Tuesday, July 31, 2007
At Left-Over, we’re betting that, despite Bill O’Reilly’s threats to “destroy” Daily Kos, the Yearly Kos Convention will go on, and both Left-Over and I are going to be there. (Update: Left-Over will only be there in spirit, ironically directly due to the stupidity of the Republicans in the California State Senate, but don’t tell them that!)
Since I didn’t attend last year, it’s hard to say whether I will have the time or ability to focus on posting any substantial thoughts while I’m at the conference, but rest assured that I will have my trusty TREO available to upload any good pics I can get, with at least some brief commentary or snarky caption, depending on what is called for at the time.
I’ve been poring over the schedule, trying to balance my desire to hear particular speakers I admire and respect, with specific topics of interest. There are, of course, too many in each category to possibly hit them all, but a couple of sessions strike me as “can’t miss” opportunities.
At this point, these are the ones that have risen to the top of my wish list:
Blogging the Libby Trial, with Emptywheel (of The Next Hurrah, and any other credible blog she wants to post on), Christie Hardin-Smith (of Firedoglake) and Jeralyn Merritt (of Talk Left).
Left Behind by the Right, with Arianna Huffington, Cenk Uygur (of The Young Turks, a personal favorite!), David Brock, and John Dean.
A Conversation with Anthony Romero, with, um, Anthony Romero (ACLU President, and the only guest I’ve seen whose infectious enthusiasm allowed him to talk down Stephen Colbert) and Glenn Greenwald (of Salon.com, who apparently will hold up the other end of the conversation).
Countering Corruption in Congress and the Bush Administration, with Justin Rood (formerly of TPM Muckraker) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn), who is burned into my mind for the first 2 ½ minutes of the following exchange during the testimony of Monica Goodling - which led conservatives to scream, “What if she had been a Muslim being grilled by a Republican?” followed by my response to their question:
Of the entire conference, I think my biggest dilemma involves the Presidential Leadership Forum, where the second half will consist of “breakout sessions” with the individual Democratic candidates. This means I will have to choose only one candidate.
Do I opt for Obama, to hear my current favorite, but where I’ll surely be packed in like a sardine, wishing I was Yao Ming so I could actually see the man?
Do I opt for Edwards, so I can listen to that charming drawl and the most passionate expression of my progressive ideals, all with the added bonus of seeing what a $400 haircut looks like?
Do I opt for Hillary, in the hope of catching a glimpse of cleavage? (Just kidding! Really, I’d rather see Bill Richardson’s cleavage!)
Or do I go for sheer entertainment value (and a chance at an actual one-on one exchange) and opt for Mike Gravel?
Oh, the decisions are making my brain hurt!
Sunday, July 29, 2007
It’s been a while since I got to speculate about a really juicy new conspiracy theory, but as I read the recent stories about how Pat Tillman may have been murdered, my mind keeps going back to Karl Rove’s statement that Valerie Plame was “fair game.”
We all know that this Administration is always quick to attack anyone who publicly challenges them. Often the attacks simply take the form of discrediting the person raising questions about their policies – using an army of conservative pundits to sling mud and confuse public opinion.
Occasionally, the attack must be more direct and harsh, such as when the person challenging their policies has enough experience and credibility to stand out from the flying mud. Such was the case of Ambassador Joe Wilson, as he spoke out against the reasons the Administration gave for going to war in Iraq, and we saw what happened as the OVP directed efforts, at the highest level of the Administration, to destroy his wife’s career.
So what do they do when their poster boy for recruitment into the armed forces becomes a vocal critic? And what do they do when the public, including a large chunk of their “support the war at all costs” base, overwhelmingly sees that critic as a patriotic hero? And when that critic is a “tough as nails” former NFL football player, who is used to facing off against the meanest, most aggressive, opponents in the world?
I once wrote about my own personal experience with the level of passion and loyalty to the Bush agenda that were inspired by Pat Tillman. This was right about the time of the initial invasion of Iraq. The experience was quite compelling, even for an anti-war progressive like myself.
But clearly that passion and loyalty would have fallen apart if Tillman had decided to begin speaking out against moving the war from Afghanistan to Iraq. It would have been a blow to the Bush Administrations’ plans that would greatly exceed that of Joe Wilson’s decision to speak out, because it would appeal not just to political junkies but to “Joe Six-Pack” as well! By its own pattern of responding to critics, Tillman’s criticism may even justify an attack more direct and harsh than efforts to punish his family!
I’ve heard several military experts suggest that the decision to cover up the investigation of Pat Tillman’s death could not have come from the level of command at which the current reprimands are being given. It would, they say, come from “the highest levels of the Pentagon.” The White House is refusing to release documents related to the incident, and is there any doubt that those documents include information related to the actual efforts to spin Tillman into a patriotic martyr after his death, in order to ensure that he continued to be a poster boy for military recruitment and loyalty to the Bush agenda?
I’m not saying that the President, or the Vice President, or Karl Rove, authorized the murder of Pat Tillman. But given the Bush Administrations’ willingness to allow torture, and the killing of innocent civilians in an immoral war, somehow using backchannels to get an overzealous soldier to off Pat Tillman in order to silence a critic isn’t that much of a stretch from what was done to the Wilsons!
Note: I understand most people seem to think that even if killing Tillman was a deliberate act, it was spontaneous rather than planned. All I’m saying is that with everything we’ve seen from this Administration, the pattern (which this post is primarily about) suggests the possibility!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
No sooner had I posted my potential YouTube Debate questions for the Republican candidates, did the campaigns of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani start grumbling about the format and hinting that they will not participate.
And this is classic! TPM has posted a series of YouTube blunders and flip-flops by Romney and Giuliani, which were apparently forwarded to them by “a rival campaign.”
Given that McCain is the only one of the current three ”top-tier” candidates to have agreed to participate in the September debate, I’d just like to point back to my earlier question for him. I’m guessing that we can safely remove from the potential list of things McCain won’t do to become President the act of consorting with an enemy to stop a rival!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Let me add my voice to the chorus praising the recent Democratic YouTube Debate, but for a different reason that the others I’ve seen. Throughout the debate, which featured real people asking real questions requiring real answers from the candidates, I could not hold back my glee at the fact that we will get to watch the Republicans do the same thing in September!
Clearly, some of the questions in this debate were submitted by those who won’t be voting in the Democratic primary, or who weren’t supporters of the candidates they were questioning. Many submissions were intended to be tough questions, occasionally designed to highlight the weaknesses of the candidate, or of the party in general. A notable example was the guy worried about protecting his “babies,” including the large gun he pulled into his lap.
I’m guessing that CNN might be a little more protective of the Republicans. On the other hand, if they are looking for thoughtful, interesting questions to make for a lively and entertaining debate, I’m guessing that the pool of potential questions will be weighted more from the progressive side of the political spectrum.
With that in mind, I’d like to throw out a potential question for each of the major Republican candidates. At this point, I’m not a YouTube guy, nor am I interested in seeing my mug on the teevee. However, if anyone out there wants to submit them, be my guest.
In a previous debate, you stated the opinion that the U.S. should “double the size of Guantanamo,” and you have been a strong supporter of the war in the Middle East.
You have five sons who are all active in your campaign, and presumably you have a large extended family as well.
Would you describe your relationship to the closest family member who is active in the United States Armed Forces, and what advice have you given, or would you give, that relative about how to psychologically deal with the possibility of being captured by an enemy and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques?”
After the tragedy of September 11th, you have reported stating to Bernard Kerik that you were thankful to God that George W. Bush was our President.
Are you still thankful that George W. Bush is our President, and do you support his assertion that he does not have to cooperate with requests from Congress, or comply with laws he does not agree with?
Are you equally thankful to God that Dick Cheney is our Vice President?
Would you describe any three things that you would not do, even if doing them would guarantee that you would become President of the United States?
And a Lighthearted Bonus Question for Giuliani:
Would you quickly describe your views on the potential scenario that she sells seashells by the sea shore . . . and without spitting?
With any luck, we could get the following clip some competition for the title of Best YouTube Moment Involving a Republican!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Forgive me for seeming to turn this into a travel blog in recent weeks, but everyone needs a break sometimes, and travel is much less infuriating than politics these days, right?
Well, not always! I'm sitting in the airport in Rijeka, Croatia, waiting out a two hour delay for a flight back to London, where I'll stay for two nights before returning to California.
This airport was little used until a few years ago, when European tourists started to flock back to Croatia after a period of post-war trepidation. There are now flights here from several points in the UK and Germany, as well as flights from Oslo, Norway, Vilnius, Lithuania, and Riga, Latvia - mostly on low budget airlines that operate in the early Southwest model - providing basic "bus service in the sky" for minimal prices.
It's great for affordable jaunts around Europe, but they often fly out of smaller cities, and in an airport such as Rijeka's, a two hour delay can be quite hellish! First of all, there is no air conditioning, and it's well over 100 degrees. Somehow, converting to the lower Celsius doesn't make it any more bearable!
On a positive note, there is relatively cheap pivo (beer) and an ATM machine, so although I spent my last Kuna in anticipation of quickly boarding a flight to London, I can
And there is more good news! Through a barely audible sound system, someone has announced that Easyjet is springing for a sandwich and soft drink for all passengers of the delayed flight. Better yet, in Croatia, pivo is apparently considered a soft drink!
Still, it's a sauna in here, and a free beer isn't quite enough to make up for the fact that I will arrive well past 10 PM and by the time I get to my room, it will be too late to satisfy my craving for some Chicken Tikka Massala from one of the many Indian restaurants on Brick Lane, which would be an easy walk from my room if not for the pounding rain in London that has, apparently, delayed our flight.
That's right - delayed because of rain! And I'm thinking, "If pilots can't fly in the rain, why even bother building an airport in Seattle?"
But again, there's hope. Our plane just touched down on the single runway that makes up the Rijeka Airport, to thunderous applause from those with the remaining strength to clap. Soon we are loaded up, ready to depart. But wait, now we are told that we won't have permission to take off for another 30 to 40 minutes!
We are, at this point, the only plane left at the airport. There isn't a cloud in the sky, so the "rain delay" excuse won't cut it here. Apparently, now we don't have permission to land in London, so we can't take off. All I can guess is that our piddling flight from Rijeka has been given a low priority now that it's out of the regular schedule. No "first-come- first-served" when it comes to runways!
So I arrive in London a full 3 hours late.
By the time I get my luggage and pass customs, it is nearly 10:30 PM. I have a 1 hour bus ride to central London, and then a 30 min. tube ride to my hotel. And there is a phalanx of distressed passengers overwhelming the driver as they scurry to load their luggage and claim a seat before the bus is filled up. It takes nearly 30 more minutes just to load the bus, but I do get a seat.
But now I'm really concerned. I seem to recall that the tube only runs until midnight, so if I miss it, the cab fare across town will eat up all my ale money for the two night stay!
To make matters worse, since my room is a rented student flat on the campus of Queen Mary University of London (an experiment designed to free up some of my lodging budget for a ticket to Spamalot), there is a distinct possibility that check-in is not even available this late. I want to call, but I have no working cell phone, and there is no time to negotiate a pay phone. I make a snap decision to get off the bus at an earlier stop in hope of beating the cutoff to enter the tube.
Success! I enter the line to buy my ticket with 20 minutes to spare (thanks in part to catching a break on the time - since the last tube is at 12:15 AM)
But now there is some commotion in the station. Lots of yelling from behind me, out of view but getting louder. Then, a group of men, still yelling, run towards the line I'm standing in. I can see one guy in the back has blood streaming down his face, his nose obviously broken.
He is screaming at another man, swinging wild haymakers in the general direction of the guy he's chasing, as two other guys try to tackle him. The first man stays just ahead of his bloodsoaked pursuer until he feebly tries to leap the turnstile but gets no elevation and bounces backward, landing in a heap on the ground in front of the machine.
Within seconds, the bloody guy is on top with the other two still trying to restrain him. Punches start to land, and before security guards arrive to pull them apart, I hear at least a few blows arrive to his head, each with a sickening thud.
Finally, the hooligans are dragged off to whatever fate awaits those caught brawling in the subway, as I stand in my line, holding about $1,500 worth of scuba equipment in my bag and hoping that late-night theft is a less frequent occurrence at this station than bloody fights.
Fortunately, the remainder of the early morning is uneventful. I get on the tube and finally reach my room at about 1:10 AM. The office is open 24 hours a day, the receptionist is very friendly and sympathetic to the travails leading to my late arrival, and the bed is unusually comfortable.
I drift off to sleep dreaming of my next low budget travel adventure.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
During my last few days in Croatia, I wanted to pull together some thoughts on technology, with pictures.
Although we have many modern conveniences here: electricity, hot water, a stove with a full size oven, even a clothes washing machine and dishwasher, there are some "comforts" notably missing.
We have to do without such things as television, internet access (even from dial-up service, as there's no phone line), and the ability to drive up to the house (it's a quarter mile walk to the nearest parking, and usually we travel on foot or bicycle.)
Carting cases of pivo (beer) or mineral water up this hill on a hand truck is a periodic ritual that is, fortunately, self-rewarding at the end!
There are some other particularly low tech rituals that are every bit as pleasurable as anything technology has to offer. Every morning, I am sure to fill up the solar shower so we can have a hot fresh rinse to remove the Adriatic salt from the day's swim without messing up the bathroom (or giving up the view!)
And yes, that is a fireplace in the background big enough (and designed for) cooking a goat on an open fire. We have yet to use it for its intended purpose, as we haven't entertained the requisite number of guests in the same day. But I've been slowly gathering firewood from the trail near the house, so when the time comes, we'll be ready.
Of course, we may choose to introduce a bit more technology to the process, as I'm told the three hour cooking time is much more enjoyable with the spit being turned by a converted washing machine motor instead of by hand!
As for the technology required to bring you this post, I have been able to use my Treo as a text editor, along with a portable infrared keyboard to spare me the frustration of dealing with congenitally large thumbs. I can write virtually anywhere, without carrying anything heavier than my foam beach pad (although, frankly, I often opt to include a heavier bottle of Karlovacko Pivo among my beach blogging gear!)
I can save the Word files, and any photos I take, on a memory card, which in turn can be moved to a jump drive about the size of one of my fat thumbs, ready to be plugged into any computer. For 15 Kuna (about $2.80), I can get 30 minutes of web access on a PC at the nearby Hotel Punta.
Truth be told, we actually have a laptop with us and wireless access is also available at the same rate, but since it's a Mac belonging to Ms. seenos, and my blogging speed drops to a crawl on the unfamiliar Mac, it is still more efficient for me to use their machine - even if it does require translating the standard Blogger and Google commands from Croatian.
Occasionally, the low tech and high tech aspects of our lives here collide in interesting ways.
For example, when we installed the current kitchen two years ago, we had to put in an additional electrical line for the stove. In our wood constructed home in California, this would be a relatively easy task, but in a stone house with two foot solid walls, the job requires some serious hammering and chiseling in order to dig out a path for the line that can later be filled with stucco and painted.
Because of the uneven nature of the stone underneath, it is not possible to follow the most direct path, or sometimes any specific path. What you are left with is a nice painted wall with a live power line snaking somewhere beneath the surface.
This is particularly troublesome if you want to drill holes, such as we needed to do in order to hang a cabinet. We knew where we wanted to drill, just not if we could do it without getting electrocuted and/or shorting out the stove.
The picture above represents our high tech solution. We were able to dig back through our digital image archive to find a shot that we took right after the wall was patched. By putting the laptop next to the actual wall, we were able to drill away without any problems. Other than having to drill into solid rock, that is!
The result was worth the effort. (You may also note another decidedly high tech luxury - a Bose I-Pod dock that was probably the best thing we ever struggled to squeeze into our luggage!)
I mentioned earlier that we have no TV, which means that on those occasions when we want to end the day will a little mindless visual entertainment, we get to enjoy the oldest, lowest tech, form of evening entertainment - an example of which is a perfect way to close this post.
This was taken from the terrace cafe of the Hotel Punta about 5 minutes ago.
Hvala i do vidjenja!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Somehow someone needs to get through to old George. He's missing a great opportunity. His legacy is shot. He will go down in history as the worst U.S. President of all time. But if he follows my advice he could pretend, for a few days at least, that people like him.
Several months ago I wrote to you with my suggestion to save your presidency and perhaps keep you from going down in history as the worst president ever. I realize now that you may not have read my letter. It was kind of long. And I used a few big words. So, in this letter I will use a lot of pictures to try to keep you interested.
I am writing you this time to point out something that I think you have overlooked.
I realize that I have criticized you often in the past – but this time I am going to try and stay positive - point out a strength.
George you are without a doubt the best President ever ........................................ at staging military photo ops.
Let’s sample your body of work shall we.
Who can forget this one?
Or this one? Nice Jacket! This one may not have been the best choice?
But then you really out did yourself? Now to the main reason for this letter. George you have overlooked the best military photo op possible. And you are running out of time.
All the polls show that this country remains extremely divided (although you are doing your best to unite us in our dislike for you). The one thing that every American agrees on is our support for the Men and Women of the United States Military. Even while many disagree with the War in Iraq - we unanamously support the troops.
So I ask you – wouldn’t the best military photo op possible – be you leading the parade of soldiers returning to the hero’s welcome they would undoubtedly receive? Think of it George – millions of citizens lining the streets of every small town in America welcoming home the troops. And, you could travel the country and lead every parade.
Now that would be history George. Think about it - do you really want Hillary’s photos gracing those pages of the history books? No - that is your destiny - you have earned it.
Bring the troops home George – they have earned it even more!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
There are a lot of convicted felons who serve their time in prison and then go on to lead productive, and occasionally inspirational, lives.
Of course many don't, as the recidivism rate is still quite high. Still, the common thread for those who are highly successful in their future endeavors is the ability to look others in the eye and say, "I've made mistakes, but I've paid my debt to society!"
Not Scooter Libby! He's a convicted felon who will never have the opportunity to look anyone in the eye and say that he is free and clear, having paid his debt to society and able to move ahead with the knowledge that he owes nothing to anyone.
Sure, he'll try to surround himself with those willing to act as if he was a great man who was unjustly accused, but this will be little more than a charade - since the commutation of his sentence has basically acknowledged his guilt, but enabled him to skate on his debt.
He is now destined to live out his life knowing deep down that he stole from society, got caught, but never had to pay anything back because he was declared (morally) bankrupt!
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
This is the kind of outrage that many of us feel toward the establishment and the press for enabling it. Michael Moore is my hero! Watch and enjoy!
Update: Here are the facts and explanation from the Sicko website that Michael promised in the clip.
Monday, July 09, 2007
There can be no doubt that America's image throughout the world has declined under the "decidership" of George W. Bush!
Many Americans, while traveling abroad, feel compelled to pretend to be Canadian, just to avoid potential scorn over their connection to the arrogant, imperialist foreign policies of their president.
Clearly, the person who ends up following George W. Bush into the White House will have a monumental task of rebuilding trust and cooperation from the rest of the world.
Having arrived in Europe a little over a week ago, I quickly noticed one of the ways this process could be accellerated.
On my first night in Croatia, I was invited by some friends to meet for a drink at a club where there would be live music. The performer turned out to be a delta blues guitarist named Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks (pictured above.) He was very good, but what stood out the most was the reverence with which most of the audience listened to his two sets.
Typically, in social settings - particularly those involving drinking - Croatians tend to be very warm and friendly. Music is likely to be the background to enthusiastic conversation and laughter. However, for this performance, I heard quite a few "shushes," as anyone interrupting the music was quickly asked to be quiet.
Between sets and after the show, Ricks was surrounded by admiring fans, intent on getting autographs and asking him questions about his music.
Among many other forms of music, I consider myself to be a blues afficionado. I had never heard of Jerry Ricks, although I am quite familiar with many of the greats at whose knees he learned his craft. However, I talked to several people in the crowd who were well aware of him, and just about any other blues legend I could name.
In fact, it seems there is a vast reservoir of love and respect for many aspects of American culture, if not the current incarnation of American politics!
And it occured to me that one of the ways that we, as a country, can start to rebuild our reputation abroad, is to begin to embrace our historic contribution to the arts - particularly music, but also dance, theater, and visual arts.
Instead of "No Child Left Behind" squeezing out funds for the arts and creating a generation with no formal understanding of our artistic history, we should be funding something like "No Artist Left Behind!"
For this is what the world still loves about America, and if we bring the arts back to a prominent place in our own daily lives, we may be able to regain some of what we have lost during the last seven years - when the face of America to the rest of the world has been that of a smirking chimp flipping them the bird!
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I realize that I'm a little out of the loop, sitting halfway across the world on a small island with no English newspapers, no television, and only sporadic internet access. But after hearing about Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's prison term before the appeals process had even run its course, I have to post a few initial thoughts.
Sorry if I'm being redundant, since I'm sure the rest of the Plamaniacs in the blogosphere are all over this like squid ink on black risotto, but here's what I'm thinking.
Duke Cunningham went to prison for taking money and expensive gifts in exchange for steering defense contracts to those offering bribes. Jack Abramoff went to prison for getting favors from a number of congressmen in exchange for money and expensive gifts.
The key to both of these convictions was the ability to prove the existence of a "quid pro quo" relationship. It wasn't random, but was a part of an organized plan - a "conspiracy," if you will.
Bush's commutation of Scooter's sentence leaves no doubt in my mind that Scooter's actions were part of a similarly organized "quid pro quo" relationship with the Bush Administration. If Scooter lied to the Grand Jury, and did not reveal any incriminating information against his bosses while defending himself in court, the President promised to use his power to ensure that Scooter did not spend so much as a day in prison!
I suspect there's a fair amount of money and/or expensive gifts on the way toward Scooter too, as compensation for the loss of his law license and any other inconveniences that accompany life as a convicted felon.
In fact, with all the forensic accounting resources we've developed in the aftermath of debacles like Enron and WorldCom, and while tracking funding for terrorist groups, we can probably spare an agent or two to keep an eye on Scooter's bank accounts, just in case there is any other suspicious activity that would prove a "quid pro quo" criminal conspiracy on top of the perjury and obstruction charges for which he was already convicted!
(The image was taken during a hike to Balvanida - a restaurant only accessible on foot or by boat. It is near the foot of the bay to the right.)
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
There was a time when George Allen was the clear republican frontrunner to succeed George Bush as the next simple-minded, good ol’ boy, puppet president. He had all the requisite qualities. He’s dumb as a post, he likes western attire, and he has a family affiliation with professional sports. He’s the kind of guy who could get support from the conservative base simply because he seems comfortable and familiar.
Like Bush in 2000, he could get elected for being the guy they’d like to have a beer with. But also like Bush, he would probably be satisfied with meaningless photo ops, and getting to strut around calling himself “The Decider,” and “Commander Guy” while the Dick Cheneys’ and Donald Rumsfelds’ of the world secretly ran the country.
But, as it turned out, “Macaca” Allen proved to be too stupid, even to follow in George Bush’s footsteps! And Bush has pretty much burned out the “western sportsman” archetype of the guy you don’t actually know, but still want to have a beer with! So who’s next in line to fill the necessary role of the puppet president?
My good friend (whom I’ve never met), Emptywheel, had an excellent post describing her impression of Fred Thompson as possibly filling that role.
And Josh Marshall (whom I’ve also never met) recently informed me, as I drank my morning coffee, that Thompson is considered by many to be a leading presidential candidate because he has the kind of speaking voice that makes people feel secure and comfortable.
Finally, I learned from my pal, Kos (who was once in the same room, just a few feet away from me – having a conversation with another well-known blogger whose opinions I often love to consider over lunch) that Fred Thompson likes to blog.
And I thought, how convenient! It occurs to me that among the people I don’t know, but still feel comfortable enough to want to have a beer with them, are a pretty large number of bloggers. In fact, blogging is quite an excellent way to make strangers feel that they know you, get them to like you and feel comfortable with you, and it maybe even make them willing to vote for you!
That’s right folks – when it comes to republican presidential politics, Blogging may be the new ”Fake Cowboy on a Bicycle!”