Saturday, September 16, 2006

Family Values Kidnappings

Today, a woman broke into a home in Lonedale, MO, slashed the throat of a new mother, and stole an eight-day old infant. There have been similar cases of baby-knapping in Kentucky over the last couple of years as well.

One likely cause of baby kidnapping is the "family values" rhetoric that has become so dominant in American society. Because the paraphernalia of traditional families--two-parents, stay-at-home moms, abstinence until marriage, the perfect wedding-- has been hyped so relentlessly, the value of babies has increased to the point that not having children has become intolerable for many men and women. In some cases, not having children has become so intolerable that couples steal newborns rather than be deprived.

Maybe it's time to start thinking positive thoughts about childlessness again.

There is Some Justice in the World

After Michigan's 47-21 thrashing of Notre Dame today, Charlie Weis has become yesterday's genius.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sunshine for the President

There seems to be a ray of sunshine in the gloom that surrounded President Bush yesterday. Amidst the rebellion against the president's plans for military tribunals, the impending indictiment of Bob Ney, and the continued carnage in Baghdad, it looks like gas prices are headed for a serious drop. An article in the McClatchy papers indicates that prices could fall from the current average of $2.59 all the way to $1.15 in the next few months. Maybe we won't need all that Iraqi oil now.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Conservative Opposition to Bush

Pres. Bush, VP Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spent the better part of two weeks before the 9-11 commemorations seeking to redefine the Iraq War. The line was that bin Laden was like Hitler, that "victory" was the only alternative in Iraq, and that opposition to the war was morally confused at best, vaguely treasonous at worst.

On Sept. 12, Bush's opponents began to strike back, led not by the ineffective Democrats, but by traditional and moderately conservative Republicans and military figures. Democratic leaders like Harry Reid were too busy being offended and outraged to do anything meaningful. However, President Bush's image had barely faded from tv screens when Pentagon officials leaked a report by a Marine intelligence officer claiming that Anbar province was "lost" to the American cause and that al-Qaeda was now the most important political force in Western Iraq. The next day, Marine Maj. General Zilmer dug the knife in deeper by claiming that troop levels in Anbar were fine unless the military actually wanted to defeat the insurgents.

So much for staying the course.

The counter-offensive then spread to the Senate where John McCain mobilized opposition to Bush's plan for military tribunals by producing a letter from former Joint Chiefs Chair John Vessey claiming that Bush was undermining "the moral basis which has generally guided our conduct in war throughout our history." Heavy stuff.

By today, the Republican rebellion had generated enough steam that Bush went to Capital Hill in person. But McCain had another ace up his sleeve, a supportive letter from a figure who has far more credibility than President Bush, Colin Powell.

Whichever side can move opinion among moderates and traditional conservatives will have a good shot at winning elections in 2006 and 2008. The events of the last couple of days indicate that the Bush administration may have already lost that game even if the Democrats have yet to find the stadium.

Victory versus Reality

You know things are bad. The Bush administration must have known that the situation in Iraq are really bad when they felt compelled to call in six conservative columnists on Tuesday to meet with the President. Mona Charen was there and has a column today emphasizing Bush's view that "victory" is the only option in the war against Islamic extremism.

Somebody needs to tell the generals. Unfortunately, the word on victory has not seeped back to American commanders in al-Anbar, the rebellious North Carolina-sized Iraqi provice where we have thirty thousand troops. According to Gen. Richard Zilmer, that's enough to fulfill the current mission of training Iraqi troops, but not nearly enough for defeating the insurgency in Anbar.

"Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters . . . that he has enough U.S. troops - about 30,000 - to accomplish what he called his main mission: training Iraqi security forces. 'Now, if that mission statement changes - if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight - then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here.'"

Not only is victory not the "only" option, it appears that victory is not an option at all.

Even the right-wing columnists know this. Although sympathetic to Bush, Charen ends her column by quoting Canadian columnist Peter Worthington: "There has never been an unpopular winning war or a popular losing war."

If the generals and the right-wing rats are jumping the "victory" ship, it's time for Bush to think about "reconfiguring" our military posture in Iraq.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Before We Bury Syria

The terrorist attack on the U. S. Embassy in Syria looks like a one day story. But perhaps we should think about it a little longer.

Syrian guards stopped four terrorists from entering the U. S. Embassy compound. According to the Fox web site, there are usually thirty Syrian guards outside the embassy and a contingent of Marines inside. So, if the terrorists had entered the compound, they probably would have been killed quickly anyway.

So, why attack the American embassy? There must have been easier targets in Damascus for Syria's homegrown al-Qaeda group. Why not the Saudi, Egyptian, or Jordanian embassies? Why not Hezbollah offices?

To answer this question, it is useful to think about what would have happened if the Syrian defense of the American Embassy had been half-hearted or cowardly. Of course, the answer is that there would have been plenty of speculation among the American right over whether Syria had sponsored or planned the terrorist attack and increased pressure to launch an invasion of Syria despite the deteriorating situation in Iraq. There are a lot of reasons to think that the al-Qaeda group in Syria would have welcomed such an invasion. Like the American invasion of Iraq, an invasion of Syria would have removed a secular Arab regime and led to a rapid growth of Islamist attitudes among the Syrian population. Even better from the view of the terrorists, an American invasion of Syria would have been likely to help al-Qaeda recruiting and lead to more terrorist incidents in the future.

The American invasion of Iraq has given global terrorism such a lift that it looks like the terrorists are seeking an encore in Syria.

Fortunately, the terrorist attack failed. Unfortunately, the terrorists were probably correct in thinking that the Bush administration could be manipulated into another disastrous invasion.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blogging about Value

Getting What He Deserves: Congratulations to Deion Branch, wide receiver, for leaving the New England Patriots and getting a $39 million contract from the Seattle Seahawks. It was good to see Branch get what he deserves. Branch is an exciting wide receiver who is making his mark in the NFL after being unfairly ignored at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The Patriots are a bullying organization dedicated to giving their players the shaft at contract time. Their recent success is an insult to fair-minded people everywhere.

Short-sighted people might kvetch that Branch was already highly paid at $1 million, but we should be congratulating anybody who is able to lift their standard of living against a greedy, bare-knuckled management like that of the Patriots.

Not Adding Much: Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, was on the floor today complaining about President Bush "politicizing" the 9-11 remembrances with his speech. That adds nothing to the debate. The Bush administration has been politicizing 9-11 almost from the time that the planes hit the towers. Instead of just criticizing Bush for being partisan, Reid should be a lot more partisan himself and mount an attack on the Bush's administration's obsession with politicking the war in Iraq rather than fighting it. If Harry Reid were half as good at political leadership as Deion Branch is at football, the Democrats would be doing a lot better.

Loss Leader Strikes Again: Fortunately for the Democrats, Dick Cheney is still Vice-President and President Bush still trusts him. Viewing 9-11 as an opportunity to fulfill his dreams of an imperial presidency in a more authoritarian nation, Dick Cheney has used his position to pursue the fantasies of the right rather than promote "the general welfare." One would think that Cheney's stock would have fallen after he lied the country into the pointless invasion of Iraq. However, having repeatedly felt the sting of failure as a presidential son himself, President Bush has an extraordinary level of empathy for high level incompetents like Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. So, Cheney was leading the charge of Bush defenders on last Sunday's talk shows and has been assigned to work out a compromise on Bush's proposal for military tribunals. Needless to say, prospects for success are bleak.

FAA Gambles Again in Lexington

The bodies from the recent crash have barely been buried, but Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, KY has already gone back to its "normal" understaffing.

According to today's Lexington Herald-Leader, the traffic control tower at the airport was getting ready to have a radar unit in Indianapolis take over so that the controllers in Lexington could take a break.

It appears that the FAA normally pays controllers overtime rather than letting them take breaks for meals and refocusing.

One wonders how many crashes it will take before the FAA stops gambling with controller staffing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Stop Being Offended

I didn't see the ABC docudrama on 9-11. Not having a television is part of the price my wife and I pay for being progressive parents.

But the outrage of the Clinton administration officials goes on. The former counter-terrorism guru Richard Clarke was the one who was outraged tonight.

I'm tired of the outrage. I'm tired of Democrats and liberals being outraged, disgusted, and offended over the provocations of the Bush administration and right-wingers everywhere. I'm tired of seeing Harry Reid, Chuck Shumer, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore acting like they're personally wounded every time the Republicans lie about them. It makes them look weak which, of course, is precisely what the right-wing wants to see.

Instead of being offended, they should just fight. The docudrama on 9-11 should have been seen as an opportunity. If Rush Limbaugh's producer friends can produce trash about 9-11, why can't the thousands of left-leaning writers, producers, and directors start creating shows about the Bush administration's decisions to invade Iraq. Personally, I'd like to see a scene where Dick Cheney explains to a junior staffer that conservatives don't have to tell the truth. I'd also like to see Condi Rice make an aside to Scooter Libby about how easy it was to manipulate the President. A little dramatization would help everybody understand the Bush adminstration better.

The Democratic leadership thinks that people in the Red States want to see the Democrats be more religious. Perhaps. But here in Kentucky, I've found that people want to see the Democrats show more toughness and determination. And they're right. If the Democrats win in 2008, they'll have to take on a debilitating war in Iraq, keep up and expand the police efforts to foil terrorism, and fend off an avalanche of low-blows and innuendo from the right-wing attack machine. People in states like Kentucky want to see that the Democrats are tough enough to handle the job.

One way we can show that is to stop being offended.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

9-11: Digging the Hole Deeper

In my office, I keep a picture of a plane plowing into the World Trade Center.

I also keep a picture of an American soldier carrying a body bag of another American soldier.The two photographs go together because the Bush administration decided to leverage the 9-11 attacks into an invasion of Iraq and an effort to establish right-wing social and political dominance in the United States.

The horrific viciousness and destructiveness of the terrorist attacks will always be paired with the monumental cynicism of the Bush administration's response. Defense neo-cons like Paul Wolfowitz had been hoping for a pretext to invade Iraq. 9-11 gave them their chance. Irving Kristol, John Bolton, and John Yoo chafed at the constraints of the American Constitution, American human rights laws, and international law. 9-11 allowed them to luxuriate in the romance of torture, run roughshod over due process, and create an illegal international system of secret prisons. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney wanted a bigger stick for beating the Democrats and liberals. 9-11 was the biggest stick of all.

Ultimately, bin Laden and the Bush administration will only get part of what they deserve. The Bush administration and the right will meet their electoral Dien Bien Phu in 2008 if not this November. But many of them deserve to be arrested for crimes against humanity. Bin Laden won't live long after the Bush administration leaves office. The main thing keeping him alive and global terrorism in business is world-wide revulsion over the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Yet, even though Bin Laden's days are numbered, he won't receive nearly as many deaths as he deserves.

There is a certain mutual dependence between the Bush administration and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida. More than twenty-nine hundred people died at the World Trade Center and the number of American soldiers who have died in Iraq is also climbing toward 2,900. Al-Qaeda's attack on the World Trade Center gave the Bush administration it's chance to pursue the plans for global political and military domination that conservative think-tankers had been dreaming up since the fall of the Soviet Union. Likewise, Bush's invasion of Iraq allowed bin Laden to see his dreams of global jihad come to life. Both sides get to live out their fantasies.

Still, I should have a third picture-a picture of those who have died in Iraq as a result of the invasion. There have been more than 50,000 deaths in Iraq over the last three years, now at a rate of 1,500 dead civilians per month. It's like Iraq has had more than 16 of it's own 9-11's and Iraq's civilian dead are just as much a part of the 9-11 story as the dead in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, or the American combat casualties. It's not like the Bush administration and al-Qaeda have killed all the thousands of Iraqi's themselves, but Bush and bin Laden started the chain reactions that led to the nightmare in Iraq today and they should share in the blame for the many thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of their fantasies.There may yet be some redemption for 9-11. I hope there is. Right now though, the Bush administration and al-Qaeda have merely teamed up to dig the hole deeper.