Sunday, April 29, 2007

Odd Technology

We have a small portable DVD player. Little bitty thing, smaller than a laptop computer. It works well, but the screen has to be in exactly the right position to be seen clearly, and if you're more than about two feet away, you won't be able to see anything. But the thing that gets me is that all the controls that mean anything are on a remote control that's about the size of a credit card. So my question is, if you can't see the screen if you're more than two feet away, why in hell do you need a remote control??

George Tenet

George Tenet, the former head of the CIA, has a new book coming out, and he's making the rounds of the talk shows to plug it. Tonight he was on 60 Minutes. As a retired Navy cryptologist, I'm very interested in things like that and made it a point to watch.

Tenet made a very passionate case that the CIA was wrongly accused of producing inaccurate intelligence that led to the current war. He made a strong case that war with Iraq was in the planning stages since at least Sept 12, 2001, and that the Bush administration (not Bush himself, evidently) used him as a scapegoat when their war started going wrong. Tenet was pretty convincing.

But there's another side of the story. CNN has published a letter that was written and signed by six former CIA officials that takes Tenet to task for the inaccuracies in his book. Specifically:
- Tenet was "a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war";
- Tenet signed a National Intelligence Estimate (this is the Big Thing: an official pronouncement of the best thinking in the entire national intelligence system) that was in line with groundless statements by Dick Cheney and at odds with existing CIA intelligence;
- Tenet testified before Congress that Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaeda even though the CIA had hard evidence that they didn't;
- Tenet helped the Administration bully analysts into saying the things that supported the Administration's preconceived ideas;
- And a lot more. Most entertainingly, it calls Tenet "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community--a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality."

You can read the full text of the letter here. It's well worth the time.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Politics of Iraq

This week, the media has been all abuzz about the supplemental spending bill that funds the Iraq war but sets a timeline for pulling out, and Bush's promise to veto it. Actually, I think both sides are on the wrong track.

First, Congress should not set in stone a withdrawal date, particularly since it just unanimously confirmed General Petraeus to go clean the place up. The General is a smart man and a straight shooter (unlike the Republican administration in general). The troops he's getting aren't all there yet, and he's right to ask for time to do the job. When he says he'll know by mid August whether the buildup is working or not, and will tell Congress his views regardless of political pressures, I believe him. If the Dems are really serious about this, they wouldn't set a withdrawal timeline until after General Petraeus says that the buildup isn't working.

But no, the Democratic leadership is hell-bent on pulling out, regardless. Actually, Congress under the Democrats is no better at passing clean laws than Congress under the Republicans. The Dems promised to clean up the pork, but this bill is just loaded with it. Oink, oink: the sound a Senator or Congressman makes, regardless of political affiliation.

On the other side, we have a chickenshit chickenhawk for President. Here's a guy who skipped out on his own military service, surrounded by lots of other guys who skipped out on THEIR military service, who has no problem whatsoever in sending our young men and women off to be killed or hideously maimed in a really stupid stupid stupid war. When he says he "carefully considered" whether to invade Iraq, he's lying through his teeth. The bastard knew long before he was even elected that he would invade Iraq, he was just looking for some kind of excuse. He didn't need, and didn't want, any evidence one way or the other. This draft dodger still talks about "victory" in Iraq, even though even General Petraeus acknowledges that we can't "win" this war. It's not our decision. We "won" the military conflict by defeating the Iraqi army. Everything since then is a civil war and we can't impose our will by military force. All we can do is give the corrupt Iraqi government some time to get their collective act together and start acting like a government. If they don't step up to the plate, we can't "win" Bush's war even if we had a million troops in country.

Don't even get me started on Cheney.

So why do I still support the buildup? The "Pottery Barn" rule: we broke it, we should try to fix it. There is still a tiny chance that the incompetent crooks in the Iraqi government might start acting like statesmen instead of a cabal of organized crime families. So I say, give 'em till the middle of August. If they aren't seriously doing their job by then, pull our troops out as fast as humanly possible. And none of this "gradual redeployment" bullshit, either. We're in, or we're out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


So, yes, I'm a grandfather now, and yes, I have a collection of about 80 photos from the tyke's first week on earth. Most will sit in the photo folder and be coo'd over by Janis. This one, though, I had to share. (The photo is by the mom, Julie Kane, so if you're going to copy it and use it somewhere else, please give her the photo credit!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Painting

I've finished a new painting. This one is titled "The Soccer Game" (oil on canvas, 24" x 30"). It's based on my experiences in Sarajevo in 1996. I saw kids resuming their lives as kids, playing soccer and other games, in the shadow of buildings destroyed in the fighting. It's my homage to kids who are caught in the middle of wars everywhere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

We're Grandparents!

Jackson Charles Kane (aka "Jacks") was born tonight just after 9 pm EST. He weighed in at 8 lbs 13 oz. His daddy had the cell phone on, so Janis and I got to hear his first cry. He's got a good set of lungs, too! And with the miracles of modern camera cell phones, this photo was taken just moments after his arrival, transmitted across the country, forwarded to our home computer, then uploaded to a server in God knows where, so everybody in the world can share in the miracle!

Jacks already has a large selection of stuffed animals to cuddle up to, courtesy Janis (aka "Granny Ro". Something tells me his collection is going to grow in the very near future ...
I never had kids of my own, so I'm jumping straight into grandpappyhood. It's quite the thrill.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hypocrisy and the Imus Scandal

Don Imus got fired yesterday for his racist and stupid comments on the Rutgers womens' basketball team. After a week or so of his groveling before the whole world, CBS dumped him.

Frankly, I'm pissed off. I never liked Imus and think shows like his are stupid. But when you spend several hours every day talking unscripted before a huge audience, and your job is to push the envelope, sometimes you're going to step over the line. Imus certainly did in this case. And he did the right thing: he immediately and profusely apologized. Today the Rutgers team accepted his apology. CBS and NBC had previously announced a two-week suspension. Sounds like the case should be closed.

But NOOOOO!! The "Reverend" Al Sharpton and the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson raised holy hell. These two guys behaved in a totally un-Christianlike manner. Whatever happened to the concept of forgiveness? Instead of acting according to their alleged faith, they acted more like wolves on the scent of blood. They literally hounded the networks into firing Imus. Seemed like every time I turned on the news, there were Sharpton and Jackson, solemnly making statements about how offensive it all was.

Just a few minutes ago, I came out of the post office. There was a black guy in a car on the street playing some rap music on his stereo. The windows were literally rattling for yards around (scared the hell out of my dogs, too) while every other word out of the performer's mouth was "niggah", "bitch", and "ho". THAT is offensive, my friends. I don't want to listen to crap like that, and Imus can lose his job for using terms like those, but rappers get rich off the same damn words.

So Jesse and Al, where the hell is your solemn anger over the offensiveness of black rap music? If it's offensive for Imus to use those terms, it's offensive for rappers, too. "Niggah" is "niggah", I don't care whose mouth it comes out of. And if you say otherwise, you're a bald-faced lying hypocrite.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Priorities in the News?

For the past couple of days, it seems like all I hear from the news channels are stories about (1) Anna Nicole Smith and (2) Don Imus. This is ridiculous! Is a bimbo with big tits, no brain, and loose morals, and a shock jock who said (gasp) something shocking really more important than Iraq, Iran, Darfur, or global warming? Apparently so. I took the dogs for a walk this morning, and when I left, CNN was talking about Anna Nicole. When I came back 20 minutes later, CNN was talking about (you guessed it) Anna Nicole. The next story was Don Imus. The next sound was a "click" as I turned the TV off ... it was better than throwing a brick through the screen, at any rate.

I thought news channels were for news. If I wanted the dirt on celebrities, I'd watch E! or read People or something.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Children of Men

We watched the movie "Children of Men" this past weekend. It was a supremely powerful movie. There was a lot that we missed, though, so on Sunday I watched it again. This time I caught a lot of things that had blown by me the first time, and everything hung together. In fact, I thought it was even more powerful the second time around.

"Children of Men" is an apocalyptic movie set in 2027. All women on earth have been sterile for about 18 years, and nobody knows why. Civilization has collapsed everywhere, with only Britain still maintaining the facade. A man in London is thrust against his will into helping a refugee woman escape to something called the "Human Project" ... nobody really knows what it is, except that it's something far off, mysterious, and the only hope. As it turns out, this refugee woman is pregnant - the first pregnancy in almost two decades. The two are caught between the government and a rebel force, both of which would use the pregnancy for their own ends.

"Children of Men" is exceptionally well made, beautifully shot, powerfully scripted, and extremely intense. It was well worth two viewings this past weekend and I'd see it again in a heartbeat.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

If It's April, It Must Be ... Snowing?

Just a few days ago, we were having record high temperatures. I was grumbling that I'd have to spend all day Saturday (today) mowing the lawn. Yessir, that's the way it was just a few days ago.
Woke up this morning to almost 3" of snow on the ground.
Guess I don't need to mow the lawn today.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pelosi's Visit to Syria

It's a sad state of affairs when the Speaker of the House is doing more to promote peace in the Middle East than the President is. Nancy Pelosi is doing what the Bush administration should've done years ago: open a dialogue with Syria. As Lee Hamilton noted, if you've got a problem with somebody, you talk with them and try to find a solution. No talk, no solution.

Actually, Bush is "all talk, no solution". But that's because he's only talking to his right-wing base, not to anybody who really matters.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Dogs Are Smart

Yesterday, I was down in Hendersonville. I was in the gallery talking to the owner, while my two dogs kept watch over the place. My dogs are little Shih Tzu's. They're sweet little girls, but they normally don't like other dogs at all. Right outside the gallery, however, there was a German Shepard. It was sitting by the bench while its owner was playing a guitar and singing. For some reason, my two dogs were perfectly cool with this. They just sat there and looked out the window and completely ignored the German Shepard.

But when a Fox News van drove by, they went nuts! They did not like it, and they wanted it gone, NOW!

So, evidently, my dogs are smarter than several million supposedly intelligent Americans. Good on 'em!