Saturday, January 27, 2007

The NBA and the USA

This is a letter I wrote to the editor of the SB News-Press. Don't know if it will be published.

To the editor:

NBA coaches make big bucks because they anticipate the endgame. What’s The Worst, The Best, and The Most Likely outcome?

Applying that discipline to Iraq, The Worst is a twenty-point loss: Iraq becomes a “breeding ground for terrorists,” a threat to the Western World. The Best is a fourth-period win: Iraq becomes a “shining star of democracy,” dutifully pumping oil into Western corporate coffers. The Most Likely is a squeaker: A shakily independent Iraq that seeks to maximize oil profits while resenting Western domination.

It’s time to get real—as the Bush administration has not—and consider The Most Likely. How do we get there?

Do we throw more troops into the violence, to kill more Iraqis? No way. When you’re down by two with twelve seconds left, you don’t commit a flagrant foul. A “troop surge” will confirm America’s place as an outlaw occupier, as oppressive as the Soviets in Hungary, the Nazis in Warsaw.

Or do we play for a squeaker, by withdrawing our troops immediately, placing sufficient money—billions less than it takes to continue the occupation—in the hands of the “duly elected” government of Iraq as reparations for the massive damage we’ve done to their nation? We would thereby deflate the claims that we invaded to take control of Iraq’s strategic location and resources, while simultaneously quieting the constant drumbeat of hatred of America.

Isn’t it time we played for The Most Likely, to salvage Iraq—and America?

Janet Leigh, RIP

Sometimes when you Google, you learn more than you want to know.
Today/tonight, Turner Classic Movies is playing a series of Janet Leigh movies. I'm about to watch "The Manchurian Candidate," having just watched "The Naked Spur." (I'm doing this while avoiding a trip downtown to freeze and get drenched waiting to get into one of the several movies that are being offered by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, a festival I dutifully miss every year.)
So, anyway, at the end of "The Naked Spur" I Googled Janet--she was so gorgeous, how could I not?--because I wanted to know if she was still alive and, if so, if I could thank her for those wonderful roles, including of course "Psycho" and "Touch of Evil."
Well, it's too late to thank her, except hereby. So, Janet Leigh, thanks.

And the result of "the Google"? A Wikipedia entry that discloses this:

"She died at her home after suffering cardiopulmonary arrest due to dilated cardiomyopathy at age 77. Her family was at her side. She also suffered from vasculitis and peripheral neuropathy, which caused her right hand to become gangrenous."


As for me, let me die anonymously, without a public listing of my last ailments.

A question--not about Bush, but about bushes and pigs and things

Off the shore of SB, on the Channel Islands, various authorities have been trying to cleanse the islands of "unnatural conditions." Certain plants have been eradicated, a few types of animals (wild pigs, small foxes) and so forth have been killed off--all in the name of restoring the islands to their condition before man brought these "unnatural" species to their shores. Indeed, so unique are these islands that apparently they once were home to a miniature mammoth, found nowhere else on the planet.

I am conflicted by these actions. I mean, ya gotta feel sorry for the pigs and foxes and things. They didn't get to the islands on their own, maybe even didn't want to go in the first place. And besides, isn't man's intrusion into the scheme of things part of the evolutionary stream? I mean, apparently man--a much more primitive version, maybe--killed off entire strains of giant marsupials in Australia, centuries before the Sierra Club could protest; and modern man surely has changed virtually every seashore, the courses of rivers, as well as the habitat and habits of countless plants and animals already. If we want to restore America, for example, to "natural conditions," it seems to me, we'd better vacate Manhattan and Santa Barbara, for example, and let the Indians--or, for that matter, whatever species was there before the Indians--take back over.

I understand the desire to undo damage we humans have done to the planet, and I'm not against trying to fix that. But the flora and fauna on offshore islands? What harm is it--what difference does it make--if they bloom free now in 2007 even if, in 1887 they weren't islanders? The travels of humans--surely part of history--landed them there and there, it seems to me, they should live out their lives until some other force removes them.

Your take?

Enough with the Slovak jokes

They're no dummies.

Somewhere out in the universe

there's got to be a god or an alien being who's looking at this planet, with its abundant sources of energy--wind, sun, tides, geothermal--and laughing his or her or its ass (or whatever) off. Or crying for the Mexicans.


The U.S. Navy reports three deaths. Besides being weeks and months old, don't these reports strike you as odd? Two are women, one only 23, dying "of natural causes" on a ship? There's a story here, smells like.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Remember the Maine!

I took a ten-day trip to Maine last summer. Beautiful state--in the summer. And this winter, it's proving to be beautiful too.

Bump? I don't see no bump.

Looks like Bush didn't get a bump, not even a tiny one, from his SOTU. No pothole (he was already in a deep one), but no bump.

The trial of Richard Cheney

Fitzgerald probably won't make it, but in the trial of Scooter Libby he's getting awfully close to proving Cheney's complicity in obstruction of justice by orchestrating "talking points" about the Valerie Plame controversy. Recall, that's where Watergate got Haldeman and Ehrlichman in trouble, when they began "sandpapering" witnesses who'd been subpoenaed to the grand jury.

Stay stay tuned.


I'm trying out Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which has many of the features of a word-processing program and allows storage of the document online as well as online editing and posting of the document to my blog. Let's see if I can manage it.


Never a doubt

that this is why we went to war in Iraq.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I hate to say I told you so, but...

the Senate today couldn't muster the necessary votes to approve a straightforward law, which the House previously passed, to increase the minimum wage. The Republican minority in the Senate wants to tie to the bill various tax breaks for small business, whereas the Democrats oppose such linkage. The result is, for the time being at least, no minimum wage law will reach Bush's desk--forcing him to veto it or not--which is of course the real reason Republicans oppose it.

Does all this sound familiar? Do you smell change in the air? I sure don't.

Who's on first?

According to this stirring account by Robert Fisk (a true journalistic hero, BTW) from Beirut, the vast numbers of rioting people--kids, mainly--in that city is a mismash of loyalties, religions, grudges, politics. I can't tell who's doing what to whom, or for what reason, but I do get this: The strike and riot seem to be an overflow from the sectarian violence in Iraq, coupled with the aftermath of Israel's (U.S.-approved) invasion of Lebanon last summer.

Thanks, Bush.

It takes a Brit

to speak the truth with such eloquence.

Impeach Cheney first

As Justin Raimondo makes clear, the Scooter Libby trial is really a trial of Dick Cheney, for his manipulation of prewar intelligence to gin up the case for invasion of Iraq. As a result, it's possible we may finally learn how the "uranium from Africa" language found its way into Bush's prewar speech, even after it had been deleted, at CIA's instance, from a previous Bush speech. That revelation--and it's certain the source of the language was Cheney--could well lead to a broader Congressional investigation of "who lied us to war?" And that investigation could lay the blame directly on Dick Cheney and his neocon minions.

It's long been obvious that most Democrats in Congress do not want to "waste political capital" on impeach-Bush hearings given the small amount of time remaining in his term, for one thing. But large segments of the voting public might, upon learning of Cheney's role in prewar lies, want the latter's pound of flesh--anything to settle their stomachs. This might well lead to Cheney's resignation "for health reasons" and the installation of a new Veep in the months before Bush's term is over, a likelihood because (1) it might give that new office-holder a leg up on a run for the White House in 2008; and (2) because installation of a new Vice President would remove the prospect of a President Pelosi, should anything happen to Bush.

How likely is all of this? Stay tuned. To quote Betty Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Don't say I never did you no favors

because I've now turned you on to this site, that features fine writing about matters political, most recently this brilliant essay by this brilliant man.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Shoot first and ask questions later?

Five G.I.'s died when fired on by Iraqis who were dressed in Iraqi military uniforms and driving a vehicle that appeared to be a diplomatic car, so that the U.S. soldiers might have dropped their guard, mistaking its occupants for American dignitaries. As a result, real diplomatic cars are now suspect, so don't be surprised if our troops kill a few of our own statesmen in the coming weeks.

Questions: How do you fight such an enemy? How can you blame our troops for being trigger-happy? How do you train our soldiers, or Iraqi soldiers, to avoid such attacks, while still following orders to patrol hostile neighborhoods? How do Iraqis avoid even the slightest appearance of insurgency, when any move--speeding toward or avoiding a roadblock because it might be kidnappers; driving too fast; driving too slow; not following U.S. soldiers' commands (in English) instantly; etc.--could lead to being shot by our troops?

This quagmire isn't just Bush's. It's an ugly mess for our troops, the Iraqi civilians and army and police. It's our second-worst nightmare, second only to the dreaded "ground war in Asia"--and it's catching up fast.

Death wish

Bush must have one. Really. Among his proposals, to be presented in his State of the Union address next week, is a "dead on arrival" plan to tax some employees (middle class ones) on a portion of their health insurance benefits, to use those tax revenues to make up for tax deductions to be granted to those who pay insurance premiums out of their own pocket. (He's also going to address the "immigration issue"--the one issue he may find acceptable to the Democratic congress, but which will piss off his "base" completely.)

The health-insurance plan is so insidious it's hard to capture in words. Imagine an employee whose employer-paid plan costs more than a certain government-approved amount, and hence the excess becomes taxable income to the employee. The employee then not only ends up paying federal income tax on money that never comes to him in cash, but hopefully not in benefits either, since any sound-minded person wants not to have health problems, seeks not to incur health costs. Furthermore, Bush's plan will cause a race to the bottom in employer health plans, with employees now joining employers in seeking cheaper, and hence less extensive, plans. The result will be less coverage for employees who have health benefits on the job; while subsidizing those who have no insurance by allowing a tax deduction for their payments. But the latter, recall, would have to have significant enough income to benefit from such a deduction--and who would those be? Surely not the poor, since they hardly pay any income tax in any event. All that would happen is that some middle-class workers would pay for others' benefits.

Now there's a "compassionate conservative" for you.