Monday, December 29, 2003

Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

The Baseball Writers Association of America is casting its ballots this week for the 2004 Hall of Fame inductions. Once again Pete Rose is not even eligible for consideration which makes the whole exercise a sham in my opinion.
The Wall Street Journal’s Allen St. John wrote his predictions on Friday, Dec. 26 (not online) where he notes that Paul Molitor is considered to be a lock for induction this year. Why? Because he is No. 10 on the all-time hits list with 3,319 dingers during his career. That and I suppose because he must be pure as the driven snow in his personal life which we all know is today the most important consideration for Hall of Fame nominees.
I don’t have anything against Molitor, but did I mention that Pete Rose is No. 1 on the all-time hits list with 4,256 hits? It is true that Rose played for four more years than Molitor. But Rose had far exceeded Molitor’s career total by his 16th season in the majors.

Molitor’s career ran from 1978-98 during which time he had a .306 batting average; played in 2,683 games; and had 10,835 at bats to achieve 3,319 hits.

In 24 seasons, Rose had a career batting average of .303; played in 3,562 games; had 14,053 at bats and collected 4,256 hits.

St. John believes that in addition to Molitor, pitcher Dennis Eckersley should be a lock for induction this coming year while former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg and Red Sox slugger Jim Rice are on the bubble.

You can go to the National Baseball Hall of Fame web site for a sample ballot and details on all the eligible nominees. You can vote for up to 10 people. I tend to be pretty liberal in who I think should be in the Hall and would like to see more people get in than are likely to.

Here is how I would cast my sample ballot:

Pete Rose (write-in)
Paul Molitor
Ryne Sandberg
Dave Concepcion (because I’d like to see all the players from the Big Red Machine era get inducted)
Dennis Eckersley
Bert Blyleven
Lee Smith
Steve Garvey
Rich (Goose) Gossage
Jim Rice


Former Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent has an Op-Ed in the NYTimes today titled “The Confessions of Pete Rose” in which he offers further conditions he thinks should be met before the All-Time Hit King should be readmitted by Major League Baseball.

Vincent arbitrarily proposes a two-year transistion period for Rose’s reinstatement for no other reason than to limit Rose’s chances for induction to the Hall of Fame via the Baseball Writers Association to just one shot. During the transistion period, Rose would be forced to travel about the country wearing a Scarlet ‘G’ on his breast and confessing his sins to anyone who will listen.

Vincent’s spiteful article is filled with disparaging remarks and insults if not outright slander directed at Rose. Vincent compares him unfavorably with Saint Augustine who wrote a confessional and comes to the shocking conclusion that Rose is NOT a saint. It seems that Rose has not been remorsefull enough to suit Vincent.

Excuse me, Mr. Vincent. I know I’ve made this point many times before but let me say it one more time. It is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Saints that we are talking about here.

Furthermore, as someone whose career in baseball was somewhat less than exemplary (Vincent was forced to step down as commissioner after just three years when he received a vote of no confidence from the baseball owners) one might think he would be a bit more forgiving of someone else’s faults.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A Musical Odyssey, Part 1

I’ve always loved listening to music for as far back as I can remember. My record collection today is a diverse conglomeration of rock, country, classical, jazz, new age, broadway, Christmas and contemporary folk music.
Some of my friends have said that my musical tastes are so broad that I really have no taste at all. Maybe so. But I can usually find some examples of music that I like in nearly every musical genre.
While there are some exceptions, I generally tend not to like opera, heavy metal, punk and rap music. I also have as yet to get terribly interested in blues music, although I acknowledge its influence on music that I do like.

Purely for my own edification, I have put together a mostly chronilogical list of the music that I have heard, absorbed and in many cases purchased throughout my life to chart how my musical tastes have developed over time.
My parents were naturally the earliest influences on my musical tastes. They gave me a portable record player when I was in about the second grade and passed down a few record albums:

Records passed down from my parents:
Elvis : A Legendary Performer Vol. 1
Glenn Campbell - By the Time I Get To Phoenix
Bobby Goldsboro - Autumn of My Life

The most significant of these was Elvis. The first song on the album is “That’s Alright Momma,” which is still to this day my all-time favorite Elvis song. When I was in the second grade, a kid at school asked everyone who their favorite singer was. For some reason - probably because I had just watched his variety show on TV the night before - I said my favorite was Donny Osmond. To my embarrassment that illicited laughter from my friends, so I quickly changed my mind and announced that my favorite singer was Elvis Presley. I was relieved when that seemed to be a satisfactory answer.
The Glenn Campbell album was good too, but a lot of the songs were depressing - especially the title track - and there were just a few upbeat numbers that I liked including “Hey, Little One” “Back in the Race” and “I’ll Be Lucky Someday”. But Glen Campbell came across as almost blissfully happy compared to the miserably depressing Bobby Goldsboro album which I hated. I think I may have listened to it once. Yuck! I guess you can’t say I didn’t have any taste back then.

Aside from those few albums, I was influenced by stuff I heard on the radio and more predominantly by the Saturday morning cartoon shows and the Variety shows that were on at the time. There was Donny and Marie Osmond, The Jackson Five, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Sonny and Cher and The Monkees.

A song I heard on the radio that stuck with me:
Spinning Wheel - Blood, Sweat & Tears

I was in college before I finally figured out who sang that song that had bounced around inside my head from my early childhood.

A few years later, when I was old enough to play with my dad’s reel to reel player, I discovered the music he had purchased or recorded when he was in Vietnam. I now have most of this music on CD.

From my Dad’s reel-to-reel collection:
Kingston Trio (miscellaneous)
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison
Buddy Holly (miscellaneous)
Peter, Paul & Mary (miscellaneous)
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (miscellaneous)
Zounds! What Sounds! - Dean Elliott and his Big Band
Ray Conniff Singers - We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Still my favorite Christmas album!)

I especially liked the humorous Kingston Trio songs such as “MTA”, “Bad Man’s Blunder” and “Merry Minuet”

The first record album I remember purchasing (well, my folks paid for it but I picked it out on my own) was a weird psychedelic rock album called Raiders - Collage which featured Mark Lindsey and Paul Revere (They would later become known as Paul Revere and The Raiders). One day my mom told me I could pick out a record album and I picked that one out almost at random. It had lots of fuzzy, distorted guitars, screaming lyrics and songs that in retrospect were kind of mediocre. But it was my album and I listened to it repeatedly.
Unfortunately, at some point I dropped the record and broke a 1-inch piece off that messed up the first songs on both sides - which also happened to be my favorite songs on the album.

The next album I got had an even bigger influence. It was a compilation of hit songs from 1974 (slightly abriged) by Ronco:
Ronco Presents: In Concert - Various Artists 1974
Side One
2. I'm Leaving It All Up To You--DONNY & MARIE OSMOND
3. Put Your Hands Together--THE O'JAYS
4. Takin' Care of Business--BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE
5. The Need To Be--JIM WEATHERLY
6. Come and Get Your Love--REDBONE
7. La La Peace Song--O.C. SMITH
9. The Streak--RAY STEVENS
10. Sweet Home Alabama--LYNYRD SKYNYRD
Side Two
11. You Little Trustmaker--THE TYMES
12. Hang On In There Baby--JOHNNY BRISTOL
13. Wildwood Weed--JIM STAFFORD
14. Radar Love--GOLDEN EARRING
15. I'm the Leader of the Gang--BROWNSVILLE STATION
16. The Other Side of Love--JIMMY WITHERSPOON
17. I'll Take You There--THE STAPLE SINGERS
18. In the Ghetto--MAC DAVIS
19. The Night Chicago Died--PAPER LACE
20. Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)--REUNION

My favorite songs on the album was “The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace. I especially liked the fact that the father came home safe at the end of the song. It probably had something to do with the fact that my own father kept getting shipped over seas during the Vietnam war.
I also liked “Life is a Rock” which was a kind of novelty song where the singer strings the names of a bunch of rock groups and song lyrics together very fast.
The one real stinker in the collection is “The Need To Be” by Jim Weatherly which I’m sure is unlistenable in its long version.
Actually, whenever I hear any of these songs today in their long version I’m taken aback (with the exception of “Sweet Home Alabama” which I am now used to.)
Interestingly enough, although I came to dearly love almost every song in the collection - the only artists I would continue to listen to years later would be Bachman, Turner Overdrive and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

A few years later I picked up another hits collection, this one by K-Tel.

KTel - Stars 1977
Side One
The Things We Do For Love - 10CC
Rich Girl - Daryl Hall & John Oates
Year Of The Cat - Al Stewart
Torn Between Two Lovers - Mary MacGregor
A Little Bit More - Dr. Hook
Love Me - Yvonne Elliman
So In To You - Atlanta Rhythm Section
Devil Woman - Cliff Richard
Slow Dancin' Don't Turn Me On - Addrisi Brothers
Side Two
I'm Your Boogie Man - K.C. & The Sunshine Band
Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel - Tavares
Don't Leave Me This Way - Thelma Houston
Coal Town - Stanky Brown Group
The World Is Ghetto - War
Theme From Roots - Quincy Jones
Hard Luck Woman - KISS
Tryin' To Love Two - William Bell
Couldn't Get It Right - Climax Blues Band

My favorite song in that collection was “I’m Your Boogie Man” which has a terrific horn section. I also liked “The Things We Do For Love,” “Rich Girl,” “Devil Woman” and “Year of the Cat.”

Junior High Years

In junior high I used to hear lots of music on the bus drive to and from school everyday. The bus driver would always have a local rock station on the dial.

Songs on the radio:
Queen - We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions (A dangerous song to listen to on the bus since everyone would stomp in unison).
Heart - Barracuda
Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music
Rolling Stones - Beast of Burden
Elton John - Philadelphia Freedom
Bay City Rollers - Saturday Night
Lukenbach, Texas - Willie and Waylon

This is also when I started purchasing albums more frequently.

Albums purchased:
Elvis Presley - Elvis’ Golden Records
KISS - Double Platinum
The Who - Who Are You
Boston - Don’t Look Back
Three Dog Night (mail order greatest hits collection)
Fats Domino greatest hits
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack
The Bee Gees - Spirits Having Flown
The Village People - YMCA
Steve Martin - Wild and Crazy Guy

I liked the Sgt. Peppers movie so much I couldn’t wait to run out and buy the soundtrack album. I didn’t even know who The Beatles were at the time. Years later I was both shocked and impressed to discover that every song in the movie was originally written and performed by The Beatles.
Most of the album featured the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, but there were also contributions from Aerosmith, Earth Wind & Fire, Alice Cooper and (my favorite) Steve Martin.
I bought the KISS album mainly because it was popular with my friends. My friend Tommy told me that even if I didn’t like anything else by KISS, I was sure to like the song “Beth.” He was right. But I also liked most of the other songs too.
Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” was a radio staple at the time and the main reason I purchased the album. It would be years later, however, before I would finally get the first Boston album which is even better.
Believe it or not, “Who Are You” by The Who was another random album purchase that I made. Not bad for my second try.
I bought “Spirits Having Flown” after being blown away the first time I heard the song “Tragedy.” Plus, I was still a Bee Gees fan because of the Sgt. Pepper’s movie. (I did not see “Saturday Night Fever” until year’s later. For me, John Travolta was always a Sweathog.)

Sunday, December 21, 2003




If I were a character in The Lord of the Rings, I would be Aragorn, Man of the West, leader of the Rangers who guard the hobbits.

In the movie, I am played by Viggo Mortensen.

Who would you be?
Zovakware Lord of the Rings Test with Perseus Web Survey Software

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Libya-Iraq: What's the difference?

With Libya we have a country ruled by a brutal dictator who is "widely regarded in the West as the principal financier of international terrorism" and who has an "appalling" human rights record...

"Over the past three decades, Libya’s human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials. Today hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained, some for over a decade, and there are serious concerns about treatment in detention and the fairness of procedures in several on-going high profile trials before the Peoples’ Courts. Libya has been a closed country for United Nations and non-governmental human rights investigators."

And yet we now have word from Bush and Blair that because Col. Moammar Gadhafi has agreed to
dismantle its WMD programs they are ready to welcome Libya back into the international community.

Why are they so willing to negotiate with Libya when they insisted that military force was the only way to deal with Iraq? Saddam Hussein had already made the same agreements that Gadhafi is proposing. He said they had no more WMDs and he allowed U.N. inspectors in to check it out. None were found. Why couldn't we have handled Iraq the same way we are doing in Libya? Why was regime change necessary in Iraq but it is not in Libya? Is the freedom of the Iraqi people more important than the freedom of the Libyan people?

The difference is simply that Bush's foreign policy is not based on principles - it is determined by political opportunism. We needed a war to distract the country from the poor economy and to make it look like we were doing something about the 9-11 attacks.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Pillars made of straw and forged documents

Last week Jonathan Gurwitz, the Express-News’ right-wing columnist, rushed out a column
in the wake of the U.S. capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Gurwitz sought to trumpet the capture as an ideological victory for war proponents and as an excuse to throw sand in the face of liberal war critics.
“Saddam’s capture, news reports erode anti-war myths” touted the headline.
The only problem is that Gurwitz based much of his column on a report in the London Daily Telegraph that as it now turns out was based on a phony document. (Thanks to Allen Brill for the links).

“Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported that the new Iraqi government has uncovered documentary proof that Mohamed Atta, mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, was trained in Baghdad by the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal.”

I knew when I first read Gurwitz’ column that it did not pass the smell test but I had no way of proving it. As it turns out, it was only a matter of time until someone exposed the story as a sham - MSNBC - Dubious Link Between Atta and Saddam.

“A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in  the summer of  2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents.”

Gurwitz also throws out another lame argument in his column which tries to invent the “pillars of criticism” upon with liberal anti-war sentiments are based.

“The third pillar of criticism ridicules the notion that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction or programs to produce them. This pillar, too, is crumbling.”

That’s because this pillar is made of straw - as in it’s a strawman argument. The majority of war critics have never denied that Hussein “possessed weapons of mass destruction” - i.e. in the past tense. That Hussein once possessed chemical weapons is a historical fact. The question was whether or not he still has these weapons in sufficient quantities so as to be an imminent threat and thus merit a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. military. It looks like that is the real myth. Even now the Bush administration’s chief weapons hunter in Iraq is about to give up and throw in the towel.

I would say that Gurwitz and the Express-News owe their readers a correction, but I doubt that any will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Best films I have seen in 2003

Needless to say, I haven't seen very many movies this year. Being a new dad seriously cuts back on the time you can spend watching videos and practically eliminates the ability to go to the matinee.

Nevertheless, as the movie awards season approaches I have listed the best movies of 2003 that I have actually seen. The list will obviously change as I see more movies and I may as well just leave the top spot blank for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Best films I have seen that came out in 2003

1. Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
2. X-Men 2
3. Bend It Like Beckham
4. Down With Love
5. Terminator 3
6. Matrix Reloaded
7. Shanghai Knights
8. The Italian Job
9. Daredevil
10. The Recruit

Worst Films I have seen in 2003

1. Hollywood Homicide
2. Legally Blonde 2
3. The Hunted
4. The Hulk
5. How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days

Films I still want to see from 2003

Finding Nemo
Master and Commander
The Last Samurai
Cold Mountain
Matrix Revolutions
Bruce Almighty
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Open Range
Once Upon a Time In Mexico
Love Actually
Mystic River
Lost In Translation
Secondhand Lions
Runaway Jury
The Haunted Mansion
Brother Bear
Lara Croft 2
Freaky Friday
School of Rock
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
The Missing
Winged Migration
Matchstick Men
Cheaper By the Dozen

Monday, December 15, 2003

Hussein captured

I got up Sunday morning and read the papers and then went about my day without turning on the TV or the radio (other than for Christmas music). So it wasn't until much later that I finally learned of Saddam Hussein's caputure by U.S. forces in Iraq.
This is certainly good news. Regardless of whether Hussein has actually been coordinating the guerrilla warfare campaign against U.S. troops, his capture is a psychological blow to that faction. The fact that we were able to capture him alive is also a coup for U.S. intelligence services. I hope that this means the security situation in Iraq will improve but it is no guarantee.

One has to feel a little sorry for the newspaper industry due to the timing of the announcement. Word came too late to get the news in the Sunday papers and gave every other news medium - TV, radio, Internet, a 24-hour head star at providing mass coverage. The newspapers were left having to trumpet the news nearly a day late in their Monday papers which are typically their least read.
The 14 hour delay in breaking the news is understandable and even commendable, but I couldn't help but wonder at first whether Bush's professed indifference to reading newspapers didn't play a role in the decision as well.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Lord of the Oscars

So “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” is the odds-on favorite to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

That is all good and fine, but the question remains whether or not it will finally win the Oscar this time around. Oscar voters passed over LOTR the first two chances they had and their choices haven’t fared well over time. Picking “A Beautiful Mind” over “Fellowship of the Ring” two years ago should be an embarrassment to them today and “Chicago” over “Two Towers” is rapidly approaching that same status. But if “Return of the King” wins the big prize this year (and Peter Jackson gets the Director Oscar) then I will consider all the past slights forgiven.

This year I was worried that films like “Master and Commander” starring Russell Crowe or “Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise would displace LOTR:ROTK on Oscar night. But now both of those fills seem to have run out of steam and the new favorite of the snobby critic class is “Cold Mountain” with Jude Law and Nicole Kidman (again).

LOTR:ROTK doesn’t even make the Top 10 for 2003 according to the snobby National Board of Review. Their list includes "Mystic River" at No. 1 followed in order by "The Last Samurai," "The Station Agent," "21 Grams," "House of Sand and Fog," "Lost in Translation," "Cold Mountain," "In America," "Seabiscuit," and "Master and Commander."
Needless to say, I find this group’s assessment to be beneath contempt.

It is a shame that the snobby critics won’t give any acting nominations to the superb LOTR cast. Ian McKellen (Gandalf) should have been nominated for Best Actor for Fellowship and Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Sean Bean (Boromir) deserved Supporting nods in the same film. Andy Serkis deserved a nomination as Gollum in Two Towers. Now they are talking about Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Sean Astin (Sam) as potential nominees this time around.

Bush-style diplomacy

Small-minded, petty and vindictive. These are words that best desribe Bush’s attitude towards our allies and helps explain why we are becoming increasingly isolated in our efforts to pull ourselves out of the quagmire in Iraq.

Bush’s decision to keep the spoils of war for himself and his friends is really not surprising considering his background. It sounds sensible enough in a simplistic way and it fits with Bush’s overall “My way or the highway” style of diplomacy. But these kinds of juvenile schoolyard antics may excite Bush’s right-wing supporters, but they don’t fare as well on the international stage. I’m afraid the end result will be that U.S. troops and U.S. taxpayers will continue to shoulder the brunt of the workload in Iraq for the forseeable future.

We are essentially punishing allies like France, Germany, Russia and Canada because they were right in their initial assessment that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat. Their doubts about his supposed arsenal of WMDs have proven to be prescient. And in a brilliant stroke of diplomacy by Bush Co., we are beating them over the head with this rebuke at the exact same time that we are going to them on bended knee with hat in hand to beg for more money to support the reconstruction efforts. The Wall Street Journal has a good story about this today on page A5:

“Former Secrestary of State James Baker did President Bush a favor by agreeing to lobby U.S. allies to write off $120 billion in Iraqi debts. But Mr. Bush did his old family friend no favor at all by angering Iraq’s major foreign creditors just before he sent Mr. Baker overseas to plead for their generosity...
“It looks terribly clumsy, poorly timed and it looks vindictive,” said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, which has long experience in developing world debt negotiations.”

In the meantime, we find out today that Dick Cheney’s Halliburton has been gouging U.S. taxpayers with overpriced gas and other services. That’s good to know now that Bush has cleared much of the competition away for the remaining contracts. Halliburton can continue to bilk U.S. taxpayers for the forseeable future because they have ‘friends in high places.’


I said the Iraqi contracts decision was small-minded, petty and vindictive. But William Kristol at the conservative Weekly Standard goes one step further and calls it ‘dumb.’

“A truly wise American administration would have opened the bidding to all comers, regardless of their opposition to the war -- as a way of buying those countries into the Iraq effort, building a little goodwill for the future, and demonstrating to the world a little magnanimity.
But instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing. The announcement of a policy of discriminating against French, German, and Russian firms has made credible European charges of vindictive pettiness and general disregard for the opinion of even fellow liberal democracies. More important, it has made former Secretary of State James Baker's very important effort to get these countries, among others, to offer debt relief for the new government of Iraq almost impossible. This is to say nothing of other areas where we need to work with these governments.
This decision is a blunder. We trust it will be reversed.”

No, sorry Mr. Kristol. Bush is currently defending the decision, not reversing it. We are not talking about a wise administration here.

Josh Marshall knocks the argument that this decision will somehow encourage these governments to cooperate with us in the near future:

“Some folks seem to be under the misimpression that there's some clever bargaining going on here. There's not.
Think about it. The whole pot is about $20 billion. Let's imagine the French and the Germans both got fabulously lucky and their companies managed to land contracts for a billion a piece. Does anyone think that Germany or France are going to write off billions of dollars in Iraqi loans or invite a backlash from their anti-Iraq war publics by sending in some troops all for the privilege of having the French or German versions of Halliburton or Bechtel make a few million dollars?
Of course, not.”

Paul Krugman thinks the decision was a deliberate attempt to screw up efforts at reconciliation with our allies by hard-right elements of the Bush administration. Of course, my only question is which elements of Bush Co. are not hard-right?

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

President Dean

Like a lot of Democrats I have been worried lately that a primary victory by Howard Dean could doom the party to another McGovern-Mondale-Dukakis type of defeat. So I've been secretly hoping that John Kerry might bounce back or that Wesley Clark will ride in at the last minute and save the day.
But the truth is that it really doesn't matter whether the Democratic nominee is Dean or Kerry or Clark. Any one of those guys plus Gephardt, Edwards and Lieberman would be sufficient to beat Bush next year. These are different times than '72, '84 or '88 and Bush is in such a weak position that it will be very hard for him to recover enough to win a second term. It's funny that it took a conservative like William Kristol to point that out, but the points he makes - even the partisan jabs - are good ones and should have been more obvious to me.

"Could Dean really win? Unfortunately, yes. The Democratic presidential candidate has, alas, won the popular presidential vote three times in a row -- twice, admittedly, under the guidance of the skilled Bill Clinton, but most recently with the hapless Al Gore at the helm. And demographic trends (particularly the growth in Hispanic voters) tend to favor the Democrats going into 2004."

Kristol tends to soft pedal the obstacles facing Bush next time around but even so doing he makes it clear that they may be insurmountable:

"Bush is also likely to be the first president since Herbert Hoover under whom there will have been no net job creation, and the first since Lyndon Johnson whose core justification for sending U.S. soldiers to war could be widely (if unfairly) judged to have been misleading."

Kristol also bursts some of the Republicans' wishful thinking regarding Dean the candidate:

"But is Dean a credible alternative? ... Dean has run a terrific primary campaign, the most impressive since Carter in 1976. It's true that, unlike Carter (and Clinton), Dean is a Northeastern liberal. But he's no Dukakis. Does anyone expect Dean to be a patsy for a Bush assault, as the Massachusetts governor was?
And how liberal is Dean anyway? He governed as a centrist in Vermont, and will certainly pivot to the center the moment he has the nomination."

Kristol even lays out Dean's attack plans for the campaign:

"On domestic policy, Dean will characterize Bush as the deficit-expanding, Social Security-threatening, Constitution-amending (on marriage) radical, while positioning himself as a hard-headed, budget-balancing, federalism-respecting compassionate moderate. And on foreign and defense policy, look for Dean to say that he was and remains anti-Iraq war (as, he will point out, were lots of traditional centrist foreign policy types). But Dean will emphasize that he has never ruled out the use of force (including unilaterally). Indeed, he will say, he believes in military strength so strongly that he thinks we should increase the size of the Army by a division or two. It's Bush, Dean will point out, who's trying to deal with the new, post-Sept. 11 world with a pre-Sept. 11 military."

I know that Kristol is just trying to scare his conservative readers into not being complacent in the upcoming election, but he does so by laying out some very hard truths that most Republicans have refused to acknowledge so far. Democrats actually have cause to be optimistic about the next election. We have a big opening before us just waiting for someone to step up and take advantage of it. If that someone is Howard Dean, then so be it.

Green growth strategy

Jan Jarboe Russell has been writing a political column for the Express-News for at least a decade, maybe two. But judging from her naïve column this Sunday, you might think she was just starting out in the business.

Russell gave a glowing endorsement to the Green Party growth strategy being advanced by Houston attorney David Cobb, who helped to found the Green Party in Texas.
Russell acknowledges (a bit late) that Ralph Nader played the spoiler role in the 2000 election that helped popular vote loser George W. Bush win the White House. But she thinks a Green Party presidential bid by Cobb this next time around will be just fine because he has promised to only campaign in the “40 or so safe states.” (Golly, I’d sure love to have access to his crystal ball to know precisely which states those will be!)

Unlike Nader, Cobb says his only goal is to build the Green Party and not to win the White House. Of course, his promise not to campaign in the non-safe states only applies if the Democrats nominate a candidate who he agrees with. If Joe Lieberman or Wesley Clark get the nod then the deal is off, he says.

Cobb, of course, is an idiot. And it is sad that Russell can’t seem to recognize this. What Russell doesn’t seem to understand is that serving as a spoiler is the only thing a Green Party candidate can do on the national level. Just by placing his name on the ballot in every state helps to draw votes away from the Democrats and thus benefits the Republicans. It doesn’t matter where he decides to “concentrate” his time and efforts.
The 2000 election in Florida was so close (the official tally was less than a 200 vote difference) that it didn’t matter if Nader had campaigned there or not. He would have drawn enough votes away to tip the scales to the Republicans without ever stepping foot there during the campaign.

The Green Party is like a cancer eating away at the Democratic Party. Every vote that goes to a Green candidate helps to get a Republican elected. It is not just the presidential race in 2000 where this has happened. On at least two occasions in New Mexico the Green Party helped to elect Republicans to Congress in districts that would have gone Democratic otherwise.

Green Party drones argue that they are not taking votes away from Democrats because they are tapping into disenchanted voters who aren’t voting at all. But these are still the very voters that the Democrats need if the party is ever going to regain the majority. If these Green Party activists were really concerned about advancing the political goals that they espouse, they would join the Democratic Party and work to push it in a progressive direction. But by pulling out and supporting a third party in a two-party system is nothing short of political suicide. If we had a parliamentary system it might make some sense, but we don’t and we are not going to adopt one anytime soon.

Russell ends her column by warning that “another Nader candidacy helps Bush – again.” Yes, but so does any Green Party candidacy. Just remember, GREEN stands for Get Republicans Elected Every November!

Friday, December 05, 2003

More fun with lists

This is fun. - 12/04/2003: "Twenty Most Annoying Conservatives of 2003"

But I just can't see putting a non-conservative like Arnold Schwarznegger on the list and leaving off Tom DeLay.

There they go again

As if we don't already have enough buildings, ships, airports and schools named after Ronald Reagan before the man has even passed away, now a group of Republicans are trying to get his image on the dime.

But that would also mean knocking off Franklin D. Roosevelt whose image was placed on the 10-cent piece in 1946 the year after his death in part because of his support for the March of Dimes campaign to fight polio. Roosevelt's image doesn't appear on any other currency so replacing him on the dime would mean dishonoring his legacy. But that of course is exactly what the radical Republicans are shooting for here. They see Reagan as the anti-Roosevelt who led the charge to tear apart the New Deal reforms that helped bring us out of the Great Depression. Choosing the dime as their latest goal for enshrining Reagan is meant as a direct slap at Democrats. I mean, they could have picked the Lincoln penny since Lincoln is also on the $5 bill, or the Washington quarter since Washington is also on the $1 bill. But this way they can knock down a Democratic icon at the same time.

Personally, I think it would be most appropriate to put Reagan's image on the $100,000 bill since the people who are most likely to have one of those bills were Reagan's biggest supporters and his biggest beneficiaries.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Lotto losers

Now that Texas has joined one of those multi-state lottery abominations, I have an exercize that I would like all avid Lotto fans to practice. (Not that any actually read this blog).

Find yourself a set of percentile dice - two 10-sided die of different colors - and pick a random number between 1 and 100. Now role the dice (00 = 100). Did you win? No? That's too bad. Now mark down that you just spent $1 and try again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Did you win yet? OK, well keep trying. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Is your arm getting tired yet? Remember the odds for this exercize are just 1 in 100. You can add a third 10-sided die and make it 1 in 1,000.

The odds for Lotto Texas are 1 in 47 million and for the new multi-state game it is 1 in 135 million. You would have to have a bucket to hold that many 10-sided dice. You would also need to have a strong arm and lots of money. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Democracy is a fragile web

Norm Ornstein had a column in the Washington Post last week that I just stumbled upon that gives a good perspective on the Republicans' disregard for the rules and decorum in the House.
Ornstein is a moderate conservative who works for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, so his sharp rebuke cannot be dismissed as mere partisanship. It is such a good column that I want to excerpt several sections:

"One of the most disgraceful moments in American sports came in the 1972 Olympics, when officials gave the Soviet Union's basketball team three chances to shoot the ball after the clock had apparently run out -- allowing it to defeat the U.S. team.

American politics now has its own version of that infamous game. Early last Sunday, starting at about 3 a.m., the House of Representatives began its roll call on the Medicare prescription drug plan -- the most significant vote of the year. The House votes by electronic device, with each vote normally taking 15 minutes. After the allotted time, the bill, supported by the president and the Republican leadership, was losing. The vote stayed open. Before long it became clear that an absolute majority of the House -- 218 of the 435 members -- had voted no, with only 216 in favor. But the vote stayed open until Republicans were able to bludgeon two of their members to switch sides. It took two hours and 51 minutes, the longest roll call in modern House history.

"This was not, technically speaking, against the rules. House Rule XX, clause 2 (a) says that there is a 15-minute minimum for most votes by electronic device. There is no formal maximum. A vote is not final until the vote numbers have been read by the speaker and the result declared. But since electronic voting began in January 1973, the norm has been long established and clear: Fifteen minutes is the voting time.

In the 22 years that Democrats ran the House after the electronic voting system was put in place, there was only one time when the vote period substantially exceeded the 15 minutes. At the end of the session in 1987, under Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, the vote on the omnibus budget reconciliation bill -- a key piece of legislation -- was one vote short of passage when one of the bill's supporters, Marty Russo of Illinois, took offense at something, changed his vote to no, and left to catch a plane to his home district in Chicago. He was unaware that his switch altered the ultimate outcome. Caught by surprise, Wright kept the vote tally open for an extra 15 to 20 minutes until one of his aides could find another member, fellow Texan Jim Chapman, and draw him out of the cloakroom to change his nay vote to aye and pass the bill. Republicans went ballistic, using the example for years as evidence of Democrats' autocratic style and insensitivity to rules and basic fairness.

In 1995, soon after the Republicans gained the majority, Speaker Newt Gingrich declared his intention to make sure that votes would consistently be held in the 15-minute time frame. The "regular practice of the House," he said would be "a policy of closing electronic votes as soon as possible after the guaranteed period of 15 minutes." The policy was reiterated by Speaker Dennis J. Hastert when he assumed the post.

But faced with a series of tough votes and close margins, Republicans have ignored their own standards and adopted a practice that has in fact become frequent during the Bush presidency, of stretching out the vote when they were losing until they could twist enough arms to prevail. On at least a dozen occasions, they have gone well over the 15 minutes, sometimes up to an hour.

The Medicare prescription drug vote -- three hours instead of 15 minutes, hours after a clear majority of the House had signaled its will -- was the ugliest and most outrageous breach of standards in the modern history of the House."

Ornstein sums up with the following statement:

"Democracy is a fragile web of laws, rules and norms. The norms are just as important to the legitimacy of the system as the rules. Blatant violations of them on a regular basis corrode the system. The ugliness of this one will linger. "

And linger it shall.

Biased labeling?

Former Express-News political reporter Sherry Sylvester, who is now working for a right-wing think tank out of Austin, wrote an Op-Ed column last week for the Houston Chronicle that touts a study by a Stanford University professor as demonstrating a liberal bias in the nation's newspapers.
The study does this by looking at the use of the labels "liberal" and "conservative" and counting how many times they were used to describe various politicians or groups. The study apparently does not take into account the fact that the term "liberal" has been continuously vilified since the 1980s while the term "conservative" is widely embraced by people in both political parties. The study concludes and Sylvester concurs that the newspapers have been biased because they have more readily used the term "conservative" to label conservative groups and Republican politicos than they have used the term "liberal" to describe liberal groups and Democratic politicos.

"Reviewing news stories over a 12-year period -- from 1990 to 2002 -- Brady and Ma found that The New York Times and The Washington Post were far more likely to label a U.S. senator "conservative" than "liberal."

But what if a politician objects to the term "liberal"? Are the newspapers supposed to force the label on them anyway? By whose standards? How does one define a liberal?
And is it wrong to use the term "conservative" when the person in question embraces the term and uses it constantly to refer to themself? This is what is really being revealed in the Stanford study. Not an ideological bias in favor of liberals, but a willingness to acquiesce to the wishes of the people the newspapers are interviewing, quoting and using as sources.

I'm sure if asked, Sylvester would readily produce a list of who should be called a conservative and who should be called a liberal, but I'm afraid that it isn't up to her. In the column, Sylvester vaugely defines a conservative as someone who is opposed to an income tax, opposes legal abortions, favors the death penalty and supports the war in Iraq. Of course, there are a lot of Democrats who hold most if not all of those positions to some degree.

And what if someone opposes legal abortion but also opposes the death penalty? How do we label them, Sherry? Is the Pope a liberal?

Sylvester and the conservative moneybags who fund her organization are so blinded by their zeal to expose left-wing bias in the media that they can't see how ridiculous their arguments come across some times. Case in point: Sylvester points to this example to show how Republicans are more frequently labeled as conservatives than Democrats are labeled as liberals:

"U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett was labeled as "liberal" in 61 news stories this year but most of those reports were from Washington not Texas....
By contrast, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, was identified as conservative in 2,816 state and national news reports."

Wow!! 61 to 2,816!! Well, there is some liberal bias for you! The fact that Tom DeLay was written about in more than 2,816 stories while Doggett and other Texas liberals were written about fewer than 100 times doesn't even seem to phase Sylvester at all.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Round up the usual suspects!

I'm trying to get caught up on a backlog of postings that I wanted to make after a long Thanksgiving break. One thing I want to talk about is an extention of my previous post on the alleged illegality of the Guantanomo detainees.
My friend Mark scolded me for drawing a comparison between the U.S. treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo and other countries such as China and Iran where such things are common place. I suppose I should take solace in the fact that our government doesn't just line everyone up against a wall and shoot them, but I guess when it comes to issues of justice like this I'm one of those "glass is half empty types" who demands that we strive for the full glass everytime.
Since my last post, there has been news reports from Time Magazine many of the detainees may have been kidnapped by Afghan warlords looking to collect the bounty the U.S. was offering for the caputure of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

So far, the processing of detainees, whether for trial or release, has been slow; the Supreme Court's intervention, however, may have delivered a jolt. A U.S. military official tells Time that at least 140 detainees—"the easiest 20%"—are scheduled for release. The processing of these men has sped up since the Supreme Court announced it would take the case, said the source, who believes the military is "waiting for a politically propitious time to release them." U.S. officials concluded that some detainees were there because they had been kidnapped by Afghan warlords and sold for the bounty the U.S. was offering for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

The Time report goes on to note that the miltary is now just waiting for a "politically propitious time" to release these detainees.

"A U.S. military official tells Time that at least 140 detainees—"the easiest 20%"—are scheduled for release. The processing of these men has sped up since the Supreme Court announced it would take the case, said the source, who believes the military is "waiting for a politically propitious time to release them."

An AP story today would seem to confirm that report.

The obvious question now is why it took more than two years to figure this out?

Bribery and threats: GOP means to an end

The last time we heard from Robert Novak he was being used by the Bush folks to expose a U.S. covert agent as a way to punish a critic of the administration. But when he is not commiting blatant acts of treason, Novak can still be a pretty good shoe leather reporter.

In his most recent column, Novak sheds some light on the bribery and intimidation methods that Republican House leaders used to secure their whisker thin passage of the screw-up Medicare legislation.

"(U.S. Rep. Nick) Smith, self term-limited, is leaving Congress. His lawyer son Brad is one of five Republicans seeking to replace him from a GOP district in Michigan's southern tier. On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat."

Republicans not only abused House procedures far worse than the Democrats ever did by extending a 15-minute vote to a record-breaking three hours, but they resorted to outright bribery and threats to get their way on the Medicare legislation. I mean, why even bother with the charade of a democracy and a representative government if the Republicans are just going to run roughshod over everyone and everything to get what they want no matter?

I suppose this should not be a surprise coming from an administration that took power with 500,000 fewer votes than that other guy. The democratic process is just a game to them, something that can be manipulated to your advantage provided you have enough money. And money is one thing that the Bush folks have plenty of.

I'm starting to wonder with all the millions of dollars Bush Corp. is raising for the next election, how will they ever be able to spend all that money during the election cycle. They are going to have to come up with some pretty creative ways to spend money if they expect to go through that huge pile Bush has been raising in such a short time. Maybe they will offer $1,000 checks to undecided voters in key swing states. After all, offering cash for votes is just business as usual for today's Republicans.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

A "monstrous failure of justice"

It was shocking to see terrorists flying jet airliners into the World Trade towers and the Pentagon two years ago. But almost as shocking to me has been some of the ways our leaders have responded to these attacks. At first we did what was necessary. We went into Afghanistan where we knew that Osama bin Laden was holed up. As an added bonus, we also got to knock the awful Taliban government out of power. Unfortunately, bin Laden escaped and rather than continuing our efforts to track him down President Bush has taken the country on a bloody wild goose chase looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Knocking out the Baathist regime in Iraq may have been a good goal, and it would have been another nice bonus like knocking out the Taliban, but this time there was no group of Al Queada leaders holed up in a cave somewhere. The people who perpetrated the 9-11 attacks are now busy blowing up synagogues in Turkey while we have our hands full fighting a guerrilla war in a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks in the first place.

But that is not the only shocking thing in post-9-11 U.S. behavior. The other shocking thing is the way we are dealing with the more than 600 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The other day we were taken to task by one of the top judges in Britain.

"The purpose of holding the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was and is to put them beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors," he was quoted as saying."

A Pentagon spokeswoman quickly retorted. "These are people who intended to kill innocent civilians in our opinion," lawyer Ruth Wedgwood said.

But if we believe that, why don't we charge them with those crimes and give them the opportunity to defend themselves? Somehow I'm having a hard time believing that all 600-plus detainees at Guantanamo are dangerous Al Queada operatives. It is very possible that we inadvertently rounded up some people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his speech Tuesday evening, Lord Steyn rejected the Bush administration's position urging the British government to unambiguously condemn the "lawlessness" of the detentions, Channel Four News reported.

"As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice I would have to say that I regard this as a monstrous failure of justice," he said.

It looks like the Supreme Court may step in soon and perhaps will put the situation right again.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Top 500 Albums

Rolling Stone has come out with a list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
I love lists like this even though it is in many ways a pointless exercise meant only to sell more magazines. When I was in college Rolling Stone put out a list of the top 100 rock albums that greatly influenced by music buying habits at the time. I discovered lots of music I might not have discovered for some time as a result. That list, like this one, was heavily biased in favor of alternative and “punk” music. For example, they inexplicably ranked “Never Mind the Bollocks” by the Sex Pistols at No. 3. This time the Sex Pistols are down in the 40s somewhere, but really shouldn’t be on the list at all.

All in all, I count about 65 artists on the list that unquestionably belong there in my opinion. Another 25 I’m sure belong as well, though I am not as familiar with their work. And then there are about 40 artists whose inclusion I could go either way on.
But there are more than 100 artists on the list that I would jettison to make room for some glaring omissions.

I was surprised that they could find no room on their list for anything by Boston, Rush, Heart, John Mellencamp or Stevie Ray Vaughn. I would think most classic rock stations would have difficulty filling out an hours worth of music without these artists. They also left off Frampton Comes Alive.

Some other glaring omissions that would certainly appear on my own list include:
The Black Crowes; Hall & Oates; Jim Croce; Steppenwolf; The Doobie Brothers; J. Geils Band; Foreigner; Electric Light Orchestra; Bachman Turner Overdrive; Deep Purple; Loverboy; Genesis; Asia; Billy Squire; Rick Springfield; INXS; REO Speedwagon; The Bee Gees; The Wall Flowers and Stone Temple Pilots.

The list of 500 also presumes to include other genres such as country and jazz, but in so doing it falls far short of being comprehensive. For example, while they include works by Hank Williams; Johnny Cash; Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, they have nothing from George Strait; Alabama; Garth Brooks; Dwight Yoakum or John Denver. And I would add in The Dixie Chicks; Alison Krauss and Union Station; and Nickel Creek.

The omissions are even worse on the jazz side where they include works by Miles Davis; John Coltrane; Stan Getz and Ornette Coleman, but have nothing from Louie Armstrong; Bennie Goodman, Count Basie, Dizzie Gillespie or Duke Ellington.

And then probably the thing that ticks me off the most is that they include music by Frank Sinatra, but have nothing whatsoever by Bing Crosby! Outrageous!!

Eavesdropping in Mrs. Oswald's attic

The Express-News has an Op-Ed piece today by John Tackett, a reporter who was in the press pool in Dallas when Kennedy was killed 40 years ago.

Tackett has a rather strange and obsessive tale to tell.

He starts off by stating that he firmly believes the Warren Report's fictitious version of events and that he does not "engage in conspiracy arguments anymore." He then goes on to tell of his efforts to interview Lee Harvey Oswald's mother shortly after the assassination.

"After the assassination I went to Mrs. Oswald's house to interview her. I was turned away at the door by Secret Service agents. As I stepped off the porch at the dual residence, I decided to knock on the door to the left of Marguerite's.

A frightened widow and her trembling teenage daughter welcomed me in, even fed me supper. They were afraid someone might toss a bomb on Marguerite's porch or shoot through the windows. They liked having a man in the house. Although at my age, I passed for younger than a man.

I could hear Marguerite's shrill voice next door through the thin wall, but not as good if I could get closer somehow, without being seen. I asked the widow if she had an attic. She did, with an entrance through a trap door in the top of her closet. It opened up into an attic common to both sides of the duplex — no wall in between. I scrambled up, note paper and pencil in hand. On my belly, against the rafters, I was right above Marguerite and the agents."

As I was reading this, I was struck by the subhead to the story which read "Seedy characters surrounded Oswald". Wow, no kidding, I thought. And apparently some seedy characters that she didn't know about, too.

Tackett describes how he tried for the next several years to demonstrate that Mrs. Oswald was a bad mother and that she and her son Lee had a strained relationship - as if this would somehow prove that he killed Kennedy singlehandedly.

There is much about Lee Harvey Oswald's story that seems odd. Like the ease with which he was able to quit the Marine Corps and emigrate to Russia (using a mysterious source of income) during the height of the Cold War. And then turn around just as abruptly and return to the U.S. with a Russian wife in tow. Was he part of an ongoing effort at the time to infiltrate the Soviet Union with double agents? Did Oswald think he was still acting under orders to infiltrate Soviet groups in the U.S. upon his return?

The one thing I think Oswald was correct about was his statement that he was a patsy. I think he got set up to take the fall for the assassination but I don't know the extent of his involvement in the plotting beforehand, if any.

Stories like the one Tackett tells just demonstrates to me how easy it was back then to pull off the patsy canard because people were so willing to believe the lone gunmen scenario about a disgruntled Soviet sympathizer.

Friday, November 21, 2003

B.C. vs. Islam

When I saw this B.C. comic strip last week it made no sense to me. That's not unusual for B.C. cartoonist Johnny Hart whose humor often falls flat in my opinion. But now a big stink has been raised over the strip by people who think that it was a veiled insult directed at Islam. The Washington Post has a story that details the complaint:

"...the cartoon contained six crescent moons -- three in the sky, and three on the outhouse door...
and also noted that Hart had drawn a prominent sound effect -- "SLAM" -- between two frames to accompany the closing of the outhouse door. The SLAM was stacked vertically, in the shape of an I, and could be seen to signify "Islam." The cartoon appeared on the 15th day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month."

Hart denies the allegation and claims the strip is just a "silly" bathroom joke. Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me either way. Over the years Hart has turned his comic strip about prehistoric cavemen into a forum for his far-right evangelical Christian views. He regularly uses the strip to slam liberals, Democrats, feminists, public education and much more. His political statements can be every bit as blunt and incendiary as anything in Doonesbury or Mallard Fillmore.

I thought it was interesting that of all the cartoonists asked to comment on the controversy, the only one who stepped up to defend Hart was Gary Trudeau who writes the liberal Doonesbury strip.

"We cartoonists are simple folk. We don't write on that cryptic a level. Leave Johnny alone."

I have to agree. Although I don't buy that Hart is totally innocent in this case, I think that it would not serve any good purpose to make a bigger deal of it at this point.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Ignoring U.S. war casualties

The contrast between the way Italy and the U.S. have treated its Iraq war casualties couldn't be more striking.

"President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi led the nation in mourning at St Paul's Basilica, Rome's second-largest church, where the 19 coffins rested on a red carpet in front of the altar."

The Center for American Progress makes this observation:

"Since the war started, President Bush has attended a total of 36 fundraisers for his political campaign – and not one funeral for fallen soldiers in Iraq."

It is not as if President Bush has no time to attend memorial services. Just a few weeks ago he made time to fly out to California to have his picture taken while consoling victims of the brush fires around San Diego.

I'm sure that Bush is being told that he needs to downplay U.S. casualties in order to maintain support for the Iraqi occupation. But that is no excuse to ignore the sacrifices of our soldiers. The very fact that Bush is still having to try and defend and justify his decision to go to war in Iraq at this point is really pathetic. If it was such a great decision it should have been more obvious by now, instead our position in Iraq continues to deteriorate while the real enemy - working elsewhere - continues to strengthen.

All Michael Jackson, All the time

The 24-hour, 7-days-a-week coverage of Michael Jackson's pending child molestation trial has begun. If the news outlets can justify spending as much time and resources covering the Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant trials, then I can only imagine what they will do for Michael Jackson. I'm sure it will make the O.J. Simpson trial coverage look tame in comparison.
I will be desperately trying to tune this mess out during the next six months.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

City Hall term limits

A Citizens Committee on Charter Review has recommended that City Council member term limits be extended to eight years and that they be paid $31,000 per year ($41,000) for the mayor.
Personally, I would like to see the term limits go away altogether because I believe they are undemocratic. People should be allowed to vote for whoever they want for as long as they want (provided that person is not in jail).
Likewise, the pay issue seems obvious to me. For a city the size of San Antonio, the city council and mayoral jobs are pretty much full-time. If the people holding down the jobs are independently wealthy or have other jobs that make the supplemental income unnecessary then they could donate the money back to the city coffers or give it to a charity. We should at least pretend to make it so that anybody can be on the city council. As it is now, I could never afford to do it (not that anyone would ever vote for me) and I'm sure that goes as well for the vast majority of citizens living here.

Pink Panther revival

I was happy the other day to see that Steve Martin is planning to revive The Pink Panther series by taking over the role of Inspector Clouseau from the late Peter Sellers.
I've been a big Steve Martin fan since I was in junior high school and had the entire "Wild and Crazy Guy" comedy album memorized. A friend and I were even planning to do a record mime of 'King Tut' for a school drama class before my family moved that summer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Interviewing the President

During his trip to London, President Bush has agreed to give an exclusive interview to a tabloid newspaper - The Sun - which regularly features photos of topless women and National Enquirer-type journalism. The The Washington Post reports thusly:

“After coming to office with a vow to restore dignity to the White House, the president yesterday took a brief sabbatical from that effort: He granted an exclusive interview to a British tabloid that features daily photographs of nude women and articles akin to those found in our own National Enquirer...

“Bush, meanwhile, has given no solo interviews this year to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time or Newsweek. And he hasn't given an exclusive interview in his entire presidency to the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and dozens of other major publications....

“Word on Fleet Street is it's an obvious payoff to the Sun's owner, Rupert Murdoch, the conservative publisher behind many Bush-friendly news outlets such as Fox News. Officials at the White House acknowledge that it was a reward to the Sun for its unstinting support of the United States regarding the war in Iraq.”

The one thing you can say about Republicans is that they are consistent when it comes to money. They love money above all else. It doesn’t matter if someone deals in smut, alcohol, tobacco or gambling. As long as they are willing to give lots of money to the GOP they will be embraced just like Rupert Murdoch whose Fox TV network consistently pushes the boundaries on good taste and morality. Nor does it matter if someone is the leader of a cult and thinks of themself as the second-coming of Christ like the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Just give lots of money to the GOP and all of that can be overlooked. Why, I’m sure that if Larry Flynt were to change his party affiliation tomorrow and start giving money to Republican candidates he would probably be an invited guest at next year’s Republican National Convention.
Now to be fair, I have to admit that the Democrats can grub money right along with the best of them, but at least they are not as self-righteouss about it.

But enough of that rant. I couldn’t help but laugh at the outraged tone in the article above from all of the major newspapers that haven’t had an “exclusive” sit-down interview with the President lately. I do think it is sad that the Bush administration is so paranoid that they feel the only news outlets that they can trust are the ones owned by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News) and the Rev. Moon (Washington Times). But at the same time the President isn’t going to run all over the country granting exclusive interviews just to soothe some of these overgrown journalistic egos.

It didn’t use to be so hard to get an exclusive interview with Bush - at least before he became president. I’ve done two of them myself - first at the Kerrville Daily Times when Bush was running for governor the first time (not available online); and then at The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal right before Bush announced his intention to run for president. It was clear at the time that Bush was going to run, but unfortunately he wouldn’t give me the scoop and instead made the formal announcement a couple of weeks later. Oh well.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Errors of omission and commission

Things aren't going very well in Iraq. If that isn't already obvious....

We've lost four Black Hawk helicopters since Nov. 2 sending 39 U.S. soldiers to their deaths. The total of military casualties in Iraq is now well past 400 and climbing.

We've launched a new offensive campaign against the insurgents, but the stepped up tension could also lead to more tragic mistakes such as this which is not likely to endear us to the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi governing coalition is a mess. But that isn't stopping the Bush administration from demanding that the transistion process be sped up.

Meanwhile, war critics such as myself have to contend with insults and slander from people like Jonathan Gurwitz who implies that I am somehow "delighted" by U.S. failures in Iraq and view it as an ideological victory.

"The search for Saddam himself and the remainder of his Baath loyalists also continues, to the satisfaction of those who consider each American casualty an ideological victory."

There may indeed be a few sorry people out there who would fit that description, but Gurwitz is painting with a broad brush here by implying that anyone who has been critical of the war in Iraq shares this view.

I am not happy, pleased or delighted everytime the U.S. is dealt a setback in Iraq. I am, however, angry and upset.

Interestingly enough, Gurwitz actually levels a serious charge at the Bush administration in this article:

"Of the Bush administration's errors of omission and commission in Iraq, the most glaring is the failure thus far to initiate a human rights tribunal for Iraqi war criminals."

Of course, he doesn't go into detail about what these "errors of omission and commission" might be. But I can give him a reason why the U.S. has "failed" to push for a human rights tribunal of Iraqi war crimes.
The reason is because so many of the crimes occurred more than 15 years ago when Saddam was buddy buddy with Gurwitz' hero President Ronald Reagan. Many of the mass graves that Gurwitz cites are filled with people who were killed with weapons supplied by the U.S. or purchased with U.S. funding during the time that Iraq was our little pawn during and after the Iran-Iraq war. And another of the big mass graves occurred shortly after the first Gulf War when it is alleged that Bush the elder's administration had encouraged the Kurds and the Shias to rise up against Saddam with the false assumption that we would be there to back them up.
The U.S. obviously is not eager to have a tribunal for these crimes because it would highlight our "errors of omission and commission" that led up to them.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

98 percent!

That is the percentage of Bush’s court nominees who have been approved by the Senate since he took office leading to the lowest vacancy rate on the courts in 13 years. Out of 172 nominees, only four have failed to be confirmed - Charles Pickering Jr., Pricilla Owens, Bill Pryor and Miguel Estrada (now withdrawn).

Compare that to Clinton’s record, especially during the last two year’s of his term. In 1999, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 25 of 70 Clinton nominees. And in 2000 the Senate confirmed just 39 or 81 nominees. There were 42 nominees left unconfirmed when Clinton left office in Jan. 2001.

So Bush has had a remarkable rate of success with his nominees. And yet 98 percent is still not good enough for the radical Republicans who are putting on an all-night talkathon on the Senate floor to highlight and protest the tactics of Senate Democrats who have had the audacity to block confirmation of 2 percent of Bush’s nominees.

Obviously, the radical Republicans won’t be happy until Bush is granted complete carte blanche to put any looney right-winger on the court that he chooses. Bush is even being urged to ratchet up the partisan warfare by making recess appointments to the courts when the Senate is out of session.

The gross unfairness and hypocricy of the radical Republican position on this matter is hard to summarize in just a few paragraphs, but for an excellent overview of the whole sorry spectacle here is an essay from the THE JOURNAL OF APPELLATE PRACTICE AND PROCESS entitled “CONFIRMATION GRIDLOCK: THE FEDERAL JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS PROCESS UNDER BILL CLINTON AND GEORGE W. BUSH”

It did not matter how conciliatory Clinton chose to be or how moderate his judicial nominees were, the radical Republicans were intent on preventing Clinton from shifting the judiciary from its far-right course that had been set in place following 12 years of Reagan-Bush appointees.

“Since the 1994 midterm elections, Clinton had consulted with members of the Republican majority in the Senate. He seemed less interested in appointing ideologically rigid judges than with using his appointments to create a demographically representative judiciary filled with more women and minorities. [57] Early studies of the voting behavior of Clinton’s first-term judges (including those appointed when Democrats controlled the Senate) showed a moderate voting record on the bench. [58] His nominees also had the highest American Bar Association ratings of the past four presidents. [59] Nonetheless, a fundraising letter for the Judicial Selection Monitoring Project signed by Robert Bork in September 1997 charged that “over the past 4½ years, [Clinton’s] more than 200 . . . judicial appointments have been drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of the liberal elite. These judges blazed an activist trail, creating an out-of-control judiciary.”

Things got so bad by 1997 that Chief Justice William Rhenquist was forced to admonish Republican lawmakers for their stalling tactics.

“In his 1997 year-end report to Congress on the federal judiciary, the Chief Justice pointed out that by the end of 1997, one in ten seats on the federal judiciary were vacant, twenty-six of them had been vacant for at least eighteen months, and a third of the seats on the Ninth Circuit were vacant. [74] He rebuked his fellow conservatives for “serious delays in the appointment process,” a tactic that he said was threatening the nation’s “quality of justice.”...

"...Senate Republicans backed away from their stall tactics and the backlog of vacancies eased up in 1998. But in 1999, as the 2000 election loomed, Republicans again slowed down the confirmation process. Despite Attorney General Meese’s claim that President Reagan’s judicial appointments would “institutionalize the Reagan revolution so it can’t be set aside no matter what happens in future presidential elections,” [77] President Clinton—just ten years after Reagan left office—was close to appointing a new majority on the federal bench. Senate Republicans wanted to prevent that, and they hoped that a Republican president would be elected in 2000 to fill any remaining vacancies that they managed to keep open...

“...the Senate confirmed only thirty-nine of the eighty-one judicial nominees that Clinton sent to the Senate in 2000. In all, forty-two judicial nominees remained unconfirmed when Clinton left office in January 2001. Thirty-eight of them never received a hearing.”

And today the radical Republicans are going to waste two days of the Senate’s time whining about four nominees who weren’t confirmed. Boo hoo.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Why Democrats promote education

(Thanks to my friend Robert for sending this link)

Following are the findings of the Education State Rankings , a survey by Morgan Quitno Press of the public school systems in all 50 states. States were graded on a variety of factors based on how they compare to the national average. These included such positive attributes as per-pupil expenditures, public high school graduation rates, average class size, student reading and math proficiency, and pupil-teacher ratios. States received negative points for high drop-out rates and physical violence.

I have conveniently appended to each state the name of the presidential candidate they voted for in 2000.

1. Massachusetts - Gore
2. Vermont - Gore
3. Connecticut - Gore
4. Montana - Bush
5. New Jersey - Gore
6. Maine - Gore
7. Pennsylvania - Gore
8. (tie) Wisconsin and Iowa - Gore/Gore
10. New York - Gore
11. Nebraska - Bush
12. Minnesota - Gore
13. Indiana - Bush
14. Wyoming - Bush
15. Kansas - Bush
16. Rhode Island - Gore
17. Virginia - Bush
18. Maryland - Gore
19. Delaware - Gore
20. Michigan - Gore
21. North Carolina - Bush
22. Ohio - Bush
23. Alaska - Bush
24. North Dakota - Bush
25. Utah - Bush
26. New Hampshire - Bush
27. Illinois - Gore
28. Missouri - Bush
29. West Virginia - Bush
30. Idaho - Bush
31. South Dakota - Bush
32. Oregon - Gore
33. Washington - Gore
34. Texas - Bush
35. Colorado - Bush
36. Georgia - Bush
37. Kentucky - Bush
38. Arkansas - Bush
39. Oklahoma - Bush
40. Florida - Bush
41. South Carolina - Bush
42. Tennessee - Bush
43. Hawaii - Gore
44. California - Gore
45. Arizona - Bush
46. Alabama - Bush
47. Louisiana - Bush
48. Mississippi - Bush
49. Nevada - Bush
50. New Mexico - Gore

Top 10 - 9 Gore - 1 Bush

Top Half - 14 Gore and 11 Bush

Bottom 10 - 3 Gore and 7 Bush

Bottom Half - 6 Gore and 19 Bush

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The Road Not Taken

This is an incredible story in the NY Times today. Apparently we had Saddam Hussein backed so far into a corner by March of this year that he was ready to make almost any kind of deal that we wanted.

“Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, had told the businessman that they wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and they offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search. The businessman said in an interview that the Iraqis also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 who was being held in Baghdad. At one point, he said, the Iraqis pledged to hold elections.

So before Bush pulled the trigger on this bloody invasion that we are currently embroiled in, he had an opportunity to take U.S. troops into Baghdad to search for WMDs to his heart’s content. But the Bush administration was already too busy ignoring and covering up mounting evidence that these stockpiles of WMDs were illusory. If the whole purpose of the invasion was to disarm a dangerous dictator who had acquired the means to threaten not just his neighbors, but the entire world, then why didn’t he pursue this opportunity? Is it because such a course of action might have left Saddam’s regime in power? Does that mean the real reason we went to war was not to rid Iraq of WMDs, but to allow Bush to settle a personal score with Saddam?

But even in this case, the deal being offered contained this intriguing “pledge to hold elections” which we could have pursued as a means to force Saddam to step down peacefully the same way we arranged for the former dictator Charles Taylor to step down in Liberia. If Bush had any diplomatic skills whatsoever, he could have taken advantage of this opportunity and achieved much better results than we are faced with today.

But noooooooo. Bush just had to have his war. He wanted to be able to flex his military muscles and show off how macho we can be. None of this wussy diplomacy stuff like most of our allies were suggesting. Bush is a man of action - just as long as it is somebody else’s butt on the line.

Payback for polluters

The NY Times reports today that Bush’s EPA is dropping enforcement actions against 50 power plants for past violations of the Clean Air Act.

“...the decision meant the cases would be judged under new, less stringent rules set to take effect next month... the new rules include exemptions that would make it almost impossible to sustain the investigations into the plants...
the change grew out of a recommendation by Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force...”

This is just lovely. I wonder how much money these corporate polluters have poured into Bush’s campaign coffers? Now it is payback time. Of course, the person they should really be thanking is Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Thanks Ralph!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Bond issues approved

All of the San Antonio bond issues were approved yesterday. I won't say that this is good or bad. My position on bond elections can be stated thusly:

Why are you coming to me for approval? What do I or any of these other ignorant voters know about this stuff? I thought we paid you guys to make these decisions. If you screw up and make a bad decision we will vote you out of office next time, that's just the way it goes. Stop hiding behind these bond elections for political cover.

Now, I understand that our screwed up state constitution requires our leaders to put these issues on the ballot. But that still doesn't mean that I have to like it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Reagan - Tax Raising Machine!

The Daily Howler points to an interesting article by conservative columnist Bruce Bartlett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, in which he notes the number of times that President Reagan raised taxes during his administration:

“Reagan may have resisted calls for tax increases, but he ultimately supported them. In 1982 alone, he signed into law not one but two major tax increases. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act raised taxes by $37.5 billion per year, and the Highway Revenue Act of 1982 raised the gasoline tax by another $3.3 billion.

According to a recent Treasury Department study, TEFRA alone raised taxes by almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product, making it the largest peacetime tax increase in American history. An increase of similar magnitude today would raise more than $100 billion per year.

In 1983, Reagan signed legislation raising the Social Security tax rate. This is a tax increase that lives with us still, since it initiated automatic increases in the taxable wage base. As a consequence, those with moderately high earnings see their payroll taxes rise every single year.

The following year, Reagan signed another big tax increase in the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984. This raised taxes by $18 billion per year or 0.4 percent of GDP. A similar sized tax increase today would be about $44 billion.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 raised taxes yet again. Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which was designed to be revenue-neutral, contained a net tax increase in its first two years. And the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 raised taxes still more.

The year 1988 appears to be the only year of the Reagan presidency, other than the first, in which taxes were not raised legislatively. Of course, previous tax increases remained in effect. According to a table in the 1990 budget, the net effect of all these tax increases was to raise taxes by $164 billion in 1992, or 2.6 percent of GDP. This is equivalent to almost $300 billion in today's economy.”

I know. It was those darn liberal Democrats who ran the Congress back then who forced all these tax increases through. Yeah, sure. As if the Reagan administration was asleep at the wheel this whole time. Reagan could have used his veto pen at any time or The Great Communicator could have climbed up onto his bully pulpit to stop any of these tax packages. But he did not. He was a politician. Not a demi-God, not a superhero. His administration had its hands in every one of those tax packages - getting favors here, compromising there - and thus he is just as responsible for the outcome as the Congress.

Republicans today have adopted this fantasy image of Reagan as the ultimate anti-tax crusader. Well, he was. But obviously on a more realistic level than what Bush Jr. seems to think.

Wise words on Iraq

Atrios points us to this mystery quote today which turns out to have been by Dick Cheney back when he was Secretary of Defense for Bush the Elder:

“Well, just as it's important, I think, for a president to know when to commit U.S. forces to combat, it's also important to know when not to commit U.S. forces to combat. I think for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire. Once we got to Baghdad, what would we do? Who would we put in power? What kind of government would we have? Would it be a Sunni government, a Shi'a government, a Kurdish government? Would it be secular, along the lines of the Ba'ath Party? Would be fundamentalist Islamic? I do not think the United States wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties and accept the responsibility of trying to govern Iraq. I think it makes no sense at all.”

And you know what? Cheney was right! Also remember that the vast majority of human rights atrocities credited to Saddam - and which now make up our only reason for being there at this point - happened prior to Cheney making the above statement. Cheney was apparently so unbothered by Saddam’s cruelty at that time that he set out during the next several years to cash in on the Iraq situation as the CEO of Halliburton, raking in millions helping to rebuild Saddam’s oil infrastructure that was damaged during the first Gulf War.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Dictators beware!

Since we have found no WMDs in Iraq, no Al-Quada links or ties to 9-11 and no imminent threat to our national security, Republican rationale for starting the war has turned toward humanitarian goals. Now, we are told that the fact that Hussein tortured his political enemies is reason enough for our invasion. That freeing the Iraqi people from oppression and rebuilding schools is the worthy goal for which more than 200 of our U.S. soldiers have given their lives.

If that is truly the case, then we really do have a long hard slog in front of us as there are a lot of countries out there with people suffering under oppresive dictatorships.

In February of 2003, Parade Magazine consulted independent human-rights organizations such as Freedom House, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to come up with its list of the "Worst Dictators on the Planet."

1. Kim Jong-il (North Korea)
2. King Fahd and Prince Abdullah (Saudi Arabia)
3. Saddam Hussein (Iraq)
4. Charles Taylor (Liberia)
5. Than Shwe (former Burma, now Myanmar)
6. Teodoro Obiang Nguema (Equatorial Guinea)
7. Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan)
8. Muammar Gaddafi (Libya)
9. Fidel Castro (Cuba)
10. Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus)

"Dishonorable Mentions" were also given to Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the leaders of the People's Revolutionary Party of Laos.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Nellie Connally and the three bullets

Nellie Connally, the wife of former Texas Gov. John Connally and the last surviving occupant of the limousine that was carrying President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated, has finally published a book detailing her experience.
One key point she makes in her book which is discussed in this NY Times article is her insistence that three shots struck targets inside the limo on Nov. 22, 1963.

“After shots rang out — and Mrs. Connally is adamant that three bullets, not two as officially established, found their mark — the president was dead, her husband gravely wounded as she struggled to stanch his blood, and the course of history forever altered.”

The problem with this statement is that the Warren Commission official version of events states that only two shots struck the limo occupants and a third shot missed. I will discuss the significance of this in a moment. The NY Times article summarizes it thusly:

”The Warren Commission and subsequent investigations have concluded that the first shot, fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, went wild, that the president and the governor were both hit by a second bullet, and that President Kennedy alone was hit by a third shot.

Mrs. Connally is not dissuaded by this information, as well she should not be.

"Well they're wrong," Mrs. Connally said this week at the beginning of a publicity blitz for the book... "I was there, they weren't. When they argue with me, all I have to say is, `Were you in that car?' The answer has to be no because there wasn't anybody else...
“All I'm saying is there were three shots and I know what happened with each shot," she said.”

But Mrs. Connally says despite this she still believes the conclusion reached by the Warren Commission is correct.

“She said, however, that she was not a conspiracist and that she believed — and that her husband's own exhaustive study of records as Treasury secretary proved — that Mr. Oswald was the lone gunman.
"A $15 gun and a scrambled-egg mind caused all that horror," she said.”

Unfortunately, it is more complicated than that. There is a very good reason why the Warren Commission determined that only two bullets struck the limo that day. Any other outcome would discount the lone gunman theory on which the Warren Commission staked its entire investigation.

Thanks to the Zapruder film, there is a very clear frame-by-frame timeline of when the first and last shots struck their targets to within a fraction of a second. There is not enough time between the moment when Kennedy is clearly reacting to the shot that struck his throat and the moment when Gov. Connally is struck for a gunman using a bolt-action rifle to have fired two separate shots. Since the Warren Commission began its investigation with the predetermined conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots using a bolt-action rifle from the sixth floor of the Book Depository building, they had to come up with some way to shoehorn this inconvenient Zapruder evidence into their lone gunman theory. That is when Arlen Specter, the future Republican senator from Pennsylvania, came up with the infamous “Magic Bullet” theory in which Kennedy and Connally were supposed to have been struck by the same bullet (and Connally had a delayed reaction to his wounds).

The third bullet, they determined, had been fired before Kennedy was hit the first time and completely missed the motorcade. They had to account for at least three bullets because that is how many empty shell casings were neatly piled up for them to find on the sixth floor of the book depository. Plus, we know at least one bullet missed because there was a curbside mark where a bullet had struck next to the motorcade and a bystander who suffered a cut on his face from flying concrete fragments.

The “magic bullet” theory, and by consequence the lone gunman theory, is a bunch of bull. There is lots of evidence that disproves the theory without having to rely on Mrs. Connally’s recollection. The most obvious might be that the bullet fragments pulled out of Gov. Connally’s wrist and the fragments that were left in weighed far more than the amount of mass that was missing from the “pristine” magic bullet that was conveniently found on a cot at the hospital. You also have the testimony of the doctor’s who worked on Kennedy who descibed the wound in his throat as an entry wound (shortly before obscuring it by performing a tracheotomy). They also said the wound in his back was an entry wound that had no point of exit into the chest cavity. The “magic bullet” theory depends upon the back wound and neck wounds being connected and the neck wound being an exit wound.

I don’t presume to know what really happened on that day nearly 40 years ago. But I am pretty clear about what DID NOT happen and I am thoroughly disgusted that we as a nation continue to prop up this fiction about a lone gunman. Of course, I also understand that it is more comforting for people to assume that the perpetrator of this heinous crime was caught and punished rather than living with the knowledge that the conspirators - whoever they were - got clean away with the crime of the century.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Straight from Bubba

South Knox Bubba is trying to sort out the Bush Admin’s take on the Iraq situation:

"We've invaded and occupied a third-world (rat) hole to protect America from a clear and present danger which turned out to be some blender parts buried in some guy's back yard and some moldy okra in some guy's refrigerator?
We have hundreds of thousands of troops, civil authorities, and workers there to secure and rebuild it, and we have them under 7X24 martial law enforced by a huge international coalition of the most powerful military forces in the world, and we can't secure anything?
We are told that it's because terrorists are pouring across the borders and killing our soldiers and relief workers and civilians daily, which is, of course, OK because it's all part of the brilliant "bring it on" "fly paper" afterthought strategy which is clearly working because they are so frustrated by our success?
We're going to pretend there are no dead soldiers coming home in boxes and make the wounded and maimed pay for their own hospital expenses and then reduce or eliminate their veteran's benefits?
When we leave in six months, we're going to turn it over to a bunch of babbling religious fanatics and nomadic desert war lords who weren't able to overthrow a brutal, oppressive regime run by a madman and a handful of his goons, in a country that has been around and run this way since more than two thousand years before the first shot was fired at Concord, at which point democracy will commence to flourish, and they will rid the Middle East of terrorism and protect the United States from al Qaida?
Then we're going to send the multi-billion dollar bill to the American taxpayers and tell them and their children and their grandchildren and their grandchildren to make the checks payable to Halliburton?
That's our plan?
OK, then."

The only plan the Bush team is concerned with right now is getting their guy (re-)elected next year. Last year, the Bush team was intent on taking the country’s focus off the poor state of the economy and taking out Saddam seemed like a great way to do it. Now that we’ve gotten some good economic news finally, I expect they will try to shift the nation’s focus away from the mess in Iraq and back to the domestic front.