Happy New Year!

I'm leaving later today for a quick trip to the beach for New Years. Not a tropical beach, mind you, just a regular, dreary, cold, rainy Maryland type beach. But it will be fun anyway. It's always nice to get out of town for long weekends.

So, if you'll forgive me, I'll wish everybody a happy New Year now, though I'm a couple of days early.

Remember, drive safe and all that...

I promise better posting after the first. The holidays have just been to crazy for me to get into a groove.



Gerald Ford: 1913 - 2006

Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, died last night at 6:45 at his home in California. He was 93.

* * * * *

I wasn't alive during the Ford Administration, so any effort at an obituary is better left to others. I do know that when he is remembered, two things will overshadow all of his other accomplishments: He was the only President to hold office without being elected and he pardoned Richard Nixon.

Perhaps the most timely piece of Ford's history is the primary challenge from Ronald Reagan in 1975-6 that caused Ford to drop his more liberal Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, in favor of Bob Dole. The 'Rockefeller Republican' has been in retreat since then.


I'm IT!!!

Shakes' Magical Mystery Meme has been making the rounds. Here's how it works: I write you five stories. One is a fabrication, the other four are genuine fact.

  • 2. I only applied to one University and only applied for one job upon graduating. With the exception of tricking my wife into marrying me, I've used up all the luck that I've been allotted for the rest of my life.
  • 3. I was once spit upon by a pick pocket because I had the audacity to catch him trying to lift my wallet, grab him by the fingers and start yelling at him. There was a police officer in the train car, but, luckily for me, he jumped off the subway just as the doors were closing. In hindsight, I'm sure he would have been much more convincing when he explained to the officer why I had grabbed him by the fingers and bent them back as far as I could - seeing as he and the officer spoke Italian and I did not.
  • 4. I have puked off of the highest balcony on the highest building in State College, Pennsylvania. Alcohol was involved.
  • 5. If, in the comments, you guess the right story and leave you name and address, I'll buy you a pony and ship it to you via American Express.
There you go. Five quality stories, only two of which involve bodily functions. Your guess is as good as mine.

Now, here's the tricky part: I'm supposed to tag five more people. I really don't think I know of five people with blogs that read my blog. In fact, the one person with a blog that I know reads this blog tagged me!

Here's a few bloggers that I'll tag anyway. MissPride @ The Mind of a Sapphic Writer, Knight Errant @ A Little Reality (Who, I discovered tagged me earlier on an entirely unrelated meme-thing which I missed. Sorry, K.E.), Doppelganger @ 50 Books, who runs in an entirely different blogging circle, but writes one of my absolute favorite blogs, and... That's it, I'm out. Cosmic bad luck will be mine forever, I suppose.

Well, I'm willing to chance it.

Happy Holidays to all, I promise I will return to regular blogging soon, though I imagine it will be after the First of the Year before any real regularity returns here. In the meantime, enjoy friends, family, food and the holidays!


Ellison Responds to Goode

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Virginia lawmaker criticized for writing an "Islamophobic" letter to his constituents would be wise to learn more about Islam, the first Muslim elected to Congress said Thursday.


"I think the diversity of our country is a great strength," Ellison told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "It's a good thing that we have people from all faiths and all cultures to come here."


Ellison responded to Goode's sentiments by saying that he would like to meet with Goode to talk about Islam and find some "common ground."

"We all support one Constitution, one Constitution that upholds our right to equal protection, one Constitution that guarantees us due process under the law, one Constitution which says there is no religious test for elective office in America," Ellison said.
Apologies for carving up the article, but since I already covered how much of a bigot Goode is here, I didn't feel like repeating his assinine opinions again.

Now let's consider Ellison's responce. He could have either taken Goode apart for being a bigot and a racist or Ellison could have used to publicity to teach, show the true nature of Islam, and try to gather supporters.

Obviously, Ellison chose the second option. He did quite well too, even going so far as to refuse to call Goode a bigot, even after Wolf Blitzer asked if Ellison thought that Goode was a bigot.

It was, of course, the best way to deal with the problem.

That said, I'd have attacked Goode from every angle I could think of. But I guess that's why I'm not an elected official.

'I am the Escalator'

Don't forget that 'Surge' is just another word for unsustainable escalation.

From the Washington Post:

The debate over sending more U.S. troops to Iraq intensified yesterday as President Bush signaled that he will listen but not necessarily defer to balky military officers, while Gen. John P. Abizaid, his top Middle East commander and a leading skeptic of a so-called surge, announced his retirement.

At an end-of-the-year news conference, Bush said he agrees with generals "that there's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished" before he decides to dispatch an additional 15,000 to 30,000 troops to the war zone. But he declined to repeat his usual formulation that he will heed his commanders on the ground when it comes to troop levels.
Because George W. Bush is a master tactician with decades of military experience, a feel for the situation on the ground in Iraq, a clear understanding of the enemy (enemies) and, above all, a history of making good decisions.
Bush sought to use the 52-minute session, held in the ornate Indian Treaty Room in a building adjacent to the White House, to sum up what he called "a difficult year for our troops and the Iraqi people" and reassure the American public that "we enter this new year clear-eyed about the challenges in Iraq." Asked about his comment to The Washington Post this week that the United States is neither winning nor losing the war, Bush pivoted forward. "Victory in Iraq is achievable," he said.

The tension between the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the proposed troop increase has come to dominate the administration's post-election search for a new strategy in Iraq. The uniformed leadership has opposed sending additional forces without a clear mission, seeing the idea as ill-formed and driven by a desire in the White House to do something different even without a defined purpose.
"Do something different even without a defined purpose" is Pentagon-speak for 'Deploy more troops for domestic political gain.' And, understandably, the Generals at the Pentagon aren't real keen on the idea of sending more men and women into harms way so that the President's approval numbers go up.

Unfortunately, those same Generals don't seem to have the ability to actually stop this from happening. Every time they say 'this won't happen on my watch' they solve the problem by ending 'their watch' and retiring.

Also notable in Bush's new position of not letting Generals decide how to fight this war. We've gone from Generals deciding how many troops they need in Iraq to The Decider deciding for them.
Bush has traditionally paid public deference to the generals, saying any decisions on moving U.S. forces in the region would depend on their views. At a Chicago news conference in July, for instance, Bush said he would yield to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Iraq commander.

"General Casey will make the decisions as to how many troops we have there," Bush said, adding: "He'll decide how best to achieve victory and the troop levels necessary to do so. I've spent a lot of time talking to him about troop levels. And I've told him this: I said, 'You decide, General.' "

By yesterday, however, Bush indicated that he will not necessarily let military leaders decide, ducking a question about whether he would overrule them. "The opinion of my commanders is very important," he said. "They are bright, capable, smart people whose opinion matters to me a lot." He added: "I agree with them that there's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops before I agree on that strategy."
The problem with this is that George W. Bush seems to think that 'winning' is both a mission and a strategy. More from the article:
A senior aide said later that Bush would not let the military decide the matter. "He's never left the decision to commanders," said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so Bush's comments would be the only ones on the record. "He is the commander in chief. But he has said he will listen to those commanders when making these decisions. That hasn't changed."[Bolds mine.]
Well, then. I guess that clears Donald Rumsfeld.

This post isn't meant to be (just) and commentary on a Washington Post story. My point is that Bush is incapable of winning this war because he thinks that if he just does what he's been doing a little bit harder he'll be victorious.

Bush's goal to remake the Middle East as a region full of 'freedom and democracy' was doomed as soon as he chose to do it by invading Iraq. It's like saying 'I'm going to remake this piggy bank as a bank vault' and choosing a hammer as your only tool.

Bush's goal to create a stable and secular Iraq was doomed for many reasons, not the least of which was he didn't understand Iraq. (And because he didn't send enough troops for the occupation, because he disbanded the Iraqi Army, because he purged the government of low-level Baathists that had experience in local governing, among a myriad of other reasons.)

Bush's goal to 'win' the fight against insurgents and militiamen in Iraq is doomed because he already failed on all the previous steps.

* * * * *

The only debate left is how to ensure that our troops are redeployed out of Iraq as quickly as possible. As a nation, we're unable to deal with other threats around the world because our entire military is breaking under the weight of a failed invasion. It's better to redeploy and deal with the repercussions now than wait another year, see more soldiers killed, more money spent, more wear and tear on our army, then suffer the same repercussions anyway.

Third Rail on the Axis of Evil

From The Guardian:

UN poised to pass Iran sanctions despite threat

· Ahmadinejad warns of immediate retaliation
· US and Britain step up naval presence in Gulf

Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday December 22, 2006
The Guardian

The United Nations security council is finally expected to pass a resolution today to impose international sanctions on Iran for the first time since the 1979 revolution, a punitive move that will heighten diplomatic tensions and risks a military confrontation in the Gulf.

Iran has threatened immediate retaliation, even though the proposed sanctions have been significantly watered down this week. Tehran's options include withdrawal from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, which would mean Iran would conduct its nuclear programme free from international monitoring, and possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the channel for 20% of the world's oil supplies.
You knew that as soon as the elections were over, gas prices were going to go back up, right? There are oil company profits to think about here!
The resolution will impose extremely limited restrictions on international travel on Iranians associated with the nuclear programme, a freeze on their overseas assets and a ban on nuclear-related exports. Western officials yesterday predicted that a draft resolution would be voted on today in New York, bringing to an end six months of negotiations.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, who is responsible for nuclear negotiations, was quoted by an Iranian news agency yesterday as saying that Iran would not be deflected by the sanctions. "The nature of this resolution is not capable of pressuring Iran, and Iran will give an appropriate response to it," Mr Larijani said, adding: "This behaviour will just create more problems." He said that Iran would review its cooperation with the IAEA and look at other political, economic and cultural options.
Yet another reason why being trapped in Iraq makes us weaker.


No Wonder We're Not Winning

"Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior."

- Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC)

That lovely little bit of mind killing drivel brought to your attention via BlueNC.

Now for Important News

And a glimpse into one of my guilty pleasures.

The title of the upcoming (and final) Harry Potter book has been revealed. From the BBC:

Author JK Rowling has revealed the title of the seventh and final Harry Potter book.

The book will be called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The announcement was made on the writer's official website. Fans must play a game in order to find out what the title is.

This week Rowling, 41, revealed how she has gone back to writing in cafes - as she did 13 years ago when starting to write about the boy wizard.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" just doesn't have the kind of ring to it I had hoped for. There's no sense of finality. The Lord of the Rings trilogy had "The Return of the King." Frank Herbert had "Chapterhouse: Dune" which broke the title form of the previous 5 books, giving it authority. Even "Return of the Jedi" had a sense of gravitas, though it basically copied J.R.R. Tolkien's title.

I suppose I shouldn't get to wrapped up in what the title means (Godric's Hollow?) or to upset that the title isn't all that striking.

I will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you...

then they fight you, then you win," at least according to Ghandi

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Blog Mob
"Written by fools to be read by imbeciles."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Blogs are very important these days. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has one. The invention of the Web log, we are told, is as transformative as Gutenberg's press, and has shoved journalism into a reformation, perhaps a revolution.

The ascendancy of Internet technology did bring with it innovations. Information is more conveniently disseminated, and there's more of it, because anybody can chip in. There's more "choice"--and in a sense, more democracy. Folks on the WWW, conservatives especially, boast about how the alternative media corrodes the "MSM," for mainstream media, a term redolent with unfairness and elitism.

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren't much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .
So what you're saying is, effectively, we're just not as good as you are.

I'm willing to accept that not every blog is grammatically correct. Hell, this one has spelling errors! Not every blog engages in perfect logic, but then again neither does any politician. Our prose may not be top flight, but the President can't for sentences.

You're right, we do traffic mostly in pronouncements, we are reliant on the 'MSM' and we are more about opinion than we are about reporting. There's a good reason for that, though. We aren't being paid to blog. Sure, if I was making a good salary from blogging, I could quite my real job and make an effort but because we have other jobs (and no editor or other support staff) our ability to go out and investigate or conduct interviews is practically non-existent.

And Joe, here's the irony you can't find in our pitiful little blogs:

You just spent 1000 words in the Wall Street Journal making sure everybody knew that you were more important than us. You clarified, once and for all, that the writing in a respected daily newspaper (with 29 Pulitzers) is more closely edited, that the range of reporting is far broader, the topics more varied, the language more flowery, and the content more factual and less opinionated.

That's all well and good, but your paper is shrinking the size of its broadsheet to save money and my readership is still growing while my cost remain constant.

You work at the Wall Street Journal, surely you can figure out what that means.

Abstinence Only is a Crock of Sh!t

From CNN:

Reality check: 95 percent of Americans had premarital sex

NEW YORK (AP) -- More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past.

"This is reality-check research," said the study's author, Lawrence Finer. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."
Yikes. That really deflates the whole 'Silver Ring Thing' crowd's argument.
The study, examining how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time, was based on interviews conducted with more than 38,000 people -- about 33,000 of them women -- in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the federal National Survey of Family Growth. According to Finer's analysis, 99 percent of the respondents had had sex by age 44, and 95 percent had done so before marriage.

Even among a subgroup of those who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by age 44, the study found.

Finer said the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s, though people now wait longer to get married and thus are sexually active as singles for extensive periods.
How does the right-wing, anti-sex crowd react to numbers like that? Just say that the number seemed, according to Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America "a little suspicious." Remember, in Conservo-World, a gut feeling that reinforces a pre-held belief is far more credible than a survey conducted regularly over nearly a quarter of a century interviewing 38,000 people.
"The data clearly show[s] that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds," [Lawrence] Finer, [the research director at the Guttmacher Institute] said.

Under the Bush administration, such programs have received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

"It would be more effective," Finer said, "to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active -- which nearly everyone eventually will."
The study even showed that this level of premarital sex wasn't a 'generational thing' or caused by 'sexuality in the media.' The incidence of premarital sex among people born in the 1940s was only 7% lower (88%) than it is today (95%).

If 'Evangelicals' (read: Christianists) make up 20-30% of the U.S. population (and 100% of people that still think George W. Bush is doing a good job) and 95% of the population has had sex before marriage, that means that way more than half of self identified 'Evangelicals' were shacking up before they said "I do."

So even though Bush's core supporters can't live up to 'Abstinence Only,' he still spends hundreds of millions in tax dollars preaching it to a population which has, for the past 60 years, shown the ability to have sex before marriage without turning into sex-crazed delinquents.

It's almost like parents want to pass laws codifying morality so that their kids wouldn't do exactly the same thing they did... This would be funny if it weren't so incredibly frightening.

Vote Jesus for King!

From the AP:

Poland proposal would name Jesus king

WARSAW, Poland - Lawmakers have drawn up a resolution naming Jesus Christ as the honorary king of Poland, but have failed to win support from the country's powerful Roman Catholic church.

Lawmakers for the ruling Law and Justice party and League of Polish Families as well as the opposition Peasants Party back the resolution, said Szymon Ruman, spokesman for parliamentary speaker Marek Jurek.
How many Christianists read that and said "that sounds like a good idea?"

What has the Catholic Church in Poland said about the proposed Christian Dominionist wet dream?
"Let parliament deal with passing better laws that we need," Gdansk Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski said.

"This kind of action, although it may stem from good will, sounds a bit like propaganda," said bishop Tadeusz Pieronk.
How much better off would we be if our religious leaders were as willing to keep their noses out of government.

Citation du Jour

"I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States."

- Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) in a letter to constituents.

The problem with writing bat-shit crazy things in letters to constituents is that one of those letters may inadvertently end up on the possession of someone who will send it to a newspaper.

Think Progress has more from the letter:
I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.
You wouldn't even use it to keep your sofa level? That's what I'm doing with the NRSV...
The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office."
Virgil Goode (if that name doesn't scream 'Antebellum South' I don't know what does) seems to be concerned that there will be more Muslims in America in the coming century. First, I'm more concerned that the number of Christianists will be higher in the coming century. Second, Rep. Goode is 60 years old. I'm less than half of his age. My opinion about what's happening in the coming century means a hell of a lot more than his because I'm gonna be alive for most of it.

Bigotry, hatred, and intolerance - alive and well in the U.S.A.

Talking Points Memo has an image of the letter here.

"We're not winning, we're not losing."

Ok, then George. What are we doing in Iraq?

George Bush on Iraq in an interview with Peter Baker in the Washington Post:

President Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" U.S. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists.

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."
Funny. The number of hours between now and the next election is inversely proportional to the number of lies that the Bush Administration tells. That's the Rovian Third Law of Governing or something.
In another turnaround, Bush said he has ordered Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to develop a plan to increase the troop strength of the Army and Marine Corps, heeding warnings from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill that multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are stretching the armed forces toward the breaking point. "We need to reset our military," said Bush, whose administration had opposed increasing force levels as recently as this summer.
Wouldn't that be one of the 'flip-flop' moments that Bush used to such great effect in 2004 to eek out a victory? (Must have been at the times Kerry was taking a break from calling for 40,000 more troops...) Methinks it is. Of course we all know by now that it's only a problem if a Democrat does it because they flip-flop because of moral weakness. When George does it, it just means God is telling him to do something different.
But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed.

Bush essentially wants to increase the number of 'boots on the ground' that America can deploy by increasing the size of the Army and the Marine Corps. This would, like everything else that BushCo. does, be too little, too late. It would take about a decade for the effects of the larger force to be felt.

And it would be expensive.

The total bill for this year's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan tops $170 Billion, of which less than half is accounted for in the budget. Over $100 billion is in 'supplemental funds.' The total cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is $600 Billion - more than the cost of the Vietnam War ($549 billion, adjusted for inflation).

The easier, cheaper, and more ethical solution would be, of course, to get out of Iraq.

Photo: Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post Photo


That Rudy Giuliani Post I Promised

Since I mentioned it earlier, I better actually write it, I guess.

From the Washington Post:

NEW YORK, Dec. 18 -- His national poll numbers are a dream, he's a major box office draw on the Republican Party circuit, and he goes by the shorthand title "America's Mayor." All of which has former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani convinced he just might become America's president in 2008.

He is showing the early signs of a serious candidacy: Giuliani's presidential exploratory committee throws its first major fundraiser in a hotel near Times Square on Tuesday evening, and he recently hired the political director of the Republican National Committee during 2006. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that Republicans give Giuliani an early lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is far ahead of the former mayor in organizing a national campaign.

Despite that lead, conservative party strategists and activists in key primary states are skeptical and warn that the socially liberal Republican faces a difficult campaign. They question whether a Republican who has had one marriage end in annulment and another in divorce, and favors abortion rights, gun control and immigrant rights, has much retail appeal in the evangelical and deeply conservative reaches of the GOP.
That and Republican electoral power is now concentrated in the South. How much excitement do you think a somebody from New York City is going to generate there?

It's like that old 'Pace' salsa commercial where a bunch of cowboys are complaining about a bad bottle of salsa and one reads that it was made in New York City. 'New York City?!?' the cowboys say in surprise and disgust. The commercial ends with the cook looking frightened.

Rovian 'play to the base' politics has made a Northern Republican as un-electable as a Northern Democrat used to be. The race-based immigration politics that some of the Republicans in government can't seem to get away from is just going to make all of this worse.

I'm not complaining.

Sen. Johnson to Make Full Recovery

Hearing that a family's hospitalized loved one is expected to recover is always great news. Knowing that it will stop some Republicans from claiming that 'God wants a Republican majority' is priceless.

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

The news media might spend time talking about successors to Sen. Tim Johnson, but a son of the South Dakota Democrat is confident his dad will go back to work.

"That's the easiest question for me to answer," said Brendan Johnson, the second-oldest child of Tim and Barbara Johnson. "From my conversations with the doctors and based on the progress he has been making, I feel very confident that he is going to be getting back to work sooner rather than later."

It was the first interview given by a Johnson family member since the senator was hospitalized Dec. 13 with stroke-like symptoms followed by brain surgery at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington.

Brendan Johnson says his conclusions come from talking with doctors and also seeing how his father has done in neurological exams.
While the Senator remains heavily sedated to aid in healing, his mental functions show every sign of a full recovery. He is able to preform tasks (wiggle toes, hold an object, etc.) when asked - especially when asked by his wife.

This is all very good news. His recovery will not be instantaneous or without pitfalls, but his prognosis is good. As always, best wishes to Senator Johnson and his family.

1000th Post

This is, as the title notes, the one-thousandth post here at 300 Dollar Wonder. As such, I feel compelled to write something profound, introspective, and insightful. Unfortunately, this 1000th post thing sort of sneaked up on me. Thirty seconds ago, this was going to be a post about Rudi Giuliani.

I could take this opportunity to talk about the fact that Time Magazine named me (and many other mes) 'Person of the Year,' an occurrence I missed while I was sick. I'm not going to because I think the whole thing was an effort by a stodgy old media icon to jump on something - anything - with 'buzz.'

I could talk about how different my life is now, a scant 400+/- days ago. I'm married, no longer living in somebody else's basement, and well on my way to being a 'professional' - as opposed to being that kid that just graduated from college. I would do that, here on my blog for the interested masses to read, but George F. Will would think that's narcissistic.

Then there are the political changes. Unfortunately, I covered that a month ago for the 300 Dollar Wonder 1 year anniversary.

In the end, I don't really know what I want to say. I just didn't want to waste this post on Rudi Giuliani.

The Civilian 'Leadership' - UPDATE

From the Washington Post:

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.
Ok, let's look at this one carefully. President NationalGuard McFlightsuit wants to send 30,000 troops into a situation where the professional military experts - career soldiers - say that it's a bad idea. The Military seems to think that sending 30,000 soldiers into harms way on a poorly defined mission because it's really the only plan that BushCo. can come up with is a bad idea. On top of that, the Military knows that scrounging up another 30,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen isn't going to be easy or good for the long term health of the military. If Bush recognizes this, he's decided that a major blow the the effectiveness of the U.S. military and untold numbers of deaths are not to large a price to pay for the chance to rescue his legacy.
At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn -- then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.
But the legacy, we must save the legacy!

Here's the most telling part of the whole Washington Post piece:
A senior administration official said it is "too simplistic" to say the surge question has broken down into a fight between the White House and the Pentagon, but the official acknowledged that the military has questioned the option. "Of course, military leadership is going to be focused on the mission -- what you're trying to accomplish, the ramifications it would have on broader issues in terms of manpower and strength and all that," the official said.
Hmmm... The military is fixating on things like 'what you're trying to accomplish, ramifications, broader issues and logistics. Those sound like important things. I think a President should probably be thinking about all that too. But our President isn't concerned with details, or reality "and all that." He goes with his gut.

God help us all.

UPDATE: 2:22 pm

Think Progress
points us to this speech by George W. Bush explaining how troop levels are determined:
Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don’t you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.
I realize that in a changing situation, it's important for a leader to be able to adjust certain positions and guidlines. Infact, leaders that don't change in the face of changing situations are bad leaders. But when it comes to strategic troop deployments, flip-flopping from 'I'll let the military decide how many soldiers it needs to do its job' to 'More troops to save my legacy!' I'm going to call you out on it.

Ok, Now I'm Really Back

After having been sick for a while (I don't think I've been sick for this many days in a row 'since elementary school when I had the Chicken Pox.) I'm back, and with a bit of luck, we be posting with some regularity.

First post back? We'll use that one for good news.

Bush's Approval Rating for Iraq is below, BELOW, 30%.

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Support for President Bush's management of the war in Iraq has dropped to a new low as he ponders a change in the U.S. strategy there, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

The survey, conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation, found Bush's overall job approval at 36 percent -- little changed from the last CNN poll, taken Dec. 5-7. Sixty-two percent said they disapproved of his performance in office, up from 57 percent in the previous poll.

But support for his management of the war in Iraq dropped considerably, from 34 percent earlier this month to 28 percent in Monday's poll. And a record 70 percent said they disapproved of his handling of the nearly 4-year-old war.
Ouch. I'm guessing that's pretty much rock bottom.

Worse yet for Bush, his approval ratings for the "Global War on Terrortm" has fallen to just 42%. A new record high percentage of Americans disapprove of the President's anti-terrorism efforts - 55%.

They say that 'you can't fool all the people all the time.' We'll, the Bush Administration's time limit has officially run out. And it seems that when the American people realized what they'd been fooled into, they weren't too pleased.


Why Did This Take Months?

The AP:

Ga. board: Harry Potter books can stay
By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA - The Georgia Board of Education voted Thursday to uphold a local school board's decision to leave
Harry Potter books on library shelves despite a mother's objections.

The board members voted without discussion to back the Gwinnett County school board's decision to deny Laura Mallory's request to remove the best-selling books.
Well, that would seem to resolve that. Except that Ms. Mallory has a habit of not giving up when an authoritative body rules against her...
Mallory, who has three children in elementary school, has worked for more than a year to ban the books from Gwinnett schools, claiming the popular fiction series is an attempt to indoctrinate children in witchcraft.

"It's mainstreaming witchcraft in a subtle and deceptive manner, in a children-friendly format," said Mallory, who is considering a legal challenge of the board's ruling. [I called it!] "The kind of stuff in these books — murder and greed and violence. Why do they have to read them in school?"

Gwinnett school officials have argued that the books are good tools to encourage children to read and to spark creativity and imagination. Banning all books with references to witchcraft would mean classics like "MacBeth" and "Cinderella" would have to go, they said.
I really wish that these Anti-Potter zealots would stop lying. It's not about "murder, greed, and violence." That would mean that reading the Old Testament would be out of the question. (And then how would people know to hate gay people?)

This is about the fact that this is about a 'wizard' in a contemporary setting - something that a science-deprived mind thinks might just be true... with the power of Satan!

Idiots. I hope this is the last I hear of this for a while...

The Horror! The Horror!

From the Patriot News:

WASHINGTON - A month after suffering the largest defeat by a Senate incumbent in a quarter-century, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum ponders a future as a cable TV talking head and earning big bucks on the lecture circuit.

Santorum, who lost to Democrat Bob Casey Jr. in last month's election, has been weighing offers. They range from appearing on Fox News Channel as an analyst to working for a law firm, according to several people who have spoken with the Pennsylvania Republican.

Santorum, one of the most vocal lawmakers for the last decade, has been nearly invisible in the last month as he weighs his options.

Santorum has been negotiating a cable deal, which political insiders say most likely is with Fox -- though MSNBC and CNN have been mentioned as well -- "to be a screamer," as one political operative put it.

Suddenly the salad I'm having for lunch doesn't taste so good...

I thought we were rid of this asshat. I cannot understand how failing to win reelection (and rather spectacularly at that) qualifies you for your own cable show. Why would any (non-ideologically driven) network ever chose a commentator who's been rejected by the public?

I guess I answered my own question.

Protecting Democracy before Promoting Faith

Daniel C. Dennett (left) may look like Santa Clause but he's actually the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, at Tufts University. He wrote Breaking the Spell. He brings an Atheist's perspective to the Washington Post's regular "On Faith" section. He takes on this question in today's paper:

Some politically conservative Christians say that America is "a Christian nation," and at this time of year, with the country saturated with Christmas imagery, it can seem that they are right. Are they? Is America a "Christian nation"? Should it be?
His answer is very good. Some excerpts:
[T]he Christian conservatives in the country who wish to declare that this is a Christian nation are becoming bolder and bolder in their willingness to impose their own viewpoint on those who disagree. Fortunately, there are the beginnings of an organized Resistance to this takeover, such as the Interfaith Alliance, chaired by Walter Cronkite. I enthusiastically support this effort, even though I am myself an atheist. Atheism is one of the live rails of American politics-touch it and you're toast. Fair enough. Those are the current facts of life. Not so long ago, you couldn’t be elected if you were Catholic, or Jewish, or African-American. But shouldn't we install another live rail, on the opposite side of the religious spectrum?

It ought to be just as much a fact of life that anybody who declares that their allegiance to their religion comes before their allegiance to democracy is simply unelectable. Fifty years ago President Eisenhower nominated Charles E. Wilson, then president of General Motors, as his Secretary of Defense. At the nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Wilson was asked to sell his shares in General Motors, but he objected. When asked if his continued stake in General Motors mightn't unduly sway his judgment, he replied: "For years, I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa." Some in the press, unsatisfied with this response, stressed only the second half of his response--"What's good for General Motors is good for the country"-and in response to the ensuing furor, Wilson was forced to sell his stock in order to win the nomination.

Substitute "The American Baptist Church" or "The Roman Catholic Church" for "General Motors" and ask yourself whether you want candidates who waffle on this score to lead the nation. Even if it is true, as Wilson opined, that other things being equal, what's good for GM is good for the country, people wanted to know which way he'd lean in the perhaps rare cases where he had to choose between what was good for the country and what was good for his corporation. They wanted him to put General Motors firmly in second place, and we want our politicians to put the welfare of the nation ahead of the welfare of their religion as well. If they won't make a solemn pledge about this, we should worry.
Dr. Dennet concludes his response with this powerful statement:
We are currently asking the Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq to put their allegiance to their nation ahead of their allegiance to their religion. We must surely ask ourselves, and especially our political leaders, to make the same solemn commitment.
Once more, we see Christian Privilege. Our leaders are prepared to govern by their religion, legislate their beliefs, and mandate their particular morals, rules, and guide lines - yet turn around and demand that non-Christian efforts to do exactly the same thing be abandoned in favor of a secular, unity government.

Dr. Dennet asks a simple question and draws very clear conclusions from a response.

"Do [you] put the welfare of the nation above the welfare of [your] particular religion? If you cannot answer Yes to that question, you should consider that you are not a good American, but a part of the problem: you are taking advantage of American religious freedom without being prepared to pledge your support to the principle that secures it."

Other panelists seem unwilling to draw a hard line about America's status as a 'Christian Nation.'

Some clearly state that they mean to ignore "whether a nation can (or should) be Christian." Instead they outline divides among American Christians and seek to redirect the question into something more like 'What kind of Christians make up America?'

Another panelist simply try to keep everybody happy by declaring that America isn't a 'Christian Nation' but a great nation because there are so many Christians in it.

The question is further avoided by panelists who play with the difference between 'nation' and government and call for a "society in which religiously informed viewpoints are welcomed in the public square on an equal basis with all other voices." One assumes that teaching children in public schools that the world in 6,000 years old, that Dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth together and/or that the world is flat would be some of the 'viewpoints' given equal basis as, say, Science.

Calling for any politician that wouldn't put the Constitution above her or his religious beliefs to be "unelectable" same way that Atheists are now and African Americans used to be (in places still are) shows a great deal of moral courage. It is a call that is both necessary and unpopular.

That's why I'm sure it will be ignored.

Sen. Tim Johnson

I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes to Sen. Johnson and his family. Any serious medical problem, especially one that is sudden and unexpected, is a terrible ordeal. I'm sure that I speak for many people on the Left and the Right when I say that I hope his recovery is swift and complete.

Although I understand that a medical condition is incredibly personal, the fact that Sen. Johnson is the deciding vote in the U.S. Senate means that his condition is also of concern to every America.

Here's what I know:

The front page at Daily Kos has this:

According to Johnson's attending physician:
Subsequent to his admission to George Washington University Hospital, Senator Tim Johnson was found to have had intracerebral bleed, caused by Congenital Arteriovenous Malformation. He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation.
Senator Johnson's wife, Barbara Johnson, released a statement saying:
The Johnson family is encouraged and optimistic. We are grateful for the prayers and good wishes of friends, supporters and South Dakotans. We are especially grateful for the work of the doctors and all medical personnel in GWU Hospital.
The medical specialist on CNN describes "Congenital Arteriovenous Malformation" as, "a cluster of blood vessels that grow too close together and can sometimes bleed. It's often congenital, meaning someone has it their entire lives...hypertension or some other factor causes can cause it to bleed."

Senator Johnson remains in critical condition, but that was described as standard after a surgery like this. A press conference will be held this morning to give further updates on the Senator's condition.
The AP has this report:
WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was in critical but stable condition Thursday after late-night emergency brain surgery, creating political drama about which party will control the Senate next month if he is unable to continue in office.

Johnson suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said, describing the surgery as successful. The condition, present at birth, causes tangled blood vessels.

"The senator is recovering without complication," the physician, Adm. John Eisold, said. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."

Eisold said doctors had to drain the blood that had accumulated in Johnson's brain and stop continued bleeding.
Preliminary reports that the Senator had a stroke seem to be untrue, though the mistake is understandable. I'm far from a medical expert, but people seem to be cautiously optimistic. Let's hope they're right.

AP Photo/Jenny Michael

Harry Potter vs. Christian Privilege

I've mentioned a few times that a certain Ms. Mallory (right) is seeking to have all Harry Potter books removed from Georgia Public School Libraries.

More news has come in. From the International Herald Tribune:

ATLANTA: The state Board of Education will decide Wednesday whether to keep Harry Potter books on library shelves in one suburban Atlanta school district, and the matter will be discussed in public rather than behind closed doors as previously planned.

The board will consider an appeal by parent Laura Mallory who is upset that the Gwinnett County school board voted to keep the best-selling books in its schools, despite her claims that the books indoctrinate children in pagan religion.
It turns out that the board isn't reviewing Gwinnett County's decision, just whether it acted within its authority when making that decision.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
State board members are not deciding whether J.K. Rowling's series of children's books about a powerful boy wizard are appropriate material for public schools. Instead, they are deciding the technical matter of whether Gwinnett acted within its authority when a parent challenged their use.


Earlier today, state board members gave tacit approval to the decision by the administrative law judge that Gwinnett had acted within its authority. The board is expected to take a formal vote Thursday.
It appears that cooler heads (or rather rational ones) are poised to prevail.

As Shakespeare's Sister points out, it's important to remember why Ms. Mallory is objecting to the wildly popular series by J.K. Rowling:
"There are so many problems facing our children today — drugs, alcohol, violence and the growth of the occult, too. These books are helping to mainstream witchcraft. These books are dangerous and harmful to our children. I am a Christian. I feel that Christian rights are being abolished in this country. Everyone talks about our views being pushed on them. But what about our beliefs? Don't we have any rights at all?" [Bolds mine.]
No, Ms. Mallory, you're wrong. Christian rights aren't being abolished - just Christian privilege.

People like Ms. Mallory have allowed themselves to slip into thinking that the advantages that they've enjoyed for so long as Christians aren't just a perk of being the majority - they think that these privileges are are right.

The 'Culture Wars' aren't really a 'war' so much as a rear-guard action by a fading majority. Ten Commandments on a court house? 50 years ago it just wasn't an issue. Sure, it was still wrong then, but the monument wasn't put up because Christians had a right to put it on Federal property, it just happened because there weren't enough (or rather powerful enough) non-Christian organizations to prevent it.

For a very long time, if something wasn't in keeping with Christian principles, it wasn't in keeping with the principles of the vast majority of Americans. While Christians are still the majority in this nation, they are loosing ground. As there is more religious diversity in America and as more people realize that - even if it's their personal religion - Christianity isn't the only religion in America there is less and less support for Christian Privilege.

One cannot expect every member of a population that enjoys special privileges to abandon them simply because it is the right thing to do. One can hope that there are enough fair minded Christians in America to realize that Christian Privilege isn't in keeping with our American ideals.

Photo: John Amis / AP


Iraq - A Small Part of a Generational War

I'm always hesitant to agree with things I find in the Washington Times, but this article is useful. While I don't agree with all the points made by Gen. Schissler, his premise, that we will be fighting violent Islamist extremists for the rest of my lifetime, is useful. From the Washington Times:

The American people need to prepare for a long-duration war against radical Muslims who are set to fight for 50 to 100 years to create an Islamist state in the region, a top Pentagon strategist in the war on terror says.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler said in an interview that the current strategy for fighting Islamists includes both military and ideological components that make it similar to the 40-year Cold War against communism.

"We're in a generational war. You can try and fight the enemy where they are and where they're attacking you, or prevent them and defend your own homeland," said Gen. Schissler, deputy director for the war on terrorism within the strategic plans office of the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

"But that's not enough to stop it. We've got to break the chain, and that's ... the ideology. We really need to show the errors in Islamist extremist thinking."

Gen. Schissler said he is concerned that Washington politics is weakening the will of the nation.

"I don't care about the politics. I care about people understanding the facts of what's our enemy is thinking about, what's our strategy to defeat them, and for [Americans] to understand that it will take a long fight, mostly because our enemy is committed to the long fight," he said. "They're absolutely committed to the 50-, 100-year plan."
And that is precisely the reason that we need to get out of Iraq now - even if it leaves something less than a moderate, pro-America, secular, democratic government.

If we're going to offer the Muslim World a better vision of the future, not being seen as the foreign occupier of a Muslim Nation would go a long way to making our case.

If we extricate ourselves from Iraq now, any negatives outweigh the positives of staying when viewed through a 50-100 year lens. If America were to exit Iraq by the end of 2008, by 2010 our military would be a far more effective deterrent, our standing with our allies would vastly improve, and we would have more 'room to maneuver' in the middle east.

If this is a War of Ideas, why are we fighting it with boots and rifles? If Gen. Schissler is going to compare the War against Islamic Fundamentalism (which he didn't call the "War on Terror") to the Cold War let's take it to the logical conclusion: Containment.

Invading countries is going to make more extremists, not less.

And The Blogger Returns

Apologies to all (three) of my readers for a rather extended break. I was sick on Monday and work kept me busy both yesterday and most of today. I will now be returning to regular blogging - at least until I take a bit of time off for the holidays.

I'm going to start off with a bit of navel-gazing. If you're looking for hard news and/or commentary, I'll get to that soon enough. Be patient.

* * * * *

So the Liberal Blogosphere has felt rather quite lately. I certainly haven't helped fill the void. My posts have been fewer, shorter, and further between for some weeks now.

On its surface, this seems unlikely. The Iraq Study Group Report, a new Secretary of Defense (and the retiring of Don Rumsfeld), a war becoming less popular, less successful, and less sustainable, Iraqi politics... There are so many things that should be drawing our attention.

But they're not.

I think that in some ways it's a kind of delayed 'let-down' after the November elections. The run-up to these elections was a time of hyper-activity for us and a time of tremendous stress. Hoping that our hope wouldn't be crushed, seeing all the signs of victory yet being to conditioned to having the rug pulled out from under us a la John Kerry '04 to really trust our feelings or enjoy the ride.

Then there was the fact that it took a couple of days to see who actually won. The last seat wasn't actually filled until yesterday.

By the time that Allen conceded, reviews of Diebold machines were taken, Republican dirty tricks were discussed, political strategy was analyzed, and lessons were identified, we - as a blogosphere - were exhausted. There was bound to be a let-down.

On top of that, after the elections we found ourselves in uncharted and unfamiliar territory. For me (and I would assume most of us) our entire blogging experience has been under the cloud of Bush/GOP dominance of our government. All of a sudden, the political world has shifted. As 'Lefty' bloggers, we are faced with challenges: The old model - documenting the errors, crimes, and failures of the Bush Administration and the GOP 'rubber stamp' Congress - is no longer viable. For so long we had had one problem. The people controlling our government had ideas, values, agendas and goals vastly different from our own.

Now we have a multitude of problems.

First, the Legislative branch is controlled by 'our people.' No longer is the solution "vote them out of office." We must hold our own party members accountable. We have to find ways to get the people that supposedly share our mindset to demonstrate that.

Additionally, we must actually govern.

Part of governing is oversight. We should and will actively investigate the crimes and excesses of the Bush Administration. We also have to clean up the mess that the former caretakers of government left us. Ethics rules, oversight committees, lobbying rules, and ear mark reform are all areas that must be addressed. But we also must pass laws, make and pass budgets and provide the services needed to run a super power.

The people that brought Democrats to power - both Liberals and Moderates - expect all of those things from us. But that's hard. And we can't start until January.

For the most part, 'Politics' is on hold until the new year. Everybody knows that the real show begins when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid actually are the leaders of their respective bodies, not just 'Leaders in Waiting.' Everything until then is political time-filler.

So there really isn't that much to talk about - except the War in Iraq.

The War in Iraq - as far as domestic politics are concerned - is in a similar state of flux. The ISG was supposed to provide a 'new way forward' but George W. Bush balked (one assumes) at the perception of failure. Now we have to wait for the New Year to hear him announce his new Iraq strategy in a speech to the nation.

(I'll let W. himself explain the delay to the brave men and women killed or injured between now and then.)

The Culture War rages on. "The War on Christmas" dominates the current battle field but both 'sides' of this brouhaha are so well established that they don't inspire much more than "oh god, are they still at this?"

So we sit and wait for January with both excitement and trepidation.

* * * * *

For the last year, this blog has focused on documenting the errors of the Republican Party and it's various affiliated groups and individuals. As the GOP falls out of power, they will, in a manner of speaking, stop making errors because they'll stop being the ones making the decisions. What then will be the focus of 300 Dollar Wonder? I'm not sure.

The Bush Administration stays in power and will undoubtedly continue to bungle their way froward, mistake after mistake, until 2008. I will continue to write about it. The War in Iraq will continue to be an issue I will address. I hope that I will be able to turn the same eye for bad government onto a Democratic House and Senate. Then there's the 2008 Presidential Horse Race just around the corner...

Which of these will become the focus? My guess is that it will be a combination of all of them. I'm not making plans. I'm just going to continue to write about what inspires me to write.

Hopefully all (three) of you will continue to read.


Americans aren't Dumb

From the AP:

WASHINGTON - Americans are overwhelmingly resigned to something less than clear-cut victory in
Iraq and growing numbers doubt the country will achieve a stable, democratic government no matter how the U.S. gets out, according to an AP poll.

At the same time, dissatisfaction with
President Bush's handling of Iraq has climbed to an alltime high of 71 percent. The latest AP-Ipsos poll, taken as a bipartisan commission was releasing its recommendations for a new course in Iraq, found that just 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from his previous low of 31 percent in November.

"Support is continuing to erode and there's no particular reason to think it can be turned back," said John Mueller, an Ohio State University political scientist and author of "War, Presidents and Public Opinion." Mueller said that once people "drop off the bandwagon, it's unlikely they'll say 'I'm for it again.' Once they're off, they're off."

Even so, Americans are not necessarily intent on getting all U.S. troops out right away, the poll indicated. The survey found strong support for a two-year timetable if that's what it took to get U.S. troops out. Seventy-one percent said they would favor a two-year timeline from now until sometime in 2008, but when people are asked instead about a six-month timeline for withdrawal that number drops to 60 percent.
I find it interesting that 60% of Americans calling for a withdrawal within 6 months isn't enough for Americans to be 'intent on getting all U.S. troops out right away.' What do they want, absolute concensus?

In the end, Bush may be too stuborn to leave Iraq, Baker Commission or no Baker Commission. If so, every candidate running in 2008, however, will have to have a plan to get out of Iraq. It will be the issue. That doesn't bode well for John 'Send More Troops' McCain.

And with 30 dead already in the first week of December, I'm not seeing any way that this number is the 'bottom' for the Bush Administration. I figure there's another 5 or 10 percentage points out there yet. I expect to see disapproval for Bush's handling of Iraq pushing 80% and the percentage calling for a timeline should eventually reach the same levels...

Un-Curious George.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

[Iraq Study Group member Lawrence] Eagleburger said after the event that when the group met with Bush, "I don't recall, seriously, that he asked any questions."
Are you surprised?

And we're supposed to think that this whole Baker Commission thing is going to change anything at the White House? I think not.

"Macaca" Haunts George Allen.

"When you lose a game by one point, you can go through every play in the game and say, 'If we didn't jump offside, if the referee makes that call, if we caught that pass, if we didn't fumble, we could have made a difference.'"

-- Sen. George Allen (R-VA), quoted by the Virginian-Pilot, on losing what should have been a safe Republican seat to a Democrat that had never run for office before.

For all the football analogies, I'm pretty sure George is just saying he wishes he called a guy he knew was taping him "Macaca."


The New Southern Problem

Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post:

[In last month's election] The Democrats won control of five state legislatures, all outside the South, and took more than 300 state legislative seats away from Republicans, 93 percent of them outside the South. As for the new Senate Republican caucus that chose Mississippi's Lott over Tennessee's Lamar Alexander to be deputy to Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, 17 of its 49 members come from the Confederacy proper, with another three from the old border states of Kentucky and Missouri, and two more from Oklahoma, which is Southern but with more dust. In all, 45 percent of Republican senators come from the Greater South.

More problematic, so does most of the Republican message. Following the gospel according to Rove (fear not swing voters but pander to and mobilize thy base), George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, together or separately, had already blocked stem cell research, disparaged nonmilitary statecraft, exalted executive wartime power over constitutional niceties, campaigned repeatedly against gay rights, thrown public money at conservative churches and investigated the tax status of liberal ones. In the process, they alienated not just moderates but Western-state libertarians.

The one strategist who fundamentally predicted the new geography of partisan American politics is Tom Schaller, a University of Maryland political scientist whose book "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South" appeared several months before November's elections. Schaller argued that the Democrats' growth would occur in the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, the Mountain West and the Southwest -- areas where professionals, appalled by Republican Bible Beltery, were trending Democratic and where working-class whites voted their pocketbooks in a way that their Southern counterparts did not. Al Gore carried white voters outside the South, Schaller reminded us; even hapless John Kerry came close.

No time to comment. Go read the whole thing!

Citation du Jour

"Some reports are issued and just gather dust. And truth of the matter is, a lot of reports in Washington are never read by anybody. To show you how important this one is, I read it."

- President Bush, at a press conference, on the Iraq Study Group report.
Unlike the memo titled, "Bin Laden determined to strike America."

Also, note that the President of the 'small government' party admits that many (very expensive) studies 'gather dust.' Way to use our tax dollars, Dear Leader.

Habeas Corpus

From the Kansas City Star:

WASHINGTON - President Bush's victory in getting the rules he wanted to try suspected terrorists could be diminished.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled this week that he'll join prominent Democrats in seeking to restore legal rights to hundreds of suspected terrorists confined at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

While the measure to restore the right of habeas corpus has almost no chance of passing before Congress adjourns later this week, the message is clear: When Democrats take over in early January, the issue could resurface.
It damn well better resurface!

The last time that this was up for debate, the effort to restore habeas failed by only three votes. While I doubt that anything will happen this week, five new Democratic Senator may be able to get something done in January...

Snowed Under

Work has been chaotic lately. Post have been slow. They will continue to be sparse through at least today. Without a doubt next week I'll be able to write more posts as well as more reasoned posts!


On the Iraq Study Group's Report:

The Iraq Study Group's long awaited (if exhaustively 'leaked') report was given to George W. Bush this morning. Here it is for us as a PDF.

Expect to be underwhelmed.

For the last month, the world have waited for 'The Amazing James Baker IIItm' to solve all of the problems in Iraq. We all know this isn't actually going to happen, but the expectation that the ISG will bring a major shift in Iraq policy and a brighter future to Iraq itself is persistent.

This is understandable. No matter how smart or well informed we are as citizens, there's an expectation that the government (or at least those making these types of recommendations within the government) are smarter and better informed than we are. Surely they'll think of something.

Well, here's the thing. Sometimes 'smart' and 'well informed' don't really get you anywhere. Sometimes things are just so broken that they can't be fixed. The situation in Iraq is pretty much screwed.

The report calls the situation "grave" and "deteriorating." So what? We didn't need Jim Baker the Third to tell us that. He also comes to the startling realization that failure in Iraq won't just screw up Iraq. The whole region could end up in chaos.

The media will report all of these turns of phrase ("Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.") as proof that the Baker Commission is taking a hard look at reality and speaking truth to power.

'Look how independent the Baker Commission is - they say we're failing! The Bush Administration would never do that. These guys must be serious.'

Of course this isn't the case. While every 'criticism' is stark, all recommendations are replete with enough caveats to allow the Bush Administration to keep doing what they're doing now.

"By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq."
'Subject to unexpected developments' certainly gives George W. Bush a lot of wiggle room. We've been in Iraq since 2002. How many EXPECTED developments have there been so far?

Even the Bush Administration's response to the report screams 'we aren't about to let this piece of paper stop our glorious adventure!'
"We will take every proposal seriously, and we will act in a timely fashion,"
Words straight from Bush's mouth. Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but if Bush promises to take something 'seriously' and 'act in a timely fashion' I can pretty much be sure that the report will be shoved in a drawer somewhere and forgotten.

Whether this is because the report didn't toe the Administration Line or because it came from James Baker (read: Daddy) this advice won't be heeded.

CNN reports:
Bush urged Congress to take the group's proposals seriously and work with the administration to find "common ground" on Iraq policy.

"The country is tired of pure political bickering," Bush said.
All of a sudden, the people that you demonized throughout the last two years for being cowards, 'cut and runners', terrorist sympathizers, or worse are supposed to work with you? You've spent (literally) millions of dollars trying to convince the American People that Democrats want to hand innocent Americans over to terrorists - now you are going to share war-planning responsibilities with them?

The Bush Administration has always regarded 'bipartisanship' as bullying just enough Democrats into taking the Administration position for the White House to get exactly what it wants. Why should we expect anything different now?

This White House has spent to much time heaping scorn on it's perceived opponents (and it's allies for that matter) that a cheap verbal olive branch isn't about to bring the cooperation of other parties.

That's why the report's recommendation to work with Syria and Iran are doomed. While it's in both Syria and Iran's long term interest to have a stable neighbor in Iraq, they're not about to just start putting aside short term gain to help America and George W. Bush out of a tight spot because George W. Bush and James Baker think it's a good idea.

The Iraq Study Group's report ends with this piece of wisdom:
"Foreign policy is doomed to failure -- as is any action in Iraq -- if not supported by broad, sustained consensus."
The report meant consensus at home - something Iraq had enjoyed (if wrongly) for many months before the public soured as the bungling became obvious. I contend that 'broad consensus' in a global frame is required for any sort of foreign policy - military interventions in particular - to succeed. It was obvious from the beginning that George W. Bush did not have the support of the world at large. The U.N. hardly jumped at the idea of 'disarming Saddam,' to say nothing of regime change and bringing 'freedom & democracy' to Iraq.)

Approval for the American intervention in the Middle East was non-existent. These are the countries that share borders with Iraq, the countries that would by default be the ones preventing foreign fighters, arms, supplies, and money from entering Iraq. These would be the countries that would have to refuse refuge to insurgents, militia men, and sectarian fighters. These countries would be the ones that could exert the most influence (good or bad) on the new government.

But securing the assistance and support of Iraq's neighbors was the way Daddy fought Saddam and we know the way Bush Jr. (and friends) felt about how that one ended...

Dick Cheney Hates Families!

Or so the rhetoric would have you believe. From the Washington Post:

Mary Cheney, the vice president's openly gay daughter, is pregnant. She and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, are "ecstatic" about the baby, due in late spring, said a source close to the couple.

It's a baby boom for grandparents Dick and Lynne Cheney: Their older daughter, Elizabeth, went on leave as deputy assistant secretary of state before having her fifth child in July. "The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild," spokesman Lea Anne McBride said last night.
So either Lea Anne McBride is lying about what Dick Cheney thinks or the Vice President of the United States is a full-on supporter of the Gay Agenda! He wants every American family to be DESTROYED by evil sodomites! Oh, God, Dick Cheney think Homosexuals should be able to raise children - the ultimate child abuse - he's EVIL! THE CHILDREN, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

* * * * *

Ok, snark aside, it amazes me that Dick Cheney can see how the rhetoric and agenda of his party, the one in which he is second in command, affects his daughter and not be disgusted with the hatred and bigotry and political opportunism at the expense of people like Mary Cheney.

Even more alarming, Mary Cheney herself has been a strong and devoted supporter of a party that seeks to demean her, strip her of her rights and her equality, and make her a second class citizen.

Of course Mary Cheney doesn't have to worry about any of this for the same rich people don't have to worry about abortion being banned. If you have money and you want an abortion, a safe one will be available to you - either in Canada or from a private doctor. Only the poor will suffer.

Mary Cheney has enough money to not have to worry about whether her partner has parental rights. She can afford lawyers to make sure that everything will work out. It's just poor people that get screwed.

I'd like to take an opportunity to wish Mary Cheney well. I hope that she and the baby are happy and healthy. I just also hope that this experience will make her wonder what kind of country her party is creating for her child...

Citation du Jour

"Keeping us up here eats away at families…The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

-- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), in the Washington Post, whining about incoming-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) plan to make lawmakers work the same work week that everybody else does.
Every Republican sited in the article bitches and moans about having to work. The article sites two Democrats other than Steny Hoyer - one laments the change, the other calls it "long over due."

I don't know what that says more about our party, the new Republican Minority, or the fact that Lyndsey Layton, the Washington Post report who wrote the story will now have to cover the congressional beat 5 days a week.

I some ways, I sympathize with the Representatives. Being a Senator or Congressperson is all about being in Washington. It's important for members of congress to be visible in their own communities, not just for election purposes. It's important that they be available to talk to constituents, see the effects of the laws they pass in their own communities, and see the issues that their constituents face.

Then I remember that I work 50 hours a week and 'Tuesday afternoon to Thursday afternoon' is, at most, 14 hours.

So fuck 'em.



100 Most Influential Americans

As compiled by The Atlantic:

1 Abraham Lincoln
He saved the Union, freed the slaves, and presided over America’s second founding.

2 George Washington
He made the United States possible—not only by defeating a king, but by declining to become one himself.

3 Thomas Jefferson
The author of the five most important words in American history: “All men are created equal.”

4 Franklin Delano Roosevelt
He said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and then he proved it.

5 Alexander Hamilton
Soldier, banker, and political scientist, he set in motion an agrarian nation’s transformation into an industrial power.

6 Benjamin Franklin
The Founder-of-all-trades— scientist, printer, writer, diplomat, inventor, and more; like his country, he contained multitudes.

7 John Marshall
The defining chief justice, he established the Supreme Court as the equal of the other two federal branches.

8 Martin Luther King Jr.
His dream of racial equality is still elusive, but no one did more to make it real.

9 Thomas Edison
It wasn’t just the lightbulb; the Wizard of Menlo Park was the most prolific inventor in American history.

10 Woodrow Wilson
He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy.
The list didn't limit itself to 'good' influence on America, putting Richard Nixon at #99 and John C. Calhoun at #58, among others.

Numerically, Presidents rule - 'Founding Fathers' especially. Washington #2, Jefferson #3, Hamilton #5, Madison #13, and Adams #25. Post WWII Presidents include FDR #4, Reagan #17, Truman #21, Eisenhower #28, LBJ #44, and Nixon #99. In total eighteen Presidents are on the list.

How John F. Kennedy got left out I cannot understand.

The list includes statesmen, activists, artists, (two Architects! Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan) athletes, scientists, abolitionists, inventors, and a smattering of Supreme Court Justices.

Overall, the lest is very progressive in that influential Americans are the ones that reinforce America's core social value: Progress. The list holds up the men and women (women being vastly under represented) that moved America forward.

Go check out the whole thing.

Atlantic has a page for recommendations on who should have been on the list. My first choice:

John F. Kennedy
Looked the Soviets - and nuclear war - straight in the eye and made both blink.

Who would you include?