Saturday, July 28, 2007

Separating the analysts from operators in the CIA's history

My latest post at Troubled Times.

It's fun moonlighting...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Was Pat Tillman fragged?

I am starting to wonder whether some in the US military covered up and lied about Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan because they concluded he was likely fragged. See here to see what I mean.

It doesn't change the Cheney-Rove (Bush) administration's cynical use of Pat Tillman's death to propagate their war hype. adds a layer that seems to have been missed in most commentary. In Googling "Pat Tillman" and "frag," I found mostly commenters at various web sites offering that as an opinion or assertion. However, there were no "offical" reporters or articles stating that Tillman may have been intentionally killed by fellow soldiers.

If Tillman was a jerk to his men, such as intentionally putting them in dangerous situations where there was little to gain and almost certain death for several of the people in the unit, and if he did belittle his men for challenging such decisions, then it becomes that much more important not to assume Tillman was a "hero" while ripping the Pentagon's initial lies about Tillman's death where they called him a "hero" killed by "enemy fire."

While I did not myself come out and call Tillman a "hero," I was later favorably disposed toward Tillman by the fact that he read Chomsky and was opposed to the Iraq War II.

And, by the way, Ted Rall was still more wrong than right about Tillman, though perhaps not as wrong as people such as myself said at the time.

In other words, there's lots of humility to go around, starting with the Cheney-Rove crew, but working its way through many of us at lesser levels.

War's a bitch that keeps on bitching. And while Tillman died in the "better" war in Afghanistan (I supported that action from its beginnings), it's still time to ask, what are we doing at this point there, too?


ADDENDUM: A close in time comrade in arms undermines fragging theory...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Oil companies manipulate oil prices through refinery inefficiencies

For the past several years, I have said in discussions with people that the reason the oil companies are able to get away with their raising of prices is because of their "just in time" inventory methods and particularly their zealous shut downs of their refineries.

This article in today's NY Times is supportive of this position I have taken.

See this post I wrote back in April 2006 for more on this issue.

Pope Benedict still not threatening warmongers with excommunication

Pope Benedict did not hesitate to threaten excommunication for those who vote for abortion rights for women. Yet, he continues to hesitate to threaten excommunication against those who clamor for more war--despite an otherwise spirited denunciation about the "useless slaughter" that accompanies war.

While I have been pleasantly surprised with Pope Benedict on issues such as religion and science and Greek (Hellenist) influences on the development of Catholic philosophy, I remain disappointed with the Pope's continued refusal to give equal force to the Church's anti-war position as its anti-abortion position.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A family discussion about Harry Potter leads to a reckless series of predictions

Last evening, my wife and two children were discussing who will die and who will live in the last Harry Potter book, scheduled to be released on July 21.

My entry in the speculation is this:

Dumbledore is alive.

Snape dies trying to save Harry Potter from Voldermort.

Ron, Harry's pal, ultimately saves Harry from what seemed to be a certain death.

And Voldermort is killed once and for all.

One or more of these predictions are highly likely wrong. If all four are wrong, that will teach me not to rely on one movie and reading the first few chapters of the first Harry Potter book. I'm just going on a theory of plot devices I might have chosen if I had written the series. I will say that while I simply did not wish to read all of the books, I enjoyed J.K. Rowling's style and found it happily reminiscent of L.M. Montgomery (author of "Anne of Green Gables," a book far more sharply drawn than most people assume).

Still, when I read this web site this morning, I was happily surprised someone else agrees with me about Dumbledore and Snape.

Final comment: Here is my current favorite bumper sticker these days. It replaces my previous favorite bumper sticker, here.

UPDATE: Now that the Potter book is released, I did skim the end to see where I was right or wrong. However, as most people are not giving away the plot, I will refrain too. However, I will say I was partly correct, but still more incorrect than correct. At least I think so...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Conrad Black: Best writer of FDR bio convicted of a felony

As many may still not know, Conrad Black was convicted of defrauding his company, Hollinger International.

I have to admit a twinge of sadness because I adore Conrad Black's biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ("FDR"). What makes the book so amazing is that Black uses his Chief Executive Officer experience when analyzing FDR's actions and use of power. It is also fascinating because, in the book, Black is very much concerned with ethics, yet, recognizes the need for power plays from time to time.

Black understands what most historians don't understand: The US government's unemployoment figures in the 1930s did not count WPA and PWA and CCC workers as "employed." If one counted those folks, then the unemployment rate in 1939 was 4%. It is ridiculous therefore to suggest the New Deal did not help solve unemployment. Another figure that needs to be understood in this context is that the economy grew at a strong clip starting in 1934, largely due to the workers finding jobs through the government, and starting to buy things, which ended deflation of prices for many goods or products.

Black also recognizes that before Yalta, Churchill had already divided Central/Eastern Europe from Western Europe in a deal with Stalin, and that Churchill's delay of a second front against the Germans gave the Russians the opportunity to drive through Central/Eastern Europe. Thus, Black sees FDR's role at Yalta as a way to buy time and give up Poland to Soviet influence, but leave other nations' independence on the table.

The bio of FDR is a long one (over 1,300 pages)--it could have used an edit to delete about 200 pages. However, he has a lively style and I found it relatively easy reading.

I hope Black's conviction will not cause historians to simply reject or worse, ignore the book. The book reflects the better angels within Black's personality. And you'd never know he was a right-wing guy on issues of foreign policy or domestic labor policy. He calls his bio: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom." And he makes the case, too!

Perhaps some time in jail may lead him to write the definitive biography of Richard Nixon...

UPDATE 7/25/07: Wow! Black already wrote a bio of Nixon while defending against the prosecution. Too bad the book sounds not so good...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ask George

One of a few things I will do for my wife on our wedding anniversary (As the Beatles once sang, "It was 20 years ago today...!").

Congressman George Miller has a modern, but hopefully effective idea to use the Internet for a virtual town hall meeting on the Iraq War II.

Check out the YouTube segment here. For some reason, he seems a bit reticent in front of a small videocamera, but usually on C-Span, he is passionate and strong. It should also not be surprising that, despite leading a committee or two, his presence on corporate television is rare.

In my not-so-humble opinion, George Miller is one of our best Congresspeople. He is tough, knowledgeable and is genuinely interested in healing our commonweal.

My question to George (Miller) is:

Can't we put together a list of those Democratic Party Congresspeople who are not supporting an immediate end to the war? With that list, we can concentrate on each of those folks, and help them understand that when 70% of the country responds in polls that they want a deadline set and troops withdrawn by March 2008, it's time to start moving out troops now. Maybe they can see why such a proposal is both politically popular and is in the true "mainstream."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Guest blogging at Troubled Times

Steve Josselson, the proprietor of Troubled Times, invited me to guest blog and this is my first post at his terrific web site. Steve is a knowledgeable public policy writer and his insight is always valuable.

My guest post is about the Supreme Court decisions regarding integration remedies at school districts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Freeing the iPhone and Net Neutrality: It's important!

Read this short post and watch the video of this articulate young man helping us understand why the iPhone's exclusive tie-in with AT&T is related to net neutrality--and warn us of the corporate attempt to undermine that neutrality and close off the Internet.

This is a vital public policy issue that corporate media has no interest in you or me knowing about.

And after you're done with reading and watching at that link, go to this link and sign the petition.

I don't like sounding so "top-down," but this issue is vital to the future growth of the Internet. But more than that, keeping the net neutral is important with regard to the regeneration of our political structures against the power of corporate media--which corporate media would like to return and reduce us to silent, passive consumers.

Finally, here is Working Assets' CEO explaining the political and economic ramifications of the iPhone's tie-in with AT&T.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Michael Moore takes on corporate bias at CNN

I once heard a parent at my son's Boy Scout troop refer to CNN as the Communist News Network. I immediately responded that Corporate News Network is more like it. He looked askance, but really, what can anyone really say when one looks at the evidence over the years as to who is on CNN on a regular basis, the tilt toward rightward and establishment think tanks, and the overall passivity against powerful interests in corporate America and in Washington, DC.

But that's not the reason I write this post tonight.

The latest example of CNN's corporate bias is CNN's coverage of Michael Moore's film, "SiCKO," which is about our nation's ridiculous medical insurance system.

Here is the CNN mislabled "reality check" report on the film from CNN's ubiquitous Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is frankly a corporate whore. Think I'm too rough on Gupta? If you've ever been to a doctor's office with one of those televisions that play taped ads from drug companies that are posed as if the ads were news stories, you'll see Gupta quite often. And he has the audacity to continue to work as a so-called reporter--and a major network continues to employ him as a reporter?

What I found infuriating about Gupta's report on Moore's film was how he was really trying to get people to throw their hands in the air and believe nothing can be done to improve the lives of our fellow Americans, and instead cause us to continue to accept the poor outcomes for too many millions of Americans so a relatively few American corporate leaders can line their pockets with cash.

Anyway, here is Moore's web site demolishing Gupta's report. I can't wait to hear Gupta's response, because it appears Gupta is the liar here in ways that are embarrassing for him.

And, for the most fun, here is Moore ripping into Wolf Blitzer about media bias, health insurance in the US and elsewhere, and the war in Iraq--and how Blitzer owes Moore an apology regarding Moore's last film, "Farenheit 9/11." And before you say, "Well, wasn't that flawed, too?" watch historian Douglas Brinkley at YouTube here defending Moore for the content of that film.


Get the lead out

Protecting children from poisoning their minds and bodies due to excessive lead exposure is the type of issue we elected politicians to do something about. Now, we shake our heads and say it's too expensive...and, as usual, we are likely paying the $30 billion in other ways.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Merle Haggard channels Keith Olbermann?

Eric Alterman linked to this, but here is the direct link.

Yes, that's Merle Haggard telling us to get out of Iraq, and rebuild America first.

I wonder if the right wingers in the Country & Western world are going to attack Haggard the way they did the Dixie Chicks. Most of them are wusses, I bet, and won't go after an icon like Haggard. From what I can see at this point, they are simply closing their eyes and ignoring him. Of course, they can count on coastal, elitist corporate broadcast media to not say anything about Haggard (elitism has its advantages to the right in a variety of ways, doesn't it?).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Catch-22 if you can...

As I was concerned would happen, the Federal District Court of Appeal ruled that people who had strong reason to believe they were being wiretapped without any constitutional safeguards could not proceed with their litigation against the government because they lacked "standing."

As I have written here, "standing" is an issue courts use on their way to granting rights to people they want to help and denying rights to people they don't want to help. There is little in the way of consistency or sadly integrity in too many decisions that turn on "standing."

Here, the professors and others who brought suit had a strong reason to believe they were victims of wiretaps without constitutional authority. However, "national security" rules prohibited allowing them to confirm if they were being tapped. Then, when they sued the government to determine if they were being spied on, the Court said, without the information, they have no right to sue. A perfect Catch-22.