Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blast from the past

A friend of mine e-mailed me this picture the other day. I'm not sure where he got it, but a copy of it is in my high school yearbook. This is the Premont High School UIL champs for 1981. I'm the guy standing on the ladder. My buddy Rod Denton is the one hanging upside down on the goalpost. The other people on the goalpost from left to right are Johnny Chapman, Adriana Garcia and Ronnie Lozano. The two guys laying down at the bottom of the picture are John Pease on the left and Bruce Buterbaugh on the right. Together we made up the group improvisation team known as The Monkees (All except for Adriana, that is). We got the nickname Monkees from the high school principal because we were always goofing off, kind of like we were doing in this photo.
The guy who sent me this photo is Michael Guerra. He is the one kneeling in the first row, third from the left. Michael is an attorney who lives and works in Falfurrias. He is also a former mayor of Falfurrias. Another good friend of mine in this picture, and a fellow Aggie, is Jose Johnson who is standing third from the left in the back row. Jose is an IT specialist with the South Texas Medical System in Harlingen.
Ronnie Lozano is an air traffic controller living in Dallas somewhere. Rod Denton is an EMT/firefighter living in Corpus Christi. Johnny Chapman passed away in a car accident several years ago. I don't know what John Pease and Bruce Buterbaugh are up to these days.
Wow. That was 26 years ago.

Disturbed blogger

Today at ATC, my friend Bill is recommending a new blog that he says is by a marine serving in Iraq. But I find no evidence of that when looking at the site. In fact, the bio on the site says the author is a retired marine. Furthermore, it is one of the most vile, hateful, paranoid sites I've seen in quite some time. Here is how the guy describes himself in his bio on the site:

I am a retired Marine who is dedicated to fighting the revisionist liberals who seek to prop up DROP-TROU Clinton's bogus legacy, elect Hitlary, and destroy the USA with Socialism. Basically, I've never met a liberal I didn't come to hate. I vow to continue gut-punching the Left into submission. This is a frigging DEATHMATCH libs and guess're gonna lose.

Lovely. The fact that Bill finds a site like this to be worth recommending these days is one of the reasons why I'm taking a sabbatical from commenting at his blog.
I suppose it is good that the guy is a retired marine and not currently serving. The idea that someone who wants to see more than half the U.S. population dead would be issued guns and charged with defending the country is rather disturbing.

Shifting blame and avoiding responsibility

Paul Krugman's latest column in the New York Times goes along way toward explaining what is going on in Iraq right now.

To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.
Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”
Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”
There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.
Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.
What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.
Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.
Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”
No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.
The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.
After all, if the administration had any real hope of retrieving the situation in Iraq, officials would be making an all-out effort to get the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to start delivering on some of those benchmarks, perhaps using the threat that Congress would cut off funds otherwise. Instead, the Bushies are making excuses, minimizing Iraqi failures, moving goal posts and, in general, giving the Maliki government no incentive to do anything differently.
And for that matter, if the administration had any real intention of turning public opinion around, as opposed to merely shoring up the base enough to keep Republican members of Congress on board, it would have sent Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to as many news media outlets as possible — not granted an exclusive appearance to Fox News on Monday night.
All in all, Mr. Bush’s actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you’d expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor.
In fact, that’s my interpretation of something that startled many people: Mr. Bush’s decision last month, after spending years denying that the Iraq war had anything in common with Vietnam, to suddenly embrace the parallel.
Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.
What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another MoveOn ad has another ad out today and it has greatly upset my friend Bill Crawford at ATC.
What I don’t understand is how the above-linked ad could be considered “anti-American filth” that provides “aid and comfort to the enemy.”
The ad is very straightforward and only deals in facts and figures, all easily verifiable. So what is the problem?
Is it because they say that Bush has betrayed our trust? That is a very common charge leveled at politicians. I can’t say that because I never put any trust in the man to begin with, but if I had I would definitely be saying now that said trust was betrayed.
Bill goes so far as to compare the ad with the SwiftBoat Vets campaign against Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 election. He even references me as someone who was “apoplectic” over the ads. But my problem with the ads against Kerry is that they were verifiably untrue - blatant falsehoods that were repeated over and over again by the so-called liberal media.
I have already said that the ad against Gen. Patraeus was in poor taste because of its use of a juvenile play on his last name that charged him with betraying his country. That is a far more serious charge to level against a soldier than it is to say that a politician betrayed the trust of his/her constituents.
But beyond that, the ad itself was an accurate recitation of the facts and contained nothing that could be demonstrated to be false or misleading.

I would also note that in today’s New York Times there was a full-page ad by a group supporting Republican presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani that bashed the Petraeus ad and tried to tie it to Hillary Clinton. So, out of this controversy the NYT got two full-page ads. Ka-ching! Ka-ching!
It’s like I’ve always said, the media has a definite bias... in favor of making money.

Global warming credibility

There he goes again. My friend Bill Crawford is touting yet another “study” denying the existence of man-made global warming.

Global warming is a natural event whose effects are not bad at all, according to a new study by two eminent climatologists.
Researchers Dennis Avery and Fred Singer said climate change is more likely to be part of a cycle of warming and cooling that has happened regularly every 1500 years for the last million years.

Wait a minute! Did they just say “two eminent climatologists”? Are they referring to Dennis Avery and Fred Singer?
These guys aren’t climatologists! Avery is, at best, an agriculture economist who now works at a right-wing think tank. He is not a scientist who spends his time in the lab conducting research. He spends all his time writing B.S. columns and traveling around giving speeches touting right-wing causes.
At least Fred Singer is a scientist, but his degree is in physics which is not exactly a related field of study. And then there is the fact that Singer is also a prominent denier of the connection between solar radiaton and melanoma and the connection between second-hand smoke and lung cancer. So take that for what it’s worth.
This is not an ad hominem attack pointing this out either. If you are going to make scientific claims and challenge the research of other scientists, you had better have at least a basic background in climate science before doing so.

But here is a guy who actually does have some credibility on this issue.

In an interview with the BBC, Professor John Marburger, Bush’s chief science adviser, said it was an “unequivocal” fact that climate change is man-made and that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are to blame.

Marburger said he “strongly agrees” with the IPCC reports and “supports its conclusions.” He added:

I think there is widespread agreement on certain basics, and one of the most important is that we are producing far more CO2 from fossil fuels than we ought to be. And it’s going to lead to trouble unless we can begin to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we are burning and using in our economies. […]

The CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and there’s no end point, it just gets hotter and hotter, and so at some point it becomes unliveable.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The surge bust

If you look back at what the Bush administration was saying about the surge at the first of the year, it is clear that it failed to achieve any of the goals that had been set out. Regardless of whether “security” in Baghdad has been enhanced is beside the point. The issue was not whether or not more troops would provide more security - that was a given - it was whether or not providing that window of added security would make any difference to the Iraqi government in its efforts to reconcile differences between feuding factions and get on track to take back control of their country. That clearly did not happen.
E&P points out some other areas where the surge fell short of its goals:

The president said then....
“To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation’s political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq’s constitution.”

None of this happened.

Interestingly enough, Bush also said this at the time...
"I’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people.”

Bush already lost the support of the American people a long time ago. He is only still clinging to power because our political system is so slow to respond to changes in the electorate. There was a huge shift in the political power structure in 2006, but not enough to completely dislodge Republicans who still have the power to block the majority’s will with vetoes and filibusters. However, it looks like a second GOP bloodbath is just around the corner as analysts are now predicting six Republican Senate seats are likely to go blue and maybe more.

It was known from the very beginning of the surge that the troops levels could not be maintained at that level very far into 2008. Now it appears that Bush is planning to take our already strained military and push it past the breaking limit by extending the surge all the way into next summer, at which point he will grudgingly reduce troop levels back to their pre-surge level.
And this, he will pretend, is supposed to be the middleroad-compromise position. Harry Reid is right to throw that back in his face.

Gurwitz strikes back

My friend Bill Crawford quotes at length today from the latest op-ed piece by the E-N’s Jonathan Gurwitz.

Jonathan contrasts the Democratic senators’ praise of Gen. Patraeus when he was tapped by Bush in January to lead U.S. forces in Iraq, with their skepticism of his testimony nine months later claiming that we have made great progress in Iraq.

That's how you get 54 senators who praise you to the heavens turn around and consign your mission to hell.

But Jonathan knows full well that these are two different things. The first issue is that Patraeus is a good, honorable soldier who follows orders well. The second issue is what those orders should be. Patraeus is perfectly capable of leading our troops to drawdown from Iraq and refocus our efforts on the real al-Qaeda in Pakistan rather than the copycat version in Iraq.
He can make recommendations on how we should proceed with the current mission, but it is up to our political leaders to decide whether we should continue to pursue that mission or change to something else.

Jonathan is also being disingenuous when he says:
If they really believed Iraq was a lost cause, they'd cut off funding for the U.S. military presence rather than passing defense budgets and supplemental appropriations with hundreds of billions of dollars for continued operations.

Of course, they have tried to pass budgets that limit funding for the war but have been unsuccessful due to Republican filibusters and veto threats.

We went into Iraq with the goal of dismantling Saddam’s WMD program - something that turned out to be non-existent - and the goals for Iraq have been constantly changing ever since. The current rationale is that we have to “defeat” al-Qaeda in Iraq, the copycat version of al-Qaeda that did not exist before we invaded. How this will protect us from attacks by the real al-Qaeda which is not in Iraq is never addressed. Neither are the cost-benefit dynamics of the operation explained. If we spend five years, $500 billion and 5,000 U.S. troop deaths to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, will it be worth it? What if it takes 10 years, $1 trillion and 10,000 U.S. casualties? What then?

But back to Jonathan’s column... He goes on to make the charge that Democrats want to accumulate power in Washington more than they want to achieve victory in Iraq.

the little Caesars in Washington have as their primary objective not losing: not losing a majority, not losing any more seats in the minority, not losing a campaign, not losing power.

How about not losing the support of the American people as President Bush has with his rock-bottom 36 percent approval rating? Congress has low approval ratings too, but that has more to do with their inability to respond to public sentiment on the war. Those “little Ceasars” are our elected representatives. While I respect Gen. Patraeus for his service to our country, he is not elected to that position and his primary job is to follow the orders of those who were elected.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Best 100 TV Shows

Time Magazine’s TV critic has come out with his list of - The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME. I’ve reprinted the list below with my own coding.
A * means I agree with the choice (a ** means I really, really agree); a # means I disagree with the choice and a ? means I have not seen enough of the show to have an opinion.

*60 Minutes
?The Abbott and Costello Show
*ABC's Wide World of Sports
?Alfred Hitchcock Presents
*All in the Family
?An American Family
#American Idol
?Arrested Development
*Battlestar Galactica
#The Beavis and Butt-Head Show
?The Bob Newhart Show
?Brideshead Revisited
?Buffalo Bill
**Buffy the Vampire Slayer
*The Carol Burnett Show
?The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
*A Charlie Brown Christmas
*The Cosby Show
*The Daily Show
?The Day After
*The Dick Van Dyke Show
?The Ed Sullivan Show
?The Ernie Kovacs Show
?Freaks and Geeks
?The French Chef
#General Hospital
?The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
?Gilmore Girls
?Hill Street Blues
?Homicide: Life on the Street
?The Honeymooners
?I, Claudius
*I Love Lucy
*King of the Hill
?The Larry Sanders Show
*Late Night with David Letterman (NBC)
*Leave It to Beaver
#Married... With Children
#Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
*The Mary Tyler Moore Show
*The Monkees
**Monty Python's Flying Circus
*MTV 1981-1992
?My So-Called Life
**Mystery Science Theater 3000
*The Odd Couple
?The Office [American]
#The Office [British]
?The Oprah Winfrey Show
**Pee Wee's Playhouse
?Playhouse 90
*The Price Is Right
?Prime Suspect
?The Prisoner
#The Real World
*Rocky and His Friends
*Sanford and Son
*Saturday Night Live
?Second City Television
?See It Now
*Sesame Street
?Sex and the City
?The Shield
*The Simpsons
?The Singing Detective
?Six Feet Under
?The Sopranos
#South Park
*SpongeBob SquarePants
**Star Trek
?St. Elsewhere
#The Super Bowl (and the Ads)
*The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
**The Twilight Zone
#Twin Peaks
*The West Wing
?What's My Line?
*WKRP in Cincinnati
?The Wire
**The X-Files
?Your Show of Shows

I think it’s a pretty good list overall but there are some problems.
Following is my revised list of the Best 100 TV shows:

60 Minutes
Abbott and Costello Show, The
All in the Family
Andy Griffith Show, The
Battlestar Gallactica
Beverly Hillbillies
Beverly Hills 90210
Boston Legal
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Captain Kangaroo
Carol Burnett Show
Charlie Brown Christmas, A
Charlie's Angels
Cosby Show
Countdown with Keith Olbermann
Daily Show
Dick Van Dyke Show
Dukes of Hazard
Flintstones, The
Gilligan's Island
Happy Days
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Honeymooners, The
I Dream of Genie
I Love Lucy
Incredible Hulk, The
Judging Amy
King of the Hill
Kung Fu
Laverne and Shirley
Law and Order
Leave it to Beaver
Little House on the Prairie
Looney Tunes Show, The
Mary Tyler Moore Show, The
McNeil Leher News Hour
Melrose Place
Mister Roger's Neighborhood
Monkees, The
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Mork and Mindy
MTV 1981-1992
Munsters, The
Muppet Show, The
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Nash Bridges
Night Stalker, The
Northern Exposure
Odd Couple, The
One Day at a Time
Our Gang
Party of Five
Pee Wee's Playhouse
Price is Right, The
Rocky and His Friends
Sanford and Son
Saturday Night Live
Scooby Doo
Sesame Street
Simpsons, The
Six Million Dollar Man, The
Smothers Brothers Show, The
Spongebob Square Pants
Star Trek
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Voyager
Starsky and Hutch
Three's Company
Tonight Show, The
Twilight Zone, The
Wall Street Week
Welcome Back Kotter
West Wing, The
Wonderful World of Disney, The
X-Files, The
Xena: Warrior Princess

Poisoned discourse

Two of the seven soldiers who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times recently that was critical of the Iraq war were killed the other day in a vehicle accident in Baghdad that also killed several other soldiers.
Somehow it just doesn't seem right, but then nothing about this war is.
We were supposed to have the flags flown at half-mast yesterday in San Antonio for another local kid killed in the war, but it also happened to be the sixth anniversary of 9/11 so the flags were all at half-mast anyway.
This war that should never have been started has dragged on too long and has become a quagmire in more ways than one. It is a quagmire in the sense that we cannot withdraw the troops without leaving behind a bloody, chaotic mess. But it is also a quagmire at home where many people have invested a great deal into supporting the war and many more have invested a great deal into opposing it. The longer this thing drags on the more these people dig into their positions.
The vast majority of Americans have soured on the war and want to bring the troops home. But our democracy is so skewed and unrepresentative right now that it is nearly impossible for our government to respond to the will of the people. Democrats do not have a large enough majority to overcome Republican-led filibusters and presidential vetoes, so they are helpless to change the course of the war or make any meaningful changes. So they are in a bit of a fix. Even though the Democrats are on the same side with the majority of Americans, they are still being vilifed on ones side by the Republican opposition as "traitors" and "defeatists" and derided on the other side by frustrated war opponents for not doing enough to end the war.
All of this has served to poison the atmosphere for political debate between the two sides. It's hard to have a meaningful discussion or dialogue with someone who starts out with the assumption that you are a traitor and a terrorist appeaser. Likewise, it does not advance the discussion to assume that the other person is a bloodthirsty warmonger.
Things have gotten so bad at All Things Conservative, my friend Bill Crawford's blog where I have been a frequent commenter from the start, that I have decided to step back for a time and not comment over there. Lately, Bill's blog posts have devolved into a never-ending stream of vicious swipes at Democrats and Liberals (or the Left) and my comments are not helping to moderate the discussion. Instead of debating the issues of the day, we end up just yelling at one another. That, or writing the other person off and ignoring their comments altogether. Either way it does not make for a very enjoyable or fulfilling exchange and since I do not go there to pick fights I will refrain from commenting and instead concentrate on my own neglected blog here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Petraeus ad controversy

Here is the text of the ad that ran in the NYT on Monday.
While I agree with about 95 percent of what the ad says, I think it was juvenile and unnecesarily insulting to make the play on Petraeus’ name in the headline and final sentence of the ad. The “Petraeus/Betray Us” word play only served to give Republicans an opening to go on the the attack and play their favorite victimhood game. Now they get to ignore all the legitimate points in the ad and instead act all haute about the personal attack on Gen. Petraeus’ honor.
It is phony outrage, of course. The ad is extremely mild compared to the vicious attacks that Republicans typically make on military veterans who take positions opposed to the Bush administration. But that still doesn’t mean that Democrats should condone stooping down to their level.

This only serves to distract from Petraeus’ actual testimony yesterday in which he set the stage for a permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has responses to the testimony here and here. Also, Speaker Pelosi’s blog response is here.