29 September 2006

The Abyss

Quote of the Day:
...in the 1970s, conservatives seemed the only people to grasp the true evil of the Sovet Union. At the core of its evil was its deployment of torture to break free people's souls and to obliterate their liberty by the brute force of the state. Now conservatives are the ones justifying torture - by the United States. They have become what they once fought. Unchecked power does that to you.
-Andrew Sullivan, in response to Vasko Kohlmayer's pro-waterboarding argument.

Forget Arnold. I'd be all for amending the Constitution to let non-natural born citizens be eligible to run for president if Sully would throw his hat in the ring. A good, large overdose of truth and realism is the only thing that will save our republic at this point.

Sullivan/Friedman, anyone?

27 September 2006

"Our Nation Is In Peril"

It has always been the practice of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to hold oversight hearings at times of war. As part of the checks and balances built in to the Constitution, these hearings were designed to make sure the troops were getting what they needed from the president.

But not this war. Not this Republican-led Congress. Not this President.

And so, on Monday Democratic members of Congress held their own oversight hearings; and three Iraq War military men (two generals, one colonel, all of them Republicans) voluntarily sat down and let America know exactly how bad Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have mismanaged this war.

Some selected excerpts:

General Batiste:
My name is John Batiste. I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from a promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform. I am a West Point graduate, the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers, a two-time combat veteran with extensive service in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, and a life-long Republican.

Bottom line, our nation is in peril, our Department of Defense’s leadership is extraordinarily bad, and our Congress is only today, more than five years into this war, beginning to exercise its oversight responsibilities. This is all about accountability and setting our nation on the path to victory. There is no substitute for victory and I believe we must complete what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except how to win...He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today...

Secretary Rumsfeld’s dismal strategic decisions resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American servicemen and women, our allies, and the good people of Iraq. He was responsible for America and her allies going to war with the wrong plan and a strategy that did not address the realities of fighting an insurgency. He violated fundamental principles of war, dismissed deliberate military planning, ignored the hard work to build the peace after the fall of Saddam Hussein, set the conditions for Abu Ghraib and other atrocities.

Secretary Rumsfeld built his team by systematically removing dissension. America went to war with "his plan" and to say that he listens to his generals is disingenuous...

Our nation’s treasure in blood and dollars continues to be squandered under Secretary Rumsfeld’s leadership. Losing one American life due to incompetent war planning and preparation is absolutely unacceptable.
General Eaton:
I was given the order to go to Iraq to create the Army on May 9, 2003, one week after the President’s ["Mission Accomplished"] speech aboard aircraft carrier Lincoln. To state the obvious, a very late order...

The President charged Secretary Rumsfeld to prosecute this war, a man who has proven himself incompetent strategically, operationally, and tactically. Mr. Rumsfeld came into his position with an extraordinary arrogance...
Colonel Hammes:
While asking major sacrifices, to include the ultimate sacrifice, from those Americans who are serving in Iraq, we are not even asking our fellow citizens to pay for the war - instead we are charging it to our children and grandchildren...

Given the fact that the Secretary of Defense has not acknowledged the numerous, serious mistakes made to date, I do not believe it is possible for him to provide the leadership necessary to succeed in Iraq. It is time for him to provide the nation the last in a long series of services, and step down.
A small portion of Gen. Batiste's remarks can be seen here.

Say it with me: Worst. President. Ever.

26 September 2006

From First to Sixth

File under "Worst. President. Ever.": The United States has lost it's place as the world's most competitive economy, dropping from first to sixth place.

Yes. You read that correctly. Sixth place!

The rankings:

1. Switzerland
2. Finland
3. Sweden
4. Denmark
5. Singapore
6. United States
7. Japan
8. Germany
9. The Netherlands
10. United Kingdom

Outdone by Singapore!? Way to go, Georgie!

Now, let's see how long it takes the nimrod to blame this one on Clinton.

Bill Clinton vs Little Boy Coward

Most of the mainstream media are using the Fox News talking points to describe President Clinton's reaction to Chris Wallace's questions regarding terrorism this past weekend. "Blowing a gasket?" "Temper-tantrum?" Some are even suggesting that Mr. Clinton's answers were false.

Give me a break!

Everything (EVERYTHING!) he said to Wallace was true. He tried to get bin Laden and many of his efforts were thwarted because of a Republican controlled Congress who were ready to impeach him at the drop of a hat and who said publicly that the administration was too obssessed with bin Laden. These are the same Republicans who today try to say if it weren't for the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton may have been able to get the al Quaeda leader. Never mind that those Republicans are the ones responsible for diverting America's attention to the Lewinsky matter, and never mind that at the height of that unnecessary drama, President Clinton ordered an attack on bin Laden's Afghan camps.

Yes, we missed. Yes, bin Laden escaped. But at least Bill Clinton tried.

Upon taking office in January, 2001, George W. Bush put bin Laden's team on the back burner, despite Clinton's warnings that the terrorist network would be the new President's number one priority.

Now, 5 years after 9/11, Mr. Bush has said publicly that bin Laden is not his priority while letting his "ally" in this fight (Pakistan) give haven to the bin Laden team.

Yes, Clinton failed to kill bin Laden, but again...at least HE TRIED. Bush never did, and by taking his eye off the ball (Iraq) has now let the architect of the biggest mass murder in American history go free. And like the little boy coward he is, George stands there, points his finger at President Clinton and says, "he did it."

Part 1 of the interview here. And part 2 here.

21 September 2006


Quote of the Day 2:
The goals of this country is to enhance prosperity and the peace.
President Bush speaking at the White House Conference on Global Literacy.


Lesson? When someone says he wants "to dialogue" with you, you never really have to listen to anything else he says.

Looking Inward, Rather Than Outward

Quote of the Day:
We looked inward rather than outward, and sadly, did exactly what our president asked us to do. Kept shopping. Not conserving. And certainly not sacrificing.
-Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin, writing of her experience in New York on 9/11 as a correspondent for CBS News.

19 September 2006

54 Seconds

Your song of the day is far and away one of the best singles of the past five years. "Ben's Letter" by 54 Seconds. This Austin based group is best described as ambient pop-rock headphone music: swirling guitar textures, lush keyboards, and the melancholy voice of Spencer Gibb belting out excellent melodies and heartening lyrics.

"Ben's Letter" (released in June of 2004) is pure magic. Click here for a listen.

And check out the video below.

18 September 2006

Indecent. Insane.

Quote of the Day:
There is already clarity in the...Geneva Convention, and the McCain Amendment. What the Bush administration wants is to introduce vagueness to get away with exactly the same barabarism they have deploying illegally for the past five years. They must be stopped. And eventually, they must be prosecuted for war crimes.
-Andrew Sullivan (by no means an anti-Bush liberal), Saturday, on the President's Rose Garden speech regarding the Geneva Conventions.

I'll go a step further: Impeachment, followed by war crimes prosecution. I dread these next two years and sincerely believe the United States - and the World - would be better off if we just removed Bush and Cheney from office via impeachment and let the Speaker of the House (who ever it is at the time) finish out the final two years of the term.

Say it with me: Worst. President. Ever.

15 September 2006


It's official. George W. Bush makes Jimmy Carter look competent.

In the past week or so we've learned:

1. Pakistan, our alleged "ally" in the war on terror, has signed a "truce" with the tribal warlords who control the border areas where Osama bin Laden is presumed to be hiding;

2. Al-Qaeda's membership, estimated at 20,000 on 9/11, is now estimated by U.S. intelligence agencies at 50,000;

3. The U.S. is walking away (or waving the white flag, if you will) from the Anbar province of Iraq - essentially the entire western half of that country; and

4. President Bush told reporters yesterday that bin Laden is "not a top priority use of American resources."

The Democrats need only do one thing...Produce a TV commercial that will run nation-wide that pounds home these four failures and then, at the end of the commercial, plant the President's face on the screen and ask Americans one simple question: Are we really winning?

Say it with me: Worst. President. Ever.

14 September 2006

Ann Richards, 1933 - 2006

Sad news out of Austin this morning. Former Texas Governor Ann Richards died last night of esophageal cancer at her home in the state capitol. She was 73. My thoughts are with her family as they mourn the loss of this great, trailblazing woman.

13 September 2006

"Love Is Just a Game"

Your Song of the Day is one of the best singles of the past year. "Love Is a Game" by the Magic Numbers.

12 September 2006

"So What?"

First, there was Tom Cruise. Now, Matt Lauer gets this idiot all up in his face.

Good for Lauer for confronting the President on this issue. No other reporter has had the cajones to do so. And despite his denials, George's body language and confrontational demeanor speak volumes. As does his snotty, brattly little "so what" response to one of Matt's early questions.

Five Years On

One last comment on the 9/11 anniversary, from Keith Olbermann:
...of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers...

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.

11 September 2006

If It Didn't Happen

New York Magazine did a wonderful cover piece last month in which nineteen contributers were asked the question, "What if 9/11 never happened?" Of all the entries I think Andrew Sullivan's comes pretty close to the mark. Writing for his blog in the year 2006 of an alternative universe, Sullivan speaks of George W. Bush's one failed term and the resulting rejection of the neo-con philosophy. He speaks of "President Gore's" determination to weed out the real root causes of terrorism, as potential threats and a cold war-like struggle take hold in the Middle East. And, after an October 2006 chemical attack on five cities around the world, Gore is able to find and kill Osama bin Laden.

One thing though. In Sullivan's alternate universe, Gore won the 2004 election the same way Bush won the 2000 contest - having lost the popular vote. I disagree. Without the security issue on the table I doubt that the evangelical and independent vote numbers would have been as strong for Bush. Gore would have tallied a comfortable margin in both the popular and electoral votes.

But all the talk is for naught. 9/11 did happen. Bush is still the President. And we're in one hell of a mess.

And this lead me to wonder, not what the world would be like if 9/11 hadn't happen, but what things would look like had someone else been president.

And for the sake of argument, let's say I were president that day. (See the following post.)

Had I Been President

Taking the "What if 9/11 didn't happen" argument in a different direction, I have often wondered how things would have went down had someone else been in the White House in 2001. Al Gore. Bill Bradley. Even John McCain (had the GOP nominated him he would have crushed Gore). Or how about an alternative universe where the Constitution's 22nd Amendment didn't exist - or was repealed - and Bill Clinton was serving a third term in 2001 (had he been able to run, he would have crushed Bush).

Instead, I'll take it from another vantage point: What if I were president?

Let's say I entered office in the same fashion as George W. Bush...having lost the popular vote by half a million ballots and with the slimmest Electoral College victory since 1876. Such a skewed result would have led me to reach across the political aisle and Republicans would have been given more than just a token seat at the administration table. Colin Powell at Defense, perhaps. William Cohen as my Chief of Staff. Another moderate Republican as my budget director. Including the opposition party in my cabinet would have signaled to my fellow Americans that I respected their voice on Election Day and was ready to alter my agenda as such.

Internationally I would have kept the United States in the Kyoto Treaty to stop global warming, and I wouldn't have thumbed my nose at the hard work of former President Clinton in the Middle East peace process.

On 9/11 I would not have froze at the news of the massive attack on the private citizens of our country. As Commander-in-Chief I would have called for an immediate meeting of the National Security Council, calling the shots, delegating duty where necessary.

In the aftermath, with my country behind me, with my fellow citizens wanting to do what was necessary to fight the radicals of the Arab region, I would have started an immediate draft. Men AND women between 18 and 30 would be drafted not just into the military service, but into a national civil service (perhaps an expanded AmeriCorps) that would stress education in science and engineering among many other things.

This military draft would have both strengthened our troop numbers for the coming war and instilled a sense of discipline in American youth that is sorely lacking today.

With our international allies at our side and ready to help, a massive military mission - as well as a political police action - would have been ordered against the Taliban and their al-Qaeda supporters in Afghanistan and in the mountains of Tora Bora. Get Osama bin Laden and you take a huge step in breaking the spirit of his followers. Upon the defeat of the Taliban, Afghanistan would have served as the seed for a new democratic Middle East. A large military presence would have been kept there (300,000 or so) to make sure that seed takes hold and to make sue any potential insurgencies against American and allied troops are squashed before they could begin.

And the Geneva Conventions would have been strictly followed.

Massive sanctions against Iran and Saudi Arabia - yes, Saudi Arabia - would have been implemented until the regimes there were either forced from office or forced to moderate their governments - and by extension their societies.

A $2.00 to $3.00 a gallon gas tax would have been implemented to fund a massive program for energy independence. Drain the Middle East of their oil dependence by draining Americans of theirs and we might make a huge dent in de-throning the corrupted rulers of the Middle East region and, by extension, their backward policies that keep their citizens in the poor house - and their young men angry.

As president I wouldn't have signed a tax reduction bill as massive as the one President Bush signed in 2001. But had I done so, I would have immediately reinstated those taxes. You can't fight a war on the cheap. Our young men and women in uniform deserve better stewardship.

A war with Iraq? No. Iraq may have come into play a few years down the road, but with strengthened sanctions against Saddam Hussein and additional pressure on him from other leaders in that region, I really do think he would have been removed from power without our intervention. Had I been president, our troops would have been deployed to fight the war that was brought to us on 9/11. Not to a country that had nothing to do with it.

But I wasn't president and never will be. These are just the rambling thoughts of a patriotic American who, on the fifth anniversary of that horrible day, so wishes we had leadership in place that was up to the task. Because, quite frankly, George W. Bush has failed us. For an increasing number of Americans, that is plainly evident; for others, not so much. Amd to those who disagree with me I ask this: Can you honestly say that your children's lives will be better than yours?

I didn't think so.

Diane Maria Urban

Diane Urban said what she thought, whether you wanted to hear it or not. The habit was so well known that a relative suggested at her memorial service that they all get T-shirts saying, "Diane Urban Told Me Off."

When doing my research into Diane Maria Urban for the 2996 Project I ran across that quote and couldn't help but think of my late grandmother. Diane, who perished at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was described as a "pistol" who was sharp of tounge and "never backed down." That was my grandmother, to a T.

But beyond the personality traits Diane's memory is celebrated here today for the ultimate sacrifice she made on that horrible day 5 years ago. She worked for the New York State Department of Taxation in the South Tower of the WTC and was in the concourse area of the 78th floor when the second plane hit her building. Most of those in that lobby were killed when the plane's wing sliced through the concourse.

Diane's co-worker, Dianne Gladstone, was thrown away and broke her leg. "I'm going to help Dianne," Diane is reported to have said to co-workers on the stairs. But by the time she reached Gladstone, the concourse was full of paralyzing smoke and heat. As they attempted to get down the stairs, co-workers said they saw Diane and Gladstone huddling with two male colleagues - all of them shielding their faces with their hands.

It's a story we've heard many, many times - those who went back to help others. But today I pay tribute Diane Maria Urban, a true brave soul. She could have tried to save herself but chose instead to stay and help her injured friend. Her sister Terry Corio told New York Newsday that Diane's bravery that day proves the terrorists did not prevail. "You can kill some of us, but you cannot conquer us. The goodness in people will go on."

10 September 2006

Karl & John

From Andrew Sullivan:
Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse ([publican senators] McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution.
That leaves me with two questions: 1) Will this issue re-open the animosity between the Bush team and the McCain team? I can't imagine that McCain would continue to seek the support of the White House in his bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination if Rove moves forward with this election plan. And 2) How will this effect McCain's place at the top of Republican primary polls? Will conservatives, who are already weary of the Arizona Senator, withdraw support in favor of a more pro-Bush candidate?

Winning Ticket

Last week the Gay Conservative Liberal asked his readers to come up with their fantasy Democratic presidential ticket and cabinet. GCL seemed to think that Sen. Joe Biden (Democrat-DE) would make an excellent chief executive. I agree and made the case for a Biden candidacy back on 24 August. He is among those I consider "first tier" candidates; and had he run in 2004 would be sitting in the White House today.

But my Dem dream team? My fellow progressives and Democratic primary voters part ways with me here but I am of the opinion that the party needs to nominate a JFK-FDR-Harry Truman-like hawk. Someone who is willing to go toe to toe against the Republicans on the issue of national security; who is willing to right what has gone so very wrong in Iraq. That means putting the issue of how we got there behind us. I really do think history will judge George W. Bush as the worst president ever for sending American men and women to their graves on the wing of a lie. And while I can never forgive him for that, the repuation of the United States would suffer far worse than it already has if we pulled out of Iraq and let things go to hell.

A solid Democratic nominee though would also lay out a bold plan for the future fight against terrorism; a fight that must also be FOR the moderates of the Middle Eastern region. For it is they who must be empowered in order to win this Cold War-like struggle against the radical fringe of their society.

And so, my dream Democratic administration:

President: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN. The New York Times foreign policy columnist is the perfect candidate for the job at this point in our nation's history. He knows the Middle East like the back of his hand and has bold and brave ideas for how to start the process of empowering the Muslim middle. And his idea of a "geo-green" policy agenda would appeal to social liberals.

Vice-President: GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (former U.N. Ambassador), or REP. JANE HARMAN (her national security credentials are impeccable...if only John Kerry had put her on the 2004 ticket).

Secretary of State: RICHARD HOLBROOKE. Well respected around the globe - and right now that should be a huge consideration for any president looking to fill this job. It is going take a long time to repair the damage Mr. Bush has done.

Secretary of Defense: LEE HAMILTON, SAM NUNN, or WILLIAM COHEN. Cohen was Clinton's Defense Secretary and a Republican. He would bring some partisan balance to a Democratic administration. "President Friedman" could be the uniter that George Bush never was.

Special Envoy to Iraq: SENATOR JOE BIDEN. His five point plan for Iraq, while not perfect, is about the only one out there that is worth pursuing.

I would recommend GARY HART, CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN, and TOM KEANE for the posts of Homeland Security Secretary, U.N. Ambassador, and Presidential Adviser - any three of them in any one of the posts.

As a matter of fact I would take any of the folks named above (save Nunn, Cohen, and Keane; and add Al Gore to the list) for president. Each would bring a gravitas to the White House that has been lacking since January 20, 2001.

09 September 2006

Off to Republican-ville!

We're off to the most Republican county in California for the day. And yes, we're heading there on purpose! This weekend Brent's sister joins me in "Club 40" and we're celebrating pool side in Placer County.

And so, in honor of Janet (Brent's sister), your song of the day is the Beatles' "Today Is Your Birthday."

And in honor of her Fascist neighbors, the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice."

Much more to come tomorrow and Monday, including my thoughts on the "dream team" Democratic presidential ticket and a piece on 9/11.

06 September 2006


Quote of the Day:
It was nonetheless eye-opening to visit a free country, compared with the U.S. Observing people actually allowed to relax over a joint and a cappuccino in a coffee-house, or buy some soul-expanding mushrooms at small, regulated stores as common as Starbucks was a reminder that not every society is terrified of pleasure or freedom or happiness.
-Andrew Sullivan, on his recent trip to Amsterdam.

Brent and I visited there a year-and-a-half ago and, after 5 years of the relatively Fascist agenda of the Bush team, the freedom of which Sullivan speaks was plainly evident.

Friends and I often fantasize of buying a coffee house there and living in a small apartment above it. The city is absolutely amazing. And we can't wait to visit again.

01 September 2006

Back to SoCal

Brent, Chloe, and I are off to SoCal for a long weekend of de-stressification! Will try to check in once or twice and will return in full force on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Happy Labor Day.