world away were to arbitrarily change the boundary for American territorial waters unbeknownst to us and then affected belligerence and shock when we proceeded to secure the waters we did not realize had been secretly taken from our control. Would the sailors of that nation be rightfully labeled hostages in those circumstances as the President and his lackeys started labeling the British captives last year?

The reliable Bush toadies were in their full croaking glory throughout this crisis. One typical example is given by Charles Krauthammer who wrote a column decrying the final resolution:
Iran has pulled off a tidy little success with its seizure and release of those 15 British sailors and marines: a pointed humiliation of Britain, with a bonus demonstration of Iran's intention to push back against coalition challenges to its assets in Iraq. All with total impunity. Further, it exposed the impotence of all those transnational institutions -- most prominently the European Union and the United Nations -- that pretend to maintain international order.

You would think maintaining international order means, at least, challenging acts of piracy. No challenge here.
I know these right wing blowhards started with the pathological need to accept everything spoon fed to them by the Bush administration from the year 2000, but how long can they continue to repeatedly base their expert opinions on patent falsehoods? Knowing now what we weren't told then, it seems utterly absurd to term the actions taken by the Iranians as "piracy", unless patrolling waters which were regularly patrolled prior to the crisis and then detaining a vessel encroaching in those waters who pointed their weapons at the patrol is somehow piracy now. All of this after the American-led coalition redrew the international boundary without telling anyone. It seems to me that customary and widely accepted behavior by every nation with a shoreline is now piracy by the standards of Krauthammer.

Of course, when it comes to loyal Bushies we can not help but notice how the right wing blogosphere reacted to the crisis. The best word to describe the general outlook from those folks is outrage. For example Ed Morrissey blogging at Captains Quarters was emblematic of the right wing blogdiots when he bayed:
Will the British and the US take any action for this provocation? If the Iranians do not immediately release the sailors, the US should start taking similar action against Iranian ships entering Iraqi waters, and perhaps event start positioning for a blockade. Given the stressed nature of the Iranian economy, that will certainly get Iran's attention, as well as the notice of its citizens.
Let me just say "freakin' aye Captain," because we partially see eye to eye here. Iranian military ships entering Iraqi waters who point their weapons at British or American ships should be treated similarly to the way the British were treated. All that other silliness about blockading and ticking off the Iranian citizenry seems a bit over the top though, given what we now know to be the truth of the matter.

In a very tangible way, this points out how utterly horrible this administration really is. Yet I do not doubt that any other administration in our nation's history would have behaved in much the same way under similar circumstances. Those two statements can be concurrently true by asserting that when the truth came out regarding the conduct of any other administration in a similar circumstance, the story would have been given wide play in the press (with the exception of some other important story dominating the release of the British documents). But under the Bush administration we have grown accustomed to international blundering, official misconduct and overtly wrong headed policy. The combined effect is a veritable barrage of daily Bush administration news crud which flows together to drown out the individual stories, so that a revelation like the British/Iran documentation is largely ignored and forgotten.

The Stake In The Heart Of The Clinton Campaign

Following the disaster which passed for a debate on ABC the national punditry gathered together in order to find anything which Barack Obama may have said which would make him unelectable. The natural assumption was that any such moment would have to be against Obama because he was under attack from multiple sides in that atrocity of an event.

The widespread consensus is that there was no nuke which would destroy the Obama campaign. I think, however, that the punditry have missed just such a moment... but it is the campaign of Senator Clinton which will have to try to repair the damage sooner or maybe later. I will simply be amazed if the Clinton campaign could recover from a commercial on steady rotation which featured a video of this reponse by Senator Clinton to the Bosnia controversy:
"On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book."
This quote distills the entire controversy into one potent quote directly from the candidate herself. Hillary Clinton can not possibly be elected following her own admission that she knowingly lied in order to score cheap political points. In fact all of the recent blather by her campaign about her exaustion or the time of day that she was quoted or her age, is shown as further deception. She knew what she was saying was not true, and she continued to say it in a crass attempt to pad her resume.

Senator Clinton is now on tape admitting that she is willing to lie for political gain. It may well be the case that Senator Obama means what he says about a different type of politics, and he may not run a commercial featuring that quote. But I very seriously doubt that the Republicans will be so kindly should Clinton win the nomination, and it is hard to imagine a candidate who could overcome such an attack in their own words.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain Has A Senior Moment

Senator John McCain's long term memory has started clouding over in his old age, and the proof of that can be seen on Think Progress.

McCain has promised to be a fiscal hawk and balance the budget. McCain's foggy memory seems to crop up whenever he gets a bit of pressure to square his rosy outlook on the budget against his promises to drastically cut taxes across the board. In the example seen in the video at Think Progress, when Andrea Mitchell points out that financial experts tend to have a dim outlook on this approach, McCain sputters that he disagrees with the experts, and he has his own. Then McCain reaches into history and entirely destroys his own logic, all the while thinking that he is making a great case his manifestly backwards budgetary outlook:
"And that's what we did in 1980, or Ronald Reagan did in when he came to office in 1981. We reduced taxes, we reduced regulations [here he gives his words emphasis by wagging his finger towards the camera ] and we controlled spending."
Unfortunately this is not the first time that McCain has cited Reagan as a grand example of budgetary discipline. Just over a week ago an audience member asked for some straight talk on the budget and McCain recalled the Reagan model as a good example.
“When Ronald Reagan came to office,’’ he said, noting that few in the audience were old enough to remember, “we had 10 percent unemployment, 20 percent interest rates, and 10 percent inflation, if I’ve got those numbers right. That was when Ronald Reagan came to office in 1980. And so what did we do? We didn’t raise taxes, and we didn’t cut entitlements.
When McCain said that I posted that he was suffering a severe case of cognitive dissonance. I can no longer give cognitive dissonance as a diagnosis for McCain's delusion, but have to chalk it up to a senior moment because of a very crucial difference between the quote from two weeks ago and what McCain said on MSNBC.

On MSNBC, McCain emphatically declares that Reagan controlled spending. A couple of weeks ago McCain trumpeted that Reagan did not cut entitlements. This is a crucial difference on a fundamental aspect of the budget. Something has happened in a very short time span to change McCain's memory on a very important part of Reagan's supposed budgetary triumph.

To be sure, it's bad enough that McCain would repeatedly cite Reagan as his example of fiscal discipline. McCain only worsens the mistake by contradicting himself from one week to the next when it comes to Reagan's record on spending.

This is widely acknowledged to the one of the most important elections in this nations history. The next President has to guide the nation out of, or deeper into, Iraq, and reverse eight solid years of budgetary madness. Let us hope that such senior moments as McCain has displayed lately are not a daily feature at the White House starting next January.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hollow Words At An Empty Hearing

The N.Y. Times has a story which is doomed to slide into forgotten obscurity in very short order. Out of 21 senators who sit on the committee only the chair, Senator Robert Casey (D. Pa.) attended the hearing covered by the Times article.

The witnesses at the hearing were John Bellinger, a top legal advisor of the State Department, Charles Allen who is a counsel for the Defense Department and Brig. Gen. Michelle Johnson who testified briefly on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These officials were present to give support on behalf of the administration for a handful of treaties designed to lessen wartime civilian casualties, and give wartime protection to cultural sites.

Maybe it's just bitter old moi, but I think the following blurb in the article is positively stuffed to the brim with rich and caustic irony:
Summing up, Bellinger said, ''We set an example to the world when it comes to humanitarian law,'' and other nations ''know we stand for the right thing.''
That quote is clearly an example of some administration toady creating an alternate reality which favors their warped outlook.

Just to give a bit of perspective on Bellingers knowledge when it comes to international humanitarian law, he recently told a British interviewer that he could not say one way or the other if an American being waterboarded by a foreign government would be a torture victim. Color me excessively bitter about the stain left on our nations honor by this administrations barbaric policy on detainees, but when the top State Department lawyer will not mount the most rudimentary defense of American citizens abroad from being tortured because of this administrations abysmal record, things have gone very seriously off track. Is Bellinger really the right man to be spouting off about our international standing when it comes to humanitarian law?

Let us consider the facts regarding Bellingers high falutin rhetoric on American leadership when it comes to international humanitarian law. Here is just a little taste of what our allies and friends in the international community are saying on the world stage when it comes to our leadership by "example" in this regard: Britain's Attorney General in May of 2006, in an article titled 'Britain's top lawyer demands closure of Guantanamo Bay':
"It is time, in my view, that is should close. Not only would it, in my personal opinion, be right to close Guantanamo as a matter of principle, I believe it would also help to remove what has become a symbol to many - right or wrong - of injustice," he said.

"The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol,"
Remember when Canada added the United States to a watchlist of nations which torture captives. This was a truly stellar moment in the Bush administrations international humanitarian record of leadership by example:
The list includes Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. But surprisingly, it also included the United States, Guantanamo Bay, and Israel.

It notes specific "U.S. interrogation techniquies," which include "forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation."
There we go setting the example which the rest of the world follows when it comes to humanitarian law again. The Canadian focus on torture occurred following the mistaken disappearance and "rendition" of Canadian citizen Maher Arar from the United States to Syria where he spent months being tortured. Arar was detained when the flight he was on from Tunis to his home in Canada stopped over in N.Y. The Canadian government has completely exonerated Arar of any connection with terrorism, but the Bush administration still refuses to remove him from terrorist watch lists. It sure is unfortunate when the administration's enlightened policies wind up resulting in innocent people being dissapeared and tortured, but I suppose that is the risk we run when Bush leads by example on international humanitarian law! He's botched everything else he leads, why not humanitarian law too?

I could write a book about the wrong headed approach to humanitarian law by the Bush abomination and the condemnation we have earned on the international stage because of it. But let me wrap this up with a brief rehash on another topic covered at the soon to be forgotten hearing: The protection of cultural sites.

The Bush administration is directly responsible for the greatest ransacking of ancient historical sites in human history. Iraq is recognized as the cradle of civilization. The importance of these cultural sites was not unknown to the administration as is demonstrated by this report from the Wall Street Journal (or here for a nonsubscription transcript) on a briefing held for the Pentagon prior to the invasion:
Concerned about the fate of Iraq's antiquities, an international group of archeologists, academics and art lawyers made a presentation in late January to Pentagon officials, asking them to take the utmost care to preserve Iraq's cultural relics. The delegates presented them with a catalogue of 5,000 -- just a fraction, they said, of the countless sites that dot the countryside. "We wanted to make it clear that Iraq is Mesopotamia, and the major cradle of civilization in the world," says McGuire Gibson, a professor of Mesopotamian archeology at the University of Chicago
Following our invasion the administration exposed their priorities by seeing to it that the oil ministry building was well guarded, while historical sites and museums which were filled with priceless relics dating to the dawn of civilization were left unprotected. The Bush administration allowed the widespread looting and resultant loss of countless and invaluable artifacts, but enforced complete security at the oil ministry building. With 20/20 hindsight we see that the obvious answer to this mindset would have been for all the concerned scientists and professors to have hustled over to Iraq immediately prior to the invasion and stuffed the oil ministry compound full of all the priceless artifacts they could grab!

I remember administrations which would actually be taken seriously when they talked about our commitment to humanitarian law and the preservation of cultural sites. I rather suspect it is a lucky thing for the Bush administration that this hearing was largely unattended and ignored. If such matters were considered important in this political season I can just imagine the embarrassing train wreck an aggressive line of questioning at this hearing would have devolved into.

What is sad is that the treaties in question most likely should be ratified and would be helpful, but having this administrations henchmen on the hill pontificating about humanitarian law and so forth really is a bit much.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hillary STILL Doesn't Get It

In all of the hub bub of late about the Obama 'small town America is bitter' comments, Senator Clinton has continued a long standing narrative which has not served her well in the Democratic nomination.

This narrative is the construct of Mark Penn, who was demoted for meeting with Colombians who favored a trade agreement which Senator Clinton did not approve of. But the entire pundit universe and much of the Clinton campaign thought that Penn should have been completely sacked months ago for determining to define Senator Clinton as the candidate of experience and strength. 2008 is the mother of change elections, and Penn's experience message doomed his candidate when a change candidate became a viable alternative. Yet with the latest controversy, Hillary has demonstrated that she still does not get the fundamentals of this election. Given the choice between strength and experience in maneuvering the levers of power on the political machine in Washington, or a candidate who vows to change the fundamentals of that machine, the change candidate wins every time.

Senator Clinton is now painted in a box, hoping and praying that all the planets align to suck the Obama campaign into a black hole. Her only hope will destroy Obama and split the party, so the Clinton people have glommed onto the Obama bitter quote and tried to make hay from it.

In doing so, Clinton reiterates her political strength and experience, as a hard hitting campaign fighter who knows the ins and outs of campaigning. In fact Clinton eerily echoed the ultimate Washington insider, John McCain, by calling Obama elitist and out of touch. As Josh Marshall points out, she is making the very same arguments which solid liberals have defended her from for decades as the right attacked the Clintons for being out of touch.

Out of this kefluffle, it is Obama who looks to be the candidate of change, by telling the real truth which is plain for all to see. What a refreshing change by a front running presidential candidate. The McCain and Clinton campaigns filled the airwaves with the candidates enlightened understanding of the heroic, stoic and stead fast small town American heroes who were the targets of a dastardly Obama smear, and Americans just rolled our eyes at the craven spectacle of it all.

After years of hearing happy talk and fantasy based reality on a daily basis from the current resident of the White House, and demonization of Bush's political opponents, we are offered a choice. More of that snide, politically calculating condescension and meaningless happy talk which has been a very prominent feature of McCain and Clinton over the last several days, or an honest perspective. It is particularly notable when that honesty is regarding an obvious truth, yet the Clinton/McCain camps act like Obama has been caught on tape cursing out a nun.

We can choose to continue to be talked to like little children who our leaders expect will throw a tantrum if we aren't coddled and cooed at. Or we can learn to live with, if not appreciate, it when someone says something that honestly reflects upon us, warts and all, while searching for the best way forward.

One other thing Hillary would do well to recognize is that she should be appealing to Democrats in order to get the Democratic nomination. Echoing McCain may not be the best way forward. Besides, Democrats in particular are bitter, and for good cause. We have watched our treasury be looted by the wealthiest among us, we have seen the constitution trashed and we have seen the nation taken to war based upon lies. We have seen our government officially condone the torture of captives for the first time in our nations history. We have witnessed the spoiling of the Justice Department perverting our legal system for political power. We have watched this nation dragged down the tubes by an abomination of a President and his Republican toadies in Congress. We have been tarred as unpatriotic, spiritually dead and pro-terrorist. We had our President impeached for a personal transgression which seems positively silly in comparison to the Bush criminal enterprise, and we fought for President Clinton's very political survival against those and many other unfair attacks. Just try telling us that the Clintons were not bitter during and immediately following impeachment, and they should have been. Bitterness has it's place.

So your freaking right that many many Democrats are bitter, and Hillary's happy talk just reminds us of the smarmy condescending self righteous attitude which we have come to find so irksome! Following the recent attacks on Obama, the only thing Clinton has going for her in comparison to the last 7 years is her ability to complete an entire sentence coherently.

Am I, and millions just like me bitter? You bet!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Here's Your Answer Hillary, With Some Flavor Added

Brendan Loy, who blogs as the Irish Trojan In Tennessee, has written the perfect response to the recent hubbub from the Clinton camp surrounding the Michigan/Florida early vote controversy. Loy quotes Clinton wondering why the Democratic party can't reach a decision on this matter, and his reply may be best paraphrased as saying, 'but this has been decided, and the Clinton camp helped decide it, only changing their tune when it became apparent that they needed to have the Mi/Fl results despite the rules breaking'.

Let me be so bold as to expand a bit on this stellar reply by Loy. It is clear that the Clinton camp is trying to break the rules for their own benefit on this issue, and until they decided to make this an issue the matter had been settled. But in making such a huge issue out of these two states the Clinton campaign shows an eagerness to attack the putative nominee of the Democratic party in a way which reflects very poorly upon Senator Clinton's loyalty to her party if she is not the nominee. In fact, in the quote which Loy bases his post upon, this willingness to split the Democratic party and provide assistance to the Republican nominee is self evident. Here is that quote:
"I really don’t understand why the Republican Party very clearly decided what they were going to do [about the Florida and Michigan delegations], and the Democratic Party can’t decide."
By saying this, Clinton blatantly pronounces that she favors the Republican party over the Democratic party regarding an issue which she has harped on for months. In fact she is telling us that Republicans are doing the right thing in counting votes, whereas Democrats are acting wrongly by disenfranchising voters. Time and again, Clinton has cast this as an issue which is fundamental to American democracy. Quite honestly I object to the tone of Senator Clinton as she denounces the Democratic party while upholding the example of the Republican party on an issue which she then paints as crucial to the fall election.

This quote is hardly the first time that Hillary or her shrillagates have crossed this line either. For months they have warned of the loss of the general election as Florida and Michigan voters decide to punish the Democrats, throwing those states to McCain and insuring that he wins, should the Democratic party follow the rules everyone agreed upon. In fact Senator Clinton has been very direct in accusing Senator Obama of wanting to suppress votes. Just yesterday she said:
“He doesn’t want the votes to count, lets not mince words here. Senator Obama has been very, very clear ‘do not count those votes, or come up with some kind of resolution that disenfranchises people by taking away their right to have voted for whom they have voted for and neither of those is acceptable to Michigan and Florida voters and I wouldn’t agree with that either,”
This sort of direct attack upon the putative party nominee, casting doubt upon the legitimacy of his nomination and blatantly favoring the other party on this issue in particular is just not acceptable from one of the leaders of the Democratic party. Barack Obama should... indeed he positively must stand his ground on this. If both sides can find an equitable solution that would be fine, but Obama will show some real strength and character if he does not allow himself to be buffaloed by the patently unfair and dishonest attacks upon his Democratic and democratic ideals from the Clinton campaign. Obama's continued resolve in the face of heat and smoke from his opponent in a time of trial speaks well for what we may expect from a President Obama.

It does not speak well for Senator Clinton. It only reinforces the now rapidly building narrative as another example of how the Clinton's will say and do anything, ANYTHING, to be elected.

Bill, Bill, Bill...

Bill Clinton is causing his wife a headache by disinterring the corpse of Senator Clinton's Bosnia landing monster, and characterizing the events which gave birth to the monster in ways which do not comport with reality. In doing so, beyond causing the harm of resurrecting the monster, Clinton focused the spotlight on several issues which do not favor his wife.

From my perspective, this is ironic following my last post in which I found cause to celebrate an answer given by Senator Clinton. Just when I am able to finally find cause to give Clinton some praise, Bill has to go ruining it for me.

I heard some talking head say that the Limbaugh types would tell anyone who cares to listen that this type of prevarication and fantasy blather is not a new thing for the Clintons. This is what they have been doing the entire time.

Now the right wing noise machine may have a point when it comes to the famed Clinton bimbo eruptions. That is pretty much a given and I'll concede that point. In fact just the other day, when the Clinton campaign was making all the noise about Obama being unelectable because of the savagery of the Republican attack machine in the fall election, I told my wife that the Clintons must have cause to worry about the Republican hit operation in their own right.

Now TWL is an obscure little blog with no regular readers... people who happen across me are typically sent here by a google search. If I had any idea that I had wider visibility I would not dare make the following, completely unfair and unprovable assumption. In fact what I'm about to say comes as such a turnaround on my part, being a steadfast and hard core Clinton supporter for many years, that I'm having difficulty even bringing myself to actually go there. But here was the point I told my wife regarding the Republican hit machine if Senator Clinton wins the nomination.

Just using my own common sense, I find it impossible to believe that Bill Clinton has been entirely faithful to Hillary when it comes to monogamy in the last 8 years. If I were a Republican agent I would be extremely interested in unearthing that dirt. Maybe Bill has been able to hook up with entirely trustworthy and untouchable lasses who will keep their secrets. But quite frankly, I would not be the least bit surprised if a Hillary campaign were to find itself rocked in the fall by a bimbo eruption or two and if I am forced to turn in my good liberal card for having that thought, then so be it!

Having conceded the bimbo issue to the right wingers, I'm not sure that they can point to other such long term prevarication as we are witnessing day to day in the Clinton campaign. I was politically aware during the 90's, and I remember the incessant sniping from the right against the Clintons. Whitewater, travelgate, the Lincoln bedroom, the Christmas guest list... I remember all of that. And I must say that from my perspective there was not a whole lot there. The Republicans looked under every blade of grass and made full use of the bimbo problem to the point of impeaching President Clinton... In the end they were the ones who looked thuggish, petty and oft times like bald faced hypocrites.

What it comes down to is that I reject the presumed assertion by the Limbaugh types that we Democrats are only becoming cognizant of the inveterate dishonesty of Bill because it is being directed against one of our own. This may seem a bit incongruous following my giving voice to a suspicion that Bill is probably not completely chaste... but I calls them the way I sees them.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hillary Frikken NAILS It

My recent record regarding the Clinton campaign has hardly been favorable. In fact I've been downright hostile about Hillary lately. But today Senator Clinton turned on a softball question over the heart of the plate and blasted it out of the park.
At a news conference here, Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would keep to her promises on withdrawing troops, even if she is advised differently by military leaders on the ground.

“Well, let me just describe to you the way our system works,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Policy is set by the civilian leadership. The president of the United States sets the policy. Our military, and thankfully so, carries out the policy that is set. You ask the military for their best advice about how to implement the policy that you have
I have to say that this is one of the best answers to this line of questioning I've ever heard. You just have to respect that brutal honesty here. Senator Clinton must know that the Bush administration toadies will try to make it sound like she is going to destroy military morale and all that other blather we know is coming. But what Clinton says here is the gut level truth.

At least she has the veritable cajones to say this rather than taking the approach of President Bush: Loudly profess that he is guided by the counsel of his commanders, but sacking commander after commander until he finds one who parrots Bush's line of thinking, and then replacing that commander when his thinking changes again. I really want to believe that the military would respect a President who would take their advice and then reach his/her own decision, and then expect that policy to be implemented regardless. The commanders wouldn't need to worry that the President is going to sack them based upon a shifting political matrix. They just need to give their advice and do their jobs...

That is the way it really should be, and this was a positively stellar answer from Senator Clinton. Here's a thought which I've seen floating around the intertubes and which this answer reinforces from my perspective. Hillary Clinton would make a great Supreme Court Justice.

Why Won't WAPO Report The Entire British/Saudi Bribery Story?

The Washington Post has an article written by David Clarke and Paul Majendie titled 'British court condemns end to Saudi arms probe'. The article reports on various aspects of the scandal caused when the British government stopped an inquiry into the bribery of Saudi royalty in conjunction with a major arms deal. What I find objectionable about the WAPO article is that there is not one mention of the most objectionable threat used by the Saudis in order to stop the British investigation.

I happen to know a teensie eensie bit about this case because I previously wrote a bit of a rant about the actions which the Saudis had pursued in order to stop the bribery investigation. That rant was driven by the fact that the Saudis actually threatened to expose the British to increased terrorism, even warning of another 7/7 in reference to the bombing of the British public transit systems which caused over 50 deaths, unless the British dropped the investigation.

Yet if you search the WAPO article, there is not one mention of the word terrorism. While the article mentions a British capitulation to Saudi threats very early in the story, the real nature of the threat is never mentioned. In fact there is a bit of a head fake on what was threatened in the following two sentences:
Critics have attacked former Prime Minister Tony Blair for saying it was right to halt the investigation, arguing it would damage Britain's national security.

Arms sales to Saudi Arabia under the Al Yamamah pact dating back to the 1980s represent the biggest export deals in Britain and their cancellation would threaten thousands of jobs.
So WAPO tells us that critics attacked Blair for telling the honest truth as to why the probe ended. The reason Blair is being attacked over this is for being run over by the Saudis, not because he is for national security, or because the threat against national security was not a legitimate one.

By reporting that losing the deal could cost British jobs WAPO seems to be making some sort of attempt to have us reach an understanding on the British motivations in the bribery. Nevermind that other companies and nations who bid on the contract lost the benefit and profits from being selected because they were playing on a surface tilted for the British. So I look upon the only part of the WAPO article which actually touches upon the nature of the threat from the Saudis as misleading at best.

What is particularly telling in this article is the absolute silence on the real threat from Saudi Arabia which stopped the British investigation. In the opinion of Lord Justice Moses the decision to end the investigation due to the threats caused damage to the rule of law and lasting harm to the legacy of Tony Blair. In order to find crucial details like the one I just mentioned, I would suggest you close the WAPO article and replace that browser with a link to the Timesonline. Here are more pertinent details on this which you won't find in the WAPO story as copied and pasted directly from Timesonline:
“No one,” Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan declared, “whether in this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice.”


Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General then, emerges little better from the affair. As the Government's chief legal adviser he should have pointed out that democratic governments seek to influence the judicial process at their peril. Instead, by meekly endorsing the Prime Minister, Mr Goldsmith came to embody a shameful blurring of the demands of justice and convenience.

Robert Wardle, the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) director, took full responsibility for his decision and personally sought diplomatic advice before making it. The British Ambassador to Riyadh is reported to have warned him that British lives were potentially at stake should intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia cease. Hence Mr Wardle's conclusion that he was “powerless” in the face of the Saudi stance. Hence, also, the High Court's blistering riposte: “So bleak a picture of the impotence of the law invites at least dismay, if not outrage.”

This ruling demands urgent action of its targets. The SFO should reopen its investigation - or make public the concrete reasons for abandoning it. Gordon Brown should defend justice where his predecessor jeopardised it, by refusing to interfere and explaining, if necessary, that it would not be in his power to do so anyway.
So now that we have reached a true understanding as to the nature of the Saudi threat, let me reiterate a bit of my previous rant on this matter.

President Bush maintains close personal ties with the Saudi royal family and frequently cites them as allies in the "war on terror". In fact it is a given that administration figures who travel to the middle east will stop over in Saudi Arabia for meetings with the royal family. It is positively outrageous that the Saudis would threaten one of our allies with increased terrorism. How this truth is not self evident truly is beyond me.

It may be completely reprehensible, but I'm actually not surprised that they would do it. The Saudis are merely playing the game used by President Bush in ramming through his agenda for the last several years. Time and again the President has threatened the public and Congress with the specter of terrorism if he were not given everything he wanted. Only in the last month, with the houses refusal to give the President authorization for continued warrantless spying on domestic communication including past immunization for telecoms who cooperated before the program was legalized, has this ploy not worked to full effect. It's not that the President didn't make plenty of speeches and threaten great calamity if he were not given his whim with telecom immunity (and it's hard to take the President seriously on the dire nature of the threat when he's being offered an extension of the program, just not retroactive immunity) it's just that congress didn't knuckle under this time. They should be applauded for that.

The same applies to funding the Iraq war. One of the most disastrous moves in the war on terror has been justified for years now as an integral feature in the war on terror. We must continue sinking blood and treasure into this manifestly wrong headed and backwards war or the terrorists will win according to Bush's logic. Frankly it's poppycock. We are mired in Iraq and if we left tomorrow the Al Qaeda freaks would make a lot of noise but it would be one of the most effective blows against their cause we can ever hope to accomplish. This really is just common sense. The neocons have employed their Jedi mind tricks over Iraq on the American public for far too long but it is becoming more apparent with each passing day that the vast majority of us see through their blather.

It is time for a leader who calls for policy based upon strength, and resolve... not fear and cowardice. It will be positively wonderful when this disaster of a President, and his blow hard fear mongering ways are retired from the scene. Then maybe the Saudis will think twice about what kind of response they may expect from the west the next time they threaten one of our allies with more terrorism.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

McCain Has A Big Problem With Reality

Senator John McCain was asked how he intended to balance the budget should he be elected President, and told the world that he would follow the example provided by Ronald Reagan.

This is just the latest in a long series of statements by McCain which prove that the Republican nominee for President of the United States suffers from one of the most severe cases of cognitive dissonance ever presented. After being called out for associating Al Qaeda with Iran, rather than correcting an obvious mistake the McCain camp has set about trying to prove the un-provable. Just today McCain was on Fox and when asked about this basic contradiction between the facts and his rhetoric he chose to further the dissonance by asserting that Al Qaeda was not operating in strictly Sunni areas.

A severe case of cognitive dissonance may explain McCain's long held and fiercely defended view that torture should not be used by Americans, followed by his call for the President to veto a bill which would have outlawed various forms of torture. Only rapid onset of cognitive dissonance explains McCain's transition from a positively disdainful attitude about the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in 2000, when he called them agents of intolerance, to his modern day embrace of the very same personages. Only uncontrolled cognitive dissonance can explain McCain pointing to Ronald Reagan, under whose signature the budget deficit exploded (which I will remind the reader occurred after Reagan made a huge issue of the piddling deficit under Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election) as his model for balancing the federal budget. If you thought W. Bush was bad, imagine McCain exploding the deficit multiple times over what Bush oversaw!

We can only hope McCain's outlandish rhetoric of late is cognitive dissonance, because if he really believes what he's been saying then he is completely out of touch with reality. Frankly I find that prospect to be a bit worrisome in a person who has a good chance to be the next President. If there is a third choice to explain McCain's recent behavior beyond the complete onset of cognitive dissonance and or just believing in a completely irrational reality of his own creation, I don't know what it could be.

Fun With Comments.

In the course of bopping about the intertubes yesterday I stumbled over a post on the pundits blog at The Hill titled Year Two of President Obama by John Feehery. Feehery is a bit of a right wing water boy so you would be correct if you presume that the Obama administration would be horribly misguided as pre-judged by Feehery. There was one particular paragraph which caught my attention, so I buckled on the accoutrements of war and left a comment. My comment was in turn commented upon, and the entire affair has been a lot of fun. So here is the pertinent comment thread left by moi and those who respond to moi:
11. Thank you for the laugh John… I especially appreciated the following prediction: “As America withdrew its forces from Iraq, political support for the Americans plunged in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, as Afghanis and some Pakistanis decided to throw their support behind a newly resurgent Taliban, who used the defeat of America in Iraq as a rallying cry for recruitment.”

Because everyone knows that Afghani’s and Pakistani’s (apostrophe trolls do your worst!) supported our invasion of Iraq by overwhelming numbers and those numbers have only increased as the years of quagmire draq on and on.

Otherwise it appears that John is describing the logical cumulation of events if President Bush were to gain a third term. The depletion of our military, the loss of international prestige, even watching as Russia assists Iran in furthering their nuclear program, supposedly for peaceful purposes. I would be hard pressed to draw the conclusions which John has reached, because I don’t believe Obama intends to continue manifestly wrong headed and defiantly stupid policies after his inauguration.

Comment by Ken — April 8, 2008 @ 5:36 pm


13. Ken, have you ever watched one of those videos where America’s “honorable” enemies cuts off a living man’s head? They are instructive to figure out that these enemies don’t respect
weakness and are not very advanced in the moral scruples department. There are a lot of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan who support America and want to live in peace. There are also quite a few that like to cut off heads and there is only one way they will interpret America’s hasty exit from Iraq: as victory. I bet you can even imagine the two words they’ll be repeating over and over in their excitement.

Ken, you’re very confused about what causes respect in the Middle East, and it’s not that hard to figure out. The answer is “Ruthless Power”.

Comment by Igor R. — April 8, 2008 @ 6:55 pm
Unfortunately this comment was left just prior to my leaving the computer, so I didn't see it til the following day. But here is what happened when I got back to the thread:
19.Igor: In reply to my comment why you have the word honorable in quotes is simply a mystery to me. That word never appears in the original comment and I would certainly reject any notion that Al Qaeda or any other of a couple of dozen extremist groups, many of which recieve support from the Bush administration, have any sort of honor whatsoever. If you have a misunderstanding about my sides perception of this, that is your problem, not mine.

I believe it is that misperception which leads people like Igor to consider that it is well and good for America to commence with apolicy like torture or dissapearances while fighting the “war on terror”. They don’t mind disdaining our own honor in order to fight a dishonorable foe. They fail to realize that America has faced many many other enemies who held no honor, and we have always managed to hold our own values, even though those struggles were against threats much greater to our national existence than a group of throwbacks living in caves on the Afghan/Pakistan frontier.

The quote in my comment from the original post never once mentions the word respect either. It mentions Afghani and Pakistani support. There is a world of difference here. Anyone pretending that “support” for America around the middle east has increased because of the overtly bellicose and wrong headed attitude and policy taken by the Bush administration is simply living in a fantasy land.

I honestly appreciate the response though Igor. You distilled the world outlook of those who have led this nation to endless quagmire, attendent with the loss of American prestige on an unprecedented scale on the world stage with that “ruthless power” line.

Comment by Ken — April 9, 2008 @ 2:42 pm


22. Ken the quotes were used to convey sarcasm and not quotation, and I apologize for any confusion. With that said, we will only get support (and respect, even if you didn’t say it) in the Middle East when we win. You see Ken, in the past we faced enemies that couldn’t destroy us to the same extent as, say, nuclear-armed Iran can. Yet back then when an enemy shot at us we shot back and didn’t try to count every unidentified battle-field corpse and claim it to be an innocent civilian (I normally put the last two words in quotes but just for you I won’t). Today we just need to win Ken and to hell with world opinion. Here is a simple algorithm that worlds against concentrated threats (not all, but many we should’ve handled this way): “Identify threat. Point a projectile big enough to eliminate it at the threat without regard for innocent civilians. Fire.” Would’ve worked for Falluja and Iran. Until it’s too late Ken, until it’s too late.

Comment by Igor R. — April 9, 2008 @ 6:09 pm


23. Igor… I’m going to be blunt. This is language you won’t hear often from those who agree with me, but here it is my friend. You, and those who think like you, are quite simply panzies. Why would I say something so inflammatory. Because you, Igor, have the lack of intestinal fortitude which leads you to say patently ridiculous stuff like this: “You see Ken, in the past we faced enemies that couldn’t destroy us to the same extent as, say, nuclear-armed Iran can.”

Try telling the past generations of Americans who had their people killed by the hundreds of thousands that our war is more dangerous to this nation. It is frankly laughable. Our war, which the President calls upon us as citizens to wage by going shopping and having our taxes cut! Try telling the patriots that founded this nation that the threat they beat, while establishing and upholding cherished American ideals which we recognized from the Revolution until this abomination of a President, that the threat they faced to the nation was lesser than that we face now. By definition you are wrong, and it is that plaintive wail, that sorrowful fearful bleating about having it so rough these days and how dangerous the world is so we have to act like idiots, that makes you and everyone who holds those thoughts panzies.

I’m sorry if it sounds callous or mean… but it is true.

Comment by Ken — April 9, 2008 @ 6:45 pm
There is no reply as of my relating this, but if or when Igor sees fit to continue I'll leave further developments in the comments of this post.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Why How We Got Here Matters Going Forward

Senator Obama's questioning of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker brushed against an issue which I believe should play a large part in the political discussion over how we proceed in Iraq. Obama stated:
I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder, that the two problems that you've pointed out -- Al Qaida in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region -- are a direct result of that original decision.

That's not a decision you gentlemen made. I won't lay it at your feet. You are cleaning up the mess afterwards. But I think it is important as we debate this forward.
The typical response to this undeniable truth from those who support an indefinite continuation of our occupation in Iraq is that we are where we are and rehashing old arguments isn't going to get us anywhere. Of course, those who support an indefinite quagmire in Iraq have proven completely wrong time and again, and the "we are where we are" argument is yet another example of this singularly mistaken approach to the situation. In fact, let me be so bold as to declare that not only is the "we are where we are" logic mistaken, it is transparently silly.

As America determines how best to proceed it is only fitting that we consider the wisdom and judgement of those we elect to lead us. How can one argue that this criteria is not critical in choosing the nation's leaders? John McCain is going to make a huge issue out of his vaunted experience and many years of service to the nation. In fact, he should make a big deal of that service. BUT... I am hardly convinced that he will be able to turn around and posit that, on the lone subject of Iraq, we are where we are now and judging the people who took us here in a negative light is not fair play.

Of course we should consider past positions and judgement as we consider whom we elect. By definition this opens the debate on who supported driving us into the war. It is nearly automatic that the people who supported President Bush from day one until now have been positively wrong from then until now. Those who backed the President but then saw the light were wrong from the lead up to war until the moment of their conversion. Just look at the record of continual happy talk from Bush and his toadies: the continual chatter about progress being made, the endless milestones on the road to success, the postively inane claims that black is white and up is down in order to paint a rosy picture, the absolutely absurd policy decisions which doomed us to quagmire... How anyone can think that the people who gave us this unbroken chain of wrong headed policy and dishonest assessment can be trusted to find a constructive way forward is simply beyond my comprehension.

Do you think Heckuvajob Brownie should be appointed as the head of FEMA? Would you like Mark Foley back in charge of running the congressional page program? Wouldn't Alberto Gonzales make a great Attorney General? If you reflexively responded with an emphatic "no" to those questions I must ask that you reconsider. Remember when you answer those questions that we are where we are and thinking about past decisions and judgement is not constructive in picking the best way forward. There are a million such examples of just this type of thinking which would lead to manifest disaster, but we are supposed to apply that logic to choosing the path forward in Iraq? Indeed I am hard pressed to imagine any circumstance in which the people asked to choose should not consider past decisions and prognostications while determining who is best suited to lead on a given issue.

Not only is it right that we consider the past judgement of those who wish to be the Commander in Chief when it comes to the war which they will oversee, but such consideration is imperative. Don't let those who have taken this nation into a no win situation convince us that we should forget how we got here and trust them to lead us to victory. If past performance is any indication of the future, the Bush backers can be counted on bringing us another unbroken string of Orwellian rhetoric, burgeoning fiscal deficit and continued deadly quagmire. At some point in time the importuning for Americans to ignore the past will not be heeded. Let us do our part to make that time this year, not four years, thousands of lives, and billions of dollars down the road.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Now THIS Is An Apology

When I drive to and from work each day I tune into the local NPR. My drive home is the time slot taken by Canadian Broadcasting. During today's drive I listened to one of the most sincere apologies I have ever heard from any person. This apology is from a conservative member of parliament named Tom Lukiwski with whom I would tend to disagree on a political level. But the apology is so heartfelt and personal that I'm not even going to mention the trangression which warranted these words out of a sense of respect for the man. If you wish to click on the link above I'm certain you can find the back story.

Look at these words:
"Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer through you and to you to every member in the House my deepest apologies...

Therefore, I feel absolutely compelled that I must stand here today and publicly apologize to a number of people....

To say that I am ashamed is not putting it in context and certainly not putting it in strong enough terms....

All I can say is that I hope that over the passage of time, my apologies will be accepted....

The only explanation that I can give to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the members of this House, is that I was stupid, thoughtless, and insensitive. I am not using that as a defence...."

We have grown accustomed to pseudo apologies. The pleas for forgiveness if the words were taken the wrong way or the intent is misunderstood. But this is a real apology and I can tell you that the offended parties have accepted it. How could they not?

Mr. Lukiwski and I may not have the same political outlook, but I can tell you that he has my respect.

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