Friday, December 29, 2006

Two figures in American History

Yesterday from 1:00 - 8:00 PM at the Apollo Theater in Harlem the Hardest working man in show business, Soul Brother #1, Mr. Dynamite, The Minister of the New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Please Please Please, The Boss, The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown will be viewed by thousands of friends, family, and fans one last time. One of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century, James Brown's R&B in the sixties and the funk of the seventies has influenced so much of American music. His music is the foudation of hip hop, taught Prince how to dance, Sly Stone how to shout and Marvin Gaye to croon . The consumate entertainer was still on tour, at age 73, when he died. James Brown lead his super tight band for decades. But he didn't stop there. He was politically and socially active and outspoken. "Say it Loud! I'm Black and I'm Proud!" He will be missed and will be remembered as one of the largest and most influential musical and cultural American icons. Alas, there will be no cape for him to throw off tonight.

Another American figure has left us in these last days of 2006. President Gerald Ford has died at age 93. His funeral began today. President Ford took over for the most notorious president in modern times, richard nixon, after nixon resigned in disgrace. Stating in his Inaugural Address "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over." President Ford presided over the final withdrawl of US troops from Vietnam and some would say healed this nation from the anger and sadness that seemed to engulf it during the end of sixties and early seventies. Ford may be remembered by most as the man that granted "a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in" before nixon was even tried. It is interesting that here we are in a time where it is not completely unthinkable for the current president to resign in disgrace. We too are a nation angered and saddened by war and scandal. Who would be our Ford? And how about all of the old photos of President Ford with his staff, including a young dick cheney, a young don rumsfeld, and a young james baker. Seems the last three (four counting Jr.) republican presidencies were run by the same guys. If their faces have remained the same over the years, who should be blamed for the current failure. But that's not for today. Today we remember two figures in American History. Thank you both for all you've done for Our Country and its culture.

"I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."
"I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."
-President Gerald Ford July 2004

"We gotta love each other again."
-James Brown

Friday, December 22, 2006

'Tis the Season or so they say

'Tis the season or so they say, but if it's a cute christmas greeting, funny holiday photoshopping, or a special last minute X-Mas coupon you're lookin' for, then you should probably just hit delete now.

Despite the fact that Marijuana is officially the biggest cash crop of the United States (watch for the crackdown, hippies), Our country is not run by the peaceniks. The failure in chief and senator mccain (currently the only red that stands a chance in '08) are both "pushing" for an additional United States troops to be sent to Iraq and not just into the 10 hours or less a day electrified capital city. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Military (the top generals in Our Country) have come out against the idea, not that lil' bush will listen to his generals this time either. The top general, General Abizaid, disagrees so viamently that he's retiring. It's interesting to watch past supporters of Our "delusional" president jump ship. Maybe they're realizing that the ill conceived quagmire that their choice chose to get Our Country into is going so dreadfully wrong. The violence in Iraq is at levels probably unseen even during saddam's reign and is increasing every day. Maybe that's why the Pentagon is asking for $99,700,000,000.00 more for the war that even bush now admits "we are not winning" of course adding "we're not losing" to which everyone's favorite funny man replied "Are we covering the spread?". It just makes me sick to see the failure in chief and his fox news press "man" talking about a "listening tour" that he should have been on before he rushed us into this mess. It makes me sick to see headlines like "Iraqi Army Plans for Wider Role" What the hell was the plan before? There are 960 attacks a week in Iraq. The violence is at new record levels. And we can't even seem to get up to speed. Looking for a reason for impeachment? How about the inability to lead a country in time of war?

At least Congress can start off cleaner in 2007, now that the red lead, do nothing 109th has cleared it's leadership of any failings while one of their own preyed upon the underage/barely legal page boys in his care over the last few years. They also, more grudgingly I'm sure, have cleared incoming Senate Majority Harry Reid of all corruption charges. I can't until old 28% approval has to play nice with the likes or Conyers, Waxman, Leahy, Pelosi, and Reid. And don't mind the red ambulance chasers, Senator Johnson will be fine and will be back. The Democrats will lead Congress.

So as the "decider" decides that his decision on Iraq can wait until the new year, the region is getting hotter and hotter. Palestians are fighting themselves, as Israel admits to the world that they are a nuCLEar power. The Saudis (whose ambassador to the US quit very abruptly) has said they will support the Sunnis in Iraq against the Shiites, and is against the US talking to Iran. Anyone else starting to get scared by the kerosine bushco. has thrown on this centuries old fire. Osama bin laden is a Saudi. It should be said that, much to the failure's dismay, Senators are starting to meet with non "allies" in the region to figure out how everyone can work to avoid absolute catastrophe.

As the new year is greeted with rising, inflation like, costs wrapping the stagnant waged with debt, like the debt grounding Delta Airlines, at least we are reassured that American citizens are allowed under Our Constitution to protest in the streets of New York.

So cut down an old evergreen, make paper out of a couple more, light as many strands of twinkling lights as your outlets can handle and down some doused eggnog. 'Tis the season everybody, ENJOY! Have a great Winter Solstice! However you celebrate it.

Peace on Earth.
Goodwill towards Men (and Women).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What's that smell?

Could it be change?

Whether in the Defense Department, the United States Congress, or bush's war of choice in Iraq, it's seems that there's a whiff of change in the air.

Former member of the Iraq Study Group, former Head of the CIA under poppa bush, and most recently former President of Texas A&M, Robert Gates has been appointed, with overwhelming support, to the postition of Secretary of Defense, leaving rumsfeld time for possible future court battles. One point that everyone is keyed in on from his hearings was his difference in opinion with the lame duck prince on whether we are winning in Iraq. Senator John McCain asked "We are not winning the war in Iraq. Is that correct?" Mr. Gates replied "That is my view, yes, sir." Then mccain followed with "And therefore, the status quo is not acceptable?" to which Gates answered "That is correct, sir." A vast departure to the president's "Absolutely, we’re winning." To be fair, he did say that all the way back in October of 2006. Words and phrases like fresh, a different set of eyes, all options are on the table, pepper Gates's congressional testimony. Hopefully this isn't all just wrapping paper to gain the bipartisan support of Congress. We shall see.

Speaking of Congress, yesterday marked the red leadership's last day. Can you see the smile on my face? (Sorry, I'm really trying to be bipartisan, I swear). The incoming Democratic Leadership has been doing a lot of talking about their "First 100 Hours" in power, and the changes in governmnent that will be made once they take their seats in January. One of my favorites is the incoming ChairWoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works , Barbara Boxer. She had this to say. "Any kind of weakening of environmental laws or secrecy or changes in the dead of night it's over," Boxer said. "We're going to for once, finally, make this committee an environment committee, not an anti-environment committee. … This is a sea change that is coming to this committee." Not to be outdone, soon to be House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer came out with the new congressional work schedule. Can you imagine an actual 5 day work week for Congress? Currently they are working from Tuesday to Thursday afternoon. Maybe that's what the reds meant by "small government". Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays had this to say “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that’s what this says.” You must be kidding! Give us all three day work weeks! You know, for our families.

And finally the Iraq Study Group has come out with its report. The grim assessment of what's happening presently in Iraq starts at the top of the "Executive Summary" with "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating". And even though they admit in the first line of the report "There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq" they put together a 150+ page plan to try. Of course it was not in their charter to look into the what, who, and how we got into what Al "An Inconvenient Truth" Gore has called "the worst strategy mistake in the history of the United States". There are two major points the Iraq Study Group make that stick out to me at this point (I haven't read the whole thing yet). First, the countries in the region, including Iran and Syria, need to be brought to the table to help settle the crisis in Iraq. No one will be served by all out chaos in Iraq, why not try to negotiate with the most powerful nations in the region. The second explains how the commitment of United States combat troops must not be open ended. The Iraqi government needs to know that US troops will not be there forever, and will leave them to chaos if progress is not made. No one is sure how the president will handle the 79 recommendations the comission has presented, but one thing is for sure. This report is another rebuke of the way this war is being executed, much like the last election was. There needs to be a change in policy in Iraq that discusses what is best for Our country and not just what's better for Halliburton or bush's legacy. This "study group" was really a political think tank made up of 5 big reds and five big democrats. They were not military experts, or middle east experts for that matter. They have given real thoughtful observations and suggestions and have started the ball rolling on this essential discussion. If only this discussion had happened three years ago.

Better late the never, I guess.

Oh and Bye Rummy. See you in the funny papers!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home

There's been a new sloganization of the bushco.'s war of choice in Iraq, and it's even more repulsive than "stay the course" and "cut and run" . Now we have "go big, go long, or go home". This is the slogan that insiders have come away from the Pentagon with.

Go Big. The idea is that we send in tens of thousands of additional soldiers in to stop the Growing violence, and take control of at least the capital which we shocked and awed almost 4 years ago. More soldiers are already going in to Baghdad via the "stop loss" program that will keep soldiers on after they've served their year in. Now it may be true that if we went in with an overwhelming ground force of 200,000+ we may have squashed this violence before it had time to ferment. Changing the leadership while maintaining the existing Iraqi army may have also helped. We can not go back in time. This war has not been executed properly nor was it planned for adequately. It may be too late for an additional 20, 000 or so to make any real change in the violence that has grown in strength and precision over the past four years.

Go Long. The idea is that we stay there, as a major force, for the next five to ten years, if not longer. With the biggest, most expensive US "embassy" being built in Baghdad, there's no doubt that there will be troops in Iraq for a long, long time. The question is what troop level will remain and will they still be standing in front and in charge of Iraqi forces. The citizens of both the United States and Iraq are already calling for the United States military to leave, what will they be saying ten years from now. Not to mention where will the troops come from and how will we continue paying for bushco.'s war of choice.

Which brings us to Go Home. First reports on the Baker-Hamilton commission's final report seem to show the Iraq Study Group suggesting a gradual troop reduction starting "as early" as next year. The democrats suggest a redeployment in the "region". Unfortunately this administration had no exit strategy for this war of choice, except for cleaning off the "sweets and flowers", and parading home under a big banner reading "mission accomplished". Colin Powell recently has said the administration needs to be realistic and call what's going on in Iraq what it is "a civil war". Whatever the terminology we use, it's bad in Iraq, and getting worse. The question is will violence escalate, remain the same or worsen if we leave in major numbers. Frustrated Iraqis have been waiting for steady electricity, clean water, and jobs for the four years since bushco. invaded, defeating a defiant WMD-less dictator and leaving chaos for Iraqis to figure out. The president demanding a plan from maliki to end the sectarian violence seems a little like passing the buck to me. It was bush and his minions of neocons that forced and created this situation. How do we build a nation in Our image, in a region where the only nation that really comes close was appointed by the US and Europe fifty years ago? I'm glad to see that countries in the region, including Iran, Syria, and Jordan, may finally be asked to the table, despite what bush has to say about it. Iran may be the biggest winner in all of this, loosing an adversary in saddam hussein, and gaining a nation ruled by Shiites to maybe one day battle the Saudis' Sunnis for the world's oil (minus the oil Chavez, who was just re-elected by a landslide, wants to give America's poor for cheap).

The quelling of looting and lawlessness or as rumsfeld put it "stuff" in the beginning of the invasion may have instilled a little more faith than 4 years without steady power, water, sanitation, or security, which is what Iraqis have gotten so far. That and a government citizens are currently throwing rocks at. The dangerous rift forming between muqtada al-sadr and the maliki government may be a way to give maliki the cover of saying to bush that he can't push too hard for fear of his government falling apart. But even if this conspiracy theory is true, it's not a good sign for the US if two major parties in Iraq are conspiring to fool us. If it is not a political ploy, then the Shiite al sadr follower walk outs spell real trouble.

I'm not usually a big proponent of the papacy, but Our government needs to follow Pope Benedict's lead. The Pope's recent trip to Turkey, praying toward Mecca, embracing other viewpoints and trying to open the discussion should be praised. Like Senator Chuck Hagel said on "Meet the Press" Syria and Iran will "respond in their own self-interest" if brought to the table, and "it’s not in the interest of Syria or Jordan or Iran to have a failed state that would be a complete mess for the middle east." Even rumsfeld knew, claiming in a memo two days before his resignation “"Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough."” Who knows, maybe that's the same reason bolton has resigned from the UN.