Friday, December 29, 2006

Area Man Makes it to Drvil !

I'm very pleased to announce one of my articles has been accepted to Drvil's Page 2. By it's own estimation Drivl is "pretty damn cool" and I agree completely.

Just consider some of the articles on the site:

If You Cancel a Show I Like AGAIN I Will Be Forced to Harm Your Network


Mr. McConaughey, look at John Travolta's IMDB page. Please. Study it. Learn from it.

My own article's title Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban Reunite; Nation Ends Grieving Over Loss of Gerald Ford seems humble in comparison but I am just happy to be in the company of such wondrous deviance.

Drivl receives about a million hits per day, so I am very excited and you're all invited. Please, go check out the article, vote on it, comment on it...touch it, love it !

Read it here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bush on New Iraq Plan: My dog ate it

President Bush emerged from his ranch in Crawford, Texas to give reporters an update on his new plan for Iraq. Bush, who plans to unveil his plan next month, gathered with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and national security adviser Stephen Hadley. Gates and Pace reported their findings from a trip last week to Iraq.

"We had a real good session late last evening. A lot of brainstorming. A lot of ideas. I wrote them all down on a legal pad. I was all set to give you people a summary of what we had come up with so far, but, when I woke-up I discovered Barney had eaten the report,"Bush admitted, citing the well-known White House dog as the culprit.

"It was either Barney, or Laura. I've narrowed it down to those two," Bush continued. "Laura usually doesn't eat paper products. I have a strong suspicion it was the dog."

Bush then vowed to return to deliberations and not emerge until the plan was hammered out, again. "Honestly, it probably wont be as good as that first plan. That was a real barn-burner, the one the dog ate. But, I think if we re-trace our steps we can come up with something close. Anyway, we're going to go back and try again."

As criticism mounts over his handling of the war, among the options Bush has been considering is a short-term "surge" in U.S. forces to help contain rampant violence. There are currently 134,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Democrats say November elections in which they took control of Congress from Bush's Republican Party reflected public discontent with the Iraq war and desire for change.

But Bush, who prides himself on sticking to decisions, has brushed aside a proposal from a bipartisan panel to ask U.S. foes Iran and Syria for help in stabilizing Iraq and is said to be looking closely at a temporary troop increase.

Sen. Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat who will be the next chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other Democrats already have expressed opposition to a troop increase. Biden also lauded the president's recent remarks.

"The man just has no shame, does he?" Biden commented. "His dog ate it? Are we to believe that his dog ate the plan? That's messed up. However, even that wouldn't surprise me, if the plan even existed. What is even more likely is that he never had a plan to begin with."

Today Sen. John Edwards, who has entered the race for president, called his vote for war in Iraq a mistake. "You see, I voted for war in Iraq, but that was before we all discovered such a war would be completely misguided and mis-run. Factoring that in it was a mistake to give this president authority to go to war. And now I wonder, did Barney also eat the original war plans? Did Barney draw them up? What a joke, this interview is over."

15 Questions Couples Wish They Had Asked Before Marrying

Here's a pithy article that may re-route your life from heart-wrenching disaster to fulfillment in companionship. The New York Times has published fifteen questions couples should ask each other before getting married, or entering any very serious relationship. Relationships, for better or worse, often boil down to a partnership, not unlike a business. The best business have clear goals, a good plan, and effective commutation. Your relationship should be no different--minus the fraud--with the addition of a lot of romance.

Anyway, take a quick read, here, write the questions on your hand and casually bring them up with your significant other the next time you're out to dinner.

All Unrelated Former Presidents Disagreed With Bush on Iraq

Even President Gerald Ford, in an opinion released after his death, disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq. Ford, who was 91 at the time of the interview, comes across as an absolute genius by today's political standards (My god, he used the word "pugnacious"!) . By "genius" I mean someone in government operating above a 12th grade level.

Here is a portion of the Washington Post article:

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.

"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

Well, this makes it a complete sweep. Every former president with the ability to honestly comment on Iraq now disagreed with Bush on the war.

"Saddam is gone. It's a good thing, but I don't agree with what was done, " Bill Clinton told students at the American University of Dubai. "It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country."

"I think that the original invasion of Iraq, and all of its consequences, yes, were a blunder, including what happened with the leadership," Said Jimmy Carter. "One of the -- it's going to prove, I believe, to be one of the greatest blunders that American presidents have ever made."

The only former President who has not come out against the war in Iraq is, of course, George Bush Sr., the father of the current president. But, perhaps, the unleashing of James Baker, and the appointment of Robert Gates, say enough about what Bush 41 thinks of the invasion of Iraq.

In reading the Ford interview, I'm struck by how far we have fallen. Ford was not regarded as a brilliant thinker or an eventful president, but he's able to summon a few four syllable words and logical sentences which immediately suggest he is in a class above anyone in the current Bush administration. Ford would be considered an absolute brain trust by today's standards, and probably far too eclectic and reasonable for his own good.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nichole Kidman, Keith Urban Reunite, Nation Ends Gerald Ford Grieving

Currently the most popular news stories on CNN:

1. Senate sex blog heads towards x-rated trial

2. Nichole Kidman and Keith Urban reunite.

3. Houston, we have a luggage problem.

4. James Brown's body to lie in Apollo Theater.

5. Gerald Ford remembered for post-Watergate leadership.

All glory is fleeting. Death of former President Ford comes in behind news of a sex blog trial, a celebrity couple re-uniting, a luggage mix-up, and where you can go to see James Brown's body. It really makes you wonder, what are the five inane things that will trump your inevitable death?

50 Things We Now Know (That We Didn't Know We Didn't Know This Time Last Year)

The greatest thing about the end of the year is the plethora of lists, round-ups, summaries, and reviews we are bombarded with. Last night I sat and watched Keith Olbermann's Oddball round-up for 2006; I read game-of-the-year reviews on GameSpot, IGN, and GameSpy (yeah, I like computer games); But here is a list completely blog-worthy: the Tampa Tribune's 50 things we've learned over 2006.

What made the list? Well, the Narwhal, for one. And it's about time we learned something about the Narwhal, isn't it?

The number of "mega-churches" has doubled over the last five years--signaling hard-times for all those half-assed mom and pop type churches across the country. Yes, big box churches with built-in coffee houses and gift shops are here to stay.

Cheese consumption is on a rapid increase. Coupled with the war in Iraq we can now accurately be called "Cheese eating surrender monkeys." I, for one, welcome our new French overlords...

The hole in the Ozone layer is closing (yay, science!). Meanwhile, the amount of greenhouse grasses is increasing (boo, Exxon). By-the-way, have you seen Who Killed the Electric Car--I recommend it.

Kissing fights allergies.

Drinking chocolate milk is one of the best ways to recover from strenuous exercise.

But what have I learned? The re-designed Ford Mustang looks a lot less appealing than it did a year ago.

And you, dear reader, what have you learned?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

$200 Bill Bearing Portrait of George W. Bush Used to Buy Groceries

These days, it really pays to have a sense of humor about things. The going rate is now up to $200 as in the $200 bill bearing George W. Bush's portrait. The back of the bill shows the White House with a lawn littered with sign posts admonishing "USA Deserves a Tax Cut!" and "No More Scandals!" The bill was used to buy some groceries at a Food Lion in Roanoke, Virginia.

The Smoking Gun has the full story here, including a copy of the police report describing the bill with the serial number DUBY4U2001 and "long live talk radio." Still, poor Angela Worsham, whose name is also on the report, accepted the bill as legal tender. Amazing. My guess is she was so excited to see a real $200 bill she showed her manager who immediately flipped out.

"Mr. Curruthers, I didn't know the President was on the $200 bill?"
"Oh, fudge."

You can't make this stuff up, folks! It's going to be a great year!

Wired: 2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards

If you only get one magazine subscription next year I highly recommend you make it Wired. Each monthly issue is packed with so much stuff you'll be hard-pressed to read it all before the next one comes out. Here's Wired's round-up of foot-in-mouth tech quotes from 2006, including, of course, our President's "the Google" comment.

Check it out, here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A New Way Forward: My Ten Steps for 2007

My year ends like this: it's 1 am and I'm reading a Think Progress article showing how in 2004 Bush slammed Kerry for wanting to increase the size of the Army to fight in Iraq. Bush claimed such a move would make America "less safe."

Today Bush announced his intentions to increase the size of the Army to fight in Iraq. Somewhere a big dog barked.

I've been searching for a word to sum up 2006, and the incalculable damage it has done not only to our military, our international image, but our very psyche. I've settled on "abject." If, years from now, someone wants to know what 2006 was like, I will simply say "abject" and settle into a thousand yard stare.

You know what I'm talking about. From Iraq's civil war to North Korea's successful nuclear test, Bush has orchestrated a dirge of incredible incapacity. Worst of all is the droning of spin and consequences from the cabal, its tentacles ensnare the country. I can feel the lifeforce being constricted out of me. The more I struggle with it, the more I'm bombarded with doublespeak and truths that were formerly lies which started as truths. We're not losing in Iraq, we're just not winning. It was right to go to Iraq, even if the consequences were widely predicted and are now upon us. We're fighting the terrorist abroad so they wont fight us here. On and on it goes....

After a year like 2006 we need a new way forward. We wont get a power-commission to study how the rest of us are supposed to deal with the growing fury of bad decisions, corruption, religious fanaticism, and global warming. So here's my advice, which will also quickly serve me in-case I am asked to give the commencement speech at a local college.

1. Turn off the television. TV, to me, has become a sort of fat-laden junk food for the brain. I usually feel worse after watching TV. Television presents a fabricated picture of reality that is not only impossible to live up to but foolish to emulate. It does nothing but increase the level of fakery, and thus angst, in your life. In 2007 detox off the tube.

2. Consume less news. The news is just too depressing. It's hard to have a healthy long view when young men and women are dying in Iraq for Bush's pride. Bush is having no trouble sleeping, why should you? You'll find out about breaking news, really important changes, but Iraq, and it's consequences, meanwhile Bush has two whole years left. I'm not saying you should completely disengage, but take it in proper doses or it'll make you very bitter (how can it not?). At the very least, cut out servings of pundits like O'Reilly, akin to erasing soda from your diet. People like him are a sticky, mysterious substance that rot your teeth.

3. Enjoy your friends and/or family. Enjoy the people around you. Someone, anyone. Love the one you're with. Give a little bit. Believe me, one moment with a son, or daughter, or loved one, is worth a hundred hours in a book, and a million on TV. It's real, and your self knows the difference.

4. Exercise / play a sport / spend a lot of time outside. God really is in the details. Go camping, take a road trip, but what ever you do just enjoy it. Don't worry about anything other than just getting out and opening your senses to something natural. Be active. The more you do the more you'll get done, really. And the more you get done the more proactive you'll feel. And that's what we need to do for 2007: enjoying what we have control over, and limiting our stress over Bush's decisions.

5. Take a class. Try it. Take a cooking class. Take an economics class. Don't even take it for the grade. If you can't take the class, check out its reading list and buy the books, used, on I was struck by Warren Buffet's advice to young adults: invest in yourself. You are, to be completely cliche, a tremendous accomplishment. A human being is an incredible machine capable of unending love, creativity, and contributions. Think about that. If we spent as much time investing in people as we do in, say, smart bombs, we'd really be on to something. But this one's on you--make it a priority to invest in yourself.

6. Set a major goal for 2007. Let's try this--set a major goal to be completed by the end of next year. My goal is to be published, be it a magazine, newspaper, or story. That's it, that's my goal. It's worth the effort and it'll keep me focused.

7. Eat less fast food. Television and fast food are 1% gratification and 99% hype. Plus, they tend to just gunk everything up. Learn to cook a few meals really well--it's very rewarding.

8. Buy fluorescent bulbs and plant some trees. That's pretty easy, and you'll know you're doing your part to be carbon neutral--one less thing you have to worry about. You're only one person, how much good can you do? Remember, we're thinking small in 2007, we're thinking individual, we're getting focused. You can't fight everything--but you can do your part and be unashamed.

9. Create something. Most of you probably have blogs of your own--they're wonderful outlets. Keep going. If you don't have one, start one. Or, go take photographs. Plant a garden. I don't know! But anything is better than nothing. That's a human drive--to create and to take pride in the creation. Maybe that is how we are like God. Most of us have dead-end, ultimately meaningless jobs. Combine that with the stuff coming out of Washington and reality can really bite. So, create your own little life of proactive construction. Again, give a little bit.

10. Read lots of Thought Alarm! I'm here to help! Let's do this thing.

If you found this helpful, or think I missed anything, please leave a comment. Please feel free to pass it along, digg it, link it, what ever it is you do. Have a great 2007!

Thought Alarm: Now Snap Enhanced!

No, I'm not going to talk about Bush's plan to commit more troops to Iraq. I'm just not. OK? I'm not going to get cynical, not around Christmas. If Bush wants to defy the advice of almost everyone in the country, including top military brass, that's his call. Deep down, of course, I hope it works.

No, today I'm here to provide the facts about sex in a frank and upfront manner. And now, here's Fuzzy Bunny's Guide to You Know What. OK, now that I've met state requirements, I'm also going to talk to you about tech (in a frank and upfront manner).

First, I've added Snap to Thought Alarm. Snap is a search engine that provides visual previews of your search results. What this means for your experience here is when you move your mouse over a link a pop-up window is generated previewing the site. Snap takes care of everything with a little javascript. It's almost freaky how simple and powerful it is. But don't just take my word for it. Both Techcrunch and Lifehacker have write ups on Snap integration.

Second, I've added the power of Google to Thought Alarm. Specifically, I've added Google Analytics, a powerful web site stat analyzer. It used to cost you to use it, not it's free. So, I see no reason why all of you shouldn't go over to Google and sign up and let it analyze your site. It's very simple. Google analyzer will tell me pretty much everything I need to know--from what the most popular browser used to view my site is, to how you like your coffee in the morning. For corroboration, Lifehacker has a write up on the service.

I'm only telling you this because, well, I think it's damn cool. Ready to strap on some tech and get your blog search engine optimized? Pop-up enhanced? Ready to turn your blog into an object of envy, a hit generating, revenue producing pile of perpetual motion? I'm on my way!! Go fourth and do likewise.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Obscenity Count: Glengarry Glen Ross

Greatest movie ever. But do you know who had the most obscenities? This clip is great, watch it and find out. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it, download it, do whatever you have to do to see it. Being the greatest movie ever, it's also the most underrated movie ever. Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Al Pachino, Alan Arkin, Jack Lemon, and Alec Baldwin all give incredible performances.

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the movie.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Best. SecDev. Ever!

Donald Rumsfeld "is the finest Secretary of Defense this nation has ever had."
-Vice President Dick Cheney at Rumsfeld's farewell ceremony.

It's the administration's daily insult to your intelligence. Watch the clip at Think Progress.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dems to Keep Johnson Alive "As Long As It Takes"

Leading Democrats today showed unprecedented unity after Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, suffered a brain hemorrhage Wednesday. With Johnson's life hanging in the balance it became known that South Dakota's Republican governor would have the power to appoint a replacement in the event that Johnson did not survive or needed to step down. The appointment of a Republican would move the Senate to a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Dick Cheney holding the deciding vote.

"That is simply not an option," Democratic majority leader Harry Reid, Nevada, said. "We're going to keep Tim Johnson alive as long as it takes."

While Johnson's recovery has been widely watched the Democrats have been planning for any contingency.

"The man is going to live, " Reid continued. "We'll smuggle in Cuban doctors if we have to. We'll pull a Weekend at Bernies if we have to. We'll make Teri Schiavo look like a footnote in history. As long as Tim Johnson lives, that's the important thing. Or, as long as people think he's alive. And how much does it take to prove a Senator is alive and functioning? Not much, really. We are barely even required to come to work."

Legal experts are divided on the issue of stripping Johnson of his vote due to death, and handing the deciding vote over to Vice President Cheney who has been legally dead for the last six years.

"Cheney, strictly speaking, is more machine than man," said a Congressional legal expert. "Look at his posture, his scowl, his robotic mannerisms, his cold, callous disregard for human God, people, the signs are all there! I find it not only legally wrong but morally reprehensible to hand over Senatorial veto power to that...thing...even if Senator Johnson, god forbid, were to pass away or need to step down."

In other news, reports are flooding in that looting around Washington DC has been on the rise recently. A man resembling President Bush was seen smashing a car window with a brick and rummaging around for the elusive solution to the Iraq debacle. When authorities closed in he hissed, and escaped down a nearby manhole.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

When Reality Bites, Make Lemonaide

Many people are upset about the Iraq Study Group's report because it paints a bleak picture in Iraq. Like a child, they close their eyes and believe that reality is the darkness of their mind's eye. It's simply shocking to Ann Coulter to believe we are losing in Iraq because only about a thousand Americans are dying each year (she, of course, does not mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties or the 1.6 million displaced Iraqis). Heartened by the metric of American vs Iraqi deaths she then says 6,000 American deaths by 2010 would be perfectly acceptable to prevent another 9/11.

Yes, 6,000 American deaths to prevent 3,000 more. Such is twisted logic of a mind's eye long since gone blind. Such is the emotional pull of September 11.

I don't mean to start anything here but I'm sick of 9/11. How many people are we going to ask to die to prevent another 9/11? How much money are we going to spend to do it? Are we going to irrevocably cripple this country to prevent another 9/11? Are we going to suspend more civil rights to prevent it? Taken together, are we, in fact, doing more damage to this country than willful terrorists ever could?

Of course it pains me to say these things. I would love to live in the America of my childhood, an idyllic notion far detached from reality. But that does me no favors, just as believing in Santa will produce no extra presents under the tree on Christmas morning. When faced with future marginalization, debt, and possible attach, best to dwell in the house of reality.

The worst thing that could happen is not another 9/11, but an organization acquiring a nuclear device to use against us. How are we preventing that by being in Iraq? Has Operation Iraqi Freedom slowed down the development of WMDs in other countries? No. In-fact, Iraq has undoubtedly exacerbated tensions, given countries a reason for extra deterrence, and accelerated the process. Continuing, it has inflamed anti-American passions with people who would use such a device against us. And I'm not just talking about rogue terrorist organizations, although we have certainly widened their recruitment pool. North Korea, Iran, and other countries around the world really, really dislike us. Taken all-together, we have a serious problem.

So, the Bush doctrine to prevent another 9/11 has, in-fact, increased the chances that a 9/11 x 10,000 could occur.

Yes, actually, there are worse things than another 9/11. One of which I've just expressed. Another is losing our credibility and standing among countries who don't yet hate us. I know there is a strong feeling of unilateralism but that can only take us so far. We are mired in debt. We need intelligence that requires cooperation among countries. We also require that cooperation to deter future large-scale terrorists attacks.

The world is shrinking, whether we like it or not. That is a good thing if you know how to play well with others. It's a bad thing if you think your power can by the playground. We simply cannot afford to have a rogue attitude in a world where more countries are acquiring nuclear weapons, and the ability to conceal and deliver them increases.

Terrorism must be undermined with subtlety, something sorely lacking in this administration. Israel has not been able to destroy terrorism, with force, against a people it occupies. How are we supposed to stop it from germinating in a foreign country? We do ourselves no favors with large gestures of force which only lend credibility to a terrorist's belief that we are a dangerous country that must be stopped.

9/11 was a horrific event, no doubt. But are we going to take this ship down for it? No one likes the idea of resignation, but even George Washington had to retreat once in a while. He lost battles but his goal was to win the war. This was accomplished not with a dramatic charge, but with a bit of concession and a lot of strategy. George Bush, and so many of us, so badly wants to win this battle in Iraq, even if it costs us the entire war. That seems to me an anathema. It seems un-American to sacrifice the future of America at the alter of pride.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hobbled Race Horse Receives Exemplary Medical Care

Top 5 Conservative Issues That Aren't as Bad as You Think

I'll admit, I kinda like Glenn Beck. His personal story is very compelling and admirable. After reading it I have to believe he's capable of empathy, unlike so many other conservatives who are sheltered, scared white men. So, I just don't get his take on certain issues. Immigrants not speaking English? Cartoon movies promoting gay rights? Is Boo Radley around the corner too? This country faces serious problems. I don't think things like people's willingness to come here to work is one of them. Having vanquished shadowy foes of Christmas, fearfuls are scrounging for the next big problem that isn't. I'll help them out, here's my top 5 conservative issues that aren't as bad as you think.

5. Immigrants who don't speak English. Not a problem? Unpossible! Not everyone who comes here speaks English right off the bat. Your family probably didn't. My great-grandparents spoke German. They learned English. It'll happen. Most Americans don't even speak decent English anyway.

4. The War on Christmas. Uh, right. The President sends out a Christmas card every year. We light a giant Christmas tree in New York City, a pit of liberalism, every year. We scuttle into Wal Mart and empty our pockets at the alter of capitalism in the name of Christmas every year. We do have a real war going on in Iraq that was ill-conceived and ill-implemented to the cost of thousands of lives. We'd better steal a win in the "War on Christmas" (and sell books about it), for morale's sake.

3. Gay marriage. Not. A. Problem. If two people of the same sex want to get married it doesn't taint my marriage one bit. In-fact, by their own logic, it probably keeps traditional marriage much more sanctified. Hello, Ted Haggard, anyone? Here's a concept: go live your life and try to be happy. Each day has enough problems of its own.

2. Stem-Cell research. You believe life begins at conception? Fine, I'll allow that because, well, who knows for sure? But if that's your position then you view IVF as a literal killing field right? (Somewhere, a big dog barked....) Why is there an outcry on positive research conducted on embryos doomed to die anyway? The bigger issue, I would imagine, would be the practice that creates the embryos in the first place. Get it right.

1. The 10 Commandments. Our behavior wasn't that great when the 10 Commandments were up in schools and other public places. Those praying for the Commandments to be put back up probably can't even list them off, al-la Lynn Westmoreland. Besides, since when does legislating religion equal spirituality anyway? That idea has to make Jesus cry.

Just for fun, Top 5 major problems fearfuls don't want to talk about...

5. The huge federal deceit
4. The average American being in debt
3. The simple fact that countries/people we used to be able to push around now have the means to make our lives miserable
2. Health care reform
1. Iraq: the growing sinkhole

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thank You For Making Me Look Strong

Which expression would you use if your mis-judgment led a young woman to lose her leg?

1. Remorseful?
2. Compassionate?
3. Empathic?
4. Smirking fist-pump?

After watching the news shows Sunday morning it still amazes me that people like Ken Adelman still cannot make the connection between the decision to invade Iraq and the bloody mess that followed.

Adleman once predicted that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." I guess that depends on how you define "liberating." Very few people doubted our ability to knock over Saddam's regime. Just as many thought about what consequences that would bring. We removed the government and created a vacuum for terrorism and insurgency. The critical moment was not the removal of Saddam, it was not the toppling of his statue, it was not declaring "mission accomplished." The critical moment was the day after we had "demolished" Saddam's government and how we proceeded.

Adelman still stands by his belief that taking Saddam out was the right thing to do. He cites the fact that we didn't know that Saddam didn't have WMDs. Now, I keep thinking of Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz saying "an empty hand has nothing to give" in response to why Iraq wasn't laying down it's illegal weapons. It was a dilemma, you see. Was he armed? Did we have proof? What did the rest of the world think? Answer: let's invade, just to be on the safe side.

Apparently Adelman, and many others, are still receiving newsletters from the non-realist school of international affairs. Symptomatic of someone who split time in the 70s teaching Shakespeare and working for Don Rumsfeld is the vast disconnect between fantasy and reality. On one hand you have an extremely abstract, many would say preposterous, notion of Democracy reform in a hostile region; on the other you have George W. Bush to execute the plan.

This is a man whose claim to fame is an ability to saw down a tree and clear brush.

Adelman is supposed to be a smart fellow, how did he not connect the dots here? You might trust Bush to do your lawn work (maybe), but would you trust him with your investments? With major decisions? With Democracy reform? Is Adelman nuts? Men and women come back from the Iraqi Freedom project torn up, literally. The president gives them a fist-pump and a few warm fuzzies. Symptomatic perhaps of someone with the luxury to afford to live in an abstract play-land on the far side of fantasy rather than reality.

Friday, December 08, 2006

62 Million Divided by 79

I've been thinking a lot about the Iraq Study Group Report. It can really only be described as stunning; a complete repudiation of current Bush policies. 79 recommendations? Can you imagine if your next job review included a list of 79 areas to fix--all of which had to be implemented immediately? Besides the obvious part about you now being unemployed, you would be extremely embarrassed and shamed. 79? Not three or four. Not a misunderstanding. 79.

And so there was President Bush, sitting at a large table surrounded by the people who had just handed him his dismal report card, and, incredibly, he took it all in stride. He called the group's findings "very interesting" which--even for Bush--struck me as extremely odd. That he even had the nerve to speak, after such a dismal review, seemed arrogant--like a boy who steals his dad's car, gets loaded, wrecks the car, and then speaks about the event in abstract terms.

The results are not "interesting." The results are, in their own words, essential for region, the United States, and the world. Yet despite the gravity of it all, the hard work invested, the corroboration that there is indeed a serious problem and that his master plan is nothing more than an exacerbation, the President received the report as one receives a menu at a restaurant for the first time. Hmm, they have humus? Interesting.

I've never been a big believer in politics. I've always wondered how out of hundreds of millions the best tools we can put forward are figures so easily mocked on late-night television. The system is harsh and grueling and the fittest in that race can barely string logical sentences together. I likened them to boxers who have spent far too much time in the ring. And that was before Bush became president. His election made the matter deadly serious.

That this man could somehow rise to be our leader is nothing short of a serious indictment on the system. This is an injustice on the scale of the incompetent son getting to run the father's company. Certainly there were more qualified people? More deserving? Certainly our process is not that transparent is it? Bush is a real life Tommy Boy, except he does not save the company. He's so excited to prove everyone wrong he smothers it, like Lenny, destroying it in the process.

But even as I write things like this--even as many of my blog posts are as inner rattlings at the injustice of it all--it's hard for me to hate Bush. After all, he's just a tool, and one elected. Ours is supposed to be the elite process, the educated populace, the home of the brave. We're supposed to greet a guy like Bush at the door and tell him kindly that we'll call him. But no, somehow we found it within ourselves to make it a close enough race in 2000 for Bush to nab it. And in 2004 62,000,000 came out to re-elect him.

79 goes into 62 million 450 thousand times. Bush may be just a Tommy Boy, a Lenny, but someone elected him and those are the people I blame. Within a few years even I had figured out he lacked the judgment required. By 2004 I knew what we were getting was a Captain Queeg ready to take the ship down rather than be proven wrong. I could extend his past decisions and project them into the future. Certainly we all could.

Anyone who thinks Bush fooled them after 2004 should never be allowed to vote again. What about the elements didn't you understand? They are like those people who leave a baby in a hot car while they go in to buy some groceries. Democracy requires some responsibility, some thought. I don't blame Bush, a Terminator gone crazy, a metal shell programmed by religion and conservative zeal. I blame the people who unleashed this machine onto the world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bush Delcares "Mision Accomplished" In War on Christmas

President Bush today confidently declared "mission accomplished" in the fight to save Christmas, citing poll numbers and retail behavior.

"My fellow Americans: Major combat operations in the war to preserve Christmas have ended. In the battle for Christmas, the United States has prevailed," the president announced.

The surprising announcement came amid backlash from the Iraq Study Group's report which showed the administration's policies in Iraq have been a sad and terrible failure.

"The American people have spoken, and their voice has been heard across this great land," Bush continued. "I'm happy to announce that Christmas is once again secure. Americans can sleep peacefully at night knowing this great holiday is back in the capable hands of super-store greeters and check-out clerks."

In a recent Zogby poll 95 percent said they were not offended by a "Merry Christmas" greeting in stores. However, 32 percent of respondents said they took offense at "Happy Holidays," the religiously neutral alternative promoted over the last few years as inclusive and inoffensive.

Wal-Mart, the heartless, multinational conglomerate known for it's slavish Chinese factories, lack of health-benefits, and crushing business practices, now allows its greeters to wish shoppers "Merry Christmas."

Somewhere John Gibson began work on a new book entitled "The War to Take Back Christmas: How a Liberal Plot Led the Sacred Christian Holiday into the Hands of Money Changers."

My Review of the Iraq Study Group's Report

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating..."

With those words the Iraq Study Group beings its report. What follows is a reality gut-check of sober judgment on what current policy has wrought in the Middle-East.

The report's first plea is for some kind of trans-national diplomacy with the countries surrounding Iraq, most notably Iran and Syria. This recommendation flies in the face of long-standing policy (we haven't spoken to Iran in 30 years), but the panel views recognizing Iran and Syria preferable to continuing the failed Bush / Cheney "plan" in Iraq.

The report then recommends U.S. troops move into a role supportive of Iraqi security forces, while Iraq itself increases its commitment to raising and training such forces. "By 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq," the report reads.

The report further urges ceasing the open-ended commitment Bush has given the Iraqis. Instead we should put pressure on Iraq to fulfill its commitment to Democracy. "If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward achievement of milestones or national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government."

The report formally recognizes a few facts.

1. Iraq is now a heaven for terrorists.
2. Violence is increasing
3. Iraq is in a civil war
4. 1.6 million Iraqis are displaced within the country
5. 1.8 million have left the country
6. The U.S. military is spread too thin. A troop increase is not an option.
7. Current U.S. policy is not working
8. Afghanistan is dissolving
9. A new approach must be taken immediately
10. A "stay the course" policy is unacceptable

All-in-all the panel set forward 79 recommendations, most of which are summarized by increased diplomacy, increased support for the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraqi infrastructure, and increased pressure on the Iraqi government to perform. That's 79 steps that all need to be taken with a sense of urgency. Sobering.

Some of the most glaring recommendations, in my opinion, come at the end. One calls for the Bush administration to stop routing the war through emergency funds, which circumvent the normal budget process. This leads to a lack of accountability, and no budget reductions. Of course this is exactly how Bush and Cheney have wanted it--they get the war rhetoric without asking the government or taxpayers to sacrifice.

Another recommendation: increased culture and language training for those to be deployed to Iraq. Out of the 1,000 people working at the U.S. embassy in Iraq only 33 speak Arabic. Hmm, imagine that? Thankfully, the panel was nice enough to include a map attached to the report so they could point where Iraq was, and what the names of its neighbors are.

Finally, our intelligence community is not properly analyzing the insurgency in Iraq. In-case you forgot the insurgency is 99% of the problem. But what do I know? Also, these agencies typically report lower violence levels than what is currently happening. That's probably what the boss wants to hear, but it doesn't help get more troop armor into the field.

I find it disheartening that intelligence failures, which led to the war four years ago, are again addressed in a review designed to help us get out of that same war.

Some will read the 79 recommendations and be heartened. Specifically the report's statement that it agrees with the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq--a free Iraq that can govern and protect itself. The problem, of course, is that there's a mile between the beginning and end of that sentence.

I find it very hard to read the report without reverting to anger at the foolish hubris that got us into this mess to begin with. The report's 160 pages read like a laundry list of failures replete with "no duh" statements like the U.S. should invest in more cultural awareness, and that Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. Perhaps that is the crux of the entire problem? A war in the Middle East led by a Commander n' Chief who could scarcely comprehend there were two major factions in Islam.

If the obvious must be reiterated in a report of this importance, I'm sure you'll allow my skepticism about our President's ability to implement it. And if diplomacy is the best route out of this mess, excuse me while I begin to shiver. Ours is a president who has the unique talent of smirking and slouching while speaking to you as if you were a foolish child. He practically begs you to smack him with a frying pan. That said, hopefully our diplomacy with the region will do better than our "efforts" with Israel and Palestine.

The panel, correctly, sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an exacerbating tension in the region. The panel cites U.N. 242 as a panacea to the situation. The idea is nice. But peace probably wont occur as long as Israel continues to build settlements in the occupied territories (in violation of U.N. 242), which erodes Palestinian confidence in any peace process, which augments a group like Hamas. The U.S. quickly cut off Palestinian financial aid after Hamas was elected, which further erodes any peace process.

Well, we'll see. We're like that annoying kid at Christmas, digging through underwear drawers and messing everything up. The places we shouldn't be we are. The place where maybe we should be we've largely ignored. I very much look forward to the next panel for the next disaster. Thank you for assembling.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

10 Bad Things That Are Good For You

Cheers to beer and chocolate!

Here's a fun article from livescience that might change the way you think about things you thought were bad for you. I'm pleased to report I'm involved in 7 out of 10. Maybe I'll live to 60! So go ahead and enjoy these bad-for-you remedies—everything in moderation, as they say—until the next study inevitably overturns the research.

Check it out here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Recommend Iraq Study Group Sieze Control of the Government

With every incredible government disaster comes a new commission. The colossal failure of intelligence agencies to coordinate and work together to prevent 9/11 led to the famous 9/11 Commission. That brain-trust churned out a best selling book along with 41 recommendations to prevent the next terrorist attack on American soil. The panel, consisting of politicians, lawyers, and educators, made commissions quite sexy.

Next up was the commission to study the botched Hurricane Katrina response that killed over 700 people in New Orleans. They were tasked after Americans spent billions of dollars propping up the "Department of Homeland Security", designed in-part to respond to disasters, only to watch it do...nothing while people died across the south.
Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff became household names, President Bush's ratings tumbled even further, and a commission was formed to answer the question: what the hell was that all about?

And now we have the Baker-Hamilton Commission, also known as the Iraq Study Group. This thing is, by all accounts, the greatest...Commission...ever! It is a constellation of luminaries including two former secretaries of state (James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger), a former Supreme Court Justice (Sandra Day O'Connor), a former attorney general (Edwin Mease III), a former Secretary of Defense (William Perry), a former White House chief of staff (Leon Panetta), along with a business executive, a former senator, and a former governor.

This, the greatest commission, has been ushered in to fix the greatest problem invented by the stupidest president in history. This, my friends, is what a twisted use of politics has wrought: the Bush / Cheney War in Iraq, which has become an unmitigated disaster responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 Iraqi civilians, and almost 3,000 U.S. troops. This, from the minds of neoconservatives, well-wishers, and true believers has brought you the war that Iran now uses to position itself, and terrorists use as a rallying cry.

In light of all of this, if I may be so bold, I would like to put forward a dramatic proposal: let the commission take over the White House. Hell, let's throw in the legislative branch for free.

First of all, there is absolutely no need for the middle man at this point. Why even bother going to Congress or the White House first just so they can play politics and psychological warfare on the American people while the country goes to hell? My god, how tiring was the 2006 election? If you cared it was exhausting. And many, seriously, don't even care. Yay! During such tumultuous and timorous times 40% of the voting public peeled themselves off the couch to go vote.

Voting has netted us disaster upon disaster. And by that I mean people preying on other people's weaknesses to generate votes so they can go Washington as "representatives" and let this country to go hell.

I say we cut out the fat. I say we lower our overhead. What we need is a factory-direct form of government. If these idiots are going to screw things up and assign the problems to commissions, why not just go to the commissions directly? We are essentially electing the commissions anyway. Let's eliminate the fat salaries and careers in the middle.

Second, giving the power to the commissions leaves a better chance that the commissions's recommendations will actually be implemented. On December 5, 2005, the 9/11 Commission issued a "report card" review of how well the government was implementing their 41 recommendations. The government's average grade calculates to about a D+. We don't need that. They assembled the panel, the panel is full of smart people, we all read their findings. But what did the government do with their information? They filed it somewhere.

I guess my question is, if we have access to such wondrous panels, people who can probe extremely complex matters and issue recommendations, solutions, lists, and report cards then why don't we ask these people before we're about to do something stupid? Before we face a major decision. We know what those issues are most of the time before they even happen.

You'd think Bush, maybe, I dunno, just maybe, could have plumbed the depth of this pool of knowledge before he invaded Iraq. I'm not saying he should have formed an entire panel to study the idea, but maybe he could have ASKED HIS OWN FATHER about war in Iraq?!? Hello, you idiot? Maybe he could have said, "I'd like to have lunch with James Baker, he's pretty smart..." or, "That guy, Colin Powell, he's been there before, I wonder what he thinks?"

The Iraq Study Group will give their advice but the missing ingredient in this whole thing is judgment. What do these panel members have that our president and his cronies lack? Judgment. They also have very little incentive to produce results that are politically expedient. I'd love to just hand control over to a group like that. How do we secure the country? How can we form a better disaster relief agency? What should we do in Iraq? I'd love to ask them also how can we fight poverty? What should we do about health insurance? I certainly don't trust those issues to George W. Bush, do you? The entire country is anxious to hear the panel's advice on Iraq, and Bush's ratings are at 30%? That says something.

Government by commissions isn't my idea. Aristotle felt that government should be led by those people with enough time on their hands to pursue virtue. That sounds a lot like the retirees in the Iraq Study Group. Plato also gave this some thought and concluded that Democracy lends itself to power-seeking individuals motivated by personal gain rather than public good. Sound familiar? To Plato the best form of government was a philosophical aristocracy, which is the make-up of these commissions.

Condemn me as a Democracy hater if you must, but consider how our own elected leaders turn to the commissions for salvation. You vote them in, they eventually have to task a commission to figure out how they damaged things to badly. I propose the next time you screw up royally on-the-job you promise, only after getting caught, that you will form a commission to see exactly where you went wrong. See how long it takes before your boss makes sure security ushers you out with a box under your arm. Let's all try it, now. It's fun!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You Say Tancredo, I Say Bigot

I hadn't really felt like blogging much since getting back from Thanksgiving. And then Tom Tancredo opened his mouth. Tom Tancredo, Republican representative from Colorado, anti-immigration activist, bigot.

Tancredo was in South Florida joining the likes of media giants Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter at a four-day event called "Restoration Weekend" which concluded today. All of that conservative, nationalist testosterone (yes, you, Ann...) must have gone right to his head when he compared Miami to a "third world country" when using the city as an example of immigration run rampant.

"Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country," he said. "You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country."

Colorado is 94% white, so it's no wonder Tancredo gets a little nervous about immigration. To him Chicago must seem like Canada, Maimi is the third world, and Hawaii must be another planet altogether. I'm surprised he even went to Florida for the conservative conference, he was practically in South America!

Tucker Carson, though not invited to the weekend dirge, was nice enough to give Tancredo the equivalent of a reporter's hand-job by vacating the floor on his show to gave Tancredo a chance to clarify himself.

Tancredo explained that "third world" is actually a compliment. He also reasoned that anyone who thinks "third world" is a racist term must be a racist. And then went on to describe Miami as a city riddled with poverty, corruption, violence, and poor education. So, I think what he's trying to say is that "third world" is really more like a back-handed compliment. It's a sly move to call someone a racist with logic that insults their intelligence. "Third World" means exactly what we all think it means, and exactly like it sounds: something less than our world; at best: developing; at worst: backwards. It is in itself a value statement on our status and "theirs".

Tucker Carson ate it all up with a spoon as the man love filled the studio. Atta boy.

The only problem is Tancredo is a notorious xenophobe and a staunch believer in tougher immigration laws. He's so far right on this issue he question's Bush's patriotism on the matter. Right before granting Miami third-world status, he lashed out at the White House's lack of action in securing U.S. borders, and said efforts to merge the U.S. with both Mexico and Canada is not a fantasy. So, you can see his view of Miami is out of fear that America is being taken over by latin-Americans, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, those goddamn Canadians!

Miami looks like a third world country, which essentially means it resembles New York City in the mid-19th century, except that city's criminals and immigrants were mostly white. Miami's are mostly Hispanic. Are you scared too?

But have no fear, my friends, the case that America needs to be "restored" is being made by the same people who brought you the war on Christmas
. Anything which is fundamentally a personal belief cannot be under attack. You see? It's like declaring war on the fact that your favorite blog is Thought Alarm. How can anyone steal that from you? Sure, your Wal Mart greeter might not wish you Merry Christmas, but that wont erase your belief if you have it? Will it?

The Christmas season is alive and well in all forms: religious and secular. Did you notice that holiday decorations were up by mid-November this year? Thanksgiving is now essentially a speed-bump as we fire up for our Christmas season.

Man, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at David Horowitz's "Freedom Center" as people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Tom Tancredo stoke each others fires and lift the human spirit into a roaring frenzy of bigotry and fear. It almost makes me want to break out the eggnog and chestnuts. But while they were making merry I was spending time with my family, and now I have to buy Christmas presents. Funny how their war is a war on people like me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bush Botches Turkey Pardon

The President was scheduled to pardon a turkey today, an annual rite dating back to Abraham Lincoln. Instead, Bush brandished a knife and slit the bird's throat wide open. Reporters responded with a mild applause. As the turkey bled to death Bush declared "mission accomplished" and wiped the knife down with a towel.

"That's how we do things in West Texas," he explained, with a trademark smirk.

One reporter finally broke ranks and explained that the Turkey was supposed to be pardoned.

Bush admitted he hadn't reviewed the plan ahead of time. "Who ever heard of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving?" he reasoned. "Thanksgiving is about killing and eating turkeys....and being thankful."

In other news, due to increased consumer demand retailers are fearing a toy shortage this Christmas in what could be one of the biggest threats to child happiness since the great North Pole snowstorm of 1908. Chinese toy factories have also experienced labor shortages as workers abandon their jobs for better-paying positions at higher-tech manufacturing companies.

The Chinese government has taken swift action, rounding up deviants and the homeless to toil in their massive toy factories which will belch out toys 24/7 in an attempt to make all the giggle-me Elmo dolls and Disney products necessary for good little boys and girls from the West.

"We will do everything possible," Ming Cho Ling, Chinese Prime Chancellor of Production and Labor Relations said in a statement. "When a worker falls, another will rise up to take his place. The one who falls will be swept aside, down massive metal drains, never to be seen again, so his failure will not infect the other workers. We promise to rise to meet Western demand. We wish to see no American children cry on Jesus day."

Earlier today a man was mangled at the Peking Giggle-me Elmo factory when he collapsed from fatigue and was swept away on conveyor belt. Another rose to take his place.

Ask Baker - Hamilton...anything?

It seems like I'm not the only one annoyed with the Baker - Hamilton fever gripping the Beltway. There's even a new faux search tool called Ask Baker Hamilton that lets you ask Baker - Hamilton...anything!

Yes, those gnostic lovers of wisdom are now available in search form so anyone can plumb the depths of their knowledge. With the incredible amount of buzz they've generated why shouldn't they have a web presence, right?

So, are you mired on a hard decision? Got yourself stuck in an unwinable situation? Cut the crap and ask Baker - Hamilton. I've added it to my side bar so you can check it out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Packer's "Dreaming of Democracy"

Of my favorite journalists is George Packer. His ongoing commentary on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq has the rare quality of being insightful and stinging at the same time. An absolutely fascinating read is his article "Dreaming of Democracy" from March 2, 2003. I've become enthralled with articles written before we went into Iraq, and this one is a survey of predictions about what will happen after Saddam was removed.

They range from Professor Kanan Makiya, who fed the White House a delicious morsel by saying we would be greated with "sweets and flowers" to the Peter Galbraith's, "'A unified and democratic Iraq is an oxymoron."

Even Abu Ghraib gets mentioned, years before it made world-wide news as a place of shame for the coalition, in an allegory about what liberation may be like. When Saddam ordered the release of thousands of prisoners from Abu Ghraib in 2002 the surge of inmates caused many to be crushed and killed in the rush for freedom.

"Reporters who ventured into the bowels of the prison were struck by the appalling odors of long human confinement," Packer writes. "When the seal on Iraq is broken, the surge will be just as intense, and the smell of decades of repression just as rank."

Packer's prediction proved to be correct.

All of the questions are here: should Iraq be de-Bathified? Should Iraq be divided into separate regions? And I had no idea so many books were written on Iraq regime change prior to our invasion. It's an entire sub culture almost in the same way some people build model trains or collect stamps. Some people write books on ripping out and rebuilding entire governmental structures. What isn't in the article is any mention of WMDs. No one "in the know" believed in that. This was purely an attempt at democratic reform--or perhaps anti-terrorism reform--in the Middle East.

"Iraqi Exceptionalism" had taken over, 9/11 just became the lever large enough to move it onto the main stage. This was the belief that Iraq has suffered for so long that it is different from other Arab countries in that it would not view Israel or America as the enemy as much as it sees the enemy within itself. Supporters of this idea included the aforementioned Makiya, and neo-conservatives in the Bush administration like Donald Rumsfeld, UN Ambassador John Bolton, ex-Bush adherent Richard Perle.

"It's called magical realism, Middle East-style,'' says Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. To which Packer adds, "The war, which is vastly unpopular in the Arab world, is far more likely to improve the fortunes of the Islamists, he says, and provoke governments to tighten their grip, than to ventilate the region with an Arab spring."

And from there Packer essentially brings it home by saying that a unilateral war has never created a democracy in an environment like Iraq, foreign to democratic ideas. it would take a long commitment that would look like colonialism.

Without a doubt the most painful paragraph is the following:

More than anything, the president hasn't readied Americans psychologically to commit themselves to a project of such magnitude, nor has he made them understand why they should. He has maintained his spirit of hostility to nation-building while reversing his policy against it. Bush is a man who has never shown much curiosity about the world. When he met with Makiya and two other Iraqis in January, I was told by someone not present, the exiles spent a good portion of the time explaining to the president that there are two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites. The very notion of an Iraqi opposition appeared to be new to him. War has turned Bush into a foreign-policy president, but democratizing an Arab country will require a subtlety and sophistication that have been less in evidence than the resolve to fight.

Packer's title "Dreaming of Democracy" was right on. It's fascinating to look at in the cold reality of hindsight but sickening when placed against reality. We trusted people like President Bush and we followed him down into the current nightmare.

Read the whole article here

Read his latest article in the New Yorker, here

Michael Richards: Is this thing on?

Where's Michael Richards been since playing Kramer on Seinfeld? Oh, there he is now, doing stand-up!

[Caution: this *is* offensive and not work friendly]

The only question now is: will he blame alcoholism? this thing on?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Talking About the Draft

A senior House Democrat said Sunday he will introduce legislation to reinstate the military draft, asserting that current troop levels are insufficient to sustain possible challenges against Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

Here's the rest of the article.

I think what he's saying is that if this country is so militaristic then let's bring back the draft so everyone can have a chance send their kids into service. And if that idea sounds sour then maybe we should sober up a little bit. I think, maybe, Rangel was being facetious like that. And if he wasn't then I just did it for him.

It's a novel idea to consider that the draft increases peace. But that's as polite as I'll be about it. Our own draft during the Cold War helped enhance a militaristic fantasy that we needed the extra security and extra suspicion. That draft only led to two unwinable wars before it was dismantled. Not a very good track record.

So, what deters baseless wars? Is it true that to have peace you must prepare for war? If the draft were in place in this country how would our society be different? If everyone had a common foundation in an organization that relies on conformity and power would we be more or less likely to rush off to a war?

One needs only to look around the world that those countries that do prepare for war often become intoxicated with that power. They often rely heavily on the military and aggressive methods. Peace is a matter of using an array of skills at your disposal, not simply creating a nation that views every problem as a nail. The military has a place in any nation that values its survival. But it should be a sober necessity, not an empowering pleasure.

In a Democratic society peace is enhanced by education and cooperation with other countries. Europe learned that lesson after continuous bloodshed. Perhaps we are learning that lesson too. If people are easily swayed they can be talked into just about any war, whether the draft exists or not. A more open and sincere dialog on war, and the need for certain wars is needed.

Rangel's goal to deter war and share the sacrifice is admirable, but we don't believe the answer lies in introducing even more people to the harsh tools of statehood. If you want to prepare for peace increase education spending.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

McCain Defending the Sanctity of Republican Principles

Peter Baker has written an article in the Washington Post about loyalists turning on President Bush. That puts an official stamp on what I've been saying since the elections.

There's a long list of former believers renouncing their faith in the President. I've gleaned some choice quotes.

"People expect a level of performance they are not getting." - Newt Gingrich

"There are a lot of lives that are lost. A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful." - Neoconservative Kennith Adelman who in 2002 described the task of liberating Iraq as "a cakewalk."

"If I had known that the U.S. was going to essentially establish an occupation, then I'd say, 'Let's not do it." - Richard Perle who once said, "The first time I met Bush 43 … two things became clear. One, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much," about George W. Bush, leader of the war in Iraq.

And last week John McCain found new religion too. He announced his intentions to run for president in 2008 by saying, "We lost our principles and our majority. There is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first."

Now, I'm trying to figure out what these principles are. Spending is up, the debt is up, the government is bigger than ever. All of these principles were slain at the alter by Republican adherents. And all of these things are, of course, the result of an illicit affair with the seductress from Babylon--Iraq.

But let's backtrack for a second. In 2000 these believers in principles nominated Bush, who had almost zero government experience. He won the election and surrounded himself with people like Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Everyone seemed pleased. 12 months after 9/11 the rush was on to invade Iraq. Still, no worries. Iraq was invaded and the mission was announced as accomplished two months later. Three years later we are still there and a few weeks ago you'd be hard pressed to find any Republicans who thought their principles were violated.

But McCain is now doing what is politically prudent, employing the Rush Limbaugh defense that he will no longer carry Bush's water. So, I suppose we will hear no more rhetoric like this:

I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” - McCain on March 23, 2003

"They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity. We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong. Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight." - McCain's 2004 RNC speech.

“Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course.” - McCain in December 8, 2005

Call me crazy but I feel like the Republicans are only sorry that they lost their principles because they got caught. People had finally had enough of corruption, lies, aggression, thoughtlessness, conceit, and contempt. It was like being married to a cheating spouse who also pathologically lies about while promisesing the moon. You're a good person, you want to believe in people, and that trust got abused. After six years we finally threw the bums out. Now people like McCain are tired of selling their services?

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Senator McCain is a good man. I once heard him on NPR talking about Ernest Hemingway and he was thoughtful and pleasant. But I do have to question his sincerity and judgment, the way I must question anyone who still has a Bush / Cheney bumper stiker on their car. Are they insane? Are they blind? Do they just not care?

I saw McCain on "This Week" and George Stephanopoulos asked if we should continue the Bush tax cuts. McCain believes we should. Then Stephanopoulos pointed out that McCain voted against the tax cuts. McCain admitted he did, for good reason--you can't cut taxes during war, and there was no curb on spending. Stephanopoulos then wanted to know how those two principles are consistent--voting against tax cuts for good reason but then wanting the tax cuts extended. And McCain said that's how things currently are and they should stay the same.

Sound familiar?

I suppose when you get down to it, that is what conservativism is all about--fear of change. And in that sense McCain may be staking out bold new ground, years behind any potential Republican candidate. Top that, Giuliani!

What Republicans don't get is that it's their lack of hindsight that people find dangerous. Their lack of an ability to take a complex and changing world and formulate a pragmatic position for tomorrow, is a dangerous framework to formulate policy from. This is all evident by their inability to see the principles behind the war in Iraq as the real problem. Illogical is the desire to cut taxes while fighting a war. Impudent is the belief that we can nation build and disregard the very root of terrorism. And irreconcilable is the notion that smaller government is better but the government should also be spawning new governments.

The Republicans can be likened to the new Bond in Casino Royale. You can't stop them. They churn forward, through walls, over barriers, past explosions, never looking back. But when the goals themselves are so easily betrayed by their own adherents, what does that tell you? When the resulting action is a mismatch of fundamentalism, stubbornness, and failure, the machine must be terminated.

Don't believe the hype, all this talk about defending principles. While they were busy defending marriage, they traded their own true love for a charlatan from Texas.

Any other thoughts?

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Prove to me you are not working with our enemies"


Media Matters

Minneapolis City Pages

Huffington Post

Griper Blade

Keith Olbermann awarded Beck his "worst person in the world" award last night for his conduct during the interview.

All of this attention for bigotry and fear mongering will no doubt equal financial security for Beck. His next book should be an even bigger hit.

I find it funny that later in the interview Black says Ellison is an example to European Muslims on how to integrate properly. This, then, is how to be a good immigrant, right? You work hard and rise to one of the top positions in the country so that people like Glenn Beck can view you only by your religion or race. Beck only considers Ellison a citizen in the strictest sense, he does not view Ellison as anywhere near equal. And isn't that why European Muslims feel disenfranchised? Sure, ok, you can live here, but every step of the way we're going to remind you what your place is.

And Beck thinks he's doing this country a favor by asking such probing questions? As if they're the product of some deep insight or original thought? He's never lived a day in his life, has he? His line of thinking is nothing new. Show me every great human injustice and I'll show you bigotry.

And why does CNN put this guy on the air? "Prove to me you are not working with our enemies"? Are you kidding me? Hey man, you can't prove a negative. At best, if you strip the bigotry out of that question, it's an illogical question. It's like asking someone to prove they don't believe in UFOs. And he's on CNN? I've lost a lot of respect for that network. I can rant and rave and stereotype and spew bile and prejudice, where's my TV show? The ratings would be wonderful.

Why don't you write in and tell CNN what you think. Or tell me what you think by leaving a comment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stem Cells Ease Muscle Disease in Dogs

In promising new research, adult stem cells worked remarkably well at easing symptoms of muscular dystrophy in dogs, an experiment that experts call a significant step toward treating people.

This is how smart scientists are, people. They're going to use stem cell research to help dogs first, thereby reducing objections among humans. Even though the less controversial adult stem cells were used in this case, I predict resistance to the all stem cell research should begin to fall if more dogs are healed. I mean look at how cute that dog is! What a good puppy!

Listen, let's be frank, people love dogs. Who couldn't love a dog? A godless communist! Thus, if dogs can be helped by stem cell research what type of person wouldn't be in favor of it? I would like to meet the heartless bastard who would rather see a dog suffer than helped. How can you be for saving embryos if you yourself lack a soul? How can you be against helping puppy dogs and little kittens? Gee, mister, what did that puppy ever do to you? What a cute puppy!

You see, ignoring human suffering is part of the human condition and the movies have desensitized us even further. But one area even the movies fear to tread is the shadowy realm of animal abuse. One sure way to establish a villain's defilement is to have him harm a helpless animal. All bets are off if that happens and you know you're dealing with a tough son of a bitch. Even in Borat there's a scene where it looks like he's going to slit a chicken's throat, and, after all of the other insane things he'd done in the movie, I thought, he can't slit that chicken's throat! That's going too far! He can fool people into thinking he's a journalist and then humiliate them on film, but I'll be damned if I'll see a chicken get harmed.*

If I have this weakness then surely you must have it. You may not care about humans suffering and dying from would-be treatable diseases but what if your little Fluffy could be helped? What about Mr. Biggles or Fu-fu? What if they could be renewed by the power of the blood? Ahh, now that *is* something indeed. After all, what has that dog ever asked of you? That dog has shown you love even when you got fired from your job. That dog was there when you broke up with your boyfriend. What a good dog! Sit. Stay! Good puppy!

As one in favor of stem cell research I can tell you that knowing puppies are being helped warmed my heart much more than, say, Michael J. Fox. Call me crazy, but if my prior existence as a ministry student and Republican has taught me anything it's that the human element can be so easily discarded. But what science and puppies have taught me is that there's more to life than not caring about people. Pets matter! I suppose then that even people matter! Life, my matters!

I'll bet even Rush Limbaugh, who so easily attacked the afflicted Fox, had a pet when he was a kid. Maybe he didn't and that is why he is the way he is. But even if he grew into one of those teenagers abusing animals, I'm willing to bet there's still a cold spot in his heart that longs for the warm, unconditional love that only a dog can give. What a good puppy!

Let celebrities die if you must, Mr. Limbaugh, all you who hate science and progress, but I dare you to let dogs suffer. What a good dog! Give us a kiss! Good puppy!

*no chickens were harmed

Read the original story here.

The Swedish Dream

You'd probably have to think pretty hard to see how welfare and freedom go hand in hand. But the Swedes think they have it figured out, which is akin to splitting the social services atom. In-fact the authors of a new book "Is the Swede a Human Being" argue that love and independence make good bed fellows. Intriguing, but how?

For the last fifty years the Swedes have established a state-run system of benefits, while forking over over 50% of their income to taxes. These independent types do so willingly because, well, it makes them more independent. This is the expression of a fundamental longing for individual autonomy and a desire not to depend on or be indebted to anyone, particularly not in intimate relationships - what the authors call "the Swedish theory of love."

"The main purpose of the Swedish system has been to maximize the individual's independence,"said author Lars Tragardh, who has spent most of his life in the United States. "The picture of a collectivist animal is completely wrong; the modern Swede is a hyperindividualist."

All this individuality is territory firmly claimed by Americans. Doubtless, a definition of the "American Dream" would include financial security and the ability to pursue your dreams with autonomy. This seems to be what the Swedes have in mind too, but their conclusion is to have social safety nets, and programs designed to free people from pitfalls. It's interesting to hear that love is best expressed free from debt. Life probably is too. It's food for thought anyway.

If you want to read more here's the whole article from Ivar Ekman of the International Herald Tribune.

The New "Democrat" Party

Last Wednesday President Bush announced mid-term election defeat by congratulating the Democrat leaders. I'm guessing most people didn't even notice this carefully calculated bit of smear. Bush mispronouncing words is common play, right? I would have missed it if it hadn't been for Hendrick Hertzberg's timely article on Republicans' newfound use of the term "Democrat Party" rather than "Democratic Party." What's in a word you might ask? Well, actually, quite a bit. Like congratulating Steve on his new promotion but calling him Stan, getting your opponent's name wrong at the right time can be a swift backhanded slap. Read on and learn how language, as Newt Gingrich says, can be a "key element of control."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Power of Transferrance

Why do some products rise and some fall? The idea behind the free market is that consumers determine the demand of items. But are people really making the decision based solely on need? Or are far deeper forces motivating us? Welcome to the power of transferrance. Never heard of it? Well, it rules you. It's with you when you're buying groceries, it's with you when you pick out shoes, it's with you while you write out your Christmas list. With Black Friday coming up it might be time to get acquainted with one of marketing's most powerful allies.

Here's a great article from Ross Gittins of the Sydney Morning Herald explaining why we buy the things we do and how what we see influences our decisions in subconscious ways.