Monday, April 30, 2007

On Presidential Power

Updated below

I didn’t watch any of Ms. Rice’s appearances yesterday, but the transcripts and clips that I have seen online suggest that the defense being raised to Tenet’s book by the current administration run pretty much along the “Fredo defense” line of poor memory and/or sheer incompetence.

For example, in response to the question about the “sixteen words” on the SOTU about uranium from Niger, Condi admitted that the reference had been removed from a speech in September but that “you can’t expect us to remember that three and a half months later” when preparing the SOTU. Actually, yes I would expect you to remember something that significant for three and a half months. Further, before making a speech to the nation and a joint session of Congress, I would expect you to fact-check the speech.

Something else she said, though, perhaps a Freudian slip, really struck me. In response to a question about there not being any serious discussion about the invasion of Iraq she responded,

“The president started a discussion practically on the day that he took power…”

Stephanopoulos let that go by without commenting on it, but I wanted to jump through the monitor and ask her what she meant by the phrase “…the day that he took power…”

A dictator “takes power,” not the President of the United States.

That phrase sums up the attitude of the Bush Administration. They are “in power.” On January 20, 2001 they began the process of taking control of the government of this country and they believe that they still have control of it as, in fact, they do so long as Congress tiptoes around with half measures.

We have investigation after investigation, but to what purpose? A great deal of corruption and misuse of power has been uncovered, but what has actually changed? Who will be held to account? The current administration is merely getting away with its corruption publicly instead of in secret. Those currently in office will finish their terms of office and retire to their mansions and live out the rest of their lives in luxury.

Congress rejects a Bush appointee, he puts his choice in place by means of a recess appointment, and it ends with Bush once again successfully thumbing his nose at constitutional balance of power.

Democrats running for office in 2006 claimed that they would change the course of the war in Iraq, but it has changed only for the worse. Whether we should withdraw or not, Bush is totally in control of that issue. Congress has no more power than a field mouse.

America did not know it was electing a king in 2004, but Condi gave the game away with a slip of the tongue.

George Bush will be “in power” for 21 more months. Live with it.

Update, May 2

To illustrate how little Bush thinks things have changed, see the bill he has submitted to Congress regarding FISA, seeking enhancements to his powers to spy on Americans without the inconvience of having to obtain warrants. Business as usual. According to the administration, the bill contains “long overdue” modifications to account for changes in technology.

The director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, said yesterday that the nature of the changes needed in FISA was too secret to share with all Americans. We've heard that before, haven't we? The measure would not update FISA; it would gut it. It would allow the government to collect vast amounts of data at will from American citizens’ e-mail and phone calls.

This is a typically dishonest Bush Administration measure, and what disturbs me is that Congress has not already rejected it out of hand.

Welcome back Tony

I can't tell you how good it was to see Tony Snow back at the podium. Tony is a sleazy, lying, political toad. But... He does it with such charm and style. He has at times made me want to throw a brick through the television and at other times had me falling out of the chair with laughter.

He is also a man of courage. To smile in the face of adversity, to carry on with grace and wit. How can you not admire and respond to such a man?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Liking Jacobovsky

There is an old Danny Kaye movie (a cherished memory of my youth) in which Kaye plays the part of a Pole named Jakabovsky. The bad count, a truly evil dude, keeps muttering a line throughout the movie, which becomes so oft repeated that it becomes all by itself a laugh line,
"Less and less I like this Jakabovsky."

Well, no kidding intended, less and less I like this Clinton.

The TPM CafĂ© has a post of two Democratic candidates responding to Giuliani’s absurdity to the effect that only he, or possibly some other Republican, can protect the country from another smoking hole in the ground.

Barack Obama makes a clear statement about what he believes and what he intends to do, not mentioning the current administration. Hilary Clinton merely delivers another screeching attack on George Bush, referencing the current administration four times. She is responding to a statement by Giuliani, but she attacks Bush. She could be asked about Sanjaya’s hairstyle and she would attack Bush.

Why would I support Clinton? She has nothing but a Bush attack, and that isn’t going to serve the country very well after 2009 when he is out of the picture. It isn’t serving the country well now, and you certainly cannot serve as President of the United States of America merely by dishing up shrill attacks on your predecessor, which is all that we’ve ever heard her do.

Less and less I like this Clinton person.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Secrecy and democracy

I was discussing issues of national security the other day with someone I respect and whose opinions differ from mine a bit in some areas. Quite delightfully, this young man, a military officer, respects me in turn sufficiently that we are able to converse without resorting to rancorous sloganeering, and he made the point that the government knows things that the general public does not know.

As Hamlet said (okay, Shakespeare), “Ah, there’s the rub.”

Secrecy weakens trust. Always, and in any relationship. What my government does based on information that it conceals from me weakens my trust in my government and that is the antithesis of democracy.

Unquestionably, in the interests of (although I have become weary of this over-used term) national security some things must remain unrevealed, but in a democracy that secrecy needs to be minimized or it erodes the very basis of government. On my part I need to respect the reasonable use of discretion, and exercise trust in the absence of any evidence not to do so.

When excessive secrecy is accompanied by a pattern of visible dishonesty then there can be no trust at all, and a government which does not have the trust of the people is not democracy. As soon as the last vote was cast, the oaths of office taken and the first lie told, democracy died.

Secrecy has been the hallmark of the Bush administration from the beginning. It has fought vigorously, for instance, to keep secret from the people who elected it just who the parties were that participated in the development of the energy policy. But when anyone disagrees with actions that are taken based on secret information, actions which have blowback and which are taken for no visible reasonable basis, the Bush Administration labels them as “unpatriotic.”

This government says that the definition of democracy is merely the casting of a vote. Wave the proverbial purple finger in the air and you can call yourself a democracy. Democracy (small ‘d’) is more than that, much more.

Democracy is the participation of the people in the government of their country, “government by the people.” That requires an informed electorate, not only during an election campaign but all of the time and about all issues. Democracy requires that the elected leaders continue to listen to the people and to talk to the people, not just in political sound bites, but like someone talks to a “grownup.”

In the thirties this country was facing collapse and Roosevelt made his famous sound bite about having “…nothing to fear but fear itself.” It was not that sound bite that led the country out of despair, though, it was his weekly radio “fireside chats” where he talked to the American people at length. He told them what his plans were and why, and described to the country why he believed those plans would work.

He gained trust by transparency in government. That was democracy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

TP Assassin

Yesterday evening while we were watching tv, Molly was acting rather "out of sorts," snubbing us is typical feline fashion and keeping her distance from us. We didn't know what we had done to offend her, but... Those of you who have cats know that pretty much any little thing can send them into something resembling a terminal snit. Anyway, we figured she'd get over whatever had ticked her off.

Well, come bedtime we found out she had merely been "maintaining a low profile." The bathroom was ankle deep in shredded toilet paper.

This girl flees when a bird approaches the window, but she is instant death on toilet paper, and she can find it anywhere. She stalks the house during the night and opens cabinets looking for spare rolls. No tp holder can be considered out of her reach, and she can find it stored inside baskets. She can take a double roll down to the core in a heartbeat, and the results are truely awesome.

So if you come to visit and you need to use the facilities, let me explain...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mortgage Disaster

I usually agree to one degree or another with posts on the Left Coaster blog (you’ll see that blog on my blogroll), but this one by Mary echoes a rather common motif that rather goes against the grain for me.

It has to do with the rising tide of failures in the "subprime" home mortgage market, involving home loans that fall into several categories. One is simply the ARM, where payments initially are based on a low, “teaser” interest rate which rises after a few years. Others involve initial payment of interest only, and some involved making the loan based on applicant data, such as income, which the applicant knew that lender would not verify.

Bush administration regulators began allowing the lender to claim as income the highest payment that could be made under these loans, rather than the payments that actually were made, which is what Mary bases the following accusation on,

We will probably see many, many Americans find themselves believing their lives and their dreams for a better future have been destroyed. All because the Bush economy was purposely based on a Ponzi scheme where the rich hold all the cards and the people who should be able to depend on government standing on their side were sold down the river.

I’m no fan of the Bush administration, and I’m sick of regulatory changes which further enrich moneyed interests. But I think it's a stretch to argue that the Bush administration is the primary driver in people losing their homes, here.

Mortgage loans were attractive for reasons beyond that regulatory change. The change made some people richer, but the country was awash in mortgage money and the subprime market developed because there were not enough prime borrowers to lend it to. Builders were building homes at a frenetic pace, and the subprime mortgage market helped them sustain it.

More importantly, while some of the borrowers are innocent victims, a large majority are not. The terms of the loan were spelled out in documents which the borrowers signed and the increasing payments were not buried in the fine print, they were stipulated in the body of the document. Further, in many cases the borrowers lied about their incomes to obtain the loans. Most all of the buyers knew they were buying homes that they ultimately could not afford, hoping that soaring prices would magically "bail them out." They knew that they were taking a gamble and now they want big brother, that's you and me the taxpayers, to pick up the cost of losing that gamble.

I live in Southern California, land of (among other things) soaring home values. I have been bombarded for years with offers of “fantastic low payments” on my home, mailers telling me of the dream vacations I could go on, the cars and boats I could buy, the easy money that I had in my home. Easy money. I still have my years-old, low-rate, thirty-year fixed.

When a con man takes down his mark there is no truly innocent party, because the con works by appealing to the mark’s greed.

I do not favor the Bush unregulated business model. Unregulated business becomes predatory, but it cannot truly do so until it becomes monopolistic. There is not much good in the sad story of this subprime lending market, but the saddest part of the story is that the fingers of blame are pointing both ways.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Balanced news?

Updated below, updated again

I have been watching Countdown on MSNBC for a while now, and something is happening to that show. I’m not sure what it is, but I am losing interest. There is a lack of balance, perhaps, a growing sense of self-importance.

I commented last week on the fascination with Don Imus; 30 minutes one day and 25 minutes the next. Yesterday I observed that the mainstream media was obsessed Monday evening with the shootings at Virginia Tech, and last night Countdown went berserk on the same subject, devoting the entire hour to it.

Let’s look at some of the happenings from yesterday that Olbermann did not seem to consider worth discussion:

Baghdad experienced the worst violence in months, 183 reported dead. Not worth reporting.

Turkey is threatening to invade northern Iraq due to Kurdish problems, with serious consequences for the US. Not worth discussion.

Bush met with Congress to discuss funding for the Iraq war. Nah, not important.

The Supreme Court upheld a law prohibiting an abortion procedure. Minor detail, not worth talking about.

Sudan sanctions delayed by UN. Who cares?

IAEA confirms Iran advancing on nuclear enrichment. Minor issue.

Republican Congressman’s office raided by FBI in connection with Abramoff scandal. What the heck, Republicans and scandal is not news.

Breast cancer rates remained at 2003 low level in 2004. Only women care about that, and Keith Olbermann is a man.

American Idol finally dumped Sanjaya. How could he not mention that? He has been braying about American Idol almost every day for months.

He needed the full hour for the Virginia Tech shootings because the shooter mailed his “manifesto” to NBC and so, of course, it was necessary to fully explore the ramifications of the shooter’s psyche as revealed by that manifesto because NBC had it and no other network did.


Sort of staring me in the face, but missed until now: if you want to be noticed and have your name on the air do something ugly, obscene. Aim a racist and misogynistic epithet at a group of accomplished young women, or murder a bunch of college students. Keith Olbermann will give you a full hour of air time. You may have to accept that he will spread it over two evenings, but you will get a full hour of sensationalism.

Update Number Two, April 20

The networks, I’m happy to see, are getting quite a bit of heat for airing the hatred provided to them by the Virginia Tech killer. There are arguments pro and con for the case, but the pro arguments are pretty weak.

The students at the school and the families of the victims felt that they were being attacked a second time, and that the networks showed a lack of sensitivity for their feelings. Exactly.

Keith Olbermann claimed justification in that the network had cleared it with law enforcement. I do not have the quote that he played, but the agency that he quoted said only that airing it would not harm the investigation, and it included a caution by that agency to consider the nature of the material – a caution that the network did not heed.

One network talking head claimed, "We have a responsibility to tell you what we know, and you would not want us to conceal what we know."

Dead wrong. If you know the identity of a rape victim, for instance, or of a child who was molested you not only do not have an obligation to tell us that, you have an obligation to the victim not to do so. If you have films of a grisly death scene, you have an obligation to the families of the victims not to air the scene, and you routinely honor that obligation. In the VT case you showed a stunning lack of consideration to the families and friends of the victims, and to the public in general.

There is a claim that there is something to be learned from the killer’s “manifesto” and I would not disagree with that. But let law enforcement and health care professionals view that material and present the conclusions to the public: we, and especially our children, do not need to see that sickness on our televisions.

I am not alone in my thinking on that point. I am heartened that a psychologist, Michael Welner, is speaking out to the same point today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On covering the news

I started to watch the news last night and was told at the beginning of the segment that rather than the usual half-hour news I would be seeing a "Special One-Hour" news devoted entirely to the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Fortunately for me, my emphysema kicked up to a degree that my wife took me to the hospital for breathing treatments, so I was spared that. We got home in time to watch one of my favorite programs but it too was replaced, by a special program devoted to… Right, the shootings at Virginia Tech.

It is not that I don’t believe that terrible event should be covered, it’s that I object to the amount of coverage when there are other things happening in the world, and to much of the nature of the coverage.

Dozens of innocent civilians die in Iraq every day, every day, not infrequently four or five times as many as were lost at Virginia Tech, and they get at best one minute or so on our evening news. They might not be mentioned at all, as 57 dead yesterday were not. As pointed out by Dick Pohlman in his blog post today (in part), we seem to lack perspective.

According to news dispatches, here’s what happened early this week in a galaxy far, far away: In Anbar province, the bodies of 17 Iraqi civilians were found buried in a schoolyard; in Baghdad, 25 civilian bodies were discovered; in Falluja, 10 bodies with signs of torture were discovered; in Mosul, two university professors were shot dead; at a site near Kirkuk, three bodies were discovered; at a checkpoint south of Mosul, 13 Iraqi soldiers were killed in an attack.

Even if you omit the soldiers, that’s 57 dead Iraqis – nearly double the body count at Virginia Tech. Naturally, I am not dismissing the horror of what happened on the home front, or demeaning those whose lives were lost in the campus shootings. But since many Americans tend to be a tad self-absorbed about life in their own backyard – a cultural impulse that is currently being reinforced by the 24/7 cable news coverage – it’s easy to forget, or never to realize in the first place, that random killings of the innocent are a daily fact of life in our war of choice.

The faces and bios of the 32 murdered teachers and professors are already being reported and broadcast on the home front, but it should be noted that – in April alone thus far – the number of slain Iraqi citizens and Iraqi security people exceeds 733. And the website that tallied this number warns that “actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site.”

Long after the pain of the Virginia Tech tragedy has subsided, Iraqi innocents will continue to be killed in numbers that dwarf what happened here. I am not suggesting that we instantly cauterize our wounds and snuff out our ceremonial candles. But our myopic focus on the death of American innocents does tend to suggest that we assign more value to those lost lives than to those whom we deem to be mere statistics. We wouldn’t really want to leave that impression, would we?

Pohlman refers to the “24/7 cable news coverage” but neither of the excesses (or what I regard as excesses) to which I referred above was on cable. One was CBS and the other was ABC.

There are wars going on in Iraq and (don’t forget) Afghanistan. There is a constitutional crisis in Washington. There are serious international relations issues afoot. And there was a tragic loss of life at Virginia Tech. We need news about all of these things; not necessarily in that order, but all of them.

The nature of the coverage is my other objection. I regard a breathless interview with some seventeen-year-old who was three blocks away and heard gunshots and is telling us that it was “horrible, just awful” with an expression of grandiosity on her face as very poor stuff for the national news. Those who saw their friends being shot need privacy and a counselor, and those who merely heard unidentifiable bangs and want to see themselves on television have nothing newsworthy to say.

And I really, really do not need to see the same tired film clips endlessly repeated while a pundit with a microphone stuck in his face blathers about the “deeper meaning” of all of this with a sad and solemn expression that he (she) practiced in front of the mirror for an hour before coming on the air.

On a more personal note,

all those deaths in Iraq… In part, small part but part, those are on my hands. I did not contribute to the loss of life in Virginia, but I did to all of the killing in Iraq.

The killing in Virginia was the act of a young man who became mentally and/or emotionally unbalanced. We don’t know the details of his reasons, and may never know, but they were his reasons and his alone.

It would be easy to say that the war in Iraq is Bush’s war as well and even that, like Virginia Tech, it is the act of a single unbalanced mind. But it’s not Bush’s war, as much as we’d like for it to be. This country not only elected George Bush, this country reelected him after he began the war in Iraq.
I didn’t vote for him either time, but my country did.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On Labor Unions

I tend to be pro-labor union. That is not my universal position, I have seen union work rules that I thought were unreasonable. Labor unions were formed at a time when workers were being exploited by business, however, and they have performed a valuable function over the years. The balance of power has shifted back and forth, but I have no doubt that labor unions have done far, far more good for this country than they have done harm.

When I see actions like that of Circuit City, where higher paid workers are fired for no reason other than the higher wage that they have worked hard to achieve, and are then offered a chance to apply for positions as starting employees at a lower wage, then my pro-union stance becomes more pronounced. (Do I need to tell you that I won’t be shopping at Circuit City any time soon?)

The climate today is much too pro-business, and labor unions need all the support they can get. Today more than ever, in the absence of information to dictate otherwise, a union/business dispute will see me siding with the union.

Sometimes, though, union members badly shoot themselves in the foot.

San Diego has three major grocery chains whose workers are affiliated with a major union. Three years ago they went on strike which lasted for quite a long time and which became quite rancorous. They eventually settled, but the workers were not particularly happy and now the contract is expiring and the negotiations are not going well. We don’t know what the offers are on either side, because the negotiations are closed and the sides are not permitted to discuss it.

Since I don’t know what the position of either side is, my sympathy would normally be with the workers.

I shop regularly at one of those stores and in the past the staff has been very friendly and helpful, which is why I have made it a habit to shop there. Over the past few months though, as the labor negotiations have gone on, the staff has been increasingly rude and unhelpful. I am not the only one to notice this, several of my friends who shop at the same chain have also observed it.

The union members have a problem with management of the store, it seems, and are taking it out on the customers.

That attitude is just not in their best interest. If they drive the customers away the store will need fewer employees and there will be fewer union jobs. Additionally, if they do go on strike, they are not going to want shoppers crossing their picket lines. They need the shoppers to be in sympathy with them.

If they have been rude to me for the past several months do you think that I am going to be sympathetic? I can tell you as a point of fact that I am not. The union members’ attitude has cost them my support. I will make an exception to my usual pro-union stance, and hope that these particular union members do not prevail.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

100 days of futility

The first 100 days of the new Democratic Congress has shown promise, but this country did not elect them to produce promises, we elected them to produce change and so there is no real sign that any change is coming.

The war in Iraq is changing, but for the worse. Not only is Congress making no progress in extracting us from that quagmire, they were unable to stop Bush from thumbing his nose at them and accelerating the carnage. Our losses have gone from 50 per month to 80, and at the rate we are going this month we will lose 140 to a war that Bush claims is “showing progress.”

Congress has passed bills that sound nice, but not in a form that has been able to get even one of them to the desk of the president who will likely veto them, and not one with enough votes to override that veto. They passed a raise in the minimum wage, which Bush has said he will sign, but the two houses cannot reconcile the tax cuts for business which they insist must accompany that wage increase. Businesses contribute to their campaigns, minimum wage earners do not.

Both houses are investigating like crazy, and they have uncovered the expected crop of corruption and malfeasance, but is any change in the offing? Will any of the crooks and liars suffer any consequences for their actions? So far I see no signs of it. Bush and company will serve out their terms and retire to their mansions to live out their lives in wealth and comfort, enjoying their ill-gotten gains, and it will take decades to repair the damage they have done to our form of government.

The Republicans likely will lose big in 2008, of course, but Bush is a legend in his own mind, which is where he lives, so he doesn’t care.

Will anything change substantially after that loss? Based on what I’m hearing from the presidential candidates, I’m not counting on it. Only one of them is saying definitively that she will end the war in Iraq, and she is admitting that she will leave a substantial number of troops there.

None of them are even hinting that they will end the policy of American Imperialism, none of them are saying a word about reversing the damages done to our governmental infrastructure by the Bush Administration, only one (Edwards) is talking about addressing the widening gap between the poor and the wealthy, and none of them is saying anything about addressing the problem of the grip that has been established by moneyed interests on our form of government.

Business as usual in Washington.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What really matters?

Okay, I am now officially more fed up with hearing news media braying like a bunch of jackasses over the utterings of Don Imus than I was with hearing them doing so over the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to take Keith Olbermann seriously. On Wednesday evening his "news" show (I didn’t formerly put the word "news" in quotes) spent an agonizing thirty minutes of "profound" discussion and punditry on the subject of Don Imus, and on Thursday that was reduced to a mere ( mere ) twenty-five minutes.

I have listened to families of wild pigs in the Arizona desert that sounded more intelligent. Actually, the baby pigs sounded...

There is a war in Iraq, a war that is going from bad to worse. There is a constitutional crisis in our nation’s capitol. These are things that matter to the people of this country, to a majority of 300 million people.

Don Imus is a foul-mouthed clown that has been listened to by one-half of one percent of the American people, most of them sporting an IQ that would represent an enviable golf score.

Imus said something ugly and stupid, something pretty much in line with the kind of ugly and stupid things he’s been saying for years, but this time he did it on a slow news day and a bunch of self-promoters took off with it. John Cole said it very well yesterday. He included a quote which I think bears repeating here.

JASON WHITLOCK, COLUMNIST, "KANSAS CITY STAR" I think that she should have met with her team in private and explained to them that Don Imus does not define who they are. Don Imus has nothing to do—Don Imus has nothing to do with their happiness. The joyful ride they went on to the national championship and that they know who they are, that they are proud, black and white women, educated women, competitive women, and there’s no outsider who can steal our joy and our accomplishment from us.

Then she should have issued a statement calling Don Imus an idiot, expressing that he needs to apologize, and that his employers need to deal with him and then that should have been the end of it.

There’s no way this called for an hour-long press conference with everyone climbing onto a cross and saying, look at me, I’m a victim here. There’s no way there should have been a meeting at the governor’s mansion about this Mickey Mouse B.S. No way this should have happened.

This is an embarrassment. I have listened to this entire thing and I’m embarrassed that our leadership in our community—and I’m speaking mostly about—has failed. We have failed.

We haven’t defined for young people who they are. And that no one can define for you who you are. You define for yourself, not Don Imus, not someone who has no input into your life. There’s no magical white, evil man who can utter a few words on a radio show and steal your joy and take away your accomplishment. That’s a joke.

To spend the majority of not just one, but two days' news programs in serious discussion of an ugly, meaningless little man displays a profound lack of understanding of what is really important. Should Imus be saying the kind of ugly, racist crap that he does? No. Should he be fired? No, he should never have been on the air in the first place. (But, given that he is there, he should be fired.) Is he worth 55 minutes of "news" airtime? Resoundingly no.

Give it a rest, and let’s talk about something that matters.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Delusional Dishonesty

There is, of course, a lot of talk about the standoff between Bush and Congress about “funding the troops” and the latest supplemental funding bill. As usual, Bush is providing pretty much all of the inflammatory rhetoric, saying several times, for instance,

“The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated.”

This is an arrant lie of the most base political variety, and the falsity lies in two fronts; one which I can (reluctantly) tolerate and one which I cannot.

First, as has been pointed out many times, Congress has funded the troops. They have passed a bill providing every single dollar that Bush asked for. It is Bush that is denying funding to the troops by vetoing the bill.

It can be, and is, argued that the failure is that of Congress because they have included provisions in the bill that Bush cannot in good conscience allow to become law – provisions setting a timeline for withdrawal. I am on the side of withdrawal, but I do not deny Bush has a right to argue against those provisions. I would even go so far as to condone his rhetoric about “Congress not funding the troops” by including provisions which his principles require him to veto. (Not that I agree with him.)

From that standpoint his blather about this supplemental is more inflammatory than I would like to hear coming from the office of President of the United States, but I have no great problem with it. This part, though, really bothers me,

“…some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated.”

Those things are happening, but they have nothing whatever to do with passage or lack of passage of the supplemental funding bill. They are the direct result of decisions made by President Bush, and by him alone.
A decision to continue, and to expand, a failed war. A decision to fire the generals who opposed that expansion, and to promote and install new generals who would agree with him.

Military leaders warned Congress more than a year ago that our Army and Marine forces were near breaking point. Congress has been trying to bring them back from the brink of disaster and Bush has been putting more and more pressure and burden on them. We are now sending brigades back for a new tour of duty after only seven months “dwell time.” Combat tours are being extended by as much as a third on a regular basis, and consideration is being given to making the standard combat tour fifteen months rather than the present twelve months.

Recruiting is becoming more and more of a problem. "We're enlisting more dropouts, people with more law violations, lower test scores, more moral issues," said a senior noncommissioned officer involved in Army personnel and recruiting. "We're really scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get people to join."

People in the National Guard enlisted with the understanding that they would be used for one combat tour of one year and then not used again for five years. We are breaking that promise by extending their tours in length, multiple times, and now by calling them up for a second tour after only two years. It isn’t that they don’t want to serve, they enlisted to do so, but we are requiring them to break promises they made to their employers and the consequences to their careers are often disastrous. Despite laws to the contrary, many of them lose promotions, are demoted, and even lose their jobs altogether.

These are terrible costs to the military, full-time and guard. They are not the result of any action of Congress. Congress is trying to reduce this carnage. These costs are the results of decisions made by George W. Bush.

For him to try to pass that buck to Congress is utterly despicable.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Finally, proper return

Thanks to Congress, those who give their lives in the service of their country are no longer flown home as cargo and handled by forklifts. Due to the Holley Provision, part of an act passed by Congress, a fallen soldier is flown home in a charter plane and met by a uniformed military honor guard.

If Duncan Hunter, R-CA, never does anything else worthwhile, he authored this provision and moved it to passage. He has my thanks for that and, I don’t doubt, the thanks of all families who have lost and will lose loved ones to this war.

The provision is named in honor of Army Spc. Matthew J. Holley whose family took action in the midst of their loss so that others might be comforted.

The provision is no less welcome for being so long overdue.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What is he drinking?

Whatever John McCain is drinking, it is something more intoxicating than the usual Republican Koolaid. He has been increasingly out of touch with reality since the latest presidential campaign started (far too early, in my opinion), but he has gone completely around the bend now.

When confronted with his utterly insane remarks about “strolling in areas of Baghdad” and General Patraeus in an unarmed humvee, he doesn’t even try to refute his statement, he simply answers a different question. Sickeningly, the press lets him get away with it.

NPR asked about the unarmed humvee statement, using the “you said” quote and he replies, “What I said was that there has been significant progress…” The NPR reporter did not follow up, so his implied denial of having said anything about unarmed humvees is allowed to stand.

The blogs are not so forgiving. The maha today says,

But “neutrality” and “objectivity” don’t translate into “pretending not to notice when a politician is lying his ass off.”

Amen, bro.

What angers me about McCain’s latest exhibition is the blatant misuse of our military for his personal political purposes. Our men in uniform are in Iraq, putting their lives at risk, to fight a war. They are not there for John McCain’s grandstanding. When he pulled this sick stunt to further his personal political ambition he risked the lives of more than a hundred members of our armed forces.

He is one sickening, lost soul.