Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friday random thoughts

• The House on Thursday helped the Farm Bill take another step forward. It thoughtfully provides for food stamp and nutrition programs — and for California nut, vegetable and fruit growers — but still puts too much primacy on subsidizing Midwest cash-crop agribusiness.

• Simply FYI: In 2005, the Farm Bill gave out $1,471,397 to "Tracy" area farms. An outfit called Crimson Valley North was Tracy's top recipient with $99,168 in federal subsidies.

• I wonder if the CHP could set up some kind of checkpoint for this? Although, pulling over the Discovery at speed might be a little tough.

• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might not be able to recall much more than his name while under oath, but the FBI director and federal documents don't have the same memory problem.

• Help goes hand in hand with hope: It's nice to see the senior center and private merchants help our community's most vulnerable. Kudos all around.

• Maybe it's the bland, recited statements that are to blame: Does anyone else find it disturbing that the YouTube debates questions were infinitely more interesting and thought-provoking than the Democratic candidates' answers?

• Random thought of the week: "It's good to be back. But it'd be even better to be gone again."

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "Somedays, even your lucky rocketship underpants aren't enough."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Welcome back to the blog

Hi all, glad to be back. Hope you had a good week. I spent my break in Montana vacationing, and it's time to return to writing.

I missed a lot while I was gone on vacation, but something that kicked off the news week struck me.

President Bush underwent a colonoscopy and had five noncancerous growths removed from his posterior this past weekend. All, of course, at taxpayer expense.

What makes this funny isn't that the president had something stuck where the sun don't shine (something his critics have been asking for for years). What made me chuckle is that this same president has warned us that government insurance — let alone government health care — is bad for the nation, bad for patients, and places us on the road to socialism.

I'll leave you to appreciate the irony.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Friday random thoughts...

Note to my alert readers: This will be my last post until July 24, when I will return from a trip to the semi-wilds of Montana. Until then, enjoy these few random thoughts, and keep your stick on the ice (even if it's summer).

• Out of the nine leading industrialized nations, Americans take the least average vacation time. At least we use our collective free time doing constructive things like reading the supermarket tabloids and watching "Simple Life" reruns.

• President Bush chastized Congress on Thursday: "I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding the troops." So Congress should sign over billions of dollars without questioning how it is to be spent? I guess that's Bush's idea of "oversight."

• Hate to give this more play than it deserves, but commentator David Kerst, in his first paragraph of this letter, doesn't seem to grasp the difference between climate and weather.

• Big news week for a small town: A serviceman died in Iraq, the Site 300 bio-lab was nixed, a semi-famous singer committed suicide from a local landmark, and a bank was robbed — again.

• To the family and friends of U.S. Army Pfc. Bruce C. Salazar Jr.: You have my heartfelt condolences. I hope you find the peace, solace and community support you deserve. (To readers: The fallen heroes blog here might be an appropriate place to express sympathy.)

• Random thought of the week: "Sometimes getting lost on the road is a perfect way to find yourself."

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Iraq's going great ... really

For the longest time I've said that the Iraq war is going very, very badly. I have even pulled the classic "I-told-you-so," recalling how I was against this war from the start.

Turns out I had it all wrong. Because from the perspective of the war's founders, the most important parts are going according to plan.

Saddam Hussein is gone. Installed is an Iraqi government that still has just enough pro-U.S. pieces in place that want to keep the military around. Which leads to...

One of the major goals in Iraq was to give the United States a military presence in a region that is substantially anti-American (yes, even counting the Saudis and Israelis). The U.S. military is building bases in Iraq that are designed to last for decades, not days. The Pentagon is entrenched in the heart of the Middle East, giving the U.S. a place from which to strike out in future missions.

As a side bonus, companies with close ties to the White House have profited from no-bid contracts totaling in the billions of dollars with no real oversight or accountability.

Another plus: the Executive Branch has consolidated power (a pet project of Vice President Dick Cheney) under the justification that it's war time.

Sectarian violence, soldiers in harm's way, a military nearing the breaking point, billions of taxpayers' dollars spent, an actual increase in global terrorism (especially against allies like Britain) — that's not a mark of a lack of success to the war's neoconservative founders. It was planned for and acceptable. Collateral damage from the start.

So even while this war is a disaster to more than two-thirds of normal Americans, from the West Wing it looks just fine. Really.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Friday random thoughts...

• Lounging in my parents' backyard Wednesday night listening to firecrackers, it sounded like some sort of urban war zone. You know, without the fear of impending death.

• Some things don't change: Read the "Twice Told Tales" in Friday's Tracy Press. The description of the Fourth of July festivities of 10 years ago could well have described this Wednesday's celebration.

• Nothing turns a punish-the-criminals Republican into a bleeding-heart liberal like actually being in the crosshairs of justice. Funny how that happens.

• Saturday is 07-07-07, and it's a boon for the wedding industry. It's predicted to be -- by far -- the biggest wedding day of the year. And I thought sevens were supposed to be lucky.

• The recent statement that toxic runoff might be responsible for the decline in Delta smelt shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows the sad state of our waterways. Hopefully it's something that can be looked into -- and solved -- quickly, so the smelt can live and so water pumping can resume for the summer.

• Random thought of the week: "If I'd still consider playing golf, it's not really that hot out."

• Calvin and Hobbes quote of the week: "It's a tradition that when you harangue the multitudes, you stand on a soap box." "You'd probably be more impressive if you stood on the soap."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How to fight the war on terror

The recent foiled terror attacks in the United Kingdom should tell us something about fighting the war on terror.

They were attempted by folks who likely found each other once they were in Britain, not by people from other countries who immigrated as a group with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc. The alleged schemers were educated young people with prestigious careers, not street fighters fresh from a militia. And they were prevented through a combination of luck and domestic police work and investigation (read: through intelligence gathering), not by forces stationed overseas.

This should tell us that the war on terror is a domestic intelligence issue, and any focus on the war in Iraq as "central to preventing terrorism" is a focus sadly misplaced.

That is the real tragedy of the war in Iraq from a strictly selfish point of view. The U.S. and its allies are wasting billions of dollars fighting an imbedded insurgency rooted to Iraq instead of using those resources to prevent terrorism at home. Imagine how safe we could be, how much better our intelligence could be, how many more police and investigators we could put on the tail of domestic sleeper cells if we weren't in the Iraq war.

Unfortunately, this shift in focus won't happen. Partially because those conducting this war on terror are either too stubborn to admit error or simply too blind to notice.