Thursday, March 29, 2007

Happy Birthday War

In the tradition of my family, where birthdays are celebrated on a "when we get around to it" basis, allow me to wish a belated fourth Happy Birthday to the Greatest War of my Generation, "The War of Iraqi Genocide."

Mitch Benn sang this bittingly satiric song on BBC Radio's "The Now Show."

Happy Birthday War
The sound of every bomb blast
Is music to the ears
Of both the terrorist recruiters
And the war profiteers
Happy Birthday War. ~ Mitch Benn

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Sucker Is Born Every Minute is holding a fundraiser to send their people to Iraq. It is not like they need the money. Redstate is owned by Eagle Publishing and the $7500 they are soliciting wouldn't cover the cost of keeping their executive washrooms in toilet paper for a month. Still, there is nobody more gullible than a rock-ribbed conservative and the fools are gleefully parting with their money.

Of course, we all know what they are going to do on this Pentagon Cruise vacation. They will be sitting in the Green Zone Lounge sipping mai-tais with senior officers who lack the connections to get state-side postings. They will be flown into a neighborhood which has been specially cleared of all indigenous peoples. While armed helicopters circle overhead and Army snipers stand ready to shot any Iraqis who wander too close, the Redstaters will have their pictures taken hugging heavily armored soldiers and brown skinned people who are being paid to smile. They will come back regurgitating Pentagon press releases, gushing about how they felt safer in Baghdad than they do on the streets of Washington, and other bullshit.

Still, I would pay the whole amount myself if I had guarantees that each and every one of them would be staying in Iraq until the mission was accomplished.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gonzales, the Cowardly Pussy

The First Rule of Politics is Never Show Fear. It is also the second, fourth, ninth, and sixteenth rule. You can get away with appearing feeble...
The Attorney General has to cancel his press conference because of the stomach flu.
Again. This is the fourteenth time in a row.
What can I say, he's sickly.
You can get away with appearing to be a hermit who prefers living in the Wyoming wilderness (see Dick Cheney). Looking stupid can get you eight years in the White House. Being mean, confrontational, or whorish (see John McCain) are all preferable to appearing to be a frightened little boy.

That's why Alberto Gonzales' presser in Chicago was the worst possible thing he could have done to himself. Holding a press conference and skedaddling after two minutes because the questions are too tough makes Gonzales look like the worst possible thing in politics, a coward.

The man who wants to legalize torture in the United States doesn't have the balls to answer queries about his job. He doesn't have the backbone to stand up and either answer the questions or stand up and refuse to answer. He cut and run, and I wouldn't be suprised if he pissed his pants backstage.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Gangs of New York

Get the feeling that Mike Bloomberg doesn't like Rudy Giulianitm? In the history of the nation, no mayor of New York has ever been elected President. Nobody who has ever served as mayor of New York has even reached as high as United States Senate. A couple have had to flee the country to avoid criminal prosecution. For mayors of New York, public service isn't always an honor.

Yet, this year, two New York mayors want to be elected president. Giulianitm is the Republican frontrunner and, if elected, would become the first open drag queen to ever get dressed in the White House. Bloomberg is spreading rumors that he will invest some of his billions to run for President as a third-party independent. Bloomberg, who is pretty much unknown west of the Hudson River, seems to see himself as saving the nation from the two party system, or at least from Rudy.

All I know is, if this is the result of the 9-11 attack, then I am really beginning to hate those Arab terrorists.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

America Humbled by a Midget

Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so are good men known by their enemies. ~ Chinese proverb
While researching an article on American's many wars (an article that will never be seen because the whole idea is mind-bogglingly boring) I came upon an interesting factoid that indicates yet again just why the United States of America is in decline.

In the history of the United States, she has gone to war twice with only three nations.
  • Great Britain (Revolutionary War, War of 1812) ~ When the nation was young, it faced off twice against Great Britain, one of the world's great powers, and survived. From such trials are great nations forged.
  • Germany (World Wars I & II) ~ Twice in the Twentieth Century the United States became the leader of great alliances to defeat central Europe's preeminent military power.
  • Iraq ~ Over a span of twelve years the United States waged war twice against a pathetic, third-rate nation ruled by a comical, tinhorn dictator. While crushing Iraq's military was easy, the United States has repeatedly failed to conquer the nation of Iraq.
In America's youth, she bravely stood up against the colossus that was England. Surviving wars against England suggested that the new nation called America had a great future. In her middle-age, America led the world against a nation that redefined the concept of Holocaust. Great challenges make for great men, in those times America became the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

In what can only be described as America's dotage, she has twice challenged a puny little country that is one-tenth of America's size and one-fiftieth of her power. America stands befuddled by the challenge of this pitiful little foe. Where once America stood as a giant among nations, today she is a feeble shadow of her once mighty self. Humbled by a midget.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

John Oliver Gets It Right

As a service to my ones of readers who didn't catch this on the Daily Show last night or HuffPost today. John Oliver cuts through all of the Tony Snow-job and gets to the genuine reasons why George Bush insists his aides must retain the right to be deceitful and evasive cowards. It really is unreasonable to demand that anyone connected to George Bush tell the truth - they genuinely don't know how.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A: The Principle of 'Executive Privilege'

Q: What Is Found Nowhere in the Constitution?

Take a look, it ain't there. Executive Privilege is the presidential equivalent of the childhood rant, "because I don't want to." It is not rooted in law; it is based in the principle that open government is a scourge to secret plots. Executive Privilege is a fantasy.

Why Congress has the obligation to investigate
All cabinet officers are nominated by the President but only placed in office by approval of the Senate. This duel responsibility means that all cabinet departments serve the nation as a whole, both Executive and Legislative branches, not merely the President.

In the specific instance of the firing of federal district attorneys there are indications that the firing decisions were made by Karl Rove, Harriet Meirs, and others within the White House. It is proper for Congress to investigate whether the duties of the Attorney General were usurped by members of the White House staff. The Constitution delegates executive responsibilities to the cabinet departments specifically so that their actions will be in the best interests of the nation, not at the whim of the Presidential underlings.

Insofar as members of the White House staff had usurped the duties of the Attorney General they were operating as de facto members of the Justice Department. As such, those individuals have a duty to report to Congress. Conversely, Congress has a duty to investigate the manner in which individuals who have not taken the Consitutionally required oath had usurped the authority of sworn cabinet officers. It is a dangerous practice when the duties of cabinet officers are exported to unaccountable persons and Congress has the obligation to insure this does not occur.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Fear of Truth

The White House will allow Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify before Congress as long as:
  • They testify in secret,
  • They are not compelled to tell the truth,
  • No record is kept of what they have said.
Therein rests the core of the Bush Administration. From Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney to Antonio Gonzalez to Bush himself is a systemic terror of the truth. When lying risked everything and gained nothing, Libby chose to lie under oath to a grand jury. Scientists are instructed, on pain of losing their jobs, to lie about their research. When trying to parse the truth in the Iraq War, it is easier and most accurate to assume everything said by the government is a lie.

Rove and Miers are afraid to testify under oath. They want to preserve their right to lie at will. They want no transcripts so that no one can test the veracity of their testimony. And above all else, they want it in secret because they are terrified of truth.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Is It about Politicans and 'Tar Baby' References?

Is there a Political Science course somewhere in the country where Uncle Remus is required reading? Are our elected officials (and their hirelings) so profoundly stupid they grasp for racist metaphors without even understanding their meaning? Tony Snow, Mitt Romney, and now St. John McCain have all got caught up in the "tar baby" that is the Tar Baby metaphor.

I'm of the same generation as Snow and Romney and way, way younger than McCain. I was exposed to the Uncle Remus stories as a kid through the Disney movie, "Song of the South." Uncle Remus was the creation of a white man in the 19th century, Joel Chandler Harris. Uncle Remus was an old slave on a southern plantation. In the fashion of Aesop, the fictional Uncle Remus told stories to the white children of his owner.

I remember seeing pieces of the movie on television (probably on the Mickey Mouse Club). I really remember that song, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. I never got into the Uncle Remus stories as a child because the thick slave dialect used in the stories was difficult for me to read. As an adult I could see the racist panoply of the stories. Like Little Black Sambo, these are stories from a time when Jim Crow ruled the south and blatant racism ruled the north. They are obsolete relics of a sad past.

The Tar Baby was a small black child made by a fox to trap a rabbit. The rabbit hit the black baby and found himself stuck in the tar. As a metaphor it is rather useless since few people under the age of 40 are aware of the Uncle Remus stories. Especially since the phrase, "sticky situation" works just as well without all of the racial overtones. Why politicals insist on getting stuck in a tar baby of their own making is a mystery to me.

Here is the original Uncle Remus story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

I love the comment to this posting because it made me think.

Within the United States culture the Tar Baby story is inexorably tied to the Uncle Remus stories. Neither Tony Snow, Mitt Romney, nor John McCain draw upon African folklore for their metaphors.

The foundation of Uncle Remus is a white man's recasting of the oral story telling of African slaves in the United States for the entertainment of white people. In this, it the same as the black-face minstrel shows of the 19th century. They were based upon the musical traditions of plantation slaves and, going back far enough, on African music. Again, for the enjoyment of whites.

In both instances, the milieu was dishonest. The Happy Darkie myth is the clear context of the Uncle Remus stories as well as the black-faced minstrels. Slaves singing cheerful songs and telling heavily dialect stories is a white figment of black life in the 19th century. That said, there is room, I dare say a need, for preserving African-American folklore of the 19th century, just not the white caricature of that folklore. A personal benefit of this is I will be seeking out Toni Morrison's novel, Tar Baby.

It is also true that all of the above is way over the heads of American politicans. They just like the metaphor because ... damn, I don't know why they like it. But, they do.

McCain was a child when "Song of the South" was in the theaters; Romney, Snow, John Kerry (who used the phrase in 1992) and I were probably first exposed to the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby while watching the Mickey Mouse Club on television.

Most white Americans over the age of 50, underwent segregationist enculturation as children. Watching the "Song of the South," reading Little Black Sambo, singing "Jump Jim Crow" was a common experience of white youths in the Forties and Fifties. Americans under the age of 40 have, for the most part, escaped the burden of those lessons. This enculturation is deeply rooted. To freely grab a metaphor steeped in the culture of segregationism shows a failure to understand the errors in those youthful lessons. It displays, to me, a lack of self-awareness at best. At worst, it displays a longing for the "good old days" when people of color knew their place and stayed there.

I would be willing to cut someone slack if they made a practice of using African-American folklore as metaphors. None of the politicans in question have shown anywhere near that level of erudition.

Placing The Blame

Last month I laid the blame for the suicide of an Iraq War veteran on the heads at the VA . I said that, in a just world, they would face charges of negligent homicide. A report on NPR showed me that I was wrong and I own them an apology. The criminal neglect lies with these guy....
The Republicans in Congress, led by Delay and Hastert, have deliberately withheld funding for wounded soldiers and when Republican congressmen tried to correct that injustice, Denny and the Hammer punished them by stripping their committee assignments.

I stand corrected. In a just world, Dennis Hastert and Tom Delay would face criminal charges for deliberately withholding medical services from injured Iraq War veterans. In a just Creation, they will burn in Hell for their acts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beware of Politicans Using Passive Voice

There is a lot not to like about Alberto Gonzalez. There is his creative, dare I say fictitious, interpretation of the Geneva Convention in his defense of America's right to torture prisoners. There is his asinine assertion that there is no expressed grant of habeas corpus in the Constitution. There is his criminal refusal to answers questions about his actions posed by Congress. There is his blatant purge of honest U.S. District Attorneys because they did not use their offices as Republican Party brute squads. But, this latest is, for me, the worst.
I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. ~ Alberto Gonzalez (3/13/07)
Mistakes were made. And I’m frankly not happy about them ~ George Bush (3/13/07)
The passive voice is the last refuse of the political scoundrel and the passive voice became the universal talking point yesterday. When the dishonest politican can no longer find even a twisted logic to justify his actions, he hides in the passive voice.
The honest man says, "I made a mistake, I was wrong." To the dishonest politican the mistake just occurred, like magic. Bush and Gonzalez are actually trying to paint themselves as victims of these magical mistakes and are appealing for sympathy.

English has no word to describe Bush and Gonzalez. Hubris is insufficient. Fortunately, Yiddish provides Chutzpah - traditionally defined as "A boy on trial for murdering his parents who begs for leniency because he is an orphan."

Petition to Impeach Alberto Gonzalez.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who Want's Bush to Remember Him?

And so I've come back to New Orleans, Louisiana, to remind people that the federal government still knows you exist ~ George Bush, March 1, 2007

Three days later, FEMA evicts residents of a trailer park in Louisana. "Officials began telling tenants to pack up even before the agency had decided where they would go." ~ Washington Post, March 12, 2007
A year and a half after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans evacuees are still being treated contemptibly by the federal government. When they are remembered at all it is only to impose some additional humiliation upon them. The only thing worse than being ignored by George Bush is being remembered by him.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

...Because I Love Icky Stuff

The lice will tell everything to those who just listen.

From Newsweek
We humans began wearing furs some 114,000 years ago. How do we know? Because, that is when body lice evolved. Body lice, a uniquely human pest, live in clothing. Comparing the DNA of head lice to body lice shows when body lice first appeared, hence when clothing first appeared. Ain't icky science fun?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

So Frightened, They Are Terrified to Talk

As I predicted 10 days ago, the regional conference on Iraq security is failing because the US delegation is afraid to even acknowledge the existence of Iran and Syria.

This is Dick Cheney's doing, pure and simple. The State Department negotiated this conference two weeks ago while Cheney was traveling around the world spreading hatred of the United States in every country he visited. I predicted that, upon returning, Cheney would use his considerable malevolence to intimidate American diplomats and destroy any chance of a successful conference. The fact that Cheney can cower the State Department so completely compounds Condi Rice's reputation as a piss-poor Secretary of State.

Once again, the United States acts as if Iran and Syria are scary monsters while the US is just frightened children. We are so afraid of the boogeymen we pull the covers over our heads and try to pretend they don't exist. Iran and Syria, on the other hand, look like a couple of adults willing and able to sit and talk.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tax Lawyers Writing Tax Laws

It is the ultimate in the "fox guarding the hen house" ideas. Or, as a New York professor said in this article, "the fox designing the hen house" with nice secret entrances built in just for the foxes.

The Bush Administration is asking the tax lawyers who make a fortune designing the tax shelters for wealthy clients to write the new tax laws. No more long nights spent pouring over the tax codes looking for some obscure loophole to exploit. Now, they get to write the loopholes directly into the tax code. No muss, no fuss, no work.

Just another service of the friendly Bush Kleptocracy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Vermont Towns Vote to Impeach Bush

Vermont has an old, Founding Fathers-style of democracy. Their townhall meetings, debates, and votes strip away the influence of lobbyists and campaign consultants. In Vermont townhalls, the bachelor farmer with twenty head of cattle is the equal of a billionaire industrialist. Vermont has a pure form of democracy that I truly wish could spread across the country.

In townhalls across the state, votes have been held on the question of whether George Bush ought to be impeached. In community after community, 36 in all, the vote has been for impeachment. In community after community, at least 20, the vote has been for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. I have no doubt that if community meetings were held across the nation the votes would be equally strong. It is only in the corridors of the White House that the voice of the people is silenced.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Distractions are so very...Distracting

For the past few weeks I have had some...distractions...that have deflected my mind from writing. I hope to be able to put them behind me soon. In the meantime, I am suffering a sort of opinion constipation. So, here are a few quick takes.
  • I want to sympathize with Scooter Libby. He went to work for a very evil man and got caught up in that man's conniving devices. I want to sympathize, but he chose to work for Cheney; he knew what he was getting himself into.
  • There has been a snit about how Bush doesn't have a Plan B for Iraq. The Surge is like Plan Q. There have been so many different operational plans for Iraq - kill them, bribe them, torture them, let them loot everything then clamp down on their every move, lean towards this faction then that faction. It's a wonder we haven't run out of letters for all the Plans.
  • Republicans claim it is unfair to talk about Rudy Giulianitm's family problems. Yet, these same Republicans will be gleefully effusive about Hillary Clinton's husband. "Family Values" are something that Republicans believe should apply only to Democrats.
There, that feels better.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Further Proof the Human Race Is Doomed

  • In 1580, Sir Francis Drake completed a circumnavigation of the globe without maps using nothing more than a compass, sextant, and his wits.
  • For centuries, Vikings navigated the North Atlantic as far west as Canada without the aid of a compass. They had only the sun and stars to guide them.
  • At the same time, Polynesian explorers were traveling the far vaster Pacific Ocean without even being able to see the North Star.
  • In 1928, Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, and their crew flew from Oakland, California to Brisbane, Australia with stops on tiny specks of land called Hawaii and Fiji. This first transpacific flight navigated by dead reckoning.
  • In 1969, Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldren, and Michael Collins crossed the 240,000 miles of space, landed on the moon, and returned safely to Earth using computers less powerful than a modern $12 pocket calculator.
In early February, a flight of the United States' most up-to-date aircraft, F-22 Raptors, got lost while traveling from Hawaii to Japan because their on-board navigation computers became hopelessly confused trying to cross the International Dateline. They needed help getting back to Hawaii.

It isn't that our machines are getting smarter than we are. They are not. It is that, with each passing generation, we as a race are getting dumber. Things humans could do a thousand years ago are beyond us now. Even with our machines, we stand flummoxed by tasks our forefathers could do with ease. Think about this the next time you can't find your car in a shopping mall parking lot.

My thanks to His Frogness at Blognonymous for finding this.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Mockingbird Tale

With the coming of March, the mockingbirds (at least the ones in Southern California) begin their insistant, persistent singing. I love them. They can mimic any song. I have heard mockingbirds do perfect imitations of human whistles and cell phones. They sing all day. And they sing all night, too. This latter fact, for some people, is a problem.

I once had a dear friend who had lived for years in one of San Diego's beach communities. To chase a career change, she moved inland to a neighborhood called Scripps Ranch. She moved from the home of seagulls into mockingbird territory. One morning shortly after she moved I got a desperate phone call from her.
"You're an environmentalist," she said, "what bird was making that unholy racket all night long?"

"Oh," I said, "that's a mockingbird. Isn't that a beautiful song they have?"

"I can't sleep. Don't they ever stop?" she said.

"Not really until September."
It was at this point in our friendship that I discovered that my sweet, young friend could curse like a sailor.

While the Rabid Cat Is Away,
Diplomacy Gets Done

It is no coincidence that the United States has agreed to meet with Iran and Syria over Iraqi security while Dick Cheney was out of the country. Had he been home, Cheney would have killed the idea in its cradle.

While Cheney was in Pakistan insulting the locals, in Afghanistan getting servicemembers killed protecting him, and in Australia encouraging that country to attack its own citizens, the State Department was able to sneak in a few discussions with Middle Eastern countries with positive results. I don't expect the March conference to succeed, however. Cheney will be back in Washington by then and I am certain he will use his considerable maliciousness to poison the meeting. But this week does demonstrate what can happen if Dick Cheney would just retire to his hobby of tormenting farmhands on his ranch.