Friday, June 02, 2006

We would not seek a battle as we are, yet as we are, we say we will not shun it.

Bill O'Reilly has a point.

I'll let that odd sentence sink in while I swear that I have NOT recently received a severe hammer blow to the head, been exposed to toxic fumes or found myself on a three day Peyote bender staggering through the desert in Eastern Oregon.

Progressives, from Randi Rhodes to Keith Olbermann to the guys at Crooks and Liars are jumping all over statements O'Reilly made during an interview of Gen. Wesley Clark a couple of days ago in which O'Reilly basically accused American forces in WW2 of committing atrocities similar to those recently revealed as having been perpertrated by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq.
Rhodes, whose father served as an infantryman in Europe during the war, seemed to take great offense to O'Reilly's remarks. During a prolonged rant on her national show she went out of her way to try draw a distinction between shooting S.S. soldiers who had been shooting at our troops moments before surrendering or burning Japanese soldiers to death who were dug into caves on Pacific islands and the cold-blooded execution of civilian men, women and children cowering in their homes in Iraq. Her definition of atrocity hinges on whether the person being executed by U.S. troops was a combatant (or recent combatant) or a civilian.

While there is no doubt that captured Axis troops sometimes faced summary execution (Eisenhower issued an infamous order near the end of the war basically instructing that no German sniper would be taken alive,) it's difficult to find a documented instance of Allied soldiers executing unarmed European civilians. Nevertheless; it would be the height of absurdity to assume such atrocities never took place by American forces in the Second World War.

I wonder if Rhodes has ever heard the cities Nagasaki or Hiroshima. Wrong theater of the war? Then how about Dresden? On the low end of estimates of civilian casualties 25,000 non-combatants were killed in the carpet-bombing of that strategically unimportant city alone. Shock and awe aren't simply modern neocon military constructs. Terror is not just a tactic of crazy islamic fanatics. Civilians are never "off limits" in a war the United States was involved in, even to U.S. troops and even a war as just and righteous as a war to stop the tyranny of fascism.

Of course none of that supports O'Reilly's larger argument that the atrocities of other U.S. soldiers in other wars somehow absolve this administration or the Marines at Haditha of atrocities in THIS war*. Quite the opposite is true. The reality that war is a horrible, bloody terrible thing that often moots moral questions by it's very nature should never be an act of choice. This President picked this unnecessary war and bears culpability for it's atrocities.

* As a side note - I'm to lazy to check it at this point but wasn't O'Reilly one of those clowns who just recently was jumping all over John Kerry's post-Vietnam war assertions that U.S. troops committed atrocities in THAT conflict? Hypocrite much? Ah, where would conservatives be without moral relativism and deliberate self-induced ADD?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The goose was right, this fair is rat's paradise.

I smell a rat.

I'm not going to get into the specifics of the Harry Reid/ Boxing Tickets fiasco which has been well covered by other blogs, most specifically the TPM Muckracker which has been all over the story. In taking something of value from an organization with legislation pending before congress Reid acted unethically, of that there's no question in my mind.

But considering how this story has played out in the news and the blatant push towards conflating Reid's actions with the Republican Culture of Corruption (tm) in an effort towards false equivalence I'm really interested in how this story came about in the first place. Thus far most of the lefty outrage has been leveled at the AP author who wrote the piece; John Solomon. Solomon, though despicably partisan and intellectually lazy, is not the player behind the scenes that started this ball rolling. The true schemer here appears to be John McCain. From Muckracker:

The crux of Solomon's story was that Reid acted wrongly by accepting free boxing tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission. In particular, Solomon focused on a title bout in September 2004 that Reid and McCain both attended. "Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight," Solomon wrote.

But it turns out that it would have been illegal for Reid to reimburse the commission for the seats. That's because these weren't actually tickets - they were credentials with no face value given to V.I.P.'s. And according to the boxing promoter who awarded those credentials to Reid, it is illegal for the commission to accept payment for them. Despite that, McCain insisted on paying, and so the commission simply gave his check (written for a seemingly arbitrary amount) to a charity since it couldn't accept it.

What's more, that same promoter says that in other cases where Reid and McCain received tickets that could be reimbursed, Reid paid. That's a key fact which, if true, was left out of Solomon's article.

Let your mind wrap yourself around McCain's actions here. Senate ethics rules, as loose as they are, allow for a gift like that which he and Reid received from the boxing commission. Yet he tries to pay for the gift anyway and is informed that it would be illegal for the boxing commission to take equivalent payment for the tickets. At some point John "Keating Five" McCain decides that he still finds this morally and ethically reprehensible despite it's legality and sends off a check (for much less than what the face value of actual tickets would be, mind you) to the commission with the understanding that it would go towards charity. All of this just "happens" to find it's way to a reporter unfriendly to Reid with the story being distorted just enough to make it appear McCain paid for the tickets while Reid didn't.

If you buy that I have a lovely scenic spot on the Louisiana coast to sell you.

Muckracker has a current post up proclaiming "AP's Solomon Sucker Punches Reid." If anyone was doing the sucker punching here it was that rat John McCain.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win!

I have no idea why more sites haven't linked Kung Fu Monkey's excellent Memorial Day missive Lions Led by Donkeys in which he eviscerates the cheerleaders for the war in Iraq.

There is truth in the idea that soldiers are our designated warriors. But the accidental revelation in these attitudes is the bizarre concept that by soldiers choosing a life of taking risks on our behalf, these war supporters are somehow absolved of any responsibility to them other than emotional support and approval. There is the stink of ... the troops as employees. Like, say, gardeners. Not that I would ever make such a crude comparison.

But the fact is that soldiers make this choice in a specific context. They are not just entering a job. They are, to pull up my Catholic high school education, entering into a covenant with us. They take an oath to sacrifice their lives, if need be. That is, in my faith anyway, the holiest thing a person can do. In return, the civilian side of the covenant is a deep responsibility, a responsibility far beyond the emotional support one gives a sports team, or the minimal responsibility one has with employees. Our oath is simple:

We will make sure you have the equipment you need.

We will make sure have a clearly defined mission.

We will make sure that such missions are as well-planned as possible.

We will take care of your families while you are gone.

We will take care of you when you come home.

I'd add that losing the medical records of 26.3 MILLION vets is a major violation of that covenant with our soldiers to take care of them when they come home.

This is no small thing. Those personal records can't be recaptured, that Jeannie can't be put back in the bottle. Those vets will face the consequences of the cavalier treatment of their most personal information for the rest of their lives.

That's EVERYBODY that's worn a uniform and utilized their veteran's medical benefits. This is a monumental crime that's a little more important than the ho-hum news-of-the-day treatment it's gotten so far by the national media.

You must be a pirate for the Pirate's Code to apply, and you're not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

This diplomatic overture towards Iran is nothing more than another cheap political fig-leaf towards military action. This White House has already demonstrated they have no intention of using diplomatic solutions to solve international problems. Think U.N. Resolution 1441.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Magneto's right: there is a war coming. Are you sure you're on the right side?

X-men The Last Stand.

What to say about this flick?

Yeah, SPOILERS, whatever...

As a summer movie I enjoyed it. It hit all the right marks: tons of action and special effects- a couple of which were literally jaw-dropping for me- cheesy/ funny throw-away lines ("Let's see you grow those back,") and mutants with superpowers doing mutant superpowery things.

As the third (and last?) movie in a series I think it did some things a little better than the last two films (action, pacing) by sacrificing some of the things it could have used a little more of like character moments and just plain emotion in general. The main characters that die, particularly the first one that happens annoyingly off camera, do so with little emotional impact on the other characters. The "family" built in the first movie just doesn't appear to be present here.

There are characters that are mysteriously absent (Nightcrawler) and characters that might as well be since they end up background or off the screen through most of the movie anyway (Cyclops, Colossus, Rogue, Angel and even Professor X himself.)

As an X-Men movie I can't speak to the mythos as I never read the Dark Phoenix saga which has been apparently botched judging by the number of fans going apeshit over at Ain't It Cool News, but I will say that I did feel this film took a radical and perhaps fatal turn from something that's always been at the heart of these comics: mutation as an allegory for racism. The X-Men comics I DID read as a kid always seemed to be commenting on our prejudices.

The first two films captured that awesome pathos of the comics deriving from the fact that the X-men were despised by the very people they saved again and again just because they were different. What Last Stand seemed to be saying is those humans that despised the mutants, the General Strykers of the world, were right all along. Mutants can't be trusted.

Ultimately I think it was worth the admission and I'll probably by the film when it comes out on DVD but it could have been better, IMHO.

Run away! RUN AWAAAYY!

Am I the only one that finds Andrew Sullivan highlighting through a nomination of Duncan for a "Moore award" his supreme bitch-slapping at Duncan's hands more than a bit odd?

"The willingness to send others off to die for a misguided war because you wet your pants after 9/11 is called "cowardice" not courage," - Atrios, classy as ever.

Try as I might I can find nothing ironic about Duncan's observation that the people sitting at their computers arguing about the rightness of Mr. Bush's Iraq adventure, or conflating the battle against terrorism with World War 2, or making speeches at Arlington promising to "finish the mission" are chickenshits not heroes.

The Andrew Sullivan's of the world conflate courage with stubbornness in the same way the leaders in the Catholic church remained adamant that the earth was the center of the universe long after Galileo proved them wrong. That's not courage it's obstinace.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

You better shape up, Tiger or some hotshot Jap pilot's gonna flame your ass.

A special shout out to all those who served and defended this country but a special thought today for E.L. who proudly war the uniform of the United States Navy.

Until my dying day I won't forget him telling me stories of wading through the oil and bodies in damaged ships at Pearl just after the attack. A man who I'd never seen cry, teared up as he recalled prying open hatches and having the bodies of sailors tumble out. In all the years I'd known him he hadn't mentioned any of that but the last time I saw him it just came out. All of his wartime experiences.

I think he wanted me to remember. I think he didn't want it lost when he was gone.

It won't be. My kids and grandkids will know what E.L. did.

He will never, ever be forgotten.

I don't know what it is that I'm doing, but I sure as heck keep doing it.

Last week I was elected to public office.

Don't get too excited. I was elected as a Precinct Worker for the local Democratic party. In military terms I'd be a grunt. In film production terms I'd be a Production Assistant. In office terms I'd be the guy that goes to get the coffee and swaps the toner in the copiers. Low, nay LOWEST, man on the totem pole. I'm a Peon. I'm Gilligan.

Still the precinct worker is a necessary part of the party. They're the ones that volunteer to make those phone calls reminding people to vote, canvass the neighborhoods handing out candidate literature, help to set-up for events and overall keep things running. Generally they're some of the most motivated party believers. It's that last part I'm starting to stumble on.

I'm already having second thoughts. When the party asked me to run several months ago I was in a different place mentally. I was hugely disappointed in the Democrats but still saw them as the only viable alternative to a really out-of-control Republican party that was heading the country over the cliff at a rapid pace.

Since then we've had a series of revelations the latest of which have led me to believe that, if anything, the Republican party under this President is even more evil than I could have possibly imagined. The latest, greatest issue of domestic spying has kicked me in the constitutional family jewels and doubled me over in pain. As I glance over at the Democratic leadership they're whistling nervously and pretending they didn't notice. In fact; they just made the guy doing doing the kicking into the Director of Central Intelligence. Disappointment would be an understatement.

It's pretty clear to me that in order to fight to save the country there's going to first have to be a fight to save the party. I'm just not sure I have the energy for that. When I look at how much of the leadership accomodates unconstitutional executive actions I don't hold out much hope that they'll come around. Many progressives are putting a whole lot of hope in the Lamont/ Lieberman race. I would love to see Holy Joe sent home but I still can't see how that will convince the Schumers, Clintons and Bidens of the error of their ways.

So I'm stuck trying to figure out if I should stand up to the Skipper. He keeps beaning me with that hat despite all the "little buddy" talk.

Maybe it's time to start hitting him back.