Monday, January 30, 2006

Reaping what you sow

Per a Reuters report today:
"Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, urged foreign donors to continue to send money to the Palestinian Finance Ministry. Last year, the EU gave the Palestinian Authority 500 million euros ($615 million), funds vital for its survival."

My response to the honorable Mr. Haniyeh: Too freekin' bad.

Use whatever cliché you like. You reap what you sow and in the end you get what you deserve. Well, in this case you, Hamas, deserves nothing in the way of foreign aid.

Let this be a lesson to all groups, terrorist or otherwise, who use violence against civilians to "bring awareness" to their cause - you will never be acceptable to the world. And let it be a lesson to those who support these groups: put these people in power, and you lose too.

To prove that Hamas was ready to work with the world in a community of peace and global collaboration, Mr. Haniyeh's response to questions about Hamas's intentions to disarm was answered with a statement that the world instead needed to understand violence as part of the "Palestinian Reality."


The Reality is that Palestinian terror groups have created a culture of violence which now extends back at them. Again - you reap what you sow.

Yes Fatah could also have been called a terrorist group who then gained some level of international diplomacy. But after a decade of targeting women and children as their prey, Hamas deserves no such respect. And yes, Israel has made their serious mistakes too in their trigger-happiness. But is it any wonder that Israeli soldiers are on edge? They've been put there by Hamas. So don't now say Hamas's penchant for violence against civilians is somehow vindicated by the fact that Israelis fire back.

And the Palestinian people as a whole now need to understand, quickly and in no uncertain terms, that their decision to put this terrorist group in power is not, and will not ever be viewed as an acceptable one in the eyes of the world. Period. End of discussion.

And don't come begging the EU, the UN, or anyone else now for aid now. Open your eyes. Use your brains. Admit you made a mistake, correct it, and maybe we'll talk.

Otherwise... you're on your own.

And you have no one to blame for it but yourselves. You had a chance to make things better, and you consciously chose to pass that chance up. So stop crying about poor put-upon you. No one believes the tears any more.


Pop quiz

A. War.

B. Diminishing oil reserves.

C. Soaring crude prices.

D. Hurricane Katrina.

E. $3 at the pump.

F. Exxon Mobile posts $10 BILLION quarter of record profits - second quarter with more than $100 BILLION in sales.

Question: Which of the above does not belong?

Answer: ...
(Hint: No, this is NOT a trick question)

It's a good thing we are all pretty damn dumb.

Otherwise, someone might answer this correctly...


Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's okay... He's just an Iraqi

Unfortunately, we again see evidence that tells the world that Americans find torture and interrogation to the death as practices that are "unfortunate" but not necessarily "wrong."

Oh I'm sorry, I meant "negligent," and not necessarily "criminal."

And it's apparently okay to shoot someone 60 times and put a sign over their bodies when you're done... and claim self-defense...

Do we really not realize how exponentially more dangerous this has made the world for our own military (not to mention civilians), who will never again enjoy any humanitarian rights when captured?

Make no mistake, it's us who have lowered the ethical bar for the world here. And the world will never be quite the same because of it.

But, after all... it's all done in the name of fighting terrorism, right?


We should remember every day...

Those we have chosen to put in harm's way...

The lost fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends.

Just so we don't forget:

Those who have died in service in Iraq


Those who who have died because of service in Iraq

All are casualties of our war on terror.

When will we have sent as many Americans to their deaths in the name of 9/11 as were killed on 9/11?

And done it in a place that has nothing to do with 9/11...

We are all a party to their deaths for not demanding accountability every day for why these lives are being sacrificed.

Someday we'll remember that supporting our troops means not putting them in harm's way except only as a last resort.



In a study released this week, commissioned by the Pentagon, the US Military was deemed to be "Overextended" and on the verge of breaking.

"Not so" says Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

And what specifically in the report does Rumsfeld dispute? Well... apparently nothing, because...
The secretary suggested he was not familiar with reports suggesting an overburdened military. But, he said, "It's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected."
In other words: He hasn't even read the damn report that his own beloved Pentagon commissioned - and yet he claims everything in it is wrong.

Good research there Rummy.

Talk about an administration living in its own little misguided world. Or maybe this is Rumsfeld's interpretation of a Faith-based initiative. If he just "believes" it, that makes it so.

Does it get any better than this?


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Be afraid...

Be very afraid...

In Alberto Gonzales' speech, at Georgetown University Tuesday morning, our beloved P-DiC (Presidential Defender in Chief) claimed the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, which bars wiretaps on Americans at home without a court warrant, did not prevent the NSA wiretapping program. While this opinion is nothing new, the actual words of Attorney General Gonzales, and his reasoning, are new - and frightening.

His statement:
It is simply not the case that Congress in 1978 anticipated all the ways that the president might need to act in times of armed conflict to protect the United States,
I'm sorry... did I read that right?

Did our Attorney General just say:
No prior ruling or law enacted at a date prior to the present is truly valid because the founders of those laws could in no way anticipate, nor comprehend, the complexities of the times we live in. And, the Congress of the United States, at an ancient time (almost 28 years ago), did not understand, nor have the experience of the rigors of being a nation at war, nor did it have the foresight nor intelligence to understand the unique details of telecommunications wiretapping that a president of the future may so desperately need to protect us from our enemies.
Okay, that's my paraphrase, but... tell me where I'm wrong, please.

Alberto Gonzales has just put a stake in the ground and told us all, in effect, that prior law is meaningless because it was not made within the context of today's events. This statement is in complete disagreement with the entire fiber of our legal community and the concept of legal precedent.

This has to be one of the most frightening statements I have ever heard from a member of this Administration.

No... this *IS* the most frightening because it is the public admission that in no uncertain terms directly states: "We truly believe we can do whatever we want - period." This is not a statement like all previous defenses that have said, "we believe our actions are legal because..." No, this one states very clearly: "we don't care because we think the laws are invalid, and therefore we are not bound to follow them."

And this is coming not from some non-authoritative lacky. This is the Attorney General of the United States - our top Law Enforcement officer.

So, straight from the voice of the Administration, who also told us that articles of the Geneva Convention were "quaint," we have now been told that prior law and precedent are relatively meaningless - and can be interpreted at-will by the sitting administration. Where does this end? Is it only laws enacted by Congress? Does it extend to all prior rulings of the Supreme Court? All international law? Treaties? Science and environmental findings?

How about the Constitution and The Bill of Rights? Are those quaint conventions that are meaningless because their philosophy was espoused at a time that this administration believes was ignorant of "times of armed conflict to protect the United States" simply because it was in the past?

So... does this declaration of uselessness of prior law extend to individual citizens of the United States as well. Can we now use this defense in a Court of Law? "I'm sorry Your Honor, but the founders of the 16th Amendment simply could not anticipate all the ways that tax appropriation could be misused and therefore refusal to pay into this corrupt system is well within a citizen's rights, based on this interpretation."

Do we need an Executive Branch for Dummies book to be delivered to Pennsylvania Avenue?

Apparently Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Bush have forgotten their place in the trifecta of American Government. They've also seemingly forgotten about a few historical events that were fresh in the minds and hearts of all these previous governments when they enacted these laws with no apparent foresight - most notably: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

No, I think the founders of our laws, from 1776 to 1978 and beyond, all understood perfectly well the ways that a President should act in times of armed conflict. They understood perfectly well.

In fact, I'll bet that's exactly why the laws are written as they are today...


The 'facts' on Social Security reform

Just for fun...

A little look inside the mind of the leader of the free world - on "how" his proposed plan would "fix" the Social Security problem.

In the President's own words:
Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Wow... and here I thought it might be hard to understand...


Friday, January 20, 2006

The freedom to Google

The recent news that Google was defying a subpoena by the Bush Administration came as a shock on several levels.

The first blow to the senses was the realization that this administration truly is like the multiheaded monster in the Disney film Hercules: cut off one head and two even more menacing ones grow back.

What bold little buggers these people are that are trying to have their privacy-violating fingers in every aspect of our daily lives. Slap them down here, and they pop up over there. Let's see what we can get away with before anyone catches on.

And let's do it all in the name, again, of National Security.

The second, and most painful blow to the head came from the realization that Google is the only company named as being "defiant." That means every other Search company out there, from Yahoo! to MSN to AOL said "Sure, no problem."

These companies turned over data (without so much as a public notification) that is damn-near useless for anything except innocent persecution. Oh, but they say they've only turned over "search strings" - yeah, don't believe it. Search strings are meaningless when viewed in the vacuum of anonymity.

Why do I say that? Because search queries tell you absolutely NOTHING without being seen in context of the person doing the query, or in relation to other queries made by the same person - and even then, what little information "seems" to be relevant is just as easily misinterpreted by goons sitting in a corner trying to define "patterns" based on... well... random information. It's all make believe.

Let me put it another way. Let's say the intent really is to define a "pattern" when looking at search queries. The only possible way to define a useful pattern would be to link search queries to an individual "requester." Otherwise, there's no pattern to be established. To be able to do that means there must be access to some level of user data - at the least, an IP address.

So, that requires that more information is being looked at than just random search queries.

But, the bottom line still revolves around the fact that even with this information in hand, its usefulness is remains nonexistent. I do web development (and obviously some political blogging). I constantly scour the web for lots of information types and visit politically questionable sites, as well as what some would call "morally" questionable sites. I'm an information hound and a research zealot. Look at my search queries in any given week and you may get an entirely different picture of "me" than who I really am.

But, once a pattern is defined, who I "really" am wouldn't matter. If my queries fit the pattern, then I'm a suspect (or guilty!) - without any crime being committed. Minority Report come to life.

Well, we've already seen the emergence of the "thought police" in american society, so maybe this shouldn't be so shocking.

We're twenty years late, but 1984 is ominously starting to ring true.

Oh Big Brother Where Art Thou!


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Of patriots and traitors

This morning I received an email from a friend telling me to take a look at an account of a peaceful war protester who was roughed up at a small Republican fundraiser.

As you'll see in the story, he wasn't roughed up badly - but the entire account is another troubling sign of how the ruling class is turning this country into a land of intolerance, narrow-mindedness and bullying. And this "love it or leave it" attitude jeopardizes the foundation of our country.

With that said, this account doesn't go without its bright spots.

First, the fact that some individuals are still willing to endure personal persecution to voice important opposing views, even at seemingly non-essential local levels, is a refreshing sight.

People who do not seek a national spotlight for themselves and who truly believe they can make a difference just by preaching their heartfelt message - and doing it peacefully without recognition or fame - are the basis for why our democracy has worked for as long as it has.

Civil dissent is a necessity for democracy - unlike what our current administration is trying to make you believe. Dissent does NOT equate to treason or traitorous behavior, it equates instead to the unique freedom to openly debate our course and existence as a country. In other words, dissent equates to being an American. It equates to Patriotism.

The second thing I find heartening in the story is the intelligence, and supportiveness, of the Police officers who were called to the scene. They performed their duties in both a professional and knowledgeable way. Kudos to them. Big Kudos.

So, at the end of the day we get to witness a snapshot of our country in minutiae: patriots, traitors, protectors, defilers, intellects, and idiots.

It just depends on your point of view to determine who is who.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Leading on the environment

Well, as sometimes happens life (and its many responsibilities) gets in the way of blogging consistently - so I'm delinquent in waxing poetic.

But I will leave you with one thought for the day: Who is to blame when America is no longer Beautiful?

On the serious side, read this indictment of the Bush Administration's position on global warming by none other than 5 Republican former directors of the EPA. Finally, a group who is not willing to sacrifice the world to tow the party line.

On the lighter side, if you haven't already seen it, enjoy this wonderfully funny Will Ferrell take on our President and his views on global warming.

Let's hope the planet can survive three more years...


Friday, January 13, 2006

Where are the heroes

he·ro (hîr'ö) n.

A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

Not to mention sacrificing livelihood, reputation and career - those items our representatives in Congress care most about...

It should come as no surprise then that my new definition of a hero is Rep. John Murtha.

For a refreshing taste of heroic commentary, without the "issue of the day" whininess of all other Democratic leaders, read Rep. Murtha's comments today on the Iraqi war.

If only we had more heroes in Congress...


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Do you have your papers?


Land of Discovery. Home of the Wright Brothers, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. A state of farmers and technologists. Home of Amish, Jew, and Gentile. Home of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. And a State filled to the brim with German heritage.

A German heritage that unfortunately now may carry more comparisons to its less than favorable years.

How many B-movie WWII films have you laughed at, or cringed at, when a zealous SS agent said the infamous words "Do you have your papers?" to your protagonist hero? And then you thought quietly to yourself "Thank God I don't live in a place like that."

Oh Yeah? Welcome to Ohio in 2006.

Yesterday, the Ohio Senate passed a new law creatively titled The Ohio Patriot Act which will allow police officers in Ohio to ask anyone for their name/identification for any reason, at any time, anywhere.

Failure to identify yourself can lead directly to jail.

Yes, you read that right. In the over-used and over-abused continuation of loss of civil liberties done in the name of 9/11, Ohio has now adopted policy that was once the cultural punch line of the horrific joke called the Nazi party.

Show me your papers.

What's next? Mass programs of propaganda? Public policy that opposing speech indicates traitorous behavior? Ominous programs to electronically watch and monitor every citizen as if all were potential threats to the state?

Oh, wait... never mind...


Wrong for the court?

Ah, what a difference a day makes...

While I take most things with a grain of salt, and I usually cringe at the sight of our lovely "representatives" (I use the word lightly) in Congress making their theatrical plays when in the spotlight, I have to admit that I found some of yesterday's testimony in the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings troubling.

And this after I was impressed the day before.

But my "troubles" aren't necessarily with what Judge Alito said - his answers were generally palpable - it was what his answers said about him.

There are a lot of things in my life that I don't remember - but not many that I ever put on job applications. Judge Alito's forgetfulness over his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton seems at odds with a man who can remember in great detail each of hundreds of case decisions.

So, is Sam Alito a man who pads his resume on a job application with affiliations he really didn't have and truly can't remember? Or is Sam Alito a man who can have public selective amnesia about controversial issues in order to not make himself look bad. Either way, the answer does not reflect kindly on him as a Supreme Court candidate.

In addition, while I again get frustrated that the Democrats still focus so much on Roe, it is interesting that Judge Alito now appears to hold out Roe as the only topic he will not call settled law and will use the "this case may come before the court so I can't discuss details" excuse on - although yesterday he was willing to discuss just about anything else even though cases involving those topics may also come before the court.

So, the picture we now have of Sam Alito appears to be much more blurry than when these hearings began. Is this a man who does and says things in a manner such that they will best serve his own interests? Is this a man who does in fact have some personal agendas? Or is this a man who will truly rule from point of law and precedent, albeit with a conservative leaning?

Your guess is as good as mine.

But in the end, I believe we will all find out soon enough, as it appears Judge Alito is indeed headed towards confirmation.

All we can do now is hope for the best.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Right" for the Court?

On my drive to the office today I had occasion to listen to a few minutes of the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Sam Alito. I thought it would be a boring, vague and uninformative event.

For the portion I listened to, I was wrong.

And one unexpected thing jumped out at me almost immediately, and oddly didn't change as I listened more.

Judge Alito should be confirmed.

As strongly as I held the belief that Harriet Miers' confirmation should be shot out of a long canon into an eternal abyss, I'm also beginning to feel that Sam Alito's confirmation should be approved - even though I don't necessarily agree with his positions or right-leaning bent.

But there is no question that Judge Alito is an intelligent and highly qualified judge who can easily satisfy the enormous responsibility of being a Supreme Court justice - even the American Bar Association confirms that.

What seems apparent from Alito's testimony, at least today's, is that he does in fact appear to have an understanding of his responsibility to the law, and not an agenda, as a Judge. And to his credit he appears to not shy away from directly answering questions regarding his positions and his previous rulings. Yes, like all nominees he'll shy away from questions on potential future rulings. But Alito is unique in that he has hundreds of existing rulings to talk about. And at least from what I heard, he has no problem talking about those.

To say I was instantly impressed with some of his answers would be an understatement. Perhaps it's because I had low expectations of what I'd hear from these confirmation hearings. I assumed Alito would tiptoe around every question and issue - he did not. And his answers were such that I would find any serious Democratic opposition using tactics such as filibusters to be extremely non-justifiable. Yes - feel free to oppose him on philisophical differences, but don't play games with the process when this is at least a qualified candidate.

So let's get down to the only question most of the "opposition" seems to care about anymore: Roe (personally I think there are MANY more important issues).

Do I care what "attorney" Alito said about the Constitution and Roe back when he was a Republican Administration advocate back in 1985 (20 years ago) more than I care about how "Judge" Alito acted as a federal judge over the past few years in his rulings on cases involving Roe? Nope - couldn't care less. If all his rulings supported those statements (or if he had no rulings at all) then I would care more. As it is, recent actions mean more to me than 20 year old statements.

What are the real facts? As a federal judge, Sam Alito has had three rulings involving Roe. If you had to classify his rulings as "pro-choice" or "anti-abortion" (since my most liberal friends insist that these are the only choices), then it's safe to say that Judge Alito has ruled twice in a pro-choice manner and only once in an anti-abortion manner.

Sorry to disappoint, but that does not indicate someone who advocates an anti-abortion agenda from the bench.

And, knowing the details of that one case that many are calling an anti-abortion ruling, (in which I agree with his ruling and find it in no way a threat to Roe) as a Democrat I personally think he's 3 for 3.

Enough. Case closed. Let's move on from the beaten-to-death abortion issue.

We've found what appears to be a well-qualified, smart, open-minded, law following and precedent following nominee to the Supreme Court.

Might as well keep him - even though any nominee put forth by this administration is suspect by association. And of course, my opinion may change tomorrow...

The Democrats will look foolish (and like raving radicals) at this stage if they try any all-out opposition to this nominee. And, if Sam Alito is not confirmed, woe is any nominee of a future Democratic Administration.

And woe is us, if the current administration gets yet another chance to nominate another Harriet Miers.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Land of Opportunity - unless you're disabled

Instead of adding unnecessary commentary, I'd simply like to reprint below a letter written by Sue Swenson, executive director of The Arc of the United States and Stephen Bennett, president and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy - two of the nation's leading non-profit organizations advocating for people with disabilities.

Their letter was in response to the Congress's passage of the Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Reconciliation bill ("the Budget Reduction Act")
Nationwide, people with disabilities should be saddened to know that their United States Congress considers their health and well-being a less than worthy investment. The Arc and UCP can truthfully say this could be the darkest day for people with disabilities and the future looks even bleaker.

Congress has given State Governors unprecedented abilities to balance their state budgets on the backs of the neediest. Most low-income people with disabilities rely on Medicaid for their health and long-term care. Governors can raise co-payments on Medicaid's prescription medicines and therapies for millions of beneficiaries with disabilities, forcing them to choose between life-saving services or rent, clothes and food. People with disabilities who have no money can be denied the critical prescription drugs and long-term care they need to survive if they cannot pay these co-payments required by the new law.

Children born with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and related developmental disabilities will suffer without Medicaid's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program, which can prevent and minimize disability through early, regular health screenings and treatments. In addition, new onerous work requirements for TANF recipients will force many parents of children with disabilities further into poverty.

This Budget Reconciliation is unlike any other in Congress's history and shows a true callousness for our nation's poorest and most vulnerable populations. Passage of this law represents a huge set back for services and supports for our constituents and their families. They deserve better.
Another proud day to be an American...


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, the New Year is here, and as you can tell I haven't written anything for a week or so now.

Funny how life gets in the way sometimes...

Kids off school, holiday activities, shopping, decorating, parties here - parties there, and of course a work schedule and clients that don't understand the meaning of "off for the holidays."

So, my philosophical respite has been put on hold.

Hopefully 2006 will bring new and better things to talk about than the economy, the war, natural disasters, or the feable government we've elected. I sure hope so - I'm ready for a more positive future.

In the meantime - enjoy the celebration, hope and expectation of everything a new year may bring.