Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

Grace Slick is 67 years old today.

She gave us courage. She made us believe.

Good Job, Grace.

Democratic Sweep? Not in my neighborhood.

I live in Northern Coastal Orange County, California. It's part of the California 46th Congressional District, one of the most gerrymandered and Republican dominated districts in the country. Our Congressman is Dana Rohrabaker, currently running for his 10th consecutive term but you'd never know it.

There are no campaign signs on the streets. No adds on TV. There are no news stories or editorials in the local papers concerning the candidates or their positions on the issues. The Democratic candidate is a throwaway, has raised no money and received none from the DNC. Dana has plenty of money but prefers to let the non campaign continue. His last personal appearance, at a large public venue, that I am aware of, was last 4th of July.

Dana votes pretty much like you would expect a conservative Republican to vote. His only divergence from the Bush agenda is that he is strongly anti-immigration, but he has been strangely silent during the recent populist anti-immigration uprising.

He was Jack Abramoff's closest personal friend in Congress, or anywhere, as far as I know.

He has accepted massive contributions from CAIR, and virtually every other Islamic lobbyist group with money to spend. Several of his Arab American contributers are awaiting trial in Federal courts on charges of aiding terrorists. In 2002, he went to Afghanistan, for extensive private meetings with Taliban leaders, and travel throughout the country. He was not critical of the Taliban following this episode. He is not a friend of Israel.

He supports punitive prison terms for drug users and low level traffickers, while freely admitting a youthful background of drug use.

He is anti-abortion, anti-feminist and anti-gay rights. He is strongly supported by the Focus on the Family organization, led by the feminine acting, but, we are told, strongly heterosexual clergyman, James Dobson. Dana, himself a batchelor, never previously linked to a feminine companion, married precipitously, after a short courtship, in his fiftieth year, to a young, Republican staffer. Several years later, he became the father of triplets, which in this day and age, usually is the result of in vitro fertilization. He has not weighed in on the Foley scandal. Like they used to say in Florida, this a man with strong, thespian leanings.

Seems to me like the Democrats are throwing away a good opportunity here. Democratic sweep of the House? I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Vote early, vote often. Just not in the same election

A lot of people on the internet are putting up posts about the upcoming elections. They all have some kind of voting "strategy" that they are pushing. Vote the party line. Vote against incumbents. Vote anti-war. Vote moral issues. Vote immigration stance. Don't vote at all, in protest. They all have a "system". They all have an ax to grind.

I have always thought voting is a more or less private matter but since everyone is being so vocal, I guess I'll throw my 2 cents in.

What I say is this. Vote for candidates who love our country and who are interested in making life better for all of us here. Vote for people who are interested in building consensus, rather than accentuating differences. Where consensus cannot be reached, look for office seekers who want to allow people to follow their individual preferences to the greatest extent without impinging on the lives of others. Politicians who tout entitlement programs or budget earmarks that benefit one group at the expense of others are to be suspect. Politicians who play on our fears and stoop to name calling are not qualified to serve. Vote for candidates who believe freedom, democracy and the rule of law need to be fostered at all costs, here, at home, in our own country, now.

Minding your own business is not isolationism. Pensions that allow anyone to live at a level above genteel poverty are too high. Government funded healthcare coverage that provides unlimited services without regard to cost are foolish. A business climate free of oversight or accountability is not in our best interest. An educational system which attempts to force education on those apathetic or actively antagonistic to learning is criminal. The rich, the poor, the young, the old, the sick and disabled all cry out for special treatment but special treatment is special interest and special interest is the slipperiest of slippery slopes. Government is a framework, within which, we may strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not an uber-nanny which provides us with protection from the realities of life and the fulfillment of all of our perceived needs.

Liberal/conservative, religious/secular, race, gender, sexual preference, economic status, drug use, age, disability, all of these things and others, we have allowed to divide and fragment us as a society. It is not necessary to like another person, or respect the choices they make, or believe they are morally correct in their beliefs, to coexist. We need to begin, among ourselves, and through our elected representatives, a national discourse on establishing rules that allow us, as a society, freedom to live as we choose and are able and for others to do the same.

There have to be laws. Some behaviors have to be proscribed. Enforcement and punishment for violators have to be implemented. Nobody gets a free pass in a free society. We need to elect people who are willing to honestly approach the problems, from the standpoint of the good of all.

Look for prospective office holders who are insightful, empathetic, humble. Don't worry about a lot of the other "important" stuff, at least not so much.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Execution/Poor-Degree of Difficulty/Extreme

Whitehouse Press Secretary Tony Snow yesterday announced that the term "Stay the Course", will no longer be used to describe the Bush administration's policy on the Iraq War.

This can best be described in their own terms as a "flip/flop", preparatory to a policy of "cut and run".

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's a Nguyen, Nguyen Situation

This a local story, I don't know how much national exposure it's getting. If you want to read about it, the Orange County Register is giving it good coverage.

The 47th Congressional District in California is composed primarily of the City of Garden Grove, plus adjacent sections of surrounding cities. The incumbent, Loretta Sanchez, changed her party affiliation a decade ago from lifelong Republican to Democrat to unseat the notorious B-1 Bob Dornan. She is being challenged this term by Tan Nguyen, a Republican candidate who hopes to become the first Vietnamese-American member of Congress.

Nguyen's staffers, with his approval, sent out to the 14,000 households in the district, in which reside registered voters with Hispanic surnames, a notice. This notice stated that immigrants are not allowed to vote. Further, it stated that immigrants who voted would be guilty of a felony and would be fined, imprisoned and deported. It conspicuously does not mention the citizenship requirement for voting, a clear attempt to frighten qualified voters from exercising their franchise. I am unable to stop myself, at this point, from mentioning that Mr Nguyen, is himself, an immigrant, while Ms Sanchez is not.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters, upon discovery that this mailing had taken place, moved to immediately send out a clarification, to these 14,000 households, as to the actual status required to vote, in unambiguous terms. He was constrained from doing so, by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, who voted, with the exception of one, that it was not appropriate. The Orange County Board Of Supervisors are, of course, with the exception of one, Republicans.

The Register printed a copy of this notice. It is very, very slick. It is very likely not a product of Nguyen's staff, but from an outside source. There will, of course, be an investigation. The publicity will probably counter any damage that was done and may in fact mobilize enraged Democratic voters in the district. It will also no doubt cause disgusted Republicans to either not vote, or to vote for Sanchez.

The real problem with this type of behavior, on either side of the political fence, is that it further polarizes a political landscape, in which both sides see the other as criminals, bent on winning at any cost, even that of subverting the democratic tradition that is our proudest possession. This is not a productive course for our nation to take. The kind of political tactics that are more and more being used in this country, while effective, come at a cost we cannot afford.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Who America's Politicians Must Answer To

The people that America's politicians must answer to are not the power elites. They are not the fundamentalist base. They are not the poor and disadvantaged. They are not the new immigrants.

The people that America's politicians must answer to go to work every day. They own homes. They are raising families. Every year, their dollars are worth a little less. Every year, their jobs become closer to being jobs Americans won't do. The question is never about getting out of debt. It's about how not to get too much deeper in. The house gets refinanced, again. The 401K gets cashed out, again. It isn't about luxuries. It costs to raise kids. It costs to get to work. The neighborhood where you can afford to live is not the neighborhood where you can afford to let your kids grow up.

They have cute names for it. Globalization. The New World Order. It Takes a Village. It doesn't hide the reality. The reality is that it's cheaper to produce goods in countries where people will work for $1.20 a day, and there are no safety or environmental regulations. The reality is that it's cheaper to hire immigrant labor and lower the wages to the point where you can claim it's a job Americans won't do. Don't kid yourself, it's not just fast food and farm work. It's construction, road work, assembly, clerking, truckdriving and on and on and on. The Auto industry is dying in this country, just as steel died 30 years ago. There haven't been American merchant seaman manning American flagged ships since the early '60s. Government is increasingly contracting out services to private industry, who use immigrant labor. They point to the millions it saves in salaries, benefits, and deferred pension costs. For the first time this year the Forbes Magazine list of the 400 richest Americans were all billionaires.

Where does this end? Have you been to Third World countries, where most of the people live in sprawling feral cities that look more like garbage dumps than habitats? Where the rich live up on hills far away, where the air is clear, the water is clean and the fields of fire are unobstructed. Is this the future of America?

I don't think so. The only choice we have is, will the government work with the people to fix things, or will the people have to do it on their own.

If we do it on our own, we won't need the government.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"When you talk terroristic to me Baby, it makes me uulate with desire"

As far as the Global War on Terror goes, I get the concept. Militant Islamic Jihadis, out to humiliate our culture and disrupt our way of life. We have to stop them. It's the execution that I have some problems with.

I keep getting visions of the Disney adaptation of the Tales of Uncle Remus. Osama is Brer Rabbit. We and our allies are the pursuing Brer Fox and Brer Bear. The mountains of Afghanistan are the briar patch and Iraq is the tar baby. Are you getting the picture? If one of the participants in a conflict, is able to gain control of the conflict, they have a huge advantage. Osama is all about control. It doesn't matter that he has almost no military resources or strength. He can keep us expending huge amounts of effort and resources, virtually indefinitely, and it costs him nothing.

While we are flailing around, we exhaust ourselves. We alienate large portions of the worlds population. Best of all, for Osama, we give him credence. He is the one, who has reduced the Great Shaitan to impotency. It is a terrorist recruiters dream come true. It is not necessary to promise the young terrorist boys virgins in heaven. They have become a very romantic and sexy commodity here on earth, to the emancipated, Islamic girls of today.

I can hear those Islamic girls now, " When you talk terroristic to me baby, it makes me uulate with desire."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's not your father's Bill of Rights

Suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Suspension of the right to a fair and speedy trial. Interrogation with torture. Evidence obtained by coercion allowed at trial. Wiretapping without a warrant. Nobody is naive enough to believe that a certain amount of this kind of thing has not always gone on. Now, it's legal, out in the open. Thanks to the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

I'm not sure it's a bad thing. Polls tell us the public largely accepts this. It's not news to our enemies. It reminds us to be careful, because you never know. The Bill of Rights is still the same, just a little more aerodynamic. These changes will no doubt prove useful, after the elections, when the Democrats take over, and the investigations start.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Coalition Crumbling, British Grumbling

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of Staff of the British Army, called for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, soon. He stated that the original plan, to establish a liberal democracy, was not going to be possible and we should decide on a lower ambition. He stated that foreign intervention was no longer welcome within Iraqi society and the consequences of continued presence in Iraq, by British troops, would not improve the situation within the country. He was not as negative in his outlook for continued British presence in Afghanistan. He also had some pretty grim opinions on the effects of the Iraq War on British domestic society.

Will this, do you think, cause George Bush and his advisers to rethink their position of staying in Iraq,"As long as it takes"?

How will this effect the status of the "Coalition Forces", that, George Bush tells us, are fighting with us in Iraq?

Will even more Republican politicians break with Bush's Iraq policy?

Will Bush's poll numbers go even lower, signifying the erosion of his heretofore impervious "fundamentalist" base?

Will the active duty military community, which has, up until this point, maintained solidarity with the President, begin to splinter?

Will he be able to refocus the countries attention on the GWOT, as an extranational, rather than a State to State, conflict?

Will this effect Bush's ability to deal effectively with Iran and North Korea, the other two hubs on his tricycle of evil?

Will he now focus his efforts on transforming Afghanistan into a liberal democracy in the Western style?

I am breathless in anticipation.

Next Liberal Anti-Bush Rant

Bush has a hundred and fifty thousand troops in Iraq and will send no more. If you add up the number of troops in the theater, Afghanistan, Kuwait, UAE, it's more like two hundred and fifty thousand. If you add the troops in support roles at home and around the world, then throw in the civilian contract personnel, it's probably closer to a half million. He has no more to send.

At home, he has a base that won't send their sons and don't want to pay. The politicians that have supported him in the past, being politicians, are deserting his camp in the night. The opposition is gaining strength and boldness as they see him weakening. The press perch like vultures in the Rose Garden, they know they will feed soon. Corporate interests can give him money but not the legitimacy he has lost in the eyes of the American people. George Bush forgot the first rule of the schoolyard bully. Never pick a fight you don't KNOW you can win. Now he will have to pay the price. The weakling who gets picked on and puts up a good fight, is admired, even if he gets beat up, even if nobody likes him. Nobody commiserates with a bully when his nose is bloodied.

Did you see him in the Rose Garden yesterday? No fighter jock in a multi-zippered flight suit. No mission accomplished braggadocio. No crowds of cheering sycophants. More like a cowering denizen of death row, just told by the warden that his appeals are exhausted and the date has been set.

He's going to try and cut and run. You can tell by the furtive darting of his eyes. The involuntary twitching of his upper lip. The fine sheen of sweat on his forehead. The rambling and disjointed answers, completely lacking their normal pugnacious snap. There is no place to cut. There is nowhere to run. There is only the ticking of the clock. The sound of time, running out.

And when he's gone, crawled away in disgrace, as he has in every other endeavor of his pathetic life, there she will be, Hillary Clinton, standing tough, ready to pick up the pieces.

I think I'm gonna puke.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Forty years ago, the War in Vietnam permeated American life. Journalists and cameramen were in the warzone, with the troops. Huge amounts of network and local news time was devoted to footage of war news, often narrated by those who were on the scene. With the draft in full swing, large numbers of young Americans did their two year hitch, cycling through South East Asia. Veterans were everywhere. They were glad to talk and they did just that, in churches, college dorms, construction sites, bars, everywhere you went. By the mid to late 60s, the American public had a pretty good idea what was going on in Vietnam, on a daily basis.

It's not the same with the war in Iraq. News footage and content is carefully censored. Access to the troops and the warzone is carefully controlled. The troops talk about doing their jobs. They don't speculate on the value of their presence, the quality of their leadership, or if the war was even a good idea, because they are professionals, just doing the job assigned to them.

It's a different war. It's playing out in a different way. I'm not sure the American public needs to be shielded from the reality of the war by the government. What I do know is that in the end, it won't make any difference.

American intervention in Vietnam started at the end of the siege of Dien Bien Phu. It started out very secret. The average American didn't even know we had troops there until 1959 and even then the government was careful to qualify our presence as advisory only. Things escalated quickly after that. What is important to remember is that the government enjoyed more or less unqualified public support for the war in Vietnam until 1966. There was a lot of civil unrest in the country in the early 60s. There were race riots, the free speech movement, and the great right wing backlash but none of it was about Vietnam.

When Vietnam became hopeless, the American public knew. Knew it had gone on long enough. Knew it was time to put a stop to it. The government was not responsive and that's when the trouble began.

You can't fool the American public. They don't like to be lied to. They won't be misled. Leadership that tries to are severely dealt with.

The Policeman is Your Friend

Let me tell you about an incident that happened in my town a couple months ago. An 18 year old girl was arguing with her mother in the early morning hours. By all accounts, this was a quiet, well behaved, young person. Did Ok in school. No problem with substance abuse. She was 5 foot 4 or 5 inches tall and weighed one hundred and twenty pounds. I am not sure what the altercation between mother and daughter was about, but she had told friends that night, that she had been sexually assaulted. She had not been to a hospital or reported this to the police, perhaps this was a date rape situation. For whatever reason, the situation with the mother escalated and the daughter cut the mother, on the forearm, with a knife of some kind. Following this, she left the house. A neighbor observed her as she left the house, still holding the knife and called the police.

The police confronted the girl in an otherwise deserted public park at dawn. The medical report by the MD on duty at the local ER where her body was taken afterward, stated that there were 23 bullet wounds in her body. The city police spokesman said afterward that the officers (plural), that fired on her, were in fear for their lives, and that no less than lethal methods of subduing this young girl were available. Whether or not the girl actually threatened the officers with the knife was not mentioned, nor was the length of the blade.

The information released about this incident was very limited and the mother is not talking. I suspect a settlement will follow. The officers involved have not been suspended, nor are they facing disciplinary action. A hold on the release of any additional information, continues, pending something, I'm not sure what.

I wish I could say that this is an unusual occurrence in my town, but it's not. There is a pattern of the use of lethal force, by the police, against suspects who pose a minimal threat, when witnesses are not present.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Denny Hastert, A Great American

I have not been posting because events have been too depressing to dwell on. It is simply easier to stay away. Better for the sanity and the stomach. Today though, I think I will post. I want to talk about Dennis Hastert.

Newt resigned as Speaker of the House. He resigned because he was a liar, a braggart, a thief, and because he has weenie control problems that eclipse those of Bill Clinton. The Republicans needed to replace Newt with someone who wasn't like him in any way. That was not an easy thing. The Congress is reflective of those they represent and I don't mean the voters. Most of it's denizens are involved in activities and have proclivities that would make a sewer rat gag. They got Dennis Hastert to do the job. He 's not a great communicator. He's old, fat and ugly. He's not an original thinker. He has not healed the rifts between the two parties. On the other hand, he's not a corrupt , money grubbing, sexual degenerate. He does OK, I like him.

Mark Foley is a closeted Gay man in the public eye. If he had been allowed to be who he is, it's likely that he wouldn't have titillated himself with dirty text messages to underage pageboys. Whatever he did, however is not Hasterts responsibility. He is not the arbiter of Congressional morals. If he called for the ouster of every congressperson engaged in some kind of nauseating, bestial, sexual perversion, no one would be left to make the law. Sometimes there just isn't an appropriate scapegoat on which to blame whatever inconvenient information that reaches the public eye.

Ultimately, the voting public is responsible for the behavior of the people they send to Congress. If they want to keep voting for the freak show specimens their parties put before them, they have no one to blame but themselves when these very same elected representatives despoil their children. Don't blame Denny Hastert.

The Congress is a terrible, disgusting place. It is peopled by drug abusing, sex obsessed, thieving, sociopaths,who, because of their position, are largely above the law. Denny Hastert runs it for us. It is not a job any honest man would covet.

I ask you this. If you oust Denny Hastert from the Speakership, the first honest man to hold the job in living memory, who will you get to do it then?