Monday, January 30, 2006

Tim Kaine's Going To Do Just Fine

Tim Kaine's Going To Do Just Fine
Let's Talk About Things That Really Matter

I really don't understand the big fuss over Virginia governor Tim Kaine being
asked to voice the SOTU Democratic rebuttal. I don't believe it deserves to have rated such big headlines (see Jim VandeHei's article in the WaPo). I think that the Democrats should show Kaine off proudly for the nation to see. The consummate anti-fake political character, Kaine won Virginia's gubernatorial race by not being ashamed of telling people who he was.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel doesn't quite get the hype, either. There are many more important issues about which we could be truly concerned.

I think that Mr. Vandehei has missed something very important in his article - and I know about it because I - and many other bloggers - been a part of it. He speaks about the liberal bloggers who were dismayed when the Democratic establishment ate Howard Dean for lunch. Yeah, I understand. I was undoubtedly one of the most vocal of those disgusted bloggers.

There's a quote from James Boyce (Huffington Post) in the WaPo article about John Kerry becoming the big link between Democratic leadership and the liberal blogging community. This is where I need to step in and remind you that, for the past two solid years, Howard Dean's Democracy for America has been doing some amazing grassroots promotion of fresh new Democratic talent on the net. Moreover, where I'm personally involved is with former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards' One America Committee website. From last November until early January, Senator Edwards' One America Committee had given me, an unpaid citizen blogger, the opportunity to lead an ongoing debate over the role of religion in politics through the OAC website's Book Club, where we discussed the book "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis. Not only did I see a lot of interested discussion from the public, but Senator Edwards, his wife Elizabeth, and Jim Wallis participated directly by contributing a two-part Podcast discussion of the role of religion in politics. National Journal has recently named Senator Edwards' blog as the best candidate's blog. Edwards' direct involvement is being well received by the liberal blogging community.

I don't want to slight General Wesley Clark, either. For quite a while now, I've seen a tremendous internet response to his blogging efforts. I appreciate Senator John Kerry's recent attempts to reach out directly to the blogging community at Daily Kos and Huffington Post. Let's not pretend candidate involvement is something new, however. I think Senator Kerry is a good Senator and an ethical and intelligent man - but he tends to trail a step behind in creativity and innovation - perhaps a bit too cautious about what's blowing in the political winds. He was far too snail-like to defend himself from accusations made by the filthy Swift Boat attack machine. I suspect that his slow step and lack of clarity is what cost him the last election (along with some downright dubious electoral shenanigans in Ohio).

Sen. Chafee Votes His Individual Conscience

Sen. Chafee Votes His Individual Conscience

According to developing news at Raw Story, Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)will vote NO on Alito. I deeply respect seeing him carrying out his duty to vote along with the conscience of his constituents in the face of the wicked political pressure I know he faces.

Lincoln rocks.

Ebadi/Sahimi on Iran

Ebadi/Sahimi on Iran

I am placing this column here in its entirety, which is something I do not generally do. These voices are very important ones. I hope our political leaders will pay close attention to them and act accordingly.

Contra Costa Times
Sunday, Jauary 29, 2006

What to do about Iran?
Diffusing problem with democracy
United States will not level Iran's nuclear energy program with military strikes, sanctions; another approach must be taken
By Shirin Ebadi and Muhammad Sahimi

LOST IN THE international fury over Iran's partial restart of its nuclear energy program, and the deplorable statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding Israel, has been the fact that respect for human rights and a democratic political system are the most effective deterrents against the threat that any aspiring nuclear power, including Iran, may pose to the world.

When the United States and its allies encouraged the shah in the 1970s to start Iran's nuclear energy program, they helped create the Frankenstein that has become so controversial today. If, instead, they had pressed the shah to undertake political reforms, respect human rights and release Iran's political prisoners, history could have been very different.

In the three decades since, India, South Africa, North Korea, Israel and Pakistan have joined the nuclear club -- and most people would acknowledge that the democracies among them are viewed today as the least threatening. In the 1980s, South Africa's apartheid regime made several nuclear bombs, but the democratic government of Nelson Mandela dismantled them. India has a nuclear arsenal, but few perceive the world's largest democracy as a global threat. Nor is Israel considered likely to be the first in the Middle East to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

But North Korea's nuclear program is a threat because its regime is secretive, its leader a recluse. The nuclear arsenal of Pakistan is dangerous because the military, which runs the country and is populated by Islamic extremists, helped create the Taliban and allowed Abdul Qadeer Khan to freely operate a nuclear supermarket.

Iran's nuclear program began accelerating around 1997 when the reform-minded Mohammad Khatami was elected president -- just as Iran was developing an independent press, and just before a reformist parliament was elected in 2000. The reformists supported the nuclear program but wanted it to be fully transparent and in compliance with Iran's international obligations. These were reassuring signs that it would not get out of control.

But instead of backing Iran's fledgling democratic movement, which would have led to nuclear transparency, the U.S. undercut it by demonizing Iran.

While Khatami proposed people-to-people dialogue between Americans and Iranians, Washington chose to block Iranian scholars, artists and authors from visiting the United States. Although Khatami helped the United States in Afghanistan, President Bush designated Iran a member of the "axis of evil."

By 2003, when it became clear that Khatami's reforms had stalled, the world started paying closer attention to Iran's nuclear program. So, what had demonizing Iran achieved?

The United States will not solve the nuclear problem by threatening military strikes or by dragging Iran before the U.N. Security Council. Although a vast majority of Iranians despise the country's hard-liners and wish for their downfall, they also support its nuclear program because it has become a source of pride for an old nation with a glorious history.

A military attack would only inflame nationalist sentiments. Iran is not Iraq. Given Iranians' fierce nationalism and the Shiites' tradition of martyrdom, any military move would provoke a response that would engulf the entire region, resulting in countless deaths and a ruined economy, not only for the region but for the world.

Imposing U.N. sanctions on Iran would also be counterproductive, prompting Tehran to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its "additional protocol." Is the world ready to live with such prospects?

So, what can the West do? Western nations should help the U.N. appoint a special human rights monitor for Iran. It would remind the General Assembly of Iran's human rights record annually, and strongly condemn it if the record keeps deteriorating. Contrary to the general perception, Iran's clerics are sensitive to outside criticism.

The World Bank should stop providing Iran with loans and, instead, work with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to strengthen civil society. The West should support Iran's human-rights and democracy advocates, nominate jailed leaders for international awards and keep the cause in the public eye. Western nationsshould downgrade diplomatic relations if Iran continues violating basic human rights.

Iran is at least six to 10 years away from a nuclear bomb, by most estimates. The crisis is not even a crisis. There is ample time for political reform before Iran ever develops the bomb.

Meanwhile, the West should permit Iran a limited uranium enrichment program (as allowed under the nonproliferation treaty) under strict safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency -- but only when Tehran undertakes meaningful reforms, including freeing political prisoners and holding free and fair elections.

Lastly, the United States and Iran should enter direct negotiations. It is simply absurd for the United States and the most important nation in the Middle East not to communicate directly. The Bush administration should not be seduced by exile groups with no support in Iran. Developing democracy is an internal affair.

Democracy, in the end, will provide the ultimate safeguard against nuclear disaster, because a truly democratic Iran, backed by a majority of Iranians, would feel secure enough not to pursue dangerous military adventures.

Ebadi, a human rights advocate, was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Sahimi is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Southern California

Political Cartoon

Soros is Back With Dreadful News

Soros is Back With Dreadful News

Who said this?
"U.S. power and influence has declined precipitously because of Iraq and the war on terror and that creates an incentive for anyone who wants to make trouble to go ahead and make it."
None other than George Soros, the man who offered (and spent) a considerable amount of his own money to try to convince American voters to defeat Bush in the 2004 election. If only he'd succeeded.

He's absolutely correct in saying that our influence has waned because of Iraq.

We now live in a dangerous and bizarre world, thanks to the utter failure of Bush to work respectfully with the world after 911. His idea of working well with others is convincing Senator Robert Byrd to vote for SCOTUS nominee Samuel Alito while Democratic citizens who believe that he's wrong for the job are sending a shitstorm of "NO" pleas to their Senators.

What's wrong with Democrats in the Senate? They seem to have lost their backbone, forgotten their duty to their constituents, and lost their will to politically survive. When will the $%$%$%#s come alive?

Let me tell you, it's bizarre out here.

A mother of a young soldier killed in Iraq is hugging Hugo.

The majority of voters in Palestine are happy with Hamas.

In Iraq, the insurgents are wreaking holy havoc.

The cost of US light crude is highest since the hurricanes.

Iran's leader is hosting a Holocaust hootenany and he's not hiding his hope to harbor nuclear horrors.

It's a f!@king nightmare out here - and the once-successful dirty campaigner (now reduced to harping clown) Karl Rove is telling us how great the post-911 world is, thanks to Bush.

Isn't that a friggen hoot?

We're being told, by reliable investors, that oil may go up to as high as $262 a barrel. I'm not kidding.

262 dollars a barrel.

For all who've been mocking the Jimmy Carter presidency, weep now - because you will see that he did what he had to do, even though unpopular, when faced with his own oil crisis. Bush is too afraid of pissing off his cronies and losing Republican votes in an election year to do the right thing about this crisis. If he pulls his usual Bushit move, he'll do nothing but tell us to wear a g*d&$#*&d sweater while old folks freeze to death in their apartments. It's no surprise. It's clear that Bush's political party and the richest Americans mean more to him than the welfare of the people ever has.

I know that the President will give plenty of lip service to alternative energy sources in his SOTU speech because he thinks it will save his political ass, but I guarantee you that he won't boast too loudly about his oh-so-strong commitment to build as many new nuclear power plants as possible, paying back his pals in Big Energy and insuring that our children and the planet they'll inherit will face increased risk of disaster and disease. He won't talk too loudly about the nuclear waste he wants to buy from countries all around the world in order to recycle the dangerous material - as if we don't already have so much that we don't know where to put it anymore. I guess we haven't seen enough of our loved ones eaten away by cancer yet.

George Soros is back - saying "I told you so." Is it too late for crash conservation efforts? Will Bush even call for any? Has this mess of a President burned too many bridges and wasted too many of his days on his perpetual Republican campaign - on our tax dollars? Has he reduced the solid strength of our Military to a cracking veneer?

This is the worst President in American history, and I believe that we now have the weakest Congress to match. They are about to confirm a SCOTUS nominee who will complement the rot that is eating away at our nation's core. They are all failing us.

I'll see you in the mile-long line at the pumps soon - if you can afford it. If your sweater didn't do the trick and you've frozen to death like a lifeless human popsicle in your heatless apartment, maybe I'll catch you on the other side. If you make it through to the great recession, that'll be cool (literally and figuratively).