Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Quotes From R. H. Blyth

"Thus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being lucky or unlucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose. We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person), in how we walk. Living in this world means choosing and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself."

"Perfection means not perfect actions in a perfect world, but appropriate actions in an imperfect one."


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Never Trust Them Bible Thumpers

"I honesty believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians . . . and Christian values."

"What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time, and one state at a time."

"We've learned how to move under radar in the cover of the night with shrubbery strapped to our helmets,"

"They call them extremists. We have our own names. We call them senators, congressman, governors, mayors..."

"I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."

- Ralph Reed

Ralph Reed is running for Lieutenant Governor of my state of residency. He is one scary dude. I have no doubt that he was lining his pockets with the rest of those criminals in the Republican Party, but it has yet to be proven. It will be a happy day for me to see him indicted, and I am hopeful that it will be soon.

My father was a cynic. My father was a realist. My father was an intelligent-anti-intellectual. He had some really good sayings. On of my favorites (in retrospect of course) was often said to me when I’d return empty-handed from a mission to find a tool or some other necessary object to his current task saying, “I can’t find it, Dad!” He'd look at me and say, “You couldn’t find a horse-turd in a stable.” He might even say, “You couldn’t find your ass in the dark with both hands!” Some of his other favorites (which of course turned out to be true) included “You get nothin’ for nothin’ and damn little for a dollar,” and “Life is earnest, life is real.”

Then there was one that I don’t really agree with, but ranks among one of the funniest things he ever said: “I don’t like dogs. If they can’t eat it or bleep it, they’ll piss on it!”

He really did say “bleep it.” I only ever heard him use the “F” word once, and that was when a friend of my brother’s changed his oil in front of our house after my father had said he didn’t want him to do it. The guy tracked oil onto the carpet. Funny, because there were many other instances where I believe that word would have been more appropriate, but that was my father. He was really angry that day.

My mother was a devout neo-Catholic. She believed in God and Jesus and Mary, but didn’t believe the Pope was infallible. She taught me at a young age to not believe the nuns when they said that Jews couldn’t go to heaven. She said that God didn’t care what religion you were; he only cared if you were good.

My father, at least for a time was an atheist. I never heard him say it around my mother, because he didn’t like to upset her. He dutifully went off to church with her every Sunday, because he loved her and it made her happy. His mother was an old-style Italian Catholic, but his father was an atheist. When my grandfather was a boy in Sicily and his father was on his deathbed, the priests came to the house and had him sign away his property in exchange for forgiveness and a ticket to heaven.

I remember one time when I was in my 30’s, we were watching the news and they reported that a church somewhere in the south had caught fire during a Sunday morning service, and half the congregation perished as a result. The next Sunday the survivors got together at a barn and prayed for the dead, and thanked God for their lives being spared. My dad looked at me and said, “Can you believe these fools?”

Like me, he was raised a Catholic by his mother, but unlike me he fought in a war. The big one. The good one. Except it wasn’t good it all. In fact it sucked. He told me you’d have to be an idiot to believe in God after seeing what he saw during the war. I think as he got older, he mellowed a bit and started to believe in something, but he never believed in the big bad bogey-man sending people off to hell.

One of the lessons that he taught me, which to this day I have never found an exception, concerned religious people. He said something like this:

“Never trust them Bible thumpers, the ones that have this ‘Holier than thou’ attitude, always talking about Jesus. Those people are dangerous. They will either want to pick your pocket, steal your wife or molest your children. Stay away from them and never be fooled. If they are constantly talking about God and religion, they are up to no damn good.”

I loved my father, and I wish he was here today, watching these criminals go up in flames with that cynical grin on his face saying, “See, I told you. Those Bible thumpers are up to no damn good!”

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Respectable Street

The thing that really infuriates me about the Conservative Republicans with which I’ve had the misfortune of being spoken to condescendingly under the guise of political discussion is their sanctimonious claims of moral superiority. Their pedantic tone and righteous indignation (with an accusatory undercurrent that implies guilt among any who dare disagree!) leveled at the real and imagined infractions by members of the Democratic party coupled with the insistence that members of the Republican party are pure of heart, possessing a deep respect for Christian values and immune to any sort of political hanky-panky. Finding myself in the midst of such a discussion I’m always at odds with two possible explanations: "This person is either a really good liar or he is as dumb as jar of Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise." I end up saying things like, “Issues of character and values have little meaning to me in American politics, and Republicans are no less corrupt than the Democrats.” Doesn’t matter. They continue down the same path, certain that they are right.

In light of the bubbling DeLay / Abramoff / Scanlon scandal, I’m now ready to concede that the two parties are not equally corrupt. Indeed, if you were the type of person who would like to abuse political power for your own personal gain, you’d have to be an idiot to join the Democratic Party. How much did they say the Clinton’s profited from the Whitewater land deal? $70,000?

Sadly, there will be no epiphany on their part. No phone calls or e-mails from old friends and acquaintances telling us that we were right, admitting to their own stupidity or greed. They will find some excuse, some way to blame someone else, but it doesn’t matter. At least we will be rid of that evil selfish bastard DeLay. You know, the guy that claimed he wanted America to abide by Biblical Law…

Respectable Street
By Andy Partridge
From XTC’s “Black Sea”

It's in the order of their hedgerows
it's in the way their curtains open and close
it's in the look they give you down their nose
all part of decency's jigsaw I suppose

Heard the neighbour slam his car door
don't he realise this is respectable street
What d'you think he bought that car for
'cos he realise this is respectable street

Now they talk about abortion
in cosmopolitan proportions to their daughters
as they speak of contraception
And immaculate receptions on their portable
Sony entertainment centres.

Now she speaks about diseases
and which sex position pleases best her old man
Avon lady fills the creases
when she manages to squeeze in past the caravans
that never move from their front gardens.

It's in the order of their hedgerows
it's in the way their curtains open and close
it's in the look they give you down their nose
all part of decency's jigsaw I suppose

[I LOVE this bit!]

Sunday church and they look fetching
Saturday night saw him retching over our fence

bang the wall for me to turn down
I can see them with their stern frown
as they dispense the kind of look that says
they're perfect.

© 1980 Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Just Another Heartwarming Story

There's a guy in my office. Late 50's. Catholic. Conservative, but not on a mission or a soapbox. Will tell you if you ask him. Well-liked. Sad story. He and his wife had three kids. One was killed in a car accident at 18 years-old. Another died an infant from SIDS. Tragic.

When the baby died, they went to see the priest. They were searching for some comfort and insight, and were advised to seek those things at their church.

They followed that advice.

The priest told them that the death of their child was God's punishment for them missing mass on Sundays and generally not being good Catholics.


Maybe you haven't seen this yet? It is the Dishonest Dubya Lying Action Doll Figure. Get yours today!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who Is Parthenon Huxley?

Who is Parthenon Huxley?

Depends on who you ask. ELO fans know him as Jeff Lynne’s replacement. People like Paul McCartney’s lead guitarist Rusty Anderson know him as a gifted producer and collaborator. Insiders in the music business know him as songwriter who has co-written 4 top twenty hits and some album tracks for major artists. The cast of The Flintstone’s movie know him as the bass-player in the BC-52’s. His family knows him as Rick Miller.

If you ask me, he is a fantastic singer/songwriter who has recorded some the finest songs that most people have never heard. His sound covers many bases, but in my favorite records of his I hear psychedelic John Lennon, Byrds-like background vocals, McCartneyesque melodies and great music.

A few years back a friend of mine asked me if I’ve ever heard of Parthenon Huxley, or "P. Hux." I admitted that I hadn't. This friend is an avid ELO fan, and knowing my relative lack of enthusiasm for their music, told me of his solo work and asked me to listen to it with an open mind. I told him “no thanks” and forgot about it. A week or two later, a package showed up at my door. It was two CD’s from P. Hux: Deluxe” and “Purgatory Falls.” Included in the package was a note that said, “Just listen. Start with ‘Purgatory Falls.’ You can thank me later."

The next day I put “Purgatory Falls” in the car and headed toward work. “4258” is the opening track. Clean acoustic guitar and some cello. Sounds nice. And this voice. A voice that fills the room (or the car in this case.) A warm, mature, honest voice that conveys the true depth and meaning of the lyric.


Track 2. Sparse drum intro. Percussive guitar strum. Haunting “do do do do’s” doubled on the guitar with this killer tone. Harmonized vocals:

I loved everything about you
I even love the things I never loved about you.”

That killed me. I cranked it up as loud as I dared and was completely consumed by this track. Who is this guy? He isn’t kidding. This stuff has the honesty and depth of some of John Lennon’s most personal songs.

Some songs grab you quicker than others. The next one to grab me was track 5, which is “Red Eyeliner.” Arranged similarly to “Strawberry Fields” in the verses. Crunchy guitar, bass and drums on the refrain:

“If you don’t want me to cry
Show me we don’t really die.”

At my age, you get really sick of this endless parade of twenty-something hosers created by some suit with no soul and a lust for quick cash, actually aspiring to angst, as if it were a badge of honor. Million dollar budgets, videos and press fueling their cries. Clearly, this album wasn't that.

When I found out what it was, I was floored.

In the early 90’s, “Parth” found his way to California. He met the girl of his dreams, married her and wrote songs about her that appear on “Deluxe.” Some great Lennonesque pop there along with some mature lyrics and wry observations concerning the music business. This is a happy man who has found love and a life of music. Sadly, his wife was stricken with cancer and taken from him sometime after the release of "Deluxe." He chronicled his loss on the “Purgatory” record. Listening to it in context is an emotional experience. I can barely get through it without getting teary-eyed, but I keep going back as it is a true work of art.

Life does go on, and he has again found happiness. He has remarried and they have a child. Since the release of “Purgatory Falls” he has been busy touring with the new incarnation of ELO, (The Orchestra,) writing songs, producing, playing gigs and recording. His most recent release is titled “Homemade Spaceship” and it is a tribute album to ELO. I have heard the record and will be buying it soon. Hard decision for me, but I have to admit those songs sound good in his hands. He has completed his next album “Everything’s Different Now” which is an automatic “buy” for me the day it comes out. The last I heard it will contain his remake of “I’m Looking Through You” which was used to prove to the producers of “I Am Sam” that remakes could work for the movie. Ironically it was not used in the film, but I have his version of XTC’s “Another Satellite” and it is incredible. I have high expectations for “I’m Looking Through You” as well as his new songs, some of which can be heard acoustically on the intimate and fun “P. Hux in Your Parlour.”

If you are interested in hearing more, please check out these links:

P. Hux Mp3s.

P. Hux Store.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Good Guys?

How did we land here? Debating torture? The US government in an open debate about the use of torture?

We had a bloody history that was glossed over in the early years of public school and by Hollywood. Genocide. Slavery. Still, we were on the right side of the two World Wars, and the Cold War. We moved beyond the savagery of our early history and were evolving into the only benevolent super-power. We were about freedom, equality and fair play. This was the message that we were told and the message that we believed in as individuals and as a nation.

We were the good guys.

Many can point to dubious deeds of our government in the 20th Century and claim that we were never the good guys, that it was all propaganda. I can say relatively speaking we weren’t the worst, and we were raising a generation of decent people who believed that we were the good guys, and who wanted to be the good guys. We were driving our nation in the right direction, even if we were not yet at the destination.

We learned that in Viet Nam there were atrocities committed by our side, and as a nation we were shocked. This behavior was not condoned, it was to be condemned. If you were intelligent and open-minded, you understood that under extreme circumstances of war, people are capable of atrocities. You might even have had feelings of pity and sorrow for the soldiers who engaged in this behavior, but you still knew that it was wrong and not the American way. Torture was not the policy of the US Armed forces, and if it happened it was to be treated as a crime.

Torture is barbaric. It is dehumanizing. It is largely ineffective. It does much more harm to our agenda, our reputation and our humanity then any information that could be gained from such techniques. Torture fuels the kind of hatred and retribution that continues between peoples for centuries. Atrocity breeds more atrocity. Torture justifies retribution. The line that separates us from the bad guys is erased by torture. We tell the world that we will free the oppressed people from oppression. We will show the oppressed the ways of freedom and democracy.

How? By torturing them?

What now separates us from Osama bin Laden in the eyes of the Arab world? What do we have left to tell the people of the Muslim nations about our ways and culture to contradict what they have been told by their own kind?

I must say that I am ashamed of the latest news. I am once again appalled after years of being appalled by the actions and policies of this administration. These chicken-hawks who never themselves endured one day on the front-lines of any war, that actively took steps to make sure that they never would be in that situation, these war-mongering blood-thirsty businessmen with a lust for power and oil masquerading as world-leaders are now openly debating the necessity of torture. Outsourcing interrogation to other countries that employ the use of torture. Telling the world what? That the good guys are better than the bad guys, because, well, because we say we are?

And these neocons have the nerve to call us traitors. They have the temerity to question our patriotism. They have the absolute, unmitigated gall to claim that we are a Christian nation, and that God is on our side? I just don’t know how much longer the American people can tolerate the blatant hypocrisy and obvious contradictions.

I am beyond the point of comprehension. I'm now just trying to get to the other side.

We have to win back the congress in ‘06 and the Whitehouse in ’08. We just have to.


This Week's Top 10.

Tunesmith has a letter from Cindy Sheehan to Barbara Bush.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dishonest and Reprehensible - UPDATED

As reported:

Cheney said the suggestion Bush or any member of the administration misled Americans before the war “is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.”

UPDATED: 1:30 PM EST Reprehensible...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What I Believe

In a nutshell we are faced with the following:

1) You mistrust government more than you mistrust large corporations.

2) You mistrust large corporations more than you mistrust government.

Conservatives usually lean to the former; liberals the latter.

It isn’t that I haven’t met any good and decent conservatives; indeed I have. The good and decent ones care about playing fair, good values and their families. But they believe in a fallacy. The fallacy is that unbridled capitalism, free from government regulation will yield a higher standard of living for more people than government regulated capitalism. They point to mismanaged, wasteful government programs as evidence that supports their beliefs. They miscast liberals as being naive and ignorant, who think of the government as a benevolent parent caring for her citizens.

Conservatives also believe that high taxes on the rich are punitive. They use words like “socialism” and “communism.” They think that liberals want to rob from the hard-working entrepreneurial rich people, and give their money to lazy poor people who want to be rich but are unwilling to work for it.

I can’t speak for all liberals, but that isn’t what I believe at all.

I think that governments are corrupt. I think that corrupt people are attracted by political positions, and that oftentimes those corrupt individuals prosper as a result of their political positions. I am as sure of this as I am of the fact that if I place my hand in a pot of boiling water it will hurt and I will suffer burns.

The thing is, I believe that the statements above are also true if we substitute the words “corporations” for government and “corporate” for political, only to an even greater degree.

It isn’t that I trust government to do the right thing. I absolutely don't. It is that I trust powerful corporations to do the right thing even less. Why? Because in a Constitutional Republic, the government is accountable to the people, and politicians can be voted out of office.

A conservative will invariably argue, “Corporations are accountable to the people in the free market. When they misbehave, the consumer will spend their dollars elsewhere. The market takes care of itself.”

And there in lies the rub. This is only true if the corporations are regulated by the government and forced to play fair. When corporations are free from regulations, you get powerful monopolies, price-fixing, workers being stripped of their rights. One only needs to explore how Amercian corporations conduct themselves in third-world nations to confirm these words.

First, I'd like to say a few words about taxes.

Taxes are not charity. They are like rent. You rent the protections of your government. The idea of the progressive tax system is simple really. Never mind that poor people don't have any money so they can't pay as much as wealthy people. That is academic.

The progressive tax system presumes that the richest people have more to lose and more to protect than poor people. They need the police, the military, the roads and all the services of government to a greater degree than the rest of us. Who would have to most to lose to the Communists or the Theocratic Muslims if they invaded the USA and there was no military to protect us? A poor person living in a slum or Dick Cheney? This is the justification, but there is more to it.

The concept of “money” is meaningless in a vacuum. Without a society, money is worthless. Wealth is a relative thing. The society that enables the power of the wealthy comprises everyone, not just the rich. It isn't a moral obligation for wealth to be taxed. It is a necessity to fund the society that enables the wealth to have meaning.

I suppose we could go back to feudalism, where rich people have serfs, castles, moats and their own armies to protect their wealth.

This concept that the progressive tax system is "unfair" to the wealthy is nothing more than an excuse and a justification for greed. I admit that the US government is problematic. One can point to waste and corruption pretty easily. The issue is, what is the alternative to the government regulating business and taxing its citizens? It is fine to say "the government is doing a bad job" but the alternative of an unregulated "Free Market" somehow being better is a fantasy.

Without government controls, the rich will act on its own behalf. They will make the rules by themselves, that will benefit them, that will increase their wealth and power. Does anyone believe most corporations would be benevolent without laws?

This idea that the Free Market will correct itself is a myth, nothing more. Imagine a country where there was no government regulations on pollution. [Not a big stretch under this administration!] Imagine two manufacturing corporations: One benevolent, the other, ruthless. The ruthless one dumps toxic waste on the outskirts of the poorest neighborhood, and then denies they are doing it. The media, also corporate owned with profit as their motive, have no reason (and may not be able to) report otherwise. The benevolent one spends the extra money to dispose of the toxic waste safely. The ruthless ones will be able to sell their goods for less money, and will make more profit. Their stock prices will be higher.

Now, the conservatives who believe in the unregulated Free Market argue that over time, the consumer will begin to buy from the benevolent corporation and the ruthless one will be forced to play fair. Let's all pretend that we actually believe in fairytales and the above is true. What about the people who are poisoned in the meantime? Their tough luck for being poor? The truth is, most people would never connect that the ruthless company is destroying the environment and killing people, because they are too busy just trying to make ends meet. They will buy the cheaper goods and the benevolent company will have to either go out of business or behave like the ruthless one.

One of the things that the conservatives do is debate an issue in simple, unrealistic terms. "Abortion is bad. Women shouldn't get them." "Government is corrupt. Get them off the backs of big business."

A liberal, such as myself argues like this: "Abortion is bad, but what happens when we make it illegal? Will the problem just go away? Will women who are not in a situation where they can raise a child no longer risk an unwanted pregnancy by abstaining? Is this realistic? What will happen to women who find themselves in dire straits with an unwanted pregnancy? Will she have the baby and find a way to raise it? Will she give it up for adoption? If she is poor and has no access to good healthcare, what will happen then? If she keeps the baby, how will she work and make enough money to provide for her? " These are tough questions. The best answers I get from pro-life people are "Well, she should have thought of that before she got pregnant!" Agreed, but still, there she is. When I say I am pro-choice, it isn't because I think "Abortion is good." I think abortion is bad, but I think that the alternative of making it illegal would be even worse.

The same goes for giving power to the government to regulate businesses. It isn't an elegant and perfect solution, and lends itself to corruption. But in the absence of this, the alternative is out of control corporations, abusing their workforce, the environment and the consumer.

And that is what I believe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Don't Say You're A Christian - Be One

Yesterday, like today I was too busy to write a real blog entry, but if people can take the time to come visit, then I can take the time to put up something, even if it is just a link or a comment.

As a response to the Betty Bowers “How to tell if you are living in a Red or Blue State” link, vmi wrote:
Thanks for the Betty Bowers link, I will make sure to show it to all my Southern Democratic friends. Betty Bowers site is the perfect example of how the Democratic Party is being taken over by the Extreme Left Wing that believes that Southerners and Christians are all "dumb hicks".

LOL What you and Betty forget is that to win the Presidency you must carry the south. Remember that Kenndy, LBJ, Carter and even Clinton had to get the south's vote to win.

And to win the south you must have Christian values. That is a fact that has apparently escaped you.

Do you really think that looking down on people is the best way to get their vote?

But let me get back to my point, Thank You, Thank you for each and every word that you blog, your words and those of your links are the best proof of what the Democratic Party has become. And I am going to make sure that each and ever Dem that I know will see what what their fellow party members think of them.

May God Bless You,

p.s. Feel free to call me names and make fun of me... I know how that makes you feel so superior.
Normally I let opposing comments speak for themselves. I welcome visitors who bring a different point of view to my blog, and would only ever delete comments if they contained severe or threatening language. Beyond that they are free to write whatever they want. I don't usually respond to such comments, because it is an exercise in futility.

Still, I could not help but admire my friend Simon’s response to vmi. Many of us on the left side of the political spectrum are continually perplexed by those on the right who insist on bringing Christ, Christianity and Christian values into the debate but who’s words and behavior directly contradict the most basic and fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. Simon’s words deserve a wider audience than I can provide here, but this is the only vehicle I have to promote them:


If you truly have Christian Values VMI, don't waste time arguing politics on the internet for no-one will ever change their way of thinking or agree on different points of view, no matter how eloquently the point is argued.

Instead of feeling superior with the knowledge that your suspicions were confirmed, (for your comment has the same air of smug superiority you're accusing the Viscount of), and wasting your own and other's time self-righteously showing this webpage to people with differing political opinions than your own, *HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE GOD*. Anything else is purely petty small-minded nastiness and beneath Christian Ideals.

Go down to your local cancer centre. See what life is like for people who are living on the edge of death. Don't step over the person lying in the gutter. Don't judge the poor in your town as not working hard enough. Pay attention to those in your community who are less fortunate than yourself and do something to help them. Inconvenience and sacrifice yourself for others everyday. Don't buy yourself new shoes, buy a pair for someone who doesn't have them and wear out the pair you have already. Don't ignore the stranger you see crying on the bus, ask what you can do to help.

Don't say you're a Christian, *be one*.
Everybody wins. Your town will be a better place for it.

- Simon

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday Update

Don't know if you live in a Red State or a Blue State?
Betty Bowers can help!

The conservative idiots celebrate another banner week.
This week's Top 10.

David Lynch's Disney Movie?
Great flick to watch with the whole family.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"I Was Wrong"

The folks over at One America were kind enough to send me this excellent article by Sen. John Edwards. It was written for today's Washington Post (free subscription required.) The first three words of the article are a breath of fresh air from the lips of a politician. The Republicans and their right-wing "journalists" have been complaining that the Democrats never have a plan; they just criticize the current administration. I don't think it is a fair assessment, especially when you consider the fact that the Republicans have been wrong about everything since the 2000 elections, and have demonstrated that they had no plan at all for the War in Iraq, beyond the initial attacks.

This piece by Senator Edwards certainly goes a long way to answer those critics. He has gotten my attention, and I am hopeful that he will continue on his present course. The Democratic Presidential nominee in 2008 should have a plan for Iraq, a positive message, strong leadership qualities, and an air of competence and integrity.

John Edwards deserves our attention and consideration and should be on the short-list of potential candidates for 2008.

The Right Way in Iraq

By John Edwards
Sunday, November 13, 2005

I was wrong.

Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.

The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.

While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility, because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong -- and showing that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.

The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.

George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.

Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.

The urgent question isn't how we got here but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.

What is success? I don't think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy. I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its own destiny.

A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing the American presence, building Iraq's capacity and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.

First, we need to remove the image of an imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.

We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there forever. We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections, when a new government has been created, we should begin redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence and change the shape of our military's deployment in Iraq. Most of these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces.

That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined with better-trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help the Iraqis develop a stable country.

Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To increase incentives, we should implement a schedule showing that, as we certify Iraqi troops as trained and equipped, a proportional number of U.S. troops will be withdrawn.

Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort. We should bring Iraq's neighbors and our key European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet. The president needs to create a unified international front.

Too many mistakes have already been made for this to be easy. Yet we must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi people and -- most important -- our troops who have died or been injured there, and those who are fighting there today, deserve nothing less.

America's leaders -- all of us -- need to accept the responsibility we each carry for how we got to this place. More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in this war, and more than 150,000 are fighting there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our country's leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.

The writer, a former senator from North Carolina, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Friday, November 11, 2005

Just A Reminder

Most of my readers are probably aware of the following statements made by Dick Cheney in 1992, but revisiting them yesterday made me angry all over again.

"I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place."

"What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?"

"I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq."

Does anyone remember them being discussed, presented, or even mentioned by Fox or CNN or any of the MSM's during the ramp-up to the war? What about after it all came to pass? Why does the "liberal" media dredge up meaningless off-the-cuff statements to embarrass "liberals" like Howard Dean, (and influence the electorate in this case!) but not relevant ones to make "self-servatives" like Dick Cheney accountable for their actions that have a profound impact on millions of people?

While I'm at it, here is something President Bush once said....

"Let me say a few words about important values we must demonstrate while all of us serve in government. First, we must always maintain the highest ethical standards. We must always ask ourselves not only what is legal, but what is right. There is no goal of government worth accomplishing if it cannot be accomplished with integrity."

"Second, I want us to set an example of humility. As you work for the federal government there is no excuse for arrogance, and there's never a reason to show disrespect for others. A new tone in Washington must begin with decency and fairness. I want everyone who represents our government to be known for these values."

Oh wait! I forgot! How could I have been be so stupid? None of the above matters, when held up in contrast against the infamous pack of lies muttered by the most despicable man to ever walk the face of the earth, President William Jefferson Clinton.

"Listen to me, I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

My bad.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ok, The Allman Brothers Band

I was introduced to the music of The Allman Brothers Band in about 1972, after the year-apart tragic motorcycle accidental deaths of slide guitar legend Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley, and before the release of “Brothers and Sisters.” I cut my bass-player teeth playing along with “Live at Fillmore East.” Their mix of rock, blues and jazz spoke to me in a way that no other music had before. No one classed in the same genre (now referred to as “jam bands”) has ever come close in my estimation. I saw them three times in the 70’s when they had Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Lamar Williams on bass. They were good, but there was always that feeling of regret associated with having never seen the “real” Allman Brothers with Duane. As the 70’s progressed, Dickey Betts’ affinity for country music became more influential, and indeed some of those songs did strike a chord inside of this New York Italian kid who’s idea of a country song was “Act Naturally” by The Beatles, but they drifted further and further away from their blues roots.

As the 70’s faded into the 80’s, music fans’ tastes changed, and The Allman Brothers were written off as a casualty to the changing times and their own excesses. Tales of alcoholism, drug-abuse and betrayal coupled with some awful recordings seemingly relegated this once influential band to the rock-and-roll history books.

The band reunited in 1989 with a back-to-basics approach adding guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody.

From their All Music Guide Biography by Bruce Eder

"The new lineup reinvigorated the band, which signed with Epic Records and
surprised everyone with their first release, Seven Turns. Issued in 1990, it got
some of the best reviews and healthiest sales they'd had in more than a decade.
Their subsequent studio albums failed to attract as much enthusiasm, and their
two live albums, An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band and 2nd Set, released
in 1992 and 1995, respectively, were steady but not massive sellers. Much of
this isn't the fault of the material so much as a natural result of the passage
of time, which has left the Allmans competing with two decades' worth of
successors and rivals."

I picked up most of their records that were recorded in the 90’s and listened now and again. I saw them play live in 1995, coincidentally on the same day that Jerry Garcia passed away. The band mentioned that they were shaken by his death, specifically Dickey Betts who’s playing was noticeably sub-par that night. While I was pleased that they were back together and sounding more like the old band, (Warren Haynes is a fine blues / slide guitarist) I was still disappointed in the overall quality of the new material and much preferred the old classic records.

In March of 1998, it was announced that Warren Haynes and Allen Woody would be leaving the Allman Brothers to devote their efforts to their own band, Gov’t Mule, and that drummer Butch Truck’s nephew would be joining the band along with jazz bassist Oteil Burbridge. The band released a lack-luster live record titled “Peakin’ at the Beacon.” Unknown to most of their fan-base, over the years Dickey Betts had become increasingly difficult for the band to tolerate. Greg Allman and the rest of them had apparently overcome their drug and alcohol problems, but Betts had been accused of abusing crack-cocaine and alcohol and as a result was subsequently fired. Gov’t Mule bassist and friend Allen Woody had passed away in the meantime, so with Gov’t Mule now maimed, Warren Haynes was welcomed back into the band. When I heard all of this, I was dead-certain that it was once again, truly over for this legendary band. Dickey Betts had written some of their finest songs and was an integral part of their classic double-lead guitar sound. And, who, by the way was this Derek Trucks? It seemed that the young nephew of a band-member could not possibly be qualified to join this legendary band, and was chosen as a matter of convenience.

I was as wrong as Donald Rumsfeld.

The band released “Hittin’ The Note” in 2003 to rave reviews. A friend of mine bought me the record and insisted that I give it a chance. I was knocked out. This was easily the best collection of songs that they had released since “Brothers and Sisters.” This one sounded like the old days, with a true return to their blues roots.

At first I had a hard-time with Derek Trucks. I kept telling myself that he was good, but that no way could he compete with Warren Haynes. Still, each time I found myself intrigued by a guitar solo, it turned out to be Derek!

Then came the September release of their DVD Performance “Live at the Beacon Theater, and it left no doubt in my mind that this musician who happened to be related to Butch Trucks is not in the band by virtue of any family relationship. He is one of the best blues guitarists to come along in years and years. Many fans may take exception, but I think he and not Warren Haynes is now the undisputed heir apparent to Duane Allman’s legacy. Derek picked up the guitar at 9 years old and by the time he was twelve he had already jammed on stage with likes of Buddy Guy and Bob Dylan. Watching and listening to him play the classic songs like “Dreams” and “Whipping Post” prompts me to say that he is channeling for Duane Allman, picking up on his style and taking it in new directions. His tone, note choice and sense of dynamics are astonishing, even when held up against the seminal work of his legendary role-model. Watching the DVD you sometimes catch glances of awe and amusement on the faces of veterans Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes as Derek stands there practically motionless, almost in a trance, ripping through these songs with a casual ease and apparent detachment, as if he were leafing through a magazine or drinking a glass of water!

If you are like me, and once loved the Allman Brothers and lamented the losses of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, you owe it to yourself to go buy this DVD, the companion two CD set “One Way Out” from the same dates, and the fine studio effort, “Hittin The Note.” I don’t see how you could be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

Election day. Nothing going on in my district until ’06.

This is a cliché, I know, but I’ve really grown tired of the hacks that are constantly presented to us as candidates. I want someone I can believe in, someone I can defend, someone that I can look up to, someone with the gumption to stand up against the corruption and the lies and to lead this nation into a future of prosperity and goodwill toward the other nations of the world.

I’ve written about Howard Dean before. The Viscountess and I were so hopeful back in ’02 when we became aware of his candidacy. In ’03 we took the day off from work and went to Earthlink Live in Atlanta and cheered his official announcement speech. On July 4th we marched in a local parade with the other early Dean supporters. We read his speeches and watched the debates. We contributed money, something that neither of us ever thought we would do. We watched the other Democratic candidates sputter and feign outrage at his candid statements that refreshingly spoke the truth to those of us who were so tired of the specious rhetoric that comes out of politicians’ mouths. We came to the realization that the idiots in charge of the democratic party would rather lose than have Dean on the ballot. And, we watched the fools in Iowa turn against him because they were insulted at his comments about the absurdity of the Iowa caucuses, proving his point.

We didn’t watch the endless looping of his infamous scream.

(From the above link:)

Dean's "I have a scream" speech was seen as a major turning point, and certainly contributed to his losing the Democratic nomination. Television across the country aired video of his appearance before a rally of his supporters, where he shouted loudly and eventually let loose with a shrieking yowl that was widely derided as not seeming "presidential." What most of the media failed to mention or notice was that Dean had used a specific type of noise-canceling microphone, specifically designed to hear only the user's voice and filter out the roar of a raucous crowd. Other recordings of the same event showed that people in the room could barely hear Dean at all, as he hollered to be heard over the cheering audience at his pep rally.

And so it was over. His viability as a national candidate shattered. He made too many enemies. We finally got someone who had the temerity to tell the truth, and tired old hacks from his own party like Kerry, Gephardt and Liebermann couldn’t stand it. I was sickened when I found myself having to defend and vote for the likes of John Kerry - a candidate so inept that he was unable to defend his own legitimate, decorated war- record against a the non-record of a drunken, spoiled fratboy who used family connections to avoid the draft and then didn't bother to even show up for his last year in the guard.

I am optimistic that things will get better. They have to. BushCo just keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper, and even another terrorist attack won’t save them. That said, I doubt that I will like anyone they run as much as I liked Dean, and I can’t help but be a bit angry about the way he was treated by his own party.


The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
by Andy Partridge

Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the vatican what gold's for
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?
Oh my!

Peter Pumpkinhead pulled them all
Emptied churches and shopping malls
Where he spoke, it would raise the roof
Peter Pumpkinhead told the truth
But he made too many enemies...
Peter Pumpkinhead put to shame
Governments who would slur his name
Plots and sex scandals failed outright
Peter merely said
Any kind of love is alright

But he made too many enemies...
Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you
And an awful lot like me!
But he made too many enemies...
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkin
Hooray for Peter Pumpkinhead
Oh my oh my oh!
Doesn't it make you want to cry oh?

© 1992 Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd.
From "Nonsuch." - Snippet of this most excellent song can be heard here.

Thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Wall, M.D. for his kind permission to reproduce the copyrighted image above.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Part III

"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

H.L. Mencken

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Part III
Ian Dury

[Apologies to the completeists. Difficult to decipher and I can't find a definitive version on the 'net.]

Why don't you get back into bed

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3

Some of Buddy Holly
The working folly
Good golly Miss Molly
and boats

Hammersmith Palais
The Bolshoi ballet
jump back in the ally
and nanny goats

(can't decipher)
dominate the camels
all other mammals
plus equal votes

Seeing Piccadilly
fanny smith and willy
being rather silly
and porridge oats

a bit of grin and bear it
a bit of come and share it
your welcome we can spare it
and yellow socks

To short to be haughty
to nutty to be naughty
going on forty
no electric shocks

The juice of a carrot
the smile of a parrot
a little drop of claret
anything that rocks

Elvis and scotty
the days when i ain't spotty
sitting on a potty
curing smallpox

Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3

Reasons to be cheerful part 3

Health service glasses
Gigolos and brasses
round or skinny bottoms

Take your mum to paris
lighting up a chalice
wee willy harris

Banto steven biko
Listing to reko
harp groucho chico

cheddar cheese and pickle
la vincent motorcycle
slap and tickle

woody allan dali
Domitrie and pascale
ba la ba la ba la and volari

something nice to study
phoning up a buddy
being in my nuddy

saying oky dokey
singalong a smokie
coming out a chokie

John Coltranes soprano
adie cello carno

beuno colino

Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3

1 2 3

Yes yes
dear dear
perhaps next year
or maybe even never

in which case

Reasons to be cheerful part 3


Don't forget this week's Top 10.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Remember The Future?

We watched “Nova: To The Moon” these last couple of nights, and I kept thinking, “What the Hell Happened to the Future?”

1969. I was 12.

Kennedys were gone. At least the cool ones. King assassinated. Nixon. Viet Nam. The Beatles. Still had Jimi, Janis and Jim Morrison. The Smothers Brothers. Laugh-In. Star Trek. Shit was happening before somebody stuck it on damn a bumper sticker.

We grew up with the Space Race. We loved the “My Weekly Reader” (can’t find any website devoted to that – too bad!) especially when they would have a story about rockets and astronauts. John Glenn. Neil Armstrong. These guys were heros outside of the divide between “us” and “them.” When the teacher would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” lots of boys said “An Astronaut!” Some girls too.

July 21st. They did it. I mean, they really did it. I was old enough to think it was cool, but still did not grasp just how monumental it was that we had two guys walking around up there, ON THE MOON! That was partly because of my age, but also because we just knew that they were going to do it.

We actually believed, in spite of all the turmoil and upheaval, we actually had the temerity to believe that the future was going to ROCK. We had scientists figuring it all out. They got us to the moon. You could pick up an Arthur C. Clark paperback and read all about it. The future man, the space-travellin’ war-ending, hunger-free, no-poverty, no-more-racism asshole-absent future was on its way to a life-near-you.

What the hell happened?

Instead of peace we got idiots killing each other over which God is the real God, and oil companies making billions off of their idiocy. We got fools trying to stop the teaching of evolution, instead of a colony on Mars. We got vehicles that get 10 miles per gallon while the scientists are telling us that we are running out of fossil fuels, instead of hydrogen-powered cars. We got superstitious preachers who want to ban Harry Potter, instead of philosophers teaching us about Zen. I was screaming at the radio one day because they had some SoBap preacher who was talking about witches and witchcraft with conviction and authority, and the “journalist” who was interviewing didn’t say, “Produce one witch. Just one is all it will take.” Or how about, “Witches? What grade are you in? You believe in the Fairy Godmother too?” We got Christians who hate entire goups of people including the poor, and Christian “leaders” calling for the assasination the head of a government that they don’t like, instead of people working together to end world hunger. We got politicians on TV claiming that God sent hurricane Katrina to punish the people of NoLa for their sinful lifestyle, in spite of the fact that The French Quarter was mostly spared, we got that instead of politicians giving tax incentives to companies that produce windmills and solar-power which could have reduced the gases that cause global warming.

We got people at my company, a software company where some of us are paid to think, some of them who are paid to think - because they watch Fox - believe the Moon landing was a hoax and that the War in Iraq is not a hoax.


We got a president who claims that God tells him what to do. God. Tells him. Remember the 90s, when we had a rock star for president? People thought we had problems then! What if he said God was talking to him, during a time when things were running as smoothly as they ever have been? I’d have thought, “this guy is crazier than a Pagan in Utah.” But now? Now people believe it.

What does anyone think when the guy in the next cube says that God talks to him? I know what I think. “He’s coming back with a gun when they fire his ass! I’m taking vacation that week!”

We used to play games in the street. Touch football. Street Hockey. Stickball. Sometimes a car would come right in the middle of a play, and all the kids would start saying, “Do over! Do over!”

Well, some big gas-guzzling Hummer limo showed up in 1980 and disrupted the game. Instead of asking for a do-over, we hopped in. Not all of us, but enough of us.

I want a do-over. I want my future, the future that I remember.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

You'd Have to be A Liberal To Be That Stupid

Soundsurfr has written a fine post about how some right wing imbeciles just assume that they can disparage liberals with impunity. (Of course I think it is fine, as I have written on the subject myself.) I want to hear your story of a similar experience. If you have a blog, drop a link in the comments section. I will post the links. If you do not, then use my comment section to tell your story. The story doesn’t have to be restricted to anti-liberal bias. It could be that you are in a bi-racial relationship, that you are a homosexual, or whatever. The idea is to relate an incident where someone assumed that you were one of them, or just didn’t care if you weren’t. I want to hear about it whether you spoke up or not. In Sound’s story, he has vowed to speak up the next time, as I have advocated doing in the past right here at Chéz LaCarte. Not that I always do, but there have been circumstances recently where I have done so, and I wasn’t sorry.

As I have mentioned previously, I get lots of right-wing e-mails from friends on the “other side.” Out of sheer futility and boredom, I usually just delete them and never send out my pro-liberal emails back at them because I got tired of getting responses in ALL CAPS laced with profanity and invective. I do however, respond to misinformation, lies, myths and distortions sometimes. A hot-button for me is the “Christian Nation” e-mails. The truth is, I really don’t give a rat about “Under God” in the pledge, “In God We Trust” on the cash. Those things are meaningless to me, but I do get scared when people start advocating policies that wrecklessly steer us toward a Theocracy. I’m also consistently amazed and disappointed in the stupidity of religious zealots who don’t see that separation of church and state was insisted upon by Christian clerics as well as the framers of the Constitution because it protects the religious as much if not more than the agnostics and atheists.

So when I get emails like these, I do hit reply and try to set them straight. Not with the anger and bile that is screaming to pour out of my fingers like a Mormon’s “enthusiasm” on his wedding night, but with civility and references to evidence. People need to know.

Don’t forget this week’s Top 10.

Apologies to Bobby for stealing his idea for the graphic.