In the Humble Opinion of LittleBill, Socialist, Atheist, and Humanist
Paying for the Surge Troops (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Wednesday, February 28, 2007

If I remember correctly, the Great Divider decided to start the Troop Surge deliberately before the new Congress took office in January. This has been his dare to the new Congress to vote to refuse to finance those troops.

How would it be if the Congress took him up on the dare and voted to cut off the money? Let’s see if they have the courage and if the Great Divider has the guts to make that ego trip on his own and at the expense of the military forces.



Messenger said . . .

I'd settle for a non-binding resolution of censure telling the truth: The president fixed the intelligence and lied us into a costly and unnecessary war which he is too chickenshit to admit.
February 28, 2007

Beach Bum said . . .

While I still have faith that the new congress will rein in the Ferret, I'm leaving Iran out of the equation for right now, I too would settle for a non-binding resolution of censure Messenger.
February 28, 2007

Badger said . . .

To stop our Vietnam quagmire, Congress voted to cut off funding. What is wrong with this Congress? That is what is so scary as opposed to the 60s. These guys don't seem to react to anything anyone says or does. They just keep rolling ahead...smashing everything in their path.
March 3, 2007

Badger said . . .


March 3, 2007

"Don't cheer, boys.The poor devils are dying." (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Monday, February 26, 2007

George F. Will, of the Washington Post Writers Group starts his column with this heart-rending quote by Capt. John Philip of the Warship Texas, to his crew as they watched the Spanish ship Vizcaya burn off Santiago Bay, Cuba, in 1898. Mr. Will has written a very thought-provoking account of the cruelty which humans feel and exhibit toward each other during a war. It is a good reminder to those of us who were grownups at the time of World War II and an excellent lesson to those who were not yet born.

San Francisco Chronicle column



Messenger said . . .

This is an unusually readable comment for George Will; he doesn't slip in his usual quota of Weimar Republican zingers, perhaps because he is only commenting on Clint Eastwood's prize-winning Letters From Iwo Jima.
February 26, 2007

pekka said . . .

To expect outstanding human values and the war to prosper and to coexist simulataniously, is more or less a fantasy. I agree, that the way our world is, military, unfortunately, has it's justifiable role to play but only for those unfortunate ocassions when being attacked.

The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history and, as an European, I am not able to forget the sheer barbarity that was exhibited by the Germans and the Russians when they were fighting each other. Not that the rest of the particippants were Prince Valiants either.
February 26, 2007

LittleBill said . . .

Thanks for your comments. I was surprised to find such a really perceptive column by George Will, especially in this current world of Bush, in which we are all good, and our enemies are all evil.
February 27, 2007

English-Only Push Is Given a Proper Veto (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Saturday, February 24, 2007

See Cynthia Tucker,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on 02/14/07



LittleBill said . . .

I had to take three years of Latin and at least one year of two other languages to get into college. One of the advantages of those reqired classes is that I don't say "newcueler".
February 24, 2007

an average patriot said . . .

little bill
I really don't know how I feel about english only but I don't like having to press one for english or two for Spanish or that signs everywhere seem to be in Spanish too now.
You should keep your native language and heritage but I think you should also make an effort to learn ours.
My American Indian heritage has been totally wiped out and I can't say I agree with it but rather that I accept it.
February 24, 2007

an average patriot said . . .

little bill
I forgot to tell you I just can't get enough of looking at that picture of little bill and Mercury. Give Mercury a hug for me!
February 24, 2007

GetaLife-ReadUrNews said . . .

I don't care about signs, just that English proficiency be expected of any naturalized citizen. If you were born here, like the Average American Patriot here, or Bush, we lower our standards.....
February 24, 2007

LittleBill said . . .

I haven't traveled much outside of the US, only to Mexico and Jamaica, years ago. But it has been my impression that when many Americans go to foreign lands, they expect the people there to be able to speak English.

Also, languages were very hard for me to begin with, and I can imagine that it is very difficult for people with little education who come here and do hard physical labor all day may find it hard to find the time or energy to take classes in English.
February 25, 2007

an average patriot said . . .

little bill
I have to agree with you there but then again Americans as visitors expect others to know English but if we went to another country to live then it would be commensurate upon us to learn thast language.
Personally like you I am no good at other languages and I prefer to stay right here.
February 25, 2007

pekka said . . .

Intresting comments here!

English has really become de facto business language of the world. All the multi national companies back home use English as the working language. A few Americans who desire to learn the language of the natives are persuaded not to do so by people not willing to listen their strugle with it. Thus, those Americans claim, never having a change to learn the language.

I personally prefere, if any way possible, a person living permanently in another country to learn the local language. This guarantees him/her richer and more inclusive life in their adopted countries.
February 26, 2007

Two Must-Reads in the San Francisco Chronicle (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Friday, February 23, 2007

I have been meaning for some time to turn the rest of the world on to a column and a political comic strip in the Chronicle. I apologize for all of both that you may have missed.

The column is a regular feature entitled Jon Carroll, by Jon Carroll. He is one of the very best columnists I have ever read. He is serious about the world, the war, the environment, and everything else that counts. He is also witty and downright humorous. He talks about the mess we're in, his cats, his daughter who is in Circe de Soleil, politics in general, his vacations, the arts, his health, politics in particular, and so many other subjects that I can't even remember them. His columns appear 5 days a week, Monday through Friday.

The political comic strip is Farley created by Phil Frank. The fictional Farley, a former park ranger, is a reporter in San Francisco who works for the Daily Requirement - a thinly veiled Chronicle. You don't have to be or have been from San Francisco to get fun out of this comic strip. It covers the present tribulations of the current mayor (you would have loved it when the mayor was Willy Brown), the traffic, the politics, both in and around the San Francisco bay area and various characters dreamed up by Frank. Frank has a home in the city but works at a houseboat in Sausalito. Farley has been a daily strip appearing Monday through Saturday for three decades!



1 comment:

Vigilante said . . .

There is something about a RAVEN in this strip?
February 27, 2007

Imagine This (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Susan McCarthy is co-author of the New York Times bestseller "When Elephants Weep" (Delacorte, 1995) and author of "Becoming a Tiger" (HarperCollins, 2004). She is writing a book about reading the Bible as an atheist.

When you really have to denounce something, religion has the best vocabulary. Though I'm an atheist, I need to borrow that vocabulary, in order to talk clearly about the policy of refusing medical treatment to newborn babies whose parents are here illegally.

These babies are Americans, because they were born in the United States, but even if they weren't, they're babies, for crying out loud. They just got here, and each one is the definition of guiltlessness -- "as innocent as a newborn babe."

I'll start by using ordinary language to describe this policy. Under new instructions from the Bush administration on how to interpret the Deficit Reduction Act, before these babies can be treated, a Medicaid application must be submitted and approved. Sometimes that takes months, and there is to be no medical treatment for these infants until then. If their parents are trying to keep a low profile so they won't be deported, maybe the application won't be made at all.

The Deficit Reduction Act was sponsored by U.S. Reps. Nathan Deal and the late Charlie Norwood, Republicans of Georgia. Norwood said it was intended "to stop the theft of Medicaid benefits by illegal aliens."

The act doesn't mention babies, but last November unnamed administration officials said that their reading of the law mandates that applicants have to prove they're U.S. citizens before they can get Medicaid -- yes, even newborn citizens.

The object of the act is to punish illegal immigration. The way it is done is to endanger babies. Their mothers, though aliens, can get Medicaid on a temporary, emergency basis for delivery and post-natal care (for a year), but their American babies need to prove they're Americans before they can get benefits for things such as shots and eye drops. Even though the hospital just saw them born in America, a Medicaid application must be approved before the hospital can provide care. Unless the hospital would like to lose funding.

Anti-immigration commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, refer to the American-born children of aliens as "anchor babies," and view them as the tools of scheming invaders. They don't want the babies to get citizenship at all. In the meantime, apparently, no health care will teach them a lesson.

The Boston Globe says this is misguided, and the New York Times says it is harsh, dismal, pointless, cruel, paranoid and a sorry example of self-defeating spite. That's fairly strong language. But I think it goes beyond spite. I think it is a sin.

A sin, my OED says, is an "act which is regarded as a transgression of the divine law and an offence against God; a violation (esp. willful or deliberate) of some religious or moral principle." To refuse medical care to babies to make a point about where the administration stands -- or claims to stand -- on illegal immigration is, I believe, a sin. It is so clearly and brilliantly wrong, so shamelessly wicked, so flagrantly unfair, that sinful is the truest word to describe it.

I don't think our recognition of sin can only spring from religious belief. Atheists also believe in moral principles, which are violated by acts like these. I don't need religion to condemn inhumanity.

But pronouncing a secular anathema just isn't as impressive as pronouncing an anathema that has a god or gods and a church behind it. If you don't believe in demons, your exorcisms are going to be disappointingly nonspecific.

So I envy religion's vocabulary and imagery. The government officials who promulgated this policy, who have so far managed to remain unnamed -- I would like to use religious imagery when I speak of them. I would like to describe them burning in a fiery lake in hell. I would like to describe myself driving an ice-water truck along the shores of that lake, ringing my chimes merrily. I would like to describe the way, when those tormented officials plead for my ice water, I wave and shout, "Submit an application!"



pekka said . . .

Must have something to do with the more primitive times in our collective past, that makes us to lash against those whom are the least able to voice their objections. The most voiceless still are the poor, the old and the young. Of course, you can also include the women in many societies to this list. However, I find it very disturbing that the medical doctors would go against their Hippocratic oath, unless, it has turned out to be just another hypocritical piece of paper.
February 24, 2007

LittleBill said . . .

I'm with you, Pekka. This was all about babies and citizenship, of course, but your mention of the Hippocratic Oath brings to mind that I feel that people who are dying and in great pain and/or mental distress and want to leave this earth should be able to seek and receive the help of a physician.
February 25, 2007

pekka said . . .

There was this suggestion in your comment about a want to leave this earth. Indeed, it is not just repairing the damaged ones but it should also be to ease off the departures of those for whom the other options have come to their dead ends(no pun attempted). That we are not still there is a shame.
February 26, 2007

Thelma and Louise Imperialism (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Sunday, February 18, 2007

Over the Cliff with George and Dick?

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.

Engelhardt asks if we are going Over the Cliff with George and Dick?

Let me make an argument about Bush administration Iran policy -- about the possibility that a regime-change-style, shock-and-awe air assault might someday be launched on Iranian nuclear facilities and associated targets -- based on no insider knowledge, just the logic of George-and-Dick's Thelma-and-Louise-style imperialism.

Of course, we all know at least half the story by now. Is there anybody in official Washington -- other than our President, Vice President, the Vice President's secretive imperial staff, assorted backs-against-the-wall neocon supporters lodged in the federal bureaucracy, and associated right-wing think tanks -- who isn't sweating blood, popping pills, and wondering what in the world to do about our delusional leaders?

You only have to pick up the morning paper to find the most mainstream of official types in an over-the-top mode that, bare months ago, would have been confined to the distant peripheries of political argument. There's Senator Joe Biden, the very definition of a mainstream man, grilling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about whether she believes the administration already has the authority to attack Iran and swearing, if she does, that it "will generate a constitutional confrontation in the Senate, I predict to you." (You can add the exclamation point to that comment or to similar ones from the likes of Senators James Webb and Chuck Hagel among others.) Or how about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on presidential pronouncements in January?

"Much has been made about President Bush's recent saber rattling toward Iran. This morning, I'd like to be clear: The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization -- the current use of force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization."

Former officials are now crawling out of the Washington woodwork to denounce Bush/Cheney policy in Iraq and Iran with the fervor (however masked by official Washington language) of an exorcism. There, for instance, is former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in front of Congress, more or less predicting the end of the Roman… sorry, the American empire:

"The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability… If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large… A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated…"

There are three retired high military officials, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard (former assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara), U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar (former Centcom commander), and Navy Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan issuing a public letter insisting that attacking Iran "would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions." There's Paul Pillar, former CIA analyst for the Middle East, in the Washington Post warning: "Avoiding the next military folly in the Middle East requires that the agenda for analysis and debate not be so severely and tendentiously truncated as before Iraq."

Even Secretary of State Rice, new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and hardline National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley seem to be exhibiting a certain degree of anxiety, sending back the intelligence dossier gathered by our embassy in Baghdad on Iranian interference in America's Iraq. (You know, "foreign" interference on our home turf.) Assumedly, this was because the latest doctored intelligence, claiming the Iranians are supplying advanced IED technology that is causing American deaths looks as hollow as the administration's cherry-picked and doctored intelligence on Iraqi WMDs before the 2003 invasion.

On the face of it, as Juan Cole long ago pointed out at his Informed Comment website, there's something suitably George-and-Dick wacky about claims like this, implying that the Iranians are arming the Sunni insurgency. How times have changed, however. Unlike in 2002-2003, officials and former officials are finally making such points in very public ways. Take, for instance, Bruce Riedel, a former top Middle East expert on the National Security Council, who recently bluntly told USA Today, "There is no evidence that the Sunnis are being assisted by Iran."

The Rice/Gates/Hadley send-back may, of course, turn out to be little more than the Iranian equivalent of Secretary of State Colin Powell sending back similarly wacky administration claims about Iraqi WMD before preparing his infamous UN presentation that led to the invasion of 2003. But if so, there's certain to be a lot more mainstream skepticism, criticism, and noise this time around.

After all, to anyone not delusional -- which leaves out you-know-who and his Vice President -- a massive air assault on Iran, surely involving bunker-busting missiles with staggering explosive power, would seem to be an act of madness. It would be immensely destructive to Iran (and yet almost surely a rallying point for its fundamentalist regime); bloody in its repercussions for the U.S. (especially our troops in Iraq); imperiling to U.S, allies in the region; and, for the global economy, a potential energy catastrophe. A series of explosive events -- some thoroughly unexpected and so never war-gamed by U.S. military strategists -- could unravel the oil heartlands of the planet, making the administration's last several years in Iraq little more than an hors d'oeuvre before a banquet of catastrophe. The decision to attack Iran would be the equivalent of setting off an advanced IED directly under the main highway of what's left of global order.

You don't have to rely on me for this. In his confirmation hearings, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates -- claiming that any attack on Iran would be a "very last resort" (when Bush administration officials have regularly called it a "last resort" or insisted "all options are on the table") -- offered his own bloodcurdling scenario for the aftermath of such an assault:

"It's always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real… Their ability to get Hezbollah to further destabilize Lebanon I think is very real. So I think that while their ability to retaliate against us in a conventional military way is quite limited, they have the capacity to do all of the things, and perhaps more, that I just described."

And that's just a smattering of the hair-raising news from a hair-tearing town in crisis.

Fatwa Time

The possibility of an attack on Iran has been a long time on the horizon. You'd have to start back at that moment before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when, as Newsweek reminded us, one quip of the bolder neocons was: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." You'd have to go back to January 2005, when reporter Seymour Hersh, in a New Yorker piece, "The Coming Wars," wrote, "In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran," and added that, in close cooperation with the Israelis, "the Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer."

You'd have to go back to March 2005, when ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern pointed out at that "Bush administration policy toward the Middle East is being run by men… who were routinely referred to in high circles in Washington during the 1980s as ‘the crazies'" and who, he warned, might well head for Iran next.

You'd have to go back to August 2005 when, in the American Conservative magazine, former CIA official Philip Giraldi warned: "In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran" -- possibly involving an "unprovoked nuclear attack" on that country. A contingency plan was, he claimed, being drawn up in the Pentagon, "acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office."

You'd have to check out a second Hersh New Yorker piece from April 2006, "The Iran Plans," in which he reported: "Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups." He added that, increasingly, insiders believed the President's goal was not simply aborting the Iranian nuclear program, but Iraq-style "regime change," and that, against Pentagon opposition, "the nuclear option" -- the possibility of using a "bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon" -- had made it into initial planning for a full-scale air assault on Iran. You'd have to check out the work of former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter (who was laughed out of the room in 2002-2003 for claiming that Saddam Hussein probably had no stocks of WMD, or even WMD programs, left), and who recently published a book whose title says it all: Target Iran.

These men -- some classic conservatives – and others like them are now, if anything, even more passionately convinced that the Bush administration is headed for the Iranian cliff before its time in office ends, possibly as early as this spring.

But it took more than their work for so much of official Washington to panic. It took the administration's decision to send the USS John C. Stennis, a second aircraft carrier task force into the Persian Gulf (with hints that a third could follow); it took the announcement of what Juan Cole has termed George Bush's "fatwa," allowing the U.S. military to take out Iranian agents anywhere in Iraq ("Announcing open hunting season on all Iranian visitors to Iraq," Cole wrote, "is like playing Frisbee with nitroglycerin. Bush has gone looking for trouble and is likely to find it…"); it took the detention by U.S. forces of various Iranian officials in Iraq and the invasion of an Iranian office in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan; it took the President's announcement of a decision to emplace Patriot anti-missile systems in the smaller Gulf states; it took a sudden, massive, and eerily familiar ratcheting up of administration rhetoric about Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq (as NBC's Tim Russert put it after a meeting with the President, "There's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue -- in the country and the world -- in a very acute way"); it took rumors that the Air Force was gearing up for an anti-Iranian surge along the Iranian-Iraqi border; it took the refusal of officials like John Negroponte to say whether or not they believed the administration already had the right to whack Iran without returning to Congress for permission; it took reports about the readying of new bases in Bulgaria and Rumania for a future Iranian air campaign; it took rumors that the Pentagon's latest strike plan against Iran includes "more than 2,300 ‘high value' targets."

And it took, of course, the administration's ongoing catastrophe in Iraq, which drives everything before it, as well as Bush's pugnacious (if hopeless) "surge plan" reaction to rejection in the November midterm elections; it took the President's insistence on victory in a situation where loss was so obviously on the agenda that you didn't need scads of dollars and the sixteen agencies of the U.S. intelligence Community to make the point in a National Intelligence Estimate; it took Vice President Cheney's delusional insistence, in a duke-it-out interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, that the administration's Iraq policy would be "an enormous success story."

And, of course, it took all those eerie parallels with the administration's behavior in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, not to speak of the realization that this administration, devoted as it is to an unfettered commander-in-chief-style of Presidential power, believed it already had authorization aplenty to attack Iran. It took what increasingly looks like the beginnings of a systemic nervous breakdown in Washington, a feeling that a thoroughly avoidable disaster loomed, along with (as Robert Parry wrote recently) "a sense of futility among many in Washington who doubt they can do anything to stop Bush." It took all of the above and more to bring home the possibility that our leaders might one day actually take the house down with them, that they might indeed gun the car and head directly for the cliff with something between sneers and smiles on their faces.

Over the Cliff?

So feel free to imitate official Washington. Be scared, very scared. An attack on Iran, if it were to happen, promises a special mixture of two fundamentalisms deeply engrained in our top political and military officials that may, in the end, combine into a single lethal brew -- and that will, in the bargain, give American policy in the Middle East the full-blown look of a war on Islam. Though our President is a Christian fundamentalist, neither of these Washington fundamentalisms are, in the normal sense, religious or particularly Christian.

The first -- the bedrock faith of the Bush administration and its neocon supporters since September 12, 2001 -- is the religion of force. Our self-styled "wartime" Commander-in-Chief, and the Vice President head an administration that has long been in love not just with the American armed forces, but with the dazzling military possibilities that seemed open to them as leaders of the last standing superpower. Its high-tech destructive capabilities, they believed, gave them the power to go it alone in the world, shocking and awing a post-Cold War assemblage of lesser states into eternal submission. Force -- the threat of it, the application of it -- was the summa cum laude of their go-it-alone university of power (vividly demonstrated, at a theoretical level, in the single most important strategic document of these last years, their 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America).

At the height of their self-dazzled sense of power back in 2001-2003, they saw force as their own special Tao, their Way in the world; at their depths -– now -- reaching back into their problem-solving quiver, they naturally find only the same arrow that's always been there; a belief system, a religion for all occasions.

In the case of a possible future assault on Iran, the larger fundamentalism of the Church of Force will surely combine with the only significant force the Pentagon has on hand -- air power. The belief in air power's ability to fell regimes and change the political essentials, to bring whole peoples to their knees, is long-lasting and deep-seated. Since well before World War II, we've been living with a belief system in which bombing others, including civilian populations, is a "strategic" thing to do; in which air power can, in relatively swift measure, break the "will" not just of the enemy, but of that enemy's society; and in which air power is the royal path to victory.

That this has not proven so; that, most recently, it did not prove so in Afghanistan, in shock-and-awe Iraq, or in Israel's air assault last summer on Lebanon matters little. Faith in the efficacy of air power (as opposed to its barbarism) is fundamentalist in nature and so not disprovable by the facts on the rubble-strewn, cratered ground.

As a result, the strength of the belief that "it" -- force, air power -- will do the trick the next time, if only you have the nerve not to listen to the Nervous Nellies, if only you double down on your bet, if only you commit to it, should not be underestimated.

Do you remember that period before the invasion of Iraq when the neocons and their various admirers and clustering pundits were proclaiming us quite literally the New Rome and speaking of a Pax Americana globally (and a Pax Republicana domestically) that would last forever and a day? They were, in fact, intent on describing a jungle world of failed states at the peripheries of our globe, the sort of planet that needed an imperial power like… well, like us… for order. That, of course, was before the Bush administration managed to bring a jungle world of chaos to Iraq and so to the heart of the global energy system -- and they all fell imperially silent.

I've been wondering in their stead, what sort of empire are we? Empires are usually settled and ruled areas (except at their frontiers), not jungle worlds. So if, say, Sudan or the Congo or Afghanistan or Somalia is a failed state, are we then, under George and Dick, simply a failed empire? Do we now rule (as opposed to threaten) anything? Are we an empire at all -- even at home where a vast, ungainly government is being privatized into a new kind of (ever more expensive) chaos and the federal budget is being driven over a military-industrial cliff -- or are we Kong (before he underwent his most recent cinematic transformation into a loving softie)? Or are we a Three Stooges version of the imperial, or is it just that Dick and George, all four hands on the spinning wheel of state, are heading for that cliff intent on liberating us all?

In that over-the-top interview with CNN's Blitzer, Vice President Cheney, in essence, accused him of, as the Washington Post put it, "embracing defeat."

What an apt phrase for Dick himself -- and for his presidential pal! Having long embraced a fantasy of victory, they now show every sign of wrapping their arms around their own Iraq defeat as if it were victory, and -- with the enthusiasm of Thelma and Louise, trapped by all those cop cars -- taking the only path that seems open to them. As the alternatives grow ever starker -- surrender to all those "Democrat" electees, to the reporters and the critics, the cavilers and the antiwar demonstrators, the ragtag insurgents, the alien Mullahs, and even the panicked Republicans in their own ranks -- what's left but that liberating, exhilarating trip over the cliff?

Unlike the movies, where any review can tell you the ending before you even enter the local multiplex, life -- even political life, even geopolitical life -- is a remarkably unsettled, as well as unsettling thing.

Nothing assures us that some predetermined fate will actually drive us all over that cliff. But if, before November 2008, we do head in that direction, a small suggestion: Don't bother to buckle your seatbelt. It's not going to be that sort of a trip to the bottom.



DB Cooper said . . .

This post has been removed by the author.
February 19, 2007

DB Cooper said . . .

Yes, a valuable piece. The Mission creep of Bush and Cheney continues. Now our intervention in Iraq is being transformed into a long-term confrontation with Iran. Why else would we take on the Shi'ite militias when most of our occupation's casualties are at the hands of the Sunnis? Has Congress passed on this? Have the American people?
February 19, 2007

an average patriot said . . .

Little bill
Okay I got it! There was an extra period after com. Anyway I will go back and read your post but it is even worse. I was sent something very sobering this morning that does not make American newspapers or news because it is being kept from us. I will be posting on it tomorrow.
February 19, 2007

Beach Bum said . . .

Serious bad moon rising. We are in very deep trouble with no bottom in sight.
February 19, 2007

Vigilante said . . .


Bear comes into a inn, walks up to the bar, puts two paws on the counter and says:

"I'll have a . . . . . . . . Coors"

The bartender says, "Sure, but why the pause?"

The bear says, "Hell, ain't I a bear?"
February 20, 2007

an average patriot said . . .

Hi little bill
Just wanted to let you know I linked to Paws de Deux
February 21, 2007

LittleBill said . . .

Vigilante,I'm glad you have time for such silly stuff. I also hope you watched the Eepybirds.
February 21, 2007

Non-Partisàn said . . .

It's a dangerous precedent, starting the telling of bear-in-a-bar jokes in a blog - could get out of PAW.
February 21, 2007

Vigilante said . . .

Quite true, N.P. I'll try to get back on topic, acknowledging that I'm quite BEARISH on Bush's Baghdad surge.
February 21, 2007

pekka said . . .

Wow, Little Bill, this is some flashy site you got here! Somehow, it just not's more like that vulgar Vigil. :)

I limit my reading ususally to what's printed on the serial boxes but made an expetion here. Glad I did, for the information was good. Sad I did, because it is so depressing and down right spooky.
February 21, 2007

LittleBill said . . .

Glad to hear from you again, Pekka. PLEASE don't leave me, even if I resemble Vigil. I kind of like the title I chose and the picture that goes with it. That Mercury sure keeps me young.
February 22, 2007

an average patriot said . . .

Hi little bill
Just thought I would see if you had something new. I have to tell you I just love that picture with little bill and Mercury. I hope she has grown a little more than the picture shows. She looks so diminutive.
February 22, 2007

Be Patient on Democracy and Save Lives (re-post)

Originally posted by LittleBill on Sunday, February 18, 2007

John Arquilla, a frequent contributor to Insight, is a defense analyst in Monterey. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, he says What Iraq Needs Is a Few Good Dictators. Excerpts:

The near-religious belief in policy circles that only a functioning Iraqi democracy can ward off chaos completely misses the point that more-dictatorial rule would have a greater chance of success. The only hope for restoring security is a strong set of hands at the controls. Not another Saddam Hussein, but more likely a few military leaders, one from each of Iraq's three main ethnic and religious groups.

A slavish devotion to the "democracy project," the centerpiece of both neoconservative and liberal thought in foreign policy today, prevents this "authoritarian option" from even being considered. And our bullheadedness has brought American foreign policy a long way down the path to ruin in Iraq.

The key problem with the too-rapid shift to democratic governance there has been the lack of cultural preparation for pluralism. Iraqis simply have no democratic traditions, because they live in a country carved out of the shattered fragments of the Ottoman Empire after World War I ended almost 90 years ago. Thereafter, Iraq was mostly ruled by a succession of autocrats until the American invasion in 2003.

Many have pointed to the success of turning Germany into a responsible democracy in 1945 as an example of what can be done in Iraq. But this is a false analogy. From its unification in the 19th century, modern Germany had considerable democratic experience, both as a constitutional monarchy under the kaisers and during the period of the Weimar Republic. Nazism was an aberration, not the norm, and Germans quickly reverted to their democratic trajectory once the nightmare years were over. The Iraqi case is simply not comparable.

The other big problem with forcing democracy on Iraq is that it foments conflict among opposing groups. The minority Sunnis are fated to be outvoted again and again when it comes to having a voice in a democratic Iraq, or to sharing the resource wealth of the land. From their perspective, democracy is the path to becoming dispossessed, and violent resistance is their only logical recourse.

Sadly, there is nothing in the new Iraqi constitution like the Connecticut Compromise leading up to the U.S. Constitution that protected the rights of small states (by giving them the same number of senators as big states) at the dawn of our own republic. The American Founding Fathers knew the dangers of factions, and sought to minimize them. In Iraq, our vision of democratic "proportional representation" has only encouraged the large factions to throw their weight around.

So, Iraq needs authoritarian rule right now. And probably for many years to come. By creating a three-man junta -- one Shiite, one Sunni and one Kurd -- all the societal bases can be covered, making sure that each group's interests are weighed. Clearly, the junta would have to make decisions on a consensus basis to ensure that one member couldn't be steamrolled by the other two.

They should be military men, because their primary function will be to put an end to the continuing civil war. Generals will have the best chance of motivating the Iraqi military to save their country by restoring order. No further American training is necessary. All the Iraqis need is a profound sense of mission.

However, a small number of American forces could remain for a while, as insurance against the junta coming apart and to deter any field forces from "going rogue." U.S. troops could probably also help in going after al Qaeda operatives who try to slip into Iraq.

The bottom line is that this authoritarian option would soon see order restored, as the Sunnis would have been brought into active partnership, enjoying their share of national resources, along with the Shiites and Kurds. And Iraqi troops themselves would put an end to the ethnic cleansing going on in so many places across the country.

All this will likely require some finesse from time to time. For example, the junta would probably want to send in predominantly Shiite units to mixed Baghdad neighborhoods to protect imperiled Sunnis. This would be a powerful signal of national purpose and unity.

But this kind of maneuvering is a lot easier to pull off than the far-too-complex and confusing concepts that have bedeviled American counterinsurgent efforts during the past three years.

What remains is to consider whether President Bush and the new Democratic congressional leadership might consider jettisoning the idea of continuing to foist "democracy now" on Iraq. At first blush, it seems that neither side could possibly be persuaded to empower a junta in place of elected leaders.

Bush has made it clear that spreading democracy is his principal strategic aim in the war on terrorism. He believes that our form of government is least likely to be permissive of terrorism. He also believes that this kind of political freedom is, in his own words, "a gift from the almighty."

. . . . .

But it must be done, or Iraq will continue to burn. Perhaps a good way to think about this problem is to envision it in terms of ultimate rather than immediate results. That is, dictatorship in Iraq now may well create the stability necessary to nurture a durable democracy in the future.

This was Ronald Reagan's line of reasoning when he pursued "constructive engagement" with authoritarian regimes. His goal was the spread of democracy, but he knew that it could not come in the same way or at the same time to all.

And Reagan's approach proved wildly successful. Two decades after his presidency, Latin America is almost entirely democratic, where it had once been full of dictatorships. Asia has also seen a sharp growth in democracy, with only a few juntas (such as in Burma) holding out.

Among Muslim countries, Turkey is a prime example of steady liberalization, within the context of continued emphasis on security requirements. Much the same can be said of Iran, where the junta is religious rather than military, but a similar amount of democratic change has occurred. And more is coming, if we play our cards right and lose the axis-of-evil rhetoric.

Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, American foreign policy is already on this constructive engagement track vis-à-vis a number of Muslim countries. For all our talk about spreading democracy, we are in no hurry to see it come to Pakistan, for example, where free elections might bring radical Islamists to power and give them control of nuclear weapons.

Similarly, elections in Saudi Arabia might see a rabidly anti-American government put in place in a land with its finger on the pulse of the global oil economy. We are grateful for authoritarian rule in this great sheikhdom, and there is no sense of urgency about the need for democracy now in Riyadh.

So why the fevered rush to political pluralism in Iraq, a country with virtually no democratic cultural roots? This is especially ill-advised when forcing representative rule on a highly divided land will only cause more conflict.

Now is the time to reflect on the fundamental flaws I have highlighted in our "democracy project." And to replace our mindless devotion to bringing immediate elections to war-torn lands with a more thoughtful emphasis on order and security first.

If we can open ourselves to this authoritarian option in Iraq, there is still a good chance to bring a stable, equitable peace to a land whose sufferings we have unwittingly done so much to cause.



Vigilante said . . .

A very excellent find, Lil'Bill! Point on with the last series of my posts. And, I'll add something to today's post to it, also. What I like best is:

"They should be military men, because their primary function will be to put an end to the continuing civil war. Generals will have the best chance of motivating the Iraqi military to save their country by restoring order. No further American training is necessary. All the Iraqis need is a profound sense of mission."

This goes to what I've been thinking, if not expressing that well: the primadonas in the so-called Iraqi parliament do not represent the future of Iraq - half or more of them are living in Europe. The future leaders will be found from within the militias. Secondly, there is no reason for us to hang around for the purposes of teaching Iraqis how to shoot (and to pay them to show up to be taught). There's plenty of on-the-job learning about firearms that's been going on for the past four years. There's no shortage of fighters. Motivation is what's been lacking and our leaving will straighten that out.
February 18, 2007

Vigilante said . . .

Following Petty Larseny's link to a Rumsfeld-Woodward interview, I read Rummy speaking about occupation as a double-edged sword:

"And I always felt that foreign troops are an anomaly in a country, that eventually they're unnatural and not welcomed really. I think I used the characterization of a broken bone. If you don't set it, everything grows around the brake and you end up with that abnormality."

That's the problem, isn't it? Bush's legacy will not tolerate leaving an 'abnormality' behind in Iraq. To him, leaving behind unresolved civil strife (worse case scenario) or separate sectarian militia strong men (best case scenario) would be an intolerable mutation of 'his mission'. That is why he thinks we must 'stay the course'.
February 19, 2007


Samantha (4/02/1992 - 12/31/2006)
by Frank Gerety

Samantha was born April 2, 1992. Her Mother was Rotweiler and the Father Dalmatian. We called her a Rotmation. Somehow you would expect a rugged and intimidating dog from that combination, but she was the nicest and most friendly dog I have ever seen. At least she was with humans. With other dogs she was quite shy. Once a little dog weighing in at about 2 pounds, came running down a driveway snarling and barking. If she hadn’t been on a leash she would have run all the way home with me yelling at her to stop. Most dogs, after seeing her, all 80 pounds, would treat her with some caution.

I am getting ahead of my self. After we adopted her I decided she should be a trained dog. All dogs that we have owned before had minimal training. I was satisfied if they recognized their name. Not Samantha, she was going to learn all of the commands. (Sit, down, come, heel, …) So,…, Samantha and I enrolled in dog training school along with about 15 other dogs and owners. We met at McKenzie Field in the evening. It was rainy and the field was always wet. We did the sitting part pretty good. I would grab her collar and lay my elbow along her back. Then I would issue the command sit, pull on the collar, and push down with my elbow. She resisted, but the combination of pulling on the collar and pushing down with my elbow did the trick even if she didn’t like sitting on the wet grass. The command down however was another thing. Lie down in that wet grass and mud, not on your life. I was persistent though. After all I was the boss, so I pushed, pulled and eventually she was down. Me too! Both of us rolling around on the ground, and by now everyone else had stopped to watch.

We made it through the course and were awarded a certificate of completion. I thought we deserved a little more than that, maybe Miss Congeniality. Anyway we had no more concerns about training. We had a certificate. In case any one asked about training I would just say she is certified!

An off shoot of the training was our regular walk. We usually walk about a mile. This gave us a chance to practice the sit and heel commands. We met a lot of neighbors that I hadn’t known before and they didn’t know Sammy. When I saw them coming our way there was usually a look of confusion. They were thinking, “What should I do? Should I walk out on the street, get over on the lawn? This dog looks pretty big.” About that time I would say sit, and Sammy would sit and smile at our neighbor. Quite often to my amazement they would say what a nice puppy. (All 80 pounds of her)

It didn’t take too long before most people in our neighborhood knew Sammy. It was in those first two or three years that we learned a little about her appetite and her tastes. Actually she had no taste. She would eat anything. This is why she liked our backyard. She ate oranges, avocadoes, persimmons, apricots and walnuts. I probably should relate a little more about the oranges. This was one item that she needed a little help with the peeling. I discovered her taste for oranges one day when I had been working in the back yard. I figured it was time for a break, so I picked a couple of oranges and began to peel one. About this time I noticed, hard to ignore, that she was sitting in front of me and drooling all over my shoes. Hah, I thought, she certainly won’t eat an orange. I took a section of the orange, held it up, and then dropped it for her to catch. She caught it and gulped it down in a flash. I had created a monster. She’ll always want half of my orange. Oh well, we finished that orange, one section for her and one section for me. What the heck, we ate another one. From that day forward I couldn’t peel an orange without her nose bringing her to me for her rightful share.

The apricots had me a little worried because of the pits. I couldn’t always beat her to the fallen apricots so I watched to see if she did swallow the pits. No she didn’t. She would chew a couple of times and then the pit would pop out of the side of her mouth.

The walnuts were also worrisome. She would crack the shells with her powerful jaws and then eat the kernels. She probably did swallow some shells, but that never bothered her. I shuddered when I thought of all of the things she ate that I didn’t know about.

She also would eat vegetables. One time I was preparing broccoli and I cut off the thick stem. It slipped from my hands and hit the floor. There was a black streak and Sammy had the stem. Within a minute she had chewed it up and swallowed the whole thing. I wish we had her when we were raising our family. The boys would slip their string beans into a plastic container when we weren’t looking. We could have used Sammy as an example.

We bought a camper just before we got Sammy. I think that she thought we bought it for her. She knew when we were going on a trip. I would be carrying food, clothes, and other supplies out to the camper. If I stopped, she ran in to me. She watched every aspect of our preparations and tried to ensconce herself in the camper long before we were ready to leave. She has been on every trip we’ve made except our trip to Alaska.

We started having her sleep on the floor on a blanket. When we were on the road she would sit in between the front seats. There was no escaping Sammy. Soon she began putting her head on Alice’s lap. Alice would rub those silken ears and pet her. This was really living. The next step was to crawl onto Alice’s lap. Alas, as she grew older she grew bigger. She overwhelmed Alice and she had to push her off.

Partly as compensation we allowed her to ride and sleep on the couch. She thought that was great. She could lie there with her head just over the end of the couch and over my right shoulder. We had finally reached a truce and we all rode happily on our trips. Some of our many trips were the Sierras in a spot known as Red’s Meadow. Her first trip to Red’s she met Kathleen who came up to be with us. Kathleen wanted to sleep in her own tent and invited Sammy to sleep with her, which seemed just right to Sammy. She curled up right next to Kathleen.

She was with us on all of those trips and proved to be a great trail and fishing dog. She handled our communication. This was of great value for us because the last 3 or 4 years I haven’t been able to climb those mountains and canyons like I used to, but Alice can. As a result the gap between Alice and me would grow as we climbed the mountains. Sammy would always stay with the one in front, but when there was a bend in the trail she would get worried about me. Many times I would see her charge down the mountain and around the bend. When she saw me she would screech to a halt, take a good look and trot back up the trail to be with Alice.

This trait was particularly useful when we got to our stream and started fishing. I think it really upset her when we didn’t stay together. Her job of keeping track of both of us increased 100%. For us though, it helped immensely. When we fish a stream we spread out, never fishing the same place at the same time. That’s why we fish the Wilderness areas. The people in the Valley of the San Joaquin fish too close to each other. In our spots, we very seldom see another fisher person. So, there we are, fishing the same stream, but in different spots. When the one behind catches up, we yell,” Going by” so that we know where the other one is. Sometimes, after fishing for a couple of hours, I would ask myself,” Is Alice ahead or behind?” That was before Sammy. With Sammy along all I had to do was look, and if I saw Sammy I knew I was ahead. If I didn’t see her, Alice was ahead. What a system! Too bad I can’t sell it to NASA.

The “Official Greeter”, that was Sammy. When the doorbell rang she would go to the front door and express her delight that someone came to visit her. It didn’t matter that they came for other reasons; she knew that the real reason was they wanted to pet her while her tail swung back and forth. That was one of the things that people mentioned in their cards. We received cards from our 6 grandchildren, the two children next door, and several friends that heard about her passing. I often thought of how surprised a burglar would be to be greeted in this manner, and there is no doubt that she would greet him in the same gracious way.

The last few years I have discovered the therapeutic value of a little afternoon nap. Sammy was way ahead of me. She always realized the value of a little nap, in the morning, afternoon or evening and happily joined me with my amateurship naps. This usually happened after lunch when I would take a book and lie down to read until I fell asleep. She would follow me until I horizontally settled in and she would “Hurmpf” and settle in beside me. When I woke up, there she was, still beside me.

Sammy had a good life, right up to about 1:30 PM Dec.. 31, 2006.

The day started nicely. I played 2½ sets of tennis, came home and read the paper and had a cup of coffee. I took Samantha for a short walk to the park and back, and then we did our usual routine which consists of her sitting while I walk a short distance away. I say “Come” and she trots over and sits. I give her a biscuit. Then we repeat 2 more times.

Then she wandered around in the back yard for awhile. I picked some persimmons and gave her a nice ripe one.

Then she wandered around the inside of the house and finally slept a bit. I had lunch and around 1 o’clock I turned on a football game. A few minutes later Alice came in and said” Come and look at Samantha. I think the time has come.”

Samantha was lying in the living room, panting rapidly, legs thrashing in search of the floor, and some blood on the floor from her drool.

With the help of a neighbor we got her into the car and took her to CARE Emergency Hospital. They were very kind. We spent a little time with her in a private room rubbing her ears and head. Then we called the doctor in and she gave her a shot that put her to sleep. Then she injected the second shot that took her out. She looked just like she always has when she lies down to sleep. I really miss her.

More Thoughts Which Occur to Me

As I have indicated before, the morality of capitalism concerns me deeply. Capitalism depends on some people to make other people rich, either by their labor, or by purchasing their product.

The original founder of a rich family may have made his money by the sweat of his brow, but his inheritors for following generations may not be called upon to do any work other than lifting a pen to write checks to their accountants.

The public in general is encouraged - even urged - to spend money, and our national leader has called upon the public to do just that as a patriotic duty to help our economy.

With the availability of credit cards and mortgages, many people who could not otherwise afford the luxuries for which they yearn are drawn into the whirlpool of debt from which they cannot arise.

The result is that we have created a lifestyle which is unnecessarily sought by most people, rich or poor. It is both morally and ethically corrupting, especially in its effects upon the have-not people of the world.

It is incumbent upon thinking people to consciously seek out a more moderate lifestyle, one that will reward more people who deserve it, as well as one that is concerned for the effect humans have upon the Earth. (In that connection, I can't believe my ears every time I hear a member of the administration or of Congress say that we can't afford to do the things that will help to stop global warming because that will put so many people out of work. Follow that thinking to the end of its logic!)

Related to the glorification of wealth is the growing coarseness of our civilization, with the have-nots becoming more physically aggressive and the haves becoming ever more devoted to the bawbles which wealth can provide. The violence and sexual license of our media, in particular, should be a warning to all parents who care about the world their children will face. (In this connection, it becomes easier to understand the nations which oppress their women with dress and lack of education.)

To Our Armed Forces . . .

. . . from a WWII Vet

Patriotism does not require that you do not use your own mind to think, even in the armed forces. Certainly, especially when you are being led into harm’s way, it is necessary for your leaders to do what they can to unite you, as a military unit, as an army, and as a nation. However, especially in this present world where information as far more readily available than it was in the past, it is best to consider that information which is available to you, regardless of source, military or civilian, through education or experience, and work it through your own mind and come up with your own conclusions.

Consider, for a moment, sayings which may or may not be true:

  • Ours is the richest and greatest nation in the history of the world.

  • “I’m a uniter, not a divider.”

  • “You’re either with us or with the enemy.”

  • If you do not support the war, that means you do not support the troops.

  • If we cut and run, those who have given their lives will have died in vain.

  • We believe in Democracy and the Constitution of the United States.

  • We must stay the course for victory.

  • Loyalty to our Commander in Chief is imperative.

  • Many world leaders (Hitler, for example) commanded loyal troops and supporters but did or do not deserve their support.

  • Victory is not deserved unless the cause is moral and noble.
  • Deciding for another country what its government should be is not moral and only thoughtlessly noble – and very possibly done for self-aggrandizement.
  • We need to fight the terrorists in Iraq so that we won’t have to fight them here.
- so –
  • If the terrorists are still threatening us, we need to fight them in Denmark so we won’t have to fight them here.

If I give my life for another, it can be as a soldier in a foreign land or as an ordinary human being anywhere, it will be because of my moral values regardless of how I got into the situation and of my own volition, and I will not have died in vain.