Category Archives: Dick Cheney

Torture and other fun topics

I suppose it oughtn’t to be necessary to say, but I’m against torture. Dick Cheney’s been rebuked. Not so incidentally, I recognize his right to speak; I was just hoping that he wouldn’t exercise it right away. Most Vice-Presidents (Nixon in 1960, Gore in 2000) GO AWAY for a while.

Jaquandor, in touting someone else’s disgust with some conservative talk show host’s ramblings about waterboarding, was rather eviscerating of (yawn) Hannity who was likewise braying that he’d undergo waterboarding and “he’d do it for the troops”, I thought, “OK, you blowhard. But let’s do it right. Let’s have someone grab you off the street, throw you into a van, blindfold you, and drive you to someplace you have no idea. Then let’s have them strip off your clothes, deprive you of food for days, not say a word to you except to tell you to stand up or lie down; let’s have them randomly beat you. And then let’s have them waterboard you. No cameras to record your bravado. No knowledge that after ten seconds it’ll all be over. Let’s have them waterboard you, over and over and over again, until you scream for no more. Sounds about right to me.

Meanwhile Greg talks about Charles Krauthammer, moral relativism and torture, which you should just go read.

But there was a concept in Greg’s piece that reminded me of a somewhat different situation. In October 1972, I had to go in front of my draft board in Binghamton to maintain my position that I was a conscious objector, which I had declared when I had registered for the draft about a year and a half earlier, and which I had to deal with because my draft number was so low – 2. One of the questions was what I would do if someone attacked my mother. I said I would defend her and protect her. Then, I was asked, would not going to fight a Hitler be a protecting my mother against attack? My response was that it is one think to respond to an immediate threat of an attack against my mother; it was far different to intentionally put myself in a position to to fight and kill people. Perhaps this is moral relativism too, but regardless, I was granted a c.o.; then because the draft law was winding down, I wasn’t drafted anyway, even for alternative service.

Here’s another blogpost that had an impact on me this week, by Thom Wade: I hate that rape is an acceptable metaphor for minor things. Among the examples, “Stop Raping My Childhood, George Lucas.” Thom links to other banal rants as well. It is SO obviously wrongheaded that Thom should not have had to comment.

Finally, a personal, somewhat painful recollection by SamuraiFrog about family and friends and rage and therapy. “Everyone tells you to just get over it and move on, stop living in the past. But living in the past isn’t the problem.” I related to it more than I can say; OK, more than I am willing to say.



I believe I’ve been quite clear in my long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq. Yet, I also believed that if we were to go to war, we ought not have gone understaffed, based on everything I had read at the time. This documentary written and directed by Charles Ferguson, and narrated by Campbell Scott, lays out the case that the failure of the United States military policy after the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003, far from being unforeseen, was utterly predictable. And there were high-ranking officials, many with military experience, telling the Bush administration that they were doing the occupation all wrong. These people included former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador to Iraq Barbara Bodine, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and, most notably, General Jay Garner, who was in charge of occupation of Iraq through May 2003.

No End In Sight, which I watched on DVD last week, lays out in painful detail the three main problems that took place. One was the failure by the US to provide security because they were understaffed when the looting of museums and other national treasures took place. The de-Ba’athification of Iraq showed serious loss of of the professional class, most of whom joined the Ba’ath party pretty much for the same reason managers joined the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, because that’s how to get and keep a job, not out of any ideological affinity. But perhaps the greatest blunder was to dismiss the Iraqi army; when the invading US Armed Forces told the army to go home, it did, but the entity, which predates the creation of the country of Iraq, was waiting for requests from the Americans to help rebuild Iraq, a call that failed to come. Thus, one created a situation with bunch of unemployed, angry people with guns that helped fuel the insurgency.

You may seethe to hear Donald Rumsfeld’s various pronouncements, one of which, early on, was that there WAS no insurgency. Many of these inept decisions were carried out by Paul Bremer, but it is not clear whether they were his initiatives, or that he was merely carrying out the wishes of chickenhawks such as Rummy, Dick Cheney, Paul Wofowitz and Doug Feith.

Ferguson filmed over 200 hours, and many of the extended interviews show up in the DVD extras, probably longer than the actual film.

However you feel about the Iraq war, its justification, or how it needs to be handled now, there’s little doubt that when you see this film, you’ll wonder how such early blunders were made, leading to many unnecessary Iraqi civilian and US military deaths.


November Miscellany

Politics, Race, Comics, Music, Sports, Weather – we do it all

U.S. Thanksgiving Day, we drove from Albany to Oneonta, and saw the temperature rise from 44 and fog to 52 to 68F in a little more than an hour. Then that afternoon, the temperature plummeted, where it’s been ever since.
I received this question, as did a number of other bloggers: “I’d be interested in your reaction to this: An effort underway to remove Pelosi as Speaker, and make way for impeachment. Details. What flaws do you see with this plan; and is there a way to block this?”

As I’ve made abundantly clear, I favor the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. But the idea of impeaching Pelosi for her “high crimes and misdemeanors” of NOT impeaching them in order to impeaching them seems a bit surreal. Actually, it reminds me of a maneuver of my former church whereby the associate pastor was removed in order to make way for removing the senior pastor, except that it took 10 years to actually remove the senior pastor.

Regardless, the impeachment of Nancy Pelosi is highly unlikely to happen. And even if it did, impeachment of Bush/Cheney won’t happen. The Democrats are too risk averse. And oddly, from everything I’ve read, impeachment might very well STRENGTHEN the Democrats as it did in 1974, and as it did for the Republicans in 1868.
The current TV Guide lists the current Presidential candidates’ favorite television programs. Will Fred Hembeck support Barack Obama, now that Obama’s come out in favor of SponngeBob Squarepants? And speaking of Fred, read Hembeck: Court Jester of Comics, an interview by Peter Sanderson in Publishers’ Weekly.
A couple things I learned from ADD, one directly, one indirectly:
Tom Spurgeon’s Holiday Shopping Guide and
an interview with David Michaelis, biographer of Charles Schulz. Oh, and Gordon says nice things about the book about the creator of the Peanuts comic strip.
I don’t really follow college football, and don’t like how the polls determine rankings; I’m more of an NFL fan. Still, I prefer the way cthe college game settles ties, with each team getting a chance or two (or three, in the case of Arkansas’ upset of LSU last week) to the randomness of the coin toss to determine who’ll get the ball first, and quite possibly, score and win.
*** shows video clips of 8 of The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters:
#9. The Merchant from Aladdin
#8. Sebastian from The Little Mermaid
#7. The Crows from Dumbo
#6. King Louie from The Jungle Book
#5. The Siamese Twin Gang from Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers
#4. Sunflower the Centaur from Fantasia
#3. The Indians from Peter Pan
#2. Uncle Remus from Song of the South
#1. Thursday from Mickey Mouse and the Boy Thursday (Book)
The Little Mermaid clip surprised me, but I see its validity on the list.
Even though I feel uncomfortable with Song of the South – I do remember it in re-release c. 1960, I think, the movement to get Song of the South released on video doesn’t bother me. Not to say that I’ll buy it.
Also from Ridiculous Overseas Rip-Offs of American Films, including a hysterical “Thriller” from India, a cheesy “Star Wars” from Turkey, and this Beatles Indian riff featuring, of all people, Mark Cuban:


Left-handed QUESTIONS

Communist, ’cause I’m left-handed.
That’s the hand I use, well, never mind!
-Paul Simon.

Anyway, my wife is left-handed, my sister Leslie, whose birthday is next week, is left-handed, and it may be surprising to find out that Lefty Brown, whose birthday is today, is not only political left-of-center and from the left coast of the US, but also left-handed, as well. Since it’s the middle of summer, and since he’s stolen questions from me, I thought I’d return the favor:

1. (From March 10, 2006): What was your favorite fast food happy meal or movie tie-in product growing up? Bonus points if you still have the product. Extra bonus points if you didn’t purchase said product on eBay.

2. (From April 7, 2006): Who are your top five favorite dead rock stars/icons?

3. (From April 21, 2006): If there is intelligent life on other planets, do you think they would have similar social structures (i.e. governments, houses of worship, entertainment)? As a follow-up what do you think a popular alien name would be?

BONUS QUESTION: Apparently, something significant is happening today in Harry Potter land. Were you staked out at the bookstore at midnight or do you say, Hairy who? From “Seriously, I read an article yesterday about this couple that will be leaving their wedding reception and going straight to the bookstore to get their copy of Harry Potter. Now, I’m no expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure that this is not what you’re supposed to be doing on your wedding night.”

Which reminds me: last Saturday, these two young women, probably of South Asian ancestry (based on looks, dress, and language) were walking down my street. One had a T-shirt on with a man making a clay pot. The shirt read – and I swear to Rudy this is true – Hari Potter.
Bush colonoscopy leaves Cheney in charge for a couple hours today. Anything I could add would be too obvious.
If Barry Bonds hits his record-setting* homers this week, it’d be interesting if he hit #755 in Milwaukee this weekend, where Hank Aaron started (with the Braves) and ended (with the Brewers) his career, then hit #756 sometime between Monday and Thursday in San Francisco against the Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s team when he hit #715, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. Incidentally, Hank Aaron hit #755 and last on July 20, 1975.

Can Transformers do THIS?


July Ramblin'

O.K., I’m finally convinced. I listened to a lengthy (50+ minute) segment of Bill Moyers’ Journal from July 13, with “Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and THE NATION’s John Nichols, author of THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT.” The conservative and the liberal were practically tripping over each other making the case for impeachment of both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. But it wasn’t to be punitive; it was so that whoever is President on January 20, 2009 won’t feel they have the “monarchist” authority this administration has. They chastise both Congress (the current one as well as the ones since 2001) and the press for not playing their proper roles in the balance of power. The thing that was most helpful for me was their counterpoint to the argument that the country can’t afford another impeachment proceeding after the Clinton one; it appears that the country cannot afford not to.

Interestingly, I read about it first, not in the Huffington Post or even the knowledgeable Mark Evanier. Rather, I saw it first in Steve Gerber’s blog. Gerber is a comic book writer of some note, probably best known by the general public for Howard the Duck, and he wrote the second blog I ever read, after Fred Hembeck’s, and was the final inspiration for me starting my blog less than a month after he started his.

Not so incidentally, Steve’s been having some medical issues; I wish him well.
Jay Kinney unearths a 1952 T-Man comic that explains the Bush-Cheney policy in the Middle East. (Thanks, Dan.)
You know how there are people around you, and you don’t even know their names, then they’re gone. Someone on the floor in which I worked died last week. I didn’t recognize the name of Jane Neale, but when I saw the pictures, I said, “Oh, her!” She was always quite pleasant to me. My condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
How racism hurts — literally. This was a story in the July 15, 2007 Boston Globe by Madeline Drexler that the Wall Street Journal found important enough to excerpt this week. Essentially, the premise is that dealing with discrimination makes one physically sick.
Evanier wanted to know whether it was worth saving an L.A.-based Felix the Cat. I say yes; it could become iconic, like Albany’s RCA dog, Nipper.
Bill Geist is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year. I found that very funny because, back in January, he did a story for CBS Sunday Morning exploring what it would take to get on the Walk. He’ll be joining such pikers as actress Angela Bassett, Hemby’s friend Stan Lee[Dec. 28], and the late George Harrison.
Just How Long Does the Average Baseball Career Last?
I’m a movie star!
OK, I’m not.
Every month in which there is a staff birthday, our group has a little party, and this week, we had strawberry shortcake. This led to a conversation about a product called Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix. Long before Cool Whip, or that stuff in the aerosol can, there was this powdery stuff to which you added milk and whipped. I hadn’t seen it in a while and wondered if it was still being made, and it is, at least in Canada. But what I don’t understand is why it’s available on Amazon (5.2-Ounce Boxes-Pack of 6), “Better Together” with the Pixar movie Cars (Widescreen Edition) DVD.
I also opined that, even as a kid, SpaghettiOs were vile, and this led to a discussion of people defending them. Maybe they’ve changed the formulas, but when I was (trying not to be) eating them, the sauce tasted like watery tomato soup.


Jealous of Dick Cheney

When I was away, I found myself watching the news a lot. And a lot went on last week: airports in the UK threatened, the end of the immigration bill, significant Supreme Court rulings, more fires and floods, the surviving Beatles on Larry King (hey, it was important to me), Elizabeth Edwards in a dustup with someone. Watched CNN, MSNBC, even five minutes of FOX News before the gag reflex kicked in.

But my favorite story was about the Vice President, and I’ll tell you why. My wife works for a school consortium, but works at two other schools. She is bound by the rules, not only of the consortium, but of the individual schools as well. My company, the NYS Small Business Development Center, has reporting obligations to the State University of New York, the U.S. Small Business Administration, AND the Association of Small Business Development Centers. Dick Cheney, however, has found a way for us all to put that red tape behind him. When someone asks him who has been meeting in his office on his energy policy, he can claim executive privilege. When he’s asked to abide by an executive order to declare what secrets he’s holding, he becomes, as President of the U.S. Senate, a member of the legislative body.

This is BRILLIANT! I’m sure that my organization, and entities in the same situation, will now be able to say, “Oh, X, we don’t have to tell you that, because we also report to Y.” All of those calls for his impeachment or resignation will certainly now immediately cease.

Oh, and just yesterday, a prisoner in Cheneyland, Scooter Libby, got his jail time eliminated. “And justice for all” indeed.

VOTING Questions

I was reading in Newsweek a couple weeks ago about some (Republican) politician complaining about ex-cons voting. I don’t see the problem. I think the ex-cons SHOULD vote. Perhaps:
1) They’ll feel more a part of the society as engaged citizens.
2) They’ll be able to better suss out the crooks who actually get elected, the Duke Cunninghams, the Bob Neys.

If anything, I’d think we would like to get MORE people to vote. Are people afraid that a bunch of former felons will get together and take over the town? If so, they should get out and register (and vote) themselves.

(Greg noted this story about the White House pursing legal efforts to limit voter turnout. This is not just unjust, it’s pathetic.)

I also was interested in the recent French election. Apparently, the top two vote getters, Nicolas Sarkozy, who got 31% in the first round, and Ségolène Royal (26%), will be in a runoff, but the candidate who is reportedly most acceptable (or least unacceptable) to the widest number of people, François Bayrou, came in third (19%), so won’t be in the runoff.

So I’m wondering:

1) What restrictions, beyond making sure somebody is of age and actually lives in the district, should there be on voters? I’m against too many restridctions.

2) What can be done to engage more people in the political process? Would Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) or other alternate voting methodologies work? How about voting over several days and/or online?
For free IRV? stickers send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:, 26 Glen Street, Malden, MA 02148. Spread the word and make it stick: IRV; for a better democracy!
Dennis Kucinich, member of Congress and Presidential candidate, has introduced Articles of Impeachment Against Vice-President Richard Cheney. Kindly, Kucinich waited until the the Veep’s blood clot was under control to reintroduce the measure.
Bush v. Bush.
Erin Davies makes the best of a bad situation, letting the world see and contemplate the hate speech scrawled on her vehicle. The initial act of vandalism was especially disturbing to me since it happened in my city (Albany), but Erin’s reframing is quite intriguing.
What the rains of last week did to the basement of the David Sarnoff Library last week.
Last, but certainly not least, send some love to Kelly and Lefty.