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...

Buffett's Billions

US billionaires try to explain giveaway

At least some people "get it".

This news as the estate tax is under attack by the neocons who portray it as theft. Buffett supports the estate tax for its role in emphasizing merit over inheritance as the means for advancing in American society:
Buffett said he wanted to avoid ``dynastic inheritance,'' where people born into wealthy families get unfair head starts over the less fortunate.

Buffett said his children control the other foundations to get the stock, but he will not leave them "huge amounts" for their personal use. He said his philosophy is "that a very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing."
If you believe in capitalism, you believe in the market rewarding innovation, creativity and hard work... Brats running around spending the millions their parents accrued while contributing next-to-nothing don't fit that model.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Senate Republicans: COMPLETELY CORRUPT

Like you needed me to tell you that...

So, could someone please tell me why Senator Dorgan's amendment -- to setup an investigative committee into defense contractor abuse, and set out clear criteria for such abuse -- was defeated. With all but ONE Republican voting against?

Some excerpts from the amendment:

(1) IN GENERAL.--Whoever, in any matter involving a contract or the provision of goods or services, directly or indirectly, in connection with a war or military action knowingly and willfully--

(A) executes or attempts to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud the United States or the entity having jurisdiction over the area in which such activities occur;

(B) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(C) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; or

(D) materially overvalues any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or military action;

shall be fined under paragraph (2), imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

I know first hand how much money def contractors can waste... The fact that our congress spends more time debating boys kissing than how to spend (and police the spending of my money) is unacceptable.



Monday, June 19, 2006

The internet and the free-market

Ok… here’s the scenario: you live in an area with 2 … maybe 3 high speed internet service providers (ISPs). You’re ISP of choice – in fact, all of them in your area, have an agreement with Yahoo! – as their “gateway service provider of choice”. Unbeknownst to you however, is what that really means.

Of course, you like to use Google for you web searches.

Here’s what it likely means: You go to Google to do your search, but that URL seems to always load slowly… that’s because your ISP is throttling your access to non-preferred sites. It’s part of the agreement you ISP has with Yahoo!

What other scenarios can you come up with? Maybe you ISP is owned by a Fundamentalist… so somehow those porn sites just don’t seem to load.

Or worse, maybe he’s a staunch Republican… in which case most of the net doesn’t load: except the RNC website of course.

Fare? Sure it is… this is free-market capitalism at its “best”… Don’t like your service, the market will fill the void. Except it really isn’t easy to break into the ISP market… oh well.

Of course, there’s the progressive argument: The argument that states open, unrestricted access to ALL information is what the internet is all about… and regulations should be put in place to make sure that part of the internet ISP playing field isn’t “competed” (i.e. screwed with).

That’s exactly what a bunch of progressive (mostly Democratic) congress-people proposed. Of course, the “market economy solves all problems” crowd would have none of that. The House passed a version of telecommunications reform June 8, after rejecting the Democratic proposal to establish network-neutrality requirements for broadband providers. The proposal, which barred blocking, impairing, degrading, or discriminating against lawful content, was rejected by 211 Republicans and 58 Democrats.

Amazingly an incredibly diverse set of groups has come together to champion just such a bill in the Senate. Groups ranging from the Christian Coalition, Gunowners of America, and Moveon.org want the government to ensure "network neutrality."

Do you? Doesn’t government have a role here? … in protecting the “public interest”.

Well, most of the Republican’s in congress don’t think so. They think pandering to Ma-Bell and the big cable companies makes better public policy.

Friday, June 16, 2006

War on Terror: a failure

Another 9/11 `inevitable,' experts conclude

Washington's diplomatic efforts rated 1.8 out of 10
Jun. 15, 2006. 02:00 PM

Washington is failing to make progress in the global war on terror and the next 9/11-style attack is not a question of if, but when. That is the scathing conclusion of a survey of 100 leading American foreign-policy analysts.

In its first "Terrorism Index," released yesterday, the influential journal Foreign Policy found surprising consensus among the bipartisan experts.Some 86 per cent of them said the world has grown more, not less, dangerous, despite President George W. Bush's claims that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The main reasons for the decline in security, they said, were the war in Iraq, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. policy towards Iran and U.S. energy policy.

The survey's participants included an ex-secretary of state and former heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, along with prominent members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. The majority served in previous administrations or in senior military ranks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Interview w/ Vice-President Dick Cheney, "Meet the Press," Transcript for March 16, 2003

Remember this? Some excerpts...

Interview with Vice-President Dick Cheney, "Meet the Press," Transcript Excerpts:

"MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. "

MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we’ve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

MR. RUSSERT: Every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can’t say that, Tim. There are estimates out there. It’s important, though, to recognize that we’ve got a different set of circumstances than we’ve had in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan you’ve got a nation without significant resources. In Iraq you’ve got a nation that’s got the second-largest oil reserves in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia. It will generate billions of dollars a year in cash flow if they get back to their production of roughly three million barrels of oil a day, in the relatively near future. And that flow of resources, obviously, belongs to the Iraqi people, needs to be put to use by the Iraqi people for the Iraqi people and that will be one of our major objectives.

MR. RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: They have so far. ... I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Brent Scowcroft, a man you know well, the national security adviser to former President Bush, when you were secretary of defense, talked to the National Journal and said this, and let me lay it out: “I’m puzzled as to where President Bush stands on the issue of our traditional alliances such as NATO, because during the campaign he made some strong statements about putting more stock in them. Clearly, that hasn’t happened. Part of the Bush administration clearly believes that as a uperpower, we must take advantage of this opportunity to change the world for the better, and we don’t need to go out of our way to accommodate alliances, partnerships or friends in the process, because that would too constraining.

”[This doctrine of continually letting each mission to define the coalition and relying almost solely on ad hoc] coalitions of the willing is fundamentally fatally flawed. As we’ve seen in the debate about Iraq, it’s already given us an image of arrogance and unilateralism, and we’re paying a very high price for that image. If we get to the point where everyone secretly hopes the United States gets a black eye because we’re so obnoxious, then we’ll be totally hamstrung in the war on terror. We’ll be like Gulliver with the Lilliputians.”

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I have great affection for Brent. We’ve been friends for a long time. He is occasionally wrong, and this is one of those occasions.

MR. RUSSERT: But a lot of countries, Mr. Vice President, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the neighbors of Saddam, other than Kuwait, are not supportive.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think we will find, Tim, that if in fact we have to do this with military force that there will be sighs of relief in many quarters in the Middle East that the United States finally followed through and deal effectively with what they all perceive to be a major threat

Could anyone be more wrong than the Vice President of the United States? No matter your politics, we need to judge our leaders on their competence: and these leaders have demonstrated they have none.

Religious songs in elementary school show... oh brother.

Looks like folks are up in arms about a young girl who wants to sing (likely at her parents behest) a religious song in a school show. The school officials thought the lyrics to "proselytizing" so they told her to pick another.

Of course, we need the courts to rule on this critical issue...

As folks who read my blog know, I think religion and absolute belief in god is hooey. But I certainly don't care if an 8 year old wants to sing a religious song after school in a talent show. I believe its her right to sing whatever song she wants.

The bigger issue, from me, is that this poor girl is likely to end up being taught (by her parents) that she better behave and belief a certain set of illogical things that contradict what we see in the natural world... because if she doesn't she's gonna piss off a grey bearded circuit-boy living in the clouds.

Anyway, those evil folks over at the ACLU seem to agree with me:
The case has attracted the attention of the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based religious rights group that is representing the girl and her parents in a lawsuit against the school district. In addition, the civil rights division of the Justice Department and the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are filing friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the girl's right to sing "Awesome God" at the talent show.
Some of my conservative friends who say the ACLU is at war with religious folks should take note: the ACLU is only "at war" with folks who want to trample on the Constitution.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Security or coverup? How a murky case became precedent.

Why you can't trust the government -- as if you needed another example.

Apparently, this woman's father was killed in an aircraft accident in 1949. His wife (the woman's mother) tried to get details about the crash from the government at the time, but they claimed the "state secrets" privilege: essentially saying that information related to the crash couldn't be released as it would compromise national security.

Eventually, almost 60 years later, the daughter was able to get information on the crash:
"The reports of her father's crash arrived in the mail 10 days later.

Rather than military secrets, the accident reports detailed embarrassing and incriminating evidence of mistakes and negligence by the flight crew and mechanics that led to the 1948 crash, she says. 'As I discovered more and more about it, I got more and more angry,' Loether says. 'It didn't have to do with state secrets, it had to do with embarrassment and negligence. You can't look at that accident report and not be overwhelmed by the amount of negligence involved.'"
Well, now that she knew it was negligence, she decided to sue the government for fraud: and rightly so:

In response, Bush administration lawyers denied that anyone had lied in the earlier case. They said government officials had simply adopted a broad reading of state secrets. It was the height of the Cold War, they stressed. Any details about the workings - and failings - of the B-29 aircraft itself might have helped the Soviets piece together important clues about US military capabilities and research.

A federal judge agreed and dismissed the suit. A three-judge federal appeals court panel - including now-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito - also embraced the Bush administration's broad reading of the state secrets doctrine.

But that wider interpretation seems at odds with the Supreme Court's more focused 1953 opinion. Back then, it upheld the government's position because there was "a reasonable danger that the accident investigation report would contain references to the secret electronic equipment." There was no suggestion that the military secrets at issue in the case related to the B-29.

If this is what we can expect from conservative justices the very notion of accountable government is at stake. If they can hide negligence -- negligence that results in the deaths of citizens -- and get away with it, what can't they do?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Here we go again - Estate Tax

Quick, name one of the major motivations for the founding fathers leaving Europe for the new world?

Did I hear 'entrenched aristocracy'? If so, give yourself 2 points and continue.

This week the Senate is once again about to take up the "issue" of the estate tax. They were set to debate this last year, but Katrina came along -- talking about giving a huge tax break to the richest Americans just didn't seem right after thousands of poor and middle class families where washed out into the streets.

Back to the founders: Jefferson and Franklin both realized that people aspire to the aggregation of wealth, but both remained adamantly opposed to its aggregation... After all, they came out of a system where the landed aristocracy remained in power simply by virtue of birth-right. Jefferson, in particular, had no problem with what he called "natural aristocracy" -- the accumulation of wealth/power/influence by merit, but he argued that "Provisions ... to prevent its [birth-right aristocracy] ascendancy should be taken in America."

In short, we're supposed to be a society where rewards [economic] are based on individual merit... not on who your daddy was. Sure, you should be able to leave a tidy nest egg for your children when you pass on; and there's a legitimate debate as to how big that nest egg should be before Uncle Sam steps in with taxes. But to even consider a complete repeal of the estate tax undercuts our founding principles.

Besides, no matter how you tax Bill Gates' estate, I'm sure his lawyers and accounts will make sure their kids have a huge head-start in life.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Quick!! Look over here!

Here we go...

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Next week, the United States Senate will begin debate on a constitutional amendment that defines marriage in the United States as the union of a man and woman.

At least this time around it sounds like some of his base is onto the ploy: some conservatives on Fox were saying this is like "throwing a bone here, throwing a bone there".

How does 'ole George sleep at night? Soldiers dying in Iraq... Terrorism on the rise world-wide for the last 5 years... 20 million kids living below the poverty line... millions of American's without health care (and skipping meals to pay for required drugs)... and THIS issue is the one he's gonna take on.

This is pure politics folks -- absolutely pure. There's very little chance the amendment will actually pass, so all this is supposed to do is appease the base. But as I mentioned, its likely to back-fire on that account too.

The Republicans in power talk morals & values: but this has got to be the most morally bankrupt administration and congress in history.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Maybe we're creating the problem

I'm having a discussion on the blog about homosexuality... and the point I'm trying to make deserves its own post:

What if you (and society) taught your kids that long-term, male-female relationships aren't normal… and  what if society didn't provide a social structure that honored those relationships. What if those relationships had to be hidden – kept out of sight in everyday experience. What if they had to be denied to family and friends. What effect do you think that would have on such relationships?

More promiscuity? More self-doubt and even self-loathing (as exemplified by many younger gay people)? Suicide? (I personally know a gay man who contemplated suicide in his early twenties because he thought his 'urges' meant his life was ruined). Maybe a flamboyant "in your face" kind of attitude too...

The other blogger points out that the homosexual "lifestyle" isn't really compatible with raising a family. But why isn't it? (If that's true.) How do we expect homosexuals to form lasting, monogamous relationships when society and the people around them tell them they can't/won't form a real relationship?

People don't see it, but its the lack of acceptance that's part of the problem. By paying lip service to homosexuals (I don't dislike them), but still segregating "them" you are perpetuating the situation.