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Archive for September, 2006

Not the same America…

Posted by Brian on September 30, 2006

A certain letter in today’s Everett Herald caught my attention. Here’s the opening ‘graph:

A Tuesday letter writer is quite upset by “smug rooting for our enemies by Democrats.” The accusation isn’t backed up by examples, but the tone of demonization is all too familiar. The other night I was treated to an improvised bumper sticker: “Die liberal scum.” Is this the new tone of American politics?

The part in bold resonated with me because a few weeks ago I was also the victim of some verbal abuse by a right-winger while sitting in my car (a car with a couple of pro-Democratic party bumper stickers on it) with the window down in the middle of a traffic jam. This guy in the car next to me asked me if I believed the “garbage” on the back of my car and said it was “bullshit.” He also called me a coward as he drove away, apparently because I had too much consideration for those behind me and wasn’t willing to stop my car in the middle of the road and have an altercation in the street. And remember, this is in the middle of “blue” Washington State.

It was a harsh reminder of the state of America today, a country that I’ve spent very little time in over the past 9 years. I went through most of the 90’s with similar bumper stickers on my car and don’t remember dealing with similar abuse as a result of it, but the divisive rhetoric from the right over the past 7 years has made hating on “liberal scum” acceptable.

By “divisive,” I’m talking about the President George W. Bush running for re-election by badmouthing Hollywood and the blue states (“What would you expect from a senator from Massachusetts?”).

I’m talking about right-wing commentators like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, who make a living by saying the most horrible things about roughly half of the American population.

I’m talking about the moderate Republicans out there who give their tacit acceptance of such tactics by sitting quietly while their leaders and spokespeople slander their fellow Americans who just so happen to have different political ideas.

And I’m talking about this pleasant, all-American  guy:

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I wrote about this campaign to demonize the left last year, and you can see the fruits of their efforts so far. Even with terrorism increasing, the economy slumping, and Iraq falling apart, the important thing is that “liberal scum” stay far, far away from the halls of power. Whatever damage a Republican administration might do is nothing compared to what might happen should a Democrat become president.

This is the new America… an America that I’ll just have to get used to.  

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Seriously Uncool…

Posted by Brian on September 27, 2006

From a Newsweek article on the MMORPG World of Warcraft:

Another example of questionable behavior is viewable in a video that more than 80,000 people have accessed on YouTube. When one guild member died (in real life, not Azeroth), his grieving friends decided to hold a funeral for him inside the game. The solemn affair was disrupted when a rival guild burst upon the unarmed mourners and slaughtered them mercilessly. “It’s unfortunate that someone would do that to people trying to honor one of their guild members,” says Mike Morhaime, Blizzard’s president.

People can be such jerks…

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Cartoon of the Day

Posted by Brian on September 22, 2006

From today’s Seattle-PI:

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Rebuilding Iraq

Posted by Brian on September 18, 2006

The WaPo has an excerpt from a new book on the Iraq reconstruction effort that is worth reading. Though be warned, the incompetence and and criminal negligence displayed by the Bush adminstration is sure to infuriate all but the most head-in-the-sand party loyalists/apologists. Let’s look at the highlights:

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration’s gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

To recruit the people he wanted, O’Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists. He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.

Smith said O’Beirne once pointed to a young man’s résumé and pronounced him “an ideal candidate.” His chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000.

One former CPA employee who had an office near O’Beirne’s wrote an e-mail to a friend describing the recruitment process: “I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to ‘the President’s vision for Iraq’ (a frequently heard phrase at CPA) was ‘uncertain.’ I saw senior civil servants from agencies like Treasury, Energy . . . and Commerce denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC (Republican National Committee) contributors.”

As more and more of O’Beirne’s hires arrived in the Green Zone, the CPA’s headquarters in Hussein’s marble-walled former Republican Palace felt like a campaign war room. Bumper stickers and mouse pads praising President Bush were standard desk decorations. In addition to military uniforms and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” garb, “Bush-Cheney 2004” T-shirts were among the most common pieces of clothing.

“I’m not here for the Iraqis,” one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. “I’m here for George Bush.”

When Gordon Robison, who worked in the Strategic Communications office, opened a care package from his mother to find a book by Paul Krugman, a liberal New York Times columnist, people around him stared. “It was like I had just unwrapped a radioactive brick,” he recalled.

The hiring of Bremer’s most senior advisers was settled upon at the highest levels of the White House and the Pentagon. Some, like Foley, were personally recruited by Bush. Others got their jobs because an influential Republican made a call on behalf of a friend or trusted colleague.

That’s what happened with James K. Haveman Jr., who was selected to oversee the rehabilitation of Iraq’s health care system.

Haveman, a 60-year-old social worker, was largely unknown among international health experts, but he had connections. He had been the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan, John Engler, who recommended him to Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense.

Haveman was well-traveled, but most of his overseas trips were in his capacity as a director of International Aid, a faith-based relief organization that provided health care while promoting Christianity in the developing world. Before his stint in government, Haveman ran a large Christian adoption agency in Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions.

Haveman replaced Frederick M. Burkle Jr., a physician with a master’s degree in public health and postgraduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of California at Berkeley. Burkle taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he specialized in disaster-response issues, and he was a deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which sent him to Baghdad immediately after the war.

He had worked in Kosovo and Somalia and in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. A USAID colleague called him the “single most talented and experienced post-conflict health specialist working for the United States government.”

But a week after Baghdad’s liberation, Burkle was informed he was being replaced. A senior official at USAID sent Burkle an e-mail saying the White House wanted a “loyalist” in the job. Burkle had a wall of degrees, but he didn’t have a picture with the president.

So let me get this straight… Iraq is supposedly the “central front in the war on terror,” and the “war on terror” is supposedly the “defining ideaological struggle of the 21st century,” yet the best and the brightest are being passed over in favor of the well-connected and well-indoctrinated. I wonder how many Iraqis have died as a direct result of this botched job… and I wonder how many of their relatives will turn to terrorism to get their revenge.

“I’m not here for the Iraqis. I’m here for George Bush.”

Gotcha!

Posted in American Issues | 1 Comment »

Greg Brady: Stoned

Posted by Brian on September 18, 2006

My brother had this clip TiVo-ed up and we watched it today over at his place: Barry Williams playing Greg Brady while stoned. Youtube has it as well. Funny stuff…

Particularly funny is the way he trips over the bike pump and looks over the wrong shoulder when Cindy arrives.

Posted in Humor, Movies/TV | Leave a Comment »

Retort of the day

Posted by Brian on September 14, 2006

Being back home in Seattle now, I have access to all my old books from college that I don’t bother taking with me to Korea. There’s a lot of religion, philosophy, and a bit of politics to which I I have recently added all the books I’ve picked up in Korea over the years. For old times’ sake, I picked up one of these older classics for a read: David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. I picked this book out because it seems especially relevant today with these fundamentalist “creationists” running around the country trying to get “scientific creationism” elevated to one theory among several so it will be taught side-by-side with the theory of evolution. Hume, in Dialogues, breaks in half (and breaks in halves again, then throws the pieces on the ground and kicks dirt on top of them) one arrow in the quiver of scientific creationists: the argument from design.

Anyway, one line in the book made me chuckle way more than a classic in philosophy should. From part seven:

But here, continued Philo, in examining the ancient system of the soul of the world, there strikes me, all on a sudden, a new idea, which, if just, must go near to subvert all your reasoning, and destroy even your first inferences, on which you repose such confidence. If the universe bears a greater likeness to animal bodies and to vegetables, than to the works of human art, it is more probable that its cause resembles the cause of the former than that of the latter, and its origin ought rather to be ascribed to generation or vegetation, than to reason or design. Your conclusion, even according to your own principles, is therefore lame and defective.

That last line struck me as an excellent retort to the stupid things one simply cannot avoid hearing these days. See for yourself:

  • “We’re fighting the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here.” Your conclusion is lame and defective.
  • “The person obviously died from fan death.” Your conclusion is lame and defective.

Works pretty well, don’t you think. It’s quick, easy off the tongue, and has good stopping power. I like it…

Posted in Books | 1 Comment »

What We’ve Lost

Posted by Brian on September 13, 2006

An editorial from today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The headline in the French newspaper Le Monde said it for the world in those dark hours following Sept. 11, 2001: “We are all Americans.”

The Russians flew their flags at half-mast. China offered help with rescue efforts. The European Union called for a “day of mourning.” Condemnation of the attacks came from Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Iran. NATO approved invoking its charter, declaring an attack on any of its members is an attack on all of them. Sympathy and prayer poured in from Cubans, Lebanese, as well as Palestinians. Pope John Paul II was “heartbroken.”

In a Sept. 24, 2001, column in the P-I, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that “essential to the global response to terrorism is that it not fracture the unity of Sept. 11.”

That unity was intact for the U.N.-supported, U.S.-led toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but has been shattered by our invasion of Iraq on grounds that proved to be utterly unjustified.

The world stood with us after Sept. 11, 2001. We stand virtually alone after Sept. 11, 2006. Our real loss in the world’s eyes is not our victim status but our credibility and our respect. From the moral high ground of our suffering and resolve in the rubble and grief of 9/11, America has tumbled into a swamp of hubris, prisoner abuse, secret courts, secret prisons, “renditions,” warrantless wiretaps and flouting of international law. A “rogue state” reputation offers little security.

The number of American soldiers killed in Bush’s military adventure in Iraq approaches the number of Americans killed on 9/11, with the man most responsible for their deaths still at large.

As if the loss of nearly 3,000 Americans that day were not tragedy enough, five years later we recognize how much more we’ve lost since then.

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Creative Panhandling Award

Posted by Brian on September 5, 2006

I saw a guy in downtown Seattle the other day begging for cash… the sign he was holding said:

Father killed by ninjas; need to pay for karate lessons to get revenge

Made me laugh for a moment… and then back to sadness because he was was yet another example of the increasing number of poor people I see living on the street. It’s much worse than it was 10 years ago…

Posted in American Issues | 3 Comments »