Saturday, February 18, 2006

Revolution Redux?

An interesting look back at when Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives.

However, I think the authors are being unfair to the Democrats by inplying that their leadership lacks the fervor that "new blood" would bring. They imply that the old liberals are holding the party back. In fact, old-school cats like John Conyers, Henry Waxman, and Charlie Rangel are the spark of the Democrats in the House. They have done more to try to make America understand the negative impacts of every scandal and misguided policy coming out of the Bush administration than a chamber full of young guns like Harold Ford ever would.

What's undermining the Democrats chances to retake the House is that nobody, old or new, has the guts to support the efforts of these long-timers who, thanks to their safe seats, can afford NOT to be afraid of Bush and the weakened Republican slime machine.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"No F---ing Reason."

One of the many tragedies of the Iraq fiasco is that for the young guys being sent over there, it takes some kind of calamity before it dawns on them that there is no good purpose for their being over there.

As Call sat in the schoolhouse, preparing to go out, he heard two loud bursts from the .50-caliber machine gun on the roof.

Specialist Michael Pena, a beefy 21-year-old from Port Isabel, Texas, had opened fire. Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom.

Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base.

The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter. American units in Iraq usually fire warning shots. The Rakkasans don't.

A few days later, Call said his brigade command had told him, "The Rakkasans don't do warning shots." A warning shot in the vernacular of the Rakkasans, Call said, was a bullet that hit one Iraqi man while others could see.

"That's how you warn his buddy, is to pop him in the face with a kill shot?" Call said incredulously. "But what about when his buddy comes back with another guy ... that and the other 15 guys in his family who you've made terrorists?"

Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"

McCreery didn't answer. The man's internal organs were hanging out of his side, and his blood was pouring across the ground. He was conscious and groaning. His eyelids hung halfway closed.

"What ... did they shoot him with?" McCreery asked, sweat beginning to show on his brow. "Did someone call a ... ambulance?"

The call to prayer was starting at a mosque down the street. The words "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - wafted down from a minaret's speakers.

The man looked up at the sky as he heard the words. He repeated the phrase "Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah." Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him. "This my house," he said in broken English.

McCreery reached down. With his hands cupped, he shoved the man's organs back into his body and held them in place as Call unwrapped a bandage to put around the hole.

"He's fading, he's fading," McCreery shouted. Looking into the dying man's eyes, the medic said, "Haji, haji, look at me," using the honorific title reserved for older Muslim men who presumably have gone on Hajj - pilgrimage - to Mecca.

"Why? Why?" asked the man, his eyes beginning to close.

"Haji, I don't know," said McCreery, sweat pouring down his face. An Iraqi ambulance pulled up and the Humvees followed. They followed the man to the hospital they'd raided a few days earlier. The soldiers filed in and watched as the man died.

Call said nothing. McCreery, a 35-year-old former foundry worker from Levering,
Mich., walked toward a wall, alone. He looked at the dead man for a moment and wiped tears from his eyes.

A few days later, Call's commander asked him to take pictures of the entrails left by the man Pena had shot, identified as Wissam Abbas, age 31, to document that Abbas was inside the sign warning of deadly force. McHenry, who was driving, told him, "There's not going to be much left, sir. The dogs will have eaten all of it."

Pena was up on the schoolhouse roof manning the same .50-caliber machine gun. He didn't say a word about the man he'd killed. As he stared at a patch of earth in front of him, at Samarra and its wreckage, he couldn't contain his frustration.

"No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?" Pena asked. "Because there is no f------ reason."

Vaporizing a guy on his way home in a hail of bullets. It's Amadou Diallo all over again.
Except Iraqis don't protest over unjust killings. They respond with bombs.

Al Qaeda: Terrible Pay, Great Vaction Time

I guess their health insurance plan isn't too hot either:

"The corporate culture appears to be similar to other modern organizations," the study states.

Indeed, some of the documents used by researchers indicate that al Qaeda has vacation plans -- seven days every three weeks for married members, five days a month for bachelors -- and provides its members with 15 days of sick leave a year.
One document states that al Qaeda operatives must request vacation 10 weeks in advance, and another document outlines the pay scale for members: about $108 a month for married members, less if they're single and more if they have more than one wife.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Glory Road"

Regarding this feel-good movie about the first all-black basketball team winning the 1966 NCAA championship: I have no interest in seeing the movie. Apparently my suspicions -- that this was going to be a Disneyfied they-all-lived-happily-ever-after depiction of a tense racial environment -- were correct.

The victorious team arrives at the El Paso airport and is greeted by enthusiastic fans befitting the return of any champion. Clearly, their achievement enlightened whites, including a once-reluctant campus community, regarding the capabilities of blacks and destroyed the rational of anti-black racism.

However, several of the black players remember their return differently. Two years after the game, cerebral and feisty point guard Willie Worsley told a reporter that after the airport reception, a parade and a banquet, “that was about the end of it. We were never campus heroes. We were never invited to mixers or anything like that.” Before and after that game, the predominately white university community, including the coaches and administration, made it clear to the black players that they were there to play basketball and garner the little known school athletic prestige and revenue, but to do little else. Worsley stated that he and the other black players continued to be treated like “animals” by their white coaches, teammates and others at the school. “You play basketball and that’s it. When the game's over, they want you to come back to the dormitory and stay out of sight.” The racial discrimination that black student-athletes experienced at Texas Western, however, is absent from Glory Road.

[SNIP]

In 1968, Worsley and teammates David Latin and Willie Cager were among a number of black student-athletes at the school who revealed to Sports Illustrated a litany of racial prejudices condoned by the athletic department and university. For instance, blacks continued to be assigned segregated housing on campus and during road trips, could not rent housing in several well-to-do white neighborhoods surrounding the campus and were denied the routine and extralegal financial and summer job assistance doled out to their white teammates. Additionally, they were harassed by white students and coaches, including Haskins, if they dated white co-eds. They also complained that several members of the administration, including athletic director George McCartney, openly referred to them as “niggers” and made them the butt of racial jokes. In the film, McCartney is portrayed as a liberal ally of the basketball program.

It Don't Matter If You're Black Or White?

This is a little creepy.

Black.White.," a six-part documentary that makes its debut on March 8, follows the race-swapping experiment of two families. The white Wurgel-Marcotulli family of Santa Monica, Calif., (along with Rose Bloomfield, the 17-year-old daughter of Carmen Wurgel) and the black Sparkses of Atlanta, including Mr. Sparks's
wife, Renee, and 16-year-old Nick, undergo a racial transformation through the magic of sprayed-on color, wigs, contact lenses and other makeup tricks. The
whites appear black; the blacks appear white.


I guess I'll give the show a try, but the make-up thing and the wigs makes me uncomfortable. Reminds me too much of blackface performances.
It's not clear from the article whether the families will engage in activities like applying for a job, a loan, trying to rent an apartment, house hunting, or any of the other major activities in which racial discrimination can be life-altering. That would be interesting to see.

I Got the Power

Not enough attention being paid to this:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that an executive order gives him the authority to declassify secret documents, but he would not say whether he authorized an indicted former aide to release classified information.

Obvious implications for the Valerie Plame outing case.

Anybody know what this order is he's talking about?


UPDATE:
So it's this Executive Order 13292 he's talking about. Interesting. It was issued in March 2003, and it granted new power to the vice president to classify information. It does not, however, say anything about the power to de-classify information. And apparently, the rules on that are very specific. And Dick Cheney, if he unilaterally declassified information, has broken them.

Dropping Paul Hackett

Here's what's so offensive about the Hackett scenario:

Although Hackett was running for US Senate, his first responsibility would have been to the people of Ohio.

Ohioans did not vote for Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, or Rahm Emanuel. For them to have the level of influence they apparently had (assuming the story we're hearing is true) in the Ohio primary smacks of outsider interference.

The Democrats of Ohio should have had the chance to choose whomever they wanted as their nominee. Then, the national party can swing into action to help get him/her elected. To have meddled in Ohio's decision before the process even got started was improper.

Along those lines, I'd say that if the Ohio Democratic Party wanted to meddle in the primary process, I would be less offended by that. Ohio elected Democrats are chosen by democratic voters from Ohio, and are empowered to act on the behalf of those voters. There is a fair and logical basis for those elected officials to choose a US Senate candidate for their state, though I still prefer the more democratic approach of letting primary voters decide where possible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Haiti Mess

The latest election in Haiti is truly chaotic and tragic.

The election commission made a mistake releasing preliminary totals with only 15% of the ballots tallied, especially since that 15% was not a geographically or demographically-balanced subsample of the voters. By announcing early on that Preval was up to 61% of the total, the commission set up expectations that always had a fair chance of not being met. Now that most of the ballots have been counted and apparently show Preval getting something just short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, it looks like votes are being stolen -- whether or not that is actually the case.

Either way, voters are poised to go off if Preval is not declared winner on the first ballot.

On the Cheney Shooting

You know, the way Cheney handled the shooting story is really the way he handles every controversial event he's involved in (think about the no-WMD scandal or the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal):

  1. Try to keep your activities secret
  2. When word gets out, blame the victim/leaker
  3. Toss out multiple explanations/excuses for what you've done
  4. Watch everyone grapple with the four different cover stories while you move on to your next crime

Also, I see parallels with Clinton/Monica in terms of the quality of the incident:

  1. High official acted recklessly
  2. The matter is non-public, non-policy, non-politics-related
  3. The cover-up, more than the event itself, is the big crime
  4. The media are in a frenzy

Now yes, there is a diffrence this time: someone nearly died. And alcohol is rumored to have played a role, which obviously adds to the seriousness. But there are some weird consistencies in what the way the media are behaving. Because the bottom line is, no one really thinks Cheney intentionally shot the guy. So in an administration in which Cheney was key to spreading lies that have led to the actual deaths of tens of thousands of people; to covering for a policy that appears to violate federal law and the US Constitution; and to the revelation of the identity of an undercover CIA agent, one who was tasked with helping stop the spread of nuclear weapons, why is it this incident that gets the media all up in Cheney's rectum?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bush Hates Democracy

Has there ever been a more undemocratic US President than George W. Bush?

He came to the presidency through undemocratic means.
He's trying to force democracy on Iraq at gunpoint, with thus far disasterously violent results.
He and his agents have worked to undermine or overthrow democratically-elected regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Haiti, and now in the Palestinianian Territories.

JERUSALEM, Feb. 13 — The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.
The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.

As Steve says, this is the more stupid of two clear options for bringing about the desired change. If the US and Israel actively participate in attempting to cause Hamas's downfall, it will only make Hamas into martyrs, guaranteeing an increase in their popularity. The smarter option, assuming Hamas is planning a ruinous build-up of its militias, is to let them fail to deliver the services to their people. Then they will be weakened organically, and can be defeated through natural democratic (or at least homegrown) procedures.

Will the Bush people ever learn that they have neither the right, nor the ability to chose other nations' leaders?

Backfire

No doubt the idiots in the Bush administration responsible for participating in the overthrow of Aristide from Haiti thought that installing their own puppet would be a cakewalk. They thought the same about Iraq, too...

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 13 -- Haiti's hopes for a peaceful presidential election exploded Monday in a torrent of violence as mobs overturned cars, set piles of tires ablaze and built elaborate roadblocks across major highways, protesting delays in the vote count and alleged fraud in last Tuesday's balloting.

Demonstrators paralyzed cities across the country, from Cap-Haitien in the north to this impoverished seaside capital, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand that Rene Preval -- a former president and favorite of this city's poor -- be named president.



Furthermore, there is some funny business going on with the vote count, that I'll have more to say about once the final tally is announced.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fratricide

I hate this crap!

Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.

Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.

Mr. Hackett staged a surprisingly strong Congressional run last year in an overwhelmingly Republican district and gained national prominence for his scathing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War. It was his performance in the Congressional race that led party leaders to recruit him for the Senate race.

[SNIP]

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

[SNIP]

Mr. Fern added that Mr. Brown's fund-raising abilities made him the better Senate candidate. By the end of last year, Mr. Brown had already amassed $2.37 million, 10 times what Mr. Hackett had raised.

More $$ equals better candidate? That's the kind of thinking that will keep the Democrats chained to secondary status in the Congress forever.

If there is one thing I can not stand, it is an overly-calculating elected official. And in a time that cries out for leaders with principle, the Democratic Party in DC seems to have been completely overrun with such cowards. They are so damned afraid of everything: of competition, of Republicans, of taking a potentially controversial stand on an issue. If this is how they feel elections should be run, why not simply forgo the primary process and give the nomination to whichever Democrat raises the most money? And calling financiers to tell them to stop donating to a candidate of your own party? That is sleazy as hell.

Boy do we need public financing of campaigns. Fast.

IDIOTS!

Gee, did Cheney know when he orchestrated the outing of an undercover CIA agent just to undermine her husband for being a critic of the Iraq War that he was simultaneously crippling the US's ability to keep track of potential Iranian nuclear weapons?

The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program.

Dilema of His Own Making

Time magazine has an article on the "dilema" of being Barak Obama. The basic point is that everybody wants a piece of him, so he's bound to disappoint some people.

I've said it before, and it bears repeating: The primary reason folks went gaga over Obama is that 1) he's black and 2) he gave a moving, well-delivered speech about national unity at the Democratic national convention in 2004. That's it. Before he cast a single vote in the US Sentate, he was being seriously discussed by DC insiders as a presidential candidate. That's absolutely ridiculous. Obama may ultimately prove to be presidential material, but it is WAY too early to be salivating over him at this point.

What is making me uncomfortable about Obama is not that he is not liberal enough. It's that he seems to have a zeal for seeking 'harmony' and 'unity' for their own sake. In that way he is reminiscent of Harold Ford in the House of Representatives. They both radiate the vibes of men spending too much time in their current postitions with their eyes turned toward that higher office (Ford: the Senate, Obama: the Presidency).

So far, I have had no trouble resisting joining the cult of Obama -- not because I think he is bad leader, but because he simply hasn't done enough or shown enough passion to warrant such worship.

Still Winning Those Iraqi Hearts and Minds

The video is just lovely.

And nothing says 'let's be friends' quite like a late night raid on one's home, during which you point guns in the faces of children, and walk off with cell phones, walkmans, and watches.