Saturday, November 1, 2008

Free national security advice for the incoming administration

The TomDispatch web site is an invaluable treasure store. In a recent column, Andrew Bacevich evaluates the disastrous waging of the so-called War on Terror along with several other wars and offers concrete suggestions about what priorities the next administration ought to set to enhance national security.

Here is Bacevich's opening salvo:

A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration's conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future.

Yet, to a considerable extent, that very enterprise has become a fiction, a gimmicky phrase employed to lend an appearance of cohesion to a panoply of activities that, in reality, are contradictory, counterproductive, or at the very least beside the point. In this sense, the global war on terror relates to terrorism precisely as the war on drugs relates to drug abuse and dependence: declaring a state of permanent "war" sustains the pretense of actually dealing with a serious problem, even as policymakers pay lip-service to the problem's actual sources. The war on drugs is a very expensive fraud. So, too, is the Global War on Terror.

In concluding his article, Bacevich offers some excellent thoughts on what the next administration MUST do:

Yet the existing strategic vacuum is also an opportunity. When it comes to national security at least, the agenda of the next administration all but sets itself. There is no need to waste time arguing about which issues demand priority action.

First-order questions are begging for attention. How should we gauge the threat? What are the principles that should inform our response? What forms of power are most relevant to implementing that response? Are the means at hand adequate to the task? If not, how should national priorities be adjusted to provide the means required? Given the challenges ahead, how should the government organize itself? Who -- both agencies and individuals -- will lead?

To each and every one of these questions, the Bush administration devised answers that turned out to be dead wrong. The next administration needs to do better. The place to begin is with the candid recognition that the Global War on Terror has effectively ceased to exist. When it comes to national security strategy, we need to start over from scratch.

Words of the prophets written on the knick knack walls

Anecdotal empirical evidence:

Played bridge tonight with my friend Tom who had gone to DC earlier in the week on business with one of his colleagues. While weaving their way out of the Dulles airport complex, Tom noticed something about the election paraphenalia (t-shirts, etc.) being hawked: McCain-Palin stuff being sold on a "buy one get one free" basis. Obama-Biden, no such deals applied.

Tom mentioned it to his colleague a bit later. The colleague hadn't noticed it, and had doubts about Tom's observation. But, the colleague had been tasked by his children with procuring some election stuff, and so, on the return through to the airport, colleague had to eat a little non-discounted crow. His kids had asked for Obama stuff only.

Going once, going twice, going, going, gone.

For what it's worth.

The Bradley Effect?

Updated I: updated state leanings a/o 11/3 noted below

I found Larry Johnson's No Quarter Blog very helpful to understanding the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. But while I could understand his support of Senator Clinton, I found his attacks on Senator Obama to be quite uncivil and quite offputting. Of course, Obama partisans were often quite as uncivil and quite as offputting. The harsh and extreme language used to denunciate the other democratic candidate often resembled the screeds found in the radical right wing blogs. Quite a bit like watching a Lee Atwater attack a democrat. Like eating one's own. Bob Somersby might suggest "our side" plays shirts vs skins just as viciously as "their side." So for a long time, I quit reading DailyKos and Booman, and limit my political blog-reading to the DailyHowler, Digby's Hullaballoo, and The Left Coaster.

Bounced back to No Quarter today and found what is alleged to be an insider's look at the Obama campaign from one of a very few Clinton supporter invited to work with the Obama campaign.

I'll be watching the election results to see how certain states play out (compared to the 538 projections).

Of course, there are possible voter suppression, machine mysteriously malfunctioning, and other theft possibilities.

The Bradley Effect. Don’t believe these polls for a second. I just went over our numbers and found that we have next to no chance in the following states: Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire and Nevada. Ohio leans heavily to McCain, but is too close to call it for him. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa are the true “toss up states”.

The only two of these the campaign feels “confident” in are Iowa and New Mexico.

The reason for such polling discrepancy is the Bradley Effect, and this is a subject of much discussion in the campaign. In general, we tend to take a -10 point percentage in allowing for this, and are not comfortable until the polls give us a spread well over this mark.

This is why we are still campaigning in Virginia and Pennsylvania! This is why Ohio is such a desperate hope for us! What truly bothers this campaign is the fact that some pollsters get up to an 80% “refuse to respond” result. You can’t possibly include these into the polls. The truth is, people are afraid to let people know who they are voting for. The vast majority of these respondents are McCain supporters. Obama is the “hip” choice, and we all know it.

Updated results bolded

Almost no chance:

Missouri (538 sez - toss up) [538 - slightly McCain]
Indiana (538 sez - lean McC) [538 - lean McC]
North Carolina (538 sez - lean Obama) [538 lean Obama]
Florida, (538 sez - lean Obama) [538 lean Obama]
New Hampshire (538 sez - solid Obama) [solid Obama]
Nevada (likely Obama) [solid Obama]

Too close to call: Ohio (likely Obama) [likely Obama]

Toss ups:

Virginia, (solid Obama) [solid Obama]
Pennsylvania, (solid Obama) [solid Obama]
Colorado, (solid Obama) [solid Obama]
New Mexico (solid Obama) [solid Obama]
Iowa (solid Obama) [solid Obama]

Friday, October 31, 2008

A game conservatives should never allow their government to play

Yesterday I linked to a William S. Lind commentary on the possible world shattering consequences if an election is called in Israel and the Likud party were to win. Lind made some amazingly prescient calls on the consequences of the invasion of Iraq more than a month before that sad, brutal, monstrous campaign was launched.

Lind had serious questions about the rational for the war, and foretold the undoing of the Republican Party in the fourth of his weekly "On War" Series - Is Washington Playing at War - from 12 February, 2003:

... Washington seems hell-bent on war with Iraq, and nobody (including my friends in the military) understands why.

Secretary of State Powell's speech to the U.N. did not answer the question. Considering that we are talking about war here, the grounds he offered for it were trifling...

The mismatch between causes and means raises a deeply troubling question: is Washington playing at war? Make no mistake: war is the most perilous and unpredictable of all human endeavors. Playing with war is more dangerous than playing with fire, because fire can usually be contained; war, too often, cannot...

... If the Bush Administration were in desperate political trouble, one could at least see a rationale for a wild gamble on war. But politically, the Administration could hardly be riding higher. It just gained strength in Congress in an off-year election, a rare event. Bush's poll numbers are more than comfortable. Yet the White House is risking it all on a single throw of the dice. If this war goes badly, it is the end of George W. Bush and any hope of a Republican ascendancy for the next twenty years. Our next President might well be Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Rumsfeld recently said that a war with Iraq would be over in six days or perhaps six weeks; it almost certainly would not last six months. Here, too one senses someone playing at war. What if Iraq fights in the cities, where the built environment negates "hi-tech" weaponry?

The question Lind comes back to, over and over, is WHY. Why this war with Iraq?

I've long contended that "why" is perhaps the most useless of questions to ask. Who, what, where, when, and how - answers all those questions and everybody can agree on a group of basic facts. Once these pertinent facts are all agreed, then shave with Occam's razor, ascribe the simplest explanation that fits all the facts.

Not only do all governments lie (thank I.F. Stone), individuals do to, quite likely putting the most charitable construction on all that they have done (especially when all that they have done has turned out badly - perhaps VERY badly).

To bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, of course.

Well, of course, that is a lie, albeit an uplifting one for the soldiers and warriors of the invading country. The lies we tell ourselves so that we can evade the mirror.

Originally, it was SO much simpler. To eliminate the (non-existent) WMD from Iraq and to remove from power an evil dictator. Mission accomplished, long ago - probably May of 2003 when the codpiece in chief announced mission accomplished at the photo-op on the ship outside San Diego.

WMD were NOT the reason. (Else we'd be gone.)

Saddam was long ago removed from power, and then executed, martyred, never to return (except perhaps in legend or in myth).

Removal of an evil despot then was NOT the reason. (Else we'd be gone.)

How about to establish a permanent military presence and multiple bases of operation in the middle east? That explains the 100+ bases, the almost $1 billion embassy building in the green zone. We invaded Iraq ... to STAY in Iraq. That explanation fits the facts.

The Cheney administration played war. A "game" they thought would be easily won. Had they consulted Lind, they might have thought differently. No, I think not. No one in the administration, least of all GWB, wanted to hear discouraging words. Warnings were sounded. Plenty of them.

Hubris - arrogant pride - they knew better about war and the need to display American military might. They wore their suits and showed up to the meetings on time. Just like good MBA's should do. Not at all like Clinton's lackadaisical crew.

And an overwhelming desire - to play at war. Treating it, as a game, selling it with the most effective marketing plan that focus groups had discovered.

Once the who, what, where, when, and how are established - the why question pretty much answers itself.

Lind, a self-described conservative / monarchist, concludes his prescient piece with a cautionary analogy. Not the tired Saddam = Hitler analogy that the U.S. has used to demonize every leader of every nation we've waged war upon since WWII. No. Conservatism was destroyed by WWI. The purported ideology of the Bushies, the neocons, the theocons, and the corporatists was being risked by waging this war - orchestrating this invasion and enduring occupation of a nation that was never, NEVER a threat to the U.S.

If anyone should be cautious about playing at war, it is conservatives. The greatest conservative catastrophe in the 20th Century was World War I. The three conservative monarchies that had kept the poisons of the French Revolution in check through the 19th century, Russia, Prussia and Austria, were all swept away by that disastrous war.

Then, too, in that fateful summer of 1914, governments played at war. Austria saw a chance to restore her image as a Great Power. Russia perceived an opportunity to take revenge on Austria for her humiliation in the Bosnian Annexation Crisis of 1908. The Kaiser ... wanted to stay on the defensive in the west and attack in the east, which would have kept Britain out of the war... Everyone agreed that the troops would be home before the leaves fell.

Four miserable years and millions of dead later, the Kaiser was an exile in Holland, the Tsar and his family were dead and Austria-Hungary had ceased to exist. The British empire had bled to death in the mud of Flanders, and on the streets of Paris, there were no young men. The future belonged to people no one had ever heard of, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin.

If there is a game conservatives should never allow their government to play, it is playing at war.

Lind's analysis is almost six years old. It holds up amazingly well. Writers such as Lind, Professor Juan Cole, Commander Jeff Huber, the dearly departed and oh so sorely missed Molly Ivins are especially important voices that we need to heed, to read, and to study.

They've seen the same things we've all seen. And they have taken their own unique training, education, background, life experiences, common sense, intuition, synthesis, etc, etc, and been able to predict the consequences of certain actions far FAR more realistically than the beltway talking heads, a number of far more well known and pulitzer-endowed national columnists and just about anybody that appears on Faux News.

I'll ask again. From who will Obama (or McCain) seek counsel about affairs foreign? about affairs military? about affairs domestic? about affairs financial?

While Obama has run an excellent campaign, he has also surrounded himself with advisers from the Clinton era.

That's NOT change. That's more of the same. More of the same military mistakes. More of the same foreign policy mistakes. More of the same financial mistakes.

I'm not excited about an Obama presidency. I'm not particularly hopeful either. It will be less worse than a McCain presidency. But unless Obama surrounds himself with people having this kind of proven bona fides on the war(s), this ability to accurately predict the consequences of such serious actions ...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Role model

Maureen Dowd continues her descent ever deeper into the chthonic nether world, abusing her platform as a twice-weekly op-ed writer for the once great New York Times in her Maverick Wears Prada screen play piece doing her all to ensure that the next generation of journalism majors aspire to be as trite as she.

I shall not quote from Maureen's continuing adventures in her own special Cat World, but I do find this comment from one of MoDo's readers more than a tad worrisome:

I am a senior journalism major, and I just have to tell you that I look forward to your columns every week. They never disappoint!!!!

Thank you so much for your creativity and for your incredibly intelligent commentary.

— Susanna, Indianapolis

Shall the woman be an inspiration to untold generations of scriptwriters masqueragding as journalists?

What the hell - most of what MoDo has written all the long has been one big continuing story, a script in which democratic politician men are women, democratic politician women are men, and the minds of President William Jefferson Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are open books which MoDo can read (the Clinton's are evil, scheming, calculating, liars).

McCain is their worst nightmare

A great deal can be gained by looking back to what various commentators were saying then, and compare just how accurate there projections were, in late of what has become known, as fact replaces fancy. The great Molly Ivins had such keen insights into Texas politics and politicians (and a host of other issues). Here's some things she wrote in late February, 2000.

What a slugfest that was in South Carolina -- the best East Texas campaign I've seen in years. Open thuggery! John McCain accused Bush of being like Bill Clinton (horror of horrors), while Bush's supporters were accusing McCain of being gay, a womanizer, having a Jewish campaign chairman, a black daughter and a drug-addict wife. Boy, that was some goin' there. The Bushies must be proud of that one.

The great mystery at this point is why so many Republicans are still voting for Bush on the theory that he's their strongest candidate. One can see why the big-money Republicans are still for him -- McCain actually threatens to do something about big money in politics. But what about the rest of the R's?

The D's have had this figured out for weeks. McCain is their worst nightmare -- there goes every independent vote in the country. Unless the R's decide to vote for Al Gore, McCain is your heavy favorite.

Bush is so certain that McCain is the stronger candidate, he's busy turning himself into McCain. The last few weeks have been the ultimate morph ad, as Dubya started adopting all McCain's themes and tactics. "The real reformer," "a reformer with results" and (most priceless of all) "in favor of campaign finance reform."

What a wheeze. Bush is the most status quo, establishment candidate imaginable. But South Carolina certainly proves that some people will believe anything.

Was Molly right? Was McCain the democrat's worst nightmare? That was before the nightmare of Florida, 2000.

Was Bush the most establishment candidate? Oh, ABSOLUTELY. Follow the money. But what might McCain have done differently is he had been in office on 11 September, 2001?

Not worth while to play that what if game.

Well, political campaign coverage - the ultimate in "that silly season" so much like so-called "reality TV." So contrived, so scripted, such tired worn out narrative - boiling down to nothing more than winners and loser.

How about some more subtance from that same Molly Ivins column.

The trouble with this presidential campaign is what is not being talked about by the pols or the media. Just for example: "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War" (Atlantic Monthly Press) by Mark Bowden is the most gripping true story I've read in years.

In all that sad, tangled history of good intentions gone awry, of our utter failure to understand the culture and the politics of the place, are some deep, gonging warning bells about the American military. As Bowden keeps reminding us, "the greatest military power on earth" was simply overwhelmed by huge mobs of furious Third World people armed with nothing more than rifles and old Soviet rocket-propelled grenades. Wave after wave after wave of them. And all our vaunted high-tech, super-duper, zillion-dollar weapons couldn't stand up to the RPGs.

Now the question arises: Do we keep doing the same thing we already know doesn't work? Do we keep letting the defense industry convince us to pay for ever-higher-tech weapons (on which they make huge profits) that are of no use in Third World situations where we are trying to keep peace or deliver help?

We have no enemies with remotely equivalent high-tech weaponry to fight. All we have is pitiable places like Congo, now in hideous strife, with cries for help mounting.

So, it's still the military-industrial-congressional-infortainment-prison complex calling the shots. And they (and their surrogates MSM voices) will SCREAM like harpies should their funding be threatened.

No question about it. We continue to wage an arms race against ourselves. Guns or butter? And this choice becomes very real. The guns are not about to give up.

But what's the point in having the world's most technologically advanced military weapons systems if you're not going to USE them once in a while? For to fail to wage war with such expensive weaponry would be ultimately to call the price being paid to produce it into serious question.

As Jeff Huber has so eloquently said - "We already won World War II and the Cold War, and we already lost Vietnam. We don't need to do those things again.

"It's time to move on to new business."

Elections in Israel hold more meaning for the United States than does America’s own coming vote

William S. Lind at The Defense and National Interest writes that the winner of potential national elections in Israel could end up being more significant to the U.S. than the winner of the November 4 U.S. presidential election.

Lind also points out that an Obama election will most decidedly NOT mean the end of the neo-con influence on American foreign policy, that they will simply return as neo-libs.

The world is becoming ever smaller and ever more connected. There are no excuses for being unaware of the possibilities Lind points to.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave up her efforts to form a new Israeli government and called for elections. Her move may be a last negotiating gambit. If not, Israel will probably face national elections in February 2009.

At present some, polls suggest the Likud party will win. If that happens, it will mean as much for America as for Israel. Why? Because America’s Middle Eastern policy is effectively the tail on Likud’s dog. Many American neo-cons, those great guys who gave us the war in Iraq, are de facto members of Likud. Several leading American neo-cons wrote Likud’s strategy for Israel, which calls for someone - guess who? — to destroy every Middle Eastern country that could be a threat to Israel. The American invasion of Iraq represented in part that strategy being put into effect.

Those who imagine an Obama victory will see the neo-cons shown the door are in for an unpleasant surprise. Under the guise of neo-libs, they are no less influential in the Democratic establishment than in the Republican. The only way Likud could get shut out of a Democratic administration is if Obama bypasses the whole establishment in choosing his foreign and defense policy appointments. While that is fervently to be wished, it is probably not going to happen. Like figures on a medieval clock, the Republican and Democratic establishments succeed each other in an unbroken chain of policy failure.

It may be that elections in Israel hold more meaning for the United States than does America’s own coming vote. One writer quoted in the Washington Post said that if McCain wins, history will pay America a visit, “the shroud, the scythe and all Four Horsemen.” That may be no less true if Obama wins, unless he improbably finds the wisdom and courage to break with the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment. That establishment is as tied to Israel as Russia’s foreign policy establishment was tied to Serbia in 1914. Past, I suspect, is prologue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Queen of the Northwest and Prophetess of the Evangelicals

At Sic Semper Tyrannus, Patrick Lang peers into the future and makes some predictions about the upcoming election.

Obama will be president. The Democrats will hold both houses of Congress so strongly that they will be tempted to govern unwisely, pushing the country farther to the left than its nature will allow.

McCain will be finished. Perhaps he can find some peace in that. Palin will become queen of the Northwest and prophetess of the Evangelicals. Unfortunately for her, there are not enough votes in that base to elect her president.

We will see what the new administration will be like.

It would be a good thing to have a government made up of human beings. pl

And thus, unwise governance involves pushing the country "farther to the left" than "its nature will allow."

Ominous sounding words. I'm not really sure what they mean. Farther to the left than what? The police state witnessed in Minneapolis / St. Paul at the Republican convention? The voters of California rejecting Proposition 8? The Federal Government hiring Blackwater operatives to ferret out medicinal marijuana facilities (made legal by in the state of California by a state referendum) and trash them in San Diego? Making a decision to stop buying $338 million dollar aircraft when $17 million dollar planes will do just as well? Withdrawal of ALL U.S. troops from Iraq (not likely)? Granting judges more latitude in sentencing guidelines? Decisions to process marijuana possession charges less vigilantly? Eliminating justice department hiring decisions based on political party affiliation? Stopping torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib?
Any of the aforementioned things could be construed as a "leftward push." But would these be necessarily bad? Or contrary to the wishes a majority of people in the U.S.

And what exactly is "the nature" of the country?

These are highly abstract constructs -- words that would conjure up different pictures in the heads of different people who could be carrying on a conversation about such things as "the nature of the country" and none of them having ANY idea whatsoever about what the others are talking about.

Need more specifics.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

History Lesson From Juan Cole

Rereading Professor Juan Cole's July 31, 2002 posting on his invaluable Informed Comment Blog was quite enlightening.

... There is not any doubt that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz intend to go to war against Baghdad, and the signs I've seen are that they have convinced President George W. Bush to do it. Apparently the top officers in the US armed forces are unanimous in not wanting this war, but then Colin Powell initially opposed the first Gulf War, as well. Who wants to be dragged into an uncertain operation that might make you look bad? Nevertheless, if Bush orders the war, it will happen.

The varying Pentagon war plans being leaked are not a sign of unseriousness. They are a sign that different factions within the Pentagon want to do the war in different ways, and they are jockeying for position by releasing their opponents' plans with a negative spin on them. War departments always have varying scenarios for fighting a war, and often only in the actual event are the hard choices made. Those with good memories may remember that the geniuses over at The New Republic were insisting on putting 100,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan last October, and apparently there were some in the Pentagon who agreed that might be necessary (what a recipe for disaster) before the Taliban collapsed so startlingly.

The Senate and the House don't appear to be opposed to the project. And, the drumbeat of the intellectually dishonest members of the war party, such as former CIA director James Woolsey, intimating that perhaps maybe somewhere there is not impossibly a possibility that it is not unthinkable that there is an Iraq-al-Qaida connection appears to be being bought by the naive. (Of course, there is no such evidence).

The lack of enthusiasm for such a war on the part of the militarily important Powers in continental Europe, in Russia, and in the Arab World, does not mean it cannot be done, I've decided. It simply means that the U.S. will be acting almost unilaterally. Since it will need Saudi or Jordanian air space, which won't be on offer, it is entirely possible that the US will simply use it anyway, on the theory that there is nothing that the Saudis or Jordanians can do about it.

While it seems likely that Bush will go to war, the outcome of such an action is very much in doubt and could haunt him (and us) in the future. The negative possibilities include:

1) Iraq could be destabilized, with ethnic forces becoming mobilized and squabbling over resources, as happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion.

2) Iraq could be reconstituted as an unpopular American-backed dictatorship, as happened in Iran in the 1950s. So far, close US allies in the War on Terror in the Middle East include Egypt, which is a military dictatorship that just jailed Saad Eddin Ibrahim for human rights work; Pakistan, a military dictatorship whose leader is attempting to manipulate the fall elections to keep himself in power; Saudi Arabia (nuff said); and other countries with extremely bad human rights records or which are involved in imperial occupations. A Pinochet in Iraq would potentially harm the US diplomatically for decades to come.

3) The loss of civilian life will be significant, further turning much of the world against the United States and losing any sympathy generated by September 11.

3) Recruitment of terrorists to strike the U.S. in the Muslim world may well be easier in the aftermath of a bloodbath in Iraq.

4) The unilateral nature of the action may well provoke Europe, Russia, China and India to begin trying to find ways to unite against the U.S. on such issues in the future, so as to offset its massive military superiority by isolating it on the Security Council and in other international venues. Europe's relative economic clout could grow if war uncertainties keep the US economy weak.

5) The Bush First Strike doctrine may well be emulated by other nations who fear their neighbors, producing copy cat wars that destabilize entire regions.
It should be remembered that the German army in 1914 had a first strike doctrine, which dragged Europe into an unnecessary and highly destructive maelstrom.

6) There may be no dividend to an Iraq war in the form of lower petroleum prices in the long run. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait both have significant excess capacity, and OPEC always has an incentive to pump less oil for higher prices, as they have done in the past. Even if Iraq could pump 5 million barrels a day instead of 2, OPEC can just reduce its output by 3 mn. barrels a day and put the price back up. They would have every incentive to do so since they could get about the same amount of income from less oil, benefiting them over time.

And the reason Professor Cole is NOT presently advising either the Obama or the McCain campaigns on middle Eastern foreign policy is because?

Would it be too much to ask of the incoming administration to solicit the services of someone who accurately foresaw so many of the negative outcomes of the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

A speaker of Arabic, who has traveled to the middle East, who maintains academic and other contacts within the middle East, who understands the history of the middle East, the wishes, hopes and dreams of the people of that region, who has actually SERVED in the U.S. armed forces, and who clearly understands the nuances of the inner workings of Washington D.C.

To establish credibility with the rest of the world, the next administration better damn well put competent, knowledgeable people in charge of all departments. And it better damn well ferret out the ideological/political appointees the outgoing Cheney administration has saddled us with.

I'm a dreamer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's all legal and fun

Update I noted below. An elected state official who had attended the show offers his thoughts.

Update II below

Reading of this tragedy has left me speechless. The local paper reports:

The accident which occurred about 2 p.m. at the Westfield (MA) Sportsman's Club on Furrowtown Road, remains under investigation ...

Witnesses told police the boy lost control of a fully automatic UZI he was shooting under the supervision of range officers at the club "when the self-inflicted accidental shooting occurred."

But what was an 8-year old boy doing shooting an uzi?

Reading the local paper, we learn that the boy's father

is medical director of emergency and critical care at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford.

The Minnesota Star Tribune reports

The boy's father and older brother were also there at the time, a gun club member and school official said. Francis Mitchell, a longtime member and trustee of the club, said he was told the boy's father was supporting his son from behind when the shooting happened.

It is legal in Massachusetts for children to fire a weapon if they have permission from a parent or legal guardian and are supervised by a properly certified and licensed instructor, Lt. Hipolito Nunez said.

The event ran in conjunction with C.O.P Firearms and Training

"It's all legal & fun — No permits or licenses required!!!!" reads the ad, posted on the club's Web site.

More details about the event were reported by The Republican

Attendees under the age of 16 were admitted free, and free .22-caliber pistol and rifle shooting for adults and kids was offered, according to the promotional material.

The sportsman's club is a private, nonprofit organization incorporated in 1949 that has 375 acres with facilities that include eight firing ranges, as well as facilities for archery and fishing. As of July, it had nearly 1,200 members.

During a tour of the club in July, its officers pointed out the care taken to ensure safety at the firing ranges.

COP Firearms & Training operates machine gun shoots and provides firearms training and sales, as well as gunsmithing and other services.

The web site for the gun club has been suspended.

Part of the COP firearms advertising for the event included this:

Partial Proceeds go to Shriners Hospitals for Children

Not surprisingly, this article has generated a lot of comments. Here are two that seemed thoughtful (meaning, I agreed with them).

Not really sure I would connect age to this incident. there are quite a few video clips online today where an adult accidently shoots themself because they are incapable of handling the weapon, very similar to this.

In this case you had a kid using an uzi, was there a determination that this kid could handle it, if so by what standard or by whom?

Guns are always a touchy subject, but dont be so quick to assume on this because we really dont know what happened.

- - -
This tragic situation has nothing to do with gun laws, rather common sense. You can't legislate common sense. It is intrinsic and we are suppose to teach it and live it with our children. There is nothing wrong with adult supervision and a child using a firearm- like a bb gun or a .22 cal. Little kids ride motocross with manageable machines, but you would not put them on a 1100cc racing bike. They can't handle it.

This is about common sense, and yesterday it went out the window in Westfield. It was a terrible accident, but like most avoidable. Similar to putting your kid in the back of a pick-up- and they end up dieing. Not about laws. About putting children in harms way.

Update I:

An updated report to the original story in The Republican notes:

Long-time club member state Rep. Donald F. Humason, R-Westfield, attended the event Sunday but had left before the Bizilj was shot.

"This is a terrible tragedy," Humason said. "It was a tragedy not through the negligence of the instructors or the club. Everything was done under the supervision of licensed instructors."

Asked about allowing youngsters to fire machine guns, Humason said, "If we don't teach kids how to use dangerous things they will find them and use them the wrong way. No amount of legislation will stop accidents from happening."

So a Republican State Representative, and long time club member was at the show. No problem. It's an annual event - The Big Pumpkin Shoot.

He says one of the right things "this is a terrible tragedy".

He says another thing, that is "right" to the extent that it offers up at least a little shield to the club and COP Firearms organization from any law suits. No negligence - everything was supervised by licensed instructors. But this is a false analogy. Medical malpractice is committed by licensed MD's. Are the licensing requirements adequate? Who knows?

But the absolutely KILLER part of Representative Humason's statement comes next. This simply enrages me. "If we don't teach kids how to use dangerous things" (good, we have an admission that an uzi is a dangerous thing) "they will find them and use them the wrong way".

How in the hell are eight-year old kids going to find uzis? Are they just lying around on sidewalks like pennies? Does everybody's home have uzis, which call out to eight-year old children "use me, use me?"

And finally, this REALLY sums up Republican / Small Government / Conservative talking points in a way that speaks for itself: "No amount of legislation will stop accidents from happening."

Well, NO KIDDING. No amount of legislation will stop accidents from happening. But some amounts of legislation CAN stop horrible accidents from happening. And that is why, some legislation is needed. Because quite clearly, common sense did not factor greatly into this equation.

So a horrible tragedy occurs, and a republican does what republicans do so well. Use a tragedy to advance an ideology - leap to a preemptive defense of a corporation AND an organization to which the Republican belongs; say we had to do allow if for the sake of the children; and then spin it in a blatant manner to preempt imposing legislation on the firearms industry.

Oh. My. God. In. Heaven. Jesus wept.

Update II:

It appears that Rep Humason's responses to this tragic incident could also be a reflex response given that he serves on the Massachusettes Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure ... a committee that might very well be called to take action based upon this tragic event.

Illinois Republican Party Vows - Never Again

Found this piece of garbage rotting in my e-mail today. I've highlighted what are sure to become perpetual talking points.

Sign the "Stop the Next Obama" Petition

Dear Friends:

We could have stopped Barack Obama years ago.

He came up through the ranks of the Illinois Democrat Party machine and took advantage of a Republican Party in disarray.

It's up to us to make sure that another liberal demagogue like Barack Obama never emerges from Illinois politics again.
You can send a message today by signing our "Stop the Next Obama" Petition.

Your signature is a pledge to support only Republican candidates and leaders who support an agenda of limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise and traditional values.

By signing this petition, you realize that just because a candidate calls themselves a Republican doesn't mean they can be counted on to advance the Party's principles. The fact is, some candidates are good at talking-the-talk; but after they get elected they don't walk-the-walk.

Call on Republican candidates throughout Illinois to support these mainstream Republican principles - so that we can take back Illinois from the inept machine politicians who have run Springfield for far too long.

Sign this petition (and get your friends to sign too) and together we can make a difference:

Stop "the next Obama" - I take this to mean - let's never again allow an African American to get into the position of becoming U.S. president.

Note the sexual subtext in Obama taking advantage of an Illinois GOP in dissary, as if deflowering a fair maiden who was a little confused. That powerful racist image of the dark-skinned man violating a light-white woman. How ironic, since it was a sexual context -- the revelations of embarrassing sexual proclivities of the then GOP candidate -- that resulted in Obama ultimately running against the carpet-bagger Alan Keyes (apparently the next best candidate the Illinois GOP could find willing to run to represent the state in the U.S. senate). Which says quite a bit about the quality of the character of the candidates being offered by the Grand Old Party, or, is it God's Own Party?

Limited Government (keep reducing taxes but especially reduce government programs that actually benefit people -- except, of course, the military-industrial-congressional-infotainment-prison complex. More bombs, more guns, privatize social security, privatize health care)

Individual Liberty (revoke all US constitutional amendments except the right to own assault weapons)

Free Enterprise (don't tax businesses either; don't regulate business either; )

Traditional Values (no rights for a woman to choose, no marriage rights between any but a man and a woman)

Apparently Illinois Republican Party is looking to be seated not so far back at future nominating conventions -- it's cold back there, and lonely.

Oh ... another LIBERAL DEMAGOGUE (not a socialist, you see he's WORSE than that ... he's a LIBERAL DEMAGOGUE)

It's already happening on the McCain campaign trail -- Obama has been morphed into a Liberal Commie Pinko Demagogue.

Things will keep getting more and more ugly. You may rest uneasily about that.