Saturday, October 28, 2006

With Friends like these who needs Al Quaeda

As of today there have been 2811 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq

In private, al-Maliki criticizes U.S. policy
- Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
Saturday, October 28, 2006

(10-28) 04:00 PDT Baghdad -- The Iraqi prime minister sharply criticized U.S. policy during a private meeting with the U.S. ambassador Friday, pointing to American failure to either reduce violence or give his government authority over security matters.

The criticism in private is the latest example of tension between the two governments and stands in stark contrast with a joint public statement issued after the meeting.

In the statement, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the U.S. Embassy said they had agreed to unspecified "timelines" to make tough political and security decisions on the country's future.

Privately, however, al-Maliki criticized what he called the patronizing U.S. tone toward the Iraqi government and warned U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to respect Iraq's sovereignty, according to two of the prime minister's advisers.

"I'm a friend to the United States, but not America's man in Iraq," al-Maliki told Khalilzad, according to Hassan al-Senaid, one of the prime minister's closest advisers.

Previously, al-Maliki had vehemently rejected the notion of deadlines for his government to achieve key goals, but the statement said, "The Iraqi government has made clear the issues that must be resolved with timelines for them to take positive steps forward on behalf of the Iraqi people."

The statement said "Iraq and the United States are committed to working together to respond to the needs of the people." It affirmed that America "will continue to stand by the Iraqi government" amid rumors Washington may be seeking alternatives to Baghdad's current Shiite-led administration.

Al-Maliki's supporters downplayed the reference to timelines as insignificant, saying they were meant as rough guidelines to hand security over to Iraqis.

U.S. officials in Baghdad could not be reached for comment.

After days of back-and-forth recriminations, the contrast between private criticism and the public statement brought into sharper focus a dispute that may have already undermined the Shiite-led government and increased friction between the United States and the country's majority sect.

Khalilzad is at odds with al-Maliki on how to address the Shiite militias wreaking havoc on large parts of the country. Khalilzad last year convinced Sunni Arabs now victimized by the militias to enter the government. The ambassador has insisted that the Shiite armed groups and Sunni Arab insurgents be treated similarly.

Al-Maliki draws political support from the groups backing militias. He says they should be drawn into the political process and disarmed peacefully. U.S. military and political officials have grown frustrated over perceived Iraqi government inaction on militias, now deemed by Americans as the No. 1 impetus of sectarian violence.

Khalilzad told reporters Tuesday that Iraqis must "achieve key political and security milestones" by certain deadlines, or face unspecified consequences. But he was rebuffed by both al-Maliki and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who told critics to "back off" making unreasonable demands of the 5-month-old Iraqi government.

Al-Maliki's inner circle, huddled in a late-night briefing, said the prime minister would call President Bush today to clear the air about what the government views as unproductive interference on the part of U.S. officials in Baghdad.

Prickly truths underlie the squabbling and confusion: Al-Maliki's government has lost public backers over five months of car bombs, death squad slayings and economic misery, and increasingly relies for support on narrow cliques of Islamist political parties, including the radical movement of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The U.S. government, undertaking a massive nation-building project while fighting off a ferocious insurgency, has little choice but to back al-Maliki's Iranian-influenced Shiite government. Any U.S. move against al-Maliki could spark even greater violence and anti-American animosity.

There have been numerous signs that al-Sadr himself has tired of the most troublesome of his self-styled loyalists. During prayers Friday in the southern city of Kufa, al-Sadr's principal pulpit, his deputy denounced recent violence in Iraq caused by "people who violated and stood against the wise and honorable leadership" of the young cleric.

Among his followers' alleged misdeeds was the Monday night abduction of a U.S. soldier of Iraqi descent. U.S. soldiers continued a days-long crackdown on the volatile Sadr City where they suspect he's being held.

Also Friday, at least one U.S. soldier was reported killed, bringing the number of American troops killed in Iraq so far this month to 97, the highest number for a single month since January 2005. The soldier, assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, died of wounds sustained in combat in Diyala province Thursday.

Friday, October 27, 2006

President Bush and his close circle of friends

President Bush has made a point throughout his Presidency of seeming familiar. He has called the Secretary General of the U.N. "Kofi." He refers to Dr. Condolleezza Rice as "Condi." General Colin Powell has been called "Colin". This wouldn't bother me if these references were made in private. All of these references have been made to the press. These individuals deserve the respect that their titles afford them.

This has been a problem throughout President Bush's Presidency. Well, it got worse yesterday. President Bush was campaigning for a candidate in Iowa. Mr. Bush was promoting the candidacy of Mr. Lamberti in the 3rd Congressional District of Iowa. Mr. Lamberti is polling a bit behind his opponent, and the President was brought in to boost his chances for election. President spoke to the press on Mr. Lamberti's behalf. President Bush talked about how he and Dave share values. President Bush and Dave share goals for the country, and both of them believe in the same objectives in foreign policy. Considering President Bush's poll numbers this might not be as effective as you might expect. That, however, is not my problem with this situation. It is rather unfortunate for Mr. Lamberti and President Bush, Mr. Lamberti's first name is Jeff not Dave.

Friday, October 13, 2006

To Email or not to Email

Here's an interesting tidbit.
Anybody can run for office these days. Maybe it's better to say that this is the land of opportunity for everyone in all walks of life.... including sickos, freaks and racists. I spent a good bit of the early 1990's in Arizona. A friend of mine served in the Arizona state government. I'm interested in her take on the background of this man.
A state legislator, Mr. Russell Pearce, forwarded an Email to his supporters. This is not unusual. Anyone who has an Email account has noticed a significant amount of election related mail in these days prior to the election. A white supremacist group in West Virginia however, sent this email to Mr. Pearce. Mr. Pearce claims that this was an accident and that he did not thoroughly read the email before forwarding it. Personally, I can understand not reading all of my email. I get an awful lot of email that I do not read all of.
That begs 2 questions.

1. Why is he sending out an Email in his name from a White Supremacist Group?
2. How involved with this group is this man?

I would believe Mr. Pearce's story of ignorance if his history did not appear to contradict his recent statements. Recently, Mr. Pearce has been at the forefront of the illegal immigration debate in Arizona. He has proposed reinstating a program from the Eisenhower Administration. This program would racially profile all Mexicans, round them up and then deport them. This program, and this man, would deport millions of people, legal residents or not, based on their skin color. During interviews about his stance, Mr. Pearce has steadfastly used derogatory terms regarding Mexican Americans. Does that sound like a man who made a simple mistake by sending an unsolicited Email?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Keep your Hands off my Habeas Corpus

I've been having trouble putting together my thoughts for a blog lately.

The current Republican actions have inspired me a bit. As my daughter Cassie would say, "Ewww!" That’s what she said when I told her about the Congressman Foley scandal. I grant you, she did not say anything else close to a word of English, but the "Ewww" was easy to understand.

I wholeheartedly agree with her.

I worked as a Congressional intern in the early 1990s, so I speak about this with experience. Page and internship positions are sought after. When I found out that I got a Congressional internship, it made my semester. I was willing to work 12-14 hour days to prove myself. Granted, a good bit of it was grunt work, but I had a strong desire to belong. I wanted to brag to everyone I knew, because there was some cache to the job. Interns and pages get a significant ego boost from the positions they hold.

During the internship, I could walk around in the basements of the Senate and House of Representatives with as much access as most staffers. I helped draft speeches and went to committee meetings. For one specific committee, I was the lone representative for the Congressman. I can imagine that a page might be willing to carry on inappropriate conversations with a Congressman. Young people, especially, seek approval from their boss or others in positions of power.

How do you think this scandal makes these kids feel? Politicians already have trouble motivating the electorate to vote. The 18-30-year-old crowd is generally apathetic when it comes to voting. Generations X and Y, the "echo boom," outnumber baby-boomer parents by some 10 million. In the 1996 election, only 33 percent of 18-29-year-olds voted. Youth turnout increased from 1996 to 2000, with the Voter News Service estimating that 38.6 percent of that age group voted in 2000, out of the 14 million who were eligible to vote.

The current scandal victimizes young men and women that want to be part of a system that many of their friends ignore. While I don't think the “misbehavior” or its cover-up it will lessen the students’ interest in the program; it will make parents wary. Weren't the Republicans supposed to bring honor and decency back to the process of governance?

Maybe the Page Program was the case of one bad apple not the whole bunch. Maybe everyone else in the Congress is doing it’s best to improve the country. Well, let’s look at what else has come to light in the last few weeks. Senate Bill 3930 limits habeas corpus.

What is Habeas Corpus? People use the term, or hear it on TV, but what does it mean? Habeas Corpus means “produce the body.” In legal terms, a “writ of habeas corpus” is an order by a judge for a custodian of a jail or prison to produce the person in court and name the charges on which the person is held. Without the right to a writ of habeas corpus, an individual can be imprisoned indefinitely without ever being charged, and then tried on those charges.

This is not just for foreigners, but for American citizens who are deemed "Enemy Combatants" as well. Certainly, there is a court that oversees who is deemed worthy of this designation.

No, there is no oversight. The executive branch without any check or review makes this determination. Certainly, the individuals given such a designation have an appeal process. No, that is also untrue. Well, this can only happen to people who are proven to be terrorists. Again, that is not true; if the Administration suspects anyone including U.S. citizens of being "enemy combatants" then they can invoke this clause and do away with Habeas Corpus.

Habeas Corpus was put in place as a check on the abuses our forefathers felt were rampant in the Administration of King George III's government. Weren't the Republicans supposed to bring honor and decency back to the process of governance? Maybe the Senate is just out of whack. Those people are out of touch.
They only get elected once every 6 years.

Maybe the House of Representatives is a bit saner. One would think that our representatives would be more moderate, as they must stand for reelection every two years. To be in constant reelection mode, you must stay a bit more in the middle, right? Maybe not. Look at House Resolution 6061. This bill says that a 700-mile fence should be built between the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. This fence needs to be completed by no later than December 31, 2008. I lived in Tucson, Arizona for about 5 years. A very large percentage of the construction crews in southern Arizona were undocumented workers. It seems very likely that Mexicans will be recruited to help build this fence. What’s wrong with this picture? Add to that irony, the "enemy combatants" that attacked us on September 11th, 2001, came across our border with CANADA. .

The words of Emma Lazarus,

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Is the Golden Door being slammed shut? Weren't the Republicans supposed to bring honor and decency back to the process of governance?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Republican running for Congress uses Federal Response to Katrina as Republican vision of good government

Things are getting bad for Republican candidates all over the country. I ran across this from a debate in Rochester NY. The speaker you see on the video is Randy Kuhl.If you read a bit of the transcript, it is obvious that the Congressman tried to explain the comment. I still do not see any way a Congressman can represent the Federal response as anything close to a success. Here is the full transcript.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Proof that Noah was a Republican

First of all, my daughter, Cassie, is now saying a few words. Apple currently means anything that tastes good. She is doing very well exhausting her parents, running around and climbing on things. She wants to wish everyone a happy Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. My wife, Elizabeth, and I, took Cassie to synagogue for services this morning. We dropped Cassie with the babysitter and went into the adult services. For me, sometimes my mind wanders during services. This was one of those days.

I started leafing through the prayer book for something interesting and happened to find a Midrash that proves my namesake, Noah, of the flood, was a Republican. A midrash is defined as “an early Jewish interpretation of or commentary on a Biblical text, clarifying or expounding a point of law or developing or illustrating a moral principle.”

The story starts at the end of The Flood. For those of you that do not know the flood story I suggest reading /Genesis for Dummies/. The floodwaters have started to recede. Noah opens the door to the ark and starts to look around at his surroundings.

Trees were uprooted. Houses, and buildings were strewn all over the place. Dead plants and animals were left all over the place. A great flood had overwhelmed the Earth for forty days. Needless to say it looked even worse than my room as a teenager. Noah looks around at the mess before him and cries out to G-D.

He says G-D, what am I to do, the land is now unlivable. There is nowhere to live. The lands where I lived are now destroyed; my family and I can no longer live here. G-D becomes very angry with Noah at this point. G-D tells Noah to build a dwelling for he and his family because there will one more smaller flood to wash away most of the debris.

As the Holy One explains this to Noah, He goes on to compare Noah’s response to crisis with that of two future great leaders of the Jews. Abraham will argue with G-D, and try to save all of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Moses will try to stop The Almighty when G-D considers severely punishing the Israelites for worshiping the golden calf. Noah was faced with a crisis of even larger proportion.

Rather than try to avoid the calamity that faces a large community, Noah focused on how to create the ark and save his family. Rather than working with the world forces around him, Noah made a choice that only benefited him. Now you tell me, which party do you think he would affiliate with?