Value Voters Summit – An Eclectic Mix of Values, With “Obama Waffles”

What’s better than a gathering of 24%er’s at a conference which includes the conservative stylings of such “values” luminaries as Bill Bennett, Tom DeLay, Stephen Baldwin, Phyllis Schafly, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich? Why, the conservative entrepreneurial spirt and the sale of Obama Waffles, of course!

Commentary By: Richard Blair

You are excused if you missed the memo, but the annual Values Voters Summit is taking place this weekend in Washington, DC. I’m not going to write extensively about the summit, because quite frankly, it’s little more than another gathering of angry 24%’ers who think that George Bush has been too liberal on “values issues”. If you really want a blow-by-blow rundown of the summit (no, Larry Craig was not invited, as far as I can tell), go here.

Still, it’s always kind of interesting to check out the list of speakers at these kinds of events. Here’s a short run down of some of the highlighted guests, who are lecturing America this weekend on how to behave:

William Bennett – noted gambler and addict
Tom Delay – noted crook and future felon
Newt Gingrich – noted adulterer
Rudy Giuliani – see Gingrich, above (and noted cross-dresser)
Stephen Baldwin – noted “D”-list actor and drug and alcohol addict
J. Kenneth Blackwell – noted voter suppressionist & minority disenfranchiser

Draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, a big hit at the VVS has been the sales of Obama Waffles. (No, I’m not going to link to their site – I assume you, unlike John McCain, know how to work the google.) This culinary delight was apparently selling like hotcakes (no pun intended) to the fundie crowd, until event organizers took heat for the vendor booth and shut it down on Saturday afternoon. Here’s what the box looks like. Check out the top and the sides, as well as the front:

Thursday, April 30th, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Homeland Security: Pat Robertson Edition

Pat Robertson has done it again. Blaming gays isn’t enough. He wants to enable terrorists by jamming the phone lines at the Department of Homeland Security. Really, he did it on TV on the 700 Club. No word on whether he used puppets in his presentation.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Pat Robertson is off his meds again. In protest of the Homeland security report the other day that has all the right wing whack jobs in a dither, Robertson got on his 700 Club yesterday and told his listeners to jam the Homeland Security hotline. From Crooks and Liars:

Robertson: If that had been a Republican, there would be outrage and screams for Janet Napolitano to resign immediately. That – Terry, you’re somebody who favors life, wants to keep little babies alive. Somebody who has been a veteran and served our country as a proud member of the military. Somebody who is opposed to the left-wing policies of the administration and who wants to express his or her views as they are entitled to under our Constitution, these people are now being stigmatized as terrorists! This is an outrage!

Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to do something about it. If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what would. And I want you to call a number. This is the Department of Homeland Security.

[Reads number]

… And just say you protest. This is an outrage!

And Janet Napolitano has got a lot of explaining to do. And that lame excuse she was giving – –Oh, I’m sorry they characterized all veterans that way’ – I mean, come off it!

Meeuwsen: The report was the report. I mean, it is astonishing that it was allowed to leave under that –

Robertson: It – it shows somebody down in the bowels of that organization is either a convinced left-winger or somebody whose sexual orientation is somewhat in question.

But it’s that kind of thing, somebody who doesn’t think that we should have abortion on demand, is labeled a terrorist! It’s outrageous!

. . . (and later in the show)

Now, that in my opinion, is an outrage. And I think if you don’t speak out against it, it’s going to be allowed to stand. So I want to give you that number again. Ring those phones up there in Washington, let them know people care.

[Reads number]

That you protest this – ah, stigmatism of law-abiding Americans as being right-wing threats to America.

[Repeats number]

And if you jam up their lines, good for you!

I guess sending teabags wasn’t enough for Robertson, he wants to really make a dent in our ability to defend ourselves. Hey, did you notice him questioning the sexuality of Homeland Security workers? That’s code for blaming gay people for everything. He’s done that once or twice in the past, of course, so that’s not really news.

Someone should investigate him.

Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Obama Acts, Cornyn Whines, Specter Snivels

Barack Obama denounced torture in his Inaugural speech, and now he has signed four executive orders helping to end the practice by US personnel. John Cornyn, on the other hand, is holding up Eric Holder’s AG nomination because Holder won’t swear not to prosecute torturers, or those who gave the orders. Specter is with Cornyn.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Surely it should have dawned on Senator John Cornyn Tuesday that there’s a new regime in town and that Barack Hussein Obama will not tolerate torture. Surely he hard this section in Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

Maybe Cornyn didn’t understand the Inaugural address, and that’s why he’s holding up Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation? Well, if Senator Cornyn did not understand Barack Obama’s stand on torture, then the executive orders Barack Obama signed today just might get through Cornyn’s thick skull. Heck, maybe Cornyn needs some help from George Bush to understand this, after all, Cornyn is thought to be one of the stupidest Senators in the Senate. But back to Obama’s executive orders today. He is closing Gitmo within a year, forming a commission to figure out what to do with the inmates at Gitmo, some of whom are dangerous, eliminate torture by US personnel by requiring the strict adherence to the US Army Field Manual, and special circumstances concerning Ali al-Marri. Sounds to me like there’s a new sheriff in town.

But Senator Cornyn wants to leave that sheriff without his chief officer, the Attorney General. Why does Cornyn oppose Eric Holder’s nomination? Holder has yet to say whether he will or will not prosecute cases of torture perpetrated by US personnel. Cornyn is defending those who have tortured on the floor of the Senate. He’s taking up the cause Bush didn’t have the stones to do when he failed to give a blanket pardon to all who tortured in Bush’s name.

Senator Cornyn isn’t the only one who wants the torturers and those who ordered them to go scot free. Here’s a bit from the Washington Post report:

But even as Cornyn was getting out of the way of one appointee to President Obama’s Cabinet, he raised new questions about another. The Senate Judiciary Committee decided yesterday morning to delay a vote to send Holder’s nomination to the full Senate while lawmakers attended the morning National Prayer Service with Obama. The hearing was rescheduled for yesterday, but Republicans then requested a one-week delay on the nomination that Democrats were required to grant under committee rules.

. . .

Holder has generated more controversy than any other Obama nominee and was sharply questioned in an appearance before the committee last week. Many senators, including some Democrats, said they were troubled by his role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Led by the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), GOP lawmakers also said they had more questions for Holder about whether he would favor prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in warrantless wiretapping and harsh detainee interrogation practices. Cornyn said he would press for Holder to take a stand on the Military Commissions Act, which the Texas Republican described as providing interrogators with immunity from prosecution if they believed they were acting legally.

So Snarlin’ Arlen is right there with his buddy John Cornyn. I’m sick of Arlen Specter. He may have a reputation for bipartisanship, but Arlen Specter failed to protect us from Bush’s authorization of the use of torture, he failed to protect us from Bush’s politicization of the Justice Department, he failed to prevent domestic spying, and he now looks to be a failure in tracking down just how the Bush Administration instituted its regime of lawlessness. Maybe he’s got a magic waterboarding theory or something that makes everybody immune.

OK, I’m angry at Arlen Specter once again. If there is any man in the US Senate who knows his own complicity in allowing the Bush Administration destruction of the Department of Justice, it should be Specter. And if Specter has a hope in Hell of negotiating his way to victory in 2010 against Allyson Schwartz or Pat Murphy or Joe Sestak, then he needs to show that he understands that the rule of law is important. Murphy and Sestak, at least, will pound him on the issue, and they’ve both got battlefield cred. Any of those candidates will use this opposition to Eric Holder as Specter trying to give one last bone to Bush, who abused the constitution far worse than any President we have had in years. For Specter’s own sake he needs to get behind Holder immediately.

I know someone who is having lunch with Mr. Specter tomorrow. OK, I know several someones, and I just might pass along a question and see if one of the folks, Specter donors all, will ask it. Give me some suggestions, please, but make them politic, something that can be asked in a roomful of people who know the constitution well and are dedicated to defending it.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Bicycle Enthusiasts are Terrorists

The Washington Post ran a stellar report yesterday about illegal surveillance by the Maryland Police, which stooped to investigating people advocating for bicycle lanes in cities. Oh, the HORROR! Bicycle lanes. A coincidence that the Maryland government at the time was run by Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele, both Republicans? No.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

In Maryland that was evidently the case, according to an article by Lisa Rein and Josh White in yesterday’s Washington Post. More complete details are now out about the suveillance program conducted by the Maryland State Police, and it is shocking the kinds of citizens groups that agency decided to infiltrate and report on, on the slim rationalization that the groups might be harboring terrorists. This is a mighty report, that’s for sure. Here’s the lead, from the Washington Post:

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored – and labeled as terrorists – activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a “security threat” because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible “crimes” in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: “civil rights.”

According to hundreds of pages of newly obtained police documents, the groups were swept into a broad surveillance operation that started in 2005 with routine preparations for the scheduled executions of two men on death row.

The operation has been called a “waste of resources” by the current police superintendent and “undemocratic” by the governor.

I’m willing to bet, based on the fearmongering inherent in these actions, and the incompetence the officers showed in choosing who to monitor, that every single one of the officers who hatched this illegal and unconstitutional surveillance program were Republicans. Though he was not implicated in any of this wrongdoing, the Governor of Maryland at the time, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., is a Republican. Micheal Steele, current GOPAC Chair and candidate for the Chair of the RNC, was Lietenant Governor of Maryland when these ugly crimes took place. Alas, Republicans will counter that they are not crimes since no charges have been filed, but I value the constitution far more highly than they do.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a bicycle enthusist, and log ten to forty mile trips quite often throughout the spring and summer. I have even joined an advocacy group here in PA, the Friends of Schuylkill River Park. Thankfully I live in Pennsylvania, and there is no evidence, as yet, that police or others gone wild in their zeal to perform Homeland Security tasks have targeted that organization.

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Hurricane Ike: Myanmar Redux in the USA?

It’s been five days since Hurricane Ike hit the Texas gulf coast. Millions remain without power. The local, state, and federal governments have clamped a lid on media access and communications to the most affected areas. And the finger pointing for slow disaster response has started. Sound familiar?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Earlier this year, a cyclone ripped through the Indian Ocean country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The complete casualty figure will never be known, but hundreds of thousands died from the storm, flooding, and lack of basic services following the disaster.

The government regime in Myanmar was strongly criticized for many things in the aftermath. NGOs were not allowed into the affected area for weeks to provide relief assistance. Offers of help from foreign countries such as the U.S. were slow-tracked by the junta. Journalists were not allowed into the affected area to document the devastation. The government of Myanmar said it could handle the situation by itself (although it was plainly clear that this wasn’t the case), and didn’t want interference from outsiders. In a press conference at the White House on 5/5/08, two days after the disaster unfolded, First Lady Laura Bush was among the most critical of the Myanmar junta’s response:

The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.

I wonder if she would say that about the regime of her own husband, who visited the Hurricane Ike disaster area today, but left without making a statement of any sort.

It’s been almost five days since Ike ripped through southern Texas. This past Saturday, the media was wall-to-wall Ike, as the huge storm came ashore in Galveston, and tore a path well inland through Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city. The following day, when media reports started flowing in about blown out skyscraper windows, and power and basic services being knocked out, I had a gut feeling that things were pretty bad. Incidental reports that I was receiving through my own back channels only verified the extent of the damage in Houston.

But precious little information has been coming in regarding the situation south of Houston.

A no-fly zone has been established over the most devastated areas of the barrier islands on the Texas gulf coast, including Galveston, ostensibly “to provide a safe environment for disaster response and relief operations”. The thing is, no one has been able to determine who issued the no-fly order. News organization helicopters and others have not been allowed into the areas, and no media has been allowed in on the ground on the Bolivar Peninsula. Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas has clamped a lid on any city officials (other than her and the city manager) speaking to the press. There is even an unconfirmed report that FEMA has restricted all cell phone communications on Bolivar Peninsula.

There’s no indication as to why this media blackout is taking place – but it’s pretty clear – DHS, FEMA and the Bush administration are trying to manage the story. They don’t want another Katrina-style PR disaster on their hands, particularly in an election year. Take a look at this Coast Guard video, shot on 9/12 before Ike came ashore, and you might understand why.

It’s unclear how many people are still without power in southern Texas, but the number is in the millions, as of this evening. No lights, no air conditioning, no refrigeration for food. Gasoline (where available) is being restricted to 5 gallon purchases, at inflated prices. Businesses are closed. Schools might not reopen for weeks (or longer, in the most affected areas).

The finger pointing has already started. FEMA apparently belatedly showed up with manpower, but no relief supplies, and no distribution plan. They blamed the State of Texas. The State of Texas blamed local authorities. Sound familiar?

In the aftermath of Ike, federal and Texas officials blamed each other over delays in getting provisions, water and ice from staging areas in San Antonio and Fort Worth to relief workers and public distribution centers in the storm zone.

After taking criticism from U.S. Reps. John Culberson, R-Katy, and Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claimed the state had failed to provide promised workers to run distribution centers. The supplies eventually arrived, and Houston Mayor Bill White downplayed the dispute as “a little drama.”

And according to today’s Houston Chronicle, FEMA is still “days away” from establishing a “mega relief center”.

It’s apparent that the only thing the Bush administration and DHS and FEMA have learned from the Katrina disaster of 2005 is message control. Maybe they asked for some pointers from the Myanmar junta that they so strongly criticized.

Update: Apocalypse Ike at Crystal Beach, Tx.:

Apocalypse Ike

(Found here in a huge gallery of Ike photos you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.)

Update, 9/17: New info – it’s only a matter of time before the pot starts boiling over in S. Texas:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff returned to Texas for a second time to check on recovery efforts amid growing criticism about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response.

In Houston, most people in the nation’s fourth-largest city remained without power for a fifth day, making it tough to track the latest information on where to pick up supplies. For most, the electricity wasn’t expected back on for at least another week…

Residents again waited in line for hours Wednesday at the nearly two dozen supply distribution centers set up in Houston to hand out food, water and ice. Mayor Bill White complained FEMA wasn’t bringing in the supplies fast enough, and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett had personally taken over coordination of efforts to hand out relief supplies.

FEMA officials in Houston said they were refining glitches in the relief effort and delivering millions of meals and water every 24 hours…

Heck of a job, Chertie.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |


On August 6, 2001, George W. Bush received the infamous PDB that he ignored, titled “bin-Laden Determined to Strike the U.S.”. Seven years later, the implications of ignoring the memo are larger than ever.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Seven years ago today, at the outset of a four week vacation in Crawford, George Bush received a Presidential Daily Briefing memo titled “bin-Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.“. He then proceeded to shoot a 7 on the first hole at his local golf course. The legacy media was dutifully impressed. (“Watch this drive.”)

During the first seven months of 2001, George Tenet was running around Washington, DC with his “hair on fire”, trying to get George Bush (or anyone in his administration) to listen to the intelligence chatter about a pending al-Qaeda strike. Richard Clarke documented Tenet’s head blaze, as did Andy Borowitz (a must-read if there ever was one).

On Sept. 11th, 2001, after George W. Bush was informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center, he sat reading a children’s book for another seven minutes.

Coincidence? You decide.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

How Many Terrorists Does It Take. . .

Homeland Security’s Terrorism Watch List has grown to 1,000,000 entries. Oh, that’s far too big to be effective, but the CEO President, Mr. Bush, has his folks defending the list as one of the most important tools in the War on Terror. Given his advocacy of the War in Iraq, why isn’t Dick Cheney on the list? Has he not shot enough people?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Oh, this seems like a big joke. The Terrorist Watch List Counter at the ACLU web site just passed one million. As I write this it is 1,000,167. OK, according to Reuters that’s 1,000,000 records on the watch list, and that corresponds to 400,000 people. That’s a freakingly big list, and it is impossible to believe that all the people on it belong on it. Perhaps the Bush Administration thinks we are all criminals. (No comments needed on THAT!) But the Bushies think the list is one of the most important tools in the War on Terror! Huzzah! Here’s a bit of the Reuters article:

The Terrorism Screening Center, which maintains the list, has already put in place several steps to ensure the list is accurate and up-to-date, spokesman Chad Kolton said.

He cited a report last year by the Government Accountability Office that said there was general agreement within the federal government that the watch list had helped to combat terrorism.

“The list is very effective. In fact it’s one of the most effective counterterrorism tools that our country has,” he said.

Let’s see, the subset of this list, the “no-fly” list, has caught Ted Kennedy, John Lewis, and Yusuf Islam, not one of whom, in the wildest demonic fantasy of Dick Cheney, could be called a terrorist threat. No, I don’t imagine the list, as it is managed by the Bush Administration, is an important tool in the fight against terrorism. But I have no problem imagining Bush Administration people thinking so.

By the way, is Dick Cheney on the list? Given his history of violence, I was just wondering why he isn’t on the list. Surely he deserves to be on the list more than this guy.

Monday, July 14th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

FISA: Why I Can No Longer Vote for Barack Obama

Barack Obama lost my vote today. I was never a rah-rah supporter, yet prior to the FISA bill vote today, I believed that I could suck it up and vote for whoever ended up being the eventual Democratic Party nominee. For the first time in my adult life, I’m faced with the unhappy prospect of staying home on November 4th.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

As a true, progressive Democrat, this is incredibly hard for me to write.

Since the start of the presidential election season, I’ve been quite clear that Barack Obama was not my first – or even second – choice as the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. But I’ve been consistent in saying that I’d support the eventual nominee, whoever he or she might be.

That all changed today. Actually, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with the now-presumptive nominee since the time that the primary season officially ended. Barack Obama has been tacking toward the center since the time that Hillary Clinton quit her challenge in the race. From Iraq, to the abortion issue, to the Telecom Immunity Act of 2008, I’ve watched closely as Obama has tried to grab some middle ground, and attempt to diffuse future criticism of him by the GOP as being “soft on terrorists” and not a heartland values type of guy.

Earlier today, ASZ’s good friend Brendan commented on a prior post that as an Obama supporter, he’s experiencing extreme “buyers regret”. I can understand that feeling on the part of many starry eyed Obama supporters who felt that he was (in essence) the second coming of John F. Kennedy.

Let me pose a hypothetical: would John F. Kennedy have voted for the FISA bill today had it come up during his time as Senator? … (more…)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Voters To McCain: Lose The Bush Cowboy Diplomacy

A recent poll suggests that voters prefer Barack Obama’s brand of diplomacy over the “cowboy diplomacy” that John McCain seems to have adopted from George Bush. Lest he find himself down on the ranch with his buddy following the election, McCain may want to rethink his rhetoric.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

John McCain likes to ridicule Barack Obama’s belief that we should meet with the leaders of nations we consider to be our adversaries. A new Gallup poll might have John McCain rethinking this rhetoric. If the polling is accurate, it seems clear that voters don’t believe that a continuation of George Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy” is a wise strategy.

From Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ – Large majorities of Democrats and independents, and even about half of Republicans, believe the president of the United States should meet with the leaders of countries that are considered enemies of the United States. Overall, 67% of Americans say this kind of diplomacy is a good idea.

The issue of using presidential diplomacy with U.S. enemies distinguishes Barack Obama from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, and even from his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Obama is the only one of the three who has said he would personally meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela as president, and he recently defended his position by saying “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.” Clinton has criticized Obama’s approach as “na–¯ve,” and McCain has been unrelenting in his attacks on the issue, accusing Obama of being dangerously inexperienced and having “reckless judgment.”

Frankly, the rationale behind the Bush approach has always been suspect. There just isn’t ample evidence to suggest that refusing to meet with these leaders provides any measurable benefit. In my opinion, the problem with men like George Bush may well originate with their own awareness of their inability to engage in thoughtful dialogue or protracted negotiations.

Whether this reticence is the result of a questionable intellect, a fragile ego, a bellicose bravado, or some combination thereof may never be fully understood. Regardless, I suspect that the passage of time will reveal more of the motivations that led George Bush and his like-minded cronies to adopt such a strident strategy.

From my perspective, men like George Bush believe that a safe nation can only be achieved by presenting America’s persona as a powerful preemptive presence in the world. Instead of adopting the oft referenced historical approach of “speak softly and carry a big stick”, the Bush administration seems to have chosen to speak loud and large while swinging a big stick… indiscriminately.

Truth be told, the Bush-McCain machismo is contrary to the conflict resolution that most of us have been reared to respect. From our first adventure in socialization as a school child to the many years we spend navigating the difficulties that frequently characterize the workforce, we learn that the best resolutions often result from difficult, though diplomatic, dialogue. If one were to imagine either our schools or our places of employment utilizing the Bush-McCain mentality, it is virtually impossible to visualize a functional environment.

Granted, conducting foreign policy is far more complex than the above referenced experiences, but any situation involving human interaction can ultimately be reduced to the need for individuals to engage in constructive communications…even if those communications are with an obvious and obstinate enemy.

Perhaps the worst consequences of the Bush-McCain strategy is the collateral damage that accompanies this ideological intransigence. An example might be helpful. Time and again we’ve heard discussions of the degree to which a large segment of Iran’s population is in sync with the West…even to the extent that they might, at some point, entertain and enact some type of people’s revolt to overthrow their radical religious regime.

Unfortunately, though the Bush administration occasionally invokes the sensibilities of the Iranian citizenry, he and his minions more frequently rattle off the rhetoric that suggests we revile and reject all things Iranian…and Islamic. In so doing, we alienate those Iranians…and millions of Islamists…that might well be our ally (or at least not our mortal enemy) under the right circumstances…circumstances that may never mature in an atmosphere of elevated animosity. As such, they are left unable to distinguish our disdain for their demagogic leaders from our compassion for the common man.

In fact, the events that have led many Americans to distrust the Bush administration are the same ones that have likely undermined our hopes for an internal insurrection in Iran. Hence, one of the fundamental benefits of a direct dialogue with the leadership of Iran is the message it would send to the people of Iran. We can’t expect Iranians and the rest of the world to see the United States as a force for good unless we demonstrate that goodness is our preferred means of force.

Look, I have no illusions that goodness is a force that can solve all conflicts…and I’m sure the American public feels the same. At the same time, underlying all acts of physical force must be the perception that they have been enacted as a last resort, by good people, who have concluded that good order (safety and security) cannot be restored otherwise. In this way, goodness can remain the fundamental attribute and the means by which a nation of America’s strength and power can be seen as both a giant capable of imposing its will…and also as a benevolent big brother who chooses to insure that the will of the individual will not be arbitrarily abridged.

Cowboy diplomacy is a rich relic of our Old West history. It should remind us of where we’ve been and where we’ve arrived. An awareness of that journey should illuminate our growing commitment to civility; not our willingness to suspend it. In the end, we are strongest when our rational and reasoned restraint is the force by which the world finds the courage to reject and resist conflict. Each time a calamity is prevented because of it, America…and the world…grow even stronger.

America leads the world best when others choose to follow her on her journey to make it the best world she can lead. The future has patiently awaited her return. After eight long years, she must turn around and move forward. When she does, the world will once again follow.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, June 2nd, 2008 |

Google, Spooks, and Undercover Mil-Blogging

George Orwell was an amateur when it came to predicting the “big brotherness” of 2008. In some ways, government disinformation campaigns and the availability of personal data well exceed anything that futurists such as Orwell or Aldus Huxley could have envisioned many years ago. Personal privacy? We simply don’t have that anymore…someone, somewhere knows everything about each and every of us…or at least has access to the data.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Songwriter and artist Kevin Gilbert was apparently a born oracle. I’ve written about him before, and in particular, his song “Goodness Gracious”, which was an anthem about ten years ahead of its time:

…Goodness Gracious is there nothing left to say?
When the ones that get to keep looking
are the ones that look away
It’s pabulum for the sleepers
in the cult of brighter days

…Goodness Gracious I’m not listening anymore
Cause the spooks are in the White House
and they’ve justified a war
So wake me when they notify
we’re gonna fight some more…

Two stories popped up this morning that fill in a few more blanks with respect to the “big brother” nature of the U.S. government, and how the information around us is (or could potentially be) manipulated.

First up: Apparently, the U.S. military has figured out that bloggers carry at least some small degree of influence in public discourse. And we’re all painfully aware that the use of paid propaganda in various forums has been used (to greater or lesser effect) many times in recent U.S. political history. See: Williams, Armstrong, et.ux.

Can bloggers (or more specifically, bloggers who are, you know, actually influential) be bought? If so, what’s the price? And even more importantly, why am I not getting any of that gravy? Hmmmmph.

Next: The CIA has contracted with Google, Inc. for assistance with organizing, compiling, and sharing (internally, of course) data on known or suspected bad guys. It’s hard to tell how far that effort extends, but from the gist of the UK Times Online article, it sounds like the spooks are using Google technology for working with their own data. Still, it’s a slippery slope – I mean, google knows just about everything in my personal portfolio. Who knows what key word or tricky phrase might set off alarm bells, and trigger a download of all of my googleable personal data into the CIA’s own database?

I wonder what a futurist like George Orwell might be saying today, had he lived to see the technology revolution that has exploded in the past decade or so…

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 by Richard Blair |