Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Everything Old Is New Again

My fellow Americans, it is that time of year again, when our thoughts turn to terror and how to summon our national courage to triumph over it. I thought it might be fun, in the spirit of the season, to try a little quiz. Some of the quotes below are from 2001, when George W. Bush spoke to us about the dangerous new world we found ourselves living in, even though we had been there all along. Some of them come from the guy who replaced him, Barack Obama. Can you guess which is which? Good luck!

"We have seen their kind before. They're the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies."

"Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain."

"We will direct every resource at our command--every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war--to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror network."

"In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide."

"And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists."

"But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat."

Have you got your answers ready? Well, as you probably already guessed: It just doesn't matter. Sorry.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Objectify

Barack Obama: One of the worst presidents of all time, or the worst president of all time? Discuss. Don't worry if you can't make up your mind right away, there are plenty of folks around willing to help you out with that distinction. Karl Rove would be one of them. You remember Karl. He was the Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration and has been a Republican political consultant and policy adviser since the earth was cooling and he crawled from the slime on flippers that would eventually evolve into opposable thumbs. If anyone would be a good judge of history, it would be this guy, right? Right. Very right.
Karl Rove says we are now seeing "the real Obama." Apparently it has taken most of two terms, but finally our collective eyes are open. “I think today the president is governed more by what is his true vision and view of the world, in part,” said Rove.“He views America as not a power for and an influence for good. He does believe the world is a better place if we withdraw and allow people to settle their own matters in whatever way they intend to settle them." Karl wants to know: “Name me one foreign leader that jumps to mind that you think the President of the United States has a good relationship with?” He then went on to name David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Okay, but who else? Certainly not that guy in Russia. Or the guys who are running ISIS. And whoever is in charge in Iraq. Unless we're currently bombing them. That's the real Obama.
Then there's the matter of the press. According to James Risen, Barack Obama is " the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.” That's because the Obama administration renewed a subpoena, that was initially issued in 2008, that asked Risen to reveal his sources for his book “State of War,” which included classified information about a failed CIA plot against Iran’s nuclear program. That CIA plot took place during the Bush administration. Before the worst president of all time came into office. The Bush administration that had a guy named Karl Rove working for them. I'm not sure about this, but I don't think it's been a generation since that subpoena was first issued.

Well, okay Karl. We'll settle for "one of the worst."

Monday, August 04, 2014

Interrogative Enhancements

There's a report that will be issued soon from the Senate Intelligence Committee. In it, the truth will be revealed. According to our president, we may have "tortured some folks." Well, ain't that a fine how'd'ya'do? In his briefing this past Friday, Mister Obama said, “When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe, and I think any fair-minded person would believe, were torture. We crossed the line.” That line would be the one between being the good guys and being the bad guys. The line would be this one, in case you haven't read the memo: Good guys don't torture. Bad guys do.
Then there's the whole matter of euphemisms. "Enhanced interrogation techniques?" "Pretend drowning?" "Checking your battery with someone else's body parts?" You know, for kids. Really bad kids who may have been hiding secrets from our government and therefore deserved to have their secrets extracted from them in enhanced ways.
The reason for our president to get out in front of this report was to explain how this could happen, how we could have been involved in such nefarious activities. “And that needs to be understood. And accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.” Maybe this is because he feels confident that there was nothing he could do about it since it wasn't on his watch. It was that other guy. The guy who hired John Brennan as the head of the National Counterterrorism Center. If you want to point a finger at someone, point it at that guy. Mister Brennan is now the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Whose idea was that? Oh. That would be Barack Obama. The same guy who would rather that we not point fingers at anyone. Or ask for anyone to resign. Or fire anyone. That would be inhumane, right? “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” Obama said. Don't get sanctimonious. Check. Responsible. Check. Forget? I don't think so. The question isn't whether or not we abused some of the prisoners we took into custody just after September 11. We did. But you can't hold a whole intelligence community responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole CIA? And if the whole CIA is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our law enforcement institutions in general? I put it to you,  isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

In The Sue-Ers

There are plenty of good reasons for lawsuits. Take the case of a nurse in Colorado who is suing her former employer because no one bothered to tell her that the guy who held her hostage at the Heritage Park Care Center was all a part of a safety drill being conducted. Even though the gun wasn't real, the fright and ensuing damages are just the kind of things that get lawyers frothing at the mouth.
Frothing at the mouth wasn't one of the side effects listed when Novartis AG apologized for their mishandling of the way they may or may not have reported what happens when people take their leukemia drugs. Once the Japanese courts have their way with them, I'm sure there will be plenty of folks lining up to sue the corporate pants off Novartis and its appendages. 
Nobody lost any arms or legs in Minnesota, but former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura might be able to buy himself some spares with the nearly two million dollars he was awarded after a two year court battle over a claim that he had been punched out by a Navy Seal. A jury gave Governor "The Body" Ventura one point eight million dollars and settled his reputation as a patriot and tough guy. 
There are some tough guys in politics. Some of them are Republicans. Maybe that explains why they are suing the President of the United States. They say that Obama's executive orders are so extreme that they violate the Constitution. The President says,  “They’re going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they’re mad I’m doing my job. And by the way, I’ve told them I’d be happy to do it with you. The only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you’re not doing anything,” he said of Congress.
And so, who wins in this lawsuit? America? Maybe American attorneys, but as for the rest of us, the jury is out.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Mouth That Roared - Again

Forrest Gump's mama knew it: "Stupid is as stupid does." Forrest is not a smart man, but he knows what love is. But does he know what "legitimate rape" is? Todd Akin does.
You remember Todd Akin. He's the former congressman from Missouri's second district. He's the guy who came up with the distinction, "legitimate rape." It's not a phrase that immediately makes sense, so I'll let Todd explain it: “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Former congressman Akin is not a doctor, but he said he understands these things from doctors. Understands. This is much in the same way he "understands" climate change. "This whole thing strikes me, if it weren’t so serious, as being a comedy, you know. I mean, we just went from winter to spring. In Missouri, when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change, you know. So, and who in the world would want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyway? What a dumb idea." Maybe that's how he got his spot on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Not that he's a doctor. Or a scientist. Or an astronaut. He's just a guy. 
Especially now that he's not a congressman anymore. He's an author. His book is called "Firing Back," which is what Mister Akin is doing. He wants to explain that whole "legitimate rape" thing once and for all. “Obviously no rape is legitimate,” Akin told Yahoo in an interview. “It's a serious, serious crime. But legitimate rape is a law enforcement term for legitimate case of rape. Rape is not legitimate, it’s the particular circumstances.” Apparently Todd is no longer considering a career in medicine. Now he's an expert in law enforcement.
Or maybe he's just interested in not being viewed as a chowderhead for the rest of recorded history. In that endeavor, he hopes that he can spin his comments into support for conservative candidates from his party who want to protect the sanctity of life. Or something like that. He points to the way the Democratic Party lauds Bill Clinton in spite of his sexual escapades, and just because he says a few ridiculously stupid things, he's branded as an outcast. What's up with that? Does that seem legitimate to you?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kids Will Be Kids

So if your friend told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you? If your friend told you to walk across the desert and into a foreign country to get a chance a better life, would you? What if it was your parents and family doing the daring? All the kids crossing our southern border took that dare. Fifty-two thousand of them since October. Our president has called this "an urgent humanitarian crisis." When I think about urgent humanitarian crisis, I don't tend to think about this continent. I think about places like Syria. Or Somalia. Texas? California? Land of the free, home of the brave? Wouldn't we expect the United Nations to set up shop in Granjeno, Texas?
In a word: No. We're stuck trying to figure out how to save children while maintaining border security. Ours is a nation of immigrants, after all, and we can't just turn our backs on the plight of kids pouring over our border, can we? Maybe we can. Our president would like to step up the deportation process, seeing as how those clever little nippers figured out a loophole in our immigration policy: it says that kids from Mexico have to go back immediately, but those from countries farther south like Honduras, and El Salvador require a court hearing. Fifty-two thousand of them? While the powers that be scramble about trying to get those scheduled, what happens to all those kids?
Many of them are turned over to family who have already crossed the border and are living in the United States. Many of them will stay right where they are, on Air Force bases and converted shelters, until America figures out what to do. But why should we? "Your poor huddled masses, let's club 'em to death," that's what (according to Lou Reed) the Statue of Bigotry says. That may sound a little rough, but compared to the voices of many of our countrymen, it's not so bad. Something everyone seems to agree on: It's our president's fault. He is, after all, the guy in charge. Not the guy who signed the legislation back in 2008 that "enforces our laws and upholds our highest ideals." That guy really ought to be run out of town.
Oh wait, we already did that.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

One Court's Opinion

I was making a left turn off of a busy street onto a side street on my bike, when I noticed that a motorist who was trying to turn left onto that busy street from the side street was lurching forward, then stopped short as he noticed me making my way through the intersection. Passing by the driver's side, he rolled down the window and hollered at me, "You are not a car!"
He was right, you know. I was not a car, even though I was afforded many of the same rights and privileges of a motorized vehicle, I was not a car. Nor was I an elephant, but the list of things I wasn't might have become too lengthy to discuss at that particular juncture so I let it pass. It was this interaction, however, that came into mind as I heard about the Supreme Court's ruling on companies opting out of the contraception portion of the Affordable Care Act. It was, at its heart, a reminder of the row over Citizen's United and corporate personhood. These great, big, multi-headed people with more money than most moderately sized single-headed people can now decide which services their employees can access based on their religious beliefs. If you're having trouble with this one, keep reminding yourself that corporations are people and that people have religious beliefs, especially when they have fiscal realities tied to them.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a thirty-five page dissenting opinion, the one that suggested that maybe the majority of her Justice Buddies may have had it wrong: "Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?  There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts 'out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,' or the sincerity with which an asserted religious belief is held. Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude. The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield." 
Or, for the purposes of my metaphor, into a busy intersection.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stop Making Sense

My wife woke up worrying about Isis. Not the Egyptian patroness of nature and magic, though if you know my wife that could make perfect sense. Nor was she fretting about the Isis of CBS TV from the mid-1970s. Like so many of us in the western world, she was waking up to the reality of the ISIS that takes its name from their goal: the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. These are the guys who are so brutal and extreme that even al Qaeda says are too vicious. Currently, my wife and a good portion of the rest of the globe seem to have the same worry: Where will this all end?
Do you remember the relief we all felt when American troops left Iraq? I do. We left with the mild assurance of democracy blooming from the seeds of Starbucks and ten years worth of casualties both military and civilian. We never found weapons of mass destruction, but I like to think that what we missed out on in mass we made up for in time. We left with the notion of stabilization in mind. What we didn't remember was Newton's third law which states that for every force in the universe there is an equal and opposite. This is especially true in the Middle East. Here comes the push back.
This is not in any way unprecedented. This is a history of that region. What gets the United States in trouble is when we find ourselves in the middle of things. It would be nice to imagine ourselves as "liberators," but not everyone still holds to that dream. Instead, it is much more likely that we have set ourselves up for yet another round of conflict and American involvement in a region that predates our nation's existence by a few thousand years. This has created a number of interesting scenarios, one of which has the United States looking to Iran for help in hopes of calming the situation. I'll just let that one sit with you for a while.
Unlikely comrades is what this crisis has wrought. Rand Paul recently said, "And what’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry." If you need a moment to unscramble your brain from this seemingly contradictory message, you're not alone. Dick Cheney is confused. But this should not come as a surprise. That may be the only thing that makes any real sense about ISIS. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Time To Name Names

First of all, I should point out that I took the time when my family and I went to Washington, D.C. a couple summers ago, to look at the name on the door. The name on the door, the one for Speaker of the House, says "Boehner." I looked at it for minutes, while my family's patience as our tour group kept moving. B-O-E-H-N-E-R. For the life of me, I could not make this into "Bayner." Why doesn't he call himself "June" instead of "John?" Or "Fronkensteen?"
That was a digression intended to open up this piece about what this guy recently suggested: In a letter to the president, Speaker Boehner blamed Obama administration policies for the huge increase in children making their way here from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and said the president must act. That's why he wants to send the National Guard down to our southern border to deal with this crisis. Not UNICEF. The National Guard. With all due respect to the amazing work that the National Guard does in times of crisis, tornadoes and floods and the like, but how does this solve the problem with Obama's policies? 
If I understand this right, the Speaker (or is that "Spooker?") is upset because the current administration's policies made our country so very appealing to children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Maybe it's the new school lunch program? Or maybe it's the lack of comprehensive immigration reform. And who better to carry out comprehensive immigration reform? The National Guard, of course!
Well, if the National Guard hadn't been busy the week before last when Eric Cantor lost his seat as well as his job as Majority Whip. Some have suggested that it was because of his support of amnesty. Not the international kind, the immigration kind. Back to the Boehner letter ("litter?"): "The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely," Boehner wrote. "While we understand that many of these individuals are coming to this country to escape violence and hardship in their home country, the current climate along the border and our enforcement policies are only encouraging them to risk their lives and those of their children. It is time that we confront the crisis along the border head-on through immediate and aggressive action."
But first, how about some aggressive action on that whole phonics thing?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Straight Shooter

I have this message for my friends living in Arizona: When it gets dark, sneak out. There are plenty of other places to go that will offer you sanctuary. Admittedly, some of them have their own peculiarities and challenges in terms of getting along with others, but not in the same pointed way that the Grand Canyon State offers. Like the rancher and Republican congressional candidate who said during a primary debate Saturday that the vast majority of mass shootings in the United States are committed by Democrats. “If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, ninety-nine percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,” said Gary Kiehne, who is running for the state's First U.S. Congressional District, said during Saturday's GOP primary in Florence, Arizona. “So I don’t think you have a problem with the Republicans.”
Of course not. Gary believes that "everyone should own a gun." He further asserted that he probably owns more guns and ammunition than any of his fellow candidates: "I'm from the country. It's a long ways to town to buy ammo." I'm not sure, but he probably has a sticker on the back of his truck that reads: "Gun Control Means I Hold My Gun With Both Hands." It's funny. Get it?
Luckily for Mister Kiehne, Arizona's First Congressional District, the largest in the state, does not include Tucson, where in 2011 a gunman opened fire, killing six people and wounding thirteen others, including then-Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The Democratic congresswoman suffered a gunshot wound to the head in what prosecutors say was an assassination attempt. The guy who shot Miss Giffords, Jared Lee Loughner, was not affiliated with any particular party. Unless that party was the one that believed NASA was faking their missions to space.
Of course, even now there are Republican strategists trying to find figures that will back up a claim made popular by conservative radio talk show host, Roger Hedgecock. Roger hails from San Diego, so if you're an Arizonan looking for a spot to land, maybe Southern California isn't the spot for you either.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Muddle East

What if the held a Senate Subcommittee and nobody came? They'll be showing up for the Benghazi panel, that much is certain. John Boehner, who is not the guy who played Sergeant Schutz, will make certain of that. He's assembled a crack team of investigators and litigators who just happen to be Republicans.  They want the truth. I just hope we can handle the truth.
Like the truth behind our invasion of Iraq. Why were we there? We were looking for terrorists, right? Or was it the Weapons of Mass Destruction? Perhaps it was the oil? Well, as it turned out, we didn't get any terrorists, WMD, or oil out of the deal. What we lost, was a little more plain: more than four thousand American soldiers. That doesn't include the two thousand plus casualties in Afghanistan. That's where we were really hunting terrorists. The real bad guys and their leader. Not Saddam Hussein, but the real bad guy, Osama bin Laden. Who just happened to be hanging out in Pakistan, a country in the region we hadn't made arrangements to invade. We were far too busy poking around in all those other despot-ridden countries to notice.
Now we're trying to figure out how to deal with the mess that we made by going over there in the first place. Where did all those records about claims and benefits for the veterans of those foreign wars go, for example? We don't apparently need the oil so much, and now that the bad guys are dead, we have to figure out a new reason to keep our noses in there just in case we need the oil after all.
We, or the United States, have embassies that keep opening and closing all the time over there in the Middle East. Like the time that bad guys took over our embassy in Iran and held the diplomatic personnel there long enough to give Ted Koppel his own show until Ben Affleck went over there to rescue them. Or something like that. But ever since then, we've been opening and closing our embassies as a precaution, just in case something bad like that might happen again and Ben was busy being Batman or counting cards at the Hard Rock Casino. One of those was probably the case when bad guys overran the embassy in Benghazi.
It's not funny that people died. Four or four thousand, but now, shortly before the next flurry of elections we will hold to try and figure out who will eventually become members of a subcommittee that will look into how we handled or mishandled our latest misstep in the Middle East. It's not funny "ha ha." It's funny "historical irony." Or something like that.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Daily Mirror

“The U.S. is a living hell as elementary rights to existence are ruthlessly violated.” Pretty tough words, especially when one considers the source: North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency  report cites examples such as racial disparity, misuse of political funds, gun violence, and widespread unemployment and poverty. Ouch, and or touche.
Of course, this is coming from the country with a record so bloody that an official United Nations inquiry recently compared its practices to Nazi war crimes. It's also the country that, just before pointing its finger in the direction of the Untied States,  pointed at South Korea as holding the “world’s poorest human rights record,” topping an article that deduced the poor situation was “a product of the U.S. colonial rule,” in which “its people languish in unemployment and poverty.” Ooo, Kim Jung Snap!
But enough about them, let's get back to the whole Faux News, North Korea bureau version of things: “Its chief executive, Obama, indulges himself in luxury almost every day, squandering hundred millions of dollars on his foreign trip in disregard of his people’s wretched life." Like when Glenn Beck stirred our own conservative fervor via a sketchy and eventually proven false Indian news report that President Obama’s visit was costing two hundred million dollars a day and utilizing a fleet of thirty-four warships.
And it's not just Glenn foaming at the mouth in the service of the North Korean propaganda machine. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told a summit in April, “I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States.” Careful there, Mike, you might end up putting members of the KCNA out of work.
Speaking of that work: “The U.S. government has monitored every movement of its citizens and foreigners, with many cameras and tapping devices and even drones involved, under the pretext of ‘national security,’” KCNA writes in reference to the NSA surveillance scandal. It doesn’t mention that North Korea has apparently purchased more than 100,000 closed-circuit surveillance cameras to monitor its citizens with over the past few years. As the recent UN assessment notes, access to information technology in the notoriously insular country is severely restricted and censored.
Even when it's the pot calling the kettle black, like when the report points out that more than two million U.S. citizens are kept as prisoners, “the highest number in the world,” it stings just a little bit. That pot is North Korea, after all. Thanks for the lesson in humility, y'all. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

War Is Not Healthy For Children And Other Living Things, Unless They Happen To Be Corporations

I imagine that if Charles Schulz would have stuck around a little bit longer, he might have found a way to make fun of the current state of affairs, something along the lines of Lucy complaining that since corporations are people that we should all worry about hurting their feelings. If happiness is a warm puppy, then how many puppies do you suppose it would take to make Shell Oil happy? My guess is a whole lot. 
Royal Dutch Shell is committed to expansion in Russia, in spite of sanctions imposed on that country after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, according to Chief Executive Ben van Berurden. This comes amid reports of President Vladimir Putin wringing his hands and laughing maniacally. 
"We are very keen to grow our position in the Russian Federation," van Beurden said. "We look forward with anticipation and confidence on a very long-term future here in Russia." Leaders of the European Union and the United States were left scratching their collective heads as they consider wider sanctions if Russian troops were to enter the Ukraine. Best guesses would suggest that Shell would look forward to partnering with Russia on their "growing position." It is, as Michael Corleone would say, strictly business. It's nothing personal. 
It's nothing personal when there's all that liquefied natural gas in them there hills to pull out of the ground. They want to expand from the ten million tons they are currently extracting along with their pals at Gazprom. Or is it their pal Gazprom? It is Vladimir Putin's wish that Russia  boosts production of LNG and double their global market share to around ten percent by 2020. Nothing personal. Meanwhile, Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak said there was no sign of international oil and gas majors cutting investment. What, after all, are a few sanctions between friends? With friends like ExxonMobil, Eni, Statoil and BP, who needs warm puppies? 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Oops - Sorry! Wrong House!

I don't need a Pulitzer Prize to tell you that the United States went to war in the wrong place after September 11, 2001. Everybody but Donald Rumsfeld will get behind the idea that Iraq was a bad choice to sell Freedom Fries, but until recently, Afghanistan seemed like the "just war" we were prosecuting in the Middle East. New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade covering Afghanistan, will tell you we've been fighting the wrong enemy for the past thirteen years. She'll stake her Pulitzer on it.
“Instead of fighting a very grim and tough war which was very high in casualties on Afghans, as well as NATO and American soldiers, the problem wasn't in the Afghan villages,” Ms. Gall said. “The source of the problem, the radicalization, the sponsoring of the insurgency, was all happening in Pakistan.”
You remember Pakistan? The country southeast of Afghanistan where we routinely have to barter and beg to fly over, around and through on our way to blowing things up in its neighbors? Gall continues: “I think the politicians, not all of them, but the diplomats … it took ages for them to understand that actually the persuasion wasn't working; the engagement wasn't bringing them on board; they were actually double dealing, and now diplomats will tell you very plainly, ‘Yes, Musharraf was double dealing.’” Sorry about that, chief.
Why were we in Afghanistan in the first place? To find Osama bin Laden, of course. But it turns out that bin Laden found shelter in Abbottabad, Pakistan, for six years before he was killed in a Navy SEAL raid in 2011. According to Gall, Pakistan’s government was orchestrating his protection. Ouch. I'm wondering if Jon Stewart wants his Gatorade back.
Of course, Mister Stewart never won a Pulitzer Prize. But he did once host the Oscars. See? We all make mistakes. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if they had just stuck with Ellen?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Hypocritc Oath

I feel pretty fortunate. I also feel pretty healthy. These are both good indicators that my health insurance is up to snuff. It is the thing about being a teacher that makes the salary a little more livable. The district has taken care of me over the past couple decades, or at least their contracted health care providers have. I don't tend to be a very high-maintenance patient, preferring instead to wait until something breaks or aches before I check in with my doctor. Still, it's nice to know that as my original parts start to wear out and the tune-ups required are a little more frequent that I've got someplace to go with my family's maladies.
I am not one of the nearly sixty  million Americans who are not covered by their employer's health care plans. I'm not sure, but I think even the friendly folks at Fox News get their tonsils out thanks to Rupert Murdoch's largesse. One hundred sixty million people, or thereabouts, have coverage at their place of work. That's about sixty percent. The rest of us have to look somewhere else. Why not The Affordable Care Act?
It could be that the web site was down, or that the various plans were hard to decipher, or perhaps it was that looming specter of Death Panels, but only seven million people have signed up for "Obamacare." I don't know about you, but it seems like if the plan is going to bear his name, Barack ought to be there handing out tongue depressors. Seven million of them.
But that was never really the plan, was it? The whole idea was to make health care affordable. Wouldn't it be an awesome thing if you didn't have to choose between paying rent and health insurance? Should I buy food this month or the bottle of pills that will keep me alive long enough to eat it? Such a conundrum. And still there are those who will argue and fuss and tell us that everything is just fine the way it always has been. Like when doctors used to drop by your house on their way home from the office to check and see how you were getting along, in their horse and carriage. When you could still buy a bottle of leeches for a reasonable price. What is it they used to say? "I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure." I'm not sure that was depending on your plan. That was supposed to be the deal.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Above The Law

When I worked at a video store, just for guilty pleasure's sake, I took a look at "Above The Law." I had heard that this new action star, Steven Seagal was the real deal, as he was the first foreigner to ever operate his own dojo in Japan. He was the Karate Guy. He was also rumored to have once been a bodyguard, and a CIA agent, and the second coming of Bruce Lee. At least that's what his initial flurry of publicity wanted him to be. I just wanted him to knock the bad guys silly and have a few terse one-liners. I wasn't paying for it, after all.
For fifteen years, Steve and his intermittent ponytail made action films that eventually landed him on the straight to video circuit. And all the while, he kept that furrow in his brow and a sense of justice that made him an obvious candidate for Reserve Deputy Chief in the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Sheriff's Office. If this particular rank seems obscure, just think of Dwight Schrute's title: Assistant to the Regional Manager. Mister Seagal was supposed to have been certified by the Los Angeles Peace Officer Standards & Training, an organization that accredits California police officers. However, POST officials in California and Louisiana have no record of Seagal being certified, and his rank in Louisiana is ceremonial.
All the more reason why this veteran action star and wannabe cop would sign on to help Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio  to train posses of volunteers to deal with school shooters. As we have already established, Reserve Deputy Chief Seagal is Above The Law. That's why it should come as absolutely no surprise that in a recent interview, Steven and his ponytail called Russia's Vladamir Putin "one of the great living world leaders," adding that he "would like to consider him as a brother."
These two men's men bonded in part over their mutual love for martial arts. Seagal is helping Putin promote what's been described as a "Soviet-style" fitness initiative in Russia called "Ready for Labor and Defense.” In the interview, Seagal said that it's possible he may "sometime" apply for Russian citizenship. 
This comes as good news for karate students in Russia, but bad news for those of you waiting on another installment in the Jonathan Cold saga. And maybe it's a mixed bag for the folks in Arizona: He might not be running for governor of the Grand Canyon state, but he might just ask his buddy Vlad to send some tanks over and annex it, Soviet Style, alongside Chief of Propaganda and Basketball Dennis Rodman. Czar of Arizona beats the heck out of Reserve Deputy Chief. Or "aging action star."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's Getting Cold Out There

John McCain referred to Russia as "a gas station masquerading as a country." This comes as the senior senator from Arizona describes his experience visiting Ukraine last week. Furthermore, he continued, “It’s kleptocracy, it’s corruption. It’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy. And so economic sanctions are important. Get some military assistance to Ukrainians, at least so they can defend themselves. Resume the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Look at Moldova and Georgia, both of whom are occupied by Russian troops as we speak, a path toward membership in NATO.”
He was also featured in the New York Times' Op-Ed section, where he wrote,"Crimea has exposed the disturbing lack of realism that has characterized our foreign policy under President Obama. It is this worldview, or lack of one, that must change." McCain added: "Crimea must be the place where President Obama recognizes this reality and begins to restore the credibility of the United States as a world leader."
Realism? Johnny Mac wants realism? How about we start with Vlad the Impaler, who seems to have taken his vision of world domination straight from a game of Risk.  That's where I first hear of Ukraine, and Kamchatka, and Irkutsk. Putin is the guy intent on rolling the dice, as the world at large sits around the board, staring in disbelief. Who does he think he is? A Bond villain without his necessary opposite on Her Majesty's Secret Service.
That might be why more than fifty thousand Russians showed up in Moscow to protest the reality that is being perpetrated in their name. Russia's not-so-free press put the number at around three thousand. Again, not so realistic. According to many of these protesters, economic sanctions would do the trick. They don't want a war. It's the guy with the eye giant laser, sitting in the swivel chair slowly stroking his long-haired cat, who seems to be missing the message.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Big Two, Or Is That Three?

I can't blame Rick Perry. The governor of Texas, once and future Republican candidate for president and public speaker of some renown has recently taken two states to task for their job growth: New York and California. "If you rent a U-Haul to move your company, it costs twice as much to go from San Francisco to Austin than the other way around," joked Perry. "Because you can't find enough trucks to flee the Golden State. And New York has got this new advertising campaign," he continued. "The new New York. But they're implementing the tired old recipe of back-breaking taxes and yeah, you guessed it: regulations that are larger than a thirty-ounce big gulp."
First of all, this is right in the governor's wheelhouse. It doesn't require him to remember more than two specifics. Three is a lot to ask, as we recall from his assertion that he would close three government agencies if he were elected president, but could only recall two of them, Education and Commerce. Some time later, he remembered that it was the department of Energy that he was going to shut down, but the damage was already done. This time, he decided to keep it simple: the two biggest, bluest targets on the map and never mind how factual his pithy commentary was.
Since it wasn't. The third state in this mix is, of course, Texas. Governor Rick wants us to see his state as the model of efficiency and effectiveness, but evidence tends top suggest otherwise, at least when compared to California. Not everyone buys into The Texas Miracle. The Washington Monthly's Phillip Longman is one of them. "In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, children who grew up in families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution had only a 12.2 percent chance of rising to the top fifth as adults. Those who grew up in or near San Diego or Los Angeles had even lesser odds—only 10.4 and 9.6 percent, respectively. It’s depressing that for so many Californian children, the chances of realizing the American Dream are so slim. But California looks like the land of opportunity compared to Texas." What does it look like in the Lone Star state? "In the greater Austin area, children who grew up in families of modest means had only a 6.9 percent chance of joining the top fifth of earners when they became adults; in Dallas, only 7.1 percent; in San Antonio, just 6.4 percent. Yes, Texas offers more chances for upward mobility than places like Detroit and some Deep South cities like Atlanta. Yet the claim that Texas triumphs over the rest of America as the land of opportunity is all hat and no cattle. Children raised in the postindustrial wasteland of Newark, New Jersey, during the 1980s, it turns out, had a better chance of going from rags to riches than did children born in Houston, which was the best city in Texas for upward mobility during that time."
And so we see the problem. If the governor had to hold on to all those facts and figures, and make it cute, we might all still be waiting for the punch line. Nobody wants to take a swipe at Detroit these days, and Atlanta is not the easy target that New York is. On that issue, I'll let the Daily Show's Lewis Black have the final word. Or two. Or is that three?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What Are Your Neighbors Up To?

Sarah Palin would like us all to know that she was right. "Yes, I could see this one from Alaska,” she wrote. “I'm usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as ‘an extremely far-fetched scenario’ by the ‘high-brow’ Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s what this ‘stupid’ ‘insipid woman’ predicted back in 2008: ‘After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next.’
Okay. Points to the ex-governor for calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine six years ago, but she will lose some petals off her Courtesy Daisy for usually not being one to "Told-Ya-So." In my experience, that's pretty much how she's made her way in the public eye since she arrived. While voters and her own party have distanced themselves since her initial flurry of mixed messages in the 2008 election, she has continued to spray invective at whatever situation she felt merited it. Regarding the U.S. and NATO bombing of Libya, March 29, 2011, "I haven't heard the president state that we're at war. That's why I too am not knowing - do we use the term intervention? Do we use war? Do we use squirmish? What is it?"
After being asked how she would handle the current hostilities between the two Koreas during an interview on Glenn Beck's radio show, November 24, 2010, the once and future Republican candidate said, "But obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies."
On June 30, 2010 she wrote this on her Facebook page: "We have a President, perhaps for the very first time since the founding of our republic, who doesn't appear to believe that America is the greatest earthly force for good the world has ever known."
Or what she had to say on Fox News, June 15, 2010 about solving the Gulf oil spill crisis, "What the federal government should have done is accept the assistance of foreign countries, of entrepreneurial Americans who have had solution that they wanted presented. The Dutch and the Norwegians, they are known for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills."
I guess what I'm saying is this: Even a stopped clock can be right twice a day.  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Children Of The Sun

Let's hear it for Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer: She courageously vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians because of religious beliefs. This probably won't do much to keep business owners from denying service to gays and lesbians because of their existence, but it's a step in the right direction. A very small, but now wholly insignificant step.
This is a state, after all, that ignores daylight savings time. Who cares about all those weak-kneed liberals who allow the government to make them turn their clocks endlessly back and forth. Not in Arizona. Of course, this does cause trouble when they try and figure out the Fox News Schedule.
Arizona took an additional six years to decide that a national holiday honoring the life and work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was a good idea. Again, these folks won't be pushed around. Just because some guy had a dream and he got shot, we all have to take a day off? Not even Chuck D and Public Enemy could bully the Grand Canyon State into submission. Ronald Reagan, icon of conservatism, only signed the bill that made Dr. King's birthday a national holiday with great reluctance. Why should there be yet another federal holiday? Keep the government out of my weekends!
In 2008, voters in Arizona voted against gay marriage, but for Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Joe went ahead with his progressive agenda, including having inmates wear pink underwear, sending a very loud and mixed message to the locked down population.
Then there's the story of the Maverick and his sidekick Sarah. We can't blame Arizona alone for that one. Alaska is just as culpable in this matter. Maybe it has something to do with states that start with the letter A. Arkansas? Alabama?
Four years ago, Arizona passed SB 1070, the most stringent law on illegal immigration to be found anywhere in these United States. Under this statute, failure to carry immigration documents became a crime and gave the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act was upheld by the US Supreme Court, giving authorities the right to arrest anyone when there is "reasonable suspicion (read "brown")" that they are in this country illegally. 
I suppose it's a good thing that the already overtaxed law enforcement officers in Arizona were not called upon to have to determine sexual preference via "reasonable suspicion." Those pink bloomers might not tell the whole story.