Saturday, August 21, 2004

I know the energy independence lecture in my last entry is pretty much of a pipe dream in American politics. So if you’ve still got Swift Boat mania, put it to rest with today’s SWIFT BOAT UPDATE in Political Animal. Drum references someone who was actually there…William Rood of the Chicago Tribune.

Or better yet, check out the documentary “Be Good, Smile Pretty,” by the daughter of the captain of the third Swift Boat in Kerry’s attack, Lt. Donald Glenn Droz. Tracy Droz Tragos film has been reviewed this way:

"BE GOOD, SMILE PRETTY is simultaneously a woman's search for her father and a powerful statement against war. One cannot watch it without wishing that Tracy Tragos' quest had never been necessary, and that all the young men who go off to war would come home to the little girls who wait."
- Al Martinez, The Los Angeles Times

Maybe get a taste of what today’s war will leave for the children of tomorrow.

With oil prices rising again, perhaps we can take a break from examining the candidates war records in Vietnam for a moment to consider energy independence.

With respect to this issue, one candidate prefers scarring the Alaskan tundra and holding the Middle Eastern desert by force to provide us with adequate fuel for our future. The other has proposed a plethora of new sources and technology investments to wean the US of foreign oil. Neither one dares to use the “T” word (not that Bush wants to anyway) to realistically address the problem, since that stance, they both believe, would mean certain defeat.

Politics or not, gasoline is much cheaper in the US than anywhere in the developed world because the price doesn’t include the cost to clean the air it pollutes. While Kerry has disavowed his one-time dalliance with a 50 cent per gallon gasoline tax, it’s that kind of initiative that is ultimately necessary if we are to stop fighting for oil. Imagine the growth of fuel cell technology, electric power storage advances, and other vehicle changes we’d see if there were a real push to power our transportation in a more sustainable way.

If you’d care to listen to how an entire nation is working to kick the gasoline habit, check out “Living on Earth” radio special on hydrogen cells.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Well, welcome home to the States, where the carnage in Iraq is being pushed off the front pages by really important news. I see that the Times has now jumped into the Vietnam War's backstory. We can only hope that within a few decades it'll catch up with the Iraq War.

Hard to say if Kerry taking on the not-so Swift vets will ultimately prove to be a mistake, but here we are, right back where Rove hoped to be, fighting the Vietnam era counterculture war again, instead of taking on the present day. The Swift vets ties to the Republican Party in Texas, as outlined here weeks ago, are clear. But whether the public will want to dig into that aspect of the story, or just relish in the trashing of Kerry's service record remains to be seen.

I'm just glad to be home where we care about real current issues in our public life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Well, you don’t have to take it secondhand from me, but when I’ve had discussions beyond business here in Europe, one thing is clear: America has squandered the goodwill of many of our European friends. I know, I know, you’ll say they’ve always had disdain for us. I suppose you’d be right to some extent. But since the invasion of Iraq, I sense a much more visceral anger among many.

Even the British? Yes, from my conversations especially the Brits I think, because they feel they’ve been dragged into this thing alongside us by a hugely unpopular decision at the top of Labour. The opinion seems to be that Americans have swallowed a whole line of paranoia and misdirected swagger employed by our leaders and made a huge mess of the world and the Middle East instead of taking care of business in Afghanistan.

The British have just charged 8 in the Qaeda cell active there, including Issa al-Hindi , a senior operative. They remain active in the war against Al Qaeda, but are much more incredulous about America’s commitment to working with them intelligently to stem the tide of Islamic religious terror. In both my trips abroad to Europe since the Iraq war heated up, my British colleagues have been much more generally angry with Americans than I ever experienced. It used to be that you’d laugh with them about the oddities of our government. Now they can’t believe we haven’t taken to the streets against it.

If you think, we just wait till we get rid of Bush, they'll see, think again. This thing runs deeper, I believe. The US has some serious work ahead to repair the damage that’s been done to our stature in the world and it’s not yet clear to our allies that the Democrats are up to the job either. While playing possum with Bush about the vote to authorize the war in Iraq, Kerry may help himself in the upcoming election (although I still contend he doesn’t), but he’s convincing the world that neither Party in the US cares about the havoc in Iraq and what havoc generally may follow from it.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Once again, as a blogger I must say to Political Animal Kevin Drum, "I am not worthy...," or in this case, I am not Californian (I can almost hear the Gov. say it-- 'Ca-li-for-ni-aaaan') for recognizing the import of the LA Times column by Sam Harris , in which he points out precisely the problem with the "War on Terror." It's become a religious and undifferentiated war on all groups using guerilla tactics, when it should be about fighting precisely the kind of nut-case fundamentalism of Al Queda's that some domestic FOB (Friends of Bush) also sadly employ.

Harris makes the case that our Administration and to some extent, our country, has become a laughing stock in many parts of the world where we should have natural allies in the war on Al Queda. He points out, frighteningly enough, "There are now more people in our country who believe that the universe was created in six solar days than there were in Europe in the 14th century. In the eyes of most of the civilized world, the United States is now a rogue power — imperialist, inarticulate and retrograde in its religiosity. Our erstwhile allies are right not to trust our judgment. We elect leaders who squander time and money on issues like gay marriage, Janet Jackson's anatomy, Howard Stern's obscenities, marijuana use and a dozen other trifles lying at the heart of the Christian social agenda, while potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation and climate change go unresolved.

We elected a president" Harris claims, "who believes the jury is still out on evolution and who rejects sound, scientific judgments on the environment, on medical research, on family planning and on HIV/AIDS prevention in the developing world."

I take issue with the concept that we elected this guy, though...

Financial Times Washington bureau chief James Harding expresses a foreign perspective on the consequences of the upcoming US election. He comments with a perspective only a non-American can have about the need to understand the limits of force as well as the absurd way that Vietnam has become part of the campaign on both sides, even while the country has moved past a Vietnam mentality.

I think Kerry has no choice but to advertise his Vietnam service as an inoculation against the “sensitive" and "soft” moniker the rabid Bush/Cheney campaign will continue to hang on him as well as the smear campaign being run by the 527’s behind “Unfit for Service,” the book following up on the Swiftvets commercials (You've seen the commercial, now read the screed...).

You knew this campaign would be about slinging the dirt, right?

On another note, I’m here in Zurich, heading to Florence next when I look up and see an Al Queda website has put out a hit on all Italy (yes all of Italy-they’re quite bold!). For Chrissake, I can’t get away from this stuff… you leave New York and then feel right back at home. I gotta say though, I’d really hate to take one for Berlusconi.

Frankly, I’d rather be attacked at home.

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