Why Cunningham Is Far Worse Than Moran

I’ve been pissed off for a while at the general level of corruption in national politics, and have spent much of my energy bashing my fellow Democrats for not cleaning up their act, because that would leave the GOP so damn vulnerable.

But for all my disgust at John “MBNA” Moran (D-VA and several large banks), there’s something especially sordid about Duke Cunningham’s betrayal of his fellow members of the military.

Because there’s just no other word for systematically subverting the military procurement process for cash.

Do you really believe that the soldiers who depend on whatever the hell it is that MZM and ADCS make got the best that could be bought?

And don’t you think there’s a special place in hell for an ex-military hero who sold out today’s soldiers for a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe?

[Update: Added link.]

The L.A. Times and the Military – Again

In the long and storied tradition of newspaper arts writers who decide to let their true flag fly, the L.A. Times Calendar section today leads with a snide review of an Army recruiting film:

Camouflage cool

* Army’s filled with the spirit of giving: watches, saxophones, stints in Iraq….

By Carina Chocano, Times Staff Writer

The review opens with:

How awesome is the Army? You really have no idea until you send away for the “Stand Ready: Being a Soldier in the Army Reserve” DVD, as advertised on MTV. Because “learning more” is usually not enough incentive to get the kids on the phone — especially the kinds of kids who sit around watching MTV all the time — the Army was throwing in a free camo hat, the way Sports Illustrated might offer a free sneaker phone with your subscription, to sweeten the deal, if you call now.

I called then. Actually, I went to the Go Army! website and filled out an online form. Three e-mail requests; a brief but terrifying phone conversation with a recruiter; and six to eight weeks of anticipation, then patience, then the total loss of hope later, the DVD arrived. There was no hat in the package — the gift had been upgraded to a sports watch. Does that sound weird? Well, watch the DVD and learn — the Army is all about giving.

and continues with:

Produced by Leo Burnett USA, whose Army contracts totaled about $350 million this year, and directed by Hank Vincent of Avalon Films, “Stand Ready: Be a Soldier in the Army Reserve” opens on a video loop of super-macho, sepia-toned, high-contrast images of modern soldiering. A square-jawed soldier glistens in profile, a chopper flies low overhead, a soldier in a helmet raises a flag. It’s very retro, very now. And that’s just the menu screen.

“We are the men and women of the Army Reserve,” a deep voice intones, as a series of Rockwellian tableaux vivants flashes in front of your eyes to some extremely heartfelt John Mellencamp-ish acoustic strumming. “We live in big cities and small towns. We are regular people who have taken an oath.” The soldiers stand proudly amid the kind of real estate beloved by the makers of breakfast-cereal commercials. The burnished, bucolic beauty — so clean, calm, old-fashioned, benign — is almost unbearable. Ain’t that America?

and then closes with:

The brief, almost incidental allusions to Iraq come later, in the segment on world travel and learning about other cultures.

“When you get deployed, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in the Middle East or Iraq. There are opportunities to make a difference wherever you go.” Be it in Thailand building a schoolhouse, Alaska building a road, the Army lets you “see the sights” and “enjoy the culture” of places as diverse as Australia, Germany, Spain, China, Japan, Malaysia and Amsterdam!

“Tell them about Germany,” the saxophonist says. “Germany was the best time I’ve ever spent in my life.”

Germany, of course, is the home of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which has treated nearly 10,000 soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. And it would seem like a great time, after all that difference-making.

Maybe I’m oversensitive after reading so much about the “vigils” Code Pink is holding to tell out wounded soldiers that they have been injured for nothing, or lies, or oil, and so over-reacting to their use as an antimilitary punch line.

Maybe I’ve just gotten fed up with an entertainment industry that is reflexively anti-American interests (in the spirit of cosmopolitanism, of course) and that belittles “red state values” reflexively while having none of its own.

Or maybe it’s just fatigue at seeing the Times slowly wash away the respect that I held for it for much of my life.

There are all kinds of discussions and debates to have about Iraq and the war, our policies, terrorism, our military and how it recruits, treats its soldiers, and treats its opponents.

what I think I’m mostly tired of is people who won’t have a stand-up debate or argument about those issues and aren’t adult enough to avoid self-satisfied efforts to slide conclusions onto the table while claiming they aren’t.

After all, they’re just reviewing a video.

I’ll be writing a letter, which I’ll post here. You may wish to write your own.

carina.chocano@latimes.com wrote the article.

alice.short@latimes edits the daily Calendar section.

Turkey Chili

[As a public service, bumped this forward from last year…Happy Thanksgiving!! A.L.]

OK, Joe wants to know what to do with all the leftover turkey. Variants on this recipe (hey, I’m not giving away all my secrets) have won three (out of four entered) chili cookoffs over the last ten years.
12 cups turkey chunks (leftovers, stripped off the carcass; leave off membrane/tendon where possible)
2 large yellow onions
3 heads of garlic
2 packages Carroll Shelby chili mix
2 27oz cans of red kidney beans
1 27 oz can pinto beans
1/2 cup canola oil
3 8oz bottles of beer (I use Henry Weinhardt, but any sub-premium beer would do)
1/4 cup tequila
4 oz Mexican chocolate
4 tbsp Chinese chili-garlic paste
approx 1/4 cup masa harina
1/4 lb turkey (or real) bacon
salt to taste

Strip the carcass, pile the chunks on a cutting board, chop them into 1″ cubes and put them aside.

Coarsely chop the onion and garlic.

Chop turkey (or real) bacon into 1/2″ strips. Saute in a large stockpot until partially cooked.

Add about 1/8 cup of oil, add onions and garlic, cook until soft – but not translucent.

Add turkey, stir and cook for approx 10 minutes over very low heat (just above simmer).

Add remainder of oil, add chili mix (reserve masa in mix as well as salt). Stir and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Add chili-garlic sauce to taste.

Add enough beer to cover meat. Lower temp to simmer and let cook for 2 hours.

Remove from heat, let it cool, and refrigerate overnight.

Put pot back on stove at simmer, heat until simmering. It’s helpful here to have a diffuser (metal plate that goes under the pot) if you have a gas range.

Add drained beans (drain liquid in can before adding them to the mix).

Add mexican chocolate and tequila. Stir until chocolate is melted.

Add salt to taste.

Cook for 2 – 3 hours, until the liquid is almost cooked off and what remains is thick.

Add masa harina. Cook for 2 hours.

Season to taste, using cayenne for heat, brown sugar and masa harina to temper the heat if too hot.

Somehow the two-stage cooking process is key to making this work. Somehow the flavors meld much better in the fridge.

Make some cornbread and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day for family and friends; I’m about to start helping cook for my family (we’re eating at my brother’s house), and since many of my friends are here at this site (some of whom agree with me and some of whom knock me on the head regularly), I thought I’d take a moment and wish you all a wonderful day, close to those you love, and with a spirit of gratitude for all that we share.

To those here in town who can’t be home on Thanksgiving – from those who save lives to those who check groceries – each of us ought to send our appreciation.

And finally, to those who can’t be home for Thanksgiving because you are wearing uniforms and walking through dangerous places with funny names, please know that I’m deeply thankful for you and for your service.

I’ll be offline until Sunday night – we’re headed to the mountains with some friends tomorrow early – but will find my recipe for turkey chili and get it posted today, if I can.

Best wishes to all, and I’m very grateful to be part of the push and pull that takes place here and elsewhere in the blogs.

Time to turn off the computer!

OK, Firing Scheer Must Have Been The Right Thing To Do

From a letter to the editor in today’s L.A. Times:

The greater Southern California community is one that not only proudly embraces its diversity, but demands it. Your decision to fire Robert Scheer is a great disservice to the spirit of our community.

It seems that your new leadership, especially Publisher Jeff Johnson, is entirely out of touch with your readers and their desire to be exposed to views that stretch them beyond their own paradigms. So although the number of contributors to your Op-Ed pages may have increased, in firing Scheer and hiring columnists such as Jonah Goldberg, the gamut of voices has undeniably been diluted. I suspect this may ultimately decrease the number of readers of those same pages.

My greatest fear is that the underlying reason for Scheer’s termination is part of a larger trend toward the corporatization of our media, a trend that we, as American citizens, must fervently battle for the sake of our swiftly diminishing free press.

It’s signed by that freedom-loving American, Barbara Streisand.

OK, I guess I’m glad he’s gone, then. (Actually, I was quite pleased to see him go. It wasn’t just that I’m on the opposite side of some issues, but that I could mentally write his entire column with a high degree of accuracy once I noted the subject. We could have a cgi script that would generate more interesting and unpredictable commentary.)

Losing Scheer and Streisand both would be an immense boon to the Left and the chances for the Democratic Party.

Polls, Politics, And Bare Knuckles

There’s a great line in ‘Enter The Dragon’ where Bruce Lee, at the island martial arts tournament that figures in the film, is preparing to fight the big, scarred, violent-looking martial artist (Bob Wall) who killed his sister.

Wall tosses a board up in the air, and shatters it midair with a blow.

Lee looks at him, smiles slightly, and says: “Boards don’t hit back” and then proceeds to do a martial arts clinic on Wall’s body.

I actually got to use a line like that once…

Looking over at Atrios’ site today, I notice him rhapsodizing about this map, over on Daily Kos – showing the depth and geographic spread of national disapproval of President Bush.

The first thought I had when I saw it was “Polls don’t pass laws.
Yes, Bush and his administration are struggling with their popularity. But the Republican Party is likely to survive the mid-term elections with control of Congress (thanks in no small part to gerrymandering), and it is likely that the GOP will continue to control the apparatus of power until 2008.

Now polls do matter – just as breaking boards in midair matters in demonstrating martial arts expertise.

But the problem with approval/disapproval polls is that they don’t factor well for people like me – who didn’t approve much of what Bush had done in 2004, but when looking at who he was running against, approved even less.

As an example, Kaus points us at some recent California polls (where the Governator is doing about as badly as Bush in the polls) for two of his possible rivals –

They don’t like you! They really don’t like you! Warren Beatty and Rob Reiner aren’t nearly as popular as their backers thought they were, according to the latest Field Poll. Beatty’s rating is 40% unfavorable/27% favorable–among Democrats! Yikes. .. Reiner is at least more popular than unpopular within his own party, but overall his unfavorables outweigh his favorables among independents (34/24) and overall (41/25). …

So I keep bringing it home to two simple points:

# I’m not so convinced that “Not Bush” is a winning campaign strategy; can we possibly come up with some better ones?

# And I’m absolutely convinced that if we could win an election with this, it’d be a recipe for disaster as a strategy for governing.

Update: Actually, there’s a great article in the Bee by Dan Walters that amplifies Mickey’s point, and extends it to the Governor’s other two Democratic challengers, Phil Angelides and Steve Wesley:

And actor-directors Rob Reiner and Warren Beatty, who have been politically active of late and have been the subject of much speculation as potential Democratic challengers to Schwarzenegger, are also well-known, with roughly two-thirds of those surveyed holding opinions about them. But their images, if anything, are less favorable than Schwarzenegger’s with just 25 percent being positively disposed toward Reiner and 16 percent toward Beatty.

Angelides and the other Democrat who’s publicly announced for the governorship, Controller Steve Westly, generate name-identification levels at half, or less, of those held by Reiner and Beatty and positive ratings equally as low – substantially lower than Schwarzenegger’s. Just 23 percent of voters hold a positive opinion of Angelides and 18 percent of Westly.

As I said before…”polls don’t pass laws.”

Leadership And Legitimacy

This morning, I was just taking a break from some meetings and finally catching up on the news; I look at the date and realize that it is November 22.

If you’re of my generation (born in ’53) or older, that date is a pretty powerful one; today is the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In a certain sense, his brief (and really not terribly effective) presidency marks the apogee of post-war American confidence. We may have been worried that the Russians might nuke us, but somehow we were filled with a kind of optimism that we could make it though, and not only make it through, but make it better.

I attribute no small part of that to the systemic collapse of leadership – both in the quality of being able to lead, and of being able to be led – in our society.neo-neocon sent me a link to her recent post on leadership, which was a good read. I’ve felt for a while that the old balance between erecting statues of leaders and pulling them down has been upset somehow in our day.

Personally, I blame celebrity (then again, I blame celebrity for everything). We balance out view of others with positive and negative opinions. My belief is that the positive – which once was held by a respect for or awe of leaders – has been replaced by the simple handwarming over the glow of celebrity, which is much more ephemeral and which we know means less.

Here I’ll also suggest that we go to Habermas’ ‘Legitimation Crisis‘ – Damn!! Now I need to go reread it! – to talk about how Western, Enlightenment society consumes the social structures which create and sustain legitimacy.

I’ll suggest that Kennedy was the last political ‘leader’ we’ve known in America. His legacy – realized and unrealized – is something we’re living with today. I believe that until Democrats can work through that legacy, we will be like Bill Clinton, emulating the form of his behavior without ever capturing the substance.

And more, I think that we need to revisit and think hard about why it is that we expect our society to function when we entrust the levers of power to people more worried about being torn down than about accomplishing anything.

No End But Victory. OK, What’s Victory?

Just got an email from my Representative in Congress, Jane Harman:

Subject: Needed: A strategy for an exit from Iraq

Here’s the email I just sent her office in response:

Dear Rep. Harman:

I just received your email titled “Needed: A strategy for an exit from Iraq.”

I’m disappointed that you’d choose to frame this serious issue in such a thoughtless way. The very phrasing of the question suggests your priority: bring the troops home safely. Sadly, the only way to keep our troops safe is not to use them, and to withdraw from the conflicts spanning the globe – conflicts which have already touched our shores, and which risk not only our security but that of our allies as well.

Here’s an alternative phrasing which meets the same goal – Subject: Defining victory in Iraq. How do we know we’ve won?

There’s a very legitimate set of discussions to have around this issue, and one which I’ve publicly criticized the Administration for not leading. You have the opportunity to lead where they have failed – but not if your leadership is focused entirely on how to get out quickly with minimal loss of life and face.

Instead, if we have some concrete goals, we can have the simplest exit strategy of all: victory.

Pajamas Media/OSM

Like most of the blogosphere, I’ve followed the problems Pajamas/OSM has had during their launch. I’ve made some concrete suggestions directly to them where I hope they may do some good, because I’d very much like them to succeed – a rising tide will lift all blogs, as they say. I believe that bloggers who are rooting for their demise are making a mistake, and that their failure – like the failure of any blogger or blogger-backed venture – would hurt us all.

Because I’ve been directly named in this, I think I need make some kind of simple statement about this whole sheebang.First, I was involved in the founding of Pajamas, as readers here will know. I left when it became clear to me that the business strategy I was interested in – providing technical, financial, and marketing ‘plumbing’ and making it available widely to blogs in what Jeff Jarvis would call an effort “to use tags and microformats and social interaction to link together the topics and opinions and information people care about on that distributed web” of blogs – wasn’t the strategy that the other two founders, Roger and Charles, and their investor were interested in pursuing, and that their strategy didn’t make me passionate either. My feeling then as now was that they were better off as a smaller group in close agreement as to their goals, and they deserved an opportunity to implement their business strategy as they saw it, which I believe they are doing.

We parted amicably, if sadly, in my case. Under the spirit and letter of our agreement, that’s about all I’ll have to say on the subject.

I’ve still got a bunch of ideas and some designs and relationships in this space that I’d love to play with, and would love to connect with some other entrepreneurial, engaged folks who have some interest in this stuff. Drop a line at the address above, or leave a comment.

I’ve got a few posts in the queue expanding some thoughts on these issues (the open/edge web vs. the closed/core web) and will try and get them out over the next few days (unless I fly to Oregon to pick up a new motorcycle).

We’ll now return you to regular blogging.