Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Big Brother Arrived Where I Work

I knew it had to happen some day and that day has arrived where I work. The corporation has installed security cameras in five known locations and who knows how many other ones. These camera systems are not your run of the mill, tape recorded, black and white, convienence store type. These are state of the art computer based.

Understandable they were installed to prevent theft. I work at a corporate bakery with locations around the country, a retail business. The company has had enough incidents of theft to justify the cameras. And some of those thefts have been done by employees as well as the outside thieves. Yet as a worker who has nothing to do with the cash registers I can't help but feel big brother watching over me.

In a meeting the other day management explained some aspects of the system. For instance they can toy with the computer recorded image to "see the whites of the eyes" of anyone in camera range. I work the night shift and they explained that the cameras can be accessed at any time remotely using a laptop and have the capacity of multicamera split screening. As they put it, "we can access at three in the morning if we want" but quickly added "and throughout the day to watch customers."

The problem with this type of big brother activity is that no one points to those that do the watching. It is just assumed that they have good intentions of protecting the corporation. I have to wonder as I work at night if someone is at home on their laptop tuning in to my images for mere entertainment. I have to wonder as they capture pictures of me what they might later do with those images. Some day could I come across pictures of me on some website accompanied by some humorous caption? There are strange people all over this world, how do I know that the laptop viewer is not getting their jollies off on watching me.

The possibilities of abusing this imaging power over me has many unknown future prospects. I have no control over these images of myself. Those pictures are not mine, they are owned by the corporation. My initial gut reaction is to each day give the finger to every camera before I start my day, but more than likely they would call that grounds for dismissal.

The corporation I work for has a huge laundry list of no-nos. Don't do this, don't do that, the list is too long to memorize. They can write me up for this thing, fire me for that thing. Many of the things are quite mundane, some employees can't let a tattoo be exposed to the public for instance, I think that's a write-up. I wonder if I might end up with a surprise write-up for violating some little stupid thing, "see, here's the pictures, recorded you last week."

The book 1984 by George Orwell where the term big brother came from was about the government being the intrusive watcher. The fact is that in the 21st century it is the corporation that plays the role of big brother. Somebody is probably watching you, particularily if you work for the corporation.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Catastrophic success???

Can we just skip ahead to November 2nd and start the revolution now? Is it possible to avoid the next two months? I can barely stand to listen to our president any more. It seems like one Bushism after another. The latest as reported by the Washington Post;
Bush also acknowledged in the interview that the administration did not anticipate the nature of the resistance in Iraq, and he said that was his greatest mistake in office. "Had we had to do it over again," he said, "we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."
Catastrophic success? Just a second here, I've got to go get a dictionary to make sure I still understand these two words. Bush can say the strangest things and sometimes I have to see if reality agrees with him. OK, got the dictionary. Cat, catacomb, catalog, um, OK, got it. Catastrophe, well the first definition involves a play, a tragedy, hmmm. Oh, here we go, 2) a disastrous end, or 3) any great and sudden calamity, disaster or misfortune. 4) a total or ignominious failure. The fifth definition is geological. And it gives a synonym, disaster, which is the third time that word has come up. Sure, that is what I thought catastrophe meant, a disaster, so catastrophic means disasterous.

Success is an easy word, but just to be sure, let me flip into the esses. Success, a favorable or satisfactory outcome. Just as I thought, George Bush used an oxymoron, which is a figure of speech in which two terms contradict each other. But I've never heard anyone put these two words together, this qualifies as something new.

So the the Iraq War had a disasterous satisfactory outcome? I'm a bit confused. I do remember the "shock and awe" followed by the "boots on the ground" and the "drive to Baghdad." I also remember the looting and pillaging by Iraqis as our troops just watched. I remember the promises that our troops would be greeted with flowers. I remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us that he knew where the weapons of mass destruction were, I'm thinking he was picturing American missiles in the silos, he knows where those are.

I'm still a bit perplexed. Bush must mean that since we didn't really win the war yet, that mission has not been accomplished, then that is the catastrophe. So what would be the success? I guess he must mean the Iraqi resisitance. They have been rather successful as we have not had our troops drawn down to 30,000 as the war planners predicted. It was suppose to be down to 30,000 a year ago. So the Iraq War is a disaster because the Iraqi resistance is so successful? Is that what he means?

That's the problem with making up new oxymorons, it just plain confuses those of us that read fairly often. Of course George Bush has admitted that he doesn't like to read. In fact he has said that aides read him the newspaper and brief him on the news of the day. Well, I think I have a better understanding of his new oxymoron.

I think catastrophic success was when George Bush became president. In my view it was catastrophic that he won, but to him it was a success. When he lost the popular vote but had the Supreme Court hand him a victory, that would be a catastrophic success. But a better catastrophic success would be if he lost in 2004. A success in my mind, a catastrophy in George's. November 2nd can't arrive soon enough, we need a catastrophic success to remove Bush from the office he should never have sat in.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Corporate competitive wages, where's the competition?

Corporations use simple phrases and words to deceive us as any good propagandist would. They love to use a simple word to fool us and it works for the most part. One word they use is competition. They like to make us think that business is some kind of sport, with winners and losers in a competition. It sounds so simple, but it's not. For now I want to address one specific use of the word competition, actually a derivitive of the word, competitive.

Whenever a corporation decides to downsize the employee workforce, they usually claim that they are forced into this so that they can "remain competitive." We hear this all the time. Since we've seen this excuse so often we've decided not to question it. Since they've repeated it time after time, we take it as gospel. Who are they deciding is the competition that they must remain competitive with?

A corporation will tell you that it is other corporations. OK since they are firing workers then that must be where the competitive edge is between corporations, worker compensation. They've decided that the workers within their company are compensated at higher rates than their competitors. Yet, it never occurs to these corporations to study the entire worforce within their company. The workers at the top of the company, the CEO, the board of directors, and the upper level executives never get downsized or have their pay cut in order to be competitive. The spotlight on employee pay always highlights the mid-level workers on down and these are the workers who lose their jobs, have their benefits adjusted or are forced to take pay cuts.

At the top of the corporations compensation is not only ignored in the competitive equation, it actually is doing the opposite, going up. Instead of thinking that it might give them a competitive edge to seek the lower wage at the top, they voluntarily raise pay rates. That's not competitive, they are not seeking to beat out their competitors.

Statistics back this up. For instance take WalMart, top executives in the last three years made about $23 million per year. Several of the Walton family itself count in the top 20 richest people in the world. So WalMart which brags about the competitive prices of the goods they sells does not reflect this same competitiveness at the top of the company. The company could easily reduce the price of goods by reducing that top pay, but they don't, they raise it. They don't look around at the competition (other corporations) and try to beat the cost of labor at the top. The only competition at the top of WalMart is to see how rich they can get. Meanwhile they pay the lowest wages and benefits at the middle and bottom of the company in comparison to their competition, to be competitive they would tell us.

In 2003 the average CEO of a major company was $9.2 million in compensation. From 1992 to 2002, CEO pay has risen 279%, in contrast worker pay rose 46%.(1) When corporations tell you they are cutting jobs to be more competitive, they obviously are ignoring the top of the pay structure.

Further, American corporations are now claiming that in a global economy that their competition now includes foreign companies. American CEOs make 5 times that of those in Japan, 4 times more than in Spain, 3 times that of Great Britain and France, twice that of Germany.(2) Those are the major competitors in the world. Why are American companies not trying to beat those wages? Wouldn't they be more competitive in the global economy if the CEOs in Germany or Japan made 2 to 5 times more than American CEOs? Certainly downsizing and outsourcing could be reduced in the rest of corporations if the top was trying to beat the competition.

Competition is in the eye of the beholder. When we think a little harder about how corporations explain to us that they are trying to be competitive, we can now see hypocrisy. We can see that they don't believe in the expression, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Of course they can't or won't see it in this new sense, because it is not competition that drives those at the top, it is just plain old greed.

(2) see

Friday, August 27, 2004

Less than evil vs less than evil.

Here we are fast approaching another presidential election and once again democracy has not served us well. When most Americans go to vote on election day essentially our choice will be to flip a coin, Bush or Kerry. If you don't like the heads you flip, there is always the best two out of three, three out of five, sooner or later you face the reality that only one of these two guys has any chance of winning the election. We Americans love to spout empty anthems about freedom of choice, I don't believe it for one second.

My primary reason that I don't believe we have freedom to choose this election year is my main issue. I have opposed the Iraq War since the first days that the Bush Administration started influencing the media with the pro-war talking points. I watched in shock as Congress refused its Constitutional duty to decide to declare war on Iraq or not and then turned that job over to the president. I saw the president unilaterally go to war despite protesters across our country and throughout the world. Not once in our sorry democracy was I ever asked my opinion about destroying another country.

More than a year and a half later, nearly 1,000 American soldiers are dead, anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 (depending on how you count) soldiers injured and at least 11,000 civilian Iraqis dead (who knows how many injured). Yet despite these statistics our election system has presented us with two candidates that want to increase these totals. We have really only two choices with any chance of winning and both want to continue the war. Where is the opposing viewpoint?

Polls have been showing that more than 50% of Americans now feel that going to war in Iraq was a mistake and that it doesn't make the US any safer. That's half the country that now agrees with what I believed BEFORE the war. It also implies that half the country knows we shouldn't be there now, that our troops are not to be used in this way.

So, I look at the two candidates from the major parties and neither one advocates pulling the troops out any time soon. The earliest either one has publicly mentioned is by the end of 2005 (Kerry). That's a few months more than a year from now. Over a year of adding to the statistics of dead and wounded. Both candidates were pro-war, Bush of course started it, Kerry recently said he wouldn't have changed his vote even knowing what he knows now. Bush has never apologized for misleading us about WMDs, Kerry knowing now that there were no WMDs still claims he would have voted for it. Where's a candidate that represents the more than 50% of us?

Unfortunately those people are all third party candidates and an independent, Ralph Nader. David Cobb and the Green Party opposed the war and want withdrawal as does the Libertarian Party and their candidate Michael Badnarik. Yet these three candidates are considered a joke in our election system. The media ignores them, most Americans don't even know them. More than 50% of the country would naturally want to hear their voices and opinions as to Iraq, yet the media silences them. The Republicans and Democrats as well silence them as they fight efforts by these parties to get ballot access.

The two major political parties don't want us to have freedom of choice, they just want us to have only two choices. And in this election year the choice is between two pro-war candidates, that's not a choice. The more than 50% of Americans that now feel that the Iraq War was a mistake are left with a choice of less than evil and less than evil, not even the lesser of two evils. The question is, how much less than evil?

The less than 50% of Americans will have two choices, both with a chance to win. All they have to decide is which candidate can continue to add more people to the body counts the best. Bush and Kerry have slighly different plans although I can't seem to discern either plan from the lack of discussion of their positions in the media. For the last few weeks all the media talks about is Viet Nam, that war is over remember? We are IN a war TODAY! The most I get out of Bush is "stay the course," a course I'm still not clear has been planned. Kerry vaguely wants the international community to help so we can eventually get out. Both "plans" seem rather unplanned.

How lucky of those Americans that still believe the Iraq War was a good idea, all they have to do is flip a coin to vote. The more than 50% of us are left with marginalized candidates with no chance of winning. I'm sadden by American democracy. I can't vote for Bush and won't, he started the war. I would vote against him by voting for Kerry, except that Kerry is not really offering an opposing viewpoint. I can sympathize with the "Anybody but Bush" crowd, but the Democrats didn't give me a pro-peace candidate. I just cannot bring myself to vote for another pro-war candidate. I cannot advocate for Kerry as he hasn't spoke to my crowd, the crowd that now is more than 50% of the country. He is not in my crowd. He has not spoken to stopping the addition of more death, injury and destruction in Iraq.

I was particularily appalled at the Democratic Convention. The many Democrats that didn't believe in the Iraq War had to remain silent. Silenced by the party rulers so as to appeal to a few voters that don't really know what to think about Iraq. More than 50% of Americans think the Iraq War is a mistake! The Democrats don't want to align themselves with those Americans? Or they want to keep them silent, don't upset the applecart? This is democracy? This is choice? Is this even freedom?

I have been left with one choice on election day. I will vote for a candidate that believed the Iraq War was a mistake and is not afraid to say so. In my state I should have a choice between Nader, Cobb, or Badnarik, many states won't even offer these choices, how sad. I know my choice will not win the election, unless by some miracle the media makes Americans aware of these candidates. I know I'll be voting for a "loser" but I know my loser opposed the war as I did. I will know that my choice isn't interested in increasing death halfway around the world.

Call my vote a protest vote if you will, I can live with that. I do protest the Iraq War, but I don't see a major party candidate that also protests the war. These two parties are not opposition parties, they are putting up candidates that think very similar as to Iraq and I protest that as well. I protest our democracy because candidates that would appeal to the more than 50% are shunted aside by the election system.

To those who use that tired false cliche "a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush" I protest you as well. You are wrong. A vote for Nader is a vote for Nader. A vote for Cobb is a vote for Cobb. A vote for Badnarik is a vote for Badnarik. And a vote for any of these three is a vote for an anti-war candidate. A vote for Kerry is a vote for Kerry and a vote for Bush is a vote for Bush. A vote for either of these two is a vote for extending the war in Iraq, a vote for more death, injury and destruction. I have to vote my values, I can't consciously vote for continuing a war. I plan to vote for a candidate who represents something FAR less than evil, peace.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Larry Thurlow, give back your Bronze Star.

In the recently obtained Navy Task Force 115 Report from the week of the swift boat incident concerning John Kerry's involvement that day is quite revealing. It twice mentions enemy fire to the contrary of the claims of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (oh really?)." Here are some of the interesting highlights from the article (see link).
(Larry) Thurlow's medal recommendation, for example, says he helped the PCF-3 crew "under constant enemy small arms fire." That recommendation is signed by George Elliott, another member of the anti-Kerry group. It lists as the only witness for the incident Robert Eugene Lambert, an enlisted man who was not on Kerry's boat who also won the Bronze Star that day.

Thurlow, the commander of another swift boat who won a Bronze Star for helping the crew of PCF-3, insists there was no enemy gunfire during the incident. The citation and recommendation for Thurlow's Bronze Star, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also mention enemy fire, however.

Thurlow says his Bronze Star documents are wrong.

It's funny how after all these years Larry Thurlow is now insisting that there wasn't any enemy fire, despite records showing that there was. Well, if Thurlow is so insistent maybe he doesn't believe he deserves his own Bronze Star anymore. Yet, why has he not returned his award? If Thurlow truly believes his current story, then he must feel his Bronze Star is nothing but a hunk of empty metal. Thurlow is as well implying that all the Navy personnel in the five swift boats on that river that day didn't deserve a Bronze Star. Thurlow is essentially calling for the return of all medals given out for that incident (or lack of incident according to Thurlow). Larry put your medal where your mouth is. Larry Thurlow, give back your Bronze Star.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Saddam gone, Iraqis still torture.

In case you haven't heard...on the day of the turnover to Iraq of sovereignty, American troops saw Iraqis torture prisoners and proceded to intervene but were then ordered to leave by higher military command. Read the link for the full story, but here is a portion of the story from the Portland Oregonian.

From his post several stories above ground level, he watched as men in plainclothes beat blindfolded and bound prisoners in the enclosed grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. He immediately radioed for help. Soon after, a team of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers swept into the yard and found dozens of Iraqi detainees who said they had been beaten, starved and deprived of water for three days.

In a nearby building, the soldiers counted dozens more prisoners and what appeared to be torture devices -- metal rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals. Many of the Iraqis, including one identified as a 14-year-old boy, had fresh welts and bruises across their back and legs.

The soldiers disarmed the Iraqi jailers, moved the prisoners into the shade, released their handcuffs and administered first aid. Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrickson of Albany, Ore., the highest ranking American at the scene, radioed for instructions. But in a move that frustrated and infuriated the guardsmen, Hendrickson's superior officers told him to return the prisoners to their abusers and immediately withdraw. It was June 29 -- Iraq's first official day as a sovereign country since the U.S.-led invasion.

Oh what a tangled web we've weaved. Saddam tortured, Abu Ghraib torture, the new Iraq tortures. This whole war has been just a tortured dream come true as a living nightmare.

Abu Ghraib still echos on.

As another investigation is released to the public about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, I still get the impression that the buck will stop far below where it should. The buck should be stopped at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for several reasons.

It starts at the beginning, before the war on Iraq even began. We were assured by Rumsfeld that the number of troops used for the invasion was adequate for the war. We found out in that first month that he was wrong as the military didn't have enough troops to stop the looting of hospitals, museums, banks, stores, and just about every place worth looting. Plain and simple, where were the troops? In the good article by The New Yorker that was issued back in May (see link) at about the same time the photos hit the media, they describe the relationship of Abu Ghraib and troop shortages.

"...Questioned further, the Army investigator said that (Staff Sergeant Ivan L.) Frederick and his colleagues had not been given any “training guidelines” that he was aware of. The M.P.s in the 372nd had been assigned to routine traffic and police duties upon their arrival in Iraq, in the spring of 2003. In October of 2003, the 372nd was ordered to prison-guard duty at Abu Ghraib."

These were not troops trained to run prisons, particularily in a war zone with prisoners that spoke different languages and placed there with little knowledge of their background. As the New Yorker article states, "As many as fifty thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits. And the article goes on to say, "Most of the prisoners, however—by the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agers—were civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of “crimes against the coalition”; and a small number of suspected “high-value” leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.

So the troops were not properly trained, nor were they in the numbers needed for the job. Rumsfeld can't pretend that he wasn't aware of problems in the military prison system as Human Rights Watch complained to him. Early reports were on his desk in January. As the head of the military Rumsfeld should long ago have examined the troop strength issue and on a constant basis. He just sat in his air conditioned office and didn't go and visually see with his own eyes. After the photos hit the media, Rumsfeld finally got off his butt and visited Abu Ghraib. He certainly could have left his office chair back when he had reports on his desk. It took bad publicity for him to act, and even that was more of a photo-op.

I have never agreed with the Iraq War and am not surprised at the numerous aspects of incompetence exhibited in the waging of this war. I look at the top, Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense has been an offense through this whole thing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Kerry was in Nam, Bush was where?

USA Today again reports on the lack of information produced by the White House about President Bush's lost loooong weekend in Alabama.

All the news still seems to be concentrating on a few hours of John Kerry's commanding a boat in Viet Nam. Meanwhile Bush and the White House have yet to explain with any documentation the gap between May 1972 and April 1973, one full year of "service" to his country. How odd that a few hours means so much more than a year.

USA Today goes on to mention that several formal requests to the White House for more information have yet to be fullfilled. What a surprise that the information is taking so long. I would bet we could expect that information on or past November 3rd, 2004. I'm sure the White House wouldn't want to muddle the minds of voters with anything that might make Bush look bad prior to election day. George Bush, what happened during that year in Alabama? It's time to show some proof.

Does Bush dodge taxes?

At a campaign stop in Annandale, Virginia in the second week in August, President George Bush blurted out the worst Bushism I've heard yet. According to the White House transcripts of the speech Bush had the following to say about John Kerry's plan to reinstate the tax cuts on those making over $200,000.

"Just remember, when you're talking about, oh, we're just going to run up the taxes on a certain number of people -- first of all, real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes."

A number of thoughts come to my mind immediately. My first thought is that as President Bush is a "real rich person" I've got to wonder if he has admitted in a roundabout way that he has "figured out how to dodge taxes." I have to think that Bush as a rich person sees nothing wrong in dodging taxes. Has Bush committed tax fraud in the past and thinks that is OK? I think maybe the IRS should check into this, George Bush needs a tax audit.

Another thought comes to mind. Has Bush decided that since real rich people dodge taxes that there is no point in holding them to the standards of all the other taxpayers? Is this a policy statement by Bush that would certainly seem to favor the rich? Is this new policy based on talent or ability of the real rich, that they can figure out how to dodge taxes? Does that mean the rest of us can learn this ability to dodge taxes, that we can be like the real rich? And does Bush agree that we all can dodge taxes once we learn this ability? Is this policy for the real rich or for everyone?

A further thought of mine is whether this policy should be applied to all laws. If the real rich take illegal drugs, is that OK since they figured out how to evade the law? Should law enforcement not bother with trying to catch the real rich breaking laws since they can figure out ways to dodge laws? Is this why Ken Lay of Enron is still not in jail three years after the bankruptcy? Or what about Rush Limbaugh and his illegal drug use, I see he is still making millions and not having to face up to his unlawful mistake.

I think I know what President Bush was really alluding to. He was not saying it out loud but was conveying the fact that there is a difference in justice for the rich from the rest of us. Of course the real rich dodge taxes because they can hire scores of lawyers and accountants to find ways to dodge taxes. It can take years and millions of dollars to lock up a real rich person, as the rich can hire high priced attorneys to fight government prosecuters. The lawyers representing We the People have to spend plenty of tax dollars to take on these real rich people that when breaking laws know that time and money is on their side in the court system.

A last thought about Bush is that rather than propose a policy that might end the real rich from dodging taxes, he simply ignores it. Bush casually decides that there is no point in trying to stop the practice, in fact he practically endorses it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

One reason I started to blog.

If you click the title you will see a letter to the editor (about the middle of the webpage, titled "Follow the Money") I had sent a couple of weeks back to my local entertainment weekly, The Metro Times. I like this paper mainly for its coverage of local issues from a perspective much like mine. It also has a fine columnist named Jack Lessenberry. I recommend exploring the site particularily if you are from the Detroit area.

As to the letter (actually an e-mail) I had sent that they printed, I was disappointed in the edit they did. I did send a long letter and didn't really expect it to be printed. It was long and was really more of a venting on my part on the problems of American democracy. Most newspapers ask readers to limit the response to a specific word count and I just don't feel like counting words to limit my expression of thoughts. I've had letters printed in the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News and in those cases I had submitted less words than their limit, yet they were still edited. How frustrating, I followed the rules and still they opted to alter my submission.

My experience with letters to the editors is partly why I've started this weblog. When these newspapers limit my words and then cut more words, it feels so much like denying my freedom of speech. You can bet that if I took out an ad and paid for it, they'd let me scrunch in as many words as I could fit into the ad box. Freedom of speech in America has increasingly depended on paying money to have it. So, here I am blogging for free and so far I like it. Anyway below is the actual letter I had sent so that you can compare the difference. I found that the printed, edited version had a different tone than what I wrote, you be the judge.


It seems your July 28-Aug. 3 edition had a connection in the columns of Jack Lessenberry, Keith A. Owens and Khary Kimani Turner that touches on several (but not all) of the problems in American democracy. Lessenberry expressed his disappointment with the major TV networks reducing their coverage of the political conventions to just one hour per night, Owens pointed out the disenfranchisement of African-American voters in Florida in the 2000 national election, and Turner's article covered the subject of carpetbagging by political candidates in Detroit.

All of those articles put together begin to make the case that democracy in America is in the midst of a crisis. Those problems can be added to a number of other difficulties as well. For instance, as we saw in the 2000 election Al Gore had more votes than George Bush but lost because of the archaic Electoral College, which is why Florida became such a hot spot in the first place. Only in the race for president is this ridiculous system used and in 2000 Al Gore was defeated even though the nation as a whole chose him.

We can then add in the practice of gerrymandering. This is the system where after a census is taken and the proportions of the populations of all the states becomes newly established. The problem is that whichever party holds the state legislature they get to draw the lines on the map to make the new districts. This has become so partisan and convoluted that the most strangest shapes you might imagine become the outlines for the new districts. This is done to create Republican or Democratic dominated districts. The result of many years of this practice has resulted in completely noncompetitive congressional races. Incumbents win over 90% of all the races in the country now.

Then there is the subject of third parties. Over the course of our history the two major parties have colluded in many states to create highly difficult rules for how a third party and their candidates get access to the ballot. Most states require various numbers of people to sign petitions unlike the two major parties that don't have to do this for ballot access. As we see this year with the trouble independent candidate Ralph Nader is having to get on all 50 state ballots. The Green Party and Libertarian Party as well will not be on every state ballot despite being the next most popular parties in the country after the two behemoths. No wonder so many voters feel they have few choices and vote for the lesser of two evils if they vote at all.

Which brings up another problem, the disinterest in simply showing up to vote. Most elections don't see even half the registered voters even participate and that doesn't include eligible voters who don't even register. Our population as a whole has essentially dropped out of the most basic right of democracy. This has been an aspect that many election experts have pondered and tried to create solutions for, such as easier ways to register or mail-in voting. But it probably has some deeper meaning to it. Possible an attitude within our population that our democracy is failing us, or that elected officials are not responsive to us.

Maybe another issue has much to do with this, money. As John Kerry and George Bush vie for the presidency we all know the tonnage of dollars they are having to obtain to mainly run their commercials on TV, radio and print. Hundreds of millions will be flying around into the media to help us decide which commercialized candidate to believe. And when we follow the money, we naturally are suspicious that the biggest donors to the candidate that wins will get the laws, legislation and tax breaks they want. Many of us believe it to be what it looks like, bribery. To answer Mr. Lessenberry, why should the major TV networks broadcast all of the convention when the two candidates are going to shovel bags of money to them to air their advertising that will say essentially the same thing that the two candidates will bleat during the convention?

I could go on about other issues in our "democracy" such as a lack of a uniform voting system. Punch-cards, scanning systems, paper ballots, touch screen, mail-in, name it, we do it all around the country with erratic results. Or what of the system of attaching riders to bills in Congress, the direct fault of what we refer to as pork barrel projects. I would laugh (if it wasn't so sad) when people link the words democracy and America together. Bush wants to turn Iraq into a democracy, yet our version is nothing to be held up to as an example. In fact I wouldn't even call America a democracy anymore, I'd call it neo-anarchy. Oh, I'll still vote because I still believe in democracy, just not ours.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Let's get off the boat, swiftly!

It has become tiresome to hear the long ago stories about John Kerry in Viet Nam. Trying to sort out the facts of less than an hours time in a Viet Nam river on a swift boat commanded by John Kerry nearly 40 years later is futile.

It's quite clear to me that this group of swift boat veterans have a simple agenda, to smear a presidential candidate. The accusers weren't even on Kerry's boat, are trying to recall lost memories, haven't checked facts (DoD records) and have an obvious political partisanship. I certainly don't trust their accounting of the events, but that's not so important to me as the media blitz over this story.

I find it odd how this group ran the political ad in only three states (not in my state), yet I can hardly turn the TV on without seeing the ad, snipets of the ad, talking heads arguing about the ad, AD NAUSEUM. Which is no surprise, as this is what the group hoped to acheive with the ad in the first place. They didn't even really have to hope, this has become standard practice in our sloppy, lazy, sensationalist, media. Running the commericial as "news" gets the group free advertising, make the group pay for the time if you ask me. Led by the 24 hour cable "news" networks, it isn't long before the news sources with better reputations have no choice but to cover the story as well. This swift boat commercial has entered the news spin cycle when it should have been hung out to dry.

I also have to wonder why has this group bothered to so openly take sides in the presidential race. Don't they realize that delving into the Viet Nam past of John Kerry only opens up the door to George W. Bush's actions during that time? What a surprise, now we are seeing a political ad about Bush's AWOL practices. It shouldn't be long before the media spin cycle begins to make that ad "news" and we should be seeing the talking heads arguing again. Unless there really is a conservative bias in the media as that is criticism of Bush, we shall see.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

$8.8 Billion buried in the sand?

If you happen to go to Iraq, could you look around for my tax dollars? Apparently $8.8 billion has been lost. Maybe it lies under a pile of sand or maybe the ghost employees (see article above) in the Iraqi ministries stole it in a seance or something. I would certainly like an all out search for this money since this was American taxes that were lost. Our future wallets and our childrens future wallets are becoming lighter by the minute. I'm sure hope the search for this money won't prove as useless as finding weapons of mass destruction.

I can't help but wonder if Halliburton has been teaching the Iraqi government the lessons of theft of the American taxpayer. Since Halliburton is there in Iraq, they must be leading the Iraqi government by example. The Pentagon has recently found that Halliburton hasn't accounted for $1.8 billion (see link at bottom).

I'm not so sure Iraqis are learning about democracy, but rather learning the practices of corporate malfeasance. In fact since the Iraqis don't have a democracy yet, it must be the example of American corporate capitalism that inspires them. What bothers me though is that whether it is the Iraqi government or Halliburton, it's the America peoples money they are somehow "losing." It's not like they lost a pen and they have to buy a new one. NO, these thieves are reaching into our pockets. The American taxpayer is the bank for thieves, silently covering for inept corporations and George Bush installed governments.

Halliburton's missing $1.8 billion

Friday, August 20, 2004

Kerry's war or anti-war?

I sort of disagree (how's that for a strong stance) with the idea that John Kerry would lose the election if he were anti-war. If the whole party as an opposition party had been anti-war then they would have been sitting today with public opinion on their side (as polls for quite awhile have shown that Americans are now essentially equally divided as to the Iraq War). As well, the Democrats would have had plenty to say about Iraq, (rather than the slight difference with George Bush) that leaves nothing for Kerry to say.

If Kerry wins he will need to do an almost immediate turnaround from his current position (which is what, maybe I'll be able to get our allies to help and we can get out) and former positions (he voted for it) for him to prove anything to me. He will have to do the opposite of Johnson and Nixon and begin withdrawal as soon as possible. I've heard nothing to that affect from Kerry and if he is disguising his real position, watch the media blast him if he does pull the troops. That would be a political bombshell, a progressive shock and awe.

The media (force fed by the right) will infer that Kerry is a coward if he withdraws the troops. His entire four years will be spent defending the news coverage from Iraq, anything and everything that appears to go wrong because Kerry chose to "flee" Iraq. If Kerry has any chance of dealing with this constant attack from the right, he will indeed need to give himself most of that four years to have Iraq fade from media memory. Kerry will have to perform a brave act and act fast, otherwise Iraq just festers politically for him and ties his presidential hands. Johnson and Nixon both brooded over Viet Nam and how to look like we won, even in defeat.

I've wondered if President Kerry might play politics with the Iraq War. Might he leave Iraq to swing in the wind until the mid-2006 elections and use withdrawal as a dominant political issue? It wouldn't surprise me. By then the American people will mostly be on the side of withdrawal and Kerry could lable the right as "out of touch" with the public. Such a scenario is not beyond possibility as Bush and the Republicans used going to war in Iraq as a mid-term 2002 dominant election issue.

I feel like I'm left with mere faint optimism going into election day. It's obvious at this point that Kerry is the only shot at kicking out Bush, so after Nov. 2nd I'm left with cross my fingers and toes and wish for Kerry come January 2005 to announce that progressive shock and awe, withdrawal from Iraq. He needs to move quickly in order to not leave soldiers wondering when the withdrawal is to happen and why must they continue fighting prior to withdrawal.

John Kerry must not follow in the footsteps of George Bush, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. Kerry must be a new president.