Rest In Peace Molly

Molly Ivins passed away today after a long battle with breast cancer.

When I was growing up, my father or grandfather would read her column aloud at the breakfast table. I was too young to understand the politics, but I fell in love with her language. I was beginning to reject my Texan roots, but her columns helped me understand that you can be intelligent, sophisticated, and still completely Texan. (Ann Richards kinda helped out, too.)

Molly Ivins was a national treasure and an icon of The Lone Star State. And I miss her already...

Here's a classic from Molly that showcases her trademark wit:
It's all very well to dismiss the dismal sight of our Legislature in action by saying, "I'm just not interested in politics," but the qualifications of the people who prescribe your eyeglasses, how deep you will be buried, what books your kids read in school, whether your beautician knows how to give a perm, the size of the cells in Stripe City and a thousand and one other matters that touch your lives daily are decided by the dweebs, dorks, geeks, crooks and bozos we've put into public office. (You may believe yourself in no peril of ever landing in Stripe City, but should you happen to contravene a law made by the only politicians we've got, this too will become a matter of some moment to you. For example, if you happen to possess six or more phallic sex toys, you are a felon under Texas law. In their boundless wisdom, our solons decided that five or fewer of the devices make you a mere hobbyist.)

Courtesy of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram's Four Favorite Ivins Columns.

(Pssst. Use BugMeNot if you need a quick password for it or any other media site.)



I had the opportunity to see David Lynch's new film INLAND EMPIRE last week in Austin at the Paramount Theater. Chrysta Bell, an Austin vocalist who collaborated with Lynch on the film, and the David Lynch introduced the film, and he stuck around for a Q&A afterward.

I'm not sure if you can spoil this movie, but I'm still going to offer a spoiler-free review.

INLAND EMPIRE is Lynch's best film since Eraserhead. I've enjoyed most of the work that followed his brilliant debut, but nothing compares to this new film. It's an experience that just seems to fold into itself several times. The narrative is constructed out of emotion, sound, and reaction; the viewer can't rely on verbal dialogue to communicate the real story here.

Laura Dern delivers a stellar performance, one that seems to exorcise the demons of a thousand failed actresses from the screen before your very eyes. The rest of the cast (including Jeremy Irons, Julie Ormond, and Diane Ladd) seem like bit players from the Theater District in Dante's Inferno; and maybe they are. But they all give performances that seem to extend beyond the normal five senses.

I hate to go any further here, because I will start getting into the specifics. In short: This film makes Mulholland Drive look like a Lifetime Network movie. It's an incredible journey that should only be viewed by a small percent of the American public. Ten thumbs up!


Iraq's Last Chance

Trent Lott just said this is the Iraqi's last chance to make things work.

I guess that I have to disagree with this perspective. The people of Iraq don't really have anywhere else to go. Unless they are completely annihilated, Iraq has many many more chances to make this work. At some point, they will either agree to get along (like they have in the past once the power vacuum is filled) or the weakest group will be killed or transferred. I actually suspect they will eventually unite under some type of power structure, just as they have so many times in the past. We just need to find a way to keep the body count down until it happens...

This might be the Republican's last chance to fix things before the American Public tosses all of them to the curb, but the people of Iraq don't really have a choice of withdrawing or redeploying or whatever.

Just a thought...


Blog For Choice

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Today is Blog For Choice Day, and this year's topic is "Why Are You Pro Choice?"

To be fair, I must start at the beginning and explain that I was once a devout Southern Baptist and I initially sided with Pro-Life positions. I was young, and the issue was black and white. Pregnant women have babies. Babies live to become people. Life is precious and should not be stolen, ergo pregnancies are precious and should not be robbed of their chance to become people.

And then one day I tried explaining this reductionist argument to my father. He was quite livid, not for my position per se; his anger was directed at my simplistic binary logic. He suggested that some pregnancies aren't planned, and that some people live outside the quaint little Baptist Bubble in which I existed. My father's arguments didn't quite convince me at the time, but as I grew older I started to notice that the world was much more complex. Women are much, much more complex than I initially thought. I began to realize that my father wasn't defending his ideology, he was defending the principle of choice.

The responsibility of The Choice belongs to the one who bears the pain of the reality: the woman. I trust her to know the limits of her physical and mental health; I trust her to know whether she is ready for the responsibility of bearing a child. I trust Her more than I trust the Government to make The Choice.

And so I have come full-circle. I have basically traded one simplistic position for another. I am pro-choice simply because I am a man. I am not so arrogant as to believe that I can make a better biological decision for a woman; I am not so arrogant as to believe that I understand this issue like a woman does. Therefore, the Choice and the responsibility of the Choice belong to Women.

And what of the babies? Well, the human body seems to abort(miscarry) 10%-25% of recognized pregnancies and 50%-75% of unrecognized/unknown pregnancies (source). And America ranks second highest in the developing world with regard to the number of infant mortalities (source). 1 out of 5 children in my home state of Texas has no medical insurance (source).

It's difficult for me to embrace my old simplistic "All Life Is Precious!" philosophy when I live in a complex world where we obviously do not place a high premium on the lives that are already here. A National Health Care Plan would reduce the number of miscarriages due to insufficient health care, it would reduce the number of infant moralities, and would improve the quality of life for the children that have already been born. Life is precious, and I suspect that if we worked hard to improve the quality of life for all people in the United States then we would actually see a reduction in the number of abortions. And that's a goal that I think we should all work toward.


Iranians Don't Like Their President

The Telegraph ran a story today that exposes the political/economic rift in Iran that should be a major point of discussion in America. Basically, the Iranian Middle class is disappearing due to the weak performance of the economy.
Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 promising to use oil money to cut the gap between rich and poor. If he has succeeded, it is only because both groups are now struggling to make ends meet.

Had he nailed the economics, his critics might have had more stomach for his political grandstanding and nuclear brinkmanship. Instead, while the Iranians are at the Americans' throats throughout the region, internal inflation and unemployment are running at 30 per cent and rents and property prices are 40 per cent higher than six months ago. Even former supporters are questioning whether turning the entire United Nations Security Council against Iran was a bright idea.

Last week, 150 parliamentarians — just over half of Iran's 290 MPs — took the extraordinary step of signing a letter blaming Ahmadinejad for the country's woes and accusing him of planning to squander the country's oil earnings, which account for about 80 per cent of its revenues, in next year's budget. "The government's efforts must be focused on decreasing spending and cutting its dependence on oil revenues," the MPs wrote.

It was a sure sign that what limited backing Ahmadinejad had from Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had evaporated. The hard-line conservative newspaper Jomhouri Islami, a reliable indicator of Khamenei's thinking, spelled it out. "Speak about the nuclear issue only during important national occasions, stop provoking aggressor powers like the United States and concentrate more on the daily needs of the people," it wrote.

Iran is a complex nation, and it's a mistake to believe that Ahmadinejad speaks for the entire public. The Iranian middle class knows that their economy cannot be sustained with the petroleum revenues forever, and the crisis is coming to a head. Unfortunately, they need to find alternative fuel sources in order to maintain the production quotas (and to reuse some of the gas in effort to get the most from their declining fields).

This is a critical period in the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iran. They either want nuclear power plants or they want to expand their territory and grab some of Iraq's oil. There's not a lot of room for us to maneuver, and that's why this requires a delicate hand. I'm can't trust Condi or Cheney to handle this situation effectively, and that's why I suspect that conflict in Iran is inevitable.

Whenever I hear the Administration's saber rattling with Iran, I'm reminded of a Drow quotation: Keep your friends within sword-reach, keep your enemies within knife-reach. The elder Bush understood this. Younger Bush, well I don't think he understands very much at all.

For more information regarding Iran's oil economy and its effect on the entire Middle East, check out this well-researched post at The Oil Drum. The near-term problem isn't necessarily Iran's nuclear weapon ambitions, it's the emerging Shi'a Crescent in the entire region that will likely create conflict and petroleum instability over the next few years.

NYTimes Reviews D'Souza

I discussed Dinesh D'Souza's performance on the Colbert Report early this week. (In case you forgot, he's the Republican that wants to join forces with bin Laden to destroy the 'cultural Left'.) Alan Wolfe of TNR slams this book in the NYTimes Book Review this week.
At one point in “The Enemy at Home,” D’Souza appeals to “decent liberals and Democrats” to join him in rejecting the American left. Although he does not name me as one of them, I sense he is appealing to people like me because I write for The New Republic, a liberal magazine that distances itself from leftism. So let this “decent” liberal make perfectly clear how thoroughly indecent Dinesh D’Souza is. Like his hero Joe McCarthy, he has no sense of shame. He is a childish thinker and writer tackling subjects about which he knows little to make arguments that reek of political extremism. His book is a national disgrace, a sorry example of a publishing culture more concerned with the sensational than the sensible. People on the left, especially those who have been subjects of D’Souza’s previous books, will shrug their shoulders at his latest screed. I look forward to the reaction from decent conservatives and Republicans who will, if they have any sense of honor, distance themselves, quickly and cleanly, from the Rishwain research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Bush's New Tax

In his State of the Union next week, PretzelDunce Bush will propose a tax increase on some people that choose a more expensive health plan from the employer. From Bush's radio program this week:
He said the current system “unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans,” driving up the overall cost of coverage and care.

I'm one of those people that elected the best health insurance plan that the company offered. It appears that I will exceed Bush's limit on the cost of an individual plan, so I will get hit with a tax.

I can't tell you how disgusted this makes me. I was in a mountain biking accident last year, and walked away with two broken elbows, three broken fingers, and trauma potpourri. I made three trips to the operating table. It required the work of one of Houston's top hand surgeons to restore the (nearly) full ability of my hand. (Fingers are kinda nice to have when you are a software engineer.)

This was my first significant health care experience, and I can only hope that it will be the last. My experience with the health care industry left me depressed, apalled, disgusted, filled with rage, and utterly broken. In addition to the money I pay each week for my health care, I was still left with several thousand dollars in bills that I had to pay. If I had not elected for the best healthcare plan my employer provided, I would have been responsible for several thousand dollars more in bills. And now Bush is going to tax me on it? Screw him. SCREW HIM.


NOLA / 2

New Orleans has lost approximately half of its population since Hurricane Katrina. From the NYTimes:
Hurricane Katrina may have brutally recalibrated the city’s demographics, setting New Orleans firmly on the path its underlying characteristics had already been leading it down: a city losing people at the rate of perhaps 1.5 percent a year before Hurricane Katrina, with a stagnant economy, more than a quarter of the population living in poverty, and a staggeringly high rate of unemployment, in which as many as one in five were jobless or not seeking work.

Political leaders, worried about the loss of clout and a Congressional seat, press for people to return, but a smaller New Orleans may not be bad, some economists say. Most of those who have not returned — 175,000, by Mr. Stonecipher’s count — are very poor, and can be more easily absorbed in places with vibrant job markets, they say.

There were times when I was growing up when my home didn't have running water or electricity, and as a result I have been sensitive to the issues related to unemployment and poverty. Visiting New Orleans was always a little heartbreaking for me, because I always felt like I was returning to my childhood past. It always seemed that the ghosts of the South refused to die in that city, but some might argue that it contributed to the charm.

There is something pure about living in that type of economic condition, you experience the lowest of the lows and you exist without the type of security blanket that most people enjoy in life. But... it allows you a type of freedom that I almost miss, because it allows for an appreciation of life that you overlook when you have that security blanket. When you feel like you have to fight to survive each passing week, it makes you feel very, very alive. Vibrant, in tune with yourself. I feel that I have had to trade some that self-awareness in exchange for the economic security blanket that I have now.

If many of the impoverished NOLA residents can find a new home and integrate into the economic engine of their new city, then I am happy for them. It's unfortunate that it came with such a high price, and that the spirit of the city is permanently altered. Just like Iraq, I feel that we had a very small window of time to set things in the right direction, and the Bush Administration squandered it. The Big Easy could have been rebuilt as a shining example of the strength of post-9/11 America. But I guess Bush wanted to go blow the dough in some stupid desert...

Methodists Say NO to Bush Library

If you are Methodist, you may want to check out this petition spearheaded by nearly a dozen current and former Methodist Bishops.
We the undersigned express our objection to the prospect of the George W. Bush library, museum, and think tank being established at Southern Methodist University. As United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate. We urge the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University and the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church to reject this project.

Yahoo News has more:
"Methodists have a long history of social conscience, so questions about the conduct of this president are very concerning," said one of the petition's organizers, the Rev. Andrew J. Weaver of New York, who graduated from SMU's Perkins School of Theology.

For some odd reason, the Petition organizers have included additional reading resources about the Bush Presidency with regard to three issues: The Iraq War, Kidnapping/Torture, and Hurricane Katrina.

With any luck the Library will be moved over to Baylor University. Those Baptist morons live in a very nice, thick bubble of jingoism and hypocrisy. That's a perfect place for Bush's legacy. (Is it obvious that I was a devout Southern Baptist for seven years?)

Republican Moral Clarity - NOLA EDITION

Republicans use the term moral clarity to justify activities like the Iraq War and domestic eavesdropping. This position affords the Bush/Cheney regime the freedom to do whatever they want, because they are defending God and Country. Basically, it's OK to break a lot of eggs when you're making a Freedom Omelette.

So, this leads us to a little bit of domestic moral clarity with regard to the ineptitude displayed by the Administration after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The Administration that loves to wrap itself in the Flag and the Bible didn't think a white Democrat woman like Kathleen Blanco could handle the situation in Louisiana, whereas a white Republican male like Haley Barbour could handle Mississippi. From Michael 'Heckuva Job' Brown:
Brown, speaking at the Metropolitan College of New York, said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the devastating hurricane be federalized — a term Brown explained as placing the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "'We can't do it to Haley (Barbour) because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

Brown, 52, declined to say who in the White House had argued for federalizing the response only in Louisiana. He said that he'd later learned of the machinations through Blanco's office and from federal officials.

Blanco reacted sharply to Brown's remarks.

"This is exactly what we were living but could not bring ourselves to believe. Karl Rove was playing politics while our people were dying," Blanco said through a spokeswoman, referring to Bush's top political strategist. "The federal effort was delayed, and now the public knows why. It's disgusting."

Eryn Witcher, a White House spokeswoman, denied Brown's claims.

Of course, the White House will deny this, but it hardly comes as a surprise to the reasonable observer. A person of true moral clarity would have cast aside these temporary flippant issues and would have sent all possible help IMMEDIATELY to the Gulf Coast following landfall. This administration wanted to create a political issue out of a nightmarish natural disaster, because that is the way they work. If they can't triangulate a wedge between all involved parties, then they don't want to play. It's as simple as that.

It's no wonder they American people no longer trust this Administration with regard to Iraq and the Middle East.

Wind Cars

The Telegraph has a small article on the Democrat's Bill to rescind a specific type of tax break for big oil companies.

Big Oil Lovers are having heart palpitations over the fact that oil companies will pay an estimated $14 Billion over the next ten years. Will this increase our dependence on foreign oil? Some people say yes, because that $1.4 Billion per year would be used for advanced oil exploration/extraction methods. Other people say no because this is a small amount of money spread across a few very large companies that have earned record profits over the last few years.

However, I wanted to share something else from the article. It's a throw-away line that displays the mindset of Republican Oilmen:
"The San Francisco Democrats want to run cars with wind," said Representative Steve Pearce, referring to new House leader Nancy Pelosi, who comes from the famously liberal city.

It's fair to note that Steve Pearce is the owner of a small oil business worth at least a million dollars.

But let's look at this comment. "San Francisco Democrats want to run cars with wind." If we're discussing a pure zero pollution emission vehicle (including manufacturing the car and the process to compress the air), then is that really such a bad thing to 'want'? Regardless if it is feasible right now, that's a good thing to 'want'.

Pearce and his Republican ilk do not seem to have any interest in seeking legitimate, practical alternative energy sources. They 'want' to stay the course for either ideological reasons or because it is their main paycheck. They don't 'want' to reduce air pollution. They don't 'want' to actually reduce dependence on foreign oil. They 'want' the status quo to remain unchanged for the rest of their life, and they will undermine any attempt at real progress toward alternative energy sources.

I am not very upset that San Francisco Democrats 'want' a car that runs on wind, because you have to 'want' the impossible. And then you start working backward from that point until you reach the feasible. Increasing taxes on oil companies will force the US to depend on more foreign oil? How about asking those patriotic automakers to increase fuel efficiency? How about asking all those patriots like Steve Pearce to support higher efficiency cars in both public and private sectors? A little bit of conservation might actually reduce our dependence on OPEC oil.

And let's even go further with the impossible. How about the President uses his State of the Union address to begin a huge public campaign to encourage conservation, challenge American auto-makers to double fuel efficiency and reduce emissions by half, and then provide more incentives to buy American-made hybrid vehicles. Challenge the American people to work toward the goals of reducing pollution, reducing dependence on petroleum products, and help rebuild the American Automotive Empire in Detroit.

Oh yeah, that's right. Republicans don't really 'want' to pursue those goals. I forgot...


Big Drama For DJ Drama

The NYTimes has this story about the arrest of famed hip-hop beatmaster, DJ Drama. He was arrested this week for violating Georgia RICO laws.
Now DJ Drama is yet another symbol of the music industry’s turmoil and confusion.

On Tuesday night he was arrested with Don Cannon, a protégé. The police, working with the Recording Industry Association of America, raided his office, at 147 Walker Street in Atlanta. The association makes no distinction between counterfeit CDs and unlicensed compilations like those that DJ Drama is known for. So the police confiscated 81,000 discs, four vehicles, recording gear, and “other assets that are proceeds of a pattern of illegal activity,” said Chief Jeffrey C. Baker, from the Morrow, Ga., police department, which participated in the raid.

DJ Drama (whose real name is Tyree Simmons) and Mr. Cannon were each charged with a felony violation of Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization law(known as RICO) and held on $100,000 bond.

Basically the RIAA is admitting that it is so clueless about today's music world that it can't tell the difference between a bootlegged copy of a Snoop Dogg CD and a DJ mix that contains Snoop Dogg songs. The RIAA thinks that it is in the best interest of musicians to snuff out their best promotional asset.

It's no secret that I'm completely addicted to techno. Everytime I go to a store like Fry's, I always browse the electronic music section for a professional mix from my favorite DJs. Unfortunately, there is nothing out there for me to buy. I would love to throw my money at a record company that released mixes from professional DJs like Adam Beyer, Eric Sneo, Donald Glaude, Surgeon, or T-1000. The music industry in the United States decided several years ago that it didn't want to fight for my money, so I look elsewhere for the music that I love.

That kinda leads me directly to Roger Friedman's column today:
The recording industry, or what used to be known as the music business, is in a free-fall disaster.

Last week, the total number of CDs sold in the top 10 came to less than a half million. The actual number is closer to 445,000. And the No. 1 album, the soundtrack to the "Dreamgirls" movie, sold only 60,000 copies, according to hitsdailydouble.com.

This should be considered a crisis. Tower Records is gone, and if things keep up this way, more record stores and chains will start disappearing.

And it’s not like downloading has completely taken over from physical CD sales. Despite the hype, Apple reported a 65 percent drop in downloading in December.

Hmmmm. The music industry is sending high priced lawyers to squeeze blood from the P2P community, and casting its life-long customers as criminals. And now they are trying to crack down on arguably the most popular form of underground music today. What next? I wouldn't be surprised if the RIAA starts talking about invading Iran. They'd rather spend time doing anything BUT search for and promote the deserving artists that are withering on the vine.

Note to RIAA: There's a reason why producers continually give new, unsigned, unreleased music to the hottest DJs. If you worked with the DJs and utilized their resources to find hot, new producers/artists and promote/support them over time then you might actually start selling CDs again. In the meantime, I'll be grooving on the newest mix that I made this weekend...


Conservatives Agree with Bin Laden

The Carpetbagger has a great rundown of last night Colbert Report featuring Dinesh D’Souza. If you are not aware, D'Souza is a conservative writer/pundit that is your typical blowhard contemporary Republican. He talks a big game, but seems to lack some of the basic logic skills necessary to digest nuance and complexity.

Basically Dinesh d'Douche agrees wholeheartedly with Osama bin Laden's view of the world. Basically the problem with America, the Land of Freedom, is our fervent addiction to freedom. And if you have defended those freedoms, then you are the reason why Al Qaeda attacked us.

Let me repeat D'Souza's assertion: If you defend personal freedom and liberty in the United States of America, then you are directly responsibly for Al Qaeda's actions.

Folks, this is the level of debate found in the Right Wing World. If you defend The Golden Rule, then the blood of fellow humans is on your hands. How appalling is this argument? Basically this is like saying that Conservatives are responsible for the death of Sharon Tate because they didn't heed the writings of Charlie Manson. Or that the people of the United States are responsible for all of the people that died in Jonestown because we didn't accept Jim Jones as our personal Lord and Savior. I thought that the Republican party stood for personal responsibility; i.e. we don't need a welfare state because it is up to you to redeem yourself. Blaming Democrats/Liberals/Progressives for the sins of bin Laden is delusional.

Like Ann Coulter, D'Souza only hopes that this type of flammatory rhetoric sells books and gets him a few cable television bookings. Of course, he has sold himself short because now he can not be accepted as an intellectual that deserves attention. D'Souza has given us nothing of substance to debate; therefore he can immediately be replaced by the next hyperbolic blowhard.

Osama bin Laden owns 9/11. You can't assign credit to anybody else, especially patriots that correctly rejected the demands of a mass murderer.

Preventive War

I posted this comment at the Washington Monthly blog. Kevin Drum (formerly Calpundit) is a liberal hawk that initially supported this war. He and Atrios have argued whether the primary anti-war argument was based on the assumption that 'preventive' wars are always bad. I would argue that this was only sold to us as a preventive war, but this was not prosecuted as a preventive war. The initial case was not supported by the facts, and the actual war plan failed to meet its objectives of security WMD locations and egress points along the Iraq border. Debating the idea of 'preventive war' isn't necessarily off-base, but the realities of Bush's war preclude it from being listed as a preventive war. (I would say that Bush's war is more or less criminal intimidation.)

I haven't really felt compelled to say much about this topic until I read Drum's blog today and saw that he's still hung up on this question:
Would the war have gone better if it hadn't been preventive?

This asinine question led me to add this comment. I spent so much time on it that I felt like posting it. However, it does need some editing, but I don't have the time to do it right now. (work emergency) Hopefully I can come back this evening and add a few more thoughts on this subject.

The feasibility of a preventive war is tied to the question of "What are we trying to prevent?"

1. We were sold on a war to prevent Saddam from advancing a WMD program, or allowing "terrorists" from obtaining any elements or byproducts of Saddam's WMD program.

All evidence to support the first point was quite flimsy. In the buildup to the war, the Bush Administration failed to provide a single point of evidence that met the sniff test. Period. It's unfortunate that the war hawks failed to debate the war on these terms.

Let me state that last point again: It's unfortunate the war hawks failed to debate the war on the shared, verifiable facts and instead debated their own reductionist assumptions.

Would the war have gone better if it hadn't been preventive? Holy Asinine Crap, Batman! What does this question even mean? Are you asking if the war would have been better if we didn't go? Are you asking if the war would have been better if Saddam had claimed responsibility for 9/11? Are you asking if the war would have been better if Saddam decided to bomb Pearl Harbor again? If Saddam did not openly attack us, what other type of war would we have declared on Saddam? Or are you asking if it would have been better if Saddam had been actively seeking WMD? That leads to the next ugly point...

2. The war "plan" failed to secure WMD locations. The war "plan" failed to secure egress points along the border that might have allowed WMD to be moved out of the country.

Even if you accept that the preventive war argument is a good idea, you have to deal with the fact that the actual plan did not have the resources to resolve the WMD issue. And God forbid what would have happened if Saddam's army had been prepared to fight, or if Saddam actually had WMD to use against the invading Army.

It is unfortunate that war hawks (liberal and conservative) were inclined to support the Administration's war in the first place. If this was truly a war to prevent a WMD holocaust in the United States, then why the hell were we trying to do it on such a small resource budget? This entire war (planning, selling, execution) has been an enormous train wreck in slow motion.

I'm still waiting for a war supporter to explain why it was our most critical national security issue and how the plan was supposed to be successful. I think the real question should be "Would the war have gone better if we had supported executed a realistic plan to meet our objectives?" If we had done that, then we could actually say we prosecuted a preventive war and debate its merits. We poured our resources into a funnel that emptied in Iraq, and expected that the people of Iraq would give us cake and a map to the buried WMD treasure. That's not a preventive war; that's an arrogant, offensive display of money and power that is arguably criminal. That's how gangs control territory, that's not how a civilized society resolves a real impending threat.


Introducing the President

From Chris Matthews on MSNBC tonight:
Well, here he is, the only Commander in Chief we have, President of the United States, George Bush.

Chris and Keith Olbermann do not sound convinced this will work.


Peace Movement Kills Kids

Don Surber accuses the peace movement of killing nearly eight million people and that they are about to strike again.
Last time out, Cindy Sheehan and her ilk led to the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Michael Dickey put the carnage since 1975 by the North Vietnamese government and its proxies at 7.5 million people including up to 3 million in the killing fields of Cambodia.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam also cleared the way for the Hanoi-backed Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge forces to win a 5-year civil war against a military coup.
Turn the clock to 1991 when CNN’s “Highway of Death” footage stopped the Gulf War far short of Baghdad. Saddam Hussein followed with his own “drain the swamp” retaliation of draining the marshes of southern Iraq near the Kuwait border, displacing 200,000 Marsh Arabs[...]

There's more, but I think you get the point. I guess that I can accept the Republican argument that the anti-war crowd "lost" Vietnam and the first Iraq war. Whatever. It's a nonsensical argument, but I guess you could make it if you are a nonsensical person. But that doesn't even excuse the idea that the anti-war crowd is losing this war. The anti-war crowd does not have an army with guns and bombs. Bush does.

If he really, really believed that he could somehow win in Iraq then he would pull out everything, everything necessary to do it. Nothing comes easy in war, and if we could possibly do it then Bush would be doing it. It's not like Bush is sitting on a plan for absolute "victory" but is saying that it costs too much or takes too much time. If that was the case, then he'd make a case to the American people. Bush has a plan to raise the bet in the hopes that the other guy folds his hand.

It seems like Bush's most vocal supporters (like Don Surber) are now attempting to triangulate and strategerize the blame to the Left. Does anybody seriously think that hippies lost the Vietnam war? And is Bush really sitting in the White House and say, "Damn Cindy Sheehan! I would have beat Iraq if it weren't for her meddling ways!" Please. Give me a break. If Cindy Sheehan was really the wall standing between us and walking out of free, stable, Democratic Iraq (It's like a Utah in the Middle East!) then I would go out and take care of Cindy.

Don Surber & Co. will blame the Iraq war on the Dem minority in Congress during 2002-2006. They will then blame the post-invasion mess on hippies, the Dem majority, the Liberal Media, and Michael Moore. They forced this war down our throats, and now they are upset that it was a predictable quagmire. And yet it's Cindy's fault that her own son gave his life for it. Ohwait, I screwed up Surber's nonsensical argument. The future deaths of Iraqis will be the fault of Cindy Sheehan because her son died, she refused to accept it quietly, and her voice became so loud that it overpowered the voice of the President and the minds of the American people. (There, I just wanted to make sure I got it right.)


The Surge

Bush is preparing to work Capitol Hill to build support to surge 20,000 (?) US troops into Iraq.
"But advisers to the president also believe that the public is willing to give Mr. Bush another chance — especially if he puts forth a policy that is heavy on specifics. The White House is also mindful of polls showing that while the public wants the situation to improve in Iraq, it does not necessarily favor immediate withdrawal.

They're going to cast it as a choice between withdrawal and surge," said one Republican strategist who is close to the White House. "The public is not for immediate withdrawal or even a quick withdrawal, but they're not for the status quo. I think they feel as if the public is more likely to support the president's position, which is putting a stake in the ground in Iraq and saying we're going to try to win." The speech is expected to contain a series of goals for the Iraqi government.
(emphasis my own)
Wow. A policy heavy on specifics AND goals for the Iraqi government? Is it possible to send this material back to the summer of 2005 when it would have been useful? We were increasing security in Baghdad for elections, and that would've been an awesome time to have specific policy and goals.

This administration has always reminded me of the frats/jocks in College that were always lagging FAR, FAR behind in their work, but were always allowed to turn it in late. Except now this President is in a different class, with a teacher that is not accepting HS Freshman-level papers. And now this Administration is trying to play 'catch-up' as fast as they can. That is why we are stuck with two-year old solutions for two-year old problems.

Goals for the Iraqi government? The head of the government wants to quit before his term is over, and a large number of the government live in any other country except for Iraq. The problems facing this country are mature, dangerous, and complex. The US government does not have any incentives to offer the Iraqi government to do the work to meet these goals.

Specific policy? I'm interested to see where this goes. This Administration has relied solely on ideological rhetoric and ad hominem stereotypes to define themselves, their work, and the world around them. Yes, of course they pepper their speeches with a few metrics and statistics, but there's very little in terms of substance. I'll adopt a 'wait-and-see' attitude on this one.

And finally, this is my favorite aspect of the reported surge: $1 Billion for Reconstruction work. This might be the definition of the phrase "too little, too late". In addition, we've spent billions on Reconstruction anyway. However, now this time we are going to let the Iraqi people "help" rebuild their own country and share on the Reconstruction money. Gosh, maybe that's the reason why they haven't enjoyed this whole experience so far...

It's hard to say exactly how I feel about the surge itself. Obviously, I think aspects of it are well overdue. We've needed to hand some type of goal or timetable to the Iraqi government for a long time. Other than that, we've done all of the rest of this before. Perhaps it is a good idea to make one last presentation and 'surge' before we withdraw, but I haven't seen convincing military support of it. Is this Bush's last grab at the ring, or is he trying to ensure that this is escalated so high that it can't possibly end before he leaves?


Military Bungles Ahoy

Frequently you read anecdotal stories emanating from our military and their romps in Iraq that symbolize American military ineptitude, and really answer the question of how we got it so wrong. And anyone using their head can peel through the layers of reasons for invasion, exposing the raw, true source - greed. And when you go into war for this reason, the logistics of a successful mission fall by the wayside.

A few months back, Vanity Fair ran an article on the infamous Haditha Killings, in which four military officers were finally charged in the brutal murders last month. While most people complained about its publication, I'm not sure how else we expose the corruption and immorality of the US Army. By virtue, I guess armies aren't supposed to be moral, but there are ways to conduct war, and ways not to - just ask Saddam.

As far as housekeeping details go, the US Army can't get that right, either. In December, re-enlistment letters (letters urging served members to return to active duty) were sent to 5,100 individuals who have recently left the military - unfortunately, 275 recipients of the letter were forced to leave involuntarily. In a total bonehead move, the military sent this letter to 75 officers killed in action, and 200 wounded in duty. And now they are having to apologize to the families of those killed/wounded who received the letter.


The Smoking Gun Roundup

I occasionally go through The Smoking Gun Archives to find stories that make my life somehow seem less abysmal. Well, my life isn't that abysmal, but some of these sure are funny.

Mike Tyson tells Arizona police how to roll a 'dirty' cigarette. Additionally, weed and cocaine make him "feel good". Kudos to Iron Mike for sharing his recipe for a Keith Richards Marlboro, and I agree that weed and cocaine usually make a person feel good. (Mike also had a few bags of coke in the car with him at the time of this little conversation, too.)

The leader of Phish got busted. With xanax, percocet, and hydrocodone. I have to give credit to my Dad's rock generation. At least they got busted with real drugs. It's sad when hippie bands and right-wing radio hosts are on the same unprescribed dope...

Virginia issues the personalized license plate 'STFU-PLS' and then asks for it back.

Some guy in Wisconsin argues that he can't be prosecuted for having sex with that deer because it was already dead. This guy has already been in jail for killing a horse and attempting to have sex with it.


Fresh Catch On Hussein : Execution Edition

A man in a suit stands on a platform in a dark, poorly lit chamber. He refuses to slip on a black hood and faces forward stoicly as a noose is lowered around his head. He challenges the manhood of his masked tormenters and abruptly disappears. A few moments later, the cell-phone video pans down to record the last few seconds of conciousness.

Welcome to the 21st Century, The Mobile Youtube "Can You Hear Me Now?" Century.

A quick glance at one page of Youtube shows nearly half a million views of the execution of Saddam Hussein. Among the chief complaints from the commenters are the cheap production design and shoddy cinematography. Even I was one of the millions of live viewers that sat transfixed on the couch waiting for news of the execution. Numbed, I felt little of the disgust that I feel now.

And all of this on the eve of Bush's demand for more sacrifice in Iraq...

It's hard to explain what is so discomforting about the Saddam execution experience. The authors of this blog do not, and will never, support capital punishment. But what type of punishment is fair for the author of the death of thousands? It all seemed surreal: The minute-by-minute updates of the preparations for execution were scrolled across the bottom of the television, seemingly text-messaged from Death himself. The announcement of Saddam's execution became secondary to the argument over the news source that had the first scoop.

Saddam's sentence to meet the hangman was a fait a compli. Even if you didn't support the punishment, it was difficult to argue that Saddam deserved to lay back and read books until he died. And you knew that it would never be allowed. He was going to die whether or not his executioner was an instrument of the state or simply a prison guard or another fellow prisoner. Saddam's number was up when he walked out of the spider hole alive, and he had been living on borrowed time ever since.

That's not to say any of this was justified, but it helps me understand why I initially felt little concern upon the announcement of his execution. Bush presided silently over one hundred executions while governing my home state (not his). Similarly, Bush has presided blindly while three thousand American soldiers died in a complex, sectarian web of violence and corruption. It's fitting that Bush could finally preside silently and blindly while his puppet government in the Desert created a martyr out of a psycopath in a scene that belonged in a gay Mel Gibson S&M movie. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that we were powerless to prevent, and could barely avoid watching. I have been shocked so many times leading up to the moment that I barely registered the impact of this new trauma.

Bush assured Texans that each prisoner in the State was guilty of the crime and had full access to the courts. That's the min/max requirements necessary to execute another person in George W. Bush's perverse Christian ideology. And by that measure, Saddam was guilty, had "access" to the courts, and was even given a new suit. That's justice, Texas style. And Saddam's execution was certainly "done" bigger and better than we have seen before. Again, it's a success by George W. Bush's Texas standards. (Remember, he's a fake Texan too.) It should come as no surprise that the man who was sleepwalking through Hurricane Katrina would fail us again when American standards and principles were once again confronted head-on. Bush's minimum standards are so shockingly low that he would only be truly worried if the Turks threatened to steal our Easter Eggs...

Saddam deserved to be killed a thousand times over by the friends and families of your victims. But the people of America and Iraq did not deserve to have this thrust into our faces during a season of religious, spiritual, and/or emotional significance. Bush Admin officials claim to have 'expressed concern' over the timing of the execution, but we're all tired of hearing these weak, simplistic concessions of failed diplomacy. Did I previously say this was Bush's puppet government in the Desert? I guess I was mistaken about who pulls the strings these days.

Saddam's execution on the eve of the New Year, coinciding with a shared holiday season, is just the shocking trailer for Bush's plan to escalate the stakes in Iraq. Sacrifice? I think we've sacrificed just about enough blood to create some very scary demons that will be impossible to kill. And these demons will leave victims on this planet that will curse Arabs and Americans and will spread the seeds of hate against each other for generations to come.

Hitchens on Hussein : Execution Edition

The disgusting video of Saddam Hussein's last moments on the planet is more than a reminder of the inescapable barbarity of capital punishment and of the intelligible and conventional reasons why it should always be opposed. The zoolike scenes in that dank, filthy shed (it seems that those attending were not even asked to turn off their cell phones or forbidden to use them to record souvenir film) were more like a lynching than an execution. At one point, one of the attending magistrates can be heard appealing for decency and calm, but otherwise the fact must be faced: In spite of his mad invective against "the Persians" and other traitors, the only character with a rag of dignity in the whole scene is the father of all hangmen, Saddam Hussein himself.

Essential reading from the provocative Christopher Hitchens...


Random Thoughts On The Mii Channel

Here's a few thoughts on Nintendo Wii's Mii Channel.

1. Transferring Mii's is a lot of fun. However, I wish there was some type of way to know which Mii's you have transferred around to people. Once you've added new people, it's really hard to keep track.

2. Surely we could expand the nicknames by five or ten characters. Ten characters is way too short. I can do "Fox Mulder" but not "John Doggett". Weak.

3. When I receive a Mii from a Friend for the first time, why can't I choose to assign that Mii to the Friend's address book entry?

4. A 20 Mii per day transfer limit is too low. I can understand why Nintendo wants to keep it low, but you can hit that limit really fast. Especially on the weekend or a holiday.

5. When I send a Mii, I usually send it to multiple people. The menu should allow me to do that.

But yes, I still love the channel because it offers a unique form of online interaction. You never know what type of Mii you might receive when you open up the Channel. Let's just hope that Nintendo expands it a bit with an update...