Friday, August 24, 2007

Will This Be On The Quiz?

So, now George Bush is lecturing about the true lessons of Vietnam. Which may be setting a whole new standard when it comes to chutzpah. Call it "chutzpah-platinum."

Earlier in the week, before a VFW convention, Bush used America's experience in Vietnam (i.e., it's failure) as a cautionary tale for Iraq. (i.e., our need for to stay and be victorious, whatever that means.)

Bush's conflation with Vietnam and Iraq is about as accurate as his conflation of Saddam and Al-Qaeda. His grasp and reading of the particular history alone is shoddy; his political willingness to make the connection at all is shameless. "Desperate presidents resort to desperate rhetoric," is how Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland put it.

What's most suprising about Bush bringing up Vietnam is not America's troubled history with that war, but his own. Bush has never been to Vietnam. When he had the opportunity to go and indeed, do his part to ensure the victory there which he now so laments not achieving, he passed.
That much we know.

In 1968, he had been able to get into the highly competitive Texas Air National Guard. Also known as the fabled "Champagne Unit." Much has been written about where and how exactly Bush spent his remaining four years of service time. He was in Alabama for a while working on a sentatorial campaign. One place he wasn't, was Vietnam.

But now professor Bush lectures about the real lessons of that horrible conflict.
As if he would know.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"I Was A 9/11 Hero Once Myself!"

First, there was Mitt Romney equating his son's service to his presidential ambitions with actual military service to the country. That was merely nauseating.

Not to be outdone in the "The Man, the Mitt, the Legend" department, rival Republican Rudy Giuliani boasted this past week that he is just the same as the tireless, heroic rescue workers at the World Trade Center. And thus we pass from the merely nauseating to the actual act of throwing up.

"I am one of them," Giuliani told reporters at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game.

"This is not a mayor or a governor or a President who's sitting in an ivory tower," Giuliani said. "I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

Oh, in that sense.

In other words, in the sense that I am perfectly willing to say virtually anything imaginable, however implausible, inappropriate, insulting and untrue. Just that like that loathsome lizard of a liar, Mitt Romney.

And for the record, many of those that actually were working at Ground Zero, and actually were exposed to horrible, toxic shit, and actually have been worrying about what they might eventually come down with--those people actually were insulted by St. Rudy's effing-effrontery.

"I personally find that very, very insulting," said Marvin Bethea, who suffered a stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder and breathing problems after responding to the attacks.

Who, exactly, elected Rudy Giuliani "America's Mayor", anyway? Certainly not the voters of New York City, who had so utterly tired of Giuliani's tenure that, on September 10, as Giuliani himself knows only too well, his political career at least in New York was effectively over. Like countless others--including New Yorkers--I have nothing but respect for Giuliani's grace under the pressure and fire of that horrific day. But I have nothing but disgust for his appropriating 9/11 like a personal franchise, and for his milking it for the millions that have made him a hugely wealthy man. Tell me how Giuliani's exploitation of 9/11 is any different than the rankest war profiteering?

Hey, embellishment and pandering in politics is nothing new, and odds are, whether it was ever recorded or not, George Washington himself likely muttered something in broken dutch to some farmers in Pennsylvania, in the same smarmy and cynically deliberate way that candidates today would easily understand.

But there's pandering, and then there's pandering...

My personal favorite all-time pandering anecdote involves the late Minnesota Senator and former U.S. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey. In his "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail," the late-great Gonzo Journalist Hunter Thompson swore that Humphrey, as a presidential candidate in 1972, said a most remarkable thing late one night after one of those "seven states in one day" days. Speaking to a group of Haddasah women, Thompson claimed Humphrey cried out at one point in his speech, "Why, I was a Jew once myself!"

Sounds absurd, right? Any more absurd than the inanity that Giuliani and Romney are tossing around these days? Before the right group, properly lubed up by the moment, either one of them is capable of that legendary Humphrey-ism.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Mitt." Rhymes With "Bullsh--"

I think it’s terrible that there are some Americans who say they will not vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon.

You’d think we were past that sort of thing as a nation.

Mitt Romney shouldn’t be disqualified because of his religious beliefs.
Mitt Romney should be disqualified because he has no beliefs, period.

Actually, scratch that.

If there is one overriding belief that binds Mitt Romney and his preppy progeny, it is…well, Mitt Romney. No one could ever accuse the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor of lacking belief in the Romney brand. Mitt Romney oozes such gooey and glistening self-confidence, it’s a wonder his pores aren’t blocked.

Among Romney’s five sons, whose ages range from 26-37, the belief in Mitt is so strong that they are willing to go to war for him. No, no -- not that kind of war. Not like, say, a real war like the one in Iraq.
No. More like the war to elect Mitt Romney president.

At a campaign event Wednesday in Bettendorf, Iowa, Romney was asked by a citizen why none of his own five sons have served in the military.

In response, Romney initially sounded a simple and sensible note:
“My sons are all adults and they’ve made decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard.”

Fair enough.

Then Romney went off the scale with a note so sour it made national news.

“One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation,” Romney explained, “is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.”

Gee, thanks boys!

Romney had begun the campaign event by calling for a “surge in support” for the troops in Iraq. For some, whether one agrees or not, that surge actually involves standing shoulder to shoulder with those troops. One of Romney’s republican rivals, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has two sons in active military service, one of whom is currently on an Iraq deployment.

But why quibble? To Romney, service is service, whether it is dodging enemy bullets or dishing on your blog.

See, the Romney sons -- Josh, Tagg, Craig, Matt and Ben -- don’t just drive back and forth across Iowa in service to their dad -- er, nation -- they also blog about it all, too.

But the Bettendorf incident only adds to what is growing on Mitt Romney like Pinocchio’s nose -- namely, the sense that this man will say virtually anything
to appeal to the more troglodyte tier of the Republican base.

At the same time, Romney will also disavow anything he has said if it helps him politically. Hell, he’s even disavowed an entire state. Romney has taken great pains to make sure no taint of Massachusetts blue has rubbed off on his new red state persona.

Whether it’s his changed positions on abortion, stem cell research, gun control or gay rights, the Mitt Macarena is the most entertaining dance of the ’08 campaign so far. Equating actual military service with helping daddy be president? Hey, why not? I’m Mitt Romney and dammit, I believe in me. And so do my sons the bloggers.

But what is blind belief for Mitt and his sons, conjures a different “b” word for lots of others who are observing this smarmy snake-oil salesman slither his way across America.

In a bit of irony perhaps lost on the boys, their latest blog entry shows Josh and Tagg in Audubon County, Iowa, posing beneath the massive statue of Albert, “the world’s largest bull.”

All in support of their dad, Mitt Romney, who is perhaps the world’s biggest bull--
…….well, you get the idea.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bridge To Nowhere

In running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton spoke frequently about “building a bridge to the 21st century.” That was metaphor. Little did we know that some of our actual, physical 20th century bridges would not last long into the new century.

The fatal I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis was a cry for help from the nation’s aging, crumbling infrastructure.
Too bad too few are listening.

As campaign issues go, it’s not a “sexy” one.
It’s not about war, gay marriage or climate change.
And yet, as we see, it is nonetheless about life and death.

Some big-city mayors focus on infrastructure elements like bridges, roads, and water systems. And they get nicknames like Boston’s Thomas M. Menino: “Mayor Pothole.” We need more “Mayor Potholes.” We need a “President Pothole.”

How bad and how pervasive nationally is our ailing infrastructure? Perform the following quick, simple test: How often do you drive over a bridge or under an overpass, notice clearly old, rusting metal or crumbling concrete, and think to yourself, “God, just don’t let this thing go while I am going through?”

I do that several times a week. And you?

I have driven for years under a stretch of Route 9 in Wellesley that has finally been undergoing re-construction. Before that, I would pray that my drive through did not coincide with an 18-wheeler passing overhead.

Turns out I wasn’t imagining things.

Among states, Massachusetts ranks second-to-last when it comes to bad bridges. The American Society of Civil Engineers has found that 51% of bridges in Massachusetts are are “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” .

Ironically, just days before the disaster in Minnesota, the Berkshire Eagle reported on an overpass in Hadley, Massachusetts that is one of 39 rated “structurally deficient” just in that western section of the state alone..

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, is quoted as calling the Hadley span, “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Eerie words now.

The Minneapolis bridge had also been rated “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete.” Yet Minnesota’s bridges are supposed to be some of the country’s safest. With only 12.2% of its bridges rated “deficient,” the state ranks third in the country in terms of bridge quality. No matter. Minneapolis now becomes the poster child of our decaying infrastructure.

How expensive would it be to repair the nation’s infrastructure? Hugely.
Most estimates begin at $1-trillion. Can we afford it? It is, as they say, a matter of priorities.

Each day, America spends $200-million in Iraq. By September, we will have spent upwards of $456-billion since the invasion itself in 2003. Recently released projections estimate that, even if all U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq within three years, the long-term financial costs to American taxpayers may approach $2 -trillion dollars. Um, that’s a lot of bridgework.

We have a pretty simple choice. And smart presidential candidates, in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, would be wise to frame it so. We can continue to waste lives and money on a foreign policy disaster, or we can redirect that money to averting disaster and saving lives here at home.

And you don’t have to have a degree in civil engineering to make that choice.