Saturday, September 8, 2007

No More Bleed and Win

The topic below was originally posted in my blog the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Political schemes are afoot as congress anticipates the report to be delivered by David Petraeus this Monday. Our pitiful and pathetic democracy has been reduced to outsourcing its national security policy to a general with a history of erroneous assessments about progress in Iraq. This is what Petraues wrote in his opening paragraph for an op-ed in the Washington Post on September 26, 2004:

“Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq's security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously, making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight -- and while being shot at. Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.”
Think about it. Three years ago he claimed tangible progress was being made inside Iraq and this very same man’s testimony is being anticipated with more reverence than Moses upon his return from Mt. Sinai.

It has come to this because nobody believes a word President Bush says anymore while the so-called opposition Democratic Party suffers from battered wife syndrome. Meanwhile, Republicans in congress are desperate for cover yet still hoping they can turn their jingoism knife into Democrats as they did after Vietnam. Hence, Bush needed a new medals wearing puppet to serve as his mouthpiece while members of congress are poised to either exploit the veneer of Petraeus’s medals or cower behind the weasel words of "bipartisanship."

It’s a sick kabuki dance. Congressional Republicans want to save face and ensure their survival in the post Bush era. If they can sign onto bipartisan legislation that establishes a force reduction as a goal without a mandated target date for withdrawal, they will have the cover and save face. And later they can always turn on the Democrats with their jingoism knife when the moment is right for “losing Iraq.”

Democrats are hoping to implement a strategy of bleed and win. They oppose the war rhetorically but don’t have the nerve to follow through where it counts and cutoff funding. The Iraq war has served Democrats well, driving down Bush’s ratings and filling up party coffers. I’m not so sure they really want it to end at this point.

So after Petraeus delivers his report, enough Republicans will likely join Democrats on legislation that won’t end the war. Yes some forces will be reduced next year out of logistical necessity and the Democrats will claim they forced “a change.” But the war will go on still and more will die for no good reason. A political solution with regional input that also includes Iraq’s neighbors contributing to reconstruction is the only way to go and can’t happen with our toxic presence.

Watching this insanity I can’t help but think of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Senator Wellstone, along with his wife and daughter tragically died in a plane crash on October 25, 2002. Five years ago the political climate was very different. Yet Wellstone, with the political winds in his face during a tough re-election fight didn’t waver. Prior to voting against authorizing the use of force in Iraq, Wellstone simply said,
“I’m not making a decision I don’t believe in.”
Sadly, too many members of congress don’t possess the Wellstone standard about their decisions. Most are content to let the war go on and score political points to their advantage as best they can. They care little for the blood that is shed. Unlike Wellstone, the prestige and perks of power matter more to them. Both parties are hoping to implement a strategy of bleeding in Iraq while winning at the ballot box.

I worked my butt off to elect Democrats in 2006 but to this point they only seem to care about “bleeding and winning.” They're not inclined to make policy decisions based on what’s right like Paul Wellstone. But hopefully there are enough Democrats who can be forced to acknowledge the will of the people. Perhaps not but we still have to try.

Most Republicans of course are beholden to a crazy constituency that wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them in the face with an exploding cannon ball. Sadly, too many Republicans are feculent and completely beyond redemption. Some of their senators however may serve in states with enough blue leaning voters that they can’t simply dismiss antiwar sentiments. A few house Republicans are feeling heat too.

Click here to contact your senator and here for your representative in the House of Represenatives. Let them know you've had enough of their "bleed and win" gambits. It's time to bring the troops home.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ribbons are pretty!

Some not-so-deep thoughts on a Friday night...

I can't seem to recall when the first yellow ribbon bumper stickers started showing up on cars. The original ones said "Support Our Troops" though, right? As time went on, different messages started showing up, like autism awareness, breast cancer awareness/find a cure messages, and the like. And they came in colors other than yellow. I guess maybe the common element was that they were designed to raise public awareness about some issue that might be in need attention, funding, legislation...okay, I'm kinda grasping at straws here trying to see the common thread. But you knew that, if you saw the ribbon shape on a car, closer inspection would reveal a message about some serious issue.

The first time I realized that the rules had changed, was when I saw this ribbon on a car.

I saw the pawprints and thought maybe it was an anti-puppy mill message, or something promoting spay/neuter. Maybe even that important reminder that pets are not disposable. But no. It read, "I adopted my cat."

As opposed to what? Giving birth to him or her? I mean, I know that pet overpopulation is a serious issue, but I'm pretty sure it's not caused by humans having too many kittens instead of opting to adopt.

Had it said, "I rescued my cat", sure. "I adopted a homeless cat", or a rescue cat, or a shelter cat...yeah, I could see that. But, "I adopted my cat"? That's pretty much a given, isn't it? It's not even "I love my cat". It's pretty much just, "I have a cat".

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just a little mental adjustment I need to make. Now when I see that ribbon shape on the back of a car, I know that it's just another shape bumper stickers can come in. Some of them still say, "This is an issue about which I care deeply". But others pretty much tell the world, "I like ribbons--they're pretty!"

Kucinich: Bulletproof Monk

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

This is Part 5 of the series "I No Longer Fear The Kucinich Revolution."
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This strip isn't really about the mafia assassin that was sent to murder Kucinich, Grassy Knoll style during the Columbus Day Parade while he was Mayor of Cleveland. This strip is about the shield that grows around a person when they lead a life of honest work and wholesome living. I am not claiming Kucinich is perfect - but he does his job, and he does his job well.

You have never seen Kucinich giving Masonic-level secret handshakes under the bathroom stall. You will never hear Kucinich say, "I spread my legs when I pull my pants down." He will never say it to a vice cop nor will he say it to a lobbyist. Kucinich has put everything on the line, and I do mean everything, for We the People. He did is as Mayor when he protected the assets of the people of Cleveland and he does it every day with his seat in Congress.

If we, as progressives, keep voting for the person we think we can win, we are abject and total failures as Citizens. We are betraying everything Paine, Jefferson and Henry stood for - honesty, equality and freedom. Those three Americans had a vision for America that has yet to be fully realized. During the Bush Administration, we have taken many, many steps backwards from this vision. Under previous administrations, we took small, baby-steps forward. Lincoln did, however, suffer through a gusher of forward movements but the rest of American History is littered with small steps forward, until now.

The other candidates in the field I believe will be better than Bush, way better, but I don't see anything in their policy speeches, voting records or position papers that illustrate a path to move us back to where we should be in 2009 after Clinton/Gore dropped us off in 2001. Most of the candidates only have plans on repairing barely half of the damage Bush has done... with the exception of Kucinich. His record, plans and policies all reflect quantum leaps in government, bringing us to a position of being able to manufacture goods in this nation again. Allowing us to feed our families, educate our kids and stay healthy.

Baby step measures - do you really think they will do any good? Do you think they will even bring us back to where we were in 1992? Bush must own a time machine because he has wound back the hands of time to place this nation in the deep past. This nation is totally unrecognizable to me - the United States is at the bottom of the list in damn near anything. We had a better literacy rating in 1877 when Laura Ingalls Wilder was living in a Little House On The Prairie. Hell, my grandmother took Latin in 5th grade as a requirement back in the early 1900's and that was PUBLIC SCHOOL IN WEST VIRGINIA! And Obama's baby-steps are supposed to be some foundational culture shift for the American future? I don't think so. He got the beat down when he just mentioned talking with rogue states might be a good idea - then he backtracked like Louis and Clark.

Oh yeah, that must be that spine we hear so much about.

I'll take Ultra-K any day.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thompson auditions for lead in “Failed Democracy”

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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This is not a Presidential run, but an audition. Already Fred Thompson is using prop masters - when Fred arrives at an event, he is in his red pick-up truck. Before the event, behind the scenes a prop master will off load the pick-up from a flatbed hauler a few miles away from the staged public event. Fred will arrive via chauffeured limousine and then he will drive the pick-up the rest of the way to the event.

After this nation voted in Bush TWICE, I don't have much confidence in my fellow citizen's ability to see through bullshit, but Fred Thompson, his cast and crew of Failed Democracy may be slick enough for the Bush supporters.

I can only imagine what the casting couch looks like.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What we have lost under BushCo.

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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The laundry list of things BushCo has done against us is pretty staggering and can even make real Conservatives (honest-to-God Goldwater folks) cringe. But seldom do we look back at what we have lost under this regime. We have lost more than we have gained as a Nation. If we could just have these four things, Bill of Rights, The Twin Towers, the lives of our soldiers and New Orleans, what would we give up in hindsight? And what are we willing to do about it?

From If This Be Treason:

Given the continuing unwillingness of our federal representatives to end the war, restore Constitutional protections or address the high crimes and misdemeanors of a lawless leadership, urges all freedom-loving Americans to spend September 11, 2007, rediscovering the compelling democratic history of people’s movements and the general strike.

In response to increasing calls for a general strike on this year’s sixth 9/11 anniversary by grassroots coalitions such as, is encouraging participants to maximize the transformative impact of the day with a few inspiring hours of study.

Janice Matthews, executive director of, states, “We face a grave array of dangers caused, exacerbated and/or ignored by a non-responsive government, and we must therefore remind ourselves how victims of other authoritarian regimes rose up to reclaim basic democratic rights and popular sovereignty. Not all succeeded, of course, but we can learn from their mistakes as well as their victories, and considering the rate our Constitutional protections have been evaporating, the nation needs a crash course in peoples power right now.”

I know what I WON'T be doing, how about you?

O.J. the Scorpian

Cross-posted from Brilliant at Breakfast

B&N to carry 'If I Did It'
Barnes & Noble Inc. has changed its mind about the new O.J. Simpson book. After saying it would not stock copies of "If I Did It" in its stores, citing lack of customer demand, the chain said yesterday that it would carry the book, Barnes and Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said: "We've been monitoring the pre-orders and customer requests and have concluded that enough customers have expressed interest in buying the book to warrant stocking it in our stores. We do not intend to promote the book but we will stock it in our stores because our customers are asking for it." Simpson's ghostwritten, hypothetical story of how he would have murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman was scheduled to come out last November, but HarperCollins pulled the book in response to protests. Over the summer, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded rights to the book to Goldman's family to help satisfy a $38 million wrongful death judgement against Simpson. (AP)

Yeah, he's back again. O.J. Simpson. He's an ugly, diseased, pus-filled sore on your face that never goes away, always reminding you of the night you cheated on your wife.

Mr. White Ford Bronco himself.

So, what's the ex-football player, Leslie Nielson's Naked Gun sidekick, and homicidal sociopath doing lately? Thankfully, not much. But then, he doesn't have to. Barnes & Noble (proving once again that when it comes to the bottom line, there is no bottom) is going to pimp his tabloid-flavored confession of his crime.

Remember how it started? "It's all blood money, and unfortunately I had to join the jackals," The author said . "It helped me get out of debt and secure my homestead." O.J.'s callous words reminded me of that old joke about how a young man accused of killing his parents pleads for clemency because, as he explains to an incredulous judge, "I'm an orphan".

Anyway, since P.T. Barnum was right when he said "You'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public", If I Did It was going to be aggressively promoted by Mr. Barnum's sleazy 21st century counterpart, Rubert Murdoch. His network has dumped garbage like When Animals Attack, Who Wants To Marry A Multimillionaire, Temptation Island, and Who's Your Daddy? into people's living rooms for years. Why should Judith Regan interviewing O.J. on a Fox TV special be any different?


Amazingly, people remembered they had a gag reflex. Bookstores across the country refused to carry If I Did It, Fox couldn't find advertisers greedy or crazy enough to buy time on the TV show, and even Bill O'Reilly, one of Rubert Murdoch's favorite sock puppets, was outraged. The embarrassed media mogul reluctantly realized that the If I Did It project was as dead as Ron and Nicole.

Until now.

Let's not forget the punchline of this sick joke: O.J. is still an acquitted murderer, and a free man. If I Did It will be available at Barnes & Noble. Ron Goldman's family had to buy the damned thing to keep O.J. from making money from it. There's no uplifting Happy Ending here.

If we lived in a world that made sense, O.J. would either be strapped on a gurney waiting for a fatal injection from a hypodermic needle with his name on it, or in jail. Instead, we can see him getting drunk in a nightclub somewhere with his arm around a half-naked Nicole look-alike.

As a child, I heard a fable about a scorpion and a water buffalo. The scorpion wanted to cross a river and said to the water buffalo: "This river is too wide and too deep for me. Can I ride across on your back?"

"No," the water buffalo replied. "If I let you get on my back, you will sting me and I will die."

"But that would be a stupid thing for me to do," the scorpion said. "If I sting you and you drown, I will drown as well."

Conceding to the scorpion's logic, the water buffalo allowed him to mount his back. Halfway across the river, the scorpion did sting him. Dying, the water buffalo said to the scorpion: "I don't understand. Now both of us will die. Why did you sting me?"
"I am a scorpion," he replied. "it is my nature to sting."

Sounds like O.J., doesn't it?

Unlike the scorpion in the fable, O.J. won't die.

He'll calmly walk on water watching his victims drown. O.J. is a cruel predator who really doesn't care how much pain the vulgar circus tricks he does in public brings to his children, Nicole's sister, or the Goldman family. He's done it before and, as long as people keep paying him, he'll do it again. It's his nature.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Some Thoughts On Labor Day

Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

This is the opening sequence from what I believe is one of the most under appreciated movies of all time, "Joe Versus the Volcano." Protagonist Joe Banks undertakes a Joseph Campbellesque "hero's journey," which frees him from the illusory demands of wage slavery. Anyone who has seen the movie will recognize the elements of Campbell's "monomyth."

This fundamental structure contains a number of stages, which include (1) a call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline, (2) a road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails, (3) achieving the goal or "boon," which often results in important self-knowledge, (4) a return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail, and finally, (5) application of the boon in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world.

The story-line also incorporates many elements which would be familiar to shamanic practitioners; most notably the symbolic death/rebirth experience which frees the man from the limitations of the ego.

"Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains."
-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Sunday, September 2, 2007

It's Labor Day Weekend: Do You Know Where Our Country Is?

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal, as well as The Peace Tree and Worldwide Sawdust.

One autumn evening several years ago, I needed to blow off steam after a stressful day at work. I was fed up the way employees often are in their jobs. You know that toxic feeling when your superiors are overpaid while contributing little to the effort other than gratuitous criticism, while those on your pay grade won’t bust a nut to get the job done because they know you will? How often have you felt that way? I felt underpaid, under-appreciated, was mad as hell and ready to drown my anger in beer. It was self-pity really as plenty of people in this world had it far worse than me but I wasn’t in a perspective mood.

So I walked about forty blocks south from my day job in mid-town Manhattan to clear my head until coming across a dive bar with sports on television and hardly any patrons. Perfect, that’s just what I wanted. Typically, I’m not the sort to talk with strangers and certainly wasn’t looking for any conversation this night. Somehow, I became engrossed in a three-way conversation with two middle-aged registered nurses. We talked about how friends, families, communities and countries gloss over pain and misdeeds through symbolism and empty platitudes.

The alcohol flowed as one of the nurses with a thick Brooklyn accent reminisced how her parents physically abused her, made her feel worthless but still celebrated her birthday every year. I was inebriated too but recall her venting,

“What kind of sense is that? For 364 days a year they beat me up, told me I was no good. But on my birthday they were nice as can be with presents, cake and hugs? I could never figure that out. I always wanted to tell them, presents on my birthday won’t make up for when you beat me up again tomorrow.”
I think that’s what she said. In retrospect I wish I had written down everything she said when I got home.

I find myself thinking about her today this Labor Day weekend. We’re supposed to “honor” working people this weekend with a holiday. Well I would surmise that a whole lot of working people out there are thinking,
“A holiday doesn’t make up for my not having health coverage. A holiday doesn’t make up for the money-lenders fleecing me out of my income. A holiday doesn’t do me much good when I have to work anyway while the super rich vacation in the Hamptons. I don’t need a holiday. I need the law to let me declare bankruptcy so I can pay health care bills for my elderly parents who can’t afford it and I can’t help because the money-lenders swindled me out of cash for a home in this ‘ownership society.’”
And then you have the war. The corporatists who seized upon the aftermath of 9/11 to rationalize constructing an American Rome by sacrificing the blood of people from poorer urban and rural communities. And those that survived often return home damaged after serving as the instruments of torture and death for the Iraqi population. Meanwhile, those who speak platitudes about “supporting the troops” are vacationing this Labor Day weekend and not giving them a second thought. And why should they? After all they’ll receive top-notch care at Walter Reed just as children without health coverage can always go to the emergency room. But let’s revel in this holiday when we “honor” working people with backyard barbeques.

And this September 11th we will “honor” the victims of terrorism as we continue to kill Iraqis, causing more “collateral damage” in Afghanistan while accomplishing nothing and needlessly shedding more of our own blood. But at least we can feel better with a moment of silence and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will surely deliver some nice platitudes to “rally” us.

So what if Giuliani wanted an emergency “command center” at the same site targeted by Islamic radicals in 1993 and his advisers urged him to put it in Brooklyn instead. The man needed it to be in walking distance of City Hall while carrying on an extra-martial affair with Judith Nathan. And this September 11th he will wrap himself around the symbolism of the moment while pursuing the nomination of the family values and national security party. Good for him.

And do any of the top tier Democratic presidential candidates have the guts this Labor Day weekend to lament that America’s biggest growth industry is corrections? Are Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama willing to say that an honest days work for too many Americans means sustaining the prison industrial complex that has two million citizens incarcerated? Want a job with benefits then help guard young minorities guilty of possession while wealthy whites vacation on their Labor Day weekend with expensive alcohol.

Meanwhile, it is also two years after the city of New Orleans was liquidated from a hurricane due to gross incompetence and rebuilding it has become a ponzi scheme for the rich. All of this together and it’s hard not to feel this Labor Day weekend that my country is slowly dying. No holiday "honoring" working people can make up for that. But I'll happily settle for a genuine progressive reformation starting with next year's election. We have much work to do and I'm not ready to give up on my country yet.