Tragedy on so many levels

In Tucson, many are dead and injured as a result of a deranged man with a deranged message.

Let’s put aside the left blaming the right and whether it is foreseeable that a lunatic would do this.  That conversation will get us nowhere and misses the point.

I think it is more worthwhile to wonder why politics is a bloodsport these days in a way that we haven’t seen since in perhaps a century.

Let’s think instead about how our politician are so invested in being right that they vilify the oppositional view and the integrity of its proponents.  In 2008, when Michele Bachmann said that then candidate Barack Obama and Michele Obama were “anti-American” because they hold views different from hers, that is a code that our country is being infiltrated by enemies.  Think about it, she said that the likely 44th President was the Manchurian Candidate of the movies.  And in the movies, a lone gunman (the good guy) kills the Manchurian Candidate.

Then Sarah Palin has a website that has a target on Rep. Giffords’ district (“in the cross-hairs”) for some reason or other.  Or the famous, Palinism: “don’t back down, just reload” or something like that.  Words have meaning, even if you try afterward to refudiate them.

This is war-speak.  And in war, enemies are killed, and our soldiers come home to heroes’ welcomes (ideally).  But war produces body-bags, brutality, starvation, desperation and carnage.

Is that the fevered pitch we want in our national discourse?  So, let us speak gently and with respect when we debate.  Even if we have to fake it.

Let’s set some ground rules:

  1. A socialist and tea-party member can love this country and protect the very institutions of government that make us strong.
  2. It isn’t about being right; it is about building a consensus and keeping this country great.
  3. Political defeat is hard to take but you can’t take your marbles and go home or start threatening people.
  4. The media does more to stoke the divisions than provide any useful information.
  5. If our nation tacks to the left or right, some people will not be pleased, but they must always remain the loyal opposition. (It is hard; I know. I had to endure the policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney and even some of President Obama’s policies I don’t like).
  6. Exemplifying and practicing the principles of this nation are essential for this country to move forward in one piece and in peace.

No pulse

Dick Cheney has no pulse.   Another fact that points to his being Satan.

He had a new procedure (read about it in the Huffington Post — Dick Cheney’s procedure) that inserted a pump that essentially overrides the heart.  As if he had one to begin with.

Let’s set aside whether he should be eligible for a heart transplant at his age and physical condition and whether it is right of the living to go hunting and shoot his friends.

Who in America can afford this procedure without insurance?  He had a pre-existing condition.  Luckily, he is wealthy and has a government health plan that will pay for him.  What about a 69 year-old factory worker? 

The health care overhaul is designed so that we don’t have to choose whose life is more valuable.  So, health care reform is the exact opposite of the “death panel” lies and propaganda. 

In fact, those who oppose health care reform don’t want to kill the Grandpa who is rich like Dick Cheney but they will let the Grandpa who is a retired factory worker die.

Square Peg; Oval Office

I listened to President’s Obama’s speech.  I did not listen to the pundits.  But let me make some educated guesses:

If you are a GOP candidate or in the GOP leadership, you thought (i) he was short on specifics for economic recovery, (ii) he should have come out in favor of tax cuts, and (iii) he failed to vindicate the success of the surge in Iraq for enabling him to fulfill a campaign promise of ending the combat mission in 18 months.

If you are Keith Olbermann (and sometimes Frank Rich), you wonder why he didn’t renounce war all together, and how he could possibly mention George W. Bush and patriotism in the same sentence.

If you are Maureen Dowd, you wonder what happened to his passion and why, even though we elected Mr. Spock, he didn’t somehow morph into Dr. Spock.

If you are Chris Matthews, you are joking about how his eyes fluttered from time to time because you really can’t cope with your rock star hero’s having to represent the establishment he ran against.

I will go out on a limb here and have an opinion:  I liked his speech.  I thought he spoke movingly of the sacrifices of our troops.  He heard our fears about our economy and tried to be reassuring — as reassuring as one can be in the twenty minutes of prime time allotted.  He danced around the backlash against Muslims and building of mosques and community centers.  That was disappointing, but “politic”.

So, if you are the opposition, you hated it.  If you are among the democrats who wanted public health care and war crimes tribunals for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (I don’t disagree) you are frustrated to the point of distraction.  If you just want the President to do his job and you appreciate even a little what an impossible job it is, you thought he did fine and just want him to keep trying.

So, how did I do?  If I hit 75% accuracy, I will have saved two hours of my life by not watching talking heads or reading pout-y Op-Eds.  How liberating.

I know why Cheney never uses his given name, “Richard”

“Former Vice President Dick Cheney has told conservative political activists he thinks Barack Obama is a ‘one-term president’.”

Gee, Dick, you were a two-term VP but you were only popularly elected once.  Ok, you were not popularly elected because everyone hates you.

You harangue President Obama over his handling of terrorist trials and yet it is exactly how you handled.

Funny how soon they forget . . .

Dick Cheney is laser sharp in his criticism of the current Administration and in his trumpeting of his initiatives during his 8-year Reign of Terror.  His memory for his accomplishments is uncanny.

Oh, wait, there is that inconvenient incident in which he outed an intelligence officer because her husband was critical of Cheney’s intelligence gathering and evidence supporting the Iraq War.  What was her name again?   He couldn’t remember anything when pressed by federal prosecutors.  He couldn’t “recall” 72 times

Dick, let me help you. 

Her name is Valerie Plame.  She worked for the CIA defending and protecting this country

But, her husband doubted on your fabricated evidence for war, so you exposed a patriotic American, a defender of our safety and way of life and, by extension, you put in harm’s way ALL OF THOSE AGENTS WITH WHOM SHE WORKED.  

And, you can’t remember.  Is it because you did it so often?  



By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer Pete Yost, Associated Press Writer Mon Nov 2, 6:34 am ET

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald famously declared in the Valerie Plame affair that “there is a cloud over the vice president.” Last week’s release of an FBI interview summary of Dick Cheney’s answers in the criminal investigation underscores why Fitzgerald felt that way.

On 72 occasions, according to the 28-page FBI summary, Cheney equivocated to the FBI during his lengthy May 2004 interview, saying he could not be certain in his answers to questions about matters large and small in the Plame controversy.

The Cheney interview reflects a team of prosecutors and FBI agents trying to find out whether the leaks of Plame’s CIA identity were orchestrated at the highest level of the White House and carried out by, among others, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.

Among the most basic questions for Cheney in the Plame probe: How did Libby find out that the wife of Bush administration war critic Joseph Wilson worked at the CIA?

Libby’s own handwritten notes suggest Libby found out from Cheney. When Libby discovered Cheney’s reference to Plame and the CIA in his notes — notes that Libby knew he would soon have to turn over to the FBI — the chief of staff went to the vice president, probably in late September or early October 2003.

Sharing the information with Cheney was in itself an unusual step at the outset of a criminal investigation in which potential White House witnesses were being ordered by their superiors not to talk to each other about the Plame matter.

[rest of article omitted]

Out of the mouths of babes come truths

At a town hall meeting, a fourth grader asked President Obama why everyone hated him.

I think we should stop wondering about the kid who was NOT aloft in a hot air balloon and we should think about what this fourth grader asked the President. It is easier to wonder about hot air balloon boy, his family’s interest in science experiments and their appearance as contestants on “Wife Swap”.  Putting this family under a microscope helps us avoid bigger and, dare I say, more important, issues.

Focusing on the fourth grader’s question requires us to look at how we behave.

We have to examine the tenor of our disagreements, the personal nature of the attacks, our fears for the future of our way of life and our desperate anxiety about not being all powerful on the international stage.

From the simplicity of his question, the following things came to mind:

1. We need to disengage from the-ends-justify-the-means view.  There is another word for “means” and that word is “barbarism” — i.e., torture, character assassination, lies, bribes, etc.

2. Passion for one’s cause not require person attacks, lies and defamationPassion is evident in the force of one’s argument and tireless efforts promoting the cause.

3. There is room for the loyal opposition.  When did we forget the phrase, “my country, right or wrong”?

The goal should be fair and open, vigorous and informative debate, “deciders” act for the common welfare and everyone abides by the result.  If losing means you make up lies and propaganda and continually do things disrespectful of the government, then you don’t deserve to be a citizen.    I was pretty unhappy when GW Bush was declared winner in 2000 and elected in 2004 and every time he did something with which I disagreed, I always hoped that his decisions were right.  Because if he were, the country would suffer.

4.  We must be willing to see the flaws in our own arguments.

I’ll start.  I believe that the public option insurance is necessary, but no one can predict the price tag and it really could be too costly right now.  Maybe in five years, we could afford it.

Also, Afghanistan is a quagmire with a corrupt government.  Nation-building is always a disaster.  I don’t believe that President Obama should send more troops.  In fact, we should remove our troops and seek a relationship with a fairly elected government.  But we should continue to bomb out Al-Qaeda.  (I’m feeling pretty extreme this afternoon.)

Now, let’s look at the GOP who use the slogan, “America First”.  WAIT, do you think Democrats don’t put America first?  Are you delusional?

Let’s look at the facts of the GOP’s putting America first:

  1. Under GOP leadership, manufacturing jobs went overseas in astounding numbers, and promoted the burgeoning economies of India and China.
  2. Refusal to meet with Iran (and GWB’s botching of several opportunities for some sort of freeze) only increased its determination to build nuclear weapons.
  3. The war in Iraq made us indebted to the Chinese government in an insane amount.
  4. Our armies cannot continue another war without a DRAFT.
  5. Our need for fossil fuels has made Russia a necessary player.
  6. De-regulation almost brought this mighty nation to its knees and then the small government politicians had to bailout the banks (SOCIALISM, anyone?)

Now, explain to me again why the GOP blames President Obama for having to forge new diplomatic relationships and alliances?

(Now tell me the truth.  Was I ranting?)

An Outsider’s Perspective of US (and Us)

Yesterday, I spent almost two hours talking with a friend who is a businessman from the Cayman Islands.  He is in New York on business.  Since his business is somewhat US-dependent, he makes it his business to keep up with the news in the States.  He is a Libertarian and a pragmatist.  I am Democrat and (I like to think) a pragmatist.  We agreed on many things, such as the need to compromise and get incremental reform because it is a matter of conscience that people have affordable access to health care.  And I agreed with him that the public option will not pay for itself and should be phased in later if other measures don’t rein in the insurance companies.  We simply cannot afford to institute this option at this point, given the deficit.

We disagreed on two points.  The points of disagreement fascinate me. 

First, he thought that death panels could be read into the legislation because it was not expressly disclaimed.  My friend is an intelligent, well-read man; he is not Todd Palin.  So I had to think about this more.  Here is what I have deduced:

  • if a person distrusts “government” enough to believe that it would kill its own citizens, well, then you can make that argument. 
  • if a person doesn’t believe that our government would kill its own citizens, you might argue that the panel of experts represented a disguised government take-over of health care. 
  • if a person believes that our government is not trying to kill us and trying to cut down on defensive medicine by setting forth safe harbor protocols, then you think the concern is ill-conceived and politically motivated. 

I guess what I am learning is while I am firmly in the third camp, not all of the concern may be politically motivated.  Sarah Palin must have hit a chord with many, many people who have a deep, abiding distrust of government.  Hey, I was scared of government under Bush/Cheney, so I guess I have to be more open to the fear that this legislation unleashed.  Interestingly, it took my Cayman Islands friend — an outsider —  to help me start to understand the perspective of  blog commenter “Jordana”.  We still disagree, but now I understand that we may not be starting from the same point of trust.  That changes the dynamics of the conversation considerably. 

The other point was related to torture.  Some torture is understandable under some circumstances.  I have never met someone who held that view.  While I can see not prosecuting the CIA, I believe that torture is not understandable under any circumstances.  I don’t want to be tortured and I would probably make stuff up just to make it stop. So, I don’t see how it helps get to the truth.

Say it ain’t so, Joe

Joe Wilson, GOP Congressman from South Carolina, broke protocol by yelling at the President, “you lie!” when the President was giving his address to Congress last night.  Of course, this is the same guy who supports Sarah Palin’s assertions about death panels that will decide care for elderly.  

Look, I wish some people called out Bush on the false claims of Iraq’s buying WMDs and plutoniun from Niger in his speech to Congress, so maybe protocol breaches are ok every now and then.

The problem with Wilson’s outburst is what it lays bare for all to see: 

  1. the discussion of health care reform has become an exercise in name-calling and fear mongering;
  2. there can be no debate while people are screaming to score points with constituents; and
  3. the ideologues (on either side of the issue) will not bend to acknowledge the facts and realities “on the ground”. 

Ideology without common sense (and some sinister malfeasance, thank you, Dick Cheney) got us in the guagmire known as the Iraq War, where debate was stifled by fear-mongering and name-calling (“unpatriotic” was often used) and people afraid to be unpopular with constituencies that just wanted revenge (as in “round up the usual suspects”).

Trying to bring the likes of Joe Wilson into the bipartisan tent is a fool’s errand.  Similarly, if bringing in armchair “Progressives” into the bipartisan tent means clinging onto a public option come hell or high water, then close the tent flaps to them, too. 

Actually, let’s have both sides of the extreme ideologies in an arena and let them scream at each other.  We’ll sell tickets, televise it (and get advertising revenue) and the proceeds will help pay for health care reform.  We’ll call the show “Extreme Dysfunction”.

What is the fear?

The minute President Obama took the oath of office, there has been a fevered pitch among white right wing radicals, as if somehow life imitated art and we elected the Manchurian Candidate.

Relax, everyone, Barack Obama is not the Manchurian Candidate.  How do I know?  Because George Bush was the Manchurian Candidate.  Think about it.  Whether you read the book, or saw either of the movies, George Bush bent to the will of his vice president (through Cheney’s own statements), a vice president who believed in torture and brain washing and who, as vice president, was able to wage war within the US and outside.  (Even the Manchurian Candidate had limits so we did not bomb Iran.  Thank G-d.)  During those 8 years, we fought a senseless war and muddled through another and let tinder boxes of Anti-American sentiment smolder and erupt.  The country was almost destroyed by catastrophic financial crises. The government put incompetent people in charge of disaster relief for its own citizens.    We survived the Manchurian Candidate. 

Relax, everyone. Give Obama the chance to do the things we elected him to do.

Dick Cheney, AGAIN?

Dick Cheney never went to war.  Dick Cheney was never interrogated.  Dick Cheney has been a bureaucrat and desk jockey his whole life.  Dick Cheney is not a member — trained or otherwise — of the military.  In short, Dick Cheney doesn’t know anything about war, prisoners of war or interrogations, except what he has read from the Gestapo and Maoist rule books.  I bet he really likes war games.

I don’t know anything about war either.  But I know that only a sadistic fool rushes into war where young people die and lives of so many are forever destroyed.  And I believe that only a sadistic fool goes straight to torture — yes, torture, and NO, there are not “enhanced interrogation techniques” — when there is at least a preponderance of credible information and analyses that show that a person subjected to these techniques will say anything to make the torture stop.  So, the information is no more value than a coin flip.

Cheney’s unprincipled approach to all of this is appalling, but not surprising.  Under the Bush Administration, his venal attacks on the government’s readiness to safeguard our nation would make him “unpatriotic,” “unAmerican,” and might subject him or his loved ones to attack in planted articles and leaks.  (Valerie Plame comes to mind.) 

He showed his true colors when he said that Bush would not bend to Cheney’s will in the second administration and that Bush showed an independent streak.  Dick, no one elected you president.  Ever.