Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Need for a Real Discussion

I love Sunday Morning. I make a Double Shot Cafe Mocha and browse the blogosphere. Often I am so busy during the week I cannot get to read the comments and observations of those I've grown to appreciate and respect. There are several million bloggers out there and I only follow about twenty with any regularity.

Of course many are in areas like sports, cooking, theater or gardening where I have less personal interest. I try to follow a few areas of great interest including world affairs and politics.

Ahhhhh, politics. Your mother often told you never to discuss religion and politics. You only make enemies, start fights, end friendships. It's still true today. How many of you discuss politics with passion here in the blogosphere, but remain totally silent at work or with friends?

The blogosphere is quite a good outlet. You're not face to face. If you are angry or hurt you don't need to face your adversary over dinner or a round of golf. Many of us are or have been anonymous. Only in the last six months did I add my actual name to this blog, following the lead of Bruce Carroll Jr. and B. Daniel Blatt over at
The Gay Patriot.

Still as I read this morning I am struck with the high tension and the relative lack of dialog between not just the left and the right, but between even factions within each group. Wars tend to do that sort of thing and the occupation of Iraq has become especially polarizing.

As I read
The Daily Kos and The Huffington Post and Michelle Malkin this morning along with some other, more personal blogs, I was awestruck by the way bloggers simply dismiss out-of-hand anyone who disagrees with their sensible and personal position on this issues.

If you disagree with me you are "brainwashed," a "stooge or lackey," a "traitor" or and "idiot."

Ted Rall the brilliant editorial cartoonist over at Universal Press Syndicate wrote this parody on October 22nd:
"In 2007, Americans were dumber than dirt. Over time, however, the endless war in Iraq began to play a role in natural selection. Only idiots signed up; only idiots died. Back home, the average IQ soared."

Please link on over to Rall's Website HERE and read the cartoon to get the joke and the point.

Curiously most conservatives completely missed Rall's point and attacked the cartoonist. The state of American dialog today gives Rall and others fertile ground to plow.

But it's not just conservatives that miss the point. There is huge outrage in many of the "Progressive" blogs is directed at anyone who disagrees with the immediate pull-out from Iraq regardless of the consequences.

The increasingly normal reaction of both Conservatives and Progressives is to dismiss those who dare to disagree with them. A little name calling here and condescending comments there in place of an honest assessment of the views of others.

It's obviously just me, but I find great value and wisdom in the thinking of both camps. Neither side is a nutjob. These are HONEST PEOPLE with HONEST OPINIONS.

Clearly today (right or wrong) the country is no longer in the mood for a quick end to the Iraq occupation. They're just not ready to depart from that stage for a variety of reasons.

This doesn't mean that conservatives were right or that liberals are loony. It simply means this is a complex, multi-faceted issue.

The FACT that BUSH waged a stupid, poorly planned, sloppily executed and possibly illegal invasion doesn't mean we must make an equally stupid, poorly planned and sloppily executed exit.

I'm not asking for some sort of global bloggy kumbaya moment. Honest disagreement is valuable.

But dismissing other's opinions without ever actually reading them or considering them eliminates any chance for growth, understanding or progress.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Making Sense Out of Politics

I'd like to make some sense out of today's S-CHIP vote in the House of Representatives. I'm convinced there are dozens upon dozens of varying agendas going on there, not any of them actually aimed at helping children or improving medical care.

In reality today ended with a meaningless stand-off between Democrats who "think they have a winning issue" and Republicans who "think they have a winning issue." How uncool is that?

The financial division between Republicans and Democrats is really rather small. And the current S-CHIP program is generally regarded as good, although it is unevenly implemented and virtually ignored by almost 1/3rd of the families who could enroll their children.

Nobody brings this fact up because neither Congress nor the President can actually make people become good and caring parents. Still I would have loved to hear Congressman Pete Stark rail about that instead of making bizarre, stupid, insensitive, meaningless and inflammatory statements about President Bush about the increasingly successful military occupation of Iraq.

Which is something else I don't understand. The near brilliant surge strategy of General Petraeus is really working. By virtually any objective or subjective measure, the situation in Iraq is improving. Why doesn't everybody admit that and then continue the real debate about the wisdom of a continued occupation and viable exit strategies.

Why do most Democrats have to mimic Harry Reid and state "I believe … that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything," when it so very clear that Reid is simply wrong?

Reid's idiotic approach allows Republicans to state with obvious accuracy that the Democrats are "invested in defeat."

Why can't my fellow Democrats say, "Wow! The military is doing a great job. And General Petraeus is a genius. Can we go home now?"

I can't even follow Reid's logic of implying that we're losing and our enemies are kicking our butts, so we should give up. That argument not only flies in the face of the current events, it turns the public so strongly against Congress that Bush ends up look better than the Congress.

But let's return to our discussion of Darfur.
Oh, you didn't even know we were talking about Darfur, you thought we were talking about S-CHIP. But we really weren't. You see Congress doesn't actually give a rat's ass about S-CHIP. If they did they would compromise with President Bush who has already signalled he will compromise generously.

Nope Congress really doesn't care about S-CHIP, no matter how big the crocodile tears shed by Pete Stark. Nope. Congress members just want a "winning issue." That's also why Congress refuses to solve the Social Security Disaster, which is now only about 5 years away.

And it's why this article today is about Darfur. You see Darfur is only about death, war, murder, rape, starvation, suffering, slavery, corruption and oil. Not a single "winning issue" the entire deck of cards.

So Darfur is up to you, the readers of this blog. Congress isn't ever going to actually pass the
The Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007 (SADA). Not a "winning issue." Don't even hold your breath waiting for hearing.

But you ultimately have a lot of power. Tell your mutual funds to divest PetroChina, a Chinese oil company whose parent company, CNPC, fills the coffers of the Sudanese government and helping fund the its actions in Darfur.

If you'll put enough pressure on Wall Street and on Congress saving lives might actually become a "winning issue."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Biggest Election Scandal in History?

Other than the original investigative newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, the main stream media is not yet involved or particularly reporting the unfolding scandal in the illegal fundraising for Democrat Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Here's a short synopsis from the
LA Times:

NEW YORK -- Something remarkable happened at 44 Henry St., a grimy Chinatown tenement with peeling walls. It also happened nearby at a dimly lighted apartment building with trash bins clustered by the front door.

And again not too far away, at 88 E. Broadway beneath the Manhattan bridge, where vendors chatter in Mandarin and Fujianese as they hawk rubber sandals and bargain-basement clothes.

All three locations, along with scores of others scattered throughout some of the poorest Chinese neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been swept by an extraordinary impulse to shower money on one particular presidential candidate -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton's campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown.

Many of Clinton's Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give.

As with other campaigns looking for dollars in unpromising places, the Clinton operation also has accepted what it later conceded were improper donations. At least one reported donor denies making a contribution. Another admitted to lacking the legal-resident status required for giving campaign money.

Clinton aides said they were concerned about some of the Chinatown contributions.
Particularly worrisome is the fact that many of the supposed contributors claim they never made donations. Others cannot be located and might not exist. . And still others are ineligible to even donate to US elections. None seem to have the financial ability to make the donations that appear in their names.

Clearly there is some unseen hand attempted to control the outcome of the US Election.

I have been and continue to be an early supported of Hillary Clinton. There is no reason today to believe she is involved or even aware of the nature of the potentially illegal contributions.

But Hillary need to get out in front of this scandal. She needs to carefully reject potentially tainted contributions and she needs to lead the investigation into the donations.

So far she hasn't done this and I am very concerned. If the press starts to dig, and I believe they will, this could be huge. In fact it could easily morph into the biggest election scandal in history.

Watch this story.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Abu Abdullah Kidnapped, Feared Dead

Abu Abdullah, one of a handful of Iraqi Sunni's who had maintained their jobs at the Shi'ite controlled Iraqi Interior Ministry is feared dead. Abu (not his real name) was kidnapped nearly a month ago by the "Islamic State of Iraq" a group aligned with or actually part of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Since his kidnapping, three of his Sunni co-workers at the Iraqi Interior Ministry have also been kidnapped and killed. Abu Abdullah is feared dead although his body has not been found.

Abdullah had worked hard to fit in with his Shi'ite co-workers even memorizing Shi'ite prayers and worshiping with them. And it can't be known for certain which group of religious extremists kidnapped and killed him. His efforts to blend in might actually have marked him for murder.

But Jamie Tarabay of National Public Radio tells the story much better than I can....
CLICK HERE and listen to her report.

Drive Time

I think that, for the most part, we get an all too antiseptic view of the war and U.S. occupation of Iraq. Our major networks a great for statistics and 30 second synopsis stories of bombings or sectarian violence.

I'm not sure these blubs add any understanding to the real human disaster that is Iraq. Even if you have heard that there are two million refugees who have fled Iraq and the violence, it's unlikely the average citizen really understands the crisis in Iraq and the surrounding countries.

But National Public Radio takes such a different approach to reporting, that listeners to their news programming have a real and very personal view of the effects of the invasion, the war, the occupation and the horrible religious fundamentalist violence on a country that really did want salvation from Saddam Hussein, but has only received the damnation of eternal violence.

This morning's story about the extremely rare Iraqi immigrant to the United States was simply stunning. But it is just one installment in a continuing story covering the refugees attempting to flee near certain death at the hands of religious fundamentalists who target the educated, professional middle class Iraqi's along with anyone who is seen as cooperating with the American occupiers.

You are left wondering, like the grade school girl in the story, why the United States allows nearly unrestrained immigration on citizens from some countries (legally or illegally), yet turns its back on the Iraqi's who have been the United States greatest personal allies.

The continuing story also chronicles American soldiers who give monthly personal financial support to their Iraqi friends who often actually saved GI's lives, but are now forced to flee to Syria or hide from the so-called insurgents.

The stories are lengthy, detailed and extremely personal. The listener is FORCED to get to know and to care about these people, And they are people, not statistics, not numbers, not nameless victims.

If you don't listen to NPR each morning or evening on your local public radio station, I urge you to listen to these stores on-line.

This week most public radio stations are conducting their annual fund drive, called "Drive Time." If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to donate to this, the last and only great news network.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


We all need to laugh at Congress this week for their weak and tentative posturing around the issue of the 90 year old, historically well documented, GENOCIDE of the ONE AND ONE HALF MILLION Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War One.

Some members of Congress want to try, once again, to pass a Resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide.

That is not to say their aren't real and compelling reasons to avoid the Congressional Resolution before the House this month. Turkey is a rare and important ally in the middle east and a potentially powerful enemy in Kurdish Iraq. And Turkey is deeply offended by the resolution.

Why then should we laugh at the Congressional debate over the Armenian Genocide. Only to keep from crying.

Fighting, stopping or even protesting Genocide is the biggest joke on earth. The safest thing any petty dictator or country can do today is kill a few hundred thousand of their neighbors.

Genocide is generally supported by the world's strongest nations. China, India, even President Bush's more globally active United States, either actively support the on going GENOCIDE in Darfur, provide financial aid or United Nations cover to the perpetrators, or stand by and watch the death and destruction of one ethnic group by another.

So we once again mount a massive political battle in Congress capturing emotions, political favors and ethnic support over a 90 year old atrocity. No matter what Congress does this next month, not one Armenian life will be saved. That tragic genocide all took place 90 years ago.

Turkey does need to face it's past. And the so-called democracy in Turkey actually has laws in place that can condemn people to prison for even using the word Genocide in public when discussing the "war." Change is coming in Turkey, reporters on NPR tell us (be sure to listen to this excellent and in depth report), but the change is coming slowly. Ninety years is slow.

So be sure to drop a note to the displaced Darfur mother of a child starving to death in a refugee camp in Chad this morning that the US Congress will debate the issue in about 90 years. But it's unlikely they will actually do anything.

"God Bless 'Em"

A Tip O' the Wizard's Pointy Cap goes this morning to Jeanne Phillips, aka Abigail Van Buren, who publicly came out in favor of Gay Marriage and unions this week in a statement of remarkable kindness, understanding and understated courage.

Lisa Leff, reporting for the Associated Press writes:

    "For years, rumblings have surfaced on the Internet, conjecture about her casual references to "sexual orientation" and "respect."

    "Now, Dear Abby is ready to say it flatly: She supports same-sex marriage."

    "I believe if two people want to commit to each other, God bless 'em," the syndicated advice columnist told The Associated Press. "That is the highest form of commitment, for heaven's sake."

    "What Jeanne Phillips, aka Abigail Van Buren, finds offensive and misguided are homophobic jokes, phrases like "That's so gay," and parents who reject or try to reform their children when they come out of the closet."

    "Her views are the reason she's being honored this week by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national advocacy group that provides support for gay people and their families. The original Abby, Phillips' 89-year-old mother, Pauline, helped put PFLAG on the map in 1984 when she first referred a distraught parent to the organization."
This is real and genuine progress for the gay and lesbian community. Dear Abby can do more to foster understanding and acceptance of the gay lifestyle than activist mayors and political grand standers who violate the law and alienate the public in general.

This is real progress in changing the hearts and minds of the public on gay rights. Thank you Jeanne Phillips. God Bless You.

Friday, October 05, 2007

$23.76 versus $222,000.00

Well here's a bit of bad news for those of us who have fought so long and hard for sensibility and intelligence in the music recording industry: A jury in Duluth, Minnesota has awarded the major recording companies (Sony BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.) a total of $222,000 for the illegal file sharing of 24 copyrighted recordings from the above mentioned labels.

Curiously enough last night I logged onto my
Napster account (the new, legal Napster) and downloaded 24 tracks and burned them to a mix CD. My cost was $23.76.

The music industry, primarily the
RIAA, hopes that everyone gets the message. $23.76 is a whole lot cheaper than $222,000.00!

Unfortunately my fear is that this will only encourage the RIAA and its members to continue their long standing attitude of treating their customers as if they are mortal enemies instead of the only real source of income they actually have.

This lawsuit may actually encourage the music industry to continue to make the legal purchase of music difficult, confusing, and frequently impossible. The music industry and their bizarre legal restrictions drive more consumers to illegal downloading than any other single factor.

Let's examine my purchase last night as an example. I have for a few weeks wanted to purchase a number of tunes I've heard on the radio. The first decision I needed to make was where to buy.

I'm a member of Napster and I love their "Napster To Go" service that allows me to download around two million songs for a flat rate of only $14.95 a month. It's a great deal! You can download and listen on several different computers (at work, home and even my laptop) and also transfer the music to an approved portable device like my Dell DJ. You never actually have to pay for any of the music as long as you pay the monthly fee. It's a wondrous program!!

Except I really prefer my Apple iPod device and you cannot play a single Napster purchased tune on an iPod. It's a "Digital Rights Management" issue along with proprietary software.

And you cannot burn any of the tunes to a CD. Those are the liabilities of the "Napster To Go" program. Sadly iTunes has no similar program.

So the solution is to go ahead and purchase the tracks individually and then legally burn them to a CD and then rip them to mp3's and then upload them to the iPod. That's a real pain in the ass.

But it gets worse!!! Some artists, labels and songwriters place additional restrictions on the legally downloaded tunes. They withhold the "Burn Rights" so you cannot legally make a CD even after you pay the 99 cents to buy the track!!!!

This, of course, makes no sense. You can download and listen to the music on multiple computers and even portable devices at no charge beyond the monthly fee, but you cannot give the artist and label money and burn a copy.

If you really want this song you are now left with only two options. One, go to Amazon and buy the CD, wait a week for delivery and then rip the song to mp3...... or go onto an illegal file sharing site and obtain the song for free (completely illegally) and listen where ever and whenever you want, on any device.

Add to this bit of stupidity that no site offers all the music. Napster has a lot of "exclusives" and iTunes has even more. To create your perfect mix you are likely going to be forced to go to several different sites and purchase tracks in a variety of different formats, all with different Digital Rights Management restrictions. You will then be forced to burn multiple CD's in order to reverse rip the songs into the universally accepted mp3 format before you can ever use your iPod!!!!

And the RIAA can't figure out why people continue to frequent the illegal, but extremely easy to use, file sharing sites.

The 24 songs I paid for last night took me eight hours of hell and $23.76 to get them onto my iPod and on to a single CD I can listen to in my car. Eight hours. I'm not joking. And I could never obtain two tracks I wanted. Poor Carrie Underwood and Matchbox Twenty lost out on the 99 cents I wanted to give them. My money went to Avril Livigne and Regina Spektor instead.

Dear RIAA, Jammie Thomas the near poverty level 30 year old, single mother from Brainerd, Minnesota is not the problem. You are.


The Wizard also recommends you read Paul Resnikoff's excellent analysis of the current RIAA situation: Resnikoff's Parting Shot: Why Major Labels Just Lost

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Courage and Honor: President Jimmy Carter

This should have been the lead story on the news this evening, but I don't think it got any coverage on most network or cable news networks. The world may be watching, but America seems to have A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder).

While Harry Reid and 41 Democrat Representatives felt the most important issue on earth was condemning Rush Limbaugh for things he never said, the rest of the world was riveted by the unfolding events in Darfur. President Jimmy Carter led a delegation of the world's most respected human rights leaders in an attempt to bring aid and comfort to the refugees of the on-going genocide.

At 83 years old, President Carter has the strength and the courage and the honor to take on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the very military who continue the unabated violence.

As Carter attempted to visit refugees he went head to head with the chief of the feared Sudanese secret police. And Carter refused to back down.

Naturally, all U.S. News broadcasts covered the Rush Limbaugh non-event continuously, darting mindlessly from Representative to pundit to Iraqi veteran to television commentator. If you watched the U.S. television programs you would never know that President Carter was still alive, let alone that he led a delegation to Darfur.

Thank God former President Jimmy Carter can stay on task and knows the real priorities and the real issues facing the world today. And thank God President Carter has real courage and real honor. Every American should be proud.

ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU, writing for The Associated Press, tells the story.

    KABKABIYA, Sudan - Former President Jimmy Carter confronted Sudanese security services on a visit to Darfur Wednesday, shouting "You don't have the power to stop me!" at some who blocked him from meeting refugees of the conflict.

    The 83-year-old Carter, in Darfur as part of a delegation of respected international figures known as "The Elders," wanted to visit a refugee camp.
    But the U.N. mission in Sudan deemed that too dangerous.Instead, Carter agreed to fly to the World Food Program compound in the North Darfur town of Kabkabiya, where he was supposed to meet with ethnic African refugees, many of whom were chased from their homes by militias and the Arab-dominated government's forces.
    But none of the refugees showed up and Carter decided to walk into the town — a volatile stronghold of the pro-government janjaweed militia — to meet refugees too frightened to attend the meeting at the compound.
    He was able to make it to a school where he met with one tribal representative and was preparing to go further into town when Sudanese security officers stopped him.
    "You can't go," the local chief of the feared Sudanese secret police, who only gave his first name as Omar, ordered Carter. "It's not on the program!"
    "We're going to anyway!" an angry Carter retorted as a small crowd began to gather around. "You don't have the power to stop me."
    "We've got to move, or someone is going to get shot," warned one of the U.N. staff accompanying the delegation.
    Carter's traveling companions, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, tried to ease his frustration and his Secret Service detail urged him to get into a car and leave.

    "I'll tell President Bashir about this," Carter said, referring to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
    Branson said some refugees had slipped notes in his pockets.
    "We (are) still suffering from the war as our girls are being raped on a daily basis," read one of the notes, translated from Arabic, that Branson handed to the AP.
    The note said that on Sept. 26, a group of girls had been raped, one of them a 10-year-old, and that a refugee had been shot two days ago. Branson said it had been handed over by an ethnic African man.
    "All (refugees) living in the town of Kabkabiya are vulnerable prisoners who live under injustice and intimidation," the note also said.
    For the most part, the refugees here appeared too frightened to speak to the visiting delegation. The single refugee representative Carter managed to meet at the school pleaded with an AP reporter out of earshot of Sudanese security for Carter to ensure he would not face government retaliation. Carter then went back to the man and wrote down his name, assuring him he would look out for his safety.
    Most of the community leaders the mission met during its two-day visit to Darfur appeared to be government-vetted, and several ethnic African delegates told AP they had been intimidated by authorities into turning down invitations from "the Elders."
    "This illustrates the challenges that communities and humanitarian workers face in Darfur," said Orla Clinton, spokeswoman for the U.N. Mission in Sudan, who witnessed the incident.
    More than 200,000 people have been killed since the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur began in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of discrimination. Sudan's government is accused of retaliating by unleashing a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed — a charge it denies.
    The visit by "The Elders," which is headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Carter and Desmond Tutu, is largely a symbolic move by a host of respected figures to push all sides to make peace.
    Tutu led a separate group to a refugee camp in South Darfur, where he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio the joint African Union-U.N. force was needed immediately.
    "It's awful that AMIS (African Mission in Sudan) should be allowed to be here when it is so inadequately equipped — I mean they couldn't evacuate their injured from the camp after the attack because they don't have military helicopters," he said, referring to the weekend attack on the African Union base.
    Carter accused the international community of neglect for taking too long to mobilize over Darfur.

The problem is that we Americans can't be bothered with little matters like Darfur. Not when there is this critical matter of Rush Limbaugh's mid-day blathering.

And the American television news can't break-away from the made up Limbaugh non-story long enough to even mention President Carter's very heroic efforts to end the real violence, real deaths, real rapes and real starvation in Darfur.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Much Ado About a Whole Lot Less Than Nothing

I'm just not going to spend more that a few paragraphs on this absolutely stupid and (once again) totally false story being manufactured by Media Matters, this time about Rush Limbaugh. What the hell is wrong with these people. Anyone who has ever listened to any extended section of any Rush Limbaugh show or listened to the specific show in question (readily available all over the Internet), knows the accusations against Limbaugh are totally and absolutely false.

But they are actually worse than false, they are stupid beyond imagination. I wish Media Matters would actually tackle an issue that actually mattered!

I'm only writing this tonight because of my continued disgust with Harry Reid and several other Democrats who have picked up the anti-Limbaugh mantra and are marching forward toward condemnation's and reprimands and threatened Armed Forces Network cancellations on these totally false and trumped up charges.

Harry, we have real liberal and Democrat issues that need and require our undivided attention. Are you familiar with Iraq, for example? Or how about health care? Education? Race relations? Darfur?

If you think you can fool the American public by flailing about wildly, muttering falsehoods about a conservative media buffoon instead of dealing substantively with the real issues at hand, you are sadly mistaken.

The first and most important question we should be asking is also the question that should end the conversation: If Limbaugh did insult some soldiers, who the hell cares?

Why are Limbaugh's opinions about anything an issue worthy of House or Senate resolutions? When did Limbaugh ascend to the throne?

Limbaugh does have a weight problem. But Harry, you can't really hide your incompetence behind Limbaugh's girth.