Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Sunday Thoughts

"Of well" in the previous header is an old Scottish saying that means "he's blind." Even though we have the 37th best health care system in the world, Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Clinic is the best in America and one of the best in the world. And having said that,my surgery was technically excellent but I still can't see out of my left eye and the prognosis will take time. But remember I survived and General Haig didn't. So for the future we will have some doozy typos and misspellings. Soon I will be made an honorary tea party member. Or just think of me as Homer.

I forgot to comment on Miss Beverly Hills' Lauren Ashley's contribution to our wisdom. Lauren is not from Beverly Hills but Pasadena and there is no beauty pageant for Beverly Hills. But notwithstanding these minor incoveniences, Ms. Ashley was interviewed in a doctor's office where she was receiving botox treatments and commented on gays. She cited the Book of Leviticus saying that homosexual sex brings about death from God. According to the same scripture so does eating lobster and shell fish.

I want to defend Leviticus, which is being misused in the constant quest to rationalize homophobia.

Leviticus, as Mary Douglas and Jonathan Z. Smith from the University of Chicago will tell you, is the oldest document we have to demonstrate human beings ability to classify and make distinctions. It is the first text we have that shows that we can think in terms of categories. And for that we should be thankful.

Now what the book is really all about is to guide Jews in their behavior to distinguish them from surrounding pagans. Homosexual sex is a ritual violation as is "idolatrous sexuality", which means frequenting temple prostitutes, who worship fertility goddesses. Later we will see this in the New Testament, which tries to teach Christians how to be distinct from Hellenic Greeks who live around them. There Paul warns against the "ecstatic" religions, which practice sex between any gender as a form of worship. In other words, you have to understand the prohibition as against other religious practices at the time. In Leviticus, you will not be struck dead. As I pointed out in another posting, if you are a sodomite, you are greedy boastful and will not feed the poor. It's not that you are homosexual. In Christianity, the earliest teaching--the Didache--has a prohibition against paedophilia and that's it.

Of course, none of this matters because it's hip to be ignorant. However, Lauren might want to think about what both Jewish scripture and the New Testament say about women wearing bikinis in front of the public and getting artificial beauty treatments.

The Prop 8 trial will start its closing arguments soon. Judge Walker is pressing to have the closing arguments televised, which would do a great service and diminish the ability of the right to spin this ad nauseum. The plaintiffs have filed a 294 page summary of the trial and its findings about the discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. The opposition will present the time-honored prohibition by religious traditions and maybe even throw in Lauren Ashley as evidence. I think this trial is a big first step to legalization of gay couples but I believe it will meet resistance at the Supreme Court level.

President Obama got his medical check-up today and it's clear the man has trouble giving up smoking. Who could when you're being called racist, Hitler, a Muslim terrorist? And, apparently, he has some problems with his knee--which he will use as an excuse for missing a basketball shot.

It is USA! USA! and, of well, Canada

My blogeater ate the last post before my conclusion and editing. My bottom line is that the health care bill must pass soon or we are in deep trouble as a country. The public option, which I really never cottoned to, would provide us all with an escape hatch when the medical insurance industry implodes which I am convinced now it will. And that, when there is enough political backlash, Senator Sanders will be proved correct, the United States will have to adopt the single-payer system. The CBO has costed out a bill with the public option--it saves more money on the deficit than the existing bills; and the single-payer actually saves the most.

Now, the United States won its first Winter Olympics since 1932 in Lake Placid. And Canada came roaring back to tie the record for most gold medals. And, I got to relive my youth as our skiers ,after scoring medals, did begin to fall down and wander off the course. Congratulations to Steve Colbert for the best media coverage.

Peggy Noonan says the Obama has again entered his boorish stage. I guess he's lecturing us too much.

The Coffee Party people now have 30,000 members in 24 hours, making it the most rapidly growing political movement in American history. What it believe in escapes me but anything to counter the Tea Party gang.

For all those who think China is about to take us as the superpower du jour think again. China has experienced an explosion of domestic disturbances, particularly in ethnic areas. And it still does not have a convertible currency. We just take their word on the exchange rate, which economists believe could be over-valued by fifty percent. As I've mentioned in past posts, the Chinese growth rate is not actually figured factually but astrologically. I expect we will see some implosion within the next one or two years. Not necessarily civil unrest and violence but a crashing or levelling out of the economic boom.

The ratings of talk radio shows have come out and 9 out of 10 are right-wing shows who are constantly criticising the Obama Administration. What about Radio Free America. Radio America has gone bankrupt and disappeared. What's amazing about these right-wing shows is that their hosts make a mint--not one of them earns less than $250,000 and that's for a local market. Frank Rich takes them on in the New York Times as the lock-and-load crowd, which is inciting violence in the hinderlands.

Received more anti-climate change e-mails. Wished the sender luck and said maybe some day he and Jim Inhofe will be proved right. But don't bank on it. The scientific community is shell-shocked before they had never dealt with our newsentertainment industry before. The Tsunami warnings have been called off. One wag posted a picture of Obama surfing--saying President on way to Hawaii to monitor the situation.

Any time you see a former government official or retired politician talking about health care, remember you are paying for their government plan. Newt may talk a good game but one of his perks is receiving free health care until he dies. Look at Dick Cheney--five heart attacks. For most of us that would indicate a pre-existing condition. But Dick is on the government tit or he would be dead. No comment.

And speaking of torture--the one word that comes to mind about our former Vice President--, the Obama Administration may have thought they kicked the issue under the rug but human rights advocates are saying that now that the administration has refused to sanction the torture lawyers, the ICC can now bring a case against them. While the United States is not a member to the ICC, despite America writing its statutes, a case can be brought if the crime has been committed on the territory of the signatory states. In this case, they are Poland and Afghanistan. Poland has already admitted that the CIA used old KGB prisons for the rendition program and we know the history of cases at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. I rather doubt Poland or Afghanistan would bring charges against an old ally but it's feasible. The more likely case is in Spain where the judicial system is going after the torture lawyers and Doug Feith for the torture of a Gitmo detainee who was a Spanish citizen. This has a precedent in their going after Pinochet because he disappeared Spanish nationals. Just don't expect this issue to go away anytime soon.

Maybe We Haven't Been Listening Right.

The upside having a son who is a musician is that finally you learn why Ringo Starr really is great. The downside is that you learn when your favorite bands are sloppy and off the beat. Now I can't listen to late Rolling Stones without remembering my son's remarks. He's ruined them for me. But it's in learning to listen.

Maybe we haven't been hearing the deep subtext of the whole health care debate. Flashback to Senator Bernie Sanders' heroic effort to introduce the single-payer plan in the Senate. Tom Coburn stopped it by demanding the whole bill be read on the floor of the Senate. But Senator Sanders said something that went unnoticed. He said we will be here in a few short years debating this very thing.

I heard former Republican Senator David Durenberger on the Minnesota NPR station talking about the health summit. I knew him when he was a Senator and he was the lead on health issues for the GOP at the time. Durenberger remarked that what we listened to was historic. A President of the United States over a seven hour period being able to talk in great detail about a policy --any policy--without notes. He said he hadn't been done and that he never knew of any President who could speak that fluently on any policy issue.

The other subjects he raised were the arguments about getting health care costs reduced. he said the Republican argument about cross-state insurance selling, tort reform and defensive medicine do not address the real reasons costs have risen as high and fast as they have. He said if that were the case the industry would have solved this by themselves years ago. He also pointed out that President Obama in June told Democrats not to use reconciliation until he had exhausted all avenues for bipartisanship. However, there were plans within last year's budget for reconciliation to be used to achieve health care reform. Durenberger also said that the Republican plan would not add many more people to the insured list, not cut prices and would not affect the deficit. It said that one has to pass a bill to overhaul the health insurance industry because incremental steps would not solve anything.

I like many people have been watching shiny objects like grotesque salaries being paid to insurance industry CEOs without hearing some of the side comments coming from the health insurance industry itself. Everything the lobbyists for the health industry are saying to Congress is a lie; everything being said by insurance CEOs is a lie. in the last week here in town there was a conference of technical experts from the health inusrance industry,the big Pharma and biotech companies to discuss the future of healthcare without reform. The insurance experts flat out said they had about two years left before the whole industry must adopt an economic crisis model, which will make insurance rates sky-rocket. They told their audience the industry was on an economic model that was not sustainable and could not be sustained. Pharma said they would have to ration cutting-edge drugs to the most wealthy people because their costs were going to skyrocket also. Only the biotechs said there outlook was fine. Even the CEO of Wellpoint rationalizing their large rate hikes tried to suggest that it was the high rate of unemployment and the aging population that are driving up the rates.

The progressive's position has always been the adoption of the single-payer system and the second option was to include a "public option" as an alternative. President Obama's solution is to create an insurance exchange like the one for federal employers, the option I personally favor. Proponents of the public option said that it is needed to create competition and to hold the insurance industry accountable. But the better argument for the public option is that it will provide a safety net for when the entire health insurance industry implodes. As we have learned from our captains of industry that banks and firms can collapse overnight despite showing long periods of profitability. One can't afford the collapse of our whole health system.

A blogger on Daily Kos tagged D Wreck writes today a long analysis of the health insurance industry. He inadvertantly picks up the President's point that Medicare picks up the poor but it's the working class and now the dwindling midle-class who are losing out. Of the roughly 49 million uninsured Americans, a stunning 21 million have full-time jobs. At the present rate by 2019, there will be an estimated 66 million Americans without health insurance. The reason is that it is too expensive.

Today's average family coverage costs $13,000--slightly less than what I pay in cash--by 2020, according to the Commonwealth Fund the average coverage will be $24,000 or roughly 24% of a family entire income, assuming the economy ever grows again. In the same year roughly 1 in 19 Americans will have some form of cancer. And a 20-year old worker will stand a 3 in 10 chance of being disabled by the time of retirement.

What has been interesting about watching our economy has been the rapid collapse of institutions who had a run of high profits and sustained growth only to plunge overnight into insolvency. This has puzzled me and it almost demands some new theory of economics. Berkley Economics Professor James Robinson published a paper about this phenomenon concerning the health insurance industry. He notes that the health insurance companies have near monopolies in the states they are operating and that this "cons0lidation" over the market often signals periods of prosperity followed by rapid decline. As an industry is spared both the rigors and stimulus of competition, it will have a sustained period of high prices and profits . But this will result in the shrinkage of the number of companies willing to purchase coverage for their employees and hence a cycle of ever higher premiums to cover ever older clients and an ever shrinking customer base. In short, the whole business model for the current medical insurance industry is fatally flawed and doomed to destruction.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Break from the Home Ken Russell Film Festival

Barack Obama did fulfill another campaign pledge. He made the application for Federal Student Aid simpler as he promised. I just finished this year's; last year's was worse than doing my taxes. But as I told my son, the prospects are not good. At least this year's didn't have a Family Contribution Number like last's. I would owe him his college education and a new car if we went by that.

Next up are the taxes. Hopefully, I could gain a few thousand with the largest tax cut given the middle class in history. That's the one all Republicans voted against.

The Tsunami is about to hit Hawaii and an emergency alert has been sounded. Hopefully, people will listen to the local authorities and stay out of the way. The ocean is scheduled to roll one mile in land. But what will happen to Obama's birth certificate now?

Van Jones, the former Green Jobs Tsar, received a NAACP image award last night. His is actually an interesting story of how someone evolves from a militant to someone interested in creating jobs for his community. After Glenn Beck accused him of being a Communist and a 9/11er, both not true, he resigned from the Obama administration. His speech applauded Obama for agreeing to be the Captain of the Titanic after we struck the iceberg. And we still haven't sunk, he joked. And he called out Glenn Beck saying he loved him and that Beck can't stop him from expressing that love. It was well done. Van Jones now has joined a Washington think-tank.

Newt Gingrich has re-surfaced. He claims that Obama is trying to "mug" the American people (nice code words "Newt") and is acting like Hugo Chavez by embracing majoritarianism. Newt's certainly a senior citizen and now rich enough to qualify for the GOP sweepstakes. He's also a Southerner, the base of the Party now, and a racist. So he has a good shot. Not really. There is still alot of bad blood around in conservative circles about Newt's womanizing and how he blew his chance as House speaker.

Some blogger pointed out that Newt's previous charge that Obama was like the German Social Democrats ran against the right's charge Obama was Hitler. This guy pointed out that the German Social Democrats formed a resistance to Hitler. Spoil Sport.

You would think the Houston wealthy would be pouring funds into the GOP coffers. Turns out that Houston money is actually pouring into the Democratic Congressional funds. They're probably banking on getting refugee status when Perry secedes from the union. This is actually a state to watch this year because the Democrats are actually going to wage a strong campaign for the state house. has a new one about the right-wing e-mail allegedly going around by Lee Ioccoca lambasting Obama. The entire text was taken from his memoirs and it was his litany of grievances about George W. Now the right has re-written sections and are circulating it against Obama. But what he said about Bush was devastating. I get these e-mails daily. The last was one how Obama is the Manchurian candidate and no one ever knew what he did at Columbia. Then it cites known Columbia graduates allegedly saying they never saw him on campus or heard about him. Of course, all the famous names listed are made up and never said anything of the sort.

By this afternoon, there had been no follow-up discussions by either the Senate or House Republicans with Obama about healthcare reform. In fact, Mitch McConnell after the summit called the GOP stance "gold" for the 2010 elections. Don't expect anything from them. They believe their policy of "No" will bring them back.

I don't know where the triumphalism of the GOP comes from. Besides normal congressional losses by the Democrats, this supposed tsunami comes from a party that still has approval ratings below water. One can pick and choose what Obama numbers you want but all the GOP leaders rate at least 50% lower in approval ratings and the congressional GOP has slipped up a point or two to a little over 20% approval. Boehner himself has an approval rating half of Pelosi's, while Mitch McConnell is still about ten behind Reid, who is the Democrat with the lowest. They are banking on the public's disdain for Congress to sweep them back into power. But a majority of Americans blame the GOP for obstructing any progress. We'll watch as the year goes on but I'm puzzled. The GOP also has big troubles with Hip-Hop Steele, who has been spending money like water, giving Democrats an enormous financial lead at this stage. He must think the corporations are going to come roaring in but if they don't, the GOP will be at an enormous disadvantage financially.

Marco Rubio, the darling of the Right, has been using the GOP's American Express card like Meghan McCain. This guy is charging all his personal expenses to the local party and it's just beginning to break as an issue in Florida.

The Starve the Beast syndrome is permeating the GOP. But one of the largest causes of our national deficit were the Bush tax-cuts to the rich, which are double the cost of the entire health reform bill. Small government Republicans--all of tham have converted from big government conservatives--the doctrine of Bill Kristol--will run into brickwalls on wanting to cut any federal funding. John McCain claims his opposition now to Obama's deficit commission was that it will probably recommend raising taxes and he wanted one that would cut taxes more. But then John has 14 homes and a wife who owns the state of Arizona so he doesn't care.

The corporate media is great. They never question the GOP talking points. Obama is going to "ram through healthcare by reconciliation". What people don't say in the media is that health reform has passed the Senate with 60 votes and the House by large margins and that now you reconcile the bills from both houses of Congress, which is what you do with anything having to do with budget expenses. But the beltway will be the last to know. What Obama has to make sure is that key provisions take effect this year and the next and not have the whole thing wait until 2014 since the GOP will revert to their talks about death panels and killing grandma.

Obama does have a real problem when it comes to the 192 detainees remaining in Gitmo. Congress is trying to whip up opposition to court trials for these men despite testimony of Eric Holder and Bob Gates to the contrary. Obama needs to convene a bipartisan team of real national security lawyers--not the amateurs from the last Administration--to develop ways to deal with the situation of so many detainees being held and who can not be tried because either we tortured them or we never kept appropriates files on their cases. I've written before how the whole Gitmo situation was a mess when the new Administration took over with no complete case files. Having lived through the Algerian situation where they ended up with thousands of detainees without any procedure to deal with them, I know this is a major issue, particularly in a country that still hopes to abide by the rule of law. I would just release all the Uighurs and then transfer everyone to the Navy Brig in Charlestown, South Carolina. Gitmo would be closed and then the real work can begin on developing real procedures for the remaining detainees.


Yes, I was looking forward to sharia law being imposed by our President. There would be no interest charged on credit cards and mortgages and car loans so the US could get out of this Great Repression rather rapidly. I admit my wife would have to wear a Burka for a while but in the name of getting out of debt I'm sure --not really--she'll agree.

Well, it seems that Missile Defense Agency really didn't change their logo. They just decided to print a three color logo for handouts and publications. 3 color was cheaper than 5 color. And no, the Obama Administration didn't do this. It was all ordered during the Bush Administration. So no, it really doesn't imitate the Obama campaign logo either. And if another military officer has to answer these crazy questions, yes, we will have no missile defense system. Can you imagine government officials having to answer this nonsense! They do all the time but still.

Horrendous News from Chile as a 8.8 earhquake rocks the country--that's said to be hundreds of times stronger than the one which hit Haiti. Early photos show places I remember well in Santiago destroyed. I'm beginning to take all these natural disasters personally. It's like my mental landscape is being destroyed bit by bit. The entire Pacific Rim is on Tsunami Alert and Hawaii is preparing to evacuate. Climate Change anyone?

South Dakota has passed a law requiring teachers to say that climate change is a scientific theory, not a fact and that there are many reasons for it--including astrological. So, it's the Year of the Tiger--hence alot of tsunamis and earthquakes. What about theological? Jesus is coming; these are the days of tribulation and rapture is around the corner.

Tony Perkins--not the actor, he's dead-- of Focus of the Family was booted from the president's prayer breakfast at Andrews Air Force base because he attacked President Obama after the state of the union address for wanting to get rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Catholic representative at such prayer breakasts said that Tony's religious rights were being violated, a constant theme of the religious right. I don't think this crowd would make great Christian martyrs--they're big bunch of whiners.

Rev. Wallis of the Sojourners finally woke up after a long nap. He finally expressed the religious view that the Republicans were wrong about health care from a theological point of view and that their favoritism to the rich over the poor and the lower middle-class was against the Gospel. Given the energy the Religious Rights has poured into the debate, I have wondered why normal Christians hadn't been more forthright in supporting health care and suppport for the poor. Hopefully, this is the first shot across the bow.

Meanwhile, Utah passed a law that " miscarriage was an act of homicide". 50% of all pregnancies in Utah end up in a miscarriage. Under this law, women will be prosecuted for what most consider a tragedy. Are there any women legislators in the state?

Arizona's Trent Franks weighed in yesterday that blacks in America now have it worse than under slavery. He claims that 50% of black children are aborted. Actually it's about 30% and we don't know the number of viable fetuses but that has never stopped the so-called pro-life crowd in tallying numbers. Pat Buchanan previously this year said the best thing to happen to blacks was being forced to come to America. And, somewhere, Randy Newman is playing "Sail Away".

I received a fund-raising letter from the Hannah Giles Legal Defense Fund, which claims that Hannah, who was the female partner of Mr. Acorn pimp on Fox News, is being hounded by Barack Obama's ACORN thugs. It's like Ollie North's great fund-raiser," Mu'ammar Qaddafhi wants me Dead! Send money." Hannah and her partner apparently are being sued for manipulating the videotape they showed and taping illegally. But what price do you put on Freedom!

With the tea party's about to celebrate their first anniversary, some smartass decided to create the Coffee Party. Count me in!

If we have lived through enough right-wing madness recently, the Tenthers are holding a national summit in Atlanta under the auspices of the Tenth Amendment Center, featuring great Patriots like Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore and Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. This is the third of the conservative conferences which are called Obama Resistance conferences. Nearby the NAACP held a rally, which was greeted by members of the KKK. History never dies, like Faulkner said,"it isn't even past."

Some of the things the tenthers are against--federal highway system, health care reform, the New Deal, desegregation and the federal income tax. Tenthers assert the rights of states to secede from the union. Even Fat Tony Scalia, reactionary extraordinaire, wrote this month that the civil war ended these issues once and for all.

Thomas DiLorenzo will lecture on Abraham Lincoln as an enemy of the constitution, now saying that the first Republican President was the original progressive despot and that Jefferson Davis was a beacon of freedom, defending liberty. Thomas Woods, the author of the Politically Incorrect Guide to History, a popular book among conservatives, will talk about conservatives' traditional sympathy for the American south and its people and heritage. Dr. Woods was at the founding of the neo-Confederate Organization, League of the South,which advocates "independence of the Southern people" from the "American empire."

The Tenth Amendment movement has sponsored so-called "state sovereignty resolutions", which ,depending on the state, call for states to secede if the federal government intrudes any further on (you fill in the blank). Georgia's state sovereignty resolution called for secession that further infringements on the right to keep and bear arms, including prohibitions of type and quantity of arms or ammunition' would trigger secession. The resolution also reserved for Georgia the right to judge "how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their useful freedom". Similar resolutions have passed in Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Idaho, Louisiana and Alaska. Sarah Palin signed Alaska's bill right before she resigned office. And, of course, the Texas Governor Rick Perry is a Tenther.

The good news for all of us is that all the states who have signed so far received far more federal money than they put into the national treasury. So we could sue for past compensation and probably halve the budget deficit. We could prevent stimulus money from going to these states--none voted for president Obama--and we could start withdrawing major federal projects like NASA from Texas and created thousands of jobs in states with patriotic Americans. It's a win-win. As I told a Texan friend of mine, who was mouthing this nonsense, then Texas would become part of Mexico.

The Queen of the birthers, Orly Taitz, Moldovan, Israeli and American, has petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Council for protection against the American government. The crime was that a federal judge finally fined her $25,000 for her nonsense in filing all the nuisance suits on Barack Obama's birth certificate. The Free Republic drummed her out of the wingnut movement because she appealed to "world government", which is a step more evil than President Obama.

John McCain got off a smart ad attacking J.D. Hayworth as a birther. It would work anywhere but the very state he is running. Over half the Republican Legislators are birthers and they persuaded their party to vote a resolution that in 2012 Obama must produce his birth certificate in order to get on the ballot. Since this is a closed primary, John may become the first real victim of the birthers. But never fear John still on Meet The Press--once again--in an exclusive. I'm sure he will trash Obama because he needs to be more right-wing than Republicans in his state.

Charlie Crist claims he will not run as an independent in Florida as Marco Rubio amasses a large lead in the primary. Crist also hasn't backed down from accepting stimulus money. Neither did Arnold Schwartzeneggar. The CBO said the stimulus either saved or created 2.1 million jobs. The problem as I've said repeatedly and Paul Krugman and Bruce Bartlett,the father of supply side economics agreed, was that it was too small.

President Smartypants in his Saturday address said that if we all were as united as we are in routing for our American olympic athletes, we can pass health care. He said he would compromise if the Republicans would. (But the time is up on Wednesday--he didn't say that.) Nice touch--that's why I support the guy.

On the Human Rights front. The House has passed a resolution to assist Argentina through the release of documents about the " dirty war" to locate the dispappeared.

The deleted torture number 12 of the lawyers' memos from Yoo was "mock burial". Yoo also wrote that a President could order the massacre of villagers, crush the tesicles of a son of a detainee to make him talk, order troops into mainland America (hence the legal rationale for Dick Cheney's planned invasion of Buffalo, New York), and the fake burials of detainees. Rep. Nadler has sent these documents to the appropriate Bar Associations asking them to disbar both Yoo and Bybee.

Speaking of the massacre of villagers, human rights violations linger far beyond the time when they were committed. It has been twenty-four years since I was on the OAS' Human Rights Commission and one of the last situations I dealt with was the disappeared in Guatemala. Last year, some brave souls actually found lists and locations for the disppeared. While we were investigating these killings, we never could obtain any documents about who, where and why these people were killed. And this is extraordinarily rare--since repressive governments always document the killing of their enemies. Today, the Guatamala Forensic Foundation begins excavation of a cemetary where they believe over 200,000 bodies may be buried. These bodies are from that time over two decades ago. Yet their families never knew what happened to them.

Last week, neo-Nazis wanted to commemorate the firing bombing of Dresden, an awful event that provoked a series of sermons from my grandfather and a novel from Kurt Vonnegut, who was there. Even in Just Wars, criminal acts are done and human rights are violated. That's why one hopes to protect human rights. We don't want the people who would violate them in the future to embrace victims of the past as justification for their future deeds.

Now for some lighter news. Carly Simon has revealed that "You're so Vain" was written about David Geffen, who was infatuated by his new star Joni Mitchell. In my view, Joni's Geffen albums were the best musically she did--that was her jazz stage. Get well, Joni. She suffers from a truly horrible and grotesque skin disease that forced her to cancel touring and recording last year.

To impress your friends and family, I provide you with a bit of trivia I only discovered reading Patti Smith's Just Kids. For the hip among you, you'll remember the Holy Modal Rounders, who used to play with the Fugs. Their great song was "I've got a daughter, she's half-grown; jumps on a man, like a dog on a bone. Hey, Black-eyed Susie." Now their drummer was----the great playwright and movie actor San Shepard. I know you're thrilled.

I have not mentioned J.D. Salinger's death because frankly I never cared for him. OK, Catcher in the Rye was about adolescence everywhere. The interesting issue is how many books did he leave behind. Here we have a literary recluse whom we are told wrote everyday from dawn until noon and by letters in the mid-1960s we have been told he had at least two finished manuscripts. This could be a literary case where the author actually left behind more finished manuscripts than he ever published in his lifetime. It would mean his whole work would have to be re-evaluated. That's neat.

Finally, Wayne Newton. Yes, Wayne Newton, las Vegas entertainer and compulsive gambler, returned to Virginia this past week to push the state to recognize his Indian tribe, the Powhatans. While Disney can make a film about them, our government can de-legalize them as they have with many Indian nations. Strange as it seems, the Powhatans were legally obliterated and Wayne came to seek a correction to this injustice.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Coffee--Harar

Speaking of Harar, fans of Arthur Rimbaud might be disappointed that the poet-turned-gun-runner actually had a larger house in Ethiopia than in France. Today, the Ethiopian Government maintains the Rimbaud mansion--and it is--in Harar as a tourist attraction. Problem is that the only tourists allowed are Muslims since the city is the fourth most sacred city in Islam. Famous gate-crasher and explorer Sir Richard Burton went into the city by disguise.

Thank God for Mu'ammar Qaddafhi. The King of Kings, fresh off his defeat to win an unprecedented second term as AU chairman decided to declare jihad against Switzerland. Maybe he was disappointed that Steve Colbert beat the Swiss in fondue pong. At least he knocked the US today out of the CrazyTown Sweepstakes.

The blogosphere must have its own global intelligence. After my brilliant deduction that Frank Gaffney must be a stoner, the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe ran stories by separate authors who analyzed the tea-party movement as Baby Boomers having a mid-life crisis and acting out the protests of their youth. They found that the tea partiers are almost all college educated and earn quite a bit more than the average American and grew up during the Vietnam War Protests. The authors maintain while they never went hippie on us they have been heavily influenced by the whole distrust of government begun at that time. They don't say whether they smoke dope but another story appeared to report that Boomers over 65 are now smoking weed in record numbers.

Conservatives are attacking CPAC honoree Grover Norquist for his support of Muslims and his work to introduce Muslim leaders to the Bush White House. That's why they claim CPAC didn't have a good discussion group on terrorism because Grover is a jihadist.

The IOC ran out of the 100,000 condoms they had for the Olympics and wisely ordered more. But why are they investigating the Canadian Women's Hockey Team? After winning the gold, the team re-emerged on to the rink with bottles of champagne and cigars to celebrate. Were they going to drive somewhere afterwards? Were they going to practice unsafe sex? Puh--leese. Give it a rest. Meanwhile U.S.A.! still retains a lead over Germany. Both Russia and Canada have moved up so they don't need to feel disgraced.

Disgrace is what our congressmen should feel after grilling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the foreign aid and State Department budget. If the administration wants to restore diplomacy to its rightful top perch in our power projection, it would be useful to have a real budget for State and USAID. When conservatives were asked whether they would cut aid to Egypt or Israel, all that was heard were crickets. Foreign aid is a miniscule--actually less than a miniscule--part of the national budget.

Apologies for my sexist omissions from yesterday. Rita Moreno and Maya Lin also received the Medal for Arts and the Humanities from the President. If all you know about Maya Lin is the Vietnam Memorial, then you have missed some very fine work in recent years. Last summer, her recent work was showcased here in Washington,D.C. My favorite were her sculptures of all the world's inland seas.

President Obama has filled more seats on the Deficit Commission. There are Alice Rivlin, Ann Fudge from Young and Rubicam, David Cote from Honeywell, and Andy Stern, President of the SIEU. Of course, Stern's nomination was widely denounced. Remember the days when you would see George Meany on Face the Nation or Lane Kirkland? It used to be natural that labor leaders might be interested in such things. Oh well.

Baseball great and not so great Senator Jim Bunning single-handedly held the Senate floor yesterday so that unemployment insurance and COBRA could not be extended to over 1 million Americans. I've always felt that Bunning had alzheimer's or was senile. This time he yelled "TOUGH SH*T" at the top of his lungs while on the Senate floor. Maybe it's time for the guys with the butterfly nets to take him away.

Democrats tried to sneak an anti-torture amendment onto the intelligence appropriations bill. It would make torture illegal and would call for its prosecution and jail-time. The Republicans howled in indignation. "It would change the nature of the C.I.A." they said. Hummm! Is there something else you want to tell us?

Democrats are urging Eleanor Norton Holmes to accept the bill giving Washington,D.C voting rights in the House. This bill had bipartisan support before Virginia's Tom Davis retired. To kill the bill, Republicans attached a proviso that D.C. could not pass anything restricting the possession of firearms. Take the deal, Eleanor.

Newt Gingrich is making noise about running for President in 2012. He's even created his own Political Action Committee. Newt is convinced our President is a socialist--a socialist in the European sense. We're making progress--in the past he would be a Communist. Newt claims that his socialist agenda was on display by his bailout of the American auto industry--which saved 16% of our economy.--the feds taking over student loans and his healthcare reform plans. Now, Newt doesn't tell anyone that all the student loan plans are already federal--your tax money is just being given to banks to lend at market rates, and that there is nothing government at all in the health reform proposals. Even Bill O'Reilly tried to talk him out of the socialist line but failed.

From yesterday's health summit, I got some better sense about what Republicans mean when they say this or that is government-run. What is clear is that there is nothing about government plans in the health reform bill. But it's also clear that the government is being asked to regulate the health insurance industry. This is also the resistance by Republicans on financial reform. After at least two decades without serious regulations, the Republicans fear the government returning to its historic role post-Great Depression to regulate the financial markets. But what my lady Elizabeth Warren argues, If it broke, then it has to be regulated. I agree.

Spring training is producing the usual duds for the Washington Nationals. We are being sold a bill of goods by the sports writers who think our cheap owner is a genius at picking up bargains. I like Pudge Rodriquez for a catcher but he and three other catchers make one healthy one. Washington Post writers boast that Washington will be better but not get to .500 this year. I'll go to the park because it's a quick Metro ride but please give us a break about how improved they are!

Meanwhile, everyone is talking about the Dodgers being a transplanted Bronx with Manny Ramirez saying he would only play one more year in L.A., Joe Torre getting criticized, etc. FYI, the Dodger owners paid zero income taxes on their personal earnings last year. Not bad if you earn $160 million a year. Now Major League Baseball wants to separate the Bosox and the Yankees and place them in different divisions. Let's just make steroid use legal again and forget the whole thing.

A climate change denier--a guy actually paid to produce a newsletter on this stuff--tells me that climate change is only natural. Why do you think Greenland is called Greenland? I won't go into why that is, I just want to report that Jane Goodell, our favorite ape lady, travelled to Greenland to visit the Inuits. As Wade Davis has told us oral tradition from traditional peoples informs us. In this case the elders told Jane Goodell, there was nothing in their oral history or their living memories to compare to the ecological devastation of Greenland by climate change.

Archeology magazine this month reports that scientists have recreated the entire DNA for neanderthals. In my past lament about red-haired, freckle people being descendents from the neanderthals and facing extermination, shouldn't we clone them to replenish the stock?

In the field of arts, Edward Ruscha is having a 50-year retrospective (I can't believe it's 50) and several books are coming out. His Catalog Raisonne is hitting 4 volumes and counting. But if you like his LA signs and other word paintings, you might enjoy Alexandra Schwartz' Ed Ruscha's Los Angeles, which relates his paintings to LA landmarks and the movie industry. Also of interest is True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney by Lawrence Weschler. Weschler writes exceedingly well and , of course, Hockney is always provocative. This book goes from the Hollywood Hills to the recent paintings in East Yorkshire.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So who won in the Health Care Summit?

President Obama maintained his cool the whole seven hours and managed to spare with the Republicans and score some points. The Washington consensus is that John McCain came off the worse; most commentators wondering why he was there at all since none of his committees have anything to do with the subject. My bet it was the Senate Republicans hoping to highlight John for his primary struggle. He didn't come off well;instead he looked and sounded old and cranky. Tan Man Boehner ,I thought, came off second best, simply repeating his talking points.

In the end, Republicans said the same thing, "Scrap it all and begin again." But there was no sense of any give by the Republicans, even when Obama conceded some points.

The media was hilarious. CNN had all Republican commentators on, as their paid analysts, to say how wonderful the Republicans did. MSNBC decided the day was best spent on the Olympics, where we still retain the medal lead against the Germans. The print media blogs had responses basically fifty-fifty on impressions. For a day or so that may benefit the Republicans. There is a sense that this is such a complicated issue that maybe it's best to let it be--that's if you have insurance. If you are dying from health bills, then you don't believe Congress will do anything anyway.

What came across to me was how mediocre our elected leaders are. It's no wonder Obama feels he has to act as a teacher because some of those in the room were thick as stout. Republican commentators thought Obama came across as condescending. If you were called Hitler and a socialist by Republicans in the House, wouldn't you like to slug these people? I thought he was much too patient. I thought it took courage to meet with your own assassins.

It's interesting that I disagree with Anthony Weiner's statement that the Republicans are a subsidiary of the insurance companies. In some of the detailed discussions, which favored the insurance companies, I got the impression the Republicans did not comprehend how the insurance companies would play the situation to their advantage. Rather, I got a sense that the Republicans at the Blair House had a warped view on free-market economics and a genuine sense that health care is not a right but a responsibility. That's why they love Pat Ryan because he seems absolutely reasonable until you realize that the implications of his position are the privatizing of medicare and social security.

If you are for social justice and believe that health care is a right, then the Democrats took the day by all accounts. I thought Obama did an effective job of undercutting some Republican arguments by pointing out that the very poor in our country have better health care than working families because they qualify for Medicare, while the others don't. It was his job of diffusing the "race card"--the poor equals minorities and , like Rush Limbaugh said, this is all about the redistribution of wealth. He also did well be attacking Senator Barasso's position that people should just have catastrophic insurance and health savings plan for the rest. As Obama pointed out, that's great for people who earn what Senators do but not for people who earn $49,000.

This exchange only re-enforced my position that elected leaders in Washington have no clue about the real world. From Barasso's look, you could tell he couldn't imagine anyone not earning more than $49,000--which happens to be the mean income for Americans. That is the problem in this town. They do not have a clue that there is a Depression going on for persons earning $50,000 or less--unemployment rates far above 20%. The same applies for our talking heads on the media--they can not imagine nearly 40 million people without health insurance. These people must be lazy or something. This very closed universe produces these strange reactions. In a way, you can imagine why Republicans have been successful over the past few years just lying about everything. What was the number 1 media issue when the health care debt began--"Why should people earning over $250,000 be taxed more?" It's because all the talking heads all earn more than that and they are simply "getting by".

There were some Democrats who did shine. Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. The end result was that Obama basically told everyone a couple more weeks and then we move. In Washington speak, that means reconciliation. While Republicans bark about this, they have used reconciliation twice as much as Democrats. Both Bush tax cuts, the Bush Medicare B plan, the estate tax waiver were all done though reconciliation. The CHIPs program for children health, COBRA health insurance and Medicare itself, I believe, were done by reconciliation.

Republicans fear the health care reform bill because like Social Security and Medicare they know it will be popular. This might hurt their political chances in the mid-term but I also believe the more serious of them fear we can never pay for the obligations on the entitlements we already have. I would be sympathetic to this position if Republicans care at all about generating revenues for the government--which, alas, means taxes. As one wag said, "The Democrats are the tax and spend party; the Republicans the spend and no tax party."

Meanwhile, Congratulations to Bob Dylan,Clint Eastwood, Elie Wiesel and the Oberlin Conservatory for Music for being awaited the Medal for Arts and the Humanities by President Obama. Oberlin Conservatory is the oldest, continous music conservatory in the United States.

White Men Riot

My wife and I huddled around the computer last night waiting for radio signals from the Midwest. At 1 am loud and clear The End of Radio Show was beamed in. I felt we were like our Central European brothers and sisters waiting for Radio Free Europe to begin. The program was punk rock with a heavy dose of newer bands. For old timers like us, we recognized Fugazi, the Melvins, the Ramones,and the Clash. The D.J. had a melodious, smooth voice which was a nice contrast to the dissonance of the music. By the end we knew some day we would be free. Maybe Leonard Cohen is right," Democracy is coming to the U.S.A." The DJ was my son Ian, who ran the play list off his Ipod, which now sports over 20,000 cuts. I'm sure the students from Oberlin College never heard the bands played last night. So we'll listen every Wednesday until the Wall is torn down.

Have spent the day watching the Health Care Summit. It was exciting as watching paint dry. I didn't get any sense that the Republicans had any intention of trying to reach any agreements. They would talk about principles of policy but not propose anything. President Obama was like the head teacher trying to get unruly students to behave. Why John McCain was there is anyone's guest since his whole life has been spent on government health care, including his stay at the Hanoi Hilton. President Obama politely slapped him down by saying, "The campaign is over, John." Republican Congressman Pat Ryan was the one to watch out for. While he came across as slick, his budget proposals call for ending Medicare and Social Security. That's why he argued against the Congressional Office of the Budget because he desparately needs to demonstrate that any Democratic plan will not cut the budget. His plan has resonance among Republican candidates for the House. All point to his plan of his website and absolutely none of these people talk about cutting the Defense Budget. As it is now, the Obama plan would allow me to purchase medical insurance at the same rates as government employees, a savings of 50%.

I talked yesterday about a coming cultural revolution. But I didn't think it would be conservative. There was one article yesterday on Breibart's news service that convinced me otherwise. I should know better about Baby Boomers--we're a bunch of stoners. Cheech and Chong said they wanted to get stoned with Sarah Palin because it was obvious from what she said that she had the best stash. I disagree. It has to be Frank Gaffney, who must be smoking up a storm. Gaffney gave the Eternal Flame or Flaming Asshole award to Dick Cheney earlier in the year.

Yesterday Frank weighed in on the redesign of the logo for the Missile Defense Agency. This is as big a scandal as Proctor and Gambel's satanic logo of years ago. Drudge and the Freerepublic claim that the new logo is a deliberate rip-off of the Obama campaign logo with the Islamic crescent and star added for good measure. But Frank says it is even more nefarious. Team Obama--the new tag used by the right against the Administration--is acting in a treacherous way by limiting the deployment of missile interceptors and radars in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This is a deliberate policy of unilateral disarmament, which is to be expected from " an Alinsky acolyte", and shows that the U.S. is submitting to Islam and the "theo-political-legal program the latter's authorities call Shariah." "Team Obama" is accomodating the "Islamic Republic"'s aggressive approach in the Persian Gulf.

Wow! So this Jewish guy who talked like he was from the Bronx ends up in Chicago before Barack Obama and starts advocating Islam and Sharia Law. This sounds like a stoned riff of George Carlin building up to a humorous laugh line. Saul Alinsky son is alive and has been laughing about how his late father still drives conservatives up the wall a generation later. I suggest we get Bill Ayres out of retirement to bomb Gaffney's bathroom. Ayres was always good at blowing up toilets--and a few of his friends. Gaffney could then use that to raise funds. "Bill Ayres wants me dead. Send money!"

I've learned one thing in the last few months--national security conservatives have the widest acceptance of cerifiably insane people than any other demographic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Remember when the only reason to watch the Winter Olympics was the hockey. Some people liked the figure skating but I grew up wondering when the American skier would fall down. Billy Kidd, our only medal hope, usually fell or finished 7th. Now in Vancouver, the United States has a slight three medal lead over Germany and could actually win the whole thing! It must be the cool outfits.

On the cultural front, just got Johnny Cash's last album in his American series "Ain't No Grave", where a stricken man sings out his life. The series produced by Rick Rubin consisted of Johnny just recording any songs he liked and Rubin would re-digitalize the cuts to Johnny's approval. I wish other artists did the same thing to capture what disappears in their rehearsals and from their albums. From the past albums, one of my favorites was "My Own Personal Jesus".

On DVD, David Straithern appears as the judge in Heavens Fall, a film about the Scottsboro Case. Watching it, the whites all reminded me of today's Republicans.

Now the consensus in Washington is that Republicans will take both the House and the Senate this year. My advice to Democrats is to move all 290 laws passed by the House and being filibustered by the Senate Republicans through reconciliation. All the major reforms for our financial system are all there. The only missing reform is Immigration Reform. But the rest would be an amazing accomplishment and the rest of the country would get a sense of how productive Congress has actually been.

We are waiting for another snowstorm in Washington. So if Bob Dylan and Joan Baez could brace the snow to sing at the White House, how many Republicans will not make the health reform summit? I think the standard of courage is a bit lower.

The newly minted Senator Scott Brown has instantly alienated his supporters by voting against the filibuster on the Senate Jobs Bill. This is the $18 billion low-end version stripped of all the tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. An interesting fact--the House passed the Jobs bill in June and this was the Senate version, which had been bottled up ever since. Republicans wanted to filibuster the bill because lobbyists were angry with them because Reid stripped out all their goodies. Remember we're talking about people wanting to kill a jobs bill in the middle of a Depression--keep that in mind.

Republican Virginia delegate Marshall blamed handicapped children on abortion and entertained the crowds by citing Exodus as his medical text. This is part of the local debate to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides needed medical services to rural women in this state. Our closet Christian fundamentalist governor Bob McDonnell vows to veto any funding for Planned Parenthood. He also signed an executive order making it legal for the state to discriminate against gays, thus withdrawing Tim Kaine's 2006 order to the contrary.

Republican Governors are on a roll. Mitch Daniels, who was head of George W's OMB, has mebarked on dismantling his state's education and health system. He warns that all governors will have to follow suit. Our own Virginia governor did it the same day, making sharp cuts in education and health services but in a stealth manner without a public debate. Maryland's Republican legislators were trying to do the same with regards to Maryland's educational system.

Down East magazine, the grandfather of regional and state magazines, reports that evangelicals are quietly beginning to dominate Maine. We saw how they were mobilized to defeat marriage equality but the magazine reports that evangelicals are claiming that they will take care of all their parishioners' needs. I guess this is the Republican gameplan for all of us.

Other bloggers have reported what I had observed about the so-called Conservative Comeback--it's all old people. Political activism has increased among the 65-82 year olds, the demographic Republicans dominate. I received bitter e-mails from the colonostomy conservatives when I pointed out that Ron Paul was their new leader. They claim Ron Paul filled CPAC at the end with young college kids in order to "rig" the vote. Normally Mitt Romney rigs the vote. What we have is the beginning of a genuine war between generations. The senior citizens have theirs and intend to keep it, while younger Americans can go hang.

After finishing Patti Smith's memoir and Keith Haring's Journals, I began to think that we may be on the verge of a new counter-cultural revolution. Keith Haring wrote about how fragile life appeared to him when he was in his early 20s and how global issues seemed to overwhelm him. I can imagine a younger generation feeling the same way today. Employment among the young is at astronomical levels and soon we will have an open debate in this country of stripping them of all entitlements enjoyed by an older generation. I can not see--especially with the emphasis the right puts on political violence--that the young may begin to act out their frustrations. The push back may come in increased social restrictions being pushed by the Religious Right.

The young Ron Paul supporters at CPAC cheered his anti-imperial message. Ron Paul laid out his historic position that we are spending $1 trillion on the military-terrorist complex and have hundreds of bases around the world, which contribute nothing to the ntaional interest. The loudest cheers were for withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East. This was in sharp contrast to the Bush-Cheney crowd's attacks on Obama for national security and the calls to torture. It is Paul's anti-war message has been why the Campiagn for Liberty has won support on college campuses.

For Glenn Beck fans, I found an oldy but goody from my library, which undercuts his belief that Fascism comes from the Left. I don't know whether this book is published anymore but it traces the roots of fascism in Italy, Germany, France and England and their intellectual followers. The paperback version was published in 1973 with an introduction by Stephen Spender--The Appeal of Fascism by Alastair Hamilton. Hamilton recounts all the right-wing syncophants for fascism and why it appealed to intellectuals. A few years later we got Jean Francois Revel's Totalitarian Temptation to go after the Left.

Glenn Beck has labelled Scott Brown a "progressive Republican", which is his version of a curse. I finally understood Ron Paul's disdain for Woodrow Wilson. As he explained to CPAC, it was Wilson's crackdown on dissent and the arrest of anti-war protestors. He went on at length to explain the case of Eugene V. Debs, who remained in prison until Warren Harding pardoned him. Beck's Wilson phobia is more rooted in economics and his support of democracy. It has nothing to do with a crackdown on civil liberties. But never fear Beck had little good things to say about Republican Presidents. He hates Theodore Roosevelt and claims Abraham Lincoln did not do enough to save "state's rights". I wonder why not. George W was a big spender--which he was. The only common President both Beck and Paul liked was Calvin Coolidge.

But as I have written, this all is a sideshow. Today, it's been reported that Wall Street and the Banks are pouring money into the Republicans. In the Senate, Republicans are trying to get a $1 trillion tax break for major corporations. Remember these people created zero jobs over the last decade and only 26% of them pay any tax at all on their income. What we are seeing is the alignment of corporate America supported by the oldest generation to finally bring the country down. Alan Greenspan, devotee of Ayn Rand, commented how unequal the recovery has been. The inequality in our economic system will continue to grow if these new policies are adopted. It's clear that the marching orders to Republican Governors are to thoroughly dismantle any remnants of the social welfare state. The fact that no advanced political economy can survive in this manner totally escapes these people.

A little flap has occurred in Washington over Brookings' wargame over Iran. The premise was that the United States would be dragged into a war if the Israelis attacked Iran's nuclear sites. The various outcomes were not encouraging and that was what triggered the conservative reaction. Now having worked since the late 1980s to support democratic change in Iran, I don't take a backseat to anyone on this issue. But a few things have emerged that have tempered my views on the so-called Iranian nuclear threat. The resistance exposed the Natanz facility in 2002. Now eight years later, Iran has only been able to enrich uranium to 19.7%, far below the high levels required to produce a nuclear device. At this rate, I will be in a nursing home when they actually produce a bomb or I'm more convinced--they need to buy one. In my view, the outstanding military threat posed by Iran to Israel is conventional--ballistic missiles with conventional warheads--and terrorism through their support of Hizbullah and Hamas. Even though 70% of Americans believe Iran has nuclear weapons, it seems very unlikely they will acquire them anytime within the next decade. So all the warhawks, in my view, are deranged and should be shut down. We went through this nonsense with Iraq and all we did was create an Iranian colony.

One of the more disappointing events has been the publication of the OPR report on the DOJ lawyers who wrote the torture memos. While Yoo and Bybee got slaps on the hand, there are no recommendations that they be disbarred. I know the Obama White House would like this all to be in the past, but what is to prevent another set of knuckleheads reviving torture as an instrument of American foreign (or domestic) policy? There are no penalties for going back to a policy that disgraced this country and we have seen that 54% of Americans still believe it might be necessary to torture terrorist suspects under some circumstances.

Given my daily quota of right-wing e-mails, I'm amazed at how scared conservatives are. I am amazed that they can actually leave their homes. That's probably because they think the ceiling is going to collapse on them, also. The list of what they fear is amazing: minorities, gays, taxes, Obama's "socialism", the national debt (they ignored before), Iran, terrorists, Islam,climate change legislation, health care reform, gay marriage, public schools, the confiscation of guns,universities, science,and the list continues. There is virtually nothing they do not fear.

I'm reminded that conservatives were hesitant to fight Hitler and were absolutely convinced we had lost the Cold War. Their love of Whittaker Chambers was not because he fingered Alger Hiss but because he was a homely man, probably gay, who fought an Ivy League educated, attractive man and won and still wrote how Western culture had so deteriorated that we already had lost the Cold War. I even heard born-again conservative David Horowitz this last year actually proclaim that we had lost the Cold War and that the communist agenda for America was coming to fruition. One has to be reminded that when Reagan decided to win the Cold War, he had to enlist a small army of social democrats, former liberals and labor activists to actually fight in the trenches because none of the conservatives had any experience in standing up to communists. The same applies to the so-called fight against Islamic Fundamentalism--conservatives already believe this fight is lost and that Obama is accelerating the defeat. I'm still trying to guess where Islamists have scored their great geopolitical victories.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My New Take on 2012

The Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign funding and word that the RNC aims to take out Palin next year have made me change my opinion about the 2012 race. The 2012 election will be between New America, one which wants to make a transition in its political economy, versus Old America, one which will seek to preserve the financial status quo. All the teabaggers and religious right are just noise--although they may have an impact in the 2010 elections. The Republican financial backers will ensure that no populist wins and that the religious right's influence will appear to be minimal. The thinking is that the base has no where to go and if the mortal enemy is Barack Obama, they must accept the decision of Republican elders.

Let's take CPAC. The only "straight" Republican who did well was Mitt Romney, who had won the straw poll three times in a row. His second-pace finish was basically the same percentage by which he won over the past three years. What I found striking in his speech was his homage to George W. Bush, which appealed to the conservatives who attended the first few days. Romney himself had benefited from former President George H.W. Bush giving him a podium during the 2008 election to make a declaration concerning his Morman faith, a major stumbling block in a party dominated by fundamentalist Christians. The Romney-Bush connection is likely to linger during the 2012 elections. If you remember, John McCain had to beg George W. Bush to fund raise for him during the campaign and even that was a bomb. Romney isn't going to forget this and the money machine the Bush Family still has access to.

Quietly, the thinkers behind the Republican triumph in Massachusetts were all from the Romney campaign and Scott Brown paid homage at CPAC in his introduction to Romney.

2012 will look similar to the two previous elections to 2008. If one recalls the Obama campaign, it's important to remember that Democrats controlled the key posts of attorney-general in vital states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia,and New Jersey. This was important so as to prevent voter suppression efforts by the Republicans against minorities and college students. Major fights occurred in Virginia and Ohio over allowing college-age students to vote on their campuses. By 2012, all four states probably will have Republican governors and attorney-generals, thereby ensuring voter suppression efforts.

A minor note at CPAC, which I believe the Republicans will run on in 2012, is the theme of Obama's incompetence. It allows them to bury the racism deeper in their campaign and on the surface it benefits only Mitt Romney who will tote his success in the financial sector. If you look at the Tea Partiers sponsored by Freedomworks led by Dick Armey, you will find most of the major corporate donors to the Republican Party. These will swing big-time behind Romney.
Basically, the Republican formula right now is to recruit photogenic candidates who made a fortune in the private sector. Mitt is the role model.

Republicans are basically an authoritarian party, who support only those who have run in the primaries before. They are not going to risk the Party to people who do not share their class and their views or who might not be controllable.

Romney has to overcome the perception he is remote, too rich and a mannikin. He will have been removed from political office over eight years, which would be a liability in most years but an asset after a polarized four years of combat in D.C. He is not a creationist and is now pro-life but religious conservatives don't believe it. His own version of health care reform in Massachusetts will be a moot issue because we should have something in the next few months. His No Apologies, his defense of America's greatness, will give him a book tour opportunity this Spring, where he is expected to attack Obama's foreign policy. He has already given a major address at the Heritage Foundation lamenting the fact that Obama has cut (that's what he claims) the defense budget. Romney should be picking up the remains of the neoconservatives for his campaign and has had the support of the National Review.

What he learned during the last campaign was that he needs a stalking horse candidate to draw votes away from his major competitor. McCain used Huckabee to do this to deprive Romney of primary victories and he will adopt the same strategy. Facing the religious right in Iowa and South Carolina off the bat, Romney will have to quietly back a Christian Right candidate like Rick Santorum to siphon off the votes to allow him to remain competitive before the larger states.

I believe Romney will have a bottomless campaign chest throughout the primaries and the general election. The oil companies with George W.'s help will be pouring money into his campaign to stop any efforts at climate change policies offered by the Obama Administration.

Barack Obama himself will be handicapped by his own responsibilities as President from waging the type of insurgent campaign he did in 2008. He will also be looking at an economy that may have recovered but with unemployment hovering between 7 and 8%, a situation likely to linger for years to come. Romney will campaign as a successful businessman who "knows" how to create jobs and will be "trusted" by Wall Street to set the economy in the right direction. I would suggest that Obama run right at this since Romney's personal wealth has come from turning around companies through massive lay-offs. Even McCain snapped at him that he profited by making people unemployed.

Strangely, the Obama advantage by 2012 may well be his national security policy. If he hasn't taken out Bin Laden by then, he will have severely crippled Al Qaeda and will have withdrawn from Iraq and should be down-sizing our troop levels in Afghanistan. However, Iran will remain an issue--one which the neoconservatives will be poundng on. To counter the advantage the Democrats have in national security, I expect Romney--after conducting the usual ballet on the vice presidential choice--to pick General Petraeus.

Then Romney can promise the Religious Right their usual booty with faith-based initiatives and defense of marriage amendments. He will also have the Morman mafia at his disposal to form the underground links to the fundamentalists.

It's important to realize that there are two basic strongholds of the Republicans--the military-terrorist complex, which is a $1 trillion enterprise; and Wall Street, particularly oil and oil-related industries. These have to be preserved at all cost. While such things as the common good demand attention to social welfare , health and education, these are no longer Republican concerns. It is clear that the congressional Republicans now want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. What will appear to be a cultural war in 2012 really will be a struggle over the fate of America as a viable political economy.

Just to give you some idea, American corporations created ZERO jobs in the last TEN years but had record profits. Romney will be putting a pretty face on dismantling all social programs, a process that will be accelerated by Republican governors.

I was puzzled in the last campaign why Republicans never mentioned the word "middle class". The 2008 Convention was a stunning return of Republicans to their 1920s economics, something that surfaced again at CPAC. Social Darwinism is the platform of the GOP. As someone who knows the Romney people very well and is a born-again Morman, Glenn Beck said,"You have a right to fail." The Republicans are committed to preserving and extending the tax cuts to the very rich and to eliminate as many corporate taxes as possible, even though this will create no jobs.

The electoral college landscape will revert to an approximation of 2004. The race will depend on the line from Minnesota through New Jersey. Obama's victories in Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida will be in doubt. This will be a red-blue election. The Dailykos did a follow-up review of the 2008 that showed that McCain won counties that George W. did by larger margins and Obama won Clinton counties by even larger margins. The polarization of the country had deepened not lessened.

The Romney campaign will have to resort to large-scale voter suppression to minimize Obama's overwhelming advantages among Blacks, Hispanics and college-age voters. Right now, the GOP only has a demographic advantage among voters age 65 and above and among Generation Xers, who came of age during Reagan. By 2012, the GOP should have the ability in key states to engage in this.

It will come down to who would you rather hang out with. The tipping points will be the debates as always, where Obama should do his usual excellent self. What the GOP will bank on is that Obama's self-regulations against taking money from lobbyists will doom his effort. If Romney gets really swarmy, he will use his wife's MS and his position of being a minority religion to get sympathy. And if he does choose Petraeus, a Rockfeller Republican, expect him to claim the General as the real generator of Obama's foreign policy successes. I also expect the race to be as vicious as you will see. The stakes will be the future of the country and we have seen the entrenched financial interests throw everything they have at Obama.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Grab Bag

I may have to cave and become a Yankees' fan. A lifelong Dodger fan, I got a kick out of the World Series and seeing the Yankees this past year at Camden Yards. But now that Nick Johnson is going to be the DH, I may have to go all in. For years, I always picked an obscure player to root for. When I was a kid, this person was Ron Fairly, the short first baseman for the Dodgers. A fairly solid hitter, my bet was always on whether Ron would bat .300. I think he did once. I have been following Nick Johnson since his days as an Expo and then when he was here in D.C. with the Senators. The interest has always been that Johnson has never played a whole season while healthy. A natural .300 hitter and potential gold glover, I've always wanted to see him play a whole season to see what his real numbers would look like. Whenever I've watched him, he always has gotten a hit and made great plays. So now with Nick and my hero Mariano Rivera, the Yankees may be my team. It also looks like the Yankees have about two years before they will have to clean house again.

Will I have to invoke the Doug Payne principle now with Henning Mankell? This principle affects all cutting-edge writers when they finally get reviewed by the New York Times Sunday Book Review. I remember Doug would turn off on a series of writers we both loved--J.G. Ballard, Tom McQuane, Don DeLillo, Elmore Leonard, and James Ellroy. Once they were accepted by the Times their day was done as far as Doug was concerned. I thought this was a mistake. As a consequence, he missed out on DeLillo's Underworld and James Ellroy's political trilogy. J.G. Ballard retained his glory but his later novels went unread. Now with Henning Mankell I may be forced with the same dilemma. People are now supposed to "talk" about The Man From Beijing. I hoped to keep him as my own secret. I feel the same thing is happening with Ian Rankin.

Yesterday Barack Obama adopted the McColm solution to Social Security--tax higher levels of income. In his remarks, he said Social Security has only 20 years left at the current expenditures. That means that the Bush Adminisration actually ran through 17 years in the last year and a half to cover the deficit.

At least we are now free of the CPAC madness. Christopher Buckley ,writing in the Daily
Beast, slams his first cousin Brent Bozell for a lackluster job on the Mount Vernon Declaration,comparing the prose of the Sharon Statement written by Bill Buckley and Brent's father with the boilerplate drudge of the contemporary conservatives. Conservative Mickey Edwards wrote that not only would he not go to CPAC but neither would Ronald Reagan--ouch. But at least we have a new form of conservativism--Conservative Constitutionalism. After the last administration shredded the constitution, conservatives have rediscovered the document now that a black man is President.

One of the interesting sidebars to CPAC was the the issue of gays. Liberty University threatened to boycott the conference if a gay GOP group attended. The group did and Liberty University pulled out. The one speaker who went gay-bashing was booed from the floor. Liz Cheney after a stint cheerleading for torture voiced support for dropping Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I found this all somewhat puzzling but understandable. Libertarians dominated the conference as Ron Paul's triumph in the straw vote showed and the younger generation of conservatives like their liberal counterparts could care less about gays. But it also marked the diminished power of social conservatives, a subject I will get to in another post.

Tim Pawlenty introduced a series of new principles for conservatives. The only one I remember is that God is in charge. Over the last two years, Pawlenty has increasingly been courting the fundamentalist vote. He now is a creationist, while in his entire previous life he wasn't. Perhaps he picked this up hanging around John McCain, who blurted out in the 2008 campaign that America was "a Christian nation", even though John never believed that either his entire life. With Glenn Beck about to resurrect the Christian revisionists, we should hear more about this. One question I would have for Tim is that if all our civil liberties come from God,what does the recent Supreme Court case on corporate donations to campaigns say about God's views about corporations?

For the record, the last real Christian Republican I knew was former Senator Danforth of Missouri. But that didn't do us much good since we got Clarence Thomas from him.

This week is the Health Care Summit--which should be a non-starter. Republicans have virtually no interest in health care reform or anything else the President wants. If some form of health care passes in the next two months, look to the 2010 elections being less of a Republican victory as has been advertised by our corporate media.

Looking at the ballot for the CPAC presidential preferences I noticed a lot of House members and a couple Senators on the ballot. You can forget anyone like Mike Pence or John Thune. No Republican member of Congress has a chance in 2012. First, because they will have virtually no record of achievement since they are the Party of "No" and you can't very well argue how good your ideas are if you never offer them up as legislation. The other reason is that 2008 was as rare an election as 1960 when a sitting Senator or member of Congress was elected. It won't happen again for quite sometime.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Love Revolution Triumphs

So for a few days,torture,gitmo and God made a comeback at the CPAC meeting, then things went awry. Bob Barr showed up and defended the trial of terrorist suspects in court and denounced waterboardiing as torture while being soundly booed. Ron Paul appeared and gave his campaign for liberty speech. College Kids attended en masse and Ron Paul wins the presidential straw vote hands down with such favorites as Sarah Palin, Tom Pawlenty barely making single digits. And the past three-time winner Mitt Romney sank to second, ten points behind Paul. KABOOM! So much for the juggernaut of conservative constitutionalism. What started as a strong endorsement of Bush-Cheney politics ended up in mayhem.

To top the whole thing off was the appearance as keynote speaker of Glenn Beck. Beck, with newly dyed blond hair, riffed on his theme that progressives starting with TR and Woodrow Wilson purposely embarked on destroying the constitution--something progressives do to this day. He even whipped out his famous chalkboard. He demanded that Republicans adopt a 12-step program like he did at AA and cease to be a party of "not tax and spend". He said that worst times made be coming and that it was good that Americans fail, lose their homes and jobs. "Failure made me a success", he said. He also said that he was the first member of his family ever to go to college--although he didn't specify for only one semester. He also talked about past generations of Americans who had lost everything and that this made people stronger. His ideal President--believe or not--was Calvin Coolidge. He told the audience that America wasn't a circus so the Republican Party should not become a big tent party. It should not be a clown car.

CPAC was a raving success for its organizers. They got full coverage on all major networks and received full analysis on the political blogs. But you have to ask,"where's the Beef? Strogonoff?"

At the end, the conservative movement is fractured. They only seem united by their hatred of Barack Obama. So where does that get you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Afternoon Delights

The CPAC meeting continues to produce its hits. Dick Armey charges that Obama is an incompetent President, can't speak in complete sentences and is only interested in the distribution of wealth and control over our lives. A Young conservative believes that conservatives can win the younger generation because unemployment runs at 20% and that young people don't snort cocaine anymore like Barack Obama. Rachel Maddow was actually spotted trapsing among the little booths by the different organizations and was waylaid by people at the John Birch Society booth.

I guess Mitt Romney decided to revert to the racist legacy of Mormanism by delivering a speech with code words. He claimed Obama doesn't understand America--drumroll for the "real America", which is nice white and rich. CPAC leader Keene admitted he felt sullied by having relations with the Bush Republican Party. Little W once remarked about CPAC when told it was the base of the party," What are you talking about, I rebuilt the party." Oh yes, Dick Cheney made a surprise visit and was greeted by a thunderous applause . Cheney attacked Obama and claimed he was a one-term President.

Fox News was surprised that a man with an "American-sounding" name flew a plane into the IRS offices in Austin, Texas. His suicide note was posted on the web. A bitter scree against the Government and the IRS. Does Richard Reid sound "American". Actually, he was a Brit.

Glenn Beck has been at it again, claiming "progressives" are supporting euthanasia in Canada and what would happen to Sarah Palin's child if they succeeded here. Not to be outdone, Rush likens Obama to Hitler and the press operation in support of the stimulus package to Goebbels. He better not see Quentin Tarantino on the Rachel Maddow Show evince admiration for Goebbels as a film producer. The persistance of Glenn Beck and now Rush thinking Nazism was left-wing has become a new meme among conservatives. The person responsible for this is Jonah Goldberg, who wrote Liberal Fascism. I promise to re-post my little booklist of academic studies which demonstrate that fascism is clearly a right-wing phenomenon and that it has unique characteristics--some of which are now emerging on our right.

Poor Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. Abe has been trying to build a Republican constituency for Israel for years and he himself leans that way. But he has raised the redflags about the anti-semiticism and proto-fascist leanings of many of the teabaggers. He voiced alarm the other day about the Republicans actively courting them for the 2010 elections. There is soon to be a new report coming out by the Southern Poverty Leadership Committee exposing the upswing in radical right groups and their role in the teabaggers.

Michael Steele met with representatives of the teabaggers on Capitol Hill. Teabaggers were forced to hold their press conference at the corner of the South Capitol Metro station where the press and teabaggers froze in bitter cold weather, while they could have been indoors at the RNC.

Freedomworks and the Club of Growth are actually mounting a rightwing challenge to Senator Bob Bennett, Republican from Utah. Bennett was one of the Senators who stayed up for days to try and get the original bank bailout right. He is conservative as all hell but actually possesses some expertise. Also, trolling for support at CPAC is JD Hayworth, the primary challenger to John McCain. The John McCain punching bag apparently is more popular at CPAC than Harry Reid.

A CIA historian blasted Marc Thiessen today for calling the "enhanced interrogation program" the finest achievement in its the Agency's long history. The historian was livid, saying the "program brought shame on our nation." So there. I also agree.

This nonsense usually drives me crazy but I figure since this stuff has absolutely no appeal or resonance with me that I take that as a sign of mental health. I also look forward to President Obama serving until I'm at least 63 so I have someone to listen to. It's clear to me that all these clowns I've mentioned above have little or no interest in listening to the President and clearly they never have.

One Day Before The Operation

Not as dramatic as Three Days Before The Shooting, but tomorrow at dawn I'll see whether my African-American female doctor can restore the sight in my left eye. She has the most amazing hands I've ever felt--she'll probably coax the sight back. And her sidekick is Chinese. I imagine my brother-in-law would run screaming down the street seeing both of the doctors. He's still afraid Obama is going to take his guns and he is furious at illegal immigrants but couldn't answer me when I asked him if they were deported, who would do his lawn on Marco Island. The pre-op exam at Johns Hopkins was spooky-another Doctor, who I believe was a Gypsy, rattled off how many times I had malaria, amoebic dysentary, and proclaimed my cardiac event two years ago a massive case of heart burn. That's before I started talking. Maybe the CIA is doing something useful like keeping tabs on my medical history since she could not have gotten it from any recent doctor of mine. Actually I'm confident the Great Dr. Scott will pull it off.

If America does decline in my lifetime, we might start the date of the decline with the impeachment of Bill Clinton, a thoroughly shabby affair with everyone behaving badly. I can't imagine someone spending nine years researching this episode but Ken Gormley did and has offered up about 800 pages in The Death of American Virtue: Clinton Versus Starr (Crown, 2010). All the seedy details are here with some of the tragic aftermath for players like Webb Hubbell and Jim McDougall. I urge no one be sucked into reading this tome because it gets addictive just like the real saga itself and you could spend your time more constructively thinking about the paintings of Agnes Martin.

After the impeachment, the timeline would go something like this: the 2000 Presidential elections and the Brooks Brother riots in Miami to stop the vote counting; 9/11; and the multi-year wind-up to the Iraq War; Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans, and the vaporising of the global economy in 2008. Rush Limbaugh ridiculed Obama for calling this the lost decade. For Rush and Drudge and the right-wing echo chamber it was boom times, but for our country it was a time, as George Will wrote today, our luck ran out.

CPAC, the conservative political action committee, starts its meetings today with a unique co-sponsor--the John Birch Society. I guess now Bill Buckley is dead conservatives can feel free again to swim among the conspiracy theories. The meeting started off with Marco Rubio, conservative candidate for the Republican Senate primary in Florida, attacking Obama for using teleprompters ,while he used one himself. South Carolina's neo-confederate Senator Jim DeMint barely could contain himself when Rubio spoke.

There are wonderful workshops like "We need a Catholic teaparty." and " Nullification when we are faced with tyranny." Ken Blackwell, the Attorney-General in Ohio during the 1984 presidential elections, lamented "anti-Christian pogroms in the United States". Richard Viguerie slapped down the Mount Vernon Declaration of yesterday as "pablum". And for younger conservatives there are game rooms where you can punch Harry Reid and take target practice against Nancy Pelosi. They expect that celebrities like Joe the Plumber might surprise the younger folks during their games.

Yesterday, the Washington Post printed Justice Scalia's response to a screenwriter trying to work up a teabagging script, which would lead to nullification and secession. Scalia politely answered that he could be of no help on this issue since the Civil War ended the issue for the Supreme Court once and for all.

A South Carolina Republican has introduced a bill in that state's legislature to refuse any payments in dollars in the state. Rather the only currency would be gold and silver coins. Of course, this is all unconstitutional but when have conservatives cared about the constitution.

The Senate Republicans have been meeting with lobbyists to tell them they are even trying to kill a stripped down Jobs Bill because Harry Reid decided the larger one had too many tax breaks for the wealthy, corporations and those with large estates. Lobbyists expressed anger that their work had been in vain.

Brarack Obama finally had to create a Deficit Commission by executive order because the original Senate Republicans who sponsored the original bill had voted against it. His first nominees were former Republican Alan Simpson and Clinton administration official Erskine Bowles. Simpson sniped that if his party had been interested in deficits they could have vetoed something when they held the Presidency for eight years and Congress for six. Alan Simpson always had a great sense of humor. When challenged about a past youthful indiscretion in an election, he responded," I said I had experience. Some of it is good and others bad."

If you want a mind-boogling read, go into Andrew Sullivan's the Daily Dish and scroll down to Marc Thiessen's explanation to a Catholic news service how torture is in line with Catholic teachings and the theory of Just War. No one ever expects the Spanish Iniquisition! But even the Catholic Church has changed its tune since then. Apparently, Thiessen forgot.

Liz Cheney, the daughter of Darth Vader, now says that Clinton's trial of the first Twin Tower bombers in New York City subsequently caused 9/11.

Meanwhile, the Black Man continues to clean up with the capture of several of the top military leaders of the Taliban and more executions of Al Qaeda leaders by drones.

The Republicans continue in high dungeon with a concerted attack on the first anniversary of the stimlus package. As I've written before, the stimulus package was not big enough but was the only one possible given the politics of the time. Republicans, while bragging on stimulus projects in their own districts, claim the stimulus actually caused job loss. In fact, it saved or created 2 million jobs and will end up preserving 2.5 million jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office. But apparently the constant attacks are paying off. The Tea Baggers are now holding rallies that the stimulus actually caused the Recession. The Republicans are banking on people forgetting their own, pivotal role in creating what would have been the next Great Depression. Maybe with enough lying, they will convince the voters.

Meanwhile in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, our new Republican Governor has decided to gut educational programs for k-12 and eliminate mental health programs--started after the VTech killings--all for the purpose of saving the slight lowering of the car tax two years ago. No other purpose. Virginia will also be the first state to challenge in court the EPA's authority to monitor carbon emissions. Why? Because they can.

The great deconstruction continues. Tim Pawlenty, the Governor of Minneapolis and a born-again creationist, wants to project his national image by completely gutting the state's welfare and educational system. The local papers in Minnesota have warned voters that the very high standard of life in the state would be permanently damaged by these actions. Minnesota has always bragged about their enlightened policies to health care, education and mental illness. All of this built up over generations would be completely destroyed for one man's national ambitions.

The new Republican governor of New Jersey, Karl Rove's buddy, aims to make the state a model for the South. Without any consideration of alternatives, he has taken an ax to the state's budget with a special emphasis on eliminating education.

Finally, congratulations to Rachel Maddow for being named the Commencement speaker at Smith College. The announcement was greeted by shrieks of joy by the Senior class. Rachel Maddow is one of the few fresh faces in our media that provides sound and thoughtful analysis with a sense of humor. She deserves all good things.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ammo for the Fight against Theocrats

As the Sunday New York Times article on the Texas textbook debates suggested, we are in for a full scale assault on our history by Christian revisionists and their right-wing supporters. A close examination of original texts shouldn't give them any comfort as our founding fathers and mothers are very clear about their intentions for our new Republic. But we have learned in the past year that the ability to spin out lie after lie seems to find some resonance in our land.

In case, you are forced to argue with friend, foe, student or professor, books are ammunition, especially those containing some of the writings done by early Americans devoted to the whole issue of the separation of church and state. I received today a very short book edited by Forrest Church called The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders.(Beacon Press, 2004,$16.00) This 160-page book provides the essential writings of everyone from Patrick Henry to Thomas Jefferson on the subject. Since the new theocrats include the Declaration of Independence in their argument about the "Christian" nation, Forrest Church also penned The American Creed:A Biography of the Declaration of Independence ( St. Martin's, 2002). I decided on a liberal theologian as the source for the argument rather than the host of very secular historians because he is sensitive to issues of religion and is inclined to the religious. There are several very substantive books by historians that demolish the Christian revisionist project but I believe Forrest is one of the more effective advocates for the separation of church and state.

In the meantime, while you are carrying on the fight, I'll be reading one of my favorite Nordic writer's Henning Mankell and his new The Man from Beijing.(Knopf, 2010) The author of the Kurt Wallander series, Mankell wrote a wonderful novel about aging and family reconciliation called Italian Shoes, which I urge people to read for its beautiful prose.

An End to Al Qaeda

While bloggers are reposting Rachel Maddow's rebuttal to Glenn Beck, we have to note a segment on her show last night that is of interest to us. Retired Naval intelligence officer Malcolm Nance appeared on the show hawking his book An End to Al Qaeda, promising its defeat in 24 months. This isn't your John McCain boast that he knew how to get Bin Laden, a secret he has been withholding from everyone since the election. Rather, Mr. Nance, who is an expert on terrorism and also against torture, says we have neglected a key component in fighting Al Qaeda--the public relations front.

Mr. Nance makes the cogent argument that Al Qaeda is a cult and should be treated as such. He indicated how the gonad bomber's father couldn't relate to his son to talk him out of his Islamist trek and instead went to the CIA. That's like the blind leading the blind. But the overall message is that Al Qaeda's insistance that young recruits cut their ties to their families operates just like any cult we know. Nance argues that Al Qaeda is not some "knights heroically wandering the world" for the love of Islam but are people bent on upending all of Islam's structures and re-engineering the religion to its own ends. He said evidence of this appeared most dramatically in Iraq when it tried to take over the insurgency. Once Iraqis learned that Al Qaeda didn't care about them but insisted on killing civilians they rose up against it.

Mr. Nance claims that we have made the issue all about us--which is a mistake. Al Qaeda has basically determined how it would be perceived by Muslims by focusing on mistakes in American policy to justify their own actions. They can do this forever. Instead, Mr.Nance proposes we aim our information efforts at emphasizing Al Qaeda's ideology and how it runs against basic tenets of Islam. I have also suggested elsewhere what other steps we might make within the Moslem community to reach out to these young disaffected men. But Mr. Nance is on the right track.