Saturday, March 22, 2008

Repya's View: Winning In Iraq Is About Avenging Vietnam

Say it ain't so Joe.

All those U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam, died in vain.

So says Joe Repya, the man who wanted to be Minnesota's Republican Party Chair and in the past has tried to quiet any questioning of the occupation in Iraq by questioning the questioners' patriotism.

Thursday on WCCO's Don Shelby show, Repya said:
"I want to see victory for the Iraqi people. I want to see a safe nation. Because there's 4,000 of my brothers and sisters who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. And I don't want to see them die in vain , much like the 58,000 that served with me in Vietnam died in vain."
Listen here

Really? Giving your life for your country is dying in vain?

For the moment, let's take Joe at his word and accept that in his mind, this is true.

That means his argument for staying in Iraq is somehow tied to avenging the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq and Vietnam.

Joe, I can understand your anger over having lost friends in that war. But your anger clouds your logic. Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes. Vietnam taught us you can't fight for a country where its people are against you. Every poll in Iraq shows that the general population doesn't want us there. When the people are against you, the enemy is given shelter and can easily blend in. It's hard to fight a force you can't see.

In the same WCCO interview, Joe admits mistakes were made in how the Iraq war was conceived and executed. Why did those mistakes happen? Because "patriotism" was used as a rhetorical shield against serious questioning of what the Bush administration was doing. It's a tactic Joe and his party has employed liberally in the past. I witnessed this myself when Joe questioned the patriotism of peace supporters for not applauding when the mother of a fallen soldier she said her son would have died in vain if we do not win the "war" in Iraq.

What are we fighting for in Iraq? There's no consensus on what that is. Is it to find those elusive WMDs, bring democracy or for the sake of those who have already died?

It's hard to have "victory," which Joe has said "there is no substitute for," when you don't know what victory looks like. But I know what defeat looks like. Defeat is when our US Constitution is shredded, our liberties curtailed, and our economy collapses under a huge war debt.

If we're looking for a clear-cut definition of victory, returning our constitution, our liberties and our good economic (and diplomatic) standing in the world would seem to be something we can all agree on. As Will Rodgers once said, the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. I suggest we do it before we reach 58,000 lives lost.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

NTSB Dissent Reveals Multiple Possible Causes Of 35W Bridge Collapse

Politics, just like rust, never sleeps. Both may be factors in the collapse of the 35W bridge. But there's a chance you'll never get the full story on either of those factors, thanks to the National Transportation Safety Board's decision not to hold an interim public hearing on the disaster that took 13 lives. The NTSB recently voted 3-2 to not hold the public hearing, angering Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar — who has frequently been critical of the NTSB's handling of the investigation.

Inside Minnesota Politics and The UpTake have obtained the written dissenting opinions from NTSB Commissioners Deborah Hersman and Katheryn O'Leary Higgins. The dissent reveals not only displeasure with the other commissioners' decision not to hold a public hearing on one of the worst bridge collapse disasters in U.S. history, but the document also gives us a glimpse into likely factors of the collapse.

The dissent mentions the design flaw that NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker touted as the "critical factor" at a January press conference, and then quietly backed away from after Congressman Oberstar took him to task. But it also details other factors that should be aired in the public hearing. The two dissenting commissioners wrote:
"The public hearing can then focus on other relevant issues, such as the design approval process at the time the bridge was built and its evolution into the process that exists today; national bridge collapse or failure history; inspection criteria and procedures; corrosion standards; records retention requirements; national, state and local oversight; and other areas that could help us learn how to prevent a similar collapse."
There's that word "corrosion" again. Rust is an unavoidable reality for bridges unless you paint and maintain them regularly. The frequency of that maintenance (not just inspection) is where politics comes in. Democrats in Minnesota have been pointing fingers at Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's administration, which has been strangling the budget so the dollars to do maintenance properly have not been there.

More political factors: NTSB Chairman Rosenker has spent a career in Republican politics starting with CREEP, the Nixon Re-Election group, where he was deputy director for radio and TV. He has worked in nearly every Republican campaign from the 1970s to the present. If funding for bridge maintenance turns out to be a factor in the collapse, Republican Governor Pawlenty could end up taking the political fall for it.

According to the dissent, NTSB staff are concerned that politics will make it difficult to hold a public hearing. The dissenting commissioners argue that the political charged environment make a public hearing necessary to maintain the public's trust in the process:
"The downside of not holding a hearing is significant not only for this accident and for the transportation community, but also for the Board. We believe we would be abandoning our important duty to educate and reassure the traveling public of an independent, transparent, credible investigation after a tragic accident of national scope. And, after our decision not to hold a public hearing on the Comair flight 5191 accident in Lexington, Kentucky - for which the Board was roundly criticized - we believe our reputation for independence and transparency would suffer further.

"This is one of the rare accident investigations the Board has undertaken that has involved the total collapse of a major interstate highway bridge. Given the number of interstate bridges that exist in this country, the age of those bridges, and the use of those bridges, there is a significant need to explore whether this accident is likely to remain rare in the future."

Congressman Oberstar will ask the NTSB to reconsider its decision not to hold the public hearing:
“I am disappointed in Chairman Rosenker’s decision to not hold public hearings as part of the investigation of the I-35w bridge collapse, I believe the board is making a mistake. There has not been a bridge collapse in the United States in decades and it deserves a hearing. For NTSB it is both a teaching and learning opportunity. The board can teach the public how it investigates a tragedy of this magnitude and the discussion of the data that was gathered may yield new information that will help explain how this tragedy occurred. No investigation has ever suffered from a thorough discussion of the evidence.”

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Franken wins big in Eagan/Burnsville

US Senate Candidate Al Franken won the lion's share of delegates at this Saturday's SD 38 DFL Convention. Subcaucuses that named Franken as a candidate were awarded 10 of SD 38's 17 state delegates. Subcauses that named the other two candidates in the race Mike Ciresi and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer were awarded 1 delegate each. The remaining five delegates were awarded to subcaucuses that were uncommitted (3) or named a presidential candidate (Clinton-1, Obama-1.)

Here is the list of subcaucuses, the number of votes each one got and the resulting number of state delegates.

Subcaucus Votes
State Delegates
Uncommitted, Environment, Education
Franken, Health Care, Veterans
Franken, Obamaesque Issues
Franken, Education
Obama, End The War
Ciresi Victory '08
Clinton, Climate Change, Care
Franken, First Timers
Franken, Energy & Environment
Franken, Labor
Franken, Peace, Domestic Partnership
Nelson Pallmeyer, Stop Global Warming
Disclosure: I was a delegate to the SD 38 Convention and was in the "uncommitted" caucus.

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