Friday, August 4

AN ALTERNATE UIVERSE


I'm half-listening to David Gregory's interview with Condi Rice on Hardball (my kids keep demanding my attention), and all I can think is, she's slick, she sounds knowledgeable and authoritative, but WHAT WORLD IS SHE TALKING ABOUT?

The day is coming, she said, when the U.S. will wrap up its mission there (in Iraq). What we must not do is lose sight of why the Iraq mission is so important. That Iraq will (my paraphrase) ultimately be a centerpiece of democracy and be a beacon to the rest of the Middle East.

Today, Iraqis demonstrated in the hundreds of thousands in support of Hezbollah. So much for the Bush administration's contention that the path to peace in the Middle East is through Baghdad.

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FREE FALLIN


I am holding in my hand four tickets to the hottest concert in Dallas, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Trey Anastasio, three rows in front of the VIP boxes, dead center. They're scalping them for $500 and $600 on the Internet.

Think what power I hold over my kids as long as these tickets are in my hand. It's delicious.

BOYS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

Syria wants to talk, but Bush ain't having any.

Boy, those Bushies are good at what they do. They don't LIE, see, they just obfuscate, stonewall or infer.

Although the media have reported that no contacts have been made between the two countries over the last three weeks, administration officials have sent vague signals that this might be happening through back channels.

Yes, I heard a number of those inferences, where Tony Snow, Dan Bartlett, Condi Rice and others suggested that "communications" with Syria might be happening behind the scenes.

Not so, says the Syrian ambassador to the United State.

But no communication whatsoever has taken place. U.S. policy remains to ignore the Syrian government. And it remains fundamentally wrong.

The ambassador goes on to say that Bush I and Clinton did the opposite -- they engaged Syria in talks that ultimately, under Clinton, showed promise of a real peace process for the Middle East.

In sharp contrast, the current U.S. administration has publicly dissuaded Israel from responding to the repeated Syrian invitations to revive the peace process. Syria still hopes that this position might change, as there exists a growing alienation against the U.S. and its policies in the Arab and Islamic world, which is undoubtedly creating fertile breeding conditions for terrorism.

Despite offering substantive and productive assistance to the U.S. in its war against terrorism following 9/11 (Colin Powell said the information provided by Syria led to "saving American lives"), the Bush administration and the neocons have never forgiven Syria for opposing the invasion of Iraq.

Concurrently, administration officials devised a new "policy" toward my country: Don't talk to Syria at all, and maybe its regime will collapse.

That is why the U.S. decided to change its 20-year position toward Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Suddenly, Syria's "stabilizing and necessary presence" in Lebanon became, overnight and without any change in Syria's behavior, "an evil occupation that should immediately be ended."

The underlying idea behind demanding Syrian withdrawal was simple: It would precipitate the fall of the Syrian regime, and the U.S. would end up with a new government in Damascus that is both Israel-friendly and an ally of the U.S. Does that have any resemblance to the neoconservative justification for the war on Iraq?
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Currently, the White House doesn't talk to the democratically elected government of Palestine. It does not talk to Hezbollah, which has democratically elected members in the Lebanese parliament and is a member of the Lebanese coalition government. It does not talk to Iran, and it certainly does not talk to Syria.


The neocons, John Bolton, Dubya, and Cheney never heard the old saw, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." It's so characteristic of these guys to prefer their childhood schoolyard tactics to diplomacy -- they honestly think if they exclude a country from their privileged circle and call them bad names (as they most likely bullied and tormented the nerds at school), it will make them throw in the towel -- "Help! We can't take it anymore! We just want to be loved and accepted!" Heck, it worked for them back in their high school glory days, didn't it? And it's so much more FUN than the "hard work!" of shuttle diplomacy.

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DELAY STAYS ON BALLOT ... FOR NOW


The Texas GOP will try to get the Supremes to nullify the decision of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that leaves Tom DeLay on the ballot.

Republican attorney James Bopp Jr. said the party will either ask the Supreme Court for a stay of the 5th Circuit's order or will ask the high court for an expedited appeal.

Bopp said a stay request would go first to Justice Antonin Scalia, who presides over the 5th Circuit. For the case to proceed, four justices would have to be willing to accept the appeal. In an expedited appeal, Bopp said either four justices could agree to take it up or it could be done on the authority of Chief Justice John Roberts.

"We would like for it to be resolved in August," Bopp said.


Great, just great. Scalia and Roberts, those two unbiased, independent, stalwart supporters of democracy and the Constitution.

Former county chairman Eric Thode said the state party made a strategic error moving the case from state court to federal court. The party took the action after the Democrats won a temporary restraining order from a Democratic state district judge.

Thode said if the case had stayed in state court, the Republicans would have been victorious on appeal because the constitutional issues would not have been involved.


I presume the Texas GOP thought they'd have more success in federal court, where they could ultimately appeal to the friendly (to Republicans) faces of the Supremes.

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BEST OF THE BUMPER STICKERS

A friend just sent me the following e-mail: "Even though I don't do bumper stickers, I'm tempted to paper the house with these."

Me too.

[These bumper stickers were compiled by Jerry Paull, a former Methodist minister in Lakeside, Ohio, who writes: "The following actual bumper stickers are now on cars. I didn't write any of them. I'm only the messenger. If they make you laugh, good. If they make you cry, good."]

* At least in Vietnam, Bush had an exit strategy
* Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism
* If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention
* If you supported Bush, a yellow ribbon won't make up for it
* Poverty, healthcare and homelessness are moral issues
* Of course it hurts. You're getting screwed by an elephant
* Bush lied, and you know it
* Religious fundamentalism: A threat abroad, a threat at home
* God bless everyone (no exceptions)
* Bush spent your Social Security on his war
* Pro America, anti Bush
* Who would Jesus bomb?
* If you support Bush's war, why are you still here? Shut up and ship out
* Feel safer now?
* I'd rather have a president who screwed his intern than one who screwed his country
* Jesus was a social activist -- that is a liberal
* My values? Free speech. Equality. Liberty. Education. Tolerance
* Is it 2008 yet?
* Dissent is the highest form of patriotism -- Thomas Jefferson
* Don't blame me. I voted against Bush -- twice!
* Annoy a conservative; think for yourself
* Visualize impeachment
* Hey Bush! Where's Bin Laden?
* Corporate media = mass mind control
* Stop mad cowboy disease
* George W. Bush: Making terrorists faster than he can kill them
* Keep your theocracy off my democracy
* Democrats are sexy. Whoever heard of a good piece of elephant?
* Corporate media: Weapons of mass deception
* Don't confuse dying for oil with fighting for freedom
* Stem cell research is pro life
* Hate, greed, ignorance: Weapons of mass destruction
* Honor our troops -- demand the truth
* Rebuild Iraq? Why not spend $87 billion on America?
* Fact: Bush oil -- 1999, $19 barrel; 2006, $70 barrel
* The last time religion controlled politics, people got burned at the stake
* How on earth can 59,411,287 people be so dumb?

Thursday, August 3

BACK IN THE LONE STAR STATE

I'm just back from Charlotte, NC, and I hope my travel schedule will lighten up over the next few months -- at least until the midterm elections!

I'll get caught up on the news tonight, but I don't expect much except more of the same. Can't wait to hear how Rummy performed in the Senate hearing today.

Monday, July 31

HAGEL: "THIS MADNESS MUST STOP"

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) tells Bush, "This madness must stop."

Hagel has been one of the more moderate voices among the modern Republican Senate, often (though mildly) criticizing the Bush administration's execution of the Iraq war and its stance on other foreign policy issues. I've often, while watching him on the Sunday morning news shows, thought him to be far more appealing than John McCain, and reluctantly thinking that if I were a Republican, this would be my guy. If he were, as predicted, a presidential candidate in '08, the Republican Party would be smart to select Hagel, but they won't. He hasn't shown the proper obeisance to Bush and the religious right.

But even when I've had positive thoughts about Hagel, they've always been tempered by the knowledge that his hugely surprising victory in the 1996 Senatorial race in Nebraska was tainted by his ownership position in the very company that produced the voting machines that delivered that unexpected win.

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A THIRST FOR WAR

The Iraq war is nearly invisible now on TV news. The current Middle East volleys between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah don't involve any U.S. troops, so it's welcome to the Bush administration as a diversion from the failure, the disaster that is known as the Iraq war. They spin their eagerness to have Israel continue their "degradation" of Hezbollah's military capability, as a peace-seeking and final-solution-oriented policy with the goal of attaining "a sustainable" ceasefire. They betray themselves, however, even as they try their sleight-of-hand action, by clamoring for an extension of the conflict, ballooning up Syria's and Iran's culpability in the Hezbollah attacks upon Israel because they have provided funding and weapons for the group. (They conveniently omit the fact that the U.S. has funded the Israeli military to the tune of approximately $2-3 billion per year since 1997.)

The famous chickenhawks thirst for war, more war, seeming to believe that eventually there'll be that great, vindicating victory that places them in the history books alongside MacArthur and Patton. Notice I don't say Eisenhower (who warned against the development of a "military-industrial complex") or Marshall (whose most powerful contribution to history was the execution of The Marshall Plan, which was responsible for rebuilding Japan, Germany and the conquered countries of WWII, which led to the establishment of some of our greatest allies since 1950). No, they would identify with the swaggerers, the in-your-facers, and ultimately, the losers, though cults have developed around them, which membership would seem to include the neocons. I think there's something very bizarre here, the way these guys get pumped by the prospect of violence, their penchant for choosing action, no matter the consequences, over cool analysis and wisdom. Okay, I'll say what I'm really thinking. If Ann Coulter can speculate upon the sexual orientation of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, I can say outright that I think many of the denizens of BushWorld have serious doubts about their own masculinity. Oh, some of them may be straight -- but I think that somewhere under there is a masculine panic because they ducked any coming-of-age requirement to prove their manliness, such as military service or athletics. Yeah, I think they probably equate the two.

A chief objective of the Bush administration, pursued with remarkable success on the home front, has been to keep the costs of war out of sight.

As Lebanon dominates, one constant on the TV tube has remained -- loudmouths demanding more war.

These are the folks who predicted that democracy would flower across the Middle East if we "took out" Saddam Hussein.

"The entire process of peace in the region will become much easier once you don't have Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And I think frankly, the Syrians will start backing down and the Iranians will start backing down," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in 2002.

What's his line now? "This is World War III," Gingrich said in a recent Puget Sound area appearance. He advocates threatening Syria and Iran with "whatever steps necessary" to keep them out of Iraq.

On Fox News, Bill O'Reilly recently declared: "If we waged war the way Saddam handled Iraq, then we would have already won."

We also have Dick Cheney, who warned of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and predicted our troops would be "greeted as liberators."

He now says the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah underscores the need to keep Republicans in control of Congress and maintain one-party rule in Washington, D.C.

"It's going to be a battle that will last a very long time," Cheney told a Florida fundraiser. "It is absolutely essential that we stay the course."

What course? Wider war? More troops? More battlefronts? Greater hatred for America in the Middle East? More contempt for America's leaders?

Will the architects of this administration's disastrous policy, and their media enablers, ever be called to account?


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WHAT HAPPENED TO LOBBYING REFORM?

Following is an anecdote that was related to me today by my company's Director of Public Affairs.

An issue critical to one of the key industries in which we are involved arose. The major trade organization for that industry contacted the lobbying firm of Alston & Bird, specifically Bob Dole (see last paragraph under "Retirement"), to inquire about acquiring their services to help in lobbying. Dole reportedly responded that, for $500,000 "you won't see Bob Dole walking the halls of Congress making the case," but for the money he'd make a few phone calls. We didn't hire them.

Do you draw from that the same things I do? What kind of system values a few phone calls at $500,000? What kind of access/influence does this indicate that ex-politicians have with current office holders? How can ordinary citizens or NGO's compete with that kind of influence when they have far fewer dollars to throw into the pot? And is the new culture "government for the highest bidder"? I don't care if the lobbyist is Republican OR Democrat, there's something seriously wrong with this picture.

And the Tom DeLay and "Duke" Cunningham scandals bedamned, I don't see any serious attempts resulting in comprehensive reform in our lobbying laws and regulations.

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FOOL ME TWICE -- OR THREE HUNDRED TIMES -- YOU WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN

Republican cynicism at work.

Once again, Congressional Rethuglicans prove that they think the mental age of their constituencies is about, well, six. They show contempt for voters by imagining that it won't be obvious to them that the linking of another huge windfall for the uber-wealthy with a long-awaited minimum wage hike (to be phased in over three years) isn't simply a ploy to pass estate tax legislation that has failed repeatedly and to frame Democrats who oppose it as voting against one of our pet causes, an increase in the minimum wage for our working poor. Of course, if it fails, as it should, they think they will have sent two key messages to the electorate: to their wealthy patrons, "We tried everything we could to kill the estate tax," and to others, they think they will have framed the Democrats.

This is an attempt at extortion. There is no way to justify providing yet another enormous tax shelter to the nation’s wealthiest heirs in the face of huge budget deficits, growing income inequality and looming government obligations for Social Security and Medicare.

As for the House’s pension bill, it is not the overhaul that Congress has long been promising. The promised bill would have meshed House and Senate versions of pension reform into a single bill that would have almost certainly passed each chamber. But the conference was fatally derailed last Thursday when House Republican negotiators, including the majority leader, John Boehner, refused to attend a meeting called by Senate Republicans to settle a few remaining differences. Mr. Boehner and his followers avoided having to vote — and lose — on items that other negotiators wanted in the final bill.

Once they had scuttled the talks, House leaders acted unilaterally, presenting a new pension bill on Friday. They said the new bill contained the provisions that had previously been agreed upon. But that remains to be seen, since the 900-page tome was passed within hours. It will be up to the senators to vet the bill. If they see fit to amend it, the negotiations will have to start all over again.

The Senate has one week before its summer recess. As the senators struggle to produce decent legislation from the House’s sham bills, Americans will see the truth: their representatives in the House went on vacation without doing their job.


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RUN, AL, RUN!


Another voice suggesting Al Gore might be the man to lead us out of the morass the Bush administration calls policy.

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Sunday, July 30

THIS WEEK'S SOMBER ROUNDTABLE

The roundtable on This Week this morning was probably one of the most foreboding discussions I have heard in recent years by news analysts. The mood was somber, nearly hopeless.

All agreed that Israel is fighting a losing battle. They're justified in a response to Hezbollah violence, but what they're doing just plain ain't working and is akin to the U.S. stupidity in Iraq. Insurgencies simply cannot be defeated by millitary action.

They agreed that the Bush administration has been a disaster in foreign policy. That refusing to talk with Syria, Iran, North Korea, etc. and trying to isolate them puts us in the untenable position of rewarding bad behavior when we're FORCED to talk to them after they begin to develop nuclear weapons. They seemed to agree that Condi Rice has caved and taken the party line by reverting to cowboy diplomaccy, neglecting the painstaking, sustained diplomatic dialogues with contentious countries that is required to maintain stability.

Jay Carney of Time made an interesting point when he pointed out that the U.S. military seems to have suffered an unfortunate trauma after Vietnam. Through all the years since, the training manuals have neglected to even mention the word insurgency, even though that is the modern challenge, asymmetrical warfare. (This in response to the statement by Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli about the situation in Iraq: "Quite frankly, in 33 years in the United States Army, I never trained to stop a sectarian fight," he said. "This is something new.")

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria said Maliki was the last hope of the U.S. in Iraq, and he has failed to deliver. He suggested it's time for the U.S. to give the Iraqi government two months to come up with a plan to draw down the insurgency, withdraw its troops to Kurdish territory and wait. George Will added regarding Maliki, "It's more than that. His Interior Ministry itself could be called a terrorist organization."

In the few minutes that the panel discussed the political ramifications of all this, they all seemed to agree that the best Democratic political ads could be created by compiling a series of clips from Donald Rumsfeld's press conferences. "He lives in a parallel universe," said Zakaria. Will opined that some clever Democrat will at some time stand up and ask the American people, "Do you feel safer" than you did before Bush and the Republicans took power. And the answer, he implied, is obviously a resounding "No!"

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THE KATRINA EFFECT

It's becoming all too common to hear the victims blamed because they didn't somehow escape the disaster that befell them.

It's the ignorant, pompous Katrina question all over again, this time in Lebanon:

"Why don't those people just leave" the towns and villages being bombed by Israeli aircraft. Today, more than 50 Lebanese villagers, mostly women and children, were killed in a single strike, and Tim Russert asks, "Why didn't they leave?"

Correspondent Richard Engel responded, they have no money, no cars, and if they did leave, where would they go? Where would they take shelter?

Another Israeli military spokeswoman said that Lebanese villages south of Tyre were warned days in advance to leave the area.

"These areas south of Tyre are areas from where scores of rockets were launched toward northern Israel, especial Nahariya and the Western Galilee," she said. "All villagers from these places were warned, days in advance, to vacate the area, through leaflets, media alerts and, in some cases, telephone calls. The sole responsibility for fighting in these populated places rests with Hezbollah, which chooses to fight from these areas."


Indeed, why don't they eat cake?

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