Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Big Tent?

Old Timers! What are you gonna do with them? Livin' in the past.

Unfortunately, I'm one of the old timers. I'm a Ted Kennedy Liberal with a capital "L" who remembers the glory days of John and Robert Kennedy, The Great Society, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.

We stood proudly on the really important principles of truth, integrity, the value of every human being, equality for women and minorities, fairness, reason, honesty, discussion and debate.

Republicans in those days were more single minded of purpose. Conservative meant, well, conservative. Holding on to old ideas and old ways, Tradition. Republican views were narrow. They actually made fun of the "big tent" of the Democrats.

Liberals worked to transcend the old societal rules to bring everyone to the "American Dream." A person wasn't held back because of the color of his or her skin. Society wasn't just meant to be colorblind, but blind to gender, religion, ethnic origin, education.

If one word defined the Democrat Party it was RESPECT. We "respected" one another. And intellectual honesty was a key.

Sadly those days are over. The Democrat Party has been hijacked by so-called "Progressives." They don't like to be called liberals, not even with a small "l." They have a plan of progressing from point "A" to point "B."

The "Big Tent" is long gone. Henry "Scoop" Jackson wouldn't be welcome in today's "Progressive" Democrat Party. Hubert Humphrey might not be welcome either.

We know that Joe Lieberman isn't welcome. He is the object of derision, ridicule and downright hatred.

Now you can add Democrat Representative Brian Baird of Washington State's 3rd District to that list. Baird's fatal flaw: He told the truth as he sees it.

He has always done that. He is brave and totally honest. He doesn't bend with each passing poll result. He has courage, honor, intelligence and an open mind. He certainly doesn't follow the crowd.

Braid was one of the very brave and very honest few who had the absolute courage to stand up against President Bush and the overwhelming majority of his fellow Democrats and the public and openly oppose President Bush's flawed and ultimately disastrous plan to invade and occupy Iraq.

While John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and the vast majority of the leaders of the party endorsed and voted for the invasion, Braid said "No." And we all know today that Baird was right. He was a man of strength in the eye of a post 9/11hurricane.

But that same open and inquisitive mind, that same intellectual honesty, that same courage has caused him, not to endorse Bush's folly, but just to say that there are aspects of the current "surge" that are working.

Here's a tiny part of Baird's statement:

As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future.

Today's progressives can't stand that. In their mind Baird somehow stands in the way of the path from "A" to B." Today's progressive wing has a litmus test: "Oppose all things Bush."

Take a look at this! has marshaled their money and forces against the otherwise liberal Baird:

just one of hundreds of hate posts on progressive blogs against Representative Baird: has launched a television ad campaign in Representative Brian Baird's district in Washington State after the congressman publicly announced that he was in support of a troop surge in Iraq and flip-flopped on his support for a withdrawal timetable for our soldiers.

Aparty [sic] from ignoring a sense of party loyalty, flip-flopping, and having no coherent position on the war, the disrespect of his constituents means that Rep. Baird deserves to be targeted by With the political power that this organization wields, he should be very nervous about his prospects for reelection.

What irritates me the most is the "flip flop" accusation. What absolute bullshit! Hillary Clinton has flip flopped! Edwards has flip flopped! John Kerry has flip flopped!!!! They all supported the invasion and now they don't. They flip flopped. And doesn't complain about them.

Nope. Flip flopping is just today's ruse. It's what happens when you lose intellectual honesty. It's what happens when you can no longer tolerate anyone who disagrees with the specific progressive path.

So put me in the tiny old Democrat Party along with Joe Lieberman and Brian Baird and all those who genuinely dare to speak their own convictions, draw their own conclusions, review the facts and face the hurricane, whether it's segregation, 9/11 hysteria, prejudice or the "progressive" doctrine of the day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Casey at the Bat

I certainly had no intention of writing anything about the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. His short and troubled tenure will simply be remembered as a sad anecdote to a failed Presidency.

But, as I did my usual morning surfing of the blogosphere I was awestruck at the rejoicing on the left for this "victory."

It seems that any arrow piercing the heart of the Bush team is a source for rejoicing. We got one. Hooray for our team!

And, in that limited sense,
Bush was tragically correct in his short statement yesterday, "It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."

Now lets face facts. Gonzales was in way over his head. His performance before Congress was an embarrassment. He needed to resign. In fact, Bush should have fired him.

On the other hand, the Democrats endless hearings on the perfectly legal replacement of the eight federal prosecutors was a sham from beginning to comic end. Gonzales should have hit that one out of the park. Instead he muffed the ball.

But, the absolute glee surrounding his departure is so absurd to be silly. You would think Kos had personally assassinated Attila the Hun. Or that Arianna Huffington had captured Osama Bin Laden using only ecologically friendly recycled paper clips.

I'm reminded of Garrison Keillor's brilliant parody of the (also very brilliant) Ernest Thayer's classic poem, written in 1888,
Casey at the Bat. Keillor finally gave the opponents of the "Mudville Nine" a name, Dustburg. And he retold the story in biting satire from the opponents point of view.

To all too many of Bush's opponents this is simply a game. It's the ninth inning and Gonzales has struck out. And while Bush weeps in tiny Mudville for the lose of his team mate, there is great rejoicing throughout Dustburg.

And so I give you the final five stanza's of Keillor's great satire. You can read his entire poem here:
Casey at the Bat (Road Trip Version).

He swung so hard his hair fell off and he toppled in disgrace
And the Dustburg catcher held the ball and the crowd tore up the place,
With Casey prostrate in the dirt amid the screams and jeers
We threw wieners down at him and other souvenirs.

We pounded on the dugout roof as they helped him to the bench,
Then we ran out to the parking lot and got a monkey wrench
And found the Mudville bus and took the lug nuts off the tires,
And attached some firecrackers to the alternator wires.

We rubbed the doors and windows with a special kind of cheese
That smells like something died from an intestinal disease.
Old Casey took his sweet time, but we were glad to wait
And we showered him with garbage as the team came out the gate.

So happy were the Dustburg fans that grand and glorious day,
It took a dozen cops to help poor Casey away,
But we grabbed hold of the bumpers and we rocked him to and fro
And he cursed us from inside the bus, and gosh, we loved it so!

Oh sometimes in America the sun is shining bright,
Life is joyful sometimes, and all the world seems right,
But there is no joy in Dustburg,
no joy so pure and sweet
As when the mighty Casey fell, demolished, at our feet.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do You Feel Lucky?

It isn't easy being a liberal in a small town in the deep south. It's especially difficult being a religious liberal. My church, the Unitarian Church, sanctions religious gay marriages. I'm proud of our open, inclusive congregations.

My favorite Unitarian Minister is a woman. Another rather wonderful sign of progress and equality.

But I must drive a hour and a half to attend church. The closest thing we have to a liberal church here in our small town is a Methodist Church with a pastor who makes most Baptists look left wing.

Still I chose to live here in a town of only 8,000 and my wife and my family love it. There is actually a lot to be said for small town values, especially the friendship and mutual support in a tight knit community. If you have tragedy, a crisis or even a fallen limb off a tree, thee are twenty people who genuinely rush to your side. We can argue politics over our morning coffee and they will still stop to help if my car breaks down on the side of the road.

I feel lucky. This is a great community, a great state and a great country.

But my rights as an American citizen are really an accident of birth. Unless reincarnation is more of a reality than I've assumed, I did nothing to deserve this wonderful accident. And if reincarnation is a reality, I must have done something really good in a previous life to receive this much bounty now.

We can argue politics. We can officiate religious gay marriages. We can lobby our government and perhaps, someday, legal gay marriages will become a reality.

I can go to the local Baptist Church and witness my grandson be baptised as I did last Sunday. There is no restriction on religious freedom. I can be Unitarian one Sunday and Baptist the next (at least in spirit).

Tragically both my boys have been married and divorced. One is remarried to a wonderful girl and we even gained a granddaughter in the process. Gone are the stigmas against divorce, remarriage and even sex outside of marriage.

Maybe that's not all good. Divorce rates are high and too many children are born out-of wedlock. Society is evolving and solutions sometimes come slowly. But freedom is a wonderful thing.

I am very lucky, indeed.

But what if I had been born in Iran instead? It's just a matter of luck. I didn't chose to be born here. Saeed Ghanbari didn't chose to be born in Iran. It was just a matter of luck.

From today's
Daily Mail (United Kingdom) , story by David Williams

Rough justice: 80 lashes for 'immoral' Iranian who abused alcohol and had sex

His face covered by a balaclava, an official brandishing a cane repeatedly lashes the back of a man found guilty of breaking Iran's morality laws.

Two police officers hold the legs of 25-year-old Saeed Ghanbari and another his arms to ensure there is no escape from the punishment of 80 lashes handed down by a religious court.

Traffic was brought to a halt in Qazvin, 90 miles west of the capital Tehran, as more than 1,000 men gathered behind barricades to watch the public flogging.

Some took pictures on mobile telephones, others climbed traffic lights for a better vantage point as Ghanbari was marched to the centre of the square under the watch of blue-uniformed guards carrying machine guns.

A four foot long metal bench was taken from a police van and the convicted man was made to lie on it on his stomach, his fawn checked shirt pulled-up to his shoulders to expose his back and waist.

One police officer held his hands together beneath the bench, two others gripped his legs to ensure there was little movement.

Two police officers stood-by, their faces covered with balaclavas - each to administer 40 lashes.

The public lashings have been endorsed by the judiciary as a way of deterring alcohol abuse at a time when it is on the increase among young men but some religious leaders are said to be questioning their validity, fearing they have an adverse impact on the country's image abroad.

Although men and women convicted of flouting public morals are routinely flogged in detention centres, public floggings are considered rare.

Human Rights groups say there have been a marked rise in recent months in the number of people sentenced to executions and floggings in Iran.

This isn't funny, but I can't help but think about the movement here in the teach abstinence. I'm guessing public flogging might just do the trick.

If a flogging like this took place at the hands of a fundamentalist Christian in small town Mississippi, the entire world would be outraged. This simply can't happen and won't be tolerated in the United States.

Amnesty International, which said it is "greatly concerned by continuing human rights abuses in Iran", has highlighted figures revealing 117 people were executed in 2006 with thousands facing floggings.

They included a woman, who had been forced into prostitution as an eight-year-old, receiving 99 lashes because of "acts contrary to chastity."

Earlier this year, a man was flogged after a copy of the Bible was found in his car.

If our misadventures in Iraq have taught us nothing else, it has proven our inability to force our morality upon other countries, especially Islamic countries. We cannot convert the world to democracy and religious freedom at the point of a gun.

Still, what should we do? A girl received 99 lashes for being raped as a eight year old.

As I send my check tonight to Amnesty International I just want to ask you one question: Do you feel lucky?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

The full and correct quote is:

    "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

It is fascinating that this quote is from 1887. It was first written by Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton.

The topic of today's short post goes back to my original intent for this journal: Discussions of the Internet and it's impact on the real world. And my subject today is
Google. They have absolute power.

I'm not going to bore you with a lot of details, but one of my clients (in the real world) is having horrible problems with their placement in Google Search Results. This small company is a leader in their particular field and a company with great integrity. Suddenly and without any known cause their search placement results for ALL key terms virtually disappeared from all Google results last July 9th.

Technically they didn't disappear. Key search terms went from a consistent rank within the Top 10 to about 180 (eighteen pages down, where no one ever looks).

I'm not writing today to cry about this one incident. The problem, as it turns out, is it isn't just one incident. It happens a lot, to a lot of different companies, for a lot of different reasons.

There are legitimate reasons for such penalties from Google. Link Farming, or buying links on multiple , unrelated, websites is the most common prohibited activity. My client doesn't do any of the prohibited activities. They don't even employ an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consultant.

But a gigantic industry has sprung up just to assist companies who have been delisted or punished by Google. If you have a few moments and the technical stamina to read a terrifying article on just one specific problem, link over to
Google Proxy Hacking: How A Third Party Can Remove Your Site From Google SERPs by web guru Dan Thies

Now we don't think my client has this problem, but they might. This is only one of dozens of possible problems, many of them malicious. This little company believes the Google delisting could cost them one million dollars $1,000,000.00 this year alone.

There is no functional appeal process at Google. Contact Google and someone might or might not listen. They will never respond directly. You simply have to watch your search results to see if anything changes.

Google claims that such distance and formality and silence is required to maintain the integrity of their search engine process. They rule from on high like the Greek Gods.

And petitioning Google is like petitioning the Greek Gods. Pray. Make Sacrifices. Burnt Offerings. But expect no response.

Google, you see, has over 80% of the entire search engine business. They power AOL Search and perhaps a hundred or more other engines behind the scenes. Yahoo is number two and everyone else is a very minor player.

They can destroy a company with the single stroke of the keyboard. Go to any of the SEO Forums and the stories are legion. My little client is just one story out of hundreds.

My client has about fifteen key search terms. Type in any of these terms on Yahoo, MSN, Alta Vista, Ask or Alexa and they are always in the top 5, frequently number one.

But not on Google. Google ranks them at about 180, eighteen pages into the search. Since my client only has a dozen or so competitors, they show up after nonsensical sites with totally unrelated products or services. Chinese Laundries without any relationship to the search terms queried show up before my client. I'm not joking. Have you ever looks at results around 90 in Google?

This is a huge windfall for my client's competitors. Imagine if you operated a little store in a small town and suddenly, overnight, without warning, Walmart or Target or Dillards or Kohls simply disappeared entirely!! Building gone! Parking lot gone! Your business might increase a hundred fold overnight.

On the other hand, as a customer you might be distraught. You would be deprived of dealing with the industry leader and forced to deal with someone who has higher prices or lower quality or both.

Would a competitor pay to have his competition disappear?

Perhaps my client is the victim of competitors underhanded programming. Perhaps they merely offended the Google Gods. Perhaps someone on the Google staff took a disliking to them.

The key is that Google has ABSOLUTE POWER. They answer to no one.

What if just one small employee takes money to bury a few sites? What if it became institutionalized? Surely Google works to prevent this. Or do they?

All I know for sure is on July 8th my client was consistently ranked in the top ten for every applicable search term. On July 9th, they disappeared without a trace.

Enough about this relatively small issue. This isn't the war in Iraq. Or genocide in Darfur.

But it has taught me one practical thing. I've tested out the other search engines and I find that the new
Alexa Search Engine is simply the best for most searches.

I encourage you to download and use the
Alexa Toolbar. If you are in the Internet Business it also has some tools you'll find invaluable. If you're not, the search results are the most targeted and accurate I've found.

And yes, you'll notice it includes a really slick direct link to
Wizard Radio and and another directly to Amazon (they own Alexa) right on the toolbar. Check it out. It will uninstall easily if you don't love it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

People Worth Reading

When I'm looking for a really good rant here in the blogosphere I usually check out Mary over at Freedom Eden. When Mary is on a roll, you're in for the ride of your life!

But (relatively conservative) Mary has her equal on the more liberal side of the ledger with Not Your Mama over on Coyote Angry.

If you don't read another thing today, link on over to Not Your Mama's essay, Just Spit It Out Already. I have to agree with everything she said!

Here's a little teaser:

"Is Obama Black enough? Are we ready for a female president? If you're voting on race or gender you have issues I can't help you with. Christ on a bicycle, are we EVER going to get to the point that race, gender, sexual preference or the size of a persons waistband don't define every other thing about them? Thousands of years of known history and this is the best we can do? Look, I can't stand Mitt Romney but it's because of his views on policy, I don't care if he's Mormon or worships the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

It only gets better! Check it out!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Message from Senators Brownback and Wyden

It looks like Congress has caught on to SoundExchange's bait and switch negotiating strategy. Just how long does the RIAA think they can continue to mislead Congress without penalty. Probably as long as they keep the big donation checks flowing.

Luckily two Senators are acting in rare bipartisan unity to bring the big label record industry back to the negotiating table.

Below I present to you the statement issued by U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) regarding efforts to save Internet radio. The emphasis is mine.

“We sponsored the Internet Radio Equality Act because the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to dramatically increase royalties and apply what we see as unfounded minimum rates threatens to devastate the Internet radio industry. The fact is online radio services do not have enough revenue to support what will amount to unprecedented royalties. The $500 per channel minimum fee alone will deliver an over $1 billion annual windfall to record companies, a windfall that is not justified by any business or equity considerations."

“Now we are hearing that the recording industry is attempting to use this aspect of the CRB decision to force webcasters to adopt recording restrictions far in excess of the controls that have governed broadcast content for decades. While we strongly support a negotiated solution, we will not allow the minimum fee issue to be used to force an agreement that mandates DRM technology and fails to respect the established principles of fair use and consumer rights."

“After the July 15 deadline came and went we were pleased to learn that SoundExchange was negotiating with webcasters, and we expected to avoid pushing forward with this legislation. But, as Congress heads into its August recess, we are troubled by the lack of negotiating progress being reported. Broadcasters report that their June 6 offer to SoundExchange has yet to warrant a response, and webcasters report that negotiating meetings with SoundExchange are proving difficult to schedule."

“Internet radio is crucial to many segments of business and culture – to small and large webcasters building sustainable businesses; to independent artists trying to make it in a crowded industry; and to millions of music fans searching for new diverse music that corporate radio generally does not offer. Innovation and creativity are the winners if Internet radio flourishes, and are the losers if Internet radio stagnates."

“If great progress toward a fair solution for webcasters is not made by Congress’s return to Washington after Labor Day, then we plan to take expeditious steps toward passage of the Internet Radio Equality Act. We feel the Senate must take action, and we will make every effort move the Internet Radio Equality Act to the floor.”

Brownback and Wyden are the Senate sponsors of the Internet Radio Equality Act.




Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Tip O' the Cap to Keith Olbermann

A very quick journal entry.

I've been exceedingly tough on Keith Olbermann in this journal and that is very likely to continue. Keith is often unfair to the point of deception in his presentation of the news and opinion.


Let me compliment Keith Olbermann on his excellent moderation of the AFL-CIO Democrat Debate tonight. Keith moved the debate along and kept the candidates on track. It was Keith who made the debate work!

Sparks fkew! And this was the best debate so far.

And isn't Dennis Kucinich a great debater? Democrats ought to start to take him more seriously.

Finally, as long as I'm dreaming, I'd love to see Olbermann moderate a Republican debate!

Of course I also would like to see Brit Hume moderate a future Democrat debate.




Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Agony of Victory

This past week a relatively minor report from two policy wonks at the Brookings Institute ignited an interesting and, in my opinion, rather disturbing debate in the blogosphere and political circles. Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack made appearances on the cable political television broadcasts and wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times, A War We Might Just Win.

O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Pollack is the director of Middle Eastern research at the same institute.

I wish I could tell you that the firestorm that erupted in the wake of their article was a shocking surprise, but, alas, it was totally predictable.

The left, primarily "progressive," wing of the political spectrum ripped the report and the two analysts to shreds.

O’Hanlon and Pollack had visited Iraq and compiled a detailed, honest and rather even handed assessment of the progress of the first few weeks of President Bush's surge strategy. They reported that our troops were upbeat and moral was quite good. They reported some progress had been made on the ground.
But they also were highly critical. For example they reported that the Iraqi political structure was still a disaster, the parliment was deadlocked and impotent and that the road to stability was still blocked by factional and sectarian roadblocks.

However, the progressives seem to reject even a hint that Bush's strategy might have merit!

Air America, the liberal talk show network, erupted into real sectarian violence. O’Hanlon and Pollack were vilified and condemned. One moment they were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the next they were Benedict Arnold and John Wilkes Booth. And the next they were the hapless Laurel and Hardy. Certainly they were monsters and traitors and buffoons all rolled up into one. I thought my friend Randi Rhodes was going to have an aneurysm.

Predictably the blogosphere was even worse. Clearly there is one opinion you must not ever utter: "We might just win in Iraq."

And Keith Olbermann? I could write an entire essay about the bombastic and convoluted comments from this buffoon. But I'd just end up being named the "worst person in the world."

Besides, that's not my point. My point is "Why must the left demand defeat?" I just don't get it.

Barack Obama made it clear that even genocide was no reason to remain in Iraq. But does that mean we must have genocide in Iraq to prove our political point?

I know we want the troops to come home. But wouldn't it be OK if Iraq was stable? Can't we actually have a working democracy in the Middle East? How bad would it be if the surge worked?

Hey look.... it's early yet. Maybe that won't happen. Maybe Iraq will disintegrate into civil war. Maybe al-Qaeda will take over Iraq and turn it into the world's most powerful terrorist state. Maybe Iran and Turkey and Syria will divide the country into three puppet states.

Things might still change. We could lose. O’Hanlon and Pollack's report was very preliminary.

But why does the left seem to condemn anyone who would forecast stability? Or hint at progress?

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Bush's team were wrong to invade Iraq. And they compounded that error at every turn. They have totally botched the occupation (so far). The mistakes and misjudgements Bush made were huge and tragic.

Bush's political opponents have all the ammunition they need to even go so far as to impeach the President if they have the will to do so.

So why must we also demand defeat in Iraq? Why can't we condemn Bush while simultaneously working for a fair, just and stable solution to this Middle Eastern crisis?

Why condemn O’Hanlon and Pollack for filing a report? Were they wrong to even offer a glimmer of hope.

In today's bizarre political climate, a modern retelling of the story of Peter Pan would have the left so hating Captain Hook that they would be praying that Tinkerbell dies.

We do not need Iraq to die to prove President Bush and the neo-cons were wrong.