Sunday, December 30, 2007

Michelle Malkin on Peace...

(from the Daily News Record editorial page, December 29, 2007)

“But by year's end, with Shiites and Sunnis marching and praying together for peace, even anti-war Democrats and adversarial media outlets alike were forced to acknowledge that undeniable military progress and security improvements had been made.”

So Michelle, you are trumpeting the resounding success of the military campaign in Iraq? Sunni's and Shiites are marching together for peace? ahem... A glorious triumph? Is it just bloodlust or are you truly proud of the death, destruction, and corruption in your Glorious War against Terrorists? Are you really proud of the TRILLION+ dollars being spent? Are you rejoicing at the machismo displayed by the gallant Blackwater murdering mercenaries? You are proud of this? "Bull!" Your only point seems to be, "Since we bombed the place into rubble, and killed or chased away a large number of the populace, see how great the place is?" Are you a Glory hound? Is your machismo fake? "Hell Yes!"

“Good news in the war on terror is bad news for those rooting for failure. Far easier to play up casualties and sectarian strife, sensationalize accusations of atrocities, and demonize the men and women in uniform to indulge Bush Derangement Syndrome,…”

So Michelle, it's ok to just ignore the bloodshed, the displaced population, the atrocities, the casualties, the veterans who suffer ill effects from the war? In fact anyone who acknowledges these realities is DERANGED? There would be no Bush Derangement Syndrome without your truly "deranged" attitude about the Glorious War on Terror.

In the ensuing 12 months, Democrats tried and failed repeatedly to undermine this military strategy and starve the war of funding. Their poisonously partisan allies at attempted to smear surge architect and patriot Gen. David Petraeus as a traitor. The New York Times and Associated Press fought tooth and nail to obscure the successes of the surge with their relentless "grim milestone" drumbeat.

Through it all, Gen. Petraeus and the troops serving under him have remained stalwart, candid and courageous. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 23: "The way ahead will be neither quick nor easy."

So this is what we are fighting for? Glory for the military? War heroes everywhere? Anyone who opposes the Dear Leader and his Neoconservative foreign policy advisers is “poisonously partisan?” Only War Leaders are “patriots?”

Michelle, I would rather admire our political and military leaders for their leadership qualities, intellect, and ability to govern, than the size of their testicles. What is the opposite of the Bush Derangement Syndrome? I’m very sure I don’t want to be in that radical camp of Deranged Bush Worshipers!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hillary and Hardball

Hillary is starting to sound like President Bush. She's using the same scaremongering, political hardball tactics we’ve heard so much for seven years. This summary of Hillary’s new campaign speech comes from the commentary of Mike Madden in Salon magazine:

The fun is over, and now it's time to get serious. The world is a scary place; the economy feels as though it's ready to collapse, healthcare bills keep going up and up, the country is mired in wars, and the government just doesn't seem to work right. And that's only the trouble we knew about Wednesday -- as Benazir Bhutto's assassination on Thursday made starkly clear, unexpected crises cross the president's desk every day.

Evidently Hillary has chosen the well trod path of the Republican Party to try and get elected. She has often stated that only she is tough enough to withstand the Republican smear machine, and has unwittingly or deliberately chosen the same path. The gutter politics being played out by her campaign remind me very much of “business as usual” the way the Clinton and Bush dynasties have played if for 15 years! Hillary plays the experience card as though she was a co-president with her husband. She accuses her opponents of “politicizing” world crises for their own political gain.

Friends, I know Hillary is a Democrat, and a lot of her policies are favorable to progressives and we are at least on the same page politically. These tactics and the nature of her campaign statements raise a very important issue for us however. She is showing us an authoritarian style that is eerily similar to what we’ve grown used to for seven years. We know the political climate has been dramatically altered by the rise and success of the right-wing media. We know that the bloody partisanship of the current administration has played into the hands of of the religious right, the Neoconservatives, and the loyal subjects of the Republican rulers. We know that any Republican-run campaign will be filled with fear-mongering, xenophobic policy, and authoritarian machismo. Hillary’s choosing to fight fire with fire, dragging the political process to a new, even lower level of muckraking and partisanship.

The more I read about the campaign and the tactics and the methods used by various candidates, I’m not surprised by the surges of Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards. These guys are talking to us like politicians that actually respect the process and view government as a part of the solution to the problems we face. The issues we hold dear (this week’s editorial from The Nation, subscription required) are coming to the fore:

The leading candidates share positions that were considered political suicide as recently as 2004, and topics once shunted aside, like global warming, are of central importance. Withdrawal from Iraq, which John Kerry couldn't bring himself to call for, is embraced by all the current candidates, albeit on varying timetables. Unfettered free trade, a hallmark of the Clinton Administration, is now viewed by most Democrats as an untenable position. Healthcare for all, an idea that many thought would doom Hillary Clinton's candidacy, is a mainstream proposition. And it is not just these issues that have taken center stage but the core progressive values they represent: diplomacy over militarism, workers' rights, the responsibility of government to see that social needs are met.

These issues will win the day without the scaremongering from the Clinton Camp. With the Republicans all marching around spitting and cussing and showing us what “Men” they are why do we need our own candidates to join that game? Again from The Nation:

Meanwhile, the Republican campaign has seemingly taken place in an alternate reality, with GOP candidates competing to win the title of Most Likely to Nuke Iran and Most Xenophobic.

We don’t need Hillary Clinton to simply scare us into voting for her and we don’t need another four years of this type of authoritarianism. She’s showing us that she can play political hardball with the “big boys” but this approach will cost her my vote. I’d rather be talked to than talked down to, I’d rather have my candidate for President tell me how they will correct the course of this ship of state and convince me that their ideas and policies are the best. Give it a rest Hillary and just talk to us!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rep. Goodlatte and the "Free Enterprise System"

I was breezing through the cable channels last night looking for something to watch and happened across the last 10 seconds of a show about the Civil War on the History Channel. The commentator, who looked like a very intelligent and respected member of the academic community was giving the final word, “Remember the North won the Civil War, but the South won the war of reconstruction.”

I promptly filed those words away in the recesses of my memory thinking, “hmm… that sounds oddly familiar. This morning I rise to read in the Daily News Record that, yes indeedy, the South is still on the Rise! Squire Duncan once again praises the culture of “the pre-Civil War Southern economy - based as it was on ’cotton, slaves, and arrogance.’"

It certainly is clear that this pre-Civil War Southern mentality is alive and well here in the Shenandoah Valley. As the editor kindly points out, low taxes, no labor unions, low regulation, and a cheap labor force are all powerful incentives to the unchecked Pursuit of Profit.

Locally our friendly politicians have actively supported this plantation mentality. As Rep. Goodlatte said several times in a telephone town meeting a week or so ago, "It's the Free Enterprise System and we don’t want to mess with that!" (A nod to kestrel9000 on Daily Kos and Blue Country Magic.)

Some highlights from the town meeting: (thanks again to Blue Country Magic)

From Fincastle: How about the federal government mandating a Living Wage (as opposed to a minimum wage) so people can actually afford to live?

Goodlatte's answer: Oh, it's a Free Enterprise System (he mentioned "Free Enterprise System" several times) and we don't want to interfere with *that*. It's bad enough we have a minimum wage. It's "damaging to our economy" (i.e., it makes the corporate profits smaller), so of course we don't want to do that. He also, using logic that eluded me, tied this to illegal immigration. I guess he was implying that if we were all working third or fourth jobs as apple pickers things would be so much better.

Let's not forget the wonderful benefits of unchecked Capitalism.. or "Free Enterprise!" Low taxes, cheap labor, a strong, vibrant (but very poor) working class, a strong (aristocratic and very rich) corporate culture, a hard-working but frustrated middle class, high profits, few government services, privatized education, health care if you can afford it, and a crumbling but “serviceable” transportation infrastructure.

More from the town meeting:

From Troutville: This poor man is a Veteran who has found that increased surcharges on his medicines and the payments he must make to the specialists he needs for heart and lung conditions are too much for him. He cannot afford his medicine anymore. I had no idea that the VA system was so broken, but apparently it's been as mismanaged as the rest of the government in the last seven years.

Goodlatte's answer: Check out the new low prices for drugs at Walmart.

Remember folks, Rep. Goodlatte doesn’t care about taking care of YOU, he cares about WalMart taking care of you!

Another highlight, (this is a hot button issue for me):

Goodlatte segued here into a one-way conversation about the Child Health Insurance program and how terrible the Democrats are for wanting to essentially raise the poverty line from barely able to eat to possibly making the house payment.

I guess it’s okay to ignore the needs of children and poor families since they left the cheap labor pool. Illegal immigrants fill the bill nicely. (wink wink) After all as the President (Goodlatte’s President, not mine…) said just this morning as he announced another veto of the SCHIP bill, “We should be moving these children into private insurance programs, not federal insurance programs.” In other words, the President also doesn’t care about taking care of children, he cares about corporations who (are supposed) to take care of children (if they can make a profit doing so). (I won’t even mention the article on the same page of the DNR reporting that Congress caved and gave the President all the billions of dollars he asked for to continue his War of Conquest and Profit in Iraq. Another blog another day...)

My favorite comment of the whole session was this discussion about organ donors and life insurance benefits. It’s a great commentary on how ridiculous the rigid adherence to the radical ideology of Corporate Profit can be.

From Goshen: A former nurse who is now on dialysis wondered if there was any way the government could create a death benefit for the families of folks who donate organs. She's on the waiting list for a kidney and there aren't enough going around. Medicare would save a lot of money if transplant operations could actually take place because dialysis is expensive.

Goodlatte: Hospitals and insurance companies should look into that. And also we don't want people killing themselves to get the money.

Holy Smoke! Can we get some indignation here please? How about some outrage? The irony is rich! I’ll use this quote on Goodlatte forever! He doesn’t want people “killing themselves for the the money?” Rich! Go Unchecked Capitalism!


Goodlatte also took a survey. The question was what should Congress focus on - making your energy costs less, lowering your taxes, or cutting government spending.

The responses (keyed in on the telephone) were 18 percent wanted lower taxes, 30 percent wanted something done about energy costs, and 52 percent wanted the government to stop spending.

Note, of course, that there wasn't any suggestion as to what the government should stop spending money on, and I believe the government is currently working hard to stop spending money on the people who need it most - that would be the folks above who are desperate for health care, the elderly who need nursing homes, the fellow who is out of a job in Covington. No, it's far better to give the money to Microsoft and Exxon.

Yes the South is winning. The Plantation mentality is alive and well here in Rockingham County. The Old Money in this Small Town has had it’s way for a long time. How long will we accept “the way we do things here?”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Republicans and Building Walls

Mark Obenshain, Steve Landes, and Chris Saxman recently gathered at Massanetta Springs to talk about legistlation that rebuilds "the walls of religion and morality that protect families" with the folks from the Valley Family Forum. Fittingly called "The Unveiling" this Republican Party pander-fest was filled with moral stances, perfect solutions, glad-hand clapping, and mutual adulation.

Building walls of religion and morality? What is that all about? Why is the Virginia Republican POLITICAL Party pandering to this blatantly religious, supposedly family-friendly, conservative, fundamentalist club of moralists? What has governance to do with building walls? What are they trying to protect us from? Just exactly WHO is outside the walls and why are they so dangerous?

Here's an example: Sen. Obenshain and the Valley Forum think that comprehensive sex education in public schools is "highly offensive" especially because his and the Valley Forum's preferred "abstinence-only" don't-teach-kids-about-sex education programs were recently cut from the state budget.

So they build a wall. Don’t teach kids about safe sex, or contraception. Teach them only that sometimes contraceptives don’t work and that having an abortion can kill you. Build the wall high and strong and call it “abstinence-only.” Now take a psuedo-moralistic stance and pronounce endlessly and loudly that if kids just don’t have sex, there won’t be any unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, and there won’t be any need for abortions! The PERFECT solution. Duh. How’s it working so far?

Tobe Goldberg, a parent and member of the Human Sexuality Curriculum Advisory Committee in Maple Grove, Minn.., refutes this belief with the following fictional example of what she regards as short-sighted thinking: ''My son and I were walking along the street. He began crossing against the light. Since I know that what he doesn't know can't hurt him, I didn't say anything. I wish I could have him back now.''

On the other side of the wall are the hundreds of thousands of teens who get pregnant, or get an STD, or have an unwanted child because of their ignorance of effective birth control. In fact, recent declines in the sexual activity of teenagers closely follows the INCREASED use of effective contraception.

Outside the wall are all the teenagers who pledged abstinence in middle school or high school, but “slipped” and had sex anyway.

Outside the wall are half the kids who had an unplanned pregnancy because they failed to use birth control and the other half who tried to use a contraceptive but didn’t know how to use it effectively.

''There is nothing in any peer-reviewed scientific journal to suggest that teaching abstinence-only is effective in getting teens to delay sexual activity,'' said one expert, Cynthia Dailard, a lawyer and senior public policy associate at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Ms. Dailard cited a recent study by the American Psychological Association, which found that more than 60 percent of college students who had pledged virginity during their middle or high school years had broken their vow to remain abstinent until marriage.

''Researchers have never measured the typical use-effectiveness of abstinence,'' she wrote. ''Therefore, it is not known how frequently abstinence fails in the real world or how effective it is compared with other contraceptive methods.''

So the Republicans build walls…. And moralize….. And the state gets governed how?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bush's Deception is his Legacy

In the news on December 6, President Bush tried to tell us once again to be afraid, very afraid of Iran's potential nuclear capability. He's saying "no, believe what I'm telling you," not what was actually written in the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The new assessment states that Iran had pretty much halted it’s nuclear weapons program in 2003 under pressure from world economic sanctions.

The latest NIE

"presents a far more nuanced picture of both the nuclear program and the Iranian government's intentions than previous estimates, directly contradicting the one-dimensional portrait painted by arch conservatives, including many in the White House," concluded Joseph Cirinicione and Andrew Grotto of the Center for American Progress

It turns out that the President has known about this assessment for months, yet has still engaged in a rhetorical onslaught warning against "World War III." Dan Froomkin has a great summary of the President's rhetoric over the past six months as he has led the charge for possible military action against Iran, noting that,

..while not saying anything that could later prove to be demonstrably false, Bush left his listeners with what he likely knew was a fundamentally false impression. And he did so in the pursuit of a more muscular and possibly even military approach to a Middle Eastern country.

It's an oddly familiar pattern of deception.

The President and his Neocon foreign policy advisors firmly believe in the now debunked 2005 NIE estimate that warned of Iran's imminent nuclear capability. It of course was written by the same folks that gave us the faulty news of WMD's in '02. The latest NIE reflects views from the universe of spy agencies that aren't in the pocket of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Of course the Neocons are in full attack mode because it doesn't support their world view of conquest and imperialism. To them it simply is not in America's interests (of conquest, and military domination) to admit that Iran is not the threat that they would like us to believe it is.

Meanwhile, right under our noses, The war has been WON! The surge has succeeded. The conquest is complete. The troops WILL NOT be coming home. Our victory means that we will HAVE to keep a substantial force in Iraq pretty much forever. We've agreed to provide security from threats both inside and outside of Iraq and we have been granted favored trade status and an inside track on oil revenues.

If we bring home all the troops it would mean a "loss" of our empire. Of course we can't leave! We'd be giving up on our hard won conquest, the spoils of our labor, the oil fields, and military dominance in the Middle East.

Remember.... Victory equals Conquest. Victory equals permanent military bases and a large commitment of money and material FOREVER. Victory equals guaranteed oil revenue feeding our "addiction." Victory equals a HUGE debt cast on to our children and grandchildren. Congratulations.

Remember also that this administration is all about "creating new realities." Here they've done it! Deliberately, systematically, and without regard to the will of the people, they are going about setting up our new Middle East empire so that the next President can't do anything about it! This basic deception is truly the "legacy" that President Bush is depending on to establish his "greatness."


What's been missing from the Debate.

A good read you don't want to miss!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Consequences of Genius

President’s Bush’s dreams of empire although implemented very adroitly will leave behind some very dramatic consequences. Not only are the Iraqi’s in Parliament beginning to rebel and denounce the Iraq/US alliance, putting pressure on Maliki to modify the agreement but the entire Arab world is on edge waiting for its outcome. Bush’s dabbling in the Middle East simply reinforces his newly declared intent, conquest of Iraq. He largely stayed away. Peace is not on his agenda. Thank Goodness! According to Joseph L. Galloway in his McClatchy opinion column, if Bush had really cared about the peace process it would only lead to an even deeper disaster there:

Beyond a couple of photo-ops with Israeli President Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas — whose names Bush couldn't even pronounce — and an opening address that contained no new ideas, no commitment and no way forward, the president stayed away from the talks. Good thing, too. Had the president applied his diplomatic skills ("You're either with us or you're against us") and his keen character judgment (think Vladimir Putin and Pervez Musharraf), the Middle East might now be in flames.

Galloway seems to follow the conventional wisdom that Iraq is failure for Bush.

The elephant in the room in Annapolis was Iraq and the grotesque American failure — only real foreign policy legacy of the Bush presidency — that it represents. The consequences of that invasion and nearly five years of war have been to strengthen and hearten the wrong side in a vital and volatile region.

This is simply how conquest works. Slash, burn, conquer and move on. More from Galloway:
Buoyed by an illusory slam-dunk victory in Afghanistan, the president ordered a poorly planned and unnecessary charge into Iraq to plant democracy in infertile soil and an American flag in hostile territory. The result, setting intentions aside, has been the resurgence of Iran and Syria, as well as violent actors Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Not to mention a big boost in recruiting and reality-based training for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorists. None of those outcomes adds anything to the prospects for peace in the Middle East or for America's standing as an honest broker of that scarce commodity. The gathering in Annapolis reminded me of an old Texas saying that the president ought to appreciate: A day late and a dollar short.

Galloway is correct in his assessment. The consequences of Bush’s brilliantly planned and executed plan for the conquest of Iraq will be dramatic and catastrophic to peace in the region. Of course Bush’s policy is, to him, a complete success. Galloway has pointed out the consequences of this “success.” Bush won’t change, indeed he is totally unable to change. He can’t compromise and he’s doing everything he can to insure his “legacy.” He is a conquerer and doesn’t want his conquest given away by his successors. He has his ultimate goal within reach and isn’t about to waver now. Impeachment is fast becoming the only deterrent that might put a dent in the President’s plan. What are we waiting for?