Just Above Sunset
July 17, 2005 - This isn't funny anymore. But it never was.

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The Set-Up


I was out of town last Sunday, down south in the San Diego area, and didn't get a chance to see much of what was being said here and there in the world of those who try to make sense of the current events.  And I had been distracted by the purely personal - as the Hollywood cat, Harriet, is quite seriously ill and was off to the veterinarian.  The news I heard on the long drive south and the log drive back seemed to be all about Hurricane Dennis.  What's to say about that?  It will blow itself out as it moves up the Mississippi river valley and finally disappears somewhere over Cincinnati.  The nation's news resources were consumed with that.  Fine.  That's what people want to hear about.  I got home, walked in the door, and the cat, marginally better from a day of sleep in the shade on the cool concrete floor of the balcony, mewed pitifully and then ate a bit, and flopped down for some more sleep.

It was to see what's up – beside the hurricane.  So while she was sleeping I scanned the Monday papers in the eastern time zone, and I see Bob Herbert in the New York Times is telling me this: It Just Gets Worse.

Thanks, Bob.

In his usual pedestrian prose he explains, as he's writing about the war –


Back in March 2004 President Bush had a great time displaying what he felt was a hilarious set of photos showing him searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction that hadn't been found in Iraq. It was a spoof he performed at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association.

The photos showed the president peering behind curtains and looking under furniture for the missing weapons. Mr. Bush offered mock captions for the photos, saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere" and "Nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?"

If there's something funny about Mr. Bush's misbegotten war, I've yet to see it.


And he covers the usual.  We had lost six hundred guys when Bush was making those jokes to the National Press Club.  We're well over seventeen hundred now.  He mentions the London bombings last week and quotes Larry Johnson, the former CIA analyst who served as deputy director of the State Department's counterterrorism office, who said on National Public Radio last week: "You now in Iraq have a recruiting ground in which jihadists, people who previously were not willing to go out and embrace the vision of bin Laden and Al Qaeda, are now aligning themselves with elements that have declared allegiance to him. And in the course of that, they're learning how to build bombs. They're learning how to conduct military operations."


And he ends with this:


Whatever one's views on the war, thoughtful Americans need to consider the damage it is doing to the United States, and the bitter anger that it has provoked among Muslims around the world. That anger is spreading like an unchecked fire in an incredibly vast field.

The immediate challenge to President Bush is to dispense with the destructive fantasies of the true believers in his administration and to begin to see America's current predicament clearly. New voices with new approaches and new ideas need to be heard. The hole we're in is deep enough. We need to stop digging.


This is what you call belaboring the obvious.

As a diversion I scanned what was on television, as there were lots of cable options.  Let's see.  "The Mummy Returns."  "Legally Blond."  A rerun of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in the Abbey Grange story.   "Airplane" - dated, but a movie always good for a laugh.  And on Showtime, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" of all things. T en minutes of that convinced me the film may do more good now that it did back then.  Fewer and fewer folks will see it as foolish nonsense now.  Events in the last several weeks make it seem almost prescient.  Sometimes you have to wait.  What's up with the folks at Showtime? (Other movie news is that Oliver Stone, the master of conspiracy theory, is planning a movie on the September 11th attacks of 2001 - and the right side of the world is up in arms.)

The business with Karl Rove was heating up - David Corn was saying this:


Yet tonight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove - prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official - told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger.


Well, there was tons of discussion about that, mostly speculation.  (You can find a survey of that here.)  But it will all play out.  Harriet-the-Cat is something I can actually do something about by carting her off to the vet.

And Sunday was time with the mother of the fellow just transferred from Mosul to Baghdad, to a staff job in the Green Zone.  Yeah, I'm worried about him.  What Bush says is nonsense, and most people know it.  Folks say it doesn't matter, but I don't feel like cutting Bush any slack because he's a good old boy.  I want my honorable, decent and thoughtful nephew back in one piece.  There actually are real drawbacks to having a smirking frat boy who doesn't like to think things through in charge of it all.  It's not funny anymore.

And it's not funny that the Catholic Church under the new pope is saying evolution is incompatible with Catholic faith.  (Good discussion here and here.)  But being of little faith why does this matter to me?

More interesting is this post on the origin of the name al Qaeda, and the connection Isaac Asimov's 1951 science fiction trilogy "Foundation" - which was translated into Arabic under the title "al-Qaida."  Odd.  I remember the books.  Very depressing.


The Big Deal

But the post to read is this: Bush's War on the American Soldiers - not only has the Veterans Administration been underfunded as the Republicans have successfully blocked all increases for care for the returning wounded, it seems advances in body armor have meant that far fewer of our guys than ever before die in combat, but as the new armor only protects the torso (magnificently) those injured who now survive usually have multiple amputations and massive brain damage.  This takes enormous new resources.  They aren't there.


Suzanne Gamboa of the Associated Press Writer reports this on Saturday, July 16 -


Fellow Republicans warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay more than a year ago that the government would come up short — by at least $750 million — for veterans' health care. The leaders' response: Fire the messengers.


Now that the Bush administration has acknowledged a shortfall of at least $1.2 billion, embarrassed Republicans are scrambling to fill the gap. Meanwhile, Democrats portray the problem as another example of the GOP and the White House taking a shortsighted approach to the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and criticize their commitment to the troops.


New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, as chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, had told the House GOP leadership that the Veterans Affairs Department needed at least $2.5 billion more in its budget. The Senate passed a bill with that increase; the House's bill was $750 million short.


Smith and 30 other Republicans wrote to their leaders in March 2004 to make the point that lawmakers who were not the usual outspoken advocates for veterans were troubled by the move. Failure to come up with the additional $2.5 billion, they contended, could mean higher co-payments and "rationing of health care services, leading to long waiting times or other equally unacceptable reductions in services to veterans."


Still, the House ignored them.


Smith was rebuked by several Republicans for sounding the spending alarm, and House leaders yanked his chairmanship in January. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., lost his chairmanship of the VA health subcommittee, and Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., is no longer on the committee. They too had signed the letters to Hastert, R-Ill., and DeLay, R-Texas.


Does Simmons now get his chairmanship back?  Or is he still a bad guy for mentioning all this?  Note that in 2002, the administration fired Mike Parker, the civilian head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, after he complained to the Senate Budget Committee about the water projects Bush wanted to cut.


How did this Veterans thing happen?


… the [Veterans] department put some of the blame for this year's shortfall in budgeting for only 8,500 beds rather than the 13,000 mandated by Congress. VA officials were unable to explain why fewer beds were budgeted.


Additionally, the administration assumes in the VA's budget that the agency will come up with $340 million in savings this year and $590 million in 2006 from what it describes as "management efficiencies."  Those efficiencies have never been fully described to members of Congress.


The interesting thing is that the White House first told Congress that it could handle this year's shortage by shifting money from other programs.  Then the Veterans Affairs Secretary, Jim Nicholson, and the former national Republican chairman, admitted his department still was $975 million short.  Oh well.  And last week the White House admitted it needed $1.2 billion to fill the gap.  But two days later the White House Budget Director - Joshua Bolten - told the House Budget Committee that the VA for the past three years has gotten whole lots more money than it needed for medical care.


What's with these guys?


Try this


Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says he warned President Bush before U.S. troops invaded Iraq that the United States would sustain casualties but that Bush responded, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

White House and campaign advisers denied Bush made the comment, with adviser Karen Hughes saying, "I don't believe that happened. He must have misunderstood or misheard it."

... Robertson, in an interview with CNN that aired Tuesday night, said God had told him the war would be messy and a disaster. When he met with Bush in Nashville, Tenn., before the war Bush did not listen to his advice, Robertson said, and believed Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant who needed to be removed.

"He was just sitting there, like, 'I'm on top of the world,' and I warned him about this war," Robertson said.

"I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties.' 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' 'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be.' And so, it was messy. The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy."


The power of positive thinking - if you believe it isn't so you can make so that is isn't so.

This isn't funny anymore.  But it never was.

Ah well, I'll worry about the cat.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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