Friday, March 30, 2007
Who Will Blink First ?
- Reid pushed the war spending bill through on a largely party-line 51 to 47 vote yesterday. The measure would fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but also require Bush to begin withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, with the goal of a pullout by the end of next March.
- The bill includes billions of dollars for domestic priorities, such as Hurricane Katrina aid and agricultural disaster relief, as well as $100 million for security at the 2008 Republican and Democratic conventions -- a widely mocked provision that critics tried to strike from the measure.
- The dueling events on opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue left the executive and legislative branches hurtling toward a high-stakes collision, with neither side showing signs of backing down. Both sides, in fact, appear to be relishing the confrontation to some extent, gambling that they can outmaneuver the other, galvanize the most passionate forces within their parties, win over public opinion and force an eventual resolution on their terms.
© Associated Press
If the chart appears too small, go to: CNN.com
Overriding Presidential Veto
Override of a veto - The process by which each chamber of Congress votes on a bill vetoed by the President. To pass a bill over the President's objections requires a two-thirds vote in each Chamber. Historically, Congress has overridden fewer than ten percent of all presidential vetoes.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The neocons' dream turned into a nightmare a long time ago. President Bush's war in Iraq has become a disaster for the Iraqis and for us at home. But he must have blinkers and earplugs on to be oblivious of the change in the hearts and minds of American people. Or, worse, he is determined to disregard public opinion. E.J. Dionne,Jr. in the Post: "Within three weeks, the United States could face a constitutional crisis over President Bush's war policy in Iraq. The president and his allies seem to want this fight. Yet insisting upon a confrontation will be another mistake in a long line of bad judgments about a conflict that grows more unpopular by the day."
An Antiwar Tide on the Rise
Last week's narrow House vote imposing an August 2008 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops was hugely significant, even if the bill stands no chance of passing in the Senate this week in its current form. The vote was a test of the resolve of the new House Democratic leadership and its ability to pull together an ideologically diverse membership behind a plan pointing the United States out of Iraq.
Oddly, the president's harsh rhetoric against the House version of the supplemental appropriations bill to finance the Iraq war may have been decisive in sealing Pelosi's victory. "The vehemence with which the president opposed it made it clear to a lot of people that this was a change in direction and that it was significant," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of MoveOn, saw the Bush effect rallying his own antiwar membership. "Bush is our worst enemy," Matzzie said, "and our best ally."
With most counts showing Senate Democrats needing only one more vote to approve the call for troop withdrawals next year, antiwar pressures are growing on Sens. John Sununu (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). All face reelection next year, as does Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who is already seen as leaning toward the withdrawal plan.
Bush might still win this Senate vote and a reprieve for his war policy. But the president's refusal to acknowledge that the country has fundamentally changed its mind on the war makes it impossible for him to work with Congress on a sensible approach to a withdrawal that will happen some day -- with or without a constitutional showdown.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Not Just Another Book About Iraq - "The Long Road Home" By Martha Raddatz
"A Story of War and Family" * And a Poem by Robert Frost
The Washington Post
The chief White House correspondent for ABC News, Raddatz was in Baghdad when she learned about a platoon of 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who had embarked in April 2004 on what they thought would be a routine community-outreach mission (they were assisting with sewage disposal, to put it delicately) in the massive Shiite slum of Sadr City. Without warning, the once pro-U.S., Saddam Hussein-hating enclave erupted into an anti-American shooting gallery. The 1st Cav platoon was pinned down by members of the firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army -- hundreds of them. The Long Road Home details the increasingly desperate and unquestionably heroic attempts to save the troops and reclaim order in an impoverished district that's home to some 2.5 million Iraqis. There isn't a hint of political bias in the book, but by focusing on this pivotal firefight, Raddatz illuminates a key moment when Iraq's sectarian strife mutated into the ferocious, unrelenting insurgency it is now.
Raddatz doesn't flinch at depicting the carnage of war; the book contains descriptions of violence so graphic they are literally gasp-inducing, but the bloodshed is not gratuitous. At one harrowing point, Raddatz relates how a young soldier was shot in the head with such force that the round slammed through his Kevlar helmet and ricocheted several times through his skull. The soldier, a devout Christian and Humvee mechanic named Casey who volunteered to help the trapped platoon, also happened to be Cindy Sheehan's son.
What distinguishes The Long Road Home from other war books is that Raddatz seamlessly shifts from the troops in the crossfire to the anxious souls who stand watch over the loneliest post in any conflict: the spouses, parents and children on the home front. (Cindy Sheehan makes a relatively brief appearance as Casey's grieving mother, but the future antiwar activist is hardly a central character.) Far from interrupting the flow of the story, the profiles of the loved ones back in the States give us a richer understanding of the soldiers in Iraq and infuse the narrative with greater tension.
Stephen "Dusty" Hiller, a 25-year-old specialist, had recently learned that his wife was pregnant with their first son. The night after he charged into Sadr City with one of the lead rescue teams, the doorbell rang at his home back in Fort Hood, Tex. His wife, Lesley, went to answer it, and the exchange that followed is as gut-wrenching as any battle account:
"She opened the door and saw an army chaplain. Another officer in uniform was with him. There wasn't a chance for either visitor to say a word.
".'No!' Lesley yelled. She was frantic, panic-stricken. 'You all got the wrong house!' "She slammed the door.
One hopes that The Long Road Home will further spotlight the sacrifices made by U.S. troops and their families. But this book should not be read out of a sense of obligation to these men and women, and it won't succeed merely because of Raddatz's prominence. No, this is a book that will last, and it will do so for the same reason that any great work endures -- because, through the strength and grace of its prose, it pulls us into a world that is simultaneously foreign and familiar and makes us care about the individuals who inhabit this place long after we have closed the covers. And because, one by one, we will pass the book along to others with the only words of praise that really matter: "Here, you've got to read this."
Andrew Carroll is the editor of "Behind the Lines," "Operation Homecoming" and "Grace Under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War," which will be published this month.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black,
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way.
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Incests do not take place in Mississippi
It didn't work in South Dakota, now it is Mississippi's turn. In 2006, the good people of S. Dakota voted against draconian anti-abortion law proposed by Governor Mike Rounds and the Christian Right. Now who else but Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, currently governor of Mississippi, has become the champion of anti-abortionists by signing a bill that would ".......criminalize abortion in the event that the overturns the 1973 decision that legalized the procedure."
The only exceptions to the state ban would be in cases of rape or if the pregnancy threatened the woman's life. The bill has no exception for pregnancies caused by incest.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Spring, Another Spring
Nothing is so beautiful as spring--
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush
Thrush's eggs look like little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightning to hear him sing:
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy ?
A strain of earth's sweet being in the beginning...
--Gerard Manley Hopkins
Los Gatos Creek in February
The inscription reads: In loving memory of John Dean - We have all been blessed with his "Best Gifts"
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Four Years - 3218 Dead
A 'Cop Out' Editorial in Washington Post
A let down -- The Post's editorial Lessons of War. Tomorrow will mean the end of the fourth year of the Bush Administration's euphemistically named Operation Iraqi Freedom. And my favorite newspaper, The Washington Post, comes out with a wishy-washy, CYA editorial!
Clearly we were insufficiently skeptical of intelligence reports. It would almost be comforting if Mr. Bush had "lied the nation into war," as is frequently charged. The best postwar journalism instead suggests that the president and his administration exaggerated, cherry-picked and simplified but fundamentally believed -- as did the CIA -- the catastrophically wrong case that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented to the United Nations.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
On the Road to 2008 - The World of P.G. Wodehouse
Gussie Fink-Nottle Loved Newts
Monday, March 12, 2007
Yellow Freesias in a Blue & White Vase from Lahore, Pakistan
Then there is "S", a recent acquaintance, in Brighton,UK, passionately involved in protesting the injustices in the Middle East. Marty in Florida who shared my views about Bush and the Republicans, and who encouraged me to write about Auschwitz and the holocaust. And "f", the Zen Buddhist in Texas, who has decided to stop blogging but continues to express herself in wonderful, sometimes quirky, digital photographs.
If it were not for the blogosphere I wouldn't have known any of them.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Spring is Around the Corner
Sitting quietly, doing nothing
Spring Comes, and the grass grows by itself
Source: The World of Zen by Nancy Wilson Ross
Nine days away but the weather certainly feels like spring. No rain in the long-range forecast. Still cool but sunny and the sky is often, not always, blue. Flowers are blooming and the Gingko trees on my street are sprouting new leaves as they do each year.
Great time to enjoy the outdoors. About a month ago, before we got some heavy rains, JHL and I went back to Los Trancos trail in Foothills Park. It was damp but Buckeye Creek was far from full. The rainfall this year stands at just above 50% of the norm. Didn't see chanterelles, but found some oyster mushrooms; delicious.
A 7.5 mile loop, the trail climbs towards Skyline in the west, makes a hairpin bend and returns to the valley floor.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Destruction of A Street Full of Bookstores, Baghdad, Iraq
And A Reporter Who Felt the Pain * Exorcising G.W. Bush
BAGHDAD, Mar. 5 -- Two firemen emerged from the thick curtain of black smoke that covered the pavement on Monday, carrying a soft, shapeless corpse wrapped in a green tarpaulin.
In their path was what was left of Mutanabi Street, Baghdad's literary heart. Bookstores in ruins. Balconies torn from oatmeal-colored buildings, some still on fire. Mangled cars with cracked windshields. The sounds of weeping mingled with the smell of burned flesh, as shards of paper seemed to flutter endlessly down from the sky.
At 11:40 a.m., a car bomb exploded on this storied street, killing as many as 26 people and injuring dozens, according to police officers at the scene. It shattered an area once known for liberal ideas, an intellectual haven that in the heady days after the U.S.-led invasion pulsed with the promise of freedom.
Solemn as pallbearers, the firemen walked through the landscape of twisted metal and debris, their feet crunching shattered glass. Behind them, the tower of smoke and ash billowed above the capital. One placed the charred body on a pushcart. The other covered it with a long sheet of white paper, as if he were tucking a child into bed. As they rolled the cart up the street, a young man in a black checkered sweater and light-blue jeans ran past. Tears streamed down his face.
"Where is my family? What happened to my family?" he screamed.
As the young man in bluejeans cried, a friend clutched his shoulder and took him into his home for comfort. Others watched as firefighters tried to rescue two people trapped inside a burning building.
"The roof is going to collapse," one onlooker predicted.
Ten minutes later, the young man emerged onto the street, his face a mask of anguish.
"Where is my family?" he asked no one in particular. As he watched, another fireman rolled a pushcart bearing a body, this one covered in a blue tarpaulin.
"All we do is sell books," said Amer Kasim, 38, struggling for an explanation.
Not a believer in evil spirits but I can understand the Guatemalan priests' feelings about our president. Talk about bad karma. He has it in spades.
Friday, March 09, 2007
On the Road to 2008: Newtie Decided to Test The Waters
Fish or Cut Bait ?
You could have knocked me down with a feather! Newtie, a chest-thumping champion of moral values like many other Republicans, was carrying an affair with an aide during the days when he was castigating President Clinton about his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. What next?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
A Pardon for "Scooter" Libby, A Pardon for the President
President Bush has, reportedly, decided to stay away from pardoning "Scooter" Libby because of political impact on 2008 election. Even some Republicans are wary about the idea. It would raise a firestorm but it could happen. Although he did not appear in court, the facts that came to light during the Libby trial were damning for Vice President Cheney. And the president himself has been tainted by exposure of lies and manipulation of the media orchestrated between the White House and the vice president's office. So, a pardon for "Scooter" Libby would clear the slate for Vice President Cheney and for President Bush. It is not off the table regardless of the reports.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The Libby Case Ends in Guilty Verdict
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and the Aspens in the West
No matter how they spin it, the verdict is a blot on Vice President Cheney, that he was deeply involved in smearing former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for his disclosure about fictitious claim by the Bush Administration that Iraq had purchased yellowcake uranium from Niger. Libby is taking the fall but Vice President Cheney played a major role in going after Ambassador Wilson and disclosure of the fact that his wife, Valerie Plame, was an undercover CIA officer. The facts raise questions about the role of the White House. Another example of how far the president and his aides were prepared to go to justify the war -- the war that has become like a ball of fat stuck in the president's throat.
A federal jury today convicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of lying about his role in the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, finding the vice president's former chief of staff guilty of two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice, while acquitting him of single count of lying to the FBI.
The verdict, reached by the 11 jurors on the 10th day of deliberations, culminated the seven-week trial of the highest-ranking White House official to be indicted on criminal charges in modern times.
Under federal sentencing guidlines, Libby faces a probable prison term of 1 1/2 to three years when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton June 5
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Signs of Spring
"As the newly reborn sun races across the sky, the days become longer, the air warmer and, once again, life begins to return to the land. Twice a year, day and night become equal in length."
Temperature is still wintry in the San Francisco Bay area. Nineteen days to go and more rains expected next week. But there are signs, very welcome signs, of spring in the neighborhood.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Army Private Matthew T. Zeimer,18, and 78 More - February 2007
Names by Date - "Sorrowing lies my land"
Bare facts: The war began March 10, 2003. 79 American soldiers died in February 2007. Total todate 3163. Wounded 10509.
Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
David C. Armstrong, 21, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 01, 2007
Tyler Butler,21, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 01, 2007
Michael C. Mettille, 44, Army Sergeant Major, Feb 01, 2007
Eric R. Sieger, 18, Army Specialist, Feb 01, 2007
Terry J. Elliott, 34, Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Feb 01, 2007
Richard O. Quill III, 22, Marine Corporal, Feb 01, 2007
Matthew G. Conte, 22, Navy Hospitalman, Feb 01, 2007
Jason Garth DeFrenn, 34, Army Chief Warrant Officer, Feb 02, 2007
Terrence D. Dunn, 38, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 02, 2007
Kevin C. Landeck, 26, Army Captain, Feb 02, 2007
Alan E. McPeek, 20, Army Specialist, Feb 02, 2007
Keith Yoakum, 41, Army Chief Warrant Officer, Feb 02, 2007
Matthew T. Zeimer, 18, Army Private, Feb 02, 2007
Ronnie L. Sanders, 26, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 03, 2007
Clarence T. Spencer, 24, Army Private, Feb 04, 2007
Randy J. Matheny, 20, Army National Guard Sergeant, Feb 04, 2007
Brandon J. Van Parys, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 05, 2007
Brian A. Browning, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 06, 2007
Joshua J. Frazier, 24, Marine Sergeant, Feb 06, 2007
Joseph J. Ellis, 40, Marine Sergeant Major, Feb 07, 2007
Jennifer J. Harris, 28, Marine Captain, Feb 07, 2007
Jared M. Landaker, 25, Marine 1st Lieutenant, Feb 07, 2007
Jennifer M. Parcell, 20, Marine Corporal, Feb 07, 2007
Travis D. Pfister, 27, Marine Sergeant, Feb 07, 2007
Thomas E. Saba, 30, Marine Corporal, Feb 07, 2007
James Rodney Tijerina, 26, Marine Sergeant, Feb 07, 2007
Tarryl B. Hill, 19, Marine Reserve Private 1st Class, Feb 07, 2007
Matthew P. Pathenos, 21, Marine Reserve Lance Corporal, Feb 07, 2007
Gilbert Minjares Jr., 31, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class, Feb 07, 2007
Manuel A. Ruiz, 21, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class, Feb 07, 2007
Ross A. Clevenger, 21, Army National Guard Specialist, Feb 08, 2007
James J. Holtom, 22, Army National Guard Sergeant, Feb 08, 2007
Raymond M. Werner, 21, Army National Guard Private, Feb 08, 2007
Leeroy A. Camacho, 28, Army Specialist, Feb 09, 2007
James J. Regan, 26, Army Sergeant, Feb 09, 2007
Eric Ross, 26, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 09, 2007
lan W. Shaw, 31, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 09, 2007
Donnie R. Belser Jr., 28, Army Captain, Feb 10, 2007
Russell A. Kurtz, 22, Army Sergeant, Feb 11, 2007
Robert B. Thrasher, 23, Army Sergeant, Feb 11, 2007
Dennis L. Sellen Jr., 20, Army National Guard Specialist, Feb 11, 2007
Allen Mosteiro, 42, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Feb 13, 2007
Nickolas A. Tanton, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 13, 2007
Branden C. Cummings, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 14, 2007
Ronnie G. Madore Jr., 34, Army Specialist, Feb 14, 2007
John D. Rode, 24, Army Sergeant, Feb 14, 2007
Carl Leonard Seigart, 32, Army Sergeant, Feb 14, 2007
Daniel T. Morris, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 14, 2007
Todd M. Siebert, 34, Marine Captain, Feb 16, 2007
Chad E. Marsh, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 17, 2007
Justin T. Paton, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 17, 2007
Christopher K. Boone, 34, Army National Guard Specialist, Feb 17, 2007
William C. Spillers, 39, Army National Guard Sergeant 1st Class, Feb 17, 2007
Brian A. Escalante, 25, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 17, 2007
Matthew S. Apuan, 27, Army Sergeant, Feb 18, 2007
Kelly D. Youngblood, 19, Army Private, Feb 18, 2007
Blake H. Howey, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 18, 2007
Matthew C. Bowe, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 19, 2007
Adare W. Cleveland, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 19, 2007
Pedro J. Colon, 25, Army Sergeant, Feb 19, 2007
Shawn M. Dunkin, 25, Army Sergeant, Feb 19, 2007
Montrel S. Mcarn, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 19, 2007
Brett Witteveen, 20, Marine Reserve Private 1st Class, Feb 19, 2007
Richard L. Ford, 40, Army Sergeant, Feb 20, 2007
Louis G. Kim, 19, Army Specialist, Feb 20, 2007
Clinton W. Ahlquist, 23, Marine Sergeant, Feb 20, 2007
Travis Wayne Buford, 23, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 22, 2007
Joshua R. Hager, 29, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 22, 2007
Rowan D. Walter, 25, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 22, 2007
David R. Berry, 37, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Feb 22, 2007
Jeremy D. Barnett, 27, Army Sergeant, Feb 24, 2007
Ethan J. Biggers, 22, Army Specialist, Feb 24, 2007
William J. Beardsley, 25, Army Sergeant, Feb 26, 2007
Anthony Aguirre, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 26, 2007
Lorne Henry Jr, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 27, 2007
Daniel Lee Coffey,21. Rifleman, Feb.27, 2007