A Cautious Man
January 31, 2007
Both TBogg and Holden at First Draft provided an example of the President's habit of explaining things to us, as if we were children, or at least less informed than him:
Yesterday, I went to the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois -- that's where they make big bulldozers.

We're spending money on cellulosic ethanol -- that's a fancy word for saying some day we're going to be able to convert switch grass into energy that powers your cars.

These reminded me of my favorite episode of "President Bush explains a word". It was the one where he gets the word wrong, and then sounds even more clueless as he explains the meaning of the wrong word -
It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth.

It's actually still on the White House website, from a May, 2005 discussion of an Amnesty International report on detainees.

January 28, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen ...
... is not Springsteen this week.

Steve Earle is the author of the quote near the top of the sidebar. There was a time when it seemed "revolutionary" to suggest that one could question the Administration.

Now, not so much.

So, in tribute to the change that is taking place (and which will hopefully continue) - the Revolution Starts Now:
The revolution starts now
When you rise above your fear
And tear the walls around you down
The revolution starts here
Where you work and where you play
Where you lay your money down
What you do and what you say
The revolution starts now

Yeah, the revolution starts now
In your own backyard
In your own hometown
So what you doin’ standin’ around?
Just follow your heart
The revolution starts now

January 24, 2007
Looking For Something To Blame
Everybody has their own take on the State of the Union address from last night. This is mine.

The President is still trying to blame everyone else for his unwise invasion of Iraq. After pressing the claim that failure to follow his plan will result in terrorists attacking the U.S. again, he made this statement –
This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you've made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way.

That’s still the line he’s taking - “It’s everybody’s fault.” The facts show that we were not united in believing that a precipitous invasion of Iraq was the best way to protect the United States, or even the best way to deal with Iraq. Here are two extended excerpts from speeches by two senators, one a Democrat and one a Republican, from 2002 (when the vote to authorize the use of force was taken) and from 2003, just before the invasion.

This is what Senator Kerry said, on the floor of the Senate, at the time of that vote:
By beginning its public discourse with talk of invasion and regime change, the administration raised doubts about their bona fides on the most legitimate justification for war--that in the post-September 11 world the unrestrained threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is unacceptable, and his refusal to allow U.N. inspectors to return was in blatant violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement that left him in power. By casting about in an unfocused, undisciplined, overly public, internal debate for a rationale for war, the administration complicated their case, confused the American public, and compromised America's credibility in the eyes of the world community. By engaging in hasty war talk rather than focusing on the central issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the administration placed doubts in the minds of potential allies, particularly in the Middle East, where managing the Arab street is difficult at best.

The reason for going to war, if we must fight, is not because Saddam Hussein has failed to deliver gulf war prisoners or Kuwaiti property. As much as we decry the way he has treated his people, regime change alone is not a sufficient reason for going to war, as desirable as it is to change the regime.

Regime change has been an American policy under the Clinton administration, and it is the current policy. I support the policy. But regime change in and of itself is not sufficient justification for going to war--particularly unilaterally--unless regime change is the only way to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction pursuant to the United Nations resolution.

And the administration, I believe, is now committed to a recognition that war must be the last option to address this threat, not the first, and that we must act in concert with allies around the globe to make the world's case against Saddam Hussein.

As the President made clear earlier this week, "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means "America speaks with one voice."

Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.

If we do wind up going to war with Iraq , it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize "imminent" -- threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.

Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.

Clearly, the Senator was mistaken about the President using the authority to invade as a last resort. Remember, in the months after the vote, Saddam Hussein allowed the weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. They only left on the eve of the invasion, when the President (that’s Bush, not Hussein) told them to leave the country.

And this is not a Republican vs. Democrat thing, either. This is what Senator Hagel had to say, on the eve of the invasion:
Today, America stands nearly alone in proclaiming the urgency of the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein. In Europe and in many corners of the globe, America is perceived as determined to use force in Iraq to the exclusion of world opinion or the interests of our allies, even those allies who share our concerns about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. America must balance its determination with patience and not be seen as in a rush to war. As David Ignatius wrote in a recent Washington Post column, "A nation heading into war needs prudence and good judgment. America's best generals, people such as Grant and Marshall and Eisenhower, were at once cautious and decisive. Their greatness lay in the fact that they never lost sight of the long-term interests of the United States."

America must steer away from actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions that have helped keep peace since World War II. Allowing a rush to war in Iraq to create divisions in those institutions and alliances that will help sustain American security and world stability is a short-sighted and dangerous course of action.

We should put aside the mistaken delusion that democracy is just around the corner. Or that by force of arms we can remove Saddam and simultaneously place Iraq on the path to democracy by overlaying a blueprint for democracy on the region ... a so-called "Democratic Domino Effect." The spade work of building a free Iraq will take time. General Anthony Zinni, special adviser to the Secretary of State and former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command, reminded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that, with regard to Iraq, "there will not be a spontaneous democracy so the reconstruction of the country will be a long, hard course regardless of whether a modest vision of the end state is sought or a more ambitious one is chosen." The end of Saddam Hussein's regime will be all to the good, but building nations and democracy in the Middle East or anywhere is complicated and difficult, and success is never assured. We can try to help create the conditions for democratic change. But we must assume that it will not come quickly or easily.

Clearly, there was there was a bipartisan unease with the President’s eagerness to initiate an invasion. “Everybody” may have been worried about Saddam Hussein, but not “everybody” felt that an immediate invasion was necessarily the right cure.

The President’s continued attempts to claim that "it’s everybody’s fault”, and refusal to be honest about how the war began, is reason enough to not rely on his judgment regarding how to end the war.

January 18, 2007
War - What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing
The other night, the governing body of my hometown did something, which more towns should do. They passed a resolution against escalating the war in Iraq, and calling for the withdrawal of troops.

Specifically, it states: "The Maplewood Township Committee urges the Federal Government to immediately commence a planned, orderly, and rapid withdrawal of all military personnel from Iraq". This is the whole resolution (you might have to click on the picture to enlarge it to readable size) -

As I said, more communities should do this now.

"A Time To Break Silence"
In many commemorations of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday this year, and in many columns, articles and speeches, there have been references to his speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 (which was mentioned here at this site last year). The speech is properly pointed to, as pointing out truths which are applicable to our own times -
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" "Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people," they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
You can listen to the speech at this link. It's a timely reminder.

January 17, 2007
Great Moments in Instapunditry
"I think the anti-war movement is dying, for lack of a rationale."

- Professor Reynolds, March 20, 2003.

January 14, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
Because tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day -

We Shall Overcome.

January 10, 2007
I Think They Had Other Plans
The President's strategy for Iraq:
Our strategy to achieve that victory has three elements. On the political side, we're helping the Iraqis build inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis. We're working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq, and to marginalize those who never will. ...

On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offense against the enemy. We're clearing out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives. And as we fight the terrorists, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight -- and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.

As Iraqi forces become more capable, they're taking responsibility for more and more Iraqi territory; we're transferring bases for their control, to take the fight to the enemy. ...

On the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, and reform their economy, and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq. In doing this, we have involved the United Nations, other international organizations, our coalition partners, and supportive regional states.

Unfortunately, that's the plan set out in December of 2005. So, what's "new" about the "new" plan to send in more troops (or, more precisely, to keep more troops there longer and to re-rotate troops back in sooner)? Other than increasing casualties, what else is "new"?

We Have Met The Enemy ...
... and he is us!

As pointed out by TBogg and No More Mister Nice Blog, there appears to be what the latter calls the new "wingnut word of the year" -
Ex-Senator Rick Santorum is now taking a position at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a right-wing think tank, where he'll head a program called "America's Enemies"; the Santorum announcement comes just days after we learned that Sean Hannity's new weekly Fox News show will regularly highlight an "Enemy of the State." Now today we have Fox's Gretchen Carlson -- an anchor, not even a commentator -- calling Ted Kennedy a "hostile enemy" of the United States.

So "enemy" is the new wingnut word, a catch-all for terrorists, insurgents, fighters of the Iraqi civil war ... and Democrats.

I especially like the picture from the Hannity show, where they show the faces of the various "enemies" of the Hannitized (as provided by Newshounds) -

After seeing all the supporters of the Administration gleefully pointing out "enemies", they remind me of this classic version of a modern, technologically-driven propaganda machine -
As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party's purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even -- so it was occasionally rumoured -- in some hiding-place in Oceania itself.
From, of course, 1984. These people have become a self-parody.

January 09, 2007
What's the point? I had a thought that seemed a little harsh, about the planned escalation of troop levels in Iraq. But then I read the Tony Snow, official White House view about people who disagree with sending even more troops into Iraq -
MR. SNOW: Well, look, Democrats are going to have to make a choice here and they're going to have to decide where they stand in terms of two issues: Number one, do you want Iraq to succeed, and, if so, what does that mean? And, number two, do you believe in supporting the troops as you say, and how do you express that support? Those are questions that will be answered in the process of public debate and also -- and a lot of other considerations. So we'll just have to see how it plays out.

See, it's not about whether you think that sending in more troops will actually help bring the war to an end. In the Administration's view, it's simply a question of realizing that the only way to support the troops is to endorse sending more of them into a war, with no clear way to end it. So, maybe it's not too harsh at all, to say that there's only one reason I can think of for this "surge" -

George Bush has been having some doubts, so he wants to make absolutely sure that his place in Hell has been reserved.
When I die I don't want no part of heaven
I would not do heavens work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me
To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell

- "Youngstown", B. Springsteen

January 07, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
Since there's been some discussion of the death penalty lately, this is a song about a guy who asks to be put on "that execution line". It's from a performance this past summer, which we were at. Not that it matters, but we were in "the pit" for this show, down in front of the stage - I highly recommend it to anyone.

You Can Get Hit Up By The Heat
We had kind of a warm weekend here in the Northeast. Apparently, it was due to that El Nino, or whatever it is that they want to call it.

Naturally, it will be part of the global warming debate. And, as you may have guessed, this weekend is not really part of global warming. If it was, then the next snowstorm will just be used by the folks who want to pretend that just because it's cold, that must mean that there's no global warming. It's kind of sad, actually.

January 05, 2007
That Execution Line
Following up on the false "religious = conservative" idea that the media pushes -

For anybody who is discussing the death penalty (whether in the context of Saddam Hussein, or the New Jersey commission which recommended abolition of the death penalty, as discussed below), the following is submitted for your consideration:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 2267 (Emphasis added).

For related thoughts on other issues, I refer you to Nitpicker's thoughts on the mental gymnastics engaged in by some conservatives.

Get Out The Way, Tucker
I've been nursing a cold the last few days, so I thought that the most harmless thing to do was to stay home and channel surf. Well, since yesterday was the big Congressional "hand-off", I watched the various characters on the various news channels blather on about it.

And I decided that no channel is more deceptive than Fox News, but more on that another time.

What I will say now about Fox is that they were relentless in hammering their theme that "Nancy Pelosi is a San Francisco Liberal". And that theme was carried on by MSNBC's resident faux Fox types, such as Tucker Carlson. He seems to revel in his ignorance, and celebrate his cluelessness. Why does that guy still have a show? Is it so that he will look so ridiculous, that people will feel compelled to watch, the way they slow down to look at traffic accidents?

Granted, it may not be entirely Tucker's fault. Cluelessness is a virtue when your job is to perform punditry, not to inform. But why do the networks give anchor roles to people who engage in simplistic labeling, like this -
Well, as we said, Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the first female speaker of the House today, and in her speech, the San Francisco liberal struck several notably conservative notes. Boasting about going to church, and quoting St. Francis of Assisi.
That's from the transcript, which is online at this link. Speaker Pelosi was quoting from the "Prayer of St. Francis", which Tucker probably should have looked at before making his comment:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Not exactly the Republican Party Platform (especially all that peace, love and forgiveness stuff).

As I said, maybe it's not entirely Tucker's fault. Simplistic labeling, which assumes that someone who quotes a Catholic saint is making a conservative point, is pervasive in the media. Still, when someone is so clueless, isn't there someone else they could give this airtime to?

January 03, 2007
Stand On It
Well now when in doubt and you can't figure it out
Just stand on it
Well, if your mind's confused, you don't know what you're gonna do
Well buddy, stand on it
In reading Keith Olbermann's latest "special comment", I noticed this little tidbit:
More American families will have to bear the unbearable, and rationalize the unforgivable — "sacrifice" — sacrifice now, sacrifice tomorrow, sacrifice forever.

And more Americans — more even than the two-thirds who already believe we need fewer troops in Iraq, not more — will have to conclude the President does not have any idea what he's doing - and that other Americans will have to die for that reason.

It must now be branded as propaganda — for even the President cannot truly feel that very many people still believe him to be competent in this area, let alone "the decider."

But from our impeccable reporter at the Pentagon, Jim Miklaszewski, tonight comes confirmation of something called "surge and accelerate" — as many as 20-thousand additional troops — for "political purposes".

This, in line with what we had previously heard, that this will be proclaimed a short-term measure, for the stated purpose of increasing security in and around Baghdad, and giving an Iraqi government a chance to establish some kind of order.

This is palpable nonsense, Mr. Bush.

If this is your intention — if the centerpiece of your announcement next week will be "sacrifice" — sacrifice your intention, not more American lives!
What a great phrase - "surge and accelerate". The President has considered all the advice he's received about Iraq, and opted for - a plan that sounds like a NASCAR race strategy. Forget the Baker Commission, let's use a plan that could've been hatched by Ricky Bobby.

(I'll have to let someone with better Photoshop skills turn Will Ferrell into George Walker Bush, but Will's a good substitute for a picture of the President, anyway).

I'm afraid we're going to wind up just like Bobby, in the Springsteen song "Stand On It" -
Bobby was leadin' the pack, he settled back and he got ready for the long haul
Well fifty yards from the finish line somebody roared up and they blew him into the wall
Well he rolled over twice, lucky to survive
Layin' in the back of the ambulance more dead than alive
Somebody shouted "Man, you call that drivin'?
Why didn't you stand on it"

January 02, 2007
Could You Pull That Switch Yourself, Sir
The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission issued its report today.

Its findings are stated directly and simply, and need no commentary:
(1) There is no compelling evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent.

(2) The costs of the death penalty are greater than the costs of life in prison without parole, but it is not possible to measure these costs with any degree of precision.

(3) There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.

(4) The available data do not support a finding of invidious racial bias in the application of the death penalty in New Jersey.

(5) Abolition of the death penalty will eliminate the risk of disproportionality in capital sentencing.

(6) The penological interest in executing a small number of persons guilty of murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an irreversible mistake.

(7) The alternative of life imprisonment in a maximum security institution without the possibility of parole would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of the families of murder victims.

(8) Sufficient funds should be dedicated to ensure adequate services and advocacy for the families of murder victims.
And the recommendation?
The Commission recommends that the death penalty in New Jersey be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be served in a maximum security facility. The Commission also recommends that any cost savings resulting from the abolition of the death penalty be used for benefits and services for survivors of victims of homicide.

The whole report is at this link (note: file is a .PDF).

It brings to mind the words from a song by Steve Earle, Billy Austin:
Now my waitin's over
As the final hour drags by
I ain't about to tell you
That I don't deserve to die
But there's twenty-seven men here
Mostly black, brown and poor
Most of em are guilty
Who are you to say for sure?

So when the preacher comes to get me
And they shave off all my hair
Could you take that long walk with me
Knowing hell is waitin' there
Could you pull that switch yourself sir
With a sure and steady hand
Could you still tell youself sir
That you're better than I am?

Now it's up to the ordinary citizens, to tell their legislators to make it so. And to tell the ones who oppose abolishing the death penalty, that they are simply wrong.

January 01, 2007
"Now don’t you call James Bond or Secret Agent Man ..."
Happy '007, everybody.

"And They See Things In Different Ways ..."
I switched to the "new Blogger". I'm not letting them mess with my template, yet.

I just know that something is going to get screwed up.

Oh, I forgot to add - We're baaaaaack!
Had a great time.


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