Friday, March 10, 2006

Good News Friday

I’m about to go out of town for the weekend to the Rodeo in Houston but first I thought I would leave this roundup of happy stories (for Democrats, that is).

First, the collapse of the Dubai ports deal has thoroughly exposed this administration’s gross incompetence once again.

When President Bush and senior adviser Karl Rove mapped out plans for a political comeback in 2006, this was nowhere on the script. Suddenly, the collapse of a port-management deal neither even knew about a month ago has devastated the White House and raised questions about its ability to lead even fellow Republicans.

The bipartisan uprising in Congress in the face of a veto threat represented a singular defeat for Bush, who when it came to national security grew accustomed during his first five years in office to leading as he chose and having loyal lawmakers fall in line. Now, with his poll numbers in a political ditch, the port debacle has contributed to a perception of weakness that has liberated Republicans who once would never have dared cross Bush.

Now it looks like the scales are finally falling off of peoples’ eyes and they are beginning to come to the realization that George W. Bush is without question the Worst. President. Ever.

Republicans fret as Bush's popularity sinks

More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.

Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq — the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.

By the way, Bush’s overall approval in this poll is 37 percent. WooHoo!!
(By the way, I am not in any way celebrating the prospect of civil war in Iraq. That is just a symptom of Bush's miserable failure as a world leader. The good news is that if people finally start to recognize the serious problems we are facing in the world, we might be able to do something about them before it is too late.)

Next, the Washington Post’s political blogger thinks Democrats have an excellent chance to pick up seats in the Senate and maybe even regain control of that chamber in November.

Democrats should be optimistic -- if not yet elated -- about their prospects for gaining Senate seats this fall as takeover opportunities for their party continue to dominate The Fix's Friday Line.
Republican incumbents hold the top five slots this week -- meaning they represent the five Senate seats up for grabs this fall most likely to change party control.

And those five most vulnerable Republican senators are Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island; Conrad Burns of Montana; Mike DeWine of Ohio and Jim Talent of Missouri. Democrats also have a good shot at taking the open seat in Tennessee from the retiring Bill Frist.

Oh, and good riddance to Gail Norton, certainly a strong contender for Worst. Interior Secretary. Ever.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Annual war costs increasing

Annual expenditures for the Iraq war will reach $117.6 billion this fiscal year, according to today’s Wall Street Journal.
That’s an 18 percent increase over the previous 12-month period. Monthly expenditures in Iraq are running at $5.9 billion plus another $1 billion for Afghanistan.

All of that in spite of the fact that troop levels are supposed to be drawn down this year. The Pentagon estimates personnel costs will decrease by 14 percent this year, but that is offset by big increases for the procurement of new equipment - $25.7 billion in 2006, up from $18.8 billion in 2005. Also, maintenance spending is up 30 percent.

Why is this? Higher fuel prices are part of the reason. Another is the loss of support from National Guard troops who have been sent home after their mobilization has run its course. To make up for the loss of manpower, the military has been hiring contractors for all the logistical chores that the Guard used to help out with.
“They don’t have enough people,” said Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn.

The WSJ goes on to report that three years in Iraq has taken its toll on stocks of military equipment requiring the creation of in-country maintenance facilities in Iraq.
“There are unprecedented costs. It’s staggering,” says U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a member of the Appropriations Committee.

All of this has given us “...a total defense budget that in real dollars surpasses those of the Vietnam War era and the defense buildup under Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War.”

We are now entering our fourth year in Iraq with the country teetering on the verge of Civil War. We can’t afford to keep this up. We already have record deficits that are weighing down the economy. Our military is stretched past the breaking point. And we are being led by an administration that has proven itself to be dangerously incompetent and is incapable of figuring any good way out of this mess.

Primary ups and downs

I haven't really grasped the full extent of the primary results from yesterday. I was happy to see in the one race where I had a vote, Carlos Uresti prevailed over Frank Madla for the state Senate District 19 seat.

But while that was cheerful news, it appears that Republican Henry Cuellar prevailed over Democrat Ciro Rodriguez for the Dist. 28 congressional seat.(Thanks to Red State for the picture.) I guess I just don't understand why so many so-called Democrats in Laredo would support someone like Cuellar just because he is the home-town boy. If I had a choice between a Laredo Democrat like Richard Raymond versus San Antonio Republican Henry Bonilla, there is no question that I would support Raymond.

I wasn't surprised to see Tom DeLay win his primary race. The national media seems to think that was the big story of the day. I'm actually glad that he won because I think it will be easier for Nick Lampson to beat him in November than some fresh Republican without the baggage that DeLay has.

James Leininger was only partly successful in his bid to knock off anti-voucher Republicans. It looks like his puppet candidates prevailed in two of five races. I could have told him he was wasting his money going after Delwin Jones in Lubbock though.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Walls in Heaven

It amazes me sometimes the things that must occupy the minds of right-wing fundamentalist preachers. Here is a case where one of the local ayatollahs apparently got in trouble with his flock because of a misperception that he might be suggesting that maybe, just maybe, all the Jews in the world aren’t going to hell in a handbasket.

Neither San Antonio televangelist John Hagee nor the Rev. Jerry Falwell has expressed a belief in a "dual covenant theology" as reported Wednesday in the Jerusalem Post, Hagee and a local rabbi said Thursday.
"Dual covenant theology" refers to a belief that Jews can be saved without believing in Jesus Christ — as Christians do — because of God's covenant with the ancient Israelites....
Falwell, in a statement posted on his Web site,, said he stands "on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to enter heaven."

To tell the truth, I don’t believe in a "dual covenant theology" either. I believe in a single covenant that God has with the entire human race - each and every person individually - regardless of whether they are Israelites, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics or atheists.

But it is sad to see these supposed leaders of Christianity today dithering over whether they think God arbitrarily condemns trillions and billions and billions of people to eternal damnation or maybe just trillions and billions and millions of people. All because they were born into a culture where they weren’t taught to repeat the magic phrase that automatically unlocks the doors to heaven to them while keeping them sealed shut to everyone else.

The Catholic theologian Hans Kung once said it would probably be necessary for God to put up walls in Heaven to keep certain groups of people from knowing that other groups are up there too.

Common sense wins out

It’s nice to see the Supreme Court can still agree on common sense issues such as this one.

The Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld a federal law that forces colleges and universities to permit military recruiting on campus, despite the schools' objections to the Pentagon ban on openly gay people serving in the armed forces....

The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) -- a coalition of law schools and professors that formed to sue the government -- had said the law "compelled speech" that made it appear schools were endorsing the government's exclusion of acknowledged gays in the military, thus violating the schools' right to free speech under the First Amendment.

But in writing for the court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Solomon "neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything."

"Law schools remain free under the statute to express whatever views they may have on the military's congressionally mandated employment policy. . . . Nothing about recruiting suggests that law schools agree with any speech by recruiters and nothing in the Solomon Amendment restricts what the law schools may say about the military's policies," Roberts wrote.

A shining example

I don’t remember where I saw this first, but it is from an interview with country singer Dolly Parton
on the Larry King Live show on CNN where they are talking about her Oscar-nominated song for the movie Transamerica. I thought her answer was just an excellent example of what it means to have a good heart.

KING: Why have you been -- you've been interested for a long time in gay/lesbian, transgender stories, why?

PARTON: Well, I'm not interested in anything. I haven't made any efforts to do -- I just am totally accepting of people. I really believed that everybody should be allowed to be who they are.

KING: That's what I mean.

PARTON: Well yes, I'm very tolerant of just people in general. I believe we're all God's children. I think we all have a right to be who we are. I'm certainly -- I'm not a judge and I'm certainly not God, so I just try to love the God core in all people. And I know that is in the center of us all, so I just try to accept people for who they are, whatever that is.

I think you could hold up Dolly Parton in this instance as an example of the true Christian spirit in contrast to Fred Phelps and his ilk.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar upset

That must be some kind of record for fewest number of Academy Awards won by a Best Picture flick. Crash, which surprised everyone and took the award from Brokeback Mountain, only went home with three total Oscars - in addition to Best Picture, it won for Original Screenplay and Film Editing.
Two films that weren’t even nominated for Best Picture took home that many Oscars - King Kong which won for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Sound Editing; and Memoirs of a Geisha which won for Art Direction, Cinematography and Costume.
Brokeback Mountain also walked away with three Oscars after being snubbed for Best Picture - Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score.
No other film had more than one Oscar for the evening. Capote, Walk the Line, Syriana and The Constnat Gardener split up the acting Oscars; Hustle and Flow won for Best Song and Chronicles of Narnia won for Best Makeup.

I missed Jon Stewart’s opening monologue, but from what I did see I thought he did a good job of hosting the show. My personal favorite, though, is still Steve Martin.
I was happy to see George Clooney win the Best Supporting Actor trophy. He had the best line of the night with his brief acceptance speech:

You know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.

I know how he feels. When I saw that more people tuned into American Idol than the Olympics the other week, I had no doubt I am out of synch with the masses.