Friday, June 29, 2007

Glass Half Empty

Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr. says that U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad. He is trying to be optimistic. He fails. After four plus years, that is hardly progress. Little gain for lots of loss is a failure.

Quick Takes

You'll Probably Guess I'm a Dog Guy
Scientists have concluded that we did not domestic cats, they domesticated themselves. Cats started hanging out with humans because our civilization attracted their food; they came in with the rodents. Which just means that things would be very different if it were the rats who were cute, cuddly, and tended to purr.

Evidence I am Mentally Deranged
I must be insane, but I just agreed with Charles Krauthammer. The way to decrease our dependency on oil is to raise the bloody tax on gasoline. The price of gasoline is $6 to $7 a gallon in most of Europe, as much as $4 of the cost is tax. Krauthammer would even balance the regressive nature of such a tax by reducing the payroll tax to compensate. If the price is dear, fewer people will waste it.

At Least I'm Saner than San Diego Padres Management
The Padres have acquired Milton Bradley, the baseball player not the game company. Bradley is crazy and not in a quirky, fun kind of way but in a "he scares the shit out of children" kind of way. Bradley beat his wife, she is divorcing him. He has physically attacked fans, called white teammates racists and black sports reporters Uncle Toms. Milton Bradley is one of those ballplayers that wherever he goes he instantly makes his team worse by his mere presence. It is telling that the habitually frugal Oakland A's are willing to give him away.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fidel is a Survivor

One day the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away. ~ George W. Bush
Actually, it looks like Fidel is one of God's favored people. American Presidents since Fidel Castro took power in 1959 who Castro has outlived, to date:
~Dwight Eisenhower
~John Kennedy
~Lyndon Johnson
~Richard Nixon
~Gerald Ford
~Ronald Reagan

Fidel has survived the Cold War, an American invasion, and 638 CIA assassination attempts including such creative ideas as a poisoned ballpoint pen, exploding cigars, and my personal favorite - recruiting an ex-lover to smuggle a bottle of cold cream laced with poison into Fidel's bathroom.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Send in the Republican Clowns

These days, it is really fun being a Democrat in California. The California Republican Party in March hired Michael Kamburowski as its Chief Operating Officer in charge of their multi-million dollar accounts. It's a laugh riot.
  1. He is from New York. The plight of the Republican Party in California (the Governator not withstanding) is so pathetic there is not a single soul in the state who can hold the position.
  2. His resume shows no employment from 2000-2006, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He has, however, been a real estate agent in the Dominican Republic. His Re/Max boss is quoted as saying that "he couldn't sell anything the whole time he was here."
  3. He is not a registered Republican and has never voted for a Republican candidate. At least I assume he hasn't because he is not an American citizen and if he had done either of those things he has committed a felony.
  4. Oh, yeah. He is not an American citizen. This came as a big surprise to several high ranking Republicans officials who say they never saw his green card (assuming he has one). That means...
  5. The California Republican Party violated federal immigration laws. Possibly, again according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The law, one the Republicans say they want strictly enforced, requires all employers to confirm the legal status of any non-citizen employee. It gets better.
  6. Kamburowski was ordered deported in 2001. He remained in the country illegally for three years until...
  7. He was arrested and jailed as an illegal alien in 2004. He was released on bail, a friendly judge recinded the deportation order, and he is now suing the federal government over the arrest.
  8. He's a Green Card Marriage kind of guy. In 1997 Kamburowski married a woman and applied for green card. They were divorced a year later, invalidating that green card. After he was ordered deported in 2001, he married a second woman and applied for another green card. I don't know the current status of his marriage or his green card. He does say he has a green card.
  9. The answer is Cronyism. How did someone so ill-suited for the job get hired? He is a very close personal friend of California GOP chairman Ron Nehring (not that there is anything wrong with that). The are both buddies of Grover Norquist. Nehring personally vouched for his good friend with his Republican colleagues, none of whom has the wisdom of a walnut and asked, "who is this guy?"
Kamburowski resigned this week. One of his few acts was hiring a Canadian using an H-1B visa as the Republican's deputy political director because political consulting is such a "specialty occupation" only Canadians can handle it. The Canadian, Christopher Matthews, is another one of those "close personal friends" of Ron Nehring.

It's a pity about the resignation. I was only beginning to enjoy the circus.

Other sources: Los Angeles Times blog (scroll down to "Another Norquist Follower For California GOP Leadership"); Free Republic; The Age; The Australian; Red County.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pissing on the Constitution - Supreme Court Division

I've have gotten so used to the Bush-Cheney Administration using the Constitution as a public urinal I am not surprised that the Bush-Cheney Admin's puppydog Supreme Court would join the practice.

The First Amendment Doesn't Apply to Eighteen year-olds
In the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, the Supreme Court ruled that the right of school administrators to treat their students like chattel extends beyond the boundries of the school. If a high-schooler makes a joke - anywhere, anytime - that the principal doesn't like, the school can punish him. Of course, if the sign has read "Fuck Hillary" I'm sure the Court would have considered it all good, clean fun.

The President is God's representative on Earth
The Constitution says that "Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion." According to the Supreme Court, that phrase applies only to Congress. The President is exempt, so when Bush established his "faith-based" program the people have no right to argue. This ruling is far reaching. By logical extension, the rest of the First Amendment forbidding "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble," also only applies to laws passed by Congress. The President, acting independently of Congress, can stifle all the speech he wants (even school principals have that right, see above), close newspapers at will, and break up meetings. As long as he keeps Congress out of things, this Surpreme Court has signaled it is ready to grant President Bush dictatorial powers.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Aztlan Is Not a Terrorist Codeword

The comment to my previous post deserves a lengthy response. As a Southern Californian who worked for a year in Mexico (as the only project member functionally illiterate in Spanish) I have heard the charge that ethnic Mexicans want to return the southwest United States (basically from Texas, Colorado, and California south) to Mexico. I know the Aztlan story.

Aztlan is like Atlantis, it is the mythical homeland of the Aztec people. Depending upon who does the speculating, the location of Aztlan is anywhere from the mid-Atlantic Ocean (Atlantis), the current Mexican state of Michoacan, Lake Powell in Utah, and even southern Wisconsin. If you are interested in the Atlantis myth, this website has way more than you will ever want to know. The Aztlan connection starts on page 13 with the various Western Hemisphere creation myths.

There is supposed to be a radical fringe among Chicanos who desire the reconquest of the Southwest United States by Mexico. I say "supposed to be" because the movement appears to be quite dead except with American xenophobes. The reconquest is outlined in "El Plan de Aztlan" written by Chicano students in the late 1960's. Like the Weather Underground and Black Panthers of the same era, this "plan" withered from a lack of interest decades ago. Unlike those other two groups, at its zenith it was never an armed struggle, in fact it was hardly even noticed outside a few Chicano Studies conferences.

The two main Chicano civil rights organizations are the moderate La Raza (the Race) and more radical MEChA (Chicano Student's Movement of Aztlan). Neither has a stated goal of reconquest. For them Aztlan is a cultural identity, not a revolutionary movement.

So, where does all the noise come from, how did "Anonymous" come by his views? Like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, nativist radicals use Aztlan as a blood libel. Charges of invasion, reconquest, lawlessness, pestilence, and genocide have been attached to the word. The goal is simple race hatred. We have seen it all before. The Yellow Horde was going to overwhelm California; Jews caused the Black Plague by poisoning wells; then, of course, there is the history of the Blood Libel.

There is no organized attempt to reconquer parts of the United States. The border between the United States and Mexico is porous, but it has always been so.

Neoconservatives and Immigration

A lot of this is speculation. Immigration law is not in the commonly available neocon playbook. But, the proposal to man the army with immigrant-soldiers fits neocon fancies.

Traditionally, Republicans divide into two camps regarding immigration. The nativists (aka xenophobes) fear and hate all things foreign. They believe free-trade agreements are stealing their jobs and that immigrants are a disease-ridden criminal invasion force that wants to return the southwest United States to Mexico. The Main Street Republicans (aka capitalist pigs) support free-trade because it is good for business and support immigration because it drives down the cost of labor. It is a difficult balancing act for Republicans because the nativists are their loyal foot-soldiers while Main Street is the source of multiple millions in campaign donation, not to mention all of the private bribes for earmarks.

This third leg in the immigration debate belongs to the neocons who have been mostly quiet. Neocons would seem to have more in common with Main Streeters. Unlike the nativists, they have no fear of foreigners. They are internationalists insofar as the rest of the world bows to American superiority. They approve of free-trade agreements insofar as they are colonialist tool for exploiting other countries.

I can't trace this proposal directly back to a neocon think tank, but recruiting foreigners into the army feels like a neocon idea. Neocons love history. Irving Kristol once wrote that the neocon's favorite text on foreign affairs is "Thucydides on the Peloponnesian War" (ca. 400 BCE). They are certainly aware that Rome built their great empire using legions recruited from foreign lands with the promise that, if they fought for Rome, they would gain Roman citizenship. Rome, like the United States now, could not fight their many, many wars with Roman soldiers, there were not enough Romans willing to fight. By recruiting foreigners into the ranks with the carrot of eventual citizenship, Roman emperors were able to wage endless war without burdening native-born Romans.

This is why I am convinced that the neocons have tiptoed into the immigration debate. They see foreigners as a necessary source of flesh to fuel their "long war." And, if it becomes necessary for the war party to seize the country for its own good, it will be easier if the army is not burdened by the memory of high school civics classes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cheney Claims He Is Not Part of the Executive Branch

The claim that the office of the Vice-President is not part of the Executive Branch would come as a shock to the authors of the Constitution. They placed the office of the Vice-President in Article II, along with all of the other components of the Executive Branch.

I don't know which annoys me more. The Vice-President's minions pretending that the don't know how to read, or their apparent belief that the rest of us have never read the Constitution of the United States.

A Side Note: If the Vice-President is not a member of any of the three branches of government, as he claims, then that would make Dick Cheney an outlaw. But, we already knew that.

What Would You Do?

Let's say you are engaged in an anarchic civil war. One of your enemies in that war offers you weapons if you promise to use them to fight another of your enemies. Do you take their weapons? Of course. Do you use those weapons to fight the enemy you were fighting anyhow? Of course. When that enemy is defeated, do you turn those weapons on the enemy who gave you those weapons in the first place? Don't be silly, of course you do.

Arming some Sunnis who hate the American occupation in Iraq to fight other Sunnis may seem like a sound strategy. It might even seem to work for a while. But, they are not going to hate America any less because we have given them guns. We have still bombed their villages, killed their sons and daughters, and stolen their country. The day will come when those American weapons will be turned on American soldiers. Don't be surprised.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Love the People, Hate the Pundit

I love it!! Love it, love it, love it!

Chris Matthews, the only man alive who can identify future presidents by their odor, was heckled by his audience while interviewing Hillary Clinton for asking stupid questions. The cry from the audience was, "Ask a real question."

The people aren't half as stupid as the television talking heads. Politics is not Entertainment Tonight with missiles, it is a serious business that requires pertinent, intelligent questions. I continue to be in favor of having the candidates interview each other (i.e. - real debates); let the silly little pundits stay home with their intellectual equals - their preschool children.
Note: The word Pundit is formed by joining Pun (meaning a stupid joke) and Dit (urban slang for tiny penis). Hence, literally, a Pundit is a stupid joke with a tiny penis. Sound like anyone you know, Chris Matthews?

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Origins of Neoconservativism

If you want to be called an anti-Semite and compared to a slack-jawed Southern Jew-baiter or a Nazi Stormtrooper, all you have to do is notice that most of the guiding lights of the Neoconservative movement are Jewish. While it is true, it should be totally meaningless. Except, that fact is important.

Neoconservative Founding Fathers
The very earliest of the neocons - Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and Ben Wattenberg - grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. Like many intellectuals of the time, they developed a respect for Communism (some were Stalinists, other Trotskyists) as a way to address the the poverty of the Depression they saw around them. And they were shocked beyond measure by the brutality of the Nazi Holocaust. Put simply, they believed that totalitarianism could do both good and evil. While they grew to oppose Communism, their belief that totalitarianism could be used as a force for good remained. Following the Holocaust, the phrase "Never Again" became a core belief and the drive to insure that Israel never suffer a "Second Holocaust" became a motivating force. Actively warring against all they deem evil is the heart and soul of Neoconservativism; everything else is nuance.

The early neocons felt at home with the Democratic Party. Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Richard Pearle all worked for Democratic Senator Scoop Jackson in their youth. The Vietnam War changed that. As people like me, who believe that war is always evil and should be a last resort moved into the Democratic Party, people who believed war against evil is always good migrated to the Republican camp.

Neocons and War
"Axis of Evil" is a neocon phrase. To neocons, the world is a dangerous place filled with evil and it is America's manifest destiny to wage war against evil. Evil is frequently defined as "a danger to Israel." International cooperation, hence the United Nations, is also evil although it is difficult to understand why they hate it so. They have written that international organizations lead to tyranny but that is an irrational conclusion jumping. More likely, they fear international cooperation because it reduces the unilateral power of the United States to shape the world as we seen fit.

The Neocon/Republican Marriage
Much traditional Republican thought - anti-intellectualism, small government, nativism, and Laissez-faire economics - is considered silly by neocons. They tolerate or ignore them because the traditional Republicans let them pursue their wars.

The current immigration battle between the neocons and traditional Republicans is purely martial from the neocon point-of-view. While nativists see immigrants as an invading army, neocons see immigrants as cannon-fodder. As Americans age, a new younger generation of soldiers will be needed to fight our endless wars. Neocons want to build the new American army out of immigrants. I will expand upon this later.

Coming in the Future
~ Neocons are building a concious alliance with religious fundementalists to create an oppressive central government, each for their own purpose.
~ The Iraq War and the coming war with Iran are Trotskyite "wars of liberation."

Friday, June 15, 2007

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute
~ Phineas T. Barnum

Apparently, they make up Michael Savage's (real name, Mike Weiner - I couldn't make that up) listening audience.

The little Weiner is claiming the "fascists" at CSPAN are censoring him by not broadcasting a speech he cared so little about he didn't even bother to show up to deliver it. He sent a recording. He is selling copies of the speech to rabid (i.e. insane with disease) fans for $20 a pop.

Copying costs ----- $3.00
Postage/handling - $2.00
profit margin ------ 400%
A fool and his money are soon parted. ~ proverbial wisdom
There is no bigger fool than a conservative. ~ Knighterrant

Thompson: When a Joke Becomes a Candidate

He has come through it all smelling like a rose. I am certain that will be the next attack - Obama smells too sweet to be President. ~ A Little Reality, May 5
When I wrote the above line I was trying to be funny. What is the most outlandish thing I can think of? How about judging a person's qualifications for becoming President of the United States by how he smells? I figured that was totally absurd. Looks like I underestimated American pundits again.

On June 13, MSNBC's Chris Matthews said of Republican heart throb Fred Thompson, "Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man’s shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of — a little bit of cigar smoke?" Chris Matthews, like a closeted homosexual hiding his hard-on, is waxing longingly over how sexy he imagines Thompson smells.

Smittened Republicans will tell you Fred Thompson is the reincarnation of actor turned president Ronald Reagan. Yet, like him or not, Reagan earned the right to be president. Beginning in 1963, Reagan traveled the country giving speeches promoting his conservative philosophy and raising money for Republican candidates. He was elected governor of California in 1966 and served two terms. He ran for president in 1976 and lost. The next four years, Reagan traveled the country giving speeches promoting his conservative philosophy and raising money for Republican candidates.

What has Fred Thompson done? He retired from the Senate to become a full-time actor at the easiest gig in the profession. Pretending to be Manhatten district attorney on TV's Law and Order requires learning a couple of pithy lines a week and reciting them dourly. I would be surprised if his work week is 30 minutes long. Has he spent his massive amounts of free time giving speeches to promote his philosophy or help Republican candidates? Ah, no.

His first real speech in years, on May 7 in California, was such a monumental flop even Robert Novak (who one would expect to be sniffing at Thompson's behind like a basset hound in heat) didn't like it.

What is Thompson's political philosophy? As George Will points out, he doesn't have one. Will writes that Thompson is "99 percent charm, and 1 percent substance." I'm still waiting for that 1 percent to show itself. Thompson has rugged looks, a deep voice, and a musky odor. And he is tall. Republicans believe physical height is a preeminent qualification for public office. Republicans don't seem to care what a candidate believes in as long as he looks, sounds, and smells sexy. I half expect the next Republican debate to include a swinsuit competition.

It doesn't seem possible, but Republicans may nominate the only person on the planet less qualified to be President of the United States than George W. Bush.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Warrior President

I know that I have been critical of President Bush, but I have to agree with Tony Snow today. President Bush has been on the front lines in Iraq almost every day for the past four years.
Here (left) is Bush returning from a bombing mission in 2004. On that mission he single-handedly wiped out four divisions of Iraqi Republican Guard and killed Osama bin Laden. On his return to the aircraft carrier Bush jumped out of his plane in flight to rescue a small child who was going to be accidently struck by one of his bombs. Frightened, the child had jumped in the Tigris River and was drowning. Bush grabbed the child from the river while catching the bomb with his teeth (no photo is available). Bush then jumped back into his plane as it circled at Mach 1.

Here (right) is Bush holding the sword with which, in 2005, he defeated 400 crack Al Qaeda soldiers and killed Osama bin Laden by cutting off his head.

Here (left) is a photo of that time in 2006 when he faced Osama bin Laden at high noon on the streets of Baghdad. Bush waited until bin Laden slapped leather, outdrew the varmit, and plugged him between the eyes with one shot.

Below (down there, not his groin) is our great Warrior President in 2007 pulling the plan for the Iraq surge out of his skull in a painful sacrifice of his own brain cells. After this picture was taken, Bush put down the microphone, went outside, and rescued an Army convoy that had been surrounded by Iraqi insurgents. Bush killed 3,000 of the enemy on that day, including Osama bin Laden. He killed bin Laden twice that time, setting a personal record.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Views from a Corrupt Nation

I live in a nation determined to test whether kleptocracy is a viable form of government. So far, it seems to be working well for rogues and thieves, who are thriving. Honest folk, for the most part, are having a tough go.

A True Heroine
Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse was, and is, a 20-plus year career civil servant with the Army Corps of Engineers. She had the misfortune to be an honest and honorable woman working at a time and in a government where those traits are held in the deepest contempt. Her job once entailed reviewing and approving the massive contracts the Army Corps of Engineers makes with private corporations. Ms. Greenhouse, during the course of her work, discovered a $7 billion no-bid contract between the Army and then Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR). The "Restore Iraq Oil" contract was, basically, a gift to Halliburton. Ms. Greenhouse did the job she was paid to do and objected to the KBR contract. As a result, she has been demoted and relegated to a position where she can no longer trouble the thieves both in and outside government.

Ms. Greenhouse has stayed on the job doing the now menial tasks she is assigned. I believe she is hoping that one day sanity will be restored to our government and she will once again be able to use her considerable intelligence and integrity in the service of the nation. Ms. Greenhouse is a true American hero.

Sources: Joshua Frank, Sherwood Ross, Washington Post, San Diego Union

Definition of Bribery
Bribery (n): The practice of offering something (usually money) in order to gain an illicit advantage
Earmarks are a form of payoff, the service rendered for a successful bribe to a congressman. It doesn't matter who has done the earmark, what party he or she belongs to. Both Democrats and Republicans play this corrupt little game. Whenever you see an earmark you have a congressman who believes that he has been bribed.

Mind you, it is almost always perfectly legal. The bribe may be in the form of campaign contributions, donations to faux charities the congressman has, or hiring a congressional relative to a lucrative, do-nothing job. The payoff, the earmark, is inserted into a law passed by Congress, by definition it is perfectly legal.

As an example, from the San Diego Union is a story of one Duncan Hunter earmark. Congressman Hunter, who is running for president to enhance his marketability to potential bribers, is my congressman. I have described him previously as being just as crooked as his best friend Duke Cunningham, only smarter.

Over the years, the California business duPont Aerospace has given Congressman Hunter over $36,000 is campaign contributions. In return, Hunter has earmarked $63 million for the company to produce a piece of crap call the DP-2 airplane. Repeatedly, the Pentagon has opined that the DP-2 is a waste of money. Repeatedly, Hunter, and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), have earmarked more money for the project. This $63 million is money that duPont Aerospace would never have received based on the merits of their work. They would not have received a penny of this money were it not gifted to them through congressional earmarks.

Making campaign contributions to congressmen is a great investment. DuPont has received a 1700 to 1 return on their investment in perfectly legal bribes to Duncan Hunter. Try doing that well in the stock market.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The World of Private Prisons

This started as a somewhat lighthearted look at "self-pay jails", the California phenomena where the rich and famous can pay for nice accommodations in privately run jails. Researching that led me to the far sleazier world of corprate-run prisons.

Private for-profit prisons are a growth industry in the United States. Cornell Companies holds more than 18,000 people captive. The largest private prison business is Corrections Corporation of America which holds 70,000 Americans in captivity. Corrections Corporation of America made $1.37 billion in revenue last year.

To feed this profit machine a greater and greater number of humans have to be fed into the system. In 1972, the United States held about 300,000 of its citizens prisoner for crimes. In 1983, Corrections Corp. started doing business. By 1992, the number of Americans held in the nation's jails and prisons had quadrupled to 1.2 million. Last year, 2006, the prison population of the United States had grown to 2.2 million Americans with an additional 5 million Americans on probation or parole. No nation on Earth holds as many of its citizens in prison (second place is China with 1.5 million inmates). Twenty-five percent of all the inmates held in all the jails and prisons everywhere in the world are imprisoned by the United States of America.

These private prisons operate a system of legal, modern slavery. One of the sources of income for these companies is prison labor, paying their workers/prisoners as little as 5 cents an hour. Honda pays prisoner labor $2 an hour to do the work freemen would be paid $30 an hour for. Konica pays 50 cents an hour for prison workers. (source) Prison labor is officially "voluntary," however if a prisoner refuses to work he can be punished with additional prison time (losing "good behavior" points) and the lose of library and recreation privileges.

see also: Not With Our Money, an organization fighting the prison-for-profit movement; Simply Appalling; Disinformation; Prison Labor by Reese Erlich; Profits of Crime; South Texans Opposed to Private Prisons

Original Posting
I guess I have to thank Paris Hilton. Without her I would never have discovered the concept of the "self-pay jail."

Here in California, there is a separate, private jail system for the elite. For $100 a day, the wealthy and connected can get a nice jail cell with no bars run by Cornell Companies. The jailers politely call them "clients" instead of prisoners (I don't know if the jailers are called "concierges."). An evenings-only service (called "work release") is also available for a fee of $70. With this service, the clients need only spend their evenings in the "jail." They are released during the day to go to work or, in at least one case as reported by the Orange County Register, go home and engage in a little recreational homicide. Cornell Companies will point out that all the services they provide their clients must be approved by a judge.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

What I'm Working On

Many years, many decades, ago when I was attending college someone would sneak a neo-Nazi newsletter into the campus library and hide it on the shelves. If I saw it, I would read it. Not because I agreed with a single word but because I believed, then as now, that the only way to defeat an enemy is to know that enemy.

Neoconservativism is not a philosophy that will wither with Republican defeat. Their sole philosophy is their firm belief that it is America's destiny rule the world for its own good. Mainly economic socialists, on things like small government or social issues, they have never been a neat fit with the Republican Party. They found fertile ground with Republicans because of that party's innate need for foreign enemies and the ease with which the Republican rank-and-file will become obsequious in support of war. While Holy Joe Lieberman is the most obvious Liberal Neoconservative, he is not alone. It is very possible that a Democratic president will bring into his or her cabinet a fresh crop of stealth neocons.

For the next few weeks or months, I intend to explore and write about the history, conscious, and goals of the neoconservative movement. They are the most dangerous political movement of our time. If I am to oppose them, I must know them.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Since Everyone Else Is Doing It

Here is my mandatory Paris Hilton blog entry. Paris' imprisonment problem may be cocaine withdrawal. I'm really not much into this whole celebrity shick, I find it all rather confusing. I hope this is the correct Paris Hilton picture.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Prelude to US-Iran War? (with update)

The Administration is replacing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Under normal circumstances this would be a ho-hum news item. We need to remember, however, that the neo-cons nightly pray for war with Iran. Also, earlier this year several generals flat out told Bush that if he ordered them to bomb Iran they would resign in protest.

Let us ignore Defense Secretary Gates public reasons for replacing the nation's top generals (Public reasons are almost always public lies). Let us look, instead at a more likely reason. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace has publically stated that the United States has "zero intent" to attack Iran. If Bush's intent is war with Iran, one of his first steps would have to be removing General Pace from his office.

There is no evidence that the proposed replacement, Admiral Michael Mullen, is a hothead. He too has stated there are no plans to attack Iran. Still, it is incumbant upon the United States Senate to insure that Admiral Mullen will refuse to follow any orders to attack Iran or any other sovereign nation without the constitutionally mandated approval of both houses of the United States Congress.

See also Seymour Hersh from last year.

UPDATE: The real news is who is being nominated for vice-chairman. Marine General James Cartwright is currently head of the U.S. Strategic Command. Cartwright has been far more sanguine towards war with Iran. His appointment to head STRATCOM in 2004 was considered strange at the time because the post usually goes to an Air Force or Navy commander. As a Marine, Cartwright had little experience in strategic bombardment. But, as a Marine, Cartwright is a gung-ho, never met a war he didn't like, soldier. Cartwright has driven a space-based weapons program and a plan for America to wage world war with the chilling code name, Global Strike. With Cartwright on the Joint Chiefs of Staff war with Iran becomes much more likely and the use of American nuclear weapons in the event of such a war becomes a near certainty.

See also: two Jorge Hirsch articles [1], [2], Frances Mendenhall, and Dan Plesch

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Proof that Gas Prices are Still Too Low

Yesterday I went to Lake Murray after yoga. Lake Murray is a park/reservoir in the City of San Diego that is popular with joggers, bird watchers, and fishermen. The weather was gorgeous. It was sunny, unusual for San Diego in June, mild temperature (mid-70's), with a gentle breeze. It was the kind of day San Diegans wish the Visitors Bureau would just keep our little secret.

In the parking lot was a new, white BMW. It's windows were closed, its motor was running, and its air conditioner was going full blow. I'll know that gasoline has reached its proper price when people begin believing that gasoline is too dear to waste. It is nowhere near that price yet.

Gas prices in San Diego today are $3.28 per gallon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When the Weird Becomes Bizarre - Iraq Edition

Turkey Invades Iraqi Kurdistan. No surprise. The threat has been there since the initial American invasion.

My question is, since the United States military is supposed to be in Iraq to defend its sovereignty, and the Kurds are our only really friends in that country, shouldn't we expect the army to disengage in Baghdad and move north to defend Iraq from this foreign invasion? At the very least, it is embarrassing to see a country we occupy invaded by someone else. I mean, where's the respect?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why I Don't Care about the Presidential Debates (and what to do about them)

  1. They are not "debates," they are serial press conferences. The debate structure used by both parties is to have a panel of "moderators" ask questions which the candidates answer. This format is guaranteed to be superficial. It is designed for the consultant's favorite trick, deflection. If he asks you about the Iraq War, talk about the weather in Portugal. Hence the feeling that no one is answering the questions.
  2. They are not focused. They have a scattergun concept. Now a question on the war, now one on health care, now the deficit. There is no attempt to stay focused on a single subject long enough to get beyond a few handy catch phrases.
  3. The moderators/questioners are, for the most part, buffoons. The result is that many questions are attempts at "gotchas" that end up simply silly. (Is Wal-Mart a good or bad thing for America? or What do you dislike about America?) The best response to questions like this is to look at the interviewer with a bemused expression and say, "Now, that is a stupid question." If we must have a question/answer format, then bring in a questioner with a substantial mind, like Edward R. Murrow. (Yes, I know that Murrow is dead but, even in his current state, he has a more active and probing mind than Chris Matthews or Wolf Blitzer.)
  4. It is impossible to have a debate with eight debaters. These are just cattle calls, talent shows for older folk who can't sing. The only things that can be gleaned from watching are vague impressions. (Wow, John McCain is really bald. Do ya think Mitt Romney is a robot? I didn't know Obama was so tall. Dennis Kucinich kinda looks like a hobbit.)
  5. The major candidates are diminished by appearing with the flotsam. I know that's a demeaning comment. I don't just back major candidates, have often backed people who were not the consensus choice of the media. Still, does it make Hillary Clinton look more presidential standing next to Mike Gravel?

So, What Would I Do?
No one has asked me to draft presidential debate formats and I wouldn't respect anyone who did. However, there are many scholastic debates formats that have been proven effective at encouraging enlightened discussions.
  1. The role of the moderator should be to moderate. Keep the candidates to their time limits and punish them for interrupting. That's it. No jokes, no trying to upstage the candidates, no silly questions.
  2. Limit a two-hour debate to no more than 4 topics. The topics are chosen by the candidates. In a two-person debate each candidate would select two topics. In an eight person cattle call, give the candidates a list of twenty topics and ask them to rank them. The top three or four are chosen. Part of examining a candidate is the topics he/she considers most important.
  3. Devote enough time to a topic to gain some depth. Five minutes is barely enough time to express a complex thought on a intricate issue. Two hours, eight people, three topics equals five minutes per candidate per topic. Asking for one-sentence responses is absolutely insane. Ideally, two candidates will go back and forth on a topic for half an hour before moving on.
  4. The candidates know the topics ahead of time. Whatever is the source of the inane notion that the candidates should not know the questions ahead of time? It only encourages sloganeering. A properly formatted debate gives ample time for thinking on one's feet without keeping the candidates ignorant of the subjects. Let's make presidential debates open-book tests.
  5. Allow/encourage the candidates to ask questions of their opponents. This is supposed to be a debate, damn it, where we are trying to identify the differences between the candidates.
In two (or three) person general election debates, I would like to see a variation of the classic Lincoln-Douglas debate format.
  • Candidate A: 5 minutes to present his position on the topic
  • Candidate B: 2-3 minutes to ask questions that Candidate A must answer on the spot
  • Candidate B: 5 minutes to present his opposition to the topic
  • Candidate A: 2-3 minutes to ask questions that Candidate B must answer on the spot
  • Candidate A: 4 minutes to rebut Candidate B's position
  • Candidate B: 6 minutes to rebut Candidate A's positions and present closing comments
  • Candidate A: 2 minutes closing comments
  • Repeat, alternating which candidate starts
That is 28 minutes per topic, enough time to cover four indepth topics in two hours.

This system would not work in the pre-primary cattle calls. Best is a simple round-robin format where each candidate is given 4 minutes to address the topic. The candidates may gain an addition 30-seconds to ask a question of one specific opponent who is then given 30-seconds to respond.

If I were king, this is how I would format our presidential debates. Of course, if I were king we wouldn't need any presidents.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Congressman William Jefferson is Indicted

...on 16 counts of racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering. Highlights of Congressman Jefferson's career include being videotaped by the FBI taking a briefcase with $100,000 in bribes and hiding $90,000 in dirty money in his congressional office freezer. Jefferson is a blight upon the Democratic Party and it is about fucking time he answer for his crimes.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Airport bomb plot...Really??

Maybe I'm just jaded, but I am really getting tired of all these terrorist plots that garner massive headlines on how our ever vigilant government has saved us from a horrible fate. Only later, we find out these "plots" were just a handful of dudes chatting each other up.

In the Kennedy Airport plot the "mastermind" had been talking about his plan for a decade, since he was fired as a cargo handler. In those ten years, he hadn't so much as bought a firecracker let alone enough high explosives to even dent an airport fuel pipeline.

In the Sears Tower plot last summer, the FBI funded the terrorists, even going so far as to buying them new boots. The only one of the seven conspirators who had even been to Chicago was brought into the plot by the FBI. The FBI had to nurture the plot, perhaps they even created the plot, before they could break it up.

The plan to bomb and flood New York tunnels last year had not gotten any farther than three people texting each other on the subject in an open internet chat room. The Fort Dix plot was revealed when the conspirators took a tape of themselves playing paintball into an electronics store.

These plotters are less frightening than the yellowjacket buzzing outside my window. These so-called terrorist threats are less dangerous than driving down to the corner Kristy Kreame. My question is, when will the newspeople learn they are being manipulated by Justice Department media flacks hyping nonsense into major threats?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Clinton or Bush?

A quick observation before I wander off to experience what, for lack of a better term, I shall call my life.

There is a a poll over at Redstate, that somewhere to the right of Henrich Himmler website, that asks its readers which they would prefer, the last two years of Bill Clinton's presidency or the last two years of George Bush's. As of now, Bill Clinton is winning 61% to 39%. Even Republicans are beginning to look back nostalgically on the Clinton years.