I Think I Need a Nap

Seriously… I think that lack of quality sleep is the reason for not posting much of anything since the election.  I was wired during the months leading up to it, and with the win came great relief, but not so much sleep.  So what?  Well in this morning’s paper I read:

Just in time for the holidays, some medical advice most people will like: Take a nap.

Interrupting sleep seriously disrupts memory-making, compelling new research suggests. But on the flip side, taking a nap may boost a sophisticated kind of memory that helps us see the big picture and get creative.

“Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember,” is how Dr. William Fishbein, a cognitive neuroscientist at the City University of New York, put it at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last week.

I’ve been keeping up on the news and listening to the Obama press conferences, but I haven’t assimilated it all well enough to say anything even remotely creative. 

In fact, every day about this time after lunch, I start thinking a nap is what I need.

I’ll bet all those “professional” bloggers out there (by that I mean they don’t have full-time jobs that interfere with their writing and are actually good enough at it to make a living) get to take naps whenever they need to.

So if for whatever reason you like what we do on this blog, click on one of the Amazon ads and buy something.  That puts a little money in our kitty, and we use it to buy beer.  It helps us sleep.

Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for?

Me?

I am most thankful that my dog Lucy made it back home from her wild adventure yesterday.

Yesterday, Seattle was surprised by a midafternoon thunderstorm. Lucy hates thunder and lightning even more than than taking a bath. I only heard a couple of thunder claps and was comfortable knowing that Lucy was safe at home, probably sleeping on my bed.

Upon arriving home I discovered that she was not in the house.  At first I thought that I had forgotten to lock up the dog door that goes into the backyard (the door was on the floor) and that she was in the yard.   When I went to reinsert the door, I found that it was binding on the runners.  At that point I knew that Lucy must have been quite scared, as she somehow ripped the locking dog door out of the runners.  (I have since tried to pull it out of the runners, myself, and can not.)

After getting out of the house, she found herself in the backyard and broke through the fence (a first) to the front of the house. She must have been totally terrified…

Lucy was running down the middle of the street when a very nice woman, Pam, saw her and stopped. Pam had never seen Lucy before, but knew that Lucy was scared and needed her help. Lucy did not have her collar and tags (remember, she was locked in my house on the bed when I left), so Pam stopped by the vet and had her scanned for a chip. Bingo… She now knew Lucy’s name and my name. But she was only able to get that far, as I am not listed and my personal information related to the chip was out of date (my bad).

After running errands with Pam for a couple of hours (Lucy loves hanging out in cars), Lucy found her way to the pet walking/sitting services of Furhead Riviera. A massive thanks goes out to Amy at Furhead Riviera for keeping Lucy safe for a few hours until I could get her back home.

These two women, who did not know Lucy or me before yesterday really made my year.

Thanks for making this a great year!

lucy_wine2.jpg

After a long day Lucy loves a nice Pinot.

October Surprise for 2006

So, here we are at the start of October and I am wondering what brainiac Karl Rove has planned for this year’s midterm elections. According to Newsmax.com, last month he promised political insiders an “October Surprise”.

He has made similar promises in the past. In 2004, he told Sean Hannity that he had a “few surprises”. Hmmm. So, what was this mastermind able to come up with?

I have only been able to come up with 2 items that are attributed to the ‘October Surprise’ of 2004. The first is the Osama Bin Laden video that was aired right before the elections. I don’t really buy that he was responsible for this, although it is quite possible that the tape had been sitting around the CIA, waiting for the right time to air. The second is an article written in the Washington Times that stated:

U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

Wow.

I sure hope ‘Turd Blossom’ can figure out a way to top that.

Here are my current predictions of Karl Rove’s big October Surprise:

10. The announcement that the Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan. (No, wait, that already happened.)
9. Saddam Hussein (guilty verdict, implicates Clinton Administration)
8. An announcement that torture works and just saved over 10 million lives in Los Angeles, New York, and/or Chicago
7. A proposed tax cut of some sort (targeted at a specific demographic key to the elections)
6. A sudden drop in gas prices (until about mid November)
5. Bill Clinton is still having extramarital affairs (casting doubt on the moral integrity of Democrats)
4. Iran found to be planning an attack on US or Israel
3. Hugo Chavez is linked to narcotics trafficking and named on the FBI’s most wanted list
2.Osama Bin Laden (caught, dead, new video)
1. Nothing at all (just oe big ‘Psyche!’)

Ultimately, who knows what Turd Blossom will come up with.

In Defence of Our Democracy

Under the guise of preserving the security of the state, secret agencies monitor its citizens’ telephone communications without reference to a court or any meaningful legislative oversight; massive amounts of information are gathered and analysed from banks, libraries and other institutions used by the country’s citizens; enemies of the state are held in secret prisons overseas, hidden from the Red Cross or any independent monitoring, and subjected to interrogation using abusive techniques that might very well rise to the level of torture; after holding these enemies indefinitely without trial for years, the state brings these enemies before a kangaroo court that will be able to convict on the basis of coerced testimony, and evidence which has not been presented to the defendant for rebuttal.

Growing up during the Cold War in England, I would have had no trouble identifying the countries whose governments resorted to these tactics. It could only have been the Soviet Union or any one of its subjugated allies in the Warsaw Pact; or the People’s Republic of China, perhaps; certainly North Korea. The contrast between us and them was very clear back then, even in the face of a threat from what seemed a monolithic enemy. But alas we are not talking about the old USSR. No, we are, in fact, talking about the United States of America in 2006, unbelievable as that may be.

Authority to do some of these things has already been handed to the Bush administration by a compliant and frightened Congress under the USA Patriot Act. The rest, including unfettered electronic surveillance and the issues surrounding the detention, treatment, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists, Bush now seeks from Congress in the run-up to a fall election whereby opponents, which he had hoped would only be Democrats, can be portrayed as unpatriotic and soft on terrorists.

Bush’s plan has been upset by the staunch opposition of some GOP heavyweights in the Senate, notably John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who simply cannot stomach America’s moral stature being further diminished by an administration that has done so much to reduce it already in the eyes of the world.

Of course Bush only seeks congressional consent because the U.S. Supreme Court is not yet sufficiently packed with ideological soul mates willing to demolish the principle of separation of powers (give it time, though, and Bush may have that problem licked too if another justice retires). A Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year forced the Bush administration to come to Congress on the detainee issues; the fact that it would likely do the same regarding Bush’s surveillance programme which bypasses the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has prompted the administration to launch a pre-emptive effort to obtain Congress’ stamp of approval to its unfettered power to monitor our communications.

The Bush administration and its defenders, mostly on the right, say that we are at war with a deadly and ruthless enemy that dealt the United States a catastrophic blow on September 11th, 2001. To successfully combat this enemy, they say, we must adopt tough and intrusive measures. They cite precedents for restricting civil liberties such as the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II (a shameful act), or the suspension of habeas corpus by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, to justify these governmental intrusions which, they say would be temporary anyway.

Al-Qaida and its affiliated organizations represent a dangerous enemy to be sure. But let’s be realistic: they lack the capability to conquer any Middle East nation let alone confront the U.S. at home. What they can try to do is mount another 9/11-type operation. Even the characterization of the struggle as a “war” is misleading and serves mainly to boost both the terrorists and Bush himself.

Bush’s overwrought rhetoric on these issues has served to further diminish his credibility. When he suggests that if we don’t prevail in Iraq, the terrorists will follow us home (well, presumably they’d have to get a visa first) or that the safety of this country is at stake in the war in Iraq, it simply reinforces the perception that this floundering president will say anything to stoke the fires of fear in America.

We must certainly be vigilant; we must have strong security measures at our ports, and on our borders. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to be alert and must talk to one another. The fact that we have not been attacked a second time since 9/11 suggests that our domestic agencies have taken the lessons of that event to heart. However, the idea that we cannot adequately defend ourselves without giving unfettered power to the executive branch to electronically monitor our communications, or that we must abuse captured suspected terrorists or try them in a court of law with Soviet-style rules of evidence is dangerous nonsense. In short, the notion that we cannot simultaneously remain free and still fight the terrorists is just plain wrong and if the Bush administration doesn’t think it’s possible, then the sooner we replace it the better. And that goes, also, for the Republican majority in Congress.

For me, the biggest surprise in this struggle for the soul of America is the Republican right. This is the party of small government, perennially sceptical of government intrusion in our lives, proud of Ronald Reagan’s role in the downfall of the Soviet Union, forever waxing lyrical about America’s freedoms. Yet in the last five years they have given unswerving support and applause to a secretive and authoritarian administration that has sought to expand executive power at the expense of the other branches, infringe on traditional civil liberties and intimidate both the media and the political opposition by questioning their patriotism and commitment to the struggle against America’s enemies.

If it’s okay for the right to question the patriotism of more liberal, progressive and even politically moderate Americans, then perhaps it’s time to question the commitment of conservatives (minus the libertarian element) to our democracy. The most interesting argument I’ve seen advanced by the right, and one I’ve seen frequently in the opinion pages of the daily newspaper, is that restricting our civil liberties is a necessary price to pay for preserving our freedom from the terrorists – who want to destroy it. Huh? So we’ll beat them to it by surrendering our own freedoms to our government before the terrorists take them from us? Yeah, that makes sense. And then there’s the caveat often advanced by the administration that these restrictions are “temporary” just as they were in World War II or in the Civil War. The trouble with that argument is that the struggle against Islamic terrorists is likely to be interminable – particularly if we keep electing dunderheads like Bush and the Republicans in Congress who seem intent on making decisions, such as invading Iraq, that aid rather than hurt the enemy.

Although I don’t agree with them on much else, I admire and respect Senators McCain, Warner, Graham and others in the GOP such as former secretary of state Colin Powell, who, together with the almost unanimous support of Senate Democrats, are willing to stand up for our country’s fundamental democratic principles – the very things that make it worth fighting for in the first place. It is shameful, however, that the foe these Republicans battle so valiantly is their own party and president.

9-12

The five-year anniversary of 9-11 made me tired.  It’s come and gone and I had nothing to say about it here. 

Why?  So many mixed emotions.  It was a shocking event-one that unified our divided country and pulled together countries around the world to fight together against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. 

That didn’t last long.  The Bush Administration gave up on Osama and politicized the event so they could move forward with their plans to secure the second-largest oil field in the world.  They lied about who was involved and who was a threat.  They’ve bumbled around with a disastrous war “plan” that has cost many thousands of lives.  They messed up everything, and never managed to catch the bad guy “dead or alive.”

The majority of Americans now realizes that the Bush Administration doesn’t have a plan other than to keep doing what it’s doing until Bush leaves office, no matter how bad things get.  So now people are asking questions and trying to think of ways to exit Iraq and focus our attention where it matters-here at home.

The Administration’s response is best summed up by what Cheney said on Meet the Press Sunday morning.  Here’s what E. J. Dionne, Jr. had to say about it:

Cheney seemed terribly impatient with democracy Sunday on “Meet the Press” when he suggested that those who oppose President Bush’s Iraq policies are helping — excuse me, validating — the terrorists.

Our allies in the war on terror, Cheney said, “want to know whether or not if they stick their heads up, the United States, in fact, is going to be there to complete the mission.”

Then the punch: “And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we’ve had in the United States. Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists.”

Meaning what, exactly? If Cheney doesn’t like “the kind of debate that we’ve had in the United States,” is there any other “kind,” short of a lock-step endorsement of all of Bush’s choices, he’d endorse?

Dick Cheney is our enemy.  He does not believe in freedom and democracy.  How did this man become our Vice President?  If you think about that too long, you’ll need a few drinks to settle down.

Now about our president…  Rather than me rambling on anymore, I’ll turn it over to a pro, Keith Olbermann.  This is from Monday’s Countdown.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation’s wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President — and those around him — did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, “bi-partisanship” meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, “validate the strategy of the terrorists.”

They promised protection, and then showed that to them “protection” meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had ‘something to do’ with 9/11 is “lying by implication.”

The impolite phrase is “impeachable offense.”

Read the whole thing here.

Whisky sounds real good about now…

Crazy Talk

Remember that crazy guy that was running for President back before the Iraq War?  You know… that “screaming” guy who had things like this to say in a February 2003 speech:

The Bush Administration’s policies at home and abroad are reckless and just plain wrong.

We can do better.

Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and their allies have murdered thousands of Americans and vowed to murder more.

The threat they pose is imminent, constant and substantial. It cannot be deterred. Because it is global, it cannot be contained. It must be confronted until it is defeated.

Eliminating the threat to Americans from al Qaeda and other terrorists is not simply a goal to put on a list with a lot of others. It must be the top priority of our government and the primary focus of our President.

Then, last month, he again had the whole world listening as he gave his State of the Union Address.

He devoted four paragraphs to the war against terror. He devoted sixteen to Iraq.

He mentioned Saddam Hussein by name 18 times. He did not mention Osama bin Laden at all.

The President sounds like a war President, but I must ask whether he is focused on the right war.

Howard Dean.  What a scream.  He was even nuts enough to question the “War” President’s military invasion and occupation plan:

We have been told over and over again what the risks will be if we do not go to war.

We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.

Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

And, perhaps most importantly, there is a very real danger that war in Iraq will fuel the fires of international terror.

Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.

And last week’s tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.

And finally…

We must follow through on our commitments in Afghanistan to prevent that troubled land from ever again serving as a base for terrorism.

Around the world, we must show an unwavering dedication to the principles of democracy, tolerance, and human rights, including the rights of women to participate as full and equal citizens in every society, including those in the Middle East.

Above all, we must be clear that no terrorist will ever intimidate the United States of America into withdrawing from the world or abandoning our allies, friends and ideals.

Geez… what a softy!  Good thing we didn’t vote that lunatic into office.  We’d never have invaded Iraq and been able to kill so many terrorists and other folks who just happen to be in the way of our bullets and bombs.

If Dean were president, things wouldn’t have turned out anything like what was reported in the latest Pentagon report on Iraq:

Attacks and civilian deaths in Iraq have risen sharply in recent months, with casualties increasing by 1,000 a month, and sectarian violence has engulfed larger areas of the country, the Pentagon said Friday in a strikingly dismal report to Congress.

The quarterly report, based on new government figures, showed the number of attacks in Iraq over the last four months had increased 15% and Iraqi casualties had risen by 51%. Civilian and military deaths and injuries have surpassed 3,000 each month since May.

Over a longer period, the increase in violence is more dramatic. Weekly attacks have nearly doubled, from 423 in spring 2004 to 792. More than 110 people a day died violently in Iraq in the last three months, the report said, up from fewer than 30 a day in 2004.

“This is a pretty sober report,” said Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of Defense for international security. “The last quarter has been rough. The level of violence is up. And the sectarian quality of the violence is particularly acute and disturbing.”

Sure it sounds bad, but it’s a “sober” report.  Just think how bad it would be if we’d voted in that drunken Dean guy.  No wait… the drunks did get elected. 

Never mind…

Things are Looking Up… for Fascists

On Monday The New York Times reported this:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity – the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards – has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960′s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

For most of the last century, wages and productivity – the key measure of the economy’s efficiency – have risen together, increasing rapidly through the 1950′s and 60′s and far more slowly in the 1970′s and 80′s.

But in recent years, the productivity gains have continued while the pay increases have not kept up. Worker productivity rose 16.6 percent from 2000 to 2005, while total compensation for the median worker rose 7.2 percent, according to Labor Department statistics analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. Benefits accounted for most of the increase.

“If I had to sum it up,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the institute, “it comes down to bargaining power and the lack of ability of many in the work force to claim their fair share of growth.”

In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners – a group that includes many chief executives – received 11.2 percent of all wage income, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago, according to Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economists who analyzed the tax data.

And on Wednesday, The New York Times reports:

The nation’s median household income rose slightly faster than inflation last year for the first time in six years, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.

The rise, however, had little to do with bigger paychecks – in fact, both men and women earned less in 2005 than 2004. Rather, census officials said, more family members were taking jobs to make ends meet, and some people made more money from investments and other sources beyond wages.

The small uptick in median household income reported yesterday, 1.1 percent, was not enough to offset a longer-term drop in median household income – the annual income at which half of the country’s households make more and half make less.

That figure fell 5.9 percent between the 2000 census and 2005, to $46,242 from $49,133, according to an analysis of the data conducted for The New York Times by the sociology department of Queens College. The difference was so sharp, in part, because the 2000 census measured 1999 income, which was at the height of the dot-com bubble.

The new data also showed continuing erosion in the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance. In 2005, an estimated 46.6 million people had no coverage, up 1.3 million since 2004 and increasing the percentage of Americans without health coverage from 15.6 percent of the population to 15.9 percent.

After recent decreases in the numbers of children without health insurance, this year’s data found that their numbers grew between 2004 and 2005, rising from 10.8 percent of those under 18 to 11.2 percent.

Republicans were very pleased with these numbers.  Why?  Because their plan is working.  The figures cited in these two articles show that they have successfully shifted much of the nation’s income from the lower and middle classes to the upper classes.

Corporate profits are up!  Taxes on dividends and capital gains are down!  Hooray for the super rich!  They can hire the proletariat to cater to their wants and desires.   And that’s good, because those extra jobs increases household income by getting more people in each household to work for less money.

There’s a name for this type of government:  Fascism

The working class fought against fascism during the Roosevelt years and made solid gains.  Now it seems that we must fight the same battles all over again.

A New Accountability Moment

Shortly after winning the 2004 presidential election, George W Bush boasted that he had saved political capital and that he intended to spend it. And in talking of the growing mess in Iraq, and the culpability of his administration, he said this: “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections”, his meaning being, he made clear, that the American people had demonstrated their satisfaction with his performance by returning him to office.

Well as we all know, what little capital he had left after squandering much of it on a failed effort to privatise Social Security went floating away in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina or went up in smoke in the increasing chaos that is Iraq. Combined, these disasters have become a metaphor for the utter fecklessness of the Bush administration. To this point, however, he has escaped genuine accountability for the mess he and his Republican Party enablers in Congress have made of governing this country. It is way overdue.

Certainly many of us hoped and believed that the 2004 election would be the time when he was held accountable for his ignorance, his hubris, his unsurpassed incompetence and his intellectual laziness. Well, unfortunately, the disgusting Karl Rove and the Swift Boat Veterans for…what was it? – Oh yeah – Truth, ensured that enough of the electorate saw John Kerry as an unacceptable alternative to give us four more years of Bush. The GOP even managed to retain their hold on both houses in Congress.

Well, as they say, what goes around comes around. The 2006 congressional elections will give us a second chance to get it right and things currently appear bleak for the Republicans. If the elections were held tomorrow the Democrats would almost certainly win the House of Representatives and make serious inroads on the GOP majority in the Senate. Unfortunately, they are not until November, which gives the GOP plenty of time to fund and mount the inevitable campaign to depict Democrats as weak on national defence, cut and run light-weights, defeatist beatniks – well, you get the picture.

The Democrats’ failure in 2004 stems in part from their failure to make it a referendum on Bush and the GOP congressional majority on their myriad failures of leadership governance. The mess in Iraq was already becoming obvious to anyone who was paying attention. Yet Rove and the GOP were able to frame the issue as one in which it would be risky and foolish to change horses in mid-stream in the war on terrorism. Instead of: “how the heck did we get in this mess and who put us here?” it was: “okay this is bad but who is best able to lead us from this point”? Well nobody can accuse the GOP of not being very savvy politically. Not to put too fine a point on it, the American people got it wrong as subsequent events have proved beyond any doubt.

Now we have another chance and we must not muff this one. We hear all the time about the choice we have between withdrawing from Iraq with the attendant risk that it will be torn apart by civil war and possibly become an Islamic fundamentalist republic or, worse, a terrorist haven; and the alternative which is to hang in there indefinitely in the hope that it will emerge one day as a stable and hopefully democratic nation. This last option will inevitably entail the United States continuing to pay a high price in blood and treasure, and to suffer the consequences of a huge commitment of and concomitant wear-and tear on the Army and Marine Corps. It is a monstrous national dilemma, and one that is entirely of this administration’s making. Either option has the very real potential to do enormous harm to our national interest.

This is not the only box into which this administration and the slavishly obedient Republican Congress have placed the country; witness the complete failure to restrain spending whilst affording the richest Americans a succession of tax breaks with the result that the national debt has grown alarmingly in the last six years. With obligations to Medicare and Social Security looming we face a future in which we must enact massive spending cuts or enormous tax increases – or risk long term and harmful damage to our economy if foreigners decide to stop financing our debt binge.

No matter how angry liberals and progressives are with the likes of Senator Maria Cantwell or Joe Lieberman – well okay he’s a special case – we must not lose sight of who is responsible for the depressing domestic and foreign policy outlooks. We invaded Iraq not because of the vote of Maria Cantwell or any Democrat, but because George W Bush decided that it would be so. He was aided and abetted by a GOP that happily painted Democratic opponents as unpatriotic and soft on terrorism. The invasion of Iraq, of course, was a diversion from the struggle against Islamic terrorists not an attack upon it. And as we now know the threat of weapons of mass destruction was an illusion fed by cherry-picked intelligence titbits, distortions and misinformation; which, in any case, ignored the fact that Iraq was already being held in check.

This level of ignorance, stupidity, arrogance and dishonesty cannot again be allowed to pass without the American people making their voices heard. May it be loud and clear come November.

Roche Harbor Street Blog

Roche Harbor, San Juan Island street blog
My cousin emailed this photo to me along with some information about the author.  He is a registered Republican and retired military.  He had to get a county permit for the sign and does not get any local press.  The only people that seem to get upset are some of the neighbors, so he decided to give it a rest for the summer. 

Who needs local press when you can be on the worldwide internet?

We’ll be looking forward to some more photos to post here after summer break.

How to Lose Friends and Influence at the U.N.

Republican Senator George Voinovich was the sole GOP member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to balk at President Bush’s nomination of John Bolton to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. His opposition, along with that of every Democratic member of the committee was based on well founded fears that Bolton’s abrasive, even obnoxious demeanour, his confrontational style, arrogance and bluster, would detract from our efforts to effect management reform at the U.N and would not be in the country’s best interests. There were, in short, many better choices available. The Senate failed to pass the nomination out of committee and Bush responded, as he usually does, by thumbing his nose at the committee and making Bolton a recess appointment.

Bolton’s appointment expires in January and must be confirmed by the Foreign Relations Committee and after that by the full Senate for him to continue to serve as U.N. Ambassador. In the many months since his recess appointment, Mr Bolton has, in practice, fully vindicated Senator Voinovich’s worst fears; however, the senator has changed his mind and now expresses his intention to vote to approve Bolton’s nomination when it comes up again. Such is the manner in which those who perform this Administration’s heavy lifting end up sounding either utterly foolish or incoherent – or both.

Voinovich states that he is impressed with Bolton’s forceful advocacy of America’s positions at the U.N. Lack of forcefulness, of course, was never one of Bolton’s identifiable flaws. A glaring deficiency in the diplomatic art was much more of a concern and, here, Bolton has not disappointed, as a recent article in the New York Times makes clear.

A key objective of the U.S. and a priority for Bolton is to effect much needed management efficiencies at the U.N. However, even representatives from countries friendly to the U.S. and sympathetic with its aims in this regard voiced strong off-the-record misgivings and frustration at Bolton’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach which has succeeded in alienating those whose support he needs to bring the reforms to fruition. The result is failure. Somewhere along the line this guy’s mother forgot to tell him about honey being better than (or at least needs to be employed along with) vinegar to get what you want – a fatal flaw in an ambassador, surely.

In the end of course it doesn’t much matter who is U.N. Ambassador. The U.S. is still the lone superpower, the Bush Administration’s daily efforts to diminish it notwithstanding. Countries will listen to the Ambassador from this country because they cannot afford not to. In that sense the U.S. could put a trained monkey in the position and we would still have enormous influence to get want we want on the Security Council, where it really counts. Where we will lose out are on those issues involving reform at the U.N. itself and of the machinery that makes it tick. Here, Bolton’s appointment will cost us much.

On the other hand, Bolton really is a perfect metaphor for the incompetence and hubris of the Bush Administration. Loud, ruthless, clueless and ultimately ineffective, Bolton may be a disgrace as a key ambassadorial representative of our nation, but as the face of the Bush Administration, a better choice is hard to imagine.