Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Airport Problems

We’ve found the culprit behind all those holiday airport snafus. The airline industry, of course, was humming along just fine – all systems go. Then, out of the blue, and right before Christmas, a rabble-rousing group of sniveling baggage handlers and malcontent flight attendants single handedly brought a thriving industry to its knees. What despicable conduct. Bad! Bad!

US Airways is planning to review the attendance records of those who called in sick during Christmas – some may be disciplined.

Pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers and CEOs have all taken large reductions in pay and benefits in order to – oops, scratch that 4th one. CEOs and senior management have not taken any cuts to their salaries or their multi-jillion dollar bonus packages. Well, hey, lighten up – they have yacht payments to make.

US Airways CEO Bruce Wakefield said the “operational meltdown” was the result of the “irresponsible actions of a few.” He also said “let us not forget who pays our salaries and my obscenely bloated and totally unearned bonus package – our customers.” (OK, OK, the bold text wasn’t actually part of his speech.)

Pay cut taken by US Airways union workers: 21%. Pay cut taken by their CEO: 0.0%.

There’s even a question of whether this year’s “sickout” was any different from past holiday seasons. According to a union spokesperson, 238 flight attendants called in sick on Christmas Eve this year, as opposed to 261 on Christmas Eve of 2003. 306 called in sick this past Christmas day; 298 stayed out on Christmas of 2003. Oookay.

This is a common corporate PR tactic – blaming a current problem on something that occurs every year. During the winter of 1995-96 in northern California, there were massive power outages, stranding thousands of people for up to a week without electricity. The utility company blamed the entire fiasco on “these unprecedented winter storms.” Everyone who had lived in northern California for a year or longer could see through this line of S%*#@#%. Every winter, northern California has pounding rain and howling winds – 1995 and 1996 were no different. This particular utility company was very short-staffed because of major cost-cutting and downsizing (just like the airlines, come to think of it).

Instead of having the stones to admit that their corner-cutting and downsizing are the cause of their fiascos, these CEOs and senior executives would rather look for a scapegoat – the weather, unreliable employees, etc.

So, a few airline employees will be disciplined (after taking a 21% pay cut); CEOs and senior management will keep their gargantuan salaries and bonus packages (and somehow they’ll still be able to look at themselves in the mirror). And the beat goes on.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

War On Drugs

Hardly anyone looks back on Prohibition and thinks “what a great idea! Let’s try that again.” Someday historians will look back on this period and wonder just what in the F$*#%*$#*%*$# we were thinking. The War on Some Drugs is far and away the most stupid, wasteful, mean-spirited and counterproductive undertaking our government has ever attempted.

The only silver lining in this multi-trillion dollar boondoggle is the entertainment value: you get to watch conservatives talking out both sides of their mouths and generally tripping all over themselves with contradictory slogans.

Limited Government. The same people who think workers’ safety laws, job training programs and environmental protection are “too much government” are simultaneously calling for the government to come swooping into people’s homes, their lives, and regulate their personal behavior to the Nth degree. So which is it, “Limited Government” or “Big Brother Knows Best”?

States’ Rights. Judges are often forced by federal Mandatory Minimum sentencing “guidelines” to hand down 20-year, 30-year sentences for possession of microscopic amounts of marijuana. Also, the states whose voters have decided to allow medical marijuana are constantly being bullied and over-ridden by gung ho federal prosecutors.

Cost/Benefit Analysis. Remember that Republican rallying cry during Clinton’s presidency? Every government attempt at cleaner air, cleaner water, increased workers’ safety, would be met with “how much is this big intrusive government boondoggle going to cost our poor hardworking taxpayers?” So let’s apply this cost/benefit analysis to the War on Drugs. We’ve spent God knows how many quatragazillions of our tax dollars, and incarcerated millions of people whose “crime” didn’t harm or affect anyone else. And the benefit is??

Jeez! Some of these "crack down on drugs" conservatives must have more personalities than Sybil. How do these schizoids even get through their daily routine without going off in 14 directions at once? And they’re running the show?!?!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

More on the Parents TV Council

You remember the Parents TV Council, the group that wants to take the remote out of your hand and decide for you what programs you’ll watch. I’ve written previously on this same subject here and here (the post titled “Anybody Home at the FCC?”). TV censorship isn’t exactly a burning issue, of course, when you compare it with the war in Iraq or Bush’s assault on the environment. But this issue just seems to crystallize so many of the contradictions between Republicans’ slogans and their actions. They preach endlessly about self-reliance and individual responsibility, and yet we’re not able to operate our own TV sets; the FCC needs to do it for us. Free enterprise, “limited government,” the free market, “let the marketplace decide,” but when a TV program with millions of viewers is offensive to .001% of the audience, the government should step in and take it off the air. Focus, people! Make up your minds!

Anyway, if you disagree with the Parents TV Council, you should know that your tax dollars are subsidizing them. That’s right! Donations to the Parents TV Council are tax-deductible. I just found this out from their website at http://www.parentstv.org/.

So, some know-it-all wants to censor your favorite TV program, and makes a donation to the Parents TV Council – your tax dollars are subsidizing this person (i.e. when one person gets a tax deduction, other taxpayers have to pick up the slack). Whether you like it or not, you’re helping the organization that wants to grab the remote out of your hand and tell you what you can and can’t watch. What a deal!

Their website lists the URL and e-mail addresses of all the TV networks and most cable stations. This is so you’ll contact these stations and tell them you’re a devout Christian and you want their communist filth and smut taken off the air. But instead, why not contact the TV stations and let them know that you can operate your remote just fine; and you don’t need the Parents TV Council to baby-sit for you.

After all, who owns your TV set? You, or the Parents TV Council?

Friday, December 24, 2004

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Ever since 9/11, there’s been a nagging, politically incorrect theory that Islamic terrorists might be glad to have George W. Bush in the White House. The arrogant swaggering “America is Number One! Got that, Punk?!?!?” attitude of the Bush administration could be fanning the flames that have been smoldering for decades. Bush might be the dream candidate for al Qaeda recruiters. It was just a theory.

On Tuesday, December 22nd, two French journalists were released by the "Islamic Army in Iraq" after being held hostage for four months. Several of their fellow hostages were decapitated during this 4-month period. One of the captors told the hostages that their cause would be helped by Bush’s re-election. He was quoted as saying “we want Bush because with him the American troops will stay in Iraq and that way we will be able to develop.” Click here for details.

Another one of their captors told the hostages that the biggest enemies were American and coalition troops, foreign businessmen in Iraq, and Iraqi police and spies. The Islamic Army in Iraq numbers about 15,000, and they claim their hostage-takings are very carefully organized. Fellow hostages who were decapitated include two Macedonians, an Iraqi power station executive and one of Ahmad Chalabi's bodyguards.

American intelligence has admitted that there are more insurgent groups in Iraq than they can even keep track of. The Islamic Army in Iraq is just one of them. What have we dug ourselves into?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bush Nominates Same Judges. Again.

One of Bush’s campaign issues in 2000 was “too much bickering” in Washington, and he pledged repeatedly to “change the tone.” He changed it for the worse. Bipartisan feuding and mutual animosity have probably been the worst ever during these last four years. And there’s at least one indication that the mutual hostility is off to a roaring start for Bush’s 2nd term.

Bush is planning to re-nominate at least 20 of the federal judge candidates whom he nominated during his first term but were stalled in the Senate. Republicans used this same tactic frequently during Clinton’s presidency, but now they’re shocked – shocked! – by the judicial vacancies, the backlog of cases and the intolerable delays caused by this reprehensible tactic.

Republicans are also reading way too much into Bush’s 51% “mandate.” Republican spinmeisters want us to believe that Bush’s election victory represents a sweeping endorsement of all of his plans and goals during the past 4 years. But the majority of voters disagree with Bush on the environment, abortion, the budget deficit and tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of the population. Karl Rove did an incredibly shrewd job of keeping these issues off the public radar, and pushing terrorism and wartime security (don’t change horses in the middle of a stream) and gay marriage to the center of the stage. It was a very shrewd and effective tactic – congratulations. But that’s why Bush won. His victory was not a ringing endorsement of all of his policies. If you succeed in getting someone to go out with you by using every smooth salesmanship tactic in the book, putting up a smooth front, exaggerating your good points and hiding your faults, you don’t then turn around and tell everyone “she loves me for who I am.”

That’s pretty much what Republicans have been doing. They’re insisting that Democrats voted themselves out of office by filibustering against Bush’s judicial nominees. Since last November 2nd, Republicans seem to be framing almost every issue with “Tom Daschle got voted out of office and Bush got re-elected; therefore…”

If Bush wants to re-nominate the same rednecks to the federal bench, or tries to appoint Torquemada (Alberto Gonzales) as Attorney General (or any other fox-guarding-the-henhouse type of cabinet member), the Democrats need to get out there and filibuster.

America as a Debtor Nation

Of all the looming catastrophes and “what-ifs” facing this country, perhaps the most serious long-range crisis (and the one that gets the least headlines) will be our huge foreign debt. The combination of being perceived as the world’s 800 pound gorilla, and being in debt up to our eyeballs, is going to create some major problems down the road.

If you fall behind on your car payments and/or mortgage payments, your car gets repossessed; your home gets foreclosed. So if our foreign debt keeps snowballing and careening out of control, will our country get repossessed? Don’t laugh – our foreign debt is in the trillions. And most of our creditors don’t like us.

We could always just ignore the foreign debt, stop payments, say “what’re you gonna do about it?” (in other words, what we already do with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.) However, with over 200 military bases in foreign countries, this would not be a smart move. Countries that have American military bases could isolate those bases: American military personnel would be unable to leave the base, and local businesses would be unable to sell supplies to them. Japan, South Korea and Germany (among others) are already “in-between” about whether they even want to continue having an American military presence.

If one of our major creditors (Japan, for example) decided to seize American assets, they would have the support of other creditor nations. The combination of having American assets seized by our creditors, having American military bases isolated by their host nations and not being able to use the airspace of these countries for any military operations – what would happen to our empire?!?

Would the usual “patriotic” chest-pounders and xenophobes still be “rah-rah-rah”-ing for the president to threaten and invade anyone who looks cross-eyed at us if our entire economy has collapsed? Would other countries start calling our bluff if they knew we were about to be foreclosed? Would we still be able to start wars and stage pre-emptive attacks if our country has been repossessed? Or, would our creditor nations have the ability (and the nerve!) to foreclose on us if American tanks and missiles are zeroing in on them? Stalemate! Gridlock!

In addition to getting a grip on the budget, our leaders might just start acting less like an 800 pound gorilla.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Wall Street vs. Main Street

The disconnect between the Two Americas, Wall Street and Main Street, is more glaring than ever. Last week there were $93.8 billion in mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. It was the busiest week for mergers in nearly five years. Great news and huge bonuses for a few senior executives; not so great for those whose jobs will be eliminated. Some people will be breaking out the champagne. Others will be breaking out the want ads.

And according to most economists, our “jobless recovery” is not expected to continue into 2005. The “recovery” part, that is. The presidency that has created the fewest jobs since Herbert Hoover is expected to continue its stellar performance next year.

New Numbers for Bush

For the first time since the start of the Iraqi war, a majority of Americans now believes it was a mistake to invade Iraq. A majority also believes Rumsfeld should be given the heave ho.

56% believe the Iraqi conflict is “not worth fighting.” 35% approve of Rumsfeld’s job performance; 52% say he should be shown the door. 58% think Iraq will not be ready for elections next month. 57% disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq.

48% approve of Bush’s overall job performance; 49% disapprove. By contrast, Clinton had a 60% approval rating at the beginning of his second term. And yet, Bush has a mandate and Clinton didn’t. Hmmmmm…

Along with these new percentages, there is still more trouble looming for the Bush administration and the defense department. New documents – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – are showing that the torture of captives by American forces has been far more widespread and more systemic than we ever knew. Click here for the gory details.

At this rate, Bush’s inauguration speech may have an even more defensive and more belligerent tone – “did not,” “did too,” “takes one to know one” – than last year’s State of the Union speech.

These survey results seem to indicate Bush’s “political capital” is starting to wither before he even gets a chance to spend it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Prescription Drug Crisis

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Or in Bush’s case, careful what you push and steamroll and threaten and twist arms for. Last year the Bush administration pulled out all the stops to get the Medicare prescription drug plan through Congress in order to look good in an election year.

Buy now, pay later. And now here’s the bill. The prescription drug plan is going to cost taxpayers $17 trillion, and the payments begin next year. That’s OK, our grandchildren will be happy to pay for it. And the war in Iraq (although maybe there’ll be some light at the end of the tunnel by the time our grandchildren have retired).

For an idea of what $17 trillion means, compare the prescription drug costs to the Social Security crisis. Conservatives are frantic to “rescue” Social Security by privatizing it now before the sky falls. The Social Security system is short by $10.4 trillion. That’s a gargantuan amount, but it’s not quite two thirds of the $17 trillion we’ll be paying for the prescription drug plan. Thank God for our children’s children’s children.

Well, some tough decisions are needed, and the solution to these looming crises will be: Another round of tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

Mad Cow Disease Again

During last summer’s mad cow disease scare, it seemed like the USDA’s biggest priority was to reimburse cattle ranchers for their financial losses after a few sniveling wusses stopped buying beef. Now the mad cow scare is rearing its head again. The meat and poultry inspectors’ union has told the USDA that body parts known as “specified risk materials” were getting into the production chain. This includes the brains, skulls, spinal cords and lower intestines of cattle more than 30 months old. (Mmm! Cheeseburger, anyone?)

The union also told the USDA that some of their inspectors were told “not to intervene” when they saw the body parts of older cattle mixed in with those of younger animals. (This violates a lot of U.S. trade agreements, as well as jeopardizing public health.) It’s apparently the job of packing plant supervisors and veterinary officers, and not the federal inspectors, to make sure that older body parts are kept off the production line. USDA spokesman Steven Cohen said "The inspector’s role is to look for disease. If an online inspector feels as though something is not being done they should talk to their supervisors."

Well, that certainly is an important distinction. Imagine, a public health threat being averted by the wrong person – a federal inspector instead of a plant supervisor?! All hell would break loose! If you’re a fireman and you see a building burning, you will of course fill out all the proper forms in triplicate and notify all of your supervisors (using the proper chain of command) before attempting anything stupid or impulsive like trying to put out the fire.

I don’t know what could be a greater threat to this country than an uppity inspector trying to prevent mad cow disease, even though it’s “not his job.” The only thing worse might be those subversive FDA scientists who jeopardize the pharmaceutical industry’s profits by checking the safety of new drugs before approving them. Why do these pinkos hate America so much?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Republicans: Fight Amongst Yourselves

The difficulty Congress had in passing the intelligence reform bill – Republicans squabbling among themselves – may be the first of many such intra-Party struggles. Now that Republicans have a “mandate” in the White House and an iron grip on both houses of Congress, individual egos are starting to assert themselves more forcefully, at the expense of party unity.

Tom DeLay has criticized Bush for his handling of the intelligence reform bill, and for postponing tax reform until 2006. Several Republican senators are either against Bush’s plan for overhauling Social Security, or are anxious to promote their own Social Security overhaul plans. And at least one Republican, Lindsay Graham, S.C., actually remembers the Party’s own “States’ Rights” slogans, and plans to derail Bush’s plan for a federal cap on medical damage awards.

Immigration may be the biggest inter-party feud. Bush wants to grant guest-worker status to a large number of undocumented immigrants. And from the opposite direction, House Republicans are determined to crack down on illegal immigration. Catfight!

Some of the new Republicans in Congress are more conservative than Bush, and are more interested in their own political agenda than in promoting unity with the White House.

Some Republican leaders (Tom DeLay again) have decided that they, along with Bush, have also accumulated lots of political capital and are intending to spend it. Some others have started resenting the ironclad control that Bush and Rove have had over them since the 2002 midterm elections, and they’re determined to re-establish their independence.

In other words, Republicans are finding out what Democrats used to know first-hand: the larger a party’s majority, the harder it is to impose party discipline. Start the infighting!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

John Kerry isn't Dead Enough. Keep Killing Him.

“Get a life.” “Get over yourself.” “Move on!”

Yes, these are all clichés, but sometimes there’s no other possible response to someone who continues to beat a dead horse, and continues and continues…

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth – and now they’ve changed their name to the shorter and more concise Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth – was one of the major Republican hit squads whose purpose was to defeat John Kerry. Well, the job was done. Mission accomplished. Bush won the election, and that was almost seven weeks ago. Yoohoo! Snap out of it!

This group’s name always reminds me of that Saturday Night Live skit “Coffee Talk” with Mike Meyers: “I’m getting verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth contains neither veterans nor truth. Discuss.”

Anyway, Swift Boat Veterans and POWs and Red Blooded Patriotic American He-Men for Truth (I’m guessing that’ll be their next name) will be convening next month. They’ll be celebrating Kerry’s defeat, and also making plans to continue speaking out about Kerry’s Viet Nam service and his anti-war activities after his discharge. What a fascinating topic; nobody’s ever brought this up before. I can’t wait.

The group also plans to make sure Kerry doesn’t run for the White House again in 2008. Hey, we agree on something. (If they were smart they’d want Kerry to run again in 2008.) But the Democratic party and 50 million voters will make it 100% certain that Kerry doesn’t even think about running in 2008.

Swift Boat Veterans and POWs and Red Blooded Patriotic American He-Men for Truth (hereafter referred to as SBVPOWRBPAHEFT) is claiming that “the media” didn’t give them enough attention and didn’t dwell sufficiently on the earthshaking matter of Kerry’s Viet Nam records and his anti-war activities. Well, maybe by the next election Sinclair Broadcasting will own a few hundred more TV stations and we’ll all have 24 hours a day of All Kerry, All The Time. Even if he isn’t running for anything.

Get a life.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Vioxx vs. Celebrex vs. Marijuana

Ah, the ironies and contradictions:

One of these three drugs is illegal under all circumstances; the other 2 are not only legal – they’re highly profitable to the companies that manufacture and advertise them.

One of these drugs has no proven side effects (everything from hairy palms to zombiehood has been alleged, but with no proof or even a shred of evidence). The other two drugs have been linked to increased risk of a stroke and/or heart attack.

In fact the manufacturers of the two legal drugs have so much political clout that scientists working for the Food & Drug Administration are often intimidated and told to keep their mouths shut if they find any side effects during their “objective” research.

The drug that’s illegal and has no proven side effects has increasingly been prescribed by doctors in recent years. There may not be any scientific proof of its effectiveness, but doctors and their patients have reported many success stories, especially for treating glaucoma and for reducing the nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Another irony: When 51% of voters elected Bush last month, conservatives were ecstatic over Bush’s “mandate.” When a slightly larger percentage voted for anti-gay marriage laws, conservatives again were shouting from the rooftops: “The people have spoken!”

So, now that conservatives are so attuned to the public pulse and have their ears wide open: 72% of respondents agreed with the statement that “adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medicinal purposes if a physician recommends it.” This was in a survey conducted by AARP last month.

Now there's a mandate. The People have spoken!

Torquemada for Attorney General

The Bush Administration has always reminded me of a certain Frasier episode several years ago. Frasier was ranting on and on about how terrible everything was, and he said to Niles “well, we’ve already hit rock bottom. What else could possibly happen?” Niles told him “oh, didn’t you know that [and gave him some more bad news]” and Frasier replied with “Going down!”

Just when you think Bush and his cohorts couldn’t possibly sink any lower – they do. Most Americans, regardless of their political views, heaved a collective sigh of relief when John Ashcroft departed after trying for four years to bring us back to the 4th century. Well, sorry folks: Going Down!

There isn’t a particular individual who’s entirely responsible for the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, but the person who initially paved the way for these events – made them practically inevitable – is Alberto Gonzales. Now, take a wild guess: who do you think Dumbya wants for our next Attorney General?

Hello, John Ashcroft: want your old job back? Sorry I called you a Neanderthal book-burning Bible-spewing snakehandler. I was just kidding. Please come back.

Alberto Gonzales has been White House counsel since 2001. He’s the one who came up with the “doctrine” that the President of the United States and his subordinates are not bound by any domestic or international laws prohibiting torture or inhumane treatment of captives. Gonzales laid out this doctrine in a secret memo on 1/25/02; Bush adopted this new policy a few days later.

During the Viet Nam war, National Lampoon magazine had a tongue-in-cheek “news” item: All American soldiers in Cambodia were instructed to jump as high as they could, at an exact pre-arranged time. This pre-arranged jump time was during a Nixon press conference, and this way Nixon could truthfully say “at this time there are no American ground forces in Cambodia.”

Now, fast-forward 30 years and we have Alberto Gonzales deciding “hmm, we’ll redefine our captives as Enemy Combatants instead of Prisoners of War, so the Geneva Convention won’t apply. Then we’ll confine them at an overseas military base so that American constitutional protections won’t be in effect.” With Gonzales’ new doctrine, the Pentagon and CIA were free to use any form of interrogation method they deemed “necessary.”

The Attorney General is supposed to enforce the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution, federal laws and international treaties, not look for ways to wiggle out from under them.

Remember, these torture victims are not terrorists; they’re accused of being terrorists. Some prisoners have already been released from Guantanamo Bay after it was determined they weren’t terrorists; they just got swept up by U.S. forces for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the most famous Abu Ghraib victims (the one cowering in a corner with a snarling dog just inches from his face) was in jail for being a suspected car thief. No political agenda, no terrorist connections; just suspected of being a car thief.

Hopefully the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the integrity (and the spine) to prevent this modern-day Torquemada from being our next Attorney General. If not, then (again, hopefully) maybe there will be at least 41 Senators whose consciences will force them to be more loyal to the Constitution than Bush’s slogans and arm-twisting tactics.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Wal-Mart in China

The world’s most dynamic company (and most American, in every way possible) is opening its first stores in a police state with over a billion people and a booming free-market economy. Let us count the culture clashes…

For one thing, Wal-Mart buys so many Chinese-made products that if it were a country it would be China’s 6th largest export market.

Last October at an open mike event, there was a poem about the first Wal-Mart opening in China, and on opening day all the locals were excited to see their first Wal-Mart store. Then when they went in, they were disappointed; everything in the store was just the same old schlock they’d already been making in China for years.

There have already been some bizarre East vs. West, modern vs. primitive juxtapositions as Wal-Mart executives are meeting the clogged, narrow streets and provincial bureaucracies of China’s outlying areas. Meetings between Wal-Mart buyers and local suppliers and entrepreneurs are a clash of all the East/West stereotypes: local suppliers come into the store all ready for that time-honored Asian tradition of bargaining and haggling, and are quickly told by Wal-Mart personnel to get to the point, cut to the chase.

There should be years of interaction and tug-of-war between a Chinese business culture built on personal relationships, and the Western approach of having a modern efficient supply network, built on the latest information technology.

We’ll see who bends and flexes more.

Turn Your Back on Bush

For the last few years every major Republican event (the convention last summer, any public appearance by Bush) has been fully equipped with a First Amendment patrol. All demonstrators, anyone carrying a sign – move over here to this tiny corner that’s 900 yards away from the stage. But during the inaugural parade next month, demonstrators will unveil a new stealth tactic.

www.turnyourbackonbush.org is urging protesters to leave their placards and zany costumes at home and just attend the parade. Just blend right in with the other thousands of parade watchers. And then, as the Bush motorcade is passing by, turn your back.

What could be simpler or more foolproof? No signs, costumes or shouted slogans to label you as sickocommiedevilworshiper who hates America. No worries about being relegated to the protesters’ ghetto 17 blocks away from the parade route.

Now, let’s have a little pool: On or before January 20th, 2005 (the date of the inauguration), there will be a federal law making it a felony to turn your back during a parade. True or False?

Don’t laugh, zanier things have happened. During the 1999 anti-globalization protests in Seattle, police indiscriminately teargassed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators. When word got out that some protesters were planning to bring gas masks to the next day’s demonstration, there was suddenly a new law against “unauthorized” possession of a gas mask. Seriously!

So, let’s see what happens. Will there be a law against turning your back during a parade? Will the Taliban, er, Republicans plant thousands of plainclothes, uh, “henchmen” in the audience to “deal with” those pesky backturners?

It should be interesting.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Global Warming as a Human Rights Issue

The Inuit – about 155,000 of them are scattered throughout the Arctic – are trying to put a different spin on global warming. They’ve taken their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking a ruling that the United States, by contributing substantially to global warming, is threatening their very existence.

Non-industrial countries and communities from the Arctic to the tropics – people whose everyday lives are completely shaped by their physical environment – are framing the looming environmental disasters as a human rights issue. To them, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels mean the end of life as they know it, not just something to read about over coffee.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an investigative organization with no enforcement powers. But they could lay the groundwork for a federal or international lawsuit against American polluters by ruling that global warming violates the Inuits’ human rights. Inuit representatives will begin the legal process by collecting videotaped statements from hunters and elders about how they’ve been impacted by the shrinking northern icescape.

Legal experts have predicted that if this approach is successful, it could lead to a stream of litigation comparable to the numerous lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

Parents TV Council

We all know that the FCC receives gazillions of complaints about “offensive” TV shows. (Apparently a raunchy TV program is much more offensive than the fact that our “public” airwaves have been hijacked by a few mega-corporate monoliths.) What you probably didn’t know is that 99.8% of all TV complaints to the FCC came from one group: the Parents TV Council. Click here for the full story.

The one exception: some of the complaints about Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Superbowl actually came from regular citizens and not Parents TV Council drones. But outside of that one incident, 99.8% of all TV complaints came from that one group.

But instead of getting all up in arms, let’s have a little fun with the Bible-thumpers. Log onto the Parents TV Council website and make several complaints about TV shows (preferably the most bland, innocuous shows you can think of). I’ve already filed “complaints” about Wheel of Fortune, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Praise The Lord and General Hospital. For each complaint, I received a return e-mail acknowledging the FCC’s receipt. Imagine hundreds, thousands of people filing bogus “complaints” about TV shows (remember, only the bland ones) to the FCC; it might throw a wrench in their gears.

Here’s their website. WARNING: if you have a low IQ or too much inbreeding, clicking on this website could cause erratic, uncontrollable behavior. If you start shouting passages from the Old Testament at inappropriate times, well, sorry Bub, you were warned.

Their website is very user-friendly. Heck, it has to be; it caters to rednecks and snakehandlers. They make it very easy to file a complaint. I’m personally very offended by “Touched by an Angel,” and I know it’s in reruns somewhere. That foxy lady on the show had the top button of her blouse unbuttoned and it caused me to think wicked thoughts. I’m going to complain to the FCC right now.

Come on, let’s dilute the Parents TV Council's effect and swamp the FCC with more complaints than they’ll know what to do with.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Democracy in the Middle East?

Some people are making bleak predictions for any prospect of bringing democracy to the Middle East, saying such attempts could backfire by stoking even more militant Islamic activity. And I say these sniveling naysayers can just take their limpwristed peacesignwearing anti-American asses back to the U.S. Army War College where they came from.

That’s right: the above is the conclusion of a new study by the U.S. Army War College. The same study also says the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism (sorry George, they’re two separate things) are both being jeopardized by the West’s continuing to inadvertently offend Islamic beliefs and customs. American diplomats and military officers will need to develop a deeper understanding of Islamic history if these two wars are to have any chance of success.

The Army War College report is designed as a primer for the Pentagon, detailing the history of the Middle East from the 7th century (the time of Mohammed) to the present.

Militant and moderate Moslems have a long history of disagreeing over interpretations of the Koran and how large a role Islam should play in their lives. (Sort of like Christians, come to think of it.) The Jerry Falwells and Fred Phelpses of our country have taken the most obscure (and most hateful) phrases of the Bible and pushed them to the center of the stage, and this is exactly how their Islamic counterparts in the Middle East have stirred up Arabic hatred for the West.

The U.S. will need to do some incredible diplomatic tightrope-walking (after learning about Islamic history and customs) and cultivate empathy and mutual understanding with moderate Islamic leaders.

Can this be done?

More on Global Warming

People who insist global warming is a myth, or just the result of natural cycles, are having to throw more and more sand over their heads to drown out the increasing protests from scientists and the international community. The 10 warmest years have all been since 1990. 2004 is expected to rank as the 4th or 5th warmest year on record.

The Kyoto pact, which will take effect on 2/16/05, is setting goals for 30 industrial nations to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases. The U.S. of course is not participating in this frenchsissytreehugging nonsense.

Global warming has already been blamed for more violent and unpredictable storms, rising sea levels and shrinking wildlife habitats. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that global temperatures would increase by 3 to 10 degrees during the 21st century, depending on how much we can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Even if the increase is “only” 3 degrees, the consequences could be devastating. Some research has indicated that a 3.5 degree increase could collapse the entire ecosystem of the Amazon rain forest and cause Greenland to be flooded by rising sea levels.

At this point even Bush’s Bitch (other aliases include “Tony Blair”) is trying to gently nudge his Master toward involvement in an international global warming agreement. (As you probably know, Clinton signed the Kyoto agreement in 1997, and Bush “unsigned” it after he was “elected.”)

It’s just incomprehensible that the Bush administration can continue to ignore a looming environmental disaster (“we need to study the issue”) but can instantly mobilize all of its resources for non-issues like gay marriage and medical marijuana. Wait, I’ve got an idea. Ssshhhh…

PSSST! George! Jerry Falwell has just discovered a link between global warming and gay marriage. Act Now!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Americans Moving to Canada

Aside from numerous threats of “I’m moving to Canada if Boy George gets re-elected,” or the constant grumbling by conservatives of “America, love it or leave it,” etc., the fact is more Americans actually are moving to Canada (or so they’re saying). Canada’s immigration website, which usually gets 50,000 hits a day, received 180,000 hits on November 3rd, and has been way above normal ever since then.

Last week more than 300 people attended seminars on Canadian immigration in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A Canadian immigration lawyer has joked that “Bush has been very good for business.”

But if your politics are of a liberal persuasion, will the grass be greener in Canada? The city of Victoria, B.C. (and there may be other examples) dumps all of its sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Canada has no counterpart to America’s Endangered Species Act. (So, all of you pro-growth anti-environment types, why don’t you just move your anti-American ass up to Canada?)

And there is some anti-Americanism. Most of it is channeled against the U.S. government and not individual Americans, but there have been instances of American tourists being lectured (or worse) by holier-than-though Canadians. And whether Canadians agree or disagree with the U.S. government, they may or may not want Americans moving next door. A Calgary newspaper columnist has written, “I hope I’m not alone in gently suggesting to those considering coming to Canada: stay home, you pathetic whining maggots.”

Still wanna go?

Instead of disgruntled Americans fleeing to Canada, perhaps the reverse would be a better solution. Al Franken has suggested that Canadians could help us by moving here. In the 12/09/04 issue of Rolling Stone, he wrote: “Don’t move to Canada. You’re exactly who we need. In fact we need people from Canada to move here. I don’t know why they would, exactly. But please, Canadians: move to the U.S. For God’s sake, help us!”

Another Notch for Larry Ellison

Jon Edwards’ “Two Americas” speech during the 2004 presidential campaign talked about “one America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks…One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a president.”

During the past 18 months, one ongoing news story has especially personified the Two Americas: Oracle Corp.’s continuous attempt to take over PeopleSoft Inc. Oracle finally succeeded and will take over PeopleSoft for $10.3 billion.

This story has that genuine Two Americas flavor because of the media’s simultaneous focus on: 1) Larry Ellison (Oracle’s CEO) constantly thumping his chest and preening his ego and bragging about how many PeopleSoft jobs will be eliminated when he takes over; and 2) the financial fears (you know, home foreclosures, evictions, mouths to feed) of the 6,000 to 12,000 PeopleSoft employees whose jobs are threatened.

Keeping PeopleSoft employees happy won’t be as important to Oracle as pleasing most of the customers that it will inherit, according to AMR Research Analyst Jim Shepherd. Some PeopleSoft customers have expressed serious reservations about the deal, and have threatened to defect to other companies specializing in software support. (Come on, don’t just talk about it; do it!)

PeopleSoft desperately wanted to remain independent, driven in part by the company’s deep-rooted disdain for Oracle’s products, as well as Ellison’s blunt and sometimes ruthless management style.

Pleasanton, CA, where PeopleSoft is based, is apt to be severely affected by the layoffs of thousands of PeopleSoft employees who live and work there. Presumably, we can all look forward to future split-screen Two-Americas news items about laid-off PeopleSoft employees (and the struggling merchants who used to have them as customers) and the incredible wealth and trappings of Larry Ellison.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Pinochet On Trial

Ding Dong the witch is dead! Or going on trial at least. More than 31 years after overthrowing the elected Salvador Allende (and establishing a reign of terror that was brutal even by Latin American standards), Chilean General Augusto Pinochet was indicted today on kidnapping and murder charges. Judge Juan Guzman announced the indictment after 3 months of questioning Pinochet, and having doctors determine whether his health can withstand a trial.

Pinochet was previously indicted in 2001 on murder charges stemming from his 1973-1990 reign, but the indictment was overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that he was mentally and physically “unfit” to stand trial. His lawyers are making that claim again today, and are expected to appeal today’s indictment on the same grounds. (Presumably all of Pinochet’s political prisoners were thoroughly examined by physicians and received a clean bill of health before having electrodes jammed into their unmentionables.)

Judge Guzman based his decision on the reports of three doctors who examined Pinochet, and from transcripts of a Spanish language interview (indicating full mental alertness) which Pinochet gave to a Miami TV station.

Earlier this month, an appeals court stripped Pinochet of immunity from prosecution for a 1974 car bombing that killed exiled Chilean General Carlos Prats and his wife in Buenos Aires. The exiled general had opposed the 1973 coup that put fellow general Pinochet in power, and was among the first of an estimated several thousand people killed during Pinochet’s rule.

Pinochet is 89. Here’s hoping he’ll be sentenced to a looong jail term, and be in good enough health to enjoy every day of it.

Abortion (Again)

Since losing the election, Democrats have been meeting and strategizing over the abortion issue: whether they should modify their pro-choice stance in the next election, or at least how to communicate to Middle America they aren’t really (in spite of all the right-wing propoganda) a bunch of bloodthirsty childkillers with a fetish for dead fetuses. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the new minority leader, is anti-abortion, and the Democrats are anxious to use this for their Big Tent image – all viewpoints are welcome, etc.

One pro-choice school of thought is the “slippery slope” theory: if one single abortion restriction is allowed today (partial birth abortions, for example), this will be the stepping stone to outlawing all abortions tomorrow. The opposing theory holds that by fighting any and all abortion restrictions, Democrats are alienating a lot of moderate voters who are generally pro-choice but are against partial-birth abortions, minors getting abortions without parental notification, etc.

Republicans (i.e. Karl Rove) did a brilliant job of pushing such “moral” issues to the center of the stage, and vilifying and demonizing anyone who disagreed. But do Republicans really have that much empathy for their millions of Christian and moralist constituents (whom they claim are being snubbed and looked down on by Democrats)? This article, while obviously tongue-in-cheek, makes one wonder how genuine the Republicans’ buzz words and slogans were, and how much it was all just calculated. It also makes you wonder how much tolerance for non-Fundamentalists, non-judgmental types there will be during the next four years.

Soldiers' Morale in Iraq

The testy exchange last week between Rumsfeld and Iraq-bound soldiers in Kuwait could be an indication of declining morale among American soldiers in Iraq. The lack of adequate armor for Humvees – combined with some soldiers filing lawsuits to protest the extension of their terms in Iraq, and some soldiers refusing to go on dangerous missions – could foretell the kind of overall breakdown that plagued the American military during the Viet Nam war.

Such blunt questioning of a secretary of defense by soldiers (and the roar of approval by thousands of other soldiers at the meeting), soldiers filing lawsuits – the Pentagon is getting alarmed by this trend. P.J. Crowley, a retired Colonel who has served as a Pentagon spokesman for both Republican and Democratic administrations, said “we are seeing some unprecedented things. The real fear is that these could be tips of a larger iceberg. The real issue is not any one of these things individually. It’s what the broader impact will be on our re-enlistment rates and our retention.”

Good point. After all, what kind of “volunteer” army is it when soldiers are routinely having their tours in Iraq, and even their enlistments, extended?

The declining morale among American soldiers echoes the growing pessimism among the American public about whether Iraq is likely to establish a stable, democratic government. 47% of Americans think a stable democracy in Iraq is likely; last April that figure was 55%.

Furthermore, we’ve waited almost 2 years for the flowers and ice cream that grateful throngs of Iraqis would be showering on American soldiers (after a 2-hour war with no U.S. casualties). We’re still waiting. But, wait, I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Endangered Species? Tough #%#$#!!

The Bush administration is going to allow developers, timber and mining companies, to continue their projects to completion even if it’s belatedly discovered part-way through the project that an endangered species would be affected. This decision, known as “no surprises,” will give assurance to developers that once their project is underway, they’re home free.

If development projects went through a thorough approval process with lots of time for public input, the above approach might be logical. But since Day One, Bush has been constantly pushing for faster and more streamlined approval of development projects, with less and less time for public input. Bush has also been trying (with alarming success) to shield development projects from any type of court challenges. (Didn’t we once have something called checks and balances?)

Reactions to Bush’s latest assault on the environment were predictable. The president of the National Association of Home Builders said the rules strike “a fair balance between … protecting endangered species and building adequate, affordable housing.” A lawyer for some American Indian and environmental groups opposed to the “no surprises” plan, said the rules remain “a legally and scientifically bankrupt policy that can only drive species closer to extinction.”

And the fun is just beginning. Wait until the oil companies (with lots of help from their puppet in the White House) start raping and plundering the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ask Rush Limbaugh

How has the right-wing media reacted to the Rumsfeld-in-the-hotseat incident in Kuwait earlier this week? Outrage over the lack of armored vehicles? No. Outrage over the fact that the manufacturers of Humvees refuted Rumsfeld’s claim that the Humvee companies were working at full capacity and couldn’t possibly increase production? No.

The Right is directing its fury at the embedded reporter who prompted the U.S. soldier to ask Rumsfeld about the lack of armor and other equipment. Click here for details. U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq without armor – whatever. The fact that Rumsfeld lied and said Humvee manufacturers were working at full capacity and couldn’t possibly increase production, and then got called on his lie – by the Humvee manufacturers – right in front of God and everybody? No biggie. But, Oh My God, a reporter prompted this soldier to ask Rumsfeld about this inexcusable situation – what an Outrage!

Let’s look at some early American history through this same Rush Limbaugh lens: Sure it’s too bad the colonists were being bullied and victimized by their British colonizers, but the Boston Tea Party was illegal. Private property (the tea) was illegally dumped into Boston Harbor, and yet our pinkotreehuggerfrenchsissy history books are portraying these rabble-rousers as heroes?!?

It can be very entertaining to read the right-wing media’s totally backward slant on current events; but unfortunately, lots of gullible people read and listen to this dreck, and they believe it.

Global Warming

While politicians continue to have academic, abstract discussions of global warming, what it means, whether it's caused by greenhouse gases or just natural cycles -- real people leading real lives are seeing the actual, living color effects of global warming right in front of them.

Some Sherpas in Nepal are worried about their mountain valleys being flooded by melting glaciers. Coastal villagers in Fiji are afraid of rising sea levels. Shortened rain seasons, eroding coastlines and decreasing fish stocks are being noticed by people all over the world.

What do all of these people have in common with the corporate PR hacks and right wing politicians who continue to debate and discuss and analyze whether global warming is real, whether it's natural or man-made? Zilch, nada, zip point shit. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn't going to get flooded by a melting glacier or rising sea levels (and if it does it was Clinton's fault). No corporate headquarters are located near melting glaciers or on the edge of a coastline that's steadily eroding.

It's kind of like the Paris peace talks during the Viet Nam war, where all the leaders and diplomats sat in luxury hotels and boardrooms to discuss the war and how to end it. People used to joke at the time that if they were holding the peace talks in a rice paddy in Viet Nam, they'd reach an agreement in five minutes. And there was that international headline during the mid 1970s about a group that met to discuss the world's food crisis, and the meeting took place over the most incredible spread of prime rib, caviar, lobster, you name it. Hello?!?! Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Maybe the White House and Capitol Hill could be moved to northern Alaska, right next to a melting glacier. The most adamant "global warming is a myth" CEOs should move their headquarters to the coast of Fiji, right next to the beach, come on, get a little closer...

Whatever decisions they made, they would at least see and hear and feel the evidence right under their noses, instead of just looking at Power Point presentations and listening to slogans.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Make Rumsfeld Squirm

When Donald Rumsfeld was put on the defensive 2 days ago by questions from U.S. soldiers, he blamed part of their equipment problems on the manufacturer of Humvees. According to Rumsfeld, the company that manufactures Humvees, and the company that manufactures their armor, were running at full capacity; nothing more could be done.

Not so, according to Lee Woodward of AM General, the company that makes Humvees. He said "If they call and say, 'you know, we really want more,' we'll get it done." Michael Fox, of O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, the company that turns Humvees into fully armored vehicles, also said they can provide more if the government requests. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana said the companies could increase production from 450 a month to 550 a month by February, if necessary. Bayh told the Pentagon last April that more armored Humvees could be built. He told reporters that this was another example of the Bush administration's lack of focus in Iraq. "It borders on the naive," he said.

So, Rummy, what's the scoop? Which is it?

It'll be interesting to see the Bush administration's frantic PR and damage-control efforts to contain the controversy. When politicians sloganize about "supporting our troops," the public tends to believe them and expects them to back up this slogan with money and equipment. Maybe it's time for the Bush administration to find out how the public reacts when they realize "support our troops" is just an empty slogan.


Nothing is easier than pontificating about “Support Our Troops” or “America, Love It or Leave It,” “Why Do You Hate America So Much,” yada yada. If you yourself don’t run off at the mouth with a facefull of slogans, try this:

Here’s a test you can run. When someone starts running off at the mouth about how we need to support our troops in Iraq, ask this person some questions:

How do you feel about the low pay of American military personnel?

What sacrifices would you as a taxpayer be willing to make to ensure higher pay for U.S. soldiers?

What about the huge number (and I do mean HUGE ) of Easy Loan and “Easy” everything (no money down, cheap price, no salesman will visit your home) stores near every military base? Every item, every kind of “loan” that a cash-poor military family might need, is right there (and don’t read the fine print, just Sign Here please…)

If your political philosophy is described as laissez-faire, free enterprise, let the chips fall where they may, then how do these slogans reconcile with the low pay and easy victimization of U.S. Army soldiers constantly victimized by the above (as verified by constant news stories)?

At some point, the non-schizophrenics among us are going to have to register a cerebral JOLT of “uh, hmm, the soldiers that I claim to support are being preyed on by sleazebag bankers and merchants and here I am blubbering about the free market, uh, what should I say here?”

Our current “president” (if he even deserves that title) came to power by simultaneously chirping contradictory slogans about “supporting our troops” and “let the market forces prevail.” Now, with the spotlight shining, our America First politicians might have to choose which buzz word, which slogan, they want to spew out to their constituents. Is it right to charge soldiers (and their families) a 390% interrest rate for a loan? Newsflash to America First Conservatives: that shaking and trembling you feel is the call to come out of your Ivory Tower and down to Earth with your constituents and Listen to them. This is the real world if you’re not a pampered legislator or corporate lobbyist.

Do you: A) Support Our Troops; or do you

B) Bend over and spread your cheeks every time a large corporation waves some money at you?

Sorry, only one answer is correct; you can’t check both A and B.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Boycott Target!

You, as a stakeholder in your community, should be against big-box, corporate-owned behemoths coming into your community and squishing everybody smaller in their path. Why? In a nutshell: Target. Now I don’t mean that every other merchant besides Target is Ward Cleaver and his lovely wife June, operating their little ole Mom and Pop store just for their health. But (and yes, this is a button pusher) Target has banned the Salvation Army from standing in front of Target stores and ringing their little bell during the Christmas shopping season. If you’re between the ages of 3 and 9999, nothing says Christmas (not counting the family Christmas tree and household decorations) more than somebody in a Santa hat in front of your local store ringing a Christmas bell as you walk into or out of the store. They don’t get up in your face or give you a sales pitch or push your guilt buttons. They’re just there, ringing their little Christmas bells and reminding you that it’s the Holiday Season. You can give them money, just say hi or just ignore them.

Apparently that doesn’t register on the sales pie-charts at Target board meetings. But the resulting consumer boycott has registered. Oh, yes, friends and neighbors, every blowdried MBA “oh yes we care deeply about name-of-community” type of PR drone is grabbing, clutching at every TV camera in sight to grovel about the “misunderstanding” that must have happened. “Oh, gosh, we only [blablublablublublublubublablblblb jsdfaksdfasdfnfjnfduj8az;odj corporatespeak here, not translatable]…

Now, whatever you think about free enterprise versus a local government’s control over the local economy, you probably don’t want a corporate big box store in Your Town. That quaint little boutique, squished by Wal-Mart? Eeek. That nice old grocer that you’ve known for decades, obliterated by Fred Meyer? Not here in our “nice” little town!

Maybe the CEOs at Home Depot, Wal-Mart and other big box stores are just smarter and more perceptive than their counterparts at Target. Sorry, that’s life. The dumbest street corner hustler gets pushed aside by the smarter hustlers, and since the street corner and the board room are pretty much interchangeable, well, that’s life. Sorry, Target, it’s a cold cruel world out here. Too bad you didn’t pick up on that when you banned the Salvation Army from trying to help out victims of that same Cold Cruel World.

All big-box stores should be banned from every community unless they can show their concern for the local economy and local concerns. In order to build in a new community it should be necessary for every big faceless corporate bigbox store to: A) demonstrate concern for local issues and the local economy; B) pretend to be going through the motions of Step A. So far Wal-Mart, Home Depot and other bigboxers have done a better job than Target of performing Step B. But hopefully they’ll be next on national consumers’ boycott lists.

Let's take back our communities!

Dimebag Darrell/Pantera/Damageplan

Because of a pointless murder in an Ohio nightclub, the heavy metal world has lost one of its major influences. “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, guitarist with the metal band Damageplan, was one of 4 people shot to death in a nightclub in Columbus. (The murderer was killed by police, so we’ll probably never know the motive, or if there even was one.)

Dimebag Darrell was best known for his work with Pantera, who practically defined heavy metal during the 1990s. During the ‘90s, I always thought Metal was divided into 2 categories: Pantera, and everybody else. God, such power and euphoria! Maybe this is the feeling Pentecostal Christians get when they speak in tongues and sway back and forth, etc. (Each to their own; I’ll stick with heavy metal, thank you.) If pure adrenaline could be translated into music, it would sound like “I’m Broken,” “Slaughtered,” “25 Years,” “Use My Third Arm,” “Suicide Note Part II,” “Medicine Man,” “Message In Blood,” to name just a few of their CD tracks.

I’m less in touch with who’s who in the Metal world lately, but of the groups I’ve heard, most of them have a very heavy Pantera influence. Phil Anselmo’s (Pantera’s vocalist) current group Superjoint Ritual has that same adrenalized Pantera sound. KXFX in Santa Rosa, CA has a dynamite metal program (the Mosh Pit) on Fridays, 10 p.m. to midnight. (I moved out of that area 4 months ago; I don’t know if that show is still on the air or not.) I listened to that show a lot, but I never seemed to catch the groups’ names.

Is there something about the date December 8th that brings out the wackos and sick twists? There was a rumor that right before John Lennon was killed, someone was seen camping out for several days near Joni Mitchell’s estate. Since he wasn’t trespassing or violating any laws, he was never arrested or identified, but he vanished a day or two before John Lennon’s murder. Could it be...

If somebody wants to commit a random murder, why does the victim have to be a musician who brought joy and euphoria to millions of listeners? Dimebag Darrell gets murdered and Tom DeLay lives?!?!? What kind of sick world are we living in?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Iraqi Prisoner Abuse (Again?!!)

Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who witnessed the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces were threatened and warned to keep their mouths shut. The American forces even monitored the e-mails of defense personnel to make sure they weren't reporting what they saw. Other DIA personnel had photographs confiscated, and some were forbidden to leave the compound for any reason without written permission. And of course now we know that the FBI was reporting torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay as far back as 2002, more than a year before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

Every new report seems to show the abuses starting earlier and earlier, and the complicity going higher and higher up the chain of command. Aside from turning the United States into just another Third World country, the use of torture on prisoners doesn't even produce any reliable information, according to the FBI.

Perhaps this is the kind of high moral standards the Christian Right had in mind when they swept Bush back into the White House.

Cities, Unite!

If you live in a large U.S. city, you're probably in a "blue" district, no matter how "red" or conservative a state or region you live in. Click on http://www.urbanarchipelago.com/ for the full story. Most large cities, and every city of over 500,000, went for Kerry in the last election.

Urban residents, regardless of their political views, tend to have similar concerns and problems. No matter how conservative you are, you'd probably be in favor of improved mass transit in your own crowded neighborhood. Another example: Bush is already trying to remove the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, with the (unstated) reasoning that blue states have more government services and hence higher taxes and should be punished.

It is very important for urban residents to unite on the issues that concern them, and not be drowned out by the loud squeaky wheel of suburban and rural voters. If there's enough communication and unity between the residents and stakeholders of a city, perhaps the quality of life in that city would become a higher priority in choosing political candidates. "Sure, I'm against permissiveness and gay marriage, but what is this candidate going to do about the homeless people in my neighborhood?" "I think it's great that we're spending billions of dollars fighting an endless war in Iraq, but shouldn't there be some money left over for fighting gang violence in our neighborhood park?"

Hey, it's a possibility. Just imagine: urban residents and stakeholders deciding that the quality of life in their own city is more important than preaching fire and brimstone; more important than thumping our chests in the Middle East.

Can we do this?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Medical Marijuana

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the medical marijuana case of Ashcroft vs. Raich. This issue, perhaps more than any other, shines the spotlight on the Kafkaesque, schizophrenic, talking-out-of-both-sides-of-the-mouth nature of today’s conservatives. Where to begin…

Limited Government – that old favorite all-purpose slogan (and all its variations). Community leaders ask a developer to scale back a huge project in order to mitigate the resulting traffic and overcrowding – “that’s too much government.” Public safety advocates push for safer working conditions at a factory – “get the government off our backs.” “Let the market forces decide,” etc. In short, if that nosy old government will just back off, stay the *#&*#*# out of the way and let the chips fall where they may, everything will be fine. Unless a terminally ill cancer patient smokes marijuana to ease the nausea from chemotherapy. Then suddenly it’s Oh My God, Emergency!!!, Call in the government!!!

States’ Rights – the conservative rallying cry since the 1950s. When a state’s voters do something contrary to the conservative mindset, conservative politicians apparently have no trouble accessing one of their alternate personalities and clamoring for the federal government to go in and steamroll over that pesky little whippersnapper.

Cost/Benefit Analysis. This was a favorite Republican rallying cry during Clinton’s presidency. Cleaner air, cleaner water, worker safety – any program that might mean a 1% profit reduction for a few CEOs would bring out conservatives’ deep concern for taxpayers’ hard-earned money. No matter how many lives a program might save – “let’s see how much this big intrusive government boondoggle is gonna cost.” But when it comes to having the government barge in and interfere with a doctor’s medical advice, money is no object.

There you have it. For a political philosophy centered around limited government, states’ rights and a determination that every tax dollar be spent effectively, the medical marijuana issue should be a slam dunk.

Karma. There’s a loaded word. Regardless of anyone’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or belief in anything beyond the five senses, everyone probably believes to some degree that “what goes around comes around.” For the John Ashcrofts among us (yes I know he’s gone but his fingerprints and footprints will be with us for decades), how could there not be that nagging little fear of reaping what you’ve sown? Perhaps the DEA agent who plans a raid on a medical clinic full of terminally ill patients smoking marijuana is sowing the seeds for his own diagnosis of “there’s a spot on this X-ray. We’ll need to run further tests.” Or maybe not, but if I was in his position I’d be scared sh#tless.