Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Charity, Not


Mark O'Connell, former CEO of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, received nearly $1.6 million in cash as a pension supplement. Along the way, the nonprofit's chief executive also secured a seven-figure retirement perk for himself: nearly $1.6 million in cash.
Federal tax filings show the United Way paid the lump sum two years ago to supplement O'Connell's pension, which already promised him roughly $106,000 a year for life. In his final year, he collected about $446,700, including a car allowance and $70,200 in unused leave. His last three years' earnings approached $1.2 million, not counting the lump sum.

Keep in mind, dear reader, that our well paid Mr. O'Connell is only the CEO of the Atlanta United Way, not the national organization.

This is outrageous and should be a scandal. This is not something that happens in a vacuum. This can only occur as a result of a corporate culture that views charity as an industry where it is appropriate for executives to seek to "drive their personal wealth" as my MBA friends like to say.

Well, it is not appropriate. It should not be legal. It definitely should not be tax exempt.

I stopped supporting the United Way 20 years ago when I found out then that it's CEO was making $400,000 a year in the mid 1980's. I was making $14,000 a year as a Naval Officer and was asked to contribute, and was also directed to ask the sailors under me, who made a lot less than that, to give to the United Way. It was a contest among commands to see who would give the most. When I saw that the CEO was taking all that money, I was pretty steamed.

But over time I saw all sorts of celebrities endorsing the United Way. So I wondered if it had mended it's ways. The answer is clearly no.

The United Way should be sent on it's way.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Changing My Mind About The War

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 30 — Hundreds of demonstrators in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, poured into the streets on Friday demanding the execution of a British teacher who was convicted of insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammad.

So, Dear Reader, what are we to make of this?

Bear in mind (sorry, couldn't resist) that the poor teacher has now been convicted, and is in a Sudanese prison. On your list of places you don't want to be, where would "Sudanese prison" fall?

The Sudanese government, trying to have it both ways, says that the judge gave her a "light" sentence. What a hero. But we are not told what "light sentence" means. Apparently, she could be "lashed" as a part of her sentence, but it is not clear if this was a part of the sentence or not. Lashing is generally done with a stick or wooden rod. And it hurts real bad.

Seeing these stories about our friends from the religion of peace, I am not finding peace in my heart. I am feeling that I have been naive. Maybe they are very different from us after all.

Consider in contrast our last batch of global enemies, the Communists. Westerners more or less relied on the Reds as being much the same kind of people that we were, "deep down." In those cold war days, American young people could backpack through Europe without worrying that some Communist terrorist was going to kill them just for being American. But this Muslim (Moslem? Islamic? Moorish?) terrorist bunch, with their fondness for sawing off people's heads, brings a whole new dynamic to the table. And it's not good. The Communists had real power, and were reasonable, from their perspective. Our new enemies, not so much.

I've met a good many Arabs and Muslims, and they all seemed as OK as anybody else. But something has gone very wrong in their world when a crowd gathers to demand that a teacher be executed for naming a toy bear Mohammad. Or is it Muhammad? This is insulting to Islam? If Big Mo were alive today (as he allegedly is, having bodily ascended into heaven), would he really be insulted by this? The whole story is that the kids actually named the stupid bear anyway. So why aren't they in the dock?

This type of bullying is what makes people like me mad. And bullying it is. I'm as certain as I can be (from here) that the fact that the teacher, Gillian Gibbons, is a non-Muslim woman plays a big part in this fiasco.

She's British. The Brits shouldn't put up with this. I'd like to see the Royal Marines bust her out. An old fashioned jail break! I'd like to see us help.

Related old movie recommendation: The Wind and the Lion, starring Sean Connery and Candice Bergin. An Arab sheikh, on horseback no less, kidnaps an American woman and her children, and President Teddy Roosevelt sends the Marines to rescue her. Good stuff.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Potpourri - Weekend Review

Cheers to Toys R Us for coming through on their promise of a sizable shipment of Wii's Sunday morning. I was in line by 6:40 am. I was twentieth. The electronic games clerk had told me that 20 Wii's were expected, so I was nervous. But the other hopeful consumers told me that the latest word was that there would be 30, which eased my apprehension. And 30 it was, as confirmed at 7:30 am by a store employee sent out to update us, "the line."

So we stood in the cold, cloudy sunrise, cheerful of our soon to be consummated victory in toy shopping. It was pretty cool. We got one! I felt good and went home satisfied.

The little boys will love it. I can picture them already, asking that it be hooked up right away while they impatiently ask questions and get in the way. It's gonna be good.

The wife and I (boy, don't women hate that phrase) have taken to renting tv shows instead of movies. It seems like a lot more movies than normal really stink lately. I don't know much about how they make movies, but I'm suspecting that market research and test-screening have displaced whatever was left of artistic vision, leaving us with movies that all basically seem the same.

So we watched the entire first season of "Big Love." It was FANTASTIC. As my four year old said when we took him to the ballet, to see Peter Pan, "I thought this would be stupid, but it's not!" It's the best show I've seen since the Sopranos. I won't go into detail here, since this is a review of the weekend and not the show. But get past the first two episodes and it really gets good.

So, inspired, we rented "Weeds" on Friday night. SUCKS! The upside is that Mary Louise Parker does look pretty good in it. And Elizabeth Perkins is pretty sexy as an upscale, suburban, middle aged, boozy floozy. The show though, is shallow, over the top cynical, and self-consciously profane. It makes us wonder if there is an actual group of low-lifes in Hollywood who think that lots of real people live the same trashy life that they do, and that they are showing gritty realism with this crap. Well, most people don't. And it's not realistic. And it's not even entertaining. It's just annoyingly bad.

We are still running out of water here in Atlanta. Our state plan is to pray for rain. While that may seem like a risky strategy to some, it is way better than the federal plan, which is to do nothing. Unfortunately, the feds control the water we do have, and are sending it down to Florida. Trivia quiz: Which state gets the most rainfall every year? I'll give you a hint - FLORIDA! That is just the first of many of the string of absurdities that constitute this fiasco. And so, we pray for rain.

Back in Iraq, the military part of the surge has worked, but the political part has not. Looks like a nice Medal of Freedom in Condi's future for totally screwing this up.

OJ . . . well, who really cares anymore.

The sheikhs are really crazy rich again. Just like in the 70's. At least we should get some new gossip fodder out of them for the E! channel.

They've finally caught Barry Bonds. Apparently he has been hiding out in San Francisco this whole time. Still awaiting word on Osama Bin Laden. But at least one public enemy is being brought to justice. Your tax dollars are hard at work. Aren't you glad you voted to spend billions more for more security? Maybe next the feds will track down Brandi Chastain for exposing her sports bra years ago. We'll all feel safer then.

Something is happening in Pakistan, and we don't like it. They are, in fact, either with us or with the terrorists. Apparently they decided to answer that question with a determined "Yes."

Hillary is kicking ass every day, despite the newsies trying to pretend there's a horse race to be had. Rudy is ahead of the rest of the reds. He's what we used to call "one weird dude." Chicks dig him. Go figure. He just seems creepy.

Kansas may play for the national championship. No, in football. Seriously.

Is it just me, or does the Biden plan to split Iraq into 3 parts for Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds sound a lot like an intro to ethnic cleansing?

Asked why the US had any influence to tell Pakistan what to do, the answer is that we give them $10 billion a year. So I guess giving money influences Pakistani politicians, but not American politicians. Aren't we fortunate for that.

The anti global warming crowd is claiming that while the North Pole is shrinking, the South Pole is growing. Maybe the Earth is just getting middle aged and it's weight is shifting south.

That missing kid who's picture is on the Internet still isn't real.

The dollar has bottomed out. That sounds bad but it's really good. Oil has topped out. Ditto. The war will end one way or the other. So, by next summer our economy should be a lot better.

Predictions: Mini-recession 4th qtr 07 to 1st qtr 08. Georgia beats LSU for the SEC Championship. Bush figures Georgia is more likely to vote Republican anyway, so hopes to appease Florida by draining Lake Lanier and letting Atlanta run out of water on St. Patrick's Day. Florida's mussel crop thrives and Atlantans get by on green beer. Dem ticket - Hillary and Richardson, Red ticket - Romney and McCain.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

We Say Oui to Wii

My wife and I have entered the hunt for this year's hard to find Christmas gift, the Wii game console from Nintendo. And a hunt it is. I've been to various Best Buys, Circuit Cities (Citys?), Wal-Marts, Targets, Frye's, and numerous other stores, as well as on-line, all to no avail. But we are determined.

Normally the two of us seek the moral high ground on the "must get" toy of the season, looking down and askance at the materialism that infects this spiritual time of the year. But this year is different for us. And frankly, it is kind of fun.

Our two little boys, still of Santa believing age, have specifically requested the Wii. They like video games and are good at them. Right now, they are in a Pokemon phase/craze that has infected our entire neighborhood of single digit aged boys. We have other Nintendo products, like the gameboy, Gamecube, and the newer DS. So, the Wii seems like a logical Christmas present, and we had it on the early lists of things to get. It will be the "big gift" this year for them to share.

Having grown up pre-tech, I am happy to see my boys do well in this area. I have an uncertain notion that these games are good learning toys. But when it comes to shopping for these games, my wife and I are not experts. We pretty much rely on the consumer advice buzz we hear. We initially went with the Nintendo products because we were told that they had more games for small children, and that has worked out for us. No gun-toting pimp games until the kids are at least twelve.

So, the Christmas hunt is on! Lots of speculation on the Wii shortage is discussed in the electronics sections of these stores. It's actually kind embarrassing to ask if they have one left, because nobody does. They all sell out within minutes of arrival. And shipments tend be be in quantities of six to ten.

Who knew that Wii would become such a hot item? Sony's Playstation was the gold standard in this area for years, or so I'm told. And the people I know who are into this stuff, told me that Microsoft's X-Box, with it's superior on-line gaming capabilities, would become the one to get. But Wii is the "it" box. I really have no idea why, but I am going to get one.

I've got a hot tip on a Sunday morning delivery to a store about 20 miles from here. It opens at 9:00 am. I'll be there at 6:00, coffee and newspaper in hand, and a beach chair to support my Christmas spirit.

And you know what? If I get one, it will make my day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bright Day, Gloomy View Saturday


Oh, what beautiful morning. Strikingly bright sunshine is lighting up the green and reddening leaves, and the geese are honking loudly on their way farther south this beautiful, early morning in Atlanta. Hot coffee in hand, I step outside, onto the back porch, in the crisp, chilly sunshine to enjoy the moment.

It's a bit too cold, so I make the moment a quick one. But it was a good little dose. I feel a little better for it.

Life can be good. We have two little league games today, and I may be the one looking forward to them the most. More so, even, than our two young players. We have decided not to be a football family, a minority view here in the South, so we appreciate the fall baseball season that the church league provides for the kids. Watching my young sons play has given me an appreciation, and even a thankfulness, for the game that I had never fully developed until now.

And so it is that at 47, I am still able to find new sources of joy in my life. And those sources are, more and more, my family. A Saturday devoted to watching little league. That's probably not an easy sale to a cool teen or a twenty-something hipster. But I'm looking forward to it in a way that I would not, and did not, anticipate as a younger, single man.

But there looms gloom around the periphery of this lovely day. It comes in through our portals to the world. Television, the internet, radio. All the excited chatter about what is going wrong, what has gone wrong, and what is surely about to go wrong. It is intrusive. And it weighs upon me so I think it must weigh upon others as well, somewhat poisoning the mental atmosphere of our daily lives.

Nukes in Iran.

Terrorists in Iraq.

Mexicans in Texas.

The North Pole is melting.

Atlanta's running out of water. Really.

The bees have all disappeared.

The dollar is going down in value. Way, way down. This makes it look like the stock market is going up, allowing Wall Street hucksters to convince us that the economy is booming.

Gas and oil cost a fortune. But don't worry, because some crazy scientists have now discovered that the Earth actually makes more oil all the time.

We are still at war against someone in Iraq. Possibly Al Quaeda.

Pakistan. Burma. Darfur. Congo (Again? Still?). Bad things are happening in all these places.

North Korea has nukes, but nobody seems overly concerned. A peace treaty may break out there. Go figure.

The Russians are up to something, as usual.

And China seems poised to supplant us as the most important country in the world. Shanghai will soon be the new New York, the world's new financial center. Soon New Yorkers will know how Londoners feel.

Meanwhile, here in the USA, our old, wrinkled and tanned, draft dodging leaders have narrowly saved us from recklessly spending money to let all of our kids see a doctor. Boy, talk about dodging a bullet. It sure would have been fiscally irresponsible to be paying for that.

So, we look to the future. In terms of our Nation, what that means is focusing on our upcoming Presidential Election, with corresponding legislative and state elections. And the future looks very bleak, indeed.

Republicans claim to be more hawkish on war issues, which they apparently consider a virtue. But it was Democratic Presidents who led the US into World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. But not this time. Those hawkish Republicans got us into a war with Iraq. Twice. You know, because it went so well the first time that all Americans did was complain about Bush I's crazy strategy of quitting while we were still ahead. This is called being greedy. So now we are at war in Iraq again, and all Americans do is complain, for all kinds of different reasons. There is no pleasing some people. But there's not much to be pleased about.

Meanwhile, here in the South, the lakes have dried up and we are about to run out of water. The government is doing zip. Except, of course, to complain. That is doing about as much good as the complaining about Iraq. There is crazy talk about building an aqueduct or a seawater pipeline. But those ideas are all deemed way too expensive. Plus, such proposals have a faint sniff of environmentalism about them that Republicans instinctively dislike. So mainly we all just hope it will rain, for 6 months straight.

If only we could get about 100,000 guys and a trillion dollars, I bet we could solve this water shortage problem in less than 5 years. But that would be crazy. Or we could invade Canada. Apparently they have plenty of water. And a lot of them speak French. We all know what that means.

Bush wants to fly men to Mars, and teach Arab nomads about political science at the business end of a rifle. But getting clean water to the city, that's just too hard for him.

Malaise, thy name is Bush.

I'm just gonna turn that tv off right now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old News That's Still Vaguely Interesting

FLASH!!!!!
Copying and Pasting Is Easier Than Writing Your Own Stuff
(With thanks to Stephen Glass)


Report: Laura Bush in 1963 Car Wreck
By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - At 17, Laura Bush ran a stop sign and crashed into another car, killing her boyfriend who was driving it, according to an accident report released to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Mrs. Bush is the wife of Republican presidential nominee-to-be George W. Bush, the Texas governor.
``It was a very tragic accident that deeply affected the families and was very painful for all involved, including the community at large,'' said her spokesman, Andrew Malcolm. ``To this day, Mrs. Bush remains unable to talk about it.''

Mrs. Bush did say in March, when asked at a campaign stop about the crash, ``I know this as an adult, and even more as a parent, it was crushing ... for the family involved and for me as well.''
According to the two-page accident report released Wednesday by the city of Midland, Laura Welch was driving her Chevrolet sedan on a clear night shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 6, 1963, when she drove into an intersection and struck a Corvair sedan driven by 17-year-old Michael Douglas.
Although previous news accounts have reported Douglas was thrown from the car and broke his neck, those details were not in the report.
The speed of Laura Bush's car was illegible on the report. The speed limit for the road was 55.
Neither driver was drinking, the police report said.
Laura Bush and her passenger, Judy Dykes, also 17, were taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries, according to an accident account printed at the time in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.
The police report indicates no charges were filed. That section of the report was left blank.
``As far as we know, no charges were filed,'' said Midland city attorney Keith Stretcher. ``I don't think it's unusual that charges weren't filed.'' The police report was released after an open records request was submitted to Midland officials in March. City officials had declined to release the records because the victims were under 18.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Thomas Friedman Not Wrong Today

Normally annoying, but inexplicably influential, Thomas Friedman makes a good point today that it's time to get over 9/11. It's been seven years. There is a time for grieving and a time for living. We accepted Japan's surrender 4 years after Pearl Harbor, and Japan murdered tens of thousands of American POW's. Now we think they are on our side.

Let's live again.

Go Red Sox!

Throwing copyright caution to the wind, here is Friedman's column.

September 30, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
9/11 Is Over
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Not long ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a fake news story that began like this:
“At a well-attended rally in front of his new ground zero headquarters Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially announced his plan to run for president of 9/11. ‘My fellow citizens of 9/11, today I will make you a promise,’ said Giuliani during his 18-minute announcement speech in front of a charred and torn American flag. ‘As president of 9/11, I will usher in a bold new 9/11 for all.’ If elected, Giuliani would inherit the duties of current 9/11 President George W. Bush, including making grim facial expressions, seeing the world’s conflicts in terms of good and evil, and carrying a bullhorn at all state functions.”
Like all good satire, the story made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true — how much, since 9/11, we’ve become “The United States of Fighting Terrorism.” Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there’s no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.
What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.
It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.
Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”
You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.
Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.
Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry’s recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that “the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America’s image abroad.” Those who don’t visit us, don’t know us.
I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.
Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda — crystal clear.
I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet “Euro 4” — European Union — emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren’t anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That’s in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?
We can’t afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

General Petraeus - Honor and Reputation


General David Petraeus
MoveOn.org's recent ad about "General Betrayus" is way out of line. It is the natural result of the unfortunate rhetorical use of our "troops" as props for political debate. "Support the troops" has become a debating tool, used as both a sword and a shield, by many of our politicos, pundits, and other persons of influence who should know better.
General Petraeus is living in Baghdad these days. He commands our troops there. That is, when he's not being ordered to fly back to D.C. for a political photo-op. Oops, I mean to consult with the President and Important Congressional Leaders. Apparently, using a video conference to give these briefings that would allow the General to stay on-site in Baghdad, and keep focused the job he has at hand, is not adequate. A video conference would probably not get as much tv time for the politicians. Such are the priorities of Washington.
I've flown on military air transport from Bahrain to Boston. It took four days. Flying back only took two. I'm sure the General gets better flight schedules than that, but still, it is a long, tiring flight, and important time out of theater for the man in charge. It is happening more than it should, and it does not help our troops.
General Petraeus is all-Army. If you don't know what that means, these are times when it is important to understand. Allow me to recommend a book, Once An Eagle, by Anton Myrer. I read it as a teenage boy and it is a book that can make a deep impression about the principles of our military. It's available on Amazon.
Regarding our General, let's consider an old military motto, "death before dishonor." This is an expression that few would say out loud these days. But to many career military men,
dying a heroic death fighting for their country is the choice they would make over retiring as a failure. And our General is a career military man. He is a man with a mission. A mission to succeed. He was not ordered to try hard, or to just do his best. He was ordered to accomplish a mission. And he'll keep at it until he succeeds or dies trying. Unless he is told to stop.
This is why the ad by Moveon.org was a low blow. (Trivia for non-sport's fans who've always wondered what this means - "low blow" is a boxing term that means a punch to the lower abdomen, nearing the family jewels. It is not only against the rules, but is considered unsportsmanlike, cheating, and "fighting dirty.") Moveon's belief that this was OK comes from a pervasive misunderstanding, shared by many Americans, of the military's role in America and American politics.
Military officers are taught from day 1 not to become involved in politics. They are taught to keep their political views to themselves, and not to comment if present at a political discussion. They accept this restriction with pride as a part of the purity of the sacrifices that they make for their country. This mentality is why our generals look so uncomfortable when being asked by Congress or the President what our national policy should be. It is not their job to tell the President or Congress what to do. And it is inappropriate to request it of them.
General Petraeus' brief article in the Washington Post was direct and focused on what had been accomplished recently in training, equipping, and deploying Iraqi security forces. We don't know everything else he told the President. But, the context of his public brief is that he has been given an assignment to go to Iraq, quell the violence as much as he can, and train up the Iraqis as much as possible.
He's got all the resources he's going to get, and he knows it. There ain't no more troops. The DOD is already involuntarily pulling Naval Reservist sailors up for active duty as regular ground soldiers at security check points. This is referred to as being a "bullet sponge." Who's next on the list of available military manpower? Postal workers? (One is tempted to wonder how the Texas Air National Guard is fairing these days.)
So, General Petraeus has a job to do. So he is doing it to the best of his ability. That is what he reported on.
What else did people expect? That he would come back and say, "Holy cow! That whole place has gone to hell in a handbasket! We better get our boys out of there or someone's gonna get hurt!" Of course not.
Inherent in the context of his report is a drive and commitment to succeed. That is what has made him a great General. You don't get 4 stars for nothing. The last thing any of us is going to see from any decent military officer as a response to an order is, "Well, I'll try it for a couple of months, but if it's too hard I'll come back and let you know." Any expectation that there was a possibility of that happening is insane.
And no flag officer is going to come back and say, "Unfortunately, despite being provided the full support of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, I will be unable to defeat the Mahdi Army, an untrained, unpaid, ununiformed street gang with a few thousand members, equipped with small arms and home-made bombs. Those guys are just too tough."
General Petraeus is one of the troops. He will fight until he is told to stop, just like the rest of the Army.
President Bush is hiding behind the troops, politically. He is their leader, and he is misusing them.
The same with Congress.
Either the President or Congress, each without the other, could get us out of this war if either decided to do so. Their protests that it is too hard to get out are not true.
The President has decided to stay. It's the wrong choice. But at least he made a decision.
But Congress, and the Democrats, having been given a clear electoral mandate by the people to end the war, continues to dither.
We are told we cannot just leave, it will take at least a year. We've addressed this fallacy here before. It is NONSENSE. It's the Army! It's built to move! If China invaded Hawaii tomorrow you'd see how fast we can move those troops out of Iraq.
Here's some perspective. There are 130,000 troops in Iraq. Here in Atlanta, guess how many passengers go through the airport every day. Answer: 280,000. One is tempted to think that we could get them all home in just one day if we really wanted to. And we would only have to use one US airport.
Of course, that would require some national and political will.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Daffy Dan Rather becomes Crazy Old Cranky Dan Rather


Smilin' Dan Rather


Dan Rather, after 21 years of keeping CBS News solidly last in the news ratings, is suing his old employer. Why CBS kept him on for so long is a mystery, only deepened by this ungrateful lawsuit.

Apparently, the reason Dan is angry is that he feels that CBS didn't do a good enough job whitewashing Dan's responsibility for that whole fake document mess in a story that CBS, specifically Dan, broadcast about President Bush's somewhat undistinguished military service. The documents were fake. Everybody says so. The consensus is also that a good reporter would have known better.

Dan, who apparently is still claiming the story is true, avoided taking the fall for this Big Screw-up ("BS" in journalism circles) at the time. Three other CBS employees got fired. But Teflon Dan kept the big anchor chair. Though, as time went by, the incident was not forgotten, and more and more people seemed to openly blame him for the fiasco, as well as his failure to take responsibility.

Jim Lehrer once said, many years ago, "I'm responsible for everything that comes out of my mouth." That is what I expect to hear from a news anchor. But, with the exception of Mr. Lehrer, those days are over. Dan apparently feels exactly the opposite.



Back in 1981 when Walter Conkite was retiring, there was a big discussion on whether Dan Rather or Roger Mudd would succeed him as CBS News Anchor. Mudd seemed more substantial, but Rather was more exciting, having done lots of Viet Nam coverage and challenging President Nixon at press conferences. Rather won and Mudd, and CBS, lost.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Katie's Loose Lips


I was an early cheerleader for Katie Couric getting a network anchor job. I thought she should have replaced Tom Brokaw. (Brian Williams? Duh . . .) When she finally did land Dan Rather's old gig, I really hoped she'd do great. After all, she was bound to do better than Dan Rather.

But, there were early signs of things going off-track. The big buildup was, well, unseemly. The first solo woman anchor! A bit of a stretch. Remember Barbara Walters? Not solo, so she doesn't count, I guess. What about Connie Chung's stint with Dan? Ditto. (What a brain trust that was.) And of course, the fact that Elizabeth Vargas was anchoring the news over at ABC was, well, apparently something else.

But still, I liked Katie! I liked that she did that whole crazy cancer thing on tv. That took guts. I liked the merry widow role after losing her husband. I liked that she wasn't afraid to show off her legs, too. Did you hear those mean spirited people getting on her case about being too old to wear skirts without hose on tv? They said her legs weren't that great anyway, and she shouldn't be trying to show them off. Pretty petty stuff. Katie's 40-something gams look great. If you've got it, flaunt it! In my age group, a perky pair of tanned, toned, well-seasoned legs goes great with that morning cup of coffee. That whole gossipy discussion only made me like Katie more, to spite her spiteful enemies.

Then, one day on tv, Katie's eyelids disappeared. At first, I couldn't believe my eyes. But it was true. She had some work done. A facelift. A surprising disappointment. What message was that meant to convey? That she would be both a news anchor and a spokesmodel for the news? What happened to being a role model? I for one liked Katie's face better the way it was. Real.

I suppose that since I almost never actually watch the evening news, my opinion here counts for very little. But that won't stop me from expressing it.

Katie, after all we've been through together, I am sad to say, has lost me as a fan. And here is why.

Recently she was reporting on the deaths of two US soldiers. She introduced the news of their deaths as a "footnote." Then explained that their deaths were "ironic." Apparently, it was Katie's perception of this irony that made their deaths newsworthy.

The young men had recently published an op-ed piece that pointed out that even normal, everyday life activities in Iraq now put people's lives at risk. It was in the New York Times. There is some anti-Katie sniping that this situation is exactly what irony is not, but such criticism misses the point.

The point is how Katie looks at people. Soldiers are people.

Come on, Katie! Two patriotic young people are dead! They were real. They had families. It's not a footnote! It is exactly why so many people are so very very pissed off about this whole Iraq clusterschnook.

How can Katie look at the American people and tell us that two of our young people just got killed, and the only reason it's worth mentioning, as a footnote, is because it's ironic? Was it just a poor choice of words, or has she gotten out of touch with people? Is that really how she thinks?

It seems so. She's not alone. A lot of people think it's not a big deal when a soldier gets killed. Soldiers are not wholly viewed as real people by some. They are just soldiers, and soldiers get killed. We all expect it, so it's not that big a deal. This is wrong thinking. Soldiers are regular young people wearing their work uniforms. Specifically, they are our young people who are willing to sacrifice for their country.

Katie got her job because of her perceived ability to connect with people. That's what's ironic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

How Larry Gets Off

Poor old Larry Craig. He had the world by the tail. Big job, loving wife, three (adopted) kids, somewhat famous, etc. He seemed to have it all.

Well, apparently Larry's idea of having it all meant a little more than what it means for most of us.

Now Larry has fallen. The victim of a police vice operation in a men's public bathroom at the Minneapolis airport. A victim of a wide stance, restless leg syndrome, and over-zealous police work.

Whammo . . . suddenly Larry is in handcuffs for lewd behavior for . . . well, you know, tapping his foot and putting his hand under the stall wall. Pretty lewd stuff. Though apparently no actual penis was seen during the lewdness.

So Larry pleaded guilty, but only to being disorderly. An ambiguously defined "crime" rooted in biblical admonitions.

Larry, mortified, says, "I'm not gay!" He says it a lot. Maybe that makes it more true. Or maybe it's a fleeting truth in need of regular recharging.

Frankly, I doubt many people care if Larry is, was, or thinks about being gay. I certainly could not care less.

What gives this whole weird tale it's yucky factor is the setting. A public toilet? Eeewww. Who are these people who want to have sex in a public toilet? The germs! The smells! The noises! The random, misplaced drops! Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Plus, there are kids in there! That is what pisses a lot of us off. If my kids were in a public bathroom, and two knuckleheads decided to do the boofoo choochoo, I'd call the cops.

The setting is where Larry went wrong. If Larry had been having a discrete rendezvous back at the Marriott, this would not be such a mess for him. He could declare himself mentally exhausted, check into rehab for a couple of weeks, and voila! He could come back 100% heterosexual.

It worked for Ted Haggard. It could work for Larry.

Larry quit in disgrace after his fellow republicans declared him to be "disgusting." But now he wants to un-quit, with Arlen Specter's support. The only sensible explanation for Senator Specter's position is that he believes Larry's story. Arlen may be all alone on this one.

There are too many holes in Larry's story for it to be credible. Why was he in the public bathroom? He should have been in one of the airline's club lounges. And how do you have a wide stance with you trousers around you ankles? And the hand under the stall wall? I've never heard of that before.

Larry also wants to un-plead guilty to the disorderly conduct conviction. He may actually have a chance at this. If he can establish that he has a legislator's travel immunity from arrest while travelling between Washington and his district, then he can establish that the sheriff had no right to arrest him and the court had no right to try him. Federalism! Separation of Powers! Lack of Jurisdiction! Voila! Larry gets off! Wouldn't that be a hoot?

Politically, it is also questionable whether the Senate should kick Larry out if he refuses to resign. After all, the people of Idaho elected him. So what right do the other Senator's have to tell Idaho it cannot have the Senator it wants? After all, Larry didn't take bribes, or kill the Treasury Secretary in a duel. He wasn't even looking for a prostitute. He was just looking for love in all the wrong places.

As usual, most of our tv pundits have missed a pretty important point about Larry's hypocrisy. Chris Matthews, Matt Lauer, et al rhetorically ask how hypocritical it is for a "family values" pontificator like Larry to look for anonymous, gay sex. Aside from assuming that Larry wanted something "anonymous," as well as unconsciously buying into the bigotry that homosexuality and family values are mutually exclusive, they have the hypocrisy argument exactly backwards.

A person, such as Larry, can believe in an ideal (like marriage and heterosexuality)that he should strive for, knowing that he will occasionally fail or fall short. This is where Christians look for forgiveness. The hypocrisy is to be such a man who falls short, but instead of preaching forgiveness for others, and a path toward redemption, offers only harsh judgment and condemnation. This is the essence of the Republican's hypocrisy on social issues, especially when it comes to bigotry against homosexuals. If Larry would announce that his humiliation has helped him to understand this, a lot of people might be in more of a mood to forgive him.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Vacation Eyes

Freshly back from a week of vacation. Summer vacation. Recreation. Good for the soul. Good for the mind.

Old friends. Old stomping grounds. Some time with my bride. Make the old feel young.

A cleansed aura. A cleared mind. A freshened perspective.

Good stuff.

Coming back from a vacation should be a new experience in itself. One should see things differently. One should be able to see the forest, at least for a while, before getting back to work on that one troublesome tree.

We vacationed on a sailboat. Crazily, it had tv's on it. But we managed to go all week without turning them on once. The best thing about this type of vacation is learning to slow down the mind's emailed, voicemailed, internetted, conference called pace, and instead to take the long, slow time needed to contemplate, and enjoy, a slow, foggy sail through the sound.

But one feels those persistent time-management anxieties creeping up one's back, harping on the brain. You should be reading that good book! You should be talking with your old friends! You should have a drink! You shouldn't be drinking this early! You should be learning about the boat! Do something! And make sure it's the right thing!

Hah. I've been through this before. So, I know. The one important thing to do on vacation is to set worry aside. So aside it went.

Talking with old friends is great. But just being with them is enough. So, sometimes we talked. Other times we just sat, and looked at the water, or read a book. It was nice.

A week is too short a time for a vacation. As our friend and shipmate Lauren related the European view to us, a week is just enough time to get relaxed, then you are ready to start a vacation. My body tells me to agree.

But a week is what we had, so a week is what we spent. And it was a delightful week.

And then our vacation was over. We said good byes. Not really knowing when we might see each other again. No doubt we'll be grayer and fatter then. At least I'm confident I will be. But nobody cares about that stuff. I just hope it's not too far away.

Airports are especially effective at jolting one out of a vacation induced serenity. Homeward bound on a busy Friday afternoon with all of the business travellers trying to get home for the weekend. I like the business travellers. They tend to roll with the punches and be polite, while executing a kind of pedestrian efficiency in the busy corridors and long lines.

A disembodied, robotic sounding, female voice repeatedly told us that the Department of Homeland Security had raised the risk level to Orange. Well, good for them! It reminded me of a movie set in the old DDR. "The Department of Homeland Security" just sounds like too much security for me. I liked the old FBI and our local police department.

I found myself surprised at the Condition Orange Security Alert. Not because I know what Orange means. I was just surprised that all of the silliness was going on, as strong as ever.

Confession time: I'm not terrified. Not in the least. Osama can kiss my big white butt. He just doesn't scare me.

At the airport, I'm much more concerned about the plane being struck by lightning, or ice on the wings, or the pilot being drunk, than I am about terrorists.

I'm glad they x-ray all the bags. But making such a big show of it strikes me as a multi-billion dollar, permanent PR stunt, put over on us by the Bushies, to try to smokescreen their ignoring of the Osama iceberg on the horizon six years ago. Enough already. This goofiness has gone on long enough.

Saw the tv's in the airport. Iraq is still being hotly debated. I guess we haven't had enough time to figure out what to do there. The Foxies were discussing it in urgent, loud, and solemn tones. Keeping straight faces the whole time. Hooray for journalism majors. Our Fourth Estate at work.

Keeping my vacation perspective intact for one more day, I spent part of my morning today teaching my 4 year old son to shave. He solemnly told me he had a boo-boo on his face and he needed to shave it off. We shaved together. It was, in fact, the most important thing I could think to do.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

In Retrospect - Molly Ivins Oct 7, 2003 - RIP

Molly Ivins October 7
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Much as I hate to interrupt what is apparently a deeply felt triumphalism on the American right, now that it's over, does anyone see any reason for our having invaded Iraq?
I realize that's what we all kept trying to figure out before the invasion, but don't you think it should at least be visible in hindsight? Good thing we won the war, because the peace sure looks like a quagmire.
These are early days, certainly, to attempt a full historical evaluation. Could be a case of the forest and the trees. Perhaps we're well along the road to having everything work out magnificently, and I'm just missing it. Still, I can't see anything that's going right.
Iraq is in chaos, and apparently the only way we'll be able to stop it will be to kill a lot of Iraqis. Just what Saddam used to do. The other day, we announced we were going to shoot looters, and when that produced nightmare scenarios of children dead for stealing bread, we had to cancel that plan.
Now we're going to try gun control. That should have the enthusiastic support of the NRA. Meanwhile, the chaos in Iraq seems to be costing us whatever goodwill we earned for getting rid of Saddam Hussein, the one unmitigated good to have come from all this.
I hate to be picky, picky, picky, but there are still no weapons of mass destruction. In fact, we've apparently even stopped looking for them. Since Iraq never had anything to do with Al Qaeda or Sept. 11 — despite American public opinion on this issue — it was certainly no surprise to see Al Qaeda back again, with strikes in both Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Bush's announcement that we had broken up the organization seems to have been a trifle premature. There was much unmuted griping from American intelligence about the total Saudi failure to cooperate before the attack there. (As one antiwar sign reminded us before the recent events, "Sept. 11 equals 15 Saudis, 0 Iraqis.")
Meanwhile, one of the other sales pitches we were given was that, for reasons never explained, getting rid of Saddam Hussein would make it easier to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
It's not looking promising. Didn't look promising before the war, doesn't now.
President Bush came out with his Roadmap to Peace, and the Israelis took the first exit. Ariel Sharon, so memorably described by Bush as "a man of peace," wasted no time undercutting that proposal. The always-unhelpful Palestinian terrorists attacked, and Sharon counterattacked and then cancelled his trip here to discuss the peace plan. The usual ugly pictures and refueled resentments ensued, the same-old, same-old of this 50-year-old cycle. So far, getting rid of Saddam seems to have had zero effect on this old deadlock.
Meanwhile, Iraq looks more and more as though it will be costing us the high-end estimate of $20 billion a year, for which the Iraqis have yet to appear noticeably grateful. The Shiites hate us, the Kurds are killing the Arabs, and we're hiring old Ba'athite thugs to run things.
OK, if this is the situation, and it's certainly what's being reported, I don't get why we're still hearing Bushies saying, "Ha, ha, ha; we won the war." Was there anyone who said we wouldn't? Since I am in the happy position of having predicted a short, easy war and the peace from hell, I think I'm looking like a genius prognosticator about now.
I can't figure out why the Republicans are happy about this. Sure, it was a great photo-op for the president on the aircraft carrier, but if you think the American people won't notice $20 billion a year because of some nice pictures, you have sadly underestimated the common sense of this nation. I realize that what we see depends on where we stand, but there is a substantial body of emerging fact here, none of it encouraging for optimists.
We may yet see hopeful developments, but damned if I can see any cause for celebration now, or even for building a presidential re-election campaign around footage of our triumphant pres flying out to the aircraft carrier. There's a very real possibility that by November 2004, Republicans will very much want everybody to forget the war now called Dubya Dubya II. (Sorry, I don't know whom to credit for that one, but it's not original with me.)
I've got an even-money bet out that says more Americans will be killed in the peace than in the war, and more Iraqis will be killed by Americans in the peace than in the war. Not the first time I've had a bet out that I hoped I'd lose.

Bad Picture Day


Makes me feel better about my driver's license photo.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still at Large - Day 2,129


Jeri For First Lady!

Jeri Thompson would be a smashing First Lady.








Guess Who?

Reading Books Is Hard


Good idea. Of course, most people do this sort of thing in college. Maybe Harvard and Yale need to beef up their curriculum. Or maybe Tom Friedman could have suggested that W bone up on Iraqi history before invading.

In the words of John Blutarsky, W's favorite historical figure and role model at college, "Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps."


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's Good To Be Fred

Begged Questions:

What's in the glass?

A polka dot handkerchief?

Why the funeral tie?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Integration As Anachronism

The Supreme Court has ushered us, kicking and screaming, into the "color blind" phase of our great national journey toward unification of our various races. No more using race as a criteria for school assignments of children.

Liberals are shell shocked. Who knew that their doomsday prophecies of a Bush appointed Court would actually come true? They certainly seem surprised themselves. Much bemoaning of our social failure to have resettled into racially proportionate neighborhoods, and hopeful predictions that schools will find sham proxies for race, such as income, to achieve "racial balance." Good luck with that.

Conservatives, ever better organized, seem to have had their talking points at the ready. Without a trace of irony, and impressively straight faced, they spout in unison that the Court's decision is right and correct, because judging people by race is "immoral." Well, who's to argue with that?

This would be a good time for a period of national reflection on who we are as a Nation. It seems that we are not ready to become one race quite yet, though the lines around the edges are blurrier than ever. Perhaps this is a time for us to live side by side. We can learn to love each other as neighbors. We still have a way to go with that lesson.

Let us take this time to retell our national story. Look back at our American history and discern the theme that tells us what it all means. Forty years ago in Massachusetts, the story taught was of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims were the embodiment of the beginnings of America. Their story of reform minded fundamentalist Christians escaping religious persecution and secular corruption was told to many classrooms filled with Catholic and Episcopalian schoolchildren. The irony was lost. Questions about the inherent cognitive dissonance were dismissed as trouble making.

We need to tell a true story that fits us all. Without fear of offending those who even today worship our historical villains. Hero worship of our historical villains is still a problem. Ask Trent Lott.

The theme of America is the elevation of all mankind. This seemed clear to us in World War II when as a nation we rejoiced in the victory of our "regular Joes" over the Nazi "supermen."

That's our story. Let's tell it to each other.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Don't Give Up The Ship! - It's Metaphor Friday!

There is a renegade priest saying Mass in San Diego, who is married with two children, and this has the Catholic Church hierarchy alarmed. A picture in the current New York Times Magazine shows only the rogue priest's vestments and hands, wearing a wedding ring, as well as an engagement ring and a very nice manicure. Yes, Jane Via, a lawyer with a PhD in religious studies, wife and mother of two, is acting as an ordained Catholic priest, holding Mass and giving communion.

Taking it to the street, as we used to say.

Mrs. Via, as depicted in the piece by Jan Jarboe Russell, is well prepared for her new role as an internal (sort of) agent provocateur and voice for change. The controversy here is centered more on Mrs. Via's status as a woman than her qualifications or being married or having children. Apparently, the Church position is that only men can "symbolically represent Jesus." Feel free to make up your own joke here.

But Mrs. Via's story also speaks to a larger sense of moral duty and moral courage that is not discussed much these days. For lack of a better term, let's call it Pillar Duty. As in a "pillar of society." Pillar duty is a citizen's duty to stand for and uphold the moral and ethical principles of our social institutions. Sounds BOOOORING! Well, it's not as boring as it sounds.

Many years ago, as a young man, I was leaving active Naval service, and a senior officer talked to me about staying. Now, the Navy is a big institution, and you will find a variety of types like true patriots, men/women of action, no-risk careerists, low profile pension lovers, and guys just hanging out to work off their college scholarships. The particular point of that talk that stuck with me all this time was that part of our duty was to stay and maintain the mission, and not leave the job to those who were there for their own reasons. He was true believer. It was, if you will pardon the expression, kind of a revelation to me.

And now I see
that true believers
we should all be.

In something. Something that we actually do. Be it job, family, charity, church, civic work, avocation. You can't do everything. Just pick one thing.

So what of Mrs. Via. Why doesn't she get herself ordained by those women-loving Episcopalians? They have apostolic succession without the penis infatuation. Frankly, that is what I would do in her shoes. (Not that I am interested in wearing her shoes.)

But Mrs. Via appears to be a better man than I. She's hanging in there. No easy exit for greener pastures. No giving up the ship. The Church is her Church, too. She's staying and taking a stand. Nothing boring about that.

You may not agree with what Mrs. Via is doing. But having the courage of her convictions to stay and be a living and present witness to her convictions is the moral of this story. And it applies to us as a society and a nation.

Back in the 1970's, a lot of folks where I lived (the Northeast) were fed up with the Viet Nam War and the CIA hijinks that is back in news now as the "family jewels." One result of this was that many schools, notably including Harvard, banned military and CIA recruitment on campus. This is a big mistake.

The effect of this self purification stance is to surrender control of two of our major social institutions to others. Guess what? The Army and the CIA are still our Army and CIA. They don't become someone else's problem just because we throw up our hands and walk away when we don't like how they are run. The Ivies' abandonment of them is misguided and not morally courageous. It is time for them to get back into the ring.

And so it is with many things. Mrs. Via is an inspiration. This is our society, our government, our world. Let's keep working it.

Get up, stand up:
stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up:
don't give up the fight!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ann, Sean, and Me

Ann Coulter on Hardball with Chris Matthews. She is one unlikeable woman. I was especially appalled to discover that she agrees with the worldview on the pending immigration reform bill. (She's against it.)
When Ann held up her book for the camera (a task usually handled by the show's host) we noticed she was wearing the same black dress that she posed in for the book cover.
Her appearance overall was kind of remarkable. As usual she looked like an anorexic crack addict. But with her unstyled hair flying out of control and sunglasses on, she had the look of a party girl who had just rolled out of bed, late and hung over, thrown on her dress from the night before, and rushed off to work without showering or putting on makeup.
Ann did not disappoint her small group of fans ("Annies"), whom Matthews said reminded him of the film Deliverance. Good one! Ann feels we are not killing enough civilians in Iraq, and need to get over this squeamishness to break the spirit of our enemies. Sounds like Osama bin Laden's strategy.
This was my first time seeing Ann on tv. You don't have to eat dung to know you won't like it. She has an odd accent, that sounds at once haughty and trashy, as well as affected. She gives no quarter, but is mostly full of baloney. Likes to call herself a Christian more than once, though you wouldn't have guessed it otherwise. Also apparently puts it out there that she has a high IQ. What kind of person considers that an accomplishment? It's kind of embarrassing to hear it mentioned. Overall, a weird duck. (In the words of Justice Scalia, "Quack, quack.")
In a great moment, Elizabeth Edwards called in to "politely ask" Ann to stop the character assassination comments, specifically referencing comments Ann made about the Edward's deceased son. Ann was having none of it, and not so politely said no.
In an odd moment, Ann slammed one of her young fans from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, who told her she should not be criticising President Bush. Ann basically told the naive young know-nothing that Bush is yesterday's lunch, had sold out the republican party to big business with the immigration bill, and is an anchor around the neck of republican office seekers. Wow. If Ann's not part of "the base," who is? It appears that Bush's base has left the building.
Another surprise bedfellow of the worldview is our favorite pompous puffball of pander, Sean Hannity. Yu-uck. Cheerleader patriot Sean is also dissing the immigration bill. Even more disturbing, he is doing so for the same reasons as the worldview. Troubling. If a man is to be judged by the company he keeps, perhaps I'm in need of some self-examination.
But . . . I am relieved to discover that I am not alone in this surprising circle of dissent. My favorite freshman Senator, Jim Webb of Virginia, as well as a dozen other democrats in the Senate, don't like the bill either. Webb is great. After Bush got haughty with him at the White House, Webb once said he felt like slugging the President. I like that. No stupidly clever zingers a la John Kerry and other cleverness loving democrats. Just felt like punching him. Now that is straight talk.
So the 2007 immigration reform bill is looking more and more like a sinking ship. Good riddance.
Na na na na,
na na na na,
hey hey-ey,
goodbye

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Immigration Reform - What's the Rush?

Students at Montebello High School, California
Notice the position of the American Flag

Congress and the President have ignored our county's immigration problems for 20 years, since the last time an amnesty period was granted and the problem "fixed." Now, there is a big rush to address the problem.

The problem with that, though, is that people strongly disagree on what exactly the problem is to be solved. One public truth is that the US has 12 million illegal aliens living here. Mostly from Mexico. I'm not sure how we know that, but I'll go with it. We agree that this is a problem, but what sort of problem?

Some folks see the problem as a bunch of lawbreakers living here with little chance of getting caught, making a mockery of our laws and fools out of the people waiting to immigrate legally. The bill offers conditional amnesty, which sticks in the craw of many people.

Other folks see the problem as a a bunch of undocumented immigrants who scrambled to come here for a better life, being made to suffer because of their illegal status. These people see the illegals as sympathetic characters, which many are. Giving them a path to citizenship would bring them into society and out of the shadows of the underclass. This argument generally ignores the fact that all of these people already have citizenship, just somewhere else.

There is also concern that many immigrants (read Hispanics and Muslims), will not assimilate into American culture, causing an erosion of America's English speaking, Protestant Christian based civilization.

So, after years of doing nothing, our fearless leaders tried to rush this immigration reform law through, with little public debate, calling it a bi-partisan Grand Bargain. But sadly, someone failed to notify the partisans, who are not bi-ing it at all. So the new reform bill is stalled, as many legislators change their minds for political cover, like my own Suntanned Saxby Chambliss, who was booed by his own party right here in his home state for supporting this bill.

Why the brooha? No leadership. No national leader has made a compelling case to the public about why this bill is a good idea, and why we need it now. The President, whose baby this is, has failed to lead, failed to articulate a reason why the Nation should forgive and welcome these illegal aliens.

Meantime, while the President and Congress spend their time on this, our Army continues to fight 2 wars. Remember those? How does this reform bill square with the Global War On Terror (GWOT)?

In the context of the wars, this immigration debate seems absurd. At the aiprort, our luggage is x-rayed, dog sniffed, chemically swiped, and possibly manually inspected while we struggle to get our shoes back on while repacking our laptops and apologizing for packing shampoo in our carry-ons. Meanwhile a million people a year enter the country illegally through our southern border.

We need to prioritize. We need to secure our borders. We shouldn't have to explain why or justify it. It is sensible on its face. Aside from successfully keeping Cat Stevens out, our border security is a joke. Even Tuberculosis Man made it through, and there was an alert out on him.

Once the borders are secure we need time for a national debate on our immigration policy. Immigration policy permanently affects the nation, unlike tax policy or foreign policy or other policies which can be changed if they are not working well. There is a lot at stake and it should not be rushed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

See Republicans Run

So much wackiness, so little time.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's an intentional republican strategy to bury the public in so much wrongdoing that we give up trying to keep track. Well, I'm giving up on trying to keep track of the hard facts (since they don't get reported anyway), and am going to rely on my nose for fishiness as well as frequent application of the duck test for things that are ducked up. (Duck test: If it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.)

One might assume that the republicans running for President would be suffering from defeatism, having all of the baggage of Bush on their backs. But one would be wrong. They are full of optimism. Except McCain, who is noticeably grouchy. Because he is going to lose and everyone knows it, including him. We know this for sure because the press is being so deferential to his war hero status.

I still like Mitt. I used to like McCain, even voted for him in 2000. But he's getting nasty in his old age. The sarcasm, what's up with that? The cheap political one liners don't wear well on an elder statesman.

Rudy is getting lots of play, and credit for "winning" the 2d debate, which I missed. Rudy smells like a phony to my knowing nose. A pro-choice Catholic with three wives. A tough guy draft dodger. I don't mind Catholics (used to be one), and I don't mind pro-choosers, and I don't mind divorced folks. What I do mind is hypocrites, and Rudy quacks like a hypocrite. Bringing his girlfriend to the house to meet his kids while he's still married to their Mom? There is something wrong with that. So what then? We have a first lady who thinks it's OK to sleep with married men? For a tough guy, I don't see much self discipline there. His commitment to his church and his family are both too flexible. The draft dodger thing just adds to it. None of these items on their own would bother me so much, but the cumulative effect is to draw a picture of a man who likes to be tough on others but not on himself. We have plenty of those already.

Fred Thompson I'm not buying either. Phony baloney. I'd like some clarity on whether he really owns a red truck. He's not a real leader, but he plays one on tv. Folks are hoping that he'll be a second Reagan. Well, a lot of things worked out OK under Reagan, but I never liked him as President until we had Bush 1, who was a disaster by comparison. But now I like Bush 1 in comparison to Bush 2, who even republicans are now admitting is a disaster by comparison to anyone. Reagan had principles. Not always mine, but generally good ones. Fred just seems to be doing what he likes. But I'll give Phony Fred a good chance of winning. Americans have proved in the last two elections that they'll take style over substance. We have become a bluepill nation.

Mitt is the real deal. Yeah, he's a draft dodger and doesn't really hunt as much as he'd like us to think, but so what? He's still married to his wife, whom he left Stanford to be with at BYU. That's a sacrifice for love in my book. He is loyal to his church and its teachings. We haven't seen any of his kids in rehab. And he's a self-made millionaire. (I know "millionaire" is out-dated, but "self-made rich guy" just doesn't have the same ring to it.) Frankly, I like a guy as President who can go out into the world and be successful.

I also like a guy who will change his mind. The flip-flop tag on Mitt does not stick. Leading takes flexibility. When circumstances change or when new information is received, it means making a new decision. We have a leader now who is incapable of re-evaluating situations. This leads to paralysis in dynamic situations, and the world is a dynamic place. Part of faith is believing that there is always a right path to be found. But we have to be willing to look for it. Put another way, any football fan will tell you that great coaches make half time adjustments to game strategy.

So Mitt has changed his position on abortion, gay rights, and gun control. Well, so have I. Several times. One writer said that Mitt was too slick in the 2d debate, and is a man of positions, not principles. Nonsense. It is just the opposite. Mitt walks the walk while others just talk the talk. He honors his marriage, he follows his faith, he's cleaned up corruption at the Olympics, he's successful in business and in politics. Judge by deeds, not words, and Mitt looks pretty steadfast.

So there is the Mitt lovefest. On the other hand, no military experience worries me. But if we go by that standard our choices are McCain or Ron Paul.

So why republican optimism? Well, it's because they are running against democrats, of course! Don't underestimate the democrats' ability to screw this up.

Some days I really wish Bill Clinton was running again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gypsy Postscript

Well placed media sources have informed the worldview that Gypsy propagandists are now claiming that the Supreme Court Justice named in the June 2d post is spelling his name "Breyer" and not the preferred Gypsy spelling of "Bryer." This shrewd media manipulation move is intended to quiet public xenophobia of rising Gypsy influence by driving informed worldview readers away from their computers and to the freezer for ice cream, which will probably also lead to an evening of reality tv. No hard information is available on the apparent Gypsy - ice cream industry connection.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Mitt Romney - King of the Gypsies or Satan?

What's not to like about Mitt Romney? He's tall and soooo handsome. He has a good voice and stands up really straight. He doesn't drink or smoke. The rumor is that he's wicked wicked smart and super-duper rich. I wish my Mom would marry him.

But the negative nellies out there are giving good guy Mitt a hard time.

Mitt is, in case you missed it, running for President. As a republican. Seriously. And he's from Massachusetts, the state that all republicans love to hate. So Mitt, being super-duper smart, is pretending that he's from Michigan. Ah, yes. Good old, midwestern, gun loving, heartland-of-America, car making Michigan. My patriotic cockles are warmed just imagining what it must be like there. Probably lots of American flags and Support the Troops car stickers. Mitt's campaign is claiming that his dad was governor there. Of course, there's no way to verify this because the elder Romney is apparently now dead, and all of our intrepid reporters, having survived Baghdad, don't want to risk going to Detroit to check it out. So, with a good plausible Michigan connection, there's just no republican sense for Mitt to link his bio to Taxachusetts, home of such Democratic sissies as John Kerry, Mike Dukakis, and Ted Kennedy.

Ben Affleck, husband of Jennifer Garner, recently called Mitt a "Ken doll," which I'm taking to be negative. Memo to the pot . . . Hey Ben, he looks like he could be your dad. I wondered briefly if Senor Ben was making a veiled gay reference, our doll Ken having publicly appeared in the past in a pink mesh vest with nothing underneath and a necklace with some sort of rooster ring on it. But that is in the past and Ken has moved on from that phase of his doll life. He's been to doll rehab and is now 100% heterosexual. For now. Ken's just taking it one day at a time as 10 inches of delightfully plastic girl toy. But enough about Ken, we we're talking about Mitt! Tall, handsome, rich, heterosexual Mitt!

Mitt is married with something like five kids. But hold on, gay people are allowed to get married in Massachusetts. Hmmmm. No, I'm still not buying it. Ben Aflac will have to peddle his tawdry rumors to someone else. Why so interested, Ben? Projecting, perhaps? So, enough about creepy, rumor mongering Ben. Back to straight arrow Mitt!

The thing the press wants to discuss about Mitt is that he's a Mormon, which is a religion. Republicans who are part of "the base" like their candidates to be religious, meaning conservative protestant. (Quick fun tip for conspiracy nuts - "al Quaeda" means "the base" in Arabic. Hmmm.) Nobody seems to know what to make of this Mormonism thing. The press, trying to make up some news about this deathly boring republican whiteness contest, runs stories like "Will Mormonism Be An Issue?" Stories about the lack of a story on a non-issue. The hope is that if they keep stirring it up long enough, it will become an issue. Then they'll have some "news" and the reporters who started it can deem themselves experts on this "issue" because of their long time coverage and foresight in recognizing early on that it would "resonate with voters."

People don't seem to know a lot about Mormons. The one thing everbody does know is that Mormons are supposed to live in Utah. So what is Mitt doing living in Massachusetts? Who knew there were Mormons in Mass? Maybe Mitt likes bad weather, or that Ralph Lauren, New Englandy waspy charm. Who knows? It's another riddle of Romney.

But now the Mormon angle is getting some legs. A Florida evangelist preacher, Bill Keller, is calling good ole Mitt, "Satan." Yes, that's right, Satan, aka the Prince of Darkness, El Diablo, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Morning Star, Pan, Mephistopheles. Take your pick. I'm taking Bible Bill's comments to be negative, too. Even more negative than those of Ken doll Ben, who still claims that he is not gay, even though his wife can kick his ass.

But enough about not-gay Ben! Back to Bible Bill and Michigan Mitt! Why does Bible Bill have a bug in his butt about Michigan Mitt? It's the Mormonism, stupid! Here's the quote from the Florida Sun Times:

Keller, 49, who has a call-in show on a Tampa television station and a Web site called Liveprayer.com, on May 11 sent out a ``daily devotional'' that called Romney ``an unabashed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago.'' If the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination and the presidency, Keller's message added, it will ``ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell.''

Ouch. That has to hurt. But the press has to love it. Not even the New York Times could make that stuff up! For a "daily devotional" it's not very uplifting. But I bet Bible Bill got a ton of hits on his website from it. Actually naming the website in the article is probably a little quid pro quo from the reporter in exchange for the interview. I went to it to find out what specific religion Bible Bill is, but I couldn't find it. It says Christian, but the name of the church is Bill Keller Ministries. Gotta love a guy who names a church after himself. Not even Jesus did that. I bet the Kool-Aid is delicious.

At this point I'll interject that I've actually been to Utah and found the Mormons to be notably nice as a group. However, they don't drink, which loses them points in my book. Of course, it was a breakfast meeting. What may be surprising for people who hold religious stereotypes (that's right, I'm talking about you Bible Bill), is that while Mormons are considered very conservative, Utah is also considered one of the most welcoming states for immigrants as well as gay friendly. I'll bet that just makes Bible Bill even madder.

Everyone here is, as usual, missing the real story. Mormon schmormon. That's a red herring.

What's way more intriguing is the possibility that Mitt Romney is a Gypsy. Is the name Romney a derivitive of Romani, the ethnic group also called the Gypsies? It's fun to think so. Also, lots of Gypsies are called Travellers, which fits with Mitt's Michigan - Massachusetts political commuting. Mitt Romney could be our first Gypsy President! And all this time we were worried about the Jews. Speaking of whom, what about Justice Stephen Bryer? Bryer is also a well known Gypsy name. Could it be? Is something afoot? That's two branches of government in Gypsy hands!

Let's dig deeper. Gypsies are believed to have originally come from Egypt, though in their craftiness they claim to come from India. And guess what group is supposed to be safeguarding ancient secret knowledge from pre-Alexandrian Egypt? Ten points if you correctly guessed the Masons! That's right, our conspiracists' favorites, the Freemasons of the Scottish Rite. The same group that includes George Washington, most of the Founding Fathers, Wat Tyler, Jack the Ripper, FDR, and other fun folks. The Masons are descended from the Knights Templar, as is the Yale Skull & Bones Society, another fun mystery group. How cool is that?

The mainstream press aren't the only ones who can stir up a story. Reckon this story has legs? Let's see if Mitt walks like an Egyptian.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Na Na Hey Hey for Saxby

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss is vulnerable to a Democratic challenge according to a local poll last week. To us Georgians, good ole Saxby is the overly tanned embarrassment who defeated Max Cleland by putting pictures of Osama bin Laden in his ads. It is time for him to go.

Word is that the Democrats had written Georgia off, which is ridiculous. Georgia has a lot of conservatives, but we have a lot of liberals, too. Remember that Martin Luther King, Jimmy Carter (not that I'm a fan), Julian Bond, Sam Nunn, Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Clark Howard, and many more liberals are from Georgia. Not to mention the B-52's and REM.

Know what else? The conservatives here are pretty nice. And reasonable.

The point is that Democrats can and do win in Georgia. They need a strong candidate. Unfortunately, no obvious name comes to mind.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin would be good. She has turned around a city government that many of us here considered corrupt and incompetent. She has a reputation for being effective and tough. She's a black woman, and as far as I can tell the business community loves her. She also has great presence.

The former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes is mentioned, but he doesn't seem interested. Vernon Jones, the manager of Dekalb County, will probably run, but he's kind of a nut. Julian Bond is only 67, but he lives in DC and may be too liberal to win. But he was pretty funny on the Colbert Report.

I'm sure there are plenty of ambitious, well coiffed aspiring Senators that I'm not aware of. But for now I like Shirley.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Supporting Those Troops on Memorial Day

Last week, two Democrat(ic) Senators, Obama and Clinton, voted against a bill to continue funding military operations in Iraq. For this they were promptly accused of voting to deny our troops the resources they need to fight, or just plain voting for surrender.

Tie - Er - Sum.

The troops, in the form of General Petraeus, are telling the President they can get the job done. So who is the President to say otherwise? And who do those Senators think they are, meddling in war stuff? This is man business. The generals should decide whether we stay in this war, or if we need more troops, or if we should withdraw.

Only, it doesn't really work that way.

Soldiers have a soldier's mentality. Not all of them, of course, just the best ones. Soldiers in the US Army and US Marine Corps have volunteered for a job to fight and kill and suffer and die for their country. The pay is low. The facilities are sparse. Getting medical attention or other benefits for military families is often like going to the DMV. And the government constantly chips away at promised "benefits" like military pensions and their children's mental health treatment, to save money.

But they do it anyway. For us.

They deserve a lot better.

When a soldier is told, "You and 10,000 troops will forcibly enter the city and secure it" he doesn't say, "Well sir, I can't do it with less than 30,000." He says "Yes, Sir." He doesn't say, "I'll need this list of stuff to proceed." He asks, "What equipment will I have?"

An American soldier's mind is wrapped around the idea of success. He believes that he can and should succeed. He believes that he has the best equipment, the best training, the best intelligence, and the best fellow soldiers in the world. This is part of the basis of the American soldier's faith in his mission. He believes it can be done if he lives up to his part.

The other part of the soldier's faith lies in his belief in his leadership. An American soldier believes that his willingness to die for his country will not be spent lightly. He believes that his leaders, up to and including the President, will think hard before sending him to die. And he believes that if he is sent to die, it will be for the safety of the country. It will be worth it.

That's the deal. It is, in my mind, a sacred covenant. I do not believe that we have been keeping our end of the bargain.

Soldiers are not political scientists or global strategists. For many, if not most, soldiering is their first real job. They are our kids. An Army General might be 45 years old.

It is not the job of soldiers or Generals to decide when the country goes to war, or withdraws from war. That is the job of Congress and the President. It is also the job of Congress and the President to raise and equip the Army.

Withdrawing our troops from Iraq is not a surrender. We will not have long lines of American POW's being held by the Mahdi Army. Nor is it even a retreat, since there is no imminent danger of any military loss. It is a not a military decision. It is a political decision.

So what? Well, exactly. So what? It's a political decision, so let's make a political decision. Why all the baloney? We owe it to our troops to demand an honest discussion about why we are in Iraq and whether we need to remain.

Making a decision means framing an issue into answerable questions. Since we are already in Iraq, let's skip asking why we are there. It matters, but not for the purpose of deciding how to go forward.

Let's ask, "Why should we stay in Iraq?" Here are some possible reasons.


1. We need to defeat the terrorists or they will follow us home.

This is a fool's errand. Terror has been with us for a long as history itself. We cannot eradicate it any more than we can eradicate rats in our cities. Each generation will have to stand guard and deal with these challenges as they arise. If the people fighting us in Iraq want to attack us here, they don't have to wait. They could do it now. Fighting them there does not mean we will not have to fight them here. This argument is an erroneous variant on America's long standing military strategy of power projection, which works well against nation states and grounded forces, but is not 100% effective against revolutionary groups.

2. We need to secure the Iraqi oil reserves for our use.

This makes more sense, but nobody says it out loud. Iraq's known oil reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's. That's a big prize, and should not be given up lightly. America imports 60% of it's oil. We need a lot of oil. We really need it. Russia and the Arabs have both demonstrated a willingness to use oil as a political weapon. China is trying to acquire oil rights across the world. Right now we effectively control Iraqi oil. Giving up that control might be stupid. Without oil, Americans go hungry and freeze to death in the winter.

3. If we don't secure Iraq the insurgency will spread throughout the region.

First of all, without the oil we wouldn't give a hoot. The Arabs could, and probably will, continue to fight among themselves ad infinitum without Americans losing much sleep over it. But given the oil, we need to be concerned with middle eastern governments controlled by Islamists like those in Iran (I know they're not Arabs) who will use the oil to spread Islam through Europe and the world. This leads us to . . .

4. The Clash of Civilizations.

This is another one we don't like to say out loud because we don't want all of the Muslims or Arabs to think America is against them. Because we're not, maybe. Unless they want Islam to become a worldwide empire from Indonesia to India to Turkey to Spain. With the ultimate goal to destroy the predominance of western civilization. It could happen. Maybe Iraq will come to be seen as the first battleground of America's strategy of containment of Islam. If we tied this reasoning up with our need to secure the oil, I could be convinced that this war made sense.

OK. So why should we leave?

1. If Iraq is so important, why aren't France, Italy, Spain, and Germany there? And why are the British leaving?

Good question (if I say so myself). Those countries are a lot closer to Iraq than the US. How come they are not worried? A jet can fly from Iraq to Italy on one tank of gas. Do they know something we don't?

2. Our troops are doing the grunt work for all of western Europe, and we are paying for it.

Maybe this is why. We are being played for suckers.

3. They'll still sell us the oil, even if they hate us.

If they won't we can go back. Or just blockade them from selling to anyone else.

4. We are not making things any better.

Our guys on the ground did their job. The President, Vice President, and their gang of incompetent cronies screwed up what was a daunting task to begin with. Can you imagine how they could have done a worse job? How? At this point Iraqi Premier Maliki wants our troops to move out of the cities so his people can take over. So let's go.

Our soldiers have done enough over there. Unless we are going to take over the country for the long term, let's stop pretending that Iraq is suddenly going to come together in good order.

We support our troops first by not abusing them. We need to demand that our Iraq policy be clear so that our military objectives are clear. The steady killing of our guys without any clear benefit needs to stop.

The President needs to stop hiding behind the troops. The President is supposed to lead. We need to face the fact that this President and Vice President do not treat our troop's lives with due care. It is appropriate that Congress step in and use it's constitutional powers to protect the country from the President's recklessness. It's not just the right thing to do. We need our Army to be in good shape. We cannot afford to let President Bush damage it.