Monday, October 30, 2006

The Counter-Punch

As I perused the many online articles today I could not believe my luck when I came across Mr. Klein's.

I had made up my mind to write a piece today on the very same topic and after reading Mr. Klein's have decided to include it below for visitor's to read.

The point of Mr. Klein's article as well as my attempt in today's blog was to point out how the Democrats have found their voice in 2006. It was silent in 2002 and hardly heard in 2004 much to the discredit of standard-bearer John Kerry. Now, however, it seems that emboldied by scandal and public unrest, distrust, and general tiredness of Republican control the citizens are interested in a change. This is good.

The reasons however, are a bit difficult to understand. The questions are: 1. is Democratic answers to the issues of the day REALLY different than their Republican opponents? And 2. Campaign style is nice, but more importantly is substance reaching the public?

I will not try to answer these questions. I leave that to my readers and those voters out there. If real change is to occur it is hoped that it is for the right reasons not the obvious.

Finally, though it is good to see the Democrats fighting, unified at last, at least on a defensive strategy, it is hoped that the substance of ideas spoken of above is present if the Democratic Party is offered the chance to serve the American public.,9565,1551985,00.html

Friday, October 27, 2006


The White House said today that Vice President Dick Cheney was not talking about a torture technique known as "water boarding" when he said dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a "no-brainer." Such comments were made in an interview Tuesday with WDAY of Fargo, North Dakota, when Cheney was asked if "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives." The vice president had replied, "Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Peppered with questions about the remarks, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Cheney did not interpret the question as referring to water boarding and the vice president did not make any comments about water boarding. He said the question put to Cheney was loosely worded.

Human rights groups have complained that Cheney's comments amount to an endorsement of water boarding, in, which the victim believes he is about to drown. President Bush, asked about Cheney's comments, said, "This country doesn't torture. We're not going to torture." Such a comment from the president should be seen as following the standard response from his White House, though such deniability is just stupid considering the media attention paid to detainees in Cuba; in addition to secret CIA prison camps throughout Europe.

As reported on, Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement, "What's really a no-brainer is that no U.S. official, much less a vice president, should champion torture. Vice President Cheney's advocacy of water boarding sets a new human rights low at a time when human rights is already scraping the bottom of the Bush administration barrel."

With US mid-term elections a week away the White House has given the Democrats some material to campaign with. The question is will they?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


"They say all politics is local, but it's not always the case," Michael J. Fox says in the 30-second commercial backing Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in Missouri, a Democrat. "What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans -- Americans like me."

Simple and straight forward; but is quite evident is that Mr. Fox is shaking. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and supports research on embryonic stem cell for a potential cure, also has lent his celebrity to Democrats Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, running for the Senate in Maryland, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who is seeking re-election; both of whom also back stem cell research.

The ads have triggered a backlash, with some such as conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh criticizing them as exploitive. Limbaugh went as far as to claim that Fox was "either off his medication or acting."

To be fair, Mr. Fox has acted sporadically in smaller roles, such as in a several-episode guest appearance earlier this year on ABC's "Boston Legal," playing a business tycoon with cancer and in other roles since his diagnosis Fox generally has sought to control his movements, though his illness was evident.

What is most depressing from this episode is the fact that Mr. Limbaugh’s comments are so shameful considering his own situation. A recovering drug addict, Mr. Limbaugh asked for compassion and understanding from fans and opponents during his ordeal and apparent relapse a few months ago.

Put aside the fact that Mr. Fox made his comments as support for a Democratic candidate in an election. Put aside the fact that Mr. Limbaugh, a conservative “shock” talk show host is opposed to any Democratic victory November 7, 2006. Both share a physical problem, though let us be fair, Parkinson’s is of a completely different magnitude; this however does not excuse the fact that Mr. Limbaugh decided to attack Mr. Fox.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Siege

Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress. But polls and analysts in both parties increasingly suggest Democrats will capture the House and possibly the Senate on Election Day Nov. 7. Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to regain the House and a gain of six seats to claim the Senate. Everything could change overnight for President Bush, who has governed for most of the past six years with a Republican Congress and with little support from Democrats. Democratic victories essentially could block his remaining agenda and usher in a period of intense partisan bickering over nearly every measure to come before Congress. This means that a loss of either chamber also could subject the Bush Administration to endless congressional inquiries and investigations.

Some of President Bush's fighting in the trenches is likely to be with fellow Republicans as they seek to find a new standard bearer for 2008, and distance themselves from an unpopular war, the unpopular president who waged it, and congressional scandals that include inappropriate e-mails to House pages from ex-Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. Already, Republicans are showing divisions on Iraq policy. Fresh skepticism has come from Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner of Virginia, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a longtime Bush family loyalist.

What is certain however, if Republicans lose their majorities, it will be that much harder for Bush to hold together already splintering GOP cohesion on Iraq. While the Senate has been difficult for Bush, even with GOP control, the House for most of his presidency has delivered for him. That might change now. The White House traditionally loses seats in midterm congressional races. The most recent exception was 2002, when the Republicans picked up seats. President Bush has barely over two years left. The loss of either house in voting next month could hasten his descent into a lame-duck presidency.

Many Democrats see the upcoming elections as a mirror image of 1994, with the parties reversed. Polls in 2006 show a more dramatic tilt toward the Democrats than polling in 1994 showed a tilt toward Republicans. But redistricting has made far fewer congressional districts competitive. A Democratic takeover of one or more chambers would all but guarantee that Bush would not get his Social Security overhaul or further tax cuts through Congress.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Darfur Violence Spreads To Chad

This is something that was inevitable. It was not a matter of how, but rather of when.
Sudanese Janjaweed militia and Chadian rebels have attacked at least 10 villages in southeast Chad in the past two weeks, killing over 100 people and displacing more than 3,000, local and U.N. officials now say.

The attacks are part of a spillover of violence from Sudan's western Darfur region, where violence has increased as seasonal riverbeds dry out after annual rains, becoming passable to rebel jeeps and Janjaweed on horses or camels. As reported by Reuters,"first we were attacked by local Chadian Arabs and the Janjaweed," said Usman Mucktar Hassan, sitting exhausted and dusty after fleeing his devastated village of Djimese Djarma.

The rainy season offered a brief respite from violence as wadis became impassable. But with the rains almost over, horses can again get around and in a few weeks rebels will be able to circulate freely in their trademark Toyota pickups. Locals say 10 villages have been attacked since October 4. While intervention by the Chadian National Army and local authorities appears to have calmed the situation since Saturday, it remains precarious.

UNHCR is seeking a secure site for Chadian civilians who have fled violence, now estimated at 55,000. However, the apparent alliance of Chadian rebels with Sudanese Janjaweed also increases border tension, with Chadian and Sudanese officials trading blame over rebel attacks despite a string of top-level agreements to mend ties.

The victims have always been and will remain, the women and children. Since, no international pressure seems to be effective, many around the world who care deeply about this issue are heart broken at such news. Prayers to those caught in the middle.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The First Domino?

Public polling underscores the political difficulty for Republicans, particularly DeWine and gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell. A New York Times/CBS News survey reported that 70 percent of Ohioans surveyed said the state and the nation were on the wrong track. Nearly two-thirds rated the economy as bad, suggesting more anxiety about jobs and pocketbook issues than elsewhere in the country. Sixty percent disapprove of Bush's handling of the war.

For more than a decade, Ohio was the place where Democratic dreams went to die.
Now, in the state that sealed President Bush's 2004 re-election, even Republicans concede Rep. Ted Strickland is on track to become the first Democratic governor in 16 years. At the same time, Rep. Sherrod Brown has clawed his way to a large lead in the polls over GOP Sen. Mike DeWine. Democrats have led for weeks in races for two House seats long in Republican hands, and party officials talk giddily of snatching two or three more seats, gains that would almost certainly portend an end to GOP control of the House.

Already Republicans have abandoned plans to advertise or run their highly regarded get-out-the-vote program in races to replace Brown or Strickland in the House. Republicans dismiss talk of a political tidal wave. Increasingly, their goal however, has been to minimize losses at a time of widespread voter discontent over the economy, the war in Iraq and corruption. Sensing danger, they urge voters not to lash out indiscriminately, despite unhappiness with President Bush, outgoing Republican Gov. Bob Taft and a steady diet of scandals.

Still, not even Democrats could dream up the corruption double feature that has unspooled in recent days, GOP Rep. Bob Ney pleading guilty in the Jack Abramoff scandal last Friday, and party fundraiser Tom Noe going on trial in a separate state corruption probe Monday. All in all, Democrats should feel very good about their chances, though with prior election experiences against President Bush and Republicans chances are fleeting.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A New Plan For Iraq

Violence in Iraq could end "within months" if Iran and Syria joined efforts to stabilize the country, says Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

As reported on the BBC the move would "be the beginning of the end of terrorism".
The idea for the US to open talks with Iran and Syria over Iraq is said to be under consideration by a panel of experts examining US policy on Iraq. The panel, led by former US secretary of state James Baker, is also said to think that "staying the course" is untenable.

Two observations. The first of which is a universal sigh of relief and general thought of, “better late than never.” It seems that citizens and hotly contested Congressional candidates have long ago agreed that "staying the course" is untenable. The second observation is why has such an option not been thought of earlier? Oh, that is right, one nation we are trying to stop making a nuclear reactor and the other we have considered a terrorist state (while we create one before our very eyes). Well, then I guess my first observation still is true, better late than never.

Final thought, interesting how such "ideas" make national media news weeks before President Bush and his Republicans fight the mid-term elections.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sanctions, Again?

President Bush said Saturday that the U.N. Security Council had sent a "swift and tough" message to North Korea that its claimed detonation of a nuclear bomb was unacceptable to the world. Mr. Bush spoke shortly after the council unanimously approved a resolution penalizing the reclusive communist nation for its announcement the test on October 9.
"This action by the United Nations, which was swift and tough, says that we are united in our determination to see to it that the Korean Peninsula is nuclear-weapons free," the president told reporters in brief remarks from the White House's South Lawn.

Mr. Bush said North Korea still had a chance for "a better way forward" and promised economic assistance to the impoverished country from the United States and others if it would verifiably end its nuclear weapons program.

This last statement is a bit confusing for me. First, the U.S. has spent the last week denying that there has been a test. Second, the North Korean people due to Korean censors will not hear such promises of economic assistance and if they could what type of assistance can the U.S. offer that has not been offered during the last decade?

There is much at stake beyond the obvious. It is hoped that calm prevails.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


A "weak and divided" international response on sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur is playing into the hands of the Sudanese government, a report says as reported by the BBC.

The International Crisis Group says diplomacy has "failed" and targeted sanctions are now needed to prevent the humanitarian situation from worsening.

It calls for economic measures to be applied to key business interests, in particular Sudan's petroleum sector.

An estimated 200,000 people have been killed during three years of fighting. This very report has wasted precious paper and said nothing new. The bottom line is that Khartoum will continue to exploit divisions, believing it can act with virtual impunity as long other nations are distracted by the threats of North Korea and Iran. Countries like Britain and the US argue that sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur is the only acceptable option, whilst other key players such as the UN special representative to Sudan, Jan Pronk, has suggested shifting the focus to bolstering the overstretched African Union (AU) force.

Though, the 7,000-strong AU peacekeeping force has been recently granted an extension of its mandate until the end of the year, allowing actual numbers on the ground to grow to 11,000 it NOT enough; especially since the Sudanese government has repeatedly rejected plans to transform the African force into the 20,600-strong UN mission agreed to by the Security Council in August, claiming their presence would constitute a breach of sovereignty.

Those who have read prior posts know my feelings on this subject. Thus, I will keep my opinion to one sentence saving you and my heart from more exertion than necessary. When the sovereignty of individuality is compromised there is no longer sovereignty of the whole.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Little Dragon

Maybe due to the fact that this is election season, but I find that while I used to be content in sharing the news in a nonbiased way, I have more and more found myself at odds with this vision.

Take the situation with North Korea. The UN Security Council is debating action against North Korea over its claims that it carried out nuclear tests, with China and Russia urging sanctions.
China, North Korea's traditional ally, has called for punitive action against the country but like Russia it is against the use of military force. Japan has also urged sanctions, while South Korea said its military was remaining on high alert.

Amidst the rhetoric stated above, the Security Council is discussing a US proposal to impose strict sanctions. The US ambassador to the UN said while the US would not rule out using force, it was seeking a diplomatic solution.

The US has proposed a 13-point draft resolution, wants to see the sanctions brought under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which means they would be mandatory and ultimately enforceable by military means. I would be in favor of using military force in a scenario similar to what Israel commando’s did to the first Iranian nuclear plant project. However, poking a dragon, no matter how tiny, is not really a good idea. All this is to say that while in my heart I would like to use force to take care of North Korea, realizing the opportunity of having China and Russia, vexing allies, but allies nonetheless against North Korea is better than not having their support at all. So, it is with hope that this UN resolution is not only agreed on by all but passed with enough teeth to bite the dragon back.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Death In Moscow

The murder of Anna Politkovskaya, an outspoken journalist, is also a blow against freedom of speech in Russia.

Ms. Politkovskaya’s journalism was distinctive. Not for her the waffly, fawning and self-satisfied essays of the Moscow commentariat. Nor the well-paid advertorial now so pervasive as to be barely noticeable. She reported from the wrecked villages and shattered towns of Chechnya, talking to those on all sides and none, with endless patience and gritty determination.

She suffered death threats aplenty. On more than one occasion, Russian special forces threatened to rape and kill her, leaving her body in a ditch. Each time she talked them out of it. In 2001, she fled to Austria after receiving a direct warning to leave Russia or else. In 2004, on her way to the siege of a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, where she hoped to mediate between the Chechen hostage-takers and the Russian military, she was poisoned, and nearly died. Whoever killed her on Saturday October 7th was a professional, intending not to warn her, but to end the problem she presented. She was shot in the body and the head; the pistol was a Makarov, the assassin’s favourite. It was left by her side: in that trade, weapons are used only once.

She will go down as a martyr, in the beleaguered causes of free speech and public spirit. It would be nice to think that Russians will find her example inspiring. Sadly, they may well conclude that speaking out on unpopular topics is best avoided. It hoped that this is indeed not the case, however as recent Supreme Court battles atest and daily news of legal suites announce the most renowned Western democracy faces war between the government and fourth estate that Mr. Politkovskaya knew only too well.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Toryism

A friend of mine, a card-carrying Republican emailed me the other day in frustration that the Conservatives in England were not being conservative. Neither surprised nor shocked in the response, my rationale was laid out to him. I attempt to do so here now for the rest of you.

Conservatives came to Bournemouth probably looking for two things from their new leader - a clearer sense of the things he stands for, and some idea of what he would do to achieve them.

After a low-key performance at the end of a low-key conference, enlivened only by a minor spat over tax and the antics of Boris Johnson, they may well have left feeling only half satisfied. There was plenty in Mr. Cameron's speech about what he stood for - the NHS, the family, marriage, the environment, security and social responsibility. And some of it was clearly designed to send out some core signals to his party and voters. Notably, that pledge to put the NHS and the family center of his agenda, to reject "pie in the sky" tax cuts that would jeopardize the economy, to go green even if it hurt and, once again stealing Tony Blair's discarded rhetoric, to be tough on the causes of crime.

There were a couple of sentences which sent distinct shudders through some of the delegates who, perhaps, feel their leader is a bit too far ahead of them. Such as his references to the NHS being one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century (it was introduced amid controversy by a Labour government) and supporting marriage between same sex couples, ideas taboo in Tory ideology twenty years ago.

Though the Conservative Party has opened up a six-point lead over Labour following the conference, a new opinion poll by ICM has suggested Mr. Cameron was more popular than Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is expected to replace Tony Blair as Labour leader and prime minister. Researchers asked who would make the better prime minister, with 45% choosing Mr. Cameron as against 34% for Mr. Brown.

And there within is the ultimate rub. Mr. Cameron may wish to take his time building his new, oak tree labeled party by first imprinting his own brand on the nation's consciousness but he really does not need to, since such a brand is not too different than the current occupant of No. 10. Consider it as nothing more than Tory lite. Conservative in name, Labour in substance.

Perhaps more dangerously, there are still those in the Conservative party and its supporters in the media, who came to the conference unconvinced by Mr. Cameron. He may believe he has plenty of time to do the convincing, particularly while the Labour party is looking inward over the leadership issue. And though, he will have to hope his doubters are prepared still to give him that time there really is no need. After this performance his party can be in no doubt that they are now led by, as he said himself, a liberal - not neo - conservative. And the emphasis is very much on the liberal.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Latvian Votes

The opposition New Era party had a narrow lead Saturday partway through Latvia's first parliamentary election since joining the European Union and NATO, an early exit poll showed. It is Latvia's first parliamentary ballot after joining the European Union and NATO in 2004.

The poll conducted by the Leta news agency as voting continued in the small Baltic country showed New Era, which campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, with 19.5 percent of the vote ahead of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis' People's Party with 18.7 percent, several hours before polls close.

The two right-wing parties have historically been at odds, and earlier this year New Era dropped out of the government coalition led by the People's Party. Despite New Era's lead, the three parties making up the minority ruling coalition had nearly 45 percent support, meaning that the current government could be given a mandate by the president to stay in power if the result holds up. The Greens and Farmers Union, one of the coalition partners, was in third place with 16.8 percent in the poll, while the Harmony Center, a left-wing party supported by With few hot issues in the campaign, the election's main question is which of the largely similar right-wing parties will be given a mandate to lead Latvia's traditionally shaky coalition government.
Though experts have been predicting a low voter turnout due to a lack of major issues and a campaign marred by corruption scandals and 20% of eligible voters still do not know who they will vote for or whether they will vote at all, it should be said that no one should expect any of the parties to emerge as a clear winner.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pacific Unrest

Citing U.S. belligerence and pressure, North Korea said Tuesday that a nuclear test was being planned though they fell short of saying when: "the field of scientific research of the DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed," the statement said and reported on The Foreign Ministry added, "The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test ... as a corresponding measure for defense."

Japan on Wednesday pressed a divided U.N. Security Council to adopt a statement urging North Korea to cancel its planned test and return immediately to six-party talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear weapons program. This must be seen more expedient, since Tuesday was the first time North Korea has made an official announcement that it is going to conduct nuclear tests. Previously, it has said it had the right to conduct such tests.

Such a scenario would significantly set back diplomatic efforts with North Korea and have serious implications for regional security, according to a House Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday said North Korea's test firing of seven missiles, including a long-range ballistic missile in July, a nuclear test would bring Pyongyang's relations with its neighbors to a new low, the report found. Moreover, the tests might prompt not only Japan, but also Taiwan and possibly South Korea to begin their own nuclear weapons programs.

Six-party talks on the country's nuclear program have been stalled for months. In addition to the United States and North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have been participating. "We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea," Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University Wednesday. "We are not going to accept it. "North Korea "can have a future, or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both," Hill said. The U.S. and its allies "are in a very tense time" in dealing with Pyongyang.

This is an issue that offers both political parties in the United States an opportunity to discuss an issue of national security directly to the public. This is a diplomatic opportunity for China to finally be seen by the United Nations and more importantly, the United States as a player for international peace, rather than antagonism. An arms race is not what the Asia Pacific rim wants at the moment and the absolute last thing the world needs as the NEEDS in Africa and the Middle East have shown.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Walter Where Art Thou?

I have thought much about this topic during the past few days. Sadly, I must admit that I am part of the generation that did not see Walter Cronkite's tearfully declare a president dead or follow Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, and Peter Jennings from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the nighly anchor desk. I have been left recalling a childhood that was personally, most enlightening. For example, I remembered ABC nightly news discussing the 1988 presidential election, PBS news hour and the first time I watched CNN for breaking news (the Challenger shuttle disaster). The news for me has been informational not personal as to what anchor I prefer nor has it been partisan. During the 2004 presidential election I watched coverage on all major cable news channels. However, as Fox News Channel celebrates its ten years on air I would feel remiss if I did not mention a few things:

1. Fox News Channel marks its 10th anniversary this week in an unusual position: knocked back on its heels. The network is in the midst of its first-ever ratings slump. The years of explosive growth have ended at Fox. Viewership over the first eight months of the year was down 5 percent compared to 2005, with a steeper 13 percent decline in prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research.

2. Loved by some, loathed by others, Fox News Channel has been the biggest success in the cable industry and profoundly changed television news since its signal turned on Oct. 7, 1996. Fox News beat by a year his plan for overtaking CNN and grew to more than double its rivals in viewership. It made stars of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and put "fair and balanced" into news history textbooks.

3. Opinionated talk is now a staple on the TV dial, with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Lou Dobbs on CNN and Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News. Fox was first. Though Fox's critics consider "fair and balanced" camouflage for an agenda, whatever the truth, news watching became increasingly partisan as more Democrats watched CNN, more Republicans watched Fox, according to a 2004 study by the Pew Research Center for the People in the Press. The year Fox started, CNN had more Republican viewers than Democrats.

It is true that as the times have changed so has news coverage, how the news is gathered and reported as well as what the public, at large, is willing to watch. Fox News is apart of the media and they are not leaving. It is hoped though that with age comes maturity.


President Bush, on a campaign swing in the West, is arguing the Democratic Party is weak-kneed on national security and shouldn't be trusted to hold the reins of Congress saying, "if you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party, it sounds like -- it sounds like -- they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we're attacked again," as reported by CNN.

It has been a tough start to the week for the president. Persistent questions about a recent intelligence report that suggests the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a new book, "State of Denial," by journalist Bob Woodward contends Bush misled the country about the war and in the latest development, a State Department official confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did receive a CIA briefing about terror threats just about two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. These events have been overshadowed in equal measure by the scandal of Republican Congressman Mark Foley.

However, as President Bush delivered the administration's oft-repeated claims about the Democrats it hoped that reality soon sets in. It has been the president’s own Party, in control of the Senate, that has blocked most of the Administrations recent national security initiatives NOT the Democrats. Moreover, it was this president who in his 2002 State of the Union Address publicly stated flawed intelligence as reason to go to war with Iraq, and as far back as 2002 Mr. Richard Clarke, former Intelligence Czar under the Clinton Administration, and in charge of the White House situation room on September 11, 2001 explained in detail the Bush Administrations lack of interest in the various threat warnings prior to attacks in his book Against All Enemies.

Of course with any scandal there is unintentional blowback upon the leader of the Party, who happens to be the president. As breaking news suggest the psychology behind such actions (alleged molestation as a child) and questions about House Speaker Hastert’s ability to rule over the House of Representatives, least of all his own Party members in its chamber there is much to write and talk about. However, with less than six weeks before the Congressional mid-term elections it is just plain incorrect for the president to blame problems within his personal control as well as his Party’s on the opposition.