Monday, September 04, 2006

Marriage, by any other name

I continue to be disappointed in gays and libertarians for their lack of integrity when it comes to the polygamy issue. Their contortions to trying to come up with a reason why polygamy is different than same sex marriage would be amusing if it wasn't such a sad display of failed character. It’s not at all dissimilar to African Americans flailing about trying to come up with reasons against gay civil rights. Pathetic really. Marriage was, is, and always will be a religious institution and in a secular democracy the government has no business advocating any form of it, let a lone picking and choosing based on the whims of currently popular opinion, religious or otherwise. If a church wants to sanctify polygamy, it should be allowed to, if it doesn't, it shouldn't have to. We should have enough integrity to say out loud though that Christians have no right to manipulate society through government and that conversely the government shouldn't be giving religious institutions, such as marriage, it imprimatur. As for secular joint-legal contracts, by any name, there is little of substantive difference between one form and another. Its just a contract and should only involve its signatories.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Surpising

The most surprising thing for me about blogging, and yes, this is my first, is that no one leaves comments. I had expected just the opposite, especially with a site that is rather political. Anyone have any ideas on this?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Death by government? 

In response to the crash of Comair Flight 5191 (47 dead), the government-run air traffic control system is saying it isn't responsible for being sure that a plane is on the right runway. Mmmmm, let's think about that. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is admitting that only a single traffic controller was staffed at the time of the accident, even though their safety policies require a minimum of two. I wonder if a private firm, one that could be sued by the families of 47 dead passengers, would be so blithe about cutting corners and shirking responsibility? Until someone figures out who is responsible for putting a plane on the correct runway, I'm thinking it might be wise to minimize flying in the US.

You go girl!

BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- Prosecutors plan to keep an eye on Madonna's weekend concert in Duesseldorf to see if the pop diva repeats the mock crucifixion scene that has drawn fire from religious leaders. Johannes Mocken, a spokesman for prosecutors in Duesseldorf, said Tuesday that a repeat of that scene during Sunday's concert could be construed as insulting religious beliefs. (ed.: ...which is apparently against the law in Germany!)


I don't know whether to be relieved or panicked to discover that America doesn't have a monopoly on religious nut cases influencing government. If offending all the right people is a reliable measure of one's worth (and I suspect it is), then Madonna continues as the gold standard.

State-of-the-art Liberal thinking

I recently came across this amazing quote in an online profile...

"Activism, Books/Reading, Camping/Outdoors, Collecting, Computers, Politics, Travel, 40 hr work week? Child labor laws? Collective bargaining? Safety regulations? Employee healthcare? Social Security? Medicare/Medicaid? Gay rights? Civil rights? Environmental protection? You like? Then... THANK A LIBERAL!"

What amazing delusional arrogance. As though thousands of years of global travel, literacy, the "outdoors," and computer technology all happened because of Democrats! No wonder the donkeys can't manage a candidate of sufficient credibility to win an election. (It's interesting that the writer neglected to mention public education--where he undoubtedly learned his critical thinking skills.)

Dark age attitudes

"The straightforward truth of the matter is free unmoderated chat isn't safe," Geoff Sutton, MSN's European general manager, told Reuters.
-- Thank goodness Microsoft isn't running the world quite yet.

Editors humor

You have to appreciate the humor of the editors at the Ventura County Star, who placed an article on Mac-hating Windows user on the same page as a glowing review of Apple’s amazing new Mac Pro workstation (VNC-8/28/06).

Those charitable Christians!

The First Baptist Church of Watertown, NY has fired a female Sunday school teacher, citing Timothy 2:11-14, which says, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Mary Lambert had taught Sunday school for First Baptist for 54 years. (Leonard Pitts, Jr., VNC—Ventura County Star 8/28/06) – Isn't it strange how much Timothy sounds like an Islamic fanatic? And people wonder why I have no positive interest in religion! I can’t think of a better example to support my belief that the chief threat to the future of America isn’t Islamic fundamentalism, but rather Christian fundamentalism, or rather religious fanaticism in general. You have to wonder if these so-called Christians have ever actually bothered to read the words of Christ in this book from which they are so fond of quoting.

Wonderful world

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Oh yeah

--WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD (George Weiss / Bob Thiele)

The cost of going West

So here in the land of $750,000 “starter” homes, and $500,000 “fixer-uppers,” it’s easy to get nervous when you see reports of home starts falling by 4.3% (LAT 8/25/06). The housing market is definitely cooling off. One can only hope it isn’t yet the first stages of the impending California property collapse that has the potential to destroy the American economy and make the great depression look like the 1980s. It’s basic economics and demographics folks, and it is going to happen—sure as the Big One. To start with, consider that California real estate values were in line with the rest of the country for 120 years--because land is land, and land without water isn't worth more no matter how good the views are. That’s right, clear up to the 1970s, even throughout the massive California population boom of the 1950s, housing costs in California were within a few percentage points of housing costs in Iowa. What changed? In the 1970’s two populist political movement took control of the California real estate market: rent control and growth control – and within two—yes, only two—years, housing costs in California started to out pace the nation by double digits. (See Excluded Americans, William Tucker) Of course, developers and California’s existing landed gentry didn’t complain, they were making out like bandits, and getting to masquerade as caring environmentalists in the process. It was the next generation that had to pay the bill, once California’s housing costs passed 200% (and still climbing) of national average. These poor folks are now spending over half their incomes for housing on which their parents and grandparents had often spent as little as 10% (see Discovery of Freedom, Rose Wilder Lane). So where is the bigger problem? It’s in the demographics. The largest portion of the American population consists of the Baby Boomers, which were the last generation to get a toehold in California real estate—and they are now getting up there in years. When they pass on (on the tail of their parents, who are a bulk holders of California real estate) and all those homes suddenly come onto the market at the same time, the value of California real estate is going to plummet, leaving all those in the younger generations who are holding interest-only mortgages facing certain bankruptcy. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of families going bankrupt all at once. And of course, they will all be lobbying for a bailout, a bailout that will make the Savings and Loan bailout of the last century look like a Republican homeless handout. Guess who’s going to be left holding the bag? It’s you, the rest of America. Californians will have gotten a free ride in Eden for the last 50 years, and you, your children, and grandchildren are going to be presented with the bill. It will be a generational transfer, like the looming Social Security collapse—only with a geographic insult added to the injury.

Go West

So, you may have noticed… I’ve been off line for a few weeks. First, I had to wrap up a beta release of a database development I’ve been working on, then, my laptop’s motherboard self-destructed (which Apple repaired for free within a 5-day turn-around, even though the laptop is over three years old—no wonder Apple is head-and-shoulders above the rest in customer satisfaction polls), and finally I chaperoned my mother to California to see her grandchildren (my sister’s kids)—all of which left little time for snarking. Mom went home Tuesday, and I’m staying on out west for a few more weeks, so you’ll be getting a lot of comments on news from the Los Angeles Times (LAT).

The price of ignorance

And speaking of odd confluences, has anyone noticed that Walmart, the store most popular with red-white-and-blue bleeding Americans, pretty much only sells stuff made in China? No wonder what’s-his-face, Pat Buchanan’s three protectionist-inspired campaigns for President were such flops. Americans are apparently so economically and politically unsophisticated that they’ll buy the cheapest product, even if it means they loose the job they need to buy the product. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely pro-free-market, and don’t support protectionist government policies, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think Americans shouldn’t buy American. They should just do so voluntarily. Choice without freedom is neither freedom nor choice.

Money for nothing...

I have come across several articles recently on the booming market for luxury good in the United States (LAT, 8/25/06), so it puzzles me that with so much money floating around that we can’t employ Americans to make a decent pocket radio. I tried to find one the other day and was surprised (and disgusted) to find that they are all made in China, and they are all of terrible quality. Yes, you can get them for as little as $2.00, but they don’t work well. So, with all this money floating around, why isn’t there some American company making $12.00 radios that actually work?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fresh Moments in a Dark World

Surely some of the funniest and most original moments on television this summer have occurred on the SciFi Channel's new hit show, Dead Like Me. Not since Twin Peaks have I had such a good time watching television.

The Cost of War

Israel's defense is hugely underwritten with U.S. tax dollars, which means not only are we dinged for bombs in the first place, we now might be dinged for refunds on the ones that didn't explode. Undoubtedly Israel will get to keep the actually reimbursements, yet another hidden, off-budget subsidy to that war-isom nation. And yet another reason to pay heed to Jefferson's warning against entangling alliances.

Risks

The Lebanese government is warning people against returning to southern Lebanon because the area is littered with unexploded bombs. Now that must be a worrying development for the arms manufacturers. Is Israel going to be demanding a refund for the bombs that didn't explode? And, more worrisome still, this time for the U.S. taxpayers, are the arms manufacturers going to be allowed to write off the expense of payouts for settling on those unexploded bombs?

The Cost of Peace

Poor, pathetic Hezbollah... They are announcing that the Israeli pullout represents a victory. What a laughable, self-delusion! As though Israel had not killed dozens of Lebanese for every single fatality exacted by Hezbollah's pathetically targeted rockets; as though the whole of southern Lebanon wasn't left in total shambles, while most Israelis barely even noticed there was a war going on. Get real, Hezbollah. The Israelis pulled out because the rest of the world, especially those in the West, were horrified, indeed disgusted, with Israel's unconscionable, over-reactive slaughter of innocent Lebanese-the people Hezbollah is supposedly organized to protect, the people that Hezbollah put in harm's way, the people that Hezbollah fighters used as shields to hide behind. Israel pulled out because of the condemnation of the very people that Islamists themselves want to slaughter. Hezbollah, if you have two dimes left over from this debacle, do yourself a favor and buy yourselves a moral conscious-and maybe a clue.

Nuclear thinking

I attended a graduate-student party at one of our huge Midwestern-state universities this past weekend. I had a lot of fun and met many very smart and interesting young people. One particularly delightful young woman turned out to be from Iran. She is here studying nuclear physics. It seems to me that if our government's interest in preventing a nuclear-capable Iran were too terribly sincere, we would not be training Iran's next generation in nuclear science. However, of course, sincerity never has been a strong suit for politics, most especially not for the Bush administration.

Friday, August 11, 2006

National Security

Our right to telephone and Internet privacy has been suspended—because of national security. Americans are being held incommunicado and habeas corpus (in effect, the Constitution) has been suspended—because of national security. American teenagers are fighting in a foreign country’s civil war without even knowing which side they are on—because of national security. YET, we let a foreign company destroy a critical part of our energy infrastructure, affecting between 2.8 and 8 percent of our national oil supply—and that’s not a national security issue???

Captured

Apparently British Petroleum, which operates the section of the pipeline in question has been neglecting maintenance for several years—and they Feds supposedly knew about it. Now BP is admitting that they were overly optimistic about the pipeline’s maintenance requirements – overly optimistic that the problem would not be discovered on their watch, is more like it. This pipeline runs through some of the most environmentally sensitive areas on the planet, and BP let the thing corrode to the point that it was already springing leaks before they decided that maybe it was a problem! And the Feds, under the Bush administration (and to be fair, the Clinton administration also) were regulating the process. Damn! Where is the government when you need them? Oh, wait, I forgot, the oil industry is the government. Talk about agency capture!

Insider Trading

So last week when it was announced that the closure of the Prudhoe Bay-section of the Alaska oil pipeline system was going to cause an 2.6% decrease in the U.S. oil supply, I did what any rational person would have—I went immediately to my local gas station and filled up. Then a curious thing happened; as I watched for the price of gasoline to skyrocket—nothing happened! Excuse me, but isn’t it a basic law of economics that when supply is restricted, price increases to mediate demand? Of course it is! So, what happened, why no change in price? Well it turns out, my local provider informs me, that the stations were told to increase their prices almost two weeks before the Alaska announcement. Huh? Is this a blatant example of insider trading or what? For two weeks, (possibly for several months, based on some reports) the oil industry has been operating on knowledge that was not made public until last week. Where is the government when you need them? Oh, wait, I forgot, the oil industry is the government.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Responsible reporting in an era of lying politicians...

Journalists should be ashamed of themselves for printing – without a shred of skepticism – their reports about the supposed terrorism plot in England. These articles repeatedly state, “It is thought…” or “We believe…” – in other words, it is NOT known. They report the plan, "revolved around liquids of some kind”, and “would have been sophisticated and extremely effective". Yet, if the enactment only “would have been”, it sounds like the so-called plot never got much past the planning stages, if it was technically feasible at all. For the past five years, our governments have been assuring us that such things are not possible, which was the justification for their glacially slow explosives scanning routines at airports. Either, they have been lying to us about the effectiveness of those very expensive security systems, or this so-called plot was not practical at all – but merely another incident of childish fantasy by those not bright enough to realize exactly what they are up against. Truly, the threat must not have been too terrible or the U.S. would have raised its internal threat level, which it has not (only the level that applies to flights from England instead). Even Mr. Blair, who stated that the situation had been tracked for a "long period of time", was, himself, insufficiently concerned so as to stay on holiday in the Caribbean. Maybe he actually is in Miami, taking lessons from our own mad-king George’s men on how to arrest mentally disabled street people and label them as terrorists. Oh, I'm not saying no threat exists, that the Islamists aren't as scary as it comes, only that when you've been lied to as often as we have been lied to by our elected officials – officials with a special interest in keeping us scared – that some degree of skepticism is appropriate from those in a communications role.

Perplexing...

If you are perplexed about today's terror news -- and all the holes and unexplained elements to the story -- then you should definitely get a copy of V for Vendetta. It can serve as your essential primer.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Now this is encouraging...

V for Vendetta is apparently selling like hotcakes. I've been in three Walmarts in the last week and each was sold out. The three copies I had pre-ordered from Amazon have yet to arrive as well, apparently back-ordered. Word of mouth is a powerfully effective marketing mechanism.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Update: Rocky v. PeeWee

Israeli Defense Forces on Saturday announced that Hezbollah has killed 78 Israelis (45 soldiers, 33 civilians, and with 600 wounded) since July 12, when the cross-border conflict began. In Lebanon, the Lebanese Security Forces report that the Israeli’s have done disproportionately more damage, with 683 Lebanese dead (an unknown amount of Hezbollah, 683 civilians--many of them children, and with 2,359 wounded). For the United Nations to fail to respond to this grossly disproportionate use of force on Israeli’s part is unpardonable, and demonstrates clearly the impotency of that failed organization.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

V

"VoilĂ ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V." --V

V for Vendetta was released on DVD this week. For those who were unfortunate enough to miss seeing it in the theatres (or at the Imax), now is your second chance to see one of the most revolutionary films in recent memory.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Own Incompetency

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Evidence collected on the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday."


If you are a voter, please contact your Representative immediately to demand that a full-scale review of military training and operations is undertaken such that this sort of thing cannot happen again. In a democracy, it is everyone's responsibility to stand up against such abuses of power.

More on Competency

Hezbollah launched 190 rockets into Israel today -- and only managed to kill one man on a bicycle. While we can only suspect Israeli incompetency in regard to their claims of accidentally targeting civilians, Hezbollah's incompetency seems a bit more clear cut.

This "war" is like watching Rocky Balboa kick the shit out of PeeWee Herman.

Update, 8/3/06: Israel now says Hezbollah rockets killed seven Israelis yesterday, still not a great return on Hezbollah's expenditure in rocketry. To date, 603 Lebanese civilians and non-combatant soldiers have died (the number of Hezbollah unknown), while in Israel the number is 66, only 26 of them civilians. With a civilian kill rate of over 10-times that of Hezbollah's, Israel is looking more like a terrorist then the terrorists.

Not all Barbarism is Middle Eastern

The Chinese government is leading an extermination effort that has reduced the country's dog population by an estimated 50,000. The pets were eliminated in an attempt to control an outbreak of rabies. Not that the Chinese are any strangers to mass exterminations, sick birds and democracy demonstrators come to mind, but the reports indicate a new level of barbarism that is shocking. Thousands of these animals are reported to have been kicked and beaten to death in front of their helpless owners. I can't say it enough, how you do something is always at least as important as what you do.

The Truth is in the Middle

Watching Fox and CNN is like watching reports from two ends of the chain in a children's game of telephone. Can these two organizations really be reporting on the same reality? Of course not. They are both propaganda networks with their own political agendas that color all of their reporting. The only way to discern a shred of truth these days is to channel flip back-and-forth between the various news networks -- and to guess that the truth is somewhere in between.

State Responsibility

I was as appalled as anyone when the Federal Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for local governments to seize the homes of individuals and hand them over to private developers to build shopping malls. Of course, what the Supreme Court really said was that eminent domain rules are an issue for the states to decide. Ohio recently became yet another state ruling that cities may not seize private property to line the pockets of developers, adding evidence that the states can take responsibility for regulating themselves in the fashion that the State’s Rights supporters on the Supreme Court envision. At least I hope that's the case...

According to the Institute for Justice (http://www.ij.org), a Washington, DC-based legal defense group, 25 states have passed laws limiting their government’s eminent domain powers. Six additional states have constitutional amendments to limit eminent domain power on their ballots for November.

Progress in Texas

And speaking of dead children, Andrea Yates, who clearly did kill her five children by drowning them in a bathtub half-a-decade ago, was finally found not-guilty, by reason of insanity. Even Yate’s former husband, father of the dead children, believes she was psychotic. Yates claims that Satan was inside her and that killing the youngsters was the only way to save them from hell. It is surprising justice that hyper-Christian Texas would tolerate the argument that belief in Satan equates with psychosis.

George was Right

Evidence continues to mount that Illinois’ former-governor George Ryan did the right thing in commuting the death sentences of every Death Row inmate in Illinois a few years ago. Though prosecutorial abuse continues in Illinois, justice does occasionally get its day...

Julie Rea-Harper was released from prison in Illinois this week, after a jury overturned her conviction in an earlier trial. She had been convicted of having stabbed to death her 10-year-old son. While no hard evidence was available in the first trial, prosecutors had managed to convince a jury that she killed her son rather then let her husband have custody of the child following their divorce. That conviction was overturned on a technicality; apparently, the jury didn’t know that an inmate in Texas had confessed to killing her son.

Update: Its since been reported that Rea-Harper's defense was handled by the local Public Defender's office. You get what you pay for is an old, but true maxim, so it seems equally true that those accused who have to rely on public defenders will get exactly as much justice as they paid for -- which is to say not much.

Appalling Oppression Reported in Provincetown

Straight people in Provincetown, Massachusetts are issuing press statements and holding public meetings to protest being called bigots because of their opposition to Gay marriage. Rumor has it that the local KKK is forming an anti-defamation league in response to charges of racism.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Responsibility, act II.

Israel is by no means the only one to blame in this skirmish. Not by a long shot. The citizens of Lebanon have long embraced Hezbollah, knowing full well that they are indiscriminate killers. (In addition to attacks on Israeli civilians too numerous to count, Hezbollah killed 241 US peacekeepers and 56 French peacekeepers in 1983, and kidnapped and murdered even more UN peacekeepers in the 1980s.) The Lebanese have essentially been bribed to look the other way by Hezbollah's schools, medical clinics, and aids centers. And in exchange, the Lebanese have sold much of their own moral authority and forsaken their right to claim themselves as innocent bystanders. What's being done by the Israeli's to (the disenfranchised) women and innocent children is abominable, however Lebanese men who have tolerated Hezbollah as neighbors are a lot less innocent then many of us would like to believe. This is not a black and white situation; there are more then two degrees of culpability. If the Lebanese truly wish to wear the mantel of victimhood, then they must disarm the Hezbollah themselves and not tolerate their weapons and violent activities within Lebanon.

Say what? Did that really happen?

In a totally unexpected move, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia put up a website to publish exhibits from the trial of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. This sets a precedent of such magnitude that its affects on American jurisprudence will likely be not be fully known for years. One has to wonder what motivated such as action. Could it be that the case against Moussaoui was so shaky and the arguments against him so weak that the Administration feels a continuing need to lobbying the American public for support? It's not like the posted material, taken by itself, is likely to convince anyone of anything. It's more likely the intention in publicizing the material was simply to dazzle the public with complexity, hoping that an impressive show would shift public opinion in some measurable way.

Of course the awake among you will point out that Moussaoui plead guilty, so what would the quality of the case, or public opinion of it have to do with anything? Well, that's a good question. I can only imagine that someone in the Administration was looking down the road, trying to anticipate challenges in successfully trying those currently held at Guantánamo Bay. If publishing the Moussaoui documents can be demonstrated to effect public opinion, then they'll have identified a potential new tool for the government's arsenal of tools to control public opinion. Sure it sounds perfectly Machiavellian, but hey, it's Washington, could we expect anything less?

More blame...

Another, more controversial Washington-based group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has issued a statement calling Israel a terrorist state. "Whenever civilians are attacked to achieve a political goal, the charge of terrorism must be applied, whether the terrorist is an individual, a group or a state," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. CAIR said it is accusing Israel of state terrorism based on statements by Israeli officials who have said "they intend to make the civilian population of Lebanon suffer in order to put pressure on Hezbollah." Despite CAIR's controversial pedigree (they've been accused, possibly by those with axes to grind, of being Islamist at the least and terrorist at the worst), their arguments seems pretty sound.

So exactly how free is the press in the U.S.?

International reports indicated that Condoleezza Rice was told in no uncertain terms that she wasn't welcome in Lebanon; this following the Qana massacre. More interestingly, it was also reported that she was in talks with the Israelis at the time of the Qana incident, but that they failed to tell her about what had happened, and only admitted to it after Rice's own people informed her of it many hours later. With allies like Israel, who needs enemies? They're the walking definition of duplicitous. So what does this have to do with free press? Well, there was little or no mention of this diplomatic embarrassment in U.S. news reports, and the incidents seem too significant to have been casually not covered.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Responsibility

It may seem to some readers that I'm biased against Israel and prejudiced in favor of the Palestinians. They'd only be partially correct. Let me explain. When a criminal commits an atrocity it is one thing, when a government committs an atrocity, it is an entirely different thing. Why? Because the criminal presumes no moral authority and the government does. When a government behaves as a ciminal, it forfeits its moral authority and becames the equivalent of the criminal. And that is why I despise Isreal in the fashion that I do, because they have forfeited their moral authority in responding in an atrocious manner. How you do something is at least as important as what you do. Isreal, by forgoing the rules of laws, by (repeatedly) executing extra-judicial death warrants (assassinations), by intentionally (and repeatedly) killing unarmed, international peacekeepers, by (repeatedly) targeting civilian populations, has ceased to be a government and become instead merely a murderous mob. Israel is no longer a government, it is a mafia, a terrorist organization, and all U.S. support should be immediately withdrawn forthwith.

So how should Isreal have responded? In the same fashion that the U.S. should have reponded to 9/11. They should have placed a very significant price on the heads of the responsible parties and when, if, that didn't work, they should have very publicly given the citizens of Lebanon a 30-day warning to hand over the kidnappers and to disarm Hezbolah, or that they would invade and do it themselves. Again, I have no problem with Israel defending itself, it's how it defends itself that I object to.

Meanwhile, on the Front of another war...

The right-wing news networks are reporting that a Dutch political party wants to "normalize" pedophilia. Oh, the reports seem accurate enough, it is the significance that's blown out of proportion. This is a political party that most likely could index its membership on cards; they're hardly leaders of a popular revolution--even in liberal Holland. What is impressive however, is that Holland appears to have a truly open political system where any minority opinion can get on the ballot -- unlike our own closed system where it is difficult, if not impossible, for minority political parties to fairly field candidates. The Dutch should be applauded for allowing a pro-pedophilia party on their ballots, not because we support pedophilia, certainly not, but because it is the perfect true measure of the openness of their political system.

Word from the Front

"I want to tell my president Mr. Bush to tell Israel to please stop destroying the roads in Lebanon. I don't know how we can come back home with all the roads and airports destroyed now. Please Mr. President I know you can help the people here in Lebanon." --Saleem Baltaji, Age 12

The Blame Game

Of course the United States has a large population of arabic immigrants who have sought refuge here from totalitarian regimes and oppressive sects that have gripped their homelands. As is required of most immigrants, they've sacrificed much of themselves in their attempts to integrate into American society, often biting their tongues and sitting on their hands rather then reacting. So it's worth noting that a line appears to have been crossed, with the Washington, DC-based Arab American Institute (AAI) blaming President Bush as well as Israel for what it calls the Qana massacre. "Not only is the Israeli government at fault, but blame also must be laid at the foot of the Bush administration for its failure over the past two and half weeks to demand any serious restraint of Israel," said AAI President James Zogby. He said the attack on Qana, which killed 57 civilians, 37 of them children, was tragic but predictable, since "massive and indiscriminate attacks on the south of Lebanon are bound to result in such massacres." Zogby criticized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for expressing regret at the loss of life - but then failing to call for a ceasefire. "U.S. behavior in the wake of the Qana Massacre will be interpreted in Israel and the Arab World as giving a tacit green light for Israel to continue its attacks on Lebanon," Zogby said.

Accident Prone

Israel's repeated claims that civilian deaths are accidental needs to be called into question. The list of "accidents" is unreasonably long, including last week's targeting of a United Nations outpost (4 dead), this weekend's targeting of a building full of women and children in Qana (57 dead, including 37 children--in some revised reports only 28 dead,19 children), Monday's targeting of Lebanese noncombatant soldiers (number of dead unknown), as well as the largely forgotten targeting of another United Nations refuge encampment in Qana 10 years ago (106 dead). Either Israel is lying about its intentions in targeting, or its targeting is so error prone as to be reliably incompetent. Would we let a driver who repeatedly ran over innocent people at the side of the road keep their license? I would hope not and we shouldn't let a nation who can't seem to reliably (or honestly) use its weapons of defense continue to receive our support.

Or, maybe we would...

An 85-year-old man in el Monte, California last week ran over a sidewalk of patrons at a Starbucks cafe. Ten were injured, but fortunately no one was killed -- this time. It will be interesting to see if the man, who reportedly got confused about which pedal was the brake, will be allowed to keep his license. Early reports indicated he wouldn't be charged, presumably meaning he will be allowed to keep driving. One has to wonder why he was allowed behind the wheel in the first place. Probably because American legislators have shown an alarming unwillingness to place driving restrictions on their aging well-heeled, constituency.

Liars Club

Israel friendship with the Bush regime seems a match made in heaven (or more likely the other place), they both seem to find it absolutely impossible to represent themselves honestly or to keep their word. An example: despite an agreement to stop air strikes for 48 hours following Sunday's Qana "accident", Israel almost immediately starting dropped bombs again on Monday. This time they "accidentally" struck a truckload of Lebanese soldiers. Remember, Lebanon, has so far remained non-combatant, standing by with amazing self-restraint (read inability) as a foreign nation with infinitely more firepower (provided by U.S. support and tax dollars) tries to bomb them back into the stone-age.

Smelly Fish

President Bush's position that he will only support a "sustainable ceasefire - a ceasefire that will last," is a red herring if there ever was one. It is his way of sabotaging the process while appearing to support it. This is one smelly fish, reeking of the rotting corpses of Lebanese civilians, many of them children. Our, so-called, Christian president is stretching to guarantee his place in hell.

No One Left to Speak Out

First they bulldozed the homes of Palestinians
and we did not speak out
because our Book said they were God's children.

Then they slandered the dissenters
and we did not speak out
because we felt that Holocaust victims should be cut some slack.
(And besides, we were afraid they might slander us also.)

Then they murdered the Peacekeepers
and we did not speak out
because we weren't big on the United Nations anyway.

And then they massacred the children of Qana... again.

And when, at last, we realized that God's children are individuals, and not a rogue government, well, by then
there was no one left to speak out,
most especially not for us.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Words from the Grave...

Michael Holroyd, writing recently in the London Times Literary Supplement online edition (http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25338-2277082,00.html) makes some interesting observations about what Bernard Shaw might have had to say about the current world politic. How much is Holroyd and how much is Shaw can probably only be determined by a literary scholar, which I am not, however, either way, the article offers value. Consider this paragraph: By the same token Shaw believed that the only revolutions which would not lead to counter-revolutions, landing us back to approximately where we had begun, were bloodless revolutions, revolutions that arose through changing the mind of a country by its writers, philosophers, thinkers, men and women of imagination. If you are bombed, for heaven’s sake, do not go blindly bombing back – unless you actually want more bombing, more deaths, indiscriminately all over the place. The way to judge people’s motives is to look at the results of their actions: that is the pragmatist’s philosophy. One of the ironies of history is that in most wars both sides eventually come to resemble each other and impose defeat on themselves. Or as Shaw succinctly put it: “A victory for anybody is a victory for war”. (Copyright 2006 The Times Literary Supplement Ltd.) What the Israeli's (and the Palestinians) couldn't learn from that! Thanks to Arthur Silber's excellent blog, Once Upon a Time (at http://www.powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/) for bringing this interesting article to my attention.

Moderation or WWIII?

And speaking of growing support for moderation, world condemnation of Israel's outsized response to Hezbollah appears to be having results. Israel now says it doesn't want an expanded war and that it will settle for a buffer zone rather then total annihilation of Hezbollah. Unless Bush and his End-day's cronies can quickly drag Iran and Syria into the shooting, they may have missed their chance to start World War III. Of course, it won't take much more then a dime-a-dozen suicide bomber in an Israeli cafe to whip up renewed support for a full-scale invasion of Lebanon. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm projecting this brief appearance of rational thinking in Israel will have a limited engagement.

Ann

It turns out that several newspaper's cancelled Ann Coulter's columns during her recent, several weeks-long promotion of her new book. Ann was repeatedly making an issue of accusations that her book unfairly bashes the widows of 9/11 victims -- thereby drumming up interest in the book itself.

The column cancellations represent a victory for journalistic standards (and decency), but are now being called censorship by the Radical Right. How strange... a free press for me, but not for thee? More likely they don't mind censorship, as long as they get to control the censoring.

Some newspapers are now holding local polls asking readers whether to continue Ann Coulter's column at all. In Decatur, Illinois, where they have recently published a(n extreme) weekly Right/Left face-off, with Molly Ivins on the left side of the editorial page and Ann Coulter on the right, the editor is now asking his readers whether he should cancel one or the other, neither, or both. Canceling them both is currently leading the pool with 36%.

Support for canceling both Ivins and Coulter may indicate a sea change in what ails America; a renewed effort for a more moderate political environment in the making.

Not all victims are innocent...

While I deplore Hezbollah's actions in targeting Jewish citizens, those evils do not provide justification for the government of Israel to in turn target the uninvolved citizens of Lebanon. Israel's actions are increasingly adding to the definition of barbarism. However, the Lebanese must take some responsibility as well. They need to start rounding up and prosecuting those members of Hezbollah who will not abide by a peaceful political process. Those members of Hezbollah who are targeting Israeli citizens are indeed terrorists, and the Lebanese should have enough integrity to police them as their own.

Consequences of Competition

Another causality of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict is the miraculous Lebanese economy that was stealing business and investment from northern Israel. Can’t we steal from this playbook and start bombing Bangalore?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hmmm...

Blackouts in New York and Missouri and elsewhere, collapsing tunnels in Massachusetts, it seems the government can't very well run things here at home. No wonder they can't seem to get it right in Iraq.

More Government

George Bush signed a new law this week creating yet another expensive (and possibly expansive) Federal bureaucracy. This one for a national database to keep track of the "sex offenders." Seems that most of the states have similar lists, so establishing a federal version is just a power grab, brought to you by the same people who campaigned on limiting the role of federal government.

Those Greedy Pharmaceutical Companies are at it Again!

Good news this week, as a private-sector company in Britain reported development of an effective vaccine for bird flu. Its amazing how fast things can happen when a profit motive is involved.

Smile! You're on E-mail.



A Canadian friend points out an international movement to e-mail private photos of the carnage in Lebanon to Americans, and citizens of other Israeli friendly nations, where such photos aren’t making it onto the nightly news. Many Americans will protest, but we see pictures of bombed out buildings every night, which naively assumes that the most tragic victims of Israel’s out-of-proportion response are empty apartment buildings and luxury condo towers. Anyone with half a brain would know that people are being killed -- and would therefore wonder where those pictures are. Well, those pictures are apparently being published elsewhere. More protestations will now ensue about the implication that America doesn’t have a free press; they’ll claim that those photos aren’t censored, but rather edited because children might see them (and because they might actually provide the emotional impetus for otherwise apathetic Americans to start questioning their support for Israel.) [Oh, by the way, the friend in Canada is no anti-Semite, but rather the son of Jewish Armenian refugees.]




Hezbollah has become quite popular with the Lebanese due to its activist care of orphans and the poor. Israel has a solution for such popularity; it has targeted and destroyed in recent weeks a student financial aid office, schools, charity offices, and an orphanage. It’s best to kill them while they’re still too small to carry around those rocket launchers.

In the meanwhile, the U.S. is the only country still putting conditions on a ceasefire.

Dissension Observed, finally

David Broder writes this week about his surprising discovery that "Old-Right" republicans have nothing but disregard (to put it tactfully) for the Bush administration and its backers. I dare say he is not alone in having not gotten on to this fact much earlier. Most of the country hasn't bothered to notice that the people currently running the Republic Party are more theocrats then republican (real republicanism being a very mild form of libertarianism, in the same way that democracy is a very mild form of socialism.) The terms republican and democrat, as used by the current parties, have about as much value as the penny, and for the same reason; there is nothing of value backing them up. Which probably explains why they've made ballot access so difficult that anyone trying to offer real political value can't get on the ballot. They couldn't stand the competition.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Law & Order

The law-and-order Conservatives in the Bush administration are being accused (by Democrats, of course) of failing to enforce, you guessed it, the law. Apparently, having been unsuccessful in modifying Environmental Protection and No Child Left Behind rules, they are simply refusing to enforce the rules or prosecute violations. Law-and-order for thee, but not for me!

Downfall

In only a short number of years, Condoleezza Rice has gone from being one of the most respected academics in the country to a striving bureaucrat of only middling success. What a waste. While Colin Powell had enough integrity to realize he’d made a mistake in aligning himself, and to withdraw as quickly as possible, Condi appears perfectly willing to sacrifice her sharp mind (and soul) on the alter of the Bush administration's foreign policies.

The True Cost of Government Roads

A $14.6 billion, 20-year public-sector roadway project in Boston remains closed after faulty, though inspected, construction resulted in the death of Milena Del Valle two weeks ago. She was killed on July 10 when a section of tunnel roof collapsed on her automobile. Apparently, one inspector had done his job and reported the flawed construction seven years ago, but in typical bureaucratic fashion, the government agencies responsible for the project had suppressed the memo and allowed the faulty construction to continue. Cautious Bostonians would undoubtedly be taking privately owned roadways as an alternative, if they existed or were even legal.

Super-size it, please.

And, speaking of out-of-proportion responses, police in Illinois shot and killed yet another person with a knife early this Wednesday. As in the many similar cases now occurring throughout America each year, it apparently would have been impossible for them to have shot the man in the leg or to have otherwise non-fatally disabled him.

And especially not for thou...

Meanwhile, another judge ruled this week that it is okay for her state to ignore the federal Constitution’s “privileges and immunities” clause (and presumably the "equal protections" clause also) because limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers the state’s essential interest in procreation -- more babies mean more canon fodder for war and more tax payers for growing government. Perhaps marriage licenses should be made renewable, annually, dependent on pregnancy and child residency. Surely this would both create a valuable revenue stream for government and increase procreation -- or at least attempted procreation.

Protections for Me, but Not for Thee

In unrelated rulings, Federal and State judges ruled this week that citizens’ need for privacy are outweighed by the government’s need to poke around in their telephone records, but that legislators’ need for privacy outweighs the need for the press to investigate the accuracy of claims regarding a legislator’s health claims. (Of course, the press doesn’t need to investigate; we all know that legislators don’t lie!)

Blame the Victim

Jewish and Christian Conservative opinion writers continue their denunciations of the United Nations in the wake of Israel’s likely intentional bombing of a UN observation post in Lebanon. Most are now responding to Kofi Annan’s statements regarding Israel’s actions by implying that he himself is responsible for the Peacekeepers’ deaths because he refused to pull them out of Lebanon. This sounds suspiciously like something that Saddam Hussein would have said, but of course, since these writers are Christian and Jews, rather then Muslims, we aren’t supposed to point out the absurdity of their claims. Meanwhile, the rest of America continues to pretend the imbroglio in Lebanon, and our own fiasco in Iraq, isn’t about religion.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

See a Penny...

Cartoonists continue to take delight in the proposal to scrap the American penny. They all seem to miss the point though that the proposal reflects the fact that the American dollar has been so devalued by the inflationary practices of the Federal government that 4 of every 5 cents in a dollar are now worthless. It would be more accurate to say those 20 cents on the dollar aren't really worthless, they've more precisely been stolen...

Worthless pennies. That's what happens when you let the government eliminate a standard for your currency and sell the precious metals backing up intrinsically worthless paper bills and alloy coins. That's right, first they convinced Americans to trust them with their "cakes," to put the cakes in a Federal banking system, and that all we needed were receipts for the cakes to trade among ourselves. Next they suckered us into believing that the cakes weren't really necessary to give the receipts value, that we could have our cakes and eat them too, so to speak. (Of course that was only an excuse for the government to sell the cakes and line their pockets with the proceeds.) Finally, they starting flooding the system with duplicate receipts for the cakes that had already been eaten (or which never existed in the first place), bringing down the value of the receipts for the (now eaten) real cakes. Now, we're waking up to the fact that we've been using receipts for pretend cakes as currency, and that there isn't much value left in this fraudulent system. If you still don't understand what I'm talking about, go back and reread this again, but substitute the world "gold" for "cakes."

Maybe rather then getting rid of the penny, we should go back to the gold standard and give the pennies some value again.