Saturday, January 20, 2007

Whither Jaromir?

The Rangers lost, 3-1, to an Atlanta Thrashers team that was not playing anywhere near their best hockey of the season. The Rangers were outmanned and lucky to lose by only two goals, as it took Atlanta's Marian Hossa three breakaways, including a penalty shot, to finally score a goal today, and even then, he had an empty net and scored off a rebound.

In watching the Rangers this week, I note a couple of things:

1) No passion. I've seen Ice Capades that featured more body contact and speedskating than the Rangers this week.

2) A bigger concern: what up with Jagr? He's been listless, trying to do too much on his own (he had a HORRIBLE stretch today where he kept trying to stickhandle into a clogged slot and kept coughing up the puck), and taking really dumb penalties. So the question has to be asked: how badly is he hurt?

I've watched Jagr for a long time now, and I know the level he can play to, and the level he's currently capable of, and he's playing to neither, which tells me he's hurting a lot worse than he's letting on.

You may recall it was about a year ago that he and Jarkko Ruutu had their run-in during the Olympics (Jagr was kneed in the helmet by Ruutu along the boards during the Finn-Czech qualifying game for the medal round). He has not been the same player since, altho he's shown flashes of brilliance at the beginning of this season.

Yes, he scored the Rangers only goal today, and yes, it was scored mostly using his brilliant stick skills, but it's obvious to me that most teams have caught something in Jagr's play this year and are forcing him to skate and stickhandle much more than usual.

3) During an intermission in the Devils' game, Stan Fischler mentioned the Philadelphia Flyers were shopping usually-injured Peter Forsberg around and had discussions with the Rangers.

One word: don't. OK, that's a contraction, but still. While Forsberg might be the answer under different circumstances (and the fact these discussions are going on indicates that jagr is indeed on shaky wheels), this is not the time to "old" the team up again. In contrast to many recent "star studded" squads, last year's Rangers team, the first to make the playoffs in 10 seasons, used an awful lot of young players, many of whom aren't even on the team anymore, and I point to the trade of Ville Nieminen last year for Useless...I mean, Sandis Ozolinsh as the turning point from being a legitimate Cup contender to barely scraping by this season.

You'd think management would take the lesson.

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Hillary's In

I'd like to say that I delayed posting this morning because I had advanced word of , which I will neither confirm nor deny, but under any circumstances, I was away this morning.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Saturday she planned to form an exploratory committee for the 2008 presidential race, the first step toward becoming a candidate for her party's nomination.
"I'm in. And I'm in to win," Clinton wrote on her Web site that reads "Hillary for President."

The second-term U.S. senator from New York and former U.S. first lady had been widely anticipated to announce her bid to become the first woman to win the U.S. presidency. She is considered a front-runner among five other candidates in the Democratic White House field.
This raises a dilemma for me, although it's not an unexpected one: Obama, Clinton, or Gore (rumours abound, despite his rather clear-yet-loophole-y-denials)?

The complaints from Democrats about Hillary seem to come under two headings: She's too polarizing, and she's too accommodating.

Um, hullo?

I think she can win. Polarizing is nothing new in Presidential candidates who've won and in fact, I can name four in the past 60 years who were more polarizing than Hil, and all won: Reagan, Bush the Younger (2004, in particular), Nixon, and Truman.

You'll notice something about all four: polarizing, yes, but they also skewed right of their parties at the time of election. Yes, three were Republicans, but you'll notice something else about the past 60 years since FDR: only once has a party held the Presidency for more than two consecutive terms, and that was only because the Democrats were dumb enough to pick the bloodless Michael Dukakis over Gary Hart, who would have wiped Bush the Elder up with a sponge with passion and vision.

And Hillary has vision in abundance.

Don't get me wrong, I love Barack Obama, and its obvious from the rhetoric from the Republicans that they are scared shitless of his candidacy: imagine trying to run against a godly black man who came up from next-to-nothing? It's like running against Martin Luther King, Jr, post-sainthood.

And Al Gore should get a chance to get re-elected, as well.

But I wouldn't count Hillary out, by any stretch. I think she's the strongest candidate the Democrats can field, and can win easily. Upstate New York is redder than most of America, including a lot of the Deep South, and she won handily in those districts.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

The Vapors - Turning Japanese

One of the great double entendre songs of all time.

Friday Kitten Blogging

*pout* He's getting so big! He doesn't even fit on my shoulder anymore!

O'Reilly On Colbert wonder Bill won't post his show's video

So someone did it FOR him!
(hat tip to SAP)

A Soon-To-Be-Superpower?

Keep in mind that we've been testing the SDI "Star Wars" program for years now and haven't had this kind of success with it:
China successfully carried out its first test of an antisatellite weapon last week, signaling its resolve to play a major role in military space activities and bringing expressions of concern from Washington and other capitals, the Bush administration said yesterday.

Only two nations — the Soviet Union and the United States — have previously destroyed spacecraft in antisatellite tests, most recently the United States in the mid-1980s.

Arms control experts called the test, in which the weapon destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite, a troubling development that could foreshadow an antisatellite arms race. Alternatively, however, some experts speculated that it could precede a diplomatic effort by China to prod the Bush administration into negotiations on a weapons ban.
It was only recently that the US conducted a successful test, tracking and hitting a missile that was fired from a distance, and it's been some twenty years since we've tried hitting a satellite in orbit (admittedly, a much easier operation).

What makes China's program so troubling, as the article goes on to point out, is that it has recently undertaken a thorough modernization program of its ballistic missile and nuclear weapon development program, in large part after the US repudiated the SALT and START agreements. Meaning China will shortly be an offensive threat to the United States, and by extension, anywhere in the world.

For them to have this capacity, to knock out our surveillance so easily, is a bit shaking. Worse, there was no advance notice (or for that matter, de facto notice). You know how paranoid this administration can be. Rightly so in this instance, I think, but pile real cause for paranoia onto an administration that is already highly suspect of any dissent from its own citizens, and you have a situation rife for misunderstanding and exaggeration.

Something Bush is known for. Which makes the world just that much more dangerous now.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rest In Peace, Good Friend

Art Buchwald died last night.:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Art Buchwald, who took humorous jabs at Washington politicians in syndicated columns for decades, has died, a close friend said Thursday. He was 81.

Buchwald died late Wednesday, said CNN anchor Kyra Phillips. Buchwald was her mentor for 18 years, and she became a close friend of the family. The unofficial cause of death, she said, was kidney failure.

She said Buchwald's son and daughter-in-law were at his side, "holding his hand. He passed away peacefully."

"In the last few weeks, he knew it was his time," she said. "He said his good-byes to everybody."
I wrote my goodbyes many months ago to this man, and you can read them here. (Hat tip to Miss C for finding the post)

Art, we hardly knew ye, and yet you were as close to a hero-writer as I've ever had.

Political Football Season Kicks Off

Bipartisanship be damned, the Republicans reach into their bag of hackneyed old tricks and have a new blocking tool:
Senate Democrats and Republicans promised bipartisanship when the new Congress convened on January 4. But that spirit turned into partisan finger-pointing over who knew best how to proceed with the bill to increase accountability and public disclosure in the legislative process.

Republicans demanded that before the Senate vote on the reform measure, it consider a proposed amendment to permit a "line item veto," which would allow a president to single out specific spending or tax provisions in bills approved by Congress and ask that lawmakers go back and delete them.
OK, quick history lesson, because I have a loyal-yet-rabid pack of neo-cons who lurk this blog and they ought to know that history didn't start ten minutes ago.

The line item veto makes sense, to a degree. To quickly go over the legislative process, Congress proposes a bill, and members have free rein to amend that bill so long as they can obtain a majority vote on the amendment's inclusion. Sometimes, this can be used for some fairly important matters that may not warrant a full committee investigation, but usually this hitch in the process is used to swap votes: I include a dam for your district so that you'll vote for my original bill on campaign reform.

The Congress then passes the bill, but look at what happened: while the President may like the bill on the whole, he (or soon, she) is forced to sign all the amendments attached.

(There's an ancillary sidelight here involving the electioneering process: no one believes John McCain supports breast cancer, for example, but a breast cancer funding amendment was attached to a bill that he did not want to vote for, so he voted "no". During the 2000 campaign, Karl Rove made it appear that McCain had voted for breast cancer.)

The line-item veto would allow the President to veto those amendments he felt were inappropriate.So, let's bring this up-to-date:
The President of the United States was briefly granted this power by the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, passed by Congress in order to control "pork barrel spending" that favors a particular region rather than the nation as a whole. The line-item veto was used 11 times to strike 82 items from the federal budget[2] [3] by President Bill Clinton.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan decided on February 12, 1998, that unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes violated the U.S. Constitution. This ruling was subsequently affirmed on June 25, 1998, by a 6-3 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Clinton v. City of New York.
In other words, true to Constitutional form, this has been considered unConstitutional. Which is the hand we were dealt, and we ought to just let it lie, barring a Constitutional amendment, which has been considered.

Every President since Reagan hasasked for this power. Only in 1996, surprisingly by a Republican Congress for a Democratic President, was it passed. And dismantled.

Congress knows this: sadly, unlike most of their orcs, they studied history, so this latest gambit smacks of cynicism. While it's not inappropriate, given the attempt to reform Capitol Hill ethics, particularly involving lobbying reform, to include a discussion of any mechanism that would forestall using the Federal government as a piggybank for highly specific beneficiaries (you ought to see how some of these "earmark" amendments are written: "Whereas to develop a new telephony technology, we hereby set aside $10 billion dollars directed towards any company created in Cupertino, CA at midnight on Dec. 31, 1976," which clearly only identifies one particular company, which I made up for this purpose), it's also very unlikely to be the first thing that any Congress could possibly look into, thus delaying or even preventing Pelosi and Reid.

It would take way too much work to describe an amendment or item in the bill that could overcome the rather firm decision rendered in Clinton v. City of New York, in which Justice Stevens pointed out that the very specific instructions written in Article One of the Constitution on the enacment of legislation, the Presentment, rule out any unilateral action on the part of the President to defeat legislation that he does not like.

Clearly, then, this is an obstructionist attempt by Republicans to maintain the status quo of taking money hand over fist from lobbyists and to recapture power at the expense of the sanctity of the Constitutional process, without actually having to record a vote against it (aside from this one vote). The defense against the all-but-certain charge of voting against reform, weak though it is ("We wanted it to be even tougher."), might sway enough voters to win some elections down the road.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Look who Bush is going to call in as an ally in Iraq!

Sure. It Ain't Genocide. No, Not At All....

“In 1997, I traveled to Iraq to deliver medicine to desperately needy civilians. In response, the U.S. government fined me $10,000. I announced I’d refuse to pay the fine….Despite widespread notions to the contrary, it was not hard to show that U.S. policies lethally targeted civilians, using famine and epidemic as tools of coercion, violating international law."
Iraq Legal Challenge: "Can the U.S. Kill Children Legally?": "In 2002, the U.S. government fined a retired American engineer, Bert Sacks, $10,000 for traveling to Iraq to bring medicines with the humanitarian groups Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and Voices in the Wilderness."

There Are Signs Of The End Times....

....if you know where to look.

For example, there's the project to launch a cross into space:
The Mission: To put a 2 inch cross in space to orbit around the world. This is made from the cross that Arthur Blessitt has been carrying around the world. He is in the Guinness Book of Records for 'the world's longest walk', now 308 nations, island groups and territories for a distance of 37,352 miles (60,099 km) This is one and one half the distance around the earth! On Foot!

Now as an extension of that walk on foot around the world a 2 inch cross made from that very cross will be put in space orbit above the earth. A cross made from the only cross carried around the world will become the first cross put in orbit around the earth! All Glory to God.
The, um, point of this miniscule cruciform?
This means that in time the cross will pass over 'the entire' earth! Every inch of it! I leave it to you to ponder the Prophetic and Biblical significance of this! For the first time the Cross and the Bible will pass directly over all the earth! All Glory to God. This is awesome and glorious. I pray that is Cross and Bible in the sky will be like a welcome banner for the return of Jesus.
You'll notice the mention of the Bible. Let me go into more depth on this:
The Holy Bible is the most read book on earth and the best seller year after year. We are including with the Cross a copy of a miniature Holy Bible on Microform! We are thrilled to include on this mission the Word of God and have it too lifted up above the earth.
2 inch cross, microfiched Bible...apparently the space heathens that have been observing and abducting us are, um, diminutive? But lest we forget that they may miss, in the vastness of near-eaarth orbit, Blessitt's message, he's thoughtfully included...
The Jesus Sticker is just something I must include on this space mission. I had printed the first Jesus stickers back in 1968 when I was the Minister of Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. Over 20,000,000 stickers have now been printed and given out around the world. They have two messages; "Turn on to Jesus" and "Smile God Loves You". They are a florescent red color. When pealed off the roll of paper they will stick on as the backside has sticky glue.
....the first space graffiti!

Next, we have the lovely We're Eating Our Own project, also known as "Rat Out A Liberal Church."
Big Brother Blows Whistle on Florida Church

Big Brother Church Watch has written to the IRS requesting an investigation of a church which has blatantly engaged in partisan politics. Here is the situation and some background.

During the last week of August, “Rev.” Al Sharpton and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe were in Florida trying to stir up resentment in the black community and motivate voter participation. They were spreading their baseless accusation that the election in 2000 was “stolen” from the Democrats. They now claim, with absolutely no evidence, that “one million black votes were not counted,” and that black voters were intimidated at the polls and denied the right to vote.

On Sunday, August 29th, these two were invited to speak at the morning worship service at the New Birth Baptist Church in North Miami. According to reports, the service had more the air of a noisy, enthusiastic campaign rally than a church service. Several Democrat state legislators were in the audience, as was U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.
Damn Floridians, always thwarting the goals of the right wing by voting why are they doing this?
Our immediate purpose is to fight back against vicious left-wing attempts to silence conservative, Bible believing pastors. Every election year, liberal groups have a field day intimidating and harassing conservative pastors into silence.
Hm. No doubt all those liberal pastors like Pastors Swank, Falwell and Robertson have some 'splaining to do to these folks.

Or....Chalcedon "College", which apparently teaches that it's OK to buy cheap goods from slave labor markets, that books about religion written by auto mechanics are a sound philosophy to base your entire life on (Jesus: Lube Job Or Overhaul?), and that, in 2007, we're still waiting for the Y2K return of Christ...Judge Roy Moore (whom you'll recall was the Alabama Judge who wanted the Ten Commandments placed on a monument in his courthouse, not realizing that there might be a slight conflict with the First Amendment) is STILL running for governor of Alabama, despite losing the election so badly that his name doesn't even appear in the results...The Christian Exodus, which seeks to, well, complete what the Rebs couldn't accomplish in 1860 but with only South long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!!!!...seceding...and of course, the ultimate Crusade website, The Institute For Theonomic Reformation, which sounds more like they've stopped trying and started making up names! The mission statement is rather interesting, however:
The Institute for Theonomic Reformation is dedicated to the restoration and application of Biblical Law and Biblical Ethics so as to faithfully encourage an explicitly Biblical Christian rule for both a national and global Theonomic culture.[....]

The Institute for Theonomic Reformation maintains the highest regard for individual liberty under God, and believes that Biblical Law should not be tyrannically forced upon any. Therefore, the ITR’s efforts are devoted to the goal that God’s Law will be freely embraced, honored and obeyed as a pattern of life everywhere and by everyone, and that national jurisprudence will return to its original Biblical foundations.

Through careful and diligent use of Christian scholarship, Biblical logic, and reason, the Institute for Theonomic Reformation strives to give the necessary persuasive arguments for cultural change. By these means the ITR diligently presses for the historic Christian claims of virtue and victory.
(emphases added)

So war is peace, good is evil, and um we won't beat you over the head with the Bible, but we will bash you in the noggin with a pillow containing the Bible, and you will conform that way! But there's more!
The weapons of the Christian are not the carnal weapons of violent revolution. The source of Christian strength and victory comes as a direct result of obedience to God’s Law. In its quest to promote this obedience, the ITR provides steadfast education, directives, and application strategies of God’s Word to every area and discipline of life. God’s Holy precepts are the weapons of the Christian Armory.
Anybody happen to catch the movie "Drop Dead Gorgeous"?
My mom gave me this 9 milimeter pistol for my 13th birthday. Yeah. I'll always remember what she put on the card. "Jesus Loves Winners". That's why I always aim to win.

Trying To Sneak One Past Us

OK, reasonably innocuous story, right? There's more Taliban violence going on in Afghanistan and we really ought to be focusing our attention there more, since that's the country that sheltered the folks who actually did us damage:
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday he would consider sending more troops to Afghanistan where U.S. commanders say they expect the Taliban to step up attacks from Pakistani sanctuaries.

Gates, in Afghanistan to ensure commanders have the resources to counter an expected Taliban offensive in the spring, said it was very important the United States and its allies did not let the success achieved in Afghanistan slip away.

Violence in Afghanistan intensified last year to its bloodiest since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

U.S. military commanders said attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan had surged, several-fold in some areas, and the violence was expected to increase in the spring and summer.
Except...on the Today Show, Sen. Hillary Clinton mentioned that as part of this surge/augmentation/escalation that the President is willfully and ignorantly committing more American troops to in Iraq, he will be switching an entire battalion from Afghanistan to Iraq! So something like 20% of the remaining US forces in Afghanistan (another 10,000 troops remain in Afghanistan as part of the NATO operation there. These troops are "advising" the Afghan army.) will be redeployed from the hunt for Osama bin Laden (indeed, that's why they aren't under NATO command) to go secure either Anbar or Baghdad in what can be best described as a temporary measure to give political cover to a Ronald-Reagan-like retreat from Iraq!

So don't go fooling us, Secretary Gates. We see through this. This "troop boost" in Afghanistan is just a way to provide fresh fodder for Iraq, as they'll stay in Afghanistan for only as long as it takes for Bush to claim he's withdrawing troops from Iraq!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Soothing Video

OK, I just needed to chill, sorry...

Medical Update

Y'know, this is really starting to get on my nerves.

I've made the rounds, these past two weeks, of Team Actor212's medical advisors: the most comprehensively qualified and trained medical staff in the world! (that my HMO will pay for)

I've seen my GP, cardiologist, who referred me to a world-famous pulmonologist. I've seen my ENT and had allergy tests done.

All I have to show for it is the following: I have four new prescriptions to take, one of which, prednisolone, I overdosed on last night through my own stupidity, and found out that the most severe allergy I have is to....feathers.

That showed up on a level 2 diagnostic. Other allergies which showed up on a level 3 diagnostic included grass, weeds, molds, pollen, dust and dust mites....and cats

Now, I've worn goose down clothing all my life, and spent much of my teen years in sleeping bags, hiking the Adirondacks, or backpacking across, wait, sorry, that was in a story I read. But I did climb mountains and ski and have down quilts in the fine hotels I stayed in while watching all this on the Travel Channel.

Too, I've had cats all my life and the only reaction I ever had was when one fell into a bath with me, and something in its fur created a case of hives. She was a feral cat frm the Catskills (natch), so it was likely poison ivy.

Dust? I live in NYC, fercrissake! How did no one spot this one before??? Mold? Hello? No one cleans anything around this city, ever! Pollens? My goodness, I live in the pollen capital of the state, what with all the crap that drifts eastward from all those farms and stuff in Jersey and Pennsylvania. Not to mention the mansion in upstate New York I own!

This is all showing up NOW????

Sheesh. Second opinion time and I have to review the qualifications of Team Actor212's medical staff, clearly.

The good news is:

1) My blood pressure and cholesterol is under control and I should be off those meds in the next six months.

2) I don't have asthma. In fact, my lung performance scores are mostly off the chart, which I chalk up to my amazing athletic career as a young man (state record holder in swimming, scouted professionally in three other sports, ran 100 in under ten seconds, 4:50 mile). Turns out I have what they call a "hyperreactive respiratory system" meaning a good gag reflex, I guess.

Anyway, I was cleared to go back to scuba once this outbreak is contained, so I'll be ready for dive season this summer.

*whew* Cuz that damned video housing cost a fortune! And at least I don't have any unexplained moles!

Why The Immigration Debate Is A Sham

An interesting study was released yesterday, which you didn't read about in the US at all:
Migrant workers sending money home has become the biggest source of foreign income in some poor European countries, the World Bank has said.

In a report on European and Central Asian (ECA) nations, the bank said that remittances sometimes beat foreign investment aid and exports in size.
This report focused on European and Central Asian countries, of course, but is applicable to the United States as well.

The article continues:
The payments are a crucial part of the economy, have served as a "cushion" against the economic and political turbulence those countries have experienced, the Bank said.

"For many of the poorest countries in the region [remittances] are the largest source of external financing," the report added.

Some of the money is sent via official transfer services while others send money with friends.
In 2005, according to the study, some $167 billion was transferred out of developed Europe to developing European and Asian countries, compared to $63 billion in official foreign aid.

Think about that for a moment, and then think about the United States. Mexico, while not necessarily a developing country per se, received about $1.2 billion in economic aid. I'd estimate something like 90% came from America. In addition, America accounts for about 85% of Mexican exports, or $182 billion. If the proportions hold true, then immigrant workers are responsible for pumping anywhere from $3 billion to $400 billion into the Mexican economy, annually. Not inconsequential to a nation with a GDP of $1 trillion.

The largest portion of this goes for food.

A better case can be made for the Dominican Republic, truly a developing nation: The US accounts for about $4 billion of the DR's $5 billion in exports, and gives roughly an additional $400 million in foreign aid. Again, holding proportions relatively constant (the US being basically the sole destination for immigrant workers out of the DR), the US probably "exports" an additional $1 billion in transfer payments.

What does all this mean? Well, without the "under the table" payments, we likely would be facing requests for additional foreign aid, and all the political baggage that goes with that. Further, these unofficial payments go directly to families in the home nation, and are spent in the home economy by these individuals and families.

Thus neatly circumventing the bureaucracy of the home government AND administrative costs of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

It sounds like a fairly efficient system for providing aid and incentive to people in poor countries. So you're not likely to see immigration reform, serious immigration reform, on any Congressional docket anytime soon. Indeed, it seems more like we should be encouraging this kind of behavior as much as possible.

Take these folks, for example (hat tip Miss Cellania)

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Peace, Freedom And Dr. Martin Luther King

It's hard to believe that its only been twenty years since the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been celebrated with a national holiday because of the obstructionism of racist Republicans like Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan (who, to his credit, did sign the bill authorizing its creation in 1983). The last county to recognize the day, Greenville County in (where else?) South Carolina, did so last year.

For all his admitted flaws, it's rare that history actually records a saint's words and his deeds. He was both human and preternaturally superhuman. His voice and vision carried an entire nation (save for the bigots) to new heights of possibility. He led a movement that still informs and shapes our national dialogue today.

Sadly, not well enough, however. And I'm not talking about racism and bigotry, although ask anyone of Arabic descent and they'll tell you I could. Or African. Or Latino. Or Jew.

No, I'm talking about doing right by doing good, and specifically, I'm speaking of the squandering of what September 11th could have meant and could have been.

We had a signal moment in history to show that we learned the lessons of Dr. King: that to live as a Christian nation meant being able to shrug off the insults and depredations of the larger world around, and move forward and unite, not divide, the planet. We could have shown what "being Christian" really meant.

Does that mean we should have "turned the other cheek" and ignored what happened? No, not at all. Although Jesus was willing to die to expose the heresies and hypocrisies of those who stood against Him (as well as for our sins), even He, I think, would have wanted to find Osama bin Laden and brought him to justice, just as Dr. King fought injustice in the United States courts, ultimately winning in the SCOTUS his case for the integration of public transport, and often resorted to justice to correct wrongdoings.

Instead, we declared war on a people who meant us no harm, and who, had we worked diplomatically and non-militarily, truly WOULD have greeted us with candies and flowers once Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It was only a matter of time, to be sure, and to be even surer, was probably going to happen sooner rather than later.

The consequences of what we triggered, the ticking time bomb, are obvious now: Through our belligerence, we took a fairly unstable region of the world, and tossed it decidedly into the destabilized column. We called Saddam's bluff about WMDs, and opened the door for Iran to begin development of their nukes. By taking Hussein out of the picture, we forced Syria to protect their Ba'ath and Sunni neighbors in Iraq who make up a minority of the Iraqi population, and also probably sped up their aggressions against Israel. We've given the Kurds an opening to take a more aggressive stance against Turkey (should they decide to do so, not a guarantee, however, we have given the the northern oil fields, to be sure) and vice versa by retiring their vigilance against Hussein.

And we've created this giant "steal the bacon" playing field in Iraq, a game that is not going to end either quickly or bloodlessly.

How much better would the world have been had we stopped, thought, and moved in the direction of peace with justice? We had Hussein contained and secured behind our "No Fly" zones. He continued to pose the threat he had against Iran, thus freezing development of more terrifying weapons (too, had Iran decided to develop nukes anyway, we could have had much more authority to cut a deal with them than we do now, ceding our higher ground and moral authority to the Russians and Chinese, neither of which has as much at stake in keeping nukes out of Iran's hands as we do). We would only have had to show the Trade Center falling to remind people of what's at stake. And we could still have pursued Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and perhaps that would have been Bush's great legacy as a statesman, that we would have focused our "democracy building" efforts there, and been more likely to succeed because no one could deny our right to be there.

Whereas now, even that operation is looked at askance. Where even now, warlords in the hills in and near Pakistan hide bin Laden from our troops and our efforts to bring him in to justice (such as American justice has now become, what with the Patriot Act and Gitmo and the sham of a trial Hussein received at our beck-and-call...not saying he was innocent, but a Hague trial would have made a lot more sense to me).

We blew an enormous opportunity after September 11 to deal with the real threats of the world, Kim Jong Il and global warming and the imminent water crisis and Darfur, all for the sake of....what?

No one has ever really clearly defined why we staked, as the Founders said, "our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" on such an unworthy campaign. No one, I suspect, ever really will. It will remain a black mark on American history forever.

I suspect that on this, his 77th birthday, Dr. King looks down with tears in his eyes.