Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Soldier Funeral Protests

The following article (see below) descibes the awful aspect of some from the religious right as well as their strange logic. The issue is that an anti-homosexual group from Kansas has been showing up at funerals of soldiers that had died in Iraq. The group claims that the soldiers deserved their death because they were fighting for the United States which tolerates homosexuality.

It's hard for me to understand the logic of this group. First, it's hardly evident that the United States tolerates gays as state after state have been banning gay marraige. I suppose it is true that our country hasn't banned homosexuality itself, if that is what this group is trying to bring about.

Second, the United States shouldn't be in ANY war as long as the United States tolerate gays. I imagine that this Kansas group won't be happy until all gays are rounded up and...I don't know either killed or set straight? At any rate our war in Afganistan is wrong to these Kansans as well?

Third, by their logic the United States shouldn't be in ANY war based on any number of groups that could cite things that the United States tolerates. For instance, maybe I should start a group to protest complete and open free speech that allows free speech for sicko groups like this one from Kansas. My hypothetical group could show up at any funerals of soldiers and say they died because they fought for a country that tolerates the free speech of the Kansas group. Now wouldn't that be a strange idea, telling families of dead soldiers that their son or daughter had died defending free speech because they fought for a country that defends free speech.

This Kansas group is a prime example of how hard it can be to live up to the First Amendment of the Constitution. Their stupid illogical protests are causing states to create laws to limit that Kansas groups free speech rights. We are a country that allows for Nazi groups the right to speak their mind regardless whether that free speech is hateful.

This Kansas group has even caused the ACLU to hold their breath and walk a tightrope on the First Amendment. Protesting at funerals is such a dishonorable, unsocial and unsavory act that it leaves the number one group that defends the First Amendment rights for everyone to not defend it for this Kansas group. Of course there is the right to privacy to the families during the funeral, therefore the ACLU tightrope.

You may have noticed I haven't given the name of this Kansas group, that's because they are not worthy of any additional publicity, even from little old me. I will tell you that this a byproduct of the far right fundementalist movement. These people start at some absolutism, in this case involving a few obscure quotes from the Bible about homosexuality and expand it into a "just cause." They become rabid and fanatical in their goals to the point of something like the funeral protests. Without agreeing with their original absolutism, any good points they might have had become destroyed when they cause nearly anyone to be repulsed by their protest action.

As an opponent of the Iraq War and pretending I don't know why this Kansas group is protesting the war (or the United States) I cringe at their poor selection of a target. If for instance this group was anti-war for the exact same reasons as I am, I would immediately be upset at their methods. Any sane American (pro or anti-war) can understand that this Kansas group is insane.

Further consider that if an American is prejudiced toward gays, this Kansas group puts that American in a position of hating their own country, the Iraq War and the Bush Adminstration which coddles right wing religious fundementalism. So in effect this Kansas group is dissing Americans that they actually have commonality with, how odd. I suppose I should be happy about that particularity, nothing wrong with a little discontent between members of the religious right.

To sum up, as disgusted as I am toward these Kansan's methods, I say let them have a few more protests, under some conditions such as police protection for the families, the protesters must be out of vocal distance of the actual funeral and family, and this is the most important part...the media must be at each of these protests in order for all Americans to see how dispicable the Kansas group is. Give them publicity, I trust Americans to see how stupid and repulsive they are.

House panel approves bill to restrict funeral protests

3/28/2006, 7:43 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The family of a Michigan soldier whose funeral was protested by a Kansas group was among those urging state lawmakers Tuesday to restrict similar incidents in the future.

The family of Army Sgt. Joshua V. Youmans asked the House Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee to endorse legislation that would ban demonstrations within 500 feet of a funeral. The committee responded by unanimously voting to send the bills to the full House.

Members of Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan., have shown up at military funerals around the country for several months saying soldiers are being struck down by God for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality. The group has protested at three recent Michigan funerals — in Flint, at the Youmans ceremony in Flushing and on Monday in Grand Ledge.

The Westboro church typically sends a half-dozen or fewer people to protest at funerals of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq. They hold signs that read "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" or denounce homosexuality.

Recently, their presence has been countered by hundreds who show up to shield mourners with the approval of soldiers' families. But the Westboro protests are an unwelcome and unwarranted invasion of privacy at a time of mourning, supporters of the legislation said.

"Not one more solider, not one more individual — certainly not one more family — should have to be concerned about protesters" while getting ready for a funeral, Youmans' mother-in-law, Cathie Draheim, told lawmakers.

She also read a letter from her daughter, Katie Youmans, in support of the legislation.

Joshua V. Youmans, 26, died March 1. He was injured in November when an improvised explosive device went off near his vehicle in Iraq.

A violation of the funeral protest legislation would be punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The bills have bipartisan support, introduced by Republican Judy Emmons of Sheridan and Democrat John Gleason of Flushing.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it is neutral on the bill, but added lawmakers may have to make changes for it to stand up in court and survive First Amendment tests.

An attorney for Westboro Baptist has said the church will obey laws that have been passed to limit where and when funeral demonstrations take place. The group canceled plans to protest recently in Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, all states that have passed funeral protest laws.

The Michigan House committee also endorsed a resolution sponsored by Rep. David Law, R-West Bloomfield, urging Congress to pass similar legislation.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Supreme Court Judge Scalia, Flips the Finger

Scalia, NOT using "The Sicilian" in an earlier photo.

Here is the story of one of our idiot Supreme Court judges, Antonin Scalia. I guess when you get a job that is for a lifetime you feel you can flip off people.

Scalia has hand gesture for critics

BOSTON, March 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by making a hand gesture some consider obscene.

A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."

The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper.

"Don't publish that," Scalia told the photographer, the Herald said.

He was attending a special mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and afterward was the keynote speaker at the Catholic Lawyers' Guild luncheon.

Letter Printed in Newspaper

The Detroit News printed another letter I submitted. As usual they edit and cut to their liking, although they did leave my central point intact. The issue is about the Detroit water supply and the control of it by the City of Detroit, which supplies all the suburbs with claen water at a very good price in comparison to other metro areas.

My impetus to write the Detroit News was in response to one of their right-wing columnists who accused the Detroit Water and Sewage Department of being communists. His (Frank Beckmann) reasoning was that the department would like to reduce water rates to the poor and unemployed of Detroit. So, the following is my submission, below that is the letter as printed in the newspaper including a headline they wrote.

Dear Editors,
Frank Beckmann's flare for the inflamatory in calling Detroit's control of the water department communism is pointless and misinterpretation. I submit that his communism is actually capitalism, albeit monopolistic, simple supply and demand. Detroit has the water supply and the suburbs have the growing demand.

What IS communism is to have some centralized bureaucracy called a "regional authority" (or maybe the Metro Politburo?) step in and seize control of the Detroit treatment facility. If Mr. Beckmann wants to solve the suburb's water control discontent using capitalism, the solution is competition by building a suburban water treatment facility.

Detroiters could then sit back and watch as the suburbs argue about who would control it, whose backyard it would be sited and the details in how to share it. On completion years from now, suburbanites would ultimately be paying far higher prices for water than they do now. They could then look back and curse themselves for believing Mr. Beckmann's propagandist characterizations.

I confess I could accept his communist regional authority as long as credit be given to Detroit's water history and the sharing with its neighbors, the suburbs. Decades of supplying inexpensive quality water (Aquafina bottled water is drawn from Detroit) that few metropolitan areas in the world can equally boast should count for something. Maybe helping the poor in Detroit receive water they can afford, eh, comrade Beckmann?


No regional Politburo

Frank Beckmann's flare for the inflammatory in calling Detroit's control of the water department communism is pointless. I submit that his communism is actually capitalism, albeit monopolistic, simple supply and demand. Detroit has the water supply and the suburbs have the growing demand.

What is communism is to have some centralized bureaucracy called a "regional authority" (or maybe the Metro Politburo?) step in and seize control of the Detroit treatment facility. If Beckmann wants to solve the suburbs' water control discontent using capitalism, the solution is competition by building a suburban water treatment facility.


Now I want to say that I do understand the need to edit for space concerns, but to eliminate key parts of my letter in regards to projecting into the future my arguement and solutions, leaves me feeling ripped off. I've not fully understood the newpapers of America putting limits on reader letters. The letters-to-the-editor section is one of the most read parts of a newspaper. Additionally, the letters don't cost anything in writer fees/salaries.

I don't write letters to newspapers very often, probably about 7 or 8 a year, and that's only in the last 3 or 4 years. I estimate my printed letter to unprinted letters ratio at about a 50% rate. I'm guessing that that is a fairly good ratio, which does give me a smile, especially considering that my letters tend to be a bit far left wingish.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Gunless Tom Delay

Tom Delay, mugshot

This is a hoot. The state of Texas has suspended Tom Delay's concealed weapons licence. This is because he is an indicted felon in the state. What's particularily humorous about this is that the Republican Texas legislature wrote this law and now one of their own has to abide by it.

Here is a copy of the actual order.

Now I bet Tom is so scared, he's lost his manhood. At least that's how the Delay's in the world really feel when they can't pack a pistol.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Uncle Bucky Bush, Iraq War Profiteer

President Bush's Uncle Bucky

I'm not sure I could ever find a better example of war profiteering that benefits a family member as to the Iraq War than the example of President Bush's Uncle Bucky. William H.T. Bush, the youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush (Dubya's father) cashed in $2.7 million from his post as chief executive due to the sale of a company with Iraq War contracts.

Interesting as well is that SEC filings show that there are two ongoing investigations of Bucky's company as to Iraq contracts.

What makes this case of close family proximity combined with business interests to a war started by one member of the family is the simple assumption I immediately leap to is insider information.

I'd be a fool not to think that news of secret plans to attack Iraq easily slipped to Uncle Bucky through the President himself or the President's father (who also had business interests that could profit from the war from his role with the Carlyle Group). We now well know that a war with Iraq was discussed in the very first cabinet meeting, that later on the day of 9/11 it was as well discussed. We know that the desires and plans for the Iraq War were developed long before it became an issue presented to the public with lame excuses of WMDs and imminent danger.

It's quite obvious to me that insiders that knew about these war plans were developing their business model long before the public heard the plans, the public of course not knowing that the plans were not really for debate. The insiders knew the Iraq War was a sure thing.

Not only were we lied into war, but there was insider information being shoveled around that quite clearly profited those insiders. And worse, that insider information had all the stink of nepotism. Can there be more evidence of something akin to governmental mafioism? And let's not forget that their pockets are lined with our tax dollars. What a bunch of thieves.

Kissinger Agrees With Me, Help!

A few posts back I had called out Donald Rumsfeld's complete lack of historical accuracy. Low and behold I run across an opinion piece that had former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also pointing out Rumsfeld's false history lessons.

The strange thing about these former cabinet members is that they are not what I would call political bedfellows of mine. But maybe that just points out the degree to which Rumsfeld is waxing historical mythology simply out of support of his Iraq War and the poor decisions he's made all along. Even Kissinger and Brzezinski disagree with Rumsfeld even though I would label them as tilters toward neoliberialism and/or neoconservatism.

Here is what the article had as quotes from the two.

Leaving Iraq now, Rumsfeld wrote, "would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." The bizarre analogy was immediately disputed by foreign policy sages Henry Kissinger (who noted that there was "no significant resistance movement" in Germany after World War II) and Zbigniew Brzezinski (who just called the comparison "absolutely crazy'').

I can't say I'm comfortable to be in agreement with Henry Kissinger, but when the Bush crowd keeps comparing (Condi Rice has done the same thing) Iraq resistance to Nazi resistance it is both fantasy and shows how far right the Bushites are. Further I believe it shows how close to 1984 propaganda the Bushers have gone. If they keep repeating historical falsehoods enough then Americans will believe it. War is peace, Bush actually said that once, which was a direct quote from 1984.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Free Speech Speech

Sunday night on my favorite talk radio show here in the Detroit area, Peter Werbe, he opened his show with a recording from the TV show Boston Legal. On the program Attorney Alan Shore gave a summation for his client who refused to pay her taxes in protest of the government. His closing arguement was a powerful and patriotic defense of the bill of rights and compilation of the sins of the Bush Administration.

After hearing it on Peter Werbe's show, I checked it out from his website
(see side bar for link) and was happy to find the video of the speech. Check it out a couple of times, it was stirring for me. The video is entitled "Stick It."

Below is the script of the video, in case you'd rather read than view.

Alan Shore: When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out to be not true, I expected the American people to rise up. Ha! They didn't.

Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.

Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorists suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did.

And now, it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens. You and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, finally the American people will have had enough. Evidentially, we haven't.

In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we're okay with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizure, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial - or any trial, war on false pretenses. We, as a citizenry, are apparently not offended.

There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there's no clear indication that young people seem to notice.

Well, Melissa Hughes noticed. Now, you might think, instead of withholding her taxes, she could have protested the old fashioned way. Made a placard and demonstrated at a Presidential or Vice-Presidential appearance, but we've lost the right to that as well. The Secret Service can now declare free speech zones to contain, control and, in effect, criminalize protest.

Stop for a second and try to fathom that.

At a presidential rally, parade or appearance, if you have on a supportive t-shirt, you can be there. If you are wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed.

This, in the United States of America. This in the United States of America. Is Melissa Hughes the only one embarrassed?

*Alan sits down abruptly in the witness chair next to the judge*

Judge Robert Sanders: Mr. Shore. That's a chair for witnesses only.

Really long speeches make me so tired sometimes.

Judge Sanders: Please get out of the chair.

Alan: Actually, I'm sick and tired.

Judge Sanders: Get out of the chair!

Alan: And what I'm most sick and tired of is how every time somebody disagrees with how the government is running things, he or she is labeled unAmerican.

U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro: Evidentally, it's speech time.

Alan: And speech in this country is free, you hack! Free for me, free for you. Free for Melissa Hughes to stand up to her government and say "Stick it"!

U.S. Attorney Jonathan Shapiro: Objection!

Alan: I object to government abusing its power to squash the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And, God forbid, anybody challenge it. They're smeared as being a heretic. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American!

Judge Sanders: Mr. Shore. Unless you have anything new and fresh to say, please sit down. You've breached the decorum of my courtroom with all this hooting.

Alan: Last night, I went to bed with a book. Not as much fun as a 29 year old, but the book contained a speech by Adlai Stevenson. The year was 1952. He said, "The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live and fear breeds repression. Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism."

Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism. Stevenson also remarked, "It's far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them."

I know we are all afraid, but the Bill of Rights - we have to live up to that. We simply must. That's all Melissa Hughes was trying to say. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room and speak for her.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bush Association

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press sometimes asks a word association question along with its presidential polling. The question they use is "What one word best describes your impression of George W. Bush?" They offer no option to the polled. The latest results had the word "incompetent" as the leading choice at 29% followed by "good," "idiot," "liar," "honest," and "christian."

An interesting mix that has three of the top four choices as being derogatory toward Bush. The words get a little more offbeat following the above choices. Following "christian" were, "arrogant," "strong," "integrity," "ass," "leader," "jerk," "okay," "sincere," "stupid," "president," "selfish," and "untrustworthy." Out of 710 responses these words all had 6 or more people pick them as their word. I have to wonder what other choices were made, those with less than 6 picks.

Looking at the order of the list I find it funny to combine a few that perchance fell in order, for instance, "stupid president," or "president selfish." The best might be "ass leader jerk." One might say, "Oh that Bush, what an ass leader jerk."

Only once in my entire life have I been called to respond to a political poll, and that was for a presidential primary back in 2000. They didn't ask any word association questions that I recall, but that was a different type of poll. If the Pew people had called me for this latest poll and posed the Bush association question to me, I might have been a bit tongue-tied. Here is how I imagine the phone poll would go.

Ring, ring, (you still have to write the word "ring" as the sound of the telephone in this age of millions of types of ring tones) ring, ring.
Me: "hello"
Pew: "Good evening sir. We are conducting a presidential opinion poll. Would you be willing to answer a few questions?
Me: "You mean you want me to comment about that rat bastard Bush? Sure, I'll be glad to."
Pew: "Um, I see you already have a strong opinion about the president, but I'll need to go through the list of questions and all need to be answered to count as a complete poll."
Me: "fire away. I can't wait."
Pew: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job?"
Me: "DISAPPROVE!!!! Sorry, I'm shouting, but dang it's so good to be able to tell someone. Someone who will count it."
Pew: "Please answer whether you agree or disagree with the following descriptions of President Bush."
Me: "Agreed."
Pew: "President Bush is a strong leader."
Me: "No! Disagree!"
Pew: "The President is able to get things done."
Me: "He gets things done badly. He could screw up screwing in a light bulb. I'm surprised he can walk without falling down. Put me down for a disagree."
Pew: "President Bush cares about people."
Me: "Sure, rich people and religious nutcakes. The rest of us he considers as nothing but subjects of his realm. I guess that would be another disagree."
Pew: "President Bush is trustworthy."
Me: "I trust Bush about as far as I could throw Air Force One, which is not at all."
Pew: "President Bush is well-informed."
Me: "Sure, if you count those crooks of neocons as good advisors, but I don't. Another disagree."
Pew: "President Bush is a good manager."
Me: "...Of a last place team and should be fired. I disagree again."
Pew: "Do you believe that President Bush is "in touch" or "out of touch" with what is going on in the government?"
Me: "I thought he was on another vacation. He is way out of touch. He should be impeached. When are you going to ask me that?"
Pew: "That's not one of our questions."
Me: "Well, it should be. When are you going to ask me whether Bush should tag along with Dick Cheney on his next hunting trip?"
Pew: "Um, sorry, not on the list. Just one more question."
Me: "Okay, okay, go ahead."
Pew: "
What one word best describes your impression of George W. Bush?"
Me: "Wow, that's an easy one, just let me think for a second or two."
(What one great word should I tell this guy? This is almost too easy, so many insults to choose from, so little time. Hmmm, howsabout "fucker?" No, that's foul language, they probably won't accept it. Maybe "dirtbag?" But is that one word or two? "Nose picker" I know that's two words, but it would be great. I've got to clean this up a bit. "Droolface?" No, ummm, "dunderhead?" no, geez, maybe, "sleazebucket.")
Pew: "Hello?"
Me: "I'm here, just thinking. This is harder than I thought."
Pew: OK, but when you first answered that you wanted to comment on that "rat bastard Bush" that would be two words."
Me: "Oh, yeah. I forgot about "rat bastard." But that's how I feel. OK, give me a few more seconds."
(Yeah, "rat bastard" two words, damn. Wait, I know! "Chickenhawk," that's a good one. "Deserter in Chief." Ack, three words. No, those words get dashes, "Deserter-in-Chief." Too complicated. Ummm, "Fathead," "peabrain," "screwball," "retard," they are coming fast, "dickhead" no, that's Cheney, "asswipe," "vomitface," "pinhead," "blowhard," "meathead," umm, umm, those are just insults. Think of something newsworthy. "katrina clown," no, two words again. "Iraq and a hard place." Way too complicated! Come on, come on, think, dammit!)
Pew: "Have you thought of a word?"
Me: "Look, this isn't easy. What have other people told you?"
Pew: "I can't divulge that. It would taint your answer."
Me: "OK. I've got a few choices. Let me think which one I like best."
Pew: "Sure. But you'll need to answer soon. I have more calls to make."
Me: "Thanks, hold on a sec."
(Ack, I need to come up with something. That bumper sticker I thought up before, Bush is a Dubya MD. No, way too obscure and too many words besides. Umm, "cheater," "liar," "torturer," ummm "bozo," "bimbo," "buzzard," "bastard," "backassward," and those are just bee words. Maybe some cee words, "chump," "crapface," "criminal," "crusty underwear," "clod," oh, wait, lots of people call him "chimp" because he looks like one. Maybe in the dees, "dogface," "dumb bunny," "dolt," dingleberry," "doofus," "dangerous," "dumb bell," deeee, ummm, geez, I can' go through the whole alphabet. But wouldn't that be fun. I wonder if there are any zee words, umm, "zipperbrain," umm "zero," "zilch," yep, even a few zee words. Come on now snap out of it. Think. Think dammit, think!)
Pew: "Hello? Do you have a word? I need to move on."
Me: "Umm, umm, hold on, I've got so many words in mind, ahh, umm, ack! FUBAR!"
Pew: "Fubar?"
Me: "Yeah, fubar, I can't think of the perfect word, but fubar is certainly how I feel."
Pew: "What's fubar?"
Me: "Fubar is a sort of army acronym, similar to snafu. But Bush is more fubar than snafu."
Pew: "What's snafu? What does fubar mean? I've never heard those before."
Me: "Well, snafu is situation normal, all fucked up. And fubar means fucked up beyond all recognition. Bush is fubar for sure."
Pew: "Is that your word?"
Me: "Yes! That IS the perfect word, fubar!"
Pew: "So, your one word that best describes George W. Bush is fubar?"
Me: "Yes, fubar!"
Pew: "Fubar? Hmmm, how do you spell that?"
Me: "I've seen it as eff, you, bee, aye, are and I also think it can be spelled eff, oh, oh, bee, aye, are, but that wouldn't actually be the acronym way. Eff, you, bee, aye, are, that would be the proper way if you ask me."
Pew: "Ok then, (type, type, type, type, type) fubar it is."
Me: "Fubar can also mean, fouled up beyond all recognition, that's the clean version.
Pew: "I'll make a note of that (type, type, type...).
Me: "But I prefer the fucked up version, it's more Bush."
Pew: "Well, that's all the questions. I want to thank you for taking the time to answer them."
Me: "Wait. You're REALLY not going to ask about impeachment?
Pew: "No, sorry. That's not a question on this survey."
Me: "Because that's probably my second choice on the one word."
Pew: "Impeachment?"
Me: "Actually, I wish the word was "fired!""
Pew: "Well, sir, I would say that fubar is the perfect word if you ask me, but don't quote me on that."
Me: "Yes, Bush is SO Fubar."
Pew: LOL..."Well, thanks again, goodbye."
Me: "So long."

So, there you have it. Simply out of panicked pressure I probably would have told the Pew Research Center that Bush is FUBAR. In which case my answer would not have shown up in the news releases as so few people would have used the word Fubar. My word would have gotten less than 6 responses. Here's my request. If the Pew people call you and ask the Bush association question, just say Fubar. Let's get that word into the press releases. Fubar.

Rumsfeld's Ramblings

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post the other day. Most of it was basically complaining about the negative views about the Iraq War, but I was impressed with his lack of history or depth of deceptive analysis on the following paragraph.

Rumsfeld.. "
Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries."

First, let's consider the Eastern Europe comparisons. The United States had very little to do with countries such as Poland and East Germany in their efforts to throw off the Soviet influence. I don't recall any Americans amongst the Polish labor union/party Solidarity or any Americans tearing down the Berlin Wall. Certainly we rooted and cheered for them, probably fronted them a few bucks, but the revolutions were "of and by the people."

The Soviet Union under Gorbachev had decided not to crush these revolutions. Gorby had tired of the cold war, at the most simple explaination. We won the cold war by outspending the Soviet Union with military googaws and they plain got sick of the debt of maintaining satellite countries as well as trying to keep the heartland going. Losing their war in Afghanistan was probably the eye-opener of so much wasted energy and money.

Rumsfeld doesn't mention any of this, trying to make it seem if we hadn't, what, not cheered on those satellite countries, that they would have slid back under the Soviet umbrella? Nonsense, the revolutions were on, the peoples of those countries were determined, and only a full force military crushing would have defeated them, which Gorbachev wasn't interested in doing.

Second, as to the Nazi comparisons, can we ever stop Nazi comparisons? Let's first not forget that the fall of Hitler and Nazi Germany was performed by a powerful alliance of major countries of the world, something lacking in the Iraq War case. Let's also not forget that the Germans exacted little resistence in the post war. Germans were essentially drained and exhausted from being in a continuous war economy that included such things as fire bombings of most of their major cities, the essential abduction of every able bodied male from the population, the lack of needed items for the households much less luxuries, I could go on. The Germans were fairly quick to understand they lost the war and were ready to submit to the Allies as long as the occupation/reconstruction was an honest effort, which for the most part it was.

Third, Rumsfeld's comment about the Saddamists is nearly a lie. All the experts I hear talking about the insurgency have discounted some sort of Saddam loyalists at this point in time. Maybe back in the first several months or so, but not now. Sure there may be a few pockets of Saddamists left, but they've mainly dispersed into various movements including Sunni groups.

He also calls our leaving Iraq as creating a vacuum, again nonsense. We already have various factions fighting each other in Iraq and our forces have essentially stayed out of the way. We haven't been doing a good job at protecting mosques, we actually are currently in Rumsfeld's vacuum with our troops still there. Oh, our troops go on some missions like the recent Swarmer to rout out insurgents, but with little to no effect on the current violence. I'm guessing that we have little effect because insurgents are probably warned in advance by infiltrators into the Iraqi security forces.

One of the problems the talking heads and the hawks and doves have had all along about the Iraq War is this penchant for trying to compare Iraq to other wars. The Iraq War is unique unto itself. It is not Nazi Germany, have we forgot Hitler swept through Europe? Saddam was bottled up with no-fly zones, no air force or navy. Iraq is also not Viet Nam, deserts not jungles, and we've not approached the body counts of that war. North Viet Nam was a far different political entity than Hussein's dictatorship.

Comparisons to other wars doesn't really serve the discussion well, it's wasted breathing. Iraq must be considered as it happens, as the situation presents itself. The Iraq War is the Iraq War and some day in the future during some other war, people might be comparing that war to Iraq, and probably also as essentially a waste of breath.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

That Dollar Store Called Iraq

The first time I drove past a dollar store, I wondered if it was true that everything inside only cost a dollar. I passed the store numerous times always wondering the same thing. Finally one day I stopped and checked the store out. It turned out that yes, plenty of items cost a dollar, but as well many things cost more than a buck. This reminds me of Iraq.

Prior to the war, the Bush Administration didn't spend much time on pricing the war, but they did give us some estimates. In January of 2003, Donald Rumsfeld for instance had said that the budget office had "a number that's something under $50 billion." And several in the administration were claiming that the Iraqi oil would pay for the war and reconstruction.

Those estimates followed what former White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay had quoted in September 2002 of a price tag with an upper bound limit of $100 to 200 billion. White House budget director Mitch Daniels quickly dismissed that estimate as being "very, very, high." And between then and Rumsfeld's figure, Lindsay was dimissed from his job.

Three years into the war the price tag is something like $400 billion. It is hard to give an accurate figure as some of that $400 billion goes to Afghanistan. Congress in the past year has been lumping the two wars together in appropriation bills. But it's safe to assume that Iraq is around $300 billion at the low end.

I decided to do some math. The estimated population of the United States is just under 3oo million, at about 295 million. So three years into the Iraq War we can guestimate that the war has cost every human in America about $1,000. That's every human, whether you are just entering the workforce, or laying in a bed at a nursing home, or a three year old child, or asleep in a coma, we all can be essentially assigned a bill of $1,000.

According to the CBO the Iraq War is costing the Pentagon about $6 billion a month, or to each US human about 20 bucks a month. At a per day, the Pentagon $200 million, per American about 67 cents. It doesn't sound so bad per day or month.

Of course we all don't cover that bill the same. Some people are over in Iraq working for the American reconstruction companies, so their bill kind of goes around back into their paycheck, in fact they don't even have to pay income taxes as foreign workers. Kids and infants don't pay, plenty of Americans don't have income tax to fork over. That leaves the rest of us working stiffs. Who could guess what the share becomes for us, maybe $3,000 so far?

But are we paying for it as we go? That's a question I can't answer. It's quite possible we are just adding the cost of the Iraq War onto the federal budget deficit. Just this past week Congress raised the debt ceiling to $7 trillion in order to not default on US treasury notes. Seven trillion dollars, when you're talking those astronomical numbers who can tell what dollars are rotating around in Washington and in which direction they go or what hole they disappear into. Our federal deficit this year is projected to be $423 billion. I suppose the Iraq War can be shoved into that and by definition the national debt that the deficit adds to every year.

The Bush Administration has been running yearly deficits since the second year in office with some vague promise that the annual budget will balanced by 2009, delaying it until the next president's term, if then. Bush took us to war at the same time he gave tax breaks to the rich, and continues to give those tax breaks. Americans have not been asked to pay for this war technically. We haven't been asked to sacrifice at home with our dollars, and the rich certainly haven't had to sacrifice for Iraq.

No, this war has been foistered into the future. This war is being paid for by the government credit card, via treasury bonds, etc. that we pay interest on to the holders. Holders of those bonds now are about 50% foreigners and foreign countries.

It all seems so complicated, but it's still true that every American can be assigned 1,000 dollars so far. But get this, new estimates for the total cost of the Iraq War (bearing in mind we really don't know when the end will be) are $1 trillion, whew! That would send our bill to over $3,000 per person in the United States.

My problem is that no one asked me whether I was willing to pay that much for Iraq. Of course no one asked me whether I believed that there were weapons of mass desrtuction either. I didn't. I also didn't believe the cost estimates that were being put out back then. I also didn't believe that Iraqi oil would be paying for it. And now when I hear a figure of $1 trillion, I wonder if someone is finally being honest (the trillion doesn't come from the Bush crowd, they stopped estimating) or whether that estimate is lowballed.

This is why the Iraq War reminds me of that dollar store. The sign outside may say "Dollar Store" but the prices inside can be anything. In fact at $1 trillion, why didn't we just pay Saddam Hussein say $300 billion to sell us Iraq? We could all have saved plenty. "Here you go Saddam, a check for 300 billion. Now go live in Monoco, we are taking possession."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Inflation, Universe Style

More evidence for the big bang continues, specifically the inflation theory, thanks to the NASA probe WMAP. The age of the universe is now estimated at 13.7 billion years old following the big bang that caused one tremendous expansion of the universe in less than a trillionth of a second.

Currently I'm reading a book about this subject called The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene who gets a line in the article I linked above. I'm surprised he didn't get a few more lines as he is quite able in discussing physics and cosmology in layman's terms with a wit and wonder to boot.

I'm awed by the vastness of the universe. As the article states, all that we can see is a radius of 13.7 billion light years in distance, yet we now know that that radius is only a dot in the expanse of the universe. Conceivable there are parts of the universe that are trillions of light years distant. There may be no limit that we can even describe.

The information that is being revealed by the probe are more supportive of the big bang of the inflaton (without the i) theory. This theory is explained by Brian Greene in his book, I can't nearly do justice in explaining it here. But inflaton explains why the big bang happened as it did. It doesn't explain what was before the big bang or why we had a big bang. Those questions will probably never be answered.

Unless you care to say God did it. But that begs the question of who or what created God. In a cause and effect world and universe, what is the ultimate cause? How can there be a beginning when everything we know shows that something came before. Things we consider a "beginning" really have something that made that beginning.

A baseball game doesn't start on the first pitch, that's not the beginning of the game. It is a cumulation of players showing up, equipment being assembled, a diamond that was made sometime earlier, a history to depend on that allows for rules, etc., etc. It's the chicken or the egg, which came first? They came together, evolving beginning by beginning which weren't really beginnings. We can follow the chicken and the egg all the way back to the big bang that created the matter the chicken and egg needed to be made from.

Our universe may have been born from another universe, the theory is completely plausible but at this point unprovable. That chicken/egg may have come from a previous universe and universes. Our own universe may be giving birth through an inflationary burst (a big bang) to other universes, yet how would we know? We can't flip back and forth between universes to compare them, to verify them. At least as far as know now, we can't or are not doing that.

The one answer we may never be able to acheive, in a cause and effect universe was there an ultimate cause? Was there an actual beginning, nothing before?

Friday, March 17, 2006


President Bush's latest speech about the War in Iraq is an insult to American's intelligence.

First is his apparent obsession with IEDs or improvised explosive devices. He mentioned IED 26 times in the speech. I only wonder why he hasn't fixated on IEDs long before this as they are the replacement for WMDs as bad weapons in Iraq. No WMDs? Then IEDs.

Who comes up with these letters of weaponry anyway? I doubt it's the military, I think it's the White House propaganda machine. Three capital letters can sound so ominous to the public. The boots on the ground call them roadside bombs, that says it succinctly. IEDs are really just landmines, a creative Iraq War version.

In the speech, Bush claimed that parts for the IEDs are being supplied by Iran. Yet, just a day later General Peter Pace in a press conference said he had no evidence of that. Now let's consider some logic here. Why would Iran, a Shiite nation, supply Sunni insurgents with parts for roadside bombs that could as well be used in car bombs against Shiite Iraqis? Now it could be argued that Iran is as stupid as the Bushers and will supply parts just to keep the havoc going. The Bushers were dumb enough to think that once they ripped open Iraq that somehow Iraqi elections would turn out being religion-free.

Bush also said "My decisions on troop levels will be made based upon conditions on the ground and on the recommendations of our military commanders, not artificial timetables set by politicians here in Washington, DC."

This is interesting. Bush had claimed that Iran was supplying parts to insurgents. General Pace either is not informed of the information that Bush has, or doesn't accept what Bush says. Doesn't sound like the commanders and the Commander-in-Chief are on the same page. Gen. Pace might want to recommend that Bush explain what he was talking about.

Also of interest is that politicians in Washington are in fact the ones who set troop levels, that's been Donald Rumsfeld's job. He decided how many troops to invade with and has been deciding troop levels ever since. And since Bush is Commander-In-Chief, it ultimately is his job to approve these moves. And whatever timetable is to come (someday it will, win or lose) it will be decided by a Washingtonian, either by a president or by Congress.

Meanwhile the military in Iraq has begun a new offensive called Operation Swarmer. Three years into this war and we are still naming operations for the media to chew on.

Damn dem Dems!

Damn, them Democrats! What is wrong with that party? President Bush's approval ratings (34%) are the lowest he's had. Dick Cheney's approval ratings are at about 17%, lower than almost any human that's had approval ratings polled. The Republican Congress has an approval rating of about 37%. Yet, the Democratic Party can't seem to get together and produce a common voice to take advantage of the poor ratings of the other party.

I'm disappointed in the Democrats. Whenever they have a member stand up and oppose Bush with an idea that is not heard by many from the party, the rest of the party recoils and and plays mute. When Rep. John Murtha put out a proposal for withdrawing from Iraq, very few in the party were willing to stand behind him. This past week when Sen. Russ Feingold (who also has a withdrawal plan) tried to bring to the floor a censure of President Bush for breaking the law, few of the Democrats backed him.

The Question is why? Particularily when polling for these issues show that Americans are on the side of those individuals. Censure is only a step to what just about 50% of the country really wants, impeachment. Withdrawal from Iraq? Polling is at around 60% in favor of that.

As a progressive, I really would like to know why so few Democrats will rally to a brave voice. Several reasons could be put forth.

The mid-term election that is only seven months away. The Democrats would like to gain enough seats in Congress to become the majority. It is likely that the party would rather play it safe and keep letting the Republicans trip over their own shoelaces. But my take on that is that playing it safe too often is how games are lost.

Too many Democrats are too much like Republicans. The Iraq War was supported by far too many Democrats and now they don't want to seem like flip-floppers if they change their mind as John Murtha did. My take on that, it's not flip-flopping, it's re-evalution. It's insane to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result, or in other words, it's gambling at long odds and expecting to win. Democrats that change their mind about Iraq, must be sure that they are adamant that they have thought long and hard to reach a new conclusion. That should be their message, that every American with a brain changes their mind on things, that's what brains are for, not doing the same stupid thing endlessly.

Too many Democrats think that being Republican-lite is what Americans want. Not true. In today's evenly divided electorate most Americans want a choice between two opposing viewpoints. A or B. Yes or No. Left or Right. Red or Blue. It's that simple. Americans don't want to pick from A and A-, or No and Almost No, or Right and Rightward, or Red and Reddish. Democrats that don't clearly distinguish their ideas as closer to the opposite of Republicans make themselves seem like copycats and given the choice between an original and a copy, people will pick the original. Better to lose as an opposition party than to lose as a faded copy of a Republican. And even if a Democrat wins as a Republican-lite what changes are likely anyway?

As a progressive I've long been disappointed with the Democrats. Far too many Democratic politicians have taken corporate mony in order to get elected, but then feel obligated for policy payback. The originators of free-trade pacts that have helped the outsourcing of jobs was the Clinton Administration with backing by Democrats in Congress. Sure Congressional Republicans helped, it was a real free-trade lovefest in the 1990s.

There is this "rumor" that the Democrats are going to do a "Contract with America" redux, taking a page from the Republicans from 1994 that seemed to help them take control of the House. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but again it seems like playing copycat. Whatever happened to party platforms? Can't the Democrats simply emphasize their platform? But I imagine they feel they have to give it some fancy name in a sort of advertising campaign, they will be copying what the Republicans did. I think there would be nothing wrong with getting together and refining their party platform, then they simply need to talk about it, alot.

It also seems they need to do this soon if they really are making a contract with America. It also seems that they should not avoid Iraq as an issue. It's time to listen to Americans on this, as Americans are who they plan to contract with. Pay attention to your voters, Democrats. If you want to re-illusion my disillusionment, OPPOSE the Republicans.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tiger Stadium, Destroyed?

The Detroit News has a front page article today about the possible demolition of Tiger Stadium this summer. I wish this action won't be happening, but I suspect that nothing will be able to be done to avoid the wrecking ball.

The stadium has sat empty now since 2000, with only an event or two to stir the cobwebs. The most recent event was during this past Super Bowl week when "Bud Bowl" put on a concert.

Outside of Detroit there may only be a few cities in the world that has had a beloved ballpark that elicits such passion from its citizens. Even today there is still a Tiger Stadium fanclub. There was quite a battle for fans of the stadium when Detroit Tigers owner Mike Illitch was preparing to build another ballpark, the new place called Comerica Park. "Save the Stadium" protests were common.

I grew up with baseball as my favorite sport, the Detroit Tigers my favorite team and Tiger Stadium an awe inspiring place to visit. I can still visualize on entering the stands that first image of the seemingly glowing green of the grass field with the contrast of the golden diamond. That sight just seemed to jump out at you. As a long ago built stadium it had its interesting nooks and crannys that you'll never find in the modern corporate sponsored ball parks. Tiger Stadium also had its awful features such as the posts that supported the upper deck that caused a slew of obstructed view seating and the almost ancient urinal troughs in the mens bathrooms.

Over the years I had sat in many parts of the park. From the sometimes wild upper deck centerfield bleachers, to box seats (that were oddly similar to the defendant box in Saddam Hussein's trial), to the press box when I had the fortune of working as a TV statistician for three games, to the upper dack where every pop-up at first semmed like a homerun and to those obstructed view seats which had you tilting your head left and right to see around those posts.

I had such great memories of specific games. I got to attend the 1971 All-Star game as a young teen, that game had a record number of future hall-of-famers, an all-star record 6 home runs that included that massive homerun by Reggie Jackson that banged off the lighting stand on the right field roof.

As an older teen, I remember going with my buddies to catch a few Mark Fidyrich pitched games in 1975. The "Bird" took baseball by storm as a rookie that year, including starting that years all-star game. Fidyrich was a one-of-a-kind, he would talk to the baseball, do plenty of fancy pitching mound grooming, and had a great fastball, Detroit loved him. Sadly he hurt his leg, then arm the following season and never made an impact again. Today he is a farmer and has no regrets, a person who truely likes life and considers his one year in the sun as a blessing.

The Tigers had two magical seasons in my life, 1968 and 1984 that both ended as world championships. The first year I remember as a grade schooler. For some reason I didn't get to attend a game that season, odd as I had been taken both in 1967 and 1969. But I followed them intently as I had a paper route and got to keep the sports sections all season. I can still recite nearly the entire roster. My favorite players such as Norm Cash, Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, Al Kaline, Gates Brown, Bill Freehan and Dick McAuliffe still give me a smile from thinking about that year.

I'll never forget how the World Series was played during the day back then and sprinting home from school to catch most of the game. The Tigers fell behind the St. Louis Cardinal 3 games to 1 and won the final three games. McLain had won 31 games in the regular season (the last pitcher to win 30 in a season), but his tired arm only gained one victory in the series. Thankfully Lolich won three games as the Tigers series hero.

1984 was awesome. The Tigers started the season with a record of 35-5, nearly unbeatable. They led the division from start to finish, swept the Kansas City Royals in three games, then flat out pummeled the San Diego Padres in the World Series. The series had memorial homeruns by Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson (which became the photo of the series with his upraised arms). My favorites included Trammell, Gibson, Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon, Lance Parrish and Larry Herndon to name a few. I remember 1984 particularily because I had discharged from the Army that spring seemingly just in time to catch such a great season.

The Tigers had many bad seasons in my years as they used Tiger Stadium. But like most true fans I still attended games, the stadium was a part of the charm of going. Low attendance games were no problem for me, it just gave me the opportunity to move around and sit in various parts of the ballpark. I have to confess that those upper deck bleachers were my emotional favorite.

It has been claimed that "the wave" was invented in Detroit in that 1984 season, and if that's true, it probably began in those bleachers. With no assigned seat, you could move around and find people to chat with, yell with, party with. Sometimes the game was just a diversion to the clamor around you. Those bleachers were a game in itself.

I finally went to a game at Comerica Park last season. I like the place but somehow it just doesn't compare favorably to Tiger Stadium. Coamerica is new, it's colorful, has a nice open feeling, is very kid and family friendly, yet...I'm not sure, maybe it's because I didn't grow up with it. Tiger Stadium was old, it had that working class feel that IS Detroit.

I don't often wish I was old (some people might say I am!), but as to Tiger Stadium I do. I've often wondered how it would have been to go to games in the 1940's or 1950's when it was named Briggs Stadium. Or decades before when Ty Cobb played in the stadium name of Navin Field. Tiger Stadium was a park that went through major renovations. For instance at one point home plate was in a totally different corner. A second deck was added, night tower lights to update for a new innovation night games.

The Detroit News article explains that the money has run out to continue to upkeep the stadium. Also mentioned is that it is highly uncommon to find a second use for old baseball stadiums, sadly. It seems the city of Detroit plans to auction off the entire stadium in pieces if the destruction is to come. As the article explains, everything from the steel beams to the seats. I may have to get into the bidding (will it be E-Bay?) for something as a memory keepsake. Strangely I seem to be attracted to the more unsightly features, an obstructed view post or one of those putrid urine troughs. I can't explain why, except that when someone came over to my backyard (the only place to keep those items) they would immediately know where they came from.

It may also be time for a field trip. A few months prior to the destruction of the Detroit Red Wings old home, Olympia Stadium, a good friend and I went down there to take pictures. That event was a memory I'll never forget. We snapped photos of the exterior then decided to explore the inside. It was spooky, having no flashlight on hand. Using just our dim vision and a lighter, we tried to find our way around as distant unknown sounds echoed and dangling wires (we think) brushed our faces.

I wonder if I could talk that same friend (he lives halfway across the country though) into doing a rerun for Tiger Stadium, I'll promise to bring a flashlight this time. Certainly I'll have to get to the Stadium for some final photos. How times have changed. For the Olympia foray I used a manual 35mm, for this trip I'd use my digital camera, although I'd also bring a 35mm. A picture of the actual takedown might be very interesting, and I doubt I'm the only one thinking that.

Destruction of Tiger Stadium seems inevitable, America doesn't save its ancient arenas like Italy does, but for so many in Detroit like myself it will be a sad farewell.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Tennessee Taliban

A few posts back I wrote about the South Dakota Taliban that banned all abortions except in cases of the mothers health, cases of rape and incest are banned. Now it seems the Tennessee legislature wants to be the Taliban as well, but on a different issue.

Check out the following from the Nashville Scene by John Spragens;

Senate Bill 3794 (House Bill 3798), legislation that would make it illegal to sell, advertise, publish or exhibit to another person “any three-dimensional device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs….” For that matter, if you offer to show someone your dildo collection—or possess a vibrator with the intent to show it to someone—you’d be violating this proposed state law. And don’t even think about wholesaling those three-dimensional sex toys.

Of course, as with all good public policy, state Sen. Charlotte Burks and Rep. Eric Swafford have included a few exemptions for responsible dildo-users. College students and faculty are allowed to enter the sex-toy trade—as long as they are “teaching or pursuing a course of study related to such device,” like Auto-Erotic Stimulation 101. Your doctor or psychologist will similarly be authorized to prescribe the regular use of a sex toy “in the course of medical or psychological treatment or care.” And finally, employees of historical societies, museums, public libraries and—wait for it—school libraries are allowed to traffic in devices named Thruster, The Emperor and The Horny Hare, provided they’re doing their official duties.

So, of all the important things to deal with or fix these days, the Tennessee Senate is worried about three-dimensional sex toys. And what a convoluted law this is. Apparently a doctor can prescribe a vibrator to someone who wouldn't be able to buy it in Tennessee. So that person would have to cross the state line to purchase one, but upon returning home would not be able to show it to their mate.

That person would have to have it well hidden on the drive home in case they were pulled over for a traffic related offense. If the police saw it, they might be able to arrest the person for possession of a three-dimensional sex object with intent to show. I could just picture the cop with gloved hand poised to place the dildo in an evidence bag. If the vibrator was of a rather large size, the cop might say "Whoa, this is a big one. Hey, Bubba, bring me a Hefty trash bag."

I would wonder if a special made vibrator would have to be produced just for Tennessee, one made with a silencer, so as not to attract attention in order that no one observed the three-dimension sex toy.

I'm not sure what's on the mind of the Tennessee Senate, but I'm guessing some Senator didn't like coming home to find his wife giving one of those sex toy sales parties. Or maybe their wife came home from a bachelorette party with a "special gag gift."

I've also got to wonder, does this legislation apply to sex dolls? They are three-dimensional, they are used to stimulate genitals. To continue to wonder, is that commercial I see on TV by that has a man playing poker with a sex doll constitute a violation?

I've really got to wonder what the Tennessee historical societies and libraries are going to be like if this becomes law. The local library is going to have some back room with some sleazy looking librarian displaying the banned items? "Yes, Maam, this whole shelf have the three-dimensional sex toys you found in the card catalog."

Call it my outrage I guess, but what the hell? What difference does it make to these prudes if three-dimensional sex objects are being used? And how long before the Tennessee Senate decides that the human hand is somehow illegal?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Church Burning Pranks?

They caught the perpetrators of the recent church burnings in Alabama. It turns out it was three college kids who admitted to the crimes describing it as "a prank that got out of hand."

The first church they torched might have credibly been called a prank, if they had any brains and quit right then. But no, they go on to burn four more that night of drinking. And then precede to burn another four, days later to "throw off the police."

The "pranks" are nothing but high crimes, felonies, repeated arson, terrorism. Those idiots are certainly lucky that no person happened to be taking a snooze in one of their church targets. Regardless, throw the book at them. The fact that they recognized their stupidity and tried to throw off the police investigation clearly indicates their own acknowledgement of understanding the seriousness of their crimes. They could have turned themselves in prior to the additional four church burnings.

The good news (if you could use the word good) is that these church torchings were not hate crimes. To Alabamans they were thinking hate crimes, which places these acts in the category of terrorism. There was a fear in Alabama that more churches were to be targeted.

I just don't understand. I've been plenty drunk in the past, but never came close to this type of behavior. I don't care how drunk a person is, after the first burning the fog of alcohol could have been penetrated to understand that repeating the incident is wrong. Yet these three chose to repeat it four more times. Unbelievable!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Cheney Picture

You can't beat this picture for telling the truth of what the vast majority of Americans would like.

The South Dakota Taliban

By now most people have probably heard that South Dakota has banned all abortions except in one case, the life of the mother. Forget things like incest and rape, the victim still must carry the fetus to birth.

You've got to hear the reasoning of Republican state Senator Bill Napoli, if you can call it reasoning. As he explains (and as I supplement in blue), "When I was growing up here in the Wild West how old IS this guy? if a young man got a girl pregnant, birth control was only a dream they got married, you know, of the shotgun persuasion and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding don't want the couple to get cold feet while escaping across the river. I mean, you didn't allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, that's two "I means" he must be a bit confused they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, who cared whether the couple loved or even liked each other? you know, that whole story. Napoli does seem to be spinning a story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again...loveless forced weddings I don't think we're so far beyond that, that we can be like the Taliban that we can't go back to that."

I have to wonder about that whole neighborhood business Napoli speaks of, since the abortion he banned included cases of rape and incest, maybe his memory of the old neighborhood was a town filled with inbred rapists, that was some Wild West I never read about. Was Napoli's old Wild West the place where Jane got her nickname of "Calamity?"

The South Dakotan politicians that voted for this bill are not even conservatives, they are Talibans forcing the entire state to live up to their ancient religious practices of forced pregnancies and apparently forced marraiges (I guess that will be a law to come). If they reach back far enough into the Bible, they could bring back ritual sacrifice.

The real story of the not too distant "Wild West" was of the religious families that were so embarassed by their pregnant out-of-wedlock daughter that the girl had a "vacation" or "illness" while visiting an out-of-town abortion doctor. These abortion laws are really about parents who in their minds can't control their daughters. In the old days they snuck their daughter out of town for a few days, today they want to be proud parents of a controlled daughter, and worse, proud that they can control other peoples daughters as well. This is not about religion (abortion is not in the Bible) except as modern fundementalists have been told to believe. It is really about who controls whom within a family and as well in a community/society.

Of course we all know this is really an attack on the poor. The pregnant girl that wants an abortion that grows up in a wealthy family won't have any problem navigating to a state or country (Canada for instance) that allows abortions. So, South Dakota will get just what they probably don't want, poor children birthed to poor women. And if Napoli had his way, pushed into loveless marraiges as well, to give birth to more poor children.

And we also know that this performance by the South Dakota legislature is to test the two new Supreme Court judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the abortion issue. The law has already been challenged and long before it reaches the Supreme Court the law will be ruled illegal. I will bet plenty of money that the Supreme Court won't even bother to hear the case as the law is so draconian that even anti-abortion advocates have to question it. Rape? Incest? These are cases that only the most fundementalist frenzied could like.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

(S)ports News

The latest news about the Dubai port deal is that the Rupublican House voted overwhelmingly to bring a bill to the floor to block Bush's effort to give Dubai control of some of our ports.

I've been a bit amazed at the yapping about this issue. Again I'll state that this much ado about nothing. We've been selling US assets for years. This deal is just a transfer of control from a British company to a Dubai company. Yes, I know of the tenuous ties to Al Qaeda, but that doesn't mean that individuals in that country represent their government anymore than American terrorist Timothy McVie represented the US government.

My outrage, which is so mild as to name it near disinterest, is that the Dubai government is the owner of the company. I'll state this again, if a government is going to run our ports, well, then it should be our own government and by the Constitution it would therefor be owned by all Americans. The ports should be run by Americans.

The Bush Administration is telling me that foreign governments are better able to run our ports than we are. I don't know if Bush is saying that Americans are too stupid to control the ports or that the government that he is in charge of is too stupid to operate these ports. If you ask me Bush is unpatriotic, his slogan should be "If it's American, foreigners are best able to own it."

Now, let me show my non-partisanship here. Under the Clinton Administration China was allowed to purchase American shipping ports on the West Coast, almost a duplication of the Dubai deal, a company in another country that is really owned by the government of that country. So, back then the Republican Congress and Bill Clinton had no problem saying the same thing as Bush is saying today. Somehow, it's all different now. Those ports should as well be run by Americans, all ports should be under US government control, not another country's control.

Somehow though Dubai has touched a nerve across America. I think part of it is simply Islamaphobia. Bush can only blame himself for this phobia as he has been trying to scare the bejeebees out of us for the last five years about the Middle East, for much of America it worked.

Partly this is Republicans in Congress seeing Bush's low polling in the last half year and deciding to pick an issue or two to distance themselves from Bush.

Democrats have disappointed me on this issue. Here they have a chance at stating a progressive stance, that some industries in America should be nationalized. Our ports should be under complete control, operation, employing, only Americans. And they have this opportunity under the auspices of national security to appear more strong on that issue. Mostly though the Democrats have simply let the Republicans themselves take this issue, but with actually no solution.

The Republicans want to block the deal, but offer no option for the British company that wants to unload the ports. Eventually the Republicans will probably get some money sucking corporation like Halliburton to take control of it. And the Democrats by not jumping on the solution of nationalization, will be sniping about the dummy corporation that will eventually milk our government with massive overcharges.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

When Bush Plays Spy

Click to enlargeI drew this up because this is how I imagine what President Bush would be hearing if he was sitting in the oval office with headphones on and listening into American phone conversations.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bush's Punch Line Item Veto

President Bush just made me laugh with his latest proposal, he wants to have a line item veto in order to reduce pork coming out of Congress. This makes me laugh which is why I call it Bush's punch line item veto.

First off, let's be clear here, the Republicans control Congress and the White House, they haven't needed a line item veto to organize efforts to reduce pork projects, all they have to do is REDUCE IT! What is Bush trying to say, that his own party has been guilty of producing massive pork? Well, at least in this he is correct. His party is indeed spending like drunken sailors. Worse still is that they don't provide funds to pay for their spending sprees. They run the deficit higher and higher, reduce taxes on the wealthy, and never tackle the tough issues of fiscal responsibility.

The Republican Party has fully become the party of borrow and spend. Every time I see the Bushites sending another fiscal budget that's in deficit to the American people, or some pork project slipped into a bill in the midnight hour, I point out to the two teens around here how the Bushites are spending their future. I usually say, "See that? Guess who's going to pay for it?" They've figured out the answer is "We are."

The borrow and spend Republicans won't be so honest with our youth, in fact they never explain how they are going to pay for their largess. They also won't explain who won't be helping with the bill either. They don't sing and dance "Tax cuts for the rich are here again, who we love is clear again, so let's sing a song for the rich again, happy days are there again!" No, they are pretty quiet about who gets a break on the spending bill.

Line item veto, what a joke. President Bush hasn't vetoed a bill EVER!

Now picture this. Bush who has repeatedly said that he doesn't like to read, sitting down to study the phone book size bills passed by Congress. Most Americans don't realize the vast amount of pages that these bills entail. So Bush is going to sit at his desk with a red marker, scratching out bits and pieces of the bill that he doesn't approve of, day after day for weeks until he's happy. Yeah, right.

What will really happen is that his advisers and lawyers will be the readers that eventually tell Bush what he should edit out. There is no way Bush is going to read the document to see if they are advising him correctly, as he says, he likes to delegate. This will be another thing he delegates, his line item veto decisions.

Personally I think this is all about future politics. The Republicans are worried that they will lose either the House or Senate to the Democrats this fall. So the Republicans want to pass this line item veto to block Democratic bills in case they do lose power in Congress. If they don't lose the Congress then it will continue to be business as usual, a Republican Congress will send its bloated pork laden bills to the White House and Bush will sign them without reading a word.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Lie of the Storm

The following is an editorial from The Boston Globe describing President Bush (and the White House) as basically a clueless leader during hurricane Katrina. I couldn't have said it better myself, although I would have outlined the timeline of Bush (including attending a birthday party) in those several days after Katrina hit. The Globe also omitted when discussing the other administration officials lack of actions that Condelezza Rice was spotted shopping for shoes in New York then attending a play while New Orleans drowned.

The Lie of the Storm

Television images can be misleading, but not in the case of the shadowy video that showed President Bush sitting quietly in Texas as he heard that Hurricane Katrina, bearing down on the Gulf Coast, was going to be ''the Big One." Dressed in a suit coat even though he was on vacation, he looked like a president but did not act like one. Despite the warning on Sunday, Aug. 28, Bush let several crucial days slip by before he rallied the resources of the federal government to deal with this epochal disaster.

Perhaps he was lulled by the take-charge attitude of Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who, the video shows, accurately gauged the magnitude of the storm and told his subordinates to do whatever was necessary: ''I'll figure out some way to justify it," he said. ''Just let them yell at me." FEMA, however, didn't have resources to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. It would have required an immediate massive response by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and only the president could have ordered these bureaucracies into action.

Instead, it was business as usual when the storm struck on Monday, Aug. 29, and for a day or two afterward. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff attended a conference on bird flu in Atlanta. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld toured military bases in California on Monday and the next day joined President Bush in San Diego for a ceremony commemorating the end of World War II.

Bush considers himself a delegator, a character trait that was a weakness in this crisis. Vice President Dick Cheney and Chief of Staff Andrew Card were on vacation; the response wasn't coordinated until the full staff returned to duty later in the week. A hands-on president, Bill Clinton or Lyndon Johnson, for example, would have done better.

Bush was further hampered by his decision, made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to focus his administration on the war against terrorism. In a speech at the San Diego ceremony he implicitly criticized Clinton for failing to respond to attacks in the 1990s. By fixating on his own war, Bush neglected the threat to America from wind and water.

Three days after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Bush went on television to defend his handling of the crisis, saying: ''I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." That may be technically true. The weather specialist who delivered part of the video briefing only expected some water to wash over the levees, but cautioned that worse was possible. Bush did make one misstatement during the video. ''I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared," he said. But the Bush administration was not. History will judge him harshly for this failure.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Too Much TV, Not Enough TDs

I watch too much TV but I don't get enough TD (touchdowns, as in a good result). The other day when I was channel flipping once again, I was as usual disappointed in the lack of interesting choices. As someone who grew up in the era of three major channels (through VHF) with a couple of minor UHF to go along with the big three, the addition of cable was at first a huge widening of TV choices. But over the years those choices seem rather empty.

I started thinking about what on TV do I actually look forward to watching, which would be a standard for a desire for the medium, and actually I had trouble developing a substantial quantity, not even considering quality. Now bear in mind I only have the basic cable service, mainly because of reluctance to pay more money compared to whether the price would really be worth it. Would enough of the added channels attract enough interest to cause me to dig deeper into the wallet? So far, the debate has been won by the wallet.

The following is the TV I look forward to watching, but I need to begin with a sub-category of programming that isn't part of regular time slots.

Sports...I enjoy sports to an average degree. I have a tendency to be a realistic "homer" in that I don't invest as much of my time to local sports teams that are losers. For instance I have barely watched the Detroit Lions in the last decade, but I enjoy the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings. The Lions may be an eternal special case as they have sucked for so many years that I'll probably never care if they win. As a lifetime baseball fan, even as the Detroit Tigers haven't been winners in many years, I'll still tune in to enough games just for the joy of the game and memories of better seasons. Locally I'll also catch Michigan and Michigan State college football and basketball, but not devotionally. National sports tends to bore me except for the ending of seasons. I really like the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. But unless a Detroit team makes the playoffs, I don't pay much attention to professional endings.

Award shows...don't watch them.
Movies...I like movies.
Commercials...I hate them with such passion that I will flip away from them or read a book/magazine instead of watching them. Plenty of times I'm on the computer while watching TV, so I will pay attention to the computer rather than commercialize.

Now the regular schedules in no particular order, the following is stuff I look forward to these days.

1) Lost, ABC...OK, I'll admit it, I'm one of those devotee's that can't miss an episode. Although I'm getting a little frustrated at the slowness of the storyline.

2) Washington Journal, C-Span....This program runs from 700am to about 1000am every day. It is a political talk show of sorts that allows for viewers to call in their comments and questions of the guests. They have a different host for each day and all of them are completely neutral. They have times where a question relating to current events is posed to viewers to comment on. They have times where guests ranging from politicians to think tankers to public interest group representatives to international commentators to reporters to even a celebrity or two. They usually set up the call-in lines as "support Bush," "support Democrats" and "support others." I don't always enjoy this show as it can be boring at times, but I almost always try to catch a little of it each day.

3) News, various...I'm not real happy with news coverage, but I need to know things and see how the mainstream media spins the stories. I balance my national news between CNN and MSNBC and almost never FOX News. Local news on occasion.

4) Comedy Central....John Stewart's "Daily Show" is a big favorite of mine. The new show following his is great as well. Stephen Corbert former Daily Show regular fake TV reporter is the host of a parody Bill O'Reilly style show called "The Corbert Report" (the two T's are silent). Running back to back makes this one fantastic hour of political humor.

5) Science Shows...One long standing great science program that I've watched for years is "Nova" on PBS. I'll flip to the Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel when they have an interesting new program, but these two stations can be frustrating with plenty of repeat programming and pseudo-science programming, like investigating bigfoot.

6) History Channel...When the history program is real, not the endless UFO shows they broadcast.

7) My Name Is Earl, NBC...I get a kick out of this offbeat comedy as well as the following time slot show, The Office.

8) Sit-com reruns...Reruns are good because they are the best of the best of long ago series. I have no problem laughing at some of my former favorites. Among them are, Seinfeld, MASH, Dick Van Dyke Show, Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, Cheers, Friends, and a few others. It's hard to say I look forward to these, but they work as fill-ins that stand out among the range of crap across the cables.

9) The West Wing, NBC...Although I've missed much of this season because they switched it to Sunday nights, but I'll catch up on it through reruns on Bravo.

10) Frontline and Now, PBS...Two very good news magazines. Frontline covers only one subject in each hour program, which allows for very detailed investigation. Now was better when Bill Moyers had one hour, these days the show is only a half hour and Moyers is gone, but they still have a progressive slant investigating government and business.

11) Sunday Morning political shows on the big networks...They all basically run at the same time so I flip around to the one that has the most interesting subject matter or guests. I tend to like ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolis and NBC's Meet the Press coming in second.

12) Monk, USA...That Monk dude cracks me up.

13) Late Night Talk...Too often I can't catch these programs but I like them when I can. David Letterman has always been a favorite of mine, and Jay Leno is just as good.

14) Law and Order, NBC...Only the original show. I'm not one bit of a fan of Law and Order SVU, or to annoy a friend of mine Law and Order SUV (they catch murderers that drive big vehicles).

15) The Red Green Show, CBC...This a Canadian comedy, but a laugh riot. A show about a sort of country Canadian Elks Club. Red Green is the "host" and star of the show and is famous for his down to earth advise.

Well, that's pretty much it. Looking up at this list it does seem like alot of TV, but due to my work schedule I can't be a regular viewer of all of it. I depend on some of these choices as being rerun at other times than original broadcast. Also others in the home trump my choices.

TV is a double edged sword. It entertains and informs, yet makes us disengaged homebodies. I've struggled with that sword my whole life. TV is the defining invention from the 20th century if you ask me. No other invention has affected the lives of Americans more for both good and bad. Certainly I've been one of those Americans affected or infected in ways that I don't probably fully understand.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Afghanistan, The Invisible War

I read a good article pertaining to Afghanistan by cartoonist/columnist Ted Rall. I agree with his viewpoint that is titled "The Other Bad War."

In the article he points out that even much of the progressive left has been quiet about the war we never hear about. Maybe he read a blog I posted back in October.

We both agree that Afghanistan is unwinnable. We both are appalled at some of our tactics in that country. I had cited an incident where US troops had burned bodies of dead Taliban and broadcast to the local town what they did in order to incite anger. I've also posted about the completely mangy treatment of the parents of former NFL player Pat Tillman by the Bush Administration, using Tillman as a propaganda gimmick. Ted Rall discusses the prison problems in Afghanistan

In my October post I explain my feelings about Afghanistan. Like most Americans I was numbed by 9/11 and hadn't begun to think clearly and rationally about the response. It seemed natural to attack Afghanistan, but as in Iraq the Bush effort was lacking and uninformed.

A point that Ted Rall makes is the lack of commentary against the Afghanistan War from progressives which I had as well noticed. When I wrote that October post I felt alone in my opinion. It did seem lonely expressing opposition to something that very few voices spoke about. Running across Rall's column has given me a feeling of being in a little cliche no one wants to hear from. I'm sure there are others who have expressed similar ideas, but I can guarantee that those people are not in the mainstream media or the mainstream Democratic Party.

I'll say it again, we've lost the Afghanistan War, we just haven't realized it yet.

Polling Paradox?

Another poll came out (USA Today) that has Bush at a 38% approval rating, the pollsters contend he is down due to the Dubai Port debate. Nearly 70% disapprove of selling the port to the Dubai company. But here's the odd number from the poll, Dick Cheney's numbers are up. His approval rating is now at 40%.

So, Cheney has a better approval rating than Bush. I'm beyond confused. What has Cheney done in months to deserve an upswing? The only thing that he has done that the public would notice is to shoot a guy in the face. Otherwise he's been mostly vacant or I guess in his undisclosed location.

It's odd how I seem to fall into some weird category about the Dubai port deal. I'm not upset about the deal because I don't really sense that there really is some sort of security risk, which is why most Americans are opposed to the deal.

My objection is mostly about another country running our businesses. I find it odd that the free enterprise Bushies are willing to let the United Arab Emirates own many of our ports, rather than a private company. A government run business is socialist, I thought that was antithetical to Republican ideals.

I have no problem with government owned and operated businesses, but if the business is in the United States, then it should be run by OUR government, not a foreign government.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush Caught Lying Again, Umpteenth

Well, surprise, surprise, President Bush gets caught in another lie. In a press conference awhile ago, Bush claimed that no one could have forseen the levees breaking in New Orleans. Now a video has been released showing ex-FEMA director Michael Brown explaining to Bush that Katrina was the big one they've been worried about. Warnings included possible breaches to the levees. As well, a top meteorologists explained the possibilities.

You can see the video of the briefing here.

More conclusive evidence of the way Bush and the White House has operated from day one. Deny first, before even attempting to tell the truth. Lie, obscure the facts, change the subject, anything but the truth, anything but taking responsibility.

Add this to the recently released testimony that the White House ignored assessments of the dangers of an Iraqi insurgency that went unheeded and unbelieved. This was from a National Intelligence Estimate from October 2003. Just as the Bushies ignored intelligence that didn't back up their ideas of Saddam's WMDs, this report was dismissed.

Simply put the Bush bunglers dream up their own version of the world and anybody or anything that disagrees with them is dismissed, pooh-poohed, and ignored. How anyone can find that this attitude is good for the security of the United States is beyond me. Particularily at this point in time when it's been revealed that this dismissal of contrary points of view turned out to be bad policy and mistakes. The advice given has been correct, the Bush viewpoints have been wrong.

And I have to improve my assessment of Michael Brown. He quite clearly warned Bush and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff of an impending disaster. Brownie was certainly made out as the designated scapegoat despite his obvious awareness of Katrina's potential devastation, despite reporting this to his superiors.