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?