Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC Day 4: Mountain starts to move


The morning after Barack Obama's triumphant appearance at Mile High Stadium before some 75,000 people, one gets the sense that something very big is afoot. It may just be that I am deadly weary of the brutal incompetence and corruption of the Bush administration and am therefore delusional, but if so...well, judging from the huge crowd, the enthusiastic acclaimations, and the whining and sniping of the conservative punditry, I'm not the only one.

The McCain campaign certainly had a premonition that Obama's climactic convention speech might prove to be worrisome from their perspective. This very morning, in a rather pathetic attempt to steal the cable news chatter, McCain announced that his vice-presidential candidate will be Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Well, Johnny, I admire the attempt, but I just can't see that picking an unknown and inexperienced woman governor from a sparsely populated state is going to win you any of those supposedly disgruntled Hillary supporters. The "PUMA" thing never really got much momentum behind it, and it has the suspicious stink of a Karl Rove plot about it anyway.

As he accepted the Democratic party's nomination for President of the United States, Barack Obama appeared presidential, stately, and intellectually-serious. Certainly more so than tired and cranky John McCain or the laughably idiotic Junior Bush. (Remember when Junior played dress up in a flight suit?)

Obama addressed each and every charge leveled against him by his critics: his supposed foreign policy inexperience, his "rock star" persona, the scurrilous attacks on his patriotism. And he went on to hammer McCain. The tone was respectful, with an acknowledgment of McCain's service as a war veteran, but Obama lacerated McCain for being out of touch, domestically, and for exercising poor judgment vis-a-vis Iraq and Afghanistan. In this he went right at McCain's perceived strength.

But coming out of that convention, with Obama's challenge ringing in our collective psyche, one has the feeling that the mountain is starting to move. Just as Tropical Storm Gustav comes barreling toward New Orleans, threatening to highlight Bush incompetence by evoking memories of Katrina even as the Republicans hold their convention, the Democrats emerge roaring for blood. Can you hear it, Johnny? There's a rumble coming down from the Rockies...

Rumble, rumble
(See the speech for yourself:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNC Day 3: Excoriating the Right

Here we come, Johnny.

Now, we're talking. Never mind my worries, after DNC Day 1 that the Democrats weren't hitting hard enough.

Last night's speeches at the Democratic National Convention were what the pundits refer to as "red meat." The prominent speakers were Senator John Kerry, President Bill Clinton, and Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden. And they spent the evening laying into Junior and Mad Johnny.

Had I seen the text of the speeches beforehand, I would have had the following advice for McCain: "When you hear the words 'John McCain is a friend of mine...' it's time for you to turn down your hearing aid, but quick!"

Those words were the precursor to brutal but truthful rhetoric that points up how utterly and shamelessly McCain has bowed to blind ambition in his quest for the presidency.

Ripping on McCain
Here's the choice passage from Kerry's speech:
I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let's compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.

Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you're against it. --John Kerry

You can see the speech in its entirety here.

Unifying the party
President Clinton went next and laid to rest any desperate Republican hopes about division within the Democratic party. Clinton has few rivals when it comes to political instincts and one senses that, apart from a sincere wish to not see McCain in the Oval Office, the former president has at least one eye on his legacy within the party. As with Hillary, President Clinton, if he hopes to maintain his influence with Democrats, is compelled to fully and completely support Barack Obama.

That being said, examination of anyone's motives often reveals the less savory aspects of the subject's character. Best not to read too much into it. And the zeal with which Clinton delivered his hits on Republicans was sure to raise Democrats' blood-lust.

They took us from record surpluses to an exploding national debt; from over 22 million new jobs down to 5 million; from an increase in working family incomes of $7,500 to a decline of more than $2,000; from almost 8 million Americans moving out of poverty to more than 5 and a half million falling into poverty - and millions more losing their health insurance.

Now, in spite of all the evidence, their candidate is promising more of the same: More tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that will swell the deficit, increase inequality, and weaken the economy. More band-aids for health care that will enrich insurance companies, impoverish families and increase the number of uninsured. More going it alone in the world, instead of building the shared responsibilities and shared opportunities necessary to advance our security and restore our influence.

They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more. Let's send them a message that will echo from the Rockies all across America: Thanks, but no thanks. In this case, the third time is not the charm. -- Bill Clinton
You can see the speech in its entirety here.

This man is a fighter
The evening ended with Senator Joe Biden's acceptance speech. Biden was introduced by his son, Beau, who will soon be deployed to fight in Junior's filthy lie of a war. That's more sacrifice than we are ever likely to see out of Junior's two daughters or any other of the Bush clan. And Senator Biden showed his pugnacity by whipping up on McCain with this passage:
John McCain is my friend. We've known each other for three decades. We've traveled the world together. It's a friendship that goes beyond politics. And the personal courage and heroism John demonstrated still amaze me.

But I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country. For example:
John thinks that during the Bush years "we've made great progress economically." I think it's been abysmal.

And in the Senate, John sided with President Bush 95 percent of the time. Give me a break. When John McCain proposes $200 billion in new tax breaks for corporate America, $1 billion alone for just eight of the largest companies, but no relief for 100 million American families, that's not change; that's more of the same.

Even today, as oil companies post the biggest profits in history-a half trillion dollars in the last five years-he wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks. But he voted time and again against incentives for renewable energy: solar, wind, biofuels. That's not change; that's more of the same.

Millions of jobs have left our shores, yet John continues to support tax breaks for corporations that send them there. That's not change; that's more of the same.

He voted 19 times against raising the minimum wage. For people who are struggling just to get to the next day, that's not change; that's more of the same.

And when he says he will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq when Iraq is sitting on a surplus of nearly $80 billion, that's not change; that's more of the same.

The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier; they require a wise leader, a leader who can deliver change-the change everybody knows we need. --Joe Biden
You can see the speech in its entirety here.

On a personal level, the remarks that struck home the most were these:

President Obama and Vice President Biden will shut down Guantanamo, respect the Constitution, and make clear once and for all, the United States of America does not torture, not now, not ever. --John Kerry

Most important, Barack Obama knows that America cannot be strong abroad unless we are strong at home. People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power. --Bill Clinton

You know, I believe the measure of a man isn't just the road he's traveled; it's the choices he's made along the way. Barack Obama could have done anything after he graduated from college. With all his talent and promise, he could have written his ticket to Wall Street. But that's not what he chose to do. He chose to go to Chicago. The South Side. There he met men and women who had lost their jobs. Their neighborhood was devastated when the local steel plant closed. Their dreams deferred. Their dignity shattered. Their self-esteem gone.

And he made their lives the work of his life. That's what you do when you've been raised by a single mom, who worked, went to school and raised two kids on her own. That's how you come to believe, to the very core of your being, that work is more than a paycheck. It's dignity. It's respect. It's about whether you can look your children in the eye and say: we're going to be ok. --Joe Biden
The Democrats on the floor roared their approval throughout the night. And Barack Obama made a "suprise" appearance at the end of the evening to rally the troops before his Big Event tonight.
Well, the troops are rallied. The party is united and, unlike the dismal campaign of four years ago, it looks like the Democrats are going to be hitting and hitting hard.

Bad news for Mad Johnny.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Day 2: Hillary and Kucinich

Hillary does the right thing
All eyes were on Hillary Clinton last night. She was set to deliver the prime time speech. The media punditry was doing its level best to keep alive the notion that she had the ability to deliver or deny votes to Barack Obama based on the tone of her address.

Well, that's a load of crap. The 18 million voters who checked the box for Hillary in the primaries are, of course, going to make up their own minds about who will receive their support in November. The truth of the matter is (or was) that the speech last night had more to do with Hillary's own political future. If her speech seemed anything less than full-throated in its endorsement of Barack Obama, she would be perceived as petulant and negative. Not a wise move, in a party that is desperate to win in November. Such a speech would doom her future prospects within the Democratic party.

I've always felt that GOP characterizations of Hillary as "shrewish," "hostile," or"scheming" were more projection than observation. While it is true that Hillary is a politician, and therefore has a calculating mind that is constantly assessing how each situation or opportunity that presents itself can be used to her advantage, she is no more guilty of cynical manipulation than any other politician.

And so, Hillary came through for her party. She graciously and enthusiastically expressed support for the Obama-Biden ticket, acknowledged Michelle Obama, and threw some punches at Junior and Mad Johnny.

Well, like my friend, PapaK, I've got to hand it to Hillary. Her speech was inspiring, especially toward the end, when she cited Harriett Tubman, the heroine of the Underground Railroad.
If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If they're shouting after you, keep going.
Don't ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.
But, for my money, the real fireworks yesterday were delivered by Representative Dennis Kucinich. You want the truth? Check this speech, which was largely ignored by the pathetic cable and network media outlets.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC Day 1: Quit playing nice, dammit!

A little less of this...
The Democrats are in Denver this week, throwing their nominating party.

Amid all the raving about the success of Michelle Obama's speech and the triumph of Senator Kennedy's thunderous address, I find myself feeling rather dissatisfied. Yes, Ms. Obama's speech was a success; and, yes, I suppose it was necessary to put her out there so that Republican fear-mongers don't have a free hand to define her as an angry black militant. And, yes, I admire Senator Kennedy and wish the best for him in his struggle with cancer.

But with all the talk about division within the Democratic party between Obama supporters and Hillary supporters, this is not the way to unite the various factions. You unite them by putting up President Junior's monkey face and beating it to a rhetorical pulp!

If there is any one thing that all Democrats have in common this year, it is a deep and abiding loathing of Junior Bush and everyone associated with him. In fact, Hillary's sometime cooperation with the administration may, in the end, be the reason she was denied the nomination she was so sure belonged to her. Junior's claim to be "a uniter not a divider" was never so true as it is now with his dismal ~30% approval rating.

During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, timid and browbeaten Democrats avoided criticizing Junior. Well, look where that got them (and us)! Enough with the nicey-nice. When you've got a pig like Junior down, you kick the living shit out of him!

...a lot more of this!
You want victory in November, Democrats? Let's talk about gas prices and the tragedy of Iraq! Rage about the lies that were put forth to sell the war! Talk about illegal wire-taps and torture at Gitmo! Remember how Junior oversaw the drowning of a major American city and the crumbling of our national infrastructure! Talk about how the Republicans took us from a budget surplus to financial ruin in 8 years!

And don't forget mad Johnny. Ask people if they want four more years of this national nightmare. Point up the fact that mad Johnny gave Junior hugs and kisses even after Karl Rove spread ugly rumors about his wife and child in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary. Start talking about McCain's rabid hatred of "gooks" (that's his word, mind you). Remind everyone about his cruel sense of humor and his uncontrollable temper.

I am sick to death of Democrats playing nice. You can be sure that the Republicans, who have nothing to offer but fear and hatred, will come out swinging. So, for God's sake, Democrats, throw the first punch. And throw it hard!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I can't help it. I love the Olympics.

Bird's Nest Stadium
In a sense, it's a sad state of affairs.

The Olympic Games, as an ideal, offer a vision of a better world; a world where athletic competition brings the various peoples of the world together, there to excise their nationalist and patriotic emotions in a way that might actually be constructive... or, at least, not destructive.

So, why then, do I feel sheepish about enjoying the games? Why do I feel as though I'm walking into a trap if I relax enough to just sit back and get caught up in the spirit of athletic competition?

Could it be that I've been conditioned to suspect that the Olympics, just like everything else in today's corporate world, is just another distraction to keep me from noticing that I'm being fleeced at every turn by usurious credit card companies, unethical corporate banks, and the various resource extraction industries? Well, probably.

The parasitic corporate entities that leech onto the games are truly nauseating. Is there really an "official" credit card for the 2008 Olympic Games? An "official" beer? Well then, why not an "official" cigarette? Or an "official" handgun? The International Olympic Committee, sadly, has bought in to the capitalist dogma: profit is king.

And then, of course, there is also the cloying American media coverage that strives to manipulate our emotions with breathless commentary, pseudo-controversy, and high melodrama. NBC has already enumerated the Games' 8 most memorable moments, apparently not trusting spectators enough to judge for themselves. (I know that I, for one, am sick to death of seeing and hearing about Michael Phelps, who, frankly, seems like something of a jerk. His is an historic achievement, for sure, but enough already!)

All that being said, I find that I still love the Olympics. Maty and I watched the opening and closing ceremonies in all their glory. They were spectacular. Filmmaker Zhang Yimou and choreographer Zhang Jigang created events that will truly stand as pinnacles to the beauty and creativity of mankind. And as we watched the athletic teams from all corners of the globe, march into the Bird's Nest, waving their flags and smiling, I found that Maty's enthusiasm and excitement were infectious. "There's Mali!" she exclaimed, clapping and laughing. "There's Burkina! There's Senegal!"

Nigerian Women's 4x100m Relay Team
And the events themselves were fantastic. I remember watching the Women's 4 X 100m Relay Final. The Jamaican team was favored to win, but the Russians and Belgians were also contenders. The race was close, but the Jamaicans blew the baton-pass for the fourth leg. The Russians ended up winning the gold, and the Belgians got the silver. But as they crossed the finish line, the most jubilation seemed to come from the bronze-winning Nigerian team. They hadn't been expected to medal and their elation and pride were heart-warming. I found that I was elated for them and proud of them.

It has been at least 20 years since I last indulged in the spectacle of the Olympic Games. But this time, with so much bad news and catastrophe, I found that they were a wonderful diversion that, in spite of everything, evoked feelings of brotherhood and commonality with my fellow humans.

A glorious vision of humanity
And, in spite of the greed and corruption that inevitably surrounds the spectacle, the idea behind the Olympics is still beautiful. If civilization manages to lurch forward another 4 years without imploding, I'll be watching the London games, too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dick Cheney speaks the truth (with a little help from Al Pacino)


I remember back in my college days when the movie Scarface, starring Al Pacino, was all the rage. In my little social clique it became fashionable to watch the movie over and over to the point where we could practically recite the dialog as we watched. If I add up all the hours I've spent watching this flick, it must surely amount to nearly three or four solid days.

Today, I've noticed that the film has taken on a retro mystique. At clothes stores for young adults, you can buy tee-shirts with images of Tony Montana, aiming a grenade-launcher, stenciled on the front. Posters of Tony sitting behind a mountain of cocaine, or with gore spattered on his face abound in alternative music stores or as prizes at carnival midways.

Monday, the Democrats kick off their national convention in Denver. Then, seven days later the Republicans start their quadrennial hate festival in Minneapolis.

So, in the interest of Friday Fun, and with a nod to the commencement of national convention season, I thought I'd post this old video, created after the last GOP convention, of Big Dick and the Zombie Queen, telling it like it is, with the help of Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Be forewarned: this video is not appropriate for mixed company.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Burnin' Lake of Fire


Once more delving into the Mahatma Candy archives, I give you Burnin' Lake of Fire. This tune, which we always introduced as the "musical Cliff Notes for John Milton's Paradise Lost," is sung to the tune of the great Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.

I was born into the Light,
A servant of Heaven's Might;
I sat at God's right hand,
Until He chose the Son of Man;

He cast me down to a burnin' lake of fire,
I fell down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns burns, the lake of fire,
The lake of fire;

My angels and I took to flight,
To prepare for the awful fight;
His chariot in flames was veiled;
And, oh, down we fell;

He cast me down to a burnin' lake of fire,
I fell down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns, the lake of fire,
The lake of fire;

Our cause has come to grief;
From torment's flames there's no relief;
But hope I won't forsake;
I've got one more card to play as a talking snake!

He cast me down to a burnin' lake of fire,
I fell down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns, the lake of fire,
The lake of fire;

Mahatma Candy
Sorry, Johnny.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Neo-conservative Christianity: It's okay to kill

Just like Christmas, eh, Junior?
Back in the dark days of 2002, when Junior was beating his Iraq war drum like a new Christmas toy, I became engaged in many heated conversations with benighted Bush supporters who felt that the invasion was morally justified and imperative to the security of the United States.

Sprung a leak...
Never mind that the case being made by the administration was so full of holes that it made St. Sebastian's carcass look like a finely woven Kashmir carpet.

Some of the most vociferous of the war advocates professed to be "Christian," of course. They trusted that Junior was a "good man." They believed he was restoring "dignity" and "integrity" to the Oval Office. (One has to hope that nowadays, as the depth of the moral morass in which we find ourselves is revealed, these same people are just a tiny bit chastened. But probably, they are not.)

It has always puzzled me how supposed Christians can advocate war, but this was especially true in 2002, when I put forth the argument that "Your Bible commands that 'Thou shalt not kill.'"

Well, wouldn't you know it? "Christian" scholars have now "discovered" that the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," is actually a mistranslation. The "correct" interpretation of the original Hebrew (or is it Greek?) is "Thou shalt not murder." So, war is okay with Christ. Just don't "murder" anyone. (You can read all about this reinterpretation here.)

What about these Bible passages, Christians? How shall we interpret these? And how do they jibe with your justification for war?
You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:38:45 RSV)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Regardless of the pseudo-scholarly arguments that are used, this relatively recent discovery about the translation of the Sixth commandment seems somewhat convenient, no? Does this mean that all these hundreds of years since the invention of the printing press, the Christian holy book has been in error? And, if this translation was incorrect, dare we suspect that there may be other translation errors in today's Bible? In fact, does this not call all Biblical teaching into question?

One can hear these fake Christians, even now, saying "Hold on. Not so fast. Let's not go too far. We just wanted to feel good about our war, that's all."

Anyone who speaks more than one language can tell you that precise translation is nigh on impossible. That's true for modern, living languages and one has to assume that it is even more true when applied to the translation of ancient "dead" languages. But "Christians" don't want to know all that. It's better to just follow the leader and keep one's eyes shut tight.

Well, "Christians," I've got another ancient myth you should check into before you next go off and use fallacious logic to justify your hypocrisy. It's commonly referred to as Pandora's Box.

Oops!
(Full disclosure: This post was inspired by Hopeful Muser's thoughtful post, Ignorance.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Foolish (and perhaps tasteless) limericks

Apologies in advance...some limericks....


Pig for a king

Events drive me on toward my casket;
It's a wonder I don't blow a gasket;
With a pig for a king,
We're in a downswing,
And we're stuck in this awful handbasket;



Game? What game?

Olympic beach volleyball court
Is home to athletic cavort;
The women are strong
In beach volleyball thong;
Do you mean to say it's a sport?



Ridiculous

There once was a joker named Dade
Who's writing from good taste had strayed;
Well, cut him a break,
He's not quite awake;
And a limerick sure beats a tirade!


Limericks are very difficult to write. I invite you to post your own in the comments section. And sincere apologies to anyone who might be offended by limerick #2.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bush and Rice murder American credibility

Capo and trigger-woman
Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor originally made famous by convicting Charles Manson and others in the Tate-LaBianca murders, and the author of three New York Times bestsellers, has a new book out: The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (available at any number of outlets, including Barnes & Noble). It's on my list of books to read.

But, while Mr. Bugliosi's case is legal and real, I'd like to focus on another of Junior's murder victims. This one is metaphorical, but it is undoubtedly dead... Junior gave the order, and silken-voiced Condi Rice pulled the trigger. I'm talking about the murder of American credibility.

Just take a look at each of these foreign policy disasters, pumped like hollow-point slugs into the head of the United States' international reputation:
  • Serbia: As a result of Junior's ill-advised recognition of Kosovo as an autonomous state, Serbian "protesters" attacked and burned down the United States embassy in Belgrade. Normally, this would be considered an act of war. But, with American credibility destroyed, and our military over-stretched, the most Condi could manage was a feeble "We don't expect that to happen again."
  • Saudi Arabia: Unlike candidate for president George W. Bush who assured Americans in 2000 that he would bring down gas prices by "work[ing] with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply," Junior Bush went to the Saudis hat in hand back in May of this year to beg for more oil. They turned him down flat.
  • Iran: Junior and his gang have shrieked incessantly about Iran's nuclear ambitions, despite having no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately, legitmate concerns about Iran's intentions are undermined by Bush dishonesty in the past. Remember the lack of WMD in Saddam's Iraq? Who could blame the international community for doubting anything Bush or Condi have to say about Iran's WMD now? In an attempt to save his own ass, Bush blamed the Iraq failure on the American intelligence community (even though he and Big Dick deliberately distorted its findings to promote the administration's case for war). Well, now those chickens have come home to roost. Citing intelligence reports just doesn't work like it used to, does it Junior?
  • Pakistan: Junior's favorite military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, is stepping down as "president" of Pakistan. It's too early to speculate about the real consequences of this development, but for Junior, who has staked so much on Musharraf keeping his thumb on Islamic "radicals," this cannot be good news. The level of resentment toward the United States for its support of Musharraf undoubtedly runs high. Musharraf was on the verge of being impeached (and you know that has got to make Junior a little nervous). To the extent that Pakistanis hold the US responsible for their current political mess, American goals will suffer.
  • Georgia/Russia: Perhaps the coup d'grace, the fiasco in Georgia reveals US impotency as an American-backed government is crushed under the dominant Russian military. Despite all Condi's whining and empty vows to make Russia "pay a price," there is nothing that the United States can do. Militarily, of course, there are no options. And any diplomatic efforts to isolate Russia are not very likely to be effective without European participation, and you'll notice that the Europeans aren't saying a whole lot. For one thing, one must imagine that they're laughing up their sleeves at Junior's humiliation. But more importantly, they rely on Russia for their natural gas and heating oil. The last thing they want is trouble with the Russians.
All of this, of course, stems from Junior's mad determination to invade Iraq. Undoubtedly egged on by vile and insane Big Dick, and seduced by Condi's sycophantic mewling, he burned everything to get his war.

American credibility is dead. Ruined. Gone. Burned. Congratulations, Junior.

"Isn't life grand, darling?"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Senator Gordon Smith: Oregon's weak sister

Senator Smith, your act is wearing thin
Like the runt of a mongrel litter, poor Senator Gordon Smith has been pushed away from the teat of real power and is shivering out in the cold. It's not really his fault; Gordie is just not mean enough or greedy enough to succeed in today's Republican party.

While the big pups (Bill Frist (R-TN), Trent Lott (R-MS), and Ted Stevens (R-AK), for example) were gorging on Mama Graft's swollen udder, Gordie had to content himself with whatever was left over. Despite being in the Senate for 12 years, Gordie remains a GOP back-bencher that gets dragged out in front of the cameras every so often when they have a specific task for him.

And now, in his milk-toast, spineless way, after 12 years of being the GOP leadership's man-servant, he is trying desperately to erase Oregon's collective memory of how slavishly he has devoted himself to the Republican agenda.

Check out this ad, that he's been running on Oregon television.



Notice, Gordie talks about how he worked with John Kerry and Barack Obama. No mention of his party's nominee, mad Johnny McCain. Only one mention of Junior, and a negative one at that. And here's the kicker: the ad does not ever mention Gordie's political affiliation. (Can you blame him? He's a Republican.)

In fact, just yesterday, Gordie stepped down as the honorary state campaign chairman for the GOP presidential campaign this year. And he's already stated that he will not attend the GOP convention in Minneapolis next month.

If you need a refresher on Senator Smith's real record in the Senate, check out this post I wrote about a year ago: Senator Smith: Moderate? Hardly!

Well, since this blog is all about balance (ha ha!), I've run a Smith ad, so I suppose I'm compelled to post an ad for Jeff Merkley, Gordie's opponent.



Go Jeff!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Spouting hypocrisy, Junior Bush stumbles toward WWIII

War is afoot
Events in Georgia are accelerating. Hang on to your hats, folks. Junior Bush just might attain Big Dick's highest aspirations: a Ragnarok-like conflagration that sets everyone straight.

The latest move by the administration is to use American military planes to send "humanitarian" aid to Georgia. The Russians are continuing to press their military advantage in spite of Russian President Medvedev's false order to "halt military operations."

Russian motives are plainly apparent. They are moving to protect their hegemony (in the traditional Russian way). In the past, Russia has shown restraint only when she recognized that aggression would be detrimental to her interests.

But now, with President Junior a weakened international figure, lacking popular support both abroad and in his own country, the Russians have calculated that they can strike. It may well be a colossal miscalculation. If an American military plane is shot down, or any of the American service personnel currently stationed in Georgia are killed... well, no one can know how things will progress from there, but events could quickly spin out of control.

Of course, the United States has played a significant part in generating this crisis. The Bush administration's policies and actions vis-a-vis Russia have not been subjected to nearly enough scrutiny. But, if we were to take the Russian perspective for just a moment, we can see that Junior's initiatives might be deemed as threatening. Consider:
  • Bush has pushed for a missile defense shield, with stations in Poland, the Czech Republic, and other places. Sort of a Cuban missile incident in reverse.
  • Bush has deployed military advisors and hundreds of millions in military aid to Georgia which sits squarely between the Black and Caspian Seas.
  • Bush advocated independence from Serbia for Kosovo over strenuous Russian objections
As I stated in a previous post, the possibilities for political miscalculation in this situation and in the entire Near East are huge and growing exponentially. Georgian president Mikhal Saakashvili obviously misinterpreted the remarks that hapless Condi Rice made when she visited Georgia last month by believing that, if he were to move to secure South Ossetia, the United States would back him immediately and completely.

Don't these two inspire confidence?
If Condi were honest (I know, I know), the first thing she would say to Saakashvili when she arrives in Tblisi would be to quote Otter from Animal House: "You f**ked up - you trusted us!"
American leadership, rather than inspiring confidence, raises anxieties. Yesterday, Condi, without even a hint of irony, mewled at a press conference:
"This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed." --Condi Rice, August 13, 2008
How have things changed, Condi? Do tell! Did the United States not threaten a sovereign country, occupy a capital and overthrow a government as recently as 2003?

People, if that's not hypocrisy then the word has no meaning. And mad Johnny McCain's comments were just as audacious:
"...in the 21st century nations don't invade other nations." --John McCain, August 13, 2008
Let that statement linger in your mind for a minute.

Is it not simply jaw-dropping? Apart from the hypocrisy, if there were any doubts that McCain has thrown his lot in with the neo-conservatives, that remark should erase them.

Here it is, folks: an extremely dangerous world crisis brought about by the unilateralism, inconsistency, and fundamental dishonesty of fatuous, infantile Junior Bush and the neo-conservative movement.

Hope for the best. And be ready. Anything might happen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Coverage of Georgian crisis: White House still calling the tune


Despite Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's announcement yesterday that the Russian offensive into Georgia would be halted, there are still reports of fighting. Aljazeera reports that Russian naval forces have sunk Georgian vessels in the port of Goti. There are also reports that Russian troops entered the Georgian town of Gori, but now appear to be pulling out.

The situation is murky, to say the least. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is engaged in diplomatic efforts to broker a truce. Let's wish him luck on that.

Rather than try and sort out what is currently happening, however, I think it is informative to note how woefully Americans have been served by our own media.

The initial reports of the crisis led me to believe this was an assault on Georgia initiated by Russia. It wasn't until several days after violence broke out that I learned that it was Georgia that initiated hostilities in South Ossetia in an attempt to settle a long simmering territorial dispute. Granted, the Russians were prepared (and probably eager) for a military confrontation, but it was Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili who launched the initial military assault on August 7th. This fact received very little attention in the US media. The perception that was fostered in our news organizations was that of tiny Georgia being crushed by the mighty Russian bear.

Further, very little mention has been made of the presence in Georgia of 127 United States military advisors. Nor of how the pathetically-underskilled US Secretary of State, Condi Rice, was in Tblisi in July, where she gave public assurances (read: warnings to Russia) about Georgian "territorial integrity." The Russians viewed the trip as highly provocative, especially when Condi went on to sign an agreement with the Czech Republic to station US missile defense radar within the Czech Republic. Fox News (and pretty much everyone else) left these little tidbits out of the breathless coverage of Russian armed forces rolling into Georgia.

So, what gives?

It's no secret, really. Ever since Junior Bush got the political godsend of 911, his administration has waved the bloody shirt, using a warped sense of patriotism as a cudgel to beat the sheep-like media into line. Remember the fake stories about Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan? Remember the fake story about the Jessica Lynch rescue in Iraq? Remember the yellowcake uranium lie that appeared in the New York Times?

More of the same, people. This country has been poorly served by our supposedly independent media. In fact, the average American news consumer, if he relies solely on American media outlets, is no better informed than was the average Chinese citizen at the height of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Well, I'm embarrassed that I fell for this line of garbage that the White House vomited out through their reliable and compliant channels. I'm grateful to Arthur and the anonymous poster, who commented on my blog, and Eclectic Dilettante, who had a very informative post. They helped me get informed.

If you want to know what's really going on, check out the BBC or al Jazzera or any number of other news sources. There are still media that report the news independent of any political bullying. On the other hand, if you'd rather not know, why bother going to Fox News? Just read the White House press releases directly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

South Ossetia: War by proxy

Scene from South Ossetia
As the rapidly escalating conflict in the Caucasus reveals its true nature, the cause for concern is growing exponentially. Although most of the American media isn't reporting it as such, this appears to be a proxy war between the United States and Russia. Even a numb-skull Bush supporter can recognize the danger posed by that kind of development.

Pawns in a deadly game

Conflicting interests

For the United States, Georgia is strategically vital. The Baku-Tbilsi-Ceyhan pipeline (owned by various Big Oil corporations), which about a year ago began transporting 1 million barrels of oil daily from Azerbaijan to Turkey, runs right through the heart of Georgia. The pipeline snakes down between two American rivals: Russia and Iran. Obviously, with oil production being a growing concern all across the globe, the world's leading oil consumer has a vital interest in keeping this pipeline outside the respective hegemonies of those two countries.

Russia, on the other hand, has concerns about military encirclement. Many eastern European states are pursuing or have already implemented membership in the European Economic Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And Georgia is now pursuing membership in NATO. Coupled with concerns over Junior Bush's ill-conceived missle defense shield program, which he is attempting to deploy well within Russia's former sphere of influence (Poland, Bulgaria and other places), Russian concerns would seem legitimate.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia are two regions that fall within the internationally-recognized borders of Georgia. However, the peoples that live in those regions tend to identify more with Russia than with Georgia. There are strong separatist sentiments in both regions.

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili has insisted that both disputed regions will remain part of Georgia.

A scene from Gori: the conflict expands to Georgia proper

Recent events

Condoleeza Rice, in all her Gucci handbag glory, was in Tblisi back in July emphasizing the deepening ties of Georgia to the United States. The trip was made over the objections of Russia, and, in retrospect, seems provocative.

One wonders what promises or assurances Condi may have made to Saakashvili as she strutted around with her entourage, smiling and waving at cameras. But they must have been whoppers for Saakashvili to have miscalculated so badly. It would seem that when he moved troops into South Ossetia he did not anticipate the magnitude of the Russian response. The most recent reports out of the region indicate that the Russians came loaded for bear. There are reports of perhaps thousands of civilian casualties and Georgia is now calling for a truce even as the Russian military seems to be expanding the conflict by bombing cities in Georgia proper, and attacking the Georgian navy on the Black Sea.

In the United States, the usual neo-conservative meatheads are calling for a muscular (read: military) response to the crisis. According to some in the American media, Putin and Junior had a "heated" conversation about the situation as they each enjoyed the Olympic Games in Beijing. But the reality is that there is very little, short of a military response, that Junior can do.

This is a very, very dangerous situation. With everything that has been going on recently, the shifting hegemonies, the dangerous instability of nuclear powers, the disruption of supply for foodstuffs, the general increase of fear and anxiety, something like this was bound to happen. American leadership, rather than inspiring confidence, only adds to the problem. The gang of glorified used-car salesmen that are running the White House are intellectually and morally outgunned.

Georgia is a geopolitical powder keg and the fuse is lit. If cooler heads do not prevail, the dire predictions of another world war could quickly become a reality.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Russia invades Georgia


The big news of this day is that Russian tanks are rolling across the border into the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Vladimir Putin, with the exquisite timing of a maestro, made his move while much of the world is longingly focused on the Olympic Games.

At this point, the (ostensible) causus belli is unclear.

Two Russian planes were shot down in Georgian airspace. The Georgians claim that the planes were bombing villages. The Russians deny this and, for their part, say they are responding to Georgian attacks on Russian peace-keepers and "ethnic cleansing" that is being carried out in the separatist region of South Ossetia. A muddled picture, to be sure.

Now, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is calling on the international community to denounce the Russian invasion and aid his country, while Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, urged the Europeans and Americans to "reach the right conclusions."

This entire incident is but another result of depleted American credibility brought about by the incompetence and malevolence of the Bush administration.

Like bringing a squirt-gun to a knife fight...
Junior once said of Putin: "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Well, one has to imagine that Putin was laughing up his sleeve when he heard that. Does it not seem apparent that Putin has calculated the costs of the current military adventure and determined that, with American credibility so low, he has a free hand to do as he will?

Bush and his sycophantic accomplice, the underwhelming Condoleeza Rice, have gravely damaged US relations with nearly everyone, but most especially with our European allies. The list of offenses is long: Guantanamo detentions, extraordinary renditions, flaunting of the Geneva Convention, and, of course, the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.

With our alliances in such a state, and with our diplomatic corps eviscerated, there is nothing immediately that can be done. The White House response to the invasion was pathetic: "We urge restraint on all sides - that violence would be curtailed and that direct dialogue could ensue in order to help resolve their differences," mewled White House automaton Dana Perino.

Meanwhile, Junior yucks it up with Putin in Beijing at the opening of the Olympic games. It is unclear if Junior, who we know has an aversion to reading intelligence reports, was aware of the build up of Russian forces on the Georgian border before leaving for China. But I suppose, if he did know, he calculated it was better not to risk offending our Chinese creditors by snubbing their white-wash party than to stay at the White House and do his job.

Well, if Junior is sitting in the stands in Beijing, he is probably less likely to make things worse. Thank God for small favors.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dejection


The Buddhists tell us:
  1. Life means suffering.
  2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
Well, today, I'm living it, baby. I've been denied something on which I had set my heart and my hopes for the future. I'm afraid I can't reveal any of the specifics, and they're not important to this discussion anyway.

Suffice it to say that I'm suffering today. I'm suffering because I had formed an attachment to a potentiality that did not come to fruition. I had begun to imagine a transformation in my life; a change that I imagined would be for the better. Well, the transformation did not take place and the imagined better life is no longer a potentiality.

Of course, there is no way to know if, had the transformation occurred, my life would actually have improved. It may well have turned out to be less than I imagined, less than what I hoped for. So, I temper my dejection with that knowledge.

Nonetheless, it hurts to lose a dream.

Now, I have to gather myself, shake off the disappointment, and start all over again. Everyone knows disappointment; it's part of being human. And, it's important to keep in mind that things could be a whole lot worse.

No real epiphanies or insights today, I'm afraid. Just an acknowledgment of the wisdom of the Buddha. Life is suffering.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More proof that the Iraq War is a lie (as if we needed any)


What does it say about the condition of this country that a bombshell like the one that Ron Suskind recently dropped about the Bush administration's case for war is not front page bold-type news?

What does it say about the condition of this country that for many Americans, this news is just confirmation of what they have believed all along?

And what does it say about the condition of this country that there are Americans who, in spite of this evidence, will still say the war was justified and that Junior is an honorable man?

Ron Suskind is a well-respected reporter and a Pulitzer Prize winner. In his new book, The Way of the World, he reports that not only did Junior and company know before the invasion that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction, but that they manufactured evidence to deliberately deceive the public into believing the opposite.

Let me repeat: Suskind reports that the Bush administration manufactured the case for war.

It breaks down like this: Saddam Hussein's chief of intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, was actually an informer for British and American intelligence services. In January, 2003, two months before the invasion, Habbush transmitted information asserting that Iraq had no WMD and that Saddam's evasiveness was an attempt to deceive his mortal enemies, the Iranians. The Bush administration, eager for war, disregarded the information. When the invasion began, Habbush was secretly resettled to Jordan and paid $5 million to keep his mouth shut. Note that, as far as the American public knew, Habbush was one of the military's most wanted men, having been assigned the Jack of Diamonds in Junior's famous deck of cards.

(If I were Mr. Habbush, I might be a little nervous. Junior and Big Dick have a lot riding on him keeping mum.)

Sleeping well, Tahir?
Suskind further reports that the White House gave then-CIA chief George Tenet a special assignment: create a handwritten letter, dated July, 2001, from Habbush to Saddam saying that 911 attacker Mohammed al Atta trained in Iraq before the attacks and that Saddam was buying yellow cake for Niger with help from a "small team from the al Qaeda organization." (Yeah, al Qaeda...how convenient!)

And, do you remember the Downing Street Memo? It was a transcription of a meeting attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that stated that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Suskind's reporting would seem to confirm the worst implications of that document.

The reactions from all the usual suspects are predictable enough: the White House has called the reporting "absurd" and begun attacking Suskind's credibility. George Tenet says he can't remember anything. And Nancy Pelosi, instead of calling for hearings, continues to sit on her worthless, worthless ass.

The Iraq war was a gigantic, deliberate lie. It's consquences have been murderous and catastrophic. It was manufactured by Junior and Cheney. Is anybody going to do anything about it?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Play, sweet fiddler, play


The muffled wails of doomed humanity,
Ghostly signatures of a world aflame;

Somewhere not far away a soldier dies,
His unborn child will know a photograph;

A field of sand, an arid oasis,
Our hopes shrunk like mountainous ice, adrift;

The whale song is sad elegy spun out,
Through black void to some ET antenna;

A hand is poised above a field of white,
The whetted quill like hungry vulture's beak;

Words are my fiddle as the world burns bright;
I imagine you to ask "Why bother?"

So that I may then reply sublimely,
"For Christ's sake, I have got to do something."