Monday, November 30, 2009

Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Easiest Thing You Can Do…

…but it’s hell on the country, the people and the world. Half-assing your way into the history books has been tried before by many Presidents. It’s been done in the name of political expediency, prudence and compromise. It always turns out the same way; it always postpones, sometimes by mere months, obvious disasters looming around the corner.

Pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, which are now less wars than violently contested occupations at best, is as difficult a decision as can be made. Inherited decisions are always fraught with multilateral second-guessing and rancor when lives are at stake.
The consequences of being on the wrong side of history are two fold:
There are the lives already lost by the United States and her allies in the attempt to secure two nation-states, which will have appeared to have been sacrificed to a failed foreign policy by future generations.
Secondly, there is also the very real possibility that the region now has two anarchic pseudo-states where everything from the terrorism that the Bush administration claimed to be containing, to a resurgent heroin trade trickles across a now borderless membrane out to the world.
I feel it’s my responsibility to point out that we’ve been on the wrong side of history ever since we stopped holding the Bush administration and its shadow players accountable for what they proposed and wrought in our name. These “wars” were an inevitable consequence of our collective guile after the September 11th attacks.

President Obama’s latest announced move, to increase troops by 30,000 does nothing substantive in regard to the operations in Afghanistan, in my opinion.

It’s a cynical number.

Politically, it’s not a big enough number to make Democrats take to the streets in mutiny, and it’s not enough to make the Republicans support or criticize him on this issue. It neither shuts up General McChrystal, nor placates his immediate concerns.
But the number 30,000 is significant in undeniable, mathematical aspects.
It’s 30,000 more human beings away from the United States leaving Afghanistan.
It is 30,000 lives further away from President Obama’s campaign promises.
It’s 30,000 reasons why, in retrospect, I now believe this man doesn’t deserve a Nobel Peace prize.

Pulling out of the regions is not a simple task. Just because it’s not simple doesn’t mean it cannot be done, or that it shouldn’t be done.

Much more thought will have to go into exiting these now dysfunctional kleptocracies than went into bombing and invading them. Much thought must be given to the central truth of the matter: the United States Armed Forces cannot continue to operate as police in regions they have attacked with bombs. Ever present in all of our minds, at least those of us willing to tell ourselves the truth, should remain the names of the architects of these disasters: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and many others too influential and powerful to be known to an average American citizen such as myself. We must be honest with ourselves and concede that these policy makers were never interested in bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. Their “bait and switch” has cost countless Afghani and Iraqi lives in a tragically pointless dismantling of two countries in supposed recompense for the actions of cowardly murderers who can call no nation home, and despite Al Qaeda’s own best efforts can ultimately claim no religion or culture either. History will show that these fundamentalists took their own myopic worldview for law and attempted to make religion a reason for murder. Bin Laden is not the first and he will be far from the last to massacre in the name of his own presumptions about God and morality. I don’t have to wait around for History to catch up to what I already know.

I want Osama Bin Laden’s severed head on a pike, -AFTER his billions in wealth are seized and his followers are tried under what Al Qaeda themselves ignorantly call “Western law.” Al Qaeda’s and Bin Laden’s humiliation will be complete when they desperately exercise the inalienable rights and due process they insist must be denied the rest of the world under their bizarre interpretation of what is just and holy. The bombings, invasions and now all-but-in-name occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq do not bring us any closer to the day when we speak about Osama Bin Laden in the past tense. I do want that day to come. That day will be a triumph over fighting fire with fire, over taking an eye for an eye. It will be a return to sanity. It’s not as viscerally gratifying as the first sentence of this paragraph, but it will have to do.

We must always remember these differences in ethics, in perspectives, when rage, however justified, threatens to do away with our principles and the only weapon that can ever be used to build the future: reason.

Remaining in Afghanistan and Iraq, is not avoiding a decision, -it’s prolonging a wrong one.

President Truman was doing more than stating the obvious when he said “The Buck Stops Here.” Harry S. Truman was telling his country that he knew he was held ultimately responsible for its progress and its woe, and that he would not pretend otherwise.

It’s time to stop pretending and instead do some really unpopular things Mr. President.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Helen Thomas’s New Book Is Coming…

…and unlike Sarah Palin’s offering, it will not set records. Unlike Palin’s book, -it is not a PR exercise: it is a book written by one of the most important ground-level observers and formidable assessors of the White House for 50 years. The nation clearly wants to know more about Sarah Palin “spinning” her revealingly dismal interview with Katie Couric, and not a closer look at the working of all administrations that actually occupied the house that Palin childishly covets and petulantly insists she deserves to live in.

The release of these two books offers us a chance to take a real good look at ourselves as a nation. Their respective publication is an indictment of our lack of focus on things that are grounded in reality versus things that are created to appeal to our desires, insecurities and weaknesses: We want pretty people to be good and smart, after all, if they’re not, what does that say about us for liking them?

It would be nice if someone with Sarah Palin’s looks, background and experience; a child of teachers, a beauty queen, a parent, a woman who sought state office and attained it, was actually a capable leader and dedicated public servant –but she’s not. All the pretending and best PR won’t make her into anything other than the bumbling out-of-her-element wannabe that Charlie Gibson interviewed last year. All she remains is the walking remnant of that failed GOP grab at the national female vote made in hopes of capturing Hillary Clinton’s supporters. In this way, she’s as counterfeit and ceremonially significant as RNC Chair Michael Steele. Steele is illegitimate for reasons I trust are too obvious to you (and frankly too embarrassing) for me to go into here.

Helen Thomas continues to speak the truth to power, even though few will listen. Helen Thomas will never be as nice to look at or as pleasant to listen to as any of the women on News Cable Networks, whether it’s the smiling peroxide automatons on Fox “News,” or even someone with indisputable intellect like Campbell Brown. Let’s face it; we just don’t listen to unattractive people, specifically unattractive women on TV.

Imagine if Abraham Lincoln or Mother Theresa’s worth, their very ability to be heard, had been dependent on their looks, or their entertainment appeal?

We are a nation that can’t handle information unless it’s wrapped up in a superficially appealing package. The news anchors, talking heads and politicians get better and better looking with every passing decade. With the advent of Kennedy and Reagan, Presidents had to become bona fide media stars on par with actual media stars in movies and TV: pleasing to the ear and eye, inoffensive to the mind. Their policies, (for better or for worse in either case) were secondary to their looks and “feel.”

We hear less and less important things in direct proportion to the appeal of the speaker.

As for reading? Sarah Palin’s book is setting sales records.
It appears America would rather read the boasts of an attractive, appealing but superficial pretender who quit her duly elected office in hopes of being entrusted with more responsibility and power, than read the critical thoughts and painful first-person observations of someone (I can only hope,) was much closer to the White House than Sarah Palin will ever get to be.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Long Road

I'm tired. As I'm sure our regular readers (all 6 of you) have noticed, the pace of the posts here has slackened considerably. There a few reasons for that, but one of the biggest is just that I'm tired. I'm tired of beating my head against a wall to no effect. I'm tired of the nonsense that passes for political reporting these days (I think I might shoot myself if I am subjected to one more Sarah Palin story. Sarah Palin, really??? Who gives a sh*t what she's doing.). I'm tired of the lack of action by our government when literally thousands of people a year are dying due to lack of affordable health care I'm tired of pointing out the same issues over and over again. How many times can I bemoan the quagmire in Afghanistan? How many times can I complain about the ignorant people who apparently feel it's their lives work to deny the civil rights to their fellow Americans? How many examples of outright criminal behavior by our elected officials have to be shown before something is done? How many times does our government have to ignore the Constitution before the document becomes meaningless?

I haven't given up my belief that we can be a better country. I'm just disgusted with the pace of progress. Why do most of our politicians have to act like 5 year olds (screw you guys, I'm going home)? Why does political commentary have to devolve into name calling and attempted jokes (Beck, O'Reilly, Olberman, I'm talking to you). If our politicians don't take the future of the country seriously, then you would hope that at least the press would. You'd be wrong. Why are the NewsHour and Bill Moyer's Journal the only places to get an honest look at the issues? Why has politics devolved into entertainment? I'm tired of trying to search out a serious look at the issues. It's almost as if everyone treats this as one big game. I would like to remind them that peoples lives are at stake here, but what would be the point?

How much time will our supposed journalists and politicians spend on whether the President bowing to the Emperor of Japan was appropriate or not? How time will be spent on whether Sarah Palin is a viable candidate for President? How much time will be spent on arguing semantics and appearances as opposed to actual policies? How many times will "journalists" spend laughing at a joke they tell or a joke some else tells? How much time will they all spend trying to "out clever" each other?

All of it just wears me down. I'm tired of trying to talk about issues when the people who can actually do something about it appear to be so willing to avoid them. I'm sure I'll get back to writing soon, but trust me, at this point I'm not in much of a mood to continue to piss into the wind. It's a sad day when you come the realization that the Constitution isn't worth the paper it's written on and that the politicians in this country don't seem to care. It's a sad day when journalism in this country has been lowered to the level of bad entertainment. It's a sad day when the people of this country can't get the news without a wink and a elbow. It's a sad day when the helpless, hungry and homeless are relegated to also ran status because they don't make good copy.

I'm tired. Very tired.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Crystal Persuasion

The folks over at Fox are beside themselves over the results in New Jersey and Virginia last night. They will be on the TV today talking about how this is a clear repudiation of the Obama agenda and how this bodes well for the GOP in 2010 and 2012. Of course they will forget to mention that the only election that might affect the Obama agenda went to the the Democrats.

NY-23 went to a Democratic candidate for the first time in over 150 years. The Republicans (Palin, Pawlenty, etc.) decided that their candidate wasn't conservative enough and decided to back the Conservative party candidate even though he didn't live in the district and didn't know anything about the district. The military base is one of the biggest employers in the district, but the Conservative party candidate didn't even know there was a military base there. The Republican leadership decided that there was no place in the party for a "moderate" Republican. They didn't care that their candidate was basically a carpet bagger. They only cared that he was a Tea Bagger.

The exit polls in New Jersey and Virginia show that a majority of those voters approve of the President. These races were decided by local issues. These are tough economic times and people do vote with their pocket books. We have a clear example of that from last November. In Virginia the Democrats have controlled the Governorship for the last eight years in which the state, along with the rest of the country, has swung from recession to boom times back to recession. The voters of the state decided that they wanted to try something else at the state level. They were not voting for or against the Obama agenda (I take that back. Of course some were voting against the Obama agenda, but they would do so in an election for dog catcher as well). The same is true of New Jersey.

The elections of 2010 will be a better barometer of what the country thinks of the President. Those elections will have a direct effect on his ability to push his agenda through. Health Care reform has to pass and the economy (read unemployment numbers) has to begin to show a real turnaround. If those things happen, the Democrats will do fairly well in next years elections. If they don't, then the Democratic majority in the House will be in jeopardy. The war in Afghanistan will have little effect because the Republicans are actually pushing for more troops, while the majority of the country has very little stomach for that.

As is the case in most elections, however, people vote with their pocketbooks. If the President can convince the majority of Americans that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and (to borrow a line from George Bush Sr.) to stay the course, the Democrats should be able to hold on to their margins in the House and Senate. If the Republicans can shape the debate to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Democratic leadership then the Republicans may well find themselves back in control of Congress and with a much smaller minority in the Senate.

My biggest disappointment over the results of yesterdays elections was the fact that Maine made it 0-31 when same sex marriage initiatives face the voters. I have already written on this subject but each time it comes up it just makes my blood boil. Why do Republicans, who claim to be champions of individual liberty and less government intrusion in our lives, continue to revel in denying a basic human right to citizens of this country? Why would those who believe in "family values" deny people the right to start a family of their own? Why is it anybodies business if two consenting adults want to get married? And why have voters continually taken away a right that has been guaranteed by either the courts or state legislature? Why don't we just start repealing rights that we don't like? There's a justice of the peace in Louisiana who wouldn't mind repealing Loving v. Virgina. Perhaps the Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act should be repealed as well. I'm sure there are many that aren't particularly thrilled with the 24th amendment. Perhaps women shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a voting booth considering how fragile and emotional they are. This is all complete nonsense. I have no idea how a nation that prides itself on personal freedom can continue to treat a selected portion of it's citizens as if they are not worthy of the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. It's just plain shameful.

I have very conflicted feelings about Thomas Jefferson, but there is one thing cannot be disputed and that was his gift with words. I'll end this particular rant with one the most famous sentences in the English language. It was mainly the work of Jefferson (with some slight revisions from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, to name two) and although the idea had been in print before, it had never been and probably has never been stated more eloquently and clearly. One of these days we'll live up to this, but unfortunately, it's not today. And I quote the good gentlemen from Virgina,
"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."