Sunday, September 30, 2007

SNL - Iran So Far

****UPDATE****

http://youtube.com/watch?v=xfiaxPsvnTU

Thanks to PTB who brought this to my attention... this video has yet to come down on YouTube, but it surely will.

Well I'm having a terrible day... but this is a little pick me up. Great SNL short by Andy Samberg of "Lazy Sunday" and "Dick-in-a-Box" fame.

It's a homo-erotic ode to the president of a country with no homosexuals... go figure.



****UPDATE****

NBC pulled the video off YouTube, which is ridiculous, because it's free advertising. I mean when was the last time anyone cared about SNL? They get a little juice with this video and they pull it...

but you can find the video here on the NBC site:

here

****UPDATE****

That's not working, either... looks like that was taken down, too, not for copyright but probably our of fear of backlash or something. Unbelievable.

You’ve Studied Yourself Retarded


I know this post is a bit late on the subject, however, I think its important to touch on a few points that no one has mentioned here in relation to Columbia’s invitiation to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yes I know its very late, but so was every single paper I handed in high school and college. That being said, I now move on to my main point: Columbia University has studied itself retarded.


Columbia University’s invitation to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represents everything that is wrong with the far left. There is a certain arrogance that the far left has, especially a university such as Columbia, that damages the image of Democratic party as a whole. It’s this smarter than you attitude that drives independents to vote for C minus candidates (also known as Morons) as opposed to left leaning Democrats, who get pinned with this image. At what point in your studies have you learned enough facts, solved enough math problems that you become so completely insensitive to reality and make decisions that are in the “quest for education”, yet serve no such purpose. At what point do you put youself so far above the “layman”, that you become just too intelligent for us to understand your reasoning. These people have become completely blinded by their intellect.


Supposedly, this invitation was for the purpose of education. What could they have possibly learned from Ahmadinejad’s presence. Maybe they thought that they could change his views, you know cause they're so smart, how could they not? Guess they failed to realize he is just a figurehead. In 1933 Adolf Hitler’s highest Ambassador, Hans Luther, came and spoke at Columbia, as several other Nazi Ambassadors were around the world giving similar speeches, about Hitler’s peaceful intentions. Millions of Europeans and Americans bought into these "pecaceful intentions" until it became obviously false in the late 1930's. Now we have to listen to another oppression dictator speak of peaceful intentions at Columbia University.


The more I think about it, the more I think this was just a shameful plug and a pathetic grab for attention by Columbia and now they’ve been used as complete tools. They’ve become propaganda for the Iranian government. After his question and answer at Columbia, the Islamic Republic News Agency posted the following article. http://www2.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-24/0709252616013529.htm


My personal favorite quote: “On second day of his entry in New York, and amid standing ovation of the audience that had attended the hall where the Iranian President was to give his lecture as of early hours of the day, Ahmadinejad said that Iran is not going to attack any country in the world. “


Lets forget the possibility that this man could possibly be providing Iraqi insurgents with tools to plant roadside bombs that are killing Americans. You’ve been used for propaganda. You've been used for "A standing ovation"…….

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lost in Translation

My interest was piqued by Chris' post regarding illegal immigrants in Riverside, NJ, so I took a look at some people's perspectives, most notably here. And I understand that immigration, legal or illegal, is a complex issue with political, social, historical and cultural facets. But maybe the debate would make a little more sense if the debaters could keep one fact straight: immigrants are not necessarily illegal immigrants.

Oh how the world becomes a little simpler with a spotlight shining brightly through the darkness! That would mean that wanting to enforce laws against illegals (you know, law-breakers) doesn't mean that you're a racist. That would mean (gasp) that it's theoretically possible to embrace the immigrant population while simultaneously restricting illegal immigrants. We could recognize legals as the vital backbone of the American workforce while at the same time recognizing the unfair drain illegal immigrants are on the taxpayers!

Now, even still, there are some interesting points made by people who haven't quite worked this out. Honorable mention to this guy who says that all 20th century immigrant arrivals in New York and San Francisco arrived "uninvited" and technically illegal until processed. So I guess you can't oppose illegal immigration unless your ancestors received and RSVP'd to their invitations...

Sarcasm aside, I'm not an expert on anything, least of all immigration. Call it idealism, but I have to believe that there is a way to preserve the economic strength of communities with high immigrant populations without embracing illegals. I don't think it's going to be done with a fence that reinforces the "us and them" mentality, especially since the invention of the tunnel. Next idea?

Friday, September 28, 2007

This Pissed Me Off

Okay... it's 3 AM and I'm still awake and pissed off. I'm mostly pissed off at the Mets, but that's another story for another blog, so I'll have to talk about something else.

Last night, a Republican debate aired on PBS focusing on minority issues. The debate, which was at a traditionally Black university, opened with the question "Can the party of Abraham Lincoln win the hearts and minds of all Americans?" Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, and Romney-- the front runners for their party's nomination for president-- declined invitations to participate in the debate. Each cited conflicting fundraisers.

I'm obviously not a Republican, and I don't want to belittle or lecture Republicans or their party, but I thought this was an unequivocal disgrace. (I'll belittle and lecture the candidates in particular, thank you.)

How could someone who aspires to lead this country put his back to so many Americans so publicly? How could they refuse to speak to their issues so blatantly?

Blacks and Hispanics are disenfranchised in this country, by almost any measure they are doing worse than their white counterparts. In that community a feeling of alienation persists, a feeling that minorities are left almost entirely out of the political process in this country.

And apparently they are.

Minorities vote less. They are more cynical about the process, and so they stay home at a greater rate on Election Day. And I guess that'll suit these guys just fine, because it seems these candidates did the political calculus that they are better off taking money from rich folks than sharing their ideas and opinions with a group that doesn't usually get to hear them. And if they don't show up to vote, if this gets minorities a little more alienated from the political process, well then that's two birds, one stone.

At the risk of sounding idealistic, a president can't duck important questions like this. It's undemocratic and un-American. Those 4 candidates said all you need to know about them right there. I mean, have some guts and the courage of your convictions.

--The crazy part is that if just one of the four had shown up, it would have been a huge story and a huge political victory, and it would have been a bigger story than anything that was said there. But instead the story is about Republicans looking like bigots. So it was a crap move politically as well, but that's neither here nor there.--

In the end, it's not about Democrat or Republican, Giuliani or Hillary, or black or white. In the end it's about a system that has gotten so F'd up that it encourages leading candidates to take a pass, and skip out on the American people and the free exchange of ideas.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Watch: Bill O'Reilly Discovers Black Culture

This is a video re-cap of the comments CP alluded to in his post, immediately below. I couldn't find a link with just the sound bite, so it's a liberal radio show called The Young Turks talking about it.

I agree with CP that the media definitely focuses too much on O'Reilly's ignorance here. It's just another form of "celebrity news" that I loathe. On the other hand, O'Reilly's got the #1 show on cable news. There are a lot of people that look at him as if he preaches the Gospel, and when he puts his ignorance on display like this, it's very telling.

The Young Turks are kind of annoying, and the segment is a little long, but the better clips come in the second half so you have to be patient.

The Man, The Myth, The Factor


Recently, there's been some uproar regarding Bill O'Reilly's comments. Last September 19th, Bill O'Reilly was describing his Harlem experience with the Reverend Al Sharpton on his radio show. He expressed some surprise at how similar the environment in Sylvia's, the renown soul food restaurant, to other "white" restaurants was. This last point is what several media outlets took issue with. How could O'Reilly live in New York and be surprised at Blacks acting civil? Why would he seem to equate his experience at Sylvia's to some foreign endeavor in Istanbul?

Both sides need to be taken to task. Today, ABCnews.com has an AP piece about how there are more Blacks and Latinos in prison cells than in college dorms. Sit back and let that last sentence settle in. Blacks and Latinos make up roughly twelve percent of the nation's population apiece, well over fifty percent of the prison system, and are a dwindling minority on college campuses. This is all acceptable because the media chooses to continue to normalize criminal behavior with Black and Brown skin, thus making it acceptable to fill prisons with "them" and college campuses equivalent to Burma (or Myanmar). Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly, a member of the media, would rather continue his fight against gangsta rap than confront the issue head on with some hard-hitting questions. How is this acceptable to most of society? What are the impacts on the several communities and what is society's obligation in this pandemic? Those questions aren't as sexy as missing white girls or Dennis Miller's diatribes.

Instead of acting upset over what O'Reilly said, maybe the folks at Media Matters, CNN, et al., should look in the mirror. The fact of the matter is they'd be as surprised as O'Reilly that on Sylvia's walls, you'll see photos of former presidents, elected officials, A-list celebrities of all colors and culture, and a who's who of American public life. Yet, the Fourth Estate would prefer to continue its crusade against Bill O'Reilly than to deal with actual problems that affect the Black community. Exactly what harm does Media Matters expects to befall upon Black folks of Harlem due to O'Reilly's words? None.

Meanwhile, O'Reilly is still out there putting down rap music. Because rap music, of course, is a genuine phenomenon that praises nihilism, that puts a premium on violence of all sorts, and is responsible for the many ills of Blacks.

Last February, we celebrated a filmmaker by granting him the highest award he can be given. The film for which he was awarded was called The Departed. America created its African Americans, and its African Americans know where to look for inspiration.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Obama has as many donors as entire Republican field

The title of this post is pretty self- explanatory. The Politico has an article on how Obama's strategy of getting many (many, many, many) small donors has re-written the fundraising game, similar to how Howard Dean (through Joe Trippi) used the internet to re-write fundraising rules four years ago.

The result is Obama boasting 75,000 new donors who pledged small amounts in the last four months alone. That's huge. That's more than the entire Republican field put together.

Obama still can't pierce Clinton's lead, just like Dean ultimately fell despite his netroots support, but this is an important, and I think ultimately good, shift.

NY Times: Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants

The New York Times has an interesting article today about Riverside, NJ, a town that passed a law subjecting those who knowingly hire or rent to illegal immigrants to civil and criminal liability. The law was passed three years ago, but because of the legal and economic consequences, it has been rescinded.

Quotes from the article:

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”

“The business district is fairly vacant now, but it’s not the legitimate businesses that are gone,” a former mayor who pushed for the law said. “It’s all the ones that were supporting the illegal immigrants, or, as I like to call them, the criminal aliens.”

Many businesses that remain are having a hard time. Angelina Guedes, a Brazilian-born beautician, opened A Touch From Brazil, a hair and nail salon, on Scott Street two years ago to cater to the immigrant population. At one point, she had 10 workers.

Business quickly dried up after the law against illegal immigrants. Last week, on what would usually be a busy Thursday afternoon, Ms. Guedes ate a salad and gave a friend a manicure, while the five black stylist chairs sat empty.

“Now I only have myself,” said Ms. Guedes, 41, speaking a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese. “They all left. I also want to leave but it’s not possible because no one wants to buy my business.”

////

The article describes a ghost town, with boarded up storefronts and for sale signs in the downtown section of town.

The town where I grew up in New York has been the center of a national immigration debate, because of unsuccessful efforts to stop day laborers from meeting up to look for work each morning. Immigration has had mixed consequences in my town. Our small public schools have bulged in size, and the buildings can't really keep up. The housing market has been hurt, because illegal immigrants pack multiple families into small apartments. The culture of small town, USA has been altered by the influx of different language and culture. Our identity as an Italian and Irish community has been reshaped.

On the other hand, I shudder to think what our main street, Mamaroneck Ave., would look like without illegal immigrants from Mexico and South America. There are many industries that rely on the immigrants as labor and consumer. One of my favorite parts of my town's main drag is that there are independently owned and operated family storefronts. While Rye and White Plains are littered with Banana Republics, Victoria Secrets, and other schlocky corporate brands, Mamaroneck has local run markets and old- school stores that give it its charm.

Without immigrants the town would look like Rye, as if a high end mall had exploded and its stores scattered across the streets. Or, it would be completely empty, with hay dust balls skipping down Mamaroneck Ave, as all the "white people" shop in the Westchester, 10 miles away.

Mamaroneck has always been an immigrant town. And I suspect most of the problems I detailed in the early paragraph could have been said about the Irish and Italians that moved there in the middle of last century. The growth and evolution of a town is a slow and painful thing. Change always is, but that doesn't make it wrong.

Quote of the Day 9/26

More on Blackwater...

“This is a nightmare. We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term."

- An unidentified senior US military official in today's Washington Post on Blackwater's massacre of up to 20 Iraqi civilians. Blackwater soldiers fired into a group of cars in a downtown Baghdad square. Blackwater, a private security firm that functions as an army to protect US interests, said the shootout came after an ambush when their soldiers were protecting diplomats. Iraqi officials countered no such threat existed, and there is video evidence that Blackwater was unprovoked. Iraq's PM has demanded the firm leave Iraq, but Secretary of State Rice has stepped in to ensure Blackwater's continued presence.

There's A War?

Ken Burns' and PBS' documentary, The War, is a monumental effort showcasing a nation at war, but in contrast to today, it also shows us to be a nation in peril. In the mammoth fifteen hour project, Burns brilliantly shows the war's experience from America's perspective, mainly focusing on four towns scattered throughout the country. Through Tuesday night, we witness the bond drive, the euphoric feeling of young citizens enlisting and being drafted, battles in the pacific, Africa and Europe, the effort to save resources and the booming military industrial complex that put millions to work. Basically, you see much of what you don't see today.

Chris Meehan wrote an interesting piece regarding Blackwater and other private contractors in Iraq last Monday. It's something that would appear alien in the world Ken Burns has brought to us. Paying ex-soldiers to be soldiers is not exactly a value shared by the men who fought and took the town of Cisterna in the spring of '44. Maintaining a policy of no-bid contracts and worrying about inadequate body-armor would appear treasonous to the families who stayed home between '42-'46, saving bacon fat and empty cans to contribute for the war effort.

MSNBC has an article about the Department of Defense battling with the State Department about private contractors and their role. The problem is that contractors' use are as prevalent among the DoD personnel as it is within State. One might say too little, too late regarding the DoD's efforts to take some hold of the situation, but seeing that we'll be in Iraq for a little while longer (I don't know if that's an under or overstatement), it may still be a good time to take some action.

Meanwhile, we delve deeper into fantasy sports, pray at the alter of celebrity news, and bob our heads to the new jingle remixed off Elvis Presley's great song, Viva Viagra! All this, and more, no doubt, to help us forget that there's a war going on. That young, poor men and immigrants are dying. That, despite official military rules, young women are fighting in fierce combat. And that there may be no clear end in sight.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Straight from the TMI Dept.

A moment in the Esquire profile of John Edwards goes from tender to curious to gross...

"I hope this isn't too personal," I said to Edwards, "but I was reading about how Elizabeth discovered her cancer this second go-around. It was a broken rib, correct?"

"Yes," Edwards said.

"The papers said you were hugging her -- which is always nice to hear, a married guy hugging his wife. It must have been bizarre. What happened, you just hugged her and heard a snap?"

"Maybe it is a little personal," Edwards said, laughing self-consciously.

"Maybe I don't want to know?"

"It was a perfectly reasonable question," he said, bailing me out.

"So hugging was perhaps a euphemism?"

"That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it," he said, raking his forelock with his fingers.

Here's a hint...


Yesterday, Hillary Clinton was endorsed for president by Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN). Bayh, a moderate Democrat who flirted with running himself, and has a whole Kevin Kline in Dave thing going on, said, "Hillary Clinton is a seasoned, experienced leader who will be ready to lead this country on Day One."

I think Hillary's getting the nomination, and I don't think she's picking Obama as her running mate. She's just too savvy politically to take that big a chance. She'll go the safe route and tab someone like Bayh- a white man from a Republican leaning state. That will show her commitment to being president of "all of America." Of Bayh's endorsement Hillary said: "[this] underscores my commitment for running a national campaign."

As a senator, though, Bayh is not necessarily the ideal candidate. Governors' executive experience, lack of voting record and Washington- outsider status make them more attractive for a national ticket. So team- Clinton probably has a white, male, Southern/ Midwestern governor in mind for the spot.

Someone like Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe might be a good choice, well, on second thought, maybe not the ARKANSAS governor, but you get the idea...

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Counter Jab, Followed by An Uppercut

Today, Columbia University did the academically brave, and socially honorable thing of hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a question and answer session. The Ivy League university had been taking harsh criticism for the decision, seeing that relations between the U.S. and Iran have been quite adversarial, especially since the revelation of an Iranian nuclear program back in 2002. Many in the press believed Columbia should not give a Head of State that sponsors deadly and violent activity against the U.S. and our allies a platform, choosing instead to listen to his tirades from other parts of the world, then critique. Even still, there were calls for his arrest due to his government's activities. Columbia went forward with the scheduled speech, then interaction, for if serious discussion cannot be held in these halls, then where?

Columbia's President Lee Bollinger silenced his critics with his opening statement by leveling accusation after accusation at President Ahmadinejad, making sure this would be no cream-puff event. He called into question Iran's freedom of the press and expression, and labeled the president a "petty and cruel dictator". As a great center of Holocaust studies, Bollinger brought the attention to President Ahmadinejad's assertion of the validity of the World War II genocide, calling the self-renowned intellectual "either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.” Bollinger asked Ahmadinejad to clarify his warmongering statements regarding Israel and his government's activities within Iraq and the greater Middle East.

It was exactly what he promised it would be, and he delivered: a free and open dialogue within an institution that should, at its very core, promote such a thing. The Iranian President's response was laced with religious quotes that had nothing to do with the questions before him. He avoided some questions, choosing instead to go into his usual diatribe of the Bush administration and how Iran is a "peace-loving" state. He called for "further research" regarding the Holocaust because he claimed nothing is "absolute". And he all but labeled the U.S. a terror organization because of the government's activities in Iraq, never specifically denying his own state's involvement.

Outside of stripping the king, pointing that he's naked and experiencing "shrinkage", Columbia has risen to the top as an institution that represents and personifies all that an American university should be about. It silenced its critics, but, above all, it spoke loudly for the intellectual and cerebral, who understand the world is a lot more complicated than "us" and "evil doers".

In the end, President Ahmadinejad looked small, out of place and obvious. Small in his childish complaints to Bollinger's points without ever addressing them one-by-one. Out of place because Columbia was too good for him, as evidenced by his response of his nation's treatment of homosexuals that they have no homosexuals to mistreat (hopefully, next time it will get the Ayatollah.) Obvious? Ahmadinejad doesn't run a damn thing in Iran. He's a figure-head who's only real power is that of speech, and Columbia exposed that weakness and, hopefully, redirected our focus to the real issue within that country, the religious zealots who run it.

Operation: BLACKWATER

Private security firm Blackwater USA has been in the news this week for the wrong reasons. Blackwater has been contracted out in Iraq to provide security for US diplomats and civilian construction workers. This is a paramilitary force with little accountability that has taken on the functions of the US military. In her book The End of America, Naomi Wolf points to use of paramilitary forces as a sign that a civilization is on the road to dictatorship.

Now, I don't know about all that. I saw Ms. Wolf on the Daily Show the other night arguing that we've seen 10 such signs hit in the last few years, but I don't understand if she's expecting next November's elections to be mysteriously called off for some reason, or what.


Either way, Blackwater, with its ominous name and logo, does sound like something out of a science fiction movie. And now they're facing some serious charges. About a week ago, Blackwater agents were in a gun battle in downtown Baghdad in which they killed 20 Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi government had been looking to file criminal charges; however, according to US statutes, private security firms, and their 25,000 employees in the country, are immune from prosecution by the Iraqi government.

From CNN.com: Iraqi officials, who claim the shootings were unprovoked, dispute Blackwater's claim that the guards were responding to an attack and said on Saturday they had a videotape showing the Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation. The incident prompted the Iraqi government to call for Blackwater's expulsion from the country and sparked anger among Iraqis.

Secretary of State Rice has been working to smooth things over, and right now it doesn't seem like Blackwater is going anywhere. Even on the heels of another report that Blackwater employees were engaged in black-market weapons trade, stealing from the company's arsenal and selling guns and ammo smuggled into Iraq.

200 private contractors have given their lives bravely working in Iraq. However, the whole idea of Blackwater makes me queasy. It's just one more case of the private sector taking responsibility and government function, one more company that's gotten insanely rich from this war, and just one more thing to worry about.

Don't Tase Me Bro!

The following presentation is what makes the internet the greatest and most awful invention ever. Ladies and gentlemen... Don't tase me-- the remix.

Friday, September 21, 2007

All the Mendelas are Dead!

The president once again showed his rhetorical skills while opining Iraq's lack of political leadership. Bush suggested that the lack of political progress in the country can be attributed to the absence of Mandela- style leadership.

Or, as he put it, "Mandela's dead!" Notice how the President talks to reporters like they are little kids and have no idea about Saddam's awful reign, slowly explaining that he split up families etc.

My favorite part of this clip?
"...sombudysezame... wheres MAN-DEL-A?"

According to a Pew Research Center report this week, 54% of Americans want the troops brought home as soon as possible. The Democrats, meanwhile, can't pass cloture motions on any of their proposed anti-war bills. Thank goodness that the Senate was able to find the time in their busy schedule to condemn the MoveOn.org ad calling General Petraeus, "General Betray Us". Is this really the best use of our Congressional resources? The health care system is in shambles, the public education system in this country is failing, the Canadian dollar is now on par with the U.S. dollar, yet the most pressing issue in the Senate is to figure out whether or not they agree with a newspaper ad? I think Obama, who chose not to vote, said it best

"The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not on criticizing newspaper advertisements. This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It's precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington's ability to solve America's problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared."
Less meaningless polarizing votes, more progress on the issues pressing this nation.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2007 Mets Highlights

Ok this has absolutely nothing to do with politics. But if you're a Mets fan, which I certainly am, you might need a little pick me up today, which I certainly do (and not only because I saw Naiomi Wolf on the Colbert Report last night talking about 10 reasons why our country is at its natural end).

So, I'm violating my own rule by posting something completely apolitical. Well, apolitical except in the following sense: There's nothing more American than the New York Mets.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Priorities...

Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's fame, is heading a group called Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. $2M has been raised by the group to lobby the presidential candidates to commit to reduce the size of the defense budget by $60B. The money would go towards education, children's health care, and energy independence. The Pentagon's current budget is $926B/ year.

The group also says that it has recruited 9,000 voters in Iowa who have pledged their support in the Democratic caucus to whichever candidate Business Leaders endorses. In a caucus as small as Iowa, that could wind up having a large impact.

From the website: "Former admirals, general and pentagon officials agree that the U.S. can safely trim $60 Billion/year from wasteful pentagon spending by reducing nuclear and other obsolete weapons..."

The $926B the US spends on defense dwarfs China, who spends the second most in the world at $122B, Russia ($59B) or the combined totals for the Axis of Evil ($10B). Of the Pentagon's massive budget, $463B of it is discretionary spending-- meaning it has to be renewed every year and does not include money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and does not include most of the Homeland Security budget, which is covered in other areas. It's mostly bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, when it comes to discretionary spending, K-12 education gets $38B, child's health insurance $50B, renewable energy research gets $2B, foreign humanitarian aid $13B, and the EPA $8B. Again, this is compared to the $463B given to the Department of Defense.

According to the website, here is what could be bought with the $60B taken out of the Pentagon's budget:

• Provide health insurance to 9 million American kids who lack it

• Rebuild or modernize our public schools over 12 years

• Retrain a quarter million workers

• Cut our reliance on foreign oil in half over 10 years

• Restore recent cuts in life-saving medical research

• Invest wisely in Homeland Security by inspecting cargo containers entering our ports

• Save 6 million children who die of hunger-related diseases in impoverished countries annually

• Begin to reduce the deficit

All of these investments could be made, year after year, without increased taxpayer expense.

In his farewell address, President (and former general) Eisenhower warned against our country's developing military/ industrial complex. Today, the two biggest industries in the US are weapons and movies. Where are our priorities? Why must every politician fear a moniker as "un-American" or "soft" because they want to decrease the military budget (ever so slightly) for these other benefits? And, more importantly, why will so few politicians challenge that assertion?

And another thing I really don't get is why this has to be a Democratic issue. Why is this group going straight to the Dem candidates, not bothering to waste their time with Republicans? I suspect it's a similar reason as to why leading Republican presidential candidates refuse to participate in a debate on minority issues. They have ceded the issue. They are not the party of ethnic minorities and their issues, and just accept it, just like they will always be for increased military spending, no matter how little sense it might make.

Buchanan's Paradise Losing


Former presidential candidate, adviser and speechwriter, and Republican strategist Patrick J. Buchanan (The Great!) has pin-pointed a crises facing America and the West at large (excluding Latin America, of course). It seems that the total number of whites in America and Europe, Anglos to be more specific, are not rising as fast as that of browns, light-browns and cafe-con-leches. This, of course, spells a disaster for Western culture because is signals a demise of institutions great men like Johns Winthrop and Smith helped establish, and greater men like James' Madison and Monroe helped sustain, because, quite naturally, the off-whites and darker folks can't possibly have the intelligence, fortitude nor vision to keep our classically liberal government progressing forward.


They - excuse me - We are not naturally of Europe, thus, we are not white, which makes sense. And since most people "of color" born in the West today are born into entrenched representative governments, it's clear as day that we would have no idea, nor incentive, to promote open markets, the Bill of Rights, and all other entities that help keep us living free, unmolested lives.


Here's a question for the former GOP heavyweight: Would an ethnic cleansing do the trick? Since white families aren't having kids at the rate other ethno-racial groups are, the real trick is to get some sort of government program that will; A) halt the births, and; B) start the population-regression program. I mean, the governments of the U.S. already have a pretty successful policy with respect to young, Black men. Why not shift this policy to young, Black women, then to the larger, looming issue, HISPANICS!


The problem with ol' Patty is that he sees a racial problem, which naturally calls for a racial solution. He doesn't see that America, indeed democracies, are an experiment that constantly bring its citizenry into new realms, and the true test of its success and failures are seen in how the citizenry react to those tests. America began with slavery and is currently trying to deal with alternative families, while England has shown it can live with a monarchy. When the strength of a nation is presupposed on its racial, religious, or any other superficial makeup, then the Rwandas of the world become all the more prominent.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

University of Florida Student Arrested for Asking the Wrong Questions

Is it me, or are the police getting a little too big for their britches? Yesterday, police at the University of Florida arrested a 21 year old for asking John Kerry a few too many hard hitting questions - namely about impeaching Bush. The scene is right out of the playbook of Soviet Russia or the GOP, but to see it happen with John Kerry and the Democrats is a little disconcerting.

Whoops

The Huffington Post has this

A University of Florida student from South Florida was Tasered and arrested Monday when he attempted to speak at a forum with U.S. Sen. John Kerry after the question and answer session had ended, university officials said.

Andrew Meyer, 21, asked Kerry why he did not contest the 2004 presidential election, which he lost to President Bush, and why there had been no moves to impeach Bush.

''He apparently asked several questions -- he went on for quite awhile -- then he was asked to stop,'' university spokesman Steve Orlando said. ``He had used his allotted time. His microphone was cut off then he became upset.''


Here's the video


Not that Kerry had anything to do with it, but still - come on! Don't get me wrong, after his soapbox diatribe, the kid was resisting arrest and did deserve the taser - at least a little, but only because it was funny - but why was he arrested with such force in the first place? Police are only supposed to use the taser if they feel like their lives are threatened.

I thought this was a country where we could hold our leaders - at least the Democrats - accountable for things they do or do not do. I blame you, readers of Sam Mag Online.

Update: John Kerry posted this on his web page today.
WASHINGTON D.C. – Sen. John Kerry issued the following statement today, in response to the arrest of a student at the University of Florida.

“In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of responding when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted."

Breaking The Covenant As Always

The Huffington Post has informed us that the front runners of the GOP presidential primary are all staying away from PBS' presidential forum, hosted by Tavis Smiley. The debate, held in Baltimore's Historically Black College/University, Morgan State, seems to conflict with the schedules of Fred Thompson, Rudy Giulliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain. They all provided the same reasons - imagine that - for not attending the debate. The forum will move forward with the second tier candidates of Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Tim Tancredo and Oscar the Grouch.

Is there any wonder why Black Americans and the Democratic party are still in love? Since FDR, the Democratic party has consistently served the needs of Black Americans, even when not specifically targeting them for their initiatives (i.e., the New Deals). Even in policies that have had adverse results for Blacks, there's no doubt the intention was sincere and the willingness to improve their conditions remain constant.

Republicans have essentially lived by a policy of snubbing Blacks. When they harangue government programs and wail on welfare, there's this sense they're speaking of Blacks. Never mind that some of the biggest welfare programs go to farmers in an outdated subsidy legislation that all politicians must agree to if they plan on staying employed. Republicans always appear ignorant of the problems unique to Blacks, such as drugs in Black communities, violence (especially gun-violence), and a dilapidated educational institution. Rather, their solutions always seem to benefit middle to upper-class Blacks, or their own country club constituency.

To snub this debate and deprive Blacks of a genuine choice next year is a disservice for them, for it keeps us in a do-or-die situation; there's never this sense that with a Republican win, at least some of our interests are served, even if that may be the case. Maybe Romney has a genuine health care proposal that benefits Black Americans better than Clinton's. Maybe McCain can use his war record to appeal to the thousand of Black families who represent a great portion of the military when he addresses his solutions for Iraq. Maybe, but we'll never know because the Republicans would rather speak to the club members of Augusta National than to the students of Morgan State.

Of course, it was the founder of the Republican party that gratefully received a burned down and completely devastated Atlanta for Christmas, and set free the great-grandparents of those snubbed students.

NBC's "First Thoughts"

NBC does a nice job of summing up today's political headlines, including info on Hillary Clinton's newly unveiled health care plan, so I'll just let them take it from here:

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Julia Steers
*** A clean bill of health: Clinton’s health-care rollout could not have gone better for the campaign: A national poll underscores Democratic primary voters' confidence in Clinton to pass a health-care plan, and her plan even gets a positive review from a conservative columnist like David Brooks. Perhaps most important for the campaign, as others have pointed out, her plan blurs (for the most part) any differences between the Edwards and Obama plans. Of course, those rivals -- as they did yesterday -- will hark back to the past to differentiate themselves with Clinton on this issue. But, lo and behold, here comes Clinton breaking from the past: On TODAY this morning, Matt Lauer asked her if her health-care plan would have been one that she would have rejected in 1993 when she pushed the issue then. That’s “absolutely the case,” she replied. Today, the campaign begins airing a new TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire on -- guess what? -- health care, as well as hosting a live webcast on the plan.

*** Is the GOP licking its chops? But on a day when her focus was health care, did Clinton make a statement that could come back to haunt her, especially if she's the Democratic nominee? Speaking to the SEIU yesterday, Clinton made a promise to the anti-war crowd that she may or may not be able to keep, NBC’s Lauren Appelbaum reports. "I have voted against funding this war and I will vote against funding this war as long as it takes," she said. Doesn't this invite a Mitch McConnell to do whatever he can to get bills on to the Senate floor that force her (like what happened to John Kerry) to be in the minority on various troop-funding (read: "support the troops") measures? Earlier this year, Clinton -- along with Obama and Dodd -- voted against an Iraq supplemental because it didn’t contain a timetable for withdrawal.

*** Barack backing away? We encourage you to watch yesterday’s entire Brian Williams-Barack Obama interview. A few key takeaways: Obama seems to be tacitly acknowledging that his "turn the page" message is not resonating with Democratic primary voters (note his comment about Bill Clinton's popularity with Dems). Also, don’t miss Obama conceding that a Norman Hsu-like problem is systemic to fundraising -- not to a particular candidate. Finally, an overall observation from the interview as a whole: Obama seemed to take pains not to point out contrast with Clinton. Is he just that uncomfortable with getting down and dirty? And while some independents may see that as a badge of honor, do those candidates win primaries?

*** Minority Report: With GOP Rep. Jim Ramstad yesterday becoming the seventh Republican congressman to announce his retirement -- and with more possibly on the way -- the question no longer seems to be: Will Democrats hold onto control of the House after 2008? Rather, it’s: How big will the Dem majority be? The same is true of the Senate, where four Republicans (including Craig) have announced they will retire, and Democrats have recruited some impressive candidates (Mark Warner, Jeanne Shaheen, and maybe Bob Kerrey). Given this situation, does that produce -- as NBC political analyst Charlie Cook put it earlier this year -- a vicious cycle for Republicans? That a poor political environment produces retirements and poor fundraising and recruitment, which then produces even more retirements and even poorer fundraising and recruitment. Is the goal for congressional Republicans now to keep down the Dem gains as much as possible and shoot for 2010?

*** On the trail: Clinton hosts a “New York Farm Day” event on Capitol Hill; Obama, in DC, unveils his middle-class tax relief plan and then hits small-dollar fundraiser/rally; McCain raises money in DC; Richardson, in Chicago, takes his turn speaking to the Laborers and then fundraises in DC; and Romney campaigns in Florida.

Countdown to LA GOV election: 32 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 49 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 60 days
Countdown to Iowa: 118 days
Countdown to SC GOP primary: 123 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 140 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 413 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 490 days

Monday, September 17, 2007

Quote of the Day 9/16


"... because if it’s Sunday, it is Meet The Press. Go Boston College Eagles. Matty Ryan, Heisman Trophy."

- Tim Russert , closing the September 16, 2007 episode of Meet the Press

My man Al brings one home for a worthy cause...


I didn't watch the Emmy's last night, law school supplies as much self- congratulation as I can take, but I understand that my boy Al Gore won an award for creative achievement in interactive television for Current TV, his youth- oriented television channel.

Current TV is only available in 40 million homes, so chances are that most are oblivious to its existence, let alone its mission. Gore designed the channel to merge the television and internet mediums- combining the interactivity of the net with the streaming nature of TV. Current's content is user- based and youth focused, the idea is to make television an interactive, thought provoking experience, in contrast to its current MO: sit, stare at and be dulled by flickering images. Think youtube, but streamlined.

The aim of Current TV is nothing short of the salvation of democracy: to extract the corporate influence from news, combat the celeb/reality culture, and provoke fresh thought and debate in society. It's the principle that inspired this blog, as you can tell by reading SAM's mission to your right.

The priorities and discourse in our country are staggeringly out of whack. And television, by its very nature and also its content, is a driving force in our culture's downturn.

Gore and his partners have seen the power and value of the internet: it is the largest possible town hall, where citizens can communicate directly and instantaneously. The idea starts with transparency-- encourage citizen-debate about problems facing the nation, and understand that the more voices are heard about the decisions that face the country, the better off we'll all be. Encourage debate and dissent, because the best decision will emerge from consensus.

It's all very Thomas Jefferson.

So Al now has an Oscar and an Emmy, and may soon be walking away with an even larger piece of hardware on Oct. 8: The Nobel Peace Prize, for which he is also nominated. Of course, people will ask about intent for the White House, but the attention should be less on the horse- race of the election and sexiness of the presidency, and more about the issues for which Gore is a voice: transparency in democracy and climate change.

That said, I'll still put up this political cartoon about Al running, because I think it's funny.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lessons Learned?

The end of World War I left Germany in a terrible position: socially despised, economically wounded, and politically in turmoil. The “guilt thesis” blamed Germany for the war and punished it in the 1919 Versailles Treaty. Nationalism and a sense of international rejection led to increased support for fascism and Nazism; the level of support being proportional to the level of post-war distress. An ideology of superiority and entitlement swept the country, along with feelings of hatred and resentment for the nations it blamed for its situation.

Now in Iraq we are poised to start withdrawing troops and shifting those who remain into the roles of overseers. And what will we leave behind? In my opinion, a nation which bears too much similarity to 1919 Germany.

We add troops, and we fail. We remove troops (possibly another 50,000 by July 2008, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates), and we will probably fail. So where’s the punch line? At any moment now, Gates and Gen. Patraeus are going to pop out from behind a curtain with streamers and those New Years Eve poppers and say “Gotcha!” and then tell us the real strategy, right?

Or maybe there is a much more somber final note to the fiasco that is Iraq: maybe it isn’t winnable. We have no viable strategy; waning support from politicians; waning support from the public; enormous debt; soldiers paying the price…

But it’s not too late to learn from our enemies. If they can become “emboldened” and “more entrenched” through our departure, why can’t we? After all, there was nothing in this world more dangerous than a New Yorker on September 12, 2001. Maybe through defeat in Iraq, we can become more motivated and less partisan, and actually effect positive change on our own soil to protect our citizens.

Senator Robert Byrd on Vick via Jimmy Kimmel Live

The longest serving member in the history of the US Senate, 89 year old Robert Byrd (D-WV), had a thing or two to say about the Michael Vick case. Seems like Senator Byrd ran a little long, and things got a little hilarious. Courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel...



You guys really have to bring this kind of thing to my attention quicker... by the way it's nice of Jimmy to check in with the US Senate before moving on to Paris Hilton, isn't it?

Friday, September 14, 2007

...Are Condemned To Repeat It


Fifteen years ago this December, President George H. W. Bush, having just been upset by a former Arkansas governor, William Jefferson Clinton, in the presidential election, decided to send a combination of U.S. military forces to Somalia. The operation, known as "Restore Hope", was a United Nations - sanctioned humanitarian effort to stop the massive displacement and starvation of the Somali people, whose society had begun to descend into an absolute decay that persist to this day. As President Bush deployed the troops, he knew full well that they would stay there beyond President-elect Clinton's inauguration day. In fact, the last man would stay until March, 1995.


Listening to President Bush's speech Thursday night made me recall what I learned about the Battle for Mogadishu. Iraq is in peril, we're nation-building, the U.S. military are fighting urban battles against militia, among many other similarities. But none stands out more than the political convenience of an outgoing, lame-duck president.


Now, I've been on record as opposed to an immediate withdrawal, because whatever the consequences may be, it will be devastating to the region and America's foreign policy and influence. Yet, to infuse politics in decision-making in a war is exactly what H. W. Bush did, what Clinton did later on, and what the current Bush is doing now. Bush threw troops in Somalia and never detailed an exit plan. Clinton saw American troops dragged through the streets on CNN, and made the quick decision to leave Somalia for good. This president sees poll numbers for his Republican incumbents (despite what he claims), and, hiding behind yet another professional, decides to withdraw troops.


Here's the paradox: If the "Surge" is working, but political gains have been marginal - at best - why withdraw troops? If the "Surge" needs more time, as General Petraeus indicated earlier this week, why send over five thousand marines home by Christmas, then send another twenty-five to thirty thousand troops home by next summer? Shouldn't we sustain the troop levels, or even increase them? What of the Clear-Hold-Build strategy?


If there's one thing he's good at, Barak Obama can sure state the obvious, that there are no good choices in Iraq. But for the President to find some political middle ground in order to ease the political hemorrhaging Republicans have been enduring is despicable, if not downright cowardice. Either push forward, and leave the next president with something to work with, or pull out and have the next president redevelop our foreign policy. It's a shame the president is cowardly enough to hide behind Congress, generals, and, yes, polls - effin' polls.

Giuliani's "Secret Weapon"


Giving a speech before the sheriffs of Louisiana, Mayor Giuliani revealed a secret weapon he plans on using in the general election, NBC reports.

""I have a letter -- I keep it at home. It's a letter from President Clinton, congratulating me for all of my efforts and saying something like the crime bill couldn't have been passed if it weren't for me. I keep this letter; I'm going to use it at the right moment... You can imagine when."

This all goes to Rudy's proposition that he's the candidate in the best position to appeal to moderates and defeat whatever Democrat gets the nomination (read: Hillary Clinton).

Remember, Giuliani was something of a Clinton ally in the 1990s. He was a tough Republican mayor with a liberal constituency who openly endorsed Democrats. In many ways he followed Bill Clinton's policy of "triangulation," the third way between traditionally conservative and liberal views.

Bad News Bill

In defending the existence of the plumbers and their covert activity, Nixon administration aides cited National Security, the Cold War threat and plain fear of a McGovern presidency. As absurd as one may think of these reasons, these men were serious enough to treat American soil as though it were that of Cuba, Syria or Moscow. In the end, the whole enterprise called into question the extent to which a president can abuse his power, but also gave the public a chance to see the personal side of the world's most public figure, the American president. Nixon's thoughts, discontents, prejudices, everything, are on display for the public to listen to and endure.

The sad saga of NFL genius, Bill Belichick, seems even lower, albeit more trivial, than Nixon's. Trivial because we're talking football, not an election or the illegal wiretapping of a doctor and his client. However, it's relatively lower because, as Belichick himself shows, there is no viable reason why he had to cheat (not that cheating's ever positive).

In his second apology before trying to slam the door shut on the controversy now known as Videogate (depending on what you read, watch or listen to), he never explains why he did it. At least Vick acknowledged his immaturity, and vowed to address and rectify it before returning. But against an outmatched Jets squad, and with arguably his best offense, why did he need to steal (only?) defensive plays? And if he misinterpreted the rules, in what ways did he originally interpret them, thus leading to the infracture?

The reason one hears the analogies to Watergate in this drama is because they're so glaring. Outside of the actual acts, the defiance and ambiguous apologies are so Nixonesqe. He strode into last Wednesday's press conference like the smartest guy in the room, yet he was, at that moment, the man with the least integrity. His second apology from Thrusday night has the feel of a man who's not only not sorry for what he did, but will probably work harder at not getting caught again.

No, there shouldn't be any review into the Super Bowls, nor should anyone assume only the New England Patriots do this sort of spying. However, for a man so successful, intelligent and diligent to be so duplicitous, conniving and scoundrel-like towards his profession speaks volumes about what he thinks of his professional field as opposed to his own personal gain. At least Nixon had his reasons, while Bellichick has his rings (and counting).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oil Prices


Many people have complained over the last two years that crude oil and, thereby, gasoline prices have been too high. This, they claim, is due to the unscrupulous practices of the major oil companies. This is a fashionable statement to make especially out in the Hamptons where most of the people who are most upset by this have their own private jets and are frustrated that their trips to St. Barts are becoming so costly that they can only invite 15 of their closest friends instead of the more civilized number of 25. Though most oil companies have been setting records for profit on a quarterly and annual basis, the high prices are not their fault for the following reasons.


First, this current surge in price in completely different than all other surges in crude oil price since oil has been used as the major transportation fuel around the world. There were price spikes in 1973, 1979 and 1991. At those times prices rose as a result of fears about the SUPPLY of oil being constrained. In other words, those price spikes were supply-driven. This time the case is different. Worldwide DEMAND is largely responsible for driving prices upwards as potentially massive markets (China, India, Vietnam, Thailand) have begun to consume petroleum at astounding rates. There is really no way to solve this problem in the future because, by almost every estimate that I have seen, the Chinese and Indian economies will continue to grow.


Second, there are not enough refineries and oil companies have no incentive to build new refineries. Demand in America for petroleum has grown steadily despite high prices and the fears of a weakening economy. It seems that nothing will deter Americans from driving their cars. As demand in America has grown, however, refining capacity has not. Therefore, bottlenecks have developed and the amount of petroleum that can be delivered to the market is therefore limited. Why have the oil companies not built new refineries? The way that the government is talking is making every oil company believe that there will be no future subsidies in oil production or refining and that competitors (ethanol producers, biofuels producers) will receive the bulk of the governmental benefits. To recoup the massive capital loss that is necessarily made when building a refinery takes decades. If a serious effort is going to be made over the next 30 years to move towards an ethanol-based fuel system, no oil company will be able to make a profit by building more refineries.


Third, oil prices are based on the costs of drilling and transporting oil to the market. This seems simple but there is also another factor involved when buying and trading oil. Traders must consider how expensive it is to deliver one barrel of oil to the market and how expensive it is to deliver the NEXT barrel of oil to the market. If that next barrel of oil is coming from a region that is highly unstable due to war, unfriendly regimes, the presence of cartels or simply higher drilling and operations costs, the price will rise. This is an important fact of economics: prices are based on cost and also on how difficult it is to find another one of the same product (this is why diamonds are so expensive, this is why Kobe Bryant gets paid so much- finding another one of him is difficult or maybe impossible).

Warner Announces for Senate

Former Virginia governor Mark Warner (D) has announced he will run for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. John Warner (R) (no relation). Warner was a very popular governor, who many thought would make a White House run in 2008. In Virginia, Warner was able to connect with the commonwealth's more southern, traditionally conservative voters. So he'll be a very formidible candidate.

The seat has been in Republican hands for 30 years, but Mark Warner has an excellent shot at claiming it for Dems. Along with Governor Tim Kaine and Sen. Jim Webb, the once bright- red state of Virginia would have two Democratic Senators, and a Democratic Governor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Greatest Weapon in the American Military Arsenal



When our Founding Fathers revolted from an oppressive monarchy, it was not our rifles, our strength, or our knowledge of the terrain that propelled us to victory. When the Northern Union armies finally stood victorious on Palmito Ranch, it was not because we had more powerful cannons, faster horses or stronger soldiers. When our greatest generation rushed the beaches of Normandy and eventually liberated and marched through the streets of Paris it was not because we had better tanks, bigger bombs or faster airplanes. What makes American great is not our massive economy, or our amazingly dominate military.

There are certain values that make you feel good about being American. There are satisfactions you get out of being American. Being American is synonymous with being right. There is a great satisfaction you get out of being right. The greatest difference between America and every other country is that we Americans are not unified by a race or nationality, but we are unified by a set of beliefs, that we hold to be self evident, that we are all created equal. The greatest weapon in the American military arsenal is not our nuclear bomb, but our moral superiority and without it, we have lost everything this country was built upon. During the revolutionary war, General George Washington and the Continental congress made it a principal belief to treat all enemy combatants decently and humanly. Even during the darkest hours, on the eve of destruction, at the near collapse of the revolution, our founding fathers still did not stray from their beliefs. They knew that it was not just about winning the war. It was about winning the war on their terms, on their ideals, on the ideals that were pronounced in the Declaration Of Independence and these ideals were never to be strayed from. For if we were to stray from these principals and win, than everything we were fighting for would be a fallacy. By holding to their ideals, our founding fathers not only defeated a far superior military force, but created a set of values and beliefs that became the basis of which to judge right and wrong and proved that moral superiority is by far the greatest weapon any military can have.

Now ask yourself, is torture right? Is torture moral? Is torture American? Al Gore wrote in his book The Assault On Reason, “It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did. In spite of all the dangers they confronted, they faithfully protected our freedoms. It is up to us to do the same”. John Adams wrote in 1777, "I know of no policy, God is my witness, but this — Piety, Humanity and Honesty are the best Policy. Blasphemy, Cruelty and Villainy have prevailed and may again. But they won't prevail against America, in this Contest, because I find the more of them are employed, the less they succeed." As an American I feel very insecure when I am not standing on the moral high ground and right now I'm feeling pretty insecure.

Check out: Powell in GQ


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Walter Isaacson for GQ Magazine…

On the global terrorism threat and how to address it

“…What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it’s terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?

I would approach this differently, in almost Marshall-like terms…It should be about how do we create institutions that keep the world moving down a path of wealth creation, of increasing respect for human rights, creating democratic institutions, and increasing the efficiency and power of market economies…”

On Guantanamo

“…It’s so harmful to what we stand for. We literally bang ourselves in the head by having that place. What are we doing this to ourselves for? Because we’re worried about the 380 guys there? Bring them here! Give them lawyers and habeas corpus. We can deal with them. We are paying a price when the rest of the world sees an America that seems to be afraid and is not the America they remember...”

On the Surge

“…You can surge all of the American troops you want, but they can’t stop this. Suppose I’m a battalion commander. My troops ask, “What do I do today, boss?” “Let’s go fight the Shia militias!” “What do I do tomorrow?” “Let’s go fight the Sunni insurgents!” “What do I do the day after tomorrow?” “Let’s go chase Al Qaeda!” “What do we do the day after that?” “We’re going to guard streets!” Our kids are fantastic. But this is not sustainable. Our surge can work only with an Iraqi political and military surge...”

On promoting Democracy around the world

“…We have a tendency to lecture and perhaps not think things through. We have to be careful what we wish for. Are we happy with the democracy that Hamas gave us? There are some places that are not ready for the kind of democracy we find so attractive for ourselves. They are not culturally ready for it, they are not historically ready for it, and they don’t have the needed institutions…”

Obama calls for withdrawal

At a campaign stop in Clinton, Iowa (yes, Clinton, Iowa), "Barak Obama said the United States should immediately start removing one to two combat brigades from Iraq a month, with a goal of withdrawing all combat troops by the end of next year and leaving a substantial presence of American forces for a limited humanitarian mission," according to the NY Times.

It's unclear how much of a departure this is for the senator or his main rival, because "his strategy going forward – leaving residual forces to fight Al Qaeda, train Iraqis and protect American forces and diplomats – is similar to the plan embraced by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and other rivals."

“The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops,” Mr. Obama said. “Not in six months or one year – now.”

My take? Seems Obama has come to terms that if he's going to knock off Hill, his only shot is to be the anti-war candidate (in a more subtle way than the 60s). This could be their main difference in the minds of the voters, and Obama could benefit. So look for him to ratchet up the "bring 'em home" rhetoric for the remainder of his campaign. It's his "All in Moment" for you poker fans out there.

And don't think the name of the town was a coincidence.

Great Moments in Presidential Speeches

Most people know me as a huge Letterman fan, and this is one of my favorite bits.

Why Even Bother?

During the Congressional testimony yesterday there were no fewer than FIVE presidential candidates (Dodd, Obama, Clinton, Biden and McCain) on the panel questioning both the General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker.

This highlights the problems of getting things done during the presidential primary season. All of those big names were merely speaking to cameras and, quite honesty, those five probably did not even care if General Petraeus was listening. All they cared about was whether or not the primary voters were listening.

Here are a few examples pulled from the New York Times of what I would call "pandering to the base" :

Obama: "At what point to we say, enough?"

Clinton: The General's report on Iraq required "the willing suspension of disbelief."

Dodd: "We have been begging that leadership for the last four and a half years to get their act together"

Biden: "We're still talking about over 1,000 weekly attacks, 1,000 and we're calling that success?" (note: the NY Times claimed that Biden said those words "sharply")

McCain: When is the Iraqi government going to "do the things we've been asking them to do for a long time?"

Not to say that some of this is not true but do these question solve ANYTHING? I find no insight and no plan. Next time, let's turn the cameras off and get down to business instead of just listing complaints.

Way to go Senators.

Quote of the Day 9/12


"In the primary elections next year, you can count on letter carriers to deliver for Senator Clinton, and I am confident that in the years to come, President Hillary Clinton will deliver for every citizen throughout America"

- William Young, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, endorsing Hillary Clinton for president on behalf of his union

Mr. Young isn't the only union prez to use puns when endorsing candidates....

"When I meet John Edwards, I know I meet a caring man. And I know John Edwards will meet America's challenges over the next eight years!"

- Bob Robertson, President, Butcher's Association of America

"We are at the climax of America's history! At this moment, only one individual is packing what it takes to lead. He's hung with our union, just like he's hung with America... that's why we endorse Chris Dodd for president!"

- Buck Nakid, President, Adult Movie Stars of America

".............."

- Jeff Watson, President, National Association of Mimes

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Big Moment from Gen. Petraeus' testimony

Republican John Warner has been a great Senator for a long time, but he's retiring. On his way out he asked General Petraeus a profound question:

"Is [the Iraq War] making America safer?"

Watch the General's answer, and check out my take in the comments section

New York City Remembers 9/11

Here's an article from the NY Times on those who remembered the 9/11 attacks at Ground Zero in Manhattan

NBC re-cap of Petraeus testimony

General Petraeus is likely to encounter tougher questioning today as he testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, because of the large number of presidential candidates sitting there. John McCain, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden (who chairs Foreign Relations and always has a lot to say about everything) will speak to the General.

NBC News recaps yesterday's testimony:

The Washington Post: “Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told Congress yesterday that the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Iraq has made enough progress that the additional combat forces can be pulled out by next summer, but he cautioned against ‘rushing to failure’ with a larger and speedier withdrawal… [T]he general's report and troop proposal opened a new phase in the fractious Washington debate over the future of the U.S. venture in Iraq nearly 4 1/2 years after Bush ordered an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. From this point on, the argument will no longer be about whether to withdraw U.S. troops but about how many to pull out and how quickly.”

EJ Dionne writes, that before Petraeus “began his account of the 'substantial' progress brought about by the troop increase in Iraq, congressional critics of President Bush's policy had come to the depressing conclusion that the surge has done what the administration needed it to do. It has not won the war. It has not achieved reconciliation at the national level in Iraq. But it has bought more political time in Washington, bringing Bush closer than ever to reaching one of his main objectives: keeping large numbers of troops in Iraq beyond Election Day 2008.”

In Case No One Mentions It: Thanks, General!

Some jobs are just thankless. No matter how much credibility one enters the endeavor with, no matter how overqualified a person may be, no matter what, at the end of the day, there will be no topless girls waiting, no Blue Label tied in a red ribbon, nothing.

Commanding "The Surge", that's one of those jobs.
General David Howell Petraeus gained Nationwide notoriety early this year after being named Commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq, and was given the task of executing a new politico-military strategy that was to be implemented. The Surge. This new strategy, after all, is his idea to some degree. The General came to this post well qualified. He is one of those few people asked to perform the most arduous task, in the most public arena, at the most unpopular time, and comes more than prepared for it. He is commander under a new Secretary of Defense, so he's seen as the changing of the guard. He was confirmed in the Senate by ninety-five votes, and none against, so he's well liked. He has a master's in Public Administration and a PH.D in International Relations from Princeton, so he's a practicing academic; like a hybrid of Peter Gammons and David Wright. His leadership is touted by both the military brass, civilians and press. He comes off as confident, but cerebral, always reminding one that there's more to the mission than slogans, news clips and presidential stump-speeches.
Yet, leading up to his congressional testimony this week, there was a campaign to dismiss, discredit, and straight diss General Patraeus. He was accused of "cooking the books", as though he's some kind of pee-wee accountant from World Com. He was accused of shielding his responsibilities by hiding behind Congress and the White House. His integrity has been questioned, and his evaluations have been considered unsubstantial and inconsequential. Even if he were to surprise everyone and announce a massive removal of troops, he'd be seen as pandering to the left and of being a cut 'n runner. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.
This war is not lost, and we'll never know when we win, even after we win. It's nation-building, not the Battle of the Bulge. We're fighting an adverse political environment and trying to install a representative form of government, not fighting the Confederates in Bull Run. There's a lot of gray area, and people are looking at this in too narrow a lens.
Patraeus is more than qualified to lead this fight, and he's the right guy at the right time. Not because this war and president are great, because they're not. But because General Patraeus understands the implications (mass murder, regional war, loss of U.S. credibility) and moves forward from there. That's all one can ask for. And for that, General, thanks.

Today is 9/11/07

Monday, September 10, 2007

New SAMs

In case you haven't noticed, SAM Online features 4 new bloggers: COB, Chris Sheehan (no relation), Chris Hapak and JoeMad. If you would like to blog for SAM just email us at Sammagonline@gmail.com.

Check out: Giuliani's strange trip...

The New York Times had a huge profile of former hometown Mayor Rudy Giuliani this week. Entitled "America's Mayor Goes to America" (the implication being this was his first real visit...), an extreme close up of Giuliani graced the cover with the headline: Crusader.

Again the article is massive, but it's very good, although much of it rehashed points that we already know-- it begins with 6 of the obstacles keeping Giuliani from being an ideal conservative candidate. The article's author, Matt Bai, also provides insight on Mr. Mayor's retail skills, that is his ability to connect face to face with voters, and articulate his message.

Apparently, he isn't very good at it. Even questions like whether or not he believes in God somehow come back to the resurgence of Time Square, and how there are a lot of "functioning theaters" there. Giuliani is definitely more of a wholesale politician in the model of Ronald Reagan, whom, incidentally, the mayor mentions about once every 2.4 seconds campaigning through Iowa.

For all his faults, Rudy's campaign, like his lead in the polls, has remained steady. Bai notes that the support he attracts seems to have two main roots: 1- Conservatives "desperation" to avoid another Clinton presidency, and Giuliani's appeal in swing states; 2- The Mayor's tough talk on terrorism and his rhetoric about the War on Terror overall.

On this latter point, Bai makes an interesting assessment about the difference in the way the two parties have generally come to see the terrorist threat. He does it much more eloquently and fairly than I could hope to, so you should read it yourself.

Bai also introduces us to Norman Podhoretz, who, along with a handful of other advisors, seems to be the hawk conscience of Giuliani foreign policy. Podhoretz speaks to Giuliani everyday from his home in the Hamptons, and claims the Mayor is in lock-step with his view of World War IV (for those of you scoring at home, Podhoretz refers to the Cold War as WWIII, so- good news- turns out we're actually 3-0 in World Wars).

In the end, Giuliani, like the rest of the Republican field, is very much tied to the War in Iraq. However, he is betting that the War hasn't fallen out of favor because Americans don't believe in its goal, but rather because Americans don't see a chance of success. To Giuliani, it's 1992 all over again, except this time he's being elected to clean up the streets of Baghdad instead of Brooklyn.

Critics like to poke holes in Giuliani's record, but so far he seems to exude competence. On the stump, Bai reports that Giuliani offers reasonable NYC- style solutions for national problems: Border security would be monitored by Border-stat, a computer system similar to the crime stopping Comp-stat employed by Giuliani's NYPD in the 90s. "'I could have [the boarder sealed] in 18 months to three years,' — as if he were making a reasonable bid to remodel your basement."

For Republicans, that perception of efficiency and capacity is a welcome change, and could explain why his support remains high. All in all, it seems America's Mayor is getting comfortable in America's heartland.

Fred Thompson DOESN'T scream for ice cream!!

You know its a slow day in politics when you read this note posted on MSNBC.com's cover about Fred Thompson's outright and emphatic decision not to eat ice cream. Brace yourself folks, this is not for the weak of heart.....

"On the road between Sioux City and Mason City, IA, Thompson made an unexpected stopover at Bob's Drive In in Le Mars, the self-billed "ice cream capital of the world." Le Mars, in fact, is the headquarters of Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream, and nearly all of the diners at Bob's were Blue Bunny employees. Yet despite spending nearly 30 minutes there, walking through Bob's and shaking hands with numerous diners, Thompson re-boarded the bus -- without trying any of the town's specialties. He didn't even sit and eat one of the "Bob Dogs" with any of the diners. Afterwards a campaign spokesman jokingly justified Thompson's decision not to eat by pointing to Thompson's well-publicized diet and workout regimen."

I mean what's the point in even running anymore? Surely the treasure trove of potential donors will dry up upon hearing the news that the former Tennessee senator rebuffed an invitation to try a "Bob Dog." Who could resist Bob's secret recipe?!

Also I wasn't sure what Thompson's "well-publicized diet and workout regimen" entailed until I did some research. As it turns out the 65 year old former actor turned politician did a series of videos with Billy Banks entitled "Tae Old." Who would have thought....


Friday, September 7, 2007

Real Questions

As I watched the Republican debate on Wednesday night I felt the familiar urge to switch the channel. If I had watched the same debate with Democratic candidates I would have done the same. Why? Real questions are as hard to find as real answers. Giuliani was posed a question about his family and he responded by listing his accomplishments while mayor of NYC. Not a bad strategy but, still, it leaves me quite disillusioned about the candidates on both sides for this reason: when you are a manager/leader you need to take a stand and stick with it, no matter what people will think. The presidency is an executive position. Meaning you must find policy and execute (you may think this is obvious but legislators/presidential candidates would often rather stand around waffling than make a policy work). There is no time for sanctimony or preaching.

With this in mind, I have written a number of questions that I would like to hear the front-runners answer.

To Giuliani:

Your experience is mainly in local government. How are you prepared to handle operations on a much larger scale and to face the issues that arise when faced with heavily entrenched partisan interests that are so prevalent in Washington?

You preformed well during 9/11. Does this experience, however, make you an expert on terrorism or foreign policy? In what way are you qualified to understand geopolitics?

To Clinton:

You were the wife of a president and a highly successful lawyer in private practice. Your individual political experience, however, is limited. The Senate seat from NY is the only elected office that you have personally every held. Why should America trust you as an elected official when there are other candidates that have a longer career of public service?

To All Candidates:

What are you going to do your first day in office about Iraq? I do not want to hear some plan that is playing to your base or that people just want to hear. I want concrete steps and at least the beginnings of a solution.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Slow your role, McAuliffe!


"I'm never underestimating another B-movie actor"

- Former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe on Fred Thompson. McAuliffe was part of the Carter administration when Ronald Reagan, a former B actor, defeated Carter and became president.

Of course Mr. McAuliffe fails to recognize that The Hunt for Red October and In the Line of Fire are NOT B movies!

In other news, Pigs were spotted flying over Baltimore, and Hell is reportedly a chilly 28 degrees (Quote of the Day: 9/6)


"... I'm not crazy about presidential candidates announcing their candidacy on these late-night shows, Leno or Letterman. I know why they're doing it... The one thing about it that bothers me -- and I'm not rooted in fuddy-duddiness here, although it may sound like it to some of you but -- is I think the office of the presidency has a certain stature, and I don't like to see it linked or tied to pop culture. Pop culture is by definition one of the low common denominators of our society.... You know damn well that presidents don't go on The Tonight Show. So why should they as candidates? When you link the stature of that office to the pop culture, I don't think the damage is instantaneous, but it's just a slow erosion of the stature of the office. It's just my instinct here. It could be anybody. This is not directed at Fred Thompson."

- Rush Limbaugh

Wait a tick, do I agree with Rush Limbaugh?

Recap: Republican Debate

Didn't watch tonight's Republican Debate? You're not alone (I didn't either, but I did watch Leno), but don't worry SAM's here to recap what went down...and what didn't (try to guess which is which).

- Rudy did the second half dressed in drag.

- When asked about his tenuous situation with his immediate family (his 2nd wife hates him, he doesn't speak with his son, his daughter publicly supports Obama) Giuliani gave an honest answer, according to Mark McCurry of NBC, "He answered this question by discussing 1) that private is different from the public and 2) that -- like many Americans -- he isn't perfect when it comes to family. 'I am not running as the perfect candidate for president,' he said. 'I am running as a human being.'"

- McCain, desparate for attention, did the second half of the debate completely naked.

- McCain harped on a theme of fiscal responsibility. He did not take a pledge not to raise taxes, but rather railed against pork spending, deficits, and unfair earmarks. To be fair, pork spending is completely out of hand, reform is long overdue, and it's only getting worse. But come on. We're at war. People are terrified of a looming recession. Terrified of al Qaeda. Terrified of China. McCain's got to get back in this thing... is pork going to get it done???

- Out of nowhere, the Law and Order "doink doink" sound echoed through the auditorium and Fred Thompson appeared standing 10 feet tall in the middle of the other candidates. The crowd was silent, and Fred bellowed "It's feeding time" and swallowed Sam Brownback whole.

- Fred didn't show, but told Jay Leno "I am running for president," just before critiquing the debate process and reminding voters how early in the campaign it is. And he's right on both counts, incidentally.

- Giuliani gave a heads up to Democrats who hope to run against him in 2012 when he said: "It is my intention to lower taxes." Not exactly a "read my lips" moment, but it was close...

- When asked by Leno if he was for the war when it began, Thompson said he was. In his answer, Thompson sought to remind Americans that if we hadn't gone to do what we did "Saddam would be continuing his nuclear weapons program."

- Upon hearing that answer I shouted at the television "WHAT NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM?" and my head exploded