Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Laura Nyro, I Miss Her!

She was brilliant and we miss her so. What a writer, musician and artist she was.

Her message is still pertinent today. Maybe even more so!

She left us much too soon. Luckily for us survivors her words and songs live on.

Laura Nyro (born Laura Nigro) (October 18, 1947April 8, 1997) was born in the The Bronx, New York, of Italian-American and Jewish-American parents.

She was an American composer, lyricist, singer, and pianist, one of the most influential musicians to emerge in the 1960s. Her style was a distinctive hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, mixed with elements of jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock. She blazed the trail for – and directly influenced – future composers including Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Donald Fagen, Todd Rundgren, and Rickie Lee Jones, among many others.

She was best known and had the most commercial success as a composer and lyricist, rather than as a performer. Her best-known songs include "And When I Die" (a hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears), "Stoney End" (covered by Barbra Streisand), "Wedding Bell Blues", "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Sweet Blindness" and "Save The Country" (all covered by the Fifth Dimension), and "Eli's Coming" (a hit for Three Dog Night). Ironically, Nyro's own best-selling single was a cover of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Up On The Roof."

I often wonder what she would have thought about our current predicament. I imagine it would have been scathing!

We need to save the Country NOW!

Laura Nyro


1947 - 1997

Monday, May 28, 2007

Go UMass Amherst Grads and Community.

When we graduated from Hunter College, CUNY, in 1985, Gerry Ferraro was our Honored Guest. Though the student leadership had very little if any input into the choice, it seemed so appropriate as she was the First Woman to be nominated as Vice-President of the United States. However, our choice for Valedictory Speaker was a big fight. The Returning Women, i.e. 4.0 Bitches, won in the end and in the end the NYTimes ran a four column above the fold piece on our choice and not Gerry in the Sunday coverage of our graduation. After the ceremony Sha-la-la graciously apologized to me. We had prevailed due to reason and respect and the fact that the administration of Hunter was also reasonable and respectful of their students.

So, what the Hell was the administration at UMass Amherst thinking?

Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting: it’s that Liberal Massachusetts thing!

P.S. I can say this as I grew up in Massachusetts and never witnessed this Liberal thing that I keep hearing about. Exhibit A would be Mitt Romney!

The Very Reverend Billy

h/t Janis

Memorial Day 2007

And the funerals continue.

These are Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and our Children. May they rest in peace.

Mr. Rich from Behind the Wall.

May 27, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

Operation Freedom From Iraqis


WHEN all else fails, those pious Americans who conceived and directed the Iraq war fall back on moral self-congratulation: at least we brought liberty and democracy to an oppressed people. But that last-ditch rationalization has now become America’s sorriest self-delusion in this tragedy.

However wholeheartedly we disposed of their horrific dictator, the Iraqis were always pawns on the geopolitical chessboard rather than actual people in the administration’s reckless bet to “transform” the Middle East. From “Stuff happens!” on, nearly every aspect of Washington policy in Iraq exuded contempt for the beneficiaries of our supposed munificence. Now this animus is completely out of the closet. Without Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to kick around anymore, the war’s dead-enders are pinning the fiasco on the Iraqis themselves. Our government abhors them almost as much as the Lou Dobbs spear carriers loathe those swarming “aliens” from Mexico.

Iraqis are clamoring to get out of Iraq. Two million have fled so far and nearly two million more have been displaced within the country. (That’s a total of some 15 percent of the population.) Save the Children reported this month that Iraq’s child-survival rate is falling faster than any other nation’s. One Iraqi in eight is killed by illness or violence by the age of 5. Yet for all the words President Bush has lavished on Darfur and AIDS in Africa, there has been a deadly silence from him about what’s happening in the country he gave “God’s gift of freedom.”

It’s easy to see why. To admit that Iraqis are voting with their feet is to concede that American policy is in ruins. A “secure” Iraq is a mirage, and, worse, those who can afford to leave are the very professionals who might have helped build one. Thus the president says nothing about Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, the worst in the Middle East since 1948, much as he tried to hide the American death toll in Iraq by keeping the troops’ coffins off-camera and staying away from military funerals.

But his silence about Iraq’s mass exodus is not merely another instance of deceptive White House P.R.; it’s part of a policy with a huge human cost. The easiest way to keep the Iraqi plight out of sight, after all, is to prevent Iraqis from coming to America. And so we do, except for stray Shiites needed to remind us of purple fingers at State of the Union time or to frame the president in Rose Garden photo ops.

Since the 2003 invasion, America has given only 466 Iraqis asylum. Sweden, which was not in the coalition of the willing, plans to admit 25,000 Iraqis this year alone. Our State Department, goaded by January hearings conducted by Ted Kennedy, says it will raise the number for this year to 7,000 (a figure that, small as it is, may be more administration propaganda). A bill passed by Congress this month will add another piddling 500, all interpreters.

In reality, more than 5,000 interpreters worked for the Americans. So did tens of thousands of drivers and security guards who also, in Senator Kennedy’s phrase, have “an assassin’s bull’s-eye on their backs” because they served the occupying government and its contractors over the past four-plus years. How we feel about these Iraqis was made naked by one of the administration’s most fervent hawks, the former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, speaking to The Times Magazine this month. He claimed that the Iraqi refugee problem had “absolutely nothing to do” with Saddam’s overthrow: “Our obligation was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.”

Actually, we haven’t fulfilled the obligation of giving them functioning institutions and security. One of the many reasons we didn’t was that L. Paul Bremer’s provisional authority staffed the Green Zone with unqualified but well-connected Republican hacks who, in some cases, were hired after they expressed their opposition to Roe v. Wade. The administration is nothing if not consistent in its employment practices. The assistant secretary in charge of refugees at the State Department now, Ellen Sauerbrey, is a twice-defeated Republican candidate for governor of Maryland with no experience in humanitarian crises but a hefty résumé in anti-abortion politics. She is to Iraqis seeking rescue what Brownie was to Katrina victims stranded in the Superdome.

Ms. Sauerbrey’s official line on Iraqi refugees, delivered to Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” in March, is that most of them “really want to go home.” The administration excuse for keeping Iraqis out of America is national security: we have to vet every prospective immigrant for terrorist ties. But many of those with the most urgent cases for resettlement here were vetted already, when the American government and its various Halliburton subsidiaries asked them to risk their lives by hiring them in the first place. For those whose loyalties can no longer be vouched for, there is the contrasting lesson of Vietnam. Julia Taft, the official in charge of refugees in the Ford administration, reminded Mr. Pelley that 131,000 Vietnamese were resettled in America within eight months of the fall of Saigon, despite loud, Dobbs-like opposition at the time. In the past seven months, the total number of Iraqis admitted to America was 69.

The diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose career began during the Vietnam War, told me that security worries then were addressed by a vetting process carried out in safe, preliminary asylum camps for refugees set up beyond Vietnam’s borders in Asia. But as Mr. Holbrooke also points out in the current Foreign Affairs magazine, the real forerunner to American treatment of Iraqi refugees isn’t that war in any case, but World War II. That’s when an anti-Semitic assistant secretary of state, Breckinridge Long, tirelessly obstructed the visa process to prevent Jews from obtaining sanctuary in America, not even filling the available slots under existing quotas. As many as 75,000 such refugees were turned away before the Germans cut off exit visas to Jews in late 1941, according to Howard Sachar’s “History of the Jews in America.”

Like the Jews, Iraqis are useful scapegoats. This month Mr. Bremer declared that the real culprits for his disastrous 2003 decision to cleanse Iraq of Baathist officials were unnamed Iraqi politicians who “broadened the decree’s impact far beyond our original design.” The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is chastising the Iraqis for being unable “to do anything they promised.”

The new White House policy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has joked, is “blame and run.” It started to take shape just before the midterm elections last fall, when Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memo (propitiously leaked after his defenestration) suggesting that the Iraqis might “have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.” By January, Mr. Bush was saying that “the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude” and wondering aloud “whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.” In February, one of the war’s leading neocon cheerleaders among the Beltway punditocracy lowered the boom. “Iraq is their country,” Charles Krauthammer wrote. “We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.” Bill O’Reilly and others now echo this cry.

The message is clear enough: These ungrateful losers deserve everything that’s coming to them. The Iraqis hear us and are returning the compliment. Whether Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is mocking American demands for timelines and benchmarks, or the Iraqi Parliament is setting its own timeline for American withdrawal even while flaunting its vacation schedule, Iraq’s nominal government is saying it’s fed up. The American-Iraqi shotgun marriage of convenience, midwifed by disastrous Bush foreign policy, has disintegrated into the marriage from hell.

While the world waits for the White House and Congress to negotiate the separation agreement, the damage to the innocent family members caught in the cross-fire is only getting worse. Despite Mr. Bush’s May 10 claim that “the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially” since the surge began, The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the number of such murders is going up. For the Americans, the cost is no less dear. Casualty figures confirm that the past six months have been the deadliest yet for our troops.

While it seems but a dim memory now, once upon a time some Iraqis did greet the Americans as liberators. Today, in fact, it is just such Iraqis — not the local Iraqi insurgents the president conflates with Osama bin Laden’s Qaeda in Pakistan — who do want to follow us home. That we are slamming the door in their faces tells you all you need to know about the real morality beneath all the professed good intentions of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though the war’s godfathers saw themselves as ridding the world of another Hitler, their legacy includes a humanitarian catastrophe that will need its own Raoul Wallenbergs and Oskar Schindlers if lives are to be saved.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lest We Forget!

Just cause we can never have too many reminders.

Achenbach on America and Cars!

Listen up folks cause what Joel says in his column on “Why We Keep on Trucking” is the least of what we should do:

It's been a rough stretch of road for the U.S. auto industry. Last Monday, we learned that Daimler had sold Chrysler for scrap metal. President Bush vowed to start regulating tailpipe emissions. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced new low-carbon fuel standards, a firm shove to the entire transportation sector. And gas prices hit an all-time high -- bad news for carmakers that keep cranking out gas guzzlers. But probably the worst moment came the week before last, on the reality TV show "Survivor," when Yau-Man gave the pickup truck to Dreamz.

Here's what happened: Yau-Man Chan, a 54-year-old computer engineer, had won one of the show's "reward challenges." The prize: a hulking, 350-horsepower Ford Super Duty F-350 pickup that looks like it's capable of towing your average volcano.

Yau-Man took one look and promptly gave it to a rival player, Andria "Dreamz" Herd, asking only for some strategic help at the next "tribal council." It was a shocking move by Yau-Man. But now we can report to the nation the real reason he didn't want the truck:

"I would disappear if I sat inside."

He's talking by phone from his home in Northern California.

"It's not my lifestyle," he says. And moreover: "I don't think it would fit in any parking spaces."

In fact, he needs an F-350 the way he needs his own personal oil tanker. Chan works on a college campus. At Berkeley. What, he's going to bomb around in something that looks like it eats Volkswagen Beetles for a snack? I doubt he could even sell it in Berkeley. The city council has no doubt banned oversized pickups, along with red meat and nuclear weapons.

And yet Detroit keeps disgorging monster trucks, souped-up sedans, overpowered SUVs and Hummers so brawny and masculine that merely sitting in the driver's seat makes hair sprout on your back.

Amazingly, people keep buying them. Never mind everything you've read about the fashionableness of hybrids and the new electric cars scooting along California highways. We still like big, fast, sexy, high-performance cars that allow us to make vroom-vroom noises as we rocket to the video store. Yau-Man Chan may well be the car buyer of the future -- a role model for us all -- but most of us are still burning gas like there's no tomorrow.

Here's what a lot of us in urban and suburban America actually need: a glorified golf cart. And such things are on the drawing board: "neighborhood cars" that are perfect for putt-putting around. Maybe they'd be communal property -- just grab one and go, like an umbrella by the office door.

But if you had to make an educated wager, you'd probably want to put your money on people continuing to drive pretty much the same vehicles they've been driving, at least for the near future. The automobile industry doesn't like revolutions. Detroit is conservative and runs on inertia. Big, fast, powerful vehicles yield higher profits. With Chrysler and all the other U.S. car companies struggling, they're not likely to go gangbusters for tiny, fuel-efficient cars. Technological advances have gone into performance, not fuel efficiency. Everyone today is driving cars that have the performance attributes of the sports cars of yesteryear. John Heywood, director of the Sloan Automotive Laboratory at MIT, says that if you extrapolate 20 years into the future, we'll all be driving the equivalent of today's Ferraris.

"Why don't we have fuel-efficient cars?" he asks. "It's because, at least in the past, fuel has been cheap. And why not? At many levels, they're more fun."

The American auto industry's general lack of imagination is one reason (along with labor, health-care costs, etc.) why Chrysler became so pitiful that Daimler essentially paid to get rid of it. "The transportation sector has been the least creative sector in our society," says Dan Sperling, a professor at the University of California at Davis who helped write the new California fuel standards.

Politicians, engineers and corporate bosses are all trying to figure out how to produce a greener fleet of cars while preserving profits and "consumer choice," which means the right to buy muscle-bound cars and trucks. There are optimists who see no pain ahead: We can take advantage of biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells and new materials (carbon-fiber thermoplastic composites!). Pessimists think the market alone won't wean us from oil addiction and curb greenhouse gases. They favor aggressive regulation, gas taxes, carbon taxes, etc. But what's environmentally desirable may not be politically feasible. California's fuel standards follow the market approach, letting industries come up with their own techniques for meeting the state requirements.

There are, in fact, a number of intriguing new Cars of the Future in development. Perhaps you've seen pictures of the 39-inch-wide Tango, a two-seat electric vehicle in which one person sits behind the other. The first 100 all-electric Tesla Roadsters will appear this summer, listing for $92,000, every one of them pre-sold to the George Clooney set. Toyota announced that it's coming out with a hybrid Lexus that will set you back $124,000. General Motors, meanwhile, has created a prototype plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, that starred at this year's Detroit Auto Show. But GM won't go to market until someone develops a cheap, reliable lithium battery.

A lot of the futuristic cars seem to exist primarily in the parallel universe of Hollywood celebrities and dot-com billionaires. Just try to find an electric car in a showroom at Tysons Corner or on Rockville Pike. Here's what you see in the real world: big honking cars and trucks. That burn gasoline.

"We're not going to see huge changes in 10 or 15 years," says Marc Ross, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Michigan who has focused on automotive technology. "You can't really change the fuel in that kind of time span. It takes time. It takes huge investments. We have almost 200,000 gas stations. The only fuel you could change in a time like 10 or 15 years is to add ethanol, to adopt a mixture that can be served from the same gas pumps. But if you want to do something different, like hydrogen -- hydrogen is very difficult to handle -- that's going to take a great deal of time."

General Motors made and leased hundreds of electric vehicles in the 1990s, and other companies, spurred by a California mandate, began their own such programs. But automakers saw no profit in electric cars; critics say the industry sabotaged its own inventions. GM recalled and destroyed its fleet, as depicted in the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Meanwhile, Detroit spent billions to hypnotize us into thinking we need to go four blocks to Safeway in a four-wheel-drive vehicle capable of scaling the Matterhorn.

"We've become so dependent on our cars. We value that mobility very highly," Sperling says. "It's stunning to me how little response there's been to these high fuel prices. It's contrary to what the media report."

Sperling has calculated the "elasticity of demand" for gas (which, for the record, is between minus 0.05 and minus 0.1). That means that every time gas prices jump 10 percent, the demand drops, at most, only 1 percent. The policy implication: Gas taxes won't help curb demand as much as you may think.

The debate about the Car of the Future isn't just about consumer choice; it's also about the health of the planet.

"By 2050, the number of vehicles in the world is expected to go up by a factor of three," Heywood says. "That should scare you. It scares me."

By e-mail, Sperling summarizes the policy dilemma: "Most (but certainly not all) consumers want more and bigger things: more and bigger vehicles, houses, yachts, toys, etc. We also tend to want more access to more people. If I could get to Paris in 15 minutes for $5, I'd be there every other night for dinner. The real story, then, is how to deal with the tension between private desires and the public interest. If everyone drove a Hummer and owned a 5,000-square-foot house with a large yard, then disaster would soon follow, and only a few rich people would thrive. The role of government is to reconcile these tensions."

At some point, you have to reconcile your own tensions. I drive a six-cylinder Honda Accord. The two extra cylinders are what makes the car, and me, so dang sexy. But it's overpowered for my commute on city streets. So I decided to take a Toyota Prius for a test drive.

The Prius does not make the driver feel particularly young, heroic or pheromonally attractive. The gear selector is just this little knob, the size of a shot glass. You start the car by hitting a button. It's all a little cute, but it's also spiffy, and you can be environmentally conscious with each passing second as you monitor a screen that tells you your gas mileage.

Maybe that's the future. Maybe it's the right thing to do, even if it doesn't scream Stand Back and Let the Big Dawg Eat.

Oh, by the way: If you see a guy sticking to the speed limit as he tools along the freeway on his way to Berkeley, that might be Yau-Man Chan. He says he usually gets 51 or 52 miles per gallon, but if he's fanatical about the speed limit and can endure the honks from other motorists, he can get 53.

Of course he drives a Prius.

Now I live in Manhattan and long ago got rid of my car, but what Joel is talking about here is not crazy talk, it is the future and the least of it.

Michael Moore on the Bill Maher Show.

Nuff said.

Financial Advice Alert!

I am a fan of Michelle Singletary. So I was really thrilled to find that she has a television show on TVOne. I saw it on a Sunday at 5:30 p.m EST. I have only recently discovered this channel which is sooooo back in the day and in the here and now at the same time.

Her column at the Washington Post is “The Color of Money.” Check it out.

I credit her with the realignment of my credit and saving priorities. And as a member of the lower 80% of the population most of us need realignment. I also have to give credit to the Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. The caveat is that of course for someone of my age group what could we possibly need to buy that we don’t already have or need?

One of the wonderful things about therapy is that you must learn to figure out the difference between want and need! And how do you manage the difference?


Not Exactly Timely but Relevant None the Less.

As I watched the GOP debate I was reminded of Wanda Sykes very insightful comments on Katrina during an appearance on Jay Leno in 2005:

Jay: "But President Bush took responsibility."

Wanda: "I don't think the President should have taken responsibility.... I don't blame the President. I blame the American people. Y'all knew the man was slow when you voted him in. You can't blame the blind man for wrecking your car when you're the one who gave him the keys."

Ms. Sykes was channeling my opinion. And though I am an optimist, I have to wonder whether the American people have learned their lesson or are they still willing to give the keys to the car to another blind man.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball and the FDA

I am thinking that this whole discussion about the tainted “protein” from China is missing the point. Sure China is fast becoming the USA trading partner of choice, and lest we forget the fact that they are financing our Mess-O-Potamia adventure and domestic pork economic meltdown. But, China is also pretty much a wild-wild-west of capitalism. Now I don’t mind that Wal-Mart devotees want to buy all their plastic toys and other crap from China (well actually I do but that is a story for another day). But, I do mind that anyone wants to buy China’s plastic in our food chain.

My question is: are there no companies in the USA that produce wheat, rice and soy gluten and flour that could be purchased by these American companies to produce their pet food and animal feed, and if not, why not? And if there are, why aren’t the American companies that make the pet food and animal feed buying from the American producers? I mean really, just exactly how much cheaper is the wheat, rice, and soy gluten and flour from China compared to that which is produced here? Is the difference in cost pennies per pound or what?

Now I find it fascinating that the focus of the press is on China and their lax regulatory system. Meanwhile the FDA is making mewing sounds about their lax regulatory system and the press is acting as their stenographers.

No where have I seen any examination of why ChemNutra (who would want to by food stuffs from a company with a short name for Chemical Nutrition) is buying their “protein” from China and not from USA producers. I have only seen the demonization of China in the press and none about the companies buying the tainted products who know full well that there is no system in this country to regulate the importation of tainted food stuffs.

So, if this melamine tainted feed has entered the human food chain via chicken, pork and fish what is a carnivore to do?

Until I hear differently, I think of this: Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.

Oh, yeah I forgot, Mad Cow!

And as for the vegetable situation we have e. coli and parasites.

So, I guess this Republican Corporatist deregulation thing is working out really well!

AGAG is Going Nowhere Folks.

In a long overdue post, what with the Goodling “Testimony,” etc., I had forgotten about this little bit of inanity from the “Good Senator” from Pennsylvania.

Senator Spector is not just spineless but delusional if he thinks that Abu is going to resign because of some unenforceable vote of non confidence. Does he really believe that anyone in this administration is concerned with “Black Marks” against them?

I reiterate: Never going to happen. Bush & Co. can’t let it happen. AGAG is the one standing in front of the door to the closet filled with skeletons.

How simple and obvious is that?

Prof. Bacevich Responds.

Professor Bacevich has been a tireless opponent of the War in Iraq. He is also a Vietnam Veteran and the father of a son who was deployed to Iraq and who lost his life there. His thoughts on his son's death in Iraq, and his and our complicity in this are heartbreaking. That he could write in such a thoughtful and calm manner is beyond my ken.

Here are his words:

I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.

By Andrew J. Bacevich
Sunday, May 27, 2007; B01

Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.

Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.

This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops -- today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.

What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?

Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.

As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of U.S. foreign policy. I know that even now, people of good will find much to admire in Bush's response to that awful day. They applaud his doctrine of preventive war. They endorse his crusade to spread democracy across the Muslim world and to eliminate tyranny from the face of the Earth. They insist not only that his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct but that the war there can still be won. Some -- the members of the "the-surge-is-already-working" school of thought -- even profess to see victory just over the horizon.

I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. "The long war is an unwinnable one," I wrote in this section of The Washington Post in August 2005. "The United States needs to liquidate its presence in Iraq, placing the onus on Iraqis to decide their fate and creating the space for other regional powers to assist in brokering a political settlement. We've done all that we can do."

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

To be fair, responsibility for the war's continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son's death, my state's senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son's wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff. More accurately, after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me.

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.

In joining the Army, my son was following in his father's footsteps: Before he was born, I had served in Vietnam. As military officers, we shared an ironic kinship of sorts, each of us demonstrating a peculiar knack for picking the wrong war at the wrong time. Yet he was the better soldier -- brave and steadfast and irrepressible.

I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.

Andrew J. Bacevich teaches history and international relations at Boston University. His son died May 13 after a suicide bomb explosion in Salah al-Din province.

Words fail me.

Organic Bees!

What with the Internet Interuptis, this got lost in the fray. I had meant to pass it along as the discussion on “Bee Colony Collapse Disorder” continues unabated.

This makes sense to me:

With all the frightening news over bee losses throughout the world, it appears that one tiny minor piece of information was overlooked: the losses are occurring in colonies besieged with chemicals and artificial additives. Organic bees are fairing quite nicely, thank you. From the article,

“‘I’m on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list,’ said Sharon Labchuck. ‘The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.’”

In our efforts to make larger bees that are resistant to more predators or diseases — have we crossed the line in how far we could go? As the article states, “Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?”

Or, even better: Would this current administration dare trample on the industry that has risen to supply the pesticides and inorganic alternatives to these bee keepers? Can they afford not to?

Check out the article for more information — but if we’ve already pushed bees too far, imagine what we’re doing to other aspects of the environment….

The bees we raised while I was growing up were unadulterated. The only thing that threatened their hives were children behaving poorly. So now, perhaps, it is adults behaving poorly that threatens these hives.

Something to think about, Non?

The Colonel on Fieth.

I am an admirer of Col. Pat Lang. I have found him to be so straight forward and unflinching in his assessments of the lead up to, and ensuing quagmire, in Iraq. This is, I think, why he became persona non grata on PBS after our adventure in Mess-O-Potamia started obviously going South in an unmistakable way. I have also personally found him to be extremely generous with his time and patience so I am not an impartial observer.

That said, here is what Jeff Stein recounts in CQ:

Hearing horror stories about the manipulation of Iraq intelligence is like watching “The Exorcist” again and again: Each time you see something new and laugh at the parts that used to make your hair go up straight.

Patrick Lang told a hilarious story the other night, for example, about a job interview he had with Douglas Feith, a key architect of the invasion of Iraq.

It was at the beginning of the first Bush term. Lang had been in charge of the Middle East, South Asia and terrorism for the Defense Intelligence Agency in the 1990s. Later he ran the Pentagon’s worldwide spying operations.

In early 2001, his name was put forward as somebody who would be good at running the Pentagon’s office of special operations and low-intensity warfare, i.e., counterinsurgency. Lang had also been a Green Beret, with three tours in South Vietnam.

One of the people he had to impress was Feith, the Defense Department’s number three official and a leading player in the clique of neoconservatives who had taken over the government’s national security apparatus.

Lang went to see him, he recalled during a May 7 panel discussion at the University of the District of Columbia.

“He was sitting there munching a sandwich while he was talking to me,” Lang recalled, “ which I thought was remarkable in itself, but he also had these briefing papers — they always had briefing papers, you know — about me.

“He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’

“He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’

“And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’

‘That’s too bad,” Feith said.

The audience howled.

“That was the end of the interview,” Lang said. “I’m not quite sure what he meant, but you can work it out.”

Feith, of course, like the administration’s other Israel-connected hawks, didn’t want “Arabists” like Lang muddying the road to Baghdad, from where — according to the Bush administration theory — overthrowing Saddam Hussein would ignite mass demands for Western-style, pro-U.S. democracies across the entire Middle East.

Lang’s story is merely an illumination of what the Senate Intelligence Committee said in drier language May 25, that the White House was warned before invading Iraq that creating a stable democracy there “would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent process.”

Suddenly the Cassandras are everywhere. These days you can’t drop a Blackberry between Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle without it being stepped on by a former intelligence official with prepared testimony or a book proposal.


Here’s Another [f]rom Lang:

“I remember talking to [Paul] Wolfowitz, in his office, in the Pentagon, and telling him — this was after the propaganda build up had started, before the war. I said, ‘You know, these guys are not going to welcome you.’

“He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘For one thing, these guys detest foreigners, and the few who really like you are the least representative of the various breeds of people there. They’re going to fight you, then, if you occupy the place there’s going to be a massive insurgency.’”

“He said, ‘No, no, they’ll be glad to see us,’” Lang continued. “This will start the process of revolution around the Middle East that will transform everything.’

No, Lang told Wolfowitz, “that’s not gonna happen. It’s just an impossibility. They’re not like that. They don’t want to be us.”

Not everyone agrees with all of Lang’s views about the Arab world, but on this issue he was prescient, of course, as were almost all experts on the region outside of the neocon faithful.

How come we learned so much of this dispute only after the war?

Frankly I think that his stab at the Colonel is a low blow as he was way out front on this from the start, and as we all know Cassandra was right!

But like I said I am not impartial. I listened to what Col. Lang had to say before this misadventure, so besides not being impartial, I also wasn’t misinformed.

Check out his blog and read the comments. You will not be disappointed.

Here is a comment on “Lang’s Rules for Analytical Thought” which sums him up:

“5- Col. Grumpy-boots brooks no horseshit.

Intelligence Got it Right!

But those of us who were paying attention knew that, didn’t we? Here is what Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung report for the WAPO:

Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Analysts warned that war in Iraq also could provoke Iran to assert its regional influence and "probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" in the Muslim world.

The intelligence assessments, made in January 2003 and widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war, said that establishing democracy in Iraq would be "a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge." The assessments noted that Iraqi political culture was "largely bereft of the social underpinnings" to support democratic development.

More than four years after the March 2003 invasion, with Iraq still mired in violence and 150,000 U.S. troops there under continued attack from al-Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents, the intelligence warnings seem prophetic. Other predictions, however, were less than accurate. Intelligence analysts assessed that any postwar increase in terrorism would slowly subside in three to five years, and that Iraq's vast oil reserves would quickly facilitate economic reconstruction.

The report is the latest release in the Senate committee's ongoing study of prewar intelligence. A July 2004 report identified intelligence-gathering and analysis failures related to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Still pending is a study of how the administration used intelligence on Iraq in the run-up to the war.

The report was released the same day President Bush signed a $120 billion war funding bill from Congress that includes benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

In a statement attached to yesterday's 229-page report, the Senate intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), and three other Democratic panel members said: "The most chilling and prescient warning from the intelligence community prior to the war was that the American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al Qaeda terrorists."

In addition to portraying a terrorist nexus between Iraq and al-Qaeda that did not exist, the Democrats said, the Bush administration "also kept from the American people . . . the sobering intelligence assessments it received at the time" -- that an Iraq war could allow al-Qaeda "to establish the presence in Iraq and opportunity to strike at Americans it did not have prior to the invasion."

Now as someone who had read the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence at the age of thirteen this is not exactly a “Muppet News Flash” to me. And as an avid seeker of facts it seemed quite obvious prior to October 2002. By that time all of the justifications for the illegal invasion of a sovereign country had been debunked by the experts. And the red flags were everywhere to see.

So, why exactly were they ignored? Was it ignorance, hubris or possibly O(peration) I(raqi) L(iberation), see: Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law, and those pesky benchmarks everyone is anxious to see met?

Just asking.

Memory Woes!

I have noticed during my Internet Interuptis that this seems to be a reoccurring affliction and has infected most of the DOJ. Maybe it’s viral?

Take it away Mr. Rush:

Do you think that early onset Alzheimer’s has overtaken the Department of Justice like it has for the rest of us Dirty Hippies who survived the Sixties and opposed AGAG in the first place? How ironic!

Thanks Tom!

Tony Makes the Point!

From a fellow horseracing enthusiast who has a fabulous classic BMW 2002, and a wonderful blog, Mtanga:

Memorize It

"The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment."

– Bertrand Russell

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Street Sense, a BC Juvenile Winner Who Finally Does It!

The Kentucky Derby is usually such a crap shoot. This year it seemed a little more obvious. And yet it was still such an exciting race. So, here is Joe Drape’s rendition and color:

May 6, 2007

Street Sense Wins Derby After Giving Field a Head Start


LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 5 — Calvin Borel had Street Sense in 19th place as the field hit the backstretch and about half a block behind the leaders in the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Was he worried? Hardly. He had his agile colt next to his beloved rail — they don’t call the jockey “Bo-Rail” here at Churchill Downs for nothing.

“I had a bomb,” Borel said.

He and Street Sense skimmed the rail, picking off one horse after another like a vacuum cleaner. They hugged the rail on the far turn as if it were magnetized and then, finally, the explosion. Street Sense vaulted from the rail at the quarter pole, took aim at the leader, Hard Spun, and then he was gone.

In the charts, it will say Street Sense circled the mile and a quarter in 2:02.17 for a two-and-a-half-length victory. In the racing history books, it will say that Street Sense became the first winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to win the Kentucky Derby, and the last 2-year-old champion to wear the roses since Spectacular Bid in 1979.

Street Sense’s performance, however, was far more than that. Not only was he dominating but he did it so effortlessly that Borel believes that he has yet to see the best of the colt.

“I really don’t know how good he is,” said Borel, a 40-year-old journeyman who captured his first Derby in his fifth try. “He is a push-button horse."

Street Sense, a son of Street Cry out of the mare Bedazzle, was plenty good yesterday. While Hard Spun, Cowtown Cat and Teuflesberg took the field through a brisk half mile of 46.26 seconds, Borel actually asked Street Sense to slow down.

“I knew they were going quick and so I backed him up,” Borel said.

In a box at the finish line, the colt’s trainer and owner, Carl Nafzger and Jim Tafel, liked what they saw.

“Calvin has a clock in his head that is unreal,” said Nafzger, who won his second Kentucky Derby 17 years after he captured his first with Unbridled in 1990.

Tafel, 83, began believing that the prophecy Nafzger recited to him last October was about to be fulfilled. “We’re going to win the Kentucky Derby,” Nafzger had told his owner of 23 years after Street Sense had finished third in a race at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

Even though Street Sense did not win that race, the Breeders’ Cup Futurity, he had demonstrated an ability to relax behind horses and rocket past them when Borel asked.

“He had learned his lessons,” Nafzger said.

The crowd of 156,635 — the third largest in Derby history — were about to see how well street Sense had comprehended the racing business. As they hit the far turn, Cowtown Cat and Teuflesberg started backing up.

Hard Spun, however, was still running. First, Sedgefield and then Nobiz Like Shobiz took a run at him. Borel again was not worried — the rail was wide open and Street Sense was polishing it. Street Sense was sent off the 9-2 favorite, after all.

“The ones in front of me were getting tired and drifting apart,” he said. “It was wide open.”

It was time. Street Sense slung shot off the turn and zoomed outside of Sedgefield. Hard Spun was next. From the middle of the track, Borel took aim at the leader. He knew the race was over.

“It was just a matter of how far he wins by,” Borel said.

In an instant, Street Sense streaked by Hard Spun and the jockey Mario Pino.

The trainer of Hard Spun, Larry Jones, held faint hope that his colt was about to win the Derby.

“I felt pretty good around the turn,” he said. “I could only see one horse moving. But he came with authority.”

Borel crossed the reigns one, two, three, four, five times. He looked back again.

He showed Street Sense the whip once, twice and then he couldn’t help himself. He lifted his the whip high in celebration.

He was yards from the wire. It didn’t matter.

Street Sense was on his way to his fourth victory in eight starts and, with the $1.45 first-place check, his earnings were about to reach nearly $3 million.

Nafzger had been in the winner’s circle of America’s greatest race. Tafel had not.

“This is the epitome of anybody in the horse business,” he said. “It’s the most difficult race in the world to win.”

For Borel, the victory was even more monumental. He had grown up in Louisiana and learned to ride in the region’s fabled Cajun bush tracks.

Borel knew horses. He just did not know if he would ever get the opportunity to ride a great one.

“I always knew I had the ability,” he said. “I just had to find the horse to get me there.”

I am not surprised by the outcome and I am still excited. What a wonderful race and outcome.

Now on to the Preakness!

Open Letter to Sally Quinn.

Dear Ms. Quinn:

You write:

“Is it possible that Obama's incredible popularity in such a short time is a reflection of that same feeling I had in Bahia? Could it be that Obama makes people feel proud of themselves because they can look beyond the color of his skin? Perhaps some of the many people who are supporting him sense that doing so brings out the better part of their nature.”

Does the same go for all the men and women of color and the white women who have looked beyond the male gender and white race of those they have supported in the past? Do you suppose that our supporting white men gave us a sense that doing so brought out the better part of our nature?

Just asking?

You also say:

“He still has the quality of an unknown. And as attractive and likable as Obama is, we still need references.”

Let us not forget that the current occupant of the Whitehouse had a deplorable resume and no one asked him for his references. Not even at the end of the campaign never mind 18 months beforehand. So, perhaps I missed your resume and reference request of the other candidates. If so I am looking forward to seeing their references as well.

As to American’s sense that supporting him brings out the collective better nature, why does Senator Obama need Secret Service protection this early in the campaign?

As you say:

“You can talk about age or experience or race, but in the end a president is only as good as the people around him or her. A president can't be all things to all people and can't be an expert in everything. Obama may well be the most authentic candidate in years. But what will matter more for him than for other candidates, because of his youth and inexperience, is the expertise, wisdom and decency of the administration he puts together.

Whether you see him as black, white or opaque, Obama will be the face of America. But so will be his team. It's time for him to show us who would represent him, and therefore us, to the world.”

It is indeed a shame that no one thought to ask George W. Bush these questions this early in the 2000 campaign. Unlike Senator Obama, George W. Bush’s youth, inexperience and a resume rife with failure and cronyism were not questioned.

Just saying!

Also, I look forward to your column on how looking beyond Senator Clinton’s gender will make the men who support her have a sense that doing so brings out the better part of their nature.