Saturday, December 31, 2005

All Quiet On The Washington Front

It's been a relief that Christmas came and went and no news came out of Washington, DC. Of course we know that the reason that all is quiet from our capital is that President Bush is on another vacation in Texas, and that Congress has adjourned for the holidays.

What is so great about this is that these politicians running our lives do far less damage by doing nothing than by doing something. We don't have Congress passing budgets that screw plenty of somebodies or writing new laws that we probably don't even need. We don't have new revelations from the White House of hidden agendas or President Bush with his mistatements and half-truths.

It's times like this Beltway hiatus that I wonder if America would be better off not even having a full time government. It's been joyful not hearing some DC politician telling us what is good for us (which usually causes me to do some serious eye-rolling). It's been wonderful not seeing politicians from the two political parties verbally duke it out over some issue that they probably don't even plan to solve.

A part-time government is not such a strange idea. Several states have part-time legislatures. Oregon for instance only meets every other year to basically settle the budget. Sure, that might not be often enough for the federal government, but a reduced time in session for Congress might be beneficial for us citizens. George Bush can take more vacations if you ask me (I'd opt for a permement vacation if I had my way) he seems easier to take when I don't see his ugly mug on TV daily. And if Dick Cheney stayed in an undisclosed location for another three years, I'd be a happy guy.

Now if only we could change how Congress gives themselves raises. Even if they did reduce their time in Washington, they'd still increase their pay every year, I'd have no doubt. Most people don't know that they don't vote for a pay raise, they actually vote not to cancel the yearly automatic pay raise, which as far as I know they never do.

Wouldn't that be nice for the rest of us. We'd get a raise evey year UNLESS we said no! Shoot there's another perk these politicians get that most of us are required to do sometime in our work careers, they submit to no drug testing. I had to practically scream at my TV when they held hearings this past year about athletes and drug testing. "Look who's talking" I lashed out at some elected yahoo on my tube. I've had to pee in a few cups in my life just to apply for jobs, so I think that politicians should have to piss for us before running for office, call it my version of clean election campaigns. Yup, Bush and Kerry in 2004 should have been forced to visit the bathroom with an empty cup and returned with it filled with their yellow fluid, and that goes for all who run for Congress.

While I'm on the subject I firmly believe any company that requires drug testing should require ALL employees to be tested to include top executives. Surprise some of them just after their lunch out while their bladders still contain the "two martinis."

At any rate, I'm enjoying the silence from politics. It's too bad it isn't this serene more often. All quiet on the Washington front, short lived as it may be can last a few more weeks in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

CEO Pay Continues To Boggle The Mind

As reported in this article, CEO pay continues to rise into the stratosphere.

It boggles my mind that the American public just lays back and seems to pay no attention to the fact that executive pay is beyond all records compared to the average workers in this country. Back in the Gilded Age the masses became plenty mad at the "haves so much they can't count it" and caused Congress to take action. The have nots became vocal enough that politicians were forced to take measures.

One result was the progressive income tax, where the highest income earners paid higher percentages of their taxes. The progressive income tax has all but vanished thanks to the Bush tax cuts. It's no wonder CEO pay has continued to rise at record rates.

Check out some of the highlights mentioned in the article. John Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley is getting an $11.5 million bonus after only five months on the job. Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson is getting a $38 million bonus after last years mere $30 million bonus.

Adding insult to all of us corporate workaholics many companies are now paying CEO personal income taxes as part of their compensation. And this is to save the CEOs the trouble of not having to go through the tediousness of dealing with an off-shore tax-free account. All I can say is, WHAT?! Wouldn't that be nice for us plain old employed bums of the corporate world.

And what are these guys really getting paid for anyway? Basically telling the executives just below them to begin downsizing the company by canning employees, is all that I can figure out. They don't even do the firing, they leave that for others. Downsizing the workforce so that they get an obscene bonus, it's nothing but transferring wealth. And anyone who has survived a corporate downsizing well knows that the workload gets piled on those that remain.

Of course these CEOs are proving their genius, because they've figured out that in these times the vast majority of Americans are too meek and stupid to complain or do anything about it. We've been fooled into believing in this "American Dream" that only a few ever realize. That somehow we will actually be elevated to the top through hard work, when the truth is that only an infintesimal percentage ever crash the elite good old boys glass ceiling. The fact is that hard work in an American corporation is more likely to get you a pink slip so that the top fat cat can get another astronomical bonus.

When are Americans ever going to say, "enough is enough." It's time to demand from Congress some action on these obscene pay packages. There is a bill swirling around in the House of Representatives called the Protection Against Executive Compensation Abuse Act. Write your congressional representative and ask that they sign on. This is only a start though, but average Americans should start doing something that's for sure.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Trash Tree

this is an audio post - click to play

So this is my first time that I phoned in a post. Not very good, but hey, it was just an experiment. I was actually a bit surprised that the procedure worked as yesterday afternoon I dialed in umpteen times to get repeated busy signals. Maybe there was a problem at blogspots incoming call center, don't know. But after work this morning I tries once again and was able to audio post immediately.

Now that I know that it works, I'll try again in the days ahead but I'll be prepared to talk about a subject better. This audio post is just a quick description of our Christmas "trash tree."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Unintelligent Design

The effort to force the school district in Dover, Pennslyvania to teach intelligent design in science class has ended in failure, thankfully.

This case has been in the news much in the last few months. The school board that decided that intelligent design should be taught, was promptly voted off the school board. Meanwhile, a lawsuit had also been brought by parents against that school board to end the practice of teaching intelligent design. That case recently was concluded with the parents winning.

Interesting the judge in the case was a appointee of President Bush (who thinks that intelligent design should be taught). The judge was highly critical of those who defended intelligent design as being very dishonest of their intentions. They were trying to play it off as not having anything to do with religious. They essentially were arguing that intelligent design is not creationism, yet fully believed that it was. There is a possibility that perjury may be charged.

It should be noted that crazy evangelist Pat Robertson made some weird threats in the name of God when Dover voted out the school board.

Now I don't have much problem with people believing in whatever creation story that suits their liking, but keep it out of science class, please. They have places that teach creation stories, they are called churches. And if a school wants to teach creation stories, they can do it under the auspices of religious study where plenty of creation stories can be discussed.

A sad fact of the United States is our lack of scientific knowledge as a population. A bit more than 50% of Americans for instance believe that humans existed during the dinosaur ages. Not even close, humans followed dinosaurs by 150 million years. The only mammals existing at that time were small rat-like creatures. So, to add insult to the old false statement that humans were descended from apes, we can actually say that humans came from rats. I've often wondered whether the false perception of humans coexisting with dinosaurs could be readily blamed on cartoons. The Flintstones and the comic strip B.C. by Johnny Hart are just a few of the imaginary drawings that give Americans inaccurate science.

Worse they are some from the religious right that don't want to even admit that dinosaurs ever existed. They will put forth all sorts of rediculous theories to try to placate their own faith in a Bible that never mentions dinosaurs.

The judge in the case ruled that intelligent design is not science. No surprise to me. But I will concede that intelligent design is just what those words are. An intelligent design to fool Americans who are too lazy to study real science or too gullible to question whether intelligent design is really just creationist propaganda.

Now I'm not going to say that God doesn't get involved in Earth's going-ons, God could indeed be answering people's prayers, but I don't believe that intelligent design explains God. I don't think God planned every piece of life, from killer bees to Hitler to the human appendix. God probably has better things to do than to micromanage every cell and atom in the universe.

Finally, evolution can be learned by those that believe in God, those that question a God, and anyone who doesn't believe in a Supreme Being. Evolution is nothing but understanding how the universe works and how we got to this point. Evolution explores what we can investigate directly, our world, our universe. We can't do experiments on heaven or God, so science leaves that up to religions. It's that simple.

Monday, December 19, 2005

War And Peace On Christmas

I'm a bit baffled about this "war on Christmas." It seems to be mostly coming from the religious right that resides in the media. Somehow they decide that the shopping season isn't inundated enough with images of Christmas and are somehow offended by some stores that don't use the slogan "Merry Christmas." They are claiming that if someone says, "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" that Christians are being shorted in their own celebration somehow.

So what do they do about it? They threaten to boycott stores that don't plaster the "Merry Christmas" signage all over the premises. This is despite these same stores selling Christmas labeled crap in every nook and cranny of the building. On the other hand they don't seem to be offended by Santa Claus, who most certainly has taken over the limelight from Jesus during the holiday season. But that must be because Santa is the chief salesman for the Chistmas commerce.

It goes to show you how much these religious rightys even know about their own prophet. They apparently know nothing about the fact that almost all the Christmas trappings are linked to pagan celebrations involving the winter solstice. The Christmas tree, the wreaths, the holly, etc. are all linked to paganism. A long time ago the Catholic church started meshing the pagan events with their estimate for Jesus' birth in order to get more people to believe in Jesus. Most Christians don't even realize they were paganized into believing that Jesus was born in December. Most Biblical historians don't even think Jesus was born anywhere near December.

But I suppose that reading up on history that isn't written in the Bible is just too much work for these people. I personally don't give one wit if they sing about Christmas at the top of their lungs, but they need to be more informed about their own religion. They also need to understand that corporations don't care what holiday is being celebrated as long as people are dropping bucks into their tills. Many companies don't make a yearly profit until Christmas shopping season.

I was brought up Christian, but in the last few years these rediculous cultural "wars" involving Christianity is frankly turning me off of religion. I wonder if these religious right dictators have ever considered that with their "in your face" religiosity they are probably unintentionally creating people like me that are ready to say "the hell with Jesus." I wonder if that is what their mission really is, to alienate any Christian that doesn't want to be in these wars?

I have a suggestion. Let's rename Chistmas as Santa Time, that would make these religious dictators squirm with rage. After all I see Santa everywhere, he dominates from Thanksgiving until New Years.

So have a Super Santa Time!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush Spies

So now it's been "officially" revealed that the Bush Administration has been spying on U.S. citizens. I say officially because after the New York Times recently published a story about President Bush authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans, then Bush refused to deny that to reporters. As well the NY Times apparently had not published the story for over a year after the White House claimed that publishing would jepordize on-going investigations.

But this "revelation" is not news to anyone in the peace movement. It has been well known to peace activists that spies had been planted in their groups to monitor their activities since the early run-up to the Iraq War. Even peace movement groups associated with the Christian Quakers (centuries long peaceful protesters) have been infiltrated.

It's always been a curiosity to me as to why people who are non-violent are considered a threat to America or the government, but throughout our history, peace groups have been spied on and considered "subversive."

As to the current government, we well know that they would view a populous that voices opposition to invading other nations (and interfering with their war plans) would be considered the enemy. In public the refrain has been to brand peaceniks as un-American or traitors, simply because they don't want to kill foreigners in foreign lands if those foreigners didn't attack us. Applying the Golden Rule to foreign policy is considered betrayal to America.

Ah, but there's the rub with the so-called Christian Right that permeates the Bush Administration, they don't like to use things like the Golden Rule, or "turn the other cheek" to guide our country. These type of Christians have never cared what Jesus said, only that they get to rule the world, or worse. Some are followers of Revelations and wish to see the world destroyed so that maybe they might be picked to go to heaven.

Beyond that, what is with this administration? In the recent months we've found out that they've spied on us, planted stories in the Iraqi and American press, and advocated torture. These guys are the traitors to America. They are becoming so undemocratic it's pitiful. One wonders why anyone supports this government any more. But maybe that's been their plan all along, make everyone in America hate and fear their own government.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Back From Hiatus

Hey, Web!

You can't hide from me. My computer went down, but now we have a new one. A brand spanking new laptop with all the kicks and giggles.

I do have to admit that it felt a bit "out of touch" to not have a home computer. I've had more than six years of on-lining. I started back in 1997 on a Compaq with Windows 95. Went to a laptop with Win98. Following that was an iMac (which may still be repaired) and now the new laptop (Acer) with XP.

This new laptop has the Wi-Fi, which allows me to go mobile if our power at home goes out. Where I work, they have free Wi-Fi, so I could always go up there when it's open (if I'm not working). It's funny, sometimes we have cars pull up and not come inside, they just hang in their cars stealing the Wi-Fi. I can be one of those people now.

But I'm basically an at home computer user. I like to have a comfy chair and be relaxed when Webbing. So, relaxed as I am right now, time to go though.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jimmy Carter, He Da Man

I just finished former President Jimmy Carter's new book, Our Endangered Values. I had checked it out of the library a few days ago (the first person to read this particular copy) and while I was reading it, the book hit number one on the New York Times non-fiction best seller list.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but then again I've always thought Carter to be one of our greatest presidents, except his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis. His administration was perhaps the most honest administrations in the 20th century. He also was somewhat of a visionary as to energy and environmental policy and those ideals still ring true today. Certainly he could be regarded as the most active ex-president in our history.

In his book he outlines many of his actions since leaving the White House, including Habitat for Humanity, his work on international issues such as poverty, health care, human rights, peaceful negotiation, election monitoring and civil liberties.

But the book is mainly about how the Bush Administration and political partisanship in Washington have created the illusion of an American divide. He particularily is unhappy with how the Bush Administration has rolled back so many things that Americans have stood for.

Carter spends several chapters on religious fundementalism in the United States and how it has infiltrated the Republican Party to force issues that most Americans don't even want. He explains in depth his Baptist upbringing and how his faith shaped his views. Carter doesn't see anything in the Christian faith to encourage the merger of church and state, contrary to what is happening today.

I found the book to be a quick read, yet thought provoking in the sense that he puts together quite an array of issues that mesh well. It would behoove the Democratic Party to listen to Jimmy Carter and speak with the same courage and faith in ideals. In a country that "appears" to be shifting to the right, Carter seems far-left, yet he really is close to middle-of-the-road. Most Americans would find nothing alarming in this book, just a nodding in agreement sentiment.

I recommend this book as a good read as to how to answer the Bush agenda. Our country needs to return to respectful discourse and this book gives answers in how to address issues from the left that most Americans can relate to and believe in.

Monday, December 05, 2005

This is a paid commercial (for Iraqis only)

So the big story lately is how the our military has contracted out to a company called The Lincoln Group to buy media space in Iraqi newspapers to run positive stories. In other words, paid propaganda by the Pentagon.

Now this doesn't surprise me in the least. The Bush Administration has been previously caught paying "journalist" in our own country to write positive stories with the appropriate White House spin.

What's strange to me is the Bush Administration's version of a free press. Apparently the only free press they believe in is the one they can buy off. Well, maybe not so strange when you consider the Bush friendliness with the upper reaches of the corporate media. And of recent revelations, friendliness with reporters of the ilk such as Judith Miller formerly of the New York Times and newly exposed Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, reporters who were allowed inside who were nothing but recorders of the White House line.

In a previous post I cautioned Iraqis about democracy, American style. I should now caution them about media, American style. People of Iraq, don't believe everything you read in the paper! Of course I could just as easily be saying this to Americans as well.

In this day of advanced technology within the media it sometimes seems the truth is more elusive than ever. Increasingly I hear complaints from both sides of the political divide that the media is biased. Certainly in some cases it is, but for the most part the bias is towards incompetence and profit, which can be a huge problem for finding the truth. They say that the truth will set you free. I'm wondering at what price is that truth and who's paying for it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Republican Scandal from Spokane, WA

The scandal of Republican Spokane, Washington Mayor Jim West has to be one of the most embarrassing scandals Republicans have been involved in.

The story goes like this. Mayor West was caught in a sting done by local conservative newspaper Spokesman-Review. West was found to be trolling for gays in a chat room and offered a job in the mayor's office to the newspaper's "victim." He was performing his internet gay surfing from his office during work time.

Before I go on, I should note that I'm not opposed to gays, but I am opposed to Republicans that are against the gay lifestyle but then turn out to be gay as Mayor West has been revealed. I'm also opposed to politicians doing any kind of internet dating during work using government computers.

The story continues that Mayor West is now facing a recall vote this coming Tuesday. He now claims that he has given up chat rooms and his gay sex life. So, rather than just live the sexual lifestyle that he is, he is attempting to ignore his inclination. It won't work, he is what he is, denying it won't change that.

In his recall attempt, he is finding it very hard to find any campaign contributors from his party. The Republicans in Washington state have run away him, yet he still wants to cling to his little power job.

I find this example of hypocrisy from the Republicans so strange. All over the country they want to ban gay marraige, yet time and again we learn of closet homosexual Republican politicians. They reside in a party that hates them so they try to keep their inclination hidden. They know that if the outed themselves it would be political suicide. I guess I'm unclear why they would be in that party in the first place. I suppose that they grow up with Republican friends hiding their true feelings because they've developed party connections.

Mayor West has now found out what his party thinks of him now that he's been outed, they basically abhor him. They've distanced themselves and aren't willing to accept his apologies. In contrast, many Republican politicians have been caught having affairs, yet in most of these cases party friends accept the apologies. Case in point is in my state of Michigan where Republican Attorney General Mike Cox has been forced to admit to having two affairs on his wife, yet he is not going to drop out of his upcoming reelection campaign. In fact many in his party are accepting of his apologies and plan to back him.

So Republicans will accept apologies from two-timing cheats but not from outed gays. I guess this religious conservatism called Republicanism has degrees of broken morality. They accept some things that they consider immoral, and don't for other things. Hypocrisy reins in the Republican Party. Either they condemn all their politicians who prove to be immoral or they should change they're "moral" rhetoric.