Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cat Killing B@st*rd Rules Out Run for Presidency

KAT KILLERONCE again, the so-called Liberal Media (HA!) get the story wrong. On Wednesday, ABC picked up a story from Reuters announcing that former Senate Majority Leader Bill (pphhaaat-Uie!) Frist will not seek the Presidency in 2008 after all.

"In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008," quoth the evil Dr. Frist.

The article went on to speculate about some of the reasons why First may have chosen to step from the spotlight.

Some hold him partly responsible for the "Thumpin" the Republicans took in the Midterm Elections this November.

Others, according to the article, thought it irresponsible of this doctor to make a diagnosis in the Terry Schiavo case based on an upclose and personal examination of...wait for it... a video tape. ("I'm not a medical patient, but I play one on TV.")

And, of course, the media mentions some fishy stock dealings that raised a few eyebrows.

But nowhere, NOWHERE does the so called mainstream media article mention the fact that, as a medical student, Senator Doctor Frist admitted adopting PET CATS from the local animal shelter and dissecting them in his apartment...2 FREAKING PAGES on ABC and not one mention of those poor, eviscerated little kitties.

Don't believe me? Look it up. http://www.upi.com/archive/view.php?archive=1&StoryID=20021231-071056-3546r

(By the way, did you know that John Douglas, who has worked as an FBI Profiler, is noted for his theory that serial killers exhibit what he calls "the homicidal triad" of early warning signs? These include: bed-wetting, fire setting, and cruelty to animals.

Kinda makes me think twice about letting this heart surgeon anywhere NEAR a knife...

But the damn Republicans chose to make this man their standard bearer...says a lot, huh?)

At any rate, Dr. Friendly was also quoted as saying that "In the short term, I will resume my regular medical mission trips as a doctor around the world to serve those in poverty, in famine, and in civil war".

Great. Lock Up your Cats. The former majority leader is coming to town.

Liberal Media MY BUTT!

Fluffy, Izzy and Buffy join me in condemning this gross oversight on behalf of the mainstream media.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Animal Crackers

Following the Thanksgiving break, I had a really difficult time getting back into the habit of writing my blog. What would I write about? The things I kept turning over in my mind seemed either done to death, or overly narcissistic, or simply comments on blogs which are commenting on other blogs which are focused on news articles which talk about blogs.

Then, today, like an answer to a prayer, came a RASH of really cool animal stories.

First, there is the Giant Fish, Dunkleosteus terrelli, which grew to over 30 feet long (longer than my house!) and packed one of the fiercest bites in history. However, like Moderate Republicans, the species is extinct, and so, while interesting, no longer relevant.

But that (gosh, I love hyperlinks) lead me to a story about Sea Lions Attacking people from California. It is postulated that these animals MAY have been driven insane by Toxic algae resulting from agricultural runoff and various other sources of pollution. What's funny to me is that, if you search the topic on Google news, most of the headlines are some variation on the following theme: Attacks by sea lions challenge animal's cute, cuddly image Sounds to me like the main stream media thinks that the big seals don't need pollution control, they need a better advertising agency.

(Actually, As I re-read this paragraph the phrase "Attacking People from California" jumps out at me and I think to myself: "Well duh! Of course they are attacking people from California, who the hell wouldn't?" But then, I'm East Coast born and bred.)

Last but not least, REALLY good news from Florida...several emus and some pets have been eaten. WHY is this good news? Because for the first time in a LONG time nobody is pointing a finger at the Alligator. Instead, the state's animal, the Florida Panther is being blamed. And that means that there are finaly enough panthers out there to start getting revenge on the Damn Yankees who have stolen their home state!

According to the Washington Post, 20 years ago, there were as few as 30 Florida Panthers in existence. Now, there are almost 100, according to some sources. Which still, according to www.naplesnews.com , leaves the Florida cat as "one of the most endangered [species] on the planet."

A few weeks ago, I posted about Katherine Harris, and named her as one of the reasons I REFUSED to return to my native land under any circumstances.

Well, here are OTHER reasons why just reading about my beloved home state gives me high blood pressure. At a South Florida forum, called to educate people about how to live with the Florida Panther, the following comments were heard:

"It's my property, not the panther's property," said Mildred Mercado of Golden Gate Estates. "I paid for it. They didn't pay for it."
One of the written questions that was read aloud referred to the Florida panther as a "government-sponsored lethal animal."

Instead, Floridians have expressed approval, in spades for a program of road widening and continued building which will leave, not a new subdivision, but a new TOWN in it's wake.

Now, I know that, just like the Republican Responce to fires a few years back, at least ONE of the Bush Brothers will weigh in with some terrific solution like....oh, I don't know, a tax rebate for every fifty thousand dollar Panther Coat purchased....but as for me....I'm about ready to send those so-called Floridians some seals!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rip and Read Monday Report ( filed-late)

alt egoGood Day, and welcome to this week's edition of Rip and Read with Walter Wrenchall. This week: The Case of the First Purse.

Rip and Read apologizes for the Broken Link earlier today and invites our loyal visitors to Try It Nooow!

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear Walter by clicking this link: Rip and Read Audio

Look for Walter back again next Monday!

Allies Withdraw

Snatched Purse

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bush Thanksgiving- A Blast from the (re)Past

alt egoAh, Thanksgiving was yesterday, but my Turkey is in the oven today. Here's another blast from 2002, A George Bush Thanksgiving. You know what I'm thankful for? I'm thankful that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to help drown out this kind of crap for the next two years.

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear the bit by clicking this link: Rip and Read Audio

Look for Walter Wrenchall back again next Monday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rip and Read Monday Report (late)

alt egoGood Day, and welcome to this week's edition of Rip and Read with Walter Wrenchall. This week: A New Plan for Peace.

Sorry the Monday Report is a little late this week...I've been having fun over at Vermont Daily Briefing producing a little political satire with Philip Baruth...check it out.

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear Walter by clicking this link: Rip and Read Audio

Look for Walter back again next Monday!



The Gingerbread Nazis are here:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Smokey Resigns- A Blast from the Past.


Well, nothing much to post about today, so I figured I'd pull this one out from the archives. This one goes back to 2002 when President Bush declared a War on Fire.

From the LA Times:
KERNVILLE, Calif. -- As flames leaped across the West this summer, so did the hyperbole. If fires weren't devastating, they were horrific or catastrophic. Colorado's governor at one point declared his state ablaze. Television sets blared the peril to California's groves of giant sequoias.

In August, President Bush tramped through the charred landscape of a fire that had raged across southern Oregon and Northern California and declared the sight a "crying shame."

Of course, lest you think that the President was truly awash in grief, remember what the Republican response was.

From the LA Times again:
At the site of a 500,000 -- acre fire in southern Oregon, Bush lamented the consequences of "bad forest policy," and called for an emergency program to increase logging and thinning in federal forests.

Backed by the White House, legislation that would curtail legal challenges to future logging is now pending in Congress.

What's funny about this piece is that, if I'd known in 2002 what I know now, I might have had some other administration official out in the forest!

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear this clip by clicking this link: Rip and Read Audio

Look For Walter Wrenchall on Rip and Read every Monday.

The LA Times article was origionally written on 10/27/02

I found it posted at:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

After the Party

Well, this is all Democratic Party crap this morning, so you can skip it unless you are REALLY interested. After all, the Democrats control Congress and can work more effectively against the President.


James Carvell seems to have flipped his lid or is working for someone who has flipped her lid. Perhaps this is all a "move" on their part... to get their claws on party leadership.
(See Green Mountain Daily for links, insights, and just to see the pure spleen of the blog-o-crats...I have to admit, Carvell as Gollum is perfect! Why should I visit Commandant Kos' site when I can get intelligent, and some times eerily spot on, uberliberalism right here in the mountains of home?)

But after ALL of the major Democratic Players worked to smooth party feathers after Carvell's post election day dirty-bomb, (Hell, even the Conservative Democratic Blog, New Donkey basically told the Ragin' Cajun to shut up) Carvell came out talking TRASH AGAIN.

Well, yesterday, the AP came out with an article about Dean's response. And yes, the Governor Whomped Butt.

Dean was undetured by the Washington criticism.
"We are going to do the 50-state strategy for the next 150 years so we can be the dominant party power in this country again," he said. "You can't be the powerful party in this country who controls the government unless you are willing to let the people control you. And the only way you can do that is ask everybody for their vote, understand everybody is our boss even if they vote for you or not."

Well, I have to admit, I can't always figure the Good Doctor...however, it's pretty clear that his strategy WORKS. It's also pretty clear that, in many ways, he has picked up on that fighting "never take it laying down" spirit that James Carvell did more than anyone else to infuse back into the Democrats after the Reagan Revolution.

So...I add my tiny little blogger voice to the cacophony of noise: James! Shut UP!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Subversive Penguin Agenda

A day or two ago, our friends over at NYCStories posted a story entitled “Happy Feet, Happy Movie”. A glowing review of the new film, Happy Feet, relates the plot line and tells us:

Happy feet is the story of Mumble a penguin who isn't able to learn to sing his lovesong, and thus he is a misfit in Emperor Penguin society … If this all sounds a bit like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, it is. The difference, however, is in the twist on the story that speaks to the discussion of the old school religious ways vs. more youthful and liberal ways, including hints of the same sex marriage issue going on in society today. (Not to worry America, Mumble is straight and likes a girl.) Mumble is shamed and run out of town by the essentially fanatical religious penguins who make up the old guard and rely on blind faith to lead them out of the current crisis that the penguins are having with their food supply. When they see Mumble's differences, they blame the lack of fish on Mumble's dancing skills and chase him off.

NYCStories concludes their review with the following thought:

Happy Feet is a fun movie, and will do well. I am interested to see if the
religious right picks up on the barely hidden meaning in the movie, and if they
decide to protest what is really one of the cutest movies of the year.

Wow. A subversive PENGUIN movie? Who would have thunk? We were still reeling (and having a lot of fun with) this idea, when we opened up our news page this morning and found this item from the AP Wire:

Gay penguin book shakes up Ill. School

Holy Cow. It’s not a subversive Penguin movie, it’s a whole subversive Penguin MOVEMENT!

From the AP story:

SHILOH, Ill. - A picture book about two male penguins raising a baby penguin is
getting a chilly reception among some parents who worry about the book's
availability to children — and the reluctance of school administrators to
restrict access to it.

The payoff, however, comes a little further down the page when a disturbed mother (you can read that remark anyway you like!) recounts how she and her daughter discovered the book:

Lilly Del Pinto thought the book looked charming when her 5-year-old daughter
brought it home in September. Del Pinto said she was halfway through reading it
to her daughter "when the zookeeper said the two penguins must be in love."

"That's when I ended the story," she said.

You go lady. It’s a horrible conspiracy. I’ll be the French are behind it all.

As for us, we’ll be eating scrambled Penguin eggs for breakfast.

We had to destroy the embryo in order to save it.

AP Story

NYC Stories:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another Post Election Gloat

At least one more bit of post-election gloating this week. In the Palm Beach Post we found this story which we relate in our own words:

It seems that, like General Custer, Katherine Harris, everyone's favorite vote shredding former Florida Secretary of State and U.S. Senate hopeful, had no inkling of defeat until the very end. Harris claimed that, despite loosing to Bill Nelson by 25% of the vote, it never occurred to her that she would be trounced. Having failed to follow through on her threat to spend as much as 10 million dollars of her own money to win the seat, (she, in fact, spent none), Harris complained that a lack of money and a liberal media kept her from getting her message across.

Still, she is quoted in the paper as saying she had no regrets. "I really believe that this was exactly where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do."

If she means loosing, then this blogger says: AMEN to that, sister. AMEN.

PS- If you really want a close look back at this hag (and want to know one reason why I don't return to my native state of Florida, despite my abiding love of Alligators, Oranges, and Scrub Land) read Harris's Bio on Wikipedia. Warning: it's as long as your arm with more twists than a corkscrew.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rip and Read Monday Report

alt egoGood Day, and welcome to this week's edition of Rip and Read with Walter Wrenchall. This week: Sex Ed for Pandas in Bankock.

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear Walter by clicking this link: Rip and Read Audio

Look for Walter back again next Monday!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Read And Be Prepared to Discuss

I spent most of my "blog" time this week reading Green Mountain Daily, and commenting over there. However, there were a couple of items from the New Republic that caught my eye.

The first was a great quote from the editorial staff:

A lot of things have come crashing down with this election. One of them is
the absurd cultural prestige enjoyed by President Bush and his supporters. Since
2000, they have continuously bludgeoned their critics with the notion that the
only authentic Americans are those living in the red states. Democratic voters
have been endlessly told that they are nothing more than a tiny, alien coastal remnant, and many of them started to believe it.

Well, it's hokum. Bush and his vision for the country have been before the voters four times now. Twice (in 2002 and 2004) a narrow majority of voters supported him; once (in 2000) a narrow majority rejected him; and now a substantial majority has rejected him. Bush is not the incarnation of the popular will, and his critics are not anti-American freaks. [emphasis added]

-from Rejoice by the Editors of The New Republic.

The other is an article in TNR called Freakoutonomics. It is a more in-deapth look at how the Clinton economic team is revisiting it's basic assumptions in the face of the Bush Economy. During the Clinton years, leaders such as Robert Rubin, secratary of the Treasury, won a battle against more traditional liberals in the administration. Liberals, like Robert Reich, wanted to see the government engage in "massive public investment". Moderates like Rubin wanted to put the focus on "economic growth" and this meant using the money to reduce the deficit rather than engage in social policy.

In some ways, the legacy of this battle is related to the bitter struggle between the "netroots" and the likes of the DLC, which I've mentioned before, and which has been keeping me entertained over at Green Mountain Daily, all weekend.

Put simply, Rubin's can be summerized by this quote from TNR:

If workers grow more productive, logic suggests, they're making more money for
their employers, which means businesses will find it profitable to hire more of
them. The more workers get hired, the more businesses have to bid up their price
to hire them, which means that their wages will rise.

During the Clinton years, this worked like a charm. I can attest to the fact that, as a producer of radio advertising, I was actually being asked to produce "help wanted" ads. Before the Clinton boom, no employer in their right mind would have dreamed of spending more than the price of a newspaper classified to promote a job opening. At the end of the 1990s, local employers were spending thousands of dollars to create advertising campaigns to attract "unskilled" workers.

However, the hallmark of the Bush Economic "Boom" is that workers are not benefiting from the "rising tide that raises all boats". And they expressed that (I think) pretty emphatically last Tuesday.

The failure of the "rising tide" is, according to the New Republic, causing some of the Clinton faithful to revisit their basic assumptions:

What's happening is very simple: The economy is growing smartly, but,
essentially, all the gains are going to the rich. It is almost a dystopian
Marxist vision come to life. Corporate profits have soared, incomes at the very
top have shot through the stratosphere, and, yet, the vast majority of Americans
have not seen their living standards rise at all. This development does not
offer much of an intellectual challenge to either the right (which is not
particularly troubled) or the left (which is not particularly surprised). But
the center is both troubled and surprised. And, for the Rubinites, figuring out
just why this is happening, and what to do about it, has begun to unravel their
confidence in the moderate remedies that not long ago seemed

The article leads to the following final paragraph:

Since the outset of the Clinton administration...Democrats have fought against the most plutocratic and fiscally irresponsible Republican plans, but they have done so from a standpoint of resolute centrism. They had strong confidence in an economic model that was, at its core, conservative: unfettered free trade, fiscal restraint. They believed these ideas would benefit all Americans, and they did. But something has changed in the way the U.S. economy works. And, even if it's not yet entirely clear what has happened or how we can best address it, the intellectual balance of power in Democratic circles is already shifting. Today, all the confidence is on the populist side, and it is the centrists who aren't quite sure what to make of the world around them.

And that is probably the most bewildering thing for me, and the most frightening. Since I was born (during the Nixon Administration) I have watched a Democratic Party on the defensive. With the exceptions of 1974 (the Watergate Off-Year Election) and 1976 (when Jimmy Carter, again, as a result of Watergate, became President) the Clinton years were the only bright spot. At the time, I beleived it was because the Democratic Leadership Council had wrested control from the fringes of the party and returned to the common-sense mainstream politics that most Americans could and would support.

To me, "Slow Ahead" was much better better policy for America than following the New Left into defeat, while the heirs of Reagan wrapped up the whole ball of wax and took it home.

But now, it seems that I find myself back in the 1970s again, faced with a rotten choice.

On one hand there is Howard Zinn, presenting a dark vision of America as Facist Run Prison. But, following the "coming revolt of the guards" we will all move forward to enjoy .... what? Leftists are long on protest, but pretty damn short on vision. All I can see, unimaginative as it is, is a bright, post-guard future where we all get to wear the same Mao Suits. Sorry. Not for me.

But on the other hand, there is Ronald Reagan's "Morning In America"- now all but completely brought to life by the Bush Administration. Here, you wake up to find that all the wealth has been transfered to the Richest One Percent, and that wealth is being used to consolidate control over the media (yes, even the internet), the government, and the military, and that you ARE in the facist run prison that Zinn warned you about.

So, I've been wasting my time (and everybody else's ) over at Green Mountain Daily...hoping against hope that there might be a little life left yet in that Third Way that Clinton evoked.

I gotta admit though, that today, it ain't looking so good!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Back To Basics

Well, it is showing signs of starting: true to form, we Democrats seem about ready to start assembling for the usual circular firing squad. We do this often, and, to some extent, it is natural. While Republican Radicals take it on Faith, we Democrats, as a whole, tend to think and to analyze. As a result, while we all reach the same broad conclusions, we each come to believe that we, and our intellectual allies, have the most finely nuanced version of "the Truth" and, that those who don't possess the same intricate insight are just as doomed to failure as our benighted Republican neighbors.

In other words, we spend a lot of time arguing violently with each other about how many Liberals can dance on the head of a pin.

And, if you trip lightly through the blogosphere this morning, you can see the signs for yourself. Philip Baruth, in Vermont Daily Briefing, rides dramatically to the "Rescue" of Howard Dean, the Party Chairman sprung from the self-named "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party". I don't begrudge the Governor a little "crowing" about his 50 State Strategy. And I think,(despite my personal doubts about the "DWOTDP") that this "No State Left Behind" policy, as it has been dubbed, worked like a charm.

At the same time, the good folks over at the Democratic Leadership Council, have posted that:
This is a victory for the vital center of American politics over the extremes. In pursuing the Bush-Rove formula over the last six years, Republicans have deliberately abandoned the political center, and invited Democrats to occupy it. If you look at the victorious Democratic candidates in "red" and "purple" states and districts, it's clear that they did. And while Democrats benefited from an energized party base, the key to the victory was in the contested center of the electorate, among moderates, independents, middle-class voters, and suburbanites. These voters could represent an expanded Democratic base, and an enduring progressive majority, if Democrats use their new power wisely.

In defense of their position, the DLC points out that Joe Lieberman, running as an independent, kicked the crap out of the challenger who knocked Joe out in the Democratic primary. Ned Lamont won the Democratic nomination by motivating the "democratic wing of the democratic party", yet the voters of Connecticut as a whole said "NO" and chose the more conservative (yet still Democratic, as it turns out, Lieberman) The implication presumably is that, like Dean, while this wing won in cyberspace, it loses in the real world of a general election.

It seems to me that we must, as a party, take the time between now and the New Year to find out where our BASIC COMMON INTERESTS are, and fight, hard, for those. When he re-forged our modern Democratic Party, Franklin Delano Roosevelt managed to unite disparate wings into a unified center- it is time to look at moving in that direction again.

What are those basic interests?

  • Social Security

  • A Vital Middle Class

  • A Decent Minimum Wage

  • A Less Reckless Military Strategy

  • Rebuilding Our International Relationships

  • A balanced Budget and a Healthy Government

There are even more things we, as Democrats, can agree on. But this is certainly a start to the list.

It is time to dig down to the bedrock of what makes us Democrats and fight on those lines. I don't think I'm engaging in hyperbole when I say that the future of the nation is dependent on our success in finding common ground.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pretty Flowers

Now that the political season is over, at least for the moment, I thought that it would be worth taking a moment to reflect on some of the more important things in life. It seems to me that, often, we take the good, simple things for granted. Like a vase of flowers, for ex----


We interrupt this blog with a Special Report

Losses on ballot measures jolt religious

Woman bitten by snake at church dies

If you can not access this special report hear it at:

We now return you to our regular blog.


--- And that's why I think we should ALL take a moment to smell the pretty flowers. Thanks for listening.

It's A Walter Wrenchall Wednesday.

alt egoGood Day, and welcome to this week's edition of Rip and Read with Walter Wrenchall. This week: Chinese Contraceptives and an unprofessional swipe at the Vice President.

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear Walter by clicking this link: Rip and Read Audio

Look for Walter back again next Monday!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Night- I Feel Lucky

So ends the first campaign in which I actually took part as more than a simple voter. Last winter, I decided that, after years of watching from the sidelines, this would be the year that I would volunteer and put my hours (since I don't have much money) where my mouth is.

And so I volunteered for the Welch campaign, and, as we now know, Peter Welch will be the first Democrat to represent Vermont in the House since the late 50s! (That, according to VPR. And of course, as a socialist independent, Bernie doesn't count!)

The most exciting thing about this campaign, however, has been learning (despite the 27 years that I've lived in this state) how lucky we are to live in Vermont.
This campaign has shown me, once again, how democracy really does work best in a small place. In Vermont, I got to meet ALL the candidates for statewide office, and make up my own mind about them, despite the media bombardment to which we, like the rest of the nation, were subjected. I spent the day as a side-checker for the Democrats at one of the polling places, and when my shift was over, got a chance to see Scudder Parker, Democrat for Governor, working for his votes the hard way- one hand at a time. But, that's the Vermont way.

At the end of the night, I found my way to the Democratic Party's Victory Party. In that room, this simple volunteer found himself rubbing elbows with United States Senators, former Governors, and a host of other "newsmakers". I have to admit, it was a lot of fun, and at the same time, I kept wondering how much money it would have cost me to be in similar rooms around the nation. I was proud to live in Vermont, where you can earn your place by simply volunteering your time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Adding Links - Making Friends

The great thing about having a lot of links on your blog, or your website, is that it makes you look like you've got a lot of friends. Having lots of friends, with lots of links, is a great way to make yourself feel important.

So...it is with great pleasure that I add another link to my blogroll. Today, I welcome Heather, an old friend from grade school. Heather brings a individual outlook to life by filtering things through her unique sense of humor

I've always enjoyed Heather's sense of humor. Particularly when, in 5th grade, she poured water on the sled run, let it freeze, and allowed me to go shooting over a 50 foot embankment at the bottom of the hill. Oh yes. A fascinating sense of humor, Heather has...

So, if the spirit moves you, check out Gourmet Knitting Disaster and enjoy the wry wit of this member of underpaid lower management as she spills coffee, balances on the bureau at 3:00 am, or spends the day with a chicken foot tied to her hair. It's worth the trip.

And, even if you don't go, at least I know that I have friends...because I have links!

Lost And Adrift

Just casting a glance over the AP Wire on My Yahoo page and saw this headline that I'd overlooked earlier: Why do so few people vote in the U.S.?

The article gives all the usual reasons, voter disgust with negative campaigning, voter disillusion with politics in general (taking on a quick tour through Nixon, Clinton, and W's non-existent WMDs).

But to me, the real gold was near the bottom of the article:

Most broadly, the poll found that non-voters are not just disconnected from politics, but also from their communities. Non-voters were less likely to trust others, to have a strong support network of friends and family or to know their neighbors than regular voters were.

and the article quotes Curtis Gans, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University:

"We've had the fragmenting and atomization of our society," Gans said, driven by the 500-channel TV culture, the interstate, strip malls, abandonment of farms and the rise of the Internet. "All of those things have undermined community."

I've been trying to convince a friend of mine who's been feeling a little rootless and a little lonely to volunteer for some public cause: a soup kitchen, a political campaign. She mentioned that she wasn't convinced that it would be "worth it" (I think she was talking mostly about volunteering for politics, not the soup kitchen.) I think that, just by being able to sink a few roots into the soil in which you live, you begin to build community, and that is a good thing no matter who wins or looses an election.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

War Games

War games conducted by top level American Officials in 1999 revealed that, even with as many as 400,000 troops involved, American intervention in Iraq stood a good chance of degenerating into anarchy and violence.

According to an Associated Press article by John Heilprin which was posted at 4:48 AM Eastern Time, November 5th, and which seems to have fallen"below the fold" as of 8:43 AM Eastern Time, November 5th, the George Washington University requested, and received, a declassified report describing the results of the games.

(It's a good thing I'm old enough to have to go pee in the middle of the night, or I would have missed it.)

The AP article provides a link to the George Washington University's "National Security Archives" page...but when R&R tried to access it, we were served an error message from the University. Not being conspiracy theorists, we'll try again later. The URL is:

The AP article goes on to offer excepts from the report:
  • "A change in regimes does not guarantee stability," the 1999 seminar briefings said. "A number of factors including aggressive neighbors, fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines, and chaos created by rival forces bidding for power could adversely affect regional stability."

  • "Even when civil order is restored and borders are secured, the replacement regime could be problematic- especially if perceived as weak, a puppet, or out-of-step with prevailing regional governments."

  • "Iran's anti-Americanism could be enflamed by a U.S.-led intervention in Iraq," the briefings read. "The influx of U.S. and other western forces into Iraq would exacerbate worries in Tehran, as would the installation of a pro-western government in Baghdad."

  • "The debate on post-Saddam Iraq also reveals the paucity of information about the potential and capabilities of the external Iraqi opposition groups. The lack of intelligence concerning their roles hampers U.S. policy development."

  • "Also, some participants believe that no Arab government will welcome the kind of lengthy U.S. presence that would be required to install and sustain a democratic government."

Mr. Hailprin goes on to point out that many of these predictions are similar to what actually transpired...go figure!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Take It On Faith

Penetrating the essence of the peasants’ faith is difficult. Essentially, it was a belief in the supernatural. They revered [the Pope] not as the Vicar of Christ [but] more like a great magician….if the pontiff’s magic failed, they would begin to turn away from him.
-William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire, 1992

In the dark ages, mankind lived by his faith (or perhaps it is more proper to say, by his superstition). This happened because Science was inadequate to meet the needs of the day. It did not explain the invisible plagues that crept through the land; it did not explain the things that went bump in the night.

So, mankind used his superstition to provide a framework upon which to hang the often troubling events that defined his world: Vampires, Werewolves, and Satan himself prowled the landscape. These dark images served very well to provide some rationale, some explanation, for those troubles which beset him.

Today, we are plagued by the opposite problem. Science has postulated so much information that those of us who either don’t have the education to understand, or who do not wish to take the time away from our daily lives (by far, I think, the greater number) have chosen to operate on faith.

In a world where we are beset by offerings of new information: podcasts, blogs, talk radio, streaming talk radio, TV, You-Tube, newsfeeds, RSS, and, of course, old fashioned books and newspapers, printed on honest-to-god paper, the possibilities are endless, and the shades and nuances of truth are, like my computer’s monitor, displayed in “millions of colors”.

In the end, who has the time to chase them all down? Did Kerry insult the troops, or did he take a righteous shot at the President and get quoted out of context by the Right Wing Media. Is the economy failing, or is it growing? Is Global Warming a fact? If so, is it part of the natural course of things, or is it the result of human activity? Can we stop it? Should we try?

In the end, most of us, and I must include myself, begin to act on faith. We operate on what we believe to be true.

In an article in The New Republic, Alan Wolfe reviews Tempting Faith, a book by David Kuo, a former Bush Administration official. In it, Wolfe describes the mindset of those evangelical Christians who help put Bush in office, and who helped keep him there:

Born-again Christians tend not to be liturgical in their religious practices;
spontaneity of expression takes priority over never-changing ritual. They are
not given to excessive theological exegesis; the text of the Bible tells them
all they need to know. They generally prefer their rock music to Bach and
Handel. Compared with Catholics, they are distrustful of hierarchy. Compared
with Jews, they emphasize belief over observance. Compared with their mainline
Protestant brethren, they worship with enthusiasm. And compared with every other
religion on the face of the earth, they judge sincerity by the power of the
stories that they tell each other.

And also…

Sincerity, for them, is everything, which is another way of saying that facts are nothing. The proof of their faith is its credulity.

Meaning, of course, that it boils down to two things: Keep It Simple, Stupid; and, the greater your ability to believe without proof, the more you exhibit to God and the world that you have Faith.

In arguing with conservative friends, I have been amazed at their ability to completely block out what I believe to be overwhelming evidence that the Bush Administration has failed on almost every front.

But, looking at this, I realize that their worldview does not depend on the evidence, or on logical argument. In a world defined exclusively by Faith, logic holds no place at all. Science and empirical reasoning do not hold sway. If the Bible says the world stopped spinning, then it stopped spinning; a man walked upon the water; and water was literally changed into wine.

When one is dealing with faith of this sort, a faith which, for some, postulates that George W. Bush is part of this great plan, one must not expect logic to carry the day: because Faith is a defense mechanism employed expressly to fill the gap created by lack of specific knowledge. It doesn’t matter if that knowledge is lacking because it does not exist (as in the Middle Ages) or because it is too complex to grasp (as in modern times.)
The result is the same.

Many of us despise this childlike and foolish ability to deny facts, to embrace faith, and thus avoid finding REAL solutions. But the lesson to draw from this is that we, too, must always be on guard against our own tendency toward Faith. Faith is, in the end, harmful. It stands in the way of progress. It doesn’t matter if one’s gods are God, or Rachael Carson, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Jefferson, Eugene Debs, or Karl Marx. Everything must be subject to examination. Even our own certainty.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see if the people’s faith in “the great magician”, George W. Bush, and his congressional minions, will show solid signs of failing next Tuesday.

If so, I hope that those who will begin to gather in the reins of leadership have a better plan than taking everything on Faith.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Changing Spots

“Well, well! What next?... Brother Mycroft is coming round…It is as if you met a tram-car coming down a county lane. Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them...What upheavel could have possibly derailed him?”

It is with these words that Sherlock Holmes announces that his brother, Mycroft, is going to do something very out of character: leave his stodgy club and pay a visit to the detective and his friend.

I recalled them because today struck me as a day in which a lot of people did things that were out of character.

First of all, Rip and Read did something out of character: we actually went to a newsworthy event rather than simply engaging in our usual style of, well, rip and read “journalism.”

The event in question was the “Victory Rally” hosted by Senate Candidate Bernard Sanders. If you are one of the faithful, as I am, it was great. Rousing speeches, enthusiasm, cheering, and a heartily expressed wish on the part of all present to see George W. Bush become the lamest of all lame duck presidents that ever were.

So, at a gathering headed by Bernie, and showcasing Patrick Leahy, Peter Welch, Gaye Symington, and a host of other Democrats, what did I find that was out of character?

Well, the fact that it happened at all really.

In his Freyne Land entry, Peter Freyne described the new dynamic duo, Leahy and Sanders, Vermont’s new U.S. Senate delegation: They move well together. Smoothly. Like an old couple.
He's right, they do. And, while it is encouraging to an old faithful Democrat like me to see such a powerful and coordinated show, it is also odd. See, I’ve been in Vermont long enough to remember another Bernie. A Bernie with wilder hair, dirtier sweaters, and no idea how to tie a tie. And that Bernie used to thunder on endlessly, castigating us who had faith in the Democratic Party (the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and, yes, Patrick Leahy) lambasting us as mere Democans and Republocrats.

Used to set my teeth on edge.

And while I am grateful to have him on our side for a change... I still have to wonder when and why Bernie, who used to have his rails and run on them, jumped the track.
Did he sell out? Or did he just grow up?

In either event I, for one, am grateful for the change.

Oh, and the other out of character happening? Well, this is more a wish than a fact, but I hope it is going to be this: Karl Rove chokes (figuratively- I write, just in case the Justice Department is reading) on Election Day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Incomplete Works of...

This morning, I read an article in the New York Times On Line on market segmentation within the malls of America.

But as retail companies race to open new chains that serve ever-smaller slices of the population they are using storefronts cloaked in wood and brick to ward off those who do not belong inside (and whose presence might diminish the shopping experience of those who do).

The copy of Newsweek that I'm reading now has an article about a reporter who finally swore off botox and who swears she will swear off fighting the aging process, and right next to her is a picture of Nicole Ritchie (whoever the hell she is) looking like death...warmed over. (Or like a young version of Nancy Reagan, which ever you prefer.)

At any rate all of this inspired the beginnings of "deep thoughts" about the ever growing tendency in our society to segment ourselves into groups of people exactly like ourselves.

And I'll try to write about this...I will...but now I have to go to the dentist...so I offer this musing instead:

Ever walk by your bookshelf and notice these kinds of titles: The Complete Works of So and So?

I did, just this morning, notice such a title on my shelf: The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain and I wondered...would an incomplete work feature pages of offerings like this?

In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, "Thish-yer Smiley had a mare-- the boys called her the fifteen minute nag-- he set the frog down and took out after the feller, but he never katched him."

And then I wondered. Are these two topics really the same? Am I perpetrating modern art. Will I make the dentist on time if I keep writing?