Jan 25, 2007

A Drinking Game, Bush-wacking, How to Run for President, a Pregnant Lesbian. And, a Depeche Mode Parody.

UPDATED, 1/26 & 1/27. Includes a cool video on the 7th year of the Bush imperial reign

If we had more troops, if we had spent more money, if we had stayed longer, if only....

I could have written something about Bush's SOTUS* earlier, but it took me a good whole 24 hours to recover from that speech. You see, I played the drinking game while watching. My friends picked words like, Osama, Iraq, terrorists, winning, Madam Speaker, etc. No surprise there. Every time Bush uttered these words, my friends had a drink. I lost, because I agreed to take words that I'd never expected Bush to say, hence I agreed to triple my intake playing the odds. I mean, who'd expect to hear, "Baby Einstein," [mentioned 3 times!], "Dikembe Mutumbo," and .."global warming"! What can I say, I find Bush very predictable but he surprised me on this one.

As for anything else, this president has lost credibility. Much of a president's power comes from his ability to convince, to project his vision, to make people follow him. It's too later for Bush to do that. Even his own hard-core supporters don't know what to believe anymore. In his SOTU speech last year, he said that there would be a reduction in the US troop levels in Iraq by 2007! Now he wants an escalation. Our country is increasingly isolated because of the war! Even the Brits are pulling their troops out while Bush is sending more American soldiers in Iraq! Notice that he doesn't speak of "coalition forces" or of allies anymore.

On another subject, John Kerry made the right choice--to run again in 2008. Not for the presidency, but for the US Senate where he belongs. I have to disclose, that I worked for Kerry's campaign in Ohio in 2004, and I still believe he would have made a much better president than the current one [OK, almost everyone agrees with this statement]. Yet, I also thought that he should not attempt another run for the White House. John may be an awkward politician but he is an asset to the Senate and the country. By the way,we progressives appreciate his stance on the Iraq war issues.

The NYT reports of intrigue and betrayal at the trial of Dickey's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The case is a bit convoluted but there's got to be something seriously wrong with a Veep who hires someone with the name "Scooter"! Wanna bet that there's a connection between Rove's office [Bush's chief architect] and Jeff Gannon? Oh, and did you hear about Dickey's explosion on CNN when Wolfie asked the Veep about his lesbian daughter having a baby? Obviously, I have no problem with love and loving relationships, and same-sex couples having/adopting children, but it is the hypocrites I despise. I think it's highly hypocritical to say that you approve of what your daughter is doing [having a same-sex "marriage" and a baby] while your government promotes discriminatory policy and a morality fit for the Dark Ages. Same with abortion, health care, and a host of other social issues that adversely affect only the poorest among us.

Update, 1/27. Maureen Dowd of the NYT makes this eloquent and very accurate point:

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

Et tu Bru-te?
Social conservatives are very upset with president Bush for failing to even mention the agenda for the moral fitness of America. But, what are they complaining about? Bush is the president who appointed very conservative justices to SCOTUS. They shouldn't worry, though, Bush is still firmly anti-science! Global warming, my ass. We've been trying to cancel winter in the Northeast, and I thought we were doing just fine, until today when we're experiencing arctic conditions. Com'on people, put some more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere...

"The Revelator"

More fun
Stephen Colbert: What made [Tuesday's State of the Union speech] so groundbreaking, I think, was all the new stuff we've never heard from the president before...like a domestic agenda. Take his proposal to fix the whole health care mess with the only proven cure-all: tax breaks...

Bush clip: And for the millions of Americans with no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within reach.

Colbert: It's so simple. Most people who couldn't afford health insurance also are too poor to owe taxes. But...if you give them a deduction from their taxes they don’t owe, they can use the money they're not getting back from what they haven't given to buy the health care they can't afford.

Now, if you have nothing else to do, you can download Giuliani's campaign handbook, here.


*SOTUS: State Of The Union Speech

Jan 20, 2007

A Very Good Start for the 110th Congress, but Bush Remains as the Obstacle to Progress

The Work has just Began

Although how the women dress in the Congress got more paragraphs of coverage in the New York Times than the legislation passed, the 110th Congress had an impressive start. In its first 100 hours, the Senate passed tough ethics rules while the House rolled back $14 billion of [gasp] subsidies & tax breaks to the oil industry, increased the minimum wage, cut the interest on student loans, voted to implement recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, required the government to negotiate better prices for the Medicare beneficiaries, to finance stem cell research and try to overturn Bush's veto on ..science. Of course, the current occupant of our other House on Pennsylvania Avenue still has a lot of power and a veto on Congressional legislation, but this time it will be different. Congress has the power to investigate and exercise its important function under the checks & balances system in our constitution--something that the previous do-nothing Congress didn't want to do under the Republicans.

Hillary just announced that she's, too, forming an exploratory committee--yes, she's running! No surprises here. Governor Richardson of New Mexico is throwing his hat in as well. Of the big-name (national recognition) politicians that haven't declared, only Al Gore remains. He can wait a bit longer, but not too long--not because he'll have to raise money faster and establish a ground campaign, but because he has to get good people on his team before they commit to another candidate. Well, come to think of it, maybe it's much better for him to wait and get fresh people with fresh ideas instead of the established conventional "wisdom" and the people that have an excellent record of losing important races. This is a big topic of discussion within the progressive blogosphere these days. The Dems keep relying on the DC insiders (ie, Bob Shrum) and keep using the same old recipe of failure. OK, the party won control of Congress in the last election, but I maintain that much of it was the result of the utter incompetence and corruption of the Republicans.

It's January 20th as I'm writing this post. Do you know what date this is? Think two years ahead! That's right, a new president will be taking over at noon, and Dubya will go down in history possibly as the worst president ever! Let's try to limit the damage this man can inflict on our nation between now and then.

PS> I have to acknowledge the president's urging for medical privacy. Bush is right to propose legislation to prohibit insurance companies, employers, and others from obtaining patient's records of genetic tests and medical treatment. Now, when it comes to other matters of privacy, BushCo respects none.... All in the interest of national security, of course. Did you notice that Attornery General (the one supposedly defending our rights) Gonzales told the Senate that the Constitution doesn't explicitly provide Habeas Corpus (due process) to all?!!! [read and weep here]

PS2> If you want to get an idea how the insiders work and the damage they have inflicted on the Democratic party, it's worth reading an earlier essay I posted back in February of 2005, when Howard Dean became the chairman of the party. I urged Dean to "Fire the Losers, Get Rid of the Parasites."

Jan 17, 2007

Some Dip their Toes in, Obama Puts his Foot in the Water Creating a Bigger Splash. Let the Games Begin!

Updated, 1/18 (below)
The race for the presidency has begun with several candidates either forming "exploratory committees" or have outright declared. The junior senator from Illinois, Barak Obama, took the first formal step, though there was no big surprise here. He had plenty of time to think about this and he is behaving like a declared candidate. The primaries are less that a year away! Can you believe it? Anyway, Obama's case is very interesting. Within a few months, the field will become more crowded, though I think it's way too early to make any predictions. I personally remain open--waiting to be convinced--and may endorse a candidate later in the year.

For a first-term senator, Obama has gotten an unusual national attention but now he's got to define himself and build a ground campaign. At this point, he's Hillary's biggest headache for he's going to take much of her support from the black community--this is good news for Edwards. Yesterday, a new Zogby poll came out of Iowa--the first contest next year--in which Edwards leads with 27%, Obama's second with 17%, the governor of Iowa, Vilsack, at 16%, and Clinton at 16% too. The progressive blogosphere has been having informal polls over the last year, often showing that Hillary trails Edwards and Obama, while others like Richardson, Kucinich, Dodd, Vilsack, I-want-to-run-again Kerry, Biden, are all drawing single-digit numbers, trailing the "unsure" category!

Another candidate that has gotten attention since 2004 is Wesley Clark but I don't think he's going to run. The big question is the former Veep, Al Gore, who gets high support from the progressive community and from Democrats of all stripes. He could win this contest, but he seems too comfortable (and pretty rich) in the corporate world that he may choose to play the elder statesman role. He has name recognition and can raise huge sums of money fast so he has the luxury of waiting a bit longer. Hillary has the same advantages as Gore, but she also has high negatives--not necessarily a deal breaker, but a factor nevertheless. She has gotten a big support from the black American community, but this will change with Obama in the race. The Illinois senator trails her in polls among Democrats but 1/3 of them don't know him, yet. The New York junior senator has a very high name recognition, and although she still has room to shape her agenda & policies, she will always be associated with the Clinton legacy--a good and a bad thing.

No matter what you think of Obama and Hillary, it is a good thing to see these two in the race. Anything can happen in the next year and a half, but as a nation we still haven't answered in the affirmative, that a black and woman [and, why not on the same ticket?] can be elected to the highest office of the land. I do not advocate voting for or against anyone because of their gender or skin color, but America has a long ground to cover yet to overcome racism and other prejudicial, discriminatory attitudes & practices.

Update, 1/18/07. Zogby has a new poll from New Hampshire today that shows Obama in the lead (23%), followed by Clinton and Edwards (both at 19%). NH poll is on par with others, but interestingly the "not sure" category is just as high as the numbers those three candidates are drawing. Way too early to make predictions though.

Jan 11, 2007

Bush Visits the White House Library for the First Time. He Plans to Start Reading as Soon as the War is Over.

Post Updated, Jan 15 (below)

By now I'm sure you don't want to hear more about president Bush's "new plan" for escalation of our involvement in Iraq, but did you notice the following? He gave his televised speech from the White House library! An important step to confronting your fears is to face them, so I reckon that setting foot in a library is an important step for Bush. Maybe this was the result of the "good advice of Senator Lieberman" but nevertheless Bush looked like a deer in the headlights. The president is going in the wrong direction, stubbornly and with the illusion that history will justify his policies. Most of his advisers and military brass are against this escalation, but Bush reshuffles his team and listens only to people who agree with him. This has been the same theme since day one--only those opinions & data that support a pre-determined position are allowed. This narrow frame of mind discards all evidence that falls outside this microscopic view.

Look, these are the facts: In the 4th year of this war, we are not winning. We've changed our objectives several times--from the AlQaeda threat and the WMDs to regime change--but what is the objective today? Not withdraw from Iraq by taking people off the rooftops by helicopters?

Iraq is in a civil war with no end in sight. It's personal, sectarian, and religious. Civil wars usually don't end by outside intervention, only when the combatants get tired of fighting or one side wins convincingly. The Kossovo-Bosnia civil war was snuffed out by NATO, but this was so much different than the Iraq situation. It would have taken half a million troops to do the same in Iraq (opportunity lost already). In the Balkans, there weren't other neighboring strong states to support the conflict there as there are in the Middle East--Syria, Iran, and the "international terrorists" of AlQaeda are all players in Iraq. The Sunnis (Saddam's base), 20% of Iraq, have the support of much of the Muslim countries in the Middle East, except Iran that supports the Shiites, 60% of Iraq. The Kurds, 20%, in the north have been quiet and out of the conflict, but Turkey threatens to invade if they break for independence.

This latest escalation just postpones the inevitable: US withdrawal. This war is over and there is a winner: Iran. The infusion of a few thousand troops will not make much of a difference, except more casualties. Shiites and Sunnis are shooting at each other and both at us. We'll be taking more risks, bleed more, and spend more. Iraq was/is an artificial country, drawn up by the British, and has been held together by the dictatorial terror. I doubt Bush read any book on the subject prior to the war. This is the same world leader who thought Africa was a country!

Even today, I don't think Bush understands the complexity of the region, nor its history--as recent as Vietnam. I doubt that he cares enough about the over 3,000 dead and the 24,000 injured soldiers. The US has no more troops available, while our forces are under attack in Afghanistan where the Taliban are coming back. [check PBS' Frontiline] Bush's "surge" is just a number that won't make much of a difference, though it signifies his intention to stick to his guns. Maybe he sees himself as the captain going down with his ship, fighting to the end. Except, he's not fighting himself, but brave Americans in a war of choice. How can a commander-in-chief ask anyone to be the last one to die in an unnecessary sacrifice?

Sadly, I don't expect the president to make use of his library other than for a show or an interesting backdrop. He behaves like the drunkard who uses the lightpost not for illumination but only to lean on.

Update, 15 Jan 06: I just read Paul Krugman's article in the NYT. He describes Bush's escalation as the Texas Strategy which is "another stalling tactic, designed to buy more time." Krugman makes a great point. Remember the huge scandal of the S&Ls in the 1980s? It involved failing banks making high-interest but worthless loans to "crooked or flaky real estate developers" and cooking the books in order to show big profits, on paper. Meanwhile, the owners and executives of those savings & loans banks would reward themselves with outlandish salaries and perks. The end in failure was guaranteed and the taxpayers footed a huge bill. The delay meant that the bill was so much higher.

What did we learn from this? Just few years ago this Texas strategy was implemented again. The failing energy giant ENRON created dozens of companies that became its own "customers" who, in turn, got high-interest loans, bought goods and services, etc, from the (secret) parent company. Money and obligations were moved around to create the illusion of success. Millions of Americans were affected--many were fleeced, investors were defrauded, employees lost pensions--while the executives were getting hundreds of millions of dollars in pay & bonuses. [Remember Ken Lay's $6,000 shower curtain and the Roman orgy?] We all know how this ended.

Krugman is correct; president Bush is trying to pull another Texas strategy on the Iraq war/occupation today. Stubbornly defending a failed policy, ignoring the facts, and being ignorant of the history and the dynamics of the Middle East is a GW Bush trademark. We have to do whatever we can to stop this man for his policies are reckless and injurious. Because he's got power, his applied ignorance should not be the guiding force in our nation's policy.

I believe we've passed the point of "let's try something new and see what happens." We shouldn't fall into the trap of, "if we had more troops, if we bombed more, if we spend more money, if we had more time, if..." There's no end in this circular logic. Veep Cheney offends every thinking person and every true patriot when he suggests that we are unpatriotic or we don't have a plan to ..win in Iraq! Doesn't tricky Dickey know that Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together? If I said that I had a plan to bring the dead back to life and blasted those who didn't let me try (at great cost if I may add) and cursed those who didn't have a ..plan to revive the dead, I'd be declared insane! Yet, that's exactly what we hear from the White House today.

Is President Bush Like Lincoln? What???!!!

Judge for yourself!

Jan 4, 2007

What to do Next? Here are some Modest Suggestions.

A New Beginning, or Business as Usual in our Nation's Capitol?

Most of the cheering took place in the early hours of November 8, 2006, but I'm happy to see the change of power in our House today. I wonder if the Republicans still hold the mantra of former House Speaker Hastert, that only the majority of the majority matters? Actually, I do want to see a change under Speaker Pelosi. Here are my suggestions.

Corruption. Public service should be left to people who are really patriots and want to serve their country, not see it as an opportunity for personal financial gain. Bolster the ethics rules and the Ethics Committee. Sunshine is a good disinfectant. Stop the revolving-door practice. I find it offensive that people from an industry (say, oil & energy) come into our government to facilitate their former companies, and, after a brief stint, they go back to the same industry and the big bucks! Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, did just that a few days ago. [the link will give you more info on other Bush cabinet members too]

Energy. Much about anything relies on proper education. The public needs to be educated on the need for conservation and how to do it. It starts from replacing the incandescent bulbs with the new fluorescent ones that consume 75% less energy, and a simple act of turning off the lights of an empty room. If we could send a man to the moon within a decade, I'm sure we could muscle our resources to come up & implement better energy sources/uses. What we pay for gas at the pump is a small fraction of its cost. Think of all the wars (ours & others'), the adverse health effects, the environment, etc.

Immigration. Com'on, it's about time we look at this seriously and rationally. The US asked for a labor force, but humans came. We've already given amnesty to American employees for using this cheap labor. Even Congress passed legislation (and amnesty) to exempt the Marianna Islands (US Territory) from immigration & labor laws--and allowing slave-like conditions to persist there. The immigrants who have invested a great deal in this country and have been within the law after their initial trespass should be given residency and a path to citizenship immediately. It's a fair and smart thing to do. Immigration may save
our Social Security too.[I'll return to this subject in the near future]

Internet. Information is power and access to many goods & services is often a few clicks away, if you can afford it. I advocate free and fast Internet for everyone. It'd take about $4 billion to construct wi-fi networks that would cover 80% of the US. Maybe another billion to extend it to the very remote, sparsely-populated areas. In the modern age, our country already has fallen behind. Korea and Japan, for example, have 100-times better (and faster) networks, because our Telcos have been in bed (asleep) with our government. [Where's the ..unbridled free market forces here?]

Education. I've made my case through many posts here, but if we believe having a highly-educated populace in the US is good, we've got to make higher education more accessible--which translates into more affordable. Education should not be a privilege, but a right. Yes, students have to take this opportunity seriously too--I teach at a university, so I see the lack of interest & proper attitude--but the amount of ignorance in this country is astounding. For example, more than half believe the universe is less than 6,000 years old, not to mention other scientific knowledge. Some 44% believe in prophesy, that the end of the world is near, and that Jesus will return to Earth in their lifetime.

Economy. We need smart economics that preserves the middle class. America was considered the land of opportunity, of equality of opportunity. Today, class is the most determinant factor in a person's future success. In the last 30 years, it's become harder to move up (more chance to go down), and the gap between the very rich and the rest of us is growing--this would presumably be OK if it improved the lives of most people. But it hasn't. Even Oprah says so.

Healthcare. It's obscene that we don't have a universal healthcare system. Well, maybe we do, if you say that we have a crazy system whereas the cost of treatment for the uninsured means two things: financial ruin for the patient, and transferring the cost of his treatment to the insured. Oh, add to this the cost of a vast bureaucracy buried in paperwork, and the profits of the many agents/actors involved in this scheme. We pay 16-17% of our GDP for healthcare, more than any other country. Others universal care, so we have many models to examine. We should extend Medicare to all Americans.

We have a representative system in order to have a say in what our government does for us. Right? It's about time we demand government for & by the people--not for & by the special and narrow interests. On the other hand, we have to realize that we cannot change our politics unless we change the people we send to Washington! We gave the Dems an opportunity; lets keep their feet to the fire. I understand, the president is divorced from reality and he's beyond reason--we have to wait until the 2008 election. But, the process begins in a few months, when we'll have more choices among candidates. Let's pay attention.

We have to remain interested and engaged in the affairs of our commonwealth. The quality of our politics reflects the people involved.

Jan 2, 2007

A Resolution for 2007: More Cheers, Fewer Jeers! (or, until the effects of the holidays wear off)

Ah, the new year has arrived, so I'd like to make a few observations. First, the War on Christmas isn't going well. This free-for-all holiday prevailed once again. I guess the godless hedonists, the secular humanists and all other "season's greetings" generics are subdued by the onslaught of the Christmas commercialism. Second, I re-discovered that by not exercising certain muscles (including the brain) it makes it all that much harder to bounce back into top shape. Third, I gained several pounds because of the liberal libations and the free time to enjoy them during this insipid ..religious holiday. In order to get back into the groove of things, I'm starting exercising today, slowly at first, so forgive my lapses. Let's see what's happening...

The country is bidding farewell to a former president. I was alive in the '70s but too young to know anything. When Gerald Ford became the country's only non-elected VP and eventually President, disco was making a greater impression on me than politics! It was much later, as a student, that I examined the Watergate era. I have to say that Ford respected the checks and balances in our constitution, as did many Republicans of that time--something that can not be said about the Republican Congress of the last 10 years! Veep Cheney said in his eulogy that Ford "was his mentor" but this only demonstrates Dickey's utter hypocrisy. Much the same can be said for all those neocons who've destroyed all what was good of the old Republicanism.

Ford was against the Iraq war and had publicly criticized the misleading efforts leading up to the war and, later, the incompetence of conducting the war/occupation in Iraq. No Republican mentions this today. No Republican likes to talk about Ford's message of inclusion and tolerance [
this article's worth reading]today. He supported women's rights, and although he opposed "abortion on demand," he was in favor of abortion when "unfortunate things happen." Ford paid a political price for pardoning R. Nixon by losing the election to J. Carter. I think he believed he was doing a service to the nation by "putting this nightmare behind us." However, his two biggest mistakes were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld! Talking about an ..axis of evil.

Did you watch the two versions of Saddam's execution widely available on the Net? What did you think about the haste and the way to execute that tyrant? [this
video is Tom Brokaw's take] One thing we should not forget is that this madman was created and destroyed by the US. When he picked a war with our enemy, Iran, we gave him weapons, military intelligence on Iranian targets, and we looked the other way when he tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of people, many of his own country. When will the US learn that we can't convince people about the sincerity to spread freedom & democracy while we support brutal regimes?

We observed another sad occurrence (or "just another number" according to White House spokesman, Tony Snow), that is, the US death toll in Iraq has exceeded 3,000. The number of servicemen with serious injuries are in the 20,000s. Obviously, our casualties in this war of choice exceeds the number of people killed on 9-11. I wish every American took a look at the faces of those fallen soldiers... Check The New York Times
Faces of the Dead for an excellent reminder that humans are sacrificed for no good reason by people with the arrogance of power and the stubbornness of an ignorant mind. Weep if you like but do whatever to help in putting an end to this ill-conceived war.

Lastly, I would like to wish my readers a great year ahead, one filled with health and happiness and all sorts of personal achievements. Life is to be lived in the here and now. Don't worry about heaven & hell and how you'd spend your "time" there while you're wasting this unique experience of being alive now. Every person can make the world a better place. As a liberal would say, be good for goodness sake, for virtue without choice is non-existent!