Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Quote of the Day, Part Deux: Rummy's Folly

"Obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility when a sovereign country engages in something that they disapprove of..."
-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 11-29-05

Donald Rumsfeld's comment was in response to a question about recent reports of Iraqi abuse of prisoners and how the U.S. military should or should not respond to such atrocities, if encountered. Thankfully, General Peter Pace, also participating in the DOD briefing yesterday, contradicted Rummy and didn't back down in setting him straight. (Read the entire transcript here)

Nonetheless, Rummy's comment speaks volumes. And it certainly seems to contradict the entire basis for the war in Iraq. So what is the administration's position? Is everyone on the same page? What directives are being sent to the military from the administration? Who knows? One would think that the man who has served as Secretary of Defense for the last five years or so would know the policies and procedures of engagement associated with an ongoing war. Or...perhaps not.

I can't help but believe - and hope - that our military leaders are growing weary of the sheer incompetence of the Bush administration. And while they may not come out and say it publicly, there seems to be more and more talk that they ARE saying it privately. At least it's a start.

Quote of the Day: "You can always turn the television off and of course block the channels you don't want, but why should you have to?"

Actually it was a quote from yesterday, but I found it to be such an idiotic comment that I had to post it anyway.

The quote is from FCC Chairman - and Edward Herrmann lookalike (you decide which is which) - Kevin Martin. Apparently, this Republican appointee to the FCC feels that the government should be regulating what people can or cannot see on cable and satellite television.

Television is pretty coarse, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin charged Tuesday. So he warned cable and satellite programmers to shield children from racy shows or risk coming under sharper government scrutiny.

"Parents need better and more tools to help them navigate the entertainment waters, particularly on cable and satellite TV," Martin said. "You can always turn the television off and of course block the channels you don't want, but why should you have to?"

In addition to expanding federal decency standards to include cable and satellite programs, Martin suggested several options, including creating a family-friendly tier of channels that would offer shows suitable for kids, such as the programs shown on the Nickelodeon channel.

There was a day not long ago when conservatism held that the government should let individuals decide for themselves what they might watch on television, especially when it came to programming not broadcast over-the-air (ie, cable). With a new brand of "conservatism" now having taken hold in this country, apparently it's now the government's business.

And for the record, when Martin refers to the need for a family friendly tier of channels that would offer shows suitable for kids, perhaps he should do his homework first. DirecTV, for one, has offered just such a package for years on channels 290-300. In fact, my kids have made good use of those channels over the years.

But I guess this all goes back to this new breed of "conservatives" wanting to - again - dictate how others conduct their lives. Once upon a time, it was up to the parents of the household to monitor and determine what their kids could or could not watch. That's what we've done for years and it works quite nicely.

But, alas, our current leaders feel they know what's best for our kids. And, just maybe, they have a point. After all, they've done such a bang up job knowing what's best for the kids serving in Iraq. Perhaps they should leave the parenting to the people who know what's best for their kids: PARENTS!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Quote of the Day: "...otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard."

Yes, that was Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff at the State Department, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview with the Associated Press today. He said this in concluding that Mr. Cheney must have known with certainty that Iraq would turn into a spawning ground for terrorists.

Clearly, Mr. Wilkerson holds Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other neo-cons in utter contempt for how they have promulgated this war. He also holds President Bush accountable for allowing others to control the post-invasion aspects of the war. And, no doubt, Mr. Wilkerson is echoing the thoughts of his former boss, Colin Powell.

I applaud Wilkerson for not holding back and being willing to speak his mind about the utter mess this administration has created. Perhaps Powell will eventually feel the same duty to speak out. As more former insiders begin to shed light on this administration's incompetence and malevolent approach to international relations, hopefully Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, will start to be held accountable by the media and the American people.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The New Republican Party: A Fellowship of Felons?nin

With today's news that California congressman Duke Cunningham pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax fraud, it seems that the line of felonious - and alleged felonious - Republican lawbreakers...I mean...lawmakers continues to lengthen.

When you factor in the potentially significant number of Republicans on Capitol Hill who are facing possible charges in the Jack Abramoff "LobbyGate" morass, the federal government soon may need to build a new right wing onto Leavenworth. What is it with these people? They just can't seem to stop subverting their avowed moral values in order to enhance their bank account values.

Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay is still in hot water for allegedly violating Texas' campaign finance laws. Current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is still under investigation by the SEC for apparent insider trading. Of course, former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby is under indictment for perjury in the CIA leak case. And who knows how many others may eventually be called on the carpet in that continually evolving scandal?

Yes, 2005 is shaping up as a banner year for criminal indictments of publicly-elected officials in Washington.

The good news is that these cretins are getting caught and being brought to justice. And we're talking about the good old, all-American kind of justice, too, not the "send them off to the old Soviet gulag" kind that we've been hearing about lately, although perhaps that would give them a nice taste of their own medicine.

The bad news is...well...I think you can figure that out.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

When the U.S.-led coalition forces marched into Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein nearly three years ago, the action was hailed by many as the end of a brutal, tyrannical reign of a madman. Human rights abuses would cease. Respect for fellow Iraqis would be the new way of life.

Well, as it turns out, things aren't so much different than they were under Saddam, according to former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi (pictured above). Beatings, torture and murder of enemies of the state by elements within the Interior Ministry show that, just because Saddam is long gone from power, life in Iraq isn't so peachy.

Part of the problem is that the Shia, the majority Islamic religious sect in Iraq, were treated so poorly for so long by the minority Sunnis who held power under Saddam. Now that the Shia have assumed power in Iraq, they seem to be taking their revenge against the Sunnis who held them down for so long. Tit for tat, so to speak, except in this case the tits and tats are torture and murder. Nice.

It's wonderful to see how the deaths of over 2,100 U.S. troops and the injury of over 15,000 others has led to the free, democratic panacaea so many in the Bush administration had promised. Unfortunately - yet all too predictably - things don't appear to be much better than they were before.

What goes around comes around, as they say. And the Middle East remains the same as it ever was: a mess.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Rose in the HOF? Don't Bet on It

Pete Rose enters his final year of "eligibility" to be voted into the baseball Hall of Fame when the 2006 ballot is released early next week. Of course, the term "eligibility" should be used very loosely, since Rose hasn't even appeared on the ballot due to his lifetime suspension from baseball.

While Rose certainly is Hall-worthy based on his impressive hitting statistics and legendary hustle over a 24-year, All-Star career, his chances of ever finding his bust displayed inside the HOF in Cooperstown, NY, are virtually nil. And while I didn't used to agree with the logic of keeping him out of Cooperstown, I've changed my mind after recently taking a virtual trip back to the early part of the 20th century.

When the Chicago White Sox recently found themselves as World Series champs for the first time since 1917, their long championship drought piqued my interest in the legendary "Black Sox" scandal of 1919. So I ventured onto to find what many consider to be the quintessential historical review of what took place in that infamous sporting scandal, a book written by Eliot Asinof in 1963 entitled, "Eight Men Out". It also was made into a movie in 1988, starring D.B. Sweeney, Charlie Sheen, John Cusack and John Mahoney.

Ever since I was a kid, I had always heard about the "Black Sox" scandal and it's most notable co-conspirator, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. But I never really knew exactly what had happened or how it all unfolded. After reading "Eight Men Out", I now have a far clearer understanding of the scandal itself as well as the underlying - and insidious - control professional gamblers had on the national pastime over eighty years ago.

And while the White Sox' infamous "eight men" (or seven or six, depending on whether you believe third baseman Buck Weaver and outfielder Joe Jackson actually participated in the fix in spite of their knowledge of it) conspired to fix a World Series for monetary gain in 1919, the more sinister effects of gambling's hold on baseball may have occurred during the 1920 season, when gamblers were able to control the outcomes of many, many games by exercising various forms of blackmail to keep certain players in compliance with their scheme. Because the 1919 World Series fix wasn't fully uncovered until after the 1920 season, gamblers continued to enjoy a hold on baseball. Games often were won or lost not based on which was the better team, but based on where the money was being bet or what the odds may have been. The game, its fans and most of its ballplayers were at the mercy of gamblers.

So, you may ask, how does this relate to the Hall of Fame candidacy of Pete Rose? Well, after learning about the severe ills gambling laid upon baseball so many years ago, I now see there can be zero tolerance for any involvement whatsoever with gambling by professional athletes. And if it takes severe discipline - like the lifetime ban meted out to Pete Rose - to keep the game clean, then so be it.

There's little question that "Shoeless" Joe Jackson would have found himself enshrined in the Hall of Fame if the "Black Sox" scandal hadn't happened...or been exposed. And many would argue that he should be enshrined anyway, especially considering that he appeared to perform to his utmost capabilities during that fateful World Series. Jackson's talent was unquestioned, much as Rose's is to this day. But even the mere hint of their involvement with gamblers is enough to warrant severe consequences in order to ensure that the game is played on the up and up. And if it discourages others from making similar mistakes, then it's well worth it.

Pete Rose was a Hall of Fame calibre player. Unfortunately, he'll never be known as a Hall of Fame player. And while it may have taken me many years - and a trip back in time - to realize it, I now agree with the decision to ostracize Rose from the game. As they say, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Baseball must not repeat the sins of its past. The continued banishment of Pete Rose will help to ensure that it doesn't.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven...It was not hard intelligence."

Intelligence about how to throw a mean curveball? Uh, no.

Actually, those are the words of an official with Germany's intelligence service, BND, upon hearing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell refer to intelligence gathered from an Iraqi source code-named Curveball while Powell spoke at the United Nations prior to the war. Needless to say, the Germans - the ones who had been working with Curveball for some time - were shocked to learn that the U.S. was actually going to rely on information gained from this unreliable source.

Read more about Curveball in today's LA Times article by Bob Drogin and John Goetz. After interviewing up to thirty different intelligence sources from various countries, Drogin and Goetz paint a very disturbing picture of how the Bush administration used unreliable intelligence to state its case for war.

Day by day, it becomes more crystal clear that the Bush administration fabricated its way into taking the U.S. to war in Iraq with lies, intentional deception and manipulation of intelligence. They knowingly lied to Congress, the American people and the rest of the world. And now they're responsible for the destruction of a nation, the deaths of nearly 2,100 U.S. troops and countless thousands of innocent Iraqis, as well as gruesome, lifelong injuries to tens of thousands of others.

Americans everywhere should be ashamed and embarassed. I am. Those who lied their way into a war are traitors to what America should stand for.

John Rendon: The Man Who Sold the War

Excellent piece in this month's Rolling Stone by James Bamford.

You can learn all you ever wanted to know - at least that which is unclassified - about how the Bush administration and the Pentagon employed deception to build support for the war in Iraq.

It's fascinating reading. And it may make you re-think (or confirm what you already knew) about our current leadership in Washington.

As I said in an earlier post, it's not really a war. It's an elaborate mind game.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Rep. Murtha Unleashes War Debate

U.S. Representative John Murtha (D-PA) made some very stunning remarks on in Washington the other day. In essence, the decorated Vietnam war veteran and senior House member demanded that, unless a concrete strategy and timetable for U.S. involvement in Iraq is laid out and implemented by the Bush administration in short order, the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops within six months. No ifs, ands or buts. Either find a way to win the war - and do it - or come home.

Needless to say, Rep. Murtha's position unleashed a firestorm of debate on Capitol Hill. In fact, some Democrats and Republicans in the House nearly came to blows over a Republican House member's accusations of cowardice.

While such hostility on Capitol Hill has been rare over the nearly three years since the U.S. and its token coalition forces invaded Iraq early in 2003, perhaps it's about time that we begin to see some passion from our lawmakers, many of whom now believe that they were duped into supporting the war effort in the first place.

Murtha's overt call for troop withdrawal has sparked a debate that needs to happen. In fact, it's long overdue. While it may not actually result in the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, it may bring about a much-needed discussion of why we are there and what we are trying to accomplish. And this is where the issue begins to get really, really sticky.

Clearly the Bush administration and, in particular, the neo-conservatives ensconced at the Pentagon, have plans for the military beyond just Iraq. Iraq gives them a central base of operations from which to intimidate and potentially attack surrounding regimes in countries such as Iran and Syria. To bring the troops home would completely unravel their grand plans, and I don't think they're going to give in so easily.

There's no question that Rep. Murtha's points should be well-taken. Either implement a strategy to win the conflict in quick fashion or get the hell out. We didn't do that in Vietnam, and we all know how that turned out.

But I go back to the neo-con agenda, which isn't to win quickly and get out. They have no intentions of leaving the area militarily. In fact, a quagmire, per se, suits their aims as well as anything, along with a President and Vice President who bait their own constituents - the American people - with the "Americans don't run and hide" or "Americans don't give up" propaganda. Consequently, we're forced to remain indefinitely.

We have to come to the realization that this is not, in fact, a war. It is an elaborate mind game. And the neo-cons must control the minds of Americans in order to effect their grand vision for the Middle East... and the world. Even the other key players in the Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, know that their respective futures are in doubt without direct U.S. involvement in the region. The attacks of 9/11 happened for a reason. Never underestimate that as the rest of the neo-con agenda unfolds and the mind game continues.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Warning: Oil Slick Ahead for Bush, Cheney

Nearly five years after secretive meetings took place in Washington D.C. to discuss and determine the Bush administration's energy policies, some interesting information finally is beginning to emerge. The Washington Post is reporting that several high-ranking oil company executives DID participate in meetings with the Bush administration's energy task force, headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, according to Secret Service logbooks that identify White House visitors and their reason for visiting.

This revelation stands in stark contrast to testimony provided just last week by four oil company chief executive officers during hearings by the Senate Energy and Commerce committees. During their unsworn testimony, the executives told the Senate committee members that they were NOT involved in the task force meetings.

Even more interesting is that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was adament at the outset of the hearings that the executives would not be sworn in, despite attempts by his Democratic colleagues to do so.

Professional baseball players brought in several months ago to discuss steroid use were sworn in, but oil company executives brought in to discuss energy policy issues were not? Hmmmm.

While the oil company execs technically may not have committed perjury because they were not under oath while testifying before Congress, they certainly appear to have lied through their proverbial teeth. Now it appears that a can of worms may have been opened that could lead to further investigations.

Just when one thought the Bush administration couldn't handle another embarassment, it appears that another one may be lurking. The secret energy task force meetings in 2001 have flown under the radar screen in the post-9/11 world, but they may harbor some clues regarding the administration's approach to oil and gas markets over the last few turbulent years.

Perhaps there's more to the recent high price of gas and record oil company profits than meets the eye. Stay tuned....