Archive for April, 2008

Give It Up, Barack

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Barack, I am speaking to you as a friend, if not, you know, a brother. Back when you launched your campaign for the Presidency of the United States, you can’t have believed that you had a real shot at it. I mean c’mon, a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama, a three year senator, 46 years old? Now though it is becoming more and more obvious that not only didn’t you expect it, you don’t really want it. I mean, do you?

I’m not running for President myself, and one of the many, many, many reasons why not, is that I would find it distasteful to have to denounce all of my wacky friends and relatives. I don’t agree with them about much, as I’m sure you don’t agree with your pastor, the Reverend Wright, or with your buddies Bill and Bernardine, but I can no more disown them than I can disown my own Democratic mother, or my white hippie pothead community.

In order to get elected President of the United States, or to be a late night network talk show host, for that matter, one must appeal to a majority of the citizens of the United States of America, none of whom agree entirely with anyone about everything. Much dodging, weaving, ducking, and finessing is required. It’s not easy, and I’m not saying you’re not good at it. You are, very good at it.

One thing is for sure though. If someone you have been very close to for 20 years believes that the U.S. government created AIDS to kill black folks, and that we had it coming on 9/11, and that God damns America, then you had better throw him or her under the bus quickly and thoroughly, no matter what.

If you’re not willing to do that, if you hem and haw, and say something different every other day, you’re not going to be President. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It just means you don’t really have what it takes to be President. Neither do I. It’s OK. It’s too late now. Just resign gracefully and let Hillary have it. You have a great future ahead of you, maybe Ambassador to the U.N., who knows?

Sunday Drive

Monday, April 21st, 2008

We went for a drive in the country on Sunday, and I took a few pictures with my trusty Canon PowerShot A540. Click on the images to see the full-size version.


When the Redbuds Bloom

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Spring is busting out all over here in Tennessee. The first sign of Spring in Tennessee is the blooming of the redbuds, followed by the dogwoods.

The first signs are often followed by brief cold snaps that the natives call Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, and Blackberry Winter. Redbud Winter this year was very mild. The dogwoods are already in bloom.

Candace and her friend Janne Henshaw wrote a song about the redbuds, When the Redbuds Bloom. Janne and Candace’s other bosom buddy Carol Levack sing harmony, Candace’s long-time brother in arms Al Goll plays dobro, and it was recorded at Rich Adler’s studio, another of Candace’s favorite people.

Obama Feels the Pain of Bigoted, Gun-toting, Religious Nuts

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Barack Obama said, at a fundraiser in San Francisco on Sunday, explaining working class voters’ frustrations, “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them, and they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

How profound! How compassionate! How condescending!

What is really mind-boggling though, is reading the comments on the above linked blog post. Over half of the commenters have no idea why anyone would consider his remarks to be offensive. After all, Obama is just telling the truth. Why would anyone be offended? The commenters are not being sarcastic or ironic. They really don’t know.

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, took the link off the front page and replaced it with an AP article that downplays what Obama said and features his apologia. The links above have been revised to point to the original blog post and comments.

Who won? – Part II

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

My cousin Andy thinks it was a draw (see comment on previous post). it looks to me like the Iraqi Army came out slightly ahead, but what do I know? The New York Times has reported it as more like a defeat than a draw. Draw, slight victory, slight defeat, in any case it looks like the government of Iraq is closer to having a monopoly of force against Iranian-backed militias in their country than does the government of Lebanon against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in that hapless country.

Lebanon is an example of a situation to Iran’s liking, is it not? If they can achieve a similar situation in Iraq, controlling a private army stronger than the national army, that would also be to their liking. Now that what is left of Al Qaeda is on the run in the North, thanks to the Sunni awakening (cheap at the price), it is time to deal with the Mahdi Army and other gangster Shia outfits in the South. Iran is experimenting, trying to figure out which one of the militias to christen (er, uh, designate) as their private army in Iraq. It is in the interest of the United States to prevent the creation of another Lebanon in the Middle East. This, it seems to me, is the game board.

If Sadr had thought he was winning, he wouldn’t have unilaterally told his boys to go home. If Maliki thought he was winning, he wouldn’t have let them. Nevertheless, it is now Iraqi troops who are patrolling Basra, not the Mahdi Army or other militias.

Yes, yes, I know. This is all George Bush’s fault. If only Saddam were still in power, everything would be so much better. Maybe so, but that is beside the point now. As we slog forward, this latest development looks to me like a necessary milestone on the way to disbanding the Shia militias. If that can be accomplished as thoroughly as the defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq has been accomplished, the monopoly of force will have been largely achieved. Big ifs I realize, but that has to be the goal, does it not? And haven’t there already been a number of big ifs that actually panned out?

The Democrats have already warned General Petraeus not to say anything good about Iraq in his upcoming testimony. “I hope we don’t hear any glorification of what happened in Basra,” said Pelosi. The audacity of hope. I pray her hopes for Iraq are dashed.

Who won?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Who won the recent battles in Iraq? It is clearly too soon to tell. The military and political complexities are sufficiently murky that both sides are laying claim to possession of the Iraq political football. Democrats, surprise, surprise, are calling it a failure, Republicans are alleging progress. Not much is known yet, and I know much less than some, but I think the tea leaves do reveal a few patterns:

The Maliki government initiated the crackdown on the Shia militias. It was not a response to a provocation. The militias have been laying low, not looking for a fight. This aggressiveness on the part of the government is a good sign. Pundits and politicians of all stripes have been saying for some time now that the real test of the infant Shia-dominated government of Iraq, will be taking on the Shia militias, especially Muqtada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Now they have.

Al Sadr fairly quickly ordered his fighters to stand down. The Iraqi Army then did not go after them, but stood down themselves. This is good and not so good. If the intention was to destroy the Mahdi Army, it is not so good, but who knows if that was the objective? Maybe Maliki was over-optimistic, or maybe he just wanted to knock Al Sadr back a bit, kill a bunch of his guys and show everybody who’s boss. Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Israel/Hezbollah mini-war in Lebanon. Israel didn’t achieve their objectives, but on the other hand, Hezbollah suffered far greater losses than Israel. Who won? Hezbollah still exists, but they’re probably not very eager to get into another fight with the Jews.

Muqtada Al Sadr made demands to be met in exchange for a ceasefire, but he then withdrew his forces before his demands were met. So Maliki has not had to promise anything publicly in exchange for the ceasefire. This is a pretty obvious sign of weakness on Al Sadr’s part, visible to all observers, and therefore a good thing.

All in all it looks like to me like Al Sadr has been weakened and the Iraqi government has been strengthened to some degree. The militias have suffered heavy casualties, but they still control most of Basra. The long-run objective is to attain a monopoly of force for the elected government of Iraq, a worthy, as yet unrealized, goal, but they look closer to it than the government of Lebanon, or even maybe Pakistan for that matter.

It took the United States government until 1865 to establish a monopoly of force, 78 years if you date from the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Events proceed at a much faster pace these days, so, one way or another, it will probably not take near so long for Iraq’s national fate to be determined. Our own history should at least inspire a willingness to grant Maliki and the government of Iraq a little bit more slack than the Democrats are willing to yield, or the media, or, unfortunately, most, perhaps, of the American people.