Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sensible Commentary On Afghanistan

Here is the most sensible essay I've read on Afghanistan. Keep it mind it's written by a retired Army Colonel.


Whether It Worked Or Not Torture Is Illegal

Here's a piece by William Pfaff on the right question to ask. Not does or did torture work, but is it legal? Regardless of one's opinion on the first question the second question cannot be answered by an opinion, 'just the facts, Mam'.

Torture is illegal.

As for what constitutes torture, that's what the investigation would be all about. The released memos pretty much clear up who ordered it, who wrote the memos and who practiced it.

Let the law take us where it leads us. Thomas Friedman claims that bringing charges against such people as George W. Bush and his cronies would tear the nation apart. Hardly. We survived the humiliation of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. That's because we are a nation of laws, or at least purport to be. Feeling squeamish about humiliating famous people is a symptom of a nation of ruled by powerful people, not a nation governed within the law.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Insight

Monday's Cape Cod Times printed a message from Edward R. Morrow which grabbed my attention.

"Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices---just recognize them".

Compare and contrast that kind of message with what we are offered today on TV and radio, as evidenced by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Are we not diminshed as a people when and if enough of us ascribe to what these charlatans tell us is their truth? They make $Millions by preying on the paranoia of those who are easily led to believe the emotional rants of those who claim to be concerned about their fears.

There is a need to recognize the blatant prejudices of the far right wing nuts.


Why We Must Investigate and Prosecute, Part II

Here's a fine piece which gives proper relevance to the issue of whether or not we are a real democracy with a rule of law.

The argument that investigating and prosecuting alleged criminals would get in the way of moving forward is baloney, as long as the investigators are not politicians. Appointing a commission comprised of politicians would of course be a disaster.

A group of judges sworn to uphold the Constitution should prohibit the investigation from becoming a partisan witch hunt and the attendant retribution which would accompany it.

If the investigation turns up evidence that should lead to prosecution of alleged crimes we should let the law take us where it leads, whoever is accused of such crimes, without regard to party affiliation or ideological persuasion.

It's not about retribution, it's about justice. It's about core values and principles. If we don't defend the Constitution we could have the best health care system , the best education system and the best environmentally safe system in the Universe, and lose our country as we know and love it. If we sacrifice on the altar of wealth and power the founding principles of the republic The United States would cease to be America.


Why We Must Investigate and Prosecute

Here is the best essay I've found on the torture issue.


Monday, April 27, 2009

The Left and the Right Beliefs; Truths and Consequences

I voted for Obama. I did my best to look at the the facts, resisted the temptation of denial, thought and felt that he would be a better leader for the country than McCain for the most fundamental of reasons.

Obama's message came across to me as, "Ask questions first, and shoot later, if necessary", as opposed to McCain's message, which came across to me as, "Shoot first and ask questions later if necessary."

His fundamental world view has it that talking not fighting is the first thing to try. I still support that.

However I think he should encourage the DOJ to investigate and prosecute any criminals, however highly place, powerful and wealthy they may be, who are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity. Torture is one of those crimes and it is illegal.

If the investigation is put in the hands of judges, perhaps retired judges, it can be carried out without being partisan or even bi-partisan, which could keep it out of the news until it's made public.

In my view this course is essential to the recovery of the nation's trust in its system of justice.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Here's more evidence that crimes against humanity were committed by powerful people in government during the past eight years. Possible perpetrators include Vice President Dick Cheney, as suggested by the author of this piece.

The author, Andrew Sullivan, by his own story, is of the Conservative persuasion. But his persuasion is not anything like the so-called Neocon variety. Sullivan honors, respects and identifies with the positive, perhaps even original, connotations of the word; responsible, honest, careful, not hasty, prudent, fiscally good stewards, to cite a few. The Neocon version, judged by its actions, not its words, exhibits opposite characteristics.

Some examples: Take the country to war that was not essential to its security, though they lied trying to make a case that it was. Squander a healthy budget surplus bequeathed to it by the previous administration. Cut taxes for the wealthiest, and thus most powerful, Americans. Spend $Billions per month on that Iraq war of choice.

Neocons effectively hijacked a word, term, label which implied respectability, and used it to entice the gullible to grab the bait on their hook, a lure which made it seem appealing, simple,
easy to chose, and camoflaged by simplistic shibboleths like "patriotic", "good versus evil", and other fear inducing propaganda.

And here's a view which I had not considered, because I had not known about it. Glenn Greenwald interviewed a UN official who finds that the US is obligated to investigate accusations of torture as a signatory to certain parts of International Law.

Three well known and reputable opinion columnists employed by the New York Times recently have written eloquently on the subject. Frank Rich makes a strong case here, as does Nicholas Kristof here, and Paul Krugman here.

Like you, these are genuine American patriots in the broadest sense, wanting what's best for our country, not just the narrow, militaristic, polarizing sense which the Cheney/Bush administration promulgated.

I was one who wholeheartedly supported you for president, mostly because I evaluated you as an honorable, highly moral human being. Because of that I'm surprised and disappointed in your clear wish that we not investigate allegations of torture, especially in view of the fact that you authorized the release to the public of the memos which document that torture was advocated, authorized and managed by the highest officials in our land during the past eight years.

I have no doubt that you want to be a president who is known now and hereafter for your positive contributions to the well being of Americans. In view of that, consistent with that, and especially because of that, I am convinced that you should make public your view that we must allow the law to take us where it leads, if you have any hope of restoring the confidence of Americans' trust in US Justice. The powerful and wealthy Americans are supposed to be held accountable to the laws of the land, just as are the rest of us.

It's claimed that we are a nation of laws.
Please make sure that it's really true and not simply a feel good shibboleth or slogan.

Give Justice a chance.


A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

John P. (for Power) Murtha

It's becoming painfully clear that the only thing I can admire about Congressman Murtha is his opposition to Bush's Iraq invasion.

Seems he's better known as a Congressman/Lobbyist for his homebodies. What's that shibboleth about power? I think it's "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

As an Independent I'm for supporting good politicians of any stripe taking down bad politicians of any stripe. Obama says it's time to change the way stuff is done in Washington.
Murtha is all about the stuff that needs to be changed.

He's no cleaner than the former senator from Alaska.
He should be a former Congressman from PA.

Arrogance, no matter the stripe, is ugly.


That's What I'm Sayin'

I wholeheartedly agree with what both Greenwald and Sullivan say here.


Friday, April 24, 2009

We Aren't All That Exceptional

Here's Pat Lang, retired Colonel, US Army, on whether to investigate or not investigate allegations of torture. He's of two minds on the matter, but the second mind is the one I admire and support.

So far Congress(Democrats of course, not Republicans) seems more gutsy about this than the president. It seems that Obama is convinced that following where the law will take us on this matter will do more harm than good to the country. I understand that, but I also believe that by not following where the law will take us, we will be turning our backs on a basic premise on which this country was founded and on which it has relied, that we are a nation of laws.

Those who fear investigation are in fact afraid of future retribution visited on the republic by the nastiest of its citizens. What is called for is not retribution but justice, which is essential to the recovery of the nation's trust that all who commit crimes will be held responsible, including the powerful and the wealthy.

A mirror needs to be held up to the reality of the last eight years.

If the Bush/Cheney cabal were viewed as the elected mafia it was, perhaps the faint of heart would begin to understand and find some courage. Where is Eliot Ness when we need him?


The Rule of Law; Not Optional/Reclaiming the Soul

Here's WaPo's Gene Robinson on pursuing the allegations of torture on the part of the Cheney/Bush administration.

And here's the Times' Paul Krugman on it.

Each of these gentlemen make important points in their arguments for investigating the allegations of torture and prosecuting those who are accused of masterminding it.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wonder What He's Thinking Today

Shepard Smith of Fox News threw aside all caution in his use of language to denounce torture.

I wonder if he's worried about his career today. He's put his boss in a bad place.
I judge him not, but he's sure to be judged. Perhaps he will resign from Fox News.

Perhaps he and Chris Wallace will do something together outside of Fox. In my opinion those two don't fit the Fox propaganda machine. But first Smith will need to make a strong mea culpa apology to all who saw and will see what he said. There, but for the grace of God, go I.


Not This Time

Generally I agree with much of what Roger Cohen writes in his NYTimes column, but not this time.

Here is his reasoning for not prosecuting those who committed crimes against humanity.

As I wrote in a comment I posted in response to his column, "Justice, not retribution, is necessary for recovery of the country's trust that all are to be held responsible for crimes, including the powerful and the wealthy".

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Likud Israel Governments

I found this piece helpful in trying to understand the big picture with respect to Israel/Palestinians/Iran.


Still Wonder Why Blogs Are So Numerous, And Essential?

Here's Glenn Greenwald of Salon on the MSM's refusal to give any time and space to the retired generals/Pentagon scandal analyst scandal.

That's even after David Barstow, who broke the story, received a Pulitzer for it yesterday.
He's a NYTimes journalist for crying out loud, and the Times is one of the MSM which is stuffing it.

Keep up the blogging people. Sometimes it's the only way to find out what's really going on.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Fear as a Tragic Cultural Meme

Here, again, is Roger Cohen on Israel being Israel's biggest problem.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Perhaps Worth Your Time, If You Take Your Time

Here's a link to an article, actually an essay, in the April issue of Atlantic Magazine.

It's a little long, and I'm often reluctant to start reading long pieces because too often I find them long mostly because the publisher thought they should be, and found a way that the writer could say the same thing over and over again, by adding statistics, anecdotes and personal experiences , in an attempt to justify a reader's investment of time and money.

In this case I'm glad I stuck it out. Perhaps that's because it was the only reading material left and still unread on the stool at the foot of the ceramic throne.

While that's true, it's also true that, by my sticking to it, the message intended by its author, has registered instructive and well with me.


The Crime of Just Following Orders

A tip of the hat to The Old New Englander for this post on his blog.

The operative phrase here is "I thought we settled this issue at Nuremburg".

These people committed crimes against humanity. They must have understood that, and, even if they didn't, their ignorance doesn't render them innocent. They should be tried in court.


Tea Party Nonsense

Here's Gail Collins exposing the motivations of wing nut politicians and pundits who prey on the paranoia of dimwits.

Any attempt to compare today's soggy tea baggers with the historical Boston Tea Party patriots is simply silly.

Collins does a good job of pointing out the facts which give the lie to the propaganda. I particularly like the observations which shine the spotlight on the hypocrisy of those who holler about government spending when they as individuals and even in some cases their own states are net beneficiaries of government largess.

Gov. Perry is an example of a politician poster boy for right wing hypocrisy. Limbaugh is the equivalent for pundits.


Friday, April 17, 2009

'Reading Obama Wrong'

Here is another insightful piece by M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum.

It speaks for itself.


Brooks on Israel; 'A Loud and Promised Land'

I found this piece by David Brooks of the Times fascinating. I also recommend reading the Editors' Selections of Comments, particularly the comments of Sandy in Chicago and Ruth Mergi of Israel.

My criticism of the column has to do with Brooks' tendency to romanticize Israeli culture, and his conclusion that peace is at least a generation away. If what Sandy of Chicago says is true the culture which Brooks describes has survived untold generations and will not change in just one or two more.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

You Won't See This In The MSM

Here's a report by M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum about the Obama's administration's recent message to Netanyahu and right wing Israel.

Doubtful that this kind of report will be run by the MSM. Essentially it's a signal to the new Israel Prime Minister that he needs to play ball and not just expect intentional passes, and that the name of the game is "A Two State Solution".

Here's part of IPF's "Where We Stand" mission statement: "Israel Policy Forum(IPF) promotes active U.S. engagement to achieve a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict---".


Monday, April 13, 2009

More Right Thinking from Roger Cohen

Here's Roger Cohen with more on Iran.

It's also about the US and Israel, as all things Middle East are.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward by John Donne

Here is Andrew Sullivan's contribution to Good Friday.

It's even moving to an agnostic.


Evaluating the Two State Solution

Here is a somewhat lengthy piece which deals with the viability of Two State Solution in the Middle East.

The Voice found it to be helpful by reading a summary of events in that part of the world over several decades. It appears to be reasonable objective, even though it is more critical of the PA than Israel. The criticism is stated with moderate language, and avoids appearing extremist.

The essay is helpful in moderating one's expectations for a imminent peace between Israel and the Palestinians.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Crying Wolf

This is a rather remarkable column by Roger Cohen, once again berating Israel's right wing leaders.

He actually called The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, Netanyahu's favorite stenographer.

Goldberg is the pundit who titled his interview with Netanyahu on the day he became Israel's Prime Minister, 'Obama, Stop Iran or I Will'.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

See For Yourself

Here's a video of Obama meeting the Saudi guy. The White House said it was not a bow, but Obama leaning over since he's taller than the other guy.

If what I saw is not a bow, Obama had a momentary low back spasm.

Why are they lying when their lying eyes see otherwise? This kind of nonsense is shameful.

This is not a monkey cowering in the presence of an Alpha Male for Pete's sake.

Obama is very alert to the customs of those he greets. It's part of his intelligent approach when interacting with all peoples. The testosterone crowd will "stiffen their backs" or "get their backs up" over anything that doesn't convey toughness. This small gesture, as a sign of respect for Saudi culture, is disarming, because it conveys a needed expression of American acceptance that others are exceptional too, not just Americans.

Exceptional doesn't mean wonderful, holy, free of bad actions and policy. It means that something or somebody is significantly above average.

After eight years of Cowboy swagger which all the world experienced Obama's courtesy and graciousness is sorely needed.

The White House should tell the Neocons to grow up. We're not playing in a grammar school playground here. Then it should take credit for Obama's approach to all peoples, and discipline the idiot who told the media it was no bow, even if that idiot is Obama himself, which I surely doubt.




Tuesday, April 7, 2009

End of Philosopy? Oh Really

Here's David Brooks playing armchair cultural anthropologist again.

The comments are interesting too. Mine is toward the end of them.

He plays fast and loose in his argument. At one point in the piece he includes both competition and cooperation as behaviors favored by evolution. But gradually he reveals his bias toward cooperation.

Toward the end he writes, "The evolutionary approach leads some scientists to neglect --". Note that he has moved from questioning the competitive approach to the evolutionary approach in general. What would he substitute for the "evolutionary approach"? Is this a nod to the Religionists who contend that morals come from God? Would he substitute Creationism?

In his enthusiasm for the value of cooperation he conveniently avoids the reality that cooperation is a group form of competition, on behalf of a family, tribe, religion or secular institution intended for the survival of one's group.

In his panning of reasoning as a positive behavior he reveals his own sloppy example of it.


Monday, April 6, 2009

More Honest People Coming Forward

Here's a post by Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis on a life long diplomat who is Jewish and who is outspoken when it comes to some Israeli actions over the years, as well as some fellow Americans who thought he would not be objective when it came to Israel. Some in Washington found him mentally unfit to serve when he aired suspicions that Israeli's were behind a 1988 plane crash that killed the then president of Pakistan.

The surprise in the piece is the revelation that this man, John Gunther Dean, accuses Israel of attempting to assassinate him.

He goes on my list of patriotic Jewish Americans who are also somewhat public figures; politicians, journalist, diplomats. I've mentioned some others before, including Roger Cohen, Robert Dreyfus, M.J. Rosenberg, to name just three. I'd like to hear about others you might know of.

Update 1: Here's an essay by a Rabbi which is promising. The Rabbi goes on my list, in an added category; theologian.

My hope is that such people get as much attention in the media as AIPAC and other advocates of the right wing in Israel.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Here's a piece I hope lots of folks will read. It's about what's been called the fecklessness and parochial behavior of Congress

I have been concerned that there seems to be no pulling together in the Democratic Party, even after Obama was elected, and he being largely responsible for the large Dem majorities in both houses of Congress. Reid and Pelosi seem to take umbrage at their president's wanting them to be team players. As the GOPhers took delight in reminding us for the past eight years, elections have consequences.

These fractious and much too public behaviors by the Dems in Congress are vulnerabilities which are picked up on by all the GOPhers who are looking in every nook and cranny to discredit the Dems. It's not uncommon to read a right wing pundit write about why Dems can't govern, as if they share a gene that renders them helpless in that area of life, governing challenged would be the PC language.

Republicans are good at acknowleging, obeying, falling in line and following their leader, often to a fault as we observed for the past eight years. Democrats seem to prefer arguing within the ranks even publicly, not so much to compete for the position of Drill Instructor but out of a seemingly constitutionally personal need to question authority.

I, as an off the scale cynic when it comes to following the leader without question, understand this behavior. It's essential, necessary and healthy to a point. It becomes a self defeating behavior when it's carried beyond that point. What and where is that point? Clearly it's not as clear as that point below which water freezes, or above which water boils.

One has to fall back on and put trust in the old axioms, 'you will know it when you see it' and ' Taint easy McGee'.

My experience has it that there is a time and place for discussing and a time and place for deciding. Both uses of time and place are necessary and valuable. So what's the problem?

If there is a problem it's likely to be more about the place than the time.

I take issue with the writer's claim that Bush did not have a policy. Yes, it wasn't public policy, it was a policy to feather the nests of his cronies in big business, in the financial institutions and in the military/industrial establishment. He had eight years to do it and he did a great job at it.

He took a handsome surplus and in only a few years turned it into, and left us with, the mess we find ourselves in now.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

If It Smells Like a Skunk---

Here's a column by Glenn Greenwald of Salon on the evidence emerging that the Obama administration's lead financial gurus have made big bucks from those institutions they're supposed to be cleaning up.

I'm definitely not happy with what I'm reading about this, and most definitely not happy finding myself criticizing Obama.

I'd like to hear from anyone who isn't as concerned as I am about this, and/or who believes that it's not a problem.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Diogenes Need Not Fear Unemployment

Hello? Are there any honest people out there? Honest people are usually counted on to be reasonable, trustworthy and honorable.

I've given up on asking if there are any adults out there? The connotation of the word "adult" that has to do with enough living experience to not go off half cocked has been offset by the obvious existence of more people than one wants to admit whose living experience results in their going off half cocked.

Here again is a link to the blog of Col. Pat Lang, US Army, Retired.

This particular link takes one to a specific post to his blog, one which asked for opinions about what routes Israel's planes might take to get to their targets in Iran. It's all about minimizing the risk of being shot down or being detected.

The responses to his request are revealing, no so much in their analysis, but in their willingness, if not eagerness, to participate, join in a discussion of how to pull off what could lead to a disaster of Armageddon-like consequences.

One of the commenters goes by the name, "Mad Dog".

To me the most important comment posted was by Pat Lang himself, in his comment to the commenters. Read it here. The clue to the real point of his opinion is, I believe, in his use of the the phrase "An Israel". It would be a mistake to conclude that Pat Lang expects and predicts that Israel will attack Iran. That he believes and expects Israel, under new hard line management, to try to manipulate Obama to attack Iran seems clear.

In his use of the phrase "An Israel" he seems to be saying that there might come a time when Israel, led by hard line hawks, throws caution to the winds and actually attacks Iran, or any of it's perceived enemies. An a concomitant to such a policy, Lang believes, would be the willingness of the hawkish leaders to use nuclear weapons in their attack. In other words, if Israel's leaders are so foolish as to attack Iran, their foolishness would include using nuclear weapons in that attack. It's not Israel he fears, it's those hard line militants, zealots, who might lead Israel over the cliff.

It's a particularly relevant observation right now, since genuine hard liners have come back into power in Israel; Netanyahu as Prime Minister and Lieberman as Foreign Minister and also Deputy Prime Minister. The folks at the Israel Policy Forum, sensible, reasonable Israel advocates, also observe that Ehud Barak, the leader of the so-called Labor Party, who has thrown in with Netanyahu to form a coalition government, is seen as someone who craves power and is willing to align himself with a political party in which he can be in a position of power, even though that party has traditionally been associated with a world view contrary to his own. In other words, Ehud Barack, by joining Netanyahu, has secured for himself a position of power and influence. As such he can't be counted on to be much of a moderating influence on Netanyahu, who will be pummeled by the Zealot Settlers, and Ultra Orthodox Jews and their Fundamentalist spiritual leaders, who claim, genuinely or conveniently, that God, once again, has led them, His Chosen People, out of exile and back to their Promised Land.

Pat Lang has won my admiration for his advocacy of diplomacy, discussion and negotiation. It is not lost on me that he came to that approach by way of his military career, on the ground, realistic appraisals, with experience in Intelligence in the Middle East, and if I recall accurately, in Israel proper. By virtue of that background and reputation he continues to be consulted on such matters, and apparently continues to have access to those who hold positions of power.

I pay attention to what he thinks, as expressed in what he writes for those of us in the general public.

I have become suspicious and cynical about what I read in the alleged Main Stream Media. But one needs to trust somebody on some things, if one hopes to maintain a reasonably healthy mental and emotional connection to life. Pat Lang is that Somebody on the Something, the Middle East, for me.


Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic Magazine took great journalist liberties in his obvious wish to draw attention to his interview with "Bibi" by entitling his piece with this charged language, his, not Netanyahu's, "Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran--Or I will". To what end did Goldberg use his own words to portay Netanyahu as the in-your-face foreign leader to challenge Obama, as Joe Biden predicted months ago?

But I'm prone to be so cynical as to look for hidden agendas everywhere.(I no longer use the word "Conspiracy" because those who use it are so mocked as deranged that they are smeared and discredited to the point of being labelled and irrelevant.)

'Syria Calling'

Anytime Seymour Hersh weighs in on an important issue one should read what he has to say.

Here is his latest New Yorker Magazine piece. It's quite long and complex, dealing with a wide array of chess pieces on the board and it takes some concentration.

He seems to hold out hope that something good can come of talks between Syria and Israel in spite of the hard line position taken by the new Israeli government, especially by Avigdor Lieberman, the new Foreign Minister.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper

In For A Penny

Here's Col. Pat Lang's opinion on how Israel might attack Iran. It's his personal comment on comments he asked for in his post about what flight routes might take if they attacked Iran.

It's been 64 years since a nuclear weapon was used in anger, to the best of my knowledge. That's all but eight years of my life. It's distressing to know that a man of Lang's experience and savvy in such matters has come to this opinion.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper


Forget the idea of peace in Israel/Palestine for now. Here's the new Israeli Foreign Minister on that.

Chase the balls you can catch, and this one's uncatchable now, and will be for a long time. So what else is new?

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper

Lost in Translation

Here are the actual words spoken by Netanyahu in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg however put other words in the New Israel Prime Minister's mouth; to wit, 'To Obama, Stop Iran or I will'. That's the title of his piece on the interview.

How inflammatory can one get? This doesn't take away from the reality that Netanyahu is a hard liner, and in fact the actual words reveal that he would like the U.S. to take out Iran's nuclear program, but the actual words are not the in-your-face challenge implied by the title of the piece.

Other news sources didn't touch the phrase invented by Goldberg, and it was not in quotation marks as the title of the piece.

So we can add Goldberg to the Neocon crowd I guess, and perhaps I'm behind the times with that opinion. These are the people who like to stir the pot of ethnic distrust.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper