Saturday, June 04, 2005

The thorns in Bush's rosy scenario

Good analysis today in the Washington Post that cuts through all the rosy scenario nonsense coming from the Bush administration and gives us the cold hard truth about the situation in Iraq.

While Bush and Vice President Cheney offer optimistic assessments of the situation, a fresh wave of car bombings and other attacks killed 80 U.S. soldiers and more than 700 Iraqis last month alone and prompted Iraqi leaders to appeal to the administration for greater help. Privately, some administration officials have concluded the violence will not subside through this year.

I like how no one in the adminstration will level with us on the record, but privately, and off the record, they are letting us know that Bush is full of it.

The disconnect between Rose Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism, according to government officials and independent analysts, stems not only from Bush's focus on tentative signs of long-term progress but also from the shrinking range of policy options available to him if he is wrong. Having set out on a course of trying to stand up a new constitutional, elected government with the security firepower to defend itself, Bush finds himself locked into a strategy that, even if it proves successful, foreshadows many more deadly months to come first, analysts said.

Watch out! Here comes some more off the record revelations...

Military commanders in Iraq privately told a visiting congressional delegation last week that the United States is at least two years away from adequately training a viable Iraqi military but that it is no longer reasonable to consider augmenting U.S. troops already strained by the two-year operation, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "The idea that the insurgents are on the run and we are about to turn the corner, I did not hear that from anybody," Biden said in an interview.

But,wait! That's according to Sen. Biden, a Democrat. Why should we believe him? Well, there is also the Republican Congressman saying the same thing...

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who joined Biden for part of the trip, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistance to the insurgency. "We don't want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely," he said.

So Rumsfeld and others are "misleading Americans" about the number of Iraqi troops. That's a pretty serious charge and its coming from a Republican.
And here is another Republican with not much good to say when asked to comment on Bush and Cheney's neverending stream of rosy updates...

"I cannot say with any confidence that that is accurate," said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a member of the House International Relations Committee. "I think it's impossible to know how close we are to the insurgency being overcome."

Our military is already strained to the limits and it may take another two years to get things to a point where we can pull out without the Iraqi government collapsing like a house of cards.
If this is not a quagmire, then I don't know what the term could possibly mean.

Friday, June 03, 2005

GOP embraces “terrorist”

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. That’s one of the problems with Bush’s “War on Terror,” deciding what terrorism is. The Bush State Department has determined that Yasith Chhun and his group the Cambodian Freedom Fighters is a terrorist organization. In 2000, Chhun took part in an attack on several government buildings in Phnom Penh that injured at least eight government officials. He was recently indicted on federal charges of plotting to overthrow the Cambodian government.

But none of this has dissuaded the National Republican Congressional Committee from embracing Chhun who has raised $6,550 for the GOP and sits on the group’s Business Advisory Council. Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher dismisses the State Department’s concerns about Chhun and applauds his efforts to topple the current government in Cambodia.

Gee. I wonder what would happen if the Democratic National Committee invited a known terrorist to sit on its Business Advisory Council?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Harmful Books

Note: I am supposed to be guest blogging this week over at The View From The Nest. Unfortunately, after logging in as a guest I've run into some kind of technical hangup where I cannot enter text into the introduction box or main body box in order to compile a post at the site. All I can do is enter text into the headline field which is kind of useless if that's all you can do. I've tried switching browsers from Safari to Internet Explorer with no luck. Could it be a Mac thing? If so, I'll have to wait until later this evening when I can access a PC.
In the meantime, posted below is what would have been my first post at the Nest.

Hello, I’m Mike Thomas and I run the San Antonio-based blog Rhetoric & Rhythm. I’ll be your token liberal guest blogger while Ranten N. Raven is on his sabattical. I want to express my appreciation to Mr. Raven for inviting me to participate in this endeavor along with Bill Crawford of All Things Conservative and Christina of Feisty Repartee.

I thought I would kick things off by calling attention to the list of the Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries as determined by a special panel of so called experts put together by the far right-wing magazine Human Events.

Their list starts off predictably enough with the right-wing’s No. 1 boogeyman Karl Marx and his notorious “Communist Manifesto.” I imagine that old Karl must haunt most right-wingers’ dreams like Freddie Krueger. Then we have Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” which would probably make any group’s list regardless of political persuasion, followed by “Quotations from Chairman Mao.”

After that, however, things start to get a little weird. No. 4 on the list is Alfred Kinsey’s Report on Sexual Behavior exposing this group’s obsessive fear of anything dealing with sex. Then we have “Democracy and Education” by the liberal educator and philosopher John Dewey, which they blame for all of our problems with public schools.

Karl Marx is back again at No. 6 with “Das Kapital,” which very few, if any, right-wingers have actually read. But, hey, it’s by Marx so it must be pretty scary!
Betty Friedan’s classic tome “The Feminine Mystique” is bashed for giving women the idea that they could occassionaly come out of the kitchen and put shoes on.

Capping off the Top 10 is “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” by John Maynard Keynes, the New Deal era economist whose policies helped bring the country out of the Depression and built up a solid Middle Class that still anchors our society to this day. But the Human Events panel blames Keynes for the nation’s multi-trillion dollar debt, conveniently ignoring the fact that most of that debt was added during the reign of very anti-Keynesian presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

This list of books that were given honorable mentions is also a hoot including:

“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill; “Origin of the Species” by Charles Darwin; “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader;  ”Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson; 
“Introduction to Psychoanalysis” by Sigmund Freud; and “The Greening of America” by Charles Reich.

I just have to say that this list tells us more about the people that compiled it than anything else. It’s kind of sad really that they would feel threatened by so many books that essentially helped to stretch the bounds of liberty that had constrained so many people both culturally and intellectually throughout human history.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mark Felt: American Hero

Mark Felt
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
“Follow the money”

So Deep Throat turns out to have been the associate director at the FBI.
It all makes sense now, I suppose. J. Edgar Hoover had his thumb over every U.S. president going back to Calvin Coolidge. But when he died in 1972 Nixon probably thought he was home free and able to do anything he wanted. But then the No. 2 guy at the Bureau, a career G-Man and Hoover protege, steps up and takes him down.
And what is really amazing is that he didn’t do it for money, or fame, or anything else other than that he believed it was the right thing to do for his country.
I’m glad his family pushed him to reveal his secret before he died so that we can salute him before he goes.

Arthur Andersen is dead

Dead as a doornail, as Scrooge might say. And unlike Old Marley in Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, it’s not about to come back and start spooking us in the middle of the night. That there was criminal behavior on the part of some Arthur Andersen executives is undeniable. What they did was show blatant disregard for the law in the midst of one of the worst corporate scandals in our nation’s history. The company paid the ultimate price as a result and there is no turning the clock back now.

But did everyone in the whole company deserve to lose their jobs as a result? Certainly not. All the people who worked on the top floor of my building here in San Antonio lost their jobs as a result of the scandal. It didn’t really matter whether criminal charges were ultimately upheld or overturned.
Since the Supreme Court decision was unanimous I would imagine there is not much room for arguing it. They say the jury instructions were flawed so I guess they were. But that doesn’t mean that the former Arthur Andersen executives are vindicated. Rather it is just one more glaring exampe of the gross incompetence of the Bush administration - in this case, the Bush Justice Department.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Olin vs. Soros: A comparison

There was a bit of cheery news for liberals this weekend. The John M. Olin Foundation is closing its doors later this summer.

Why is this good news? Because it has been one of the biggest benefactors for right-wing causes for the past 30 years. Here is how the NYTimes article summarizes the Olin Foundation’s impact on the conservative movement:

Without it, the Federalist Society might not exist, nor its network of 35,000 conservative lawyers. Economic analysis might hold less sway in American courts. The premier idea factories of the right, from the Hoover Institution to the Heritage Foundation, would have lost millions of dollars in core support. And some classics of the conservative canon would have lost their financier, including Allan Bloom's lament of academic decline and Charles Murray's attacks on welfare.

John Olin was a manufacturing magnate who made his fortune selling ammunition to the military during World War II. For that I guess we can laud him. However, before his death he decided to funnel the remainder of his fortune into a foundation to support right-wing causes. The article says he was motivated to do this after armed students took over a building at his alma mater, Cornell University, in 1969.
So thanks to some radical hippies whose idiotic efforts resulted in zero change to the nation’s capitalistic structure, this right-wing millionaire dumped $145 million into his new foundation - which subsequently grew to $380 million thanks in large part to the Clinton Boom years - and was used to fuel the rise of numerous right-wing think tanks and foundations such as The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, The Manhattan Institute, The Federalist Society, The CATO Institute, The Hoover Institution, etc., etc.

What I find most ironic is that while the right-wing has had this extremely benevolent benefactor for the past 30 years dumping truckloads of money into their pet causes - along with the Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh, the Smith Richardson Foundation in Westport, Conn., the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, and Joseph Coors in Colorado, and so forth - they still act like whiny little children whenever someone like George Soros comes along and donates a measly $15 million toward liberal causes.

Here is what Soros did
that excited so much venom and hatred from the far right:

(He committed) $3 million over three years to an anti-Bush policy shop headed by ex-Clintonite John Podesta. He followed up with a $10 million grant to launch America Coming Together, a get-out-the-vote effort to help the Democratic presidential campaign. Next he promised $2.5 million to, (a liberal advocacy group.)

So that is $15.5 million versus $145 million (or $380 million thanks to the Clinton Boom years). And yet if you listen to the rightwingers you might think Soros was dominating the ideological philanthropy efforts to the point that the scale has been sharply tilted to the left. Such is hardly the case.

To be fair, Soros is actually a much more prolific giver than Olin ever was. The difference is that while Olin targeted all of his money towards the narrow focus of promoting right-wing intellectual efforts, Soros has generously opened his wallet to support humanitarian causes as diverse as promoting democracy efforts in Russia to funding affordable housing projects in South Africa.
Just take a look at some of the things that Soros has spent his money on these past years:

$115 million after the fall of the Soviet Union to support Russian science. About $50 million went for stipends to scientists who had lost government support; the aim was to reduce the temptation to use their talents for destructive purposes.

$250 million in 2001 to found and endow Central European University; its main campus is in Budapest, Hungary.

$100 million to free education in the former Soviet Union from Marxist-Leninist dogma by buying new textbooks, training teachers and operating libraries.

$12 million to promote high school debate programs in the USA (1998-present).

$30 million to divide large public high schools in New York City into smaller, more manageable schools.

$13 million (with an additional $37 million commitment) to finance affordable housing and building projects for poor South Africans, most of whom previously lived in shantytowns.

$110 million over the past decade to Step by Step, an early childhood development program in 29 countries.

$200 million to promote peace, tolerance, reconciliation and democracy in southeastern Europe and to strengthen the rule of law and independent news media in that region.

$50 million in 1992 for humanitarian aid to the besieged Bosnian city of Sarajevo, including construction of a municipal water-filtration system and the restoration of electric power to the city's hospitals.

$50 million to the Emma Lazarus Fund to combat unfair treatment of, and discrimination against, legal immigrants in the USA (1996-2000).

$125 million to the After School Corporation for after-school programs (1997-present).

You might think for all this conservatives would be out building monuments to this guy and naming airports after him. Instead, he is vilified by the right because he had the audacity to go up against their Dear Leader, the estimable George W.
Such is the steel-trap closed mind mentality of what passes for conservatism these days.

Down sick

Sorry for the lack of posting.
I’ve been down these last few days with a particularly nasty virus which has still left me with a sore throat and general achiness. I hope to be back up to full speed here very soon.
And yes, I do blame Bush for this.