my pissant two cents

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

hell comes to your house

condoleezza rice speaks for me. condoleezza rice speaks for you.

god help us.

the senate granted its consent to bush's nomination of an inexcuseable liar to the post of secretary of state, the nation's top diplomat, a position requiring an unassailable reputation for candor and fair dealing. the republicans, not surprisingly, voted unanimously to put the president's workout buddy into the position. but 12 democrats and independent james jeffords of vermont put the issue of truth to the test, and found rice lacking.

jeffords said this was the first time in his senate career that he has voted against a cabinet-level appointment. but, he insisted that he was compelled to do so, because rice is "severely handicapped in her ability to be america's chief diplomat" because she is "a lead architect of our nation's failed foreign policy and of the war in iraq."

i find that description quaint and gentle. but then, jeffords is a gentleman.

my capitol hill crush, sen. barbara boxer, (d-ca), toned down her rhetoric some from last week's excoriation of rice, but the message was loud and clear. boxer was moved to vote against rice "so that we don't send our young people into another war based on hyped-up rhetoric and half truths."

even joe biden, (d-de), who voted in favor of rice's nomination, held rice to account to a minor extent. though casting his vote for rice, biden sought to provide cover for his colleagues who could not: "please do not ... read a no vote as not being united in the effort to win in iraq. that's why some of my colleagues are voting no. they think she's undermined our ability to win in iraq."

this followed a day of debate on the rice nomination that showed democratic backbone that many, including me, thought would go awol in the confirmation process. sen. evan bayh, (d-in), on rice's complicity in the iraq fiasco: "the list of errors is lengthy and profound, and unfortunately many could have been avoided if dr. rice and others had only listened to the [congress]. this is no ordinary incompetence. men and women are dying as a result of these mistakes."

sen. mark dayton, (d-mn), said there is an administration cabal that has been "lying to congress, lying to our committees and lying to the american people... who have been instrumental in deceiving congress and the american people, and regrettably that includes dr. rice."

sen. ted kennedy, (d-ma), unassailable in his senate seat and an ardent, vocal bush critic (probably because he was so badly duped and stung in supporting the "no child left behind" act) made the most obvious, and therefore most biting, statement: "the war has made iraq a breeding ground for terrorism that previously did not exist."

sen. dianne feinstein, (d-ca), was among rice's strongest supporters on the democratic side. here's a bulletin for sen. feinstein: your term is up next year. you may want to get your resume together, because you'll be looking for work.

nevertheless, the liar was confirmed. in her confirmation, rice finds herself in a rogue's gallery, and for not exactly noble reasons. her 13 "no" votes puts her well ahead of her post-war confreres. proto-fascist usurper ("i'm in charge!") alexander haig only got six "no" votes in 1981, and indicted war criminal henry kissinger got seven snubs in 1973.

not that anybody should be surprised by any of this. the kool-aid drinkers are in charge, and anybody who questions their hallucinatory worldview is not invited into the discussion. the greater the delusion, the greater the access. so naturally, upon receiving word of rice's confirmation, irony-deficient president fredo said he was confident that a co-author of the shamefully failed and bloody (1400+ dead americans, untold tens of thousands of dead iraqis) iraq occupation would be a "great" secretary of state and that with her, he "look[s] forward to spreading freedom and peace."

this is not the last you'll hear of nefarious, woefully unqualified bush candidates getting the glad-hand from republicans and weak-kneed democrats, while a few voices rage from the left. torture advocate alberto gonzales got the go-ahead, ableit it by a narrow 10-8 party-line vote, from the judiciary committee. with that, his confirmation appears likely. the only outstanding question is whether any-- ANY-- republican has the guts to come out against torture. maybe former prisoner-of-war and all around straight-shooter sen. john mccain, (r-az), will stand up. maybe not. and how many democrats will rubber-stamp the pro-thumbscrew candidate?

stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

why i love barbara boxer

there are so many really good reasons to envy california. one example: it's january 18th, and the temperature was 73 degrees today.

here's another: sen. barbara boxer (d-ca).

in the biggest public smack down since jon stewart called tucker carlson a "dick" on "crossfire" (a slander on dicks everywhere, really), the honorable senator from my beloved golden state called condoleezza rice a liar in the national security advisor's senate confirmation hearing.


you heard that. a liar. doctor rice, you're an f'ing liar. doctor rice, you misled the american people. doctor rice, you got a lot of people killed. doctor rice, you're evil.

i added the last part, but the rest of it was pretty much between the lines.

boxer: "you sent (american troops to iraq) because of weapons of mass destruction; later the mission changed when there were none. i have your quotes on it, i have the president's quotes on it, and everybody admits it but you."

rice (lying): "
it was the total picture, senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that post-september 11 it was finally time to deal with saddam hussein."

boxer (in full pimp-hand mode): "well you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war; it was w.m.d., period."

boxer went on to point out several points where rice contradicted herself and others in the administration, up to and including the president. rice got a little snippy.

"senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like, but i really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity," she said (apparently unaware that senator boxer had just clearly demonstrated that rice lacked any).

"i'm not," the senator replied. "i'm just quoting what you said."

rice used a typical rightwing tactic when faced with inconvenient facts: claim you're being attacked and muster as much faux iundignation as you can. oliver north did it when he was confronted with his misdeeds in iran-contra. robert bork did it when he was confronted with his atavistic judical and scholarly record. clarence thomas did it, using the notorious "high tech lynching" line when he was confronted with anita hill, whom history has proven was neither nutty nor slutty.

but the senator don't take that b.s. rice was on the hotseat, and the senator made the ice skater squirm.

this was not her first deployment on the truth patrol. earlier this month, she was the lone senator to vote to challenge ohio's electoral votes, citing the "irregularities" that covered the map, but with extreme concentration in poor, black, and democratic areas.

she's got the clout to do it. she was just sworn in for her third term, after beating the paste out of an empty-suit challenger 8 out of 10 republicans in california couldn't spot in a line up. and unlike her democrat-in-name-only colleague, dianne feinstein (d-ca), who introduced the former stanford provost and called her a "remarkable woman," boxer is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal/progressive, and she brooks no quarry. she doesn't have to.

i am encouraged that there are politicians like barbara boxer. i am encouraged that there are some who will put the smack down when it needs to be done. i am proud that i voted for this one. i'm proud that california leads the nation, apparently, in senators with balls.

we've got one. and she's a bad ass.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

it's not nice to fool mother nature

i live by the ocean. i find it very comforting. the drumbeat of waves just a few hundred yards from my front door, reminding of the constance and the majesty of nature helps keep me sane. oftentimes, i drift off to sleep listening to the pounding of the waves.

that's why i've had such a difficult time getting my mind around the devastation from the indian ocean tsunami. it's difficult to comprehend that untold tens of thousands of people lost their lives to what has always been such a benevolent force in my life.

not to say that i am naive about the power of the ocean. as a southern california boy, i, like many, grew up at the beach, surfing and swimming. i have known real fear of drowning in waves far too big for my skills. i have been slammed to the rocky floor, cut and battered, with yet another concussion, struggling up the beach to get away from an ocean that proved to me just who was boss.

but tens of thousands killed, tens of thousands missing? that is beyond my ken.

it would be easy now to berate the bush administration for offering so little help. its initial $35 million pledge was pathetic. its ten-fold increase of that amount is not much better, coming out to about a buck and a quarter per american. but there is little to expect from a self-proclaimed "compassionate conservative" who has demonstrated a grave misunderstanding of christian charity on so many occasions there is not room to list them here.

there are much more probative issues to discuss, aside from the miserly givings by the bush people, to demonstrate just how little regard it holds for the rest of the world, particularly where cash is involved. where the tsunami, or "seismic sea wave," as it's known in geological terms, is a freak occurrence, the natural disasters looming on the horizon are foreseeable and to some extent preventable.

i'm speaking, of course, of global warming. the bush administration, in sheer defiance of logic and facts, claims that global warming is junk science, and "the jury is still out" on whether the byproducts of human "progress" are choking the life out of the planet. i doubt that anybody seriously questions whether the fossil fuel-based industrial development of the world has changed the atmosphere. it is mere logic, then, to figure that the atmospheric changes are leading to climate disruption, which assumption is borne out by the facts. increase in ocean water temperatures, rapidly dwindling polar ice caps, and dramatically altered precipitation patterns are facts of life in today's climatology.

as i write this, southern california is experiencing its wettest winter in a good long time. three significant rainstorms have hit in the past couple of weeks. it bears the hallmarks of an el nino winter. and that is cause for serious concern.

for those who don't know, el nino is a weather pattern that involves increased surface temperatures in the central pacific, which creates powerful storms on the coasts of the americas. in the past, it has devasted coastal lands, led to mass erosion, caused flooding and taken lives. in one fantastically dramatic example, an el nino-fed storm in 1983 produced an enormous wave that swatted the last third off the huntington beach pier, demolishing it and dumping it into the surf. a similar el nino winter produced similar damage in 1997. another impact of the el nino condition is the effect on the multi-billion dollar fishing industry, as migratory patterns are interrupted by dramatic shifts in water temperature.

but the greatest effect is one not normally associated with rain and storms: famine. the global weather system is so damaged by el nino that its reach extends to africa, where it causes drought, which in turn causes famine. look at the dates of the last two el ninos. then recall the devastating famines in africa in 1984 and 1998. another one appears to be on the way. as if africa doesn't have enough to worry about, what with an aids pandemic gone amok (and stunning indifference from the bush-- and to a lesser extent, clinton-- administration), political instability and already decimating famine.

the hurricane season of 2004 saw florida, the gulf coast and the southern atlantic coast of the united states hit by three massive storms in rapid succession. and what feeds hurricanes? increased temperatures in the mid-atlantic. is the jury really still out?

the u.n. environment program and u.s. national center of atmospheric research have modeled that climate change will lead to more powerful, more frequent el nino conditions. this is not junk science. these reports come from people who've spent their careers trying to understand and predict weather. bush, however, finds such reports inconvenient, and therefore unreliable.

the technology already exists to significantly reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. there is good incentive to increase research to minimize further the reliance on oil-based fuels that cause the vast majority of greenhouse gases. a nation that prides itself on scientific inquiry and conquest might be well served by a commitment to developing technologies that not only creates all-important jobs and expanding economy that bush loves to pretend he's creating, but also serves the good of humanity.

but i rather doubt that's going to happen. bush is an oil man. so is his vice president. the secretary of state-to-be is a former oil executive also. the white house is littered with them. bush's people have cozied up to saudi arabia and launched war in iraq to seize control of the world's largest oil reserves. his is not an administration that's going to wean the american public from the petro-teat.

for the victims of the tsunami, there's not much to offer but tears and money. to the world population that stands under the sword of damocles, in the form of our own brand of capitalist eco-terror, we owe solutions. if this administration will not endeavor to find them, we must create and build leadership that will.