Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Email Address

After upwards of 100 Viagra and similar spams a day, I've finally had to abandon the old VichyDems email address and replace it with a new one (without the link). The new general VichyDems contact email addy is:

Vichy (at)

Thanks for keeping current!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

For Lieberman, The Center Isn't Right Enough

There's a Senate Centrist Coalition. Uber- Vichy Joe Lieberman quits it, forming a new center-er group with Republicans and fellow Vichys like Mary Landrieu (V-LA)(she who did whatever Bush asked her to in exchange for false promises to seriously rebuild New Orleans. Fool.)

Jeez, I wish Lamont had won! At least Kos and crowd are on the story. But now definitely is the time to stand up for true Dems and stand against the Vichys; as the new Congress forms, the soul of the party is being reshaped, and hopefully in the right way.

While we're on it, anyone else have the thought that the current Newsweek cover (Hillary v. Obama 2008) actually is displaying the centrists' dream ticket (Hillary-Obama '08)? I don't think Barack is making a serious bid for the Presidency; he's just trying to prove to Hillary that he's electable in the no. 2 spot, and will make his big move in '16.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More On Backcountry Rescue Costs

Following up on my post about backcountry rescue costs: Now noted athlete and outdoorswoman Rosie O'Donnell sounds off about rescue costs, getting every single fact, as well as the overarching principle, wrong. Aaaargh. And personally, I'm not aware of any significant mountains where my skills would be useful in New Orleans, even though I'd love to go there.

Kudos to KATU for raising the right counterarguments.

UPDATE Dec. 23: A nice opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune also gets it right.

UPDATE Jan. 11, 2007: As does this article, quoting my friend Steve Rollins.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Troop Increases: I Told You So.

I both hate and love to say it: I told you so.

NeoProgBlog (my other blog), Nov. 27, 2005: This Administration, in particular, had no and still has no intention of withdrawing substantial numbers of troops from Iraq [as they are promising]. They are still building 14 permanent bases on Iraq's sandy soil, and a permanent presence in Iraq -- to replace the airmen and other soldiers we pulled out of Saudi Arabia in capitulation to Osama bin Laden's demands and to secure a backup oil source in the event the Saudi royal family is overthrown -- is a key part of the neocon foreign policy and energy strategy. They will, of necessity, rotate exhausted, three-tour units home, but they will not willingly do more. If they do do more, it will be a capitulation to Congressional Republicans worried about their seats, and is not likely to last past next November. (Post: Bush Administration Claims Credit for Troop Reduction Plans.)

VichyDems, Mar. 14, 2006: “President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence. Bush, who until now has resisted concrete timelines as the Iraq war dragged on longer than he expected, outlined the target in the first of a series of speeches intended to lay out his strategy for victory. While acknowledging grim developments on the ground, Bush declared "real progress" in standing up Iraqi forces capable of defending their nation.” [Quoting from and linking to the Washington Post] I call bullshit. This is Nixonian politicking of the crassest, cruellest kind. The only troops coming home are those already due to do, some after two or three tours in-country. And after the election, forces “beyond his control” will force Bush to ramp troop levels back up.... [N]o serious, well-informed person actually believes that Iraq is anywhere close to self-sufficiency, or that Bush plans to bring our troops home soon. The only reason Bush is raising our soldiers’ and their families’ hopes is to bolster Republican chances in November. And raising false hope based on self-serving propaganda is a damnable thing to do, even for a Republican politician.... (Post: Nixon Bush Promises Troop Withdrawals Just After the Next Election.)

Washington Post, December 19, 2006: "President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin...."

Frankly, I wish I had been wrong a year ago, and that Bush had kept his promise. And I'm shocked, shocked that the MSM isn't pointing out Bush's "reduce troops by end of 2006" pledge... could it be they're not fair and balanced?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Refuting O'Reilly, Defending Backcountry Use

(Photo: an unpaid mountain rescue volunteer battles the elements on the way to a successful, and cost-free, rescue at 9,000' on Mt. Hood, Oregon.)

(Caveat: the following post is purely my own opinion; I'm not speaking for any official rescue unit, the Mountain Rescue Association of America, or anyone else. Just me. Okay?)

I'm shocked, shocked to report that Bill O'Reilly might be about to fudge the truth tonight. As some of you know, in addition to my full-time job (hah!) writing VichyDems, I also am a mountain rescue volunteer in the Pacific Northwest. According to an email I just got from a colleague, O'Reilly's Fox News Channel program tonight will debate the question, "Shouldn't the federal government close all trails and backcountry areas on Federal land in winter, so that the government doesn't have to pay for expensive rescues?"

This is a recurrent conservative meme, unfortunately believed by most of the public: that rescues, especially of mountaineers, incur huge costs to the federal government. And it's flat-ass wrong. Here's why:

In the last month, I've searched (unsuccessfully, I'm sad to say) for a lost child at Crater Lake National Park (who wandered away from his father as they played near a public, not "backcountry", road). I've also searched for James Kim, the online editor who was trying to find help for his family after their Saab got stuck on an Oregon logging road after they accidentally turned off a regular road in a wild but not "backcountry" area (we found him too late). Other members of my two mountain rescue units have been searching for three climbers who are currently stranded on Mt. Hood (we're holding out hope, and praying the weather will break so we can search higher up), and for two snowmobilers near Mt. Bachelor (a private ski resort leased from the federal government; they found one dead, one alive, and rescued him successfully).

Of these four incidents, only one involved mountaineers. Only one involved truly backcountry federal land (the others were either not on federal land, or were on federal land leased to private enterprises like a ski resort, and/or were accessed by regular, mapped highways). Although many people blame "mountain climbers" for racking up rescue costs, only one of these incidents involved mountaineers -- but mountaineers were called in as volunteers to assist in all four; in other words, the mountaineering community more than pulls its weight.

Ignored by folks like O'Reilly is the fact that the federal government normally isn't involved in mountain rescues even on federal land (each county sheriff has that responsibility). Most rescues are of people in cars, snowmobilers, lost hunters and mushroom pickers, and other non-mountaineers -- sometimes even of O'Reilly viewers!

Most importantly, almost all the legwork is done by volunteers. The main "federal cost" is the occasional helicopter from the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve -- and those folks tell me that assisting in civilian rescues, especially in inclement weather at high elevations, is a huge part of their training. There's no way that the 1042nd air rescue wing based at Salem, OR could do mountain rescues and evacuations of soldiers in Afghanistan (as they've done) if they hadn't "practiced" in civilian rescues in the Oregon Cascades in conjunction with the local sheriffs and innumerable volunteers, from dog trackers to snowmobile clubs to mountain rescue units.

So the "rescue costs" question is a red herring, and I hope Media Matters, Atrios or someone else more prominent than me refutes O'Reilly if he blows this one, as they do so well when he tells fibs about more political matters.

There. I feel better now having prebutted the myths I'm sure will be told on Fox tonight.

12.14.20006 P.S.: There are some good photos showing the route the climbers took (Cooper Spur) here, here, here, and here. Check the comments for more discussion of this. Thanks to everyone who's visiting and worrying about the climbers on Hood!!

12.19.2006 update: My condolences to the families, following the discovery of Kelly James' body and evidence suggesting the other two climbers may have fallen to their deaths. Climbing is a wonderful, but sometimes dangerous, sport, and I can only trust that the adventurous lives these men lived were so full of challenge and beauty that, even cut short, they were fuller than the lives of the Barc-a-lounger crowd. In that regard, I'll quote former Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas, who answers the critics who ask, why do people climb mountains?

"[T]he spirit of adventure... is a measure of the vitality of both nations and men. A people who climb the ridges and sleep under the stars in high mountain meadows, who enter the forest and scale the peaks, who explore glaciers and walk ridges buried deep in snow -- these people will give their country some of the indomitable spirit of the mountains." Douglas, Of Men and Mountains, p. 328.

Also, for those who are interested, here's a nice post containing an audioclip of Bill O'Reilly's idiocy on this topic.


Ciro Rodriguez Is Going to the House!!

Here's the cherry on top of the "Democrats take back both houses" sundae: Ciro Rodriguez appears to have won his "second chance" race for a House seat!

Ciro's is a long story. He initially was a good Democratic representative from a relatively liberal district in Texas (yes, they do exist), and a chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But his district was eliminated in Tom Delay's illegal gerrymandering of Texas' House districts. (You remember this movie of the week: Texas' Democratic state legislators boycotted the redistricting hearing so that the Republicans wouldn't have a quorum to pass the law creating the illegal new districts; Texas Republicans ordered the Texas troopers to arrest any Democratic legislators they could find and bring them to the leg to forcibly create a quorum; the Dems fled to Oklahoma to avoid arrest; Delay ordered Homeland Security to track the Dems' plane, claiming it was a national emergency; the Dems finally had to cave in order to get any other business done, since they couldn't stay out of the building forever.)

Ciro then ran in a different Democratic district to unseat a Democrat In Name Only (and lifetime member of the Vichy Hall of Shame), Henry Cuellar, who sat on the Republican side of the aisle during one of Bush's State of the Union addresses and apparently had a quiet orgasm when Bush lovingly caressed his face with his baby-soft hands. VichyDems supported Ciro, and a number of our friends donated to him via VichyDems' ActBlue site, but Rahm Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave Ciro no help (they only, and always, support Democratic incumbents no matter how bad), and while Ciro came close he didn't manage to unseat Cuellar -- a very disappointing loss to everyone, including his campaign staff, who worked their asses off for him.

But then Delay was arrested, and much of his nefarious work was undone. Among other things, the unravelling of Delay's machinations resulted in the judicial creation of a new district in Texas: TX-23. In November, Ciro ran again, this time as the Democratic nominee in TX-23, against Henry Bonilla. Early returns showed him losing -- but now, as numbers keep trickling in, he appears to have won, and the Associated Press has now declared him the winner!

Let's hope it sticks. Ciro will be one of the best we've got in the House (especially since he, more than most, has personally been spanked by a Vichy and knows their foul stench when he smells it).

Kudos to Kos and Atrios for catching this. And congratulations, Congressman Rodriguez and everyone associated with his campaign!