Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Hole Islam Has Dug for Itself

For just about my entire life there has been a perennial reminder of the militant Muslim - throwing rocks at Israeli tanks, hijacking airliners and occasionally blowing them up, attacking crowded public spaces the world over. They often wore some sort of scarf, wrapping, or mask, obscuring their faces and making them appear menacing.

For much of my life these images would pop up periodically in the news when some splinter group of very angry militants - usually angry at Israel or American support for Israel - would do one of the above. Sometimes there was a pretty good reason for the anger, at least from what I could tell: occupation of Palestinian territory, invasion of Beirut in the 1980's, etc. Other times the nexus between the act and the anger did not really exist, like when Pan Am 103 was bombed over Scotland, or when the Achille Lauro was hijacked and Leon Klinghoffer was murdered.

Then September 11, 2001, changed many things. First, it was an attack upon the United States or America, which was something new. Sure, American targets had been hit in the past, and even recently prior to 9/11, but not U.S. soil.

Second, there had never been a terrorist attack of that magnitude. Never had such a terrible act been worked; never had so many people been killed; never had the disregard for innocent civilian life been greater; never had an open society ever been so taken advantage of. Even though Europe had experienced many terrorist attacks from Muslim, radical leftist Red Army Factions, Basque and Irish Republican groups, nothing could compare with the atrocity of September 11, even when piled upon one another.

The world was aghast, even those places where "they hate us," like Tehran, where there were small, brief and spontaneous demonstrations in support of the United States. In fact, even the then President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami came out and said: “My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims,” he said. “Terrorism is doomed, and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it.”

Eight years later where are the moderate Muslims?

In that time the United States and her allies, what former President George W. Bush called the "Coalition of the Willing" invaded and toppled the terrorist supporting regime in Afghanistan and the autocratic ruler of Iraq. Yet Muslim terror has not abated. See: the London Metro Attacks, the Madrid railway bombing, and the bombing of the nightclub in Bali, as well as recent military action taken by Saudi Arabia on her border with Yemen. There have also been various plots and/or attacks across the globe, including India, the United States, as well as continued strife in Israel/Palestine which were perpetrated by Muslims, though they may or may not have been part of a larger Muslim terrorist group or effort. The recent tragedy at Fort Hood I would classify under this latter category.

While I have waited, for years now, I have yet to hear the voice of the moderate Muslims who decry these acts in the name of their religion. Rather, their silence has, over this time, cast a pall upon their faith, permitting others - inside and outside Islam - to define them.

Let me be clear: I am wanting to hear these voices. I know that there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of Muslims across the globe that do not hate the United States, or our "freedom," that could not care a wit about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and only want to live their lives in peace and prosperity. Many of them are in India, Pakistan, Indonesia - the three largest Muslim populations in the world - and tens of millions of them are here in the United States.

But their silence - or perhaps their lack of exposure, to be fair - has resulted in institutionalized hatred against Islam out of fear of Islamic fundamentalism.

On November 30, 2009, The New York Times, among other news sources, reported that the Swiss have passed a popular referendum outlawing future building of minarets, aka prayer towers, on existing mosques. See the full article at:

My live and let live instincts are terribly disturbed by the Swiss and their very discriminatory referendum, which, in the case of Swiss Muslims, is pretty much baseless. On the other hand, Muslim communities, by their acts or omissions, have done a great deal to make their own bed. I cite the truly ridiculous controversy over the Muslim backlash a few years back to cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten:

According to the article, France is also considering its own anti-Muslim law, where full veils would be outlawed to stop the influence of more fundamentalist forms of Islam.

And while no such measures are being considered in the United States, I can attest that my I have experienced my fellow Americans expressing overt and unfettered religious and cultural bigotry toward Muslims and Islam. These explosions of vitriol have come from all quarters: friends, family members, politicians, in addition to the self appointed "culture warriors."
The time has long passed for the greater part of Islam to stand up for itself. Yes, there have been some who have stood up and said what needs to be said. But out of the billion Muslims in this world there have been only those few. I need, for my own self, to hear less equivocation about Israel and more words about those who stain the name of one of the great faiths.
There was once a time, up to a half a millenia ago, when the real civilizations on earth were Muslim. European Christendom was barely out of a self imposed stone age during that time [think 700's to 1500's]. Fast forward to today and much of the Muslim world is still stuck in those Medieval times, but without the former glory. Yet great cities rise in the Muslim world, in Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, among others. All is not dark.
Christendom underwent a Renaissance, Reformation and then an Enlightenment. The time has come for Islam to do the same.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sarah Palin: Leave the Foreign Policy to the Adults

I learned of this Sarah Palin gem just the other day. While being interviewed by Barbara Walters, (, who is an interviewer a few grades above Katie Couric, Palin let slip with this missive regarding Mid-East policy:

Palin: "I disagree with the Obama Administration on that. I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon because that population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people are going to be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. and I don't think the Obama Administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish
settlements cannot expand."

Walters: "Even if it's Palestinian areas?"

Palin: "I believe the Jewish settlements should be allowed to expand."

This is so distressing simplistic, not to mention outright cruel toward the misery of the Palestinian people and their [usually self defeating] national aspirations, that I really am at a loss for words. Remember, this is a person who wants to be President of the United States. It is also distressing that she has such little regard for the property of others.

Honestly, aside from a quixotic and myopic world view, what is behind this opinion? Why should the settlements be allowed to expand? Further, I cannot square her opinion that the United States has no right to tell Israel what to do in occupied Palestinian territory, even though we all but guarantee its existence with our aid, yet she is four-square behind our very questionable war in Iraq. Can she possibly rectify this?

Of course it goes without saying that the settlements are a political football in Israel, with large swaths of the population not supporting them, or their growth, and rather, look at the settlers as right wing religious radicals endangering Israel with their insistence on occupying what the Palestinian people see as their land.

Her statements about Afghanistan were equally simplistic. According to Mrs. Palin, our goal should be to listen to [Gen.] McChrystal. Ummmm, with all due respect, that's not a goal. When asked again "What should be our ultimate goal?" Mrs. Palin responded:

"Afghanistan, the people there, the government there should be able to take over and to have a more peaceful existence there for the people that live there without American interference, if you will."

Mrs. Palin: Afghanistan has been a hellhole of warring tribes since at least the Soviet invasion of 1979. There are at least four major ethicities and multiple languages, not to mention tribal and clan rivalries. Though NATO is fighting one group of people there numbered in the hundreds, perhaps the low thousands - that's al Qaeda, there has been an ongoing rise in the Taliban since they were toppled in 2001. See:

And not for nothing, but after inheriting the political brownout that is Afghanistan, within which the Bush Administration did just enough to not succeed over the course of seven (7!!) years, Obama is not "dithering" if he is taking some time - a few days? - to consider what should be done in a land so exquisitely hostile to foreign invasion that it already had a history of defeating two superpowers. Before spouting off at the mouth the most famous quitter in recent memory should perhaps learn a little bit about those subjects she seeks to be in charge of.

And what happened to the conservative principal of not talking ill of a war President? Won't that upset the troops, shaking their confidence in their Commander in Chief? Just saying.......

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Newsflash: Everyone Guaranteed Same Rights Under the Constitution!

An inconvenient truth, to be sure, but everyone is entitled to the same rights, and in particular, even the nastiest scum-suckingest dirtbags this side of the Khyber Pass.

I know it doesn't sound right, but that's the bottom line. We don't get to choose, on the basis of sympathetic and emotional reasons, who is entitled to avail themselves of their rights under the Constitution. That's because those rights are, in the words of the Founding Fathers, "endowed by their Creator." [see: The Declaration of Independence; Fifth & Sixth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, etc.]

Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound fair. But if the government can, sua sponte, decide who is entitled and not entitled, then they aren't really rights, are they? More like privileges bestowed upon children who do their homework before supper.

So, even when such scum-sucking dirthbags like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are, after criminal investigations by foreign countries, captured by foreign services in a non-war zone, and turned over to the United States for interrogation and trial in connection with their various crimes, then at that point he is entitled to a fair trial under our Constitution. That's the breaks.

That's our Constitution and those are our laws. If you don't like it, then go live in another country.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New York City: Tough Enough to Try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Notwithstanding the protestations of former United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, as well as some others, like Mike Lupica, New York City is the perfect place to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. First: this is the situs of his crime. Second: we deserve first crack at this killer. Third: this is how the justice system is supposed to work.

No, a military tribunal is NOT the place to try him. Zacarias Moussaoui was properly tried and convicted in a 5th Circuit District Court in Virginia, and we, as a nation, were better for it. We showed him and his ilk that even filthbags of his type can receive a fair trial under our (superior) system of justice and government.

And so it should be for Mohammed.

No, he will not be permitted to grandstand by a Federal judge. No, the court will not be turned into a circus. Yes, he shall be given a fair trial, as his Consitutional right, and he will be fairly convicted. And then he will spend a long time in Federal prison, rotting away, until he is executed, if it comes to that.

Rudy's arguments ring hollow. He was strongly in favor of trying Moussaoui - what changed since then except the President? Military tribunals, with their air of being a kangaroo court, will not suffice, especially for a defendant of this magnitude. As for the "extra risk" cited by Giuliani - what risk? That New York City is going to become a target for terror? Been there, done that. Twice. Such should not be a concern when meting out justice.

Also, terrorists, by their definition, seek to terrorize a population into changing their ways. If we change our ways to suit KSM and his alleged acts, and abrogating our Constitution in the process, are we not giving in to the wishes of those same terrorists?

Let us not permit Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and his lousy brethren, to change our ways. Let us demonstrate the superiority of our ways by giving him the fair trial he Constitutionally deserves, and then the punishment he has coming to him.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Palin the Destroyer: The End of the Republican Party as we Know it?

From the far northern wastes of Alaska came a politician like no other. Wild, beautiful, religiously conservative to the extreme, mavericky, roguey, pit-bully and a full on hockey mom with lipstick. She descended on the Republican Convention from out of nowhere as the newly minted vice-presidential candidate and delivered a tour de force of an acceptance speech. Verily, the halls of the DNC trembled at this woman who would be king by her own hand. But, and some would say luckily, the fates were not impressed, and she appeared to be vanquished.

But the fates sometimes work in mysterious ways.

The idea that Sarah Palin could destroy the Republican Party occurred to me shortly after the 2008 Presidential Election. I saw how many conservatives openly despised John McCain, apparently because he wasn't hot under the collar to check the content of a woman's womb and had some convictions of his own [campaign finance, for example]. But he was reliably conservative in just about every other way, not to mention he fit nicely into the militarism fetish so popular with conservative circles, and said everything right in his stump speeches about nominating strict constructionist conservative judges.

Yet Palin excited a certain sector of the GOP base so much that she eclipsed the top name on the ticket as a draw. People seemed to hang on her every [disingenuous] repetition that she said "Thanks, but no thanks" to the bridge to nowhere. The audiences got so fired up at her claims that Barack Obama was the BFF of a domestic terrorist that some began to believe Obama was a member of The Weather Underground, even though he was in grade school during their brief existence of radicalism.

I never thought my gut instinct would prove correct, and that Sarah would recede back to governing Alaska. She had, after all, cratered in the eyes of about 66% of the American populace after famously whiffing on softball questions tossed under-hand by the cream-puff journalist, Katie Couric. Seriously, if you can't give one newspaper you read, or one Supreme Court case you disagree with, you are not informed enough to be president. Sorry. She also made clear that she was challenged when it came to such other matters like forming cogent sentences or making sense when talking without a teleprompter.

And then Sarah quit her day job of being governor, saying it was done, and that she didn't want to be a lame duck with only the second half of her term to be completed. At this point I thought she was finished for good, that there was some Federal indictment waiting to be disclosed or that her soldier son was being discharged for violating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Boy, was I reading the tea leaves wrong. Somehow Ms. Palin inserted herself into the healthcare debate, notwithstanding the utter vapidity and stupidity of her "death panels" claims. But the Palinistas ate it up, happy to believe anything coming from between her lips.

Even though she was eventually rebuffed, and her strident assertions vitiated, Sarah Palin has not gone quietly into that good night. Most recently she has joined forces with the master astroturfer, Dick Armey, in the search for Republican Party purity.

Her first foray into witch hunting her fellow Republicans was in the 23rd Congressional District in New York, where a special election was held to fill a seat left vacant after Republican John McHugh was nominated to be Secretary of the Army in the Obama Administration. This seat has been reliably Republican since Reconstruction, or the 1870's for all of you who never studied American history. Enter Sarah Palin. Instead of backing the local GOP pick, Dede Scozzafava, she instead backed Doug Hoffman, a man who didn't even live in the district. Why? Because Scozzafava is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and was pro-stimulus bill. Aside from those considerations, she is a reliable Republican, pro-gun, pro-hunting, pro-small business. But Palin, as the pretty point-woman for her pals, labeled her a liberal and a RINO, and drove her from the race, giving the election to the Democrat, and thus creating the verb "to Scozzafava." While there is a late breaking recount in the district, which may eventually throw it to Hoffman after the absentee ballots are counted, the damage to party cohesion has been done. You can now count the number of national Republican officeholders in the northeast on one hand.

There is now a concerted effort by a significant quarter of the GOP to get more votes by enforcing party purity and moving the party even further to the right. When you think about this it becomes difficult to see the logic, but that's what's behind Sarah Palin's and Dick Armey's foray into the NY-23. We will surely see primary challenges to Republican incumbents deemed not sufficiently conservative in election cycles to come.

To kick off this silly notion, and to put a truly fine point on it, reliable conservative Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), listed as the 15th most conservative senator by the National Journal, has been Scozzafavaed in his home state. It was reported in the November 12, 2009 New York Times, Graham was censured by the Charleston County Republican Party "for many of the positions he has taken that do not represent the wishes of the people of South Carolina, such as: passing cap and trade energy bill, bailing out banks and granting amnesty for illegal aliens."
When conservatives like Graham, who are truly conservative yet also have integrity and intellect and an admirable ability to compromise, are driven from the party, the GOP will be an even more laughable shell of itself. The Party of Lincoln and the Party of Reagan will have become the know-nothing party of that wild, lawless barbarian politician from the northern wastes, Palin the Destroyer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month...

Ninety-one years ago today The Great War, The War to End All Wars, The First World War was brought to a close. The artillery barrages continued until the last minute, and then the armistice went into effect. What would then become known as Armistice Day would eventually, over time, morph into Veteran's Day here in the United States.

I suppose the name change was required as the First World War was more a prelude of horror to come, and in fact, many more wars, with millions more veterans, have come to pass. And are still ongoing.

The First World War was possibly the worst war for the common soldier - never has the field of lethal projectiles ever been as dense, either before or since. But the battlefield and its terror has not abated, and in fact has only grown to encompass all the places a soldier might be deployed. Notwithstanding the inhuman conditions at the front in World War One, there was a safe area "behind the lines." Today our soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan do not know such a luxury. Nor did the soldiers who fought in Vietnam. And of course, enough cannot be said about our veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War, who slogged through some of the worst conditions, as hot as Hell or as cold as Hades.

Today the Witch Hunt honors our veterans in all of our wars, past and present, declared or not, and humbly thanks them for their service when they were called to duty. You do us credit.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Night They Brought The Wall Down: Twenty Years Later

It is amazing to me that it has been twenty years since they brought the Berlin Wall down. I remember watching in absolute shock as the denizens of Berlin took hammer and pick to that great division and brought down the single most telling and literal symbol of the Cold War.

I was 15 at the time, a sophomore in high school. Myself and my peers are probably the last generation to grow up during the Cold War, where NATO and the Warsaw Pact stood ready to defend their economic and social ideologies with all the weapons at their disposal, even the unthinkable ones.

Those were the beginning of some heady times. After Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev decided to dispense with the hardliners in each of their nations and come together as human beings, and talk to each other, the cracks in the Soviet edifice began to show. But the fall of the Berlin Wall was the actual death knell of the Soviet Union and her satellite states.

I visited the Soviet Union with my high school in the winter of 1991, and from what I was told it was like visiting a completely different nation from the former trips. Were we tailed by KGB agents? Sure, but even we could spot them. And the everyday people in the street were openly friendly to us, unlike in former times when they were afraid to be seen consorting with Westerners.

For years peace began to break out all over the globe. The Russians, and their Eastern European brethren, began to cry for freedom, be it artistic, political or economic. And they got it. Except for some hot spots where Communism held down ethnic rivalries and national aspirations, like Yugoslavia and Chechnya, a new day seemed to be dawning.

It even got to a point where Arab, Russian and NATO troops, lead by an American coalition, invaded and freed Kuwait from Saddam Hussein and his summertime invasion. And there even hit a point where, as a senior in college, I thought that there might even be peace in the Middle East, with the handshake on the White House lawn. That dream ended with a bullet in the head of a great man, Yitzhak Rabin, from a gun shot by a fellow Israeli.

My friends and I have often looked back at the days of our youth, where the Super Powers deployed great armies upon the land of Europe, and great fleets above and below the waves of the Seven Seas, with wonder and a bit of fondness. While I can still, with a bit of effort, still feel the fear of the nuclear Sword of Damocles which hung over the head of all mankind, all of us pine, at least a little bit, for the stability of the Cold War.

For since then it has not been all roses. Tens of thousands were massacred in brutal civil wars in the Balkans. Authoritarian governments have retrenched in Russia. Peace never took hold in the Mid-East, and in fact, several more small wars have been fought between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Authoritarian China has come onto the world scene as the new economic super power, and appears to have foregone a switch to a liberal democracy before adopting capitalism.

The religious Islam the United States courted to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was, unfortunately, left to its own devices after the USSR pulled out of that country. Left unchecked these men would then attack America, at first abroad, and later on our own soil. They were the watershed of the Post Berlin Wall world, now the Post 9/11 world.

Back in the Cold War you knew where you stood, and where everyone else stood. Alliances were rock solid. Even terrorists were the proxies of one side or the other. In the end all disputes went up the ladder; and if they had to go high enough, and the big guys got involved, people jumped when they were given the word. Nowadays things aren't so clear. Check that: they are not clear at all. Everyone has an agenda. National politics, without the threat of total annihilation, have taken a dreadful turn, with labels used by both sides completely out of proportion with whatever argument they are supporting.

Yet the continuation of the Cold War, as a detente or an arms' race, would have been unconscionable. Thinking in terms of just resources wasted on ICBMs makes me angry, for these are weapons we had no intention of using, but had to have "just in case." Military minds and strategic thought were not thinking straight back in the 1950's and 1960's, when the call for thousands of nuclear devices went out. And each of these devices were tens, if not hundreds or a thousand, times more powerful than the firecrackers the United States [rightly] used on Japan.

By the 1980's there was a palpable undercurrent of fear in all the populations of the world, or at least I felt it to be so. Nuclear weapons and the arms' race was always a huge matter in the news. I can recall several different covers of Time magazine dealing with either nucelar arms talks, or the deployment of one weapons system or another, and in particular the Pershing II, which some say did a great deal to bring the USSR around.

I was a child of people who grew up with air raid drills; hiding under their desks; duck and cover. We children of the mid 70's didn't such have things to cling to or terrify us. By then it was rather common knowledge that nuclear hostilities were the end of it all. What brought people completely around, though, was seeing it in movies. At least that's my opinion.

The Day After (1983) by ABC[] and Threads (1984) by the BBC []are two terrifying movies, with truly horrifying attack sequences, the links of which I inserted above. These two movies, in my estimation, brought home the complete pointlessness of the nuclear arsenals, except to keep at bay another nuclear arsenal. Their entireties are also available on Youtube, and I highly recommend both of them.

The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago today. An entire generation has grown up without it, and without the fear of the invasion of the Red Hoardes from the East, or the complete destruction of everything. But this same generation has bore witness to the instability of the Post Wall Era, the Era of the 9/11 World. We are now 8 years after the Fall of the Towers, as painful a memory as I have. But our world is none the better for it. Like it or hate it, our nation is still mired in a conflict in Afghanistan, with an enemy almost too small to defeat; and we are still heavily deployed in Iraq, though mercifully it does appear to be more stable.

These times offer me no comfort, even the cold comfort of mutual assured destruction. While the United States, nor any Western nation, nor even most Asian nations, faces any sort of existential threat, as were the Super Powers and their respective alliances were to each other, there is no stability. At home or abroad. It's as if the removal of the USSR as a threat and counterbalance to the United States has thrown off the kilter of the world, leaving all of us off balance.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Capital Vices: Dick Cheney's Casual Relationship With Truth

The unindicted co-conspirator cum-former vice president, who is presently worshipped by the right for "keeping us safe," [even though he vice-presided over the biggest failure to "keep us safe" in American history], who is attempting to foist his truth and integrity challenged daughter Liz upon national politics, none other than Dick Cheney, pulled an Alberto Gonzalez when interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the Valerie Plame Affair, where a CIA agent under cover was outed for the sake of political payback by the Bush Administration.

If you recall, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of lying to investigators and obstructing justice in connection with this scandal. When interviewed about Libby's notes, which indicated Libby had learned of Valerie Plame and her identity as an under cover agent for the CIA from Cheney, Cheney would respond to investigators 72 times that he did not recall.

Apparently, lack of memory was epidemic at the Bush White House, which is convenient considering the various acts of incompetence, dishonesty and malfeasance committed there.

Bill Clinton lied under oath in a civil deposition. About an extramarital affair. No one died as a result. Nor was national security compromised in any way. Yet this was the underlying cause of the Republican attempt to unseat him via impeachment and trial by the Senate. To the present day the name Clinton is spat out by conservatives and right wing commentators, largely as a result of this episode.

Dick Cheney lied to Federal investigators about political payback where a CIA agent under cover was outed, and her career ended, because her husband uncovered and made plain the lies of the administration regarding a casus belli which lead us into a war where now 4,276 Americans have been killed, not to mention the untold thousands of innocent Iraqis. Yet the mindlessly hawkish and partisan conservatives will not relent and give up the old criminal, undermining the integrity of the neo-conservative worldview and its criticisms of the Obama Administration, which, incidentally, includes justifying torture and undermining the Constitution because of fear.

And this is the same crowd crowing about "freedom" from medical care, but absolutely swoon over the PATRIOT Act like it's the bees' knees, and love it when the NSA performs warrantless wiretaps in abrogation of the law and all concepts of American justice. Will someone restore some intellectual vigor to conservative thought? Please?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

The title of this post has nothing to do with its contents. Rather, I just wanted to remind the people of the gunpowder, treason and plot.

That said, I have a little rant about these ballot measures, namely the recent Maine popular vote, as well as California's Prop 8 of 2008, which give cover to the haters in our nation when they choose to divide us over what are otherwise fundamental rights - whom to marry, make a family with and associate our lives.

The cover is that these measures, being a popular vote, make the denial of Civil Rights seem the will of the people. But that is simply the tyranny of the majority at work, something which is abhorred by a Constitutional system of government. Respect for minority opinions is a piece of the bedrock upon which our Republic is founded, and, parenthetically, one of the problems with trying to export our system to places which have no such liberal tradition, like Iraq or Afghanistan.

Think of it this way: when the case of Loving v. Virginia came down in the 1960's, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws (laws preventing blacks from marrying whites), do you think a ballot initiative rolling back this case would have passed in Alabama or Mississippi? Or Vermont?

This is the problem with having a simple majority decide fundamental and/or Civil Rights. We The People are, though better than most nations, not much better than a mob. And such fundamental matters, like who is a person's spouse, or next of kin, or who should have a say in end-of-life matters should not be left up to the mob or which side has a better turnout on a given election day.

In the end it demeans the concepts of a constitutional democratic republic, respect for minorities, and Civil Rights. For if the mob can decide who is permitted to marry or not, based on little substance beyond a phobia of a given minority, then the door for more abuses of mob mentality is left ajar.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Comeuppance

It looks like both sides of the aisle got some comeuppance yesterday. And we will be hearing the chattering classes parse yesterday's election results as if they were reading tea leaves of absolute truth.
But these are my observations:
  • - John Corzine, a weak incumbent in a state, New Jersey, which is in a constant state of flux, was destined to lose to any challenger with enough Moxie. Congratulations to Chris Christie on his victory. And condolences for having to now govern New Jersey, the state voted "Most lacking its own identity." As far as national politics goes, this registers as a C- on the Witch Hunt scale of importance. Yes, it is good for the GOP to have won the statehouse. But it is not that big a deal, as Jersey fluctuates the party of its governor regularly. This is not a repudiation of Obama as much a repudiation of Corzine, who did a bad job and never delivered on his promises.
  • - The Virginia election, where the GOP was also victorious, also registers relatively low. I give this one a C+ in importance, if only because Virginia was one of the new "blue" [geez, I hate the color coding of America] states in 2008, and it would have kept Obama rolling and the GOP on its heels. Again, not so much a repudiation of Obama, but more of one than the New Jersey results. But we'll hear about this like it was the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
  • - The 23rd District of the Great State of New York went to the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, who narrowly defeated the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman. This one is, for me, elucidating, inasmuch as a ton of national media attention was poured onto this race, mostly because the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, dropped out after being pressured by national conservatives, namely Sarah Palin and Dick Armey. Apparently, Scozzafava was not conservative enough, and in the quest for absolute ideological purity, specifically the desire to invade wombs and prevent gays from marrying, Palin and Armey, those scions of Northeast politics, drove her out. Then they selected a guy who isn't even from the district, who had little idea of the "parochial" interests of the area, and who lost. In a district that had been reliably Republican since the Civil War, more or less. I guess this might be a repudiation of Palin and Armey and GOP purity. Or maybe not. As for impact, I give this race a C, and only because Palin got burned.
So, the Democrats, feckless as usual, failing to deliver, have been given a wake up call. Maybe they'll pull their craniums out of their rectums and actually do something with their massive majority. And let the Blue Dogs be put on notice: failure is worse than doing something unpopular.
But the GOP has also been given a wake up call, and I hope they hear it. We need a counter balance to the Dems, and "No" just isn't it. And the alarm ringing this morning was that party purity is not a winning ticket, it's stupidity; and while Palin and her buddy Armey are really ideologically pure, national political strategists they are not.
Finally, I would like to place a pox on the houses of all those ninkompoops who voted yesterday in Maine to repeal the law permitting gay marriage. You guys suck. I mean that. What you did was mean, hurtful, and hateful, and I don't care that you think your opinion matters. Suck eggs. And the backers, be they the Catholic or Mormon or other churches: you suck, too, using Christ as your aegis for hate and divisiveness. Really. I think if churches want to be this involved in politics, fine, but then we get to tax the crap out of you.
Now I also want to start my own stupid petition regarding marriage: I want to ban marriage for all the other proscriptions as set forth in Leviticus. That means if you eat shellfish, an "abomination," you are not allowed to be married. Wear cotton/rayon blends, also an "abomination," then you too shall be denied marriage. Oh, you like bacon cheeseburgers? Abomination, no marriage for you. Any takers?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October Observations

It has been a while, and I apologize. Times are a little crazy, and time itself has not been a commodity I have had a lot of. That said, here are some Autumnal Observations for all of the Witch Hunters:

  • Today's New York Times had a byline, on page A19, which reported that in California a gang rape, wherein 6 men, over the course of 2 hours, raped and beat a 15 year old girl outside of her high school during a homecoming dance, was witnessed by a dozen people who did nothing. If this is not a case study in favor of a strong carry and concealed law, I don't know what is.
  • It appears that Harry Reid has found his manhood and put it out there he is proposing a healthcare bill with a public option. Olympia Snowe is displeased, but so what? Last time I checked, she was in the minority party, with about 18 fewer votes, none of whom want to vote for healthcare reform, with or without a public option. It is refreshing that the lie of bipartisanship can be finally put to bed.
  • Joe Lieberman, (I - CT), really doesn't like his job anymore. After campaigning for every Republican he could get within arm's reach, he has announced he will join a filibuster against any bill with the public option. Good for him.
  • Sarah Palin, the most popular quitter of recent memory, should perhaps stay out of New York State politics. She is presently backing the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, against the Republican Dede Scozzafava, for the Congressional election in the upstate 23rd District. The Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, is overjoyed. However, Newt Gingrich is not, as he believes the infighting, essentially over the concept of party purity, will weaken the party nationally. Palin is joined by such New York stalwarts as Dick Armey, now of the inaptly named Freedomworks, and Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty. Scozzafava's crimes against the GOP? She is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. But she has a triple A rating from the NRA - my kind of Republican.
  • The above story gives me great pause over the issue of government intervention in people's lives. Is it me, or is it a form of cognitive dissonance to say that the government can tell consenting adults how to order their family, or if a woman should have an abortion and make such a crime, but cannot pay for everyone's healthcare out of taxes. Hmmm...
Until next time Witch Hunters: keep the fires burning. And I shall endeavor that the next time shall be sooner than the last.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A True Hero Passes: Rest In Peace, Marek Edelman

The New York Times reported today in its obituary section the passing of Marek Edelman, M.D. He was 90 years old, and lived in much of his later life in Lodz, Poland.

Few people know who Dr. Edelman was, and until today I was among those ignorant of his mark upon history. But it would be little exaggeration to say there are few among us qualified to shine his shoes.

Dr. Edelman was the last surviving commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. If you never heard of this incredible, three week long event, then please look it up. Suffice it to say that 220 young Polish Jews, with a very few handguns and hand grenades, temporarily halted the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, stopping the all mighty Wehrmacht in its tracks, and holding off a German force more then ten times their number.

Their story is one of the myriad tales of true heroism, grit, and intestinal fortitude that the Second World War has left with us. But the history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising has always had a special place, where the few stood against many in a hopeless fight, as if to say that they would not go quietly, and perhaps to save a few of their own.

Theirs is a story of true heroism, where the righteous find themselves in a man made Hades, and yet do not succumb in utter hopelessness at the futility of their stand against evil incarnate. This man fought the Nazis and their henchmen with his bare hands as he watched them kill his loved ones, and he not only survived but left his indelible mark on his foe and lived to tell the tale.

He is an example of a real hero, when regular people rise to the unimaginable challenges placed before them, and even if they may not succeed, they are to be hailed simply for their perseverance in the face of unimaginable adversity.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Confederacy of Dunces

There is a myth in the circles of those who study history that the American Civil War was not over slavery. Rather, those who take this view narrow the underlying casus belli of the Civil War to States' Rights, to a fight of Americans to preserve some sort of freedom.

In a way they are right, but only when the white elephant of slavery, the freedom to enslave their fellow man, is ignored. And to this end it becomes apparent that in order to have made such a cause for war that rich planters, particularly in the Deep South such as Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina, convinced poor tenant and yeoman farmers from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina to die. And to say it plainly, the cotton moguls of their day convinced the poor whites of the South to die in the hundreds of thousands for the freedom to own human beings and do what they would with this human chattel.

By the grace of God, or despite it, this war of the South was lost, at the most terrible cost in human lives. And none of the enlisted men of the South who fought and died, or were maimed, or just scarred by the carnage of the first industrial battlefield and total war would have ever, in a million years, owned a slave, or a plantation, or ever have been privy to the Southern Gentility they were fighting to preserve. They were fools fighting to preserve the fortunes of tycoons, paying for human flesh in bondage with their blood.

These are the thoughts which raced through my head as I watched my fellow Americans come together in Washington, D.C., on September 12, 2009, to protest the prospect of healthcare reform and a public option, holding signs lauding the absent Glenn Beck and the rude Congressman Joe Wilson, waiving around the Stars and Bars [that rag of Southern treason] and the idea of secession. I kept thinking how these people in their thousands [not the hundreds of thousands or millions, as some would prevaricate] and how many of them appeared to be stolid working and/or middle class. From the twanging accents I heard from those interviewed a lot seemed to come from former Confederacy.

There they were, their great host gathered from across the nation, to protest reform, and to keep the status quo. They were there in the name of freedom: the freedom of gigantic multinational corporations to make medical decisions for them; their freedom to go bankrupt from skyrocketing medical costs; the freedom of insurance moguls to make more money in a week from premiums and denying coverage than the protesters would make in a year. They were protesting for the freedom to die from lack of medical care.

And the cause of Mr. Wilson's absurd outburst, that illegal immigrants might receive medical care, only undercuts all of the Jesus talk and crucifixes, the overt religiosity of these misguided people. Apparently George W. Bush took the compassionate back out of conservative when he left office. How would Jesus vote?

For these normal, workaday everymen to be fighting for the fortunes of billionaires, patently against their own interests, and against the interests of the tens of millions of their fellow Americans who are without medical coverage, makes them the new fools in our new Civil War.

And make no mistake: we are at war with ourselves. When the man who tried to shout down the President in the House Chamber during a joint address is made a hero by the disloyal opposition over this, we are at war with ourselves. When shouting down using bumper sticker slogans ["You lie!"] replaces reason and discourse, we are at war with ourselves. When the de facto leadership of the GOP calls the half black, half white, raised by his white grandparents President a "racist" with a "deep seated hatred for white people or the whole white culture" we are at war with ourselves. When President Obama is described not only as a socialist, but also a Nazi and a "radical communist" without any sense of irony, we are at war with ourselves. When divisiveness is seen as patriotism, and ludicrous lies unquestionably accepted as truth, we are at war with ourselves.

So the new Confederacy of Dunces marches on, led by Glenn Beck and now Joe Wilson, to preserve the fortunes of the already wealthy and guarantee the middle class becomes poor. So we can only hope that by the grace of God, or despite it, the fools lose this war, too. And before we pay the price in the blood of Americans.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do You Want That With or Without Profit Motive?

In their never ending quest to prevent a government takeover of healthcare, except if you are under 18, or over 65, or a veteran or are indigent, the right wing has flogged this old horse repeatedly, and it goes something like this:

"I don't want the government, (or a government bureaucrat, or now a death panel), making decisions and getting in between me and my doctor! And universal [socialized] healthcare will result in rationing! And the USA will become the USSR!"

Well, if one is lucky enough to possess really good health insurance, who do you think makes these decisions? Corporate insurance adjusters who are driven by the bottom line. Bureaucrats. Their job, as in all cases where an insurance company is involved, is to find out ways their company does not have to pay out on their policies, or, to find out how to pay as little as possible. So a patient might not end up with the drug or the procedure that they were expecting to get, and that their doctor had, in his judgment, decided that patient should have.

And it should be patently obvious that by limiting the amount of healthcare doled out in the country to the above groups plus those who can afford their own insurance and those who are fortunate enough to have health insurance through their job, and thusly leaving out 40 or 50 million American citizens, is rationing healthcare.

Looking at certain situations where there is a government mandate to provide health insurance can be instructive. In one case there is the workmens' compensation situation, and on the other hand there is the no-fault automobile insurance. While both are mandatory within their respective spheres, one is administered to via a government bureaucracy and the other not.

Workmens' compensation is an imperfect system, but injured workers get healthcare they need for as long as they need, and a bureaucracy of government adminstrative judges oversee each case to prevent fraud and abuse. On the down side, workmens' compensation can be slow, often taking a long time to approve a given course of treatment. And while the insurance industry uses their own doctors to perform independent medical examinations of claimants, a claimants physician's medical opinion is given a lot of weight.

Then there is no-fault, which applies to those injured in automobile accidents. In the no-fault context there is little to no government administration. After approximately one month of treatment, a claimant is sent to see an insurance company doctor, and once a claimant is examined by that doctor there is a 95% chance any further treatment claims will be denied, no matter the actual condition of the claimant or how much pain they are in or how much therapy they really require. And the opinion of the claimant's doctor does not matter for a hill of beans. That's a private insurer directly affecting patient treatment and rationing care in order to protect their bottom line.

Then there is single payer healthcare, like Medicare. A claimant goes to her doctor, a treatment is prescribed, and the doctor is paid, though perhaps not as much as he would like [but who is?]. And patient satisfaction with Medicare is through the roof. And it is socialized. And patients get all the care they require. The same goes for the Veterans' Administration. And so far the USA hasn't become the USSR. Hmmm....

So, we are at the crossroads of healthcare reform. And the arguments of evil government bureaucracy and rationed care are revealed to be empty arguments, mere chimeras without real substance. And went you get to the bottom line do you want medical decisions made by a corporate bureaucrat worried about the bottom line, or by a bureaucrat who is only seeking to avoid fraud and abuse?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Forever in Our Memory, Forever in Our Hearts

For today I shall refrain from politics. Today is a day for all of us to be Americans, and remember the things that make us great, and knit us together as a nation.
It is also to remember my fair city as she once was, and as she should be again. Rebuild the Twin Towers, the soaring pillars of the sky, arms of Atlas, bastions of commerce, and the anchors of the skyline of my mind.

Peace to the victims and their families.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"EPIC FAIL" Somehow Falls Short: Joe Wilson's Unmaking

After yelling out "You lie!" at President Obama during his widely televised address to a joint session of Congress, Congressman Joe Wilson's [R-SC] derisive jeer may have been the shout heard 'round the world. And while some have defended the distinguished gentleman's two word hem and haw, they are few and far between.

In fact, Mr. Wilson himself begged an apology from the White House just after the speech was over. But the damage was done: to himself; to his district for electing a man of such little respect for our institutions; to the Palmetto State, who is still suffering with her insufferable governor; and the United States itself.

Last time I checked no one in my life has, during an address to Congress, heckled a President in the midst of giving his remarks. I suppose when you think you can't get lower, you find that you have yet to hit rock bottom. And the galling thing is that it is Joe Wilson who is lying - the President's bill, like it or hate it, is not written to cover illegal immigrants, which is the underlying claim for Mr. Wilson's bellow of falsehood.

Now, allow me to be frank: I was a vociferous opponent of President George W. Bush. I did not respect the man nor his vision nor his policies. But I did respect the office. I would never have stood for, or stood by, or defended a member of Congress acting in such a disrespectful way towards Mr. Bush while he was giving an address. He was the goddam President.

This is not to say that Mr. Bush, or for that matter Mr. Obama, is above criticism or derision. But like all free speech, there is a time and place. And that time and place is not during an address to the joint session of Congress. Save it for Twitter, which apparently Rep. Eric Cantor could not have waited until the end of the address, but I digress.

But now it is Joe Wilson's time for derision and for his failure to come home to roost like assorted poultry. Already his Democratic opponent has reportedly raked in well into the six figures for his 2010 run, and Mr. Wilson's disrespect for the highest office in the land has continued to marginalize his already squeezed party in a manner he in no way intended on the grandest stage possible.

Flush from a summertime of town hall hijinks and follies, after knocking a good 20+ points off President Obama's approval rating, the GOP and Mr. Wilson were smelling blood in the water. Instead, Mr. Obama appears to have roped the dopes in Muhammed Ali fashion, assisted in great measure by Mr. Wilson's dopey cry during a brief pause in the speech. What was not counted on was that this was no longer a town hall meeting, and that the hot days of summer are now passed us. It was time for the adults to get back to work, and naked insults to the face of the President were no longer going to work. It looks to me, dare I say it, that the deather movement and their associates have hit their high water mark, and the tide of hatred, so chic in hot July days, has begun to recede in the evenings of cool September.

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Wilson and his Freudian slip. He has, with a mere two syllables, shown us his true face, and perhaps the true face of his party: quick to hate, shameless with insults, but with zero substance to defend their indefensible positions when faced with inexorable truth.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The GOP: Gone to Plaid

In their never ending search for irrelevance the Republicans have orbited the alien worlds of the Birthers, the large dark clouds of Deathers, and throttled it up passed ludicrous speed. They have reached the unknown reaches of the darkest space only known as Nonsense.

The latest and not greatest partisan attack is lead this time by the supposed "moderate" Republican, Governor Tim Pawlenty, who came out Friday against President Obama addressing the nation's schoolchildren.

These days a "moderate Republican" is even an even more rare creature, apparently, than the allegedly mythical "moderate Muslim." One thing that appears to be a curious link, though, is the acceptance, nay, courting by both Muslims and Republicans at large of persons hewing to a fundamentalist religious faith, faiths which question the very fabric of the modern world in light of religious texts written by desert dwellers hundreds or thousands of years ago. I think unicorns and basilisks are more numerous in these trying times. But I digress.

Governor Pawlenty, sidestepping any concerns of actual content in his criticism, went to say that Mr. Obama's addressing American schoolchildren was: "At a minimum it's disruptive, number two, it's uninvited and number three, if people would like to hear his message they can, on a voluntary basis, go to YouTube or some other source and get it. I don't think he needs to force it upon the nation's school children."

Perhaps the Governor should stop acting like Obama is some alien from another planet who violently took over the White House and start acting like he is the President of this country. In addition to his first amendment right to say what he wants, he is the leader of our nation, and is in his very element when addressing American citizens, including kids. Further, he was overwhelmingly elected, so his views are, more likely than not, shared by his fellow Americans, and is not some sort of intellectual swine flu to be assiduously avoided.

The egregious stupidity is not even remotely over, and Pawlenty continued: "It is time we stand up to President Obama," as if the ridiculous and disingenuous conflict over healthcare reform is some sort of Republican resignation in the face of change.

Then: "It is time we stand up for our principles, and it is time we stand up for the American people."

Pray tell, Governor, what are those principals? Disloyal opposition? Truculence? Lies and prevarication? Where is your integrity? What is the Republican vision aside from mindless recalcitrance?

Not satisfied with letting one Republican governor disgrace himself, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney jumped into the fray of absurdity with: "If the president wants to encourage students to stay in school and study, that's appropriate," he said. "However, he should be careful not to cross the line to discuss political issues or policy matters."

Seriously? The President is a distraction, but if he must address the nation's schoolchildren he should shy away from policy? Who the heck do you think you are, Mr. Romney? He's not only a politician he's THE PRESIDENT!! Why can't he talk to the nation's children about policy? It's part of the job description, lest anyone forget "Just say no."

And please, spare us any twaddle over "indoctrination" of our kids. Precisely, where do people get off? He is not some Manchurian candidate, he's the President. His interests are inextricably ours; his ideology, like it or not, by virtue of having won an election, is the dominant one. Elections do have consequences.

Republicans and conservatives should stop acting like petulant children, uncover their ears, stop loudly singing to themselves, and grow up. Because, truthfully, the left does not always have all the answers, and a loyal opposition, with actual ideas and something to contribute, is essential to the two party system and the preservation of freedom in the United Sates.

But right now one of the parties is acting like a bunch of kindergartners when we need more grown-ups.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Democrats and a Cup of Coffee: A Cautionary Fable

Imagine this: the Democratic Party was overwhelmingly elected on the platform of coffee: coffee for every American. Apparently, the Republican's Sanka of the last 8 or 15 years was no longer palatable, many Americans did not even get the Sanka, and the American people wanted a change.

After the euphoria of the return to significance was over, the Democrats went to work crafting a better cup of coffee. It would need a little cream, some sugar, and it need to be brisk but not too strong. It needed to be a cup of coffee that all of Americans could drink.

The Republicans demanded that this be a bipartisan cup of coffee, so the Democrats invited them to be baristas. Then the Republicans said that only socialists drink coffee, and that what Americans really wanted was more Sanka, with extra bitterness and some saccharin.

The Democrats adopted some changes: they mixed in Sanka with the coffee, and put in an option to include NutraSweet or saccharin for those who can’t use sugar, and made the cream skim milk instead.

Then the Republicans said that their job was to kill coffee reform because Hitler and Stalin and the French drank coffee, and the Democrats were going to use coffee to kill Grandma, puppies, veterans, babies, and put Republicans in concentration camps. The Republicans argued that European and Canadian style coffee were un-American, and that those countries had to ration coffee, and wait in line for coffee, and that American style coffee was the best in the world, even though that every statistic showed this to be false. Tens of millions of Americans did not get coffee at all, and it cost Americans 3 times the amount to provide coffee for those who did get it.

Then some Democrats, forgetting that they were elected on the coffee platform, and fearful of the loud Republicans, started to waffle. Their knees got weak. Their livers turned to lilies, and a yellow stripe came down their backs. They forgot all these arguments about Socialist coffee were used before and proved wrong in the ‘40’s, ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s. They said that maybe they should be making hot chocolate, or ice tea, or just not reform coffee, even though the costs were getting astronomically out of hand and every American needed coffee.

They took out the milk and sugar, and replaced it with tar; they burned the coffee; they put it in bowls instead of mugs; they served it cold instead of hot, and during dinner instead of breakfast or dessert. They listened to the Republicans and mixed in more Sanka, even though the People hated that stuff. And the American people turned on the Democratic Party for their weakness.
The moral: The Democratic Party, even when it has everything going for it, can screw up a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dick Cheney: You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Former Vice President and potential future war crimes defendant Dick Cheney was back in the news this week, once again preemptively setting out his defense strategy in the rare instance he is actually brought to justice for the abrogations of national and international laws against torture and inhumane treatment. He stated that Attorney General Eric Holder's naming of a special prosecutor to investigate instances of mistreatment of prisoners in American custody. It should be noted that the inquiry is to be limited to instances where the persons conducting the interrogations went beyond the guidelines approved by the Department of Justice.

Dick Cheney's various defenses were as follows:

1) "The Justice Department reviewed all those allegations several years ago."

Apparently, the irony of a politically compromised Department of Justice investigating its bosses is lost on Mr. Cheney. Or was he referring to the various, and Constitutionally dubious, legal opinions of John "Anything You Want" Yoo? It is also a compromised argument as former AG Alberto Gonzalez has just stated that Mr. Holder was doing the right thing in moving forward with this investigation.

2) That American lives were saved.

As I have said ad nauseum in prior posts, efficacy of torture is no defense. In fact, this is a rather disgusting defense, as it is entirely false. Torturing prisoners in our custody hurts American interests, and Americans individually, in the long run. By acting immorally we lose our moral authority, and become yet another nation of barbarians, just like the barbarians we are trying to bring to justice. Our natural allies are less inclined to assist us as we become alienated from them, while causing our enemies to hate us all the more. But Mr. Cheney's myopia or arrogance does not allow him to see this.

It is also untrue. It is an unassailable fact that no actionable intelligence of credible threats were disclosed by any prisoners who were tortured, and rather conventional techniques proved to work far better. The fact the Khalid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times is proof that it did not work. If waterboarding did work, I am sure that the number of times KSM was waterboarded would have been somewhere south of 100. Or ten.

It is also logically fallacious, in addition to factually fallacious, that this was the right course of action because there was no other attacks on the United States. But there was Madrid, London, Bali, and over 4,000 dead servicemen in Iraq. And this argument relies on opponents of having to prove a negative. There was also no second Hurricane Katrina, but Mr. Cheney cannot take credit for that.

It should be noted that Mr. Cheney even went so far as to stand by officers and contractors who went beyond the rules approved by the Justice Department. Why would he stand by clear criminal acts? The only reason I can discern is to throw his considerable weight behind them before they are indicted in case they might consider turning State's evidence.

3) The inquiry is "intensely partisan."

Ummm, President Obama does not want this. Diane Feinstein does not want this. Harry Reid does not want this. Nancy Pelosi does not want this. They want to move beyond this, and concentrate on health care reform. Further, none of them want to assist Dick Cheney in the Cyclopean effort to make him into a sympathetic figure.

And there is a double irony in Mr. Cheney's statement: a) it was on Fox News, ['nuff said], and b) his was the most intensely partisan administration in modern history. See: Tom Ridge and his half hearted confession of raising the terrorist threat levels days before the 2004 election for no discernible reason but for political considerations.

However, let this be known: I am unconcerned about the political considerations of the Democratic White House or Congress. Laws were broken, serious laws, and legal comeuppance is required, no matter the convenience. Politicians and bureaucrats and officials and contractors must be forewarned that they will pay a price for their cavalier attitudes towards our laws, and not even the highest officers in the land are to be spared the sword of Lady Justice should her blind scales tip away from them and towards the felonious.

All Mr. Cheney's ado, if this is about nothing, then begs the question: what is he getting at? If everything that occurred under his watch was all hunky-dory, why continue to speak out in his own defense preemptively? Public opinion has zero bearing on whether American laws were broken, and rather, bad actors can tell a jury their sympathetic defense of "keeping Americans safe" and see if they agree. So what is Dick Cheney afraid of?

And allow me to be clear: I don't want the Lindsay Englands of the CIA or private contractors to pay the price alone. I want the higher ups who gave the order.

As I said - maybe they should consider turning State's evidence.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Injustice in the Name of Compassion

Scotland has temporarily given compassion a bad name, and in this author's humble opinion, done a disservice to the concepts of trial and justice, and perhaps as some have opined, rewarded terrorism.

In 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, including 189 Americans. In January 2001, a Scottish court convicted one man, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, for his complicity in this atrocious act. Mr. al-Megrahi was feted to a fair trial, with all opportunities to avail himself of any defense in the evidence. He was justifiably sentenced to 27 years in prison for mass murder.

If anything, his sentence was too short. Yet, due to a diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer, the justice secretary of Scotland, Kenny MacAskill decided and announced last week that, for humanitarian and compassionate reasons, he was releasing al-Megrahi. This was misplaced compassion.

It was enough compassion for a monster the likes of al-Megrahi to have been fairly tried and permitted to live his life behind bars. He was not threatened with torture or execution, notwithstanding he might have deserved such punishment. Nor was he treated with the same dearth of compassion his home country of Libya is well known for.

So it was too much for MacAskill to grant al-Megrahi his freedom; his freedom to die on his own terms, in his own bed, among his own family. All these things al-Megrahi evilly worked to deny hundreds of innocent people of, and thousands of their surviving family members. And the reports that he was greeted in Tripoli with a hero's welcome only turns the stomach that much more, twists the screws into the minds of right thinking people, and stands the concepts of humanitarian and compassion on their heads.

So, Mr. al-Megrahi, may you soon touch the face of Satan, and may he chew your foetid soul with dull teeth for an eternity, liKe a cow chews their cud. And to Mr. MacAskill: may you lose your job and think better the next time you want to reward a convicted terrorist and mass murderer with overwhelming and undeserved compassion.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Phenomenon of Right Wing Patriotism

As a caveat beforehand, the following diatribe does not apply to all Republicans or conservatives. But the blather and lather of the recent weeks has gotten my dander up. For now in these hot days is the mad blood stirring.............

Can you remember those halcyon days of the Bush Administration, when anyone questioning the President was someone who was a traitor, unAmerican, or was giving "aid and comfort" to our national enemies? When Ari Fleischer said that Americans had to watch what they said and did? When people in powerful positions equated supporting the President and his policies with supporting troops in the field, as if they were one in the same, and that policy decisions could not be seriously discussed because it might damage the military's morale, and therefore lead to our inexorable defeat in a fight against a foe that was out to destroy the very fabric of the nation?

Have we come a long way, baby.

Back then people were using inflammatory language to describe our President. This much is true. Hey, it wasn't like he was actually elected or anything when the decision came to invade a sovereign nation posing no threat to us. But those of us even somewhat left of Barry Goldwater were routinely smeared as traitors, and it was a dark time for those of us who did not think the invasion of Iraq was so dandy. Family events were not a lot of fun, let me tell you.

But now we have a President who was elected by near landslide, carrying states no one thought in their wildest or worst dreams he would, who ran on a ticket of, among other things, health care reform, and he is now being compared to Hitler on a routine basis for trying to change the way health care is handled.

His life is threatened regularly, explicitly and implicitly. People show up to rallies over health care openly carrying weapons, as if there is some dovetail betwixt the divergent issues of gun rights and health care, and they act as if they are making some sort of valid point. There was a man with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder in a crowd, which is not very responsible handling of that weapon. We see a man sloppily carrying a handgun in a haphazard fashion, his holster flopping all over, holding a [seemingly professionally made] sign reading "It is time to water the tree of liberty." I am as big a proponent of the Second Amendment as there is, but these yahoos make the rest of us look really bad.

Water the tree of liberty? With what, sir? The blood of tyrants? Or patriots? It is not as if the President is proposing legislation to permit the FBI to rifle your personal belongings without a warrant, or to detain American citizens indefinitely without charges or trial. The last one did, though.

Right wingers have openly cursed [Old Testament style] their elected leaders over fictitious fears, such as these inane "death panels." A woman actually asked a gay Jew why he supports "Nazi policies," just like the mixed race President "expressly" does. It makes me wish there were actual Nazi policies being proposed so I could get mad at them. Something like raising the terrorist threat level three days before an election for none other than political purposes. But I digress.

So where is all that right wing patriotism, that jingoistic fervor to support the elected President? It is not as if there aren't nearly 200,000 American troops afield in combat zones. It is not as if there is not a wider war not being fought in the original battleground against Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, as well as a war now being fought openly for the first time in Pakistan against those same fundamentalist Islamic groups.

So what gives?

Some might say it has to do with bailouts, or government control of this or that industry, or Federal spending. Hogwash. Nobody minded when the government was tapping phones without a warrant, [and not catching anybody engaging in international terrorist plots, I might add]. Nobody minded when the government decided to open a prison for the express purpose of circumventing the Constitution. Nobody seemed to mind the trillion dollar layout for the invasion of Iraq, nor that its full financial effect was kept off the balance sheet by funding it through supplemental spending bills outside of the astronomical defense budget [already 1/6-1/4 of the Federal budget]. Nobody minded when billions in cash went missing and unaccounted for. No one minded when cronies enriched cronies on the taxpayer's dime. No one on the right cried foul when the President sought to privatize Social Security, shunting trillions to private investment firms to handle, and none of them have wiped their brow and said we dodged that bullet. And no one screamed bloody murder when the Medicare Part-D plan came out and it was legislated that the Federal government, then wholly run by the GOP, would not use its massive leverage and negotiate lower prices for pharmaceuticals.

And no one thought that the Veterans Administration [Walter Reed aside], or Medicare, or Medicaid was run so bad before this. There are plenty of vets and pensioners who do alright, and will continue to do alright. They see their doctors of choice, get the care they want, and are happy about. But then they show up to town hall meetings and scream that government run health care is unAmerican socialism.

So what gives?

I am loathe to say it. Perhaps this has to do with less of the content of a man's character..........

But I won't finish the sentence. I want to believe that there is a good faith basis behind all this screaming and jumping up and down. I want to give my fellow American the benefit of the doubt, even though he didn't give it to me 6 years ago. I want to think we have become a better nation over the decades, notwithstanding how the electoral map is conveniently colored to reflect not this century, but the century before last.

But to be fair to me I want conservatives to take a minute, or ten, or an hour, and search their hearts. Find out what is at their core; what is driving them to these extremes. Why are they willing to believe the absolute worst. To examine the content of their own character, and their recent past, and what is at the center of their beliefs.

Because I cannot believe all this anger is about universal health care, public options, or potential tax increases.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

........As Teats on a Boar

That's what the Democratic Party often is as useful as. They are, at times like this, completely useless. Like a teenager on drugs in August. Sometimes I wonder why I [sometimes] vote for them. Then the Republicans do something stupid, like compare anything to Nazis. But this isn't about Republicans.

The Democrats took two national elections because people were sick of the Republicans, their illegal war in Iraq, their thumbing their nose at the rest of the world, their trampling on the Constitution. They were elected by a various coalition of minorities, educated young whites, gays, and blue collar folk who had realized they were getting the GOP shaft. So what do the Dems do? Nuttin', I tells ya.

Part of the reason why the Dems do nothing is that they are terrified of the Republicans. A minority party, completely cutting itself off from every constituency except rural gun owning Bible thumpers has more influence than the party with 60 votes in the Senate and a sizable majority in the House. Why? I think this has something to do with flashbacks of Jimmy Carter, the nicest guy who should never have been President.

But seriously, what is the deal? The deal is is that Americans, collectively, are stupid, and both parties know it. Sorry, my fellow Americans, you can be mad, but I will lay out the proofs. Exhibit 1: Death Panels. 'Nuff said. Exhibit 2: reelecting George W. Bush. After the guy literally stole his first election, why would anyone vote for him on the basis of their values? Exhibit 3: Americans believe that you can stop criminals from using guns with gun control. Self explanatory. Exhibit 4: after about 8 decades of locking up Americans, and ratcheting up police authority to search and seize, we are still four-square into the War on Drugs, notwithstanding the human and monetary cost. You would figure we would have learned by now that punitive measures are not any boon. Exhibit 5: the debate of gay rights and gay marriage. As if anyone should care. Exhibit 6: roomfuls of people on Medicare protesting government run health care. Really?

Much of the time, the Democrats have been useless to their constituencies. Take gay rights, for example. Bill Clinton attempted to roll back the odious and self defeating ban on gays in the military, and yet we still have "Don't Ask Don't Tell," which is just as bad. On top of that, he signed the probably unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Go figure.

More recently: few votes against the PATRIOT Act; few votes against the authorization to go to war in Iraq; little defense of the FISA Act; belated rage against the excesses at Guantanamo Bay; wholesale failure to stand up to the revision in the Medicare Bill which prevented the Federal Government from negotiating prices for pharmaceuticals; failure to properly vet Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court.

Barack Obama was elected, in part, by the same gay constituency. To date: lip service.

This is the same dynamic of Democratic Party weak-knees that lead John Kerry to get defeated on the issue of his heroic military service, rather than his opponent's actually avoidance of going to war by going AWOL. At least his loss gave us the phrase "Swift Boating."

And to the singular issue of the moment, health care reform, what does the party with overwhelming votes in both houses do? Start to cave at the first sign that there won't be any bipartisan support. Ooooh, the Public Option is dead on arrival because Chuck Grassley won't support it. Well, let me tell you one thing: Chuck Grassley is dead to me, and the Dems better start thinking that way, too.

And you Blue Dogs: what the hell were you elected for? To be a bunch of weenies at the first sign of a GOP putsch? Tell your constituents, red and blue, to stop being a bunch of stupid sheep, that there are no "Death Panels," and that if Norway and France and all these other countries we think of as weaker than us or beneath us can provide health care for all their citizens, then it is a mark of shame that we don't do it for our people. Then club them over the head with facts: single payer systems are a fraction of the cost of our "free market" system, mostly because of the overhead in administration and executive pay and the need to turn a profit.

And if they are so bent on the free market, well tell them that the Public Option is the free market in operation, with the government competing alongside industry. If the insurance industry can't compete - too bad, so sad, that's the breaks.

So, Democrats, stop being such a bunch of lilly livered, yellow bellied, cowardly, craven little fraidy cats and stand up to John Boehner, aka Tan Man, and Eric Cantor, and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the hateful right wing set, and set it to a vote. With the goshdarn Public Option in the bill.

And if they aren't going to get it done, well, President Obama, get in there and bust some kneecaps Chicago style. If you aren't going to win, at least go down standing up with your boots on. Sound off like you got a pair.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some Thoughts on Single Payer Health Care

Just a few thoughts on the advantages of a single payer system, which seems to be the intellectual version of kryptonite to many left of center thinkers these days. In the interests of full disclosure, I am in favor of a single payer, government run health care system and not afraid to say it.

To come out swinging, I would just like to immediately dismiss any thoughts that "the government" can't do anything. For perpetuating this myth I would like to thank Ronald Reagan, and state he has done his fellow Americans a terrible disservice with his quip that the most terrifying thing is to hear "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." What a champ.

Anyway, if the government can't do anything, I guess landing on the Moon's surface was a fluke. And defeating those nasty fascists in the 40's. And staving off national collapse during the Great Depression. By the way, the Second World War was an enormous socialist undertaking, with everyone pitching in, saving, being paid by and resources rationed through the government. Who paid for all those refrigerator factories to produce propeller heads? Government bonds, that's who. Maybe private enterprise could have done it quicker. Or maybe we'd be speaking a mishmash of Japanese and German.

Can anyone seriously argue with a straight face that capitalism was responsible for the Normandy D-Day landings or the manufacturing of the atom bomb? Please. In fact, some might argue that the Second World War was a fight between national socialism, aka fascism, international socialism, aka soviet style communism, and democratic socialism, aka the U.S.A., U.K. and Canada.

Anyway, consider these advantages to a single payer system that no one is speaking about: first, there would be no need to purchase certain types of mandated insurance, like we have these days. If you want to drive a car, you have to have no-fault insurance in case someone gets hurt in connection with the operation of that automobile. In a single payer system, no-fault insurance is wholly obviated, at least when it comes to providing medical care [I suppose it would not cover lost earnings as a result of an accident]. Inasmuch as there are tens of millions of cars on the road, all of which are supposed to have no-fault insurance, this would save Americans somewhere in the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. This is one way to offset any increased taxes needed to pay for a single payer system.

The same could be said for mandatory workmen's compensation insurance. In most locales companies with more than a certain number of non-owner employees are mandated to carry workmen's compensation to cover work related accidents. To the extent that a single payer system would cover the medical costs of workers injured on the job, again mandated workmen's compensation would be obviated. Though I do not know the hard numbers, I am guessing that would be a savings of many billions of dollars a year, and would especially help small businesses whose bottom lines are tighter.

The same would be true for big businesses, like General Motors, especially in the union retirement packages which cover retired employees until they are dead. In fact, it has been this kind of massive overhead which has destroyed much of the financial strength of GM, as well as the other Detroit Big Three.

In fact, all union health plans would be obviated.

And here's one for the right wing: inasmuch as any lawsuit for medical malpractice or personal injury would no longer have to include the costs of passed and future medical expenses, the single payer system is de facto tort reform. Bam! Suddenly, those liability insurance premiums for Ob-Gyns plummet, all because of a single payer system.

So there we have it: the single payer system would give us many advantages that are not being spoken out loud.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Lesson in History, Vocabulary and Orwellian Irony

"He who controls the past, controls the future." - Ministry of Truth, aka Minitrue, 1984, George Orwell
The clocks have been striking thirteen around the United States. Amid the unfortunate return of Harry & Louise, the pernicious hyperbole swirling around the hypercritical issue of health care reform has hit a pitch, crossed a line, sunk to a new low, and begun to be dangerous. This danger issues forth in form of arguments which are of a semantic nature, which twist important historical facts for instant gratification, and which reveal something about the so-called 'loyal opposition' that make it seem less and less loyal, if not to their elected president, then at least to American ideals.

First up is vocabulary. Lately there has been a concerted effort by right wing pundits, Jonah Goldberg and Rush Limbaugh in particular, to color the Nazi Party as a creature of liberal thought, and therefore to associate present liberal policies, in particular the Obama Administration's push for a comprehensive reform of the health insurance industry.

I suppose to those unfamiliar with the rise of Nazism in Germany might get a pass, supposing they failed to actually read up on the subject. The National Socialist German Workers' Party, NSDAP or "Nazi" for short, could be confused with socialism, which is a creature of left wing politics, due to the fact that "socialist" is a word contained in both political systems. However, if one but delved a tad deeper than just the names, one would realize that the word "national,"as in "nationalist," modifies the word "socialist."

"Nationalist" is defined by Webster's thusly: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interest as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

Therefore, inasmuch as the same crowd attempting to conflate Obama and Hitler also variously called Obama unpatriotic for failing to wear a flag pin or being a natural born American citizen, it would be a touch disingenuous to now say he is a nationalist, at least a hyper nationalist as is required by modern Nazis. Especially since he's half black. Check them out at:

Actually, it is a little more than revolting, considering the whole "White Power" thing. So, don't jump at the "s" word when trying to compare socialism and national socialism.

Now, let us move on to a lesson in history. In so doing, I shall cite to an actual Nazi, a contemporary of Adolph Hitler, and a higher up in the party before and during the Fascist takeover of Germany, Albert Speer, and his "Inside the Third Reich," Avon Books, 1970.

Nazi idealogy decried urban centers and promoted the uncultured rural peasantry for their simplicity. p. 43. Speer himself felt that his joining of the Nazi party was a frivolous move, and he inculpated his own failure to investigate and question the ideologies of the party, regretting it later in life. p. 48. This was notwithstanding the anti-semitism and anti-intellectualism of Hitler's rhetoric, which he rationalized would need to be moderated. p. 49. Hitler utilized the various Christian Churches to his own ends, maintained his own association with the Catholic Church, and demanded other party higher ups maintained theirs. p. 142. Among others, Jews, Socialists, Communists and Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted. p. 68. Nearly all high up Nazi leaders were unschooled, without "cosmopolitan experience" and had rarely left the country, and anyone who had gone to Italy for a long weekend was instantly a foreign policy expert. p. 173. These are the descriptions of Nazis by a Nazi member inside Hitler's inner circle.

Not for nothing, but some of this sounds strangely familiar, like when someone without a passport posited that there were more "Pro-American" parts of the country............. but I'm not going out and calling anyone a Nazi. However, people in glass houses...............

Furthermore, there has been some talk these days about "brownshirts," which is an allusion to Hitler's SA [Sturmabteilung] or Stormtroopers. This was an early paramilitary wing of the Nazi party which was used as a parade instrument to impress people, but also as a gang of thugs, and relevantly for today's discussion, to shout support for Hitler and drown out any hecklers and dissent.

I will not compare present day American conservatives and Republicans to Nazis. It is unfair to them, and more importantly, it cheapens the global disaster wrought by the Nazi party. Nazism is a disgusting, evil, and horrible ideology, a gross distortion of ethics, and is rightly detested by everyone. But when Americans are organized by interested and monied parties to not debate at but disrupt in total town hall meetings, to shut them down, to shout down elected representatives and their fellow Americans, this is something that gives me pause.

When those same monied and interested parties stoke what is irrational and otherwise unfocused anger at their elected representatives to the point that it has been said that if they can't get their way via the First Amendment, they'll do it with the Second Amendment, this is getting scary. And when people on Medicare or get their healthcare from the Veteran's Administration, decry government run healthcare, suddenly realization dawns that these people are angry, consciously or not, about something other than healthcare.

Personally, I believe we are witnessing the ideological heirs of that white haired kook who took the microphone at a John McCain rally and said she couldn't trust Obama because he's an Arab. This is the same train of thought underlying that angry lady at the Rep. Mike Castle's town hall meeting screaming "I want my country back" because Obama "is not an American citizen."

The birther movement, headed by the illustrious Orly Taitz, gave birth to the deather movement, which is headed by the illustrious Sarah Palin. Former Gov. Palin recently said that "The American I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Downs Syndrome will have to stand up in front of Obama's death panel so his bureaucrats can decide based on subjective judgment of their level of productivity in society whether they are worthy of healthcare. Such a system is downright evil."

Of course such a thing would be evil, and more importantly, it is outright false, and actually is tantamount to slander. This is dreadful misinformation, and Mrs. Palin has done her supporters a disservice in that 1) she has told them false information, and 2) she has acted like they do not have their own mind and cannot check the facts for themselves.

But Palin and the other "deathers" out there, like Rep. Virginia Fox [NC] and Rep. Paul Broun [GA] have said the same crap. And that's what this whole euthanasia fear mongery amounts to: a pile of crap.

But what this is a symptom of is framing President Obama as "the other," an alien, a person trying to rob good Americans of their entitled largesse. Why? This is because the GOP and their paymasters, the insurance industry and big pharma, are unable to debate the merits of maintaining the present system where tens of millions are uninsured and corporate profits are massive, if not record.

So they form their own "mob" [their words], to shout down the President, the Democratic Congressmen and Senators, and squelch debate. And such matters have become increasingly violent in tenor, purposefully seeking to intimidate supporters and elected officials alike. This cynical twisting of the town hall meetings to fit such a narrow agenda, to pit American against American, is not only a terrible thing, it is dangerous. Because when irrational anger is stoked and stroked and built up and upon, at some point push is going to come to shove. And someone is going to get killed.

So it is ironic that past totalitarian regimes are being redefined to smear the present leadership, and people are buying it. And it is ironic that proposals to pay for end-of-life counseling like living wills and health care proxies is equated with euthanizing the disabled and elderly for the sake of brief political gain. And it is ironic that the ones accusing the President of being a Nazi are the ones acting like the SA. And it is ironic that we see charges of racism against those who actually succeeded despite real racism, namely President Obama and Justice Sotomayor, coming uniformly from privileged white accusers. It is ironic because this is the essence of what George Orwell termed "doublespeak," the verbal accompaniment to "doublethink," the concept that 2+2=5 when Big Brother says it need be so.

Some have argued that universal healthcare is something Orwellian. However, Healthcare is not a subject touched on in Orwell's writings. Rather, government lies, rewriting history, constant war, ignorance as strength, political cognitive dissonance and state sponsored torture are his subjects. To think that a single payer system, or Obama's multi-payer system with a government option, is similar to any of this has not read Orwell, and should do so as soon as possible for their own sake.

What we are seeing is that we are not a post racial nation. We are seeing that people do need to read more books and less bumper stickers. We are seeing that people need to understand what is in their own best interests and to fight for that, not a CEO's big bonus. We are seeing that people are resting on the laurels of the sacrifices of their fathers and grandfathers who fought in the Second World War, and do not understand that we need to continue to make America great over and over. We are seeing that we do not understand shared sacrifice one whit, unlike the so-called "Greatest Generation," who did it all with an American form of socialism.

In parting for this post, I would like to address something that was forwarded to me from a conservative friend. It was a website set up by the White House seeking emails and websites that contain misinformation regarding the healthcare debate. The friend sneered he would like to see me defend it, as it is something that passed totalitarian regimes had done - that is, asked citizens to inform on their fellows. Here it is:

And to tell you the truth, I was taken aback. This is scary, whether it is from the left, right, center, or from on high.

Then I thought about it. On the site it requests: "If you see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to"

One thing you are not protected from is having your email or website kept private. You send it, you own it. You put it up on the 'net, you are responsible for its content. And any argument this might chill free speech is vitiated by the fact that there is no protected right to misinform your fellow American.

And while this is still a bit scary, I will not entertain any baloney arguments that this is "Big Brother" from conservatives, friend or otherwise, who think that unfettered government surveillance, lying to Americans to illegally invade non-threatening nations, paying private contractors to torture people, and creating prisons in Cuba for the express purposes of circumventing the Constitution while never intending on going to trial are still okay.

Obviously, they haven't read the book.