Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iraq Veteran Wants to Serve in Congress

It seems like every time we turn around, another Republican decides to cut and run when a FBI agent, a US attorney, or a national intelligence estimate shows up. And too many Republicans in Congress and the White House hardly seem to know what it means to give to one's country; in fact, given recent scandals and congressional funny business, it seems this generation of Republicans in Washington specialize in taking.

Whether Republican or Democrat, we need good people in Washington and one of the better candidates is Democrat Tammy Duckworth who knows a thing or two about service and sacrifice; here's the story from Dennis Conrad of the Associated Press (via Yahoo):
An Illinois congressional candidate who lost both her legs during combat in Iraq said Saturday that President Bush has no real strategy for securing the war-ravaged nation, just political talk designed to appeal to voters.

"Instead of a plan or a strategy, we get shallow slogans like 'mission accomplished' and 'stay the course,'" former Army Capt. Tammy Duckworth said in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Those slogans are calculated to win an election. But they won't help us accomplish our mission in Iraq."

Duckworth's address served as a response to the president's weekly radio talk and gave the Democratic Party a chance to showcase one of its strongest candidates as it seeks to regain control of the House in November's elections.

Duckworth, who copiloted a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed while under a rocket grenade attack almost two years ago, also criticized Bush and others in his administration for accusing anyone who challenges the president's policies of "cutting and running."

"Well, I didn't cut and run, Mr. President. Like so many others, I proudly fought and sacrificed," Duckworth said. "My helicopter was shot down long after you proclaimed 'mission accomplished.'"

We all know Senate Majority Leader Frist and House Speaker Hastert would rather hide their heads in the sand than admit Bush doesn't know what he's doing and that it's long past time for them to speak up and demand something other than more of the same. Haven't we put up with Bush's failures long enough? Isn't it time for the country to start holding the president accountable for his recklessness and failure to fix his mistakes?

Friday, September 29, 2006

If It's a Republican, Hastert Looks the Other Way

Tom DeLay. Duke Cunningham. Bob Ney. Virgil Goode. Katharine Harris. John Dolittle. And now Mark Foley. They are all members of the House that Hastert somehow never seems to notice or do anything about when it's obvious their ethics or behavior does not meet the standards that should apply in the House of Representatives. Hastert never notices anything until the TV cameras show up and even then he might look the other way, if given the chance.

Here's the story from The Washington Post:
Six-term Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned yesterday amid reports that he had sent sexually explicit e-mails to at least one underage male former page.

Foley, who was considered likely to win reelection this fall, said in a three-sentence letter of resignation: "I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent."

The resignation rocked the Capitol, and especially Foley's GOP colleagues, as lawmakers were rushing to adjourn for at least six weeks. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of some "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and that Hastert assured him "we're taking care of it."

If somebody was stealing billions from the U.S. treasury, would Dennis Hastert take 'care of it'? Ah, but somebody has taking billions from the U.S. treasury and Dennis Hastert hasn't done a thing about it. I'm speaking about Iraqi reconstruction and Katrina. Shame on Hastert for turning a blind eye on anything that Republicans are doing, including the behavior of Mark Foley.

Virginia Senate Race Getting Tighter

Maybe there's hope for the Democrats this fall as Republicans keep stubbing their toes and Bush refuses to admit he might not be the greatest president of all time. Here's an article from Steven Thomma of the McClatchy Washington Bureau on the race between Allen and Webb; just two months ago Allen was assumed to be a shoo-in:
Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia has lost his lead in his bid for re-election and is now tied with Democratic challenger James Webb, a new poll for McClatchy Newspapers and MSNBC showed Friday.

The poll found that the two men each have the support of 43 percent of registered voters, with a third-party candidate supported by 2 percent and the other 12 percent undecided.

The tie underscored how quickly prospects have changed for Allen, once thought to be cruising toward a comfortable re-election that he'd use as a springboard to a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

The race's importance, however, extends far beyond Allen's own political prospects. It's one of a half-dozen Republican seats that are considered vulnerable to Democratic takeovers; Democrats need to gain six seats to take control of the Senate.

As late as July, Allen looked safe. He led Webb by 16 points, 48-to-32 percent, in a survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., which also conducted the McClatchy-MSNBC poll. Allen's lead had shrunk to 4 points, 46-to-42 percent, earlier this month, according to another Mason-Dixon survey.

A key reason for the race tightening has been enormous publicity over Allen's stumbling responses to questions about his character, surprising missteps for a polished campaigner up against an often awkward challenger.

Let's hope James Webb wins. He can help the Democrats and the country if he joins Congress.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Djerejian on the Iraq Vanity War

We now know Iraq is the war we did not need. The mystery to this day is why Bush and his friends went to war in the first place. Colonialism? Oil? Macho strutting? Hobbesian paranoia? I' not sure anyone really knows. Maybe the neocons don't know either. It's the strangest war in American history, the war without purpose, the war that is gaining no advantage for the U.S. The war that just goes on and is its own justification. We are living in times disconnected from our great history.

Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch has a take on this war, just as many people have a take, trying to explain it all. Djerejian's explanation is that perhaps this is the vanity war:
A commenter in a previous thread says Iraq was a "vanity" war. I suspect many historians, a few years on, will increasingly take this view. There was the dynastic vanity of the son who wanted to right the perceived shortcomings of Poppy's prior Mesopotamian involvement. There was the Cheneyesque 'I know best' vanity of the soi disant wise, knowing elder calmly steering us through the choppy Hobbesian waters. There was the crude Jacksonian vanity of Rumsfeld, who never cared a whit for the Iraqis. There was the Wolfowitzian vanity of the too exuberant high-brow neo-cons (and there was also the "cakewalk" vanity of the low-brow, group-thinking, spittle-licking ones). There was the 'shock and awe' vanity of Tommy Franks. There was the vanity of good intentions, as with Colin Powell--soldiering on rather than resigning earlier--likely thinking he could temper all the cheap bravado and mitigate the fall-out resulting from the gross incompetence that surrounded him. And then there was something of a national vanity: that Afghanistan had been too easy, 9/11 too big, and so we needed to kick a little more ass, to put it colloquially.

Vanity as in strutting on board the Abraham Lincoln. Bush was gloating that day though the war was not finished and his incompetence would only later come to light. When America's greatness is reduced to a peacock strutting for the cameras, we have a problem.

I think it's time to reclaim our country. I just hope enough voters 'get it.'

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bush's Aggressive Spin Does Not Translate into Competent Leadership

George W. Bush has the best image money can buy. But we Americans need more than an image. We need a competent leader. From time to time, we elect people to the White House who aren't the best at their job and it becomes even more important than usual for Congress to make sure things get done. In this era, however, there are too many Republicans busy either lining their pockets or getting instructions from their campaign contributors. There are still a few honest Republicans but they're outgunned and outmanuevered by the likes of the Cunninghams, Frists, DeLays, Hasterts, Pombos and Neys just to mention a few.

The integrity of the Republican leadership isn't what it used. And the world is noticing. Here's a story from Britain's Times (yes, I did double take too):
Democrats finally took the gloves off today in the fight over national security by seizing on a report which says the Iraq war is fuelling global terrorism, heaping derision on President Bush’s claim that he has made America safer.

It signalled a new strategy to aggressively confront Republicans over the issue which Mr Bush’s party has exploited more than any other for electoral success.

The ferocity with which Democrats suddenly counter-attacked was in sharp contrast to a collective timidity on national security that has bedeviled the party for the past four years.

The release by Mr Bush last night of the usually highly classified National Intelligence Estimate, which stated that Iraq was fuelling the global spread of Islamic militancy, greatly intensified the crucial election-year battle over which party can be more trusted to keep America safe.

Five weeks before November’s mid-term elections, both parties said the released summary of the document bolstered their arguments about Iraq and the broader War on Terror.

But it was the Democrats’ co-ordinated and combative response that reflected a decision to no longer flinch in the face of Republican claims that they are weak on national security.

The voters will ultimately decide what happens on November 7, but it's clear that things have changed; Bush has been exposed for the failed president that he is and he will no longer get a free pass in the press.

Interview with General Batiste

General Batiste has been speaking before Congress and has repeatedly criticized the many blunders that have been made in Iraq, particularly by the incompetent Donald Rumsfeld. In fact, the general has been calling for Rumsfeld to be fired. Here's a new interview with the general the City News of Rochester, New York:
Retired Army Major General John Batiste has lived in Rochester for less than a year, but his outspoken criticism of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has quickly made him one of the area's most well-known residents.

Batiste, who moved to Rochester to join Klein Steel in November 2005, served in Iraq twice, most recently in 2004 and 2005, when he was commanding general of the First Infantry Division. He also served as an assistant to Paul Wolfowitz when Wolfowitz was deputy defense secretary.


In an interview last week, Batiste said that Rumsfeld had "cherry-picked" intelligence to justify an invasion of Iraq. He said the public must prepare for a protracted war. And he charged that Congress has not held the Bush administration accountable for its conduct related to the war --- and that the public has not held Congress accountable.


You have been speaking out on the Iraq War for about a year. What has changed in that period?

It has taken about six or seven months, but I think the biggest thing is that on Monday [September 25], for the very first time, our Congress is holding a committee hearing with people like me to start figuring out what is really going on in Iraq. I will be testifying in an open hearing.

This is huge. Up until this point, Congress has been silent. They have abrogated their oversight responsibilities. In previous conflicts --- World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam --- there were hundreds of committee meetings where our elected officials were delving into the facts, asking the tough questions: Why did we go? Did we go with enough capability? Are we spending the money in the proper way? I mean, there are a thousand questions that need to be asked.

This is a big step forward in understanding this war.

Read the rest. I appreciate that Batiste reminds people that in previous war there have been hundreds of committee meetings on the current war at that time. Congress has a responsibility to the American people to make sure the president has got it right. Good committee hearings almost always lead to improvements. No president is smart enough or wise enough to take everything into account. The Republicans who control Congress are failing the American people.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fox News: Unbalanced and Unfair

It's been five years since 9/11 and Bush still hasn't caught Osama bin Laden.

I've watched Chris Wallace's interview of Bill Clinton several times now, and have seen it twice on Olbermann's show on MSNBC. Tonight, Olbermann showed his own interview with Clinton just minutes after the Chris Wallace interview; Clinton was much more himself on Olbermann's show but Olbermann wasn't playing games like Chris Wallace was. Through both interviews, Clinton seemed to me to be just telling it like it is. He admitted he failed to get Osama bin Laden, but at least he tried. He pointed out that Bush in his first eight months did not try.

S.W. Anderson of Oh!Pinion has some commentary on Clinton appearance with Chris Wallace:
Fox News personality Chris Wallace’s gotcha moment with former President Bill Clinton didn’t go off as planned Sunday. Instead, Clinton turned the tables on Wallace, setting the Republican propaganda outlet’s right-wing viewers straight on critical points of recent history in the process.

While Clinton was obviously annoyed and being strongly assertive, at no time did he act or speak in an uncivil or even impolite way. What got off with Wallace then, and other Fox News talking heads ever since, is that aside from forcefully telling his side of things, Clinton told Wallace straight to his face what Wallace and Fox were up to.

That’s not something the unfair and unbalanced broadcasting home of bullies like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly is accustomed to. Guests are for beating up on, not for being beat up by.

The greater significance of Clinton telling Wallace and Fox off is that it models for other Democrats a useful way of responding to future gotcha attempts.

Right wing Republicans are scrambling to deal with the obvious damage to Bush; of course, it's been an issue all along, just not much discussed in a media that's been far too easy on the current president. Bush's behavior in his first eight months in office is still puzzling to many Americans, including Democrats, independents and many thoughtful Republicans; why didn't President Bush try to do more in those first eight months? Why did he ignore the warning from the Clinton Administration? Didn't he know about Osama bin Laden? Why did he go months without doing a thing? Even after being briefed about Osama bin Laden on August 6, 2001, why did he still do nothing? Was it because he was on vacation? Was it because Condi Rice told him not to worry? Was it because he didn't understand the threat? Maybe Bush could not have stopped the 9/11 attack, but history will remember that Bush didn't even try. That staggers everyone when they stop and think about it: he didn't even try.

Republican Candidate Reads Talking Points, Makes Fool of Himself

Bush spinmeister Karl Rove, who doesn't have an honest bone in his body, knows how to fight campaigns; so various Republican candidates around the country are using his talking points which are designed to obscure Bush's poor record in Iraq and poor record against terrorism. Here's what Republican Roskam of Illinois did to his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of Iraq (Talking Points Memo election special):
...Dem House candidate Tammy Duckworth is striking back at GOP rival Peter Roskam for charging she wants to "cut and run" from Iraq -- a less-than-tasteful comment given that Iraq vet Duckworth lost both legs in the war. In an email message to be sent to supporters tomorrow which was obtained by Election Central, Duckworth campaign manager Jon Carson hammers Roskam for the comment, which he made a few days ago. "Tammy lost her legs fighting in Iraq and to accuse her of wanting to `cut and run' is simply crude,..."


Here's the ... email from Duckworth campaign manager Jon Carson:
Tammy Duckworth took her opponent, "Rubber Stamp Roskam" to task last week during the WBBM "At Issue" debate. If you haven't heard the debate, please click here.

Not surprisingly, Peter Roskam got nasty, as a career politician can. He accused Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth of wanting to “cut and run” from Iraq. It makes you wonder - is he the kind of person we want to send to Washington?

Tammy Duckworth has never "cut and run" from anything. Tammy lost her legs fighting in Iraq and to accuse her of wanting to “cut and run” is simply crude. Peter Roskam has no idea what position to take in on Iraq besides the infamous Bush slogans "finish well" and "stay the course" (whatever that means).

Instead of coming up with a real solution to the situation in Iraq, Peter Roskam makes slick comments about an Iraq war veteran. Do we want him to represent us in Congress? Tammy lost both of her legs in Iraq and Peter Roskam’s way of saying thank you is to callously accuse her of wanting to “cut and run.”

See the link for the full text of the e-mail.

Do Republicans running for Congress have any ability left to think for themselves? Are all they're capable of doing is rubber-stamping everything Bush wants, no questions asked? Do they pay attention to what they're asked to say and support? Do they have any respect for Democrats who have served in the military?

There's something very wrong with the Republican Party these days. It isn't the party we once knew. Many of these new Republican professionals don't have half the independence and integrity of past Republicans like Howard Baker or Barry Goldwater, who ran and won on the issues.

Let's hope Roskam is man enough to apologize.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Senator Allen Gets into More Trouble

It's hard to believe that some people take Senator Allen seriously as a potential president of the United States. His 'macaca' comment has forced him to come up with multiple and contradictory explanations which does not put him in a good light. Now there are other charges about the language that Senator Allen uses; here's the story from The New York Times:
Two acquaintances of Senator George Allen of Virginia said today that he had used racially inflammatory language in the 1970’s and 1980’s, compounding allegations of racial insensitivity that have dogged his re-election campaign since he referred to a young Indian-American as “macaca” a few weeks ago. Mr. Allen said he had never used the language attributed to him by the acquaintances.

Christopher Taylor, an anthropology professor at Alabama University in Birmingham, Ala., said that in the early 1980’s he heard Mr. Allen use an inflammatory epithet for African Americans. Mr. Taylor, who is white and was then a graduate student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said the term came up in a conversation about the turtles in a pond near Mr. Allen’s property. According to Mr. Taylor, Mr. Allen said that “around here” only the African Americans — whom he referred to by the epithet — “eat ‘em.”

Separately, Dr. Ken Shelton, a former football teammate of Mr. Allen’s at the University of Virginia who is white, said that in college in the early 1970’s Mr. Allen had used the same term often. Dr. Shelton said Mr. Allen had told him that he moved to Virginia “because the blacks know their place.”

Maybe it's time for Republicans to turn their backs on radical conservatives. Our country has moved on to the 21st century and there are problems we need to start solving together.

Some Minor Relief from Global Warming Possible

I truly believe the public has the right and even responsibility to be informed. Sometimes you wonder though how people will react to a piece of information. Will they use the information correctly or use it as an excuse to put off action? Robin McKie, the science editor of The Guardian, has a story on possible short term relief from Global Warming:
The earth could be rescued from global warming by an unlikely saviour: not fewer cars, nor less pollution, nor even thousands of wind farms spread across Britain's hillsides - but, remarkably, by a cooler Sun. An international group of scientists believes a period of reduced solar activity could soon bring desperately needed cooling to our sweltering world.

The work is based on research of past periods of climatic change, including the Little Ice Age in the 1700s when Europe shivered, the Thames froze over, and harvests failed. At the same time, solar activity dropped and sunspots disappeared from the face of the Sun.

Now leading scientists are predicting that we may soon enter such a period again - although they stress such cooling would only bring temporary relief to our overheated world. In the end, the Earth will still be swamped by huge rises in global temperatures, triggered by human activities, that will affect the planet over the next few decades.

The scientists stress that if there is some relief in temperatures, it will be slight and of course Global Warming may wipe out any cooling trend that occurs. If the slight cooling happens, will we be wise enough to do what's needed to combat Global Warming, or will we use any possible cooling as an excuse to do little?

Knowing that it's getting harder and harder to find oil, does it make any sense to burn oil as fast as we can which will bring on Global Warming all that much faster while making it worse, or does it make sense to start looking for a solution to Global Warming that also gives us long term relief from high energy prices and the risk of damaging the world economy when oil production eventually begins dropping?

We've known for 25-35 years that our worldwide oil resources are limited but we've done only a fraction of what we need to do in terms of switching to alternative energy, improving our efficiency and learning to do with less energy. Less energy, by the way, doesn't mean being poorer; it means turning off the lights when we're not in the room, it means being aware of how we use energy, it means spending a few extra bucks to buy things that last twenty years instead of ten, and it means making the extra effort to recycle. In the end, it may simply mean being a smarter human being.

I happen to believe capitalism is the best model for our country but I don't like a form of capitalism that's always trying to take shortcuts at the expense of workers, consumers and the community at large. I have no patience for companies who pollute to make a few extra bucks while leaving others to clean up their mess at considerable cost.

So there are times when I believe the government has to bring the business community to its senses. We are entering a time when that's needed. I can remember a time when most large companies thought ten, twenty, even thirty years down the road. We're lucky when the average company can think more than 2-5 years down the road which seems to be the average these days. I'll give the oil companies a little credit. They do think 5 to 10 years down the road because that's how long it sometimes takes to bring their projects to market. But that may not be long enough anymore.

Something to think about.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Holding Bush Accountable on Terrorism

It's been apparent to many people that Bush has not done a good job on terrorism. Osama bin Laden is still loose. Although Bush had al Qaida on the run four years ago, al Qaida, because of numerous missteps on the part of Bush and his friends has had a resurgence. We've also known for some time that Iraq had no WMDs when we invaded in 2003 and was not any kind of strategic threat but we invaded anyway for reasons that Bush has done a poor job of explaining. We won the war in Afghanistan and have spent the last four years losing the peace so that the Taliban is now in danger of coming back. The list goes on. We now get word from The New York Times of a NIE report where the experts tell us that the terrorism threat is considerably worse because we attacked Iraq than it was before.

I'll let Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo explain the NIE and what needs to be done:
Do yourself and your country a favor this morning.

Call up your representative and senators -- Republican or Democrat, it doesn't matter -- and tell them you want the April National Intelligence Estimate ("Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States") released to the public. Now. Before the election. So the public can know what the White House has been keeping from them.

I know the title is a mouthful. So just to be clear, that is the April National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) widely reported on this weekend, that concludes that the Iraq War is making the threat of terrorism worse, not better.

This issue was knocking around on the Sunday shows yesterday, with folks like Majority Leader Frist insisting it's just not so. But I haven't seen this episode yet called for what it is -- a cover-up.

An NIE isn't some random government white paper. It represents the consensus judgment of the entire US intelligence community, with input from all the different agencies, from CIA and DIA to INR and FBI and all the others. In other words, this is the collaborative judgment of the people actually fighting the War on Terror.

In 2002, there was a rush to judgment that led us to go to war in Iraq; we now know it was a war we didn't need and we're stuck cleaning up his blunder. We don't need more wars based on the demands of midterms elections and politics. It's time for Bush to be held to account. No more games, no more spin, no more finding out a year later that Bush was 'misunderstood,' no more scaring the public until the real facts are in our hands and we know what the truth is. Is that too much to ask?

Senator Feingold Speaks Out on Darfur

No situation in the world shows the emptiness of Bush's rhetoric about democracy and peace than his failure to deal with the genocide in Darfur. It's not always easy to know what to do in world affairs but Bush took forever to even acknowledge there was a problem. Senator Feingold has been speaking about Darfur repeatedly:
The situation in Darfur is dire and tragic. More than two years have elapsed since the U.S. Government labeled the atrocities being committed against innocent civilians as genocide, and yet the killing has continued and accelerated in recent weeks as the Government of Sudan has launched a new military offensive.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress hasn’t been able to act on this issue. Leaders like Senator Brownback and others here today have tried; many of us have worked hard to draw attention to this issue here in Washington. We must take specific and concrete actions now if we want to help stop the genocide occurring in Darfur.

First, the United States must work directly to support the courageous but inadequate African Union peacekeeping force that has been doing its best to protect the people of Darfur for more than two years. It needs serious help, though, if it’s going to protect innocent civilians. We’re not talking a few million dollars here or there. The AU needs serious assistance, and we need to be prepared to look at all of our options, including support from NATO.

Feingold goes on to say more. It should be noted that a few Republican members of Congress are concerned about the Darfur situation but they can't seem to get through to the Republican leadership which is too busy checking in on major donors to the Republican party. I don't know what the full answer is but the war in Iraq is completely tying down our military and Bush has no solutions except to increasingly ignore other problems around the world.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

Here's a poem by Milosz about time, aging and awareness. In poetry, its sometimes the white space between lines that 'says' the most. For me, it says something about our times.


I looked out the window at dawn and saw a young apple tree translucent
in brightness.

And when I looked out at dawn again, an apple tree laden with
fruit stood there.

Many years had probably gone by but I remember nothing of what
happened in my sleep.

—Czeslaw Milosz


Senator Allen Is a Serial Right Wing Republican

I usually stick to bigger issues than he said, she said sort of stuff. But Senator Allen has been pushing the envelopment on Republican word games and this is a guy who's seriously thinking of running for president. Talking Point Memo has the latest; be sure to read the whole post and remember, no one works harder than Josh Marshall to make sure his stories are accurate:
Oh Boy. Macaca's back with a vengeance. And Wonkette's got the get.

Remember, George Allen said he just made up 'Macaca', right?

Well, that's not what he told Marvin Olasky's World Magazine, a widely read evangelical weekly, a few weeks ago.

Read the rest.

Like the Republicans in the White House who tell multiple versions of events, Allen has now told several different variations of his 'macaca' story. He's an embarrassment on a wide range of issues and should lose his seat.

Senator Kerry on Bush's Failures to Help Gulf

We have to remember that two hurricanes hit the gulf in 2005: Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. It's obvious Bush has abandoned hundreds of thousands of Americans. Senator John Kerry had a few words to say:
Sunday, September 26 marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Rita's landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border. To mark the anniversary, Senator John F. Kerry offered the following remarks:
"This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of yet another nightmarish day for Gulf Coast residents who had just begun to dig themselves out of the worst natural disaster in America's history. Too often overshadowed by the overwhelming devastation caused by Katrina, Hurricane Rita was anything but an afterthought for thousands whose homes and businesses were leveled by this storm."

"The neighborhoods destroyed by Hurricane Rita are every bit as much in need of assistance and support as are those affected by Katrina. We have a responsibility to get resources into the hands of the homeowners and business owners who are fighting to revive their local economies and repair their broken lives."

"So why has the Bush Administration been so slow to react? Of the $885 million in federal disaster loans that have been approved for Rita victims in Texas and Louisiana, just $235 million-less than 30 percent-has actually reached the victims. Meanwhile, towns are drying up, and people are losing hope."

"President Bush marked the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by telling New Orleans that 'a one year anniversary is just that'- that the recovery effort would take far longer than a year to get the city back on its feet. This is just another excuse from a President who failed to put policies in place that could have gotten the Gulf Coast back on its feet in 2006...."

Bush, the do-nothing president and proud of it. We need a Congress that will take charge in the absence of real leadership in the White House.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Right of Americans to Know

The last thing George W. Bush wants Americans to know is what he's been up to for the last five years. But a democracy can't function if there isn't a bright shining light on the executive branch and there are people in Congress who know this. Rebecca Carr of the Austin American-Statesman has the story:
The Bush administration assailed proposed legislation that would protect the identity of reporters' confidential sources Wednesday, saying it would pose national security risks.


The bill, introduced by Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., would strengthen a reporter's promise of confidentiality to sources.

Prosecutors would have to prove that they had exhausted all other alternative sources before demanding the disclosure of the identity of a reporter's source.

Prosecutors would also need to show that the information sought is relevant and critical to proving their case. And they would have to prove that the public interest in forcing disclosure outweighs the public interest in news gathering.

The bill has key supporters on the panel, including Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the panel's ranking Democrat.

Every time the Bush Administration wants to hide things from the voters, they invoke national security. It's the oldest con. If the Bush Administration is so fired up to impose democracy overseas, it ought to do a better job of accepting democracy at home along with the checks and balances we all know we need.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth in Britain

Al Gore's book and movie, Inconvenient Truth, are making their way to other countries. It's amazing how much more seriously the world takes Al Gore and Bill Clinton than George W. Bush. Here's an excerpt from a British website that carries an interview with Al Gore:
'"The whole purpose of this movie and the book is to speed up the point at which the majority of the people in my country and the world as a whole see and accept and understand what the climate crisis is all about, how dangerous it is and how we can solve it because we don't really have too much time.
"According to leading scientists, who are now saying for the first time that we may have less than 10 years, that we will pass a point of no return unless we make significant changes quickly. Some have an even darker prediction. I think we still have time.

"The polluters worldwide who are determined to stop any restrictions have much more influence than they should have in the political process, not only because of the inappropriate role of money in politics but also because the great mass of the majority of people who are affected by this crisis have not spoken up.

"If, for example, after 9/11 the US had been rallied effectively by President Bush, if, in addition to invading Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden, there had been an effort to rally the American people to become independent of oil and fossil fuels, I think the people would have followed in those circumstances.

"There should have been changes in laws and policies then. We have all the technologies we need to start the fight against global warming. We can build clean engines, we can harness the sun and the wind, we can stop wasting energy....
It's too bad we have so many politicians in our country who can't think beyond the next election cycle. We need leaders who can think about the future, a future that's racing towards us faster than we are willing to deal with yet. The key is thinking about our children and grandchildren. They are the ones who are going to have to live with our decisions. But more than half of all people now living are going to see the problems that will be coming in the next twenty to a hundred years.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Democrats Have Much to Say

One of the things I dislike about the media is that they too easily pass along the myths and spins of Republicans with almost no critical comment. The media will say that the Democrats are quiet when it's the media that's failing to pass on what they have to say. Terrell of Alone on the Limb is back in the full swing of things after a busy summer and finishes an excellent post on some excellent observations by a range of Democrats: they're all good but here's one that caught my eye by Rep. John Dingell (D - MI):
... Like many other members of this body I supported the President’s father when he came to Congress seeking authorization to liberate Kuwait.

There the process was honest, open, and truthful. The intelligence was clear; the mission was finite; and the world was united. Here the process is closed, the debate filled with hyperbole and half-truths, the world is alienated, and our mission is murky and indefinite...

The government can't fix a problem untill somebody admits there's a problem and identifies what that problem is. But the Republicans in Congress? Most of them just sit and don't say a word every time Bush messes up, and yet they control both houses. You would almost think Congress wasn't a part of our government.

John Kerry on Iraq

I was talking with someone today and I was reminded that not much news is being put out on Democrats. With Bush jumping up and down trying to get the attention of the nation and divert attention from his blunders, it seems sometimes the Democrats are being shoved aside. So I'm getting back to talking about not just potential Democratic presidential candidates but Democrats who have something to say. Here's John Kerry on Iraq from Raw Story; the story is ten days old but Kerry has more relevant things to say our foreign policy than our current president:
In a speech at Boston's Faneuil Hall on Saturday morning, Democratic Senator John Kerry denounced President Bush's "Katrina foreign policy," and outlined a plan he called "5 R's" which would "make our country more secure."

"The leaders of this administration have shown in recent days that they will say anything, do anything, twist any truth, and endanger our nation's character as one America in a desperate ploy to survive a mid term election," said Kerry.

"But Americans now see through this charade," Kerry continued. "They know the truth."


"There are five principal priorities that demand immediate action: (1) redeploy from Iraq, (2) re-commit to Afghanistan, (3) reduce our dependence on foreign oil, (4) reinforce our homeland defense, and (5) restore America's moral leadership in the world," Kerry outlined. "These "5 R's" -- if you want to call them that-- are bold steps Democrats will take to strengthen our national security, and that the Republicans who have set the agenda today resist to our national peril."

Kerry is calling for "a clear deadline of July, 2007 to redeploy our combat troops" from Iraq, and "at least five thousand additional American troops --more elite Special Forces troops, the best counter-insurgency units in the world; more civil affairs forces; and more experienced intelligence units" to reinforce NATO troops in Afghanistan where a "Taliban-led insurgency is running amok across entire regions of the country."

The mainstream media are acting these days as if there is only a monologue in this nation, or, if sometimes there's a dialogue, it's only between different factions of the Republican party. We need to change that.

Russ Feingold Slams Bush Word Games

Bush has resorted in the last few months to using the phrase, 'Islamic fascists' but it's nothing more than one of those poorly chosen phrases designed to appeal to his base and confuse everybody else. If you stop and think about it, it's not much different than calling Hitler's supporters 'Christian Nazis.' There was never anything Christian about Nazis or even neonazis. Russ Feingold is speaking out on the subject; the Wisconsin State Journal picks up on what Feingold had to say:
Sen. Russ Feingold is right that President Bush and others should stop calling terrorists "Islamic fascists."

"Call them whatever you want - monsters, butchers - but the use of the term 'Islamic fascist' puts the name of Islam. . . in an exceptionally negative light," the Wisconsin Democrat said last week.

The term is "insulting and extremely unwise," Feingold added. It suggests that Islam condones villainous actions, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Many Muslims feel slighted by the pairing of Islam with fascism - a dictatorial governmental system that suppresses criticism and opposition and emphasizes nationalism and racism. Fascism was not a religious movement.

Denigrating Islam by linking it to fascism also is a strategic mistake by American leaders. Such terminology will not help the United States win friends among Muslims the world over. Instead, it will add to mistrust.

To Bush and other administration officials, "Islamic fascists" may be an easy description to spin out in speeches. But it's neither accurate nor wise.

The word "terrorists" better describes hatred-fueled individuals who kill and maim innocents. They are not guided by a religion that propagates peace and brotherhood, or that respects human life.

It's time for America to have a real foreign policy, not this nonsense that has been going on for almost six years.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Failure of Bush and Congressional Republicans to Be Responsible Conservatives

The current minority of Americans who continue to support Bush (polls put it around 37-41%) is shrinking and no wonder. Bush and his friends are hardly behaving like the conservatives who first sought to control the Republican party and then sought to win the branches of the federal government. What we have been given is a woefully incompetent president and a very corrupt Congress. Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake has some thoughts on the growing discontent among Republican rank and file and the few elected officials and pundits willing to speak out:
There have been any number of signs of internecine warfare among factions within the GOP over the last couple of years. The Bush Administration — specifically the Cheney/neo-con faction — has pushed the libertarians, the strict constructionists, the more moderate financial conservatives, out of the party, bit by bit. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from disenchanted conservatives who say "the party has left me," shaking their head at the extremist positions and the disengenuous fact-free arguments made to serve the agenda and the immediate need for strengthening a hold on short-term power, rather than the long-term interests of the party as a whole.

And it seems that it isn’t just the rank and file who are disgusted by the lack of continuity between public pronouncements of ethical positions, and private actions that thwart those very ethics…time and time again. Hypocrisy catches up eventually, and the Bush Administration has been shovelling the malarky pretty thick since day one.


...according to the grumbling that I have been hearing for years from disgusted Republicans, President Bush is a failure....

But Republicans in Congress, who have known this for years, haven’t bothered to call him on it for the good of the American public because they were too afraid of the personal consequences to themselves politically to do so for the good of the American public? Is that about it? And that includes sending brave men and women off to an ill-planned occupation in Iraq and a failure to finish the job in Afghanistan because…what?!?…they feared that the Bush Administration would call them names in public.

It's a fine post so give it a read.

What we have been experiencing in the last five years is without question a truly abnormal time in our history. Nothing the Republicans have done makes much sense. Even the tax breaks are simply selfish adults breaking into their children's piggy banks to 'borrow' money, except it's future generations who will be paying back the 'loans' to pay for the excesses of this corrupt and unearthly Gilded Age.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

In the last twenty years of his life, Stanley Kunitz was considered a dean of American poetry and is remembered for helping dozens of poets over the years.

End of Summer

An agitation of the air,
A pertubation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

—Stanley Kunitz


Senator Byrd Calls for Rumsfeld to Resign

Senator Byrd has known every Secretary of Defense since the 1950s. Like many thoughtful Americans, he's not impressed with Donald Rumsfeld. Truthout has Senator Byrd's statement:
US Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., has called for President Bush to ask for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Byrd is the longest serving member of the Congress and the third-ranking Democratic member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Mr. President,

September 11 has come and gone, and as we remember those lost on that fateful day, and contemplate events since the horrific attack, one truth stands out.

The war in Iraq has backfired, producing more recruits for terrorism, and deep divisions within our own country. It is a war we should never have begun. The detour from our attack on Bin Laden and his minions, hiding in the cracks and crevices of the rough terrain of Afghanistan, to the unwise and unprovoked attack on Iraq has been a disastrous one. Mr. Bush's war has damaged the country because he drove our blessed land into an unnecessary conflict, utterly misreading the consequences, with the result now being a daily display of America's vulnerabilities to those who wish us ill. The United States is a weaker power now, especially in the Middle East, but also in the court of world opinion. Where is the America of restraint, of peace and of inspiration to millions? Where is the America respected not only for her military might, but also for her powerful ideas and her reasonable diplomacy?

Be sure to read the whole thing. It's Senator Byrd at his best. What's ironic is that he comes across like a liberal but that's not accurate. He's a moderate and he's pretty much the same as he's been in the last twenty-five years. Thanks to years of Republican noise, it's the country that's changed. We need to find our way back.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Slippery Rationalizations of the Far Right

When I was in college, one of the best books I was ever asked to read was a small slender book called How to Lie with Statistics. Right wing Republicans seem adept at dragging out all kinds of sort of true statistics that don't tell the real picture. For example, the American economy is doing very well but only if you're rich (pick up a copy of the Sunday New York Times and look at one of their magazines that show estates running from $3 million to $20 million, somewhat outside the price range of even upper middle-class Americans).

Zeno of Halfway There is a mathematician and he has a post that cuts through all the nonsense of those who play with numbers and then words:
In a previous post, I reported how Melanie Morgan of KSFO radio in San Francisco used an article in WorldNetDaily to lie about Iraq. She said we were definitely “winning” because American troop deaths were dropping every month. That's a questionable criterion for success in the ill-advised Iraq war—surely a necessary condition but hardly a sufficient one. Furthermore, her claim is demonstrably untrue. She could give it a certain truthiness only by truncating the month of August. The day after she published her WorldNetDaily column, her claim had already been invalidated.

One of the truly damnable things about Morgan and her ilk is how they make easily refutable statements about Iraq, terrorism, patriotism, or what have you, and, when you refute them, they claim you are glad they are wrong. Yes, aren't we all delighted that the rising body count quickly gave the lie to Morgan's specious claims? It's nasty, but it's how they do business....

The neoconservatives intellectual with their doctorates and books and endowed chairs at think tanks seem to spend much of their time thinking up clever rationalizations rather than real policies or practical solutions. It's time for our country to return to good common sense.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Oil Expert See Oil Instability Continuing

One of the things that's particularly annoying about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is that both are basically fakes. Both avoided serving in Vietnam but they'll smear people who have served. Cheney engages in canned hunts where the prey are virtually brought to him. Bush struts on board the Abraham Lincoln as though he really was the pilot and he really is a 'warrior' president who knows what he's doing.

I've never met Henry Groppe Jr. but I have a hunch he doesn't have much in common with Cheney or Bush despite being an oil man. Here's a story by David Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle:
Houston was rocking and rolling in 1980, with oil at $40 a barrel and some people in the industry predicting it would soar to $100.

One of the few dissenting voices, Henry Groppe Jr., forecasted that by 1985 oil would fall to $15.

"This guy's a nut," Houston energy analyst Matt Simmons recalled an oil executive telling him then. "He ought to be locked up in a straitjacket."

The comment made Simmons laugh because, he said, Groppe is exceptionally calm and gracious.

After oil plunged to $14 in 1986, Groppe was "treated like a prophet with a crystal ball," Simmons recalled.


"We are entering an unprecedented event in world economic history," [Groppe] said. Oil production is straining to meet demand at a time when China and India are developing huge consumer classes relatively overnight, and hundreds of millions more people will have vastly increased demands for energy.

In the future, he said, "perhaps the biggest geopolitical conflicts will involve the U.S. against the rest of the developing world, including China and India, over oil."

Groppe sees oil hovering in a range of no less than $55 to $65 a barrel for the next 10 years and likely much more because unforeseeable political unrest and weather will drive prices up.


His energy views are not shared by the U.S. Department of Energy, which forecasts that production will continue to rise during the next 24 years.

To avoid a global crisis, Groppe thinks that Americans should use the next 10 years, a time in which production output is expected to peak, to transition into new energy-usage habits.

"We must rely more on nuclear power and alternative energy supplies and use all energy more efficiently," he said.

He is no fan of ethanol, which he calls "pure farm-bloc subsidy." The energy spent on producing it is greater than the output, he said, "not to mention depletion of the topsoil."

I like clear thinkers. Too bad people like him don't work in the White House.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

More on Senate Intelligence Investigation

When it comes to the many shennigans of Bush and Cheney, it appears we're still a ways from reaching the bottom of the barrel in terms of information on what those two have been up to in the last four years. Many of us are getting so used to information being dumped on the public on Friday afternoons by people in Washington in the hopes the public and news networks won't notice that Friday is a little like a birthday party: lots of presents and lots of surprises (read: information validating what we already know). Billmon, the famous but anonymous blog reporter has read the reports and has a long post; here's two paragraphs from the opening part:
The Intelligence Committee -- or, as I often call it, the Whitewash Committee -- was delivering the first results of the long-promised "Phase II" of its investigation into the Iraq WMD fiasco. Since Phase I, released in the campaign summer of 2004, was widely seen as a blatant attempt to pin the blame on the intelligence community for the mind-boggling string of lies told by Cheney administration officials in the runup to the invasion, I was curious to see if Phase II is giving us more of the same.

The short, if ambiguous, answer is that it does and it doesn't. As in Phase I, the committee's staff investigation appears to have been carefully designed to avoid uncovering any of the real scandals -- such as the neocon-controlled bureaucratic pipeline that fed bits of raw intelligence data, wild rumors and quasi-insane conspiracy theories directly to the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the White House propanganda shop.

The reports are not as damaging to Cheney and Bush as they might be if the full truth had been told but it looks like they're pretty damaging as it it. And perhaps, I say perhaps, a number of Republicans are finally beginning to recognize the enormous damage Bush and Cheney are doing to the nation and the further damage the two will continue to do if they are not checked.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

9/11 Widower of Disney Exec Criticizes ABC

I haven't kept up fully on the controversy surrounding the ABC 9/11 film, but if the reports are accurate, Rush Limbaugh might as well have written the film. We all know Limbaugh has been engaging in fantasies for the last twenty years or so. Greg Sergeant of TPM Cafe has the story:
John Beug, the widowed husband of Carolyn Beug, a former vice president at Walt Disney Records who was on the plane that slammed into 1 World Trade Center, has written a letter to ABC chief Bob Iger pleading with him not to run the film. A source provided us with a copy of the letter.

It reads, in part: "I am writing to express my concern and deep reservations about this film and to ask you, out of respect for the victims of 9/11 and their families, not to air it...I strongly and respectfully urge you not to air this film."

Right wing propagandists seem to be swift-boating the Clinton Administration as a way of distracting from Bush's incompetence.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

Not as well known as he should have been, David Ignatow was a very fine American poet, born in Brooklyn in 1914 and a hardworking New Yorker who had a number of jobs before ending up in teaching. The following poem has always been one of my favorites; I come from a very different background and yet the poem reached me many years ago with its clear transparency.

The Bagel

I stopped to pick up the bagel
rolling away in the wind,
annoyed with myself
for having dropped it
as it were a portent.
Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete somersault
afer another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.

—David Ignatow

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We Have a Strange President

Our president, who failed to capture Osama bin Laden, is now quoting him. Dan Froomkin of The Washington Post writes on our strange president:
The spectacle of the president of the United States extensively quoting Osama bin Laden to bolster his controversial policies during political season deserves notice, and reflection.

By all rights, President Bush ought to be embarrassed that the al Qaeda leader who masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks remains at large almost five years later.

But Bush yesterday let bin Laden share his bulliest of pulpits, giving the mass murderer precisely the attention he craves and endorsing his extreme view that a Third World War is under way.

We shouldn't forget that when Bush first walked into the White House back in January 2001, he blew off the Clinton administration and ignored warning about Osama bin Laden. This country does not need a Congress that rubber stamps the president's poor judgment. Our founding fathers knew what they were doing when they wrote the U.S. Constitution. We needs some checks and we need some balance and we need a Congress that will stand up to Bush.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Congress Needs to Assert Itself

As our ambassador to the UN, John Bolton has been noted for his arrogance and lack of achievement. It should be remembered that he never was confirmed by the Senate in the first place. He is a recess appointment. It's time for Congress to use a word Bush needs to hear more often when he's trying to get his way: 'no.' Raw Story reminds us that John Bolton is up for confirmation once again:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider whether or not to support the nomination of John Bolton to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations this Thursday, according to Elizabeth Alexander, spokeswoman for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), the ranking Democrat on the committee.

Last year, the Republican leadership opted to send the nomination to the Senate floor without a recommendation despite holding a 10-8 majority in the committee.

In campaigns around the nation, Republicans claim to be distancing themselves from Bush's failed foreign policy. Democrats should fight Bolton's nomination and make it clear that Americans are tired of Bush's arrogance and lack of accomplishment. Scott T. Paul of TPM Cafe believes the Democrats have the votes to stop the Bolton nomination:
With some colleagues, I have completed a real whip list, and the Republican leadership and the White House are wrong again this year. Based on conversations with individual Senators and their aides, I can say confidently that they don’t have the votes.

Republicans need 60 Senators to win a cloture motion and end debate. Without tipping my hand completely, I can say that the Republican leadership has 53 votes it can count on, and another 4 who are leaning in its direction but uncertain. On a sunny day, that makes 57. Even if they capture the 2 truly undecided votes, that still leaves them a vote short of the 60 they need. It’s simply not going to happen.

Democrats need to wake up and realize they have the votes to defeat the Bolton nomination. They’ve been lulled to sleep by the August recess and psyched out by the Republicans' phony show of confidence in Bolton's confirmation chances.

It will be interesting to see if any Republicans vote for a return to sanity by turning down Bolton's nomination. Even without Joe Lieberman, the Democrats can probably defeat Bolton's chance of being confirmed (though it will be interesting to see which way Senator Lieberman goes). It should be pointed out again that the confirmation hearing on Bolton was left hanging more than a year ago because of question that were left unanswered; one of the questions was whether Bolton was spying on other members of the State Department when Colin Powell was in charge, but the Bush Administration blocked the investigation. But the real question is this: will Congress have to courage to stand up to George W. Bush?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bush's Dismal Economy

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly has a colorful graph on median income over the last six years. Most states are in negative territory; Michigan and North Carolina are the hardest hit. The graph is well worth looking at but the news is grim. Wyoming, Cheney's home state, is in positive territory, however; maybe that's all that money for homeland security that was supposed to go to New York.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hillary Clinton Possibility Still Circulating

The story that Hillary Clinton might give up her bid for the presidency to become Senate Majority Leader if the Democrats win in the next couple of years is still circulating according to Reader DK at Talking Points Memo who points to this article in The Times (UK):
FRIENDS of Hillary Clinton have been whispering the unthinkable. Despite her status as the runaway frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, some of her closest advisers say she might opt out of the White House race and seek to lead her party in the Senate.

The former first lady longs to return to the White House with husband Bill as consort. Only last week she told television viewers America would be led by a woman one day. “Stay tuned,” she said.

First, however, she has to win the election. Some Democratic party elders — the American equivalent of the Tories’ “men in grey suits” — say Clinton may back out of the race of her own volition.

“I would not be surprised if she were to decide that the best contribution she can make to her country is to forget about being president and become a consensus-maker in the Senate,” said a leading Democratic party insider. “She believes there is no trust between the two political sides and that we can’t function as a democracy without it.”

As senator for New York, Clinton has forged alliances across party lines with leading Republicans such as Senator John McCain and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives. In the eyes of the electorate, however, she is a potentially divisive figure.

I'm not entirely sure why Hillary is forging alliances with Newt Gingrich, who increasingly places himself on the far right with talk about World War Three. But the other alliances might be useful depending on how much she can wean Republicans from their money machine and focus on real issues. Although she would undoubtedly make a fine Majority Leader, the fact that the rumors are still circulating suggests it's something of a diversion. While she runs for reelection in New York, the rumor gives something for people to talk about besides Hillary's sometimes odd positions on the issues such as her longtime support of the war in Iraq. Such rumors make her appear to be a uniter while allowing her a kind of recess to reposition herself for a presidential run once she wins reelection in November.

The House of Bush Is Falling and Possibly More

Sometimes I find things that are too interesting not to do a post on even if I don't agree with a number of things that are said. Via The Left Coaster, here are some excerpts from a piece by the sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein about the consequences and dangers of Bush's foreign policy:
When many years ago, some of us said that the decline of United States hegemony in the world-system was inevitable, unstoppable, and already occurring, we were told by most people that we ignored the obvious overwhelming military and economic strength of the United States. And there were some critics who said that our analyses were harmful because they served as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then the neo-cons came to power in the Bush presidency, and they implemented their policy of unilateral macho militarism, designed (they said) to restore unquestioned United States hegemony by frightening U.S. enemies and intimidating U.S. friends into unquestioned obedience to U.S. policies in the world arena. The neo-cons had their chance and their wars and have spectacularly failed either to frighten those regarded as enemies or to intimidate erstwhile allies into unquestioned obedience. The U.S. position in the world-system is far weaker today than it was in 2000, the result precisely of the very misguided neo-con policies adopted during the Bush presidency. Today, quite a few people are ready to talk openly about U.S. decline.


If, as seems quite possible now, the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress in the November 2006 elections, there risks being a stampede to withdraw, despite the hesitancy of the Democratic congressional leadership. This will be all the more sure if, in various local elections, prominent antiwar candidates win.

What will the Cheney camp do then? One can't expect that they will gracefully acknowledge the coming of a Democratic president in the 2008 elections. They will know that they have probably only two years left to create situations from which it would be almost impossible for the United States to retreat. And since they would not, with a Democratic congress, be able to get any important legislation passed, they will concentrate (even more than now) on trying to use the executive powers of the presidency, under the docile front man, George W. Bush, to stir up military havoc around the world and to reduce radically the sphere of civil liberties within the United States.

The Cheney cabal will however be resisted, on many fronts. The most important locus of resistance will no doubt be the leadership of the U.S. armed forces (with the exception of the Air Force), who clearly think that the current military adventures have greatly overextended U.S. military capacity and are very worried that they will be the ones held for blame later by U.S. public opinion when Rumsfeld and Cheney have disappeared from the newspaper headlines. The Cheney cabal will be resisted as well by big business who see the current policies as having very negative consequences for the U.S. economy.

In some ways, it's a strange and curious article. Wallerstein says some useful things but he also predicts the demise of the US which to me is a bit like Cheney saying the insurgents are in their last throes. Sooner or later, both Cheney and Wallerstein are going to be right.

No great nation keeps its position for very long but I would argue that the United States, if it gets its act back together, and loses some of its right wing arrogance, still has a useful role to play on the world stage, particularly when it comes to the innovation that's going to be necessary to get us through some of the major problems that are already beginning to affect the world. Let's hope so, anyway.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Karl Rove Losing Influence

The more Americans see through people like Karl Rove and George W. Bush, the less the two are taken seriously. If Rove and Bush had known each other as kids, it's easy to imagine Karl Rove as the kid who would tell Bush what to say to adults so that they could get away with whatever nonsense they had in mind. Well, the adults in the country have finally caught on.

DemfromCT has a post on Daily Kos that discusses Karl Rove's waning influence:
Rove has always represented the sleazier side of politics, with under-the-table innuendo and targeted bigotry as valuable tools. Along with the waning of conservatism as a unified movement, any diminution of Rove-style Swift Boat politics would be a wonderful thing for Americans. The fact that his boss is disparaged in so many quarters (and that's no exaggeration - as the most polarizing President in modern history, who governed on a 50+1% straterery whenever possible, Bush brought this on himself) doesn't help Karl much these days. Who wants a 38% approval rating draped around one's shoulders? And who wants to sacrifice everything for a failed President? The good times in the GOP are over, and it's Republicans who know it best (they're more pessimistic about burns in montana than we are).
I'm a Democrat but I've been around long enough to know that we need two political parties. The irony is that it's the Republicans, in their efforts to set up a one-party country, that are no longer a political party in the useful sense we mean when we talk about what direction to take the country and how to handle our problems. Today's Republican leadership is just a political machine preying on people's fears and hopes while delivering most of its benefits to cronies and wealthy campaign contributors. It's a sad state of affairs.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

Some say the 20th century was an age of exiles and refugees. I believe there's some truth to that but here's a poem by a Chinese poet who was an exile in Japan a very long time ago (translation: Kenneth Rexroth).

Exile in Japan

On the balcony of the tower
I play my flute and watch
The Spring rain.
I wonder
If I ever
Will go home and see
The tide rushing upriver
through the Chekiang.
Straw sandals, an old
Begging bowl, nobody
Knows me. On how many
Bridges have I trampled
The fallen cherry blossoms?

—Su Man Shu

America Has Doubts about Bush's Wars

One of the things that Israel's war against Hezbollah highlighted is that sometimes military adventures cost a great deal more than anything they gain. Israel was fighting Hezbollah but tens of thousands of Lebanese found themselves the target of Israeli military strikes. Right wingers argue that collateral damage is inevitable, particularly if people like Hezbollah hide among civilians but the evidence is clear that Israel was bombing Lebanon from one end of the country to the other. There was an enormous amount of damage not directly tied to fighting Hezbollah. In the first few days, the world was sympathetic to Israel's right to defend itself but Israel's military overreach soon changed that.

Much of the same sort has happened to the United States. Too many wedding parties have been bombed in the last four years. Too many families worried about exactly what they were supposed to do at an American checkpoints have died. Too many innocents have been detained and humiliated. The list is long of blunders made without thinking through the consequences of our policies.

MSNBC has a strange poll that may be the result of not correctly asking the right questions but it is interesting nevertheless:
Doubts about the war on terrorism are growing. Most people worry that the cost in blood and money may be too high, and they don’t think al-Qaida kingpin Osama bin Laden will ever be caught, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, fully one-third of Americans think the terrorists may be winning, the poll suggests. Worries fed by the war in Iraq have spilled over into the broader campaign against terrorists who directly target the U.S.

Half in the poll question whether the costs of the anti-terror campaign are too great, and even more admit that thought has crossed their mind.

The terrorists are not winning, not in any real sense, though they have clearly won a number of political and public relations battles. What's really going on is that Bush and his advisers don't know what they're doing. Five years ago, most people around the world had a favorable view of the US; those numbers have fallen into negative territory not because the terrorists have clever things to say but because of our actions and our words. Bush, and therefore America, are not trusted very much these days.

And a growing number of Americans doubt that Iraq has much to do with the war on terrorism, or at least the war we thought we were fighting in the months after 9/11. A majority of Americans now believe that somewhere we took a wrong turn.