Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gen. Casey Downplays Need for New Draft

Speaking at The Commonwealth Club of California yesterday (Sept. 28, 2007), the U.S. Army Chief of Staff was asked about the possibility that the U.S. would need to reinstitute a draft because of the military being overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Still Hope for the GOP

Amazing. Someone who understands that leadership means taking your followers someplace they might not have gone otherwise. That's a big difference from what we usually see, which is "leaders" slavishly following every real and purported prejudice of their "followers" out of a desperate fear of losing a few votes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gays in Iran

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, trying to cozy up to America, told an audience at Columbia University yesterday that Iran doesn't have any homosexuals. Though such a result would surely please right-wingers (and I would not stoop so low as to mention Sen. Larry Craig here) (oh, I guess I would), it's as far away from the truth as many of Ahmadinejad's other dream-factory statements. See this story about Iran's execution of homosexuals.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nein, Danke

A rather jaw-dropping story from the great German newsweekly Der Speigel. It seems French President Nicolas "Speedy" Sarkozy is getting, well, odder as the weeks go by. He recently met with German Chanceller Angela Merkel and her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (a recent speaker at The Commonwealth Club of California, BTW) and offered nuclear weapons. In Der Spiegel's priceless reporting, "Both the chancellor and her foreign minister were speechless. The idea of possessing nuclear weapons is taboo in Germany. Sarzoky's predecessor Jacques Chirac cautiously brought up the issue 12 years ago, but he quickly realized it was pointless to pursue it."

Sort of a faux pax of Bushish levels, isn't it? As the above quote indicates, the offer itself is not unique; it was made "cautiously" 12 years ago by Chirac. But it strikes me that it's important because it shows Sarkozy doesn't really understand his neighbors – and his most important neighbor, at that.

Put me in the camp that thinks Germany needs to reasses its defense and security needs and procedures, and adapt itself to a new world in which the country's heartfelt revulsion toward the crimes of the Nazi regime have left it admirably restrained. But that restraint has also arguably left it vulnerable to foreign and domestic threats.

But even with that said, Sarkozy seems to display a tone-deafness when trying to figure out how to treat his neighbors. High hopes for Sarkozy's self-defined role as a reformer could be dashed if he doesn't ascend a steep learning curve.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ja, Stuttgart ist das Beste

The funny thing about following German soccer/football/fussball is that I kind of ended up adopting a team based on no solid reason. I chose Stuttgart because at the time I had learned that one branch of my family came from the Baden-Wuerttemberg area. So, Stuttgart. It paid off, emotionally, when Vfb Stuttgart won the German title last year.

Good thing I didn't learn until much later about the branch of my family that came from Berlin. Hertha Berlin isn't quite doing as well.

Now, if only Fox's cable soccer channel would start carrying Bundesliga games again ...

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Nation's Fiscal Challenge

David M. Walker, the U.S. comptroller general, discussed America's spending/saving/payment problems during a September 14, 2007, panel at The Commonwealth Club of California. The panel was part of a bipartisan Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.

Sobering stuff, this. I appreciated the fact that there were bipartisan views on the panel -- joining Walker was Alison Acosta Fraser from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Isabel V. Sawhill of the liberal Brookings Institution (and a former Clinton administration budget official). Both parties got us into this mess, and most Americans have participated in trying to vote ourselves rich.

And our children and grandchildren will rue the day they ever let us borrow the national credit card and hit the mall.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Carmen Policy Answers the Question: Are the 49ers Bluffing?

The Commonwealth Club of California, where I work, hosted a panel discussion today about the San Francisco 49ers' flirtation with suburban Santa Clara as the home of its future stadium.

I remember during the 1990s, when I lived in Chicago, Mayor Richard M. Daley was confronted by an ultimatum from the Chicago Bears: they wanted a bigger and better stadium, or they'd leave. Daley responded with, essentially, "Good riddance." And the Bears compromised and just renovated Soldier Field.

Then again, I grew up in Green Bay, so all the other teams can move around all they want. But the Packers? Never.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lucy, Let Me 'Splain ...

He he he he. I like this.

For more Lahey political cartoons, see his blog here.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Another Republican Gay Scandal

So Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is due to resign from the Senate today, according to most media reports. He is a member of an even more elite group of people than the clubby U.S. Senate: He is a politician who will be missed by neither party. And certainly not by me.

The GOP is desperate to get him out of office and to cut off this scandal quickly so the party can try to recover before the 2008 election, which currently is shaping up to be a Republican bloodbath. Good luck with that. (Since it's a completely GOP-made disaster, they are welcome to stew in their problems.) Meanwhile, the Democrats are glad to get rid of another arch-conservative GOPer, whose resignation, just coincidentally, will put into play an otherwise safe GOP seat.

This past week as I've discussed this strange case of Sen. Craig with friends, we've all marvelled at the man's self-delusion. ("I am not gay," he said repeatedly. Well, it's true that most gay men don't do the things you pled guilty of doing and certainly straight guys don't do them, but the record looks pretty bad for ya, pal.) But as I've thought about it, I think we can take him at his word, sort of.

By that I mean not that we should believe his claim of non-gayness. Oh, he's gay all right. But I can accept that he honestly, truly thinks he's not gay. Why? He has been a vociferous opponent of any bills that would make gay life more respectable, that would allow a more honest and responsible gay leadership to emerge, and that would in any way validate gay people as equal citizens.

Like many right-wingers (and some left-wingers, incidentally), he acts like he thinks homosexuality is a perverse urge that plagues potentially everyone. To him, illicit, dirty, anonymous, man-on-man sex is simply a physical act. What he can't conceive of is that two men could love each other, be faithful, endure all the mundane and extraordinary pains and challenges of life together, and even find joy in spending their evening watching an NBA game and reading a book in their living room or talking about their cat's flea problem. Sex? Oh, yeah, Craig and his ilk (and they are an ilk) think evil sexual urges are all around us and everyone is tempted by them from time to time. Thus, he can be just one more man who was tempted and succumbed. But he's "not gay." And, frankly, if he can't conceive of loving and living with another man for the rest of his life, then at least he's sparing another man real heartache.

Pity about his family, though.