Saturday, September 29, 2007

Grace Under Fire

As those of you who read my blog regularly know, I am no fan of the Bush family. Nonetheless, I was quite taken with Jenna Bush when I saw her interview by Diane Sawyer for ABC News. She came off as quite a charming person. Her answers to questions seemed to be made with a degree of thoughtfulness, honesty and forthrightness that is somewhat unusual in today’s public persons.

In response to Matt Damon’s discussion that President Bush’s children should be fighting in Iraq, she said “I understand the point of the statement” and that “I believe I serve by teaching” and serving in UNICEF.

When asked about the war in Iraq she replied, “I talk about it with my friends, I’m just not going to talk about it on national tv.” To me, that was a very nice answer, and it was delivered tactfully and respectfully.

I wish the parents had as much depth as the child.

Teaching an Owl to Fly

Enough of politics, today we’ll discuss how one teaches an owl to fly. It probably should be noted in advance that I don’t actually know how one does that and that I do not recommend the practice of it, but this is to share with you an adventure of some fifty years ago.

And no, it’s not a figure of speech. We’re talking about an actual owl and actual teaching. Well, attempts at teaching. Background first.

When I was in high school my friend Dale and I had a habit of tromping through the woods, doing nothing other than just being in the woods. On one such excursion we found a baby owl on the ground. It was down-covered with no feathers, and our best efforts could not discover its nest so we took it home and raised it. He (or at least putatively he, with owls one can’t really tell without an examination more detailed than we cared to make) turned out to be a Great Horned and lived on the woodpile behind my house.

Great Horned Owls are huge, aggressive, nasty, bad tempered and they don’t like people, cats, dogs, birds, or even other owls. Oscar was no exception but, probably since we had been bringing him lunch, Oscar liked Dale and me and he left my family’s cats alone. It became my exclusive job to bring in firewood because Oscar wouldn’t let anyone else approach the woodpile. He also got along with Dale’s raccoon, named Troubles.

When Oscar was still too small to fly we carried him around in a bucket, which our whole town thought was really cool. (It was a small town.)

What you got in the bucket?
Well, by God, look at that, you actually do!

In due time Oscar developed a full set of feathers and very handsome wings but he never did anything but crap on the woodpile, scarf down the food we brought him and ride around in the bucket. He did graduate from the bucket to sitting on leather sleeves on our wrists, but it never seemed to occur to him to try the flying thing. We became a bit worried about his flying skills, and therein begins the story. You have to remember we were teenaged boys, not naturalists. Teenagers do not always think things through.

Somewhere we learned that birds are taught to fly by their parents and that Oscar had come to believe we were his parents. Obviously we had not been flying around very much, as this was before the days when high school drug use was common, so we decided it was incumbent upon us to teach him how to fly. This presented a bit of a problem since, not only did we not know how to fly ourselves, we really weren’t all too clear on how birds did it either. Oscar was in for a traumatic week.

Dale, I think it was Dale, I’ll blame him anyway, had read something about a mother bird “pushing the baby bird out of the nest,” so we started by simply pushing Oscar off of the woodpile. That was something less than a success, as Oscar never even opened his wings but merely fell to the ground and landed with something of a thud. Cats land on their feet, owls do not. He picked himself up and looked at us accusingly.

We tried tossing him in the air. Thud. We tried holding his wings out and pushing him off of the woodpile. Rustle, rustle, thud. No flapping of wings, merely a rather disorganized thrashing before hitting the ground. We tried holding his wings out and moving them up and down before pushing him off of the woodpile.

Okay, let’s make my point. Human beings cannot teach an owl to fly.

They can have a lot of fun in the process and really irritate the crap out of the owl, but the end result is probably going to be, as it was in our case, that the owl’s wing is going to wind up getting broken. Oops.

So we took Oscar to the vet. The vet was mostly a horse and cow doctor who would, if sufficiently importuned, treat dogs and cats. Not birds. We eventually persuaded him to “fix our owl” and brought Oscar into the exam room. The doctor and Oscar formed an instant dislike for each other. Oscar could not decide which was preferable: escaping or ripping the doctor to shreds. So Dale is holding Oscar, the doctor is fooling with the broken wing, and I am attempting to keep Oscar from biting the doctor by holding Oscar’s head.

Brief lesson in nature here. Owls do not have necks. What an owl has instead of a neck is a very flexible ball joint. An owl can turn its head through 360 degrees, it can not only look straight up, it can look past straight up, it can turn its head upside down... And there's no handles.

In short, you cannot hold an owl’s head.

The doctor handed me a large roll of gauze and told me to stuff it in Oscar’s beak, which I did. Oscar promptly swallowed it. Shit, that can’t be good. There was a tail of gauze hanging out of his beak so I grabbed it.

Point of information: once an owl has swallowed something, do not try to take it away from him!

Oscar finally decided the gauze was not food, or he got so mad that he spit it up out of sheer cussedness.

The story has a happy ending. Oscar’s wing healed fine and he learned how to fly on his own. He was, in fact, quite a spectacular flyer. His flight was so silent that when he came up behind us and took the caps off of our heads we never heard him coming and losing the hat always came as a surprise.

We took good care of Oscar but we had taught him to be a daytime creature and sleep at night, and owls cannot survive in the wild doing that, so when we left school we donated him to the local zoo. I checked back about ten years later and he was doing fine. All these years later I still have a fondness for owls, especially Great Horned Owls.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why Republicans Want Hillary

Conventional wisdom is that the Republican party wants Hillary to win the Democratic nomination because they think a Republican can beat her in the presidential election in November.

Wrong. They know that if she is the nominee the election won't matter.

They have become familiar with her relentless corporatism and now, with her vote for the Lieberman/Kyl Amendment, they are comfortable with her militarism as well. If she is the Democratic nominee then, no matter who wins in November 2008, the neo-cons will have one of "their kind" in the White House for four more disasterous years.

Check out David Mizner today on The Huffington Post, and in a similar train of thought David Bromwich.

Clintonian Equivocation (updated)

She's still doing it. Leading in the polls to a degree that suggests to her that she has earned the presidency by sheer determination and the rules of inheritance, that she is somehow "entitled" to this nation's highest office, she has so much contempt for the lower classes of this country, the uneducated and unthinking masses (her view) that provide the votes that will actually put her in that office, that she does not need to offer any insight as to what she will do once elected.

Asked what she will do about the funding of Social Security, she replies,
"I don't think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president."

That's a follow up to her, "A presidential candidate ought not to say everything that they think."

She no longer even pretends that she is or will be accountable to the people. She no longer even pretends that she cares what we think. Determinations as to the future course of Social Security will be made within the wealthy governing upper class and it's essentially none of our damned business. We are the governed class, not the governing class, and it is our function to shut the hell up and vote the way that the governing class and the media tells us to.

She is the anointed one and the voters should simply get out of her way.

Update: 9:50 AM

And she voted for the Lieberman/Kyl Amendment. Are there any doubts remaining about her actual regrets as to her vote for the Iraq war and why she won't apologize for it? Warmongering bitch.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


There are no gays in Iran. Much hooting and gales of laughter at the insanity and inanity of such a statement.

Right. There are no gays in the U.S. military, either.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hillary Fest

Two posts today because two things struck me (pissed me off). One was, of course, the duplicity of our governing class as illuminated by Glenn Greenwald. Scroll down for that post. The other was the media helping to elect Hillary Clinton by providing her with a platform on every single one of the talking head shows Sunday. I know that "equal time" doesn't apply to news, but...

The facility with which she avoids answering questions and the consistency with which the media allows her to do that astounds me. Consider the following exchange between her and Tim Russert.

Russert: As you well know you voted to authorize this war, voted to fund this war at lest ten times. Are you now saying that you will not vote one more penny for the war in Iraq.

Clinton: Tim I am saying that. You know I've been guided by what I believe is the principle that should govern any decisions that any member of the senate and any one in public life makes and that is I try to do what is best for my country and for the troops who serve it. And I have seen no evidence that this administration is willing to change course in any significant way. We're now nearly at 3800 dead, we have more than 30,000 injured, the Iraqi government has failed to fulfill its part of the bargain to deal with the political issues that all of us know have to be addressed. I don't think the Bush administration has pursued the diplomatic agenda the way that it needed to be pursued and there is no military solution.

And these extraordinary brave young men and women should begin to come home out of refereeing this sectarian civil war. I voted against funding last spring - I understand we are going to have vote shortly about funding and I will vote against it. Because I think it's the only way that we can demonstrate clearly that we have to change direction. The president has not been willing to do that and he still has enough support among the Republicans in the senate that he doesn't have to.

Russert's question addresses the inconsistency of her record. Her response is to talk at length and avoid that completely, and Russert does not follow up at all. (Her vote against funding last spring was cast in the dark of night and only after the fate of the bill had already been decided.) Not only that, but bloggers and pundits use this exchange and ones like it to illustrate how "disciplined" Clinton is and how smooth and responsive she is.

What it illustrates for me is precisely how dishonest she is. Her Senate vote is and always will be whatever is politically expedient at the moment.

The Governing Class

Just four days ago in this blog I wrote the following,

"Our country is now governed by an elite and wealthy class that is completely removed from the general population; with income, health care and retirement benefits beyond the fondest dreams of those it governs."

Today Glenn Greenwald, in a lengthy but absolutely must read post, describes our senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, and makes my point precisely. You will have to "click through" an advertisement to get to the post, but it is well worth reading.

A few excerpts to whet your appetite.

Feinstein represents a deep blue state and was just easily re-elected to her third term last year. She won't run for re-election, if she ever does, until 2012, when she will be 80 years old. Her state easily re-elected a Senator, Barbara Boxer, with a much more liberal voting record than Feinstein's. Political fear cannot possibly explain her loyal support for the Bush agenda on the most critical issues decided by the Senate.

Additionally, Feinstein is a 74-year-old divorced Jewish woman currently on her third husband, and it is thus extremely unlikely that she harbors any hopes of running in the future on a national ticket. She has as secure a political position as any politician in the country. Whatever explains what she does, it has nothing to do with "spinelessness" or fear. What would she possibly fear?

And yet, her votes over the last several years, and especially this year after she was safely re-elected, are infinitely closer to the Bush White House and her right-wing Senate colleagues than they are to the base of her party or to the constituents she allegedly represents.


Hence, Dianne Feinstein funds Bush's war with no limits while condemning MoveOn. She votes to vest vast new surveillance powers in the President. She defends and vouches for and places blind faith in the whole litany of Bush intelligence officials who have spent the last six years radicalizing this country and breaking the law.

Plainly, Feinstein does not do this out of political fear or "spinelessness," but because it is who she now is and what she believes. She and those like her are the reason why there is such a gaping disconnect between the Beltway political class and the political views of most Americans. ... And in Feinstein's case, it is particularly easy to understand why this is so. Her current husband, Richard Blum, is an extremely rich defense contractor whose companies have endless relationships with the work Feinstein does in the Senate. It is entirely unsurprising that Feinstein's affection is reserved for officials in the intelligence and defense communities because those are her social peers, the individuals with whom her husband interacts professionally and socially and with whom she most identifies.

More than anything else, Feinstein worships at the altar of the Beltway power system and its most revered members. Conversely, she has contempt for the liberal base which elects her and the constituents she represents. She long ago ceased being driven by the political values which serve as props for her campaigns, if she was ever driven by them. And that is the story of so many of the Beltway Democrats.

Greenwald's post provides the details of her activity in the Senate, and reveals specifically just how disconnected she is from the "lower class" which she and her ilk rules. Go read it, and then try and figure out how in the hell you can vote.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Masterpiece of Understatement

More from my visit in Salt Lake City. It seems public officials in Mormon land do not like to indulge in hyperbole. In an item on the news last night a bat was found on a school yard and several kids had been playing with it. It was found on Friday to have tested positive for rabies. A Salt Lake City health official was giving an interview.

"The thing about rabies," he said, "is that it's virtually 100% fatal. So if one contracts the disease things are not going to go well."

Um. One really cannot contest that statement.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More Football Follies

Articles providing quotes by Chargers players are having them saying things to the effect that a) they "did some things right," b) "did a few things wrong," and c) "we'll be fine."

Well, no. For two games now the defensive secondary has totally sucked. While we have been up against two good defenses, the offense has been clumsy and out of synch most of the time. Palming that off with platitudes is not going to result in winning future games.

My wife says the loss to the Patriots was a "wake up call." Maybe. Only if someone hears the alarm clock and gets out of bed. Nothing said by anyone on the team suggests to me that such is the case. Farve knows how to throw passes and he has receivers that know how to catch them. Past performance suggests that the Chargers are pretty helpless against that combo. We'll see tomorrow if the Chargers heard the alarm clock.

Blacked out

I'm in Salt Lake City for the weekend, so I won't see the game until I get home and can see it on tape. I would see it, but there is a game in Denver at 2PM so NFL rules prohibit televising a game in SLC at 11AM because Denver is considered a "home team market" here. So if a division rival is on television at 11, people in SLC will not go to the game in Denver at 2, but if it's blacked out in SLC they will. The NFL never looked at a map and noticed that there's a whole range of huge mountains between Denver and SLC. It's not a short drive.

The rule applies even when the game they are protecting is sold out. To protect attendance at a sold out game in Denver against Jacksonville at 2PM you black out a San Diego / Green Bay game in Salt Lake City at 11AM. Figure that out, if you can.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Healthcare and Choices

How many Americans are faced with a choice between purchasing health insurance and buying food to feed their families? No, not Twinkies and luxury food items, basic beans and rice to keep their families alive. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I can tell you that a lot of them used to work for me. When I would ask my workers to sign up for the $40/month deduction that my company charged for the health plan that was offered the guys would tell me that doing so would mean their family skipping one or two meals per week. They simply could not afford to do it.

Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan offers choices. Americans can sign up with any insurance plan they want, but they are required to obtain and maintain health insurance. They get a tax break, but that doesn’t help much when you are already below the tax threshold. The guys that worked for me have a choice of which one or two weekly meals they don’t feed their families.

Rose Ann DeMoro has it right when she posted on the Huffington Post that Hillary learned the wrong thing in 1994. Not being able to obtain health insurance is part of the problem, but you can’t solve it merely by mandating coverage. That’s what I call the “magic wand” approach, and there is far too much magical thinking in our government already. We certainly don’t need to add more.

As Ms. DeMoro points out, the problem is affordability of health insurance and the lack of actual coverage provided when you do have insurance. Read the lady’s post; she presents the issue with great clarity.

Probably because her thinking isn’t clouded by campaign contributions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Government by the people

The danger of the excesses of presidential power accumulated by George W. Bush and his predecessors, Reagan and Bush I, is amplified by the reluctance of presidential candidates of both parties (other than Senator Dodd) to discuss undoing that accumulation.

Consider this excerpt from the book Broken Government by John Dean, discussing the concept of the “unitary executive theory,”

Conservatives carried it from the Reagan presidency to the Bush I presidency, and most recently into Bush II’s administration, expanding its reach and impact along the way. In its earlier phases, when it was limited to regulatory agencies, it did not go unnoticed by Bill Clinton; when he found it sitting on the shelf at the Justice Department, he could not resist employing it.” (emphasis added)

He goes on to say that while the theory was put in place by conservatives to reduce the impact of government, Clinton used it to increase the impact of regulatory agencies, but that is not the point of me citing the quote. The point is that once the power has been arrogated to the presidency it becomes permanent and any president is able to use it for any purpose.

It should be incumbent upon the next president to restore the office to its proper position of balance with respect to the other branches of government in accordance with constitutional intent, but what putative president will do so? Is Congress even able to do so and, if able, does it have the will and courage to do so? All of that seems unlikely in the extreme to me at this point.

In his book Mr. Dean suggests that Congress is in the process of repairing itself now that Democrats are in the majority, in that they have restored the deliberative process. While certainly that represents improvement, I’m not sure that I agree with his assessment.

Democrats seriously damaged the constitution by removing impeachment as one of its elements. I do not see any circumstances where it can be resurrected and, without it, the entire system of balance that the founders designed is weakened. Our present executive has committed demonstrable crimes, clear and stated violations of law, for which he will never be brought to account. Given that precedent, how can any future executive ever be brought up on articles of impeachment?

Mr. Dean points out that lobbying represents the constitutionally guaranteed right of the “citizen to petition his government” and is therefor not harmful, but nowhere in the constitution does it say that making that petition with cash in hand is warranted. Congress has outlawed free lunches and junket trips that amount to pennies, but is still feeding at the trough of campaign contributions that amount to billions of dollars. A Congress that passed the Bankruptcy Reform Act, which the last Democratic Congress did, is not acting in behalf of the people. (In case you don’t recall, President Clinton vetoed it and it languished until the Republican Congress passed it again for Bush’s approval.)

The Republican Congress failed utterly in its oversight role, but is the Democratic one really doing much better? They are conducting investigations that call no one to account, that uncover corruption but do not reverse or punish it, that serve only to provide campaign fodder for the investigators. What kind of hearing is it when the committee member (a Democratic one, I might point out) uses all of his allocated time to make a speech and asks not one single question of the subject? This is not the role that the founding fathers imagined when they wrote congressional oversight into the constitution.

That’s the Congress that John Dean says is repairing itself.

And it’s not just the governing process, it’s the electoral process as well.

Although not one single vote has been cast for her for in that role, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president. This is the case months before one single Democratic voter has had a chance to express an opinion at a polling place. In the words of Eric Alterman in his Guardian column,

She began with the support of the Democratic establishment, at least a third of primary voters, a big advantage with women, who make up the majority of these voters, and by far the most experienced campaign organization.

That sounds like four things that she started with, but the voters he’s talking about are the “base” of the Democratic establishment. This “running start” that she has is the result of political maneuvering and has very little to do with who she actually is or what she really represents.

Further, she is becoming anointed by a media that fawns over her campaigning skills and swoons over how “disciplined” her performance has been in debates while lampooning another candidate for the price of his haircuts and discussing the “relative inexperience” of a third.

When we go to the polls to vote for candidates that we did not select we will do so on the heels of an inundation of “sound bite” advertising purchased with the cash from contributors with vested interests and the opinionating of the punditocracy whose lives are as divorced from reality as possible, coming from within the narrow confines of the Washington Beltway.

From the candidates themselves we will have heard nothing but carefully crafted sloganeering designed by the best campaign managers that money can buy, a series of empty promises that will be discarded as politically impractical within moments after the polls have closed. The winner will be the candidate who purchased the most “experienced campaign organization” as Eric Alterman so aptly puts it, or the most capable one, or the deadliest one.

In the last two elections it was not the candidate with the most votes.

So all of this is going to be magically fixed if we elect Democrats?

Electing Democrats is not going to get rid of the financial corruption that has infected our governing process, that causes legislation to be passed that is against the interests of the people and serves the interests of moneyed campaign contributors.

Electing Democrats is not going to change the corrupting influence of major coporate ownership of news and entertainment media. Democrats participated over the years in the deregulation that permitted this state of affairs.

John Dean makes reference to the founding fathers having designed the House to have a term of two years for the purpose of “keeping it close to the people,” but with the gerrymandering of districts and the institution of “safe seats” the House has become a good-ole-boys club with almost no turnover at all and our government is removed in its entirety from the people to a degree that would horrify the men who risked their lives to form it.

Our country is now governed by an elite and wealthy class that is completely removed from the general population; with income, health care and retirement benefits beyond the fondest dreams of those it governs. The governing class would not care about the concerns of the “common man” even if it were capable of understanding those concerns. It lives in isolation from the people whom it governs, and in so doing protects its own interests above the interests of those who are beneath its notice.

How do we fix this broken government? Well, we vote them out of office, Republicans and Democrat alike, but that is more easily said than done. Those in power have so rigged the electoral process that they often run unopposed. Replacement in less than wholesale fashion will not do it, since the best intentions in the world fall victim to “the system” once the newcomer is thrust into the ocean of cash and corruption that is the Washington political environment.

We need a revolution, not of guns and violence, but a rising up of the people of this nation demanding its government back – demanding that “by the people” and “for the people” be re-added to “Government of the people.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Football Follies

Back when I was in high school we had a game we played where we crammed as many guys as we could into a car and drove until we got to a red light. As soon as the car stopped we all jumped out of the car and ran high-speed circles around the car in both directions until the light turned green, at which point we all got back in the car and drove off, laughing hysterically. We called this game, for reasons that I cannot recall, a Chinese Fire Drill.

It caused us to actually try to catch red lights so that we could play the game which we regarded as hilariously entertaining. Why we thought that escapes me at this point, but we were high school guys, and it never lost its amusement value.

It’s less entertaining when performed by eleven guys wearing blue and white football uniforms. Patriots 38, Chargers 14. It wasn’t actually that close.

Football Sunday

The Chargers play the Patriots later today and in my tradition of fearlessly predicting outcomes, here goes: I don’t know. It depends on which Chargers team shows up: the one with enormous talent, or the one with an astounding lack of mental discipline.

Most (but not all) San Diego writers are crowing about how wonderful our defense was against Chicago. I was less impressed. The front seven excelled, but the secondary was saved by the fact the Grossman gets rattled when he is pressured. Brady does not, so the secondary is going to have to play substantially better than it did against the Bears.

The offense was simply pathetic against the Bears in pretty much every aspect of the game. If a defense puts eight men on the line of scrimmage for the entire game and you cannot pass the ball against the remaining three you are going to win very few games. Did the Chargers even have more than one wide receiver on the field last Sunday? An offense that drops more passes than it catches is not a Super Bowl contender.

So, which team will show up this evening? That’s a familiar refrain.

A columnist to enjoy

One Mike Argento writes a column for the York Daily Record and his column yesterday contained a couple of real treasures. You should really read the whole thing, but a portion of my favorite is about a kid who impaled himself atop a spiked, twelve-foot fence in the attempt to enter the York County Fair. He had a ticket in his pocket, oddly enough, and the gate was a mere fifty feet away. Mike writes,

This should be part of the No Child Left Behind testing: “Johnny is walking to the fair and gets tired of walking, should he:

“A. Continue walking the last block to the gate anyway.
“B. Try to climb a 12-foot-tall, spike-topped fence.
“C. What was the question?”

One of the firefighters who rescued him said an old guy walked by after they duct-taped Fry to the fence to prevent him from moving and committing further damage to himself, and asked, “You aren't going to leave him up there?”

This guy, by the way is a pretty good discovery. In the “header” on the left at that link above you’ll see the Mike Argento’s name. Click on it and you’ll get an archive of his columns. You will have a lot of fun exploring them.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Embracing Defeat

”If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That’s an old truism, of course, but my father added one clause to it, ”If you finally do have to admit defeat, for God’s sake don’t whine about it.”

Democrats have a slightly different approach,

”If you think that you might not succeed, start whining without even making the attempt.”

George Bush does not even have to state that he will veto a bill. If the cravens who lead the Democratic Congress think that he might veto a bill they will not even bring it to the floor for a vote. What they will do is whine about ”not having the votes.”

Instead of cowering in your foxholes you sniveling cowards, what you do is you pass the bill and you make him actually veto it. Then you tell the American people that he is the bad guy for vetoing the bill that you passed. You could even send him another bill identical to the one he vetoed and make him veto it again.

When the Republicans controlled Congress they controlled it. If they did not approve of a bill it never reached the floor. They rendered the minority party irrelevant. Now that Democrats are in the majority they allow the minority party to remain in control. As a minority they didn't dare filibuster because it would make them look like they were obstructionists and in the majority at the mere mention of filibuster they turn pale, faint and withdraw bills in the Senate, and they allow the lack of Senate consensus to render the House impotent. Even when in the majority, their lack of courage has allowed the minority Republican party to render them as thoroughly irrelevant as ever.

We elected cowards. You Democrats are acting against the interests of your country and of the people who elected you. You are behaving in a self-serving and cowardly manner. You are not fit to serve and are as big a disgrace to your office as the Republicans who preceded you.

Will I vote against the Democrats? You bet I will. I will vote for anyone who campaigns to replace them regardless of their party affiliation. I will vote to put into office anyone who will replace anyone who is presently in office.

Provided only that her name is not Hillary Clinton, of course.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Political (Iraq) Potpourri

So Bush gets another FU from Congress now. No, it means Freidmann Unit. Shame on you. A Freidmann Unit means six more months of carnage in Iraq because a man of that name keeps famously saying that’s how long we need to turn the tide.

Coalition of the, um, Whatever

Bush keeps bragging about his Coalition of 36 Nations that’s pursuing the good cause in Iraq. What he fails to tell us is that it’s actually 25 nations, including such stalwarts as Moldavia (remember The Mouse That Roared?) with twelve (12) soldiers. Not sure if that overwhelming force is functioning in a combat role or not.

Hot off the press, it turns out that New Zealand wins the "pallid support award." They are providing one (1) troop. I wonder if he gets lonely.

Anbar Reads Minds

Bush also is thrilled pink (whoops not pink, maybe orange) with the fact that “as a result” of the extra Marines that the surge inserted into Anbar the local Sheiks signed up with us to fight against al Queda. They did that four months before the surge began, however, so maybe they were reading Bush’s mind? Um, wait.

Return on Success, or whatever

The 25,000 troops coming home are doing so because of the great success they have achieved. Let’s see. Everybody knows that if something is working you should stop doing it as soon as possible. Since 135,000 were not succeeding, let’s go back to having 135,000 as quickly as we can. Good move.

Why Petraeus agrees to drawdown

Saint David bristled at the suggestion that his “drawdown” of 25,000 was disingenuous because they were scheduled home anyway. He said that he could have requested they be replaced or he could have extended them and that he did neither of those two things. He could also have pissed on the table and claimed it was raining.

Requesting replacements would have been futile, since there are no replacements to send, and he could not have extended them because his boss’ boss, Chief of Staff of the Army has categorically ruled out extending tours beyond 15 months.

Clearing cities in Iraq

Bush declared that, ”Today, Baquba is cleared.” Interesting the way we clear cities. Last week in Baquba a house was bombed by our planes and eleven civilians killed. I cannot comment of the right or wrong of that, but it does not sound like a “cleared” city to me. In Baghdad we continue to build walls to enclose enclaves within the city. Does that resonate with Bush’s statement that ”ordinary life is beginning to return” there?

Certainty in prognostication

When you ask any of these experts how long it will take to achieve positive results in Iraq or how that will be achieved they have no answers. They don’t know, they say, but they know that it is vital, blah, blah, blah.

But when you ask what will happen if we leave they can give you a list of about twenty very specific and hugely disastrous things that will happen. They know with certainty that those very specific things will occur, and when.

Just like they knew what would happen when, and after, we invaded the benighted country to begin with.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Best Healthcare in the World

Updated below

I take quite a few medications to control several chronic and rather serious health conditions. I have been taking all of them for at least two years and they are “covered” by my health insurance, which is United Healthcare. If United isn’t the largest insurer in the country, it is among the largest and their website is filled with how much they care about my wellbeing.


Most of the medications are provided through a mail-in service where I obtain a 90-day supply at a time. The copay is quite reasonable and the service is excellent. Even a new prescription usually arrives in ten days or so, and when I have needed to call for some reason the person is always friendly and helpful.

Two of my medications, however, are provided through prescription which I must get filled at my local pharmacy, and that is where things become really ugly. Note that I have been taking these medications for two years and will continue to be taking them for the foreseeable future, they are not temporary medications.

Of the first medication I can get only a 30-day supply, not a single day more, and I can only get it refilled once every 30 days, not a single day earlier. That means that if I cannot get to the pharmacy where the prescription was originally filled on precisely the 31st day then I have to go without the medication until I can get to that pharmacy. Going on a trip? I need to schedule that trip not to conflict with my need to get that prescription filled on the appointed day, every 30 days precisely. Not approximately every 30 days, exactly every 30 days. Purely to satisfy the bureaucratic fetishism of United Healthcare.

For the second medication there are the same conditions as the first one and, unfortunately, the refill date is not the same. There is an additional problem. Because I have been taking it for a long time it is losing efficacy and on my last visit the doctor decided that I needed to take it in a slightly higher dosage. United Healthcare disagrees. At the dosage my doctor is now prescribing they will not pay for it at all.

My doctor sees me in person, examines me at length, discusses my symptoms with me in detail and prescribes medication. United Healthcare, who has never seen or spoken to me, determines that the original dosage is better and decides to overrule my doctor.

In an earlier post I said that healthcare in this country is increasingly a criminal conspiracy.

That’s how United Healthcare makes its profit. It accepts money in the form of premiums that we pay for my health insurance, and then profits by finding ways not to pay for proper medical treatment that I receive. If that is not a criminal conspiracy, I would like to know what constitutes criminal conspiracy.

Remember that name: United Healthcare.

Update: Sept 14, 2007

Okay, I should have called the insurance company about this issue before I worked myself into such a towering snit. Turns out they may be run by bureaucrats, but they aren't criminals.

It seems the pharmacy screwed up. United Healthcare is sending me a claim form and will reimburse me for the prescription I paid for. The refilling exactly every 30 days is an ongoing issue, though, so I'm not removing the post. It makes me look like something of an idiot, but if the shoe fits...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Walking into the Trap

It seems to me that any Democrat seeking to be in office in 2009 and onward is a complete and utter idiot. Or something. I can understand why Senator Feingold decided not to run for president: he is far too intelligent. Same for Al Gore.

Hillary Clinton is not stupid; she is just so blinded by her lust for power that she cannot see the obvious pitfall. She set her path years ago and is so narrowly focused on the goal, the ultimate power trip, that she has allowed herself to be blinded by the light being reflected from the golden throne of power upon which her gaze is fixed.

The next government is going to preside over a debacle in Iraq. I don’t know what form that debacle is going to take, but it is not going to be pretty. If the next government leaves major forces in that country they will be despised for breaking their promise to end the war. If they reduce the forces to a token then civil war will divide Iraq to a fracture point, Kurdistan will boil over, and the next government will be blamed for losing the war in Iraq.

Nothing is going to prevent the next government from presiding over an economy that is disappointing in the extreme to the American people. We have been excluding food and energy costs from the inflation index for years to disguise it, but increasingly the middle class cannot meet the rising cost of living and as the value of the dollar decreases and the price of oil increases that will get worse. The root cause will be the excesses of the Republican establishment, but it will come to a head on the watch of the next government and they will be blamed for it.

Healthcare in this country is increasingly a criminal conspiracy. Those engaged in the conspiracy decry Canadian healthcare by pointing out that there is a waiting time for procedures, but at the end of the wait everyone does get the procedure. In this country if you cannot pay for it you don’t get it, and millions do not receive needed medical procedures at all because they do not have the money to pay for them or because the insurer denies the procedure. The next government is not going to change this conspiracy and is going to get a lot of heat for it.

Any Democrat with any sense at all is going to maintain a very low profile. There are hard times ahead that cannot be avoided, consequences of the choices our government has made and that we the people have allowed our government to make. They cannot be avoided. They must simply be borne. They will pass. Why any Democrat would choose to put themselves in a position to be blamed for them completely escapes me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Iron Law of Institutions

The tragedy in New York happened six years ago today. It is appropriate to remember that day, and to grieve for those who lost their lives, and those who lost loved ones and friends in that awful event. I can still remember standing in front of the television with my wife, I was too filled with horror and sadness to sit, and that memory still evokes feelings six years later that I would prefer to have go away.

It is also appropriate to ask why we, as a nation, have still not recovered from this wound. This was not a killing blow, and yet six years later its effects still pose a threat to the very fabric of our nation, for we have scratched the wound endlessly and raised it to an inflammation that is nearly breaking us.

Colin Powell raised this point in an interview with GQ. He uses a phrase that I would prefer to avoid on this date, but these are his words.

"What is the greatest threat facing us now?” he said. “People will say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?"

When I was growing up the threat we faced was hundreds of nuclear missiles pointed at our cities and the possibility that we would lose, not two buildings and 3000 people, but 50 or 60 cities and tens of millions of people in a single act of war. Such an attack would result in this country ceasing to be as a functioning entity. The threat was an existential one since if it happened we, as a nation, would no longer exist.

President Bush refers to “Radical Islam” as an existential threat and in so doing he lies for even his fevered, fearful little mind knows that they are nothing of the sort.

As Colin Powell points out terrorists can take some lives, they can destroy some buildings, they can wound us, but they cannot inflict a wound of the severity that will bring us to the point of extinction. Take even the “worst case” that our radical political panderers posit, the stolen nuclear devices that destroy two of our cities, as absurd as that eventuality may be. Does that cause us, as a nation, as a way of life, to cease to exist? It doesn’t even approach that level of harm.

The existential threat that we face is the Iron Law of Institutions.

The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

Instead of leadership after the events of September 11, 2001 the politicians of both parties have been using that date to enhance their own position of power within government; six long years of demagougery and self interest instead of proper government.

In so doing they have weakened the country as a whole by driving it into a position of fearfulness that supports an endless war based on false premises. A war that increases terrorism worldwide. A war that weakens the country’s political alliances. A war that destroys the country’s economy. They preach terrorism and foment a war that doesn’t fight terrorists in order to preserve their position of power within the government.

Democrats promise that all of this will change when the people throw the Republicans out and put them in power. The people do just that and almost one full year later nothing, absolutely nothing has changed.

It’s the Iron Law of Institutions still at work. Democrats do not want the war to end, not just yet. They want it to keep going long enough that they will have it to use as a campaign issue in the 2008 elections.

The current chief executive led the way on a horrendous erosion of our constitution, on the reduction of guarantees of civil liberties, and the Democratic majority that we installed almost a year ago has uttered not one single word about restoring one iota of that loss. Of all the corruption and theft that has been uncovered, not one single person has been prosecuted or impeached. Not one presidential candidate has even hinted that they would go about restoring the constitutional balance of power in our government if elected.

The existential threat that we face is our own government.

But we will reelect those in office, and elect others, based on lies and we will elect one of these presidential candidates who has done nothing but mouth platitudes. We will believe the empty promises of the Democrats who say they will “drain the swamp” but will only wallow in it up to their necks, and we will be shocked and appalled when the talking head we elect as president declares war on some distant country and embroils us in another war to in order to “spread democracy” in our name.

Because the Iron Law of Institutions is called that for a reason. It has its grip on government, and I fear it has become too late to break its hold.

Far more terrible than any terrorists, our own government.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Football Food Blogging

What we will be munching during the season opener. This recipe is derived from a Jalapeno version in Cook’s Country magazine, but toned down a bit. LT and Philip Rivers will be shredding the Bears' defense.

In a side note, I’m okay with my friends at the left coaster making cheerful remarks about the Raiders, and out of respect for them I will make no disparaging comments until that team meets the Chargers. Wait, no, they’re nice folks. But… No. When it’s Raiders vs. Chargers the gloves come off, okay? (But, the Raiders. Really?)

Green Chile Chicken Salad

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp lime juice
3 cups cooked chicken, finely shredded
3 stalks celery, chopped very fine
1 small red onion, chopped very fine
7 oz can diced green chiles, rinsed and drained

Mix mayonnaise, lime juice and chiles in a small bowl until combined.

Toss the chicken, celery and onion in a large bowl until well mixed. Add mayonnaise mixture and mix until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. It can be served at once, but it better if you make it ahead and refrigerate it overnight. Serve with your favorite crackers or chips.

A note on the chicken: be sure it is shredded, not chopped. I don’t know why it makes any difference, but it definitely does.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Chargers Season

The pace of feminine eye-rolling increases in our house as the Chargers’ season approaches, and it’s nearing the point that I’m beginning to fear for my wife’s ocular survival. The Chargers open tomorrow against the Bears.

After the debacle against the Patriots last year at Qualcomm Stadium I blogged that Marty Schottenheimer should be fired because he had failed to provide the leadership that was needed and deserved by a highly talented group of football players. Specifically, while he was a genius at football strategy and in developing individual talent, he had no skill at melding those individuals into a cohesive whole. All of his teams displayed that same lack and, as groups of talented individuals rather than tightly knit teams, regularly failed in the big games.

Schottenheimer has been replaced by Norv Turner, who has a mixed record as a head coach, but I have been pleased and excited by the choice for a number of reasons. Most of those reasons revolve around the mechanics of football and I won’t go into them here, but one reason was simply that A.J. Smith picked him and that man has made very few mistakes. It was Smith that assembled the incredible array of on-field talent that fills the Chargers roster. What I’ve been waiting to see is indications that Turner can be the leader that these outstanding young men need to bring them together into a single team in the Lombardi model.

There was a small item in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune that suggest that he might. Not much was made of it, just a little tidbit tacked onto the end of a larger article. It may, however, be the best thing yet that I have read about Norv Turner. It’s in two parts.

For the first time in several years, the Chargers will stay in a local hotel the night before home games.

This is a step in the direction of teamwork. It focuses the players on the task at hand and brings them to game day free of distractions of family and household issues. It also brings them together as a team. I don’t know how many teams do this, but I think it is a terrific idea.

Asked if he heard any resistance from veteran players, Turner quipped,
“I didn't ask.”

And that is precisely the kind of leadership these fine young men need.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Football and Democrats

The Colts beat the Saints by 31 points last night in the NFL’s opening night game and it was a pretty pathetic display by the latter team. New Orleans had the most prolific offense in the league last year but it managed to score a paltry one field goal in sixty minutes of whatever that was it was doing, while its defense scored the team’s only touchdown. The Indianapolis offense, led by a matured Peyton Manning, is pretty much as good as the 41 points scored would indicate, but the defense is not quite the juggernaut that New Orleans made it appear to be.

I’m not going to replace anyone as head coach of an NFL team, but I played the game and I’ve been watching it intently for many years with an analytical bent. Many times I have been able to evaluate that if a team doesn’t change its game plan it is going to lose, and lose big. I saw that last night; predicted that the Saints were going to be on the short end of a lopsided score if they did not rethink their plan.

Indianapolis was playing what is called a “cover two” style of defense, one where (to simplify) they play deep to prevent long passes and allow the opponent to complete the short gains. New Orleans was playing conservatively on offense, taking the short gains that were the “low hanging fruit” offered by the Colts in the form of five-yard passes and short runs. Make a few first downs but eventually not make it on third down and have to punt. So conservative were they with this plan that, late in the game, Drew Brees was in danger of setting a record for the shortest average pass completion in the history of the league.

So in the process of “taking what the defense gave them” New Orleans scored only one measly field goal while its opponent scored 41 points against it. To win one has to be winning to challenge the defense, to be bold, to take a risk and throw right into the teeth of the coverage.

New Orleans played it safe. Even so, throwing short to avoid the risk of throwing into the deep coverage, Drew Brees threw two interceptions.

I have seen many a team lose while playing the cover two because they were playing against a team willing to challenge deep. The opponent didn’t settle for the safe, easy short gainers. They threw long into the coverage and, while some long passes were incomplete and a few were intercepted, some were completed for big gains and touchdowns.

New Orleans is trailing by 24 points with 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, and Drew Brees is flinging the ball a heart-stopping three yards downfield. Why bother?

The lesson is, playing it safe isn’t safe and it doesn’t win.

The Saints might have had a sign on their sidelines that read, “Well, we didn’t have the votes.”

The Republicans have on their version of the cover two defense, and the Democrats are throwing short.

Afraid of looking weak on national defense, the Democratic Party tosses soft underneath the coverage, doesn’t make first down, punts and looks weak on everything.

The Democrats are on the short end of a lopsided score, it’s late in the fourth quarter, and they’re still tossing puffballs.

Okay, I’ll quit. But NFL football is back!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Keith Olbermann had another of his “Special Comments” yesterday regarding seemingly contradictory statements issued by our president.

“I’m playing for October-November,” Mr. Bush said to one Robert Draper which was quoted on Draper’s new book, “to get us in a position where the presidential candidates, will become comfortable about sustaining a presence.”

And the president told reporters in Iraq yesterday, “They [General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker] tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces.”

Based on those two statements, Olbermann worked himself into a towering, indignant rage over Bush’s “lying” about possible troop reductions, because he was actually merely "playing." I’m certainly no Bush apologist, quite the opposite as you well know, and I’m a big fan of Keith Olbermann, but I turned Olbermann’s “Special Comment” off before its conclusion because I was tired of listening to him.

The conflict is manufactured, because if you look at the two statements by Bush they are by no means contradictory. The first merely says that he intends to maintain a presence and does not at all rule out a presence in reduced numbers. If you want to get all outraged at George Bush, it isn’t really necessary to be reaching for imaginary issues.

Olbermann’s first few “Special Comment” segments were quite impressive. They dealt with issues over which the entire country was quite properly outraged, and Olbermann spoke well and to the point. More and more, however, his “Special Comment” has become a vehicle for self-promotion and not only does his outrage come across as pompous and manufactured, but now he is even having to stretch the issue itself to the fracture point.

Finally, George Bush has been lying for years so I have trouble getting all that worked up about it at this late date. I’m also out of sorts with a news anchor who gets so worked up over the daily dishonesty from our chief executive and pays no attention to this. Judicially-sanctioned racially motivated prosecution and incarceration in this country in 2007.

I’m not naive enough to believe that racial prejudice has disappeared from my country. I devoutly hope that someday it will. I have been innocent enough to believe that the media would not ignore the misuse of the legal system to practice racial bigotry. I was wrong, and that shocks me and saddens me beyond my ability to express.

It’s happening now. In America. Ignored. God help us all.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Forces of Nature

Southern California doesn't have floods, tornados, blizzards or hurricanes. We do have fires, but none so far this year. We have heat; it was 104 at our house yesterday, but there is a real cold wave today and it only reached 94. This is not desert heat, either; humidity is 50-60%.

And we have earthquakes, but only baby ones at the moment. We barely felt the 4.4 magnitude one this morning with our coffee, but it did knock a few things off of shelves on Point Loma. The epicenter was a couple of miles out in the Pacific. Just a gentle reminder.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Governing Pakistan

Much is being made of the upheaval of government in Pakistan, of the possible removal of military rule and the return of Benazir Bhutto and democratic government. William Dalrymple casts some light on just what Bhutto’s return might actually mean in A friend of feudalism at
comment is free… in the Guardian today.

…it is often forgotten the degree to which Bhutto is the person who has done more than anything to bring Pakistan's strange variety of democracy - really a form of elective feudalism - into disrepute. During her first 20-month long premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Her reign was marked by massive human rights abuse: Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, extrajudicial killings and torture. Bhutto's premiership was also distinguished by epic levels of corruption. In 1995 Transparency International named Pakistan one of the three most corrupt countries in the world. Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari - widely known as "Mr 10%" - faced allegations of plundering the country.

...Nor is the distinction between democracy and military rule quite as sharp as Bhutto likes to imply. Behind Pakistan's swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of interests: to some extent, the industrial, military, landowning, and bureaucratic elites are all interrelated and look after one another.

Emphasis added by me to illustrate how much that sounds like the Bush Administration, actually our entire government.

Moneyed interests, the military, and political careerists have changed our government from a representative republic to precisely what is described as being run by Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.

We now, not in the future but now, live under elective feudalism.