Saturday, June 25


Bill Clinton and Al Gore sponsored policies that put the U.S. in a solid leading position in development of the Internet. But, writes Thomas Bleha in Foreign Affairs, the Bush administration has reversed all that. And that's not a small thing:

The Bush administration's policies, or lack thereof, have since allowed Asia - Japan in particular - to not only catch up in the development and expansion of broadband and mobile phone technology, but to roundly pound us into the dirt. "The lag," he diplomatically asserts, "is arguably the result of the Bush administration's failure to make a priority of developing these networks."
The economy as a whole is at risk because of broadband shortcomings, says Charles H. Ferguson of the Brookings Institution ( Last year, he asserted in a book, "The Broadband Problem," that the United States might lose up to $1 trillion because of constraints on broadband deployment.

How many times, in how many ways, has this administration screwed this country? And how are we to repair the damage?

Bill Clinton, whatever you may think of him personally, was a can-do hands-on leader, unlike the disengaged, self-styled "CEO president" George W. Bush. It's doubtful we'll ever find another Democratic candidate (at least among the current crop) with the political skills of a Bill Clinton. But Howard Dean has the same drive, determination, confidence, boldness as BC at his best. And for this present time, he offers something Bill wouldn't: absolute integrity of character. Howard may see his current role as rebuilding the party, and thank God for it. But I sincerely hope he won't rule out a run for the presidency in 2008. I'm a long-time Hillary fan, dating back to the years when we lived in Arkansas and the Governor's wife was known as "Hillary Rodham" to the consternation of Republicans in the north of the state. I would not oppose her candidacy, but right now Howard has my heart, my confidence, and my support.


As a member of a large multi-generational military family myself, and the aunt and cousin of suicides, let me just say that when I spoke of the family "wrestling" with Col. Westhusing's alleged suicide, I was attaching no shame to the act. I watched dear ones of my own who lost a child to suicide grieve for what they viewed as their own lack of understanding and failure to act, and to this day they struggle with the idea that if their love had been greater, their sons would not have left them.

The families of suicide victims (and yes, in most cases I consider them victims -- of despair, of hopelessness) characteristically reexamine every aspect of the suicide's life, wondering, "What did we do wrong?" It's a side effect of love lost, a feeling of abandonment, along with grief, anger (even at the victim) and bewilderment.

It's ironic, but over-achievers and self-critical perfectionists have a higher risk factor for suicide than the general population. Col. Westhusing, by all accounts, definitely qualified. Perhaps the very nature that made him such an exemplary human being also drove him to despair at his inability to make the difference he so wanted to make in the mess we call Operation Iraqi Freedom. For the intention, he should be honored. For the failure, he cannot be blamed.

Friday, June 24


Good news. A well-organized group of progressive Christians have formed the Christian Alliance for Progess to counter the influence of the extreme religious right (be sure to visit their web site.)

“We must tell you now that you do not speak for us, or for our politics. We say ‘No’ to the ways you are using the name and language of Christianity to advance what we see as extremist political goals. We do not support your agenda to erode the separation of church and state, to blur the vital distinction between your interpretation of Christianity and our shared democratic institutions. Moreover, we do not accept what seems to be your understanding of Christian values. We reject a Christianity co-opted by any government and used as a tool to ostracize, to subjugate, or to condone bigotry, greed and injustice.”

CAP’s core principles include commitments to economic justice, environmental stewardship, equality for homosexuals, effective prevention -- but not criminalization -- of abortion, peaceful solutions to international disputes, and universal health care for all Americans.

“What we think the extremists in the Democratic Party fear, and rightly so, is a Christian takeover,” he said. “We’re trying to emulate the style of [the Reverend Martin Luther] King, which is more to speak to the government than to become the government -- which is what the folks on the right are doing.

“What we want to do is tell that fringe movement that you can talk about your faith without wanting your faith to become the exclusive faith of the nation.”


Yesterday AmericaBlog said re the Karl Rove remarks, that "ABC savaged Bush over this."

This morning on Fox and Friends a reporter (didn't see who, I was listening for a minute while CNN was on commercial) played the tape of Rove, then stated something like, "Now here are the facts" and then went on to explain that in the aftermath of 9/11, the Senate voted 98-0 and the House 4-- to 1 to give the president authorization to use "all necessary force" against the attackers. So, in truth, Democrats were just as passionate as Republicans about taking down the terrorists.

Wow! Fox News correcting Karl Rove? The sky must be falling.


Richard Cohen on the other guy's sacrifice.

So when Kagan and others talk about "sacrifice," what do they mean? They mean the other guy. This is not actually something new under the sun -- older men have forever sent younger men to war -- but this war is a category unto itself. It's not just that there is no draft -- and none contemplated -- but also that taxes have not been raised and we're not even asked to save paper or aluminum foil or something like that for the war effort.
Dunne liked to refer to "sunshine patriots" -- those of us who called for others to fight a war we or our children would never fight. This war was conceived by sunshine patriots and directed by them -- and fought for reasons that some in the administration knew were exaggerations or, in some cases (Dick Cheney's nuclear scare-mongering), sheer fabrications. It has become the sorriest of wars, conceived for one reason, fought for another, good enough for others to fight, not good enough for ourselves and, maybe, an awful quagmire in the making. It's time the sunshine patriots looked outside.

It's raining.


Some bloggers have concluded that the cause of death for Col. Ted Westhusing was suicide. Also see here.

I thought I picked up some early hints that this might be the case and posted my thoughts here and here. I still hope that conclusion will be proved wrong, because it is too disheartening to think of his wife and three young children emotionally wrestling with that choice for years to come. But if true, considering Col. Westhusing's heroic and admirable life and character, it would certainly paint an ugly and despairing picture of the situation in Iraq, that it could so drain the very hope of a man like Col. Ted that he saw no alternative but to take his own life.

I'll be praying for his family. Please join me.

Thursday, June 23


Keith Olbermann reminds us just how much our national rhetoric and behavior are mimicking an Old Twilight Zone episode.

Something, or someone, starts screwing with the lights and the electricity on an ordinary suburban street. Within minutes, the residents have concluded that aliens from outer space have invaded. As alliances and rivalries dissolve and re-form with incredible swiftness, these neighbors accuse each other of collusion with the invaders. One of them finally starts shooting. The director pulls back to a nearby hill, where sit two real aliens, one of whom sagely reminds the other that there's no need to actually attack any of these stupid humans — you can just scare them a little bit and then wait for them to tear themselves apart.
Substitute "terrorists" for "aliens" and Maple Street becomes the current American political scene. If there really is a functional al-Qaeda on the continent, it hasn't needed to attack us since 9/11 because we're all the Claude Akins and Jack Westons from the episodes accusing each other of collaboration.

In this vital area at least, the terrorists have already won. Nobody has to tear our country down; our leaders are doing it for them.

And before you say — yeah, but the Republicans/Democrats started it — go get a copy of that episode of "The Twilight Zone" and see if, by the end of it, you can remember which neighbor started the trouble — or if, after the shooting starts, that distinction even remotely matters.

I disagree with Keith that Durbin is in the same category with Rove and Santorum. Durbin was not vilifying an entire class, party or segment of the American population; it was very clear he was referring to a small group of interrogators at Gitmo when he cried out that this FBI report sounded more like it came from a Soviet gulag inspection, Nazi prison camp or Pol Pot. Rove specifically suggested that the motive of liberals is to put our troops in greater danger.

But I agree with Keith in that it all needs to stop. We should start naming SPECIFIC NAMES for accountability where possible -- and I don't mean the little guys taking orders, I mean if we're upset about Gitmo interrogators, then we should scream out "Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Cheney, Bush!" or whatever general, cabinet minister or Congressman shares culpability. These disasters we're faced with are the creations of the powerful, not everyday Americans. And the people most in the wrong don't suffer from comparisons to Nazis or Soviets -- too few take such analogies seriously. In fact, I think such comparisons are counter-productive: Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot are viewed as almost mythical villains with their millions of victims. That lends a kind of grandiose-ness that almost flatters the Right. I would depict Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al as petty, privileged and larcenous, a coterie of smug politicrats who have made their careers and livings off the public teat by betraying the very American ideals they purport to defend.


This has me steaming.

These are not cases of the rights of a single individual being overcome by the greater rights of a great many single individuals...these are David-and-Goliath issues, where a family that has lived in its domicile for decades may be uprooted against their will in order to let a Wal-Mart, and Office Depot, or a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals building go up. They are, for the most part, cases in which the government will take away the property of a family to benefit private development. How this can be construed as "public use" I don't know. Sounds like government-sponsored thievery to me.

Tuesday, June 21


Another great read: Why the memos matter.

Let Sunday Times reporter Michael Smith -- by his own admission, a British conservative and a supporter of the invasion of Iraq -- explain this, as he did in a recent on-line chat at the Washington Post website, with a bluntness inconceivable for an American reporter considering the subject:

"It is one thing for the New York Times or The Washington Post to say that we were being told that the intelligence was being fixed by sources inside the CIA or Pentagon or the NSC and quite another to have documentary confirmation in the form of the minutes of a key meeting with the Prime Minister's office. Think of it this way, all the key players were there. This was the equivalent of an NSC [National Security Council] meeting, with the President, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks all there. They say the evidence against Saddam Hussein is thin, the Brits think regime change is illegal under international law so we are going to have to go to the U.N. to get an ultimatum, not as a way of averting war but as an excuse to make the war legal, and oh by the way we aren't preparing for what happens after and no-one has the faintest idea what Iraq will be like after a war. Not reportable, are you kidding me?"

I'm desperately trying to get comfortable sitting here with a badly sprained ankle. Can't believe how much this thing hurts! And I LIVE with chronic pain. I guess it's a case of the pain you're not used to...


Molly Ivins has more good stuff in this post about Big Media largely ignoring the Downing Street Memos, but I'm publishing this excerpt because it reminded me I never railed at Tom Friedman:

Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote that "liberals" no longer want to talk about the war because we were against it to start with and probably hope it ends in disaster. Good Lord, who does he think we are? Does this man actually think we are out here cheering every time another American is killed?

Mr. Friedman, real, actual, honest-to-God American liberals are out here in the heartland, and we know the kids who are dying in Iraq. They are from our hometowns. We know their parents. That's why we hate this war. That's why we tried to tell everybody else it was a ghastly idea.

We are not sitting here gloating because it is the horrible mess we said it would be. We're in agony. There is nothing pleasurable about being a Cassandra. I have said from the beginning that if this thing worked out the way Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney all said it would, I would be perfectly happy to get down on my knees and kiss George Bush's feet.

I'm used to this kind of slander from the Laura Ingrahams of the world, but Tom Friedman? Oaf that he's been since the runup to the war, I wouldn't have imagined that he doesn't have a few liberal friends left. Is he really calling them America haters and suggesting they applaud the deaths of our troops?

Who's calling for HIS apology and/or resignation from the New York Times?


So a Democrat wants to fully investigate charges of proselytizing and harassment of non-Christians at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a veteran Republican charges Democrats with a "war on Christianity."

National Jewish Democratic Council Director says enough is enough.

"Enough with the religion-bating already; the GOP and conservatives must stop attacking Democrats as being against Christians and against faith in America. Such ludicrous assertions and stereotypes coarsen our political debate, they have no place in civil discourse in this country, and they are utterly beneath one of America's two major political parties," said National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman. "The heroic efforts by Representatives Obey and Israel supporting religious expression by people of all faiths at the Air Force Academy -- including people of no faith -- are hardly an attack on Christians, as Mr. Hostettler disturbingly alleged.

"In fact, Reps. Obey and Israel are working to protect the religious liberty of every American, which is exactly what our military has fought to protect again and again. If anything, Rep. Hostettler's shocking display demonstrates just the type of religious intolerance that Reps. Obey and Israel were seeking to address. But the GOP has had their say today, and sadly voted down the Obey amendment.

"Today on the floor of the U.S. House, we've seen Republicans overrule Democratic efforts to squarely address proselytizing and religious intimidation at the Air Force Academy, and perhaps more shockingly, we've seen a key Republican allege a Democratic 'war on Christianity.' On both counts, they just don't get it," Forman added.


Today's must-read.

"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and Houston Chronicle journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said, 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He went on, 'If I have a chance to invade…, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"

Bush apparently accepted a view that Herskowitz, with his long experience of writing books with top Republicans, says was a common sentiment: that no president could be considered truly successful without one military "win" under his belt. Leading Republicans had long been enthralled by the effect of the minuscule Falklands War on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's popularity, and ridiculed Democrats such as Jimmy Carter who were reluctant to use American force. Indeed, both Reagan and Bush's father successfully prosecuted limited invasions (Grenada, Panama and the Gulf War) without miring the United States in endless conflicts.

Herskowitz's revelations illuminate Bush's personal motivation for invading Iraq and, more importantly, his general inclination to use war to advance his domestic political ends. Furthermore, they establish that this thinking predated 9/11, predated his election to the presidency and predated his appointment of leading neoconservatives who had their own, separate, more complex geopolitical rationale for supporting an invasion.


Too cool. Billy Jack's coming back.

Seeing that got me to thinking: at what point did I turn from being the good Southern Baptist there-every-time-the church-doors-are-open fairly-popular and definitely a member of the in-crowd straight-A student Student Council member, Senior Class Treasurer, Homecoming Queen candidate, Florida Seafood Festival Princess, runner-up to Citrus Bowl Queen and Miss (My Hometown) -- to me?

It started my sophomore year in high school. I was always one of the "smartest kids in school" but I was also acknowledged as a little strange but acceptably so. Because I was a military brat, it had been considered marginally OK for me to defend civil rights in our elementary years -- after all, I'd been brainwashed by the integration in military schools; I couldn't help my early training. I added fun to the summers by writing and directing my friends in plays constructed from our favorite childhood books -- we spent one whole summer acting out "Little Women."

And because I was "smart," (read: different) it was OK for me to lead my friends in reading Mary McCarthy's daring novel "The Group" during chorus class. But when we got to high school, the cliques tightened up. I still (I'm not sure why unless everyone was just used to my mild nonconformity by then) was afforded a certain amount of leeway. My parents were comforted by the fact of my obviously sincere Christian faith and thought that would keep me from plunging over the edge of rebellion. My girlfriends took a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in my "eccentric" musings and experiences, which, looking back, are so patently innocent: worrying about trying to marry my Christian beliefs with our Southern way of life, in particular being deliberately, and publicly, color-blind; being friends with the geeky smart crowd (all boys at that time; I was their sometimes girl companion); my earnest desire to "live large" beyond our Southern beachtown; my devotion to the writings of Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, and Robert Heinlein; my honest and tormenting inner conflict between loyalty to my military family and the Americanism I was taught (oh yeah, another milestone in my life: winning the DAR "Americanism" Award) versus the politics of the Vietnam War I was witness to -- the girls in our popular crowd would never think of expressing such sentiments themselves, but appreciated being able to live vicariously through me. I'll never forget the time when the prettiest girl in town (later a First-runner-up to Miss Florida; I only made it to the finals) asked me privately for advice because she was enamored with a black Air Force cadet we'd met -- she'd never have dared to tell anyone else.

What got me even that far? I don't know for sure, but I suspect it has at least a lot to do with my Christian beliefs. Perhaps that's why I react so strongly, and negatively, to the actions of the "Christian right" today. Their assertion of spiritual and moral superiority while, to me, acting in a contrarian fashion to the very Word of God we both purportedly ascribe to, strikes me as not just frightening but contra-Christ, or in other, more damning, words, evil.

"But the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some in the Church will turn away from Christ and become eager followers of teachers with devil-inspired ideas. These teachers will tell lies and do it so often that their consciences will not even bother them." {1 Timothy 4:1-2}.


Save us, Lord.


Sully says,Durbin said nothing wrong.

God bless the open-minded, even if I sometimes despair that there are none on the other side.

Monday, June 20


A key British diplomat:

He tells the Guardian: "I'd read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there's no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too".

Carne Ross, who was a member of the British mission to the UN in New York during the run-up to the invasion, resigned from the FO last year, after giving evidence to the Butler inquiry.

He thought about publishing his testimony because he felt so angry. But he was warned that if he did he might be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

"There was a very good alternative to war that was never properly pursued, which was to close down Saddam's sources of illegal revenue", he says.

Mr Ross also says sanctions imposed against Iraq were wrong. "They did immeasurable damage to the Iraqi civilian population. We were conscious of that but we did too little to address it", he says.

Earlier, after the September 11 attacks on the US, Mr Ross spent six weeks in Afghanistan negotiating with warlords. "The allies didn't understand Afghanistan," he says. "They didn't have sufficient forces on the ground, were trapped in their fortified compounds, naive about the the willingness of the warlords to cede power, and were far too optimistic that opium production could be curtailed."


On her show this morning, Laura Ingraham declared that she has heard it from someone who knows that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist has told his clerks to get ready for the next session. In other words, he's not retiring just yet.

Sunday, June 19


Please don't let it be true.


A friend tipped me off to this article about the Downing Street Memo. Unbelievably, nowhere in the piece does it include mention of the "smoking gun" -- the assertion that intelligence was being "fixed" around the policy for invasion. Also, note the headline: U.K. memo said to question postwar plan." Not a hint of the real scandal.