Monday, November 30, 2009

Unfinished War

The "embeds" aren't on the TV twenty four seven anymore. The Defense Department's propaganda pushing generals were all but gone from the talk show circuit, replaced by health scare, and former beauty pageant stars. But alas, the two wars Our last president got us into continue, costing thousands of American soldiers their lives (5,130 so far), an uncounted number of Iraqi and Afghan civilians their lives, and Hundreds of Billions of Our dollars ($940 billion so far). The first with Afghanistan (more specifically "the Taliban"), who would not produce al qaeda, living and training within their borders, and the second war, a "pre-emptive"/"bush doctrine" war with Iraq, who was bluffing Iran with talk of WMD's, had a connection to al qaeda more tenuous than the bush administration and saddam, and had no connection with the attacks that "started" the war on the noun "terror", which it turns out is a convenient way to get around the international rules of engagement and the execution of war. Guns and bombs blazing through towns and cities induce terror, no matter who is firing them.

Candidate bush's stance (circa 1999) against "nation building" was just about the only thing I ever agreed with him on. Of course, this "stance" turned out to be about as solid as "compassionate conservatism" was to anyone who disagreed with him, or more importantly, his party. Failure 43's "war president" focus left the unfinished, and internationally supported, war in Afghanistan to focus in on the invasion of Iraq. A war for regime change he, and his, were planning before they figured out the justifications and rationalizations for rushing us into it. Now after 8 years, elections
fraught with fraud, and reports of corruption, the weak Afghan government established and secured by the US and others receives little, if any, faith or respect from the public who are starting to think back to the taliban days of, albeit Oppressive, security and stability. With no exports, but heroin. No jobs, but fighting. Afghanistan needs to be rebuilt, but can we stay and rebuild it? Should we stay and rebuild it?

The President's speech "on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan" was a straight forward, "somber" one. No anecdotes about soldiers he's met. No big applause lines. A history of what brought us there, and I'm sorry but "September 11th" did. It's al qaeda's headquarters, though some would say that has moved across the border to Pakistan, which the President mentioned several times. He also mentioned, to a lesser extent, Somalia and Yemen. He also admitted to the fraud and corruption in Afghan elections, and repeated the need to support the Afghan people in restoring their government and country. But while speaking to those who compare Afghanistan to Vietnam, the President showed, what I believe is his real rationale for staying and "escalating".
"And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now -- and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance -- would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies."
I know it is echoes of the last guy, and I don't know if we need 100,000 soldiers and 100,000 contractors to do it, but for some reason I have more faith in the current guy in the White House than the last. I hope I'm not just misOverestimating him. That is not to say I agree with escalating the war in Afghanistan. I Do Not. Al qaeda is not locked down to a country, so neither should our "war" on them be, and right now it's hard to think of building another country while Ours is in, though relatively speaking much less, dire straits. I also think that using the Afghanistan border as a doorway into Pakistan is a big part of this, and that scares me.

Agree with it or not, President Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afganistan while decreasing Our numbers in Iraq should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention during his campaign. He made it clear several times. Supporters who thought he would immediately withdraw, despite his campaign rhetoric, are more wishful than even I am when it comes to Barack Obama. The President put a lot of time and thought into this decision. He had a lot of input from all sides. But how does a Nobel Peace Prize winner end a war? I guess We're going to find out. First, slower than some expected, in Iraq. And now, hopefully in two years, in Afghanistan. Achieving that, righting the economy, passing a meaningful health care bill, and moving us toward alternative energy, would make a "heckuva" first term. We'll have to see if any of it comes true. I still have the Audacity to Hope.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"And Justice for All"

In case you have forgotten, on September 11th, 2001, 2,819 people were murdered. The people who committed, and conspired to commit, these murders are mass murderers, and should be treated as such. In the United States, committing murder is a criminal offense. The people that commit, and conspire to commit, murder are tried in a criminal court. No one has been tried or convicted for the criminal acts that took place more than eight years ago. Post September 11th, then president (for eight months by the time of the attack) george bush junior declared a war on the noun "terror". By saying someone is a "terrorist", Our government could, and unfortunately still can, convert them into an "enemy combatant", imprison them as long as they want without charge, ship them wherever they want (or keep them on US soil in Cuba) to torture them. Not to mention that as long as "terror" exists so will the war on it.

The attacks of September 11 were/are not considered a military strike. Members of al qaeda are not considered members of any military, so military tribunals are out, in my opinion.

The recent decisions coming from the Department of Justice do bother me. There will still be "enemy combatants" held, by the United States, indefinitely, because they are "a danger" to Us, and there is not a good enough case against them to "assure" conviction. Which is the case, I believe, with Khalid Sheik Mohammed. I agree with Attorney General Holder's decision to try him in the City where the crime was committed. I do Not however agree with his Joe Namath-style prediction of conviction and execution. No matter who the defendant, no matter the crime, they are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law in the United States, or at least they should be. That being said, the United States Justice Department, this one in particular, would not be bringing this to trial without an air tight case, even after all the waterboarded evidence is thrown out. Defense attorneys are now saying that the defendants will plead not guilty to air their grievances with American foreign policy. This may just be a ploy to rally those who are against abiding by US law and having a trial for these criminals, because they are too Afraid of what the defendants must say or "spew". Who cares what they say? What, can they see Russia from their cell, or something? If I were the judge presiding over this case, it would be closed to the press. Only bad pastel sketches would come out of the room, and maybe some conspiracy theories to make these extremists sound like lyndon larouchites. I'm sorry larouchites, I don't mean to equate you with September 11th attackers, but are We not strong enough to take a speech from a zealot that may have plotted to kill thousands of Us? Iraq was strong enough to try saddam, no?

I am thankful that Ours was created to be "A government of laws and not of men". That idea is one of the many that make the United States an amazing and inspiring nation.

Here's another one:
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."
- Amendment VII to the United States Constitution - The Bill of Rights

Possible future topics:
1) Major Hasan and the ongoing investigation. Did al qaeda or a "similar" group plant him eight years ago in the army to be a never approved for combat duty major psychiatrist so he could shoot up the Soldier Readiness Center? Or did a desparate and deranged man completely lose it, possibly turn toward an extremism, and become a mass murderer in the Soldier Readiness Center?
2) Health Care, the public option, and debating to vote for debate, only to have to vote to vote. (Why does a democratic majority for health care for Americans have to be so much bigger than the republican majority was to kill foreigners?)
3) The quagmire left in Afghanistan. Is it worse than the quagmire left in Iraq? (How's the quagmire of an economy coming?)
4) An ex-governor of Alaska, an ex-Miss USA, an ex-talk show host, an ex-mayor, an ex convict, and a pretend plumber walk into a studio and at least one blogger doesn't give a shit.

Here's to Progress!
david calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Two State wins do not a trend make.

The republicans won two state elections last night. There was the Gubernatorial election in Virginia, you know the one that came about because the democrats took the Governor of Virginia (D) to become the head of the dnc and there was my home state of New Jersey where an unpopular incumbent governor corzine spent Four forgettable Years (even with banning the death penalty) as governor, after leaving the Senate to replace Richard Codey. Who became acting governor when the last Democratic Governor came out of the closet. These are the big telling wins that show a public trend against the President and towards the republicans? Nationally?? Rationally?

How about that NY-23 Congressional race where the republican party's splitting in half gave the Democrats a win in a district, parts of which have voted republican since the 1800's? Now that's a trend I can get behind.

In other election news, sadly, gay marriage was not legalized in Maine, but an openly gay mayor was elected in Chapel Hill, NC and an anti-discrimination (against homosexuals) bill was passed in Kalamazoo, MI

"Don't believe the hype-it's a sequel"
david calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA

"In New Jersey, the party in power in the White House hasn't won the Governor's office since 1985 and the party in power in the White House hasn't won the Governor's office in Virginia since 1977."
From dnc chair Tim Kaine's statement on last night's election

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Election Day!!!

I have received several emails asking who I am going to vote for, and even though it is a secret ballot something is driving me to tell you.. sort of.

I don't pay much attention to State politics. (I know, I know act local..) Governor Corzine should have stayed Senator Corzine, and he heard from this IP address about that. He has been lack luster as Governor of New Jersey. Not too bad, not too good. Not that it's easy to take over a State when the Country's economy is tanking. Christie has rooted out corruption, on both sides of the aisle, but he's a man with a plan that no one has, or maybe can, see. The main factors for me are his "relationship" and enthusiastic support of bush jr , the fear that he would have New Jersey opt out of the public option on health care and/or turn away additional stimilus monies like other bush republican governors have said they would, only to take it and take credit for it. And Christie is a union buster. Now I know unions aren't what they used to be, but I believe that this country favors the management (upper especially) in so many ways that workers still need and deserve protection . All that being said, New Jersey goes back and forth from Democratic to republican every couple of elections. If Christie does pull this squeeker out, our property taxes will go down by Spring, right? Oh yeah there's a third party candidate, Chris Dagget, from the middle (expect to see more of them) who can't win, but might be a good protest vote, especially if your republican.

On a local level, Hoboken may finally have an official Mayor again, hopefully hanging on for a full term. Full disclosure, my position with the City of Hoboken has improved under Acting Mayor Dawn Zimmer (see the Greening of Hoboken), though I do fear for the positions of other City workers once she is made Mayor of Hoboken tomorrow (More of a prediction than an endorsement). Acting Mayor Zimmer has been met with a few reality checks since she has taken her chair in the Mayor's office (see balanced budget), but has not made any glaring errors. Her hiring practices have not been as outside the box (or loop) either, which doesn't really surprise me. Her top three opponents are vying for the same pile of peter "the indicted" cammarano votes. Councilwoman Mason may have a reformer or two, but Acting Mayor Zimmer will not shed any of the votes (almost exactly half the voting public) she received in the last Mayoral election. Councilwoman Mason's campaign has been brutally nasty. Former Judge Glatt is the candidate no one has heard of, unless you're part of the Hudson County Democratic machine. And Developer Frank "Pupie" Raia is a glimpse at old "Hey oh, How You Doing?" Hoboken, that would be a step backward. Truthfully though, looking at what Hoboken continues to turn into (men's spas, sushi, and national chains) backwards isn't such a bad way to look.

So that's what I got a squeeker in the Governor's race and Zimmer winning Mayor. What's important is that you vote and take part in Our Democracy. How else will you be justified in comp[laining about it?

To Us!
dave calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ USA