Saturday, December 29, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.29.07--A Horse Shoe Nail?!?

Alert the Press! A search of the Townhall muckroom today has uncovered a small nail which looks like it might've come from a horse shoe! Could Townhall's muckroom be close to exposing the "there must be a pony" pony?

Michael Barone's piece, "Lessons From the Surge," starts off, little surprise, with euphoric praise of "the Surge": the dazzling success of the surge strategy in Iraq. Or: George W. Bush, like Lincoln, took his time finding the right generals. But it's clear now that the forward-moving surge strategy devised by Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno has succeeded where the stand-aside strategy employed by their predecessors failed.

Naturally, Barone takes a pot shot or two at Bush critics: Some of George W. Bush's critics seem to have relished the prospect of American defeat and some refuse to acknowledge the success that has been achieved.

Buried near the bottom of the piece, however, is this gem: But the impetus for change has come from the bottom up, from tribal sheiks in Anbar province who got tired of the violence and oppression of al Qaeda in Iraq, from Shiites and Sunnis who, once confident of the protection of American forces and of the new Iraqi military, decided to quit killing each other.

So, the decision of the Shiites and Sunnis to "quit killing each other" is "the impetus for change," not the "dazzling success of the surge strategy?" Perhaps the surge strategy played a part? Perhaps the huge walls now lining Baghdad neighborhoods played a part?

Barone enthusiastically proclaims: A year ago it was widely thought, not just by the new Democratic leaders in Congress but also in many parts of the Pentagon, that containing the violence in Iraq was impossible. Now we have seen it done. Really? "Done?" The violence is contained? Where? The violence is, perhaps, factually less today than it was one year ago. Does that mean it has ended? No. It is contained? To what? Do the families of the newly dead give thanks that the violence is contained?

The horse shoe nail is that the Sunnis and Shiites are responsible for their own safety. The surge might have helped. If it did, then why did it take so many years for the President to begin to follow the advice of General Shinseki, who, remember, called for 500,000 American troops to keep the peace.

There's not much here for which Mr. Bush and his supporters might be proud. Once you look past the spin of Barone and his muckroom cohorts, it's still a grim chapter in American history.

Trust, Dear Gentle Reader(s), but verify.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.25.07 HoHoHo--Bah! Humbug!

Season's Greetings, Dear Gentle Reader(s)!

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the Muckroom cadre takes no holiday on this holy day for Christian adherents, but where' the surprise in that, right?

Confounding logic with some strange usages is a minor theme of the day. For instance:

Dinesh D'Souza offers this: "Taking Christ Out of Christmas." His final paragraph begins with this sentence, "We've reached a sad state in the West when we acquiesce in a hate-filled campaign to deny our Christian roots and heritage." Now, DGR(s), let's establish immediately that the problem here is "hate-filled." Hate is far too harsh a word to assign to the effort to have the Constitution interpreted in such a way as to allow all U.S. citizens to enjoy their religion or their choice to pay no attention to organized religion. Seeking to keep the various governmental entities "secular" has nothing to do with the emotion of hate. It is more to do with the emotion of love--for the U.S. Constitution. It is difficult to understand why D'Souza does not acknowledge this? Surely he knows it to be true. No one wants to take "Christ"out of Christmas. (That would leave "mas," surely that would confuse our Spanish speaking brethren, and not make sense at all.) It might be more in keeping with the Constitution to take "Christmas" out of our secular government.

Additionally, dear, sweet Bill Murchison offers a piece entitled: "Christmas vs. The Rejectionists." Billy's piece turns out to be the usual argument about Christian faith versus science (virgin birth, Biblical creation, salvation). The problem is Rejectionists. When Murchison goes shopping and selects an apple, is he a rejectionist when he chooses one apple over another? A pale blue shirt over a white shirt? Why is it then that a person raised in a particular society decides as an observant, critical adult to go on a different personal path is suddenly a rejectionist? Why not a "disagreeist?" A you-go-your-way-and-I'll-go-mineist?

DGR(s), there is no obvious answer to the question. One might surmise, though, that it's a defense mechanism. A person who has so much of him/herself invested in a particular belief that were that belief to be somehow rendered irrelevant the person would think him/herself also rendered irrelevant might turn irrational in defending the belief, while actually defending the self.

Enjoy the solstice season.

Trust, but verify.


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Friday, December 21, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.21.07 Quickie

Bert Prelusky over at the Townhall muckroom has this title: I'm Happy to Live in a Christian Nation.

Um...Nope. Where you live, Bertie, is in a nation which you share with a whole lot of Christians, real and ersatz.

Trust 'em, if you must, Bertie, but verify their religious credentials!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The slow Malkinization of Sullivan

Oh, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what to do? What to do? I fear my dear Andrew Sullivan is slowly succumbing to the prevalent journalistic malaise of slipshod investigation.

Here's a quote from AP which Andy uses: "The destruction in late 2005 of the tapes, showing harsh interrogation treatment of two terrorism suspects, is being investigated by the Justice Department, the CIA itself and by several congressional panels."

Here's what he has to say about that quote, especially the phrase "harsh interrogation," "No serious source denies that these two individuals were - at the very least - waterboarded. " Sullivan writes that the AP is "shilling for the Bush administration" because it uses "harsh interrogation" instead of "waterboarding." He might be absolutely correct in his assertion, and he might be absolutely correct in that the destroyed tapes show waterboarding; but he is certainly on thin ice when he relies on serious source[s], or, later, "serious, reasonable student[s] of history, warfare or basic ethics" as a primary source.

Until copies of the tapes emerge, or someone who has seen the tapes or participated in the interrogation speaks on the record, the AP is within their rights and possibly their journalistic obligation to use harsh interrogation.

Don't lose sight of veracity, Andrew. You may have been ousted from the ranks of the RWN punditry, but surely it is only temporary. They'll forgive you any day now. How could they not, given your penchant for the near-hysterical, subjective attacks on Hillary. Don't take the easy way back in by being loose with facts.

Trust, but verify.

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Parenting and Responsibility and Children and Corporate, what, Greed?

It isn't nice to kick a person who's down. Every once in a while, though, it seems appropriate, and certainly satisfying.

On the metaphorical ground (warning: the following is based on an article in the New York Daily News email of 12.20.07 by Ben Widdicombe, "Jamie Lynn Spears bumps ma's book;" that's a gossip item folks; I can't verify), is one "Christian" publishing house, Nashville based Thomas Nelson. This company has "quietly stepped away from a planned book by Mama Lynne on parenting, due to be released for Mother's Day 2008. (Which, coincidentally, is quite near Jamie Lynn's due date!)."

The question which immediately arises is, What on earth is a Christian publishing house doing publishing a book on mothering by the mother of Britney Spears? Certainly the difficulties Ms Spears-Federline has undergone are beyond the control of Mama Lynne, but other than a plea for continuing prayer from the book's readers, what good could come of it?

The proposed title of the book was Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World."

Hmmm. If it were to be a guide on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of parenting in this age of instant information and fame, perhaps it was a good idea. Actually, it is a good idea, and it should most probably go forward.

But if it were to be a guide on how to raise a child and instill values with which most parents agree, then it wasn't a good idea, although it would surely have made money as a source of laughter.

It isn't going forward, so the cynic raises questions. How much money does a publishing house, identified as "Christian," seek to make by publishing a book by a "pop culture mom?" And wouldn't the "gossip" element of the book's author be even more profitable with the disclosure of her 16-year old's pregnancy?

Probably. But look what it took for the publishing house to wake up to "values."

At long last, responsibility.

Someone should write a song.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.17.07 Schizophrenia!

What an interesting grouping today over at the TownhallDotCom Muckroom. (And, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what an interesting chance to see the old "stopped clock is correct twice a day" in esse.)

First we have this column by one Charles Mitchell. Here is the operative sentence from the opening paragraph: "Conservative evangelicals need a president who shares our political and moral values and priorities, can win in 2008, and can govern effectively thereafter by articulating and implementing a values-based governing strategy."

Without clearly respecting the "political and moral values and priorities" of the hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens who are not "conservative evangelicals," why on earth would the general public even consider voting for someone who had the backing of such a religious group?

What, exactly, is a "values-based governing strategy?" Whose values? President Bush, largely a product of conservative Christians in 2004, has played fast and loose with truth and responsibility (not to mention lives of an entirely innocent civilian population in Iraq). Is this an example of "values-based" government?

Don't we have enough examples of governments world wide which are dominated by religious organizations and which are deeply disturbing? Just today the news carries the item of the Saudi king setting aside the 200 blow caning of a rape victim, not because the punishment is unjustified, but, in spite of agreeing with the sentence, the king is responding to outrage outside of Saudi Arabia. And that's an example of excessive religious pressure in the country of an ally!

We might have to rephrase the Reagan quip into Verify, but never trust!

We move, DGR(s), down the page to one Star Parker. Now, personally, I think Ms Parker is a bit too strident on her RWN positions, and I also think she's one of the "jail house converts." (That's one of the Charles Colson ilk...good opportunity for you to take a Google detour and check out the backgrounds of Colson and Parker...conversions might be sincere, they might also be convenient--and lucrative!)

Parker's point today is one with which I totally agree (the old stopped clock is correct twice a day phenomenon). She contends that questions asked of Mr. Romney about his religion are fair game. She further contends that criticism of Mr. Huckabee for raising the "Jesus and Lucifer brotherhood" is unjustified; especially since the brotherhood is a Mormon teaching.

I have to agree with Parker. Why is it a "low blow" to ask someone who wishes to lead our nation just how he justifies saying "I believe in the faith of my fathers" when that faith included abject racism as recently as the late 1970's?

Ah, the Muckroom. It is exasperating to shovel through the horse
droppings, but occasionally there are more tangible traces of a pony. We just have to keep digging.

And verifying, before we trust.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lawrence v. Mitt (in absentia)

In case you missed it, on last week's McLaughlin Group, Lawrence O'Donnell in very strong terms explained how the Mormon church has had a long racist history. O'Donnell's comments have hit a couple of nerves.

Over at the Huffington Post Ryan J. Davis has penned a defense of O'Donnell: Lawrence O'Donnell was right about Mormonism. It's a fun piece to read.

There was an additional moment in the broadcast which Davis doesn't mention, but which I think, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is notable. O'Donnell looked at each member of the panel and said something to the effect that none of his fellow panelists believed for one moment most of whatever they knew of Mormon theology. "You don't believe in it, and you know it." Or something like that.

Yea! Ryan J. Davis. Hooray, Lawrence O'Donnell.

Trust Mitt? Verify first!!!!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The NIE and the Iranian Bomb

See, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what happens when one cries "Wolf" too often without reason: People stop believing you. That could be very dangerous. One of these days, there could very well be a threat from a wolf.

Within a few hours of last week's CIA National Intelligence Estimate which stated that Iran had stopped working on an atomic bomb in 2003, President Bush was making statements that there was still a threat from Iran's continuing to process and "enrich" uranium.

Iran's program to enrich uranium is a very real threat in this atomic age. In order to make a bomb, the manufacturer must have enriched uranium. At this stage, Iran's enriched uranium is not bomb quality, but all that needs to be done to have bomb quality uranium is to continue to enrich it.

Except for a few voices, most notably Tom Friedman in The New York Times, not enough people are paying attention to this continuing threat from Iran. Part of the problem the President is having is of his own making. He has rattled so many sabers, and spoken of World War III in connection with Iran's nuclear threat, that, with this new NIE, he has lost credibility.

The President and his administration must stop being scaremongers. They must assess the threats to America with an objective eye, and they must inform the American public of the precise nature of the threat and what exact steps America must take in order to protect itself from the threat.

Friedman put it very well: "Some things are true even if George Bush believes them, but good luck getting anyone to buy that anymore."

Iran is still a very likely nuclear threat; just because they won't have a "bomb" in the next couple of years doesn't mean they won't have the ability to construct one a couple of years after that.

Trust but verify.

Tell the truth.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Townhall Tax Follies 12.05.07 publishes a daily e-letter which contains columns from, generally, right wing pundits. Most of the time their language is simply red meat for the fringe element of red states. Occasionally there's a logical piece, but the authors of these sane discussions appear far too seldom.

Once in a while a "balloon" is floated which has some merit, but which, on a moment's reflection, causes a furrowed brow.

For instance, one David Strom has a piece today entitled "Eliminate the Federal Gas Tax."

Sure. Strom lists it at $0.184. For every six gallons that would be $1.00 less out of our pockets. Who wouldn't like that?

Strom's entire argument is based on how effective the tax is for its original purpose, to foster "interstate commerce and ensuring a first-rate transportation infrastructure that serves as the backbone of our national economy."

Um. Yes. Then one thinks of the current state of affairs relative to the use of petroleum and the automobile.

Many persons are advocating an increase of Federal gas taxes in order to make driving the gas fed internal combustion engine so expensive that car owners will figure out ways to cut back on the consumption of petroleum thereby weaning ourselves from our dependency on Middle East (read Islamic terrorist here) oil fields.

As a matter of fact, in all the calls for lower taxes, there has been precious little said lately about the Federal gas tax, and one supposes the reason for that is exactly the huge consumption of petroleum in the U.S. and the subsequent realization that we're actually helping fund Al Qaeda at the same time we're spending additional billions fighting bin Laden.

No. A cut in the Federal gas tax is not a good idea at this time.

Trust in the sincerity of tax cut advocates, but verify the efficacy of their proposals.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

More Erosion (update 12.04.07)

Remember the brouhaha, Dear Gentle Reader(s), about the United Arab Emirates company, Dubai Ports World, which was poised to take over the operations of six U.S. ports? That kerfuffle resulted in the company deciding against assuming control of the ports.

Last week the two local newspapers, The Press-Enterprise and The Desert Sun carried an AP story which reported on a $7.5 billion intention of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to help invest in Citigroup Inc., one of the major financial institutions in the country. Joe Bel Bruno's story includes this statement by Sheik Ahmed Bi Zayed Al Nahayan, "[Citi is] a premier brand and with tremendous opportunities for growth."

What that means, DGR(s), is that our gas prices are allowing "premier" companies to become heavily dependent on Middle East oil profits to maintain their "tremendous opportunities for growth."

There has been no kerfuffle nor brouhaha over this "investment," which makes the city-state of Abu Dhavi one of the "bank's largest shareholders"

The logic is elusive: they mayn't have our ports, but our banks are on the market.


Trust, but verify.

Update: Zip over to Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.'s, column at It's entitled "Sharia's Trojan Horse." It should give pause to all of us. This theocracy is a danger. We must guard against it.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

World AIDS Day

Inform yourself.

Encourage programs which fight this disease be based on reality, not wishful thinking.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Week (and beyond)

Just a quickie, Dear Gentle Reader(s), to thank Senator Jim Webb of Virginia for taking the sentry post in the U.S. Senate these two weeks. His presence in that hallowed hall prevents "recess" appointments which would wreak further havoc in the body politic.

If Mr. Bush wants to appoint someone to a position which needs Senate consent, he should make the nomination. He shouldn't make "recess" appointments.

Perhaps the nominees are persons of high caliber, but it's best to Trust, but Verify.

We appreciate Senator Webb's service in this rather thankless job.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Townhall Follies v 11.22.07

Over at Take That, I'm fond, Dear Gentle Reader(s), of using a mild epithet for much of the thinking presented at In the interest of promoting civility in my political discourse, I shall not use the same language here at Trust, But Verify. (I might privately be thinking it; I will abjure using it...and I'll offer up the resulting goodness points for the poor souls in Purgatory. [modest blush]) That said, I have a notion or two to offer:

Jared Lorence: The ACLU and Its Allies: Standing in Need of Prayer
The ACLU?s perennial lawsuits attacking our nation?s religious heritage are backfiring, and that?s something for which you can give thanks this year. Note that the ACLU has never attacked "our nation's religious heritage." It has attacked many attempts to have some government entities "establish" some sort of religious recognition.

Victor Davis Hanson: With Iraq Improving, Will Neocon Ideas Return?
More than seven months ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., claimed that Iraq was ?lost.? But that was hardly the case. In fact, Sunni insurgents were just beginning to turn on al-Qaida and join us. Two points here--is V.D. implying the "neocon ideas" deserve to return? On what possible grounds, that they were so worthy? So effective? So well developed?; is it really the case that Iraq is not "lost?" By what criteria? Have Sunni insurgents really "joined" us? Is a mutual pact to diminish effectiveness (!) of the death dealing "other" insurgents really a joining with long term possibilities?

William Rusher: What's Wrong With a Flag Pin in Your Lapel?
I am an American who wears a small American-flag pin in my lapel. Few people have ever mentioned it to me, favorably or otherwise, but I am aware that some individuals are quietly offended by the practice. Nah. The lapel pin is fine; one might question the motive of pundits who support an administration which has had a long history of various assaults on the Constitutional system of checks and balances. What's that old saying, Patriotism is a refuge of scoundrels? If it's not a saying, this might be a good time for it. It's not the pin in the lapel; it's whose lapel, and for what reason is the pin in the lapel?

Patrick J. Buchanan: Freedom vs. Equality
It began thus: "The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Poor Pat--still carping about giving his gay relatives the same job and other civil protections which he enjoys. What's that other old saying...? "Doth protest too much..."?

That's enough. You, DGR(s), get my drift.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Whom to Believe?

Living in the Coachella Valley in Southern California gives a progressive a unique opportunity to view the right wing's media from two perspectives, The Desert Sun, headquartered in Palm Springs, and The Press-Enterprise, located in Riverside.

Here's an interesting juxtapositioning of views: TDS has this main headline today: "Iraq bombings hit GIs, kids." The subhead reads, "U.S. military blames al Qaida in Iraq, maintains violence down 55 percent." (An AP story by Kim Gamel follows--sorry no web link available from the paper's website.)

The Press-Enterprise, on the other hand, has this as its main headline: "U.S. touts downturn in attacks," with the subhead, "Iraq: For the third week in a row, violence nationwide is at levels not seen in almost two years." (A New York Times News Service story by C. Buckley and M.R. Gordon follows.--Again no web link on the paper's website.)

Notice the difference? TDS presents the good news about the downturn in violence, but tempers it with the tragic news of six deaths. TP-E story does not mention the six deaths at all. Nowhere in the print edition could I find any mention of any of the bombings in either Iraq or Afghanistan, although there are mentions of Afghani bombings on the paper's website. Furthermore, the NYT story gives us a favorable quote from one Michael O'Hanlon, a whose recent op-ed piece in The Times about Iraqi "successes" has been called into question because of a certain amount of "truthiness."

In case you haven't figured it out, I think The Press-Enterprise is much more of a Republican Committee house organ than The Desert Sun. But not by much.

It's good to have the number of death-dealing incidents down. It is not good to present them in such a manner that one fails to think of the deaths which are yet occurring.

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Misfiring Cannon?

Over at The New York Times, Lou Cannon has entered the fray about Ronald Reagan's alleged racism and the "misstep" of the famed Neshoba County Fair speech in Mississippi.

There is precious little to indicate Mr. Reagan was a racist--virtually nothing, if the examples Cannon gives are trustworthy.

That, however, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is somewhat beside the point. Reagan's personal biases aside, the real issue is the rise of the Republican Party in the late 20th century, and the part played in that rise by the Republican politicians utilizing the "Southern Strategy" devised, originally, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, by Barry Goldwater.

As reported by Cannon, this Reagan comment: At the fair, Mr. Reagan told a cheering and mostly white audience, “I believe in states’ rights” and that as president he would do all he could to “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them” is the source of the allegations against Reagan.

The key words are "states' rights." These two little words in virtually any other section of the country would mean education, water, roads, forestry, etc.

In the South many felt they meant a continuation of segregation, a meaning which Cannon disputes. Ask a Democrat, and they mean veiled racism; ask a Republican, and they mean education, water, roads, forestry, etc.

About two-thirds of the way through his column, Cannon has this to say: "The Neshoba appearance hurt Mr. Reagan with these voters in the target states of Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania without bolstering his standing among conservative Southern whites."

Really? In the 1980 presidential election, of all the Southern states, only Georgia sent its electoral votes to Mr. Carter. The political Reagan benefitted from this misstep; the Southern Strategy became an institution for the next political generation.

Mr. Cannon chooses to write that Mr. Reagan's success was based on a repudiation of Carter policies, and that could well be true. In the South, however, that "states' rights" comment carried just as much weight as economics--because it was based, in part, and in the South, on class (which is economics).

If one wasn't a member of the Southern body politic in the 20th century up until, say, 1970, one really doesn't have a clue about the class divide and how race affected it.

Trust Mr. Cannon if you must, but verify.

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Um...Psst! Andrew!

Andrew Sullivan had a lot of fun last week hashing and re-hashing the Tip Gate story (did the Clinton campaign stiff a wait staff?).

On Saturday morning, Scott Simon told Dan Schorr that NPR had been shown a credit card receipt which indicated that the tip had, indeed, been paid.

Stay tuned...Is the receipt real???...Will Andrew apologize?...How many people outside of the blogosphere care???

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Good News at Last....but...

Military news out of Baghdad is good, and there are accounts of it all over the media, including, "Iraq Rocket, Mortar Fire at 21-Month Low."

Any lessening of death, injury, and destruction in Iraq is good news.

This story, by AP writer Lauren Frayer, includes some analysis about the reasons for this "low." Included are remarks by Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch,"commander of U.S. forces south of the capital."

Here is a money quote: "[General Lynch] attributed the sharp drop in attacks to the American troop buildup, the setup of small outposts at the heart of Iraqi communities, and help from thousands of locals fed up with al-Qaida and other extremists."

Dear Gentle Reader, please note the first "reason:" the American troop buildup. Let us hope the good general, as well as the general American public, will keep in mind that another American General, Eric Shinseki, called for a massive troop buildup prior to the invasion of 2003. For his temerity in suggesting the need for more peace keeping troops than the Administration was willing to deploy, Shinseki was effectively shunted aside.

One can only speculate what our position in Iraq would be now had the Administration followed the advice of the General. For certain, the "surge" has had some positive effects.

Good. Why did it come so late in the game? Who will be called to account?

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

It ain't pulling fingernails, folks.

The trouble with the discussion of waterboarding is that it is generally done in the abstract. In today's Los Angeles Times Tim Rutten has a piece in which he quotes from a posting on by Malcolm Nance, Waterboarding is Torture… Period.*

Reading Rutten's piece is alarming, what with its description of the physical realities of the "American model" of waterboarding, but Nance's piece is downright frightening in its implications. A quote:

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

This is what we have done/could do/ would do? In the name of the United States?

Senator John McCain said people lie under torture. What lie would you or I offer under these circumstances, Dear Gentle Reader?

We are told some of our service personnel undergo a simulation of this procedure in order to prepare them against the eventuality they might be subjected to it. What on earth good would training do in this situation? How could one possibly deal with the possibility that the procedure would, in any certainty, stop?

What honor could accrue to the United States if we were to engage in such?

*There are also, at this web site, responses to Nance's post which take a totally different tack and speak in support of the procedure.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Coultergeist or Coulterfraud?

A couple of mildly interesting articles appear today regarding she-who-will-not-be-named.

At the Townhall muck room one Bert Prelutsky, while dismissing the performance of S-w-w-n-b-n on a recent television show, neatly turns a phrase by penning, "In fact, if I’m lucky enough to get on Mr. Deutsch’s show, I think I just might suggest that Christians are unperfected Jews."

Not one to be caught up in an ethnic/religious brouhaha, he.

Meanwhile, over at Huffington Post, one finds a curious little anecdote. It seems S-w-w-n-b-n was seen dining, with some pleasure, at a West Hollywood [Dear Gentle Reader(s), West Hollywood is a new code word for--gasp!--GAY!!!] restaurant.

When approached, "the the painfully thin, emotive, long blond haired thing in a small black dress with nearly exposed bosoms" was reluctant to speak with the writer of the posting.

Here's an amusing quote: "She was a natural with the gay men who surrounded her. She enjoyed the fawning attention by her two not so masculine male escorts, clearly in her milieu.
I was therefore shocked that when we tried to engage her in conversation, she became embarrassed, turned away, nestling her head inside her long, blond hair, much as would an embarrassed school girl caught stealing the answers to an exam."

"Two not so masculine" men in attendance? Oh my.

So, Dear Gentle Reader(s), which is it? Coultergeist (as Keith Olberman is fond of saying) or Coulterfraud?

I think she's laughing all the way to the bank--sort of like Rev. Ike. But is she conning right wingers? Possible.

Trust, but verify.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A bit of balance...?

...over at the muckroom of, there are a couple of interesting titles, if not the articles themselves, which might bear further review.

First is this intriguing title by Dennis Prager: "Internet Anonymity Is as Destructive as Internet Porn." I have long advocated prohibiting commentary by Anonymous. I don't even like using cutesy-poo nicknames or aliases. If a person has a credible thought, that person ought to own up to it and be willing to defend it--with his/her name.

Then there is another article by Phyllis Schlafly which discusses a pending international issue: "Law of the Sea Treaty Would Swamp U.S. Legal System." Schlafly is a touch xenophobic in her argument, but it merits some thought. It touches on a portion of the "ideological struggle" we're in. To wit: Are we "one world" or not? What is our position in this "one world" if we are in it.

Just because the right has been wrong about Mr. Bush's war policies, doesn't mean they're incorrect about everything.

(Oh, Dear Gentle Reader(s), how hard it was to type that!)

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hillary and "the war"

Over at Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, you'll find several negative references to Senator Clinton; especially often will there be strong comments against her position on the Iraqi situation(s).

I've never heard the Senator say anything with which I totally disagree. I might find a word or a nuance a touch disturbing, but sometimes even Sullivan drives me up the wall, yet I continue to be a fan. So let it be with Mrs. Clinton.

One thing which really bothers me is the constant reference to "the war." What, Dear Gentle Reader(s) do you think this reference means? It would seem to me that there are two "wars," if you will: the Bush misadventure in Iraq, and the aptly-defined-by-Bush "ideological struggle of the 21st century."

Now, I haven't heard Mrs. Clinton say very much (if anything) about this ideological struggle (and that, to me, is the true danger to the American way of life), but what I have heard her say about the Iraqi situation is pretty much along the lines of what Secretary of State Powell said, "If you break it, you own it." We (Oh, how that hurts, and how I'd love to be able to say, HE!!) broke it.

We cannot leave immediately in any case, although Sullivan and Co. make persuasive argument that we should leave post haste.

What would Sullivan have the good Senator do?

I begin to think there's nothing she could say and responsibly mean which would satisfy him.

Further, I think Sullivan should constantly remind his readers that there is a second front on this war, an ideological front, which does not get very much "ink;" and he should always use the Iraqi adjective when discussing, specifically, the Iraqi part of this struggle.

Trust your "gut," Andrew; but verify! And clarify!

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Body Count Down! Half Full? Half Empty?

Interesting people over at the Townhall muck room.

Today's winner is one Rich Tucker with this head: "A Depressing Lack of Bad News" and this lead: "Bad news, folks. We’re winning in Iraq."

The thrust of the article is that the mainstream media (MSM) looks too often for bad news out of Iraq, and when there's none, MSMers don't do enough to push the good news--which is that we're "winning." So, good news is really bad news for the MSM.

Hmmm. Deaths are down; bombings are down = we're winning. "Down" doesn't yet mean "finished," does it?

Here's his final para: "We finally have a viable exit strategy from the war in Iraq. We’re going to win and come home. Too bad we haven’t yet fashioned a strategy for escaping the media’s relentless focus on bad news."

We're "going to win" are we? To "come home?" Very good news. Um, why the shift from the present tense in the first paragraph to the future tense in the final paragraph?

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blakley: Collateral Damage? Get real!

On October 12, 2007, Tony Blankley, on KCRW's "Left, Right, and Center" took issue with the discussion of recent "collateral damage" involving Iraqi civilians and coalition (U.S.) forces.

He pointed out that far more French civilians were killed during World War II than in present day Iraq, and those French civilians were killed with the tacit approval of General DeGaulle.

WikiAnswers has this to say about the Battle of Normandy: The battle of Normandy caused the death of less than 14,000 civilians in the three departments of Basse Normandie, that is to say: 8,000 in the Calvados;
4,000 in the Manche; 2,000 in the Orne

Assuming that General DeGaulle must have been in on the planning for D-Day, which included estimates of losses, military and civilian, Blankley probably had a point, but for one concept, which illuminates the problem which supporters of this involvement in Iraq have as they craft their defenses of the Bush administration's Iraqi policies. That concept is the concept of justifiability.

The way Blankley couched his comment, it sounded as though he were equating the Iraqi invasion by Coalition forces with the efforts of the Allies against the Axis powers of World War II.

Arianna Huffington immediately took issue with Blankley's inference, pointing out that there is not uniform agreement that the invasion of Iraq was justified.

Could Blankley really have meant to equate World War II with the invasion of Iraq in 2003? If so, he has a "lot of 'splainin'" to do. If not, then he unintentinally exposed the fatal flaw in the Bush "vision": Is the United States truly safer with the removal from power of Saddam Hussein in the manner in which he was removed?

Blankley needs to do some soul-searching.

Trust, but verify.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There's Fog and then there's Fog

There's, of course, an on going rush to protect Rush over at the muck room. The latest is by a guy named Brent Bozell III. He has a post entitled : "Rush Limbaugh, Vindicated." Like Rush's own attempts to shape the truth, Brent doesn't quite get the job done.
The picture is one taken during the recent scalping routine which takes place during the early fall out here in the Palm Springs area--it is what's needed to have green grass during the winter season. This picture shows the process about 100 yards from my home. If you look closely, you can make out the scalping machine, but the view of the driver is totally obscured, even though you know he's there. That's what's happened to the truth of Rush and Jesse Macbeth.
If you go to Media Matters's website, you can hear Rush and a listener discuss soldiers who have been dissing the Iraqi involvement.
Rush does mention Macbeth, but some several seconds after he first mentions the "phony." Now he and Brent are trying to say Rush was talking about Macbeth all the while.
Listen yourself, Dear Gentle Reader(s).
Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Alas, poor Truth, we knew it well...(corrected)

...Hmmm. This from the mucking room: Bill Buckley, ol' William F., that is, penned this, in regards to the Limbaugh "phony soldier" flap: "He was criticizing the phony soldier we've mentioned -- a specific individual who had falsified his war record -- but he was hardly including in that category every soldier who has reservations about the war."

Bill, Poopsie, go to Media Matters and listen to the actual, original, transcript. At the point Mr. Limbaugh first used "phony," the soldier's name in question had not been used.

Now, Limbaugh might or might not have meant to include every soldier who opposes the Iraq war in that first "phony," but he certainly did not clearly associate the discredited soldier with the word at that point.

The title for Buckley's little tweaking of the fact is: The flap featuring Rush Limbaugh, Media Matters and illustrates the importance not only of keeping facts straight but also of lining up symmetrical perspectives.

Excellent thinking, Mr. Buckley. Now, do yourself a favor and listen to the original audio, then re-think the "straight" facts. It has been alleged that Limbaugh has excised some critical seconds from the original broadcast. I don't know if that's true. Perhaps, Mr. B, you should investigate.

What is truth?

Trust, but verify.
(Correction: the original post named in the 2nd paragraph. Old age. Sorry)

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Remember Al Franken's Book? "Rush...


Well, ol' Rush is in a pickle these days, hoist upon his own petard...except that so many of his fellow pundits of the political right don't see it that way.

Here's a clip from the printed transcript (an audio clip is also available at this website--as of 10/5/07) of the radio program which contains the first infamous "phony soldier" use:

(The speaker is a "Mike from Olympia, Washington") "No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media." Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller, who had earlier said, "I am a serving American military, in the Army," agreed, replying, "The phony soldiers."

The "they" would be "people who favor U.S. withdrawal." The phony soldiers would be soldiers who had served in Iraq but didn't agree with the war policies of the administration.

Limbaugh's supporters, such as his brother, David, writing in, insist Rush never stated or remotely implied that any soldiers other than those who had been caught in such fabrications are phony. He did not say, would not say and never has said that soldiers who oppose the war are phony soldiers -- because he doesn't believe it.

Does Mr. Limbaugh make a distinction between any soldiers in his unscripted comment?

Well, Dear Gentle Reader(s), go to the source. Listen to the audio clip. Read the printed transcript. Decide for yourself.

By the way, the complete title of Mr. Franken's book is Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, with one chapter subtitled "Rush Limbaugh is a big fat liar".

Mr. Limbaugh has lost weight.

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

$5,000? Really??? Um...NO!

It doesn't take much for certain spinmeisters to spin webs of virtual lies and certain confusion, does it?

Take the recent comment by Senator Clinton, to wit: "I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home."

Somehow that comment has become fodder for the punditry such as housed over at Larry Elder, for instance, has penned a diatribe against Mrs. Clinton's plan with this headline: Senator Hillary Wants to Give You $5,000!

Moi? Are you sure?

Mr. Elder goes on to discuss the specifics of the plan, "Sen. Clinton specifically talks about using the "baby bond" account for college." That's it. One specific. The remainder of the screed is dedicated to quoting such stalwarts as Thomas Sowell showing how such a plan would do nothing to allay college tuition.

Of course, the question which Mr. Elder does not address is the question about exactly where Mrs. Clinton is supposed to have formulated a plan of execution for this "want" he claims she has.

The Clinton camp has specifically stated that this supposed "plan," in spite of questionable inferences by persons taking a comment out of context, "is not a policy proposal."

To Mr. Elder: Sir, verify your source and stick to the facts, please. An idea is not a want.

To readers: Trust, but verify. The former might be very difficult; the latter less so.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Anita and Clarence Show...(Updated) back for an early autumn re-run. Most people won't notice, and, of the ones who notice, very few will care. Some tales just don't justify a re-telling; "Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill?" Yawn.

For the record, though, it might be interesting to carve into digital electronic stone two comments available to us today, October 2, 2007, for an example of the divergence of opinion which existed then and has some carry-over for us.

Here's a paragraph available on, 10/2/07, written by Rebecca Hagelin of The Heritage Foundation: Written for the common man, My Grandfather's Son is anything but common. It should be required reading for every law student, every historian, every single person that truly seeks to be color blind, impart justice, or explore solutions to the inane policies and problems that threaten to strangle equal opportunity. Justice Thomas reveals how the ugliness of bigotry and racism still rob men and women of their dignity and the opportunity to thrive by the virtue of merit. Justice Clarence Thomas' "rags to riches" story is unique in that it can enrich the soul and heart of anyone willing to take the journey with him.

Here's a quote from a column written by Anita Hill, available from The New York Times, 10/2/07: "...I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me.
In the portion of his book that addresses my role in the Senate hearings into his nomination, Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.” A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his.

Hagelin has an effusive praise for Mr. Thomas: The book is filled with magnificent prose in which one of the most powerful men in America repeatedly dares to bare his soul - dares to make himself vulnerable to the cold, hard world of cynics in which we live.

Hill sees danger for personal rights in Thomas' activity on the Court: Our legal system will suffer if a sitting justice’s vitriolic pursuit of personal vindication discourages others from standing up for their rights.

And there, Dear Gentle Reader(s), you have it. Some 16 years after the contentious hearings which mesmerized a handful of American citizens, the contention re-awakens.

Since Justice Thomas is firmly ensconced in the right-wing of this Supreme Court, and, without some dire happening, likely to stay on this Court for several more years, it seems hardly worth any bother. Except that the Court has recently sided against individuals more often than not since Chief Justice Roberts ascended to his seat.

So, here it is.


Trust, but verify.

Update: For another view, this time from a man whose mother also studied at Yale, go to Trey Ellis' piece here.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Funding the troops?

In a few days, the president will ask Congress for an additional sum to fund the military involvement in Iraq for a few more months. Support the troops. Of course.

The Blackwater, U.S.A., brouhaha has once again lifted the lid on a not-secret-but-not-widely-publicized item: the number of civilians providing security in the "war" zone; as well as the involvement of Blackwater personnel in major incidents in Iraq.

Remember those bodies in Fallujah? Blackwater personnel. Those civilian security who killed Iraqi non-combatants last weekend? Blackwater personnel.

The number of personnel Blackwater employs in Iraq? More than 1,000.

The American taxpayers foot the bill. In 2004, costs estimates ranged from $350 a day to $1,500 a day and $100,000 a year. Does anyone suppose the numbers have lessened in the intervening 3 years?

We may have 160,000 troops in Iraq now, but how many do we actually have there when we include the various civilian contractors who are doing work which is directly related to our presence in that unfortunate country?

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787.

Our guiding law is 220 years old.

This document, not the flag, not a political party, not a religion, is the defining element of the American spirit.

We must protect it.

(All 3 blogs deal with the Constitution today.)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remember WWII?

WWII lasted a little over three and a half years. The military involvement in Iraq has lasted for nearly four and a half years. In the first years of WWII the United States put together a program for armament which produced prodigious amounts of materiel for the war effort. Four and a half years into this military effort, the troops are still ill equipped, with armored vehicles back ordered.

The United States in 1942 was a nation gearing for war and the entire nation was on a war footing.

The nation in 2007 is not on a war footing.

The president and his administration and his political supporters have not sought to put the nation on a war footing.

Shame on him, shame on them, and shame on the rest of us for allowing them to get away with it for so long.

A global ideological struggle demands total commitment.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day 2...No "light at the end of the tunnel..."

This from The New York Times afternoon update, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testifying to the Senat Foreign Relations Committee:

Again and again, Mr. Crocker said there would be no clear “victory” in Iraq. Success there may become clear only in retrospect.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a fellow Republican who had not previously been an outspoken critic of the White House, said it was clear that “we got a lot more than we bargained for” in Iraq, and that the campaign had been hobbled from the start by poor planning.

General Petraeus, for instance, referred once again to the deep-seated sectarian rivalries in Iraq (“This competition will take place”), and said the overriding question was whether that competition could ever become peaceful. That made Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, very unhappy. It just was not right, he said, that Americans should die so that Iraqis could spend their energies in “a competition for power and resources, not for nation-building.” General Petraeus said again that, while the 30,000 extra troops dispatched to Iraq this year could be pulled out by next summer, the “pre-surge” strength of 130,000 should be maintained. He told the committee that the views expressed in his testimony were his own and not the White House’s.

"...more than we bargained for...poor planning..." And that from a Republican Senator.

Trust, but verify. The problem has become, just whom should we trust? The President?!?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Remember this about Anbar...

...from The Los Angeles Times, 9/10/07:

In 2004-05, the province was the heart of the Sunni-led insurgency and one of the deadliest for U.S. forces in Iraq. Locals were more supportive of the militants than the foreign forces. That changed in 2006, when Islamic militants declared the province part of their self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, and began imposing harsh laws and brutal punishment for violators and opponents of their rule.This drove the sheiks, who saw their local economies dying and their influence waning, to reject the Al Qaeda-linked militants and cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Do not forget, Dear Reader(s), this change of attitude on the part of the local sheiks in Anbar preceded the surge of 2007.

When Petraeus speaks, trust, but verify.

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Friday, September 7, 2007


This from the New York Times website:

"Seeing Iraq Gains as Fragile, Petraeus Is Wary of Cuts" WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, has told President Bush that he wants to maintain heightened troop levels in Iraq well into next year to reduce the risk of military setbacks, but could accept the pullback of roughly 4,000 troops beginning in January, in part to assuage critics in Congress, according to senior administration and military officials.

General Petraeus helped to "sell" the idea of a surge in January, 2007. General Shinseki called for 500,000 troops in 2003.

One would feel a little more inclined to trust General Petraeus if his position on Shinseki's call for a large troop contingent, which he felt would be necessary for a successful "occupation," were made clear. After all, the situation in Iraq would be vastly different if we'd sent an appropriate number of troops there in the first place. If the generals feel we need more troops in 2007, we certainly needed them there in 2003.

And what's with the "assuage?" If enemies need to be engaged by armies, then the armies need to be sufficient to defeat the enemies.

Make the case; don't go in looking to assuage.

Trust, but verify.

n.b. Why didn't the entire general staff of the Pentagon resign in protest when their military judgement was overridden by Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in 2003?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A feint for hope?

The President made an "unannounced" trip to Iraq on Labor Day, 2007. The story is covered in just about every daily in the land, and that coverage offers a glint of hope for America's disengagement in Iraq. The problem for the ordinary citizen is how to interpret the information coming out of Iraq and Washington.

NPR's Morning Edition Corey Flintoff reports there were no next-day editorial comments in Iraqi newspapers. What are we to make of the silence of Iraqi newspapermen?

Here's a quote from a statement by the President: "But 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." Is that a feint, disguised in an otherwise normal White House denunciation of political adversaries? To illustrate, here's a quote from the President's statement to some members of the military on the same day, "But I want to tell you this about the decision -- about my decision about troop levels. Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground -- not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media."

So, the President visits Al-Anbar and slips in "fewer American forces" with the usual "nervous...politicians."

It is to be hoped that fewer American forces turns out to be no American forces, that the stability in Al-Anbar spreads to the entire country.

A cynic, however, reviewing the White House's propensity for "spin," might conclude this is the first indication that Mr. Bush--nerously?--is preparing to declare victory and withdraw combat forces.

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

It's the correct"struggle," but... it the appropriate field of battle at this time?

Serving one's country in some capacity makes profound sense. There should be a universal draft for everyone upon graduation from high school or one's 18th birthday. No exceptions (of course, that is what universal means!).

The heart of America goes out to those survivors who have lost loved ones in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. The gratitude of America to those who have served and are serving is profound.

The Hubbard family in Clovis, California, has suffered two losses, and they have shared some of their feelings with us.

Here's an excerpt from an ABC News website:

When asked by reporters whether his support of the war had waned since losing two sons in the war, Jeff Hubbard said that he hoped the "people in power" were making the right decisions overseas and encouraged Americans to support the United States.
"I just hope they're right and I hope we get something accomplished out of all this after all the sacrifice we've made and the rest of the country has sacrificed," he said, choking back tears during the emotional interview. "I think the people of the nation need to support the nation because the nation is at war."

Everyone hopes the same as does Mr. Hubbard. Everyone I know agrees with him and the President that the "nation is at war;" although I think Mr. Bush's "ideological struggle" better identifies the complexity of the dangers we face in the 21st century.

The decision to involve the enemy in the Iraqi battlefields has proven to have been ill-advised. While short shrift was made of the initial foe, Mr. Hussein, the occupation has proven to have been planned inadequately. The initial call for 500,000 troops was rejected; the decision to disband the Iraqi army was foolhardy; calls for increased troop deployment were ignored until it was virtually too late.

Islamic extremism is a threat to the peace of the world. The struggle against these murderous thugs is one of life or death. The nation is at war, but this administration is fighting a 2007 war with 1967 strategy.

This is the right war; this is the wrong battlefield.

This is the correct struggle; this is an inappropriate arena.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Agnostic? Of course!

The Greek etymology for agnostic will indicate the word meant/means "unknown, unknowable."

Not to belabor too much the point, don't all religions of the book concede that their deity is certainly "unknowable," if not "unknown?"

Doesn't it follow, then, that we are all, ultimately, agnostics?

Doesn't that then make adherents of book religions virtual blasphemers? What could be more blasphemous than to assign all too human characteristics such as jealousy and pettiness to whatever power created this limitless universe? What could be more blasphemous than to murder fellow human beings in the name of this deity?

Religions most probably originated from the needs of small families, tribes, communities to develop rules for survival. That made sense.

It still makes sense to gather as a community for safety and survival. It does not make sense to allow lore to become a justification for thuggery and murder.

This "ideological struggle" in which we are engaged is a struggle to re-cast religion into a beneficial institution for the sake of the peoples of the earth.

So far there are no such policies being discussed, much less being developed.

Before we place too much trust in religious dogma, we must seek some method for verification. An anthropomorphized godhead is not verifiable.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Conundrum* for our Times

What to do? Where to seek? Whom to ask? Alas.

Today's New York Times email edition has a headline and opening paragraph which is slightly confusing, in context, that is.

U.S. Says Bomb Supplied by Iran Kills Troops in Iraq is the headline, and this--BAGHDAD, Aug. 7 — Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, according to the American military--is the paragraph, by Michael R. Gordon.

How, you may ask, Dear Reader, is this confusing? Well, it's confusing because just this week Mr. Karzai of Afghanistan told us that Iran is helping Afghanistan in its fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda (Mr. Bush disagreed, of course).

So, the Pentagon is claiming the Iranis are killing American troops in Iraq; the Iraqis are denying the claim; Karzai claims the Iranis are helping (in a way) American troops in Afghanistan; Bush demurs from Karzai's statement.

The conundrum is not only verification, but whom does one trust in the first place? Mr Bush? Mr. Karzai? The Pentagon? The Iraqis? Perhaps Mr. Cheney or Mr. Gonzales?

It's almost like Carrol folded Alice into both Wonderland and the Looking Glass.

(* Isn't conundrum a wonderful word to sound? So nearly sexual on so many levels!)

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Friday, August 3, 2007

File This

A day or two ago, I wrote about a posting by Chris Durang over in Take That, Right Wing Nut Scum. Reflection prompts me to revisit something Michael Ware said in an interview with Anderson Cooper, and reproduced in Durang's post.
Ware: Well, Anderson, there is progress. And that's indisputable. Sectarian violence is down in certain pockets. There are areas of great instability in this country. They're at last finding some stability.
The point, though, is, at what price? What we're seeing is -- is, to a degree, some sleight of hand. What America needs to come clean about is that it's achieving these successes by cutting deals primarily with its enemies. We have all heard the administration praise the work of the tribal sheiks in turning against al Qaeda. Well, this is just a euphemism for the Sunni insurgency. That's who has turned against al Qaeda.
And why? Because they offered America terms in 2003 to do this. And it's taken America four years of war to come round to the Sunnis' terms. And, principally, that means cutting the Iraqi government out of the loop. By achieving these successes, America is building Sunni militias. Yes, they're targeting al Qaeda, but these are also anti- government forces opposed to the very government that America created.
What this means, Gentle Reader(s), is that in the future, if there is a horrific Sunni/Shia battle, those sudden "friends" of ours over in Anbar Province will be killing their fellow Muslims (albeit they are Shia Muslims, they are still fellow religionists) with arms provided by the American government.
No wonder Prime Minister al-Maliki is upset with General Petraeus. Is Petraeus perhaps looking to September, 2007, and his much anticipated "report," while al-Maliki is looking at 2009, and the much direly-warned-against internecine religious conflict?
The Sunni assistance to the Coalition of the Willing in Anbar Province is a selling point today.
Trust, but verify.
(And keep this flagged somehow, to see how it all turns out.) Stay tuned.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

What's Going On? (With Update)

Here's an interesting opening para from a recent AP story out of Baghdad: A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington to withdraw the overall U.S. commander from his Baghdad post.
(The story is by STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers, dated July 28, 2007, "Heat rises between Iraq PM and Petraeus." The link is to a site.)

So, the man who is named by President bush tens of times a month as being the person who will give us the report in September is at odds with the Prime Minister of Iraq?

The PM is upset because the General is too comfy with Sunnis which tends to kill off Shias like the PM?

The PM doesn't like what our "decider" on the scene is doing/planning?

According to the story our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, admits to "sporty exchanges" between the two men.


Before we allow the "report" in September to mire us in this unhappy mess, we should take time to insist that someone, somewhere, verify before place our trust in further involvement in this obvious sectarian strife in Iraq.


The Los Angeles Times reports that Petraeus dismissed as "ludicrous" a report that Maliki felt he could no longer work with the general.

The problem, according to the Times article, is with the conflicts between Sunni and Shia adversaries.

---We'll see whether the AP or the LAT has the correct version. In any event, Petraeus' credibility is in jeopardy.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Religion's 3rd Category

So many of my friends, Dear Reader(s), listen politely to my protestations that organized religions are the source of much of the world's woes, giving me hope that finally someone out there agrees and is willing to join the struggle for the soul and safety of the world, who then politely change the subject, telling me in a very subtle way, "Please. Organized religions cannot be overcome. They are with us and with us they will stay. Save your energy."

The veritable wall of submission, islam?, is immutable, it seems. Religion will not be changed, therefore, it cannot be changed.

OK. Regardless of that dictum, one must persevere. Let me try again.

Generally, one divides organized religions into two parts, the laity and the clergy. How about, for the purposes of this particular type of discussion, we add a third part--the exploitative.

The exploitative is the person who studies a religion's teachings and looks for a word or a phrase which is ambiguous, therefore useful in developing an idea which might confuse an issue, thus giving the exploiter a way in which to further his ambition.

In English literature, Chaucer limned the Pardoner; in French, Moliere gave us Tartuffe, in the New Testament we have the cleansing of the Temple. In American literature we have Elmer Gantry. These are well-known examples of exploiters who are after monetary gain. This exploiter is an age-old personage. We have known virtually from the beginning of religious development of his existence.

Today we have a new sort of exploiter--one who is after a power which surpasses the powers individuals of societies have ceded to their leaders. This is a very dangerous person, and he needs to be given the respect which is his due. We must identify him, we must study him, we must protect ourselves from his insidiousness. We have a desperate need to become aware of how he works and what constitutes his danger to our well being.

The "ideological struggle" in which we find ourselves engaged is against this person in all religions. We must search the texts, the lore, the cultures and find those instances where the gullible, whether pope, imam, rabbi, or peasant, is left vulnerable to being used in ways inimical to decency.

We can start by acknowledging the metaphorical aspects of religious writings. There are no pearly gates; and there certainly is not a panderer for carnal pleasure in the hereafter.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Pope Wears Prada, Too

Benedict XVI is back in the news today, in a big way. At a time when the Western world is engaged in a deadly struggle against dogmatic elements of Islam, this red Prada wearing pontiff weighs in with a disheartening proclamation about Roman Catholicism with a little dogmatism of his own.

While B-16 acknowledges some religious communities are able "to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them....the Catholic Church alone" is the only church in which the Church "subsists." No "salvation" for others.

An amusing bit from the newspaper accounts of U.S. protestants came from a Lutheran who said something to the effect that Luterans haven't paid attentin to Rome for 500 years, and they aren't likely to start nowl

Would that others would do the same. Lots of others.

The only sure thing we know about "The Prime Mover" is that the laws of the universe don't change. Gravity alone is immutable; the anthropomorphized deity of the book religions changes with alarming alacrity, depending on the political situation.

How sad the pope chose this particular time to repeat the unverifiable.

We might "trust" what religious leaders tell us, but there's no way on earth we can "verify" their teachings.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ouch! That Petard Hurts!

Very little changes. The recent British "terrorist" incidents have produced a raft of comments, but no discernible change in the way the governments or the other religions "of the book" are dealing with Islamic radicalism.

Could the reason be, "don't queer my scam?"

These Islamists are a very potent danger, and no one seems to be addressing the source of the danger, and that is those passages in the Koran which can be interpreted as justifying, yea, celebrating murder/suicide.

Here's a link to an article in The Australian newspaper which you should read. It is written by one Tanveer Ahmed, and it is titled "Islam must face its uncomfortable truths."

Here's the final paragraph: Muslim communities must openly argue precisely what it is they fear and loathe about the West. Much of it centres on sexuality. This is the first step in rooting out any Muslim ambivalence about living in the West. But thereafter, the argument must proceed rapidly to Islamic theology and all its uncomfortable truths - from its repeated glowing references to violence, its obsession with and revulsion at sex and its historical antipathy to the very possibility that reason can exist as separate from God.

Christian theologians and Jewish theologians must immediately engage in a pan-religion discussion of the deity. They must admit the metaphorical nature of our book religions, and they must challenge Islamic theologians on the nature of God. This will not necessitate a radical shift in theology; all that is needed is intellectual honesty, and trust in the ability of fellow humans to follow rationale.

We need to put the early lore and writings into historical context. We need to acknowledge the communal necessity of certain aspects of early religions. We need to acknowledge those moments when human weaknesses were given the patina of being shared with a deity. It is a virtual blasphemy to teach of gold and pearl and carnal satisfaction in Paradise. Yet these metaphors continue to be taught not as literary tools but as fact.

It is time for popes and prelates and rabbis to cede a bit of their mysticism for the good of humankind. Otherwise they continue to enable those who would destroy them and their "flocks."

Religions of the book must be defanged. A political assassination, an abortion clinic killing, a suicide bombing on a bus all must be denounced as antithetical to the concept of the deity of the books.

Until that begins, we will not see progress towards peace. The world cannot longer tolerate an anthropomorphic deity.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Wish I'd Said That!

Of course, I sorta did.

Both of you guys who drop in here occasionally need to hie thee over to Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish and find the entry called The Lessons of London and Glasgow.

Look closely at this quote from a writer Sullivan identifies as Johann Hari: We also need to unpick the totalitarian ideology of jihadism by democratically opening up Islamic theology, so that over a generation, fewer and fewer young men can convince themselves they are "good Muslims" when they murder innocents.

The world as we know it is in dire need of more discussion and examination of Islamic theology. The more we get that word out, the sooner the world will be safe from the super-faithful.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Bacevich, Bush, Islam

Gentle Reader, hie thee to this Los Angeles Times link for Andrew J. Bacevich's op-ed piece, "More troops, more troubles," subtitled, "Candidates who call for beefing up our armed forces to deter terrorism show a profound misunderstanding of the Mideast."

Bacevich dismisses calls for a larger U.S. armed force which are being made by many--and, for the purposes of this essay, especially presidential nominee contenders. He calls, instead, for an "alternative" plan to Bush's failed strategy.

Money quote: "To pass muster, any such strategy will have to recognize the limits of American power, military and otherwise. It must acknowledge that because the United States cannot change Islam, we have no alternative but to coexist with it.

Yet coexistence should not imply appeasement or passivity. Any plausible strategy will prescribe concrete and sustainable policies designed to contain the virulent strain of radicalism currently flourishing in parts of the Islamic world. The alternative to transformation is not surrender but quarantine.

Over time, of course, Islam will become something other than what it is today. But as with our own post-Christian West, that evolution will be determined primarily by forces within. Our interest lies in nudging that evolution along a path that alleviates rather than perpetuates conflict between Islam and the West. In that regard, the requirement is not for a bigger Army but for fresh ideas, informed by modesty and a sense of realism."

We cannot delay. We must assist those 21st century Muslims who see the wisdom in modernizing their religion.

We must take to heart the too obvious fact that reform cannot be changed by military threat.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Irresponsible Assertions?

Over at, the use of unattributed assertions continues apace.

For instance, a columnist named John Andrews has a contribution, Can Muhammad and Jefferson Coexist?

As far as it goes, it raises interesting questions. Islam, to the best of my knowledge, is both a religion as well as a way of governing. It is, basically, generally understood, to be a theocracy. I don't know for certain. I've never seen citations for a particular surah which would give credence to that understanding.

Andrews' column also provides an assertion, "How can Muhammad’s teaching that women and unbelievers, especially Jews, are inferior square with Jefferson’s “all created equal”?

Good question, and an interesting assertion, but there is no citation for the claim that Muhammad teaches anything like women and unbelievers and Jews are inferior. Haven't we Westerners been told that Muhammad taught that people of "the book" were to be left to their own religions? (Of course, there's generally no provision of a surah for that teaching either!)

Making such assertions without the accompanying citation is either academically lazy or partisanship at its worst. We know how important context is. We've seen its misuse in advertising and in politics. We know spin doctors' first law is "Do whatever it takes to stress the point."

Any westerner who writes anything about Islam without citing a Surah should be held suspect.

The American prople have been credulous too long. We must demand honesty and openness in our politicians as well as, and probably more importantly, from those who would be exponents of policies.

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Really, Dave?

My old pal at The New York Times, David Brooks, has an interesting column today (sorry, folks, it's a Times Select--ain't free) in which he writes "Children do better when raised in stable two-parent families."

Now, on the face of it, you might agree with the statement. It sounds plausible. On second thought, though, and in the light of our experience over the past 40 years (since the '60s--the beginning of vast social changes), you might wonder--"Really?"

I wish Dave had cited a source for the statement, but he didn't. To give him credit, he did write later on that a government program could offer "Nurse practitioners who make home visits can stabilize disorganized, single-parent families." That sounds, also, plausible.

Isn't there another problem, though? Doesn't the tenor of the two statements assume a certitude about single-parent families? Doesn't that certainty assert all single-parent families are unstable and disorganized?

Again, Dave, you needed to provide a source for this assertion. Otherwise, your entire column is called into question; and I don't want that. I liked it--we do need to educate more thoroughly than we have been lately. Our economic viability demands a better educated work force.

Sorry, Dave. I have to fall back on Trust, but Verify. Cite sources.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Same Argument--Same Lack of Substance

Over at The New York Times, a couple of adversaries from the Vietnam War Argument era are having none of the possible benefits of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

PETER W. RODMAN and WILLIAM SHAWCROSS are arguing that the American departure from Vietnam was "disastrous, both in human and geopolitical terms, for the United States and the region." They go on to write, "Today we agree equally strongly that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even more serious and lasting."

Well, maybe. Not, though, according to the evidence they offer. There are too many conditional words, too many what-ifs, and, most importantly, a strange view of Vietnam in the immediacy of 1976, but not at all in 2007.

Sorry, guys. It doesn't sound like anything other than more of the 1970's "light at the end of the tunnel." Back to the drawing board. You might be correct, but not with this argument. This one doesn't pass the smell test.

For the rest of us: Trust, but Verify.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sullivan on Bush

If, Dear Reader, you need a clarification of the situation in Iraq, it would do you well to jump over to this piece by Andrew Sullivan in his The Daily Dish.

Like no other "conservative" blogger/commentator, Sullivan manages to identify significant moments in the Bush Administration's mishandling of this military effort in Iraq.

I recommend it to you.


Then write your Congressperson.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

It's a tearful croc (crock?)

So, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) gives a tearful speech on the House floor during the debate yesterday (May 24, 2007) over funding the military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Believing Boehner's sincerity would be easier if dadgummed history and certain facts didn't get in the way. Boehner was part of the Republican Congressional leadership which kow-towed to the Bush administration's planning for the invasion of Iraq--which was a success, and the post-planning for Iraq after Hussein had been deposed--which, kindly, has not been a success.

Go back and read Robert Novak's column from March 13, 2003.

Here's a quote which calls into question the validity of all this current Republican mantra of listening to generals instead of politicians: "[Secretary of the Army, Thomas] White last week did not join the Pentagon's civilian leadership in contradicting Shinseki's estimate but endorsed the general's credentials. Not only did this undermine Rumsfeld's efforts to gain control of the officer corps that he felt ran wild during the Clinton days, but it raised the specter of a long and difficult occupation of Iraq."

We know who won that debate.

In 2003, Mr. Bush listened to his political appointees and not the general in charge.

In 2007, Mr. Boehner weeps for the position in which our troops have been placed, and encourages his House colleagues to listen to the general and not the politician.

Too little. Too late.

Crocodile tears.

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Update on Petraeus/Wolfowitz/Generals/Politicans

Going back to that NYTimes piece by Eric Schmitt, here's another quote from Wolfowitz: ''Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion.''

Please remember that today, May 24, 2007, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives and U.S. Senate voted to grant Mr. Bush $100 billion to fund the military effort in Afghanistan and Iraq until September, 2007.

That means Mr. Wolfowitz was wildly inaccurate in 2003, and the President listened to him more carefully than he did to General Shinseki.

Yet, the Republican right-wing continues to support this military effort and their man in the White House who was the "decider" to take the country to war against a country which was innocent of atrocities against the United States on 9/11/01.

Trust, but verify has taken on a new element: Whom, exactly, do we trust? The President of the United States, who made us believe he trusted his generals but actually trusted his political appointees, or the generals? It seems once we trusted him, even though it led to the disgraceful treatment of an honored general. Now we trust--a general? Even that general is working in the shadow of the shabby treatment of General Shinseki?

Mr. Bush, how can we trust you to make a wise decision?

We know how to verify--merely look at the facts of history--but whom do we trust in the first/final place?

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"Who do you trust? Politicians or Generals?"

On today's NPR broadcast of Mr. Bush's press conference, time and again he repeated the name of General Petraeus.

Time and again he repeated some variation of his mantra, "Who do you trust? Politicians or Generals?"

We should trust politicians to run things political; we should trust generals to run things military.

What we should also do is remember that when General Shinseki called for "several hundred thousand" troops to be deployed to Iraq for post-war occupation and stabilization, a politician, the second in command at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, called the general's estimate "wildly off the mark.'' (The link is to a story by Eric Schmitt, 2/28/03, New York Times.)

We all need to remember that, in the planning before the war, Mr. Bush once listened to politicians rather than to generals. We need to remember on our own; Mr. Bush seems reluctant to remember.

General Petraeus, the man who summons your name in his own defense is a politician.


Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

100 Million "Minorities"

Our Palm Springs Gannett outlet, The Desert Sun, leads with the USA Today story based on recent Census population estimates.

Indicative of future shifts is the statistic that Hispanic students are increasing in our schools while "white" students are decreasing in number.

Among the many items of interest indicated by this growth of "minorities," is the discussion of ethnic "counts."

Perhaps when the subcategories of ethnicity were introduced during the Nixon administration they were a cultural necessity for correcting some imbalances in our society.

The question today is whether those subcategories are still useful or whether they have become detrimental to the "melting pot" concept of our system of government.

Perhaps it's time to stop asking a person's ethnicity. We're all Americans--all U.S. citizens--all one nation--with liberty and equality for all.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Beware! Spinmeisters!

Here's a quote from The Los Angeles Times, Iraq's Interior Ministry said 234 people — men whose bodies were found throughout the capital — died at the hands of death squads in the first 11 days of May, compared with 137 in the same period of April. The tally so far for May is more than half the total for all of April, when 440 bodies were found. That was a decline from previous months.

Calling the increase "very minimal," U.S. military spokesman Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said that "there has been a slight uptick, and we're obviously very concerned about it."

Notice the spin: Caldwell says "slight uptick." The Iraqi interior ministry says 237 in 11 days, which, when compared to 137 in the first 11 days in April, somehow becomes a "slight" increase (not to get into the difference between uptick and increase--"uptick" sounds less important than "increase," doesn't it? Hmm. Ask the dead.).

Is the surge working? Is Mr. Bush ever going to shift from a military posture to an ideological posture in the Iraqi battlefield?

Trust but verify.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

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