Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gay marriage looms as 'battle of our times' | csmonitor.com

Gay marriage looms as 'battle of our times' | csmonitor.com:
"Gay marriage looms as 'battle of our times'

As Senate prepares to argue marriage amendment, room for compromise between religious freedom and equal rights seems thin."

With poverty on the rise for the last five years, debt reaching record levels, soldiers dying 8000 miles from home the issue the Republican's bring to the fore is boys kissing.

I'd like some of the conservative folk out there to explain why this is of any concern to non-gays? Don't they realize that there are (most likely) already gay couples living in their neighborhood? That they already share a home, a car and talk about the same problems straight couples do?

So what if our hypothetical Tom and John get married? They have been living together for 10 years and would like the same protections married couples take for granted: like the right to visit each other in the hospital, etc. etc.

I'm sure the refrain is "it sets a bad example for children" ... yeah, two people who love each other and want to make a commitment is a "bad example". This is likely the same parent who takes their kid to a wrestling match where two adult males pretend (rather graphically) to pummel each other into submission.

If you want to talk about values, lets value love and commitment -- where-ever they are found.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Costa Rica

Some pictures from my trip to Central America.

Arenal - an active volcano in North-Central Costa Rica

A waterfall on the south side of the Volcano

Punta Uva on the Caribbean Shore

Friday, May 19, 2006

I Agree with the President

Immigration.

I caught most of the president's speech the other day. And I have to say I agree with 99% of what he said.

First off, his proposal was pragmatic: the vast majority of the est. 12 million people who come here illegally come in seek of a better life. I don't excuse them for breaking the law, but in their shoes (a family to support and a multi-year process to enter legally) I'd probably do the same thing.

As for the staunch Republican view that they are lawbreakers and should be punished – well, I agree. But the punishment should fit the crime. Would it be right to throw someone who rolled through a stop sign into jail for 6 months? Similarly, I don't think it's practical or right to arrest and imprison illegals who have been here for x-amount of time while keeping out of trouble.

Then there's the "they suck-up government services and keep minimum wages down".  Well, for every study that "shows" illegal immigrants are a drain on the economy there's one that shows they help it. I think it really comes down to your level of paranoia: you either believe most folks are coming here illegally to work, or to cause trouble and suck off the government tit.

I think most are here to work – and if you have a clean record, a job, and are willing to assimilate (e.g. – learn English, pay your taxes, etc.) you should be given a path to citizenship. Why not? All of our ancestors came here with the same goal in mind (whether illegally or legally): making a better life for their kids.

So I agree with President Bush: let's get better at boarder enforcement, let's attempt to fix/streamline the process and let's pragmatically address the situation we have… from a compassionate/Christian :) standpoint – as opposed to a godless, authoritarian one.

Besides, we're already paying enough in taxes to keep pot smokers and other non-criminals behind bars. I don't want to spend even more tracking down and incarcerating Jose because he doesn't have a visa to trim the trees in my neighborhood.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hayden: ‘I Wasn’t Comfortable’ With Administration’s Approach To Iraq Intelligence

From ThinkProgress...

Transcript:

LEVIN: Secretary of Defense for Policy, Mr. Feith, established an intelligence analysis, so within his policy office at the Defense Department. While the intelligence community was consistently dubious about links between Iraq and al Qaeda, Mr. Feith produced an alternative analysis asserting that there was a strong connection. Were you comfortable with Mr. Feith’s office approach to intelligence analysis?

HAYDEN: No, sir, I wasn’t. I wasn’t aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. No, sir, I wasn’t comfortable.

What Hayden makes clear is that, despite Bush’s assertion that the pre-war intelligence process “broke down,” the false intelligence about Iraq’s connection to al Qaeda was intentionally fabricated by political leaders, not intelligence analysts. Feith, Wolfowitz, and others in the Pentagon set up a stovepipe “to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership” to make the case for war. Hayden and other intelligence experts got steamrolled when it mattered most.

Town won't let unmarried parents live together


Town won't let unmarried parents live together

BLACK JACK, Missouri (AP) -- The City Council has rejected a measure allowing unmarried couples with multiple children to live together, and the mayor said those who fall into that category could soon face eviction.

Olivia Shelltrack and Fondrey Loving were denied an occupancy permit after moving into a home in this St. Louis suburb because they have three children and are not married.

The town's Planning and Zoning Commission proposed a change in the law, but the measure was rejected Tuesday by the City Council in a 5-3 vote.

"I'm just shocked," Shelltrack said. "I really thought this would all be over, and we could go on with our lives."

The current ordinance prohibits more than three people from living together unless they are related by "blood, marriage or adoption." The defeated measure would have changed the definition of a family to include unmarried couples with two or more children.

Mayor Norman McCourt declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that those who do not meet the town's definition of family could soon face eviction.

Black Jack's special counsel, Sheldon Stock, declined to say whether the city will seek to remove Loving and Shelltrack from their home.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Since when does the state get to decide who you live with?

Things are truly out of control in certain parts of the country -- the part where the bible-belt seems to be the tightest.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hope from the masses

There is hope that American's are finally realizing that "intelligence matters" ... From PoliticalWire and a CNN pole:

Americans Prefer Clinton Over Bush
A new CNN poll finds that Americans strongly prefer former President Clinton to President Bush on a wide range of issues. Americans said Clinton did a better job than Bush:
  • On the economy, 63% to 26%
  • On solving the problems of ordinary Americans, 62% to 25%
  • On foreign affairs, 56% to 32%
  • On taxes, 51% to 35%
  • On handling natural disasters, 51% to 30%
  • On national security, 46% to 42%
  • On honesty, 46% to 41%

People are finally realizing that governance is actually more important that lying about a hummer...

Now we just need those pictures of Pat Robertson blowing Jerry Falwell to be made public... That would be the icing on the cake and put the stake in this religious-character-implies-values charade.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

From Freedom to Authority

I often don't find myself agreeing (somewhat) with the NYT's op/ed columnist David Brooks. However, his latest column makes the same point I have: namely that we've entrusted "government" (i.e. - the act of governing) to people who don't believe in it…

    Now the chief problem is not sclerosis but disorder. The biggest threats come not from nanny states but from failed states and rogue states. There is less popular fear of bureaucrats possessing too much control than of ungoverned forces surging out of control: immigration, the federal debt, Iraqi sectarianism, Islamic radicalism, Chinese mercantilism, domestic rage and polarization.

    American society doesn't feel stagnant, but rather segmented. The authoritative central institutions that are supposed to organize hurricane relief, gather intelligence or pass bills into laws don't seem to be functioning.

Here at home, he's right. For all of people's grousing about government, most people realize it supplies a series of critical functions: from marketplace regulation (without which we'd live in an absolute plutocracy) to defense. Moreover, the central government <i>should</i> provide the unifying cry in a nation beset with problems (terrorism, energy crunch, corporate malfeasance, etc.)… Our leader should be pointing out the problems while rallying the nation and setting on a course to address these problems.

    Middle-class suburbanites understood this shift far more quickly than the professional conservatives in Washington. What people wanted post-9/11 was Giuliani-ism on a global scale someone who was assertive and decisive enough to assume authority and take situations that seemed ungovernable and make them governable.

But out leader doesn't seem to understand <i>how</i> to use authority to unite. His rhetoric and actions divide us. His pronouncement -- made with religious certainty -- leave no room for compromise or even debate: his world is black-and-white, and if you don't see it that way -- well, you'll likely part of the problem.

    [He] has never felt comfortable with government and its institutions. As Fred Barnes wrote in his book "Rebel-in-Chief," Bush and his team operate in Washington like an occupying army of insurgents, an "alien in the realm of the governing class." Ever the visionary, Bush told Barnes that his interest "is not the means, it is the results."

    But statesmanship consists precisely of understanding the relationship between the means at your disposal and the ends you seek to pursue. Bush has had trouble exerting authority because he and some of his advisers have been aloof from or hostile to the inescapable and legitimate institutions of authority in this country.

    The first job of any Republican administration is to figure out how to use government agencies, which are staffed by people who may be liberals, but who are also professionals. The tightly controlled Bush White House has not successfully done that. Can anyone imagine a more thankless job than being a Bush cabinet secretary (unless you happen to be Donald Rumsfeld)?

And even at 29% approval, our leader isn't likely to change. We can only hope our society and system of government can recover from the debacle. We'll certainly be paying for it for a long time to come: both socially and economically.




Military Plans Tests in Search for an Alternative to Oil-Based Fuel

Even if our leader won't lead the charge for energy independence, smart folks in the military see the handwriting on the wall and are moving forward:

    "Energy is a national security issue," said Michael A. Aimone, the Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for logistics.

    The United States is unlikely ever to become fully independent of foreign oil, Mr. Aimone said, but the intent of the Air Force project is "to develop enough independence to have assured domestic supplies for aviation purposes."

And that's the point -- as long as we're on the path to energy independence we'll build our own technology base and reduce our dependence on middle east oil: a win-win for our economy.

The only catch: it isn't a "win" if your cronies are TX oil men… and your stated position (via Ari Fleischer) is "That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country…"

And hence the disaster in foreign policy we now see.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Qwest Explains Why It Refused N.S.A. Query - New York Times

Qwest Explains Why It Refused N.S.A. Query - New York Times: "— The telecommunications company Qwest turned down requests by the National Security Agency for private telephone records because it concluded that doing so would violate federal privacy laws, a lawyer for the telephone company's former chief executive said today."

At least one telco realized the request was unconstitutional and refused.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

News Flash: The Terrorists Have Won...

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

This morning, USA Today reported that three telecommunications companies – AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth – provided “phone call records of tens of millions of Americans” to the National Security Agency. Such conduct appears to be illegal and could make the telco firms liable for tens of billions of dollars.

This activity violates the Stored Communications Act. The Stored Communications Act, Section 2703(c), provides exactly five exceptions that would permit a phone company to disclose to the government the list of calls to or from a subscriber: (i) a warrant; (ii) a court order; (iii) the customer’s consent; (iv) for telemarketing enforcement; or (v) by “administrative subpoena.” The first four clearly don’t apply. As for administrative subpoenas, where a government agency asks for records without court approval, there is a simple answer – the NSA has no administrative subpoena authority, and it is the NSA that reportedly got the phone records.

What are we defending if it isn’t our way of life? Wasn't the conservative movement founded on smaller, less intrusive government?

I eagerly await wing-nut explanations for why this isn’t a violation of the very premise of our form of government. I can hear the refrain already: "the enemy is at the gate" ... well, maybe we look in the mirror.

Bush: Tax breaks for my Homies



There is a nice tax cut waiting for you - that is, if people refer to you as Dr. or "my lawyer," not Mr. or Ms. And possibly, you might notice the relief if you and your spouse make between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. But if you're laying bricks or working as a teller at the local bank, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.

Again – it’s just amazing how well the Repugs have done at convincing the ‘average American’ (who made about $36,764 in 2002 according to the Bureau of Labor Stats) that they are the “party of the regular guy” …
Take the estate tax…

As has been widely reported, it affects less than 1% of folks – when they die. But why is it a good thing?

1- Well, for one, our founder’s came out of a system where power was held by wealthy land owners: i.e. – the folks who had money. They endeavored to setup a representative system where people actually vote for their government officials. However, our system has degraded into “those with the most money to spend” win … as evidenced by the last 20 years of federal elections.

And where do all those campaign $$$ come from… big corps, which are controlled by the wealthy.

2- Most who “makes it” in this country has done so standing on the accomplishment of others and/or are simply a ‘good ole boy’. Take fearless leader: he was either on the board or part of exec management team for 4 different oil companies in TX – all of which failed miserable. Yet he came out of each far richer than he did going in.

Is this the way capitalism works for the average Joe?

3- Capitalism is based on the idea that ‘the best products and services’ will naturally rise to the top, rewarding the innovators. But is this really true? Does it really work this way when some to start off with a huge financial advantage?

I’m not saying Bill Gate’s kids should have to start from scratch. (Besides, his team of lawyers and accountants will have more money stashed away and out of the government’s reach that I’m sure he isn’t really worried about the estate tax.) – But isn’t it a good idea to ask those that have benefited extravagantly from our system to give a share of that back after they die – to help level the playing field for those less fortunate?

Make the first 10 million tax free – if your kids can’t make a go of their life with that big a head-start, you’ve done something wrong.

As for the other tax cuts – sure, everyone wants a tax cut: but does it make sense while the country runs HUGE deficits. Of course not. If I ran my company this way, we’d have been out of business 10 years ago.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Failure of ideology

With 6 years of nearly undisputed leadership under their belts the new breed of conservatives should be trumpeting the successes of their policies. After all, the opposition party wasn't even brought into conference on many of the bills proposed and signed by our fearless leader. They neo-cons have essentially set public policy for the last 6 years. Democrats and others have been almost completely shut out of decision making giving the conservatives an unprecedented chance to test-drive their ideas on the nation.

So what’s been the result?

1- We were told conservatives are better at defending us: well, worldwide terrorism is on the rise; as a nation, we have more enemies (and luke-warm allies) than before 2000; and more American’s have died overseas in terror attacks than at any time in history (the next greatest being under Reagan).

Well – that may be a short-term result of our ‘stern’ foreign policy – what are the longer term trends?

Let’s look at trends in Iran – the #1 state-sponsor of terrorism in the world. During the 90’s Iranian citizens, particularly the younger generation, looked to the west longingly. They started to demanding reforms. The movement didn’t get very far before hard-liners started a crack down, and banded reform candidates… but the populace was starting to look at western reforms as positive.

Now? Well, nationalism is on the rise. Our “axis of evil” rhetoric and combative foreign policy have helped to galvanize hard-liner rule and turn a reform-minded populace into

Of course the Iranian people are being spoon fed lies from their leaders, but the fact remains that OUR policies are making it easier for these leaders to turn their populations against us and our interests.

2- Energy policy. Supposedly an oil man from Texas in cahoots with energy industry reps would put us on the path to long-term energy “stability”. Yet here we are, 6 years later more dependent than ever on a region of the world that is falling further into chaos… while we have NO energy initiatives here at home. The best the conservatives can come up with is drilling in ANWR.

3- Finances: the party of small government… Yeah right: According to CATO this administration and congress has increased spending (not even considering the cost of the war) more than any administration since Johnson. Foreign governments are buying our paper and financing our spending. Of course, that paper becomes payable, with interest. Which means every dollar we borrow now will be paid back to a foreign government (China) with interest. That’s money we won’t be able to spend here and money the Chinese will spend (likely) building up their infrastructure and military. Great financial policy guys…



4- The war. I’ve blogged on this enough. Suffice it to say if your gonna ask a section of American society to sacrifice by putting them in harms way, you should probably ask the rest of the nation to get behind them (maybe pay a bit more in taxes to pay for it?) in a meaningful way (if I see another yellow ribbon for the troops on a Hummer I think I’m gonna puke). Instead, we’re told to “go on vacation”, “spend money”, etc. Yeah – that makes us all feel like we’re in it together. That’s leadership huh!

5- Constitutional abuses – I’ll just refer you to CATO:
President George W. Bush has failed in his most important responsibility "to preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States, according to a new Cato Institute study. The authors of the study, legal scholars Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch, say that the administration's sweeping claims of executive power in the Padilla case would suggest that Mr. Bush believes "the liberty of every American rests on nothing more than the grace of the White House." Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush
Somehow the “party of personal responsibility” will find a way to blame this whole fiasco on Clinton and the Democrats… and a lot of repugs will buy it. But at least its looking like a majority of Americans have seen the light – and the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the far-right.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Housing Sec. Canceled Contract Because Contractor Criticized Bush, Apparently Violating Law

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson publicly admitted that he canceled a government contract with a business because the CEO was critical of President Bush. From the Dallas Business Journal and Think Progress:

“He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,” Jackson said of the prospective contractor. “He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something … he said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t like President Bush.’ I thought to myself, ‘Brother, you have a disconnect — the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn’t be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don’t tell the secretary.’

“He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson continued. “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don’t get the contract. That’s the way I believe.”

Jackson’s conduct appears to be in violation of federal law. From the Federal Acquisition Regulations, 48 CFR 3.101-1:

Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and, except as authorized by statute or regulation, with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none. Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct.

Now, Jackson says he "Fabricated the Entire Story":
A spokesperson for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson has issued a second response to reports that Jackson publicly admitted cancelling a government contract with a business because the CEO was critical of President Bush.
Gov contracts are supposed to be awarded on MERIT... not politics or political allegence. Kinda sounds like the repugs operate like the Russia mob doesn't it?
Dustee Tucker, a spokeswoman for Jackson, told the Dallas Business Journal Tuesday that Jackson’s comments at his April 28 speech were purely “anecdotal.”

“He was merely trying to explain to the audience how people in D.C., will say critical things about the secretary, will unfairly characterize the president and then turn around and ask you for money,” Tucker said. “He did not actually meet with someone and turn down a contract. He’s not part of the contracting process.”

In other words, his spokesman claims that Jackson fabricated a long and detailed exchange (excerpt: “He said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t like President Bush.’”) with a CEO that doesn’t actually exist, about a process he isn’t actually involved with."

Bidding for a government contract isn’t ‘asking for money.’ It’s not Alphonso Jackson’s money to give away to his buddies. It is the taxpayers’ money. It should go to whoever can do the best job, regardless of their political views.
Amazing that the repugs on the hill didn't think much of the story: kinda like business as usual: Reminds me of Delay's little black book and the way he used to flaunt it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

News flash: Repugs pander to the Rich

Like it should be any surprise.

Republican lawmakers, facing the prospect that their power to cut taxes may soon be curbed, plan to extend breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy and Wall Street at the expense of reductions for middle-income households.

Six months before elections that may return a Democratic majority in at least one house of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois are focusing on extending the 15 percent rate on investments and repealing the estate tax. They won't push extensions of lower rates for all taxpayers and expanded breaks for married couples and families with children, which expire after 2010.

How many of the people that voted for dear leader and his minions will actually benefit from these tax breaks... Less than 1% I'd venture to guess. Yet these are the central platforms of the party... along with ensuring boys don't kiss.

The moral depravity of this group is astounding... yet they're the "morals and values" crowd. What ever happened to helping the poor? Why has poverty RISEN each year of the Bush dynasty.

Policy matters... Competence matters. But people in this country are far more likely to vote for platitudes than policy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

General McCaffrey's Report on Iraq - an uncertain future

A buddy from my squadron forwarded this report from Army General McCaffrey, at the War College.

The General just finished a visit to Iraq and Kuwait (April, 2006). He spoke with everyone from General George Casey, Commander, Multi-National Force-Iraq to the "regular guy on the ground" -- as well as to Iraqi government and civilian group representatives.

As those of us who actually think analytically know, Iraq is on the brink... much of its future is out of our hands.

I'll update this entry with a link to the uploaded report, in its entirety, but for now here are some excerpts:
4. THE BOTTOM LINE - OBSERVATIONS FROM IRAQI FREEDOM, APRIL 2006:
1st - The morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring.

2nd - The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent - most are adequate. However, they are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, most with body armor and one or two uniforms.

3rd - The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program.
The crux of the war hangs on our ability to create urban and rural local police with the ability to survive on the streets of this incredibly dangerous and lethal environment.
The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.

4th - The creation of an Iraqi government of national unity is a central requirement. We must help create a legitimate government for which the Iraqi security forces will fight and die. If we do not see the successful development of a pluralistic administration in the first 120 days of the emerging Jawad al-Maliki leadership - there will be significant chance of the country breaking apart in warring factions among the Sunnis and Shia - with a separatist Kurdish north embroiled in their own potential struggle with the Turks. The incompetence and corruption of the interim Iraqi Administration has been significant. There is total lack of trust among the families, the tribes, and the sectarian factions created by the 35 years of despotism and isolation of the criminal Saddam regime. This is a traumatized society with a malignant political culture. There is a huge “brain drain” taking place with educated and wealthy Iraqis getting out with their money. This is a loss of the potential leadership to solve the mess that is Iraq today. The pot is also being stirred from the outside Iraq by six neighboring states - none of which have provided significant economic or political assistance.

5th - The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. Aggressive small unit combat action by Coalition Forces combined with good intelligence - backed up by new Iraqi Security Forces is making an impact. The foreign fighters remain a serious tactical menace. However, they are a minor threat to the heavily armed and wary U.S. forces. They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment.

6th - The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate. A handful of brilliant, courageous, and dedicated Foreign Service Officers have held together a large, constantly changing, marginally qualified, inadequately experienced U.S. mission. The U.S. influence on the Iraqi national and regional government has been extremely weak.

7th - We face a serious strategic dilemma. Are U.S. combat troops operating in a police action governed by the rule of Iraqi law? Or are they a Coalition Military Force supporting a counter-insurgency campaign in a nation with almost no functioning institutions? The situation must remain ambiguous until the Iraqi government is actually operating effectively.

8th - Thanks to strong CENTCOM leadership and supervision at every level, our detainee policy has dramatically corrected the problems of the first year of the War on Terrorism. Detainee practices and policy in detention centers in both Iraq and Afghanistan that I have visited are firm, professional, humane, and well supervised.

9th - The stateside Army and Marine Corps needs significant manpower augmentation to continue the Iraq counter-insurgency and Iraqi training mission. In my judgment, CENTCOM must constrain the force level in Iraq or we risk damaging our ground combat capability which we will need in the ongoing deterrence of threat from North Korea, Iran, Syria, China against Taiwan, Venezuela, Cuba, and other potential flashpoints.

10th - CENTCOM and the U.S. Mission are running out of the most significant leverage we have in Iraq - economic reconstruction dollars. Having spent $18 billion - we now have $1.6 billion of new funding left in the pipeline. Iraq cannot sustain the requisite economic recovery without serious U.S. support.

11th -– We need to better equip the Iraqi Army with a capability to deter foreign attack - and to have a leveraged advantage over the Shia militias and the AIF insurgents they must continue to confront. The resources we are now planning to provide are inadequate by an order of magnitude or more.

12th - There is a rapidly growing animosity in our deployed military forces toward the U.S. media. We need to bridge this gap. Armies do not fight wars - countries fight wars.

13th -–U.S. public diplomacy and rhetoric about confronting Iranian nuclear weapons is scaring neighbors in the Gulf. They will not support another war.. [...] A U.S. military confrontation with Iran could result in Sadr attacking our forces in Baghdad - or along our 400 mile line of communications out of Iraq to the sea. The Iranian people have collectively decided to go nuclear. The Chinese and the Russians will not in the end support serious collective action against Iran. The Iranians will achieve their nuclear weapon purpose within 5-10 years. Now is the time for us to create the asymmetrical alliances and defensive capabilities to hedge the Iranian nuclear threat without pre-emptive warfare. We can bankrupt and isolate the Iranians as we did the Soviet Union and create a stronger Gulf Alliance that will effectively deter this menace to our security.

SUMMARY
The U.S. will remain in a serious crisis in Iraq during the coming 24 months. There is decreasing U.S. domestic support for the war; although in my view the American people understand that we must not fail or we risk a ten year disaster of foreign policy in the vital Gulf Oil Region. U.S. public opinion may become increasingly alienated by Iraqi ingratitude for our sacrifice on their behalf (huge percentages of both the Shia and Sunni populations believe that the MNF Coalition forces are the single greatest threat to safety and security in Iraq today) ---and by astonishingly corrupt and incompetent Iraqi management of their own recovery. (Much of the national oil and electricity problem is caused by poor maintenance or deliberate internal sabotage of the infrastructure for reasons of criminal corruption ---or to prevent energy from flowing away from the production facilities to Baghdad.)
The situation is perilous, uncertain, and extreme - but far from hopeless. The U.S. Armed Forces are a rock. This is the most competent and brilliantly led military in a tactical and operational sense that we have ever fielded. Its courage and dedication is unabated after 20,000 killed and wounded. The U.S. leadership on the ground is superb at strategic level - Ambassador Khalilzad, General Abizaid, and General Casey.
... a frank evaluation of the situation in Iraq and the wider region.

Given the current state of affairs in Iraq and the cost of reconstruction so far, the rational person has to ask: is it worth more American lives to give Iraqi's even a chance at a democratic future? What would happen if we leave? What would happen if we stay? Is our presence exacerbating the problems? How much more are we willing to cripple our OWN economy for the sake of an uncertain future in Iraq?

One thing is clear - our incompetent civilian leaders had no idea the can of worms they were opening; they did practically NONE of the planning required to successfully compete such an operation. (If they did have an idea of the real costs of this operation, well -- then they lied to us.) They even had disdain for those that DID try to inform them of the likely outcome of their actions (or lack of planning/action).

How anyone supports a president that put 100k+ American troops in harms way, spent $300+ billion running the country into record deficits without really knowing what he was getting into simply amazes me. Even if things work out in Iraq, how will that help us with the current (and worsening) energy crunch? China and India will be vying for the remaining oil resources while our leaders are playing in the sandbox of Iraq claiming a “democratic Iraq” will somehow cure our ills.

The solution is on a different path altogether: it is to challenge our own industry and scientists to put us on a path to energy independence; to remove our dependence on an unstable part of the world. This is a long road, but one we have control over -- and one that isn't lined with middle-eastern IEDs. A long term presence in Iraq isn't likely to quell the terrorism situation either. By maintaining a presence there we'll continue to inspire the fundamentalists radicals in the region – they’ll have a rallying cry to export their hate.

So why not take control of our future?? Using resources under OUR control: our ability to innovate and build.

The problem is a lack of vision and the spoiled brat syndrome here at home. "Irrational Nationalists" (i.e. - neocons and other repugs who think America can do no wrong -- i.e. - if we implement a policy, it must be right!) here at home will continue to spew forth irrational garbage in lieu of real analysis. To them, "staying the course" is the goal rather than a means to an end. What they don’t even consider is that the end-state they envision (in Iraq) is likely not to change the situation here at home: with regard to either the availability of energy or likelihood of further terrorist attacks.

They are blinded by the “right”.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Your Global Warming Data-point for the Day


This graph correlates CO2 levels and temperature.

By looking at atmospheric CO2 levels trapped in ice cores, scientists can determine the level of green house gases and correlate them to temperature over the last several hundred thousand years.

Note the current spike in CO2 levels, and the recent rise in temps.

I hope the correlation doesn't continue to hold...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Religion trumps Reason... Plan B

From the NYT:

The best way to reduce the number of abortions, in turn, would be to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Every year, Americans have three million unplanned pregnancies, leading to 1.3 million abortions.

So it should be a no-brainer that we increase access to contraception, and in particular make the "morning after" pill available over the counter. That would be the single simplest step to reduce the U.S. abortion rate, while also helping hundreds of thousands of women avert unwanted pregnancies.

Plan B, the emergency contraceptive, normally prevents pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex — although it is most effective when taken within 24 hours. It is now available in most of the U.S. only by prescription, but the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have both endorsed it for over-the-counter use.

President Bush's Food and Drug Administration has blocked that, apparently fearing that better contraception will encourage promiscuity. But unless the libidophobes in the administration mandate chastity belts, their opposition to Plan B amounts to a pro-abortion policy.

Once again religious ideology trumps pragmatism... with the usual result.

Spanish version of the National Anthem

I've been 'battling' with folks over the propriety of the Spanish ver. of the Anthem on a couple conservative blogs. It's amazing to me why this is even an issue for some people. If someone wants to sing the Anthem in Swahili, more power too them.

I swear right-wingers get up-in-arms over the stupidest things... things that don't even affect them.

Anyway, with a bit of research and an email from a friend I found this:

Spanish-language version of the National Anthem, commissioned by the United States in 1919, on the Library of Congress website:

http://memory.loc.gov/cocoon/iha...page=1&section=

FOUR different versions in Spanish on the State Department website:

http://usinfo.state.gov/esp/ home...em_spanish.html

Considering the US Government COMMISSIONED these versions that would make all my right-wing friends America-hating, anti-government commies right??

Monday, May 01, 2006

Single payer health care

It can work: a government regulated system of health care for all.
The medical cost ratio is the percentage of insurance premiums paid out to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. Investors are upset about Aetna's rising ratio, because it leaves less room for profit. But even after the rise in the cost ratio, Aetna spends less than 80 cents of each dollar in health insurance premiums on actually providing medical care. The other 20 cents go into profits, marketing and administrative expenses.

Other private insurers have similar ratios. And here's the thing: most of those 20 cents spent on things other than medical care are unnecessary. Older Americans are covered by Medicare, which doesn't spend large sums on marketing and doesn't devote a lot of resources to screening out people likely to have high medical bills. As a result, Medicare manages to spend about 98 percent of its funds on actual medical care.

Many are opposed to the government getting involved in health care. But with an innovative plan we can reduce the waste and dedicate more $$$ to actual care as opposed to advertising and administrative overhead (identifying those "undesirables" from an insurance perspective)

A single payer system puts everyone in the same pool -- to share expenses. Isn't that what insurance is supposed to be about? Now, we have companies who compete not to provide you the best service, but compete to weed out folks likely to use a lot of services.

Again, market-place competition isn't the cure-all for social issues.

Single payer health care

It can work: a government regulated system of health care for all.
The medical cost ratio is the percentage of insurance premiums paid out to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. Investors are upset about Aetna's rising ratio, because it leaves less room for profit. But even after the rise in the cost ratio, Aetna spends less than 80 cents of each dollar in health insurance premiums on actually providing medical care. The other 20 cents go into profits, marketing and administrative expenses.

Other private insurers have similar ratios. And here's the thing: most of those 20 cents spent on things other than medical care are unnecessary. Older Americans are covered by Medicare, which doesn't spend large sums on marketing and doesn't devote a lot of resources to screening out people likely to have high medical bills. As a result, Medicare manages to spend about 98 percent of its funds on actual medical care.

Many are opposed to the government getting involved in health care. But with an innovative plan we can reduce the waste and dedicate more $$$ to actual care as opposed to advertising and administrative overhead (identifying those "undesirables" from an insurance perspective)

A single payer system puts everyone in the same pool -- to share expenses. Isn't that what insurance is supposed to be about? Now, we have companies who compete not to provide you the best service, but compete to weed out folks likely to use a lot of services.

Again, market-place competition isn't the cure-all for social issues.