Sunday, December 31, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
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
"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."
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.
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
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?
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
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?"
You can't make this stuff up, folks! It's going to be a great year!
Check it out, here.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
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 amazon.com. 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!
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).
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
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the movie.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
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
"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 life...my 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
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
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
Which expression would you use if your mis-judgment led a young woman to lose her leg?
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
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
"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."
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
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
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!