Friday, March 24, 2006

The Liberation of Afghanistan?

Today's story on CNN about "convicted" Christian convert Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan has me shaking my head.

Actually, no... it has me screaming out the window!

This is why we have sons, fathers, daughters and mothers dying to support a "Liberated Afghanistan"? Do we all now still believe that only radical Islam is intent on engaging in Holy War? I'd say this sounds pretty suspect.

Wow... I truly can't find words suitable to express my feelings here.

I do find it humorous that the only defense the Afghani government can come up with to spare him the death penalty may be that he's insane - evidenced obviously by his most irrational actions of embracing a non-Islam religion.

The country's Imams have said even if he is released on mental incompetence he should be put to death anyway.

Here are a few memorable quotes of our new allies:

Cleric Abdul Raoulf (a member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council and is considered to be a moderate):
"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die."
"The government is playing games. The people will not be fooled. Cut off his head! We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left."
Hamidullah (chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque):
"The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."
Mirhossain Nasri (the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul):
"If he is allowed to live in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can, too," he said. "We must set an example. ... He must be hanged."

This is better than the Taliban?

Mirhossain Nasri also stated:
"We are Muslims and these are our beliefs. This is much more important to us than all the aid the world has given us."
Fine. I want my $100 Billion back...

As for Abdul Rahman, any bets this poor man won't see his 42nd birthday?


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ignorance and local politicians

Ok, so lately I've been in a bit of a mood...

It's a mood that can best be described as the "I'm tired of the ignorance of others shoved down my throat, and effecting every aspect of my life, bombarding me with completely idiotic and assinine restrictions and regulations, because someone else is brain-dead to any human level of common sense" mood.

It's a great mood, you should try it sometime.

And it was while in this lovely, patient and understanding mood that I recently received a letter from my local Board of Township Trustees telling us all that the basketball goals in our driveways and at our curbs were now "illegal" and needed to go - or they'd remove them for us.

To that end, and attached for your reading pleasure, is my diatribe fired off to my local public servants - idiots all...

Re: Letter from Township Roads Foreman, dated March 8, 2006

I write to you today as a citizen, a taxpayer, and a resident of the Township angry over the completely insensible mandate of removal of basketball goals from the imaginary easement (i.e. right-of-way) running eleven feet inward from the curb along our residential street.

I know you have sent out many of these letters to other residents, and I know my arguments speak for many of them in my own neighborhood, but this letter specifically deals with the basketball goal on my street. The goal, which is a shared community item and has stood in its current location without complaint for five years, was the subject of one of your letters dated March 8, 2006.

Reviewing your letter

I find both the subject and the tone of the letter problematic - especially considering the duration this goal has stood in its current location without so much as a hint of problem.

Beginning your letter with a statement that the Township is pro-recreation does have its humorous element considering the nature of the letter's content, but in a much more serious way it is a short-sighted statement at best. At its worst it is a mandate that directly impacts the safety of our children in an irresponsibly negative way.

First I'd like to discuss a few of your background points. Your letter refers to a 1992 Ohio Supreme Court ruling as justification for this action, and yet the specific case is not cited, nor are any corroborating details of the case provided. Next, the letter jumps right into supposed facts regarding the Ohio Revised Code, making it appear as if the Township's hands are tied by the ORC.

Your letter incorrectly states:
"...the second of which specifically classifies athletic or recreational apparatus as an obstruction".
In fact ORC Section 5571.14(B)(3) itself does no such thing. It states:
"Objects that may be declared to be a public nuisance under this section include a fence, post, pole, athletic or recreational apparatus, rock, or berm, any vegetation, or any other object identified by the board or superintendent as interfering with or obstructing the township road under division (A) of this section."
So while any of those objects "may be declared" to be a public nuisance, they are not defined as such by default. The ORC clearly states, by its choice of the word "may", the item in question must also be identified as "interfering with or obstructing the township road..." which none of the items in question do (more on that in a moment). Just because something "can" be classified as an obstruction at times, under certain circumstances, does not mean it is an obstruction simply by existing in any situation.

A basketball goal that is truly blocking a thru-way is significantly different than a basketball goal at the end of a driveway or at the curb in the widened section of a cul-de-sac. We've had police cars, ambulances and even the Township Fire Department's Hook & Ladder on the street - with the basketball goal there - without impediment.

Your assertion to the public that you are requiring this action in order to comply with Ohio law is simply misrepresentative of the facts.

Obstructions and right of ways

Your letter goes on to state that political subdivisions are "liable for injury or property loss caused by failure to keep public roads open, in repair, and free from nuisance."

But let's be clear here. There is no road maintenance, no road traffic, impeded here, and there are no trees or overhead power lines to be maintained. This is a cul-de-sac with no thru-way. The community basketball goal is in a position located where the circle flare begins and the street is wider than a typical residential road. The road is very much open and in repair - the only other thing ever to have been in the vicinity of the basketball goal was a parked car.

And speaking of parked cars... on any given day, and at any given time, our streets - like the streets of any neighborhood - contain a number of parked vehicles along the curbs. Parked cars, that are perfectly legal and not considered an obstruction to the right of way, that extend more than five feet into the roadway – and yet a basketball hoop at the end of a driveway which either does not extend at all into the roadway, or at most a few feet, is considered to be an obstruction to the thru-way.

It's interesting to note that you consider parked vehicles which constrict traffic flow, are more easily backed into by service vehicles, and are not easily movable in an emergency situation, to be less of an obstruction and nuisance than a portable basketball goal. In reality this point is simply ridiculous and cannot be justified.

On safety

And as for safety… This mandate misses the mark on many levels. Yes, let's have our 10-13 year olds trying to move a weighted basketball goal into position to use it, instead of leaving it safely and sturdily in its usable location - which again is in a location that is an impediment to nothing (and can be moved by adults when and if needed).

But that's only a side safety issue. The real issue is the Township's presumption that children are not safe playing in the street and that facilities exist that are safely accessible for our neighborhood children - which makes removal of private facilities acceptable. Both these points couldn't be further from the truth.

First, there is nowhere safer for our children than in their own yards and on their own streets – especially these that are not thru-ways – where they are within sight of home as they play together. Do you honestly believe there is danger playing basketball at the curb of a cul-de-sac. Secondly, in light of today's predatory reality, there are no Township facilities that exist in a supervised environment.

Which brings us to the major safety issue which has yet to be addressed by the Township. Any facilities that are within one mile walking or bike riding distance are along major roadways where there exist no sidewalks. Not only do our children have to travel long distances, away from the safety of their own neighborhood, but they are expected to travel along paths that are unsafe because the Township has not provided safe sidewalks to access these locations. For this reason alone, this action is extremely contentious.

On liability

Yes, I know the arguments. You claim "liability" as if this is some new concern that has just surfaced. But the reality is that anyone can sue anyone over anything at anytime. Why not just shut the Township down - I'm sure every aspect of the Township administration has some level of liability. Your job is to know when a potential liability is truly a realistic liability. I would like to know what studies and statistics you reviewed to determine this action was necessary within the Township. How many incidents have been reported nationally? How many in the Township in 2005?

As for property damage, again if parked vehicles, mailboxes and fire hydrants are not a problem, and can be maneuvered around, how is a basketball goal (especially one in a driveway) a significant issue that it is now required to be located past the eleven foot easement line?

Neighbors and community

Our street is a safe gathering place for neighboring children precisely because it is a cul-de-sac and there is no thru traffic. It's where kids come to play and be safe. And on many spring, summer and fall evenings it's where neighbors come to recreate. And in this setting, the basketball goal is no more obtrusive than the plethora of bikes, scooters and toys that litter the curb area of residential streets during daylight hours.

But now you're telling us that after living in our neighborhoods and participating in this age-old tradition with our neighbors over the last 8 years, we should remove these focal points of play and interactivity, and ship our kids out of our neighborhoods, over unsafe roadways, to unsafe locations? And you expect us to accept this?

And let's not forget why many basketball goals are located where they are. Due to other building and zoning regulations imposed by the County and Township the elevation of the majority of homes in our neighborhood is such that yards and drives are at a significant incline and it is completely impractical (not to mention unsafe) to locate a basketball goal anywhere other than the flat of the end of the drive at the curb, or another location within the eleven foot easement.

Township administration as a good neighbor

I do not claim to know the daily responsibilities of the Roads Foreman, but I would sincerely hope they entail more than cruising the residential neighborhoods of the Township looking for inconsequential easement violations of property owners. I would more appreciate the same level of scrutiny over the failed snow removal of my street during the winter months, or the placement of the single plow track either in front of my driveway or, as in 2004, in a four foot pile of ice completely blocking my mailbox and drive earning me a letter of reprimand from the US Post Office for having a barrier in front of my mailbox - which it was impossible for me to move.

I expect the Township administration to be a good neighbor and implement positive and supportive programs to benefit residents of the Township. Yet instead it appears we are using our elected offices to mandate punitive measures against activities that bring residents in our communities together. Why? Your letter states it loud and clear: "...due to the current legal climate." What an irresponsible act to perpetuate on your constituents and neighbors, all in the name of limited liability.

You have the power - and the responsibility as our representatives - to do what is right for the residents, their children, their neighborhoods, and their quality of living by supporting and promoting activities that help bring neighbors out of their houses and build community. Instead you’re actions here indicate a desire to cater only to the administration's irrational list of "what ifs?" and thus make "family neighborhoods" a thing of the past for residents of the Township.

In closing

It is you, the Board of Township Trustees, not the ORC who is declaring that a basketball goal is a public nuisance. It is you who are trying to jump on an illogical bandwagon and join a minority of other areas statewide, and nationally, who have instituted similar measures.

Public nuisance? A gathering place, supported by the residents, that is a safe recreational area for young children who do not have to travel to an unsupervised location via unsafe roadways to engage in sport, play and recreation is to you a public nuisance - you who do not live in this neighborhood, who did not build here, who do not have small children here, and who are not raising your families here. Shame on all of you.

The Township Trustees need to own up to this and find a way to make allowances for common sense. And in this case, common sense says that you are doing more harm to neighborhoods than good through this punitive global mandate. Your intentions may have been in the right place, but this action is a misguided application of that intent. You are in effect harming the children and families in the community you believe you are protecting, and whom you were elected to serve.

The township owes it to its residents to do a much better job than this notice represents.


Friday, March 10, 2006

The nightmare scenario

An article in Insight on the News today suggested that plans may already be in motion to push for the "retirement" of Vice President Dick Cheney in early 2007.

My reaction to this is twofold: On one hand, I'm sure I'll personally give a toast of thankfulness that Cheney is removed from a position of power within this extremely frightening administration. But on the other hand... I'll weep for the United States.

What a ________ [fill in blank] strategy.

You've heard it before: The 2008 presidential election represents the first time since 1952 that a presidential race would not include an incumbent - President or Vice President. And the race will most likely be a true dogfight in the gritty sense of the word.

But now this...

With Cheney stepping down (potentially for "health" reasons), Bush could invoke the 25th Amendment (Under the 25th amendment, whenever there is a vacancy in the office of Vice President, the President nominates a successor who is confirmed by a majority vote of both houses of Congress).

What evil genius...

The Republican party could put a strong 2008 candidate in place of Cheney and get a free ticket to the incumbency advantage without fear of baggage and negative ties to the current administration - after all, this new vice-president wasn't a part of the administration for the first six years. Can you just picture the implications of John McCain or Rudy Giuliani being appointed Vice President for two years?

The simplicity, brilliance and frightening reality of this scenario should make everyone (Democrats and Republicans alike) tremble.

But do we truly believe anyone would manipulate the laws of the nation and the trust of the people to perform such a dubious and self serving political act.

Unfortunately... yes

Be afraid. When this happens, it will be a sign of the end of democracy as we once knew it.


Democracy or Republic - make your choice

A little philosophical food for thought...

We hear a lot about "being a democracy", but the fact of the matter is (which the majority of US citizens really don't understand) that the US as a nation is not a democracy - we are a Federal Republic.

We are the United States of America - not just America.

Let's look at a few definitions:
  • de*moc*ra*cy : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
  • re*pub*lic : A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them
  • fed*er*al : formed by a compact between political units that surrender their individual sovereignty to a central authority but retain limited residuary powers of government
Yes, each state is in itself a republican democracy. But our country is a federal republic.

Sound confusing? It can be if you don't take the time to think it through.

In a democracy, everyone plays by the same rules and the same laws. This is the case within a state but not so in our complicated form of national government where federal laws and guidelines supplement (and at times compete with) individual - and quite separate - state laws that vary from state to state.

In a democracy everyone's vote carries the same weight. Again, this is the case within a state but not within the federal government. Think the Electoral College. And how about the House of Representatives? Not only do individual citizen's votes note count the same throughout the country (there is no national popular vote), but even each State itself doesn't have the same voice in government. Sorry, but Connecticut doesn't have the same power as California. More electoral votes, more representatives. The overall dynamics are complex.

In a national democracy, each area is governed by a branch or outpost of the single national government. Yet in our country each state is governed by its own independently elected government.

In a national democracy, each area is judged under a single legal and court system. In the US, each state maintains it's own judicial branch including its own state Supreme Court.

We have always been a complicated governmental system struggling to understand and define where one layer of government ends and the other begins. And it just keeps getting harder every day as state and federal officials fight over turf wars.

Think of all the state versus federal issues still in the headlines today after decades of debate and conflict. Abortion, euthanasia, medical marijuana, gay marriage. Who has jurisdiction and who has control?

To hear the Federal government side, you would believe that the time has come for us to move to a national federalist society having one set of laws governing all citizens. And in many ways, the last few decades have moved us closer to that ideal. More and more federal laws are created that trump state laws, and more and more state laws are found to be unconstitutional when taken out of state courts and moved to federal courts. The lines of what is a state issue and what can be a federal issue have blurred.

Some would say this is good - shouldn't everyone in the country have the same rights and be subjected to the same laws? And some would say this is bad - shouldn't a state have the right to mold itself as its people desire, and then people of like-minded beliefs can live and be governed in social harmony? And some would say it depends on which law we're talking about. It is a very grey area.

But one thing remains clear: We are not currently a national democracy.

Issues continue to erupt specifically to test the state versus federal jurisdiction lines, such as the new South Dakota law banning abortion directly in violation of the federal ruling making it legal, and the federal government making medical marijuana illegal in direct contradiction to a California law which allowed it. As these issues grow, the biggest question we need to answer is:

Do we really want to be a national democracy? Or do we want to remain a republic of independent states?

The choices we make now will determine our future existence as a nation. And that's what makes it all so very important to address today.


Friday, March 03, 2006

On Bush and Hitler

Isn't life grand when the actions of a person or group seem to confirm the "treacherous lies" they are trying to deny? It's a Catch-22 kind of thing, and is at its best quite humorous to witness, and at its worst an unbelievable sight to behold.

So it is when the Bush administration and its far-right ultra conservative lemmings are compared to historically non-pleasant figures, such as Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, and then the heavy hand of this uber-group is brought down mightily on the messenger - in the same way speech was prohibited and thought was stifled in 1930's Deutschland. Point proven.

And it's even better when the traitorous accusations are made by a teenager - who through his obvious years of world knowledge has a great comprehension of right, wrong, and enemy of the state. Hmmm... sound like any Youth you've heard of before...

This example could not be more glaring than the current case of Colorado High School teacher Jay Bennish. Bennish was suspended on Wednesday after having made comments during his Social Studies class about President Bush:

Some of his egregious comments:

He said President Bush believed in "using our military throughout the world to make people like us. That sounds a lot like what Adolph Hitler did."

And, he stated there were similarities between what Bush said during his State of the Union address and "things that Adolf Hitler used to say."

Wow, does anyone else have a sudden urge to scratch their head in some befuddled disbelief and say "Well, duh?"

Just for giggles, let's look at a few other notable quotes on this topic:
We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
- George W. Bush

The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.
- Adolf Hitler
And how about two more:
We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom -- or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life... In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting -- yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership.... In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores...The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us.
- George W. Bush

Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
- Hermann Goering
So... where is the treachery in Mr. Bennish's comments?

Let's look at one more of Mr. Bennish's egregious comments:
The United States was "probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth."
Well, whether that is statistically true or not, the US has in fact invaded Iraq twice in the past two decades and killed over one hundred thousand there - most of them civilian collateral damage. That's pretty violent - especially if you're one of the hundred thousand. So I wouldn't classify this comment as being wildly psychotic.

But the icing on the cake in this case are the comments by uber-youth 10th grade student Sean Allen who taped Mr. Bennish's lecture and took it to the media. Young Mr. Allen stated:
"So these kids are going to have notes on why George Bush is related to Hitler and why the state of Israel was founded on violence and terrorism... These kids are going to have notes on this and accept that as fact."
Umm, yeah, maybe... but when's the last time any 10th grader took anything his teachers said as absolute fact?

What's your point Sean. Is this ultra-conservative brain-dead think-speak, or simply your 15 minutes of fame? Or does your upbringing teach you that any idea you don't agree with is wrong and should be suppressed?

Well, here's a lesson for you: First, you live in the United States of America where ALL differing ideas are supposed to be allowed and encouraged. And, second, you obviously haven't been studying your history lessons because Adolf Hitler was about more than the Holocaust. Hitler led Germany from a floundering state to a state that could actually willingly participate in the Holocaust. How? By an incredible path of lies, propaganda and multitudes of people who went along for the ride because they believed their leader was a "good and moral patriot."

Oh, and you're also only 16 - believe it or not, you don't know everything. And you apparently still have a lot of growing up to do.

As for those who have pushed for Mr. Bennish's suspension and firing - You do understand you're proving his point, right?


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Why the rush?

That's what I'd like to know with regards to the UAE/Dubai ports deal.

Why does the administration want to rush this forward - and why would a President, who supposedly knew nothing about the deal, when he learned that there was opposition to it based on security concerns have a first reaction to say
"I'll veto any legislation that tries to stop this deal."
And this with regards to the takeover of US ports, within the continental US, by a state-owned company of a state that supported the Taliban, al Qaeda, and several of the 9/11 hijackers - and currently boycotts all dealings with Israel, one of our strongest allies.


And according to an article on CNN, when questioned repeatedly about the deal, the President (in his own unique way of reassuring us all) stated:
"If there was any doubt in my mind, or people in my administration's mind that our ports would be less secure and the American people endangered, this deal wouldn't go forward."
Wait... "no less secure?" Woah. Our ports are already extremely insecure with only about 5% of containers being inspected. So, shouldn't we be looking for ways to make our ports *more* secure? Saying they are "no less secure" is no big confidence booster.

And, as reported, the Coast Guard stated:
"The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities."
And now yesterday's absolutely incredible revelation that:
A review of a United Arab Emirates-owned company's plan to take over a portion of operations at key U.S. ports never looked into whether the company had ties to al Qaeda or other terrorists.
Meanwhile President Bush continues his defiant attitude with staunch support for the deal to move forward, complete with his absolutely condescending remark to the American people that "You don't need to worry about security."


But we should worry about it enough to let you wiretap our phone calls illegally, and monitor our internet searches unethically, and restrict our civil liberties?

But don't worry about letting an Arab country with proven ties to 9/11 and terror take control of our ports, just because they've been good for the last four years?

According to our President, "My position hasn't changed."

This can be one of only two things:
1) A dictator attitude of "whatever this administration wants to do is ALWAYS right and no one should ever question it", or
2) A sign that there is something more going on here than we have all been led to believe

Hmmm... oddly enough the UAE is an oil-producing country. And we are an oil-executive led country. But I'm sure there's nothing inappropriate going on behind the scenes.

Gosh, the President would tell us if there was...