Thursday, July 31, 2008
Comedian Lewis Black would like us to imagine what would have happened if public comments were allowed on the Declaration of Independence:
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Those were the noble goals stated by Dwight D. Eisenhower in his famous 1961 speech on the Military-Industrial Complex. I think it's important to revisit history to understand what is happening now. What was new to the American experience 47 years ago is widely accepted and rarely questioned today:
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Thanks to the Internet, we can easily track the costs. So far this month, 255 publicly-reported defense contracts have totaled $40,916,778,410. The total so far this year is $164,176,189,156. And don't foolishly believe that these contracts are all being awarded to American companies. Bahrain Maritime and Merchantile International is being awarded a maximum $2,801,334,120 contract for supply and distribution of food and non-food products.
Of course the money spent is the easy part to measure, but our liberties and our democratic process have also been sacrificed. See my posts on domestic spying, habeas corpus, airport security, proxy wars, terrorist watch list, politicalization of the DoJ, and the cavalier attitude towards war with Iran...
And on this last topic of Iran, maybe we are finally coming to our senses. A recent RAND Research Brief presents the evidence that terrorism groups are rarely defeated by military might:
By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.
In another positive development, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is starting to sound a little bit like Eisenhower. Yesterday, Gates renewed his call for more spending on U.S. diplomacy and international aid, saying the U.S. government risks “creeping militarization” of its foreign policy by focusing its resources on the Pentagon.
So that's what we're calling it now? Creeping militarization? I suppose I don't mind the new wording. Just uttering the phrase "military-industrial complex" makes me feel like a radical tie-dyed hippie.
Monday, July 28, 2008
One of those aides was Monica Goodling.
So this incompetent, political-hack Monica Goodling studied law at Messiah College, an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit." Yeah, I'm sure she got a fair and balanced education there. In fact, here are some of the questions she asked job candidates:
Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.
What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?
Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.
Why are you a Republican?
I'm sure she thought these questions were completely reasonable. But had she studied at a real college, she might have learned that when justice becomes corrupt, anarchy and tyranny commence.
And so I'd like to plead with our representatives in Washington, "can we prosecute this one? Please? Please? Please?" Oh wait, it seems that when Goodling testified last year, she was under a grant of immunity.
Damn. Well, can we send this one to jail instead?
Saturday, July 26, 2008
However, Vincent Bugliosi, author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, was a formidable witness. H/T to Crooks and Liars for the following videos:
In this first video we learn that nobody is allowed to accuse anybody of a crime at these hearings. So all witnesses will be forced into linguistic gymnastics... but who are we kidding? The title of Bugliosi's book says it all.
I believe many of the documents Bugliosi presented were part of last month's Senate report which I duly wrote about.
In this second video, Bugliosi precisely explains the WMD issue: the concern is not over Bush lying about weapons of mass destruction. The real crime is that he lied about Saddam Hussein being an imminent threat.
Conyers, the panel chairman, had to repeatedly note that the sessions were not formal impeachment hearings. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) seemed to think they were. The official purpose was to examine limitations on presidential powers and arguments about what constitute impeachable offenses.
But I, like so many others, demand accountability. This is not about getting revenge on a president we don't like. This is about saying nobody is above the law. This is about telling all future Presidents and Congressmen that they cannot commit these grave injustices while the people sit by silently.
But this Non-Impeachment Hearing is all we get. This is what passes for "working for the people."
Friday, July 25, 2008
And now advertisers and radio stations are dropping Savage's show. But I stick by what I said earlier this week. Even if Talk Radio Network fires Savage, he'll be picked up again in a few months by another radio network. It's prejudice for profit.
And yes, the title of this blog post was an intentional pun.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Is this the best that McCain supporters could come up with? I think this tired and trite ad is actually trying to inspire more apathy than anything.
Hat tip to Gawker for this story.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Egregious, huh? I agree with Jonathan Turley that "all crimes committed by the government, particularly the President, are egregious."
But did Obama and his advisers read the news today? Salon has uncovered new evidence of post-9/11 spying on Americans. Obtained documents point to a potential investigation of the White House that could rival Watergate.
One of the key allegations against the Bush administration is the use of a secret database called "Main Core" which reportedly collects and stores -- without warrants or court orders -- the names and detailed data of an estimated 8 million Americans considered to be threats to national security.
A recent article in Radar Magazine described how such a database would be utilized during an emergency:
With the population gripped by fear and anger, authorities undertake unprecedented actions in the name of public safety. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security begin actively scrutinizing people who—for a tremendously broad set of reasons—have been flagged in Main Core as potential domestic threats. Some of these individuals might receive a letter or a phone call, others a request to register with local authorities. Still others might hear a knock on the door and find police or armed soldiers outside. In some instances, the authorities might just ask a few questions. Other suspects might be arrested and escorted to federal holding facilities, where they could be detained without counsel until the state of emergency is no longer in effect.I'm not sure if this roundup would go down before or after the President suspends the Constitution. (And don't go thinking that he can't.)
So now Washington lawmakers are talking about an investigation modeled after the Church Committee.
Key issues to investigate, those involved say, would include the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance activities; the Central Intelligence Agency's use of extraordinary rendition and torture against terrorist suspects; and the U.S. government's extensive use of military assets -- including satellites, Pentagon intelligence agencies and U2 surveillance planes -- for a vast spying apparatus that could be used against the American people.As you may know, I'm very cynical. Congress might investigate this and they might investigate that, and oh by the way, no lawmaker has openly endorsed a proposal for a new Church Committee-style investigation.
And as we all know, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment off the proverbial table.
Don't count on the Democrats to green-light an investigation. They have mostly been complicit in approving these crimes.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Why the sudden consciousness of his image? I think everybody is quite aware of his smugness by now. Remember this video? And this video?
Speaking of the economy and smugness, are you aware that the former chief executive of AT&T, Ed Whitacre, was "probably the most exploited worker in American history"? At least according to Phil Gramm who lamented in a WSJ interview that Whitacre retired with only a $158 million pay package.
Bush and Gramm might want to sit down and review the hunger in America videos if they even give a damn.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The technology world still has a fascination with blinky stuff. What better way to show that something is working than by making it blink in your face?
And now for the news flash (pun intended). To celebrate its 75th year, Esquire magazine will have a blinking magazine cover! The cover will be produced by E Ink. The company's innovative technology has been used in the Amazon Kindle (which I wrote about here and here).
I'm sure the experimental Esquire cover will get plenty of attention when it hits the stands in September, but something about E Ink's move seems contradictory. I don't think their future involves making paper magazines more flashy and expensive. Their future is in devices such as the Kindle that deliver magazines and newspapers without any paper at all.
So while we still don't have those flying cars that the Jetsons promised us, we'll soon enough have those creepy cereal boxes from Minority Report.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I've never really paid much attention to Savage except to know that he's a conservative radio talk show host. As you may remember from my other post about a psychopathic talk radio host, I have no tolerance for bleating, uninformed drivel on the public airwaves.
But after much stewing over Savage's comments, I suddenly realized the connection between him, John McCain and Phil Gramm... or at least the connection between their mindsets.
Remember, McCain a few weeks back made the comment that "[A] lot of our problems today, as you know, are psychological — the confidence, trust, the uncertainty about our economic future, ability to keep our own home."
Then Phil Gramm, McCain's top financial adviser, echoed the sentiment by saying "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline..."
And here is what I conclude about the the conservative mindset: A thing (whether it be disease, poverty, racism, wage stagnation, high food prices etc) does not exist unless the conservative experiences it for himself first hand.
Part of this problem is a lack of empathy. If you can't mentally step into another's shoes, you will never understand their suffering, and you are doomed to make such thoughtless comments... like Savage implying that children with autism are "idiots," "brats," and "morons."
But I'm talking about more than just empathy here. You don't need empathy to comprehend the multitude of medical journals that explain the realness of autism. All you need to do is realize your own ignorance and seek out knowledge.
But Savage's education is quite impressive (B.A., education and sociology; M.S., medical botany and medical anthropology; Ph.D., nutritional ethnomedicine). I think he probably does know more than he demonstrates, but his job mandates that he spends hours on air giving knee-jerk reactions to anything that pops into his head. He says these outrageous lies to make a buck. And that to me is immoral.
There is a Fire Michael Savage petition online. I am linking to it though I don't think it will do any good. Oh, maybe he will get fired, but if there is any market for his brand of commentary, then he will be hired again by some other radio network once this controversy fades.
The problem is bigger than Savage or any talk radio host. There are people who will loyally tune in every day because they believe they are being told the truth. They hear things that make them feel good about their own prejudices. They are told that the world's problems are not complicated. They listen. Talk Radio Network profits from this national disservice. It's just the way things work.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
But wait. What's Congress doing? Trying to pass a strongly worded piece of legislation (H.CON.RES.362) demanding that "the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by... prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."
Despite the statement that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran", it could easily be confused for exactly that. After all, it calls for stringent inspection requirements which mean a naval blockade which would of course involve the use of force.
But wait. Now one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Robert Wexler, is saying he made a mistake. He now plans to amend the bill adding language "highlighting a more effective American strategy that calls for direct engagement with Tehran for the purpose of thwarting Iran's nuclear weapons program and ending its support for international terrorism."
Wexler also states "I fully understand and share the American public's mistrust of President Bush and his administration, which has abused its executive powers, willfully misled this nation into a disastrous war in Iraq and disturbingly continues to beat the Iran war drum."
So I have to wonder why he sponsored the bill in the first place.
What also puzzles and surprises me is that Condoleezza Rice has been a major proponent of negotiations with Iran all along. Her push for diplomacy makes me hopeful that maybe she at least learned something from the Iraq war... But wait. No. She is still proud of the decision to invade Iraq. Yeah, it's a scary thought that Rice could be our last, best chance for peace.
Meanwhile, Dana Perino keeps repeating the same stuff about how Iran must do what we say before we will negotiate. Makes me wonder if she understands what the word "negotiate" means.
So forgive me if I'm suspicious of any good news.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long, but wherever he is now, I bet he'd be excited about the International Space Station (ISS). Or at least he'd be excited about this proposal in the Washington Post.
The ISS is as big as a football field, cost $156 billion, has laboratories and living modules, and when completed, will house a crew of six. But rather than holding this expensive ship in a low-Earth orbit, maybe we should send it somewhere? A real starship Enterprise.
From the WP:
The ISS, you see, is already an interplanetary spacecraft -- at least potentially. It's missing a drive system and a steerage module, but those are technicalities. Although it's ungainly in appearance, it's designed to be boosted periodically to a higher altitude by a shuttle, a Russian Soyuz or one of the upcoming new Constellation program Orion spacecraft. It could fairly easily be retrofitted for operations beyond low-Earth orbit. In principle, we could fly it almost anywhere within the inner solar system -- to any place where it could still receive enough solar power to keep all its systems running.Well, don't beam me up, Scotty. Although I'd love for such a mission to happen in my lifetime, I personally prefer to keep my feet on the ground.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia. Apparently that is in reaction to the Czech’s agreement with us concerning missile defense, and again some of the Russian now announcement they are now retargeting new targets, something they abandoned at the end of the Cold War, is also a concern. So we see the tensions between Russia and their neighbors, as well as Russia and the United States are somewhat increasing. We need to try to do everything we can to lessen those tensions including the tensions between Russia and the country of Georgia.However, the country of Czechoslovakia has not existed for 15 years. It peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Now how am I supposed to honestly believe that he's the foreign policy expert that he claims to be?
Maybe he's so old he thinks he knows it all already. No need to study geography for the last decade, right? Apparently he has no need to study technology either. He's only just now learning to go online. (If video doesn't show, click here.)
When he figures out how to go online all by himself, I'd like to recommend a web site to him. It's called supermemo.net and it helps you memorize stuff. It's worked for me. I've been relearning the capitals of the 50 states. I only hope that McCain knows there are 50 of them.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Although I prefer to use the moniker "Humpty Dumpty Head," Rove's more common nickname is "Bush's Brain." Here are some of the brainiac maneuvers he's linked to:
During the 2000 Republican Primary, Karl Rove, working as Bush's chief strategist, allegedly spread rumors about John McCain implying that McCain had committed treason while a prisoner of war, and had fathered a child by a black prostitute.
Rove allegedly leaked the identity of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA agent -- a political move that compromised U.S. security.
Rove has been accused of election fraud through tactics like voter caging.
Rove is also accused of targetting Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in a selective, politically motivated prosecution.
Rove was possibly involved in firing nine U.S. attorneys in a purge designed to turn the Department of Justice into a Republican reelection machine.
Did I call these brainiac maneuvers? I'm sorry. What I meant to say was mountain of crime committed with complete disregard to the U.S., its people, its institutions, and its constitution.
Last May, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Karl Rove to testify explicitly about the attorney purge. That testimony was scheduled to take place July 10. He didn't show. In fact, he was out of the country.
The Bush administration claims that high-level aides to the president are completely immune from compelled congressional testimony. The administration is not claiming that there exists sensitive subjects that cannot be discussed due to national security. They are declaring that these people are above the law and answer to nobody.
This outrageous defiance threatens the pillar of our democracy -- equal justice for all.
So last Thursday, lawmakers faced an empty chair, an untouched glass of ice water, and a little printed sign that read "Mr. Karl Rove."
I don't know what the next step is. The committee has again ordered Rove to appear, but this thing will drag out long after Bush leaves the White House.
Will Humpty Dumpty ever take his fall? Or will he be rescued? I'm reminded of Through the Looking Glass when Humpty Dumpty exclaims "Yes, all his horses and all his men... They'd pick me up again in a minute, they would!" And that's what I'm afraid of.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
So off to Wikipedia I go. I find this entry about sex dolls, and skim the article for info on an inventor, but find nothing... except near the bottom in the "In Popular Culture" section where they mention Snuff. How funny, but also kind of useless. It told me nothing about the veracity of the passage.
And that's the funny thing about Wikipedia, the Internet's Democratic encyclopedia. The "In Popular Culture" section can be interesting. It can provide inspiration. It can gauge what the online public really cares about. It can be useless.
The above web comic summed up the encyclopedia's controversy, and at the same time started its own controversy. (Who would have thought that Internet geeks could take a joke too far?)
However, let's keep in mind that Wikipedia isn't constructed by elitist academics. It's open for the public to edit. Nobody should be surprised that a lot of our knowledge is based on pop culture. Wikipedia gives us a place in a nice little section to write it all down endlessly.
Maybe the Wikipedia webmasters could allow readers to hide the "In Popular Culture" section if so desired.
However, the section doesn't bother me. Mostly I find Wikipedia helpful, but not this time. I still needed an answer about the sex dolls. So off to Google I go. I find this page which thoroughly answers my question.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.I don't think it's a joke, but will the average person submit to this? Sadly and cynically, I think so. Look at the lack of resistance to the very real body-scanning machines installed in several airports. "If it speeds things up and I can keep my shoes on..." seems to be the prevailing sentiment regarding that technology.
This bracelet would:
• take the place of an airline boarding pass
• contain personal information about the traveler
• be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage
• shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes.
But these shock bracelets... certainly people will resist? Or will the straps be colored red white and blue and emblazoned with "Support Our Troops"? This way everybody will know it's their patriotic duty to comply.
But certainly, everybody realizes there will be mistakes. Here is a scenario. Airport security wants to immobilize the obnoxious fist-waving drunk. They click the remote and kill your grandma instead... Which brings me to another question. How does this system work? Is the system set up so one button immobilizes everybody? Because how do you target the terrorist or obnoxious asshole? Ask him for his seat number first? What if the wrong passenger number is punched in?
Regardless, this system cannot make us safer. Here I go thinking like a terrorist again...
Add two new steps to taking over the plane. Step one, remove or disable your shock bracelet. Step two, use your hacked remote to trigger everybody else's bracelet. Then, effortlessly continue with your hijacking now that all the passengers have been immobilized.
Hey, if these bracelets are seen as a triumph in the war on terror, maybe we'll be compelled to wear them all the time. I mean not just at the airport but from cradle to grave. Probably implanted in our skin. Nobody will ever give the government crap again. Nobody will ever protest. Nobody will ever raise their voice. Nobody will ever resist. How could you?
Or how should we?
I see only one valid use for these bracelets. Put them on all politicians when they take office.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The doctors ended up admitting my mother to the hospital that night, and she is still there now. They got her BP stabilized, but they are still running tests. They think her headaches might be coming from arthritis in her neck, but they are also going to run some tests on her eyes tomorrow. Then maybe she can come home.
Last night I went to the San Jose Improv with some friends and family. It was MadTV Stand Up with Michael McDonald and Nicole Parker. We bought the tickets months ago and planned it as an early birthday celebration for me. But anyway, if you have a chance to see MadTV Stand Up, don't bother. It wasn't really BAD, but I've seen better. I was hoping they'd do some of their MadTV characters, but no... both comedians did a regular stand up routine that was kind of weak.
Nicole Parker did a lot of jokes about a lot of TV shows I don't even watch. I guess I really am following my New Year's resolution to ignore entertainment news, but there is a down side when I don't know who the hell everybody is talking about.
I don't remember any of the jokes Michael McDonald made, but by that time I had a bit of alcohol in me. So I enjoyed it anyway.
My friend Mike gave me a new Wii game -- MySims. It's kind of cute, but not at all like a true Sims game. Ever wonder what games they won't be making for the Wii? (Click here if video doesn't load.)
Hopefully I'll get back into a better blogging schedule by mid week... unless of course I keep celebrating my birthday for an entire week which I have been known to do... who wants to take me out next? :)
Friday, July 04, 2008
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.So as we enjoy 101 dishes at our picnics and parties and decorate with useless crap made in China, we should all take a few minutes to think deeply and seriously about liberty.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Fox News did not tell their viewers that the photos had been altered, nor have they offered any kind of comment on the incident so far.
The New York Times will not respond to the childish antics. Times Culture Editor Sam Sifton commented "It is fighting with a pig, everyone gets dirty and the pig likes it."
I thought Fox News couldn't be any more juvenile, but the funny thing about this is that critics have been saying for years that Fox distorts the news. Well, now here is literal proof. Their reporting is as accurate as these photos.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Trying to catch them all made my head spin: GI bill, campaign finance reform, immigration, gay marriage, abortion, storing nuclear waste, negotiating with North Korea and Cuba, unilateral action against terrorists in Pakistan, warrantless wiretapping, torturing of detainees, holding prisoners indefinitely, Iraq war, tax cuts for rich, estate tax, privatizing social security, balanced budget, windfall profits tax, offshore drilling, favorite "agents of intolerance," MLK day, South African divestment, confederate flag, and evolution.
The one flip flop I will never understand is on the torture of detainees. I would think he would hold deep convictions on a matter so personal to him, but even on that issue his loyalty isn't to his own principles. His only loyalty is to the Republican party.