Dov Hikind's Masquerade

 

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

A Question

Which is Buffalo and WNY’s bigger problem?

The poor quality of substantive policy decisions, or the process and its utter lack of meaningful merit or transparency? Or is it simply that the process is the direct and intended result of poor policy, thus making the whole thing an interconnected, overcomplicated mess that help keeps government acts and omissions from adequate public review and scrutiny? 

 

US Sequestrian Team

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Pressure Conference

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Leaving and Coming Home Again

I was out of town for a week visiting London, and neither know nor care what may or may not be happening in WNY politics, much less general American politics. So, instead, just a few logistical observations: 

1. The HAILO app that works in New York, Boston, and Toronto, is fantastic.  It tells you how long you’ll have to wait to hail a cab to your location, tells you when the cab is coming and sends you a receipt. You can pay by credit card with an automatic tip precalculated. Check out the screenshot, which identifies the driver who’s coming, and see how the license plate given matches up with the car that pulled up. I was impressed. You can tell the driver via the app where you’re headed, and when it’s particularly busy, the app gives you the option of letting prospective drivers know that the fare will exceed a certain threshold, bringing a quicker response time. The driver was great. 

 

2. One of the secrets of traveling with little kids is to just let stuff go. Didn’t make it in time for a parade? Go somewhere else. Also – put limits on museums. Two hours max is plenty, and be choosy about what you see. Get a map, select what you like (say, 15th – 17th century Flanders art) and go see it, then leave. Take the kids for ice cream or something. We found that the kids actually enjoyed and didn’t complain about the museums, ice cream notwithstanding. We went to one museum 1 1/2 hours before it closed, so we were forced to keep it short, but learned it was one of the best of the bunch. Another museum was a bit disappointing, so we just left after about an hour. Be flexible, and check your coats; museums suck when you’re too warm. Also, if you go to foodie paradise like Borough Market and it’s 34 degrees out and windy, you don’t eat street food outside while standing up, after 2 hours at the Tate Modern. You find a little Italian place, warm up, sit down, and have pizza and pasta. 

3. Bus vs. Subway – subway bypasses traffic, so it gets you places quickly. However, you see nothing. Bus may be slower, but you see things. Also, kids love the upstairs of double-deckers.  We used buses maybe 85% of the time we were commuting. 

4. From London, we did a day trip to Canterbury to see the historic cathedral of Thomas Becket and Chaucer. It was something of a counterpoint to seeing Chartres two years ago. The cathedral has guides wearing sashes who are all too happy to tell you stories about the history there, and the town itself is a charming reprieve from London bustle. To reach it, we took the high speed rail from St. Pancras, which reached speeds of 140 MPH. 

5. Rent an apartment as a home base. We used www.ivylettings.com and rented a one-bedroom apartment that had a washer/dryer. It had plenty of room for 4 – it was difficult to find affordable hotel rooms for 4 – as well as a full kitchen. We bought groceries like locals and became regulars at local restaurants and cafes.  It was cheaper than most hotels, and although you sacrifice things like daily maid service, the washer/dryer meant we could pack a lot less clothes. 

6. The signage at Toronto Pearson Airport for the Viscount Discount Parking Garage is atrocious. Upon arrival after going through immigration and customs, the first sign we saw for it was a small plaque by an elevator up on the departures level. There was all kids of signage for the daily lot across the street, but nothing for the airport’s own discount lot. This is also true of the signage as you approach the airport – I had to circle both terminals before I finally got a sign directing me to that lot. 

7. I thought this was the coolest food truck: 

 

#FreedomofSpeech

1. CNN has been offering up wall-to-wall coverage of the Carnival Triumph, which has limped its way back to the US after suffering a crippling engine fire on Monday. They were calling it, and treating it like, a “disaster”, but was was disastrous about it? What it amounted to was 4,000+ passengers and crew being wildly inconvenienced and placed under poor conditions of sanitation and comfort. But no one died, and everyone came home last night. This wasn’t a floating boxcar of detainees – it was a cruise ship that broke down, revealing perhaps that cruise ships need fewer nightclubs and more backup systems, as WKBW reporter John Borsa pointed out on Twitter. It wasn’t a disaster – it was a mass inconvenience. 

2. Remember the “proud racist South Buffalo guy“? He made headlines some months ago for complaining about how those minorities commit crimes, cause property values to decline, and destroy neighborhoods. He’s now been arrested for robbing a West Seneca bank

3.  A West Seneca high schooler misbehaved at a hockey game and was asked to leave. He later took to Twitter and cursed out the teacher who did it. He did not threaten the teacher, he did not mock or insult the teacher – he merely vented his frustration with a Tweet that read, in relevant part, “f-ck [Teacher’s Name] #freedomofspeech”. The school found out and gave this honor student who, it is said, has no great history of behavioral problems, a five-day suspension. 

Interestingly, the student’s hashtag wasn’t frivolous. A kid doesn’t shed his constitutional rights when he enters the school building, and he especially doesn’t lose them when he uses a public platform from home, off school grounds, and outside school time. This particular student did absolutely nothing wrong. He took to a social media site and vented about a teacher with whom he had just had a negative experience. The only punishment this student should receive, if any, should come from his parents. The teacher can confront the student directly and demand an apology, I suppose, but the school has absolutely no right and no business to regulate or ban speech – even profane speech – a student uses on social media outside school time and grounds. Believe it or not, this is a case with federal, Constitutional, ramifications.

4. A big national tea party group – FreedomWorks, which was until recently led by former Congressman Dick Armey – made a video depicting former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving cunnilingus from a panda. The tea party, relegated to the very deepest fringes of the right wing, has devolved from an anti-Obama movement into a group promoting some pretty base, offensive sexist stuff. I’m not surprised, either

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers. (See herehere, and here.) Placing the panda in the video, a former FreedomWorks staffer says, was “an inside joke.” 

Another FreedomWorks staffer who worked there at the time confirms that “Yes, this video was created.” 

Days before the FreePAC event, the video was screened for staff. “My mouth was wide open,” a former official recalls. “‘What the hell is this?'” Several FreedomWorks staffers were outraged and stunned that Brandon, the group’s second-in-command after Kibbe, had overseen the video’s production, appeared in it, and intended to show this film at the conference, which would be attended by many social-conservative activists. They raised objections to the film. 

“How was that not some form of sexual harassment?” a former FreedomWorks official asks, noting that two female interns had been requested to act out a pretend sex scene. “And there were going to be thousands of Christian conservatives at this thing. This was a terrible lack of judgment.”

Brandon, a former FreedomWorks official says, defended the film, insisting it was creative and funny. But eventually a decision was made not to show the video at FreePAC. 

Armey says he didn’t became aware of the film until months later: “I heard they had made an obscene video mocking Hillary Clinton.” He says he was told the video showed Clinton having sex with an intern. “I asked another [FreedomWorks] guy if he had seen it,” Armey recalls. “He said, ‘I heard about it. I was traveling at the time. It was shown around the office.'” Armey adds, “There was a concern that this kind of behavior could land you in court. I was shocked at the ugly and bad taste.” 

Dick Armey is the guy who called Representative Barney Frank “Barney Fag”. Dick Armey is a horrible person, and “FreedomWorks” is a horrible organization. The news that they produced a video showing Hillary Clinton engaging in some form of bestiality is unsurprising.  After all, 15 years ago these same clowns were probably referring to her as “Hitlery Klintoon” over on Free Republic. 

5. Tesla is a company that manufactures and markets a gorgeous, all-electric luxury sedan. It recently contacted the New York Times to do a story showing off, in cold weather and real-life conditions, Tesla’s new network of high-capacity chargers placed at 200-mile intervals along the Northeast Corridor. It didn’t go well

Tesla CEO Elon Musk went ballistic, calling the review a “fake” in social media. This prompted the Times’ reporter, John Broder, to refute Musk’s assertions via the Times’ Wheels blog. Let’s swing back to the point that Tesla pushed this test to the Times, and that, 

This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it.

A cold snap in the Northeast shouldn’t cause a state-of-the art $100,000 sedan, marketed as a regular car, to be unable to make 180 mile trip without pausing for an hour to recharge. Practically any car in America can easily make 300 miles before pausing for a 5 minute refueling stop. 

Soon, Musk took to Tesla’s corporate blog, where he challenged Broder’s assertions point by point, and uploaded what purport to be printouts of data the car recorded from Broder’s ride. Again, social media went nuts, calling out the Times for lying. Lying? 

First of all, let’s consider we have a Times reporter with no known axe to grind with Tesla or electrics in general who reported on his experiences trying to get a $100k car from Philadelphia to Boston. On the other hand, we have the CEO of a corporation and his public relations department trying to spin away the negative effects of the car’s failure to accomplish what the lowliest Honda Jazz can do. But also consider the fact that, in his blog, Musk purported to get inside Broder’s mind to ascribe motives to what he wrote. Consider, 

In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Broder had once written an article bemoaning the various criticisms and chicken-and-egg problems with electrics, and Musk simply dismisses that as animus. 

As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Musk made this assertion: 

Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that driving at speeds of 65 – 81 on national interstates is not unusual, and that setting the heat at 72 on a very cold day is perfectly normal behavior – stuff that a $100k sedan that is supposed to be a replacement car and not a superfluous frivolity for the rich should easily be able to accomplish – the statement is wholly misleading. Look at the data: 

He was driving at 0 MPH a whole lot more often than he was driving 80 MPH. Indeed, the data records exactly one momentary spike to over 80 MPH – to say that he was routinely exceeding the speed limit is simply misleading. And why bother offering up the data if you won’t bother to characterize it accurately? Broder responded at the Wheels blog, after New York Times Public Editor and former Buffalo News Editor-in-Chief Margaret Sullivan became involved. As to the speed discrepancy, Broder accurately suggests the speedometer was uncalibrated due to wheel size, 

I drove normally (at the speed limit or with prevailing traffic) when I thought it was prudent to do so. I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters. Tesla’s data suggests I was doing slightly more than 50 over a stretch where the speed limit was 65. The traffic was heavy in that part of Connecticut, so cruise control was not usable, and I tried to keep the speed at 50 or below without impeding traffic.

Certainly, and as Tesla’s logs clearly show, much of my driving was at or well below the 65 m.p.h. speed limit, with only a single momentary spike above 80. Most drivers are aware that cars can speed up, even sometimes when cruise control is engaged, on downhill stretches.

Musk accused Broder of deliberately running down the battery during a stop at a Milford, CT plaza where Tesla had a supercharger located, 

When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

Of course, Musk is merely ascribing ill motives on Broder because he is now butthurt over the article. But here’s how Broder explains what happened, 

I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.

The stop in Manhattan was planned from the beginning and known to Tesla personnel all along. According to Google Maps, taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan (instead of crossing at the George Washington Bridge) and driving up the West Side Highway added only two miles to the overall distance from Newark, Del., to Milford, Conn.

Neither I nor the Model S ever visited “downtown Manhattan.”

As a lawyer, I’m trained to recognize BS when I see it, and when someone has a motive to exaggerate or mischaracterize evidence, and then does so, I’m skeptical of everything else they have to say about a matter. So it is with Mr. Musk, who goes beyond the data and labels Broder a liar who had it out for the Tesla from the get-go. Given a choice between believing the reporter and the company’s PR department, I’ll go with the Times. 

After all, Musk told Broder directly

Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

Incidentally, CNN tried the same trip and had no problems whatsoever. Perhaps the temperatures had moderated, as evidenced by the snow-free photograph accompanying the article.

None of this is an indictment of the car, or even of the network of chargers. (As someone who puts lots of miles on two cars every year, I fail to see the allure of spending the equivalent of a Cheektowaga house to buy a car that has trouble making 200 miles before needing an hourlong break to charge up, but to each his own). But the tone of Musk’s response to a negative experience that Broder had, and the malicious way in which he mischaracterized what happened and ascribed to Broder a hostile state of mind, I echo what media guru Jeff Jarvis Tweeted late Thursday, 

 

How to Be Horrible at Government

A tipster directed me to the Facebook page for Assemblyman David DiPietro, to review this:

 

I realize that anti-toll activist, perennial candidate, and Paladino chauffeur/flunky Rus Thompson wrote the text shown above, ignoring as it does science and logic to suggest that first and second graders – 6 and 7 year olds – have some need for contraception, despite being half a decade out from puberty. But he gets other details wrong, too – it doesn’t allow under-17s to get the morning after pill over the counter.

When I took a look at the bill, I saw that it amended a current law to allow doctors, midwives, and nurse practitioners to prescribe Plan B – the “morning after pill” – to girls who are not their patients and are, in effect, victims of statutory rape and sexual abuse. In fact, if one’s aim is to reduce the number of abortions, this law would be ideal – because Plan B’s efficacy is dependent on the speed with which it is administered, girls under the age of consent who become pregnant through statutory rape and abuse need quick access to this high-dose contraceptive. Plan B is not an abortifacient, and the age of consent in New York is 17.

Why would Assemblyman DiPietro want to limit victims’ access to a drug that would avoid pregnancy and possible abortion?

Assemblyman David DiPietro (R,C-East Aurora) has come out against legislation, Assembly Bill 420, known as the Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act. The legislation would allow minors, including those in elementary and middle school, to obtain morning after contraception in an effort to avoid pregnancy without consulting their parents or physicians. Instead, the assemblyman is pushing for adoption to be promoted instead of morning after contraceptives.

“A minor should not be making the life-altering decision of terminating the potential for human life, let alone be making that decision without parental or medical consultation. I find this piece of legislation to be without merit,” said DiPietro. “These children have to be made aware of their actions, their repercussions and the full spectrum of their options. Adoption is an underutilized service in New York State and the country in general.”

Statutory rape is a construct of the law, which deems that girls under a certain age are not capable of consent to sexual activity – just like you’re not capable of entering into a contract before the age of 18. If a girl under the age of consent gets pregnant due to a criminal act, discretion and compassion are of primary importance – worry about the 15 year-old child, not the possibly fertilized egg cell.

It’s never a good idea for middle-aged men to be legislating how girls and young women protect themselves from the physical and emotional after-effects of sex abuse.

He also opposes a law that would educate the children of “illegal immigrants” living in New York. Because, you know, ignorant and uneducated undocumented aliens are somehow better for the society than educated, productive ones.

If only “no” votes could be given catchy names, like the bills being voted on. DiPietro’s vote could be the “Statutory Rape and Sexual Abuse Pregnancy Protection Vote”.

Surface Parking Protectionism

The image shown above is a rendering of the HARBORcenter – the Sabres’ proposed hotel, restaurant, retail, and indoor hockey destination planned for construction on the long-abandoned Webster Block.  It’s no Fallingwater, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s not ugly and it’s wholly functional, and will bring people and their money to a fledgling entertainment district that’s growing in fits and starts of its own accord. 

Buffalo antideveloper Tim Tielman has started a company named after the “neighborhood workshops” that have been part and parcel of the formulation and implementation of Buffalo’s soon-to-be “Green Code” zoning law. On Tuesday, Tielman, on behalf of his “Neighborhood Workshop, LLC” appeared before the Planning Board to complain about how the Pegula-led “HARBORCenter” project for the Webster Block isn’t pretty enough for him and his clientHi-Temp Fabrications, which occupies an eyesore across the street from an HSBC Atrium surface lot. 

Four speakers, including the owner of a neighboring business, spoke against the project during a City Hall public hearing today.

Speakers said the development would contribute to congestion and that it did not resemble historic architecture styles.

“The central planning issue that we’re facing in Buffalo today … is how to connect downtown to the waterfront,” said Tim Tielman, whose Neighborhood Workshop consultancy developed an alternative concept on behalf of John and Shelley McKendry, who own Hi-Temp Fabrication, at 79 Perry St. Tielman said the project adds to the separation of downtown and the water, as the Skyway does.

Yes, it’s time to hold our horses and literally obstruct something being planned imminently to replace a surface parking lot.  Perhaps we can make it more historically interpretive by adding hay bales and hitching posts? A museum of downtown surface parking might be good for the cultural tourists? Or maybe we can just re-pave and re-stripe the lot? Perhaps we can retain Fred Kent and his extortionate traveling “placemaking” salon to discuss “flexible lawns” and colorful benches? Where are the solar-powered carousels?

Better yet, maybe we can tell the Sabres to go to hell and construct some ugly hodgepodge of buildings with outdoor rinks as an afterthought up on the roof. 

Mr. Tielman and his uncharacteristically disclosed patrons are coming to protect downtown’s connection to the waterfront – that is, if you ignore the fact that the railyard and the really big hockey arena both do that very thing already. 

Who are we in Buffalo to expect or want a nice hotel and hockey facility to help build on a solid entertainment district foundation now anchored by CanalSide, First Niagara Center, and Helium Comedy Club? 

If Hi-Temp Fabrications wants to weigh in on a development’s design, it should invest in the development or buy the parcel. The 11th hour unwanted micromanagement of a $170 million hockey destination and for what? For this eyesore, which looks like a Crayola marker box come to life; Curaçao by the Arena.

 

 This isn’t a case for historic preservation or even one where a better design is being proposed in place of an existing one. This is about ego, power, and subjective design prejudices. That hotel would look great in coastal Florida. In 1977. Those little phony colorful row houses look as stupid as they do out of place. The idea of outdoor rinks completely flies in the face of the Sabres’ intent – to design a destination Division 1 AAA hockey facility to attract tournaments of all ages from all over. Just leave the Sabres alone. When it comes to attracting people and money, they’ve already got things figured out pretty well. 

SAFE Hysterics

I vaguely remember a White Plains police officer visiting my elementary school to instruct us on safety or being polite or some other inculcation of “how to be a civilized person”. Most of the boys in my class, myself included, were fascinated with the handgun the officer carried on his Batman-like utility belt. He was peppered with questions about how he likes it, whether he’s ever shot it, whether he’s ever had to use it, whether he’s ever shot anyone with it, and – naturally, whether we could touch it. The answers were all in the negative. Yet something stuck with me that day; not only had the officer never used the gun in the line of duty, but his respect for his weapon was matched only by his dislike for it. He hadn’t used it, and he expressed a hope that he would never have to. It was there, but only as a last resort – and he seemed aware that it wasn’t just loaded with bullets, but that each bullet could do as much damage to a human body as it could to the officer’s own psyche. 

Forget Sandy Hook and the federal government for a second – let’s talk about New York and the SAFE Act, which Albany passed a month ago. A lot of New York gun owners are upset about the law, and they will be going to Albany lawfully to protest it. They seem particularly aggrieved by the fact that; (a) Governor Cuomo executed a message of necessity, speeding the passage and avoiding legislators’ amendments to it; and (b) the technicalities with respect to some of the law’s definitions. 

You can disagree with those matters, of course, but they don’t amount to dictatorship, nor do they seem violative of the 2nd Amendment

Here is a nonbinding resolution that the Erie County Legislature’s Republican caucus will be introducing shortly: 

SAFE ACT Resolution by

http://www.scribd.com/embeds/125113814/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll

(You don’t use an apostrophe to pluralize “New Yorkers”)

So, basically it praises every single portion of the NY SAFE Act, except that the definition of an assault weapon may allegedly include one particular pump-action shotgun (a particularly tenuous argument), and because it limits magazines to 7 bullets, rather than the previous 10. 

How is it that 10 bullet magazines are not violative of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but 7 bullet magazines are tantamount to King George III stepping on the necks of patriots? 

Carl Paladino sponsored a bus trip / gun rally in Albany Tuesday, and his mass email doesn’t think the SAFE Act was legally passed, or a good idea at all. One unifying theme between Paladino and the County Legislature’s Republicans is the notion that there wasn’t enough time to “request and receive the input of constituents” regarding the law; but 2/3 of New Yorkers support it. Paladino’s list of grievances is amusing, however, for alleging that “there is no need for any change to current gun-control laws because it’s not the honest people who commit crimes.”  

You know what might be contributing to the gun violence? The Randian individualism that many gun huggers love – the ethos that nothing is greater than self, civilization and a functioning society be damned. The hippie peace and love individualist awakening has gone dramatically wrong in the last 40-some years. 

Another favorite argument is that registration is just a step towards confiscation. Just like the state has confiscated all our motor vehicles, which we are required to register from time to time. 

While Paladino’s protest reflects exactly how our system is supposed to work – government does something you don’t like, you protest and petition or agitate for something different, the legislature’s grandstanding is an utter waste of time and effort. Its nonbinding resolution is pointless, and its grievances largely without substance. 

Back to that mid-70s White Plains cop – I get the impression nowadays that gun owners have become gun huggers. They no longer view their weapons as tools they may someday be forced to use as a last resort for protection, but as objects for which they have almost a jealous longing.  They want to use them. 

Governing and War

Two things: 

1. A decade ago, our mass media mostly parroted the notion that Iraq was such an imminent threat that a “pre-emptive” invasion and occupation was justified. 

Back in 2002, America was still reeling from 9/11, and Iraq was subjected to myriad UN sanctions, inspection schemes, no-fly zones, and other restrictions stemming from its invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat a decade before. Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly a brutal dictator whose Ba’athist Arabic-unity, socialist ideology had been perverted into nothing more than an Arabic construct of fascism. His rule was corrupt and murderous, and he had started two expansionist wars during his reign, neither of which worked out well for his country. He, on the other hand, lived like a king.

But there are lots of bad actors running horribly brutal dictatorships around the world. We can’t invade them all. Nor, if you ask most Republicans when they’re being honest, should we. Just ask most Republican commentators when President Clinton got NATO militarily involved in Bosnia and Serbia.

Turning back to 2002, the UN had implemented a new set of sanctions based on what turned out to be incorrect intelligence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. The UN – never one to rush into war – sent neutral inspectors into Iraq to look for these WMDs. Hans Blix’s team of inspectors went everywhere the US government told them to look. Spy satellites, after all, don’t lie.

UNMOVIC inspectors under Hans Blix were in Iraq for 111 days, and they didn’t find the WMDs they were looking for.

United States troops were in Iraq for 2,724 days, and they didn’t find them either, instead merely stockpiles of old WMDs that the Saddam regime had in its possession, and which it had used against Iran, Kuwait, and the Kurds. The US did not find any evidence of any new production or ramp-ups towards same. We know Saddam had used gas in Kuwait and on Kurds. But that’s not what we were sold in 2003 when Powell addressed the Security Council.

…the facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction…

…A second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program, confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers.

A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road trailer units and on rail cars.

Finally, a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected, confirmed that Iraq has mobile biological research laboratories, in addition to the production facilities I mentioned earlier….

The war was based on either poor information or lies. Neither one will resurrect a fallen American or innocent Iraqi civilian.

And the neoconservatives’ follow-up “rationales”? Hamas and Israel continue to murder each other. What a fundamental waste of lives, money, and dignity.

That was the legal basis on which we invaded Iraq – that they had deliberately violated UN sanctions regarding WMDs. There was no other legal rationale. What the Bush Administration’s neoconservative hawks did was just shift the objective to eliminating Ba’athism, regime change, stopping Iraq’s support for terror, help Israel in its efforts against terrorism, etc. After 7 years of battles, death, destruction, we gave Iraq its democracy, but the other regional goals have never been met. Instead, Iraq became flypaper for every disaffected, pimpled Arab teen who wanted to kill Americans. Once Saddam was gone, we had Zarqawi to deal with. Thousands of American men and women died.

So, to my mind, it’s not time to navel-gaze about whether the surge worked and whether Obama was wrong about it, and whether he is sufficiently remorseful or introspective about how wrong he was. Instead, we should re-evaluate why we invaded Iraq in the first place, further destabilizing an already unstable region; subjecting an oppressed people to 7+ years of war, terrorism, and occupation.

To my mind, it’s time to re-examine the so-called “Powell Doctrine”, which was completely disregarded in March 2003 by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and his bosses.

  • Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  • Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  • Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  • Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  • Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  • Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  • Is the action supported by the American people?
  • Do we have genuine broad international support?

Now? This same band is trying to get payback through words such as “Benghazi” and “drones”. Payback for being wrong? 

2. If you haven’t yet, please do read this report from the Economist, which explains that the Nordic countries that are usually – ignorantly and anachronistically – so derided as socialist hellholes, are economically outperforming the US and the rest of Europe. There is a remarkably high public trust in government institutions, and these countries have done much to reform without damaging the social safety net for which they’re known. If you deride the Democrats or Obama for wanting to turn the US into Sweden, it beats the Republicans’ efforts to turn the country into the Sudan. 

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