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Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
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Enough of the Iraq Protection Racket

At my most cynical, it's hard not to feel like we're subject and victim to a perpetual protection racket where our nation's past military misadventures in the Mideast and Asia are primed and positioned to spark and erupt into sectarian violence in concert with each other, just to keep the U.S. military in the protection business; stirring up trouble and promising to protect hapless folks in the way of our reckless, opportunistic aggression from the effects and consequences of our own blundering militarism.

We saw an example of that lingering, reflexive paternalism this week as President Obama was considering whether the refusal of a sizable number of the Iraqi army to defend the government against an advancing armed resistance merited a U.S. military response.

To his credit, Pres. Obama immediately discounted the need for the return of ground troops to Iraq and declared that no military action or assistance to the Iraqi government forces would be forthcoming without a 'serious and sincere' effort by the government to resolve political differences that have fueled the sectarian violence.

". . . any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can’t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed

Problem is, the political cards have been deliberately laid out in Iraq in a way that both compels our government to respond as both an ally and an adversary of Iraqis. What other possible reason could there have been for continuing to escalate the numbers of troops in Iraq at the outset of the invasion while they purged the Iraqi police and military forces of thousands of Baathists?

What possible reason could there have been for continuing to introduce new, materially unprepared and untrained American troops into the killing field surrounding the green zone of defense that surrounded the center of Bush's junta? The government in Iraq had fallen. All that remained was the appearance of democracy, much like Saddam's own rule; complete with a paper Parliament left to squabble over whatever scraps of their country that haven't been sullied, stepped on, and stolen by their arrogant invading overlords.

There was no government left to defend there; only the remnants of the new tyrants' reign, complete with enough chaos and mayhem to support the Bush regime's protection racket; a cynical racket that directed our forces to stir up enough resentment and unrest for the U.S. to continue to sit on their high horse and claim to be defending Iraqis (and the U.S.) against a new generation of 'terrorists' Bush's own National Security Estimate said his invasion and occupation had spawned and increased there.

Analogies to the Vietnam war were inevitable and predictable, especially in the face of the continuing deaths of our soldiers, and the escalation of the numbers of troops to Iraq in the face of their obvious failure to earn the trust and consent of those Bush claimed to be liberating in the name of whatever version of democracy they were willing to settle for.

As Saigon became Ho Chi Min City after the U.S. bugged out, Iraq's Baghdad was always destined to reflect the designs of those Bush had identified as our 'enemies' - more so than the captured, occupied, and overthrown capital city will ever resemble any of the grand designs that Bush hawked to the American people to get their initial approval to invade - more of a conundrum than anything akin to the democracy American troops are pledged to support and defend.

As the Iraqi prisons became more efficient torture chambers to crush the new junta's political opposition who they locked up indefinitely without charges or counsel; as the police forces re-assumed their duty as deadly enforcers with the summary judgment of their U.S. supported violence; as the military devolved into bands of death squad militias, complete with U.S. weapons and para-military training - as the government there drew closer to the main spoke of Bush's 'axis of evil', Iran - Iraq was set to rival any of our other purchased regimes in its brutality and oppression.

There is no country in the world who threatens democratic progress in Iraq more than the U.S.. Maliki's regime has been under siege from resistance forces in Iraq whose cause has been fostered, inflamed and aggravated by American military activity in the country.

Moreover, the invasion and occupation of Iraq which emboldened Bush to promote the agenda of his PNAC cronies (who had petitioned for years for the invasion and occupation of the spokes of their 'evil axis') to posture against Iran as a mortal enemy. Yet, it was also the consequence of that invasion and occupation that Iran was advantaged to expand their influence and presence in their former nemesis', U.S. sponsored, Shia-dominated regime in Iraq.

"If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Bush explained in 2007.

That was the argument from republicans responding to President Obama's announcement of the stepped-up withdrawal from Iraq of all U.S. troops. Most of the criticisms from republicans in and out of Congress centered, not on the success or failure of the Maliki regime, but on the curious notion that Iran is 'emboldened' by the U.S. move out of Iraq and would somehow force themselves on the U.S. advantaged Iraqi government.

Bush's most dangerous mischief (outside of the invasion and occupation) was, by far, his strident attempt to shift blame for the violent resistance to his consolidation of power in Iraq to the sovereign nation of Iran. Amazingly, Bush cited Iranian support for Shia "death squads" as a rationale for his accusations without any mention at all of his own role in the arming and training of these rogue elements - many of which began as militias under control of the new regime.

Bush made the accusation and rationalization that an al-Qaeda attack on the mosque in Samarra in early 2006 was the reason the Shia militias became independent execution squads, dispensing their barbaric brand of justice wherever and whenever they engage their Sunni rivals. "Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause," Bush claimed, "and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked." he said in a primetime address.

"Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads," Bush said.

As Bush proposed an escalation of America's involvement in the middle of Iraq's civil war - including sending 4,000 of the 21,000 additional troops to the al-Anbar province to battle what he called "extremists" in the Sunni communities there - it should be remembered that it was our own forces who inflicted the first damage on a holy site in a siege in Najaf in 2004 when they were trying to dislodge al-Sadr and his Mahdi army who had taken refuge around the Imam Ali shrine. It should also be remembered that it was Sadr and his followers who joined with Shiite leader Sistani and enabled the new Iraqi regime, headed by Shiite and Sadr ally, Maliki, to assume power.

In Iraq, under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda, Bush intended for our troops to re-enter strongholds like Najaf and Samarra, and they inevitably confronted the anti-American Shia forces who reside there. Bush challenged Maliki to act against his Shiite allies and provide him with Iraqi troops to help with his escalation, or take the blame for whatever chaos and unrest the bolstered U.S. force stirred up with their attacks on population centers.

After sacrificing the strained resources and humanity of our nation's defenses for almost four years to install and establish, to fight and defend a Shiite-dominated regime who had openly curried the favor of the very Iranian government Bush was now demonizing, Bush wanted that same Iran-friendly regime to provide forces to attack and suppress the heart and soul of their very existence in Iraq and in the region. It was the Maliki regime who, earlier in 2007, made a very public trip to Iran to meet and bond with Bush's Iranian nemesis.



It was more than remarkable for conservatives and republicans to complain about Iranian influence among the Shias in Iraq after their party's president (with their full and vocal support) removed the only existing wedge in the region against Iranian influence when Saddam's puppet dictatorship was taken down.

It was all the more amazing to hear Bush accuse Iran of sponsoring Shiite death squads when it was our own military who initially armed and trained them as recruits for Iraq's army and police forces, and who tolerated them for months and months -before, during, and after the staged elections - as they terrorized their Sunni rivals and those factions opposed to the new Shiite-dominated regime.

Iran wasn't occupying Iraq; the U.S. was. Iran hadn't armed and trained the individuals who made up the bulk of the Shia death squads; the U.S. had. Iran wasn't threatening anyone outside of their own borders; it was Bush who, in fact, threatened Iran with our military forces amassed next door.

There was nothing more empowering of 'extremists' in Iraq than the reflexive response of the residents of the Middle East to U.S. military activity and action across sovereign borders. Nothing has encouraged support in the region for extremists bent on harming Americas and our interests more than Bush's strident, imperious coup in Iraq. Whatever political atmosphere now exists in Iraq was first sparked by all of Bush's saber-rattling and threats against his 'axis of evil'. If Bush and his conservative acolytes wanted a stable Iraq, they clearly didn't take the influence of their own pernicious militarism into account.

Now, President Obama is considering calls from republicans defend their tarnished regime in Baghdad prize with yet another destabilizing display of military force, much like Bush's cordoned last stand in defense of Baghdad after the rest of the country divided into warring sects.

In June 2006, the military launched what they thought would be a strengthening of the new center of Iraq's fledgling government by combining Iraqi forces with U.S. troops. In early May, 2006, the Pentagon had sent their first signal since the after the elections that they wanted to reduce the U.S. forces. The Baghdad mission was a firming-up of the Maliki regime before a gradual exit. Over 3,500 U.S. active duty soldiers who were set to deploy to Iraq were delayed indefinitely. Holding the troops back set off speculation that a drawdown was imminent.

That drawdown never materialized. Instead, later that month, the U.S. force in Iraq was increased by 2,000 troops from Kuwait to bolster the force of about 40,000 combined Iraq/U.S. troops deployed to Baghdad. So, the DoD accounting of 133,000 troops stationed in Iraq at that time was escalated just to retake Baghdad.

Well into August, Operation Forward had no more secured Baghdad than the previous mission dubbed 'Operation Lightning' did in 2005 where Iraqi militias and U.S. troops waged a campaign of repression against the resisting Sunni populations. The mission was more of the same with U.S. forces knocking down doors, kidnapping whoever they choose, and holding them indefinitely in one their prisons without charges, basically terrorizing the residents into submission as they painted a target on the military occupied towns.

Bush's equation for troops in Iraq went like this: More violence = need for more troops. With that prescription, we would leave Iraq by . . . never. Iraq's forces will always be challenged by some militarized resistance, even more so as they remain aligned with our aggravating military presence.

President Obama will never be able to encircle Baghdad with enough air power to effect the type of crushing oppression needed to cow the resistance to the Maliki rule. The best he could hope for as he lobbed missiles or lead against what he identifies as the insurgency is an artificial prop of an unpopular junta. So why bother?

Possibly, the answer lies in the political pressure from his opponents to 'do something'. The chickenhawk-infested republican majority have meshed the sacrifices of our soldiers into their 'smear and fear' campaigns to make themselves look like they're the ones defending our security, and Democrats like the ones preventing them from 'winning' in Iraq. It's a cynical mission, a shameful one.

What republican critics fail to understand and acknowledge is that U.S. military activity in Iraq greatly heightened the violence instead of reducing it. It's ludicrous to expect that more bombings, and the introduction of more weapons into Iraq will bring about any different result, no matter which Iraqis we identify and attack as enemies of our compromised and threatened junta.

No U.S. Bombs in Defense of Phony Democracy in Iraq

______________________________
What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. - President Obama on withdrawing from Iraq at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 27, 2009


In his determination to withdraw troops from Iraq and end that occupation, President Obama emphasized Iraqis' responsibility for the security of their country and government and declared that the solution to their long-term security was a political, rather than a military one. In his 2009 speech outlining his intention to withdraw, he made clear that he viewed the U.S. disengagement from that defense of the new regime as integral to the success of any reconciliation effort Iraqi President Maliki hoped to broker with resisting Iraqis.

"On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security." President Obama said. "I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis."


Months before, Maliki was bristling over the prospect of a lingering American military force; rejecting President Obama's characterization of the negotiations over whether residual troops would be allowed to remain as a 'security pact'; instead, insisting that it was, in fact, 'an agreement to withdraw'. He'd been arguing for over a year that it was his own army which had been responsible for rolling back the insurgent threat to his government and complaining that the U.S. wasn't appreciating just how much he'd done to quell the sectarian strife.

“We don’t call it a security pact but an agreement to withdraw the troops and organize their activities during the period of their presence in Iraq,” al-Maliki was quoted as saying. To Maliki, the U.S. was ignoring ''the big role of the Iraqi government and its achievements, such as stopping the civil and sectarian war.''


Iraqis eventually rejected that latent U.S. paternalism and insisted that all U.S. forces leave. Now that the sectarian strife and violence is threatening Baghdad, it appears Maliki is pleading with the U.S. to erect another 'wall' of protection around the perpetually beleaguered capital to defend his regime against those elements in his nation which his government has waged open war against and disenfranchised from the country's constitution from the early days of his ascendance to power.

The argument for the re-introduction of military force into Iraq is narrowed by the President's announcement this weekend that U.S. troops would not be returning to the battlefield. He did, however, leave the room open for the possibility of airstrikes against targets, which the military outlined, could include sites in Iraq and in Syria, as well; asserting his belief that "Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces."

That dubious and undefined aim isn't a new strategy for this president. Obama 'surged' troops before, into Afghanistan, premised on a Bush-era notion of 'rolling back the terrorist fringe' to give room for their enabled government to organize some sort of constitutional rule. It's not so much a defense of democracy as it is 'democracy-lite' where any end in that defense is supposed to justify the means and any progress is labeled victory.

The premise behind President Obama's initial surge of U.S. troops into Bush's Afghanistan quagmire was to 'push back' resisting Afghans enough to allow some sort of political reconciliation and to enable the government to continue. That effort was predictably bogged down by the difficulty in getting the disparate tribes and factions to accept the central authority NATO has set up in Kabul. There was even more difficulty in getting their installed government to accommodate the interests and demands of the resisting rest of the war-split nation.

The U.S. military offensive against the Taliban was an abject failure in achieving the goals behind the offensive. What happened to the promised ability of the U.S.-led NATO forces to protect the residents of Afghanistan against Taliban blowback from their invasion? The ability to protect innocent civilians from NATO attacks, or insulate them from the negative consequences and effects of the NATO military advance? The ability of NATO to provide and deliver the services and amenities of the central government to the displaced residents? Nonexistent.

What responsibility will the U.S. assume, if any, for the blowback to the Iraqi government for the U.S.-partnered attacks on the Iraqi population? More, importantly, how will airstrikes against the Sunni opposition targets help or further political progress in Iraq? How do we help the parties reconcile if we're merely going to line up on one side of their civil war?

In his remarks on the current Iraq situation, President Obama reemphasized his view that the solution to Iraq's security concerns "is not solely or even primarily a military challenge."

"Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security force." he said.

"So, any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can’t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed."


It's not clear, however, that Maliki is willing or able to provide the political reconciliation that the president has outlined as requisite to him ordering any U.S. military action or assistance to the besieged government. If anything, Maliki's pleas for military assistance to quell the latest rebellion by pro-Sunni insurgent forces are just an invitation for the U.S. to resune its role as the government's protector and benefactor as he wages whatever retaliatory war he chooses against anyone who dares oppose his autocratic regime.

Syria, which was named by officials as a possible target for airstrikes, is no adversary of the Maliki regime. In fact, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki spent the majority of his 30 years of exile from Iraq in Syria as they opposed Saddam and allied with the U.S. in the first U.S. led campaign against the renegade puppet.

The entire rationale and practice of our soldiers were fighting and dying to provide 'room' for Iraqi political changes was covered by Obama's predecessor, Bush. The "breathing space" he said he was giving Iraqis was to ease tensions between the Shiites and the Sunnis. The main point of contention with the Sunnis was the lack of adequate representation in the government and their contention that the Shiite-dominated regime was bent on their community's destruction.

Since Maliki has reshuffled his regime and replaced the Sunnis who walked with Shiites and Kurds, there really can't be any effective reconciliation forthcoming. That makes the deaths of the thousands of Americans who fought and died to give the Maliki regime 'breathing space' a tragic waste.

The move also makes any suggestion of continuing on with a defense of this stacked alliance of Shiites and Kurds a complete ruse. There should be zero expectation of any reconciliation with Sunnis which would lead to any reduction in resistant violence, since Maliki's Shiite-dominated regime decided to completely turn their backs on the Sunnis and their demands and exclude them from the constitution.

The prospect of a working government in Iraq -- which would produce the concessions needed to carry out the reconciliation pipe-dream and reduce the resistant violence -- has always been dependent on the Shiite-dominated regime carving out more political room for the Sunni minority who regards the present regime as an enemy and intent on their community's destruction. Even if the entire Sunni bloc came back to Baghdad, there would still be divisions which are aggravated by the continued assaults on their community by Shiite militias splintered off from the government forces.

Whatever good government facade Maliki manages to cobble together, that effort shouldn't find any support from Congress or the American people for airstrikes or any other military action in Iraq while they wait for the Maliki regime to provide a more efficient mimic of democracy than they have, so far, behind the sacrifices of our nation's defenders and the devastating power of our weaponry.

Paint and spackle on the props in his collapsing Potemkin Village of democracy in Iraq shouldn't be allowed to provide cover for a reckless indifference to the Iraqi lives in the way of any U.S. military action designed to give Maliki's ruse of government 'breathing room'.

Oh, Mockingbirds!


This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
than listen.
I mean this
seriously.
-Mary Oliver


MY catbird talks to me all day, every day, all season long.

He's been coming back to my yard for years and years. It's been so many years that I suspect it's been more than one bird learning our shared songs from the other. Everyone here calls him my bird . . . like I asked him to wake us at the break of dawn and plead almost endlessly with us for his attention every evening.

Like I can help it if he likes my choice of the evening music I play from my computer - He probably thinks its me strumming my guitar and singing with every husky-voiced melody that seeps out of the backdoor - soft and low like a seductive invitation to dance; or sweet and high to tenderly touch the yearning heights of his own sweet repertoire.

He didn't come the year after my father died, not one catbird paid me any mind - but the following year my catbird returned. He perched on a low branch above me, we both shared our year's experience together (in crazy song) for about a half-hour until I was exhausted. He never tires of singing out - and he's louder than the rest of the neighborhood birds.

He's taken to spotting me at the window at my computer, and, last year I startled him away from our outside gazebo because he was just so loud and annoying I couldn't hear myself think. He's a bit wary of me now. That's a good thing.

He's taken to following my wife to work, she believes . . . said she saw him perched atop a light post when she took her lunch break in her car. Must have been pretty hot up there because the poor thing singed its little feet and ended up kicking around in the construction dust in the road trying to cool them off.

Mockingbirds and catbirds do obsess on us when we interact with them. Best not to attract too much of their attention, I think. Better to let them get on with the business of interacting appropriately with their natural partners. Best to not encourage too much of our own compromised humanness in their expressions.

Better to just listen to them - but we can't really help talking back; I can't help it - I give him a playful scold once in a while and a sympathetic sound when he comes by the door squalling about something or the other. 'Whaaa! Whaaa!'

Yeah, man, I know.

Outside my front window is a little wren who comes back every year (same wren?) to stake out his territory in the little green birdhouse my dad and I painted a decade or more ago. He arrives each year with a gentle, sweet melody to entice a mate to share his home and later advantages his quest by amplifying the echo of his call through our open window.

Our independent little wren knows the songs that I play on my computer almost as as well as I know his own. He sings along in knowing agreement from the cypress as Annie Humphrey and John Trudell trade verses on 'Spirit Horses'; twittering with absolute glee as if he's harmonizing with old friends.

Mothers, fathers and children
Creatures young and grown
Called by mighty drumming
Of sacred hooves on stone
The sound of spirit horses
Dancing on a storm
Mercy for the people
Old ways, new dreams reborn

The sun is disappearing and my catbird is making its last entreaties for a nest to share. Atop the hill, a girl catbird alone, calls to the sun as it began to dip its head below the trees - but my catbird is lost in singing along with my deliberately quieter music; matching every tone and adding his own practiced and amazing scale of unearthly notes.

It's dark now, and not even my catbird dares respond to the enticing music that plays on - irregardless of the hour and oblivious to any peril of nature- and seeps out undisturbed into the quiet woods as all of the songbirds try and settle down to sleep. What must they think of me as I carelessly ramble on throughout most of the night?

Whitewater was shamelessly leveraged off of a good man's suicide

LIKE the majority of the WH scandals republicans like to fabricate, it had nothing at all to do with the subject. Whitewater was supposed to be about a failed land deal in Arkansas, and the congressional hearings and 'special prosecutor were initiated because of papers removed from Vince Foster's office after the poor man committed suicide. The papers were ultimately found and turned over, and we didn't hear a peep about any scandal from their contents.

The entire case that emerged reads like some fundamentalist screed about infidelity. Republicans only cared about Clinton's lie about Lewinsky to highlight what they thought would be the death of Clinton's presidency; a public shaming because of the sexual details they revealed.

Turns out, the entire episode not only ended in the congressional and public rejection of anything resembling the stoning of the president that most republicans wanted. His polls went through the roof at the time and Bill Clinton remains one of the most popular political figures today.

The notion that republicans have that Hillary can be damaged in some way by dragging all of this through the press again is the same flawed reasoning that led to the hypocrisy from them in the past. In the wake of Whitewater, there have been countless sexual scandals which have sunk numerous republicans' political futures, because of their party's hypocrisy, if for nothing else.

What most Americans hear when these tawdry details of Bill Clinton's affair are dragged back into the public discourse is a chaste and bitter complaint from folks who no one assumes are beyond similar reproach in some aspect of their own lives. Most of us have sex, and many of us (not me) have affairs outside of marriage or partnership.

Yes, we certainly obsess on the lies told to cover up the nonsense, and the consequences of those lies can be politically devastating, but it's not the prevarication that republicans are banking on. It's the titillating details which their own hypocritical community still believe will damn their sorry subjects to hell; and shame them out of politics.

The resurrection of Lewinsky this week is revealing in the way it also resurrects the innuendo that propelled almost all of the manufactured scandal to the front pages and created a modern cottage industry of conspiracy theories and hatred directed at the Clinton family.

That's how republicans use these contrived scandals; they rely on the titillation to keep the story in the news while they muckrake around for some other damaging notion related to it all that they can cement in the public mind. There is no there, there. All is sophistry and hypocrisy, and I believe that most folks understand this like shorthand when these scandals arise.

In fact, what most people see and hear when these issues are opportunistically resurrected is the meanness and rudeness that the majority of Americans rejected from the time republicans tried to convince us that Bill and Hillary were Satan incarnate. Even their daughter, Chelsea, is used as a foil for their disgusting patter and trash talk.

The effect is twofold. First comes public disbelief that anyone could be shocked by tawdry details of extramarital affairs these days. Second, everyone recognizes the political cravenness in expecting there to be some mass outrage toward two seniors over a decades-old sex scandal. It's all as boring as it is lurid.

To her credit, Monica Lewinsky says she's motivated to speak out (again) about the affair out of concern over 'cyberbullying'. She apparently cites the tabloid treatment that she received at the time from all sides; mindless, apparently, of the tabloid effect of her raising this issue in an election season in which Hillary Clinton is expected to feature prominently.

Is she a stalking horse for the new republican campaign against the Clintons? Or, is she just a woman seeking to distinguish herself from the scandal and set the record straight? We may never know. Already, the political forces are patterning out their responses; calculating their political advantage; and crafting their campaigns to accommodate or exploit any renewed interest in the public shaming that characterizes republican (and media) hypocrisy over sex.

In an excerpt from the Vanity Fair article out Thursday, Lewinsky cast a wide net of blame:

"Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. . . . The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me." she says.


That 'branding' is not going to stop with yet another round of reminiscences from the republicans' (unwitting?) remaining icon of their phony outrage over Bill Clinton's sexual history. The entire subject is nothing more, nothing less, than a cynical cudgel with which to beat into the public's mind the notion that the Clinton's are, somehow, far outside of their own sphere of acceptability.

In their narrative, Lewinsky will remain a tawdry figure; a superficial representation of the shame and humiliation they expect the Clintons to suffer in any campaign they might wage against them. Once again, Monica Lewinsky has, wittingly or not, placed herself in the role of facilitator in the revival of the cottage industry of scandal and innuendo which began with an affair in Arkansas, and was propelled into the public discourse by a failed and discredited investigation surrounding the sad and tragic suicide of a good man and a Clinton land deal in which he lost money.

I wonder just how many folks will remember all of that.






Guardian Whiteboard ‏@gdnwhiteboard 1h
Welcome back, Monica. It's been too long pic.twitter.com/SiEaLa8p76

Boo, DU!




The republican party dividing into two factions isn't as revolutionary as some suppose

Sure, there's a group of republican legislators giving props to the 'tea party' and doing everything they can to further their anarchist agenda. They've come to Washington with a handful of crazy and foolish schemes to put a stick in the spokes of our national legislative process.

Then there's the veteran republican crowd who've already filled almost every worthwhile space left in the legislative wheel with their own sticks forced into the spokes of our democratic system of government.

The only thing that had distinguished the tea republicans from the veterans was the anarchist thing; they were more willing and determined to throw the entire process in the toilet, just for whatever value they saw in just shutting it all down.

Now there is really no significant division at all in the republican ranks. Both sides of their party have shown America their willingness to spend incalculable sums of our money just to rattle our cages; to have us give full attention and fealty to their authority over our money; their lording over our hard-earned tributes to the government they oversee.

Today's republican party is little more than a souped-up version of it's pre-tea, obstructive, self-serving self. Boehner and the rest of the republican leadership welcomed these anarchists into their fold with open arms and agreed to personally drive their party (and the country) to the edge of our economic cliff.

If Boehner hadn't ultimately relied on a unified Democratic membership to pull us back from the brink of economic catastrophe, he'd go down as just another anarchist. Funny that there's even a question in the media today about how the republican leader fared in the end. He's an obvious casualty now of his own diminution of government.

Boehner no longer has a deliverable republican majority for doing anything more than countering or obstructing what our responsive president has already delivered on. Now that his anarchist teaps have forced him to play the most devastating card in his hand - and was forced to fold - he's nothing but a tool of the malcontents whose thuggery gives his republican majority its only relevance.

. . . for my hard night of work

I gotta say, I imagine I'm like a lot of folks here who put their workday aside and try and find some connection here between our politics and the things we hope/need to accomplish in our own lives.

It's never been easy for me, economically. It's paycheck to paycheck, and if I stretched out my budget and matched it to my income, I'd fall way short. It's more like gambling against the future, and my work hours are far from guaranteed. As arbitrary as they are to the economy and budget of my workplace, they are even more vulnerable to a poor, uncertain, and threatened economy.

Lots of federal workers where I live and most of the rest of us are in service industries and other businesses which support that federal workforce. Needless to say, we took a big hit over this manufactured economic crisis; still are.

I don't have anything real in my life that I can actually hang on this 'victory' for Democrats against republicans and find solace enough to celebrate. I'm a bit shellshocked right now and I'm just wondering where we go next to stop this republican assault on our economy and where we go next to get us to the point where we're actually doing something politically which will translate into economic stability for my community and for the nation.

I imagine that's what this assault was all about; just to rattle our cages out here and remind us that we're always going to be in a different class of folks; always going to be beholden to someone out there for just keeping our heads above water, no matter how hard we work.

And, you get folks who must be just fine and dandy in their own economic experiences who see fit to ridicule you when you can't find much to 'celebrate' out of barely holding onto this status quo; this economic siege meant to keep the majority of us in the work market grateful for whatever splatters of meal we can scrounge from the edges and outside of the pig's trough.

It's all just a fucking game, and I'm certainly a loser. There'll be no celebrating here tonight. Just hanging on, trying to keep myself healthy enough to keep laboring for whatever hours they see fit to throw my way.

I understand the disconnect some folks have from the point I'm trying to make here. These days I'm thinking it's always going to be like this for my family. Goodness knows, we're trying as hard as we're able to make a living and survive. Just one trumped-up crisis after another, though. What the fuck is next?

Angry yet?

________________

THIS minority group of republicans in Congress' refusal to act to fund our government is just short of treason.Their protest is threatening and disrupting almost every instigation of government aid, assistance, and support for average Americans. The majority elected their representatives and Senators to continue to uphold, preserve, and defend those essential functions of government.

The refusal to proceed to vote on those things Congress has already agreed to provide is an outright betrayal of trust from the handful of republicans in the House leadership, and, a direct assault on the vast number of our American citizens who depend on the government they've elected to carry through on the obligations they've voted on and already advanced into law.

This morning we're told that it was the republican speaker, Boehner's, own decision to declare that Congress' exclusive gyms were deemed essential enough to continue operating, while his government shutdown halts death benefits to families of fallen soldiers; just one of a myriad of examples of the arrogant elitism practiced behind this cynical and self-aggrandizing politics.

While these congressmen and women in the national legislature, who are holding up the obligations to fund their own appropriations - working to squeeze and ransom Americans into accepting their unpopular and defeated demands - are certainly acting within the law, they are, nonetheless, acting far outside of the compact Americans made with the votes they provided to advance them to office and keep them in power and authority over their hard-earned contributions to government.

It's imperative to our democracy that we not allow this minority of legislators to default on their own obligations to Americans; not allow them to continue to hold hostage our full faith and credit to keep up the aid, assistance, and support that folks out here without the benefit of these legislators' personal (taxpayer-initiated) wealth rely on to survive and thrive.

Annoyance over the republican leadership's refusal to act has turned from bemusement; to dismay; to anger (I would think, at this point). Either by recall; or dismissal; or replacement at election time; these obstructors of the public will and law should be expelled from the offices and practices of the government they so callously refuse to maintain and fund for the folks out here who elected them.

Summer's Lingering Into Fall



I KNOW it's only been Fall here for a handful of days, but it's absolutely gorgeous outside. It's normally the time of year where you look around your yard and garden and almost wish for all of the eaten and declining perennials to slip into sleep for the winter, to emerge renewed for the next summer's pageant of new leaf and blossom.

This is the season where the dying leaves and other foliage reduce our outdoor palette to essential colors of the earth; the yellows and reds stark against the sharp blue sky, merging together to produce orange and golden hues to highlight the lingering and evergreen trees, bushes, and grasses laden with seeds and berries.

This year, we've barely gone below 70 degrees during the day and above 50 degrees at night. Most of the green is still evident all around, with an occasional dogwood already cutting through the defiant stands of emerald with their leaves dominating their space with a fiery amber that heralds the inevitable hibernation of their reluctant neighbors.

There are still phlox in bloom, accented by a sprinkle of miniature goldenrod and scattered reddened flower heads of autumn sedum and lantana against the paisley colors of the coleus; made bolder and more vivid by the rays of the autumn sun and the chilly nights which crisps everything and hardens it against the decline of this year's abundant growing season.

Soon the oak leaf hydrangeas, Japanese maples, hazelnuts, and other autumn performers will vie for attention with their own scarlet resignations to the winter cold. Yet, for now, most everything looks unusually content in playing Summer as they take advantage of the relaxing, stress-free, temperate air and reflect on their longevity; imagining that they could go on like this forever, like the plants that I bring inside every Winter to both selfishly and obligingly keep them safe and preserve them for yet another season out in the garden.







Now that the mosquitoes are gone I've taken to sitting every morning for about an hour or so in the one spot that the sun manages to shine through the thick canopy and light up a secluded spot on the front steps, tucked in there away from prying eyes that might frown on the occasional pungent smoke that escapes my efforts to hold it all in between sips of my piping hot coffee.

It's not long before I'm joined by my catbird friend who has put aside his melodious mimicries and adopted a persistent whine and cry which has broken my solitude each and every time I've sought refuge there. He cries to me in between mouthfuls of beautyberries - maybe not ripe enough for him; they're usually ripened fully by now, but the season's stretch has allowed them a later bloom and fruit - I imagine that he's missing his friends who haven't been around since the first chill winds blew through the town about a month ago.

I tell him, softly, that he needs to get going - maybe he can hook up with the other lone male who grudgingly answers his lonely whine and cry and fly the coop to warmer tundra. More and more of his bird friends have stopped making their yearly journey south; at least not as far down as before; and are wintering over nearby. The cardinals have always been a bit stalwart; and there's the gang of starlings and an assorted sparrow and dove who come in a couple of motley groups to my patio every day all winter on their feeding rounds to advantage themselves of the seed that I sprinkle almost daily everywhere I can find a surface to scatter it .

His buddies, the wrens and the cardinals made a daily habit of coming to my open front and back doors to warn me as excitedly as they were able whenever the fox or one of the neighborhood cats were around, or whenever one of the resident hawk threatened. I'd come out and pretend that I was keeping order with a stern word or two to the open air.

"Whaa, whaa!" he cries to me, though his mouth stuffed with purple fruit.

"Whaa, Whaaa!" I cry back. Give me a moment of solitude. I threw a handful of dirt at the bush yesterday and he flew away. Today, he came back, crying; flew away; and, came back, anyway, to register his anxiety and relate to me his loneliness and apprehension over the changing season and his tardy departure.

I'm sympathetic, but not very welcoming. He might well be the annoying character who showed up early in the Spring and disrupted the neighborhood with his monotonous and piercing whistling for his companion's return.

Also making an appearance in my neighborhood this season are the greying and white-haired ladies, likely from the Friends community nearby, standing on the busy street corner with their signs saying, "War is not the Answer!" and "Stop War!" They've emerged to make their inharmonious display of resistance to match with the predictable and almost perennial calls from our government and military for armed conflict and state-sponsored violence abroad.





Behind me, above the steps where I sit, the faded banner still hangs as a flag on my home; the banner with the painted peace sign of red, yellow, and blue that I held along with many of these same folks, on those same street corners, when Bush was pressing his own case for war and imperialism across sovereign borders.

Small comfort to see this one war's banner fade; just in time to find yet others' hastily, but diligently assembled once more to challenge and influence this government's insistence on flaunting their devastating weapons and other instigations of war against nations which haven't actually threatened us at all.

I read someone the other day who was mocking Code Peace for their belief that their efforts were contributing to the efforts toward peaceful settlement of the conflict our president has chosen to highlight and employ our diplomatic and military resources and manpower. Small comfort to see this perennial pageant of protest perhaps, but definitely a comfort, nonetheless.

The ladies have assembled on the corner of one of the most scenic roads in the area. I remember driving down the dark country road as a youth on the way to one of the concerts at a pavilion nearby. I had the improbable dream of living off of that scenic drive all the way through my impoverished years, and have, amazingly, settled into one of the homes tucked away down one of the mysterious and intriguing streets which branch off into the wooded acreage on both sides of the winding drive.

I wish you could gather up all of the beauty and color of Autumn in our neighborhood and hold it close and dear; eat it up like some hippie candy. I used to drive my Alzheimer-riddled dad up and down that picturesque road in the green Ford truck that now sits as an unmovable part of the landscape of our yard, as slow as I was able to afford him a lingering look at the passing scenery which he looked upon and remarked on as if he was a child reborn; from another country or another world . . .

"Everything's so clean," he would say, as he looked smilingly out of the truck window as Adam Duritz of the 'Counting Crows' (our boy, as he called him) was belting out 'Sullivan Street," or; John Hiatt soulfully counseling that 'my voice would not command'; or, Lyle Lovett covering Townes Van Zandt's 'Step Inside This House, or 'Flying Shoes'. We took our very last drive together down that road as I took him to his first day at the nursing home I'd found to care for him when I was no longer able.

Lyle would be singing . . .

"Day's full of rain
The sky's coming down again
I get so tired
Of these same old blues

Same old song
And baby it won't be long
'Til I'll be tying on
My flyin' shoes . . .

The spring only sighed
The summer had to be satisfied
The fall is a feeling that I
I just can't lose

I'd like to stay
And maybe watch a winter day
And turn the green water
To white and blue"


We'd fly down that country road with it's fall display of color and roll up on our beautiful home of contentment, and of endless days like summer Sundays rolling slowly to church in the quiet early morning.

"Step inside my house Babe
I'll sing for you a song
I'll tell you 'bout where I've been
It shouldn't take too long
I'll show you all the things I own
My treasures you might say
Couldn't be more'n ten dollars worth
But they brighten up my day

Well that's about all I own
And all I care to I guess
Except this pair of boots
And that funny yellow vest
And that leather jacket and leather bag
And hat hangin' on the wall
Just so it's not too much to carry
Could I see you again next Fall . . .?"




Pres. Obama says US can't get attention of UN Security Council w'out acting like swaggering avengers

This statement by Pres. Obama makes absolutely no sense at all, and is actually an insult to the diplomacy practiced by the very body he's appealing to.

Obama at the UN today:

"Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all."


From what I've seen, so far, it's the U.S. threat of force which is the main obstacle to any Security Council agreement on a response to chemical weapon use in Syria. It's amazing to hear the president cite that US threat of force as the only impetus for the UN to act.

As Abe Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"
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