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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Today's Stuff:

What Tommy Thompson Said

How to REALLY get out of Iraq

More on Virginia Tech



The Alberto Gonzales-US Senate Judiciary Committee hearings regarding the Attorney General's "mishandling" of the firing of eight federally appointed prosecutors is going on as I write tonight's Note From a Madman. The hearings will continue tomorrow (Friday) and I feel it's best to report (editorialize) on these hearings after their completion, or at least after their first two days are completed. I look forward to reading all of AG Gonzales' "I don't recalls" and "That's not exactly accurates" for mush of the weekend.

Maybe I should print them all out and leave a copy in the appropriate place - My "reading room."

-Noah Greenberg

Governor Thompson

"I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money. You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that."
-Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (REPUBLICAN) to the Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism

Dear Governor Thompson,
As a middle class Jew who earns just slightly above the national average salary; pays his taxes on time; and pays for a great majority of his family's health care insurance, I have but one question.
Can you tell me where to get my share?

One thing, though, Tommy. As head of HHS (Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services), you declared a net worth of somewhere between $1.5 million and $3.7 million. If I read your statement correctly, that money must not have been "earned". Please tell us all how did you get that much money. Was it a gift? Did you just find it on your doorstep one morning? Or are all Republicans given a couple of million dollars at birth and told "If this ain't enough, come back and git yourself some more."?

-Noah Greenberg


A sensible, non-partisan approach to the conflict in Iraq is what's really needed today. now that I've satisfied everyone on the planet without saying anything at all, allow me to explain my Bush-Type soundbite with another, one word soundbite:


Whether you believe that we can leave Iraq today and there will be no repercussions in and around the middle east or not; or even if you don't care and simply want our troops home now (which, if we were all honest, is the main thing on our minds); or if you feel that it's as bad as it's going to get and our departure couldn't possibly result in any more damage being done is of no matter. The Bushies have won the war of words on keeping our troops there for, at the very least, the foreseeable future. If we're going to be honest brokers with each other, it's my belief that we need to remove the "Let's get them out tomorrow" argument from the table. Even though it would be my wish, it simply isn't going to happen.

With that being said, I believe the word "Phase" is in order here, and I don't mean that famed nonsensical "phased-withdrawal" argument the Bushies tie to "When the Iraqis step up, we'll step down," crap.

Phase 1 - Protect them while they're in harm's way
We need congress to step up here. After all, it is their responsibility to write the bills which will eventually become war. Write a bill that would most assuredly pass by both houses and have to be signed by the President which would improve the safety of all of our troops in harm's way. The bill would include provisions that would have no soldier sent into a war zone without proper body armor, complete combat training (including all support and reserve personnel) and a well-defined plan for their use (okay - that last one is a little murky, I admit). When minority voices start to complain that it will cost money, ask them to put a price on a single American soldier's life and get your tape recorders ready for their Ralph Cramden impersonation ("homina, homina, homina, homina").

Phase 2 (could also be called 1a)
Guarantee the best medical care in the world for our wounded troops and their families for life Allow our troops to go home - or anywhere in the country - to receive the help they need now and possible for the rest of their lives. If a wounded troop needs to stay in the DC or other military hospital areas, proved for a (or multiple) family member(s) to stay with them. There can be no doubt that the healing process is aided when family is involved. we should embrace this idea regardless of cost.

Phase 3 - Move 'em out, but keep 'em there
This phase begins with the construction of a military base in Iraq. Now wait a minute here, this isn't what you think. I don't want us to build that Bush monument "City in the sand" they're always talking about in the White House. My belief is that we should ask (yes, I said "ask") our real Iraqi allies, the Kurds, for permission to build a base in their territory. This would allow us to keep troops in the vicinity while, at the very same time, keeping them out of harm's way. we would have jets and helicopters at the ready as well as troops at the ready. What really amazes me is that the Kurds would even want our help after the 1991 Desert storm affair when President bush (41) abandoned them.

Phase 4 - Protect the borders
We need to protect the borders between Iraq and her neighbors, especially Iran and Syria. Even though we already know that most of the insurgent support and IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) comes from Sunni nations Saudi Arabia, Egypt (although not a border nation) and Jordan, the perception being thrown about by the Bushies is that it's all Iran and Syria's fault. The difference, at least on paper, is that the Bushies believe (or merely state) that Iran and Syria are providing these devices through state-supported means whereas the other nations, at most, are simply turning a blind eye. However, this doesn't negate the fact that "only" seven percent of all IED's are coming from Iran and "only" (talk about an inappropriate word) eight percent of all IED deaths are from these devices.
We must have our Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia and Jordan protect their borders with Iraq while we create our own "no-man-lands" with the unfriendly nations of Iran and Syria. Mines, barb wire, unmanned drones and limited access roads are all ideas we could incorporate into this strategy. And I'm sure that our Generals and other military experts could help us with the details.
In this endeavor, we'll also need to enlist the former Iraqi military commanders who know the lay of the land and could be more help than the Bushies care to admit. A little late? Sure it is. But as the saying goes, "better late than never."

Phase 5 - Show the World
If we can show the world that we mean business - that we aren't in it to provide fat military contractors with golden umbrella stands and $6,000 shower curtains - we can then ask them for help, both militarily and financially. We could walk into the United nations and say, "Mr. Secretary General... We have something to say," and actually have someone listen. When we show real progress, they'll have no choice but to take note, stand up and support us, the people of Iraq and the true mission in the middle east: The quest for Peace.

-Noah Greenberg


All of us need time and silence to mourn the lost children and professors of Virginia Polytechnic in Blacksburg, VA. In 1975 I received my MA in Medieval Studies and Medieval Philosophy in Blacksburg, which in the 1970s was called "VPI & SU", "Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University". My degree was from VSU (Virginia State University), but VPI & VSU shared the same campus and administration, and a few years later all of it became "VPI". Being in those days a wife and the mother of a kindergartener as well as an eager student with both a research and a teaching assistantship, I had no time to get to know anyone on the Polytechnic side, but of course I'm shocked by what has happened at my alma mater, the needless waste and suffering caused by someone who could get his hands on a weapon of mass destruction.

Let us mourn. But. . . keep three things in mind.

The first to consider, our ubiquitous culture of violence, is discussed in an April 17th NATION blog article sent around today by a veteran friend. This article discusses the strange American sickness of insane mass murderers spraying bullets into crowds. I was on the staff of the University of Texas at Austin only a few years after the mid-1960s murders of 15 students from the top of the Texas Tower by a student named Charles Whitman, who also killed his wife, mother and himself and was later discovered by autopsy to have had a brain tumor. Every day for two years I walked beneath the Texas Tower across the Quad. Charles Whitman was a name always in the back of my mind, and I suspect in everyone else's. "Could it happen again?" Of course it could, and we knew it. There is a small percentage of homicidal maniacs, and easy access to guns can make their fantasies come true.

Second, in an email this morning, another vet friend reminded us that a massacre of these proportions happens to Iraqis twice a day--or more. Our British allies have corroborated the figure of at least 650,000 Iraqis killed in the violence from the "shock and awe" startup of the invasion in March 2003 until now--although our officials do not acknowledge this number, having been careful to avoid body counts. And every time an American helicopter goes down, young soldiers die Together or separately, our troops continue to suffer and die for nothing--3,309 killed, according to this morning's official DOD count, which is always too low. I am enraged at our president for sentimentalizing and trivializing the deaths of the VPI students by making so much moan while neglecting the safety and health of our troops and veterans, sneaking the coffins of the dead ones back to the States without ceremonies or photographs as if they were no more than hampers of dirty clothes, never attending a soldier's funeral, and refusing to answer simple questions like "What noble cause?" Bush is careless of our troops, and, needless to say, gives no thought whatsoever to the Iraqi children, women and old men who have become innocent victims of our invasion and the civil war caused by the occupation of Iraq, or to the civilian victims of our inept war in Afghanistan.

Third--I turned on the morning TV news to get an up-to-date weather report. There was none. On every channel the cloned ghouls were out in full force--each one the same artificial-looking, carefully-coiffed monster. They are the prying, slavering ones who pose as "news" reporters, and this morning they stalked the campus shoving microphones into VPI students' mouths. "How do you feel about what happened?" (How would the students feel? How would YOU feel, monster? Let the bereaved alone to grieve for their friends.) When any kind of disaster happens, the TV vampires pounce on the throats of the innocent in such a way as to fictionalize the disaster, make it "thrilling" and "entertaining." Easy access to weapons is not the only source of our culture of violence. The immense vulgarity of the media contributes its share. The VPI killer, like Charles Whitman and most of their kind, took his own life and is silenced by death, but whether or not he had a brain tumor, it's likely that in his warped mind he craved the fifteen minutes of notoriety that TV always provides to the ones who commit the most atrocious acts of violence.

-Jenny Hanniver

Victoria Brownworth replies to Bob D:

Yes, Imus is wonderful--and Hitler liked puppies. The issue at hand was a grown adult , Imus, using his privilege as a white, conservative media shock jock to slur and defame a bunch of college girls who were literally at the top of their game and the pride of their university. Some (by no means all) rap and hip hop lyrics are indeed filled with racial and sexist slurs, but those are not the issue at hand. Imus is. Imus has for decades defamed and demeaned women. He made a pledge two years ago to African American journalist Clarence Paige that he would no longer slur blacks. Obviously he forgot his pledge.

As for the little privileged boys from Duke, perhaps if they hadn't been hiring strippers for their party and playing sex games with them (no one has recanted THAT testimony), the situation that arose would not have--a situation that has yet to actually be clarified. I feel absolutely no sympathy for those young men who thought nothing of paying to sexually abuse two women and toss racial epithets at them (these things are on the videotapes the boys took themselves, so a matter of record).

As for Sharpton and Jackson, their job is to protect the interests of black Americans. And frankly, if racists like yourself were not so quick to stand up for other racists like Imus, against a team of stellar young black women whose class and breeding was exemplary in their responses, perhaps Sharpton and Jackson would go the way of the dinosaurs. Which, it is to be hoped, is the way Imus will be going.

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-Noah Greenberg