Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mideast Mess

Friedman had it right in todays editorial (with regards to Iraq):

Our first priority is democracy, but the Arabs' first priority is "justice." The oft-warring Arab tribes are all wounded souls, who really have been hurt by colonial powers, by Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, by Arab kings and dictators, and, most of all, by each other in endless tribal wars. For Iraq's long-abused Shiite majority, democracy is first and foremost a vehicle to get justice. Ditto the Kurds. For the minority Sunnis, democracy in Iraq is a vehicle of injustice. For us, democracy is all about protecting minority rights. For them, democracy is first about consolidating majority rights and getting justice.

Just read the first part of the Iraqi constitution: it isn't about securing rights -- it's about Islam and legislating god's will.

Such a constitution has little chance of being the basis of a liberal republic.

Now Bush is talking about sending more troops in. Its far too late for late. Even 50,000 more troops means about 11-13,000 more combatants -- tops. That simply isn't gonna make a difference. Shia and Sunni want to kill each other -- its out of our hands.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Where are the good guys?

Yeah, its been a long while, but I just read an article worth commenting on.

From the NY Times: Former U.S. Detainee in Iraq Recalls Torment, the story of an American who was detained by our forces.

One night in mid-April, the steel door clanked shut on detainee No. 200343 at Camp Cropper, the United States military’s maximum-security detention site in Baghdad.

American guards arrived at the man’s cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

...

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

Supposedly, his initial detention had been a mistake, but even after learning he was an American security contractor -- and whistle-blower -- he was still held, supposedly as a "threat", without access to council or recource.

What have we become?

I guess this is how we are bringing democracy to the middle east: allowing overzealos "terrorist fighters" to do what they wish in the name of national security. Rights? Who needs them...

He was finally released two months later -- only after his jailers decided it was time to revisit his case... and who luckily decided he didn't really pose a threat after all.

Sounds more like Saddam's methods than those of US Forces.

OBL and his ilk "won" far more than they could have hoped for with their attacks of 9/11. By murdering 3000 of our citizens while a paranoid incompetent was in office, he was able to cripple our entire form of government.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lets talk about the draft

I read a good story by Lawrence O'Donnell today...

Rangel [a Korean war vet] announced on Sunday that he wants to reinstate the draft. He said the same thing a few years ago but quickly let on that he wasn't serious. He's playing it straight this time and has already introduced a bill. Local New York TV news has given Rangel saturation coverage. You can see his anger and frustration building each time he answers another reporter's question about the draft. The point he keeps repeating is: "There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way."

[...]

Well over 95% of Americans, including Congress and White House staff, have no personal connection to this war--no relative or friend serving in Iraq. Over 99% of us have made no sacrifice for this war--we have not paid one more penny of taxes nor shed a drop of family blood. One of my military relatives thinks of it this way: "The American military is at war, but America is not at war."

And that's it: if a significant portion of our leaders and legislators had a family member in harms way the debate would be markedly different. It it truly telling that the leadership class in America not only hordes the spoils of commerce, but is also able to evade the call to duty.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

End of the ex-gay movement – NOT

I am so sick of these nut-cases and the terrible influence they have on our society.

Religion is a mental disorder… usually cured by a small dose of critical thought.

Apparently, many American’s refuse to take their medicine… (and they have the vote).

I just read some of the (ex) Rev. Haggard’s “apology”. Amongst the tear stained words he admitted something amazing – for a Christian.

There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.

but

nothing proved effective

No shit Sherlock…

Of course, the fact that a man of god admits that his homosexual desire has been with him most of his life – that all of his praying, faith and study did nothing to change it – none of this will change Christians’ concept of homosexuality as sin; a “choice” and something to be cured.

Great - lets continue to give people a reason to be depressed, suicidal and otherwise unhappy with their lives - ALL OVER NOTHING.

Besides, if Jesus was gonna help anyone become an “ex-gay”, wouldn’t it be the leader of one of his mega-churches and a proponent for the movement?

And who was really hurt by Haggard’s “dark secret” and why?

His wife, family and himself were the ones hurt most. All unnecessarily of course. If he was honest with himself – with his desires – he could have spared himself and those around him this grief… for NO downside (unless you consider living a life where you are honest with yourself and your desires “evil”).

Instead, we have the leader of the evangelicals – someone who’s bashed gays from the pulpit and undoubtedly done serious harm to the (similar, self-loathing) homosexuals who go to his church for “help” – mis-leading by example. And Christians will feel sorry for him… and continue to preach ‘redemption through Jesus’ for this terrible (non) sin.

This sick religion – in the name of helping people – is simply destroying people’s lives… for no good reason at all. Instead of trying to help people, they focus on the most personal yet trivial (to society) issue: sexuality.

I honestly believe if Jesus were to return, find a boyfriend, do some preaching on the subject and leave… these same people would be praying to his Dad to deliver him from evil…

Idiots all.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nothing can shake the faith

The Christian God -- and his followers -- are truly amazing people.

… in a fundamentally delusional way.

The same group of people that get together each Sunday to denounce the evils of openly gay people now has this to say about a pastor and evangelical leader who's been leading a double-life for several years:

    “We all feel worse today than we did a week ago,” Mr. Parsley said, “but we were worse off a week ago. Pastor Ted is living in a greater measure of repentance and forgiveness today than he has been living in for years.” -- Ross Parsley, the new minister of Haggard's church.

Apparently, living a life where you are open and honest about your feelings is evil -- but denouncing such a life while secretly leading one is a path to communion with the lord and forgiveness.

Just listen to some of the church members' comments:

    Others said the service left them with a new understanding of why many of Mr. Haggard’s sermons had been so powerful: his talk of temptation, sin and guilt were not just idle words.

    “He struggled with the same issues he preached about,” said Basil Marotta, who said he ran his own Christian ministry in the Colorado Springs area with his wife.

The power of religion to delude the self simply amazes me.

If pedophilia, hate-mongering, adultery (gay adultery at that) and drug use cannot convince the majority of parishioners that church leaders are simply fleecing them I don't know what will.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More noise

Let's add to the noise that passes for political discourse…

John Kerry makes a statement during a speech bashing Bush that could be construed as insulting our troops.

The republicans immediately jump on it and call for an apology on behalf of the troops.

Kerry immediately defends his comments and lets everyone know that they were directed at the boob-in-charge, who got us into this mess, as opposed to America's fighting men and women.

End of story?

Of course not…

The republicans, once again, want you to believe that John Kerry, a decorated combat veteran, is really unpatriotic, while George W. Bush and his clan of draft-dodgers are the true patriots.

Remember: John Kerry volunteered, became a Naval officer, went overseas, saw combat, earned a bronze star and 3 purple hearts. The men that served with him all agree that he displayed outstanding leadership in the face of enemy fire, landing his boat and personally pursuing the enemy ashore and engaging them at close quarters.

Also remember that GW Bush "somehow" landed a spot in the National Guard during a period when young Americans who didn't want to serve overseas clamored for the few coveted spots in a safe, state-side assignment. Colin Powell even bemoaned this practice where "so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed . . . managed to wangle slots in reserve and National Guard units" while others – who were less well connected -- were sent into combat.

Somehow rhetoric is of more value than actions… The fact that Bush says he respects the military is more important that the reality of his policy (that put far too few troops into a situation that has obviously become untenable).

Has the media gotten so inane that such a story can last for more than a day? Of course.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Question Mr. President

If you saw the president's press conference this morning -- or any portion of it -- you may have been as frustrated as I am.

Even with 2-3 Americans dying in Iraq each day, our press refuses to ask tough, relevant -- and obvious -- questions about this conflict and the rationality of our stated goals.

Given the president's rhetoric, here's the most obvious question:
Mr. President. You say that we need to continue to essentially "stay the course" in Iraq to ensure the Iraqi government can quell or otherwise effectively deal with the insurgency and otherwise keep the government  functioning. You say training, equipping and deploying Iraqi security forces is key to this effort. However, from 2003 until now the Iraqi Army and security services have gone from essentially zero percent readiness to approx 75% ... but during this same time span violence - both sectarian and violence directed at coalition forces -- has only increased. Why is it reasonable to expect that violence will somehow decrease once the final 25% of Iraqi security forces are trained?
The "no spin answer" is -- of course -- that a reasonable person would NOT expect violence to decrease with a modest increase in the number of Iraqi security personnel (esp. since those personell consist of the same sectarians that are committing the violence). The simply fact is that sectarian violence is increasing despite the increasing numbers of trained Iraqis. Of course, it doesn't take a college education to know why: Sunni and Shia have been engaged in a ideological struggle for 100's of years ... and simply putting on a police uniform isn't going to change deeply held religious convictions -- especially when more and more Iraqis know of a close friend or family member who has been killed in the struggle.

The only logical course of action is to give the Iraqi government a deadline: "you WILL take-over all security operations in your country as of next year."

When will someone with a voice say what is obvious: too many Americans have already died for Iraq... and they have died to ensure the existence of a pseudo-theocracy that will undoubtedly have close ties to Iran.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Politics trumping Religion

Most have heard or read about the revelations contained in David Kuo's book: how conservatives in the administration used the religious right to win elections, but essentially only paid lip service to their agenda.

I agree only in the sense echoed in the following excerpt. People like our fearless leader believe... apparently, they simply believe in power more than god.

I am just back from a two-day visit to Regent University, founded by the evangelist Pat Robertson, a key figure in the religious right. "What you need to understand," a Robertson supporter told me, "is that Pat opposed the war in Iraq from the start." I responded that according to the Lancet, some 600,000 [unlikely its that high, but still...] Iraqis have died since the war began. If Robertson had publicly opposed the war, I told them, his influential voice might have spared those lives. "But," one of them answered back, "Pat is a Republican who would not openly oppose the president."

And there, I submit, is why the religious right is in trouble. Since the emergence of a politically active version of conservative Protestantism in the 1980s, it has never been clear whether America's shift to the right took place because deeply religious people became political or because deeply conservative people became religious. I learned at Regent what I have long suspected: For some of the most visible leaders in the religious right, politics trumps religion every time.

Politics trumps religion -- every time.

That's what I see -- and it should make even secular people, like myself, convulse. (Aside from the fact that pseudo-universities like Pat Robertson's are cranking out these driveling idiots and turning them loose on society.)

Politicians have been kissing babies since the profession began, but the bunch that will come to you spouting the dogma of your faith -- and then allow such worldly considerations as getting elected to get in the way of those ideals -- has to be the lowest form of political animal. I guess the ends do justify the means.

The problem is, it worked... The latest revelations not withstanding, religious people STILL want to hear their leaders spew illogic and unsubstantiated drivel as a demonstration that they are worthy of office. Our leaders oblige: listen to the stump speeches of democrats and republicans alike -- many are laden with references to god or faith. Someone has yet to explain to me how belief in 'god' will solve a single government-related issue. If such beliefs inspire a plan of action, just tell me the plan and spare me the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

The country will remain on its insane trajectory until people realize that religious belief isn't a qualification to hold public office: its an impediment to sound decision making.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The path to energy independence

If we had leadership, the US could -- at least -- be on the path to reducing our dependency on oil from the Middle East.

Remember? Seventeen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia: the country that provides a huge portion of our oil imports and is a literal breeding ground for Wahhabi extremism.

Amount of U.S. oil used to run vehicles: 7.3 mbd or 43 percent. (Doubling our vehicle efficiency would therefore reduce our oil consumption by 3.6 mbd -- and we import only 2 mbd from the entire Middle East.)

Average miles per gallon of all U.S. cars in 1973: 13. Average mpg of all U.S. cars in 1985: 20. Average mpg of the most efficient cars currently on the market: over 40. Average mpg of the Toyota prototype AXV: 98.

Obvious solutions to our problems are out there -- but our government (both Repubs and Dems) don't want to rock the boat and put us on a course to energy independence... This is criminal. They'd rather see us dealing with Middle Eastern governments to buy oil for Hummer's than mandate strict fuel economy standards...

Vote them ALL out of office this Nov.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How your money is being spent

Approx 50% of the federal government's discretionary spending is spent on military projects. Millions in contracts area let each day.

Take a look:

http://www.defenselink.mil/Contracts/

If we're really the beacon of liberty in the world, why do we have to spend soooo much on defense. I realize "freedom isn't free" -- but if we didn't piss off 75% of the world's population, we might save a little dough.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A little Christian forgiveness

It would seem that the Amish could teach America's "main-line" Christians a lesson or two about Christianity (as in followers of Jesus Christ):

GEORGETOWN, Pennsylvania: Dozens of Amish neighbors came out to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a maniacal rampage.

About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish.

"It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed," Mr. Porter said.

Apparently, the Amish have even started a collection for the widow (and children) of the killer...

Sounds like there are some Christians that have taken the teachings of Jesus to heart: the idea that it is not our place to judge, but to forgive.

I may not agree with , but the soap-box-Christians that are running our country could learn something from these folks.

 

Friday, October 06, 2006

An unreasoned world

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers - New York Times: "At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be "“Bible-believing Christians"” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation."
I can honestly think of no better "future for faith" than the above... Unless you consider the possibility of zero percent of our society growing up to be "bible-believe'n Christians".

Faith entails believing things about reality (e.g. - the origin of the earth and mankind, what happens to you after you die and -- more importantly -- what you need to do with your life to be "worthy" of god and his rewards) and the vast majority of these beliefs are simply rubbish.

Moreover, such beliefs are harmful to civil society. To understand this we have to look no further than Islam -- which pollutes the minds of its adherents with an otherwise unimaginable amount of non-sense. We see the results of this irrationality each day in the newspaper.

Christianity is almost as ridiculous as it fosters an outright contempt for science and honest inquiry. Question the beliefs of a christian to see what I mean: ask him how he really knows that Jesus was "raised from the dead"... Ask how this "belief" squares with anything else the person knows about the universe we live in.... and how the written account of such and event can be used as conclusive proof of it's 'truth'.

Anytime a group that bases it world-view on something other than reasoned, demostrable conclusions is a group that is ready to be corrupted. E.g.- if you can believe that Adam and Eve inhabited the garden of Eden some 6000 years ago simply because some middle eastern tribesmen wrote it down -- and said "god told them to" you are part of a group that is regressing intellectually.

The world needs more "reasonableness" -- not less.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Marriage, Religion and AZ

Most of you know that I am not a christian -- or religious for that matter.

Well, AZ is joining the rest of the nation in taking up that critical issue of our time: two boys kissing. Forget terrorism and the debate about our civil rights in an era of proliferate WMD... each state better ensure that we don't "sanction" gay relationships or we'll be heralding the end days.

The Treasurer of the AZ Green party got it right in his response to the proposed constitutional amendment (here in AZ) defining marriage. His argument appeals to the religious amongst us -- but it is worth quoting:

We want to protect religious freedom. Either marriage is a sacred act, defined by people's religious beliefs, or it is only a government-created legal contract, and not sacred. Which do you believe?
Churches, temples and mosques have married people for thousands of years. They've done just fine, and will continue to do fine, without government defining marriage for them. Isn't it up to each faith to decide who, among them, marries, and whose marriage to bless? We've no more business voting, on who can be married, than we do in voting about who can be baptized.
And, if you don't like how your church defines either, then go to another church, or no church at all. That's religious freedom!
Legal rights, not religion, are the voters' business. When two people ask government to protect their promises to each other, it's a contract. Government should welcome such commitments, because it provides for stability and predictability. Government should be happy when people commit to take responsibility for each other, because it means fewer people needing state help. Government should welcome families forming, all kinds of families. Families are good. When we stop butting into religious concepts, like marriage, we can see that.

"And, if you don't like how your church defines either, then go to another church, or no church at all." -- isn't that the core of religious freedom?

Why the theocrats who try to define every aspect of our life cannot see this obvious truth scares me.

Friday, September 29, 2006

No news for the faithful

The incompetence we've all witnessed over the last 5+ years has (again) be confirmed by another Washington insider. Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial, is due out Monday.

Of course, if you've read any of his previous efforts, you know that he's identified the incompetence we've seen from our leaders -- but strangely, he's never really pointed it out. He's first effort, Plan of Attack, coolly delineated the administration's bungling but couched them in the language of "business as usual".

Mr. Woodward apparently doesn't have the guts he once had -- the guts to point out incompetence.

That <b>may</b> be changing with his latest effort.

Having not read it, I can only go on the review/editorial in the Times. Here are some excerpts from that review that -- while indicative of blatant incompetence -- while never-the-less be meaningless to the faithful:

    Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda.

    On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.

    The book describes an exchange in early 2003 between Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired officer Mr. Bush appointed to administer postwar Iraq, and President Bush and others in the White House situation room. It describes senior war planners as having been thoroughly uninterested in the details of the postwar mission.

    After General Garner finished his PowerPoint presentation which included his plan to use up to 300,000 troops of the Iraqi Army to help secure postwar Iraq, the book says there were no questions from anyone in the situation room, and the president gave him a rousing sendoff.

    But it was General Garner who was soon removed, in favor of Mr. Bremer, whose actions in dismantling the Iraqi army and removing Baathists from office were eventually disparaged within the government.

    ...

    Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds.

The picture Woodward paints would seem to agree with the incompetence we've witnessed. But somehow red-state America will continue to be more concerned about propping up the rhetoric, than effectively dealing with our problems.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blinded by the Right

I'm in the middle of a religious "discussion" with the nice folks over at jarheadjohn2.blogspot.com. JarHead John posted a short piece <http://jarheadjohn2.blogspot.com/2006/09/religion-of-peace-continues-to-show.html> on the failing of Islam and how it promotes violence.

My point, which elicited a rather self-righteous (an error-filled) response is that until recently, christianity couldn't claim a much better record - in fact, its may be worse. Just a cursory review of the big hitters (the Crusades and the Inquisitions) would give any reader the heebie-jeebies about the christian religion backed by force of law.

However, it appears that self-righteousness and ignorance knows no bounds. I am simply amazed at how people convince themselves that their belief systems are different. More subtlety, some people don't even realize that it's only because they have adopted some enlightened (i.e. - non-faith based positions) that they themselves are not frothing fundamentalists. Even with their reliance on convenient aspects of modernality, they still claim that we need more "faith" to bring the country back on track.

For how else does the modern day Christian get around the edicts of his doctrines than by recognizing that modern ethics, morality and science are more "true" than the word of god?

Case in point, although most Christians haven't even read the text they consider the word of god, some know the Ten Commandments. How do Christians get around the punishments for breaking them? They are fairly clear: most involve stoning the transgressor to death.

Additionally, how does a Christian even explain the 10th commandment - the one that admonishes us to repsect the ownership of our neighbor's slaves?

Even an adolescent-level application of logic tells you that most of the old testament was written by a tribe that used the "god told me to do it" refrain to justify horrible acts of genocide, rape, incest and war... However, these moderates have selectively turned off the reason switch when it comes to matters of faith - they say something like "yeah, there's some bad stuff in the bible and I don't believe it, but the rest is the inspired word of god!"

These same people trust in modern science, engineering and "progress" in general to improve their lives. But when issues of morality and ethics are raised we apparently haven't learned anything since the bronze age.

And here's the problem: we give space to these people and their opinions in the name of "tolerance" when their position is about as rational as the man who stands on the corner telling anyone who'll listen how he was abducted by aliens and that they are coming back next week to give us all a ride around the solar system. Both are nuts... and neither realizes it.

Worse than NO energy policy...

The American public and the administration continue to astound me.

I know we don't tax oil imports: American's would have a fit if we attempted to use oil tax-revenues to address the fact that we buy our energy from some of the most "evil" regimes in the world… Better that all the cash goes to places like Saudi Arabia (where public hangings provide Friday night television entertainment) than into American research institutions...

But guess what we do tax? Renewable and more environmentally friendly ethanol:

    Thanks to pressure from Midwest farmers and agribusinesses, who want to protect the U.S. corn ethanol industry from competition from Brazilian sugar ethanol, we have imposed a stiff tariff to keep it out. We do this even though Brazilian sugar ethanol provides eight times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it, while American corn ethanol provides only 1.3 times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it. We do this even though sugar ethanol reduces greenhouses gases more than corn ethanol. And we do this even though sugar cane ethanol can easily be grown in poor tropical countries in Africa or the Caribbean, and could actually help alleviate their poverty.

    Yes, you read all this right. We tax imported sugar ethanol, which could finance our poor friends, but we don’t tax imported crude oil, which definitely finances our rich enemies. We’d rather power anti-Americans with our energy purchases than promote antipoverty.

And people wonder why the rest of the world doubts our moral authority. We have neither authority nor morals.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case - New York Times

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case - New York Times

Here's what happens when you forget about the rule of law:
A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

Innocent people, captured and sent off to prisons for months where they are held and beaten.

This is why we supposedly have laws: to give people a chance to prove their innocence.

The commission found that Mr. Arar first came to police attention on Oct. 12, 2001, when he met with Abdullah Almalki, a man already under surveillance by a newly established Mounted Police intelligence unit known as Project A-O Canada. Mr. Arar has said in interviews that the meeting at MangoÂ’s Cafe in Ottawa, and a subsequent 20-minute conversation outside the restaurant, was mostly about finding inexpensive ink jet printer cartridges.

The meeting set off a chain of actions by the police.

Investigators obtained a copy of Mr. ArarÂ’s rental lease. After finding Mr. Almalki listed as an emergency contact, they stepped up their investigation of Mr. Arar.

At the end of that month, the police asked customs officials to include Mr. Arar and his wife on a “terrorist lookout” list, which would subject them to more intensive question when re-entering Canada.

In a free society, governments role in MUST be limited to investigation and prosecution of VIOLATIONS of the law. What right does ANY group of people have (let alone the government that exists to PROTECT our righinvestigatingting someone who has committed no crime.

The government -- this administration -- is more interested in demonstrating that they are tough on "terrorists" than in upholding the law -- so innocent people pay the price.

These criminals must go... not the terrorists, but the criminals in Washington.

Where is the leadership?

Some words from Krugman's editorial that are right on the mark:

The fact is that for all his talk of being a "war president," Mr. Bush has been conspicuously unwilling to ask Americans to make sacrifices on behalf of the cause — even when, in the days after 9/11, the nation longed to be called to a higher purpose. His admirers looked at him and thought they saw Winston Churchill. But instead of offering us blood, toil, tears and sweat, he told us to go shopping and promised tax cuts.

Only now, five years after 9/11, has Mr. Bush finally found some things he wants us to sacrifice. And those things turn out to be our principles and our self-respect.




Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oil Prices poised to drop...

Are oil prices poised to drop?

Future traders, speculators and the like... parasites that add NOTHING to society -- or the market -- yet skim profits off of the people actually producing something (in this case, oil) or consuming it.

Why does this nation so reward Enron-type companies? They add NOTHING.

What does it mean to be an American?

As the drum beat of fear continues, fearless leader is trying to push a bill through congress that relaxes the restrictions on how terror suspects are treated. Apparently, the laws we signed in the mid-90's -- enacted by a Republican Congress, are suddenly too laxed.

As an American, I simply don't understand how any of my fellow citizens can support such ideas: apparently, one set of laws is good for one group of suspects, but for another class, we need to be able to use "harsher" methods. Don't we stand for the rule of law? ... Don't we stand for the concept that all suspects and prisoners of war are entitled to fair and decent treatment? We've always abided by such rules in the past and officially codified their latest incarnation (the Geneva convention) into law about 10 years ago.

Similar rules were in place during WWII -- where we fought an evil that was trying to exterminate an entire race while using its armies to conquer the world

But we see, again, that Republicans are not above even sacrificing our founding principles when there's a chance to earn some "talk-tough" points. Are we that chicken-shit that we change the rules as soon as a real threat to our safety emerges? It would appear that our principles make great talking points but when the rubber hits the road, we prefer "torture" and "guilty until proven innocent"...

Of course, old W would rather have not even brought these issues to the light of day. He'd rather have just continued to do as he pleased in the dark corners of the world.

At least Colin Powell, John McCain and a few others in government are willing to take a stand for these principles.

All Americans want the terrorists stopped and/or brought to justice. But what makes us Americans is that we live by guiding principles. If anyone deserves to be called a flip-flopper -- it's out current crop of leaders.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later, no attacks but focus blurs, unity fades

A concise outline of the events -- and the Bush administration's handing of them -- from 9/11 until today.

read more | digg story

Chief Marine analyst says Al Qaeda controls Anbar

Here's the legacy of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism program: disaster on a global scale. The administration's policies are worse than ignoring the problem of radical islamic terrorism. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have made the global terror situation WORSE by their bumbling policies... the damage they have done to American credibility as a nation of laws... and their unwitting star role as a recruiting tool for the next generation of islamic terrorists.

As far as Iraq, Rumsfeld is especially to blame -- with his strategy of "use just enough force to lose the peace" ... Instead of the Powell "overwhelming force" doctrine.

Of course, tactics would only be a central issue if the Iraq was was even necessary (or wise) in the first place.

Here's what the people on the ground are saying:

One Army officer summarized it [the report] as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically – and that's where wars are won and lost." The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. ...

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Yet the reasoned heads that are calling for a redeployment of our forces are the "cowards" ...

No Mr. President: your policies are intellectually and pragmatically bankrupt. The only logical course is to stop sacrificing American lives in an attempt to appear tough. The conflict is only serving as a training ground for Al Qaeda and a rallying cry for radical Islam: in short, the entire effort is a boon too UBL.

And while it may have have been a boon to your political career -- that too is quickly coming to a close.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate: No links between Saddam, Iraq and Al Qaeda

It's only taken 3 and a half years, but they've finally got it right...

From the NYTimes:

The Senate Intelligence Committee said today that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein had prewar ties to Al Qaeda and one of the terror organization's most notorious members, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"Saddam only expressed negative sentiments about bin Laden," the former Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he was asked about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda's leader.

As for the cliché that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Saddam Hussein has told interrogators since his capture in December 2003 that his government had not cooperated with Mr. bin Laden. "He specified that if he wanted to cooperate with the enemies of the U.S., he would have allied with North Korea or China," says a passage in the nearly 400-page report.

Take it as you like: but reason dictates that only 1 of 2 conclusions regarding our administration can be reached given their public utterances: 1- They have and continue to lie about Iraq's ties to terrorism, 2- they are incompetent.

Take your pick -- either way our current leaders would make better Fox news commentators than political leaders.

The intelligence committee report notes that the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that, despite rumors of contacts between two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and members of the Hussein regime, "We have no credible information that Baghdad was complicit in the attacks on the Pentagon or the World Trade Center on 11 September or any other Al Qaeda strike."

So much for "pin the tail on the CIA" -- can you say "cherry picked intelligence?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fascism or Neo-Conservatism

Vice President Wallace on fascism... 1944:

"The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination..."

"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."

Sound familiar?

Fear and Ignorance

Fear.

It’s the currency of the (this) realm. Unfortunately, many Americans mistake fear-mongering as “leadership”. The truth is, trumpeting an enemy couldn’t be further from real leadership.

First of all: yes, there are bad-guys out there. They want to do us harm. But how is our government address this amorphous, globally distributed problem? Are they looking beyond the fact I just stated? Not really.

Maybe we should look at our policies. After all, Osama and the other radical nut-cases out there tell us (as opposed to our leadership) that they don’t hate us for our freedom… they hate us for our policies. While I don’t advocate taking a terrorist at his word, the supposition is worth, at least, some consideration.

So lets look at our foreign policy – in it’s most recent incarnation: the spread of democracy as the panacea for violent extremism.

The president says that democracy is the cure for extremism. He purports that giving people a voice in government will somehow address perceived injustice. Maybe so … but not if the injustice is perceived to come from abroad.

This is the lesson we should have learned in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt (where “semi-free” elections are likely to bring jihadists to power). Democracy only gives a legitimized voice to issues of (perceived or real) injustice when it comes to the foreign policy of the United States.

Besides, how can anyone – here or abroad – take our stated goals of democratization seriously when our country boasts of strong ties with Saudi Arabia: one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Remember: this is a country in which Friday night TV consists of public hangings… where women are forbidden to drive a car… and where limbs are cut off as criminal punishment.

What about Pakistan? Our ally in the war on terror (who just recently agreed to “let bygones be bygones with Osama and his followers). Pakistan is ruled by a military dictator who suppresses the desires of a majority of fundamentalist Islamists who live in that country. He is a dictator who possesses nuclear weapons and who’s chief nuclear scientist SOLD those secrets to N. Korea and Libya.

Our leaders trumpet the threat of Iran. It is a threat. But if a nuclear Iran is a threat, isn’t a country like Pakistan – where the vast majority of its citizens support Usama Bin Laden – an even more likely candidate to pass on nuclear technology to radical Islamists? Especially when you consider they already HAVE nukes?

How do we expect ANY government in the region to take our policies seriously when we obviously have close ties to some of the most repressive regimes in the world? It’s obvious to all – except many Americans – that our policies are completely self-serving. That – in itself – isn’t the problem. It becomes a problem when our leaders stand on a soap box and proclaim that “we’re here to save the world from evil…” that “we’re here to help” while simultaneously dealing with tyrannical leaders from the same neighborhood.

On another note, what about all the disaffected scientists and military folks in the former Soviet Union. Are they likely to sell nuclear material to terrorists to make a quick buck?

On to leadership.

Our own insatiable need to cheap energy created these regimes. As the US moved into the industrial era, our oil-dollars turned places like Saudi Arabia into the states there are today. We’ve had no problem supporting these brutal dictatorships as long as the oil flowed and the dictators stayed in line. We still have no problem with many of them: Even when their societies breed the very types our leaders identify as “the enemies of freedom”.

So what constitutes leadership in such a world? For one, a leader would recognize the situation: he’d recognize that our policies are largely to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. He’d change those policies. A real leader would recognize our dependence on foreign energy sources is perpetuating the problem and would challenge the American people to find a path to energy independence. A leader would implement the policies to put us on that path. A leader would recognize that, with India and China ramping up their economies, that we have to be ready to SELL them the energy technology of the 21st century – not fight it our with them for access to the last remaining oil fields.

But we get none of that… What we get in America is fear… Fear and ignorance.

Even with another election on the horizon, I don’t see much hope for our self-deluded populace.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to Religion

What percentage of Christians have actually read the bible?

I'm guessing less than 5%...



Today

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
--Sinclair Lewis

The most succinct description of today's socio-political climate I have yet run across...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Religion, what is it good for?

Religion: we all pay for it in many ways. If you ask me, its part of the reason our children are falling behind intellectually … Its fostering a fatalist attitude in this nation that’s (at least) partially responsible for the populace’s complacence with our foreign policy … It’s a financial drain on government (in terms of lost revenues).

I’m thinking of the subject because of some recent news.

Some of you may have heard that the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, Warren Jeffs, was picked up outside Vegas the other day. What most of you probably don’t know was that this church leader was on the FBI’s top-ten most wanted list.

How can a church leader be on the FBI’s most wanted list you ask? If you think there’s more to it than polygamy you’d be right.

Let me get one thing clear before the bashing begins: I strongly believe in the right of any person to believe in whatever god they want to believe in. If you want to pray to Zeus or the comet kohoutek I don’t care. I think it’s intellectually and spiritually bankrupt to believe in such unsubstantiated non-sense… but it is your right. What I do care about is my tax dollars – and in general – my government -- promoting religion. As Jefferson said:

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

It seems that far too many people in this world are ready to grasp at the teaching of certifiable loonies – all because they stand up and spew their ridiculous teachings with verve.

Back to Warren Jeffs: here’s what the nice folks up in AZ/UT are up too –

In its spring 2005 "Intelligence Report," The Southern Poverty Law Center named FLDS to its " Hate Group" listing because of the church's racist teachings, which include, among other things a fierce condemnation of interracial relationships. "Prophet" Warren Jeffs has said, among other things, "The black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth."

Ah racism – the refuge of the ignorant. Why blame yourself for your lot in life when you can find an appropriate scapegoat? But hey, it’s church – they can teach whatever mean-spirited, counter-productive trash they like.

Critics claim that Warren Jeffs has indicated his desire to reintroduce the 19th-Century doctrine of "blood atonement", in which serious sins can only be atoned by the sinner's death. Former church member Robert Richter reported to the Phoenix New Times that Jeffs repeatedly alluded to this doctrine in church sermons. Richter also claims that he was asked to design a thermostat for a high temperature furnace that would be capable of destroying DNA evidence if such "atonements" were to take place.

Lovely: our own miniature group of Taliban right here in our own backyard – ready to kill sinners since god doesn’t seem to be doing the job right.

Worse: The local news has reported on the stream of excommunicated boys which flows into Phoenix from northern AZ and southern Utah. You see, “excess” young boy are seen as competition for the young girls by the older men. From the Guardian:

Up to 1,000 teenage boys have been separated from their parents and thrown out of their communities by a polygamous sect to make more young women available for older men, Utah officials claim.

Many of these "Lost Boys", some as young as 13, have simply been dumped on the side of the road in Arizona and Utah, by the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), and told they will never see their families again or go to heaven.

Most of the Lost Boys were between the ages of 13 and 21 when they were banished or pressured to leave.

Isn’t it good to see the caring side of religion come out with such gusto?

On to the more mundane costs of this particular sect’s existence: Because polygamy isn't recognized by law, all "plural wives" are listed as single mothers for tax purposes - almost 50% of the 8000 residents of Hildale and Colorado City are on public assistance.

Talk about your family values: A sanctioned and institutionalized method of bilking the government while simultaneously keeping women in near poverty and financing your operation.

Oh, by the way, members of the 10,000+ member church are expected to deed over all property to the communal organization… so those welfare payments might as well just go into the churches coffers.

While this sect may commit some of the more egregious sins, don’t think the other major religions are immune. Take the Catholics. They enjoy tax exempt status. They reportedly do much for the poor. If that’s true, why is the Catholic Church sitting on more cash, investments and real-estate than Bill Gates? If the function of god’s organization here on earth is to help people why isn’t that money being used to that end?

And who needs to be reminded of the priest sex scandal – where church leaders shuffled known pedophiles from church to church – dealing with a serious crime as if it was an internal matter.

Organized religion: its little more than a series of social clubs where people get together to feel good about the truly least they can do to help humanity.

What percentage of church-goers attend services at “mega-churches”? What percentage drive up in their Mercedes or sporting their latest attire?

Organized religion is a sham. It’s the organization for people who need to be told what their life means… how to live it… and that they are important. It’s packaged and sold just like any other commodity in our society: except those buying have been duped more so than the late night QVC viewer… “You need this” … NOW.

Do I doubt people “find strength” in their religion and beliefs: no … Muslims, Christians, Jews… all attest to the “power of their faith” to help them through tough times in their life. The Christian Scientist (don’t get me started) and the Hindu alike attest to the power of their god(s) to see them thru such times – and they use such evidence as justification for their god’s existence. Well, the opposite is true: since ALL people of faith make this claim we have to look elsewhere for the explanation as frome whence this “inner strength” comes… (giving responsible for your situation over to an all-powerful imaginary friend is apparently a strong tonic).

To such people the thought of living, working and dying in a 100 square mile plot on a tiny planet in the midst of thousands of galaxies -- each beyond our imagination to comprehend – is far too mundane. They must be important… cuz someone says god says so…

And if you’re important in god’s eyes, you can justify almost any behavior, belief or sacrifice (including your or someone else's life). What a bonus.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Full Circle

Support for our “mission” in Iraq is still somewhere near 35%. What that mission really is has been unclear since the first months. Looks like another shift is on the way.

As the need to disarm Iraq disappeared (Iraq does not and did not possess WMD) the focus shifted to a Wilsonian version of democratization for the Middle East and a panacea for terrorism. People naturally long to be free, in the democratic sense, we were told… all we need to do is uncork the bottle: after which, a free and democratic society will naturally arise.

Simplistic reasoning… wrong of course, but easily digested by the throngs who want an everyday guy as their commander and chief.

So here we are: countless thousands of Iraqis dead, 2500+ American soldiers dead, 20+ THOUSAND wounded all to help put an Iraqi parliament in power that unanimously resolved to support Hezbollah in their latest conflict with Israel. Yet the adminstration still maintains that operations in Iraq will reduce the likelyhood of terrorism eminating from that state.

Sounds like it couldn’t get much worse right? American’s dying to ensure Shia fundamentalists have the right to support a terrorist organization…

But wait, both the NYTs and Time Magazine online report that the administration is coming to the realization that the civil war in that country will likely preclude that outcome:

[…]an anonymous “military affairs expert” attended a White House briefing and reported: “Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy. Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect, but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.

While I actually applaud the administrations nod to reality, it underscores the shear incompetence of our leadership.

(BTW, if you take offense to my use of the term “civil war” please suggest another term for a situation in which more than 3000 people a month are killed in sectarian violence. Iraq’s population is approx 25 million – about 8 million less than the state of California)

“The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels,” said a senior Defense Department official who agreed to discuss the issue only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution. “The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.”

Its too much to expect, but a sane leader would realize – since this debacle’s inception – that our presence has made the Middle East less stable; has made Iraq a far more dangerous place – not only for Iraqis but for us (as a breeding ground for anti-Americanism) and has strengthened the influence of terrorist groups around the world.

The icing on the cake is that approx 30-40% of our populace agrees with the stay-the-course mentality… As if ensuring fundamentalist rule in Iraq makes all the sacrifices of our servicemen worth it. What will they say when the administration accepts a psuedo-theocratic state where the mullah's have more influence on the populace than the president (of Iraq)?

They'll likely fall in line behind fearless leader like they always do... its the nature of insecure, authoritarian types to run back to an abusive spouse no matter what the crime.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Experienced voices point out we're less safe under Bush's policies

Twenty-one former generals and high ranking national security officials have called on United States President George W. Bush to reverse course and embrace a new area of negotiation with Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. In a letter released Thursday, the group told reporters Bush's 'hard line' policies have undermined national security and made America less safe.
The letter points out the obvious (to anyone who thinks about it):
"When you announce an axis of evil of three countries and invade one and then say that Iran should take that as a lesson, it does seem that it may give them an incentive to do precisely what they don't want them to do," Guard said, "develop a nuclear weapon."
This is what happens when you have a president who views the world in black-and-white: good and evil... of course, he gets to define those terms.

Don't get me wrong: there are a lot of truly evil people in the world... but our president brings a biblical aspect to the characterization -- along with the requisite obligation to act.

Sometimes, I think he believes we're in a movie -- where the characters all fall into perfect stereotypes.

Yeah, there is evil in the world. But dealing with it involves more than a Hollywood script where the good guys rush in and subdue the evil-doers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rule of Law wins -- for now...

Federal Judge Orders End to Warrantless Wiretapping

Looks like the people and US Constitution win this round. However, I'm sure fearless-leader will spin this to the Repug's advantage. Especially with the mid-terms around the corner.

American Taliban: or how to destroy civilization

Why bother with the old scientific method of gathering data, analyzing it, making hypotheses as to the underlying cause and testing those hypotheses? Seems like religion has it all answered for us – neatly tied up in a (mostly) 2000+ year old book brought to you by the same folks that are still trying to turn the clock back in the Middle-East to the time of Moses.

That's what most Republicans and the religious right would have you believe: and the concept is undermining the very foundation of our society and way of life.

A recent study posed the statement: "Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

Here’s what the populations of the world’s countries have to say about that statement:



The study goes on to postulate the reason why the US scored so poorly.
The total effect of fundamentalist religious beliefs on attitude toward evolution (using a standardized metric) was nearly twice as much in the United States as in the nine European countries (path coefficients of -0.42 and -0.24, respectively), which indicates that individuals who hold a strong belief in a personal God and who pray frequently were significantly less likely to view evolution as probably or definitely true than adults with less conservative religious views.

The number two problem?
Second, the evolution issue has been politicized and incorporated into the current partisan division in the United States in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan. In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in southern and Midwestern states—the "red" states. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of "creation science". There is no major political party in Europe or Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform.

Further:
"American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalists, which is why Turkey and we are so close," said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.
The politicization of science in the name of religion and political partisanship is not new to the United States, but transformation of traditional geographically and economically based political parties into religiously oriented ideological coalitions marks the beginning of a new era for science policy. The broad public acceptance of the benefits of science and technology in the second half of the 20th century allowed science to develop a nonpartisan identification that largely protected it from overt partisanship. That era appears to have closed.

And there you have it. The Republican Party - Religious Right marriage has successfully conspired to dumb-down the American populace over the last several decades. I shutter to think where this is going…

Amazingly, this “couple from hell” simultaneously screams about radical Islamic fundamentalism. They decry the tyranny and oppression such belief systems inevitably impose on their citizenry (especially when they are used as the basis for government) and argue that such oppression results in the types of failed societies we see... Hence fearless leader’s call for ‘democratization’ of the Middle East as the panacea.

Of course, the solution they propose for the ills they see in our society is beginning to bring about the conditions they decry abroad. While democratization is helping to entrench fundamentalism in "legitimate" government.

Could our world be on a more devastating course?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Where are these people?

President Bush's Approval Ratings (washingtonpost.com)


Bush's approval rating is sitting around 40%... Who the hell are these 4 out of 10 Americans?

More importantly, what the hell are they thinking?
  • Thousands of Americans dead in the Middle East ensuring that Islamic fanatics will rule in Iraq...
  • Federal debt as far as the eye can see -- financed by the Chinese and other powers who are growing so fast they'll be eating our economic lunch after a couple more decades: financed by us!
  • An energy policy founded on a resource (oil) that ensures the wealth and power of some of the most anti-American tyrants in the world.
  • Congressional malfeasance at an all-time high.

as you know I could go on and on...

Where is the leadership?

Time for a bit of rambling...

Our schools are turning out increasing numbers of paper-pushers who chase Wall Street $$$ while more than 50% of college graduates in India have science, math or engineering degrees.

Sorry to all you business/finance types out there: yeah, you have a necessary skill, but its technological progress (innovation) that drives the standard of living and the fact that we became a super-power. Finance and financial markets are support systems for economic and social growth: which is brought about by scientific and technological innovation. Somehow this country has turned moving money around into an end unto itself... one that is rewarded more richly than the cancer researcher, the teacher or the engineer who designed the materials used in your home.

If you don't like the idea of labor from south of the boarder picking your fruit just wait for Act II: that's when Chinese and Indian firms come to America to repair our infrastructure. Of course, this time around the engineers and bosses will be the foreigner, while the laborers will be Americans.

What would it take to get this other 40% to abandon their hero? Would he have to be caught punching babies?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Financial Disaster - Coming to country (very) near you


I usually don't get the chance to quote from NewsMAX, but this one is so depressing I have to pass it on:

U.S. Comptroller General Warns the Nation of Economic Calamity

Here's the reader's digest version:
The Comptroller General [Walker] of the United States warns the nation will go broke within a generation - unless it takes radical steps now to rein in out-of-control federal spending.

Walker has revealed America's collision course in computer simulations that show balancing the budget in 2040 (under the status quo of spending like there's no tomorrow) could require cutting total federal spending by an incredible 60 percent - or raising federal taxes 200 percent over today's level.

Among his key assessments:

  • Prescription Drugs:: Walker says that the prescription drug plan is the "poster case for what is wrong with Washington."

    He notes that when Congress first took up the matter of Medicare prescription drugs, estimates placed the cost at $300 billion.

    But he argues that both Congress and the administration simply downplayed or ignored the true costs of the program. Today, the nation will have to pay out for the program $8 trillion-plus in current dollar terms.

    Walker also detailed that when the Medicare actuary of the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services calculated the true costs of the program, he "was told he could not tell the Congress or else he might lose his job."

    "That not only was unethical but it was illegal, and nobody has been held accountable for it," an angry Walker said.

  • Defense Budget: Walker argues that Defense Department simply is out of control and that basic rules of accountability don't apply.

    He said that although it received a whopping $500 billion in appropriations, the Defense Department "is the only agency in the federal government that cannot adequately account for its assets and its expenditures - and cannot withstand an outside financial statement audit."

    Walker grades the agency with a "D" on "economy, efficiency, transparency, and accountability." He added, "And it has not been held accountable."

  • The Nation's Debt: Walker says the United States risks losing its pre-eminence around the globe because of its growing status as a debtor nation.

    He ominously notes that "last year was the first year since 1933 that Americans spent more money than they took home and, as you probably recall, 1933 was not a good year for the United States."

    Because the United States has to rely on foreign central banks to finance its deficits, it places itself in a high-risk situation.

    "It means that other players hold an increasing percentage of our nation's mortgage; and it means the debt service is going to go overseas rather than domestic; and it means that we will have less leverage on them with regard to economic, foreign policy and national security issues - and they will have more leverage on us."

  • All this brought to you buy the Bush administration and their special brand of conservatism...

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    What the Flock?


    Organized religion: history has shown time and again that it'Â’s simply a cancer on society.

    How can any organization, let alone one that claims to be doing god'’s work on earth, aid and abed child molesters?
    PHOENIX (Reuters) - A fugitive Catholic priest ordered back to Phoenix from Rome
    to face child sex charges has vanished, authorities in Arizona said on
    Wednesday.

    The Rev. Joseph Henn, 57, could not be found at the headquarters of his religious order in the Italian capital when authorities arrived with an extradition order issued by the Italian Supreme Court, Arizona prosecutors said.

    Henn, accused of molesting three boys from 1979-1981, had been under house arrest for the last year at the Society of the Divine Savior and was trying to block his return to Phoenix when he disappeared about two weeks ago, they said.
    Why shouldn't church leaders protect someone who just liked diddling young boys? That's literally child's play!

    This shouldn't surprise anyone who thinks about it: these are the same people that killed Jews and other non-believes by the thousand in Europe... and created very painful and creative ways to do it. Remember: they did all this in "god's name".

    Don't think such crimes are possible today? Just listen to the prominent preachers of the day (James Dobson, Falwell, Robertson) talk about gay people... These are the church leaders that our society has given the biggest mouthpiece. If they had their way gays would be rounded up and subjected to "conversion therapy".

    Sound familiar?

    Anytime a group of people is willing to take something as important as "god's will" on the word of a leader who's basing his information on the unsubstantiated ramblings of the ancients has got to be watched.

    Of course here in America we elect these types of people to the Presidency.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    The Toll

    More people are killed in a month in Iraq than in 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. In two months, more are killed than in the first world war's Battle of Jutland, the biggest naval battle of all time.

    More are killed in 10 weeks than were killed in the Halabja poison gas attack, Saddam Hussein's single most brutal assault on his people. And in 12 weeks, more are killed than died in the Srebrenica massacre.
    Ref the UN Human Rights Report May - June 2006


    It's a tragedy, but there isn't much we can do about the situation in Iraq now -- not without committing another 100k to 200k troops.

    As our leader is so fond of pointing out, we can't let a foreign country dictate our foreign policy: but that's exactly what we're doing in Iraq with the "we'll stand down when they can stand up" mentality. We're simply trying to keep a lid on this boiling pot when our presence is part of the "heat".

    Tribal and religious identities have been brought to the fore-front. They are driving the civil war we're witnessing. Our military posture and strategy in Iraq has been to designed to "stomp out brush fires" ... however, we have a full-fledged conflagration in the area. Our force is simply not designed to deal with it.... and our foreign policy leaders aren't in a position to call for what's needed if we really want to stop the violence.

    This is why fatalities have increased each month... for the last 3 years. Our policy, both strategically and tactically, is simply wrong. Don't take my word for it: listen to our generals who have served in the field: LT Gen. Greg Newbold, Gen. Anthony Zinni, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, and others. Many are calling for Rumsfeld to resign.

    The reasonable policy is the one advocated by John Murtha: announce a redeployment... set a date; Tell the Iraqis they have to be ready to secure their country from that day forward. Right now, with the American's doing the heavy lifting, they have little reason to put that target on their back -- the one that says "police" or "infantryman".

    I'm a realist: this won't solve the problem. But it may remove one of the forces behind the violence, namely our presence. A redeployment will most definitely get American soldiers out of harms way.

    Besides, why are we fighting and dying to ensure a fundamentalist regime is established in Iraq? If you don't think that's true, read the first line of the Iraqi constitution.

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    The Illusion of the Free Flow of Ideas



    As he often does, Noam Chomsky sums up the state of political debate in our country in a very few words:
    "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. "
    ---Noam Chomsky


    Our current leaders have the concept down in spades: any argument or statement of fact that would damage their house-of-cards reality is immediately labeled "unpatriotic".

    Unfortunately too many Americans buy into this crap (e.g. - WMD, Iraq - 9/11 connection, Democracy as a cure-all, Free markets as a cure-all, etc. etc.).

    I have a news flash: words and debate don't kill people -- only the policies you implement as a result of them can possibly have that effect. By controlling the debate to the extent they have, the loonies in power still have more than 50% of Americans believing that Iraq has WMD.

    How can real democracy exist in such a bizarro world?

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    The Leadership Vacuum

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted… just too busy with work lately.

    But I have to ask. I hear a great deal of noise about how strong our “leadership” is… Frankly, I see nothing from Washington:

    The country continues to move in the WRONG direction: the gap between the middle-class and the “haves” at the top continues to spiral out of control.

    Health care: a friend in the aerospace engineering business runs his own “one man consulting” firm – he, his wife and kids are all relatively healthy: no chronic illnesses, etc. Yet he pays $950/month for health insurance…. The largest percentage of American’s in recent history current don’t have insurance.

    How can the system continue when we pay 25 cents of every health-care-dollar to administrators (the highest percentage of any industrialized nation)?

    The debt and deficit are both rampaging out of control: don’t kid yourself. Debts, with interest, represent lost spending power: because we’re borrowing money we’re less likely to be able to afford to fix problems like health care, SS and Medicare in the future.

    Gas prices: we're have NO plan to transition this economy from oil to 'the technology of the future' ... Don't kid yourself - the free market won't address this issue until it is too late: we need leadership from government to get us on the right track.

    So what ‘leadership’ do we get? Election year antics like a flag burning and gay marriage amendment: policies, even if adopted, that would affect NO ONE (unless someone wants to explain how stopping Tom from burning a flag in protest or keeping John and Bill from filing a joint return affects them).

    No – we have less than leadership in Washington right now.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Bush doctrine dies - takes 2500+ Americans with it

    CNN.com - The end of cowboy diplomacy - Jul 9, 2006

    Maybe the preznut can learn...

    Bush, the candidate, pledged to pursue a humble foreign policy. He argued against the (in hind-sight, relatively tame) interventionalism of the Clinton years.


    Of course, that's not what we got... And before I get the flood of comments stating that "9/11 changed everything" let me say "yes, it did".

    But did the events of 9/11 require the forward-leaning, pre-emptive strategy that has entangled our forces in a war while simultaneously dragging our image through mud (i.e. - torture, rendition) and bleeding the nation's economic and military resources. The architects of the Bush doctrine openly proclaimed that the use of American military might could be used to remake the world -- and make it a better place. 9/11 gave them all the license they need to carry out the experiment.


    We've seen the result... And some of us actually recognize the implications of those results: The Bush doctrine is a complete failure on all fronts:

    The threats, blustering and out-right aggression has served not to make the world safer, but has helped to embolden and even prop-up dictators and terrorists.

    Iran, N-Korea and others totalitarian regimes have used our leaders words, and our actions, to insight nationalistic furor.

    But there is at least some hope. While we had to listen to our fearless leader bluster about a non-existent threat in Iraq – and how it had to be dealt with immediately, what do we hear about the REAL threats from Iran and N. Korea.

    We hear “give diplomacy a chance” … we hear “it takes time”… “we need to work with our allies in the region”. All the phrases the conservatives used to bash the Democrats with in the run-up to war.

    At least dear-leader appears to have given up on the idea of bending other nations to our will using military might. The problem is, Bush’s education came at a cost… An ongoing cost in Iraq (American and Iraqi lives, our image) and an ongoing cost here at home (budget deficits, war profiteering).

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Ally Warned Bush on Keeping Spying From Congress - New York Times

    Ally Warned Bush on Keeping Spying From Congress - New York Times
    In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.
    Looks like emperor G is even pissing off his conservative lap-dogs in Congress...

    When will Congress stand up and assert itelf as the check on power it was intended to be?

    "I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed," Mr. Hoesktra wrote. "If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

    He added: "The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play Twenty Questions to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution."

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Flag Amendment Fails -- Thankfully...


    Why is it that so many of our Senators don't understand what "free speech" means?

    It's easy to protect speech everyone likes... or thinks is "a bit harsh". But protecting the rights of those who proclaim at the top of their lungs things that you find detestable, un-patriotic and immoral is exactly what freedom is about.

    The Senator from Hawaii said it best:
    "This objectionable expression is obscene, it is painful, it is unpatriotic," said Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and winner of the Medal of Honor for his service in World War II. "But I believe Americans gave their lives in many wars to make certain all Americans have a right to express themselves, even those who harbor hateful thoughts."
    Could it be they are posturing for re-election? Using a non-issue to whip up support in their conservative base?

    Nah, Republicans couldn't be doing that...