June 30, 2008

This doesn't help my mood

Dana Perino took to the podium to back up Joe Lieberman's "vote Republican or die" prediction. On a side note, the fact that Al Gore won the popular vote with this guy on his ticket is pretty amazing.

But the part that caught my eye was this little statement from the lovely Ms. Perino:
"The President has been looking for Osama bin Laden since September 12th. That effort has never let up."
Really? I wonder if that is the same amount of effort he made looking for WMD?

June 28, 2008

New Blogger setting

As you see, Blogger now allows the comment box to be embedded right below the post. I think I like this better.

June 27, 2008

Foreign accents

An odd thought crossed my mind as I was prepping dinner tonight (and watching TV). Why is it that commercials featuring speaking animals have those animals speaking in foreign accents?


Friday stuff

I have been slow to blog this week. Not sure why.

Anyway, this afternoon, SOF and I took a run around town to do some errands. While listening to NPR, we heard this story about Obama and Clinton campaigning together in New Hampshire. I have been impressed with Hillary here and think that she absolutely has something to contribute. And I hope that she ends up in the Cabinet, btw. I don't want her as VP, but think she would be a great Secretary of, well, just about anything.

But during the story, we heard about the numbers (at least in NH) of former Clinton supporters considering voting for McCain instead. Hillary spoke on this:
"She also addressed the Democratic Party's fractured state, saying, 'If you are considering not voting or voting for John McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.'"
I would speak even stronger. Any Democrat who thought Hillary was a good idea, who could then switch and vote for McCain is, well, mentally challenged. I understand being stung by the primary (though much of that was your own candidate's doing), and can certainly respect how painful it is to lose.

But to vote for McCain out of spite? That is just stupid. It is one thing to resent Obama for the primary, but to foist more Republican rule on us out of spite is not responsible politics.


Speaking of responsible politics, seems like just about every day we learn more about how irresponsible this administration has been. Yesterday, after my guitar lesson, I heard this Daniel Schorr editorial on the politicization of the Justice department under this administration. After hearing numerous conservatives tell me nothing happened of import during the US Attorney scandal, I was reminded of just how bad these people have been on our system.

Turns out they--in direct violation of federal law, no less--filtered candidates based on their political leanings. Applicants were scrutinized for their loyalty to the Republican party. Essays with words like "Social justice" or "environmental justice" were kicked out of the search. Applicants who dared to have joined Greenpeace found themselves on the outs as well. Reminds me very much of Rajiv Chandrasekaran's reporting on the Iraqi reconstruction, where we learned that Bush people filtered applicants to work in Iraq based on who they voted for in 2000 and where they stood on Roe v. Wade.

I think McCain would be better than that. Of course, an inanimate carbon rod would be better than that. But I really don't know which McCain is running. I don't know if the one who thought Falwell was an "agent of intolerance," or the one who rushed to speak at his "university" is running. Bush has lowered the bar so much that I fear we could do better with anyone off the street, but that level of improvement might not be enough.

June 25, 2008

20 years

I meant to blog about this all day, but simply was distracted with other tasks. But today is our 20th anniversary. We had a very nice and elegant dinner out with great conversation and great food.

I can honestly say that I don't know another person I could spend as much time with as SOF, so thanks to her for her patience, grace, and...patience.

Thanks to Anglican for the nice words, and thanks to all of our friends who add so much to our lives.

June 24, 2008

Tuesday morning

And just a few items.

First, I was sad to see yesterday the passing of comedian George Carlin. I was not a huge fan, but appreciated his originality and intelligence.


This is not a dream blog, but my dreams have been interesting of late. A while ago, I dreamt I met Obama. Last night, I dreamt that I was at a film screening for John McCain and even gave him some tips on how to be funny. At the table, I was seated across from Cindy McCain, though I was facing away from her and she annoyed me.

I have no idea what that dream means. But the night before saw a recurring dream that I often have over the summer. During this dream, I am meeting my class for the first time. It is a class I have taught numerous times, and in my dream, that appears to be the problem.

I show up with no notes, no syllabus, and no plan. During this particular version of it, students kept getting up and walking out, and several of the senior tenured professors came in to observe. I also remember thinking that this event was a lot like one of my dreams.... I know that this means that I need to get some work done for the fall, but this seems a little early in the summer for this particular stress dream.


Just saw this morning that James Dobson accused Obama of "distorting" the Bible:
"'I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology,' Dobson said."
If only Boss Dobson recognized his own distortions, his criticisms of Obama might have credibility. I am reminded of his own hubris here:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Dobson, ...in the Daily Oklahoman, [you were] quoted saying, "Patrick Leahy is a God's people hater. I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people." Now, Dr. Dobson, that doesn't sound like a particularly Christian thing to say. Do you think you owe Senator Leahy an apology?
DR JAMES DOBSON: George, you think you ought to lecture me on what a Christian is all about? You know, I think -I think I'll stand by the things I have said. Patrick Leahy has been in opposition to most of the things that I believe. He is the one that took the reference to God out of the oath.


I posted last week on some of the music I am listening to from 2008 and meant to note some forthcoming releases. Today, in fact, Alejandro Escovedo releases "Real Animal." I have been looking forward to this for a while and plan on picking it up later today.

July 15th will see the release of The Hold Steady's new album ("Stay Positive") of which I am hearing some good buzz. Their last two albums were pretty impressive, though I will admit to hating them at first. :)

Any other new ones I am missing right now? And this is not music, but I was elated to see that the first season of Get Smart will be released on DVD August 5! I haven't seen the new movie yet, but have always loved the original series. I still refer to the "Cone of Silence" when I am discussing something that should be kept private.

June 22, 2008

Slavery after slavery

Matthew Yglesias has a bit on a book entitled "Slavery by another Name" about the process of enslaving African Americans (up till World War 2) through quasi-legal methods. No proof of employment? Sold into slavery. No overt racial bias in the law, but only enforced on black people. Pretty shameful part of our history, and unfortunately, one that is not too hard to believe.

June 21, 2008


Ready to Attack Obama, if Some Money Arrives - NYTimes.com: "A Bible verse taped to a whiteboard in Floyd Brown’s office that he uses to track his efforts to attack Senator Barack Obama reads, “That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.”"
This, from a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian who is proud of his "Willie Horton" ads
"who says it is his calling to tread where the campaign is unwilling to tread in finding malicious gossip on a Democratic nominee."
And then this:
Mr. Brown, a gregarious evangelical churchgoer, said that he merely enjoyed the interchange of ideas and that there was nothing personal about his attacks.

Well, as long as there is nothing "personal" about the "malicious gossip."

June 20, 2008

The democratization of money

Or something.

I have had a rather spirited discussion with a conservative colleague about Obama's decision to bow out of public financing this fall. Many are suggesting that this represents a lie or flip-flop on Obama's part, and perhaps this is true. I wish he had never suggested this before, but think that in a few weeks, this will be old news. I also can rely on the fact that Americans have a very short attention span when it comes to financing. You start explaining stuff like this and the eyes roll back in the head. If it isn't about illicit sex or being an "unamerican Muslim" most will just gloss over.

But one thing struck in my mind. Obama's fundraising has been impressive (to say the least) and amazingly democratic--from some 1.5 million different donors. We are part of that. The biggest concern about campaign finance is the idea that donors then line up when the candidate wins and get their legislation pushed through--or get that cushy Ambassadorship to Bermuda--or get no-bid contracts in Iraq. But when most of your donors are small, that is much more in the spirit of public financing. We gave some money to Obama's campaign, but have no thought that our check will get us noticed, or get us any additional access. Of course it will not. And that wasn't why we gave it.

But thoughts of that kind of fundraising have led some of us (conversations with Anglican, SOF, and Mary--among others) to muse about how this kind of thing works outside politics. What about churches? How do most churches raise money? And more importantly, how does that funding impact the type of church you get?

I guess this is a question for our resident Pastor, but I am always curious how churches do this. As religion was democratized here in America, the power of those strong institutionalized churches like the Catholic and Anglican churches faded in favor of smaller, and more diverse denominations and bodies. Those bodies functioned (and function) in a kind of religious marketplace. If people don't want to go to this church, they can go to that one. If Church A tells me I am going to hell, might I not decide to go to Church B where I am one of the elect?

I have to believe that can impact sermons, programs, policy decisions. If that church is routinely bailed out by the wealthy and powerful in the community, how many sermons are critical of wealth? Or consumerism? How many churches can preach about the importance of environmental responsibility if their big money members drive Hummers to church?

2008 music (so far)

And a partial list, but several of the 2008 albums have already started appearing in heavy rotation around here.

Number one for me right now, is Kathleen Edward's new "Asking for Flowers. You can listen to her music at her Myspace page. A long time favorite of ours (we saw her at ACL one year) this album did not grab me right out of the jewel case, but has taken a few listens. As strong as her previous albums were, I think this might be her best. Great songwriting and really great melodies. And she likes to swear.

Another Streak's favorite is the Denton, Texas-based Centro-matic. One of the more prolific songwriters out there, Will Johnson and his group have released a double-album of Centro-matic and South San Gabriel (his other side project). I still haven't downloaded the SSG portion because my Emusic sub is a little low right now, but the Centro-matic side is very strong.

Third, and thanks to Zalm for this suggestion, is Scotland's Frightened Rabbit. An album that is not for those with tender ears, but some really great vocals, lyrics and melodies.

Here is a video of their song "Head rolls off." The opening line is a grabber:
Jesus...Is only a Spanish Boy's name. How come one man got so much fame

Friday roundup

I had a longer post written this morning, but ran into some problem between Safari and Blogger and lost it all.

Perhaps that is for the best...

But here is an interesting article that suggests that Iowa Flooding Could Be An Act of Man. Combination of increased sedimentation in rivers, planting crops and building in flood-plains, and generally destroying wetlands has dramatically altered the landscape's ability to absorb flood waters.

Reminds me of how people spoke about Katrina or even the Minnesota bridge collapse as if they were just "acts of God." No, they were "acts of human neglect" made worse (in Katrina and Iowa) by weather. People too often, in my estimation, simply impose some "faith language" onto things that they don't want to understand. Not things they can't understand--that is a perfect place for faith. But onto things that have a very tangible explanation.


And speaking of Katrina, this hilarious bit from the Daily Show the other night mocking Kanye West.

More later. You have been warned.

June 18, 2008

But Bush said it was just a few soldiers...

Human rights group says it has proof of detainee abuse - The Boston Globe: "General Taguba's judgment was far more severe. 'There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,' he wrote."
Taguba is hardly some left leaning wackjob, but was the person put in charge of investigating Abu Ghraib--with the caveat of being disallowed from investigating any high ranking officials or civilians.

Quite a legacy this President will leave us.

Wednesday roundup

A few items on the list this morning after watching the Boston Celtics just dismantle the Lakers last night. For the record (with apologies to CIL) I have never liked the Lakers and Kobe Bryant makes that even easier. On the other hand, I have always liked Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, so I enjoyed watching them win.

But back to the news.

First, The NYT reports that KBR essentially threatened the Army that if they refused to pay their fees, the contractor would simply withhold services even if that meant the Army being unable to function. A civilian overseer was pushed out when he challenged KBR's accounting.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports that KBR overcharged the Navy after Katrina. Nice to know that profiteering is such a popular business, and that those profiteers were sheltered by this administration and Republican leadership. Or did I miss those hearings when the supposedly fiscal conservative Republicans ran the show?


Meanwhile, as Newt Gingrich compared the recent Scotus ruling on habeas corpus to Dred Scott, John McCain called it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." Well, Mr. Senator, when even George Will thinks you are being duped by "some clever ignoramus" (I think he means your staff--the same ones who didn't know John Hagee was crazy and that Clayton Williams thinks that rape is funny), then perhaps you need to rethink those conservative credentials. You know, the ones that say that government power is something to be feared and controlled?

Well, as Sullivan notes, "defending suspected terrorists' human rights isn't popular--especially when those suspects are foreign, have brown skin and speak a different language. But if most Americans fully understood how many innocents have been swept into the Bush gulag, they might be more circumspect." I think Sullivan overestimates the American concern for judicial fairness for these people. And the concept of the "gulag" seems to have completely faded in American memory. I remember just how stark the difference was between our system of law and the Soviet kangaroo courts.

Evidently, most Americans either have forgotten or never knew.

Oh, and speaking of gulags, a new Senate report suggests that the Pentagon (and administration leadership) have been lying about torture. Remember when the President said this?
My only point to you is, is that yes, I mean, we certainly wish Abu Ghraib hadn't happened, but that should not reflect America. This was the actions of some soldiers. That doesn't show the heart and soul of America.
Yeah. Turns out that isn't true.
The sources said that memos and other evidence obtained during the inquiry show that officials in the office of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld started to research the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation and other practices in July 2002, months before memos from commanders at the detention facility in Cuba requested permission to use those measures on suspected terrorists.
Get that? These techniques didn't come from some "soldiers" but from the very Pentagon.
But memos and e-mails obtained by investigators reveal that in July 2002, Haynes and other Pentagon officials were soliciting ideas for harsh interrogations from military experts in survival training, according to two congressional officials familiar with the committee's investigation. By late July, a list was compiled that included many of the techniques that would later be formally approved for use at Guantanamo Bay, including stress positions, sleep deprivation and the hooding of detainees during questioning. The techniques were later used at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq.
It is enough to make your heart hurt.


Speaking of that, I saw this first when Tony blogged about how bad this was, but it just didn't register or I was distracted.

A republican friend just emailed me to tell me that the vendor selling these has been banned from further activities with the Republican party. So there is some good news from this. But the racism angle just scares me. Unfortunately, most of the racism will be cloaked in other language.

Anyway, hope you all have a good Wednesday.

June 17, 2008


In a British interview, the President got a little snippy about Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.
BOULTON: I mean, you've talked a lot about freedom. I've heard you talk about freedom -- I think every time I've seen you.


BOULTON: And yet there are those who would say, look, let's take Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and rendition and all those things, and to them that is the, you know, the complete opposite of freedom.

THE PRESIDENT: Of course if you want to slander America, you can look at it one way. But you go down -- what you need to do -- I think I suggested you do this at a press conference -- if you go down to Guantanamo and take a look at how these prisoners are treated -- and they're working it through our court systems. We are a land of law.

BOULTON: But the Supreme Court have just said that -- you know, ruled against what you've been doing down there.

THE PRESIDENT: But the district court didn't. And the appellate court didn't.

BOULTON: The Supreme Court is supreme, isn't it?

THE PRESIDENT: It is, and I accept their verdict. I don't agree with their verdict. And it's not what I was doing down there. This was a law passed by our United States Congress that I worked with the Congress to get passed and sign into law.

BOULTON: But it looked like an attempt to bypass the Constitution, to a certain extent.

THE PRESIDENT: This was a law passed, Adam. We passed a law. Bypassing the Constitution means that we did something outside the bounds of the Constitution. We went to the Congress and got a piece of legislation passed.

BOULTON: Which is now being struck down, I think.

THE PRESIDENT: It is, and I accept what the Supreme Court did, and I necessarily don't have to agree with it.

My only point to you is, is that yes, I mean, we certainly wish Abu Ghraib hadn't happened, but that should not reflect America. This was the actions of some soldiers. That doesn't show the heart and soul of America.
Seems to me that every bit of evidence has shown that Abu Ghraib was not just the actions of "some soldiers" but a cultural breakdown. I am not saying that this President ordered or openly sanctioned it, but his people set this in motion. Little disingenuous to then just blame it on some underlings. And it isn't "slander," Mr. President, especially when it is true.

June 16, 2008

Bush Justice

McClatchy investigates those detained at Gitmo and learns a few things.
"McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners."

I noticed over the weekend that Newt Gingrich had loudly decried last week's SCOTUS ruling that said these detainees had constitutional rights--and he was just one of the many conservatives angry about the court. Gingrich said that such a ruling was worse than Dred Scott and would result in a terrorist attack on our cities. But Gingrich and his ilk never seem to acknowledge the huge cost that Gitmo has on our safety. Every innocent person ever detained or tortured by our government is a potential future terrorist--or at the very minimum, highly unlikely to help us fight terrorism.


George W. Bush the meaning of religion:
"'I think is really important for people to find common ground through religion to deal with the violence that is used by some in the name of religion, to perpetuate an ideology -- and to remind people that peace -- religion is peace.'"

Just who is working for John McCain

I will not be voting for John McCain--that comes as no surprise to anyone here. And I think, as a candidate, he has numerous problems. He has flipped on key issues, and wedded himself to the Iraq war and Bush presidency in ways that I think will hurt him down the road.

But more than that, we want a President who hires good people around him. Bush did a spectacularly poor job of that, and I must say that McCain is off to a bad start. Not only the flood of lobbyists he hired (after badmouthing lobbyists, of course) but his staff seemed completely unaware that Rod Parsely and John Hagee were batshit crazy. And that wouldn't have required much beyond a google search to figure out.

Now we hear that McCain has been forced to cancel and then un-cancel a fundraiser with Texas oilman, Clayton Williams after learning about William's famous "lie back and enjoy it" advice to rape victims. Maybe those of us who lived in Texas at the time are unique, but I find it hard to believe that no one on McCain's staff didn't remember this huge gaff.

Incompetence of this level is bad enough on the campaign trail. Much worse when it leads to hiring people to run policy.

June 13, 2008

Tim Russert's passing and the celebrity of journalism

I am sure you have all heard the news, that Tim Russert passed away at the very young age of 58. I was shocked when I heard the news as I think everyone was. Mass media has brought us closer to a lot more people--in a one-sided way, and so we feel as if we know famous people, and grieve when they die.

Turning on the news, the cable shows were filled with tributes to his work and his person. What I have listened to, it sounds as if he was the best journalist ever. A perfectly understandable and normal response to the passing of a friend and colleague.

But that is also the part that makes me a little uncomfortable.

When you turn on NBC, you are watching what happens whenever a group or business loses someone close. As I said, it is understandable and normal. But in this context, it has also been presented as "news." In one sense, it is exactly what the cable news channels excel at. They cannot explain the economics of healthcare, or really explore the FISA debate with any nuance, but they can do emotion and shock. The fact that this is about one of them, and their emotion is real, and their pain is real, doesn't really make it any less an indictment of modern journalism.

We see the celebrity factor here and wonder how one celebrity can really cover another? Why do we wonder that someone as famous, and recognizable as most of these "analysts" and "anchors" are, how do they not see themselves as part of the famous elite? So when they interview a politician or celebrity, they are really talking amongst themselves.

None of this is intended as disrespect to Tim Russert or his family. His death is tragic and sad, and I am so sorry for those who knew him. I understand that in eulogizing him, they will elevate him to the "best ever," and he will become "scrupulously fair" and the "best interviewer ever." I don't think that was true. But that is irrelevant. His passing is tragic and sad.

But so are all deaths.

June 11, 2008

New SBC President

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Well, Frank Page actually did question some of the Republican tendencies in the SBC. The new one will likely not, and is closely identified to the Karl Rove of SBC politics, Paul Pressler, and others.
"Johnny Hunt's election confirms that Frank Page's election in 2006 did not signal the emergence of a 'kinder, gentler;' SBC,' said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics. 'The founding fathers of SBC fundamentalism have reasserted their political power. Their continued direction is away from the center. That makes hollow the months of chatter in the media about the emerging evangelical center. If there is no trending away from extremism in the SBC, there is no trending away from the Christian Right among conservative evangelicals."

At least Wiley Drake only received 45 votes (our old friend, Les Puryear, recieved 188--take that Wiley!). But the body is also voting on kicking out certain churches. Of course, this includes those friendly to the gays, but in this case, they are also considering booting any churches with women pastors.

Sure is a welcoming body.


Regrets we listened to him, I suspect

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq. He said that his aim now was to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran.

In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”. He said that he found it very painful “to put youngsters in harm’s way”. He added: “I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain.”

June 8, 2008


I heard part of yesterday's Hillary speech, and what I heard sounded really good. As frustrated as I became with her, I do have tremendous respect for her ability, and also for the historic nature of her campaign. We really did get to a point where the bulk of the discussion about her were not about gender.

And yesterday, she did what many of us thought was impossible. She endorsed Obama and pledged to fight for him.

Speaking of Hillary, I used to listen to Christian radio during the Clinton years. I carpooled with a friend who liked such fare and found myself returning to it (until, as readers here will remember, I replaced my old truck and started driving a car with a cd player. Only then did I stop listening to Dobson and others on the road).

As bizarre as it was during the Bush years to listen to these people, you should have heard them during the Clinton years. Tony found this great list of religious right conspiracy theories. My favorite from the list--besides Jack Van Impe suggesting that the UN had secret signs on the back of Interstate signs telling them the location of believers, or the more serious role that Jerry Falwell played during Civil Rights--is about Hillary. Texe Marrs (yep, that is how he spells "Tex") argued that Hillary was in a lesbian conspiracy with Janet Reno. As I recall, Marrs referred to Hillary as a "lesbian marxist."

All of these conspiracies are funny, sad and disturbing. And the fact that these paranoid ramblings became part of the evangelical political discourse is shameful for those who should know better.

But back to me.

As my good friends know, I often dream about famous people. I have met Bill Clinton, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris in dreams. In another, I chased Manuel Noriega on a motorcycle.

Well, last night, I dreamt I was in a huge ballroom and sitting at the table behind me was Barack Obama. At one point in the dream, my table mates have left me (I don't know who they were or how I drove them away) and Obama ends up at my table. He shook my hand and thanked me again for coming. :) I then asked him how he could keep up with the campaign schedule, and then asked him about this real story where he had to convince his Iowa fundraisers to not panic early in the campaign. He was amazingly gracious in my dream. So there.

Later in that same dream, I also met Tony in person. In my dream, he had written a book and I took it up to him for him to sign. He signed it to the wrong name.

Thanks a lot, Tony!

June 7, 2008

A good church sign?

"LOUISVILLE -- Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, has erected a new sign in front of its rustic, southwestern-style, adobe building just like the one Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church has placed in front of its modern, red-brick edifice in Pearl River, NY. The new additions are 3-foot by 9-foot black vinyl banners that declare in white letters that 'Torture is wrong.'"

Obama more substantive than McCain?

At least one writer for the American Conservative thinks so:
"What Halperin also misses here is that in any contest between Obama and McCain, Obama is the substantive, policy-oriented candidate, while McCain is the one offering mostly pious bromides about victory, service and being American. If style often beats substance, Obama is in trouble because, as his supporters tirelessly remind us, Obama does have a substantive policy agenda (even if he doesn’t spend as much time talking about it and a lot of his boosters don’t care what it is) and McCain’s entire campaign has been even more driven by biography and character than Obama’s."

The Costanza Energy Policy

Very interesting list of reasons why oil is so expensive and here are just the first 8:
1. Limited areas available for offshore drilling;

2. Stopped the rise of CAFE standards for automobiles;

3. Restricted nuclear power generation of Electrical;

4. Federal Reserve policies since 2001 led to a very weak US dollar (raising Oil prices);
5. Energy conservation policies? None

6. Iraq and Afghanistan wars contributing to Middle East tensions

7. No major United States funding for R&D on energy;

8. Kept CAFE standards for light trucks/SUVs much lower than autos

Read the whole list and you get a picture of one hell of a lot of blame to spread around. The Bush admin has done very little to help us here, but their policies (or lack of) are only part of the mess.

June 6, 2008

A necessary correction

To commonly misused terms. Just like the improper use of the word "appeasement" few other words are so misused as the red-baiting smear (that I honestly thought had been relegated to the history trash bin--after all, who really worries about Communism now?) From Andrew Sullivan:
A reader writes:
As a specialist on Soviet history and more particularly on the Soviet Gulag, I am just so annoyed by the ignorance of statements like this:

"I have said publicly, and I will again, that unless he proves me wrong, he is a Marxist," - Tom DeLay.

"And did the Obama rally begin with the Soviet National Anthem?" - Hugh Hewitt

Put these guys and their ilk in my class for a semester and let them understand what Marxism and Communism were really about. Progressive taxation, no matter how much one might be opposed to it, is simply qualitatively different than the elimination of private ownership of the means of production. Government regulation, even if it interferes with the economy, is not the equivalent of total nationalization of the economy. These are not minor distinctions, but fundamental to the very definition of what Soviet Communism was, and why it had the outcomes it did. The attempt to tie Democrats and liberals (the latter of which was a term of abuse within the Soviet political structure) is incredibly ignorant of the actual history and structure of Soviet Communism.


Kos diarist Hunter adds this for the Hammer:
"Tom Delay, Indicted Republican: Unless he proves me wrong, [Obama] is a Marxist.

Hunter, Blogger: Unless he proves me wrong, Tom Delay lures children into his van with candy, gasses them to death with bug spray, and uses their powdered bones as an aphrodisiac when making love to all the animals at the San Antonio Sea World.

Prove me wrong, pal, prove me wrong."

Our political tug-of-war

I have been trying to argue (offline) that our political dialogue has a false sense of left v. right, in that people lose track of just how far to the right we have gone. In that context, when a conservative Democrat speaks, it isn't representative of the far left, where as most Republican Senators are much closer to the far right--and there are practically no moderate Republicans (in office, I mean) left.

Anyway, I wrote this very flawed analogy and thought I would post it to see what others thought. (My offline recipients have yet to respond, and I am impatient.)
Imagine the political landscape as a tug of war played out on a football field. (This is a very limited analogy with numerous holes (first and foremost a tendency toward the two dimensional left v. right, for example) but (in my head at least) offers some possible uses.) In this analogy, the political landscape (tug of war) is a limited set of people or ideological stances. In other words, not everyone on the field gets to grab the rope. The bulk of the participants are within 20 yards of the 50 yard line, with smaller and smaller numbers as you near the goal lines. Obviously, those in the middle of the field represent moderate beliefs on the role of government, taxation, etc. (just one of the reasons this is flawed in that some people could occupy multiple places on the field simultaneously--but bear with me!). Those near the goal posts are the more radical of the left/right spectrum.

I would suggest that, within this limited analogy, the political landscape has migrated from the left to the right in an almost rugby "scrum" style (or little kid soccer where the mob follows the ball around the field). During the 20s, the center of that rope was probably right of center, but during the New Deal, moved back over the line to the left. I would further suggest that the center of that rope remained left of center (perhaps just barely) through the end of the 60s, and even during the Nixon administration had moved only slightly to the right of the center line. Carter may have tried to move the scrum back to the New Deal, but by this time, the majority of the participants pulling on the rope were right of center. That rope continued to move to the right through Reagan, GHWB, and only slightly moved back toward the center under Clinton, and never crossed the mid point during his administration. In many ways, Clinton's economic and foreign policy are very similar to GHWB in most ways.

But under Bush, the entire scrum moved far right, to the point that those radicals on the far right--hard core libertarians, neo-cons, and anti-government types actually got to grab the rope. They had always been there, writing their screeds and ranting their rants. But under the previous administrations, they didn't actually get to touch the rope. Sure, a finger or two under Reagan and HWB, but the bulk of those on the rope were of the moderate or pragmatic wing of the party. But under Bush, for the first time in American history (or at least the modern Presidency) the people with the best grasp on the rope on the right side of the tug-of-war, were those people on the 10 or 15 yard line to the right. Grover Norquist, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Ashcroft, etc., all represent the more conservative and radical elements of conservatism.

By comparison, I don't see the truly radical left ever getting really much more than a finger on that rope, and none of them since the 1960s. Even those who got to play then were not advocating government run industries, or even a radical challenge to market capitalism. I would include in that, by the way, the Roosevelt administration who I believe saved capitalism from those fringe elements who had their best chance during the depression years. But FDR and the bulk of his advisors believed in market capitalism.

So, again, in this limited little analogy, I think you can see how I approach this current situation. When Republicans gave part of the rope pulling to those on the far right, they have skewed the game. The task, I think, for the Democrats is to get that scrum moved off the right wing goal line and closer to the middle.

Report argues that Bush/Cheney cherry-picked intelligence to push for war

As many of us believed, of course. The report evidently exonerates the admin on those areas where the intelligence really did support their claims--like the belief that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD, but says on key issues, they simply ignored their own intelligence:
But the report says the Bush administration veered away from its own intelligence community's conclusions in two key areas: Iraq's relationship with Al Qaeda and the difficulty of pacifying Iraq after a U.S. invasion.

Statements in dozens of prewar speeches and interviews created the impression that Baghdad and Al Qaeda had forged a partnership. But the report concludes that such assertions "were not substantiated by the intelligence" being shown to senior officials at the time.

Claims that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, for example, were dubious from the beginning and subsequently discounted. The idea that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had provided chemical and biological weapons training to Al Qaeda hinged on intelligence from a source who soon was discredited.

Bush officials strayed even further from the evidence in suggesting that Hussein was prepared to provide weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda terrorist groups -- a linchpin in the case for war.

In October 2002, for example, Bush warned in a key speech in Cincinnati that "secretly, and without fingerprints, [Hussein] could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own." The threat was repeated frequently in the run-up to war but was "contradicted by available intelligence information," the committee says.

On post-war prospects, the report contrasts the rosy scenarios conjured by Cheney and others with more sober intelligence warnings that were being presented to senior officials.

Cheney's prediction that U.S. forces would "be greeted as liberators" was at odds with reports from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which warned nearly a year earlier that invading U.S. forces would face serious resistance from "the Baathists, the jihadists and Arab nationalists who oppose any U.S. occupation of Iraq."

June 4, 2008

The End?

MSNBC is reporting that Hillary will bow out on Friday and endorse Obama.

Open letter to Hillary Clinton

(Because, of course, she reads this blog).

Dear Senator Clinton,

You have no idea how often I have defended you and your husband in the past. I stood and argued with those who advocated impeachment for what I still believe was a private failing. I defended you when you identified that "vast right wing conspiracy" against you and your husband. I winced when your husband's personal problem came to light, and when he parsed the meaning of "is." I threw up a little in my mouth when he pardoned Marc Rich and others.

But I defended you both against the right wing echo machine. I said you weren't that bad. Watching the current president mumble and drawl, I often said (along with millions), "I miss Bill." When you first started your run, I argued with those who said you were scary from the right, and unelectable from the left. I suggested that there was a measure of misogyny involved in criticisms of you. When Andrew Sullivan referred to you both as power hungry sociopaths, I argued back.

But like this reader email to Sully, I have to now backtrack. Watching you refuse to concede when Obama locked up the delegates needed was painful. Almost as painful as watching you encourage white racism in our own party. Almost as painful as watching Bill go from statesman to race-baiting political thug in a matter of months. Almost as painful as your spinning the popular vote and changing rules in midstream. Almost.

I am done defending you. And you need to go back to the Senate and figure out some plan of atoning for what you have done to our party and our nation. Unfortunately, I have no good faith belief that you have any concern for anything beyond your own power and you will pursue that regardless of the damage to the Democratic party or the potential of giving us four more years of disastrous policy.


June 3, 2008

10 away from magic number

Marc Ambinder on Obama's delegate count:
"Before the delegates from South Dakota and Montana have been allocated, Sen. Barack Obama needs just 10 to clinch.
So tonight, he will clinch."

Rumors are flying that Clinton herself will suggest she is ready to be Veep. If that brings in all her supporters, does that deal with all of the right wingers who will mobilize out of hatred for her?

Couple of political notes

First, the blogosphere is abuzz about the potential end to Hillary's campaign. Will she end it? I don't know. I do know that watching some of the Hillary supporters fall into open racism toward Obama makes me more than a little ill. But I also hold out hope that most of the Clinton supporters are like most of the Obama supporters--united in their desire to see a Democratic president. I certainly hope that we don't see a repeat of 1968 when hard line liberals refused to vote for Humphrey and essentially allowed a moral reprobate like Nixon to become president.

This Kos diarist gives me hope, writing about a Florida town hall meeting where Congressman Wexler spoke to his constituents, most of whom voted for Clinton.
"I support Barack Obama because he showed better judgment on the Iraq War, because he has remained more forcefully against it. I support him because of his stand on ethics reform, and commitment to engaging our enemies. I support him because he speaks truth to power. He spoke in front of a largely Cuban-American organization in Miami. Everyone has told this organization the same thing for 40 years. 'We're going to continue the embargo against Cuba, no monetary remittances there, no anything.' Whether or not it works, that's all any politician dares to say. Obama suggested to them we engage with Raul Castro, and take steps towards ending the embargo. Obama told a crowd in Detroit that we should increase fuel efficiency standards, and he told members of Martin Luther King's church in Atlanta that we all share some of the blame for some of the race problems in America today."
As good of a defense of Obama as I have read anywhere, and hopeful that most in the crowd appeared to be annoyed with the primary, but not so much that they were going to vote McCain.


We talked about Ricardo Sanchez' new book a last month and it is now out and not very positive about our civilian leadership
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times, and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced out of the service.

June 2, 2008

Kasey Chambers

And her husband Shane Nicholson performing a track off their new album, which has not yet been released in the states (their web site says that is in the works).


John Kenneth Galbraith:
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
I know a lot of conservatives and know they don't see it this way, but it sure looks like self-serving policy to me.

Bush on responsibility

Bush spoke to the graduating class at Furman University and had this to say about being responsible and understanding your weaknesses:
"There is no shame in recognizing your failings or getting help if you need it. The tragedy comes when we fail to take responsibility for our weaknesses and surrender to them.'"
Turns out he was talking about his own battle with alcoholism. Turns out for him, whatever humility and introspection he ever had, he used up when he stopped drinking.