Saturday, May 31, 2008

Democratic delegates...



So, Florida and Michigan are to be stripped of half their delegates (or, to be more precise, each of their delegates will be able to cast 0.5 of a vote) for their violations of the rules by scheduling their contests before the dates permitted. Open and shut, a clear unambiguous application of the rules (see rules 11 A & 20 C 1 a below), the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee doesn’t brook any violations. Or do they? Apparently, the states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina also broke the rules but were not subject to the same penalty. They received waivers from the DNC after the fact, on the same day that the DNC decided to punish Florida and Michigan.

Suggestion… The DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee should strip voting rights from all DNC leadership, starting with Howard Dean on down, for totally screwing this up! Perhaps he should have turned around and followed the advice on his banner!




11.TIMING OF THE DELEGATE SELECTION PROCESS

A. No meetings, caucuses, conventions or primaries which constitute the first determining stage in the presidential nomination process (the date of the primary in primary states, and the date of the first tier caucus in caucus states) may be held prior to the first Tuesday in February or after the second Tuesday in June in the calendar year of the national convention. Provided, however, that the Iowa precinct caucuses may be held no earlier than 22 days before the first Tuesday in February; that the Nevada first-tier caucuses may be held no earlier than 17 days before the first Tuesday in February; that the New Hampshire primary may be held no earlier than 14 days before the first Tuesday in February; and that the South Carolina primary may be held no earlier than 7 days before the first Tuesday in February. In no instance may a state which scheduled delegate selection procedures on or between the first Tuesday in February and the second Tuesday in June 1984 move out of compliance with the provisions of this rule.

B. All steps in the delegate selection process, including the filing of presidential candidates, must take place within the calendar year of the Democratic National Convention (except as otherwise provided in these rules or specifically allowed by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee). 

20. CHALLENGES

C. 1 a Violation of timing: In the event the Delegate Selection Plan of a state party provides or permits a meeting, caucus, convention or primary which constitutes the first determining stage in the presidential nominating process to be held prior to or after the dates for the state as provided in Rule 11 of these rules, or in the event a state holds such a meeting, caucus, convention or primary prior to or after such dates, the number of pledged delegates elected in each category allocated to the state pursuant to the Call for the National Convention shall be reduced by fifty (50%) percent, and the number of alternates shall also be reduced by fifty (50%) percent. In addition, none of the members of the Democratic National Committee and no other unpledged delegate allocated pursuant to Rule 8.A. from that state shall be permitted to vote as members of the state’s delegation. In determining the actual number of delegates or alternates by which the state’s delegation is to be reduced, any fraction below .5 shall be rounded down to the nearest whole number, and any fraction of .5 or greater shall be rounded up to the next nearest whole number.

b. A presidential candidate who campaigns in a state where the state party is in violation of the timing provisions of these rules, or where a primary or caucus is set by a state’s government on a date that violates the timing provisions of these rules, may not receive pledged delegates or delegate votes from that state. Candidates may, however, campaign in such a state after the primary or caucus that violates these rules. “Campaigning” for purposes of this section includes, but is not limited to, purchasing print, internet, or electronic advertising that reaches a significant percentage of the voters in the aforementioned state; hiring campaign workers; opening an office; making public appearances; holding news conferences; coordinating volunteer activities; sending mail, other than fundraising requests that are also sent to potential donors in other states; using paid or volunteer phoners or automated calls to contact voters; sending emails or establishing a website specific to that state; holding events to which Democratic voters are invited; attending events sponsored by state or local Democratic organizations; or paying for campaign materials to be used in such a state. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will determine whether candidate activities are covered by this section.

Florida, Michigan get all delegates, but each gets half vote
Democratic National Committee Delegate Selection Rules
The Famous DNC "Waivers" For the 4 Early States
If The DNC Is Going To Strictly Apply The Rules . . .
NYT & WaPo Mis-Report on Florida & Michigan, Ignore DNC’s Errors & Hypocrisy

How stupid can one be? Answer: Very

1. “The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them permission to leave.”

U.S. Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza




2. “…a measure creating a federal fingerprint registry totally unrelated to national security passed a U.S. Senate committee… legislation would require thousands of individuals working even tangentially in the mortgage and real estate industries — and not suspected of anything — to send their prints to the feds…. fingerprint mandates were tucked into housing and foreclosure assistance bill…”

Fingerprint Registry in Housing Bill!!


3. In Turkey “…A public prosecutor has indicted a singer for anti-military remarks she made on a television show in which she said that if she were to have a son, she would not let him fight in other people’s wars… Public Prosecutor indicted Bülent Ersoy, a transsexual singer and a popular TV host, on grounds that her remarks had the purpose of “making the public detest military service,” a crime under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK)…"

Singer Bülent Ersoy to stand trial for alleged anti-military remarks


4. President Bush and Nuri al-Maliki trying to nail down a last minute “Status of Forces Agreement” on the QT…

Iraqi officials worry about security deal with U.S.
Overstuffed SOFA
Two different kinds of "rejection"
Sunni resistance spokesman: Let us all stand against this, each in his own way
Haeri Fatwa Against Security Agreement; Al-Alam: Basra Pols Oppose Security Agreement with US


5. "Multi-National Force-Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed-out material that is religious and evangelical in nature,"

Iraqis claim Marines are pushing Christianity in Fallujah


6. Once again newscritters uncritically print lists of anonymous allegations without any checking or context...

Exclusive: Iran in secret talks with al Qaeda, U.S. officials say


7. "A senior Zimbabwean army official has publicly urged soldiers to vote for President Robert Mugabe in next month's presidential election run-off... "The Constitution says the country should be protected by voting and in the June 27 presidential election run-off, pitting our defence chief comrade Robert Mugabe [against] Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change], we should, therefore, stand behind our commander-in-chief," Major General Martin Chedondo, the Zimbabwe army's chief of staff, was quoted as saying by the government mouthpiece Herald. "Soldiers are not apolitical. Only mercenaries are apolitical. We have signed and agreed to fight and protect the ruling party's principles of defending the revolution. "If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform. The willingness to serve the country should be there and should burn forever so that the country does not slip away."

Back Mugabe, Zim soldiers told


UPDATED: June 2nd the State Department reversed itself, see:

State Dept. Reinstates Gaza Fulbright Grants

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Open minds


Some scientists hypothesize that perhaps some of the blocks that make up the pyramids in Egypt were cast from concrete rather than being quarried and then subsequently hoisted into place. This has provoked controversy among Egyptologists and experts in the field.

In one article Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of antiquities in Egypt and director of the Giza Pyramids excavations, said “The idea that concrete was used is unlikely and completely unproven. I would ask (Dr. Barsoum) the question: where did he get the samples he is working with, and how can he show that the samples are not taken from areas that have been restored in modern times?” In another article he is quoted as saying “It’s highly stupid. The pyramids are made from solid blocks of quarried limestone. To suggest otherwise is idiotic and insulting.”

Reading the articles (linked below) this blogger has to wonder about some of these scientific “experts.” He believes it is perfectly OK to treat new approaches with reasoned skepticism, to view them through the prism of one’s experience, knowledge, etc. So, Zahi Hawass’ first expression of doubt makes sense, and he asks the right questions (e.g. if repairs made in more modern times might not have ‘contaminated’ the evidence). However, his quote in the other article is the worst sort of reaction that seeks to close off future scientific inquiry in favor of making the current state the final orthodoxy which can not be questioned.

This blogger admits being old enough to remember back when a scientist first claimed that peptic ulcers had a bacterial cause and could therefore be treated, vs. the orthodoxy current at that time i.e. For nearly 100 years, scientists and doctors thought that ulcers were caused by stress, spicy food, and alcohol. Treatment involved bed rest and a bland diet. Later, researchers added stomach acid to the list of causes and began treating ulcers with antacid.” Although the hoots of laughter were legion at the time, and some “experts” dismissed this as the ravings of a lunatic, it turned out that a bacterium, Helicobacter Pylori, can in fact be responsible for some peptic ulcers. Now antibiotics are routinely used to cure ulcers…

OK, so sometimes it turns out that crazy ideas are perhaps really crazy after all (e.g. cold fusion), but when “experts” are close-minded and seek to foreclose new avenues of thinking you have to be careful!

Gathering 'concrete' evidence
Scientist Says Concrete Was Used in Pyramids
A new angle on pyramids
H. pylori and Peptic Ulcer

Which Hillary Clinton?


Having read many, many articles re Hillary Clinton’s insistence on staying in the race for the Democratic nomination this blogger has just two observations:

  • Many folks on both sides (pro- and anti-Clinton) have gone way overboard. An unfortunate side effect is that a number of blogs that have been eminently readable in the past have become really annoying due to their coverage of this issue - their one-sidedness, their nit-picking, selective quotations, massive generalizations, etc. Examples include Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, Josh Marshal’s Talking Points Memo, Larry Johnson’s No Quarter, and many others.
  • Clinton seems to be a living Rosarch test, such that most folks’ reactions say more about them than they do about her!

Caste


Recently a number of fatalities occurred in Jaipur, India when police fired on a group of lower caste members who were in a demonstration. Ironically, they were demonstrating against a government decision to not reclassify them as an ever  lower caste, in order to take advantage of government mandates set-asides in government jobs and university admissions.
  • One wonders if the police would have been as quick to fire on a group of high-caste demonstrators, versus perhaps using a ‘lathi charge’ (google if you don’t know what that is, essentially a baton charge using a metal-capped six to eight foot long bamboo cane; the Indian policeman’s favorite method of crowd control and/or cracking heads!).
  • Casteism is pervasive in Indian society, and a pernicious cancer on Indian society. Even in this day of the modern, India of call centers, high tech, etc. scratch the shiny surface and find casteism ingrained just below…
This blogger grew up (for a time) in Bombay (now known as Mumbai)… Meeting a new person (e.g. while attending college) the first question from the other person almost always was “What are you?” Given that his parents (who were from two different countries) had never brought this blogger up as “X” he had to go home and ask what the answer was… Apparently the box that this blogger is supposed to fit in is “Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin.” So, when pressed, this blogger gave that answer and the other person would calibrate accordingly (automatically assuming, among other things, that this blogger originated from Karnataka state, spoke Konkani as his mother tongue, etc., etc. all totally incorrect by the way).

The idea that because one parent’s family originated from a particular place it should determine one’s choices and constrain all future possibilities in life is a profoundly repugnant one. And the more so for people who happen to be unlucky enough to be born “lower” down in the hierarchy. Casteism is a blight on society.

37 Killed in Caste Riots in India

Caste system in India – Wikipedia
India Caste System Discriminates
India's Caste System – You Tube
Caste Massacres – India – You Tube
The Caste System and the Stages of Life in Hinduism

Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Make that President Sleiman



On May 11th Bad Omen said
“ … This most recent Hezbollah move has “tested” Sleiman, who passed with flying colors by keeping the army “neutral” (in fact some have felt that the LAF aided Hezbollah, though that’s probably going a little too far.) Now, with Hezbollah turning over the over-run area to the army and with Sleiman strengthened as a result it might be easier for Nasrallah to get Aoun to go along with Sleiman for president…”
and on May 21st the Doha agreement consecrated General Sleiman as the next president. Obviously the fact that March 14th acceded to the opposition’s demands for a “blocking third” also helped seal the deal, but HA has to have pressured Aoun, to whom the filling of the presidential chair must be especially galling (since filling that position himself has been his single-minded goal and raison d’etre)…

So, today General Sleiman doffed his uniform and was voted into office. This blogger wishes him the best of luck, he’s going to need it as all the contradiction and conflicts in Lebanon are still unresolved and lurk right below the surface!

War in Lebanon | Day 7 in Photos a reminder of what was and might yet be to come…

A president, at last
Sleiman becomes Lebanon president
Profile: Michel Sleiman
Profile of President Michel Sleiman
Lebanon elects its 11th president in pictures
World leaders hail Lebanon presidential election

Lebanese Crisis Ends: Hizballah Victory or Temporary Truce?
In the Wake of the Doha Truce

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The first, and the most



In 1953 Edmund Hillary & Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit of Everest...  Thursday, May 22nd 2008 Sherpa Appa reached the summit for the 18th time! The same day an amazing 75 people summited!



Everest - Wikipedia
'Super Sherpa' climbs Everest for record-breaking 18th time
A record 75 climbers reach Mount Everest summit

Indy



This blogger should have read his own blog entry (Spielberg... ) and not gone to see Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. The movie was just OK (with an extra dollop of suspension of belief) and not very good. Not because Harrison Ford is getting a little long in the tooth, he was pretty spry and actually pulled it off OK... No, the movie and plot are just not very good. Apparently the movie has also cheesed off the Russians! Oh well... Spielberg no doubt will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dunces





Wednesday BP America Chairman Robert Malone, Shell Oil President John Hofmeister, Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson; ConocoPhillips Executive Vice President John Lowe, and ExxonMobile Senior Vice President J. Stephen Simon testified before a Senate hearing on oil prices.

The Senators did not cover themselves with glory, choosing instead (as is their wont with high-profile issues) to engage in sound-bites, ad hominems, and a general pandering to the gallery.

Senator Lahey (D-VT) showed great interest in their salaries, and waxed prolific about (“the asterixed”) oil companies’ profit margins. “People we represent are hurting, the companies you represent are profiting…” Total non-sequitor…

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said there was no explanation for "why profits have gone up so high when the consumer is suffering so much…” Another non-sequitor..

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said "Is there anybody here that has any concerns about what you're doing to this country with the prices that you're charging and the profits that you're taking?” & “Where is your corporate conscience?"

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) denounced them for “… making record profits… quarter after quarter… and apparently have no ethical compass about the price of gasoline…”
 





OK, so clearly the major determinant of gas prices is the price of crude. From 2000 - 2007 the price of crude contributed 48% to the price of a gallon of gas (when oil averaged $39/barrel), rising to 58% in 2007 (average oil price of $68/barrel) and 72% now (oil at >$130/barrel).

Also, in spite of their “outrageous”, “huge” profits their profit margin is approximately 9% - lower than those of magazine publishing at around 35%; application software companies at 22.3%; shipping companies at 22.3%; drug manufacturers at 17.8%; insurance brokers at 16.4%; railroads at 13.9%; cigarette companies at 13.7%; domestic telecom services at 10.6%; water utilities at 10.2%, and many others.

With oil prices soaring ExxonMobil made a profit of approximately $40 billion on 2007. However, even back in 1998 with oil at $10 a barrel and gas below $1/gallon Exxon had a profit increase of almost 13% to $8.4 billion…

This blogger has two thought while watching this:

If you were to investigate oil company donations to politicians, this blogger would not be particularly surprised if a very strong positive correlation was found between those most vociferously denouncing the greedy, amoral, oil companies & the largest recipients of oil company largesse…

This blogger also wonders what is going through the minds of the executives as they sit there receiving their rhetorical flogging by the senators… What would they like to say in response if they did not have to hold their tongues? Perhaps something along the lines of “If we could make vehicles that could harness and be powered by all the hot air that emanates from the bloviating on Capitol Hill, then perhaps oil would fall back down to $10/gallon!”

Big Oil defends profits before irate senators
Oil Executives Grilled Over Soaring Prices

Note: it's probably fairly clear which photo this blogger feels the caption above fits best... Not for the first time, see also "The Chamber." (from Feb 2002)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Driving...

This blogger is doing his part for the environment...


Le Sursis



Lebanon has achieved a reprieve. Agreement at Doha (Michel Sleiman as President, 16 + 11 +3, Beirut redistricting, etc.)  allowed them to dodge the latest bullet, thank goodness. However, the underlying issues/differences still remain and though it should remain quiet for a while they may erupt at any time. Additionally, the latest contretemps has a) caused many to doubt the army, the one institution in Lebanon that was considered unitary (at least in lip service), and, b) made some who were OK with Hezbollah's arms think twice (see mini-polls below, from NOW Lebanon)







Members of the various factions welcomed the agreement, but a few could not resist including a few barbs against their opponents. Some reactions:

Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader, said “… what happened is not what we aspire for, but it is a step that could lead us to achieve our goals…. Today, a new path for the country was set – that is the important thing, since in the past two weeks we were on a path to hell…. The issue of the arms was not given the priority it needed, even though it is the main problem…I cannot permit myself to question the intentions of anyone, but we need to wait for the implementation of the agreement,

Hadi Hobeich, Future bloc MP, said “… The biggest winner is the Lebanese people… I hope this agreement will be the way to restore Lebanese institutions and the trust of the people, which can only be done through practice, if intentions are true… All of us have witnessed the destruction of state institutions and the downtown area, and Beirut and the Mountain were invaded when a Lebanese faction implemented a foreign agenda…”

Elias Atallah, MP and Secretary General of the Democratic Left, said “… I hope this achievement will work well and will not be held back by Iran or another party. I hope the next achievement is in Palestine… the government will be able to reinforce its authority across Lebanese soil without the existence of any state-within-a-state weakening it…”

Nabil Nicolas, Free Patriotic Movement MP, said “… Lebanon is above all individuals… The country grows bigger with the unity of its people… To those who blame the opposition for the economic crisis, we say that it was caused by the people who were clinging to their positions in the Serail…”

Saad Hariri, MP, said “All members of the March 14 forces have made sacrifices. We want all Lebanese to live together in peace… The wounds are deep, especially mine, but we only have each other… What happened must not be repeated, and we have to work on solving it. I thank the opposition because it has also made compromises. I also thank the media for its coverage of the Doha Conference…”

Hussein al-Hajj Hassan, MP, said “… The Doha Agreement is a new phase in which to build the state of Lebanon… There is a written agreement with Arab sponsorship, and we insist on its fulfillment. The issue of the arms was not on the discussion table since the first day of the dialogue, and using arms to achieve political gains is not in Hezbollah’s agenda… We need to work on the relation between Lebanon and Syria, and we are willing to help in this issue because we are part of the Lebanese state…”

Michel Aoun, MP, said “… The solution we have reached is not seen as perfect by any of the parties. Every party has taken its minimum demands, which was the common point. I hope this agreement is a starting point for a genuine meeting between the opposition and the majority. Other pending problems will be solved in Beirut, and there is no need to worry about anything…”

Marwan Hamadeh, minister, said “… What matters is returning to institutions. This agreement is aimed at reaffirming the Taif Agreement. The downtown sit-in was a collective punishment to the Lebanese people. From now on, security will be the responsibility of the Lebanese army and security forces across all Lebanese soil…”

Amin Gemayel, former President, said “This is a new phase, and we hope it will be positive. This agreement is very important, especially regarding the arms and the authority of the state on the ground. The other important issue is the election of a new president, and what we did today is a truce that we hope will last for a long time, and will reinforce the democratic institutions…”




Some external parties appeared less than thrilled, not a good sign for the longevity of the agreement…

Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egyptian Foreign Minister "The agreement ends a complicated crisis which could have destroyed Lebanon's stability had it not been for the wisdom of certain Lebanese politicians and the rapid Arab intervention… Egypt is particularly relieved... about the agreement of all Lebanese groups to no longer resort to weapons to resolve conflicts or achieve political gains…”

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul Aziz Khoja said “We are very glad with this agreement. The government, people and leaders in the Saudi Kingdom support this agreement and wish for its success”

The U.S. administration was even less enthusiastic … Condoleezza Rice damned the agreement with faint praise, calling it a “positive step” while David Welch, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, welcomed the agreement as "a necessary and positive step", but said it “was not the end of the crisis.


Mental Health Break




Nuclear India

A negative balance sheet - This article in the Times of India on the tenth anniversary of India’s series of nuclear blasts in 1998 in conjunction with Pakistan (yes, this blogger realizes that India’s first nuclear explosion was a “peaceful” one way back in 1974!) revealed something that this blogger wasn’t aware of. The decision to proceed with the nuclear blasts was made by four men, without any cabinet or other input or debate. The four included the prime minister at that time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, along with three aides (his national security adviser and the heads of the atomic energy and defence R&D organisations). Amazing, that a decision of such import was so closely held.

Kashmir (2002 reprint)


When the British were leaving the Indian subcontinent there were 570 'princely states' in the subcontinent ruled by hereditary rulers. The British gave the rulers of these states the option of acceding to India, to Pakistan, or of remaining independent. The majority of these states acceded to India, a few to Pakistan. Indian independence arrived August 15th, 1947. Problems arose in a few states that had princes who were of a different religion than the majority of their subjects.
  • The Nawab of Jugandah and the Nizam of Hyderabad were Muslim rulers of states that were predominantly Hindu. Hyderabad and Jugandah were also physically in proximity to territory that was becoming India. When the nawab attempted to accede to Pakistan India imposed an economic blockade and later armed a "liberation army" of Hindu emigrees to invade. The nizam did not decide immediately, but signed a one year "standstill agreement" with India to have extra time to decide. In September 1948 the Indian army invaded and took over Hyderabad.
  • Unlike Hyderabad and Jugandah, Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu prince of a majority Muslim population. Kashmir also was located between India and Pakistan. The maharaja did not wish to make an immediate decision, perhaps hoping for independence. He signed a Standstill Agreement with India and Pakistan.
There are two versions of what happened next:

India's version of events: Pakistan implemented an economic blockade of Kashmir to force the maharaja to accede to Pakistan. When this failed Pakistan next sent armed Pathan tribesmen into Kashmir to forcibly annex it. Maharaja Hari Singh was thus obliged to seek India's assistance, and on October 26th 1947 Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession. Indian forces entered Kashmir and fighting continued until the battle stabilized. Eventually the United Nations arranged a cease-fire January 1st 1949 and the cease-fire line became known as the Line of Control. Approximately a quarter of the western portion of the state is occupied by Pakistan, with the remainder a part of India. A plebiscite has never been held as promised because Pakistan never fulfilled a prerequisite condition - the complete withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kashmir. Subsequently, free and fair elections have been held in Kashmir. Lastly, the future of the disputed territory is to be worked out by bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan as called for in the Simla agreement.



Pakistan's version of events: The ruler of Kashmir, as a Muslim, wished to accede to Pakistan. He was placed under tremendous pressure by the Indian government to accede to India. The Muslim population, seeing this and the covert arrival of Indian troops, rose up and rebelled against Hari Singh. The government of India, alleging that the ruler had acceded to India on the basis of a fraudulent instrument of accession, invaded and occupied a large part of Kashmir, which is now divided into Azad (Liberated) Kashmir and 'Indian-held Kashmir'. India has reneged on its promise to hold a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris... India needs to implement UN resolutions calling for a referendum.




The Future: The ideal future would be an independent Kashmir. It is a beautiful region of snowcapped mountains and clear lakes, covering approximately 86,000 square miles. Once a tourist destination, it has been ravaged by years of fighting (Two faces of Kashmir - war and peace) and an estimated 60,000 people have died in the struggle between the two sides. The insurgents have carried out multiple acts of terror, while Indian troops have engaged in murder and torture, as documented by various human rights organizations e.g. Human Rights Watch. Unfortunately independence is a highly unlikely scenario, as it would require both parties to show a level of flexibility far beyond what they have shown themselves capable of. The immediate prognosis is that Kashmir will remain a running sore between India and Pakistan for the forseeable future. The interest shown by the US and the west in this latest flare-up is due to the fact that both countries are nuclear powers. However, despite western concern, the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used even if the tensions between these two countries breaks out into a full-scale war is negligible. India has a declared "no first use" policy, possesses military superiority (both in terms of quantity and quality), and professional armed forces that are under civilian control. There are no scenarios in which tactical use of nuclear weapons would be militarily useful to Pakistan, and thus Pakistan would only use them as a weapon of last resort if the very existence of the country were in doubt. This is an unlikely scenario, since immense international pressure would be brought to bear on India before this point would be reached. Any armed conflict now would not involve nuclear weapons. However, it is very likely that in five to ten years these countries will achieve advances in nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and their delivery systems. This will significantly lower the nuclear threshold, and increase the risk of their use at a future point. Thus it is in everyone's interest that the question of Kashmir be resolved at this time when the risk of a nuclear exchange is low! The international community should push for a demilitarized and independent Kashmir as a solution to the problem.

Azad Jammu & Kashmir (Pakistan side)
Jammu & Kashmir basic facts (Indian side)
Kashmir - Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dabba, dabba... done



Every day approximately two hundred thousand Indian workers get a home-cooked lunch, picked up from their home by dabbawallas and transported to their place of work. A.k.a tiffinwallas… The Mumbai dabbawallas have their own web site, are a staple for visiting celebrities (Sir Richard Branson, the Prince of Wales, etc.), have received a Six Sigma award, and are now lecturing on management principles. Below are the secrets of their success:

1. Keep operational costs as low as possible.
2. Keep capital investment bare minimum.
3. Just serve your customer – nothing else.
4. Customer is not the rajah, but maharajah.
5. Complexity opposes compliance.
6. Never deviate from your core competency.
7. Do not be overdependent on technology.
8. Flat organization – fast decision making.
9. Cooperation inside – Competition outside.
10. Keep extras for fault tolerance.
11. Commitment matters – qualification doesn’t.
12. Know the implication of failure.
13. Build your services around existing.
14. Abandon bad customers.
15. Strike means suicide – labor means life.
16. Penalize employees for non-compliance.
17. Do not transfer your employees very often.
18. Keep your employees emotionally united.
19. High salary alone can not retain employees.
20. Be humble and do not boast your success.




Dabbawalla – Wikipedia
Mydabbawalla.com

Lebanon: Doha noise


This blogger has it right... The leaders of the various Lebanese political factions negotiating in Doha, Qatar (and their various surrogates) should shut up and cease doing their negotiating via dueling press releases and statements (e.g. see snapshot of headlines below from NOW Lebanon).




And in just the space of two and a half hours (news briefs from Ya Libnan):


17:35 : Minister Safadi has reservations about the electoral law proposed by the Arab Ministerial committee
17:30 MP Hussein Ali Hassan Khalil said the opposition considers the two proposals by the Arab Ministerial committee as non-existing.
17:03 Geagea told Loubnan Al-Horr radio: The arms of Hezbollah is a vital and important issue. We have concentrated all our efforts on this subject and the Arab Ministerial Committee has promised us good news.
16:56 : Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem calls for the formation of a special committee of 4 , tow from the opposition and two from the government loyalists to study the proposals and come up with a recommendation for an agreement
16:26 MP Hassan Yaakoub told Al-Jazeera: Neither the opposition nor the majority gave their complete consent to the proposals, and what is happening now is new discussions revolving around these two proposals in an attempt to find a solution that satisfies both sides.
16:22 : The opposition refused the two proposals suggested by the Arab Ministerial committee to solve the crisis. Opposition leaders are convening now to discuss their options for the next phase after they return to Beirut.
16:10 "or TV": Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem is meeting with Gen. Aoun at the "Sheraton"
16:02 Jaloul told Arabiyyeh TV: we are living in Lebanon the same atmosphere that preceded the assassination of Lebanon's prime minister rafik Hariri and that is why we are calling on Hezbollah to take its weapons from Beirut
15:26 Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan said the Beirut election constituencies are the focal point of difference with the majority. He accused the majority of wanting to win the 2009 elections in Beirut in May 2008 in Qatar
15:20 MP Antoine Zahra told LBC : the Beirut election constituencies are the focal point of difference with the Hezbollah-led opposition.
15:02 MP Pakradonian tells "LBC": "the division of Beirut into three electoral districts of 5 , 7 and 7 MPs in per district is rejected by the opposition because it does not take into account the sectarian balances in Beirut. The optimal distributions is the electoral districts of the 1960 elections law." The opposition has been pushing for the 1960 law ever since the subject came up

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Women in power (U.S.)...

Slowly trending upwards....Interesting that the percentage of women in U.S. state legislatures looks to be getting close to 25%, the percentage of seats allocated to women by Iraqi law - as written by the U.S. that is. Naturally this would never fly at home...

Percentage of women in U.S. state legislatures (currently 23.7%)



Number of women in the U.S. Senate (currently 16%)


Number of women in the U.S. House (currently 16.3%)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bad Omen, good omen...



If needed, a quick (albeit basic, since none of these go into the history of how these parties have shifted alliances through the years) refresher course re the various players in Lebanon can be had at any of the following sites:

Who’s who?
A Rogue’s Gallery
Lebanon: Explainer

Much has unfolded in Beirut & Lebanon in the last five days, beginning the day after this blogger added the headline ”Headed back down the toilet?” (entirely coincidentally it must be admitted). Who are the winners and who are the losers of this latest exchange?

At this point it is entirely unclear (what did you expect, this is Lebanon after all…). The two main theories would seem to go as follows (note: the Christians mostly sat this one out, references to Hezbollah include Amal as well):
  • Hezbollah has dropped its mask and it is now clear to all that they are a menace to society. The “resistance” has turned its arms (which Nasrallah had sworn were to be used exclusively against Israel) on the Lebanese people. Yes, they may have “won” militarily in the short-term, but in the longer-term this will work against them. Some holding this theory posit that the March 14th leaders goaded Hezbollah into this action, deliberately did not resist, and as a result have strengthened their position politically.
  • Once again the March 14th leaders have shown their incompetence. First they pushed Hezbollah without realizing what they were starting, and then once hostilities broke out they were woefully unprepared and their militias were a thin reed which wilted before Hezbollah’s advance.
It’s likely that both these scenarios are true to a certain extent. On the other side, the list of losers is much easier to determine and it includes all the people. Since this is Lebanon, chances are that there’s a lot more going on under the surface, and it will be interesting to see what emerges. It could be most anything…

This blogger is going to throw out a possibility, which may turn out to have some validity or may turn out to be arrant nonsense. The opposition March 8th acted because they saw their position weakening. The split between Michel Murr (Reform and Change bloc) and General Aoun weakened Aoun/FPM, and Nasrallah also saw Aoun loosing support in the Christian community (e.g. see the poll results below). Originally, when the presidential candidacy of Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman (Suleiman, Sulayman) was floated, March 14th was resistant since Sleiman was appointed by (pro-Syrian) Emile Lahoud and therefore suspect. From there it ended up with March 14th pushing his candidacy while March 8th was resisting it, mostly because Aoun coveted the position for himself. This most recent Hezbollah move has “tested” Sleiman, who passed with flying colors by keeping the army “neutral” (in fact some have felt that the LAF aided Hezbollah, though that’s probably going a little too far.) Now, with Hezbollah turning over the over-run area to the army and with Sleiman strengthened as a result it might be easier for Nasrallah to get Aoun to go along with Sleiman for president…

Other Lebanon-related posts:

May 3rd - Needed in Lebanon III (Updated)
May 2nd – Needed in Lebanon II
April 16th – Needed in Lebanon
March 26th – Rogue’s Gallery II
March 2nd - A Rogue’s Gallery






Note: The picture at the top is from the Bayeux tapestry. Halleys' comet was seen at the time and in Medieval period comets were thought to be bad omens and a warning of impending doom. Subsequently Harold was killed at the battle of Hastings and William was crowned king of England.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Short Takes



1. Looks like Hezbollah is an equal opportunity employer, see link:

Armed and Dangerous


2. Law Day, U.S.A., 2008 - Linked without comment, President Bush signs a proclamation celebrating the rule of law.


3. The presidential campaigns are in full run mode, as evidenced by the stupidities they engage in e.g. Senator McCain’s camp claiming that Senator Obama is raising the issue of his age. Perhaps Obama should have replaced “bearings” by “marbles.

Obama accuses McCain of 'losing his bearings'


4. Some people have an excessive amount of time on their hands, witness the brouhaha related below. You’ll notice that Senator McCain pops up in this story too, more evidence of the stupidities referenced above…

US Makes Changes To Cremations For Slain Troops


5. And finally, perhaps Senator Obama can provide evidence of his farsightedness, leadership, and ability to form coalitions, by working to derail the travesty that is the Farm Bill (currently making  its way through Congress). No? This blogger didn’t think so!

The Farm Bill: Back to the Trough


Updates...

1. In Zimbabwe after weeks of silence the election commission finally declared a run-off necessary since Morgan Tsvangirai (per the ZEC) had failed to get 50% of the vote.



Today Tsvangirai agreed to the run-off. The MDC candidate insisted that international observers and media be admitted to the country and given full access to ensure fairness, and called on the Southern African Development Community to send peacekeepers to instill public confidence in the vote. However, these conditions were subsequently rejected by the Justice Minister. Looks like the disquiet expressed in “Can it be?” might be coming to pass…


Read the following article for background on events leading to the elections, and a purported Mugabe-Mbeki axis.

Where do we go from here?


2. "Backward Iraqis" bemoaned the U.S. administration's underestimation of Iraqi capabilities, and the allegations that Iran is providing weaponry to Iraqi insurgents, the proof of which mostly consists of the alleged “sophistication” of the weapons.

Recently a huge cache of weapons was seized in Basra, said to include items of recent Iranian manufacture dated from this year (2008). However “… a plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin…” (see link below)

IRAQ: The elusive Iranian weapons

Friday, May 9, 2008

Musical chairs



This week Dmitry Medvedev was sworn in as President of Russia, replacing Vladimir Putin. As expected his first action was to nominate Putin as prime minister, which was then immediately approved by the Duma. Medeved also pledged to carry on Putin’s work… With Putin as prime minister and as head of the largest party in the Russian parliament, the conventional wisdom is that Medvedev is a figurehead and Putin is the ‘power behind the throne.’

Regardless of how comfortably he is ensconced right now, Putin shouldn’t feel too safe. It may not be problematic for quite some time but he is now engaged on a slippery slope. It’s not steep at all right now but is sure to get steeper. Eventually Mevedev will tire of being second banana, and then it will get interesting!

Putin ever present as Medvedev becomes president
Putin Changes Jobs – And Russia
Medvedev signals he will continue Putin's tough stance on West

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gadzooks!

Tomorrow, we shall achieve the victory, that the kingdom of God may come on earth as it is in heaven, and all those who love the Lord and will vote for Obama, say Amen.
Quote by the Reverend Joseph Lowry, in Charlotte, North Carolina, before introducing Michelle Obama at an Obama for President rally.

and

"And so, Lord, we thank you that we have in this campaign and this election an opportunity in this election to move America from the dark valley of doubt to the mountaintop of hope. To those days when black will not be asked to get back — when brown can stick around — when yellow can be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, and when white will see the light.”
Nice alliteration!

Michelle Obama Says ‘Amen’

Yes, it's a bad idea, but...

A number of people oppose the idea of a “gas tax holiday”, both in its incarnation as proposed by Senator McCain, and as proposed (in conjunction with a windfall profits tax on oil companies) by Senator Clinton. This blogger agrees that it is a bad idea. However, some of the reasons quoted by opponents are farcical. For example:

The link below is an online open letter by economists opposing the gas tax holiday. Per Steve Clemons it is signed by "principled public intellectuals". It says (in blue, with comments in red):

In recent weeks, there have been proposals in Congress and by some presidential candidates to suspend the gas tax for the summer. As economists who study issues of energy policy, taxation, public finance, and budgeting, we write to indicate our opposition to this policy. OK.

Put simply, suspending the federal tax on gasoline this summer is a bad idea and we oppose it.   This blogger agrees that it is a bad idea…

There are several reasons for this opposition:

First, research shows that waiving the gas tax would generate major profits for oil companies rather than significantly lowering prices for consumers.
 True in McCain’s version, not an issue in Clinton’s…

Second, it would encourage people to keep buying costly imported oil and do nothing to encourage conservation. Gimme a break! Do the signatories know even one person who was planning on buying less gas that would rush out and buy more based on a price reduction of eighteen cents a gallon when the price is over $3.50 a gallon?

Third, a tax holiday would provide very little relief to families feeling squeezed.   True, we’re only talking forty to fifty bucks, a bagatelle to most, including the signatories. However, this could be significant to a low income person with an old jalopy that has atrocious gas mileage (proportionately poorer folks tend to have old clunkers), the difference between filling up and being stuck at home.

Fourth, the gas tax suspension would threaten to increase the already record deficit in the coming year and reduce the amount of money going into the highway trust fund that maintains our infrastructure. Here they finally nail it!

Signers of this letter are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of good public policy.  Overall, yes. Oh, by the way, this blogger and all the people he knows actually buy gas (refined from costly imported oil) and not "costly imported oil." Small nitpick, true, but you'd expect a bunch of important economists to be a little more precise.


Similarly, on his blog Robert Reich denounces it because a gas tax holiday “… would increase demand for gas and cause prices to rise...” Again, though this is settled theory, (i.e. price reductions usually result in increased consumption) who exactly does Reich think will stop worrying about prices and buy more gas because the price is $3.50 rather than $3.68 a gallon? It’s stuff like this that makes many ‘ordinary’ folks think that economists are eggheads without an ounce of common sense.

Opposing the gas tax holiday

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Headed back down the toilet?

Nada Sehnaoui, quoting from her webite is "... a Beirut-based visual artist whose work, paintings, and installations deal with issues of war, personal memory, public amnesia, the writing of history, and the construction of identity. Her installations question the use of public spaces in relation to collective memory and the building of democracy."  

Haven't 15 years of hiding in the toilets been enough?! was one of her recent exhibits ("public installations") in April 2008, in which she installed 600 empty toilets on a vacant lot in downtown Beirut to remind her compatriots of the civil war when civilians often sheltered in their bathrooms while the various militias engaged in artillery duels, killed civilians, etc.

Housing Stories II

Housing Stories discussed that this blogger finds many of the “sob stories” re folks’ housing woes appearing in the news to be unpersuasive, and in general the fault of the borrower… This blogger also argued that where buyers were approved for home purchases based on falsified documentation of nonexistent income, that in such cases the fraud was perpetrated conjointly by the borrower and agent against the lender.

An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “In way over her head and angry about it” had a sub-headline that caught this blogger’s eye. It read “Woman says she was tricked into buying 3 homes worth $5M” (see link below for the story). A woman with a $52,000 per year job that was slated to be eliminated told her tax preparer of her difficulty. Oh, she also had $70,000 of debt. He persuaded her to go into “business” with him, telling her that she would make enough to clear her debt. She then proceeded to close on 3 houses worth five million dollars, declaring nonexistent income and investments to qualify. Subsequently there appears to either be a falling out between thieves, or else the tax preparer had planned to cheat her. He is living in one of the houses, while she is holding $5 million in mortgages!

In her suit she says that “… Duke told her she was an ideal partner because she had impeccable credit…” and that her “… credit rating, which was previously exceptional, has now been destroyed, and she can not borrow funds for any purpose…” Being laid off from a $52,000/year job while carrying $70,000 in debt equals an exceptional credit rating?? Wow.

Homeowner in over her head

"Peace Walls"








Surge, Success or Not? and Maintaining Surge Results spoke re the “temporary” walls that the U.S. military were installing between neighborhoods to help keep the peace in Baghdad. Not a new formulation, these were used extensively in Northern Ireland and Belfast to separate Catholics and Protestants. However, ten years after the signing of the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to the area, these walls remain. Some want them taken down, but many do not. In fact new “peace walls” (as they are called here) continue to be erected… Not a particularly good omen for Iraq/Baghdad!

Despite peace, Belfast walls are growing in size and number
Belfast still split by 'Peace Walls' (You Tube video)
The Peace Wall (graffiti pictures on Flickr)
Peace Walls pictures (slideshow)


Monday, May 5, 2008

In Memoriam - Mildred Loving (1939-2008)


Mildred Jeter Loving recently passed away at the age of 68. In June of 1958 she married a white man, Richard Loving, in Washington, D.C. Returning to Virginia they were arrested and charged with breaking Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. In 1959 the Lovings pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison. However the sentence was suspended on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia, which they did.

They later filed a suit, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1967 the court unanimously held in “Richard Perry Loving, Mildred Jeter Loving v. Virginia” that Virginia’s law was unconstitutional, violating both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Their convictions were overturned.

In 2007, on the fortieth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Mildred Loving said the following:

"When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn't get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn't allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding,
we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the "crime" of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. 

The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared:
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn't have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men," a "basic civil right."

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

All this happened barely 40 years ago…. For many year similar laws remained on the books in several states (even if unenforced). The last state to remove a similar law from its books was Alabama in the year 2000. The timing of this sad event (Mildred Loving’s passing) should remind us that it has not been all that long since things like this (miscegenation laws, etc.) were the currency of the land…. Gives one a little perspective on where folks of that generation e.g. Jeremiah Wright may be coming from…

Mildred Loving, matriarch of interracial marriage, dies
Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions 

Diversify!

It’s an amazement to this blogger that so many people invest all their hopes and dreams in any one person running for the presidential nomination This applies to many of the supporters of all three of those remaining in the race, Senators Clinton, Obama, McCain (listed alphabetically and not in any particular order of preference!) Note: the remainder of this post will reference Senator Obama, but everything said applies equally to backers of Senator Clinton, and an analogous situation exists for the supporters of Senator McCain.

As with your 401(k), 403(b), and other investments this blogger would recommend that folks do not pin all their hopes and dreams on the success/failure of one candidate, but that they diversify…

So, you believe that Senator Obama can change the tone in Washington. Regardless, diversify, put equal or more effort in selecting and then backing the Democratic party candidates for the Senate and House, and the same for your local elected officials!

First, Obama might not win. Second, even if he does, without gains in these other areas as well your preferred candidate might still be stymied in his efforts to get change. You say that Obama has a track record of reaching across the aisle, working with Republicans, etc., etc. Great, but just getting him elected won’t have everyone singing Kumbaya. You should note that despite any cooperation ‘at the edges’, on the main issues that critically divide the two parties (e.g. FISA modification and telecom immunity, SCHIP, the “war” in Iraq, domestic spying, and a host of other important issues) since the Democrats took over the Senate the Republicans have used the "silent" filibuster over one hundred times derailing a host of Democratic priorities. In all of these critical issues there has not been even one example of Senator Obama being able to bridge differences, or of being able to reach across the aisle to persuade any Republican senators to vote for cloture to defeat the silent filibuster to get the legislation passed.

So, diversify!!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What it takes...


Senator Obama on Reverend Jeremiah Wright on March 18th:

“As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. … I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother...”

On April 29th

“Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He has built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministries reach beyond the church walls.

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st centuries, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.

They offend me. The rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this. We started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided, that in fact all across America people are hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past.

I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country, that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together.

And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we have moved beyond these old arguments.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign. It is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think America stands for.

And I want to be very clear that, moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me. He does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say that I find these comments appalling, I mean it.

It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign is about, I think, will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point. I'm particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It's never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It's not about Reverend Wright.

People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about.

And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me."


So, what changed in the span of approximately one month?? Did Reverend Wright come out with new declarations? Did he say or do anything different from what he has said and done for many years? Did Senator Obama learn anything new regarding Reverend Wright’s views that were not already known to him when he made the first of his two declarations, above?

The answer to each of these questions is an unequivocal “No. Reverend Wright’s apparent sin was in not keeping a low profile, thereby complicating Senator Obama’s quest for the Democratic nomination. He did this by his Bill Moyers interview, by speaking at a NAACP function, and then appearing before the National Press Club.

Senator Obama couched his denunciation in terms of a) Reverend Wright’s views, which he characterized as “ridiculous” and antithetical to his own beliefs, and, b) Reverend Wright causing a distraction from “what this campaign should be about, which is the American people…. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about.” Obama went on to express his anger “…that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate…”

However, these “ridiculous” views had not estranged them before, and in fact had not been an impediment to an extremely close relationship that lasted over many years. The change from ‘can’t disown’ to ‘disown’ shows that Wright was right about at least one thing, when he said re Obama “…he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician…”

In fact some have argued that this shows that Senator Obama has the mettle to be president, that he can make the tough decisions when he has to! True, but this entire imbroglio also shows that this ‘agent of change’ who wants to ‘change the tone in Washington’ shares the same one-way notion of loyalty as did/do Reagan, the Bushes pere et fils, and the Clintons!

On a side note, it’s true that Reverend Wright’s comments were incendiary and not very artfully couched, especially for such an evidently erudite scholar with a great facility for language. However, while not a comfortable subject for polite dinner conversation, they were not all totally “ridiculous” and beyond the pale. For example, his comments re 9/11 were not as ridiculous as those of Pat Robertson (see below), and this blogger’s sense is that what he was saying was not that different from what Ron Paul said (and incidentally also was vilified for by very many) that while the responsibility for 9/11 lay entirely with the terrorists, it did not occur in a complete vacuum….

Pat Robertson, about the 9/11 attacks - "We have allowed rampant secularism and occult, et cetera, to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered in our society. We have a Court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, 'We're going to legislate you out of the schools, we're going to take your Commandments from off the courthouse steps in various states, we're not going to let little children read the Commandments of God, we're not going to let the Bible be read -- no prayer in our schools.' We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And, then we say 'why does this happen?' Well, why its happening is that God Almighty is lifting His protection from us."

 
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