Thursday, August 31, 2006

You Don't HAVE To Be Brain Damaged To Be A Republican Leader...

But it sure couldn't hurt.

The great comedian Bill Cosby used to do a bit where he described his children as being brain damaged. The things that they did and the excuses that came out of their mouths were so inexplicable, that the venerable Mr. Cosby concluded that brain damage was the only plausible explanation. While the Democrats have certainly had their share of less than stellar media moments, it seems as though the Republicans have recently cornered the market.

In an election year this is an incredibly stupid strategy!

Within the last two weeks, here are some of the gems that they've uttered:

Senator Conrad Burns (Montana) at a recent campaign event said that the United States is up against a faceless enemy who "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night."

Senator George Allen (Virginia) recently referred to a staff member of his opponent, Jim Webb, by the name 'Macaca.' "This fellow over here with the yellow shirt -- Macaca or whatever his name is -- he's with my opponent," Allen said. "He's following us around everywhere." The term 'macaca' is a genus of monkey and in some parts of the world is considered a racial slur. The staff member in question happened to be a person of colour.

Tramm Hudson, a republican congressional candidate who is looking to replace another gem, Kathleen Harris, was quoted as saying, "I grew up in Alabama and I understand and I know this from my own experiences that blacks aren't the best swimmers or may not even know how to swim."

• And then there is our esteemed President who yesterday, again, framed the current struggle as a, “war against Islamic fascism.”

Do I detect a hint of racism in the Republican Party stew?

In a critical mid-term election year, these statements raise many questions. Is the Repubican leadership really that arrogant? Are they insensitive, or worse, racist? Do they care? Do they think they are so invincible that showing their true colours isn’t going to make a difference?

Perhaps so.

If not, the only other plausible explanation, to paraphrase Mr. Cosby, is that they’re brain damaged.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

From The Safety Of Being Out Of Range

This morning, to mark the one-year anniversary of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused in New Orleans and the gulf coast region, President Bush called on former residents to return. Mr. Bush delivered these remarks from St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, an area that was not impacted by the storm. The Associated Press quoted the President as saying, "I know you love New Orleans, and New Orleans needs you." She needs people coming home. She needs people - she needs those saints to come marching back, is what she needs!"

It raises a question: Come home to what?

On Monday, at a White House press conference, the President admitted that a large part of the $110 billion committed by the Federal government to Katrina relief has not made it to Louisiana. It seems that the administration’s response a year later is not any better than it was when the actual disaster occurred. Sadly, it reeks of the mediocrity that we’ve come to expect from six years of conservative Republicanism.

Just how grim are things? Take a look. The AP reports that one year later:

  • Only half of New Orleans has electricity.
  • Half its hospitals are closed.
  • Violent crime is up.
  • Tens of thousands of families still live in trailers and mobile homes.
  • Much debris remains to be cleared.

    And then there's the small matter of the levees...

    This spring, the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged that the levees would not be up to category 3 standards (i.e. Katrina levels) by June, the official start of hurricane season. Of even greater concern is the fact that there is no timetable or plan in place to bring them up to category 4 or 5 standards.
    I don’t blame the Army Corps of Engineers. They are doing a tremendous job of trying to fix something that they reported was inadequate as far back as 1996. Something by the way, which President Clinton increased funding for and which President Bush significantly slashed. The conclusion: New Orleans is one good storm away from another disaster.

    But the President says return. Well, I suppose he's never misled us before...
  • Friday, August 25, 2006

    Edward R. Murrow Must Be Spinning In His Grave

    CBS announced yesterday that the upcoming season of the show Survivor would feature teams divided by race. It came to my attention while watching Headline News and my mouth literally dropped open from shock. "Is this a sick joke?" I thought. Um, that would be a no on the "sick joke" thing, John.

    CBS issued the following statement in defense of it's actions, "CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner," the statement said. "'Survivor' is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen." CNN quoted host Jeff Probst as saying that the format would be a "social experiment."

    To quote that great MASH (ironically a CBS program) character, Sherman Potter, "Horse Hockey!"

    Experiments are conducted for a reason. They are based on a hypothesis and the ability to test that hypothesis under controlled and statistically valid criteria. I am hard pressed to see how Survivor meets this benchmark.
    So what exactly is the hypothesis of this "social experiment?" What social value does it deliver? None that I can discover.

    Human culture has an ugly history of dividing itself among arbitrary lines. In the United States, few lines have been uglier, more violent, hurtful or discriminatory than that of race. We are one hundred and forty one years past the end of the Civil War and still, the echoes and shame of slavery haunt our culture. We are a scant sixty two years from when the United States Supreme Court legally banished the disgrace of segregation. We are a mere forty two and forty one years, respectively, from the passing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts and still the memories sting. The neglect of so many African-Americans in the aftermath of Katrina had many wondering if race played a part in the slow Federal response. America has so much healing yet to do.

    So how could CBS, the network of Murrow and Cronkite, possibly believe that this is a good idea?

    One word: RATINGS

    Shame, shame, shame, CBS! I can't say it enough times. How dare you use race in such a crass and insensitive way?

    So here's the deal. Until CBS abandons this premise, I will not watch any of their programs. I will delete them from my favourite channels list and un-TIVO all of their shows. All except for one. I will TIVO the first Survivor to see who has the audacity to be a sponsor. Then I will stop buying their products. All of them. And I'll write them to let them know it. I hope that you will do the same.

    If you want to get started, please visit and click on the feedback link that is located on the bottom of the page.

    Monday, August 21, 2006


    The Associated Press reported today that Connecticut Senator, Joe Lieberman has called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to resign. Lieberman was quoted on the CBS news program, Face The Nation, as saying, "With all respect to Don Rumsfeld, who has done a grueling job for six years, we would benefit from new leadership to work with our military in Iraq." An unusual turn of events for the Democratic Senator who is largely viewed as being a strong supporter of the Iraq campaign.

    An unusual turn and a hypocritical one at that.

    It's news to no one that Lieberman recently lost the Democratic primary to newcomer Ned LaMont, or that the result appears to be a rebuke for the Senator's close alignment with the policies of the Bush Administration. So why the change of heart now? Call me cynical, but it appears that Senator Lieberman is trying to reinvent himself as a moderate on the Iraq situation.

    There's just one minour problem... it lacks any shred of credibility.

    Joe Lieberman lost all credibility when he decided to run for re-election as a democrat, participated in the democratic primary, lost the primary, and then would not concede to the will of the voting members of the Democratic Party. Now that he has decided to run as an independent, his latest statement is an obvious attempt to move, if not to the left, certainly, to the middle. Think about it. If he really feels that Iraq has been so badly botched that the best redress is for the Secretary of Defense to resign, why didn't he say it two weeks ago? The reason is this. He doesn't believe it. Joe Lieberman as honourable as he once appeared, seems to have lost his ethical center. So when he calls for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation, it just sounds fraudulent. Like the athlete who hangs on for one too many seasons, he seems unable to let go. It's become about him instead of the job. And that's the strongest reason why Connecticut voters should overwhelmingly defeat his independent candidacy.

    The really sad thing is that Senator Lieberman's statements and actions have not only disrespected the voters and democratic process, but have also tarnished what had been a very admirable Senatorial career.

    Say it ain't so, Joe.

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    Dare We Believe?

    Maybe it's just a moment of sanity amidst the swirling madness and paranoia of the Bush Administration. Maybe it's the beginning of the end. I am not speaking about the Armageddon that so many seem to believe is imminent; and doing their damned best to bring about. I am speaking about the ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor that found the administration's warrantless surveillance program to not only be illegal, but unconstitutional on not one, but two grounds!

    A standing ovation please, for Judge Anna Diggs Taylor

    The Associated Press reported yesterday that Judge Diggs Taylor found that the program violated the first amendment right to free speech, the fourth amendment right of protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and that it violated the FISA court laws. Though the administration is vowing to appeal the case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, this is nevertheless a defeat for the lawlessness and emerging facism of the Bush White House.

    Judge Diggs Taylor wrote in her 43 page opinion, "It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."

    Eloquent and true. It's about damn time.

    Now let's hope that the 6th circuit and the Supreme Court, should the 6th circuit uphold the ruling, see it the same way.

    Perhaps Democracy in America is not dead just yet.

    Sunday, August 13, 2006

    The Problem(s) With Poorly Chosen Words

    On Thursday, August 10, I awoke to the news that British intelligence had successfully foiled an Al Qaeda plot to blow up multiple flights traveling from the U.K. to the U.S. The British are to be commended for their excellent work in thwarting this plot and in saving lives. It wasn't long before President Bush was on CNN commenting on the situation and offering a telling and incorrect assessment of the issue.

    "(The plot is) a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation".

    There are several problems with the President's statement, problems that both incorrectly frame the issue and which frankly, exacerbate it:

    • We are not at war with Islam.
    • We are not at war with fascists.
    • We are not at war at all.
    • They do not wish to destroy us because we love freedom.

    Issue One: We are not at war with Islam

    While the individuals who we are fighting are in fact radical practitioners of Islam, it is irresponsible and dangerous to characterise this as a war with Islam. By doing so, the President shows just how deeply he doesn't understand the history of Christianity, Islam and the Crusades. He doesn't understand that some of the animosities and issues go back 1,200 years. By intentionally using the word "Islamic" in his statement the President seeks to galvanize Americans and demonize a group. It was a tactic very successfully used by governments that WERE fascist most notably Nazi Germany. In 1939, Adolf Hitler had this to say about the Jews:

    if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"

    See any parallels?

    Issue Two: We are not at war with fascists

    It's easy to throw terms such as fascist around, but how many people can actually define it? That's the whole point, of course, so here's the Webster definition.

    Fascism Defined:

    Philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent.

    Let's see, in order to be a fascist you must promote the primacy of the state over individual rights. OK, I might characterise the Taliban as fascist and they certainly were fundamentalists. However, Mr. Bush might want to take a good hard look in the mirror. It could well be argued that a government that spies on the communications of its own citizens without obtaining warrants, which holds people in detention without charges, that has no quibble with using torture has also eased on down the fascist road. And while he's at it, the President might do well to take a look at some of the nations that we are friendly with, most notably Saudi Arabia. Hmm....

    Al Qaeda is most certainly a terrorist organization, in other words, a political organisation that uses violence to achieve a political goal. But fascist, no.

    Issue Three: We are not at war at all.

    As I pointed out in a previous post, saying that we are engaged in a war on terror is incorrect. Terrorism is a technique and a concept. You can declare war on a nation, but you can not declare war on a concept. We went to war against Afghanistan because their government harboured terrorists. That was a military situation. Once the Taliban was overthrown, we fought terrorism in Afghanistan. That is now a law enforcement issue.

    The distinction is important. Not only should wars be rare, but they should have definable enemies, outcomes and benchmarks. The "war on terror" has few of those aspects.

    Issue Four: They do not wish to destroy us because we love freedom.

    I challenge the President to find me one verifiable quote from any major Al Qaeda leader stating that the reason for 9/11 or any of the other terrorist attacks of which they have been a part is due to the fact that they hate our freedom (or because we love freedom). This is not about hating freedom. This is about a feeling of oppression. In a 2004 tape believed by the Bush Administration to be authentic, bin Ladin was quoted as saying, "We fought you because we are free ... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security we undermine yours." He stated, "While I was looking at these destroyed towers in Lebanon, it sparked in my mind that the tyrant should be punished with the same and that we should destroy towers in America, so that it tastes what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women,"

    There is no amount of persuasion that will ever make me accept 9/11 as a justifiable response to political disenfranchisement. However, it's damn time that our President and our government stop trying to stoke nationalistic fires and begin to understand the history and roots of these problems.

    Pithy statements such as the one George Bush made on Thursday may fire up the Republican base in an election year. They will likely lead to the increased suppression of individual liberties. They probably will lead to more war and a large number of both military and civilian casualties.

    But they will never, under any circumstances whatsoever, advance the cause of peace.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Pennsylvania Republicans Go Green?

    It's pretty much common knowledge that Ralph Nader's 2000 Green Party presidential candidacy siphoned enough votes from Al Gore in Florida, to throw the state's electoral votes, and ultimately the Presidency, to George Bush. Well that's the official record anyway. But I digress.

    On Monday, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, down by double digits in polls to Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr., announced that he would welcome more names on the ballot. The name that he would particularly welcome is long shot Green Party candidate, Carl Romanelli.

    What could the reason be?

    Is Santorum eager for the thrill of competition? Um...not so much.

    Is he a champion of the underdog? A quick look at his voting record will quickly show why it's impossible to even ask that question with a straight face.

    Is it because a Romanelli candidacy might siphon enough votes from his Democratic opponent Bob Casey to return him to the Senate?

    Ding! Winner!

    Carl Romanelli had what I would consider a pretty good June. Federal Election Commission records show that in June, the Luzerne County Green Party had a banner month raising $66,000 from a mere 20 donors!
    This makes up almost 70% of the $100,000 that his campaign raised to help collect enough signatures to get him on the ballot. What's really interesting about Romanelli's incredible June fundraising is that $29,000 of the $66,000 raised came from donors who had also contributed to the Santorum campaign. Even more fascinating is the fact that most of the rest came from people who had financially supported Republican candidates.

    Has The Day Finally Arrived When Republicans And Greenies Will Hold Hands And Sing Kumbaya?

    Not bloody likely. Santorum knows that his record is so far to the right of even his own party, that his chances of reelection are increasingly remote. Rather than step up and debate his record, it seems that he's adopted the motto, "If you can't beat 'em, cheat 'em." How apropos for a candidate whose name is increasingly linked with allegations of ethical improprieties. On his journey to reelection, it seems that Senator Santorum has taken a short cut down the low road.

    Well, at least he knows the way.