Friday, July 27, 2007

How to artfully dodge the issue

Not Exactly Responsive

Bush deserves some credit for acknowledging some of the criticisms that have been leveled against the White House position on Iraq. Typically Bush has either ignored or badly mischaracterized his critics. Yesterday, however, Bush did a creditable job of describing some of the charges against him.

For instance, Bush said: "Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al-Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. They claim that the organization called al-Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and that it's not interested in attacking America."

But his rebuttals were sometimes not really responsive. Case in point:

"Some note that al Qaida in Iraq did not exist until the U.S. invasion -- and argue that it is a problem of our own making. The argument follows the flawed logic that terrorism is caused by American actions. Iraq is not the reason that the terrorists are at war with us. We were not in Iraq when the terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. We were not in Iraq when they attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We were not in Iraq when they attacked the USS Cole in 2000. And we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001."

But critics are not saying that terrorism is America's fault, nor that the invasion of Iraq caused 9/11. They're saying that the way America fights terror matters. Good strategy can minimize terrorism; bad strategy can play right into the terrorist's hands.

The last couple of sentences sum-up the situation ... succinctly and "obviously". The fact that our leader won't address this 500 lb gorilla sitting in the corner of the room tells me he is:

1- insane,
2- more stupid than anyone can imagine,
3- a liar.

I vote 3 ... with a good dose of 2 thrown in...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Government out of control

How much worse can it get??

Law-makers have -- in recent years -- passed laws that effect only one or two individuals. As bad as this is, the latest version directly undermines whats left of our justice system.

In an amendment to the pending defense appropriations bill that passed last night on a voice vote, the House usurped the president's pardon authority by commuting the sentences of the two former Border Patrol agents convicted in 2005 ...

The amendment that passed last night, sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., provides: "None of the funds made available under this Act shall be used by the Bureau of Prisons to incarcerate Ignacio Ramos or Jose Alonso Compean." But the Constitution entrusts the power to pardon offenses against the United States or to commute sentences exclusively to the president. The enumerated legislative powers do not hint at a concurrent authority in Congress.

I guess there's absolutely no shame left in our representatives: using the power of their office to undermine the legal system. What next? Laws to make sure your buddy can rip off the taxpayers with complete immunity?

Oh, that's already happened --- Haliburton.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prop up that bogey man...

Bush Insists Al Qaeda in Iraq Threatens U.S. - New York Times: "The president’s remarks focused almost entirely on links between the two groups and on threats they pose."

Tyranny thrives in the presence of fear. That this clearly illogical message still resonates with a small portion of the populace doesn't say much for our ability to reason.

Not surprising however - there's still a small percentage of American's who think the world is approx 6000 years old.

I'm not into conspiracy theories, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if some catastrophe befell the nation several months before the next election. That's the only way the current set of tyrants can maintain their grip on power.

I just hope the majority sees it coming...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cost of War

I was recently reading a story on the cost of the Iraq war. Most estimates put the daily cost at around $200,000,000 (200 million) per day. Government allocations, as identified in the budget, show that the US Government has already spent more than $450,000,000,000 on the war. This doesn't include the costs of care for returning vets... That's likely to continue for decades and push the costs well past $1,000,000,000,000.

Motivated by a comment on an earlier post, I thought I'd try to give folks some perspective on these numbers: most people simply cannot grasp how big "a million" really is... let alone a billion.

For instance, if you were to start counting $100 bills at the rate of 1/sec ... how long do you think you'd have to count to "pay back" the $450 billion spent so far?

A month?

Six months?

A year?

Try more than 142 years...

The amounts of money we are talking about are staggering. Throwing out labels like billion or trillion simply doesn't do them justice.

What makes the situation completely intolerable is that the money isn't making the world a better or safer place for you, me or anyone else.

Well, maybe for Haliburton shareholders.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

From where does it come?

I was having lunch with a friend the other day when the conversation drifted onto religion. A co-worker had expressed some mutual-exclusive stances (based on Mormonism) and I was explaining to my friend how incredible it is that some people can hold beliefs that are completely irrational when you consider their actions.

Although details of the story are ancillary to my point, I find it amazing that someone (the co-worker) could be a soldier in the US Military… have served time in combat in Iraq… yet maintain that they couldn't watch "Letters from Iwo Jima" because it was "R" rated and contained violence.

"But you train to kill people…". I'd protest. "You've sworn an oath to fight for your country, follow the orders of your seniors… you've seen real combat and bloodshed. Why doesn't your faith prohibit that??"

I have respect for those who object to violence in any form: whether portrayed or actual. At least their reasoning is consistent. But this: To believe it ok to serve in the military - in combat, but "bad" to watch a violent movie -- seems literally crazy.

The answer is more non-sense than I care to go into. Apparently, it's ok to serve the interests of your political leaders and kill others, but watching a historical movie about another such episode in our history is verboten.

I am amazed at how some people can compartmentalize their reasoning centers. I truly don't understand how some people function in our society.

Anyway, back to the lunch discussion. After we both had a chuckle over the obvious non sequitur, my lunch friend felt obligated to point out that religion does serve some good purpose: namely, giving us morality. As the check came I was preparing to dispute that claim with the following example (but was thwarted by a quick change of subject and subsequent distractions!)

First, there are far too many examples of "bad morality" both practiced and taught by the worlds' religions. Any examination of the old or new testament or the Koran will easily very the point. Second, there are a smorgasbord of historical outrages committed by the people who do the teaching – right up to the present day. Next, why do we feel compelled to even consult ancient barbarians about morals and ethics? It's like asking Neanderthal about physics… and lastly I offer a simple scenario.

Imagine (not that hard to do) that three different people see a homeless person on the street… The person sits quietly with a sign: "any help appreciated" … It's hot out, its obvious the man hasn't eaten in some time. All three of our hypothetical "good Samaritans" decide to help this person. Let's examine them.

The first person to come upon the scene is an atheist. This atheist sees the person – and realizing that we all only have a finite amount of time on this earth before we return to dust takes pity on him. He further realizes he would hate to be hot, hungry and without companionship. He takes the man to a diner for a sandwich.

The next person is "christian1" … Christian1 sees the homeless man and realizes that Jesus is his example in all things… that he should help this man as it would be the "Christian thing to do". He thinks this is what his lord would want him to do – he wants to be a good Christian… he wants to please Jesus. He takes the man to a diner for a sandwich.

The next person is "christian2"… Christian2 sees the homeless man and realizes that Jesus and his faith command him to help… the impetus doesn't come from him, but from his desire to be obedient. He takes the man to a diner for a sandwich.

We could add "neo-con Christian" – who sees the homeless man and reasons that if god wanted him to be comfortable and fed the man would have a job and a house.

While this scenario simplifies the emotional and empathetical facets of the individuals involved it does illustrate the differences in motivation. The question is – which man is "most moral"?

I know I'd be most proud if my child were to act out of empathy for another human being – not because some hero or authority figure desired or commanded it – but because he realized – intrinsically – it was the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bad advice

This stuff just pisses me off...
President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education.

Dr. Richard Carmona, the nation's 17th surgeon general, told lawmakers that all surgeons general have had to deal with politics but none more so than he.

I know I shouldn't say this, but Jan 2009 can't come fast enough... This administration has screwed up more areas of government than ANY other...
Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.

"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are."

The worse part is that it was obvious it was coming -- all you had to do was look at this guys background: a looser and a drunk until he was 40, then a born-again nut-case.

No wonder the rest of the world thinks we're a bunch of idiots.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in ’05 - New York Times

U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in ’05 - New York Times: "A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning."
I can hardly wait to see how the Republican spin machine - AKA FoxNews -- sums up this story. If you ever watched the channel -- especially after things starting going badly for the neocon crowd -- there was hardly a day when Clinton and "the liberals" weren't blamed for essentially causing 9/11 -- for not taking a shot at Osama back in the 90's.

Chris Wallace even tried to ambush Clinton with the "why didn't you take-out Osama when you had the chance?" question during an interview that was supposed to be about the Clinton Global Initiative.

I'm sure there will be a way to blame it on the Democrats and liberals... I just can't wait to hear the next level of shrill irrationality from the right.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oblivious to everything but power

A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease -

"...the discontent with the Bush presidency is broader and deeper among Republican lawmakers, some of whom seethe with anger. 'Our members just wish this thing would be over,' said a senior House Republican who met with Bush recently. 'People are tired of him.' Bush's circle remains sealed tight, the lawmaker said. 'There's nobody there who can stand up to him and tell him, 'Mr. President, you've got to do this. You're wrong on this.' There's no adult supervision. It's like he's oblivious. Maybe that's a defense mechanism.'"
It really isn't surprising but its taken most Republican's 6+ years to realize the emperor has no cloths... or brains.

I think it says more about Republican lawmakers than Bush.