* Bush visits the Middle East ~ an odyssey of obstinacy – At his first stop the President addressed Israel’s Knesset embarrassingly raising U.S. partisan politics while a guest in a foreign country. It is assumed that Bush was referring to Obama when he taunted those who follow "the false comfort of appeasement” because Obama has said that he advocates direct dialogue with the Iranian regime. Bush’s own Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on May 14th , “We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage with respect to the Iranians and then sit down and talk with them.” On Thursday Gen. David H. Petraeus said in a congressional hearing, “diplomatic rapprochement with Tehran should remain a U.S. goal.” Recall that in 2006 the bipartisan Iraq Study Group advocated responsible diplomatic engagement with regimes such as Iran and Syria. What I characterize as “Bushplomacy” has been ill-conceived, myopic and demonstrably a failure on almost every foreign initiative and front. Leaving some of his hypocrisy in Israel President Bush proceeded to Saudi Arabia. With gasoline can in hand Bush appealed to the Royal Saudi family to increase oil production. The “no” was said to be polite. Rumor has it that King Abdullah got a hernia from uncontrollable laughter from the request. With oil at $127 a barrel Bush had a better chance of getting the King’s recipe for gefilte fish. Bush’s last stop was Egypt where he lectured the Middle East about democratic and economic reform. “He told the World Economic Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh that states needed to diversify their economies, invest in people and extend the reach of freedom.” If only this had been his domestic agenda! Perhaps the President should ease the U.S. budget by eliminating his expensive (and fruitless) foreign travel. Oh for the good old days when most of Bush’s travel was to his Crawford, TX ranch where he set a presidential record for vacation days.
~Update: Late this week, ignoring Bush’s Knesset speech, Israel announced it is engaged in peace negotiations with Syria. The only ones still listening to the pontificating of George Bush is Secretary of State Rice and his dog Barney. Okay, no one is certain about Barney.
* The Vatican speaks about aliens ~ no, not the ones from Mexico – “Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in an interview.” I find it interesting that such a clarification is necessary. Would it not be arrogant to think that an Almighty that created an infinite Universe could only inhabit Earth with life forms? The interview with The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes is headlined "The extraterrestrial is my brother." I guess it is okay for ET to be my brother but someone with an alternative sexual lifestyle should be shunned. Perhaps we should forego extra-terrestrial implications about beliefs until we have a better understanding of the meaning of life on this planet.
* Woof of the Week - Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-VA.) said, “The GOP image is so stale that if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf because nobody is buying it.” To the word “stale” I would add repugnant.
* Yipes, egad, dratz ~ LOOK OUT! Its voter fraud – A number of states have tried or are about to try to pass legislation to prevent voter fraud. On the surface this appears to be a noble endeavor. However, there is virtually no evidence of voter fraud occurring in the U.S. So what is this about? The voter fraud legislation is taking place in states that have a legislative Republican majority. The legislation they propose would require types of identification not easily obtained by poor people. Poor people generally vote for Democrats. This week Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius vetoed a voter ID bill and stated, “The bill created a roadblock that prevents citizens from voting… no elected official should support enacting new laws discouraging or disenfranchising any American who has been legally voting for years.” A thank you is extended to the Governor for being a voice of reason amongst the elephants in the room.
* No surprise here ~ only frustration – “A Pentagon audit of $8.2 billion in American taxpayer money spent by the United States Army on contractors in Iraq has found that almost none of the payments followed federal rules and that in some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received.” While President Bush and his Republican enablers say no to funding health insurance for children, proper care for injured veterans, or repairing our infrastructure our treasure runs down their legs like a burst bladder. The current covey of “conservatives” put on a show of tightening their belt on spending after they created a debilitating deficit that included non-existent oversight over their politically connected contractors. While our piggy bank broke the contractor pigs were allowed to feed at the trough unobstructed.
* Patching the porcine holes - The Senate passed a bill on Thursday "prohibiting federal contractors from avoiding Social Security and Medicare taxes by hiring workers through offshore shell companies. Earlier this week, the House also voted unanimously to ban the practice, used by former Halliburton subsidiary KBR and others to avoid payroll taxes for thousands of American workers in Iraq.
* Be careful what you wish for ~ Oh my God! – For many months John McCain pursued the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, an influential leader of the religious right. Although it was well-publicized that Hagee functioned on the fringe of decency and reality McCain also knew that he had no chance for the presidency without the social conservative vote. So McCain embraced the man who said: Katrina occurred because New Orleans had agreed to host a gay rights parade; the Roman Catholic Church is "the great whore" and a "false cult system"; and linked Hitler to the Catholic Church. This week it became widely publicized that a Hagee sermon in the late 1990s stated that “God sent Hitler to help the Jews get to the promised land.” An audio of the Hagee sermon can be heard at this link. On Thursday McCain was forced to throw Pastor Hagee off and under the Straight Talk Express bus.
* Be careful what you wish for ~ cleaning house – Once spring cleaning begins it tends to gather its own momentum. After tossing John Hagee into the dumpster McCain proceeded to get rid of another religious right wing icon, preacher Rod Parsley. McCain had hailed Parsley as a spiritual advisor in spite of Parsley’s exhortations “for Christians to wage a "war" against the "false religion" of Islam with the aim of destroying it. Perhaps McCain is beginning to see the light or getting religion or looking in the mirror or, like George Bush, speaking directly with God thereby eliminating the need for an intermediary.
* Be careful what you wish for ~ throwing all caution to the wind – This week it was announced that George Bush will begin campaigning on behalf of John McCain. After Hagee and Parsley’s expulsion there certainly is room on the campaign bus. On the other hand, if Bush is your lifeboat you had better sprout gills.
* Really supporting the troops ~ action versus lip service – In opposition to both President Bush and Senator McCain the Senate passed a veto proof (75 to 22) 21st Century GI Bill “which would expand educational benefits for veterans who joined the service after Sept. 11, 2001.” Overcoming Bush’s focus of money for war, not for veterans the next challenge will be funding the physical and mental care of veterans. McCain is not bashful, nor should he be, about citing his military service to our country. One would think that he would not be bashful supporting the veterans who have recently served America. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) give him a rating of D for voting against veterans' priorities so often between 2000 and 2006. A scorecard of roll call votes compiled by the Disabled American Veterans found that McCain has voted for veterans funding bills only 20 percent of the time. For example, in May 2006, he voted against an amendment providing $20 billion to the Department of Veteran Affairs' medical facilities. In April 2006, he was one of just 13 senators to vote against providing $430 million to the VA for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. War hawks Bush and Cheney used family connections and deferments respectively to avoid military service. McCain should know better.
* Memorial Day – Remembering the men and woman who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in a free society is extremely important. It is equally imperative to remember that our military should only be engaged to protect our freedom and safety, not misguided political agendas. I remember that Viet Nam was a lesson not learned. I will remember that Bush and Cheney failed our military and America with their Iraq fiasco. I will remember that Congress, overcome with 9/11 fear, did not do its due diligence. I will remember that our media abandoned its oversight leading up to the Iraq war. All of this must be remembered so that in the future lives damaged and lost will only be for the right reasons.
* “It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
Norman Schwarzkopf, retired United States Army 4 Star General