Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Just in case you still think John McCain stands for values

Left on my answering machine this morning:

This is Senator John McCain. I'm calling to urge you to support my friend, Representative Rick Renzi for Congress. Rick has represented the first district of Arizona with tenacity, honesty and integrity beyond reproach. I work with Rick every day and can report to you his total dedication to the people of Arizona and the United States. Please join me in supporting rural Arizona's workhorse Congressman on November 7. [Paid for and authorized by Rick Renzi for Congress]

Well, I needed a good laugh for Halloween.

Kid killed by taser for shouting 'I want Jesus.'

I am loathe in general to criticize police. I've got a number of good friends who are cops, and for evey case of a 'bad cop' that we hear about or read about in the papers, there are dozens of 'good cops' who are doing a dangerous job for not nearly enough money. And if you haven't been a cop (like I've never been) the old adage of 'don't criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes' is a good one to live by.

However, I was disturbed by a story that I saw today.

There are times when a Taser is needed, and police should always have one around. Clearly it is better to use one than a real gun with real bullets, and there are situations in which there is no choice other than to use force.

But force should always be a last resort, and it is a fact that on occasion the stun gun can prove as lethal as a bullet. Then one has to ask whether it was warranted.

And I know that police have a tough job, a job in which one wrong call can cost them their lives. But it's hard to argue that they were in physical danger in this situation:

police kill shouting teen with taser.

JERSEYVILLE, Illinois (AP) -- A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.

In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."

Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.

Holyfield was flown to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.

What were all those cops afraid of? That he was going to beat them to death with his Bible? What was the crime he was committing? According to the first amendment he has a right to shout. He may have been in violation of a local noise ordinance or something, but if so then weren't there better ways to handle it? Starting with contacting his parents, and if that doesn't work then maybe they might have to physically restrain him but it seems that a number of police officers should have been able to do so without using the taser.

In a report released in March, international human rights group Amnesty International said it had logged at least 156 deaths across the country in the previous five years related to police stun guns.

A few years ago here in Arizona we had a case of a mentally disturbed man who had been sitting in a tree negotiating with police who wanted him to come down. A new police officer arrived on the scene with a taser, unfamiliar with the immediate situation, and shot him. The man fell out of the tree on his head, broke his neck and is now a quadraplegic. What irks me about situations like these is not that a taser was used, but that it was used unnecessarily, with serious consequences.

As I've said, there are times when a taser is a better and more humane alternative to a real gun, but it seems like it is used entirely too often.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Time for a drop in blog volume-- so a good rant to chew on.

Over the next week you will probably not see many postings on Deep Thought. That is because I am a precinct committeeman and this week my time away from work and family will be focused pretty much exclusively on GOTV efforts. If I blog it will be late at night (like this post) and maybe commenting mostly late at night on other blogs.

So, I'd like to 1. Encourage you all to vote on November 7 unless you are like me and have already cast your vote (in which case you can volunteer at your local party headquarters for GOTV activity, unless you are a Republican in which case you can just blog, watch TV and get some rest this week), and 2. chew on this post if you need something to think about. Also visit any of the good blogs in my sidebar. This is a post that I originally sent to Sar where she posted it as a guest post about three weeks ago in her blog, Belle of the Brawl. I promised not to post it anywhere else for a little while but now it's been a little while and the post is especially relevant this week as we seek for new leadership to help lead us out of the mess that we've been led into.


Lost in the recent brouhaha over the Chris Wallace interview of Bill Clinton for FOX news, is that there is a fundamental truth that underlies all of this:

You can’t trust conservatives to lead the War on Terror. You just can’t. I have four reasons why I believe that.


Start with the history, since everyone seems to want to do that. Whatever Clinton’s failings on the issue (and as he himself said, he did fail since he didn’t get bin Laden), the failure of conservatives at all levels matches and exceeds his.

Start with August 18, 1998. On that day, Osama bin Laden first became a household name. Eleven days after bombs had ripped apart two American embassies in Africa killing hundreds, cruise missile strikes were launched at a meeting of senior al-Qaeda leadership which was being held that exact day at a training camp in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the missiles arrived after the meeting had adjourned but the fact that no one arrived late for the meeting (since bin Laden himself was known to sometimes be late) and that it was uncharacteristically brief could not have been foreseen by our intelligence analysts. Recall that the response from conservatives was one of outrage. Only it was not directed at the embassy bombers who attacked us on what is legally U.S. territory, but at Bill Clinton, for striking back at them. You see, August 18, 1998 was also the date on which Monica Lewinsky was giving a deposition at a courthouse in Manhattan, and the right was waiting with baited breath to see if any new salacious details would come out of it. So the right was unspeakably angry at Bill Clinton—

“"I think we fear that we may have a President that is desperately seeking to hold onto his job in the face of a firestorm of criticism and calls for him to step down.”

Senator Dan Coats, R-IN August 19, 1998

Here the President is shooting back at the same people who had murdered hundreds of people on U.S. territory only eleven days earlier and a U.S. Senator is not only claiming he did it for domestic political reasons, but in fact suggesting that he resign!?! Bin Laden must have taken a great deal of comfort from that remark. And among the right wing media, this charge continues to this very day:

Only in 1998 did the Clinton-haters ("normal people") force Clinton into a military response. Solely because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton finally lobbed a few bombs in the general direction of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Ann Coulter, Sept. 14, 2006, writing in the ‘Jewish World Review’—and note that this was written a few days before the Clinton-Wallace interview’

Other than to note that Ann Coulter also believes that Saddam’s kicking the U.N. inspectors out that year had nothing to do with the four days of bombing that immediately followed their dismissal, this is not worth a response and shows the kind of idiocy that is still running around on the right.

Of course, Monica was on the front page on pretty much any given day in 1998, so apparently they wanted Bill Clinton to do nothing all year, in order to not divert any headlines from the all-important Monica scandal. Maybe Bill Clinton should have quit worrying about ‘wag the dog’ for the rest of his term, but those who put their desire to play political football by insinuating that the attack on bin Laden was in fact ‘wag the dog,’ ahead of the safety and security of America should never be forgotten.

Clinton in his interview also discussed the Cole. He pointed out, among other things, that even if he could be blamed for not doing anything about it for three months, George Bush had eight months, and did—nothing about the Cole.

Not the first time this little matter has come up either; Republican congressman Curt Weldon claimed last year that changes made by former Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick prevented intelligence agencies from sharing information about terrorists, including Mohammad Atta and other 9/11 hijackers, who were known to the CIA in 1999 but which that agency was barred from sharing with the FBI and other agencies during late 2000, a year before 9/11. OK, what if Weldon, despite his obvious bias, is right? Even if we accept every accusation that Mr. Weldon makes at face value, the conclusion that 9/11 can be laid at the foot of the Clinton administration runs into the same flaw as blaming Clinton for the Cole runs into; even if the decision not to share the names was in fact made a full year before 9/11, for eight months of that time (in other words, most of it) the President was George W. Bush, not Bill Clinton. And John Ashcroft and his Justice Department could easily enough have reversed the policy at any time merely by the stroke of a pen, but apparently they did not consider that there was a need to do this.

There are other historical matters. We all know by now about how the Presidential briefing on August 6, 2001 was ignored, but you’ve heard about that before.

So let’s look at the second (and in my mind the single most important) reason why conservatives are not the best choice to lead the War on Terror.


What may be the real reason that Bush has not made it a top priority to catch bin Laden? Consider the by now pretty well documented contacts between neocon icon Grover Norquist and radical Islamicists (see this report if you need a reminder). In 1998, Norquist founded the “Islamic Free Market Institute” with private money, most of it raised in the middle east. Among his monetary sources was Abdurahman Alamoudi, the founder of the American Muslim Council. Alamoudi gave Norquist $35,000. In 2004, Alamoudi was convicted of illegal dealings with Libya (a nation then on the terror watchlist, and which has still not been held fully liable for the murder of over 250 people in the Lockerbie bombing in late 1988). More concerning, the contacts between Norquist and radical Islamicists continued after 9/11. In the article I linked to, it describes a White House meeting in which the President thought he was bringing ‘peaceful’ muslims into the White House to show tolerance and solidarity. In fact Norquist brought some of his friends in, apparently including Suhail Khan, a former director of the Islamic Institute, who was tasked with arranging access for muslims in the Bush white house. Khan’s father had been imam at a mosque in Santa Clara, Calif., which once hosted Osama bin Laden's second in command, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another Norquist-linked muslim radical, who the White House had leading an interfaith prayer ceremony in the National Cathedral in Washington just three days after 9/11, and who twelve days after that was photographed with the President in the white house was Muzammil Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a key figure in Saudi-funded organizations that have spread the harsh fundamentalist brand of Saudi Islam known as Wahhabism. It is true that in the days immediately after 9/11 we were still in the ‘fog of war’ but once it cleared, the man who was most clearly the link between all of these individuals and the Bush white house was none other than Grover Norquist. In addition to that, as described
in an article in the St. Petersburg Times on March 11, 2003 fellow conservative icon Frank Gaffney saw Norquist entertain Sami al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor who is affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization which has been responsible for dozens of suicide attacks in Israel since 2000 and which the State Department has classified as a terrorist organization since its inception. Al-Arian, who was intially accused of ‘conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad’ as well as fundraising on behalf of a terrorist organization, was tried last year in a jury trial. It resulted in a jury which acquitted him on the conspiracy charge but deadlocked on several other charges, made a plea deal earlier this year and was sentenced to remain in prison until November 2007 after which he will be deported (though al-Arian is appealing the sentence). Most disturbing is the date given in the 2003 article for al-Arian’s meeting with Norquist. It states that Gaffney said, ‘last July.’ That would be July 2002, almost a year after 9/11. One would think that in light of this kind of treasonous relationship with the same kinds of enemies who attacked America on 9/11, Norquist would at least be unwelcome at the White House.

One might think that, but then one would be sadly mistaken. Norquist, who had a hand writing the White House proposal on Social Security privatization that was put forward in 2005, is now (in his role as head of the organization which he founded, Americans for Tax Reform) pressing for an elimination of inheritance taxes. In this role he has just as much say on the right as he always has. Apparently they don’t consider him a security risk (though you or I would be under surveillance and not allowed anywhere near the White House if we had had even a fraction of as much contact with America’s known enemies as Grover Norquist has had.)

But though Norquist’s contacts were of the out in the open variety, there is something much more sinister that has not been talked about openly, but perhaps it is time to talk about it openly. A fighter is only as good as his or her heart. So let’s look at the heart of conservatism in terms of the fight against radical Islam. Consider that in fact these Islamicists have much the same social agenda as conservatism: A theological outlook in which morality is the foundation for society, in which schools and other social institutions are based on a religious underpinning, and in which such perceived immorality as abortion, pornography, pre-marital or extra-marital sex and homosexuality is elevated to the level of a serious crime, sometimes even punishable by death. Islamicists also espouse a society in which government is fundamentally weak and real decisions are made by a council of Clerics, and religious institutions also oversee and decide on the distribution of social welfare. Prayers are offered in every classroom, scriptural doctrine including creationism is taught masquerading as science, women are expected to remain virginal and pure until marriage and then be subservient to their husbands, and political campaigns are conducted through mosques. True, the name of God is different, but the basic structure is very much the same as what some social conservatives would like America to be like. The Islamicists are fighting against having a secular government, so why would Americans who are against having a secular government put much of their heart into the fight?

Honestly, do you TRUST social conservatives to run the war against terror? To paraphrase an old saying, it is hard to get a man to fight very hard against his brother, and social conservatism and radical Islamicism are brothers in spirit if not in fact. I suspect that Grover Norquist is not the only conservative leader who at least at some level sympathizes with Islamic extremists, and we absolutely cannot have such people leading us in our fight against these fanatics. At the end of the day it is much easier and much more natural for a conservative to order and want to win a war against a secular dictator with a history of socialism like Saddam Hussein than against people who deep down he admires, sympathizes with and and whose society in many ways is the model he would like to see for America.

Another reason conservatives cannot be trusted to lead the fight against terror:


We know what fiscal conservatism is. It is the penchant for cutting budgets until they bleed, in order to not waste any of the valuable taxpayer money you are spending. If you will pardon me for laughing at the idea that this white house is actually fiscally conservative (as we well know that is not true, at least in regard to corporate welfare) they are in fact fiscally conservative where they shouldn’t be—on behalf of our troops and in the war on terror. The cuts in the Veterans administration aside, some of their little acts of fiscal conservatism have included:

1. On Sept 10, 2001, then Attorney General John Ashcroft denied a request from FBI director George Tenet—to reconsider a budget cut in funding for antiterror programs.

2. The so-called ‘Rumsfeld doctrine,’ that war can be fought on the cheap, has been remarkably expensive so far, failing to put forth the resources early to decisively win in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Even if they were made available now, the resources that would have prevented the insurgency from getting started would probably have a hard time quelling it now.

3. The ongoing battle over body armor. They just have never adequately funded it. Then they tried to blame the deficiency on Democrats (which makes no sense because Democrats don’t control the budgeting process in the house anyway—the fact is, it was inadequate and even after a soldier asked Rumsfeld about it while he was once making a ‘surprise’ visit to Iraq, it remained inadequate.)

4. Even trying to cut combat pay for troops (which they thankfully backed off from after the proposal became a national outrage) and other similar cheapskate measures. My brother in law and his Colorado national guard unit got a two week furlough from Iraq a couple of years ago. But the army just flew them to someplace on the east coast and the soldiers had to buy their own tickets home (and on short notice those aren’t cheap.) Note that was a national guard unit all from Colorado, so they all had to buy their tickets home and back. A couple of them just hung out back east and made a couple of phone calls home because they couldn’t afford the plane ticket.

5. Their move to cut Homeland Security funding in cities which might be more vulnerable to a terrorist attack this year and shift it to cities which are more likely to suffer natural disasters (call it still fighting last year’s war). Not that they aren’t needed in places like LA and the south, but to take funding away from New York and Phoenix in order to cover it just shifts the deficiency without addressing it. This really bothers me the most because it is a reflection of the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals—conservatives see a fixed pie (budget) and divide it up as well as they can. Liberals analyze what is needed, and then do what is needed to provide the resources.

The fact is that wars are expensive. That is why they are best avoided. Enormous amounts of resources are wasted just to destroy what has been built. But if you fight a war, then you can’t fight it cheaply. You just can’t. Even I know that. I’ve never suggested that we shouldn’t have built all the hardware we made for fighting WWII even though after the war most of it was melted back down for scrap metal or sold to third world countries for their military. Sometimes we spend too much to feed the military-industrial complex when there is no war, but during a war you can’t practice fiscal restraint—lives depend on adequate, and frankly an oversupply of funding (since Congress can’t move as fast as events on the ground.) And yes, Vietnam was mismanaged and yes, Democrats (especially Robert McNamara and LBJ) were responsible. But a lack of funding and/or troops was never the problem there.

Then there is another reason conservatives, certainly the current crew, cannot be trusted: BASIC COMPETENCE.

We all know the story of how our willingness to send in local Afghans instead of U.S. Marines to get bin Laden at Tora Bora gave him the opening to buy his way out, so I won’t belabor that here. What I will belabor is the even more obvious story. Iraq.

First of all, Iraq is 1,000 miles away from where Osama and his pals were/are hanging out. What the decision to go into Iraq did was

1) take the heat off of them, so that they can now concentrate on creating more terror plots. The assertion that the ‘terrorists are over there fighting us so we don’t have to fight them here’ is ridiculous, as has been shown by the Bali, Madrid, Istanbul and London bombings. Having a few hundred terrorists shooting at American soldiers in Iraq does not in any way at all preclude them from also having ten or twenty carrying out an operation somewhere else at the same time, and only a complete dunce would suggest otherwise. But then again I’ve heard that suggestion time and again so I suppose there are many dunces out there, especially on right wing talk radio.

2) cause a very visible shift in Afghan allegiances as the dubious warlords who had come over to our side to help get rid of the Taliban in late 2001 saw that we were no longer making it our top priority and so shifted their allegiances again, just as has happened for thousands of years. The fact that we now have 150,000 Americans (the exact level varies) in Iraq while only about 20,000 in Afghanistan (plus about as many allied troops) makes it abundantly clear that whatever we are pursuing in Iraq (which I’m not sure what that is since the mission keeps changing) is a lot more important than whatever we are pursuing in Afghanistan (which may or may not be bin Laden—recently the CIA team which was specifically tasked with tracking down intel on him was disbanded )

3) give them, as we saw in the report out this week (which reiterated what was said in a report from January 2005) a great recruiting and training ground. In light of Iraq, their assertion that Americans want to occupy muslim lands, while in fact patently absurd, rings true in the muslim world.

4) Seriously undermine our greatest national asset, America’s military capability. George Bush inherited the most feared, most powerful military machine in the history of the planet. It has now been squandered in Iraq, and right now it is not much of a military threat to anyone. Why else are the Iranians being so belligerent lately? Because they know we could bomb the crap out of them, but as history shows time and again (most recently in Lebanon) a war cannot be won by bombing unless boots follow the bombs, and they know that right now we don’t have the boots available. And none of this needed to be. Had we either not gone into Iraq, or followed Gen. Shinseki’s advice to occupy it with 400,000 troops initially in order to prevent an insurgency from taking root then we would still have a credible deterrent today. But then there was that ‘Rumsfeld doctrine,’ of small numbers of light forces doing the trick. What is amazing is that Rumsfeld, the incompetent, is now poised to become the longest serving secretary of defense—ironically surpassing Vietnam incompetent Robert McNamara (of course.) And speaking of Rumsfeld, as I just blogged on the other day (link http://tiodt.blogspot.com/2006/09/insurgency-was-anticipated-rumsfeld.html ) the promise that he and Bush made that the generals on the ground would determine troop levels was a lie when they said that in 2004, and they told it knowing very well that they were undercutting the military leadership.

5. Made us look like suckers that P.T. Barnum could have had a field day with. His ‘worthy’ successor as a huckster is charlatan first class Ahmed Chalabi. The two timing Iraqi politician, who helped give us the ‘ammunition’ to invade Iraq by making the preposterous claim that Saddam Hussein not only had weapons of mass destruction, but could deploy them in 45 minutes (a charge dutifully reported as fact by the White House spin machine during the run-up to the war), and who is on the lam from Jordan for a $28 million bank fraud judgment against him in that country, was shown to be a double agent working for Tehran. Among other ‘gifts’ to the Iranians, Chalabi informed them that we had cracked their intelligence code. Of course Chalabi is part of the new Iraqi government, having at one point schmoozed his way up as high as the post of deputy prime minister, a position he held until May 2006. One thing is certain—with Chalabi part of the new government, corruption will certainly also be welcome there. Any self-respecting American would never allow this weasel (who is unfortunately covered by diplomatic immunity) to ever again set foot on American soil, and immediately declare him ‘persona non-grata.’ Not the case however. On November 9 of last year, Chalabi was a guest and featured speaker at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (read the announcement here )

As a matter of fact, I’ve been to a conference at the AEI (on health care, in 2001). Yes, I had an open mind on that topic and wanted to hear from all sides before making my mind up on the issue. Ironically the featured speaker that day was Tom DeLay. Maybe that explains why conservatives like Chalabi so much. According to the Sept. 9, 2004 edition of the London Telegraph, a secret document written in 2002 by the British Overseas and Defence Secretariat reportedly described Chalabi as "a convicted fraudster popular on Capitol Hill". Pretty much says it all.

And there are other matters of incompetence in terms of the war on terror not at all having to do with Iraq. For example, the singular example of the Bush administration in opposing the creation of the 9/11 commission for months, until public opinion forced them to give in. There have been two similar commissions within anyone’s memory: the Pearl Harbor commission and the Warren commission which investigated the Kennedy assassination. To be honest, I sincerely hope and pray that while I live to a good old age, I don’t live long enough to ever see another such commission. However, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the 9/11 attacks rose to a level that required an independent investigation from such a bipartisan commission. Certainly they were as serious as either of the events that prompted the first two such commissions. But instead of supporting the creation of such a commission, which could (and eventually did) zero in on the causes and breakdowns that allowed this to happen, the Bush administration, apparently more worried about political matters, chose to oppose it, and then when it was created, limit its scope, limit its funding and is still not even close to recommending its recommendations. For example, 2% of cargo containers entering the U.S. were inspected in 2001, and the figure is still the same today.

Then there is the go it alone matter. It’s hard now to remember the almost universal support that we had after 9/11. No one begrudged our doing whatever was necessary to get bin Laden and remake Afghanistan. But George Bush wanted to do things ‘his way or the highway.’ He refused to listen to the advice of allies with much more experience in the middle east concerning the perfidity of local warlords and the limits of how far they could be trusted as allies (see Tora Bora again). And then that rigid view grew and came to include Iraq. Unlike his father, he was only interested in a ‘coalition of the willing’ (as in willing to do it his way). More and more countries went from being pro-American to being anti-American, if not their leadership then their public. More than half of the original coalition we had in Iraq have bailed on us. And by now, the main allies he began the war with, Aznar of Spain, Berlusconi of Italy and Blair of Britain—have been or are being forced out, and just to put the exclaimation point on it—supporting Bush in the Iraq war ultimately made the difference in a narrow electoral loss for Berlusconi and is the main reason for the imminent departure of Blair. So now, as we face a showdown with Iran—and as just described with our military bogged down in Iraq, we can count on a ton of moral support and lip service from the rest of the world. But George Bush has so alienated the rest of the world by his caustic, stubborn rigid personality that he now really does have to go it alone. In any potential conflict with Iran, a nation three times a large as Iraq, we could certainly use real military allies but the ineptitude of this administration has pretty much guaranteed that this time we won’t have any. Maybe a big cheer section, but nobody out on the field backing us up.

So there are four reasons why I don’t trust conservatives to be leading the war on terror: History, Fiscal conservatism, Social conservatism, and Incompetence.

So under the circumstances, it will be only not soon enough when we finally get rid of conservative leadership and get liberals, who after all, actually DO find Islamic extremism to be deplorable enough to want to actually get the people who have attacked us.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A clear choice

Today, both President Bush's radio address and the Democratic response outlined the important issues of the campaign.

The President spoke first. He credited his tax cuts with improving the economy. That is debatable. With the tax rates that existed before the tax cuts, Bill Clinton presided over the creation of 20 million jobs in eight years. Under President Bush, there has been a net gain of 4 million jobs in a little under six years. And even if you start counting, as the President does, when he claims his tax cuts 'kicked in,' in mid 2003 when he had already lost two million jobs, since then there have been six million jobs created in over three years, so less than two million per year. That is still fewer per year (even using the same starting point that the Bush administration uses) than the Clinton average with the old tax rates.

And what exactly did the President suggest would happen if the Democrats took back Congress? That the tax cuts would expire and the old rates would return. Yeah, bring back the economy of the 1990's when they were in force. Only in George Bush's economic view of the world would that be a bad thing. My gosh, we might even get the surplus back. Horror of horrors, wouldn't that be a bad thing?

Of course the economic news out this week suggests that might not be any too soon either. A Commerce Department report on Friday showed that the economy in the third quarter showed an annual rate of just 1.6 percent -- the slowest in more than three years, and well short of the 2.1 percent annualized rate that analysts had forecast. Investment in housing dropped by the most in 15 years (which was way back before Bill Clinton came in and raised taxes to get rid of the deficit).

Meanwhile, Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb delivered the Democratic radio response. Webb is a former Republican, who served as Navy secretary under President Reagan and received three silver stars in Vietnam and has a son on active duty with the marines in Iraq. Webb said that Bush and his administration have been incompetent in fighting the Iraq war, and that has harmed us in the war against terrorism. This is nothing new, but it points out that the Democrats consider that right now Iraq and the war on terrorism are the most important issues. And they are right.

Webb said, "Since 2003, President Bush has laid out nine different plans for victory in Iraq, none of them serious and none of them workable. And most seriously, this incompetence has hindered our ability to fight international terror."

Webb wrote in 2002 that a war in Iraq would be 'protracted and bloody.' He was right. So he was a logical choice to deliver the response today.

He also suggested that if the GOP retained control of Congress, we will see at least the next two years of Congress and the Senate continuing to rubber stamp Bush's policies on Iraq and we will uselessly lose more troops in what has by now become anybody's guess what exactly we are pursuing anymore.

Webb did offer a solution to this though, at least a plan to make the administration explain what and why we are fighting in Iraq and a plan to finish this war. "A Democratic Congress will demand from day one that the president find a real way forward in Iraq. We'll work with the administration and other Republicans to develop a concrete plan, but none of us are ready to settle for empty rhetoric, or the same old unacceptable results."

The choice is clear.

Just one question

I've tried to avoid commenting on the current Michael J. Fox/Rush Limbaugh controversy here (though I've said quite a bit about it on some other blogs), but I have exactly one question for opponents of embryonic stem cell research:

Opponents say they oppose it because it 'destroys human life.'

However, since the embryos used are those which have been stored by infertile couples that they don't want anymore, if they are not used in research they are 'discarded' (which typically means they are either incinerated or throw into a waste dump with other medical waste-- pretty much like any other dump.) There they either die of exposure or get eaten by cockroaches which exist in the dump.

If you consider that using an embryo in research aimed at curing diseases is 'destroying human life,' then how is this NOT 'destroying human life?'

So it is now more 'moral' to feed human flesh to cockroaches than it is to use it to try and learn ways to cure terrible diseases?

I just don't get it. If you are honestly opposed to stem cell research then clue me in, on how you avoid this massive hole in your line of reasoning.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Poll shows William Jefferson in danger of being booted by Democratic voters

[Hat tip to Indy Voter for the link]

Any question on the difference between Democratic and Republican voters on issues relating to corruption?

Well, look at the record, because by now there have been a number of primaries in which the issue of corruption has been raised. Earlier this year Georgia Democratic voters got rid of Cynthia McKinney in a primary. Hank Johnson thumped McKinney 59-41% and will be the new congressman from the district, and presumably the former county commissioner will uphold the duties of the job as voters expect of him but which McKinney, who had some corruption issues even before her infamous run-in with Capitol Hill police, failed to do.

And now, a couple of new polls have come out in the race in Louisiana congressional district two which show William Jefferson in trouble. In Louisiana's complicated electoral system, all candidates of any party compete together on election day, and if no candidate gets 50% of the vote then there is a runoff between the two top vote getters, regardless of party.

a Multi-Quest International poll conducted for Fox-8 TV, Jefferson leads with 19%, followed by Derrick Shepherd at 17%, Troy Carter at 17% and Karen Carter at 15%. Another poll conducted by Dr. Ed Renwick of Loyola University for an independent group of business leaders shows that Jefferson leads with 20%, followed by Karen Carter at 15%, Troy Carter at 15% and Derrick Shepherd at 10%.

Because this is an overwhelmingly Democratic district all of the contenders are Democrats (though there are several Republicans on the ballot, all in single digits). What this makes clear is that William Jefferson, though he may finish first or second on election day, will be forced into a runoff, and when he is, it is likely that the other candidate will be heavily favored.

Also, I had a poster comment on an earlier post I put up that was somewhat like this one, (and in which I mentioned Nancy Pelosi trying to strip Congressman Jefferson of his duties earlier this year) that it was a political calculation on her part. Perhaps that was, but what we are seeing here and in the McKinney vote is bottom up change-- it is ordinary Democrats in those districts who are refusing to vote for people like William Jefferson or Cynthia McKinney. Ordinary voters like you or me are making this change with or without the party hierarchy (for the record the Louisiana Democratic party has endorsed Karen Carter, one of Mr. Jefferson's opponents, but it is entirely possible that the primary voters may not pick her for the runoff.)

Just ordinary voters. And what of the record of ordinary Republican voters in countering corruption this year? Well, it doesn't look very good at all. Tom DeLay won a contested primary with almost 60% of the vote against Tom Campbell and two minor candidates before resigning a month later. In California, after Duke Cunningham went to prison for corruption, voters in a heavily Republican district were happy to elect congressman-turned-lobbyist Brian Bilbray to represent them, even in the middle of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, only because he was a Republican. Republican primary voters in Ohio were only too happy to vote to return Bob Ney to Congress against James B. Harris by a 2-1 margin even though Ney was hip deep in corruption, and then voted for Joy Padgett, Ney's hand-picked replacement in a special election after he agreed to plead guilty and resigned from Congress (though the ride likely ends there, as Padgett is losing to Democrat Zack Space in general election polls). Here in my district in Arizona Rick Renzi has been listed by a variety of citizen's watchdog groups as being among the most corrupt members of Congress for years, but again, Republicans here seem to be satisfied with that since none of them even filed to oppose him in the primary. And if the polls are to be believed Rick Renzi is leading in his quest for another trip to Congress. Unbelievable. I guess some voters, rather than voting these guys out would prefer that they remain in office until they are literally pried loose, finger by reluctant finger, from the trappings of power by the criminal justice system, as we saw a couple of weeks ago with Ney.

Let me put it another way. I, as a very partisan Democrat normally vote for only Democratic candidates. However, there have been rare occasions when I have voted for a Republican. There has to be a compelling reason, but corruption is such a reason (though not the only one). And I will even name a name (since it is a U.S. Senator who people will likely recognize). One year when I lived in New Mexico, Senator Pete Domenici was opposed by Tom Benavides, who had a reputation for being one of the most corrupt members of the legislature. Not that there was any contest there, to be sure, but even if there had been I would not have been deterred. I pulled the lever for Domenici, a conservative Republican, because I felt that his opponent would be unacceptable as a Senator (who besides the corruption stories, mainly was known for wanting to create a separate county in Albuquerque's South Valley and name it Benavides county.) Politicians who misuse the trust given to them in their official position to line their pockets, line their family's pockets or line their friends' pockets forfeit their right to hold public office. Period. Party is irrelevant in expecting that a politician at least meet that minimum standard.

Now, the other side of the coin. Republicans (and we just had our GOP state treasurer resign this week due to a corruption scandal.) Let me recount to you a real conversation I had a few years ago. This was the day that a $60.4 million judgement against the state of Arizona came down, due to the actions of Corporation Commission (now former Corporation Commissioner since resigning to avoid being impeached by the legislature) Jim Irvin in awarding a contract to his buddies instead of a more qualified bidder. The story broke as Irvin was running for re-election and amazingly he won in one of the closest races in the history of Arizona. The damage award was the headline in the paper the day I had the following coversation:

I was in a library and ran into a lady I know there. I commented on the headline in the paper (which was visible on the rack next to where we were standing). She agreed that it was terrible. I asked her if she had voted for Jim Irvin.

"I don't know, is he a Democrat or a Republican?" she asked.

"He's a Republican," I answered.

Her answer just floored me.

"Then I guess I must have," she said. "I only pay attention to the important races like the President and the Governor, after that I just vote for all the Republicans."


Even in years when I will vote a straight Democratic ticket, like this year, I always take the time to learn about each candidate, at least enough to know that they have the personal integrity to carry out the duties of their office without having a hand in the public till. I probably don't care if they are a jerk personally, or what their sex life is, or what they've smoked, or what they did during Vietnam, but I do expect them to have the integrity in office to carry out their sworn duties both in accordance with the trust that they have been given, and according to the law. If I don't think they will do that, then they lose my vote.

But apparently it seems, based on congressional races this year, that Democratic voters are more likely to think that way than are Republican voters.

Sure those tax collectors have a heart: for the GOP

Those tax collectors don't have a heart, right?

That's the overwhelming perception of the IRS, but here's the good news:


The I.R.S. slows down before the election.

The commissioner of internal revenue has ordered his agency to delay collecting back taxes from Hurricane Katrina victims until after the Nov. 7 elections and the holiday season, saying he did so in part to avoid negative publicity.

The commissioner, Mark W. Everson, who has close ties to the White House, said in an interview that postponing collections until after the midterm elections, along with postponing notices to people who failed to file tax returns, was a routine effort to avoid casting the Internal Revenue Service in a bad light.

“We are very sensitive to political perceptions,” Mr. Everson said Wednesday, adding that he regularly discussed with his senior staff members when to take actions and make announcements in light of whether they would annoy a powerful member of Congress or get lost in the flow of news.

The tax agency has broad discretion to change filing deadlines in the case of disasters and has traditionally eased off tax collections before the December holidays.

But four former I.R.S. commissioners, who served under presidents of both parties, said that doing so because of an election was improper and indefensible.

A break around Christmas may be traditional, but a break before elections is unprecedented. October and November are business as usual months for your friendly IRS agent.

Say, you don't think that the fact that in the southeastern Louisiana district that includes St. Bernard and Plaquemines, the two parishes where Katrina first came ashore, Republicans are hoping to force Democrat Charlie Melancon, who barely won a close election in 2004 into a runoff has anything to do with this decision do you?

The two Renzi investigations may actually be one very complicated one.

First of all, I'd like to thank Mike Newcomb for interviewing me on his radio program and zelph and Jeff Farias for setting it up.

The biggest thing that came out of it was some clarification of the latest Renzi scandal. It has been reported in the media as two seperate investigations, which is what I thought at first-- an investigation into Renzi steering Federal money to Mantech, his father's company, and another involving the Sandlin land deal.

In fact, the two are closely related. Sandlin's land which he sold for $4.5 million after Renzi announced the Federal land swap was a 480 acre parcel near the San Pedro river in southeastern Arizona. The deal later fell through when it turned out that the federal land they were going to swap for it included a population of pygmy owls. Now, the San Pedro river is an ecologically sensitive area so Renzi (despite his notable lack of interest in environmental issues) at first appeared to be protecting it. Where this ties into the other probe is that Mantech has a $400 million plus contract with Fort Huachuca, and Fort Huachuca was specifically exempted from having to maintain the water supply in the San Pedro river. And the sponsor of that bill (which is now law): Rick Renzi. So it is likely that the Federal investigators are working on a large and fairly complex investigation, and the NY Times and Washington Post articles which apparently described two different investigations are two ends of a probe working towards the middle, which is the San Pedro River.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Radio Interview about Renzi

The situation involving the 'Gentleman from Virginia' our congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ 1) seems to be moving fairly fluidly at the moment.

On Friday (thanks to zelph) I will be interviewed on the "Mike Newcomb show" on KPHX about Mr. Renzi and his long history of corruption leading up to the present investigation.

It looks like I will be on about seven (Arizona time, which is 10 eastern). It is 1480 AM, streaming at www.aaphx.com.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lofty Donkey DID get a scoop.

OK, I've been proven wrong.

And I will admit it. (Happily, I will admit it). A couple of days ago I put up a post in which I suggested that due caution and diligence be excercised on a story about a rumor swirling around a congressman (who I declined to name in the post.)

Well, I will now name him. He is the Congressman who pretends to represent me here (though he actually resides in Burke, Virginia, over 2000 miles from here), none other than Rick Renzi.

And I will give credit to the blogger who first broke the story (though the specifics have not been verified but the central fact seems to have been): The original story that started the 'rumor' (which is now turning out to be true) was on Lofty Donkey. The link is directly to the story itself.

One article that confirms that Rick Renzi is in fact under investigation by the FBI and the Justice Dept. is this one:

New York Times and another is

Washington Post.

In fact, what is interesting is that the stories deal with two different Renzi scandals, one that he steered millions of dollars in Federal contracts to family members (his father in particular) and the other the shady land deal that helped him get elected to Congress in the first place (which I posted on here.

I do believe that the criminal justice system operates at its own pace and whether these investigations are concluded before or after the elections is a matter of how long they need to do their jobs. However, clearly something is brewing and the best bit of news for Renzi is that he has been involved in so many scandals by now that it may take until after the election just to pour through them all.

UPDATE: Tedski at Rum, Romanism and Rebellion is reporting that Renzi has hired former Attorney General Grant Woods as his defense lawyer. And a former A.G. doesn't come cheap, I guarantee you, but Renzi must feel he will need the best legal defense he can buy.

LA Hospitals caught dumping homeless people on skid row.

There is so much that the story out today on hospital dumping the homeless on skid row in L.A. that is so awful, and yet doesn't surprise me. In fact, just about a year ago I blogged on this very same problem as part of a larger post entitled 'The least of these my brethren. Only then it was an observation, now it is a criminal investigation.

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into suspected dumping of homeless people on Skid Row after police witnessed ambulances leaving five people on a street there during the weekend.

The city attorney's office is reviewing police videotapes and photographs of the five suspected dumping cases to determine whether the patients were falsely imprisoned during their transfer and whether the hospital, Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center, violated any laws regarding the treatment of patients.

Two patients told officers Sunday they did not want to be taken downtown, said police Capt. Andrew Smith. One was not even homeless, he said.

"There is an expression in the medical profession that is something to the effect of 'Do no harm,"' Chief William Bratton said at a press conference.

"When a hospital or an ambulance service takes an individual into Skid Row and leaves them and drives off, they are subjecting that person to considerable risk," he added.

Medical center officials denied improperly handling the patients....

The investigation began on Sunday, when an LAPD sergeant saw a patient being left in front of the Volunteers of America homeless services facility.

The sergeant called an LAPD videographer, who over the next few hours recorded four more ambulances arriving at the facility and leaving recently discharged patients.

Fenton said three of the five patients had arrived at the hospital from Volunteers of America or the nearby Lamp Community center, and gave the street addresses on their admission information.

Officials at Lamp and Volunteers of America, however, said they had no record of any of the five patients having been at their facilities. Police also said the patients stated in their interviews that they didn't want to be left there.

James Fraley, an attendant with ProCare, a private ambulance company, told police the hospital had hired his company to move discharged patients from the medical center to Skid Row, the Times reported.

How would you like to be discharged from the hospital, still in pain or not completely well, and dropped off someplace where you did not come from, perhaps didn't know where you were, and among people who you did not know? If someone-- homeless or not-- requests to be taken downtown, then it is fine to take them there. But absent such a request, discharge from a hospital is just that-- they can walk out the front door. Further, since at least one man the police asked about it had an actual home someplace else, if you are going to give him a ride, wouldn't you give him a ride to his home?

Unfortunately it is hard to be outraged at the hospital. Most hospitals today are running on a very thin and tight budget, made that way by our lack of a national health care system. A number have simply shut their doors (like the hospital in Holbrook, AZ, which had it remained open would have been the closest hospital to me.) Providing health care to the homeless is something they will lose money on-- that is a given, and the quicker they get them out the door the less they will lose. Medicaid, even when it applies, does not cover the costs the hospital incurs in this situation-- and Congress has made sure it will cover less and less of them. There is no other business at all where we as a society would EXPECT any business to lose money and not try to help them. Since refusing to serve people who need it is unethical, especially in the case of a hospital (where it is also illegal) the hospitals have to serve them and make up the cost by overbilling everyone else.

However what does outrage me is that this is just one more example of where our supposedly 'moral' society is treating the most vulnerable and most downtrodden in society-- those who have no home-- as undeserving of even basic human consideration.

We have seen homeless people literally beaten to death by upper middle class high school kids just looking for 'fun.' We have seen them driven from city to city, from place to place by a public who apparently prefers an 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality to actually doing anything about homelessness.

Oh, yeah. Conservatives love to go on about how housing for the homeless should be a 'private responsibility,' not government funded. Well, other than a few organizations like Habitat for Humanity (which organization incidentally got a big boost from Jimmy Carter in its early days), there just isn't anyone out there doing that. It isn't profitable to build homes for people who can't afford to pay for them. And the private charities just aren't putting a dent in the problem. There are more and more homeless people all the time, and no one gives a nickel more to get them off the street. And by now we have even reached the point where as a society we accept homeless children as well as adults. If I made my kids sleep outside on the piece of cardboard it would (and should) be considered child abuse. But somehow if mom and dad are doing the same thing because they have no other choice, then that is OK for junior.

How sick is that?

My belief is that to provide enough shelter to accomodate everyone who lacks but wants it is a public responsibility that we all share. Maybe conservatives will decry this plan for ending homelessness as 'another big government plan.' Maybe they are right. But at least we have a plan for it.

Madonna and child-- Maybe a tragedy

Let me do something unusual and begin this post with an anecdote from my own experience. A few years ago my kids loved getting stamped with any kind of stamp (you know, when you buy tickets to something they often will give a hand stamp, so they thought any kind of hand stamp was 'cool.' So one day I took them to a local business and they had a stamp pad, which they used to stamp checks, that read "For deposit only at Wells Fargo." So my kids wanted the clerk to stamp it on the backs of their hands, so she gave in and did so. Later on I had an errand to run at Wells Fargo, so I showed the teller my kids' hands and asked if I could deposit them and take them out when they had reached maturity. The teller said, "No" and continued with the transaction. Of course we both knew it was a joke.

The other day I put up a post on Madonna's adoption of a baby from an African orphanage. At the time, it seemed as though it was pretty much a fairy tale come true for the child, in that he would have everything he could want. I was unhappy with the various 'human rights' organizations that have raised objections, most of which I consider to be silly or irrelevant to the adoption.

However, some things have happened during the past week. The main one is that the father of the child, who last week had been fine with the adoption, now is insisting that he was fooled or misled into signing his son over to Madonna. He says that he was told that she would only raise the child for him and then send his son home after he had been brought up by Madonna. For her part, Madonna has said that she never actually met the father (he confirms this) but did not take the child until she was assured that he had consented to the adoption. She also believes that one reason he has changed his position is because of all the media attention beginning on day one (which I believe may well be the case). If it is, then the tabloid media, just as may have been the case in the Princess Diana tragedy, and as was certainly the case in a car crash a couple of years ago involving Lindsey Lohan, may have helped to cause the news by their overly aggressive pursuit of it. And when the media is actually in there causing the news, while I would defend their right to do so, they need to take the responsibility to know they are over the line.

This is a very complicated mess. The father says he cannot read (most people in Malawi can't) so he had it verbally explained to him, and he says that the way it was explained to him was different than waht actually happened. On one hand I wonder about anyone who would assume that someone would want to raise their child only to send them back (hence the reason why the teller and I knew that the aforementioned exchange was a joke) but at the same time I also can understand that an impoverished and illiterate man who has just lost his wife in childbirth might not perceive that in the same way I would. I don't blame Madonna-- she apparently went through all the necessary steps to obtain the necessary paperwork, but it is very likely that there may have been some corrupt official somewhere in between who saw the chance to make a big payday (or maybe even worse, someone higher up who pressured those below him to 'make it happen,' for reasons of the good press he thought the country would get.)

I still think the media and the 'human rights' groups involved should have laid off this story until there was a story (i.e. if and when the father had said what he has now said after the media storm began.)

There are no winners here. Only losers. Madonna will very likely be stripped of a son she wanted very badly, the father still won't be able to raise him and when he inevitably finds out that he could have been raised in a life of luxury in England will fairly or not blame his father, the nation of Malawi, which will probably be known only for this story, loses, the child loses (he will be yanked away from the only real home he has known and sent back to the stuffy orphanage to an uncertain future) and thousands of other kids lose because of all the people who will now think twice about adopting from Africa. A true tragedy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Due diligence and caution.

What is a blogger? We aren't reporters. We comment on news that has already been put out there. We serve a very useful purpose in making sure that stories that should be out there but are sometimes not covered, not covered adequately or not covered completely enough by the major media, get some coverage. Thanks to bloggers, there is no longer any such thing as a news blackout.

But we still aren't reporters. So that is why I didn't post a rumor that has been going around on some blogs about the pending indictment of another Congressman. It may be true. It may not be. I personally would not be either surprised or upset if it happened, but that is a personal belief, not a prediction that it will.

When bloggers start trying to make a scoop by trying to second guess the news themselves, they can get into trouble.

Remember Jason Leopold? The truthout.org blogger insisted that an indictment of Karl Rove was forthcoming in the Plame case. A lot of other bloggers pounced on it (though I didn't because I don't like to discuss indictments until/unless there actually is one, which is one reason I'm not posting the current rumor). Then even when it was clear there was not going to be one, Leopold doggedly clung to his dogma rather than having to avoid admitting that his biggest hit was a strikeout. Maybe he needed to remember that what you want to believe isn't necessarily what is.

One reason I doubt the current rumor is because it requires one to believe in a conspiracy between the U.S. attorney who would be prosecuting the case and the accused, simply because both are Republicans. I have trouble with that one. Most prosecutors I've known-- both Democrats and Republicans-- are tough minded pit bulls when on a case, and would never hatch up a conspiracy with someone they might have to indict. And knowing something about the prosecutor in this case, I'm sure of it. I've watched how he handled a very tough situation and he made the right choices and didn't back down an inch.

As I said, I will report this if and when anything comes of it (including due credit to the blogger who first reported on it if in fact it is a 'scoop.') But somehow this sounds like one of those 'too good to be true' stories that probably is.

Caveat Emptor.

Two reasons I'm not comfortable with Barack Obama speculation.

I just got online and checked the news. And a news story out today disturbs me a great deal. It says that Illinois Senator Barack Obama may be eyeing a White House run in 2008.

Now, I see two things wrong here. And that is to take nothing away from the Junior Senator from Illinois, a man who I greatly admire. He is a bit too far to the right for me to support for the nomination but I'd have no problem supporting him if he were the Democratic nominee.

Here is the first thing I see wrong with this story. Obama did his party a disservice by discussing it now instead of three weeks from now. Today is fifteen days before the election. As Democrats we need to be focused on winning this election (an election that is still very much up for grabs) over the next fifteen days. This just isn't the right time to be worrying about who will run for President in 2008. Not even a little bit. If we do, we risk being like the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, a baseball team which began printing World Series tickets with two weeks left in the season, forgetting that they still had a pennant to win. Or maybe more like the 1983 Chicago White Sox (since Barack is from Illinois), a team that was thinking ahead to the World Series so they let their pitchers bat instead of using a designated hitter in the ALCS. Note that St. Louis represented the NL in the 1964 World Series and Baltimore represented the AL in the 1983 World Series. We have an election to win in the next fifteen days and that should be 100% of our focus. I guarantee you that it is 100% of the focus of the GOP. I honestly think that the Republicans can't win the election at this point, but we could still lose it, and wasting time thinking about who will run for President in '08 is a big step in that direction.

The second thing I see wrong is that Obama is a Senator. Senators get a lot of news coverage from the D.C. reporters, and many of them, especially Democrats, develop the disease of wanting to run for President. This hurts Democrats in the Senate. In 2004, no less than four sitting U.S. Senators (Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards and Graham) sought the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush. The last two on that list were actually up for re-election to the Senate in 2004 so they had to give up their Senate seats just to run. Graham could easily have been re-elected in Florida had he decided to serve one more term in the Senate instead of making an ultimately fruitless Presidential run; Edwards would have had more trouble in North Carolina, but he'd have probably been a stronger candidate than Erskine Bowles. In the end both seats went Republican. So this year, Democrats face an uphill climb to take the Senate, a climb that would have been much easier if we had one or two more Senate seats on our side to start with. Further, Senators who run for President and are unsuccessful often lose in their next try at the Senate (i.e. Frank Church, George McGovern and Birch Bayh.) No mystery why-- voters in their states expect a Senator who will work for their state and their individual interests, not some wannabe President. And running for President strains their networks of donors, volunteers and other supporters often past the breaking point-- so if they lose, the next time they run for Senate they may not have the organization waiting for them that they are used to. For that matter, in addition to the Edwards and Graham seats, Lieberman was clearly weakened by his failed Presidential candidacy. There are a lot of reasons why LaMont won the primary, and according to the polls Lieberman may get back into the Senate anyway as an independent but his Presidential run certainly didn't help him among Connecticut Democrats.

2008 looks to be a train wreck of Democratic Senators seeking the Presidency. Senators Bayh, Biden, Clinton, Feingold, Kerry and now Obama have all suggested that they might run. In a word, I hope they don't.

Further, in addition to the mathematical fact that at most one can win, the historical facts suggest that a Governor is a much more likely candidate. Governors are seen as strong, executives who show leadership in their states. Senators on the other hand have a reputation for sitting around, giving grand speeches and not accomplishing much. Maybe not fair but that is the view of many people of Senators vs. Governors. Further, Senators have hundreds of votes about thousands of bills containing millions of words, so it is very easy to cast any Senators as a 'flip flopper' or worse. Governors mainly issue executive orders and sign (or veto) legislation. But a signature or a veto is easier to justify than some line tucked way down in a bil that a Senator may vote on without having read. In 2004, Governor Howard Dean was way ahead of the field before questions about his temperment led to a John Kerry win. If he'd avoided getting sucked into the sewer in a negative ad war with Dick Gephardt that turned voters off to both of them in Iowa, and then avoided the 'Geography lesson with Howard Dean scream,' the chances are he'd have won the nomination ahead of all those Senators. When he didn't, the voters were forced to choose a Senator. However, despite the recent withdrawal from the race of former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, there are likely to be at least two legitimate governors running: Tom Vilsack of Iowa and Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Most likely if they share the field with six Senators one of them will jump out in front first, and if that Governor is found lacking, the other one will most benefit. What is important is this: In 2008, as well as in 2010, Republicans will have many more seats to defend than Democrats. If we don't take the Senate in 2006 (or even if we do) we will have a sterling opportunity to lock down control of the U.S. Senate over the next two elections. But we have to not louse it up by running so many Senators for President.

Think TEAM, guys, TEAM!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

One soldier's view

When Pat Tillman left a multimillion dollar NFL career on the table to go join the army Rangers after September 11, he was hailed as a larger than life hero. Then when he was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, the cover up began almost immediately. And his family, led by his mother Mary, could have simply accepted the silver star that Pat was awarded posthumously and played along with the charade. But a charade it was, and is. So Mary Tillman continues to press for the truth-- the whole truth.

And it is well known by now that Pat himself was critical of the war in Iraq, believing that it was a dangerous and unjustified diversion from the job of finding and fighting terrorists. As an army member however, we have learned his views over time as the men he served with have left the army and been free to share the conversations that he had with them.

What some people still don't know is that when Pat joined the Rangers, he joined his little brother Kevin in doing so. What does Kevin think about the war in Iraq? He couldn't say anything about that until he was discharged from the army last year.

Well, he is now free to talk about it, and he has posted what he thinks, as a guest poster on the blog, Truthdig.com, in a post called After Pat's Birthday

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we got out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

This is not the first such testimonial we've seen from former soldiers who have left the service after going to Iraq, though it is certainly among the best written and from a name that people will recognize. And as more and more of them muster out and are no longer muzzled by their service agreements, you will see more of these testimonials. Our soldiers are doing the best job they could be given the circumstances they have been sent to war under, but the lie that the right has perpetrated that the war is uniformly supported by the soldiers who have fought in it, is starting to unravel.

Chinese diplomats put the chill on Kim's bluster

Apparently, after U.N. sanctions on North Korea only created more intransigence and bellicosity from the regime of Kim Jong Il, a pair of Chinese diplomats went to Pyongyang this week and brought about a change of attitude. In stark contrast to the second test they were threatening earlier in the week, the Chinese visit brought about an expression of 'regret' from the North Koreans (in other words, they said they are sorry.)

What exactly the Chinese said is a matter of speculation, but it is clear that they command the respect and attention of Kim Jong Il. Whereas we do not.

Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. And there is one reason I will say is not the fault of the Bush administration. It is simply the existence of China, and the fact of history that is the Korean war; the last time we sent an army in to overrun North Korea, we ended up in a war with China and after several years of fruitless attrition Dwight Eisenhower wisely saw the benefit of making peace (pity the Republican President we have today doesn't have Dwight's understanding of war). I wrote in a July post called The price of making threats you can't back up,

the Chinese would no more put up today with an American army overrunning North Korea than they did in 1950. The North Koreans feel emboldened by this fact, and sometimes act like a feisty tyke, standing in front of big brother and shouting insults, secure in the knowlege that no matter how much big brother may hate it, he won't let you give junior the pop in the mouth that he so richly deserves.

Well, maybe not, but apparently after this latest outrage, big brother felt it was time to put his foot down. So the North Koreans have abruptly changed their attitude. We will see how long that lasts.

However, this begs the question, even with the military option effectively neutered, why are we so toothless? China isn't going to invade North Korea either, and the North Koreans know that. So why do they respect China but not us?

One reason is trade. By far their biggest trading partner is China. And it probably will continue to be that way no matter what else happens. However, as I wrote in a post last week,

As I've said before, what brought down the Soviet Union was not our thousands of nuclear missiles, which remained unlaunched (as did theirs). It was the desire of their people to be done with the regime, and to have more of what we have.

Consumerism is a strong force. I've said it in at least a couple of other recent posts, but it seems to me that if we traded with the North Koreans, especially consumer goods, they would experience a revival of the hopes and dreams of their own people-- and that is an even stronger force. Why conservatives, of all people, can't recognize the best weapon we have-- capitalism, and be ready to use it, is beyond me.

Not only would it make the threat of sanctions actually realistic if we actually had something that we could quit trading with them, but more importantly if we traded with them Kim Jong Il would suddenly be confronted with the one threat to his regime that he has no weapon that can defend against-- the aspirations of his people. Mikhail Gorbachev, Nikolai Cseaucescu, Erich Honecker-- what good did all their tanks, all their armies or all those Soviet nukes do when their people got tired of communism and wanted something better? But as long as we isolate Kim Jong Il, we can't really expect him to behave-- We've thrown all our boots at him, and we have no boots left to throw at him anymore. In the meantime, he gains power because he can blame all of his or the regime's failings on the Americans, and use that to ruthlessly crush any dissent.

A third reason we are toothless can be laid directly at the feet of George Bush. As I wrote in the first post I linked above, it really is about "The price of making threats you can't back up."

In this context, President Bush's description of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the 'axis of evil' which would require 'regime change' was pretty stupid. Threatening a country and then attacking them, as he did with Iraq, is inconsistent with American values and what we stand for, and I've blogged quite a bit about Iraq. But threatening someone who you don't have the means to carry out the threat is worse-- by first publically announcing that it had a nuclear program, then withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, announcing that it actually has nukes, threatening to shoot down our spy planes just before the Iraq war started (Bush's response was to ground the spy planes, which rewarded North Korea directly for making that threat), and now with the missile launches, they continue with one provocation after another after another, by which they hope to (and have) exposed America as a 'paper tiger,' and Bush as an emperor with no clothes. Far better to not have issued a threat than to be caught drawing a line, and then not being able to do anything when someone steps over it.

George Bush has for the last couple of years practically dared the North Koreans to cross the next line by promising 'serious consequences' each time they do. That would be fine if we were in a position to back the threats up, but instead by making the threats Bush has played the proverbial emperor and was wearing no clothes when they called him on it (yeah, I know it was a sanctions bill that was supposed to have 'teeth,' but I doubt if it worried the North Koreans much, at least until the Chinese diplomats came over.) Given Bush's initial description of North Korea as part of the 'axis of evil' (a speech that the North Koreans cited when they first made public their nuclear program) he has since ticked off most of the world, so that the North Koreans love to be the ones pulling his tail.

In contrast, some other Americans, notably Bill Richardson, have proven that they have the ability to reason with the North Koreans-- and that begins with actually sitting down and talking to them, instead of making threats over the airwaves. And it might be nice to not have to depend on the Chinese in the future.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Willing to say anything to get elected.

Well, I guess if you are behind in the polls, the Big Lie is in order. At least that seems to be the case for our Congressman, Rick Renzi, who was four points down to Ellen Simon in a recent poll.

Renzi is running an ad in which he says that "Simon was the President of the ACLU, an organization which defends the North American Man-Boy Love Association."

Well, at lest the second half of that is right. Sort of. The implication of course is that the ACLU supports the rights of the pedophiles to destroy children, when in fact the ACLU in their press release on the decision of their Massachusetts affiliate to represent members of NAMBLA in court says,

"In representing NAMBLA today, our Massachusetts affiliate does not advocate sexual relationships between adults and children.

What the ACLU does advocate is robust freedom of speech for everyone. The lawsuit involved here, were it to succeed, would strike at the heart of freedom of speech."

However these kinds of distortions are everywhere in political ads these days. However, the first half of Mr. Renzi's statement, saying that Ellen Simon was the President of the ACLU is flat out and demonstrably wrong. The President of the ACLU since 1991 has been Nadine Strossen (Incidentally, she is the first woman to ever head the organization). Strossen succeeded Norman Dorsen, who served as the President of the ACLU from 1976-1990. So the contention that Ellen Simon was 'the President of the ACLU' is a flat out, bald faced lie, and a very easy one to prove false with a few minutes and a search engine. She was involved with the ACLU in Ohio, being the President of their Cleveland affiliate, but of course an ACLU member in Ohio could not have been responsible for a decision made by a Massachusetts affiliate, so in order to complete his chain of spurious logic trying to paint her as a defender of pedophiles, he had to invent a new resume for her (which is interesting-- if she lied on her resume, it would be a major scandal. But if he lies on her resume, it's just politics as usual.) But if Rick Renzi is so concerned about defending pedophiles, I would only ask him whether he plans to vote for Dennis Hastert as speaker of the house, since the revelation that Congressman Reynolds told the speaker there might be a problem involving Mark Foley but Hastert chose to ignore it instead of dealing with it then.

Not that this is anything new for Renzi, either. In the 2002 campaign he ran ads claiming that George Cordova embezzled money from a business he was a partner in and then wired it out of the country to an uncle in Mexico. Of course if this were true then Cordova would have gone to prison for a long, long time. But he not only did not go to prison or have any charges filed against him, but he sued Renzi after that election for libel and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of cash. You figure it out.

Heck, it isn't even the first big lie that Renzi has told this year. Earlier this year he claimed that he had been endorsed by former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale. Only it wasn't true. Hale, irked at the fake endorsement, publically asked Renzi for an apology and to retract the endorsement. Far from an apology, Renzi's response was to personally attack Hale and call him a 'convicted felon' (also a big lie). Hale, who had planned to pretty much sit this election out, immediately endorsed Ellen Simon.

One has to wonder why people keep voting for a guy who has now proven over and over and over again that he is willing to outright lie in order to get elected.

Madonna and Child

I have to wonder about my own good sense when I feel the need to defend Madonna twice in less than two months. In August I put up a post defending her in the face of intimidation by German police. This despite the fact that I have concluded that she actually has talent-- considering that the words, 'offensive' and 'vapid' are very nearly antonyms, she had to have some kind of talent to figure out how to fit both of those adjectives at the same time. I guess you could say that her work can provoke a strong yawn.

However, this time the pop diva finds herself under fire by human rights groups for her recent adoption of a baby boy from an orphanage in Malawi. The child, named David, was sent there by his father after his mother died in childbirth and the father was unable to afford the child. The boy's father is in fact ecstatic about the adoption, and should be, knowing that far from the uncertain future of struggling to survive that he would face had he stayed in Malawi, he will grow up with all of his material needs provided for and be able to attend quality schools and get a very good education. And Madonna clearly wanted this child. In the orphanage he would have received little in the way of love, but he now has it.

As to the 'human rights' groups who are grumbling about her adopting and removing from Malawi a child who had kinfolk in the country (even though it was his nearest kin, his father, who put him in the orphanage to start with), what exactly did they do for this boy when he was in the orphanage? Did they give him any of what Madonna will give him? He has a future now, but none of those 'human rights' groups were offering him anything other than the remote possibility that someday some relative might change their mind and take him in.

There is also the issue of whether she was able to bend the rules as a wealthy celebrity, and cut through a lot of the red tape that you or I would face if we wanted to adopt a child from the same orphanage (although Madonna insists that she followed the letter of the law both in Malawi and in England, where she will be raising the child). My question would be what if she did manage to bend the rules? If that is a problem, well maybe then the rules should be easier to work through in general. There are certainly millions of orphans in Africa and other impoverished places in the world who would benefit from adoption. The biggest concern of course is that some could be adopted by pedophiles or other nefarious characters. However that doesn't justify the long wait time or the red tape; it is hard to know what could be discovered in a year or two that can't be discovered within a week by someone who is competent to conduct background checks, particularly in this information age. And somehow I doubt whether during the long and extended wait time, that the Government of Malawi or any other entity has an army of detectives on the case digging into every facet of the background of the potential adoptive parent(s). But every day wasted with red tape is a day lost forever. Children grow up too fast for the red tape to delay international adoptions for as long as it does now.

Oh, and there are the ideological objections from both left and right. From the left we hear that this could be close to 'baby selling.' I don't see it. True, I'm sure that the Government of Malawi is making a few dollars on this, but the boy's father isn't making a dime, and it's not like the high-minded objection does anything to fix the situation. And yes, the boy is black and Madonna is white, but that doesn't make any difference to her, so why should it make a difference to anyone else? I have trouble understanding why anyone would object to an interracial adoption if it is in the child's best interest. He will still be just as black when he grows up, but he will be an educated, probably well off, black man in a position to do some good wherever he wants to, instead of being a poor black man in a poverty stricken country maybe not even surviving to adulthood. Besides, were there any black adoptive parents who wanted to take this boy? No. Alright then, so why should't Madonna? And on the right, we hear the objections that Madonna has offended some people with the lyrics and actions she has put on stage. So what? Is that so bad that she shouldn't be allowed to provide a home for this child? Whatever her problems are, I don't see how they prevent her from helping this child. Maybe motherhood will cause her to consider what is offensive and what isn't, and not put anything on stage that she wouldn't want her child watching. But even if that isn't the case, it is hard to argue that this boy would have been better off where he was.

Frankly I don't care about Madonna. And I don't care about the various groups who now seem to find lots of time to complain about it, but who didn't offer to adopt and raise another child themselves. But I was happy to hear of this adoption, because at least now there is one child who will have a much better life than he would have had. And that is worth celebrating.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Guess who was wearing a "Michael Steele for Senate" t-shirt this week?

How about Mike Tyson? And he had it on while he was spewing his latest bit of insanity, suggesting that he would like to 'fight women.' Yeah, I guess he still misses smacking Robin Givens around.

That's right, Maryland Senatorial candidate Michael Steele is getting help from Tyson.

Steele is the brother of Monica Turner, who was married to Tyson for five years.

Tyson, a walking disaster who is best remembered for spending five years in prison for rape, and for biting a piece off of Evander Holyfield's ear in the ring, said just this weekend that he would like to 'fight women, children and celebrities.' The obvious fact that he was convicted of raping a minor and has been a wife-beater aside, Tyson only makes himself seem like more of a buffoon every time he makes a statement like that. But when he made that statement while wearing one of Michael Steele's t-shirts, you'd think that Steele's campaign would condemn it. After all a member of the U.S. Senate will be expected to deal with domestic violence issues and shouldn't have to think twice about condemning this kind of stupid statement.

Steele's camp said that Tyson is not involved in the campaign. Probably a good decision, but not one made by Steele. Earlier this year Steele said in response to a request by Tyson to campaign for him that he would welcome the help "in a heartbeat."

There are some people who should never open their mouth, but if they do, then hope it isn't to praise you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Weldon sounds desperate

Curt Weldon is still claiming the current scandal is politically motivated, and questioned the timing of this morning's FBI raid on his daughter's home, the same daughter that he accused of helping to get a lobbying position by leveraging his influence in Washington. Weldon said today that the raid came in response to an allegation by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

OK, suppose that the Congressman is right. The FBI (a branch of Alberto Gonzalez' Justice Department-- no use looking for Democrats there) doesn't just go storming into the home of a family member of a Congressman based on a flimsy, unfounded allegation as the Congressman is suggesting. They are professionals who know enough to understand that probable cause is needed to obtain a warrant. And just an unfounded allegation is not probable cause.

Hence the FBI considers that there is something there. Maybe they found it-- we probably won't know that until after the election, because the FBI works at its own pace.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New Renzi scandal

I've been having to post every so often stories about the ethical lapses of my Congressman, Rick Renzi. Renzi of course is still trying to get enough people here to do what his wife can't do-- vote for him (Mrs. Renzi is still living in the same Burke, Virginia home where the Renzis have lived for a decade. But don't worry, 'Mr. family values' still lives there too-- his house in Flagstaff is purely for show.)

Anyway, a new scandal has popped up, and it has to do with how Renzi found the big bucks he needed to buy a Congressional seat in 2002. As a Virginian with no real roots in the district, Renzi had to defeat Navajo County councilman Louis Tenney and several other candidates to win the 2002 Republican primary. He then had to beat George Cordova to win the general election that year. In order to do it, he had to have a lot of money very fast.

So where did it come from? Well, the answer appeared last week in the Phoenix New Times. Only, he was apparently trying to pay it back-- out of the Federal till.

Congressman Rick Renzi was poised to push congressional legislation involving a former business partner's land — but says that he washed his hands of the deal after a lobbyist questioned their ties....

Renzi, who is currently running for a third term representing a district that stretches from Flagstaff to southeast Arizona, sold off a half-interest in his real estate investment business to a fellow investor, Sandlin, just before filing to run for Congress for the first time in 2002.

Sandlin paid $200,000 cash. And within months, Renzi plowed all his profits into his congressional campaign — an infusion that allowed Renzi to outspend his opponents and squeak into office with 49 percent of the vote.

Once he got into office, Renzi sold his remaining interest in the company to Sandlin, earning somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, according to public disclosure forms.

And that's why it seems like more than a coincidence that, last October, Renzi publicly announced that he'd be proposing legislation that would include Sandlin's acreage in a land swap. Sandlin sold the acreage to a group of experienced swappers a week later, records show, for what appears to be considerably more than he paid for it, though he insists he could have gotten more.

Incidentally, I can also tell you where some of the remaining cash went. During his 2002 campaign, Renzi ran ads against Cordova in which he claimed that Cordova had misrepresented the nature of a business account to several of his business partners, embezzled funds minutes after they put it in and wired it to his uncle in Mexico. Aside from being a slick way to play the race card (letting people know that Cordova had an uncle in Mexico) what Renzi claimed was a lie. Period. And people who thought it through realized that, or do now, since if it were true then Cordova would be guilty of fraud, embezzlement, and then of Federal racketeering charges for sending it out of the country. But Cordova is a free man today because none of it was true. He is also a rich man today. That's because after the election Cordova sued Renzi for slander over the commercials. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money. Well, Renzi had it, so he could spend it. He ended up with the real prize-- the seat in Congress.

The issue now is why, after already being on the dirty list for having illegally laundered $369,000 in corporate donations also in that 2002 campaign (as reported by the Federal Elections Commission), and having sponsored legislation to benefit his father's business, Renzi was stupid enough to propose late last year this land swap. Clearly it was a payback to Sandlin, who made a profit on it. Coming on top of all the other scandals (last month's I blogged on here) one has to conclude that Rick Renzi's primary interest in Congress is helping out himself, his family and his friends.

And that is one more reason to relieve him of having the distraction of having to visit Arizona now and then, so he can concentrate on spending more time at home with his family.

U.N. passes more sanctions on N. Korea. Maybe we need to try a different approach

The U.N. this weekend passed harsh sanctions on North Korea.

And I suppose that given the lack of other options, it was about all that they could do. And certainly there will be some suffering in the country, as this article North Korea faces hungry winter points out. And don't shed any tears for the regime either-- one of the problems they have is that they, the North Korean government, refused to accept enough food from the World Food Program to feed about four million people earlier this year. They do face a shortage of about 800,000 tons of grain this winter, less than ten percent of which is expected to be made up by the world community despite the fact that the sanctions imposed this weekend specifically exempt food. There are also hints already that China, fearing a flood of refugees, may not comply with all of the sanctions which they themselves voted for.

It is also true that Kim Jong Il will eat well. Those who suffer will be outside of his palace walls, not inside. This is a regime that doesn't care a whole lot if people starve, as long as they are free to pursue their weapons programs.

And one risk we run as well is that if the sanctions bite too hard, it may push the country into exactly the scenario that we fear most-- that they will sell their nuclear technology, such as it is, to the leadership of al Qaeda (who despite the Bush administration's claims to the contrary, still control enough money to make a serious offer on it) or to other would be terrorists or terrorist nations.

Am I the only one who believes that our strategy towards nations like North Korea and Iran is exactly the opposite of what it should be?

I mean, we have been attempting to diplomatically and economically isolate them for the past half a century. And it has been about as successful as our similar efforts in regard to Fidel Castro have been. Maybe it's time to try something different.

As I've said before, what brought down the Soviet Union was not our thousands of nuclear missiles, which remained unlaunched (as did theirs). It was the desire of their people to be done with the regime, and to have more of what we have.

Consumerism is a strong force. I've said it in at least a couple of other recent posts, but it seems to me that if we traded with the North Koreans, especially consumer goods, they would experience a revival of the hopes and dreams of their own people-- and that is an even stronger force. Why conservatives, of all people, can't recognize the best weapon we have-- capitalism, and be ready to use it, is beyond me.
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