Friday, September 30, 2005

What Do You Find Attractive?

A conversation with a friend of mine reminded me of my favorite passage from Atlas Shrugged so I thought I would share it.

Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself. No matter what corruption he's taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which he cannot perform for any motive but his own enjoyment -- just try to think of performing it in a spirit of selfless charity! -- an act which is not possible in self-abasement, only in self-exaltation, only in the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects the deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience -- or fake -- a sense of self-esteem. The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer -- because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut.

He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it. There is no conflict between the standards of his mind and the desires of his body. But the man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to a woman he despises -- because she will reflect his own secret self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value and a momentary escape from the moral code that damns him. Observe the ugly mess which most men make of their sex lives -- and observe the mess of contradictions which they hold as their moral philosophy. One proceeds from the other. Love is our response to our highest values -- and can be nothing else. Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws -- and he will have cut himself in two.

His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure. Then he will scream that his body has vicious desires of its own which his mind cannot conquer, that sex is sin, that true love is a pure emotion of the spirit. And then he will wonder why love brings him nothing but boredom, and sex -- nothing but shame.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Too Funny To Pass Up

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Unlimiting Corporate Liability

I read a really interesting article this morning regarding corporate liability that got me thinking. The premise of this article, and others I have read making the same argument, is that a free society makes everyone responsible for the consequences of their own conduct, and that should include corporations and their shareholders. In other words, you personally could not escape liability for dumping toxic waste in your neighbor's swimming pool, so why should you be permitted to legally do so through a corporation.

As is stands currently, corporations have the big government protection of limited liability. This means that if a corporation puts a dangerous product on the market and someone gets hurt, the victims have recourse against the corporation itself and corporate assets. The shareholders of the corporation, however, are shielded from liability behind what is commonly referred to as the "corporate veil." There are instances where the veil can be pierced, but I will not bore you with legal mumbo jumbo here.

Conceptually, it is hard to imagine holding the thousands of shareholders of a huge public company liable for wrongs committed by the company, so let's discuss the point in the context of a smaller private corporation. I make great widgets and decide to make it a business venture. I start a company and choose the corporate form (as opposed to a partnership) for my business structure. The corporation starts with my money and, ultimately, I get money from some friends and the business takes off. Along the way, we discover that there is a flaw in the widget design and every 100th user of the widget is going to lose a hand. There are so many widgets out there, however, that we would go out of business trying to recall them so we decide not to disturb the status quo and we hope for the best.

Here is where the legal considerations kick in. Under current law, I am not personally liable to the people who will lose a hand. Indeed, if there are enough lawsuits and the company's financial health is threatened, we can file bankruptcy and start over. There is no legal incentive for me to fix the problems since the law allows me to file bankruptcy, walk away with my bonuses, etc. and start a new corporation tomorrow that goes on manufacturing widgets.

What if the law was different? What if I was personally liable to the people who lost a hand? As between the one-handed person and me, fairness seems to dictate that I should accept the liability since it was my company and the accident was caused by an error in the product I created or funded. If someone drives my car and gets in an accident, I can be held liable even if I wasn't there. So that is an incentive to make sure you don't let your drunk friend take your car. If I had personal liability, wouldn't there be greater incentive to run to the top of the mountain to tell people to stop using the widgets? To correct the design flaw and replace the old ones?

Now extrapolate this scenario to the big, publicly held corporation. Everyone voluntarily chooses to invest their money in a corporation with the faith that the leaders of that corporation know what they are doing and will make the shareholder some money. The laziness begins with that faith. Because of limited liability laws, shareholders aren't concerned if you cut costs by paying female employees a fraction of what male employees are paid; they aren't concerned if you dumped mercury in the pond as the cheaper alternative to legal disposal; and they aren't concerned if the success of your business necessarily depends on war and strife throughout the world. Most sane people want peace, but if a person is invested in defense stocks, they certainly aren't rushing to see the Iraqi resistance defeated. The longer the fight, the more money they make.

My account looks great, so why should I care if there are increased cases of cancer from my investment? My portfolio doubled last year, so it's not my problem if the company is hiring drunk captains for ships. This is America today. I don't care, I don't want to know, I don't want to think and damn you for trying to make me. I will look the other way with no sense of responsibility to see what a company is doing with my money because I don't have to answer for it. Donors to Islamic charities are supposed to research where every penny of their donations go to make sure they don't end up in the hands of "terrorists" and face the threat of prosecution for not doing so. Why not the same individual responsibility for shareholders?

Republicans constantly complain about people not taking responsibility for their actions. This would be a pretty good start. What do you think?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Are You A Libertarian?

According to this 10-question test, I am (the red dot is me). Whew - I can sleep better at night now that I have a label I can affix to myself. God knows in America these days, everyone needs a label like they need a hole in their heads.

The Tyranny of Good Intentions

On occasion, I come across a Republican who says something with which I agree. It doesn't happen very often, though, so I have to make a big deal about it. :-)

The Roseville Conservative ( recently discussed the Children's Safety Act, a bill that just passed the House and is designed to protect children from sexual predators. Democratic Congressman John Conyers (MI) attached as an amendment to the CSA a bill known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will add “sexual orientation,” “gender,” and “gender identity” to federally protected categories for purposes of hate crimes prosecution.

Congressman Conyers has been a wonderful leader as a leading critic of the PATRIOT Act but, in his quest to be the good guy, he has created more absurdity. This is what I call the tyranny of good intentions.

I can only assume that the legal concept of "hate crimes" arose during the KKK heyday. Pervasive racism in the South often meant that Blacks there were helpless against the terrorists who burned crosses, murdered indiscriminately and destroyed businesses. All white jurists and juries were not likely to prosecute Klan members so justice was largely out of reach for Black Americans. Perhaps to deter the crimes but, more likely, as a means to force the KKK terrorists to face the music in front of a judge and jury who weren't fellow Klan members, the federal government assumed jurisdiction over a category of local crimes by labeling them "hate crimes". Although the constitutionality of federalizing state crimes is suspect, the motivation behind the law, with its extra harsh sentences, is understandable.

Was there a better, more constitutional way, to bring justice to the Blacks and Jews of the South? I don't know and that is a topic for a later discussion. The point here is that the bend in the rules has created an absurdity in the law that needs to stop. Aren't all violent crimes crimes about hate? A crime is a crime. Why should the severity of the punishment depend upon the identity of the victim. As Roseville Conservative observed, "This is unfair and denies all individuals equal protection under the law. In addition, the whole concept of hate crimes is misleading. Every violent crime is an expression of hate against an individual. There is no such thing as a 'love' crime of violence."

Watch Forensic Files on Court TV sometime and you will hear heinous stories about men who murdered their wives. But, those aren't hate crimes. When a poor person robs and kills someone for their property, is that not out of hate for the upper class? Does everyone in society now become a protected class and anything done to you because you are a particular color, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation becomes a subject for federal adjudication? It remains a mystery to me why state laws regarding vandalism, assault and murder do not suffice to cover crimes committed by crazy people, regardless of their motivations.

There is no end to this. At some point, everyone will be a minority (Whites are racial minorities in four states and counting) and will face hatred directed at them because of that minority identity. Expanding the scope of federalized crimes is not the answer and will not fix it. This is the history of humanity.

We are quickly sliding down the slippery slope and the jagged federal government consolidation rocks at the bottom look really dangerous. Someone please break our fall!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

When Will Atlas Shrug?

Atlas Shrugged, the epic novel by Ayn Rand, navigates the battlefield between those who want others to do for them and those who do for themselves. The ending of the story is not as important to this discussion as are the principles that guide the protagonists throughout the story.

One attribute of the "altruistic" people of the novel is their constant demand that government do more and more and more without regard for feasibility or sensibility. Crying that the government must pass legislation to solve every problem, the masses disregard the costs, consequences and risks of quick-fix solutions in favor of immediate, short-term emotional satisfaction.

In the real world, Rand's fears about the ever-expanding government have been realized with the PATRIOT Act and, today, with an even more asburd bill that our out-to-lunch lawmakers have proposed in the wake of Katrina. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CO), and Barney Frank (D-MA), are sponsoring a bill that would require that state and local disaster preparedness plans required for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding include provisions for household pets and service animals.

I am an animal lover as much as the next guy, but do we really need to burden the government -- that could barely handle the human side of the disaster -- with responsibility for the welfare of my pet cat? This is absolutely crazy. Just like any other piece of property, pet owners should come up with their own contingency plans for pet refuge in the event of an emergency. What comes next? FEMA has to make sure I have stocked my shelves with water?

Another point made in Atlas Shrugged is the affinity of the masses to clamor toward incompetent leadership. So long as those in government play the blame game, repeat hollow cliches and proclaim their caring for the people, the citizenry happily give up their independent thinking in favor of those who must know better than everyone else what is good for society. The end result is a government that gets so comfortable with its own omnipotence that it refuses to admit or correct its mistakes. As soon as your leaders ask you to "sacrifice", you know things are going downhill. That is, of course, because a sacrifice is giving up something you value, for something you do not value as highly, according to Rand.

Irrespective of my opinions of the President on every other issue, it always reminds me of Atlas Shrugged when I hear his speeches. Every speech is littered with references to sacrifices by the masses, by the troops, etc. Sacrifices by everyone but the President, his family and friends. Congress too. Condi still gets to go shopping for Prada shoes and the Bush twins will never enlist in the military. And, it's not just Bush. The message is trickling down and now Americans are buying into the notion of "sacrifice" so long as they aren't the ones who bear the burdens associated therewith.

New Orleans must be re-built, but no one wants to pay for it. The President won't raise taxes so it's going on the federal credit card that is already maxed. The already devalued dollar is the only savior for big promises and low taxes and there is no end in sight. As American citizens from all political leanings continue to make demands for more and more protection, keep in mind the words of the great Francisco D'Anconia,

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'

When will Atlas shrug?

I swear by my life and my love of it that
I will never live for the sake of another man,
nor ask another man to live for mine
— John Galt, Atlas Shrugged

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's About Winning

“What we hate is not casualties but losing.”

Michael Ledeen, advisor to Karl Rove.

The voice of the neocons speaks loudly and clearly. Keep sending your kids to die until the neocons feel like they (not America) have won. It is only with a win that the psychopaths who run this administration can vindicate their ill-fated decision to attack Iraq.

Mr. Ledeen's sentiment perhaps explains why the Army recently did an about face on its policy of requiring enlistees to hold a high school diploma or GED. On Tuesday, the Army announced the creation of a program called Army Educations Plus whereby a high school dropout can attend Army-paid-for GED prep classes and take the GED exam free of charge in exchange for enlisting in a branch of the armed forces. Why not include high school dropouts in the bloodbath? The more the merrier.

Compassionate Conservatism and the Culture Of Life helping America once again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Armed and Dangerous

A friend of mine gave me a calendar of Bushisms for my birthday last year. Everyday, I remove the prior day's page and giggle at the semantic fumble our undereducated president adds to the historical record. One entry, however, was not funny. On October 28, 2003, President Bush made the following statement:
The world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership.
Apparently, Bush believes he was able to achieve in three years what thousands of years of religion has hopelessly failed at accomplishing. Only if "peaceful" means unstable and insecure and "free" means greater poverty can this delusional grand-standing have any basis in reality.
And, if global arms sales are any indicator of "peace" in the world, then the President's b.s. is even less plausible. The following article puts to bed any fantasies that we are now living in a Bush-induced utopia.

U.S. leads the world in sale of military goods
Special to the Star-Telegram

As insecurity mounts from Najaf to New Orleans, more weapons and high-tech military equipment are flowing into some of the globe's most vulnerable and war-torn regions.

The Congressional Research Service recently found that global arms sales rose to $37 billion in 2004 -- the highest level since 2000. U.S. companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing rang up $12.4 billion in weapons contracts -- more than one-third of the total and more than twice what Russia -- the second largest exporter -- sold.

The Departments of State, Commerce and Defense are all involved in different aspects of approving licenses, managing logistics and (in many cases) loaning or granting funds to nations as they seek weapons from U.S. corporations. The findings, published in the annual "Conventional Weapons Transfers to Developing Nations" report, were released against the backdrop of the global war on terror in which many countries are increasing military spending as insecurity rises. They also came in the wake of rampant and irresponsible use of guns in the hurricane-ravaged Southeast that hindered aid delivery, increased tension and led to more misery and suffering.

The U.S. policy of arming friends and allies is alarming. The U.S. has a long-standing (and accelerating) policy of arming, training and aiding some of the world's most repressive regimes. Close anti-terrorism allies include the authoritarian Uzbekistan and the thinly veiled military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. In the Philippines, Colombia and elsewhere, U.S. weapons and military training have been turned against civilians. From Indonesia to the Sudan, U.S. geopolitical interests and access to resources are trumping concerns about human rights,
ongoing conflict and the pressing need for development.

The U.S. transfers more weapons and military services than any other country in the world. In the last decade, the U.S. sold $177.5 billion in arms to foreign nations. In 2003, the last year for which full data is available, the Pentagon and State Department delivered or licensed the delivery of $5.7 billion in weaponry to countries which can ill afford advanced weaponry -- nations in the developing world saddled with debt and struggling with poverty.

Despite having some of the world's strongest laws regulating the arms trade, almost half of these weapons went to countries plagued with ongoing conflict and governed by undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records. In 2003, $2.7 billion in
weaponry went to governments deemed undemocratic by the U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report, in the sense that citizens of those nations "did not have a meaningful right to change their government" in a peaceful manner.
Another $97.4 million in weapons went to governments deemed by the State Department to have "poor" human rights records.

The U.S. transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts in 2003, the last year for which full Pentagon data is available. From Chad to Ethiopia, from Algeria to India, transfers to conflict nations through the two largest arms sales programs totaled more than $1 billion.

When poor human rights records, serious patterns of abuse and histories of conflict are all factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003 -- a full 80 percent -- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

That's unacceptable. It's time that President Bush begin to honor his pledge to "end tyranny in our world" as part of the war on terrorism by overhauling U.S. weapons transfer policy. Greater global security will follow.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Wake Up America

There can be no real individual freedom
in the presence of economic insecurity.

Chester Bowles

Mr. Bowles' wisdom makes the following contrast in headlines from today's BBC Business News that much more troubling.

Chinese economy continues to boom
"China's growth shows no sign of slowing, according a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)."

US consumer confidence plunges
"US consumer confidence has plunged to its lowest in more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina, a report shows."

Wake up America! Quit your whining about the pledge of allegiance, gay marriage and Britney Spears' new baby. Your kids are fat, the society is getting dumber and the Republicans and Democrats are too lame to address anything of substance.
It's economics stupid and no one is paying attention.

Meet Your Neighbor

The expansion of the internet has left American life feeling a bit cold and disconnected. E-mail replaces phone calls between friends, teleconferencing is a substitute for in-person meetings and blogs such as this have become social gatherings for anonymous participants. Today's urbanite probably has daily contact with bloggers around the world, but does not know the first name of the guy next door.

In an interview of Mike Davis, author of The City Of Quartz and other books, the issue of social connectedness (or the lack thereof) came up. The images of Hurricane Katrina, according to Davis, should make Californians think long and hard about their earthquake preparedness and who will be the heroes of the day. Local, state and federal governments proved inept to handle the hurricane disaster, leaving local citizens to help each other.

Davis described a neighborhood in San Francisco that took preparedness into its own hands in a simple but ingenious way. The residents of the neighborhood recognized that if they are trapped under the rubble of their homes, it is their neighbors who will be their saviors. They met, laid out a plan and learned which neighbors have relevant medical and construction skills. Supplies are kept by each neighbor and each knows where and to whom to go if she is separated from her family.

Gotta love San Francisco for living the love thy neighbor commandment. This plan should be emulated throughout the nation, and definitely throughout California where the risk of an earthquake is greater than the risk of a terrorist attack. Doing so would not just give peace of mind in each neighborhood, but it might just change the social fabric of the country.

Love your neighbor as yourself
Luke 10:27

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Law Of Cause And Effect

I am now convinced more than ever that the emperor has no clothes. George WMD Bush has made his career on war-mongering, fear-slinging and cliche-repeating, but has done nothing to actually address the problems that face America and face the world. Iraq was relatively stable when he entered office - it's on the brink of civil war now. Clinton left office with a surplus and GW has big government spended America into dependence on the benevolence of the Chinese to support the giant pyramid scheme that has become our economy. The federal government that swiftly, and without thinking, passed the PATRIOT Act, couldn't save a couple thousand people from drowning in New Orleans. And, terrorism doesn't seem to be any less of a threat today than it was before 9/11.

This pathetic state of affairs may explain why the Emperor inexplicably changed his position on the approach to terrorism, telling the United Nations today that

The lesson is clear. There can be no safety in looking away or seeking the quiet life by ignoring the hardship and oppression of others. Either hope will spread or violence will spread, and we must take the side of hope.

In this young century the four corners of the world are linked more closely than ever before and no nation can remain isolated and indifferent to the struggles of others. When a country or region is filled with despair and resentment and vulnerable to violent and aggressive ideologies, the threat passes easily across oceans and borders and can threaten the security of any peaceful country.

Does this mean that the terrorists don't just hate us because of our freedom? You mean, they don't commit suicide and do crazy things simply because we eat at McDonald's and choose between skull & bones cult members every four years? Perhaps, just perhaps, "those" people also have an instinct of self-preservation that only the most dire oppression can override.(

The same warlord who told the world that it is with us or against us, that there is no justification for terrorism and that the U.S. would shock and awe the enemy is now conceding that the law of cause and effect may actually apply to terrorism. Following the London Bombings, Tony Blair offered the same cautions about understanding the roots of terrorism and the reich wing went ballistic. They called him every emasculating name in the book and offered GW as the model of how to respond. (

Could it be that Hurricane Katrina has forced a bit of humility and sensibility upon the administration?

"Only the educated are free"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cirque de Roberts

Tuning in and out of the Roberts confirmation hearings offered powerful insights into the state of American political discourse. Republicans offered bombastic, gushing congratulations for Roberts' nomination as chief justice and Democrats asked meaningless hypothetical questions, neither pursuing a course that offered much substance to the American people. Ted Kennedy was by far the most annoying or entertaining part of the circus (depending on your perspective), generously sacrificing his dignity, manners and limited intelligence for the sake of appearing tough on Roberts. From it all, I walked away with the opinion that Roberts is incredibly articulate and patient in the face of redundant, stupid questions and, if that's what it takes to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court, he's in.

Seriously, though, I couldn't help but wonder what point the hearings actually serve. The vote is divided along partisan lines and there is little mystery about who will vote in which way. Many of the senators who were supposed to question Roberts spent their 20 minutes on a soapbox delivering a campaign speech instead of engaging in an honest discourse into the philosophies of a man who could have a profound effect on America's future as a republic. Are the hearings supposed to be a demonstration of the democratic process in action or a pro forma show the Congress puts on for the public?

Regardless of the answer, the hearings felt more like a circus. Just like going to Barnum & Bailey's as a child or even Cirque du Soleil as an adult -- it's always entertaining at first but, after a little while, the antics get redundant and the clowns all start to look the same. Even the most wondrous stunts seem trite by the end.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Weather Control

This post has nothing to do with Katrina and is in no way a conspiracy theory blaming the Emperor and his warlords for the hurricane. I was reading an article this morning, however, that described an industry I otherwise had no idea existed -- weather control. And I am completely fascinated.

There are a number of private corporations that offer weather modification services to increase rainfall for crops, to mitigate destruction from hurricanes and the like. Since I don't have the scientific wherewithal to assess whether these corporations are legitimate and their solutions plausible, I leave it to you to let me know (although I assume they would not have capital to stay in business if there wasn't minimal feasibility).

Dyno-Mat, Inc. claims that it can reduce the power of hurricanes.

A hurricane is a collection of thunderstorms, spinning in a counter clockwise motion along with the Earth's rotation. This collection of thunderstorms can grow to a very large size and successfully taking one of them on is a task that has never been done before. The way the Dyn-O-Mat team is going after the storm is by using what is called a "Venturi Action". The "Venturi Action" can be described as a pie-shaped piece that will be cut from the outer band into the eye of the storm. The intended result of this action is to allow the system to use it's own strength on itself. Essentially disrupt the cell, in hopes of significantly weakening the devastating power of the storm.

Weather Modification, Inc. performs "cloud seeding" to increase rainfall in places that it is needed.
Weather modification is also commonly known as cloud seeding, cloud modification, atmospheric resource management, and precipitation management. Weather Modification, Inc. specializes and excels in all aspects of this water management technology. Specifically, we offer a complete range of services from turn-key operational programs for rainfall increase (rain enhancement), snow pack augmentation, hail damage mitigation (hail suppression), and fog clearing
(fog dissipation), to technical assistance and/or technology transfer for all of these.

Apparently, Nissan Corporation used some of these techniques to prevent a parking lot of its cars from getting pelted with hail.
Hailstones are formed and begin with a piece of dust in the clouds. There is a lot of activity going on, and what we do is to de-ionize that activity in the clouds and keep those dust particles from collecting moisture out of the clouds in turn reacting and forming what we know as a hailstone.

Leave it to the private sector to solve all of mankind's problems or make them worse. I am torn. Are we playing God or making the world a better place? Or both?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Quotable Of The Day

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security

Responding to a reporter's question regarding FEMA's delayed response to the disaster in New Orleans, Mr. Chertoff offered the following:
You know, these are citizen soldier, we have to get them mobilized and deployed. When we send the National Guard overseas, we don't tell them to pack up and leave in 24 hours unless it's some huge emergencies.

He's not saying that the locals didn't ask for help. He's implying that Katrina wasn't a huge emergency that deserved 24-hour mobilization. I'm trying to avoid getting mired in the Katrina blame game, but this quote was too incredible to pass up.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Happy Face Of The Military

We are supposed to believe that the American military is a benevolent force, used only to usher in good to the "dark" parts of the world. They are the liberators of Iraq, the keepers of peace in Kosovo, the defenders of Granada. And we Americans are chided to "support our troops" in everything they do, Abu Ghraib or not.

For once, I have found a story about troops whose actions I "support" and wouldn't it figure that they are the ones who are in trouble.

The two lieutenants were each piloting a Navy H-3 helicopter - a type often used in rescue operations as well as transport and other missions - on that Tuesday afternoon, delivering emergency food, water and other supplies to Stennis Space Center, a federal facility near the Mississippi coast. The storm had cut off electricity and water to the center, and the two helicopters were supposed to drop their loads and return to Pensacola, their home base, said Cmdr. Michael Holdener, Pensacola's air operations chief.

But as the two helicopters were heading back home, the crews picked up a radio transmission from the Coast Guard saying helicopters were needed near the University of New Orleans to help with rescue efforts, the two pilots said.

Out of range for direct radio communication with Pensacola, more than 100 miles to the east, the pilots said, they decided to respond and turned their helicopters around, diverting from their mission without getting permission from their home base. Within minutes, they were over New Orleans.

After rescuing more than 100 victims of the hurricane, they returned to their home base. But they were not greeted as heroes. They were reprimanded for failing to return and one of the officers has since been demoted to working in a kennel that houses the pets of service members.

What happened to supporting our troops? Especially when, for once in a blue moon, they actually help Americans.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Man Who Hated Americans

Alan Dershowitz wrote a fantastic story about Justice Rehnquist that must be shared.

Telling the Truth About Chief Justice Rehnquist by Alan Dershowitz

My mother always told me that when a person dies, one should not say anything bad about him. My mother was wrong. History requires truth, not puffery or silence, especially about powerful governmental figures. And obituaries are a first draft of history. So here’s the truth about Chief Justice Rehnquist you won’t hear on Fox News or from politicians. Chief Justice William Rehnquist set back liberty, equality, and human rights perhaps more than any American judge of this generation. His rise to power speaks volumes about the current state of American values.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Rehnquist bragged about being first in his class at Stanford Law School. Today Stanford is a great law school with a diverse student body, but in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it discriminated against Jews and other minorities, both in the admission of students and in the selection of faculty. Justice Stephen Breyer recalled an earlier period of Stanford’s history: “When my father was at Stanford, he could not join any of the social organizations because he was Jewish, and those organizations, at that time, did not accept Jews.”

Rehnquist not only benefited in his class ranking from this discrimination; he was also part of that bigotry. When he was nominated to be an associate justice in 1971, I learned from several sources who had known him as a student that he had outraged Jewish classmates by goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering with brown-shirted friends in front of a dormitory that housed the school’s few Jewish students. He also was infamous for telling racist and anti-Semitic jokes.

As a law clerk, Rehnquist wrote a memorandum for Justice Jackson while the court was considering several school desegregation cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Rehnquist’s memo, entitled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases,” defended the separate-but-equal doctrine embodied in the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Rehnquist concluded the Plessy “was right and should be reaffirmed.” When questioned about the memos by the Senate Judiciary Committee in both 1971 and 1986, Rehnquist blamed his defense of segregation on the dead Justice, stating – under oath – that his memo was meant to reflect the views of Justice Jackson. But Justice Jackson voted in Brown, along with a unanimous Court, to strike down school segregation. According to historian Mark Tushnet, Justice Jackson’s longtime legal secretary called Rehnquist’s Senate testimony an attempt to “smear the reputation of a great justice.” Rehnquist later admitted to defending Plessy in arguments with fellow law clerks. He did not acknowledge that he committed perjury in front of the Judiciary Committee to get his job.

The young Rehnquist began his legal career as a Republican functionary by obstructing African-American and Hispanic voting at Phoenix polling locations (“Operation Eagle Eye”). As Richard Cohen of The Washington Post wrote, “[H]e helped challenge the voting qualifications of Arizona blacks and Hispanics. He was entitled to do so. But even if he did not personally harass potential voters, as witnesses allege, he clearly was a brass-knuckle partisan, someone who would deny the ballot to fellow citizens for trivial political reasons -- and who made his selection on the basis of race or ethnicity.” In a word, he started out his political career as a Republican thug.

Rehnquist later bought a home in Vermont with a restrictive covenant that barred sale of the property to ''any member of the Hebrew race.”

Rehnquist’s judicial philosophy was result-oriented, activist, and authoritarian. He sometimes moderated his views for prudential or pragmatic reasons, but his vote could almost always be predicted based on who the parties were, not what the legal issues happened to be. He generally opposed the rights of gays, women, blacks, aliens, and religious minorities. He was a friend of corporations, polluters, right wing Republicans, religious fundamentalists, homophobes, and other bigots.

Rehnquist served on the Supreme Court for thirty-three years and as chief justice for nineteen. Yet no opinion comes to mind which will be remembered as brilliant, innovative, or memorable. He will be remembered not for the quality of his opinions but rather for the outcomes decided by his votes, especially Bush v. Gore, in which he accepted an Equal Protection claim that was totally inconsistent with his prior views on that clause. He will also be remembered as a Chief Justice who fought for the independence and authority of the judiciary. This is his only positive contribution to an otherwise regressive career.

Within moments of Rehnquist’s death, Fox News called and asked for my comments, presumably aware that I was a longtime critic of the late Chief Justice. After making several of these points to Alan Colmes (who was supposed to be interviewing me), Sean Hannity intruded, and when he didn’t like my answers, he cut me off and terminated the interview. Only after I was off the air and could not respond did the attack against me begin, which is typical of Hannity’s bullying ambush style. He is afraid to attack when there’s someone there to respond. Since the interview, I’ve received dozens of e-mail hate messages, some of which are overtly anti-Semitic. One writer called me “a jew prick that takes it in the a** from ruth ginzburg [sic].” Another said I am “an ignorant socialist left-wing political hack …. You’re like a little Heinrich Himmler! (even the resemblance is uncanny!).” Yet another informed me that I “personally make us all lament the defeat of the Nazis!” A more restrained
viewer found me to be “a disgrace to the Law, to Harvard, and to humanity.” All this, for refusing to put a deceptive gloss on a man who made his career undermining the rights and liberties of American citizens.

My mother would want me to remain silent, but I think my father would have wanted me to tell the truth. My father was right.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Can I Get A Refund?

If a "liberal" does one little thing wrong, the reich wing goes to town with insults and demands for apologies, explanations, etc. When the President and the federal government fail to address a national catastrophe that the entire country saw coming -- THAT CAME AS NO SURPRISE -- the reich wing pundits offer a myriad of excuses for why the victims are to blame for their fate and for why the government's turtle-pace efforts are acceptable.

One "conservative" blogger (whose posts I enjoy reading and can be found at offered this qualification

The president took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to protect and defend every man, woman, and child from freak acts of nature. It should be primarily the responsibility of private charitable organizations to help those in need. Since our federal government can, it should, and it did. But this is OUR job as citizens, not the president’s. If I’m wrong please show me where, when the Constitution defines the duties of the President, it requires that he provide support in the case of catastrophic natural events.

Another blogger (who I debate daily and is far more intelligent than the typical conservative -- offered a similar refrain,
"Let’s don’t look for whom to blame for the lack of attention to the levy, but instead let’s “look to fix the problem” instead of the blame."

The sentiments expressed by Alan and Free Agency Rules are not far afield from what I have seen of the "conservative" spin on N.O. And I don't necessarily disagree with the underlying principles of charity and community spirit.

Most problematic with these sentiments is that they do not address fundamental questions about our government and its response to New Orleans. Regardless of whether the President is or is not Constitutionally responsible to protect America's citizens from natural disasters, the fact is that the federal government took that job upon itself. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers describes its job as follows:

Our mission is to provide quality, responsive engineering services to the nation including:
Planning, designing, building and operating water resources and other civil works projects (Navigation, Flood Control, Environmental Protection, Disaster Response, etc.)
Designing and managing the construction of military facilities for the Army and Air Force. (Military Construction)
Providing design and construction management support for other Defense and federal agencies. (Interagency and International Services)

Today, as always, we stand ready... engineers, scientists, real estate specialists and administrators alike to meet national security, emergency and other national requirements.

The following is a bit about FEMA:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency - a former independent agency that became part of the new Department of Homeland Security in March 2003 - is tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disasters. FEMA can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803. This act, generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation, provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire. In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.


Billions of dollars of new funding were directed to FEMA to help communities face the threat of terrorism. Just a few years past its 20th anniversary, FEMA was actively directing its "all-hazards" approach to disasters toward homeland security issues. In March 2003, FEMA joined 22 other federal agencies, programs and offices in becoming the Department of Homeland Security.

These federal agencies are funded by me. And you. I don't voluntarily make charitable donations to the federal government. It is under the threat of economic and legal peril that my employer withholds almost 40 percent of my earnings so that the federal government can fund the massive Department of Homeland Security, give welfare to tyrranical governments and invade Iraq. So, as long as my money has been stolen by the government, I expect it to be used for the tasks for which it was earmarked.

When I donate to charity, I do so on the belief that the organization will spend the money on projects I deem worthy. If the Red Cross asks for donations to support relief efforts, but spends it on something else, they will lose my trust and I will no longer give them my money. As a shareholder of a corporation, I have the right to an honest prospectus from a corporation that details its spending so that I can make a voluntary choice whether to invest with that company.

Unfortunately, however, I do not have that same freedom when it comes to the federal behemoth. They steal money from the citizens under the guise of creating a national guard to protect the citizenry, to form a corps of engineers who are supposed to build levees that can withstand a hurricane that everyone knew was coming and to bolster FEMA with "billions of dollars of new funding." Whether I want my money to go to those purposes is irrelevant. The government does not care.

Enough of the bullshit that we, as citizens, should give to charity and stop asking the government to help the people of New Orleans. It is the government itself that assumed the responsibility of this aid and put a gun to our heads to pay for it. We, as taxpayers, are the involuntary donors to and shareholders of an inefficient corporation and, god dammit, I want an accounting. I want a prospectus that explains how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent the money and why the product was a flop. I want an explanation as to why the National Guard with all its overpriced equipment (made by Boeing, Northrup, etc.) was not sent to New Orleans the second after the hurricane passed? If the Guardsmen couldn't get in, why didn't the navy handle it?

Because if, as the reich wing claims, it is not the government's responsibility to handle natural disasters and other catastrophes, I deserve a refund of my tax dollars!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Natural Disasters And Race In America

A picture speaks a thousand words.
Two pictures speak thousands of words about the racism of the corporate media.

Click on the photo to enlarge the image

Capitalism Or Gouging?

Americans are funny. They support "free" markets in Iraq so that Shell and Exxon can take over the oil fields, but they get upset when the "free" market in America results in a rise in gas prices for them. Iraqis now stand in line for hours to get a liter of petrol, while Americans who call that "freedom" get indignant if their gas lines are more than two cars deep. "Free" is a convenient description for wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

Last I checked, capitalism means that someone who owns a product can sell it at whatever price he chooses. And, it is your choice as a buyer whether to pay the price or go elsewhere. For example, Nike tennis shoes sell for $150 when it only costs $5 to make them, but no one complains about price gouging. Diamonds, the most arbitrarily valued item in the world, are outrageously priced, but no one calls for price caps. The counterargument is that gas prices should be controlled because fuel is a necessity. So are houses, however, and we all know about the affordability of housing in most of America these days.

What needs to be controlled, and what I hope America learns from this disaster, is American gluttony. Now that plane tickets may increase and plastic bags that are wasted day in and day out may actually come at a price, Americans are complaining about the immorality of the gas station owners and demanding that the government step in to protect the economy. When it comes to being able to drive fuel-inefficient SUV's, even the supposedly "freedom supporting" President is proclaiming his intolerance for price "gouging." This bandwagon of socialist/communism supporters are the same people who, with a straight face and despite massive evidence to the contrary, still think that America is supporting freedom in Iraq.

Instead of worrying about everyone else in the world, it's time to clean up our own backyard. Hurricane Katrina, with all the tragedies it has wrought, should be a sobering reminder that natural resources will not last forever, should not be wasted and that Americans have the capacity to destroy their own freedoms long before any terrorists get to us.