Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain's choice of Sarah Palin a positive for Democrats in the short run at least

With respect to the McCain choice for VP, Governor Sarah Palin, I offer these thoughts:

As most have recognized, the choice negates any reasonable attack by Republicans on Obama about "experience." It also shows that McCain is a reckless, not very thoughtful person by the way he made the choice, unlike Obama's judgment in picking someone respected by elite opinion on both sides of the aisle. Somehow, I don't think many rabid Hillary supporters are defecting to the McCain camp for his choice of Governor Palin...

I also heard from a woman who is a pro-choice Republican (she called me at the hospital on Friday afternoon to see how I was doing yesterday) and said she is planning to vote for Obama because she is now convinced McCain will never change his position on abortion and other "women's issues." She was "insulted" by McCain's choice of Palin, as if choosing any woman would somehow cause her to think more positively toward McCain. She has her concerns about Obama, but has been encouraged that he chose one of her more favorite Democrats when it comes to matters of foreign policy, Senator Biden.

My mother, a classic Mom of the 1950s, is appalled that Governor Palin would, after giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome, take on traveling around the country with the goal of becoming Vice President of the US. I asked her if she thought it would be okay if it turned out the husband played "Mr. Mom." My mother replied that, during from her days working at a local school (she retired a few years ago), she got to know children with Down Syndrome and saw how hard both parents had to work with and for such challenged children. I think my Mom may be a bit old fashioned to the extent she seemed harsher on Governor/Mom Palin, but I did notice when watching the photo op with Governor Pallin that the elder daughter was holding the baby. If Pallin is expecting the daughter to do the hard things needed to be done with the child, then that is where I think both parents are acting selfishly.

I guess, if one wanted to be Karl Rove, or most Republican operatives who thrive on television, one could say something like this, which is an example of attacking the strength of the opposition candidate: "This woman had a Down Syndrome baby for a photo-op and push her anti-abortion cred. And then shoves the kid off on other family members or her husband. The woman's a narcissist."

Or maybe, if one wanted to have a preferably female-liberal attack pundit and somehow get on corporate-owned television networks, such a person could say something like this: "She looks like Sally Field and sounds like Katie Couric. I can never see her standing up to Putin's Russia or the Iranians. Like shooting unarmed moose in a controlled environment in Alaska is the same thing. Right."

And a favorite of mine: "What? Two years as governor? How about she became governor in December 2006, and then took time off for having her baby. How about a year to a year and a half? That's lame, folks. And Republicans need to stop their chronic lies and spinning over what is a deeply disturbing and poor choice. What has happened is a 72 year old guy, McCain has offered up someone a heartbeat away from the presidency, who, in a more heavily populated state, would rise no higher than a VP slot in a local PTA."

See how easy this is?

Oh wait, I forget. Foul, disgusting and loathsome "arguments" of this nature are only allowed to be uttered on corporate television if they are leveled at Democrats...

Well, gotta continue to rest up after my heart procedure, though I slept during the afternoon, and did nothing but watch television for most of the afternoon and evening last night and went to bed early for me.

However, I'd like to say this to Obama and Biden: Stick to the high ground. But don't castigate your supporters for attacking both McCain and Palin the way McCain and his fellow Republicans, past and present, attack Democratic Party candidates.

Also, if McCan and Palin can't take it and start to complain about the politics of personal attacks and destruction, I hope the few hardcore Democratic Party pundits can find their way onto corporate radio and television to again attack McCain for complaining, just as John McCain said of the attack books recently released against Obama, that Obama has got to "keep your your sense of humor." And if Palin complains about an unfair attack, then let's hope someone reminds her how, just this past spring, she condescendingly chided Hillary Clinton for "whining" to the media in response to personal attacks--regardless of whether the attacks against Hillary were "fair or unfair."

As I always say, Republicans run elections on two "principles": First, Republican pundits and campaign strategists personally attack the strongest characteristics of the Democratic candidates to undermine the legitimacy of the Democratic Party candidate (Gore's smart and detailed, so when he makes a long statement that may have a small error, he is dull and a serial liar, Dean is crazy when he is passionate, Kerry flip-flops when he considers new evidence, and Obama's a dangerously unprepared person and his inspiring speeches are more celebrity than statesmenlike).

Second, Republicans know elections are about one day of voting every two to four years. They therefore know that the point of spreading exaggerations and often lies about Democrats is to undermine voters' beliefs in the integrity or grit of Democratic candidates, all in order to get people to not vote for the Democrat on one day: Election day. That's why Cheney doesn't care about polls or what people think, for example. As a corollary to this second point, Republican strategists can count on issue-free "news analysis" (sic!) on corporate television and radio to highlight the attacks and a fear by that corporate media to consistently knock them down (for fear the Republicans and corporate execs at the media corporations) will attack them as "liberal" and "biased", which enables the Republican "message" to get through. Then, the corporate media folks say, "The attacks may be exaggerations or lies, but they're working..."

Notice the difference, however, in the way corporate media covered the ridiculous choice of Governor Palin as his VP candidate. Just imagine had Obama picked first term Kansas governor Sibelius, who has had far more experience in state politics than Palin. Republican spinner-attacks on Sibelius's lack of national experience, emails about her not being tough enough, etc. would have resonated throughout corporate media.

Bonus point: Karl Rove did a pre-emptive attack on how he thought Obama would choose a VP (this was before Obama picked Biden), yet reading the quote, he ironically described John McCain's motivations in picking Palin:

I think [Obama's] going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice," Rove said. "He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.

Note to my doctors: This took me all of an hour last night and a few minutes this morning to blog about. I promise. I'm resting today and this week! As for readers of this blog who support or are voting for Obama-Biden, stay strong and fight corporate media attacks and distortions--and stenographic "reporting" of Republican spinmeisters.

(Edited and expanded into a separate post)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why there's been no blogging

Earlier this week, I went into the hospital for a heart procedure to attempt to correct some electrical stuff that's been going on in my heart for many years. I had to go through a special procedure because of particular allergies to certain medications and an old blood clot in my right thigh that had gone up through just below my right lung. I want to thank the doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, especially my doctors, Dr. David Cannom and Dr. Ivan Ho (no jokes about his literary-sounding name, please!), and the wonderful nursing staff at the Good Sam hospital. While it is not known if my atrial fibrulation will finally stop after all these years, so far, things are largely looking fine. The doctors, the excellent anesthesiologist, and nurses did a truly miraculous job in a difficult situation which had been presented to them.

I left the hospital this afternoon, rested up some more (ever try to sleep when in a hospital bed with all the blood work, checkups, etc?). I'm at my folks' house this evening, and not home yet, but expect to be home tomorrow.

I'd rather give a run down of the Sunday book reviews, but my head frankly can't take much more than watching television.

In my original post, I then spoke of McCain's choice for vice president, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, but have decided, upon further reflection the next morning after the evening post, to separate the comments into a different post.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

If anyone says, "McCain's the working class sorta guy..."

Then have that person read this.

Kathy G at The G Spot gives the links and discussion that nicely answers that narrative. Obama is far more self-made than McCain. And far closer for most of his life to the working/middle classes than McCain ever was.

As if that means we should only vote for working class folks, and not say, FDR or JFK or RFK...

We are deep in the silly season, but we must also answer the silly narratives that creep into people's subconscious.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

John McCain: He will draft your children to fight his wars

Don't believe me? See here.

I figure even if Obama were to institute a draft or universal service law for persons between 18 and 25, for example, at least Obama won't be dragging us into a series of unncessary, wasteful and ultimately stupid wars.

Between McCain's love of zygotes ("Life begins at conception" for public policy purposes) and his acknowledgement that a draft is necessary to fight the wars he wants to get into, anyone seriously contemplating voting for McCain ought to be rejecting him right

Yes, yes, there are other issues, like health care, ending the War against Iraq, rebuilding our infrastructure, increasing taxes on those earning more than $250,000 only etc., but again, those favor Obama, not McCain.

Yet, our low-information citizens, who are inundated with entertainment on television and radio, and provided little in the way of substantive discussion of policy on those particular media, are still weighing their vote for McCain. This remains McCain's election to lose and one can only hope he does lose.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Veep Guesses

Okay, I give in. I'll offer some speculation without any inside information whatsoever.

If it's Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebeilius, then I don't get it. She buys nothing on the foreign policy and trust fronts. Her female-ness does not make happy that small minority of mostly female Clintonites who have reached a new level of holding grudges and want to call it "closure." Plus, having seen her on C-Span, I found her tentative and not ready for prime time network pundits hitting her with gotcha and other similar style of questions.

(ADDENDUM 8/22/08: And if it's Hillary, I would be surprised because it means Obama and Hillary think they can control the Big Dog. They will be proven wrong before Labor Day. Nobody controls the Big Dog. Ever. And really, folks, Hillary is so hated (latest poll shows a 49% disapproval rating). She only seemed right to significant elements among white folks in Pennsylvania and and elsewhere in frankly heated moments in a primary, where her opponent--remember?--was a black man. It's risky enough already to test America's racist element. Let's not test the sexist element with a woman whom many Americans hate in a manner that is atavistic.)

And Senator Obama, if you can hear me:

If McCain is going to choose, as Vice President, someone your age, like Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, then go for a VP who is HIS age: Former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham, who voted against the Iraq War Resolution. Bob is a hard nosed guy in foreign affairs, who knew a debacle when he saw one, and will make most progressives and even the young voters smile. And you still get the upper hand on the age issue because being VP is not as grueling as being president.

Otherwise, it's a sigh and a prayer that Obama chooses Joe Biden, who I mostly detest, but figure will get that corporate Democrat crowd to be completely on board. Tim Kaine buys nothing, not even Virginia, and the same for Mark Warner.

As for McCain, he may find his religious right base starting to wonder about that Constitution Party candidate if he picks Tom Ridge, former PA governor, or the odious Joe Lieberman (Yutz-Conn.).

But, heck, what do I know sitting here in San Diego County in the early evening?

Enough speculation for now...

(Edited--Addendum in parentheses)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another reason not to give the benefit of any doubt to the Bush-Cheney regime...

Here is a link to a blog, Cab Drollery, that discusses a NY Times account regarding the recent "capture" of an alleged Al Queda operative, a woman, and an op-ed from an Arab newspaper that gives us a totally different, and probably, sad to say, more accurate perspective.

I still believe the woman was likely pro-Al Queda, but there is, in my view, strong reason to doubt the rest of the "official story" regarding her alleged activities and actions.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Night Review of Reviews of Books--and a film

Feeling a little quirky this week, but here is the latest installment of my review of book reviews, which includes a film review, too:

In this weeks' Sunday NY Times Book Review, I read a concise review of the latest Cultural Revolution memoir ("Snow Falling in Spring" by Moying Li) that appears worth reading as it provides more background of policy and history than the usual memoir. The Cultural Revolution remains one of the more widespread violently insane episodes of the often brutal 20th Century--and this is one of many such memoirs that attempt to mine the human cost of the era. A favorite remains a series of thinly-veiled short stories from 1978 entitled "The Execution of Mayor Yin" by Chen Jo-hsi. It's been rereleased by the original publisher, Indiana University Press, and it remains a powerful work of social realist fiction.

Too bad this week's NY Times Book Review section also contains poor reviews of important books like Thomas Frank's "The Wrecking Crew", meaning the reviews are not worth reading. In the case of Thomas Frank's book, the reviewer is more interested in scoring a cheap point than truly analyzing the issues Frank is raising. Another example of a bad review is the review of the late sociologist, Charles Tilly's book "Why?". The reviewer seems unable to delve into the intracicies of the argument Tilly's book raises, which shortchanges the reader.

Over at The Washington Post Book World, there is a must-avoid review by Michael Grunwald, an insider, elitist senior correspondent for Time Magazine, of a book on the American Empire, "Habits of Empire: A History of Westward Expansion" by Walter Nugent. Grunwald begins his review by castigating Nugent for believing the US planned to invade Canada during the war of 1812. I was taken aback at Grunwald's derisiveness because I've long known the US did invade Canada during the early stages of that second war against England. Grunwald appears to have confused the question of whether the US began the war against England in order to conquer Canada (a discredited notion as even Wikipedia notes) with the separate question of whether the US ever invaded Canada, which Wikipedia recognizes actually occurred. Grunwald's own bias is revealed only at the end of the review where he rips Nugent for apparently wrongly believing that the current president Bush (Cheney) are reckless war mongers. Tut, tut, says Grunwald, who must be a positive dee-light at Village parties hosted by elite Republicans.

Over at Amazon, one learns that many other noted journalists and historians think very highly of Nugent's book, including Steven Kinzer, Walter LaFeber and David Oshinsky, among others. It also receieved a Starred Review at Publisher's Weekly, which is an important achievement for a non-fiction book of this nature. I also noted with a smile that this is Nugent's first book since retiring as a history professor from the University of Notre Dame. I guess he's safe now to tell important and sweeping truths about the American Empire, which of course bothers "players" like Grunwald.

Across the big Atlantic pond, at the London Times Literary Supplement, one finds the best review of Adam Sandler's "Zohan" film that I have yet read. The review nearly perfectly captures my own view of the film, especially the film's wacky sort of promise to help Palestinians especially understand they have far more in common with Jews than they do with anyone else on the globe. Yes, yes, it's not a "book" review, but it is so worth noting that I have made an exception...

Finally, in the book review for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from last Sunday, a fine newspaper by the way, there is a wonderful review of a new book about the rise of the animal protection movement in England that is helpful to our understanding of the movement as it exists in our own nation.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Jewish poet mourns a Palestinian poet

Haim Gouri, writing in Haaretz, mourns the death of Mahamoud Darwish.

Both Gouri and Darwish were Reds in Israel. The Reds lost, which many see as a good thing. I wonder, though, if defeating the Reds, with a coalition that included right wing religious zealots and dictators, only created even worse enemies to our republic and to Israel...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Colmes shows guts, Hannity rolls out Chewbacca defense

Alan Colmes, of the "Hannity...and that other guy who's a weak liberal" show, finally showed some guts and stood up to the bully Hannity. Colmes said that McCain is an adulterer as much as Edwards (actually, if rumors are true, McCain was a serial adulterer in his day). And of course, McCain has a problem with his own timeline as to when he met the beer heiress who is now his Colmes also stated.

What I find fascinating about the video is three things:

1. The way the discussion was framed, you would think Edwards was still running for president.

2. Hannity, knowing he was hoisted up on a meat rack for his blubbering that Edwards can't be trusted to be president because he told inaccuracies about his affair, employs a Chewbacca defense that McCain had the right to cheat on his long suffering first wife because he was in a POW camp for five and a half years.

3. One of the right wing talking heads on the show said that what happened thirty years ago is not relevant--which I guess makes the POW issue irrelevant, too?

We are truly observers in the land of Idiocracy when watching FoxNews Channel...

Dr. Horrible is back!

If you missed it the first time around, Dr. Horrible is back with two short commercials. Yes, for free.

My son and I adore Dr. Horrible. I am personally in love with the songs and the structure--and the entire concept of the jerk superhero and the nice evil guy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

McCain: Under 40...

I know I was worried awhile back that Obama was not hitting 50% in the polls. I am still somewhat concerned, but I find it now even more telling that John McCain can't even secure 40% of poll respondents' votes.

Of course, corporate television and radio opinion shows will ask, "Why can't Obama reach 50%?" and downplay the fact that McCain can't even reach 40% of the voters after a barrage of ads and attacks against Obama.

ADDENDUM: I wonder if the corporate media find it compelling that Republicans are now endorsing Obama--you know, they way they find it so interesting that Joe Lieberman (Putz Party-CT) endorsed McCain.

Salute to the 1960s session players

Via Crooks and Liars' Nicole Belle, here is an article, in American Heritage magazine, about the great pop music of the 1960s and how session players gave it the soulfulness that resonates 40 years later--and possibly beyond.

The thing that surprised me most, and there are many surprises set forth in the article, is that while Roger McGuinn, of the Byrds, is playing his guitar on "Mr. Tamborine Man," the other members of that legendary band are not playing their instruments at all. The rest of the instrumentation is from the session players known as "The Wrecking Crew." Most famous alumnus of that group of session players? Glen Campbell. Note how the article tells us some of the most famous guitar phrasings in Beach Boy songs came from Campbell...

The writer of the article notes the advent of musicianship in rock and pop music in the 1970s, and even uses the word "progressive." However, the writer fails to identify any of the bands the progressive rock movement such as Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson or the like--which had true musicians and composers in those bands.

As I've been blogging since Sunday on the Russian-Georgian war regarding South Ossetia, I figured we could take a dandelion break and think about this subject of music and musicians instead.

There are conflicting reports as to whether the Russians are backing away from Georgia for the time being. It is shameful that no UN Assembly session has met to issue a resolution. This UN Daily Briefing from yesterday, August 11, states the Security Council has met, but it has issued nothing--most likely because Russia, as with the US and others on the Security Council, is on the Security Council and has a veto over any action of that body. While the UN Assembly may not be able to act without Security Council approval as well, it has very persuasive moral power as a barometer of world opinion, to prepare and issue a resolution for the fighting to stop, particularly the Russian agression that followed Georgia's aggression into South Ossetia.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia on our minds...

Here is an interesting and informative article in The Nation (the initial comments on larger issues are gratiutious and should be ignored) by someone who knows the history of the Georgia-South Ossetian fight.

What is most interesting to me is how the Bush (Cheney) administration, by tilting toward Georgia for what appear to be the usual crass natural resource reasons, and not taking seriously the need for diplomacy at the UN, helped set the table that led the Russians to act.

Still, let's not lose sight of the fact that Russia is acting imperially and brutally. Here is also a nice summary by James Traub of the New York Times that focuses on that side of the ledger.

Also, as I have said in the past 24 hours in another post, how does our nation have any credibility to threaten a military response when our troops are bogged down in Iraq?

What is needed is a more effective response than saber-rattling that has no credibility. A more effective strategy right now: Call a UN meeting, pass a resolution that calls for the Russians and Georgians to stand down, call for a referendum for South Ossetians to decide their fate, and threaten at least economic sanctions against the Russians and Georgians if they disobey the resolution. From there, we can start to figure out whether more is needed...People are needlessly dying in the nation of Georgia for the stupidity and initial aggressiveness by the Georgian leadership, and brutal overreaction by the Russian leadership.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thinking about war...again

From YouTube, Donovan's classic version of the Buffy St. Marie song, "Universal Soldier," with a great ameteur video.

Ms. St. Marie explains how she came to write the song here, again from YouTube.

Are there some wars we gotta fight? Absolutely. Will the Russians stand down in Georgia, or will we be dragged into another war in a region far, far away? I am starting to wonder whether the Russians are pushing the envelope against the Georgian government and people at this point, which already requires immediate UN Assembly and Security Council meetings to decide on a course of action that should include a demand that the Russians immediately end its bombing of the nation of Georgia, a referendum for the people of South Ossetia and the Russian troops pulling out of South Ossetia. If the Russians continue to bomb...Argh. Sigh. I am undermining the message "Universal Soldier," aren't I? Yes.

Comments on the Georgia-Russian war in South Ossetia

Wondering about Russia fighting a former Soviet Union province, Georgia, and wondering what's going on? Wikipedia has a couple of nice backgrounders that help us understand that Georgia was trying to bully an area it claims as its own, and the Russians, not happy about Georgia's close relations with the West, decided it had interests in the breakaway province, too, all, of course, in the interests of "protecting" its own people, who happen to be there in the form of troops. And if you believe Russian leaders on this one, you'll also believe FoxNews is fair and balanced.

Our first line of criticism against the Russians should be to ridiculue Russian leaders' hypocrisy, as Georgia has only been performing a pale impression of oppression and murder that the Russians continue to commit against the Chechnyians.

Some may want a military confrontation with Russia. However, is this where the United States, either on its own or with the UN, draws the military line in the sand against Russian behavior? In a word, No. And anyway, we don't have enough troops ready to do this because our nation's soldiers continue to be bogged down in Iraq.

Already, it looks like the Georgian president is realizing he miscalculated and is ordering his troops to retreat.

While McCain and Obama think Georgia's sovereignty ought to be paramount with respect to South Ossetia, and have called for protecting Georgia's sovereignty through the UN, I believe we should at least consider another diplomatic solution: Why not convene the UN general assembly to have a vote supporting the right of the people in South Ossetia to vote in a referendum? Do the South Ossetians still want independence or automony (kind of like Puerto Rico or Guam with the US)--and if autonomy, with who: Russia or Georgia?

Yes, the Russians will be angry because the implications for the Chechnyians will be irresistible--and because the Russians, by previously claiming to support the South Ossetian aims for independence, will now have to live with that independence (and, again, what it means for the Chechnyians). But that should not be the reason we fail to act on behalf of a people who have already said, by vote and a force of arms, they want to be independent from both the Georgian government and the Russians.

HUMILITY CHECK: On the other hand, what if South Carolina wanted to secede again and took up arms...Just wonderin'...


Friday, August 08, 2008

Poor Edwards, but why did he not admit it 2 years ago?

Poor Edwards. But what I don't get is why he wouldn't have admitted it to the public as he was getting ready to run in 2006, and just be done with it. I figure if Elizabeth forgave him, why should I care about it? Had he done a Gingrich, and dumped Elizabeth as she continues to fight cancer, I might have felt less kindly toward Edwards, but his public policy positions still would have resonated. We all lead somewhat messy personal lives, especially for those in the public eye.

Edwards' admission, after so many denials, seems worse now, especially for those of us who supported Edwards in the early primaries and gazed forlornly upon him as the guy who "should have won." Had he become the nominee, this story would have sucked all the air out of room and we'd have an even sillier season among the political gossip mongers who pose as broadcast media reporters.


ADDENDUM: Kathy G has a very astute response to this situation involving Edwards. She concludes Edwards may still not be truthful and may well be the father of the other woman's child, and was seeing her well after he told Elizabeth about the affair. If so, double oy...

ADDENDUM #2: Here is an article from the LA Times about the "other" woman that every man in the public eye ought to read. The woman who became involved with Edwards has all the personalit traits of a whack-job reality-show contestant. She wanted to become rich and famous and was prepared, several years ago, to reach that goal by landing a "rich and famous" or "powerful man." I am starting to think the reason she does not want a paternity test is because she wants people to think it was Edwards, and it was not. Who knows? Life is a mess, and Edwards sure made a mess of things for his wife and children. This is one area, besides national health insurance, where I wish our culture would take a cue from Europeans and just ignore this sort of personal nonsense. Politicians are all celebrities and with celebrities come groupies. That is the way that it is.

Paul Krugman nails the stupidity of the elite and the Republican Party leadership

Paul Krugman's article in today's NY Times is outstanding in recognizing it was the elite in the corridors of power who whipped up the regular folks into the frenzy that led to the invasion of Iraq.

Atrios helpfully posts a lik to Krugman's op-ed and then adds a clip from the infamous Thomas Friedman (elite reporter for the NY Times) interview on Charlie Rose where Friedman reveals himself as a stupid monster. It is outrageous to watch and listen to Friedman willfully confuse the only secular oriented dictator in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein, with the religious fanatics who perpetrated the litany of terrorist attacks he mentions. It is also sickening to have him justify official violence against Iraq as if the US had not already invaded Afghanistan to go after the actual perpetrators of the 9/11/2001 attacks.

Further, it is a slander for Friedman to assert that the US leaders in the 1990s said "it was okay" for such attacks to occur. The mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack, and seven other persons (including a blind Muslim religious leader who recruited many of the nine others), were sentenced to life in imprisonment in the late 1990s, something Friedman should have known--if he was not reckless and stupid. And he should already have known, by 2003, that the Clinton administration had prepared the most detailed anti-terrorist plan in December 2000, after the attack on the USS Cole, to militarily go after the Al Queda terrorists, and handed it off to the incoming Bush (Cheney) administration.

Friedman should be ashamed of himself, but he remains unrepentant that the US had the right and duty to invade Iraq in 2003. He has only voiced concern that the Bush (Cheney) administration pursued a flawed postwar strategy in Iraq.

Finally, a post of mine from last year where I branded the Republican Party leaders as "reckless and stupid."

Hopefully, enough American voters will try something different and elect Obama this fall.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Military jury rebukes Bush (Cheney) administration

Bin Laden's driver, Salim Hamdan, was sentenced to 5 years in prison, and could be out of jail in 5 months. The jury obviously does not see Hamdan as a threat, unlike the Bush (Cheney) administration. Hamdan had previously brought his case to the US Supreme Court, which had delivered a rebuke to the Bush (Cheney) administration for setting up military tribunals for enemy combatants without Congressional approval. A human rights group, which includes Kerry Kennedy (one of RFK's children) as a Board member, has a nice summary of the case here. After the Congress officially authorized the military tribunals, Hamdan's was the first to be tried before the tribunal.

The administration had consistently alleged Hamdan was a conspirator in acts of terrorism. The military jury rejected that allegation and convicted him for merely being bin Laden's vehicle driver and bodyguard. During the trial, the military judge excluded from the jury alleged evidence of Hamdan's admissions during what the judge found were overly coercive interrogations. Apparently, the prosecution also improperly withheld documents from Hamdan's attorneys for several years and thought they could just give them to Hamdan's attorneys on the eve of or at trial.

Give credit to the military judge and jury for standing up to what it obviously perceived as arrogant overkill by the administration. This may be part of the revolt against the illegitimacy of the Bush (Cheney) administration. It may even provide further indirect evidence of Congress' dereliction of duty in not impeaching Bush and Cheney.


Real life hero, Eric Dowling (1915-2008), passes away

A great obituary in the London Times for a real life hero, Eric Dowling, who put his skills to a task none of us every hope to have to apply: Trying to escape from a Prisoner of War (POW) camp.

Eric Dowling hated the film, "The Great Escape" (1963), which was based on a book by one of his fellow POWs who were part of the same escape plot. However, the film is a sentimental favorite of mine. Despite knowing the mostly sad ending, and sensing that the entire Steve McQueen character was likely a fantasy and at best a composite, I still watch that film every time it is on television (such as just the other day on AMC...). Mr. Dowling objected to the film, for what are valid reasons. Still, the sense of comaraderie and collective effort against evil, and yet acting for self-preservation, are what makes the film both memorable and inspiring.

Eric Dowling is himself an inspiration and it is nice to know he lived a long and what appears to be a decent to good life.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

If Glenn Beck says Obama is a commie, that means Obama must be a good capitalist leader

During the 1992 presidential campaign between George Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton, Rush Limbaugh was fond of frothing that Clinton was a secret Communist who traveled to Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union back when he was a student at Oxford. Then, right-wing Republican Congressman Bob Dornan (R-CA) would use late night time in the House of Representatives, which was broadcast on C-Span, to second that frothing.

When right wing or Republican friends of mine would ask me about it at the time, my sarcastic and ironic response was, "Gosh, I hope he's a Commie! Maybe we'll finally get national health insurance!"

I couldn't find anything on the web that quoted Rush or Dornan that far back, but this article from 1999 gives us a flavor of the fantasy among right wingers about Clinton's alleged Communist ties.

As things turned out, of course, enough Americans voted for that alleged Communist. And somehow Bill Clinton ended up governing not much different than a late 1980s Bob Dole--except of course Clinton did not need Viagra.

This year, we find the latest clone of Limbaugh, the oily and self-parodying Glenn Beck, saying Obama is a "Marxist." That would be the same Obama who has economic advisers including bankers like Robert Rubin and various capitalist oriented economists from the University of Chicago. That would also be the same Obama who does not call for Medicare for all or anything that even sounds like Western European social programs.

Beck said on his show on August 4, 2008, "This guy (Obama) really is a Marxist."

To which we must respond, "This guy (Beck) really is an idiot."

And, as Atrios points out, Beck's ratings stink, which shows that revenue share from corporate America often determines what is shown on most corporate media news programs.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Must read in (egad!) The New Republic

Jack Goldsmith, a dissident but "conservative" lawyer who left the Justice Department around the start of the reign of the odious Gonzalez, has written a compelling review of the new book by one of the two NY Times reporters who exposed the secret and largely illegal programs initiated by the Bush (Cheney) administration after 9/11/2001.

I don't agree with Goldsmith that there were probable national security breaches anywhere in the NY Times articles Eric Lichtblau and James Risen wrote. However, I do wholeheartedly agree with his ultimate point that a loss of legitimacy arising from the Bush (Cheney) administration doing illegal things, will and did lead to reporters revealing more than they normally would about clandestine military and intelligence gathering activities.

These are four key paragraphs from the lengthy review of the book:

Lichtblau and his colleagues did not just report on the fact that the United States was aggressively tracking terrorists. They disclosed, much more damagingly, many operational details about how it did so. They reported not only the details of the SWIFT program, but also on data mining and pattern analysis of telephone and e-mail information, the government's listening in on purely international communications that "transit" through the United States, the close cooperation of private telecommunications firms in these efforts, and government analysis of ATM transactions, credit card purchases, wire payments, and more. I am not permitted to say which of those stories are true, but I can say that the true ones involved matters that were unknown to our enemies, and therefore gave the government a big advantage in tracking them. Their disclosure helped terrorists to avoid forms of communication that we were good at monitoring, and instead to switch to channels of communication in which we lack comparative advantage.


A root cause of the perception of illegitimacy inside the government that led to leaking (and then to occasional irresponsible reporting) is, ironically, excessive government secrecy. "When everything is classified, then nothing is classified," Justice Stewart famously said in his Pentagon Papers opinion, "and the system becomes one to be disregarded by the cynical or the careless, and to be manipulated by those intent on selfprotection or self-promotion." And he added that "the hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure," noting that "secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained."

The Bush administration defied these precepts and suffered as a result. Instead of employing the secrecy stamp sparingly, it did so extravagantly. Instead of engaging the press and public about the disclosable aspects of what it was up to, the Bush administration shut off the press, heightening its suspicion and mistrust. Instead of working with Congress or the secret surveillance court to update its surveillance powers after September 11, it took a go-it-alone approach. The administration kept the very existence of the program from all but the secret court's chief judge, Lichtblau reports, and gave congressional briefings only to the congressional leadership (the "gang of eight") rather than to both intelligence committees, many of whose members would later complain that they were briefed incompletely. The administration even short-circuited normal procedures inside the executive branch. It kept the number-two person in the Justice Department out of the loop. And it didn't share legal opinions related to the program with the National Security Agency that was running the program.

The secrecy of the Bush administration was genuinely excessive, and so it was self-defeating. One lesson of the last seven years is that the way for government to keep important secrets is not to draw the normal circle of secrecy tighter. Instead the government should be as open as possible, and when secrecy is truly necessary it must organize and conduct itself in a way that is beyond reproach, even in a time of danger. In the end, not Congress, nor the courts, nor the press can force the government to follow these precepts. Only the president can do that.

The comments to the article, at least some of them, are also interesting. Good for The New Republic for printing this informative and again compelling article.


ADDENDUM: And hot off the presses, Ron Suskind's new book alleges the Bush (Cheney) administration ordered the CIA to forge a document to promote the supposed link between al Queda and Saddam Hussein. George Tenet offers a weak denial--weak because he admits he can only say he personally was not aware of any such thing.

Also, Suskind's book reconfirms how the Bush (Cheney) administration cherry-picked intelligence, and ignored those who said Saddam Hussein did not have "weapons of mass destruction." Tenet glibly asserts those Iraqi nationals and exiles who told the CIA there were no WMDs were without credibilty. This is glib because at least one of the Iraqi exiles he and Cheney relied upon was codenamed "Curveball," which name later proved most ironic (scroll down to here and note how Tenet denied knowing "Curveball" was unreliable, a denial one of Tenet's top subordinates refuted). Worse, Tenet fails to tell his readers that most congresspeople did not receive information from the CIA that included doubts and dissenting opinions during the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Tenet is the one who is not credible.

Separate from the above is whether Suskind's book is itself credible on the forgery story. Based upon my general belief that the White House is at least as much vindictive as crooked, and that this could be a trap set for Suskind (who Bush and Cheney and Republican operatives obviously despise), I will wait awhile before concluding whether Suskind's charge is accurate.

Nuclear power a problem in France, too?

An interesting letter to the editor appeared in the Los Angeles Times today. Here it is:

McCain's wrong on nuclear power

Re "Obama's next stop: the home front," July 27

The Times reports that John McCain urged Barack Obama to note that France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. What McCain failed to note are the series of radioactive leaks into rivers and underground water in France that have occurred in the last few weeks and the contamination that more than 100 French employees have suffered.

Perhaps if McCain had the personal experience that I had with nuclear power, he would know more about the dangers to the public of radioactive meltdowns, cost overruns, lack of waste disposal sites and the risk of a terrorist attack on the plant. For all these reasons, nuclear power is to be avoided.

S. David Freeman
Former Chairman
nnessee Valley Authority
Marina del Rey

For years, I heard that much of France's energy needs are met through nuclear power, and that they had none of the health hazards or waste disposal issues we had in the US. I could never find information on whether there were health hazards such as higher infant mortality rates, cancer rates, etc. and whether there were disposal issues. This letter provides a glimpse that perhaps France experiences similar problems the US has had with nuclear power.

See also: This article from The (British) Guardian newspaper, dated July 10, 2008: "River use banned after French uranium leak"

See further: This article from a web site known as "French nuclear officials ban the drinking, fishing and consumption of fish from the Vaucluse region following a nuclear leak in Bollene on Tuesday"

And see this 1990s article on the slightly increased incidence of childhood leukemia near one of France's largest nuclear power plants, in La Hague.

And closer to home, this study is important to note as well. Still, one can find many "official" government studies showing "no significant" difference in cancer rates between those living near or not near nuclear power plants.

On the other hand, I well recall the conflicting studies about the incredibly high cancer rates in places like McFarland, California, where mostly Latino farmworkers were subjected to pesticide exposure, and California's elite groups, in and out of government, kept up the flack to say there was insufficient evidence to prove the pesticides were to blame. I remember meeting the wonderful Dr. Marion Moses, who is a long time advocate for the farmworkers and who was close to the United Farm Workers movement. She told me, when I met her at a church function, that most of the people who perform the studies may be toxicologists, but don't have much knowledge in the field of epidemiology. That may or may not be true, but certainly, when one sees clusters of cancer at very high rates, the burden of proof, from a public policy standpoint (not necessarily an individual lawsuit standpoint) should be on those who own nuclear power plants and pesticide manufacturers, for example, not regular folks.

Bottom line: Continue to count me as being highly skeptical about expanding nuclear power in the USA.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday Morning Review of Book Reviews

As we lament the loss of the Los Angeles Times Book Review section,* which appears to be part of the destruction of a once great newspaper, we provide links to a few noteworthy book reviews this morning:

* I did not often link to LA Times Book Reviews because they were difficult to get to in terms of registration and they would quickly disappear from free access on the web. When I would see an equivalent review from the NY Times or especially Washington Post, the other two newspapers of worthy note, I would choose to link to those other two newspapers. Still, the LA Times Book Review, especially in the years Steve Wasserman edited it, was an excellent newspaper book review section.

1. Many other prominent bloggers are already talking about this review by historian Alan Brinkley (brother of Douglas and son of the late acerbic and often politically conservative David Brinkley) in the NY Times about Wall St. Journal investigative reporter Jane Meyer's book on the Bush (Cheney) administration's support and promotion of torture. This review is worth reading every paragraph. When you are done reading, you will no longer have any doubt that Bush and Cheney should be impeached and even criminally prosecuted. Brinkley's last paragraph, however, sets down an important marker for anyone still trying to defend this lawless administration:

The Bush administration is not, of course, the first or only regime to violate civil liberties. John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt all authorized or tolerated terrible violations of civil and human rights, all of them in response to great national and global crises. In some respects, the Bush administration is simply following a familiar path by responding to real dangers with illegal and deplorable methods. But Jane Mayer’s extraordinary and invaluable book suggests that it would be difficult to find any precedent in American history for the scale, brutality and illegality of the torture and degradation inflicted on detainees over the last six years; and that it would be even harder to imagine a set of policies more likely to increase the dangers facing the United States and the world.

2. Also in the NY Times, a smart, but slightly snarky review by Daniel Gross (economics writer at both Newsweek and Slate magazines), of Kevin Phillips' newest book, "Bad Money" (Viking, 2008). My main problem with Gross' review is his pollyannish view that the US will suddenly restore its manufacturing base because our government may promote alternative fuel sources. Phillips' latest book is compelling precisely because he has so consistently and correctly warned us, since the mid 1980s with his pro-tariff and industrial policy book, "Staying on Top" (Random House, 1984), about the consequences of the decline of our industrial capabilities. The 1980s book was written at a time when Phillips considered himself more aligned with conservatives and the Republican Party. When I read it in the late 1980s, I found it compelling evidence that the American elite in both main political parties were losing their desire and ability to promote and maintain American economic dominance--and were instead allowing increasingly global corporations to run amok. Gross thinks he is landing a punch against Phillips when he writes:

Phillips believes the agony of the American consumer is a function of “the global crisis of American capitalism.” But he’s got it backward. We’re experiencing the first American crisis of global capitalism.

In fact, Gross' point supports Phillips' connecting the dots analysis and polemic that the US is in grave danger of reaching a point of irreversible economic decline, especially if we do not elect a President and Congress this year capable of reinvesting and redeveloping the infrastructure and manufacturing capacity of the US. And this is why Americans who value business as well as labor--and are not sidetracked with zygotes, homosexuals and the confusion of political reporting with gossip and perception "analysis"--should read Phillips' book and, for goodness sakes, vote for Obama. He is far more likely to embrace a Phillips sort of solution than the odious and idiotic McCain.

3. Over at the Washington Post Book World is a sharp and intelligent review of a book that demolishes any pretense the Bush (Cheney) administration may wish to assert with respect to its policies toward North Korea. First of many money paragraphs from the review:

(The book writer) Chinoy shows that American policy toward North Korea often became incoherent and self-defeating as administration insiders fought desperately to gain the upper hand in internal debates. The North Koreans took advantage of this disarray to build their stockpile of plutonium, believed to total 37 or 38 kilograms, and even to test a nuclear device underground.

History may not judge kindly the Bush administration's ill-fated invasion of Iraq, but in Chinoy's telling, historians may be even more critical of the administration's handling of North Korea.

Indeed. Another example of Republican leadership incompetence from too many years putting down government activities as worthless and promoting the politics of personal destruction as opposed to formulating public policy.

Related book review in this week's Washington Post Book World: A sad explanation of how the US being bogged down in Iraq has undermined the ability of the US to stop the Taliban from regrouping in Afghanistan.

4. Also in the Washington Post Book World this week: An informed review of Doris Lessing's fascinating book of imagined and actual history of her parents in the sweep of the first half of the 20th Century, "Alfred and Emily" (Harper, 2008). I have personally found Lessing more flat than compelling in her prose, and the quotes from the review do nothing to lessen my personal taste in that regard. However, I am drawn to anyone who is consciously and creatively messing with an amalgamation of fiction and non-fiction, as is Lessing. This review is a worthy example of informing us of the nature of a book we are not necessarily interested in reading, but need to understand as we explore world history and the work and life of literary figures such as Lessing.

5. And finally, a review in the LA Times of Harry Turtledove's latest alternative futuristic history, which deals with what the reviewer (now former LA Times Book Review editor David Ulin) and I see as too narrow a focus on the "history" of the Westwood and San Fernando Valley sections of Los Angeles.** I have often found Turtledove needlessly dense in his prose (he seems to be under the spell of those lit majors who believe Henry James is the king of literature; I favor William Dean Howells and Sinclair Lewis as our American literary royalty) and again, this review helped me understand why I will not likely add Turtledove's book to my bedside reading.

If one wishes to read a far better written, yet dreamy, futuristic dystopia dealing with the "essence" of the idea of the City of Los Angeles--yet also believes in the royalty of Henry James--allow me to recommend Steve Erickson's "Rubicon Beach" (Simon & Schuster, 1986). The strangest thing in reading the Amazon reviews, especially the highly negative Library Journal review, is how they all miss the point Erickson is making about the assassination of Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel as the location of the vortex where the ultimate destruction of Los Angeles, and America as a nation, began. I largely enjoyed this book, I should add, in case one wonders if I actually read it!

** Ulin would probably not like my RFK book because, as he says in his review: "Turtledove, however, is too savvy to build a novel around policy; he's looking for the human aftermath." I hate to say it, but Ulin's statement reveals he suffers from that fatal flaw within the literary academy (in and out of universities) in not recognizing the creative and poetic beauty of novels with "Big Ideas," which is the reason great writers from Tolstoy to Dickens to, again, Howells and Lewis, and to Steinbeck and Greene, wrote their outstanding and enduring novels. Ulin is entitled to his taste, as we all are, but I hope he does not take the ridiculous position, as do some of the jerks and overrated, narrowminded novelists who live in the literary academy, who criticize "Big Idea" novels as not being worthy of the term "literature."

Well, enough for today. Off to spend some time with the family.


Friday, August 01, 2008

My wife's letter to editor published in local paper on impeaching BushCheney

My wife wrote the following letter, without any input from MF Blog's proprietor:

Reasons to impeach now

Impeach now so no more soldiers and civilians have to die. Impeach now so our children will learn that the political process can be meaningful and purposeful when it comes to preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Impeach now so the world will know that there are plenty of Americans who want peace. Impeach now before Bush does anymore damage to the environment. Impeach now to send a message to future generations that war and poverty are not inevitable.

Impeach now, as a reminder to our leaders that they work for the people.

Jackie Freedman


This letter was printed in today's North County Times (San Diego County). Yeah, we can quibble as to whether Iraqi civilians will continue to die if Bush/Cheney were impeached (I think the answer is most definitely), but the letter is eloquently and poetically stated. I'm very proud of my wife, who has also taken part in protests against this war since 2002, before the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Good for her, and better than me, as I've only joined her a few times at protests these last several years.


Anthrax attacks came from a leading US government lab scientist?!

The lead scientist handling anthrax at a US military installation has apparently committed suicide a day before he was to be indicted for sending the anthrax to prominent American news readers and American public officials (This article from the Associated Press reminded me that people died or were injured as a result of mailed anthrax). Glenn Greenwald has written a definitive and compelling post on this matter, which is largely centered on his demand that ABC News now reveal its sources for the false and long debunked story that the anthrax supposedly contained material that could have linked the anthrax attack to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

This unfolding news story raises another question which Congress should at least ask: Was there any connection between the scientist Ivins and anyone advising the Bush (Cheney) White House who were pushing for an invasion of Iraq?

I hate to sound conspiratorial, but we should find it very strange that one of the leading US scientists researching anthrax use in warfare may well have decided, shortly after the events of 9/11/2001, to infect prominent American leaders and broadcast news readers with anthrax, forge documents blaming Arabs and possibly spread false information to ABC News that blamed Saddam Hussein--at a time when people in official Washington were already trying to figure out how to turn America's mighty military armada against Saddam Hussein in spite of the fact that the 9/11/2001 attacks were executed by Al Queda, an enemy not only of America, but also an enemy of Saddam Hussein.

I add for clarity: There is no evidence that Ivins acted in concert with anyone else. I also sense, from the LA Times article in the first link in this post, that Ivins was an arrogant, thin-skinned fellow, which makes him someone less likely to act effectively with others. Ivins was more likely similar to Jack D. Ripper in the 1964 fictional satiric film, Dr. Strangelove, who thought he alone knew how to defeat the Russian Commies once and for all.

Nonetheless, I believe our nation's government should at least investigate whether there was any connection, so as to avoid and likely debunk the inevitable allegations from paranoid folks who already think the Bush (Cheney) administration was somehow competent enough to have engineered the attacks on 9/11/2001 (See the Popular Mechanics articles debunking such conspiracy theories here).