Archive for July, 2007

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Question of the day: Do you worry about dictatorship?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

I used to think suggesting that the United States might be slipping into dictatorship was over the top; but now I’m not so sure.

I’m not one of the people who think Bush may refuse to leave office in January of 2009.  That’s not how I see freedom dying in America.

Freedom won’t die here in one dramatic explosion, with people waking up to find tanks in the streets: that won’t happen if for no other reason than that many of the people serving in those tanks would refuse to go along.  No, if freedom dies here, it will die slowly, one inch at a time, or perhaps more accurately one compromise at a time.  And under Bush that process is well under way.

It’s the insidiousness that will do us in.  It will be like a garden that’s slowly overtaken by weeds.  Viewed day to day, nothing dramatic is apparent, it’s only over time that the garden is completely made over and ultimately destroyed.  Then one morning you get up, pour yourself a cup of coffee, step out onto your porch and say, “Jesus, when did all this happen?!”

But by then it may be too late.

That’s my take, anyway, what’s yours? 

Caveat on comments: While comments are strongly encouraged, the Café reserves the right to decline posting any comment based upon management’s arbitrary and capricious decision making (why should Bill O’Reilly be the only one who gets to be that way?).

Thank the great cappuccino spirit for Glenn Greenwald.

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Glenn Greenwald, who now hangs out at Salon, is the blogger I want to be when I grow up.  If you don’t have him bookmarked, you’re missing out.

Just how indispensable his work can be is on full display today, in his response to a particularly deceptive Op-Ed in today’s New York Times.  The Times opinion piece in question is couched in language calculated to put at least some doubt into the mind of the most passionate of Iraq War opponents.

Here, after all (according to the authors), are two longtime “war critics” from the “liberal” Brookings Institution telling us that — contrary to what our own lying eyes and ears keep telling us — things are actually starting to go well in Iraq.  They make a compelling case — or so it seems:

A War We Just Might Win

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Wow “two analysts who have previously harshly criticized” the administration’s handling of Iraq, who have now come to an epiphany: we war critics, it turns out, are getting it all wrong.  In fact, contrary to our constant grumbling, it turns out that everything is actually starting to come up fu*king roses in good old Iraq.

Astonishing, right?  Well, maybe not.  Glenn Greenwald to the rescue:


Tom Tomorrow because . . . he’s Tom Tomorrow

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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My letters from college would be much less interesting

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

As I’ve said many times here, Hillary Clinton isn’t my first choice for the Democratic nomination, but I feel for her in having a large number of heartfelt letters she wrote in college exposed on the front page of The New York Times.

In the ’60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters

WASHINGTON, July 28 — They were high school friends from Park Ridge, Ill., both high achievers headed East to college. John Peavoy was a bookish film buff bound for Princeton, Hillary Rodham a driven, civic-minded Republican going off to Wellesley. They were not especially close, but they found each other smart and interesting and said they would try to keep in touch.

Which they did, prodigiously, exchanging dozens of letters between the late summer of 1965 and the spring of 1969. Ms. Rodham’s 30 dispatches are by turns angst-ridden and prosaic, glib and brooding, anguished and ebullient — a rare unfiltered look into the head and heart of a future first lady and senator and would-be president. Their private expressiveness stands in sharp contrast to the ever-disciplined political persona she presents to the public now.

“Since Xmas vacation, I’ve gone through three and a half metamorphoses and am beginning to feel as though there is a smorgasbord of personalities spread before me,” Ms. Rodham wrote to Mr. Peavoy in April 1967. “So far, I’ve used alienated academic, involved pseudo-hippie, educational and social reformer and one-half of withdrawn simplicity.”

I’m afraid that if someone were to publish my letters from back in college they would be much less interesting.  They would all read pretty much like this:

Dear Mom and Dad,
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Needlessly cruel justice

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The Associated Press has an article out comparing the sentences handed down in prosecutions involving those awful cases where a parent or other caregiver accidentally leaves a small child behind in a hot car leading to the child’s death.  There are some startling statistics — for one thing, women tend to be sentenced much more harshly than men.

My question though is more basic: why file charges at all in cases where the act was clearly unintentional?  What do we hope to accomplish by punishing a grieving and guilt-ridden parent even more? 

There’s a harshness that’s settled into our culture in recent decades — one that celebrates toughness for toughness’ sake, treats forgiveness and mercy as sucker bets and tends to view throwing the book at someone as the only legitimate response to any mistake.  But sometimes tragedies are best just treated as tragedies — situations where it’s better for the law to just walk away.

Surely that should be true in most of these cases.

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[citation needed] However, in ringtones myxers commercial airlines have prevented the use of cell phones and laptops, due to the fact that the frequencies emitted from these devices may disturb the radio waves contact of the airplane.

Question of the day: What should Bush do when he leaves office?

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

My answer: eight years of court ordered community service.

What’s your answer?

The unforgivable fu*king waste of it all

Friday, July 27th, 2007

When people think about the awful waste of the war in Iraq, they understandably — and properly — tend to concentrate on the loss of life.  But the waste of obscene amounts of the public’s money is a monumental tragedy in its own right.

(NY Times) As U.S. Rebuilds, Iraq Won’t Act on Finished Work

Iraq’s national government is refusing to take possession of thousands of American-financed reconstruction projects, forcing the United States either to hand them over to local Iraqis, who often lack the proper training and resources to keep the projects running, or commit new money to an effort that has already consumed billions of taxpayer dollars.

The conclusions, detailed in a report released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a federal oversight agency, include the finding that of 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million. Few transfers to Iraqi national government control have taken place since the current Iraqi government, which is frequently criticized for inaction on matters relating to the American intervention, took office in 2006.

The United States often promotes the number of rebuilding projects, such as power plants and hospitals, that have been completed in Iraq, citing them as signs of progress in a nation otherwise fraught with violence and political stalemate. But closer examination by the inspector general’s office, headed by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., has found that a number of individual projects are crumbling, abandoned or otherwise inoperative only months after the United States declares that they have been successfully completed. The United States always intended to hand over projects to the Iraqi government when they were completed.

We live in a country where a man can get 16 years in prison for stealing a snickers bar, but defrauding the nation out of hundreds of billions of dollars by using lies to lead us into an unnecessary and disastrous war apparently carries no penalty at all. 

Jesus, think of the good those billions of dollars could have done — building a system of universal health insurance, fixing our decaying infrastructure and so much more.  But they’re gone forever now, pissed down a hole.  Actually, it’s worse than that: at least pissing money down a hole doesn’t do any damage beyond the waste itself.  The war in Iraq, on the other hand, has destroyed our international standing, devastated our armed forces and left us far less safe.

The unforgivable fu*king waste of it all.

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Laws are for little people

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Personally, I wish the Bush Administration and their enablers would just cut the crap and come out and say what they really believe — that laws, such as perjury statutes, simply don’t apply to them.  Laws, after all, are for little people.

(Reuters) Democrats Accused Of Gonzales “Crusade”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House accused congressional Democrats on Friday of waging a crusade to bring down U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after lawmakers sought a perjury probe against him.

The criticism came a day after testimony by FBI Director Robert Mueller raised questions about Gonzales’ credibility under questioning by Democratic lawmakers.

Mueller told a congressional hearing he had serious reservations about a warrantless domestic spying program that Gonzales testified drew little disagreement within the administration.

Ratcheting up the bitter rhetoric between the administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Senate Democrats were determined to get Gonzales.

How dare those evil partisan Democrats insist that Gonzales tell the truth under oath?  I mean, everyone knows that when Bush loyalists aren’t allowed to commit perjury the terrorists win.


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Dear Winston, Mitt’s a mite and the truth will out edition

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Dear Winston,

Can you believe that Mitt Romney is leading in the polls for the GOP primary in New Hampshire?  This guy flip-flops more than a fish stranded on the beach.  Would the Republicans really nominate him?


Stunned in Stanford

*  *  *

Dear Stunned,

I sort of doubt the Republicans will nominate Romney, but then I find myself sort of doubting that they’ll actually nominate any of the collection of losers fighting for the GOP nomination.  (Who would have thought that Newt Gingrich and I would actually agree on something?) 

But, obviously, the Republicans will eventually have to settle on one of the available candidates.  That is, unless they decide to exhume Ronald Reagan’s body and run him posthumously, something I wouldn’t completely rule out given the absurd degree their hero worship (the 22nd Amendment, which limits a president to two terms, would seem to preclude this approach, but I’m sure Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department would have no problem recognizing a “Dead Guy Exception,” if they thought it necessary to maintain Republican control).

But assuming the GOP bypasses the Dead Reagan Gambit, realistically, Romney probably has about as good a chance as anyone of pulling off the nomination. In many ways, even with Rudy Giuliani leading in many of the national polls, the Mittster seems to be the dude with the momentum (at least pending the formal launching of the even more ridiculously overrated candidacy of Fred Thompson). 

Since I’m a Democrat, what really interests me, of course, is how strong a candidate Mitt will make in the general election if he does win the nomination.  Otherwise stated, how tough is it going to be for us to kick his sorry little butt all the way back to his vacation home at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  So let’s add things up.

On the positive side, in terms of his potency as a candidate, he looks really good on television in an “I hire my own high dollar makeup people” pretty boy way.  He also has the credentials to run the tired old “I’m a successful businessman and therefore know how to get things done” line, although his business dealings as a corporate raider may not seem all be that attractive upon close examination.  As for positives though, that’s about it.

Turning to the negative side, we have, as Charles Dickens might have said, a ponderous list to contend with: to begin with the most obvious problem, he’s a flip-flopper’s flip-flopper who wears his willingness to say whatever it takes to win on his sleeve; he strongly favors a war that’s overwhelming and passionately opposed by the American people (note to inside the Beltway pundits — no pro-war candidate is going to win in 2008, regardless of how much you love him); he’s been groveling regularly at the feet of the party’s extreme right wing — a bunch who are increasingly unpopular with most Americans; and he has a gift for regularly making a fool of himself in ways that tend to stick to a candidate, like his famous hunting faux pas.

Are you shaking in your boots yet, Democrats?  Yeah, me neither.


It’s getting harder not to love Obama

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

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