Thursday, December 30, 2004

Lessons Unlearned

The great man, Ben Franklin said:

"Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn."

That is the problem with Bush. He is incapable or unwilling of learning from his mistakes. After the election he had an opportunity to reunite the country, but he went directly for the Democrats throat. After the tsunami, he had the opportunity to start healing rifts with the Muslim world.

President Bush had an excellent opportunity to reach out to the Muslim world and show that we, America, are not at war with them, but extremist who wish to do us harm. Instead of reaching out and offering substantial help to the areas ravaged by the recent tsunami, he pledged a measly $35 million dollars to the relief effort. To put this in perspective, Bush's second term inauguration will cost $50 million dollars. That is right, we are going to spend $15 million more dollars on Bush's coronation than we are willing to give to an area where an estimated 115,000 people have died and the count is growing. We just told the world we are willing to spend more on a party than on the biggest natural disaster in our lifetime. Yes, as a nation, we do give more for international aid than any other country in the world. But, when you look at the amount we give in relation to our GDP, we are the lowest giving developed nation in the world. Thats right... dead last. Sweden leads the pac with .92% of their GDP. The US gives only .14%. The UK has pledged $96 million dollars. Even Spain is giving $54 million.

Now, you may ask, why should we give? What has Shri Lanka done for us lately? Well, when we give aid to other nations, it is not like when you or I give money to our local charities. We give and the only benefit we get is the warm thoughts of our charity helping to make someone else's life just a little bit better. But when the US gives (or does not give), it effects our stature as a world leader and our national security. We can be seen as a benevolent giant or a stingy ogre. It is like tips at a restaurant. Anyone who have ever waited tables before knows exactly what I am talking about. Yuo, the customer, owes the waiter nothing. There is no tip law. But, there is an expected tip. If you give 15%, the waiter will get what they expected (depending on the establishment) and everyone is happy. If you give 25%, that waiter is going to remember you and be very grateful. The next time you come in, you are going to get extra special service. But, if you give 5%, the waiter is insulted and you had better never show your face in that restaurant again, or there is going to be something in your food that you did not order (something with 6 legs). That is what Bush has done here. He just tipped 5%. He was expected to come to their aid and he brushed them off. We have no obligation to do it, but we do it because it is the right thing to do and because we need to improve our stature in the world right now. Instead, we just slapped them in the face.

I will give another example. The Greeks and the Turks hated each other (many still do). They have been fighting for centuries. After Turkey had a devastating earthquake, Greece, instead of sitting back and quietly smirking at Turkey's misfortune, they came through with a tremendous amount of aid and human help. The attitude of many Turks towards the Greeks changed dramatically. Not because the political climate had changed at all, but because Greeks came through in Turkey's time of need.

But what really, really irks me about Bush is that he took 4 days to make any meaningful offer of condolence. Not only is that politically stupid, that just shows poor character. He tried to justify it with this:

Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras
to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak
louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's
view of his appropriate role.

What actions?... $35 million? Yeah, your actions Mr. Bush do speak volumes to your humanity and your character. You should be ashamed of yourself. But, alas, I know that you are too arrogant to ever feel shame.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami Relief

I know that everyone in blog land has been posting donation sites to help in the relief effort. I just wanted to put a plug in for I am a backer of this organization because it is also involved in the relief effort in the Sudan of which I am actively involved with other lawyers in order to propose solutions to the problem. Either way, if you give here or to any organization involved in the relief efforts for South East Asia, thank you for your contribution.

And later on, if you feel like donating to a charity for our fallen soldiers, I recommend The Fallen Heroes fund run by the Intrepid foundation. 100% of the donation goes to families of soldiers killed in action.

A larger list of charity organizations can be found at Oporation Truth.

Oh, Really?

This article was in the Daily Standard. Now, the right claims that the Democrats lost because we are out of touch with main stream America. I disagree with that. I think it was due to a much more complex set of circumstances, but this article shows that the Republicans (at least some) are as out of touch as the Democrats... or, if the author's assertions are true, I am not sure how proud I would be of them.

Next to President Bush, few things anger liberals more than Wal-Mart and Detroit's Big Three automakers. The liberal intelligentsia views Wal-Mart as the most frightening force in corporate America because it maintains a non-union workforce. The Big Three are scorned because they make trucks and SUVs that consume copious amounts of gasoline. Liberals believe America would be a much better country if more of us drove Toyota Priuses to Whole Foods each week instead of hopping into Ford F-150s to get our groceries at Wal-Mart.

Trent Wisecup believes the Dems lost because we angered the SUV/Wal-Mart crowd. And that real Americans want to drive pickup and SUVs in order to shop at Wal-Mart. Is this really what the Republican party is pushing? And if so, why? Yes, I would prefer Americans to drive hybrid cars (I would prefer Ford or GM than Toyota, but that is besides the point). Why would I prefer Americans driving SUVs? Give me one single good reason. Gas guzzling SUVs are a detriment to our national security and our economy. The more we rely on imported oil, the worst off we are as a country.

For one thing, they tend to try to kill us over there in the Middle East. But, if we don't get oil from the Middle East, we don't have to protect our supply of it with American troops.

For another thing, 30% of our 54 billion dollar trade debt is because of imported oil. That would mean we would be keeping 16 billion dollars at home instead of sending it to countries that hate us. So, yes, I do dislike SUVs and pickups. If you need one because you are a farmer or other work, then knock yourself out and buy what you need. You won't hear any complaints from me. But too many Americans don't need them. I know way too many people who won't even drive them in the snow because they are afraid of getting them dinged up. For the average American, my car does just fine. It was made here in America, has the lay down back seats so I can fit larger objects in when I need to, and get 34 miles to the gallon.

Ok, now Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation for a reason. One hundred million Americans shop at its stores to benefit from its everyday low prices. A working family can save more than $500 a year at Wal-Mart on groceries alone.

Yes, Wal-Mart saves people money. But that is not why I dislike Wal-Mart. I dislike Wal-Mart because what it has done to Main Street America. When I was in college, I had an internship which took me to every small town in Wisconsin to meet with farmers and small business owners. One of the things I cannot forget is how much everyone hated Wal-Mart because it was killing their towns. It put mom and pop stores out of business. I remember one general store owner who told me that Wal-Mart was selling the same kids bike for less than he could even buy it from the wholesaler. People in Middle America don't shop at Wal-Mart because the want to. They shop there because they have to. More than one person admitted that they did shop at Wal-Mart, but they felt so guilty about it that they would not admit it to neighbors and friends. That was 10 years ago and Wal-Mart has taken hold and there is no turning back. But Mr. Wisecup, please don't claim Wal-Mart is Middle America because you couldn't be more wrong. Yes, American's save a lot of needed money by shopping there, but we have lost a lot at the same time.

So, if Americans really want to be dependant on the Middle East and all its problems and want to put small mom and pop shops out of business, then you are right, the Democrats didn't do a very good marketing job. But, I don't believe that, and I think you are out of touch with what Americans really want, also.

H/T International Rock City

In God We Trust - Mail Bag

I received this response from Sofyst in regards to this post talking about the use of "God" on our money and in the pledge.

Hey Dingo, what about 'endowed by our creator', does that not reek of a higher being, a God? I would say so, but HEY, I do of course have some certain presupoositional biases in my thinking don't I?

(Thought I'd throw in alittle to disturb the waters some!!)

Thanks for your comments. This is my response to them.

I almost forgot about you. My bad... You know, the holidays and all, blah, blah, blah. I do apologize.

Anyway, to answer your question below... In discussion of the Declaration of Independence

First, that was the Declaration of Independence (DoI), which has no legal weight. You cannot go into court and say, "your honor, the DoI gives me the right to pursue happiness." We, of course have no "right" to pursue it... we can, but it is not a right.

Second, as also stated in the DoI, "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God..." This can be viewed as a nod to god, or it can be viewed as a nod to Natural Law which Jefferson and other lawyers were into big time. Natural Law was a theory used by St. Thomas Aquinas to explain how law is derived from humans 'natural' morality and expanded from there. The theory believes that law (natural law) exists and can be pulled out of thin air because morality exists. The notion that all men are created equally is inherent in human nature is a Natural Law principal. Yes, this does have connection with the notion of god as creator of humans, but the theory can be separated from and exist separate from religious doctrine. You can be religious or an atheist and still believe in natural Law. Of course morality is connected with Christian belief, but the Natural Law theory believes even non-Christians can discern and exercise Natural Law because it comes from human nature. The existence of Natural Law can occur with or without a god. Were the founding fathers Christians? Yes, without doubt, but that does not mean they looked only to Christianity for their justification for the revolution. Did it influence them? I am sure that it did, but so did many of the classical Greek philosophers. An argument that I can give to you is that during that time, a king was considered God's choice as a ruler. To rebel against that would to rebel against God (as many loyalists pointed out). The founding fathers needed to look for something else and used Natural Law as shown by the statement of,

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

Of the signers of the DoI, 25 were lawyers and only one was a minister which gives some credence to my argument of Natural Law. (I would also like to add - these guys were liberals for their day... not conservatives. I think the term ya'll on the right like to use is "moonbats")

For more on natural law, you can read up on it here (or many other places):

Third, the phrase, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." This notion is completely non-Christian. The thought that the people are the just holders of the rights of government is contrary to cannon law. Here, there is no mention of God. The Christian Churches believed that the justice to govern came from the will of God, not the people. The DoI goes on and on about the people and their rights...

Looking past the DoI, what Christian principals is the US founded on? I ask this respectfully because I just don't see it.

Democracy is not a Christian principal - Both the notion of a republic and democracy predated Christianity and didn't see the light of day in any Christian nation (except Switzerland and limited amounts in the UK) until the US was formed.

Slavery - that is condoned in the bible, but I don' this it is something we really want to grab onto as a founding principal. Furthermore, it was the Quakers who initially fought against slavery (as Christians). The fact that we had a war over it goes to show that this was not a founding "Christian" principal (at least that is what I would like to believe) since there was a great divide.

The man is the head of the house - Yes, this is both a Christian principal and a belief of the founding fathers, but yet another one I think is better by the wayside.

Charity - there was no welfare, social security, etc at our founding.

Freedom of speech and press is not Christian - blasphemy is sin and punishable by the church, but it is protected by the 1st amendment.

Right to bear arms - I don't think Jesus would have added this amendment if he had a say... but that is just my opinion.

Quartering of troops - no

Jury trials and due process - no

speedy trial and right to counsel - no

Civil trials - not even close

Cruel and unusual punishment - no stoning allowed in the US

Marriage - That was initially left up to the churches. There was originally no state sanctioning of it. No license or blood tests needed, just a minister and a father with a shot gun.

Bicameral Legislature - no

Checks and Balances - no

In fact, the only mention of religion in the constitution was to say that government will not get into it.

So, in conclusion, summation and closing, I say that this nation was founded by Christian men, but not on Christian principals. This is a nation consisting of more Christians than non-Christians, but it is not a Christian nation. It was founded by Christians but was intended for all. Have some groups gone too far in pushing secularism? Yes, but some Christians have also gone too far in pushing their beliefs where they do not belong. My co-worker is a fundamentalists and I am Catholic. As a fundamentalist, she believes in creationism. As a Catholic, I can believe in the big bang and evolution. We will never agree and only argue about it so, we just leave religion at home and don't bring it to the office, and so the office is much less tense when religion is not discussed. I can respect her opinion and she can respect mine even though we do not agree. But it is better we don't talk about it. The classroom, the courtroom, etc. are places where religion does not need to be because it is just way too personal and there is no right answer that can be proven. That is why it is called Faith. If religion could be proven, it would be called science. We can both exercise our religions and be respectful of others at the same time, but it is going to take some compromise and a lot of patients.

By the way, did you know that in Germany, they teach religion in the classroom? Didn't help them any, did it? Religion comes from the home, not the school.

Hope you had a merry Christmas and you have a safe and happy new year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Short Lived Bipartisan Pledge

Bush claimed he was going to act in a bipartisan way after the election. He said he wanted to heal rifts, but instead, he is only trying to grow them. Bush is insisting on renominating 20 extremist judges that were turned down during his first term. Instead of working with Democrats to find perfectly qualified moderate conservative judges that would easily pass Senate approval, he is throwing it in the Democrats face. There was a very valid reason the founding fathers made senate approval mandatory for federal judges, but Bush, who thinks himself King instead of the president of a democracy doesn't care about checks and balances. The truth is, if you don't agree with Bush, he could care less about you either.

Bush to Renominate 20 for Judgeships (Link to Full Story)

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Refusing to be brushed off by Democratic opposition in the Senate, President Bush plans to nominate for a second time 20 people who did not receive up or down votes on their nominations for federal judgeships.

The Democrats' ability to stall certain White House picks for the federal bench was one of the most contentious issues of Bush's first term. During the past two years, despite the GOP majority in the Senate, Democrats used filibusters to prevent final votes from occurring on 10 of 34 of Bush's nominees to federal appeals courts.

"I was extremely disappointed to learn today that the president intends to begin the new Congress by resubmitting extremist judicial nominees," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement. "Last Congress, Senate Democrats worked with the president to approve 204 judicial nominees, rejecting only 10 of the most extreme."

Ralph Neas, head of People for the American Way, which worked to block several of Bush's appointments to the courts, said Bush's decision signaled his renewal of partisan warfare. "The president and his team want to pack the federal courts with right-wing ideologues, and roll back decades of progress in social justice," he said.

Monday, December 27, 2004

In God We Trust

I would like to clear up some misconceptions about the word "God" in the pledge of allegiance and on our money and in relation to our country as a whole. I hear over and over by the religious right that the founding fathers wanted this to be a Christian nation and that is why it was on the money and in the pledge. The truth is is that it was not in either at the founding of our country, so if you are a religious person who is trying to claim the United States is a Christian nation because of it, please stop. The United States is a Republic which has a Christian majority, but that does not make it a Christian nation. The founding fathers were smart enough to make no mention of God in the constitution other than to ensure the government stayed away from it.

The Pledge of Allegiance:

The original pledge did not contain the words "under God." These words were added by president Eisenhower in 1954 in order to make an ideological difference between the communist and ourselves. Eisenhower used the phrase for political purposes, not to be pious.

"In God We Trust" on our money:

This was not added to our coins until 1864 (civil war). The motto was not used on paper money until 1957. (Link)

I am not using this to attack anyone's religious beliefs, but please stop using the facts wrongly.

Bush and His Oil Business Cronies

President Bush had an opportunity to save the American taxpayers the expense of cleaning up after oil companies drill on public land, but he decided not to. Instead, your tax dollars will go to subsidies the clean up after his oil and gas buddies who have pumped all the oil out and made their money. The American people will spend $25,000-$75,000 to cap each of the used up wells.

AP: Oil, Gas Bonds Leave Taxpayers Exposed (Link)

By DAVID PACE, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Bonds posted by companies with federal oil and gas leases cover only a small fraction of the projected costs of plugging wells and restoring land once the fuel is extracted, leaving taxpayers with the potential for huge cleanup bills, an Associated Press analysis of federal records shows.

The Bureau of Land Management (news - web sites) has collected just $132 million in bonds from oil and gas companies responsible for more than 100,000 wells on federal lands. The government estimates it costs between $2,500 and $75,000 to cap each well and restore the surface area.

In the past five years, the BLM has spent $2.2 million to clean up 187 wells where operators defaulted on their bonds.

At that average rate of $13,066 per well, the shortfall between the bonds and the actual cleanup costs could leave taxpayers with as much as a $1 billion potential liability if companies reneged on their cleanup responsibilities, the AP analysis found.

The Bush administration this fall quietly shelved an eight-year effort to increase the minimum bond requirements for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Falwell and His Choice Not to be Gay

Well, I don't know about you, but I am a heterosexual, but not by choice. It is just who I am. I never had to make a chioce, but apparently Falwell could have gone either way...

Matthews: Did you choose to be heterosexual?

Falwell: I did.

Matthews: You thought about it and you came up with that solution, that lifestyle?

Falwell: Well, put it this way, I was taught as a child that that's the right way to be.

Matthews: But did you feel an attraction toward women?

Falwell: Oh, of course.

Matthews: But when people are born and they find themselves having an attraction to somebody from the same sex, do you think that's a choice?

Falwell: I think you can experiment with any perversity and develop an appetite for it, just like you can food. […] I don't think anybody is born a bank robber […]

Matthews: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?

Falwell: Oh, I don't remember that.

Matthews: Well you must, because you say it's a big decision.

Falwell: Well, I – I started dating when I was about thirteen.

Matthews: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.

Falwell: Well, I never had to decide, I never thought … (laughter)

Wait a minute … are they flirting? ... 5:49 p.m.

H/T Cultural Revolution

The National Sales Tax

Now... ya'll let yourselves be swindled by the Republicans over the whole estate tax thing (Link). Now I am seeing ya'll get swindled again. The whole notion of the National Sales Tax being supported by lower and middle income people just baffles me. It is a fact that the rich will pay less in taxes. Not even Boontz can argue otherwise... and it is a fact that the government needs money to operate. Where you think the money to pay for the US government will come from? It is not going to magically appear. The tax burden is going to be shifted from the upper to the middle and lower class. The Republicans can spin this anyway they want (embedded tax, blah, blah, blah), but at the end of the day, the rich get another tax break and everyone else gets screwed. It looks like Bush is reluctant to try the national sales tax, but he is still looking at eliminating taxes on investments. This will mean you will not be able to deduct your state income tax paid, Social Security would have increased taxes, and the incentive for employers to pay part of your health insurance would be eliminated. Is the tax code complicated? Yes, but would you rather spend an extra hour or two figuring out your taxes or pay an extra thousand or two in taxes.

Bush's Tax Overhaul May Be Incremental

(Link to Full Story)


WASHINGTON - President Bush's campaign to make the tax code simpler, fairer and more pro-growth is likely to involve incremental changes to the current system rather than a sweeping effort to scrap the venerable income tax for a radically new approach, such as a national sales tax.

But the changes Bush will propose are still expected to generate huge opposition, especially if he suggests scrapping favored tax breaks such as the deduction for state income tax payments.

Tax experts in close contact with the administration say signs are pointing toward a plan that will seek to improve the income tax code, rather than replace it with a single-rate flat tax with no deductions, a national sales tax or Value Added Tax, all ideas that gained prominence among conservative Republicans in the 1990s...

While retaining the current income tax system, this option would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to make sure the rich paid their fair share of taxes but is now ensnaring more middle-income taxpayers. The proposal also would significantly expand opportunities for people to set up savings accounts where their investment earnings would be tax-free, something the administration has been pushing for two years.

Eliminating the AMT, which covered 3 million mostly wealthy taxpayers in 2004 but will raise the taxes of 23 million taxpayers by 2008, would cost the government an estimated $600 billion over 10 years.

To pay for that and the more generous savings accounts, the "least radical" proposal would eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes, while imposing a tax on Social Security (news - web sites) benefits and employer-provided health care benefits.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

How the Terrorist Won the War... Mail Bag

A commenter left the following in regards to this post:

It's a matter of the security of our country, it's a matter of saving the lives of our CITIZENS. Every non-citizen should be identified by the government, should be required to carry an ID at all times and the government should have an unrestrained ability to protect our lives. Did 9/11 teach you nothing?

No. You are quite wrong. It is not about the security of our country. It is caving into fear. It is about giving up our freedom. It is about letting the terrorist win. It is about trampling on the Bill of Rights. It is about disrespecting every person who has ever died in defense of our nation. It is about forgetting our foundations and who we are. Why would you want to live in a police state where Freedom of Religion is no longer respected?

Don't you think that the government could protect us more if we got rid of the 4th and 5th amendments? But we don't dump them because we like our freedom more than the false sense of security getting rid of them would bring.

As Ben Franklin said:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Most Muslims in America are Americans, not foreigners. There are many, many Muslim Americans and you are willing to trample on their American born rights - the same rights you and I have. The Muslims who pray in mosques on American soil deserve the same respect as every Christian church. Timothy McVey was a Christian. Does that justify the FBI infiltrating our places of worship? No. KKK members are so called Christians. Does that justify the FBI infiltrating our places of worship? No. Yet these people feel their actions were condoned by God. Why are our troops overseas fighting and dying for out freedoms when you are willing to give them away?

I am sorry, but you are wrong.

Support for the Iraq War Slips

Just remember, while many have contempt for Bush and Rumsfeld, do not blame the soldiers for Bush's decisions...

56 Percent in Survey Say Iraq War Was a Mistake.
70 percent of Americans think these gains have come at an "unacceptable" cost in military casualties.
53 percent disapproved of Rumsfeld's handeling on Iraq.
52 percent said Bush should give Rumsfeld his walking papers.

(Link to Story)

Monday, December 20, 2004

How the Terrorist Won the War...

Pack you bags and close the green zones in Iraq and Afghanistan because the war on Terror is over and we were the losers. According to a poll by Cornell University (Link to Story), nearly half (44%) of Americans believe that Muslims in America should have their civil liberties curtailed. The findings:

44% of poll participants said the civil liberties of Muslims should be restricted
27% percent of respondents favoring mandatory registration with the government
26% said authorities should monitor mosques
29% percent supported undercover law enforcement infiltrating Muslim volunteer and civic groups
22% said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage

What I am about to write is not "blame America first," but blame America when it deserves to be blamed. These poll results make me alternate between sickness and sadness. It shows that we are losing the war on terrorism because we are losing America. It doesn't matte what happens overseas because we lost at home. An interesting aspect of the study I saw in this study was the difference in numbers between Democrats and Republicans.

"40% of Republican respondents agreed that Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts, compared with 24 percent of Democratic respondents and 17 percent of independents. Forty-one percent of Republican respondents said that Muslim American civic groups should be infiltrated, compared with 21 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents."

I hear over and over from the right how Democrats "don't really" love our country, but this poll shows otherwise. 40% of Republicans don't believe in freedom! How can you claim to love your country and make people register their religious beliefs? Or is this just a new strategy that the right has not yet divulged to the left. Since Bush claims terrorist attack us because they hate our freedom... We'll just get rid of freedom and they will no longer hate us. We'll just give away our freedom of worship and freedom of speech. So much for the days of "my only regret is that I only have one life to give." Now it is "my only regret is this stupid constitution standing in my way." There are a lot of good Republicans out there. Good Republican people who don't believe in this crap. It is your duty to sit the rest of your idiot brethren down and explain to them how wrong they are. If you work on them, I'll work on the 24% of the idiots on the left who feel the same. Is it a deal?

The fact that 27% (that's one out of every four Americans) of respondents want Muslims to register with the government is wrong on so many levels. First, it is unconstitutional, and blatantly so (so much for the freedom of religion). Second, it is way too close to Nazi Germany where the Jews had to register with the government. The Nazi's said, "don't worry... it's for your own protection." May I remind the American people, it was not just Jews killed in those camps. It was also gypsies, Christians, handicapped, Slavs, etc. It starts out with one group and then moves on to others. Next, its the Black and Hispanics since they have gang violence in minority neighborhoods. Then it is the Catholics because they answer to a "papist dictator." So on and so on. As the saying goes "freedom is not free." This means that we must wake up every day and reaffirm our belief and struggle against tyranny in the face of our own insecurities. It does not me that we give up freedom in order to stay free. It doesn't work that way. When you give away the freedoms of another American so you can feel safer, you give up being an American because you have given away her soul.

Rummy Gives the Middle Finger to Families

It is no secret that I detest Donald Rumsfeld. He is arrogant and could care less about the lives of our soldiers. He put the dot on the exclamation point when it came to light that he doesn't even sign the letters that go out to the families of the soldiers killed in Iraq. Instead, he has a machine sign form letters for him. Even Bush finds time to personally sign the letters (Something I do actually commend him for). I said it before and I'll say it again... Our troops deserve better than this man.

Congress Criticizes Rumsfeld Over Letters

By GENARO C. ARMAS, Associated Press Writer (Link to Full Story)

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has decided to personally sign condolence letters to the family members of U.S. troops killed in action rather than letting a machine affix his signature.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress criticized the embattled Pentagon chief on Sunday for not signing the letters himself all along.

"My goodness, that's the least that we could expect of the secretary of defense, is having some personal attention paid by him," said Sen. Chuck Hagel), R-Neb., noting that President Bush signs such letters himself.

"If the president of the United States can find time to do that, why can't the Secretary of Defense?" Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, asked on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The statement, which was reported Friday by the military newspaper, Stars & Stripes, did not specifically refer to troops killed in Iraq though family members of soldiers who died there told the newspaper they were angry with Rumsfeld's apparent stamped signature. More than 1,300 American troops have died since the war began in March 2003.

Bin Laden Tape Urges Stopping Oil to U.S.

Yes... for all of you Neo-Cons out there... Even with a stable and democratic Iraq, we are still vulnerable to Al Queda. As long as we are dependant on middle east oil (and ANWAR, even at full capacity can't, come close to making up the difference) we are under threat by terrorists ability to hit our energy supply. If there is anyone out there who is not advocating a full push by the US to create alternative energy supplies, then I don't see how you have America's best interest in mind. We were driven to achieve a great feat by JFK in reaching the moon. Now, we need to be driven again to reach another great feat. We need to cut out dependence on oil. We have the brain power and the resources to do it. But we need the leadership and the vision.

Bin Laden Tape Urges Stopping Oil to U.S.

By DAVID McHUGH, Associated Press Writer (Link to Story)

Osama bin Laden claims to have bled the Soviet Union into bankruptcy as an Islamic guerrilla fighter in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Could he do the same to another hated superpower — the United States?

The al-Qaida leader's latest purported communication drove home the point by calling on militants to stop the flow of oil to the West and praising a Dec. 6 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil producer.

"Go on and try to prevent them from getting oil," the speaker said. "Concentrate your operations on that, especially in Iraq (news - web sites) and the Gulf."

It was believed to be the first time a purported bin Laden tape in effect called for attacks on the oil industry. But he has flaunted the economic theme before, recalling in his most recent video how Afghan mujahedeen "bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt" and taunting the U.S. government over the size of its budget deficit — which peaked at $413 billion last year.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Alabama Judge Loses a Screw

I have not yet had a chance to write the second of the two postings on why the Ten Commandments should not be in the courtroom (Link) but this is a good reason right here

Ala. Judge Wears Ten Commandments on Robe

By BOB JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer (Link to Story)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.

Attorney Riley Powell, defending a client charged with DUI, filed a motion objecting to the robe and asking that the case be continued. He said McKathan denied both motions.

"I feel this creates a distraction that affects my client," Powell said.

McKathan told The Associated Press that he believes the Ten Commandments represent the truth "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. ... The Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong."

No, No, No!!! the law helps you determine the law, not the Ten Commandments. The Judge has taken an oath to uphold the federal and state constitution as well as to interpret, to the best of his ability, the laws that the Alabama legislature has passed. There is nothing in the Ten Commandments that is applicable in the courtroom that is not already laid out in the state and federal laws. This Judge should be relieved of his position for not upholding the Constitution of the United States.

Bush on the Environment

A new book is coming out by Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Bush's head of the EPA. Whitman says in her book that she was at odds with the White House because she was to moderate and actually wanted to do the job she was hired to do... protect our environment. She also says that "moderates must speak up or the party could move so far to the right that it will lose its influence and strength." (Link)

Among Bush's ongoing war on the environment, the White House has given farmers the go ahead to continue using ozone depleting pesticides. (Link)

Four States are petition the EPA to finally enforce health and safety standards for pesticides that make their way into the nations school cafeterias. (Link)

This is in conjunction with the report that 224 of our nations counties fail national standards for air quality. (Link)

Social Security International

For a good editorial about countries with privatized Social Security and how it dose not work as well as Bush claims it will, read Buying Into Failure


Even Trent Lott is calling for Rummy to go...

Lott: Rumsfeld Should Go, at Some Point (Full Story)

BILOXI, Miss. - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be replaced sometime in the next year, Sen. Trent Lott says.

"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," Lott told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce (news - web sites) on Wednesday. "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Definition of Crony Capitalism

The Congressman who brought you the Medicare prescription drug benefits program... yes, the same one who made it illegal for the government to save money by negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, is cashing in on his give away to the drug companies. Representative Billy Tauzin, recently retired Republican Congressman and the principal author of the new Medicare prescription drug law, will become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. He will be paid around $2 million dollars a year to lobby congress on behalf of the drug industry. Just a coincidence? Think again... this is the definition of crony capitalism

So kids... want to get rich off of the backs of the American taxpayers? Just do what Billy does. Go to congress... write a bill that gives away billions to the industry of your choice... then sit back and wait for the job offers to come in. Then you to can be a crony capitalists.

(Link to Story)

Tort Reform and Why it Hurts You

In the wake of Bush's attack on the judicial system, I am reposting an explanation on why his version of tort reform (caps on awards) is bad news for the American people.

Bush tries to pin all of the woes of the world on the legal system. I will explain to you why Bush style tort reform is no good.

1) Your life - How much is it worth? How much is the ability to walk worth to you? $10,000? $50,000? $250,000? A million? most of us would not sell our legs for any price, but damage caps are just that, an arbitrary price for the loss of your life or some type of disability. By putting a cap on awards, you are allowing a legislator to say an eye is worth $10,000, lower extremities are worth $150,000, your life is worth $250,000, etc. I think it is something that we, the American people, would want to decide for ourselves, not legislators. Legislators, who are lobbied by the insurance industry every single day, would now decide how much you are worth. A lobbyist can get a meeting with a legislator any time he wants by donating to his/her re-election campaign. Do you think you could have lunch with your congressman to explain what your views are? Probably not.

2) The system does need reforming, I will agree to that, but it is not the trial lawyers who need to be reformed. It is the Jurors who need to be educated (I am speaking as a corporate defense attorney). The lawyers do not award the damages, the jurors do. That means you, your neighbor, your plumber, your local librarian, etc. If you, the juror did not award the massive damages, then they would not exist. If you have ever found a way to "skip" out of jury duty and you think these damages are too high, then you are partially to blame. If you blame the system, remember that you are the decision makers in the system.

3) Supply and demand - if you, the juror did not award large damages, then trial attorneys would not bring these suits. A trial attorney only gets paid if he wins. It is up to the jury to make this decision. If the jurors are consistently throwing bad cases out of court, trial attorneys won't bring them. Maybe these people who get these awards deserve them, maybe they don't, but it is the jury who awards them, not the trial lawyers.

4) Big Government in your affairs - If you like smaller government than why would you want the government making these decisions for you? That is what damage caps are, government control. Right now, you get to decide on a local and personal level the fate of the injured persons. You get to hear the story of both the injured and the person accused of injuring them. Why would you want this taken out of your hands and put it in the hands of a legislator? It is better left to the local and individual level.

5) Caps don't work - there have been several states to enact damage caps and none of them have seen overall damages go down. I will analogize it to the speed limit. if the speed limit is 55, you go 55 even though you could go slower. If the speed limit is 65 even though going 55 is safer. People feel an obligation to go the maximum. The same thing in jury awards. Without a cap, a jury may award an inured party $25,000 for a particular injury. But, if you cap it at $250,000, then the jury is more likely to award $250,000 even though the damages would normally only be $25,000. It is pure psychology.

6) More dangerous products - If a business have little incentive to protect themselves from suit, the less they protect you from injury. If they could maximize profits by making a less safe product without the fear of litigation, they will (e.g. the Ford Pinto). If you have ever traveled through a 3rd world country where litigation is rare, you take your life in your own hands. There is no incentive to protect the consumer.

7) Bad doctors - prior to law school I worked in the life/health insurance industry. I have read reports from thousands of doctors. 50% of doctors are really excellent, 25% are good, 20% won't kill you, and 5% are just plain bad doctors. Malpractice premiums are like car insurance premiums. If you get into a lot of accidents, your premium is higher. Enough accidents, and you get forced out of driving. Same thing happens in medicine. If you get sued a lot, your premium goes up. This is unfair to the majority of doctors who are very diligent, but why should a bad doctor be allowed to practice at my, the patients, expense. You would be appalled if you knew the number of people who are diagnosed with a life threatening disease that there doctor just plain missed. And they just didn't miss it once, but over and over. Diseases like diabetes and kidney failure. As the old saying goes... Question: what do you call a person who got all Cs in medical school.... Answer: Doctor. Sounds bad, but some people just should not be practicing medicine.

8) Insurance companies - 50% of an insurance companies profits comes from investments, not premiums. Due to poor management and the likes of Bush buddy, Ken Lay, the insurance companies had to raise premiums to cover their losses. Therefore, the major cause of the increase has nothing to with jury awards. In fact, only 1% of medical costs can be attributed to damage awards.

Rummy Under Fire From the Right

It looks like the Democrats are not the only ones questioning the competency of Donald Rumsfeld. Republicans inside and outside of the beltway are joining the growing ranks of disgruntled Americans who feel that the DOD needs better leadership. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, have all come out to criticize Rummy. It is time for Bush to finally step forward and admit that there have been mistakes and that there needs to be accountability in his own administration.

(Link to Story)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Department of Good Fellas

Looks like Bernard B. Kerik, Bush's nominee for the Director of Homeland Security, issues go much further than not paying payroll taxes for an illegal immigrant nanny, but extends to making millions off of patronage deals, misusing police resources for his own benefit, millions of missing dollars from a NY state correctional facility, and ties to not just one, but two mafia families.

Good to see that Attorney General Gonzalez, the man who is in charge of back grounding cabinet positions, does such a through job. The Bush White House claims to have vetted Kerik for weeks. It took 2 days for the media to uncover all of the skeletons in Kerik's closet.

For more read Here

Another Attack on Civil Liberties

This is from an editorial in the Washington Post. Apparently, if the Republican Attorney General of Virginia had his way, no one accused of a crime would be allowed to retain defense representation.

First, it is a duty of all attorneys to perform Pro Bono work. Every attorney is encouraged to do at least 50 ours of service per year. This is something that should be encouraged, not discouraged by society, and especially our leaders. If you politicize the court system, like Mr. Kilgore is attempting to do, you scare away attorneys who might give their time to defend such clients. Mr. Kilgore is an attorney and fully knows how the system works. Mr. Kilgore knows that a court appointed attorney is not the same as full time criminal defense lawyer. Attacking Mr. Kline for doing what he has sworn to do (represent all clients to the best of his ability and without judgment of his own) diminishes the judicial system.

Second, even if at some times it appears to be disgusting, one of the great things about this country is the fact that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to representation. While most who are accused are guilty, not everyone is. Without this right, our court systems would turn into the Spanish inquisition. The people of Virginia should be very wary of a man who attacks our fundamentals of a fair and just judicial system for political gain. Who knows what he would do for political gain if elected.

Mr. Kilgore's False Start(Link to Story)

JERRY W. KILGORE, the Republican attorney general of Virginia, apparently needs a refresher course on the Constitution. In attacking his likely opponent in the state's 2005 gubernatorial race, Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the attorney general said last week that Mr. Kaine "not only opposes the death penalty but actually represented death row inmates." As it happens, Mr. Kaine, a fair-housing and small-business lawyer at the time, acted as a court-appointed attorney to represent two Virginia death row inmates -- one in the mid-'80s, the other around 1990. He did so, he says, after much soul-searching and in the knowledge that lawyers are bound by the ethics of their profession not to reject cases simply because they may be unpopular. As an attorney appointed by the state Supreme Court, Mr. Kaine was fulfilling a public service.

Mr. Kilgore's inane accusation is an affront to the principles of justice he is sworn to uphold. It's no great shock that he embraces the death penalty; what's surprising is that, as the state's top law enforcement official, he would imply that there is something wrong with representing defendants or convicts in capital cases. In fact, the attorney general in Virginia, whatever his stance on capital punishment, should be applauding lawyers who agree to represent inmates on death row, many of whom have no defense counsel whatever.

Mr. Kilgore was also once a lawyer in private practice. We assume that all his clients were law-abiding paragons of righteous behavior, but for the sake of argument let's say some of them were not. Should Mr. Kaine then attack him for his former clients' transgressions? Of course not.

U.S. Trade Deficit Swells to Record $55.5B

We now have the largest trade deficit in the history of the United States (Link to Story). Some claim that the weakening dollar will help alleviate the problem. It should give a slight boost to American exports, but it also has its drawbacks.

First, when the dollar is weak, importing goods from overseas is more expensive. That affects us in two ways. It increases the price of everything you buy at Wal-Mart and other retailers who purchased their retail goods from overseas. It also affects manufactures in the U.S. who get their raw materials from overseas. This makes almost everything sold to the American consumer more expensive, thus, causing inflation.

Second, the weakening dollar only hurts us for our biggest trade gap, imported oil. The weaker the dollar, the more it costs to buy a barrel of oil, and ultimately, a gallon of gas or heating oil. This also drives inflation.

So, the way to shrink the trade gap is two fold. First, China needs to let their currency float (meaning, let the free market system determine its value - it value is currently set artificially low by the Chinese government). Secondly and more importantly, we need to get off our addiction to imported oil. Oil is a product that we can never produce and will always have to import. Opening up ANWAR will not solve our problem. The best guess estimates put ANWAR production at 1-2% of our daily consumption. We need to find alternative energy sources so we can produce our energy at home and stop sending our money to the Middle East where it finds it way into the hands of terrorists.

Monday, December 13, 2004

More Trouble for DeLay

Washington's most corrupt politician has one of his illegal contributors roll over. Lets see what dirt is under it.

Company to Aid in DeLay Corruption Probe (Full Story)

By APRIL CASTRO, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas - A company accused in the campaign-finance investigation that has implicated associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay agreed to aid prosecutors in exchange for having charges against it dropped, court papers showed.

The California-based company, which has offices in San Angelo, was accused of giving $50,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, a GOP political action committee associated with DeLay, during the 2002 campaign. The election gave the party its first legislative majority since Reconstruction.

Seven other companies are accused of contributing a total of $140,000 to the PAC, and three DeLay associates have been indicted on allegations of money laundering and illegal acceptance of corporate political contributions.

Polls: Europe Negative on Bush Re-Election

Whether you like it or not, how the rest of the world views us has an impact on our ability to fight the war on terror and keep our nationa safe.

Polls: Europe Negative on Bush Re-Election (Full Story)
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - President Bush's re-election was viewed negatively by a majority of people in several European countries — including those in Britain, America's strongest ally in the war in Iraq, Associated Press polling found.

The president was not the only one viewed unfavorably. Americans generally were seen in an unfavorable light by many in France, Germany and Spain, countries not supportive of U.S. Iraq policies.

Bush pledged soon after his re-election victory Nov. 2 that he would work to "deepen our trans-Atlantic ties with the nations of Europe." He plans a trip to Europe in February.

The president, and Americans generally, have plenty of work to do to win over Europeans, according to international AP-Ipsos polls.

A majority of people in Britain, America's strongest ally in the Iraq war, have an unfavorable view of Bush. Six in 10 Britons said they were disappointed he was re-elected.

In Canada, about the same number of Canadians said they were disappointed with the re-election. The president was asked last month during a trip to Canada about various polls that show Canadians and Americans drifting apart.

In Australia, seven in 10 surveyed had a favorable view of Americans; four in 10 had a positive impression of Bush. He got favorable reviews from more Australians than from those in any other country polled aside from the United States

Friday, December 10, 2004

Ten Commandments and the Courts - Part 1

Bush is now backing allowing the Ten commandments to be displayed in the court room (Link). It is a common theme among Right-sided poliblogs to claim that the Ten Commandments should be allowed to be displayed in the court room because our judicial system is based on the Ten Commandments. First, this assertion is wrong. Our judicial system is only partly based on Judeo-Christian roots. The majority of our law actually comes from ancient Greek and Roman sources modified by Anglo-Saxon common law. Secondly, even if our judicial system was tempered by the Ten Commandments, there are valid reasons to keep it out of the courtroom. I will address each issue in a separate heading.

First, the founding of modern law - I admit that Judeo-Christian principles have played a part in shaping our laws, but that cannot be directly tied to the Ten Commandments, nor does it have any direct correlation to our current laws. Our modern laws have their roots in ancient Greek and Roman law that was absorbed by Byzantine and than later codified by Justinian I after 1000 years of evolution. As seen in Grecian law "The Law Code of Gortyn" (Crete), 450 BCE, the idea of basic jurisprudence and rule of law is seen. (Excerpts)

I. Whoever intends to bring suit in relation to a free man or slave, shall not take action by seizure before trial; but if he do seize him, let the judge fine him ten staters for the free man, five for the slave, and let him release him within three days. (subpoena)

II. If one commit rape on a free man or woman, he shall pay 100 staters

IV. If a husband and wife be divorced, she shall have her own property that she came with to her husband, and the half of the income if it be from her own property, and whatever she has woven, the half, whatever it may be, and five staters, if her husband be the cause of her dismissal; but if the husband deny that he was the cause, the judge shall decide. . . (Divorce courts)

XVII. Adoption may take place whence one will; and the declaration shall be made in the market-place when the citizens are gathered.

Roman laws were concurrently evolving around the same time as the Greeks. The Romans never had a formal written constitution, but their form of their government, the Republic parallels the modern American division of executive, legislative, and judicial branches since the passage of Lex Hortensia (287 BCE). On the civil law side, 450 BCE saw the codification of the Twelve Tables as law of the land, giving precursors to modern civil law (excerpts):

Table I.
1. If anyone summons a man before the magistrate, he must go. If the man summoned does not go, let the one summoning him call the bystanders to witness and then take him by force. (receiving a subpoena)

Table III.
1. One who has confessed a debt, or against whom judgment has been pronounced, shall have thirty days to pay it in. After that forcible seizure of his person is allowed. The creditor shall bring him before the magistrate. (creditors and debtors)

Table IV.
4. If one is mad but has no guardian, the power over him and his money shall belong to his agnates and the members of his gens. (legal guardian)

5. A child born after ten months since the father's death will not be admitted into a legal inheritance. (ten months proving illegitimacy of the child)

Table VI.
1. When one makes a bond and a conveyance of property, as he has made formal declaration so let it be binding. (contracts)

Table VII.
9. Should a tree on a neighbor's farm be bend crooked by the wind and lean over your farm, you may take legal action for removal of that tree. (property rights)

Table VIII.
2. If one has maimed a limb and does not compromise with the injured person, let there be retaliation. If one has broken a bone of a freeman with his hand or with a cudgel, let him pay a penalty of three hundred coins If he has broken the bone of a slave, let him have one hundred and fifty coins. If one is guilty of insult, the penalty shall be twenty-five coins. (Personal injury Tort law)

3. If one is slain while committing theft by night, he is rightly slain. (security in ones possessions)

13. It is unlawful for a thief to be killed by day....unless he defends himself with a weapon; even though he has come with a weapon, unless he shall use the weapon and fight back, you shall not kill him. And even if he resists, first call out so that someone may hear and come up. (self defense and justifiable/non-justifiable homicide - eg. you can't shoot a mugger unless they threaten you with deadly force)

23. A person who had been found guilty of giving false witness shall be hurled down from the Tarpeian Rock. (perjury - a little extreme for our times, but the idea is the same)

Table IX.
4. The penalty shall be capital for a judge or arbiter legally appointed who has been found guilty of receiving a bribe for giving a decision. (public corruption)

5. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public enemy or handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital punishment. (this one speaks for itself)

6. Putting to death of any man, whosoever he might be unconvicted is forbidden. (innocent until proven guilty)

While Roman law lost favor after the fall of the empire, it regained prominence in continental Europe during the middle ages where it was modified and eventually recodified as "civil law" and is the predominate legal system in western jurisprudence. Even though Justinian I was a Christian (and not a good one at that) the laws that he codified into a written legal system were based mainly on pagan legal tradition. Even though England never fully adopted former Roman law the civil law principles were taught in universities throughout English history, starting in the middle ages.

In Converse, when we look at the Ten Commandments and modern US law, there are no basis in the ten Commandments that do not also flow from ancient Greek and Roman law. Additionally, the majority of the Ten Commandments have no weight or recognition in our legal system.

I AM THE LORD THY GOD, THOU SHALT NOT HAVE strange gods BEFORE ME. - obviously, we are a nation with freedom of religion. No court can force any American to worship only one god, much less one specific god.

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN. - This one carries no weight in our judicial system either.

REMEMBER THOU KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH DAY. - Ask anyone working on a weekend if this is part of our judicial system.

HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER. - No law says you have to do this either. A child has no legal responsibility towards their parents. In fact, it is vice-versa

THOU SHALT NOT KILL. - Well, we do have this principle, but not exactly strictly followed. We have state executions and justifiable homicides. Our legal system actually follows more closely to the Roman Twelve Tables (Table VIII and Table IX)

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. - this is found in both the ten commandments and the Roman and Greek laws. Even so, there is no legal penalty for committing adultery in our legal system.

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. - I really don't know of a single culture around the world that permits this, but if someone has an example, please let me know.

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR. - Taken literally, this would be liable or could also be taken to mean perjury in a court room. This is used by our judicial system and hold both criminal and civil penalties dependant on the circumstances.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S WIFE. - Perfectly acceptable and practiced by many American men.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S GOODS - Yeah, if you borrow a neighbors lawn mower, you have to return it, but beyond that, just wishing you could have what they have is perfectly acceptable. Ever hear of "keeping up with the Jones."

So, out of the 10, only 3 have any bearing on our judicial system, and very loosely at that. Looking at the Roman/Civil laws, you will see that they are much more similar to our laws than the Ten Commandments. So, if you insist on putting a list of the ten commandment on the wall of a courtroom, you should put it in-between a statue of Zeus and Athena because they were as much of an influence on our judicial system as Moses. I will address why it is just a bad idea to put the Ten Commandments in the courtroom in my next posting.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Officer Alleges CIA Retaliation for Not Falsifying WMD Reports

More evidence that the Bush Administration and upper echelon CIA officers knowingly used false evidence to push the war plans.

By Dana Priest (Full Story)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A02

A senior CIA operative who handled sensitive informants in Iraq asserts that CIA managers asked him to falsify his reporting on weapons of mass destruction and retaliated against him after he refused.

The operative, who remains under cover, asserts in a lawsuit made public yesterday that a co-worker warned him in 2001 "that CIA management planned to 'get him' for his role in reporting intelligence contrary to official CIA dogma."

The lawsuit marks the first public instance in which a CIA employee has charged directly that agency officials pressured him to produce intelligence to support the administration's prewar position that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a grave and gathering threat, and to suppress information that ran counter to that view.

"Their official dogma was contradicted by his reporting and they did not want to hear it," said Roy Krieger, the officer's attorney.

No biological or chemical weapons have been found in Iraq. A subsequent CIA-led investigation found that Iraq was nowhere near producing a nuclear weapon, as the administration had asserted.

Please, Sir, May I Have Some Armor?

For more about Rumsfeld's disrespect of our troops read here and here. The only words I want to hear from Mr. Bush is "your fired."

Whether you are for or against the war in Iraq, all Americans support the brave men and women overseas. It is time for a man who respects our troops and their lives to be in charge. Rumsfeld disrespects every man and woman in uniform, along with their spouses, children and parents. If you are Left or Right, show your support for our troops by calling for Rumsfeld's termination. Email the President and let him know that this is no acceptable -

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Possibility of OPEC Production Cut Grows

To reiterate my previous post, we need to get ourselves off of foreign oil. Drilling in ANWAR won't do it. We need alternative fuel sources and better emission standards. $35 a barrel is OPECs new target. In 2000 it was $22-$28. For all of you who own SUVs... sorry, but it looks like you are screwed.

Possibility of OPEC Production Cut Grows (Full Story)

CAIRO, Egypt - The possibility of a cut in OPEC (news - web sites) production grew stronger Wednesday after the oil minister of heavyweight Saudi Arabia indicated he was aware of majority sentiment in favor of a reduction.

"Our objective is to keep the market balanced and keep it stable," Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said in Cairo where the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is due to meet on Friday.

No amount of extra output from OPEC seemed to satisfy the world market for most of this year, but in recent weeks prices have dropped significantly from the summer highs of $50 a barrel.

Recovering somewhat from recent lows, light sweet crude was up 24 cents at $41.70 on the New York Mercantile Exchange early in the floor session Wednesday. But it was still at levels that could support calls by some OPEC members to stem the downward trend. On London's International Petroleum Exchange, Brent crude was up 36 cents at $38.63 a barrel.

A Plan for U.S. Energy Security?

A bipartisan committee of energy experts, company executives and government officials, the National Commission on Energy Policy, released it findings today in regards to what the US needs to do to plan for the future (Link).

"Recent developments in world oil markets, including rapid growth in global demand and the emergence of terrorist threats to oil facilities, are bringing new urgency to perennial concerns about the nation's exposure to oil price shocks and supply disruptions," the panel's report said.

Among the recommendations is diversifying our oil supply, increasing our oil reserves, better fuel economy for cars and "The commission suggests mandatory limits on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming that can be spewed by power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities."

This is put out days before the auto industry plans to sue the state of California for its plans to impose mandatory cuts in CO2 emissions from cars. (Link)

Bush needs to come to the realization that oil prices will only go up as world demand increases and oil reserves diminish. A fundamental shift in the US energy polity should move towards alternative and renewable energy supplies. If not for environmental reasons that the committee recognizes as real, then it must be done for national security. As long as we are dependant on middle east oil, our nation will continue to be the target of terrorist organizations. Only when we are able to remove ourselves from the fray of middle east politics - supporting royal families that oppress their own people - can we really start to change world attitude about the motivation behind our involvement there.

We have the technology to change our future. Fuel efficient cars exist. The technology to create cheap renewable energy is right around the corner. Imagine the difference we would have, if instead of putting 5 billion dollars a month into Iraq, we were putting 5 billion dollars a month into renewable energy technology research. JFK made a call to put a man on the moon by the end of the 60's and America answered the call. We can do the same in regards to ridding ourselves of our addiction to middle east oil. The time is now, not later.

The Troops Speak Up and Lash Out at Rumsfeld

All Americans, liberal or conservative, support our troops in the field and only hope they come back alive. It looks like the troops themselves are questioning the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, why the troops are not properly equipped. Rumsfeld's response was "You go to war with the Army you have, not the one you might want." Well, Mr. Rumsfeld, you are responsible for the Army we have. Maybe we should get rid of you so we can have the Army we want and our troops deserve.

Rumsfeld faces tough questions from troops (Full Story)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (AP) -- After delivering a pep talk designed to energize troops preparing to head for Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got a little "talking to" himself from disgruntled soldiers.

In his prepared remarks, Rumsfeld urged the troops -- mostly National Guard and Reserve soldiers -- to discount critics of the war in Iraq and to help "win the test of wills" with the insurgents.

Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own -- not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly three years after the war in Iraq.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rumsfeld replied that, "You go to war with the Army you have," not the one you might want, and that any rate the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.

Some pep talk he gave... "don't worry about it guys you are going to get killed with or with out armor, so quit whining." How does this man still have his job?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Devaluating the Dollar

While a falling dollar can help our trade gap in the short term, the way Bush wants to do it will be harmful for our economy in the long run and could pinch the pocket books of the middle class even further. Explaining the ramifications is the below article.

Don't Let the Dollar Take the Fall


New Haven — AS the dollar continues to sink against the euro, the yen and other currencies, the conventional wisdom is that there is little choice but to allow it to continue to fall.

America's trade imbalance can be corrected, the current reasoning goes, with a much cheaper dollar - perhaps 30 percent cheaper than it is today. The idea - supported by Treasury Secretary John Snow and Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman - is that this would raise the price of imports for Americans, who would thus buy less from abroad. A cheaper dollar would also supposedly allow us to sell more to the world by making our exports less expensive.

Here is what's wrong with this analysis.

A falling dollar is unlikely to curtail imports as much as hoped. It is more likely instead to act as a consumption tax. About one-quarter of the United States import bill arises from oil purchases, which are priced in dollars. A rapidly depreciating dollar thus means lower earnings for OPEC producers. In response, the cartel might well raise prices. Goods from Asia, especially China, account for at least another 25 percent of our import bill. Because these computers, machine tools, TV's and toys are essential to our work and lifestyle, chances are that we will still buy them, even at higher prices.

Look Who's Talking

I think it is a little bit... ok, a lot hypocritical for Republicans to be calling for the head of Kofi Annan while rallying behind their own criminal, Tom DeLay. And if the buck stops at the top, where is the head of Rumsfeld? I think it is ironic for these people to be speaking up when their own party admits no mistakes, ever. Maybe they should clean their own house before commenting on the dirtiness of another. Apparently innocent until proven guilty only applies to non-Republicans.

House Republicans Say Annan Should Resign

By KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer (Full Story)

WASHINGTON - Five House Republicans on Monday joined a call for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) to resign amid allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., said stepping down may not be enough for Annan.

"To me the question should not be whether Kofi Annan should remain in charge," he said. "The question is whether he should be in jail," he said.

Garrett and four other Republican lawmakers spoke at a Capitol news conference in support of a bill that would withhold some U.S. dues to the United Nations if the organization doesn't fully cooperate with investigations of the program.

Monday, December 06, 2004

When Will America Feel the Pinch?

That seems to be the question in regards to the U.S.'s huge fiscal and trade deficit. The U.S. has been on a spending spree for the past 4 years and it is soon to wake up to a credit card hangover. Some interesting reads on the subject here and here talking about Bush's second term agenda and what will need to be done to pay for it. In order to pay for tax cuts on investment income, Bush is looking at a back door tax hike on the middle class. In any event, the future does not look pretty. To see how the deficit could affect you by how the outside world views the U.S. Dollar, read this. If you have not refinanced you home yet, get those interest rate locked in now. If you are looking to be a first time homeowner, do it now. If you are looking at taking federal loans to go back to school, do it now. Basically, anything that you will have to borrow money for, do it now.

For a really good book about how both parties are spending our future, check out Pete Peterson's book Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.
Mr. Peterson was the Commerce Secretary for President Nixon.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Misusing Christianity

This was posted by Paul at Paul's Ponderings. I think it is a very well written and very insightful piece about religion and Christianity's place in our society. Paul has done me the honor of allowing me to repost it for my readers. If you wish to leave a comment, you can do it here or go to Paul's blog and leave it there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Misusing Christianity:
“But, Sir, his religion has been greatly corrupted, and many of his professed friends have been his real enemies. The gospel has been made an engine of power in the hands of kings and priests, converted into a matter of state policy, made subservient to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life.” ~ Alexander Campbell in a letter to Charles Cassedy (The Millennial Harbinger; May 1833)

Many times in an effort to discredit Christianity people will point out all the bad things “Christian” people have done all the while proclaiming they were doing what God wanted them to do. From the Crusades to the guy who bombs abortion clinics Christianity has been misused and misquoted to justify doing evil. While these people professed to God’s friends they were, and are, actually His enemies.

The misuse of Christianity by people claiming to be Christians is not evidence against the truthfulness of Christianity. It is evidence that people are ultimately responsible for their own actions. God is no more responsible for the sinful actions of the "Christian" man who lives a double life of adultry than He is for the actions Charles Manson. We are all responsible for the choices we make.

It is also evidence for what the Bible says: “Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world” (1 Peter 2:12; NLT). A faithful life brings honor to God, but when Christians are not careful on how they live and they openly disobey God, then opposite will happen. God will be ridiculed, the love He has for people will be questioned, and the Way He has established will be opposed.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be corrupted and the world continues to question its validity. Here is the great mistake that Church in the United States has made: we have made our morality a matter of state policy. We have some how gotten into our minds that in order to honor God we have to stand up and fight for the morality He has established. That would be true if Jesus died to make men moral, but Jesus died to make men alive. God is not honored when there is an amendment to the constitution defining marriage to be between a man and a woman. God is honored when a Christian couple remains married in the face of the immorality which is all around. God is not honored when the Ten Commandments are posted in every court room in the country. God is honored when Christians love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength while loving their neighbors as themselves. God is not honored when people say a pray before a school event. God is honored when Christian people, when they are alone, spend time in prayer to their Creator.

God is honored when Christian people stand up and become a voice for the unborn. God is honored when Christian people sacrifice and adopt unwanted children. “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us” (James 1:27; NLT). As Christians we need to fight for those who have no voice.

Here is my point. What God is interested in is not that Christians stand up and get laws passed based on the morality He has given to us. God is interested in people accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This country is going to come to an end, and it is going to happen if homosexuals are allowed to marry or not. Yet every single person living in this country will live forever. That means the most important thing we can do is help people find life, not force them to live to our morality.

Wild at Heart;
1 Samuel 14:6

Friday, December 03, 2004

Hate Crimes and Their Punishment - Part II

Boomr wrote a long comment back to me in regards to an earlier post about hate crimes that I thought was worth reposting and commenting on. He makes good points, but as usual, he is wrong (We have been arguing consistently for 12 years - remember Kinshasa, Boomr?). Boomr wrote:

As much as Dingo and I may agree on many things, I think I have to disagree with him on this one -- at least until I have a better argument presented. I respect his argument about mens rea, but I think he takes it a bit too far. Mens rea is the intent to commit a physical act, not the motivation for why the act is committed. I'll put it to you this way: If I consciously pull the trigger of a gun that is pointed at a person, I've committed an act with the requisite mens rea to be charged with homicide. The definition of "homicide" does not need a REASON for why I consciously pulled the trigger. That's why prosecutors are not required to prove motive in criminal trials.

Let me give you another example, to offset Dingo's arguments about lynchings. Let's say the dead body of a minority is found in the middle of a mostly minority neighborhood, with a gunshot wound through the heart. By the way the body is found, there is no overt and public evidence of the motivation behind the murder (no burning crosses, no hangings, no racial epithets painted near the body, etc.), although there is concrete evidence that a murder has in fact been committed. Let's say there are two suspects: one black man and one white man. The police suspect that the black man might have killed the guy in a dispute over a girl -- surely a heated, emotional motivation. The police suspect the white man might have killed the guy in a dispute over racist comments the white guy made. Why should one suspect be treated differently from the other?

As for Dingo's lynching analogy, that is a completely different set of events. As he said, there are strict legal definitions of "terrorism," which come with additional jail time on top of whatever the underlying felony may have been (in this case, murder). The definition of "terrorism" does not discriminate based on the underlying motivation -- as long as there is proof of intent to terrorize a community (ANY community), then terrorism laws apply. Again, why apply the laws differently for race or gender, as opposed to political beliefs? Under the hate crimes laws, killing someone for racist reasons would be worse than killing someone for political reasons, and that just makes no sense to me. The punishment for both should be equally harsh.

When you start legislating based upon what people THINK, that's when you start down a dangerous slippery slope. Racist crimes are abhorrent, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but such crimes can be prosecuted under existing laws without delving into the thoughts of the perpetrator. "Murder" and "terrorism" are sufficiently broad to encompass such crimes, as well as many others, without regulating how people think.

Ahhh... but intent in a "hate crime" is more than just the physical act itself. You are confusing motivation with intent (and I apologize if I did not explain myself well). In order to show this, you have to really break it down to the elemental parts. I will contrast it to your example of the gun.

In your example, the gun is not a crime. The crime is pointing the gun at someone and pulling the trigger with the intent to commit murder - mens rea. The gun, in-and-of-itself is merely a tool used to commit a crime. Therefore, if I point a gun at someone and pull the trigger, I have the intent to commit one, and only one crime - murder.

Now, lets contrast that to a hate crime. When a person commits a hate crime, the murder (lets use a lynching) is the tool (like the gun) in order to commit a crime (terrorism). So, If a person lynches another person in order to terrorize a community, the person has committed two crimes, not just one. He has intended to commit murder and he has intended to commit terrorism. The result is a greater impact and therefore deserves a bigger punishment. The difference is that the tool used to commit the crime is also a crime.

Motivation is not needed to be proven in a hate crime either. A prosecutor does not have to prove why a person committed a hate crime, only that he intended to commit a hate crime. Just like you don't need to prove a reason for committing murder in your example, you don't need to prove a reason in a hate crime either. The prosecutor does not need to delve into the psychological underpinnings of the defendant. Just like the prosecutor needs to use evidence to prove murder - gun with prints on it, bullet matching, eye witnesses - a prosecutor must use evidence to prove hate crimes - manner of killings, burnt crosses, etc.

Further to break down and analyze your example... if the intent of the two suspects is the same, kill the guy. But if the intent of the white man was to kill the black man, and in doing so, send a message to the black community, then the intent is different. As for the definition of terrorism, I was using the Dictionary definition, not the legal definition - Sorry for the confusion.

Secondly, you and I both know that motivation is actually a factor in criminal matters. You can have the intent to kill someone, but the motivation is self defense. Additionally, if a case is based on purely circumstantial evidence, motivation is often used by both the prosecution and the defense to prove or disprove a persons guilt. It is had to pin something on someone where there is absolutely no motivation. Along the same lines, in a hate crime, it is the burden of the prosecution to prove that the perpetrator acted with intent to commit more than just murder. The burden of proof is on the prosecution that the person wanted, not only to commit murder, but to also terrorize a community. If the prosecution cannot prove intent of a hate crime, then a defendant will not be convicted of it. The same thing is true of the underlying murder.

Heating Oil Prices to High? Just Burn Books...

Well, if you live in Alabama, and heating oil prices are just too darn high, you can warm yourself up with one of their alternatives fuels - you can choose between burning books or crosses. First, Alabama residents refused to remove racists language from its constitution that would finally recognized African Americans as equal citizens (and don't give me that whole "tax" crap argument - it was just wrong not to do it). Now, an Alabama lawmaker wants to put on a good ol' book burning event by banning anything that mentions homosexuality. The books included in his ban would also include a book written by the Dick Cheney's wife, Lynn. I used to live in Louisiana. There are some wonderful people down there, but lawmakers like Gerald Allen do so much to perpetuate the whole "moron" title the red states so much despise.

KIM CHANDLER (Link to Full Story)
News staff writer
MONTGOMERY - An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

"Our culture, how we know it today, is under attack from every angle," Allen said in a press conference Tuesday.

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

A spokesman for the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center called the bill censorship.

"It sounds like Nazi book burning to me," said SPLC spokesman Mark Potok

Senate GOP Seeks to Get Rid of Filibusters

The GOP is going into dangerous territory by trying to change the Senate rules so as to avoid filibusters. This long held tradition is a vital tool for checks and balance within the Senate itself. The Democrats have held up 10 out of more than 200 judicial nominations. This is far less then the Republicans help up during the Clinton administration. If the majority party is allowed to run roughshod over the minority, it can only lead to even more partisan divide within the government. It would be wise for the Republicans not to change this rule. What goes around, comes around. The Republicans will not always have control of the Senate and if they cannot show civility now, it will come back to bite them in the ass. In a time when Republicans control the Congress and the White House, true leadership is not only shown by exercising their power, but also knowing when to use restraint.

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans are preparing to bring out the heavy weapons against the filibuster, a Senate tradition that has its linguistic origins in the pirates who once captured ships and held their crews for ransom.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says "tyranny by the minority" must end and he will do whatever it takes. That includes what some call the "nuclear option" to stop Democrats from using the filibuster to block President Bush's judicial nominees.

The issue could cause a major rift in the new Congress that convenes next month.

Republicans insist that use of the filibuster to prevent votes on 10 judicial nominees in the last Congress was unprecedented and unconstitutional. Democrats say they will resist any attempt to eliminate what they say is a legitimate right of the minority that they have used judiciously. (Full Story)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hate Crimes and Their Punishment

I spend a lot of time reading the conservative blogs. I like to find out what the "other side" is thinking. One concept that has popped up on a number of blogs is the issue of Hate Crimes. Generally, I see that conservative bloggers find the notion of extra punishment for a crime motivated against another American due to race, gender or sexual orientation is wrong. The consensus seems to be that it should be prosecuted like any other assault or murder case. This is why I disagree:

In the majority of criminal cases, the intent of the perpetrator is relevant. This is called mens rea - meaning the guilty mind. If you trip on the subway and accidentally punch someone, it is not assault because you did not have the intent to harm that person. But, if you find out that your next door neighbor has been stealing your morning paper and you go over to his house and slug him, it is assault because you had the intent to cause bodily harm - you has the requisite mens rea to be prosecuted for assault. A crime that is motivated by "hate" of another person due to race, gender or sexual orientation is especially relevant to intent. A hate crime is terrorism and nothing less. It is not a akin to a mugging or convince store robbery where someone gets shot. A hate crime does much more than just cause harm to the victim, it causes terror in a community.

The definition of Terrorism is: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

This is exactly what the perpetrator of a hate crime intends to do. Someone who commits a hate crime is not doing it for the money. By causing bodily harm to a single individual, it sends a message to the rest of that targeted community, do what we want or else. When the KKK lynches a black man, it is a means of coercion to the rest of the black community. The KKK is nothing more than a group of thug terrorists. When two men take a homosexual out into the words, tie him to a wood fence, and then beat him to death, it is a message to the rest of the gay community to, "get back in the closet or your next." The men who beat Matthew Shepard to death are not mere murders, but are terrorists to the gay community. The goal of the KKK or "fag" beaters is the same as Mohammad Atta and the rest of the Islamic extremists. The goal is the systemic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. Think how unsafe you felt as an America after 9/11. We could be struck any time, any place. The feeling is the same for those in black neighborhoods where crosses are burnt and churches are bombed. If we are to hunt down terrorists and treat them as more that mere criminals (as I agree we should do), then we have to do the same for those domestic terrorists who willingly single out other Americans in order to send a message to the rest of the targeted community. Not only have they killed but they have struck terror into the hearts of fellow Americans and committed a crime so heinous as to deserve extra punishment.