Everyone is a suspect, unless proven otherwise. The destruction continues.
I thought that we were a nation of laws and not a dictatorship. Are we subjects in a state where a divine king rules in God's name? Don't we have certain rules, like the...Constitution to uphold? But then again, these are difficult times; maybe we should bend the rules a bit. Or should we? I mean I can imagine several extreme situations where it would be appropriate to sacrifice an innocent child, to rape a person or to boil a limb if this would make the suspect talk. What if [insert extreme scenario here]?
If we are the land of the free and the home of the brave we must live up to our duty to protect our rights. The super-secret spying apparatus ordered by President Bush is illegal and not fit for a society where the people's civil liberties are respected. There have to be checks and balances, and in this case judicial overview. Even in this turbulent times where too many Americans are motivated by fear and willing to sacrifice their rights under the PATRIOT Act, there are some guidelines to be observed. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (most commonly known as FISA), a secret intelligence court was created to authorize government wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations. Now, Bush did not apply to get permission from this court, nor his spying was on foreign subjects--a clear violation of US law in my opinion.
Let's see what our Constitution has to say about this:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized (Amendment IV)
I think it's quite clear under which circumstances and conditions the government can conduct reasonable search and seizures; and, please don't miss the important point about "probable cause" and, "by oath or affirmation." Where are those arch-conservatives, the "strict constructionists," those who call our national document "the constitution in exile" to stand up and defend it? Of course, they are absent, for they're hypocrites and activists who want to use "creative law-making" to curb individual rights and civil liberties. They are the same people who don't see the sentence, "a well regulated Militia" in the Second Amendment, and, thus, they want to extend the right to bear arms to include any killing machine invented!
A Nixonian Approach
Normally, we wouldn't spend too much time on the rants and actions of an inarticulate simpleton, except that this buffoon is the CEO of the country. Last time I checked, the President was bound by the Constitution. Actually, every US president swears to "uphold and protect" it. So, what am I missing here? Bush just admitted that he authorized secret spying on US citizens outside the scope of the law. Even the conservative senator Graham (R-SC) said, "I don't know of any legal basis" for Bush's secret spying. The chairman of the Senate's judiciary committee, Arlen Specter (R-PA) promised to hold hearings early next year regarding this issue, commenting that "there is no doubt that this is inappropriate."
This Republican-controlled Congress does not investigate. What for? It's not likely they care. Most of them are social-darwinists! Never mind that the corruption stench is now unbearable; never mind that the country has been dragged into a costly war based on a pack of lies. Corruption knows no political parties, and the Democrats had their share in the 40 or so years they controlled Congress. But the Republicans managed to surpass this not only in magnitude but in the relatively short time of 5 years. We're seeing high crimes committed by persons in the executive and legislative branches, but no action is taken. I understand, they don't want to investigate themselves, and there are no ethics in the Ethics Committee. In the perverse moral universe of the current powerlogs, theocrats, and greedy fatcats, Clinton's sexual tryst was a much greater sin; a sin worth being impeached for! Can someone give Bush the thingy that got Clinton into trouble? Please! If this won't start the impeachment process [and I'm not holding my breath waiting for this to happen], at least Bush may calm down a bit. Give him some "Jesus juice" too. He seems very frustrated these days, doesn't he? A frustrated and a mean person like him with the kind of power at his disposal, is a very dangerous man to have in the White House.
"And during these holiday seasons, we thank our blessing" G.W.Bush, Belvoir, VA, Dec. 10, 2004.
Addendum: Today I came across a great editorial by The Nation. The editors point out that Bush's arguments--regarding presidential power and national security--were the same arguments used by Nixon who employed a host of federal agencies to spy, harass, and violate the civil liberties of many Americans, like the sustained wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. The editorial reminds us that, "It needs to be repeated that in 1974, the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon included abuse of presidential power based on warrantless wiretaps and illegal surveillance."
So, let's win back at least one chamber of the US Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, because that's the only way to have serious investigations. In other words, subpoena power!
Dec 19, 2005
Everyone is a suspect, unless proven otherwise. The destruction continues.
Dec 10, 2005
TIP-TOEING ISN'T ALWAYS QUIET. WATCH OUT FOR THE THUMB TACKS!
I decided to help out Hillary Rhodam Clinton in her strategy to position herself as a national candidate for the presidency. Given the current occupant of the White House and his cohorts, there is no doubt in my mind that Hillary would be an improvement. If it came down to her and any Republican nominee, I wouldn't hesitate to vote for her. Let me explain what I mean though.
I don't believe there is a "silver bullet" that would take care of the beast--the regressive, authoritarian and kleptocratic policies as expressed by the Republican party today. Also, I think that the country will have to be moved gradually to the progressive side, because there are just too many conservative Americans unwilling and unable to take bold steps in that direction. So, I'm content, for the moment, to try to help the country move forward, toward a more liberal society. [see the definition of liberalism at the bottom of this blog's page] It's like trying to put out the fire that has engulfed our house due to the incompetence and criminal negligence of the current housekeeper that we elected to be in charge! I have been arguing this for a long time now, that first we have to save our house and then debate the finer points of how to make it more beautiful. Unfortunately, it has come down to this, a dire situation, thus we don't have the luxury of inaction because we can't agree on the color of the paint.
Where was I? Ah, helping Hillary.... Yes, I'm going to blast her for being such as hypocrite when it comes to the flag-protection measure. She's co-sponsoring new legislation to criminalize the "desecration" of the United States flag. The bill originated by Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett, and it is a new effort to by-pass the Supreme Court's decision [Texas v. Johnson] in 2003 that upheld the right of a free people to burn their flag as a form of political protest. Hillary says she opposes a constitutional amendment, though I wonder whether this is just another stance of convenience since it would be extremely difficult to amend the constitution--a fact understood by the politicians who've used this path as seekers of cheap political thrills.
Why would Hillary co-sponsor a Republican bill? Because she wants to get traction in the so-called red states, to boost her patriotic credentials, to appeal to the emotions of so many Americans who, indeed, vote emotionally, often against their own interests. Where is the triangulation, you ask? Ah, it's obvious, as the discussion among her staff and supporters indicates: that is, she expects the "left-leaning," the progressive liberals will make enough noise in protest and thus give her "credence" of a "middle-of-the-road" politician! This blog is happy to oblige. Hillary may get her triangulated political position, but I suspect she will face stiff opposition within the Democratic Party. I suspect that she will soon be making clear her more conservative positions since she'll assume that, first, her senatorial race in New York is in the bag, and, second, that in order to fulfill her national aspirations she'll have to move to the center. I expect her to take tougher stances on immigration, and on the role of the US military/foreign policy--you know, America's duty to civilize and democratize the universe! Oh, not to forget that some bad people need to be "persuaded" to talk even if this means ..rendition. All in the name of safety and national security of course!
Appealing to the lowest common denominator is not a good trait of a politician who's a true leader with a vision for the future. But, it seems that Hillary has chosen this path for now. Things may change, though I very much doubt it as many Dems in Congress are afraid to be bold; otherwise there would be many more calls for the US to quickly withdraw from Iraq for example.
As for the flag-protection law, yes, this national symbol deserves respect, but the flag is not a sacred object in itself but rather a representation of our country, which, up to now, includes free speech. This great country won't be diminished if some idiot burns some material with the American flag on it. Gosh, we are already disrespecting our flag in many ways, as we use it for any imaginable purpose, much of it for commercial exploitation. It would be hypocritical if we allowed our flag to be used and abused for any other purpose other than as a form of political protest!
I teach a course on Democracy & Dissent at a university in New York and I've been urging my students to be politically informed and active; that dissent is a very important part of the democratic process because it is necessary to keep the dialogue going without fear that the authorities will persecute anyone for any speech they find objectionable. Unfortunately, Hillary today weighs in favor of fascist tendencies, the silencing of dissent, supporting the Big Brother's knows-best attitude, and the notion that Americans have to be protected against "evil" speech because they are not mature enough. No, Senator, even if some Americans aren't behaving like adults, having a Big Brother will only perpetuate immaturity and stifle the air we breathe. The flag it's a symbol with different meanings to different people--as it should be. We shouldn't try to force respect; it has to come from within for what the flag represents. I see our flag desecrated when it flies over any facility (like GITMO) where human rights are violated, or anywhere it is used as an excuse or a "reason" to curtail freedom & democracy! If you Senator want to talk about respecting our national symbol, then show it by making this country more egalitarian, and a heaven where human & civil rights are protected.
The proposed legislation appears to be no more than another cheap political thrill as I understand the bill currently in Congress. Destroying private property is already a crime, just as it is, if you trespass on federal property and burn a flag. Another provision is based on the vague language that flag burning is illegal if it's done for intimidating purposes--and Hillary equates this to the cross burning by the knuckle-heads of the KKK. This is ridiculous, just as ridiculous is the attempt of a blue-stater to become part of the red-staters group of bullies. There are a few courageous Dems who hail from red states who have voted against such cheap legislation even if this hurts them back home. I would have expected more from a senator who hails from New York. I guess she has been impressed by former Clinton presidential adviser and prostitute-toe-sucking Dick Morris's ability to triangulate. [Though she might want to check out a sample of Morris's views about her]
I hope that this post has been helpful to the reader, for its informational value. Hillary's adoption of this disgraceful piece of legislation hasn't gotten the appropriate attention and critique, except in the alternative media and the progressive blogosphere. If, by any chance, Hillary expresses her appreciation for our help, I will post her thanks here as soon as I receive them. Meanwhile, without having a need to triangulate myself, I'm declaring that Hillary's latest act removed any chance that I'd vote for her in the primary. I wonder if she believes that burning her effigy should be a punishable offense as well... you know, like disrespecting, or, trying to intimidate a US Senator! Humbug, I say, humbug!
Nov 30, 2005
A Speech President Bush Should Have Delivered, but, he Lacks the Sense & Sensibility to Do it
On November 30th, 2005, President Bush delivered a speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, about his war policy under a banner, "Plan For Victory". Remember the other banner, "Mission Accomplished"... Back then, while riding high, he told us that "major combat operations have ended" in Iraq! Ah, well, to use a bushism, "fooled me once...I can't get fooled again!" Whatever.
Here's a speech I drafted for a president who would speak from the heart, if he had one, and would face reality, if he had the guts....
As I stand here today, in the Naval Academy, I see before me young men and women who represent the armed forces of this nation, and who have, in essence, pledged their lives to defend our country. I stand here as your Commander-in-Chief, yet I do understand that this title bestows me with a huge responsibility, not only toward you but also toward the United States of America. I have to make difficult decisions, but I will never commit our most precious resources, our blood, sweat and tears, without our country being in grave danger and before I carefully weigh the consequences of such an action. I will never lie to you and I will never ask you to make any sacrifice that I, myself, wouldn't be willing to make.
In the past, our leaders have made many serious mistakes at great cost and serious injury to our country. Wisdom often comes at a high price, but it is available only to those willing and able to handle the truth and use their minds. We, as responsible citizens, must know our history and learn from our past mistakes. As individuals, we have to be strong, admit it when we are wrong, and we can take corrective action when necessary. Being stubborn in the face of overwhelming evidence that clearly shows we've taken the wrong path, is not a very smart thing to do. You are being trained to be leaders which means you can adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances on the battlefield, maintain a cool head, and be open-minded to the facts--even if the facts contradict your original views. A good leader is a responsible leader and one who sees beyond his own interests and can overcome his shortcomings.
When our country must sacrifice, I will do my best to see that this burden is widely shared and not placed on the shoulders of the least privileged of our society. I will not allow such a situation to become a way to transfer more wealth to the few, especially when this would result in mortgaging the future of the many. If sacrifice we must, then the pain must be more equitably distributed. It's only fair. Patriotism isn't defined by big talk & long speeches, waving of the flag, and saluting the veterans. A true patriot doesn't remain indifferent on the sidelines when his country is at risk or when blood is being shed, nor does he cares only how to make a profit from the war while his corporation sets up its headquarters overseas to avoid paying taxes.
I know that many of you chose a military career because of the benefits offered by the military: the professional training & the skills, the healthcare benefits, the signing bonuses, etc. I realize that for many of you the military offers opportunities not available to you otherwise. I'm not trying to devalue your commitment to and your love for the country. On the contrary! You all have families, friends, neighbors, our democracy, and our way of life to defend. We are very much indebted to you. I have instructed our recruiters never to lie to you, no false pretenses and promises. And, when you sign up, you should know that your country will never let you down.
Without you, the rest of us wouldn't be able to survive in a hostile world. So, again, we thank you for your commitment, and I promise you to do whatever I can to give you all the necessary means to perform your job. I won't send you into combat without the proper equipment and training. I won't lie to you about our objectives and the reasons for placing you in harm's way. There will be casualties--that's a dire consequence of war. But, I will make sure that all of our injured personnel will get the best medical treatment and their health benefits will never be reduced. The same goes for the families of those killed in action. It's the least we can do for the ultimate sacrifice that so many fighting men & women have done for us.
Yet, a war should be the last resort. We are a powerful country but our strength hasn't relied only on the might of our armed forces. Our strength derives from the strength of the American character, our freedom & tolerance, our diversity, our technology, our culture, our scientific progress, and our democratic way of life. The American experience and the reality of the frontier, even the violent struggles for civil rights, the many peoples who came to our shores to pursue their dreams of a better life... All these, I believe, made us good people, not perfect but always improving. That's progress. We can't turn back! We've endured many trials and tribulations, but like the Revolutionary soldiers at Valley Forge, we marched ahead and blazed our own trails... and we became the envy of the world. We made mistakes aplenty, like every other nation. We accept the responsibility with the promise to look forward with the urgency to keep building a better world for us, and for our children. We should remain the leaders not by military power alone but because we command respect for our worthwhile achievements and the values for which we stand.
The United States does not stand for torture. We are part of the civilized international community that abhors torture and inhumane treatment. We believe that there are certain inalienable rights every person is entitled to, a common sense of human decency that should be universally applied. We strive to be better than our enemies because we recognize the value in every human life, and that we lead by example. We cannot fight intolerance by being intolerant ourselves. We cannot fight terrorism, ignorance and extreme prejudice by exhibiting the worst traits possible. No high value or noble goal can be defended by employing de-humanizing ways and means.
I hope that by the time the freshman class graduates this academy, the United States will not have to use its armies in war but rather as a powerful deterrence. You will be America's ambassadors to the world as we'll help make and maintain the peace. You can help show that although we're very strong we choose not to use violence unless we have no other credible option. Our enemies won't go away any time soon but nor will our resolve to defend ourselves and all those who fight for democracy, human rights and peace. And, our foreign policy will reflect our commitment to those values. United with our friends & allies we can demonstrate to the world that there is much to be gained in prosperity and personal fulfillment by working together.
Finally, I want to call upon all the good citizens of the world to join the United States in committing to the effort of bettering the lives of the less privileged among us. If we are to fight, let's fight extreme poverty, let's fight the diseases that kill & maim millions of humans every day, let's introduce peace to those who see war as a perpetual state, let's give real hope to those who need it most.
Thank you, and let's get to work. Let's excel in everything we do. I expect no less from my fellow Americans. I know our United States can do a lot more. And we will.
Bush's audience at the Naval Academy
Sadly, a speech like this is not something that can be delivered by G. W. Bush or his clique. They lack the sense and sensibilities. Their views of the world are rather small and their horizon is unbelievably microscopic. In line with Newspeak, this is an example what our Caesar is capable of, a blend of Newspeak and bushisms:
"I just want to you know that when we talk about war, we're talking about peace.."
President G W Bush, Washington D.C., June 18, 2002.
Why, did you expect anything better? I didn't think so.
Nov 19, 2005
When someone pleads stupidity you know that things are really bad. Should we take Dickey on his word, that Bushco did not intentionally mislead the nation into a costly war? In other words, should we accept that our leaders are a bunch of incompetent and stupid people who couldn't get the facts straight? That's exactly what the Vice is trying to argue today. Of course, if this is the case, then we have to throw in some generous dose of amnesia, because this is not what they were saying earlier. [check their record on Iraq here]
For my part, I'd like my elected representatives to tell me the truth and address me in a adult-like manner; I don't want baby talk, I can handle the truth, and, yes, I prefer making up my own mind. But, it goes both ways, I suppose. What does it say about us? If half of the eligible citizens remain apathetic and don't vote, and many of those who do vote don't exercise proper care in their civic duty, then we collectively get what we deserve. In the span of a year after re-electing Dubya, Americans suffer a buyer's remorse, but I really don't see what new evidence came up in the last year that contradicted the previous facts on which Americans based their decision on election day in 2004. Simply, they weren't paying much attention, because what we know today (although in more detail and quantity) isn't different from what we (those of us who cared to check) knew in the summer of 2004.
Perhaps, Dickey is trying to pull another fast one. He's used to speak from both sides of his mouth. In the early 90s, he was very critical of the idea that the US should go into Baghdad and commit troops there for an indefinite period. [1992 interview to BBC and other media]. In 2003, however, he was telling us that "there is no doubt that Saddam has reconstituted his nuclear weapons programs," and, "we know where they [WMDs] are." We remember the chorus line that sang us the "imminent threat," the "mushroom cloud," and the satanic alliance between AlQueda and Saddam's Iraq. And, no, those in Congress who voted for the war (under specific provisions that were ignored later by Bushco) did not have the same intelligence as the White House.
Another issue that really bothers me is the attitude of Bushco's cabal against those who criticize the failed policies of the administration. They all need a lesson in civics. You can't export democracy if you're attack it at home. Being critical is not unpatriotic; as a matter of fact it is our duty to question the rulers, especially if they have a track of intentionally misleading the nation. Knowing what's going on and being active in the affairs of our country is the duty of a patriot. Every citizen should try to prevent his country from doing terrible mistakes, and prevent it from being highjacked by the narrow special interests as expressed by those in power today. Dickey and Dubya must understand that "giving comfort to the enemy" doesn't come from internal criticism in a democratic society where the people are informed and engaged--this is what we do in a free society. This democracy is what others in non-free countries have been yearning for.
What gives comfort to our enemies is our torture policy, our imperial arrogance, our leaders' "achievement" to divide our friends and unite our enemies. Bushco has been godsend present to AlQueda as a recruitment instrument for terrorists. I'm sure that Osama Bin Laden voted for Bush. And, it wouldn't be far-fetched to argue that Bushco needs the devil who's out there ready to destroy America! All authoritarian and falling regimes need the external threat in order to distract and pass measures to the detriment of the majority of their people. If you're not familiar with George Orwell's 1984, I suggest you read the book! [the movie based on his book is rather good and available on dvd] In addition to the other themes, pay attention to the Newspeak--how the language is distorted.
Like Dubya tried to say a while ago (using Bushisms), "fooled me once, shame on me..." Being fooled is not fun, but what's worse is being fooled about important things, especially when there are easy steps to prevent the fraud. In a democracy there are corrective measures, though this doesn't mean there are no costs in making mistakes. However, we must learn from past mistakes, assume responsibility, but also make it very costly to those who deceive us. If we accept the stupidity plea then we should re-examine our heads and who is the actual fool... the one who's doing the pleading or the one who accepts it....
Nov 9, 2005
Intelligent (re)disign takes time!
Lots of elections all around the country this November and it seems that the Democrats did quite well, though I'd advise not to get complacent and expect the voters to return Congress to Democratic control next year. We need a clear-cut agenda and bold proposals, including a plan for getting out of Iraq. I think we can draw some encouragement from the the results on Tuesday. First, the two governorships, in New Jersey and Virginia, were easily won by Dems, but most importantly many people voted specifically against the Republicans as those people don't like what they see in the conservative agenda. Any association with president Bush proved politically deadly, in New Jersey, but more so in Virginia where Bush carried this red state by 8 points a year ago. The president came in when the Repub was trailing in the polls by 3% and when he left his buddy lost by 5 or 6 points!
Both sides point out the only major Republican big win, that of Mike Bloomberg's re-election by 20 points in New York City. I beg to differ. This was, by no means, a Republican win. Let me explain. Bloomberg had been a Dem and changed his party affiliation to run for mayor, because he thought this was the only way to run on a major party's label. NYC is overwhelmingly a Democratic city of 10 million people and this becomes clear, where a Dem primary win equals ..appointment. Many Dems had endorsed Bloomberg and, since many New Yorkers have been giving high marks to the mayor, he won. I don't see this as a bad thing. Many Dems didn't like the mayor's remote association with the Republican party [no Repub of note appeared anywhere within a mile of Bloomberg during the campaign!], but they voted for whom they thought would be the best manager of the city's affairs. Besides, Bloomberg is pro-choice and pro same-sex marriage, for example, views the Republican party (nationally and NY state-wide) finds as an abomination! Lastly, the other city-wide Dems received around 90% of the vote!
Another positive thing was the win of the eight Dems who threw out the unintelligent designers of bad education in Dover, PA. There is a Scopes-like trial going on there with a decision expected in January. However, junk science and small-mindedness is alive and well in several states of the union. I think that in the next 10-15 years there is going to be an intensifying struggle between science & modernity and the religious fundamentalists in this country. Year by year, there will be a greater divide between the progressive states and the hard-core conservative ones. Kansas resides in the latter category. People there decided that evolution is controversial and that science should just rely on a natural explanation but the supernatural should be introduced to ..raise the standards of science! Whatever. Unfortunately, Kansas has lots of company.
I don't know what it would take for people to open their eyes and become inquisitive, but education is one of the keys. By education I don't mean indoctrination but learning; whereas thinking and pondering are involved, whereas a person can make up his own mind using reason and acquired knowledge. With such advancements in science and with modern society affording leisure to people, there is no excuse not to use our brains for enlightenment. We must defeat those who have been pushing ignorance, superstition, and a perpetual condition in which individuals can't employ their intelligence without the guidance or the direction of someone else.
We have to fortify the blue states and make them bastions of freedom, scientific inquiry, progress & modernity, tolerance, producers & magnets of talent, a freer and a more just society. Last Tuesday's elections showed that the Dems and the progressives fared well, but there is so much more to be done. The country is polarized and this won't change for a while longer. Of course, I understand that many people can't change for a variety of reasons. Not all people live in the present and won't live in the future. The familiar past gives them comfort and they prefer it, because they fear all that which is different or they can't understand. The words, "land of the free and home of the brave," take new meaning today.
Nov 6, 2005
You Break it, You Own it. Care to Guess, Who Actually Pays for it?
It's been a year already since the last presidential election and I have to say that I didn't expect this rapid deterioration of the Bush regime. Unfortunately, under our system of government, Bushco will be around to pester us for another 3 plus years--enough time to make things even worse for our country. No wonder that Dubya is trying to satisfy his political base, that is, the extreme conservatives, the monolithic Republicans, and the theologs. His nominee to SCOTUS, Samuel Alito, an extremely conservative judge, is no surprise in the scheme of things.
On November 3rd, 2004, Bush said that we'd reach to the whole nation in his second term. Of course, this didn't happen as it was never his intension even after losing the election in 2000, and his subsequent appointment to the presidency by SCOTUS. The country was sharply divided, but the Republicans went on to govern with much authoritarianism and little sense, except to satisfy the most extreme element of their base. So, let's see what has happened in the span of a year.
In November, a judge ruled against Bushco in overstepping the Geneva Convention on the treatment of detainees. Still, if you're labeled as "enemy combatant" you have no rights and can be kept in confinement indefinitely. Now we hear that the CIA has secret holding facilities in Europe and elsewhere. Maybe we should apply the Patriot Act against those who expose our covert intelligent officers and have the CIA do a ..rendition on them. Heck, throw in some torture to get to the truth faster.
In December, our troops got the chance to corner and question Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on whether they would have to keep looking for scrap metal in junk yards in Iraq to use as armor for their vehicles and for their vests. "You go to war with the army you have" was the cryptic answer. Thus, Americans back home started a fund collection and a donation drive for used bullet-proof vests. A Homeland Security top official got fired for whistle-blowing on the mismanagement and security flaws of his department, and was replaced by Dickey's son in-law. The top Army Reserve general warned us that the reserves were being turned into a "broken force." He was properly ignored like all the other experts who publicly or privately all agree that the Iraq war has been a disaster.
In January, the Bush administration quietly, through the undersecretary of the assistant junior staffer of the aide to the deputy officer of the third level of the broken chain of command, announced that the search for WMDs had ended. Surprise, surprise! Oh, I see, we're there to export democracy to a country that's a terrorist heaven and with a theocratic regime in its future. Nice!
In February, Mr. torture-is-OK-and-other-Bushco-enabling-measures-Gonzales is confirmed as the country's top attorney who is in charge of protecting our rights. [note: many conservatives confuse the word "right"... they're all for a right turn, but not for individual civil rights, unless a ..machine gun is involved, as judge Alito reminded us] In the same month, Bush asked for another $80 billion, to bring the total direct spending on the Iraq expedition to $200 billion. But, who's counting? Most of these monies are given to Americans anyway! [Bechtel, Halliburton, & co.]
In March, Bush flew back from vacation (you see, it wasn't a natural disaster to let his hand-picked experts to do "a heck of a job") to D.C. to sign a bill interfering in the Terri Schiavo case. The Reps wanted to turn this tragedy into a cheap political game. Dr. Frist (Senate Majority leader) had made a diagnosis on Schiavo by watching footage on TV assuring us that her eyes were responsive to the stimuli around her.
In April, the US government reported that the terrorist attacks had increased by 300% the previous year. No mention as to who facilitated the opening of the biggest terrorist training with hands-on-experience camp in Iraq. Bush signed the bankruptcy law that was written by the banking industry. Many Dems, including Mr. MBNA, Sen Joe Biden (D-DE), went along with it.
In May, the London Sunday Times leaked the Downing Street Memo which confirmed what we, the open-minded and inquisitive persons already knew, that Bushco was hell-bent on invading Iraq on false pretences. Dickey had already explained to us that "there is no doubt that Saddam has reconstituted the nuclear weapons program," and, "we know where they [WMDs] are." The same month he went on national TV to tell us that the insurgency was at its "last throes!"
In June, Terri Schiavo's autopsy confirmed what the doctors had said before: her brain had atrophied, and she was blind. Dr. Frist got an egg on his face but a bigger one to hit him later.
In July, finally, a majority of Americans woke up to realize that they had been misled into the war in Iraq. On the other hand, the majority of Americans believe in the supernatural and in the literal accuracy of the story of Christmas (especially as depicted by popular culture). Still more people believe in demonic possessions than they now believe in Bush. That's a progress I think. [see addendum]
In August, Bush wrenched a Bolton onto the U.N. when the Senate wasn't looking. Then Katrina struck. What's more to say about this; everybody knows the story by now. It's been a disgraceful performance by an incompetent and uncaring regime.
In September, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist learned that he was being investigated because his "blind trust" [he's got a ..vision thingy haunting him] was eagle-eyed, responding to the senator's directives. It wasn't enough that he passed laws in Congress benefitting one of the biggest hospital chains he owned, but like Martha got too greedy and foolishly unloaded stock just before their value fell. In a related story, his buddy in the House, Republican Majority leader Tom Delay got indicted the same month. The stench would soon get stronger.
In October, Dickey's chief of staff and protector of the known cabal, "Scooter" Libby got indicted too. The investigation into the vindictiveness, pettiness, and law-breaking Republican leadership continues today. Unfortunately, last month we passed a somber mark: 2,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq. Worse, the figure is much, much higher as the Pentagon doesn't include in this count those soldiers who die en route to the hospitals or soon after as a direct result of their injuries in Iraq.
As I frequently say, elections have consequences, and electing our leaders should be a task of utmost importance. We all share responsibility. The people we elect act in our name, and their decisions have lasting effects on us, our children and much of the rest of the world. This has not been a good year. We have a year until November 7th, 2006, to start taking back our federal government. Meanwhile, we can't be complacent. Not only we progressives must maintain our resolve and engagement, but we must intensified it. Every effort counts; let's do our part whenever the opportunity arises.
And, we have to keep on fighting the good battles even if we lose some. In this light we have to urge the progressive forces in the Congress and everywhere else to fight the Alito nomination to SCOTUS, and to try to avert further disasters as engineered by the incompetent and near-sighted conservatives of Bushco.
Americans hold all sorts of unsubstantiated beliefs, and too many of us are either not interested in leading an examined life or can't handle the truth. That's why when all the facts were out and clearly visible to anyone who bothered to check, many Americans believed Bushco in regard to "the war on terror," Iraq, etc.
For those who may question my comment on the story of Christmas, I have to tell you that Christmas was not celebrated by the early Church; it wasn't until centuries after Christ's birth (no one really knows for sure when he was born) that the church decided to take over the pagan festivities, known as Saturnalia, in December. Much of the myths and practices today were created in the 18th & 19th centuries.
There is a new exhibit to open, Nov. 19th, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City that focuses on Darwin's life & ideas. Unfortunately, what seemed to be settled 80 years ago in the Scopes trial, is revisited today. Ignorance and prejudice seem to run in cycles, especially when a lot of ignorant people are present. If this doesn't depress you, let me cite a recent CBS News poll (Oct. '05) that showed, 51% of Americans reject the theory of evolution, saying that God created humans in their present form. Some 38% believe that creationism should be taught instead of evolution (Pew Reseach Center, Aug. '05).
Oct 30, 2005
A Simple Act of Great Consequence
Sometimes it takes a simple act--like standing up for your rights by sitting down--to change a country. Fifty years ago, Rosa Parks had the courage to change America. Unfortunately, racism still has an appeal in these United States of America in the 21st century.
"Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race be permitted to attend a school of the other race."
Over the last week, I've been watching the politicians paying respect to the legacy of Rosa Parks. Congress is honoring this civil rights matriarch by having her body lie in the Rotunda of the US Capitol; the first woman to receive such an honor. This is good and well. I do appreciate gestures of gratitude and sincere appreciation of a person's contributions to the betterment of our society. However, I would like to see more.
I would like to see our country a place where no one is discriminated because of race, gender, religious beliefs (or the absence thereof), ethnic background, and sexual orientation. I would like to see positive action when it makes a difference, not some kind of vague promise, in the undetermined future, and not when it's too late.
I would like to see a society where our citizens have opportunity to succeed regardless of their financial means, and that everyone gets equal treatment under the law. I would like to see every American has the right to healthcare and education. I would like to see tolerance, respect of privacy and individual choice is exercised along with personal and civic responsibility. I'd like to see that Americans begin to define patriotism not by the size of their flags but, themselves, being informed and engaged in the affairs of our nation.
Nobody likes to hear unpleasantries, but we must confront those unpleasant realities if we are to change them for the better. Social change often proceeds at a glacial speed, and often it takes a couple new generations to replace the old ones in order to see real change. Sometimes the law--as in anti-discrimination and racial issues--is ahead of the mood of large chunks of society which are too conservative to change their "tried & true" ways. Mark Twain once said that the power over cultural norms is stronger than the power to make laws.
It took the Supreme Court and federal troops to implement legal change in the South. Racism, sadly, is not gone yet. The lunatic fringe is not marginal anymore, as it has found representation in the current president and the Republican leadership. Bush has long lost the Democrats and the Independents; he now has only the support the fanatical theocrats and the powerlogs who want to turn this country back to Dark Ages. When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he joked that "here goes the South for a generation!" Well, it has been longer than that! The unfortunate reality is that although the country moved to end the horrible Jim Crow laws in the South, many Americans never changed their views. This reality is perhaps too harsh for many people to bear.
The quote in italics above is in the state constitution of Alabama. Obviously, it's a moot law, invalidated by the Supreme Court, but I want to ask you this: do you think that, if the people of Alabama had the option to decide on segregation today, would they keep that provision or repeal it from their constitution? I know what I would do if given the choice--I would vote to strike this abomination from the constitution and any law or regulation. Apparently, the majority of the people in Alabama that went to the polls last year and overwhelmingly voted for G.W. Bush failed to repeal this moot but symbolic statute from their constitution! Draw your own conclusions.
We have a long way to go, friends. We have to do a lot more maturing as a nation. We are still debating whether to embrace modernity, the scientific method, and safeguard privacy & civil rights. We should keep being inquisitive, truly brave, that is, able to handle the truth. I find that too many people among us don't have the courage to think for themselves deferring their choices to the ..Guardians. Bushco and all the other elected representatives work for us! We do the hiring, thus, we have a responsibility. Immaturity is the condition when a mentally capable adult refuses to act responsibly, exercise his full intellectual potential. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, adult immaturity is dangerous because of the people it produces! This self-imposed immaturity can lead to bigotry and erodes the conditions of freedom. I am hopeful, but not entirely confident that the road ahead will be without much strife.
I do think that every progressive person in this country has a duty to be involved in the struggle to take back America from the lunatic fringe. Rosa Parks did her duty. We have to do ours, in which every way we're presented with the challenge. Every effort, small or big, counts. Fifty years from now we may be considered the people who prevented the US from slipping backwards and rather helping our country remain at the forefront of freedom, tolerance, and a good place to experience all the thrills life can offer.
Speaking of life, I believe that the way we treat the young & the elderly, the sick & the invalid, all those who need & deserve our help says a great deal about our society today. Rosa Parks is being honored, and rightly so, but I'd like to know why this elderly person couldn't afford to pay her rent? [New York Times article ] She had to rely on a local church for support, until last year when her landlord stopped charging her rent. I think if we use common human decency as our guide we can truly make the world a better place to live; and, we should start from our own backyard; they're a whole bunch of forgotten people back there, behind the sunny porch and the shining city on the hill.
"I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die--the dream of freedom and peace." Rosa Parks
Oct 20, 2005
It's been stormy lately.
I was going through my notes and I found a list of the golden rules for being a good Republican. This is a public service reminder to those Repubs who are shaken by the incompetence and the corruption of their leadership, and, given the latest developments, confusion may have set in. Stay on the message folks, show who you really are.
* You have to believe that those privileged by birth achieve success all on their own.
* You have to believe that a drug addict is a moral failing and a criminal. Unless you're a multi-millionaire radio blabber--then it's an "illness" and you need our prayers for recovery.
* You have to believe that the US should get out the UN and that our foreign policy has a priority to enforce the UN resolutions against Iraq.
* You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a good profit.
* You have to believe that prayer in school is mandatory, as long as you don't pray to "false gods" like Budha, Allah, and ..Zeus.
* You have to believe that patriotism is waving a big American flag, talking big about sacrifice (by others), while you move your corporation off shore, firing American workers and moving their jobs overseas.
* You have to believe that the government should stay out of people's lives but it needs to punish anyone who's having "immoral sex" in the privacy of their own home.
* You have to believe that a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but corporations can make decisions affecting everybody with no regulation.
* You have to believe that not only you talk to Jesus but Jesus talks back to you and tells you that he loves you, that God punishes the feminists, the gays, the hedonists, and all "stray" people en mass. Did I mention that God loves Bush and hates Hillary?
* You have to believe that the ACLU does the devil's work, unless it represents convicted felons, Oliver North, fundie Xtians, etc.
* You have to believe that sex education and condoms should stay out of school because everybody knows without them teenages won't have sex.
* You have to believe that talking big about our armed forces is good enough, while you commit our precious resources on a pack of lies, cut VA benefits, sending troops to Iraq without proper armor, and trick young people (mostly drawn from impoverished sects of society) to sign up & re-up on false promises about future benefits.
* You have to believe that the best way to fight terrorism is to divide our friends and unite our enemies.
* You have to believe that government exists to help the corporate world, even helping monopolies, and by giving the corporation more rights than a citizen. Education, care for the environment, and health insurance should be decided by market forces.
* You have to believe that any movement is "progress" even if you're going backwards. Global warming, evolution, tobacco's link to cancer, are all "junk science" but creationism should be taught in schools as science.
* You have to believe that "compassionate conservatism" means that you care. You care about your own selfish world while you do little to affect positive social & economic change. You show that you care by forcibly trying to convert others to your own divinely-revealed truth. You care because you're afraid that God may hurt you inadvertendly when he unleashes his wrath on the sinners.
Please be free to add to this list; I'm sure I left lots out.
Oct 8, 2005
It was three years ago this time when the Bush regime began to sell the war in Iraq on a pack of lies and deceptions. [click on the link to refresh your memory on what grounds the war was sold] There’s a buyer’s remorse in the country today, but back then, the national corporate media, the US Congress, and many Americans failed in their duty to question the rulers and check up on the facts before agreeing to commit our precious resources of blood, sweat, tears, and tons of money. What have we learned from this experience and how have we changed our ways? It’s hard to say really. A year ago, the depth of Bush’s failures, domestically and internationally, was quite evident. Yet, the majority of Americans opted to re-elect him. When it clearly matters—like national elections-- too many of our fellow citizens don’t take the proper care in making those crucial decisions. It’s one thing to vote for someone because you agree with most of his agenda and another thing to be fooled by him, especially when only some minimal critical skills and some reasonable effort is all that’s required for someone to be an active and informed citizen.
As the philosopher Immanuel Kant observed, laziness, cowardice and inability to employ one’s intelligence leads many grown people to happily remain immature throughout their lives! However, this political immaturity is dangerous, not only because unchecked rulers may lead the country to disaster but also because of the kind of people this prolonged immaturity produces!
Bush’s approval rating is extremely low for a US president, currently hovering in the mid 30s! He’s getting negative numbers on all important issues except the so-called war on terror, where it’s an even split. Can you see a repeat of the color-coded alert scheme next year before the elections? I don’t know if NYC mayor Bloomberg borrowed a page from Homeland Security’s book a month before the election in NYC, but the fact we have to question the motives shows that they tried to fool us before! [Tom Ridge, former head of the Dept. of Homeland has admitted that many times the federal government elevated the risk just for political gain--and it worked!] Fear is a great motivator, and the politicos aren’t shy in engaging the politics of fear. As a matter of fact this is the only card Bush and his Republican cohorts can still play. Look at the indictments of House majority leader Tom Delay, the looming criminal investigations of Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, the treasonous conduct of high White House officials—in both offices of the President and Vice President.
It’s no wonder that Bush chose Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Perhaps he couldn’t stomach another fight, though it seems that he wasn’t prepared to hear grumblings from his most conservative and trusted base, but he has. Not that Ms. Miers is a great find, mind you. She has said that Bush was “the most brilliant man” she had ever met! To me this alone is a disqualifier, unless Bush was the only man she had ever met when she made that statement. I do hope there has been some evolution in her thought since.
Bush continues to talk to us as best as he can: in a childlike manner. The problem is that not all of us are children. We want to be treated as responsible adults. Many of us are able to think critically, evaluate the facts and the arguments and happily take the responsibility of making the decisions that affect our lives. Bush’s trite statements like, “I’ve looked into her eyes,” and, “she’s got a great soul,” and, “she’s a fine woman,” don’t satisfy our inquiries into her judicial and political philosophy. And, the absence of any judicial trail makes the matter more urgent.
Thanks to David Sirota who dug up this gem in Federalist Paper #76 regarding the obligation of the Senate to closely scrutinize the president's appointments, as Alexander Hamilton writes, "It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment..." This must be a indigestable nugget for the cons and the Repubs.
The only fancy word Bush has ever used, “strict constructionist,” as a desired quality for a conservative judge, is almost never elaborated upon. The cons argue that judges shouldn’t make law from the bench and that the Constitution should be interpreted literally. This is a bag of hot air. The cons do want conservative judges on the federal bench actively pushing their ideology on the rest of us. As for the literal interpretation, and of relying on the ..intentions of the founding fathers (emphasis on the male gender), this is another distraction. The brilliant minds that forged the United States of America had their limitations. The same group of people responsible for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution wrote about the “rights of men” while they owned slaves! If Ms. Miers believes in the original intent of the Founders and the strict interpretation of the Constitution, I would like to ask her, “is it your opinion that when the Founding Fathers wrote the provision in the Constitution of the establishment of the Supreme Court really believed that a woman should sit on that bench?” ...
Hopefully, there is an evolution in thought and political practice taking into account contemporary realities and a more educated and responsible citizenry. For example, the reality of the frontier and the War of Independence dictated that every man should have the right to keep arms—like a musket and a knife. Today, most of us recognize that this doesn’t include the right to a bazooka, an F-16 fighter plane, or a nuclear device. But, of course, since the lunatic fringe got access to power via Bushco, we can’t hold a reasonable national dialogue about the important matters. When the other advanced countries have settled on the scientific method, tolerance, civil and human rights, we are still debating them here. Why? Because too many of us are afraid of terrorism and of burning in hell. And, when we surrender our minds to anything else other than love, we become a ship of fools skippered by charlatans full of incompetence and personal greed. Shedding our responsibilities only leads to perpetual immaturity, an unexamined life, and a mother load of troubles.
As Richard Dawkins recently said of those who oppose enlightenment, “bring us your mysteries for we can use them...don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away… Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.” Sadly, it's not only Kansas that's looking for the gift of ignorance.
Where do you fit in this scheme?
Sep 29, 2005
Are we enlightened yet?
Wishful thinking makes many people feel good, but when it is applied to serious decision-making then it's a source of trouble if not idiotic behavior. Granted, many among us can't handle the truth, or, they simply don't have the guts to divest themselves from a position that they've maintained throughout their lives. Unless you speak for the devil, you most likely won't have much incentive for repentance. Or, do you? Not, if you don't care about the truth. Although some things are up to interpretation many are not; they're part of reality. You know, like gravity. At least in this case, reality has a way of smacking you hard, thus easily proving the point to those who believe they can fly. But in other instances things aren't so clear--especially when some effort, like thinking, is required!
There is an important trial [read the daily updates here] going on in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the local school board decided to introduce Intelligent Design into the classrooms. This decision is being challenged by parents, teachers, and many others who don't want the imposition of a religious doctrine on the school curricula; a very particular doctrine to be precise. I feel left out since my preferred bias--that the universe created the gods and not the other way around--would not be taught as an ..alternative theory to ID which is proposed as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution! [are you still with me? good!] I'm sure others feel left out too. But, science is something very specific. Same goes for the term "scientific theory"--a set of beliefs based on acquired knowledge, application of reason, verifiable facts, open to review & revision, etc. You get my drift. Divine revelation is taken on faith, cannot be put to the test, nor can it be held to the same standards like those of science. [For more background and views regarding evolution and ID, click here.] Any assertion is not a theory, not in the scientific term!
Obviously those Bible-thumbers of the American Taliban, and the ultra-conservative Republicans, and all intolerant people want to make the rest of us think and behave as they do. Once I thought that if they believed that they were so correct, that God had revealed the only & absolute truth to the select few, and that he had chosen his favorite people, then why should these people go to such extremes as to try conversion even by force? It didn't make any sense to me until I paid closer attention to the statements made by those extremists (a.k.a.Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, et al). God, in their view, does not discriminate when it punishes! He releases his wrath en-mass, not bothering to pick & choose. So, if a godless & hedonistic New York City supports immoral behavior, then collectively it bears the brunt of God's wrath! No matter if you're a pious person , go to church every day, know your Bible upside down, and do whatever is required by your faith, when God punishes the bad people, you are punished too! It's like being caught in "friendly fire!" In other words, there is a perverse belief in collective and indiscriminate punishment. Wow!
The truly amazing thing to me is not that people believe in crazy stuff, but that in the 21st century America there are so many of our fellow citizens who still have no clue about science and the physical world they live in. Worse, not only they don't live in an enlightenment age but they don't want to allow the rest of us (and our children) to have an age of enlightenment! These are the same people who elect morons to high office. Public policy, which affect us all, is a reflection of the quality of the electorate and its representatives. Complaining about the prevailing politics & the shoddy politicians is one thing, but disavowing any responsibility on the other hand is akin to childish behavior. I understand that this view of mine may offend many, but probably they are the same individuals who can't handle the truth. I believe in maximum rights and freedoms as a necessity to leading a fulfilling life, but clearly personal responsibility is an integral part. Education, I find, is extremely helpful too in making informed and engaged citizens.
Just to give you a current example that sums up the points I'm trying to make in this essay. This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by anti-environment champion James Inhofe (R-OK), will hold a hearing to "discuss the role of science in environmental policy making." You'd think that scientists would be invited to offer their opinions, but you'd be wrong. The committee chairman (not the only one) is not interested in the facts, in science, or even in protecting the environment .[Newspeak applied here, like in the "Clean Air Act", "No Child Left Behind", etc. Whereas the used terms mean the complete opposite] Senator Inhofe invited Michael Crichton (fiction writer of Jurassic Park) to testify! Why? Because Crichton's latest book, State of Fear, is more preferable to actual science! Wishful thinking, belief in the unreal & the superstitious, leading an unexamined life, picking ideology over the facts, are a valuable currency in Washington DC today, and, sadly, among many Americans.
Michael Drake--the fictional character in State of Fear-- has his science wrong, but, heck, if Mr. Crichton makes him a scientist with a certain agenda liked by the Republicans, why not bring this expertise onto the table to help create environmental policy for America? Why not indeed?
For a critical evaluation of the distorted science in State of Fear, read this review.
Sep 24, 2005
In need of some fresh, crisp air.
Hurricane Rita wasn't as destructive as Katrina. The response of the local and federal agencies was much better this time around, but I'm still apprehensive about the efficiency and proficiency of this pompous Homeland Security Department. They are good at talking big, playing with the color-coded alerts, attacking our freedoms, and reporting to a commander in chief who doesn't want to hear stuff he doesn't like. Our government always created lots of pork and hired incompetent people to mess things up, but for some positions relevant experience and skills are imperative because incompetence results in great harm. Wouldn't you say that FEMA should operate under this competence standard? Of course! Yet, the top ten FEMA's appointed officers had no disaster experience; none whatsoever! Four years after 9-11, Bush said there is a lot he has to learn on how to respond to disasters. I shudder to think what would happen in case of a sudden terrorist attack on US soil affecting thousands of Americans, and with widespread panic.
But, life should be enjoyed to the fullest, and not be experienced in fear. Our precious liberties are a necessity in the pursuit of happiness & individual development; they are not a luxury that can be given up. Government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is worth remembering. But, those who complain about the bad deeds of our government cannot do so without assuming some personal responsibility. This responsibility, as I see it, includes being informed, interested & engaged in the affairs of our nation. Our government should reflect us. If it doesn't then it means that we either have an authoritarian government or the majority of the people are easily fooled by any charlatan who comes along, waves the flag, appeals to the emotions, and uses smoke and mirrors. At the very least, the people should become better b.s. detectors, and take more care in voting for their elected representatives. The higher the office, the more careful the effort of the decision should be. We're not ordering cheeseburgers at the drive-by window here.
Summer is over, have you noticed? Happy autumn everybody. I could say happy Fall, but I prefer using the former word, while keeping the latter one for its other meaning, that of falling, like Bush's precipitous fall in the American palate. There is a buyer's remorse in the country, but it came rather late, 10 months too late to be precise. There is a partial corrective recourse next year when the House and one third of the US Senate are up for re-election. Let's see if the voters will redeem themselves by kicking out those who blindly support a corrupt and incompetent regime, and those who do not act in the best interest of America.
The calamity brought on by the hurricanes ought to jumpstart a debate about the role of the government. The conservatives, the neo-cons, the far-right Republicans, the theologs, and all the other powerlogs have shown us how they want to use the government. The lunatic fringe is not marginal anymore; it's part of Bush's support base. All these groups have demonstrated that they are incapable of using the government to promote the public good. They're using it to allocate additional wealth and benefits to the "haves" and the "havemores". Can you point out a few good things this administration has done beneficial to the "average" American, or, to most Americans? Can you honestly say that our country is going in the right direction? It's going to the right, but not taking strong steps into the future. This government, since 2001 when it took office, has made more Americans fall into poverty, more and more every year! Economic growth means nothing to most people if it's not widely shared. The Republican mantra of a limited government means nothing as government has grown by leaps and bounds under G.W. Bush to the detriment of the vast majority of Americans. It has squandered trillions of surpluses left by president Clinton, and has amassed trillions of debt that burdens all Americans.
I like the autumn season. I sense some refreshing, crisp air of change. Maybe the Fall will last a bit longer, well into the next year.
Sep 10, 2005
Say what you will about Bill Clinton--all his personal failings, this and that --but, as a president, he was very competent. I have to tell you, I was never a big fan of big Bubba. His politics and ideological views often were miles apart from my preferences. He was not an easy going, friendly person, and he was often rude to his subordinates. His ego (like most people who become presidents) was huge, and his arrogance was excessive at times. Yet, the question is not about a person's shortcomings, but what he does with the tremendous power a president wields. We have to look at the big picture here. For me, the rule of thumb is how public policy is affected to make a positive difference in the lives of the citizens. This is what really matters. If anyone had any doubt that this administration has gone fishing a long time ago, read the statement by the Vice President of the United States when asked by a US News reporter why he came back to work on ..Thursday, 4 days after Katrina began its destructive path: Photo Caption: Dick Cheney near his new multimillion dollar home named "Undisclosed Location"
It was regrettable that Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, but that's a problem (or, an arrangement) between him and his wife. I'm willing to bet that most great men that changed history were not very faithful to their spouses; some of these men didn't have any true friends. But, we are not looking for leaders to be our friends--they can never be. At any rate, a transgression is measured by its effect. A lie, for example, isn't an absolute value in "sin." Lying about a tryst is one thing, lying about the reasons to commit the nation to a very costly and indefinite war is another.
So the point is, which person would you choose to lead our country? I know this is hypothetical right now and doesn't change the fact that America will suffer a total of eight years of a Bushco presidency, but it should put things into perspective. When the citizens make a choice they must thing long and hard and take the time to investigate the facts. Those facts were available to everyone before the last election. Yet, too many people believed in things that weren't true, like whether there was a link between AlQueda and Saddam, or the "evidence" on WMD. The incompetence of the Bush White House in matters of national security was revealed by the Commission to investigate 911, to name one source whose report came out well before last November.
Bill Clinton did many good things for ordinary Americans--those who needed the government to step in and be a force for good change. More people climbed out of poverty, especially children. The national treasury went from a huge deficit to a huge surplus (to be reversed by the current president). Bill Clinton's priorities made more sense. At least he was more concerned about the "underprivileged" Americans, and didn't chuckle like Mrs. Barbara Bush when seeing those underprivileged people sleeping in the Astrodome, implied that these conditions must have been familiar to those poor people! Or, that Tom Delay (House Majority leader, R-TX) saying, "Now, tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?" Why, surely this ..expedition was like going ..camping!
In 1992, hurricane Andrew devastated Florida. Pappa Bush was on vacation too and in similar fashion was very slow to react. I'll close this post with a poignant comment made by former president Clinton, as I think it summarizes very well the point I'm trying to make here.
"... I went to Florida a few days after President Bush did to observe the damage from Hurricane Andrew. I had dealt with a lot of natural disasters as governor, including floods, droughts, and tornadoes, but I had never seen anything like this. I was surprised to hear complaints from both local officials and residents about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handling the aftermath of the hurricane. Traditionally, the job of FEMA director was given to a political supporter of the President who wanted some plum position but who had no experience with emergencies. I made a mental note to avoid that mistake if I won.
Voters don't chose a President based on how he'll handle disasters, but if they're faced with one themselves, it quickly becomes the most important issue in their lives."
Bill Clinton, My Life (p. 428)
If anyone had any doubt that this administration has gone fishing a long time ago, read the statement by the Vice President of the United States when asked by a US News reporter why he came back to work on ..Thursday, 4 days after Katrina began its destructive path:
Photo Caption: Dick Cheney near his new multimillion dollar home named "Undisclosed Location"
Sep 5, 2005
Some People Never Learn. How about the rest of us?
It's been more than a week since Katrina started its destructive path in the Gulf Coast. Its effects will be felt for years to come. We've had several days to assess the damage and the response of our government. The American people, like after September 11, 2001, have leapt into action with generous donations of all kinds to the victims of Katrina. But, those hard-hit people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were also victims of their government's incompetence, which may result in more deaths than any terrorist attack on US soil. If there were anyone who doubted that this government is incompetent [and the Iraq debacle hadn't convinced them already], then this is proof beyond any reasonable doubt.
By now we know a great deal about the events. Katrina was a hurricane 5 (very deadly & destructive), days before in hit the Gulf Coast states. The evacuation of New Orleans was given on Sunday, but the buses stopped running on Saturday. No National Guard troops mobilized, no provisions to evacuate the poor souls who couldn't leave the city, and no plans to deal with the impending disaster. While Katrina was destroying structures and lives, Bush was still on vacation; he found the time to strum the guitar with music stars, attend Senator McCain's birthday party, and didn't get back to DC until two days after Katrina was done. Meanwhile, Condie was shoe shopping in Manhattan, and Dick was hidden as usual. The Bush White House was paralyzed by debates on who should be in charge! Ah, how about FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and its no-emergency-experience appointed director? Well, he didn't learn about the levee break until two days later. Surely, the Homeland Security was more informed you may say. Wrong! Chertoff, its director, learned about the levee break 36 hours later too. Funny, the rest of us were better informed just be watching our television sets and listening to the radio!
What a lack of sense and sensibility by those in our government. I couldn't help but use some expletives against those officials who got in front of the tv, interview after interview, to congratulate each other on their response to this tragedy! [ including Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA]
In the first 48 critical hours, I saw only Coast Guard helicopters evacuating people from their rooftops. No National Guard present. No coordinated rescue efforts by the federal government, which must step in to help Americans during a catastrophe. We witnessed the worst abandonment of so many Americans by their government in such dire circumstances. We saw images of a Third World underdeveloped country being played in our backyard. We witnessed a country where its class & race situation revealed something ugly about America. Indifference can indeed be a weapon of mass destruction!
Our government failed us miserably. Of course we have a right to be angry and demand punishment of those responsible--though, some punishing we have to do ourselves via the ballot box next year and beyond. It is utterly unacceptable that incompetence may have cost more lives than the terrorists managed to kill in their World Trade attacks. Where is the so-called "culture of life"? Isn't our elected government responsible of safeguarding us? But, politics, again, is the determinant factor. Elections have consequences and people have to learn this. Voting for someone is not only a right but a responsibility too. The higher the office the more careful the voter must be. We can't vote for a president of these United States like we order a cheeseburger, or, for the person whose company we'd prefer over a couple pints of beer. There are important decisions to be made, decisions that affect us all!
Those who say a natural disaster shouldn't be used for a political gains, I say, why not? Some serious change should occur. We're talking about grave responsibilities here, not cheap shots. If the Republicans, the neo-cons, or whatever the hell those people are, argue for a limited and powerless government, and are the ones who gutted FEMA (and semi-privatized it), by slashing its budget and appointing a person with a ..fundraising experience, then why not? Why, if the same people take much of the National Guard equipment and manpower to Iraq, is it not appropriate to point the finger at those Grover Norquists who want the government "so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub"? How money is spent is dictated by the ideology, alliances, obligations of those in charge. If the people don't keep a short leash and a keen eye on their representatives, bad things happen. The role of the government is not a casual topic of discussion. Government is us, and it should act for the maximum benefit of the maximum number of people--at the very least! Bush's decisions and priorities played a role in this disaster.
It's politics alright. It's a matter of priorities, and national emergencies have a way of revealing the priorities on the agenda of those in charge. Do you know what the Congressional Republicans discussed in a memo a couple days ago? To repeal the estate tax--or, in other words, how to preserve Paris Hilton's huge inheritance! Yeah! And, just as an icing on the cake, the new bankruptcy law is due to take effect, making harder for the average person to get a fresh start. The amendment to have some discretion in filling for bankruptcy because of loss due to a natural disaster was voted down (when this abomination of a law passed earlier this year and signed by Bush) along party lines!
This flyover presidency has been a disaster all along, especially after the ill-thought, planned & executed Iraq venture. But, even in the absence of such a wasteful and injurious effort overseas, those people in charge had already shown that they were incompetent. They had paid no attention to the warning of the previous administration and their own people about Al Queda. Those minions who've exhibited loyalty to Caesar above everything else were rewarded with medals and promotions, and fat corporate contracts. The philosophy and politics of the conservatives are bankrupting the country while putting our lives at a greater risk. OK, I'll admit, not all of us, because some of us have more means and may have no need for public services or federal assistance. Well, even this isn't totally true: those with the most want more, and want the government to give them more tax cuts, and give more rights to a corporation than an individual. You see, the looting had begun long before the breakdown of order in New Orleans!
A final thought, and a challenge to the ditto heads: How would this government protect us in case of a major terrorist attack, when it showed such an incompetence in the face of a natural threat known to us with a precise time & place several days in advance?
ADDENDUM: Since I posted this, I've been watching Bush officials saying absurdities, and the mainstream news media don't know (or bother to learn and challenge the inaccurancies) their stuff and keep repeating the lies of the Bush White House and their ditto heads. I've heard that the reason the federal government didn't intervene in time was because the local/state authorities hadn't asked.....
The facts are these: Louisiana Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency on Friday 26 (three days before Katrina touched LA) and sent a letter to president Bush to federalize the troops. Bush responded the next day saying he had done so. Case closed. FEMA is supposed to plan ahead, be on alert, and act immediately after a disaster--a disaster in the making for several days. Brown, its director, has no such planning experience. He was fired from his last job (as the head of some Arabian horses association), he grossly padded his resume, and his appointment showed the value Bush placed on FEMA. As a matter of fact, FEMA used to be one of the best-run & effective agencies (as shown after the San Francisco earthquake and other natural disasters), but its budget was slashed by the Republicans and incompetent people replaced professionals with experience within the agency. The neo-cons have been pushing for privitization of FEMA and other federal agencies. They hate government when it provides public services but they love it to give huge benefits and protect fat corporations. Halliburton [the same company that's mismanaged US property in Iraq while overcharging the American taxpayers] is being hired for cleanup operation in the Gulf Coast states.
Aug 30, 2005
Education Can Provide The Key To Success & Understanding
If most people believe in something, does it make it a fact? I mean, yes, the belief is very real, but does it represent the truth? Another question is how do people believe things, and, most importantly, how open are people to revising their beliefs. Unfortunately, many persons often pick a set of beliefs once and for all, without allowing for the possibility of of further inquiry and amendment. It's like picking a sports team, mostly on emotional grounds.
I think a lot has to do with how people perceive things, how they process information, and whether they lead an examined life. Education can hone an individual's critical skills. A person's personality make-up obviously affects his politics. When we have to order a pizza, there is a great probability that we are going to disagree about the toppings. So, politics is the tool we have to reach a compromise, make a decision and get the pizza delivered. And, while at it, politics determines how big of a slice a person gets. In a democracy, majority rules. It can be argued that, collectively, we get what we deserve. In this light, politics does make a big difference and it depends on the quality of the people involved in the process.
Now, if many members of our group believe that pizza is the creation of the fat-inducing devil who's hell bent on making Americans obese, then pizza can be banned. Darn, I love pizza so I hope this never happens! But, seriously, let's assume that most Americans believed in creationism, as they do, should it be taught in the schools as science? How about a flat-earth theory? Or, that human sacrifice to the Sun god is necessary. Or, that the story of Christmas is true (despite the fact that it was Washington Irwing's influence that Americans adopted this holiday in the ..18th century). Studying history is good for it adds to our understanding of our past and of the human condition through the ages, and take the attacks on science as an attempt to dumb down our society. I think there is something wrong here when more Americans believe in Satan's existence (68%) than in evolution (28%)!
Our leaders, including the president--who holds the biggest megaphone--should be more careful when they attack science. Many of them are still alive today because of science. When president Bush endorsed the pseudo-scientific theory of ID and said that ID is a "credible alternative theory" he either professes ignorance or plays a bad political game. Perhaps his "jury is still out" but science's jury was "in" even before Bush was born.
Surely, there are gaps in our knowledge; who can seriously suggest that we know all there is to know? The quest for new discoveries is exhilarating just as much as actually finding something that enriches our existence. Yet, we cannot fill in those gaps with "alternative theories" that have no basis in reality and they cannot be put to the test. Or, can we? Take for example the theory of evolution and the attacks against science from a sizeable chunks of Americans--who have no doubt that revealed knowledge is superior to acquired knowledge. OK, you want alternative theories to explain something biologists haven't figured out yet? Let's talk about sex and orgasm--the latter being uniquely a human trait. You see, biologists can explain the use for the male orgasm, but there isn't a consensus about the use of the female orgasm. Since the Bible doesn't explain this phenomenon, we could seek alternative theories to fill in the gap. I could suggest that God is a ..female, so she gave the gift of pleasure to women! Does this fit the concept of intelligent design (ID)? If school boards want alternative theories to biology, I'm sure we can supply them with lots. Besides, these theories, like ID, don't have to be exposed to the rigors of the scientific method, though I imagine researching orgasm might be need further exploration, in the name of science of course.
Evolutionists argue that life developed through natural selection over billions of years. Yet, they cannot explain for sure why homosexuals exist today, since homosexuals don't procreate. Is God, in addition to being female, is a homosexual too? [If I don't show up tomorrow, you'll know that I was stricken by Zeus's thunderbolts] If you care to read more about an interesting examination of the female orgasm, read Elizabeth Lloy'ds book, The Case For The Female Orgasm.
Education is not just about committing facts to memory, but it should be the key to opening one's mind. It can serve as a tool of understanding the world around us, the past and the future. Why place artificial limits to our mind and our intelligence? From the origins of Earth and ours, to the glimpses of the universe, we have a lot more to learn. Keep searching and keep supporting education.