Monday, October 31, 2005

Lamenting Over A Lost Past

Republicans these days are bellyaching that America has strayed from her Christian values --values, they argue, that made America the strong, unique, morally irreproachable nation it is. There is no denying that America is an incredible model of republican (with a little "r") values, but I cannot fathom how anyone even implies that this country was once a utopian Christian country that somehow lost its way.

You cannot tell me that committing genocide by putting small pox in the blankets of non-Christians is a Christian thing to do. If that is your assertion, you belong in a mental institution (or you can go work for Pat Robertson, which probably is the same thing). Putting aside the Old Testament and its many troubling edicts, I would be shocked if the New Testament says that it is okay to enslave people for any reason, let alone based upon race. Not only did these so-called Christians enslave people, force them to labor, rape their women and destroy their families, they fought a war to preserve their "right" to do so. There are many Republicans of the Red States who still proudly display the confederate flag in their nostalgia over the "Christian" America that was destroyed by the damned "liberal" Yankee agitators. There is no Christian repentance among the people who voted for David Duke.

In this long-lost Christian America, Whites enacted Jim Crowe laws to ensure that the Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be denied to thousands of their fellow citizens even after the end of slavery. Whites were legally prohibited from marrying Blacks. There was strict segregation in education, restaurants and, as Rosa Parks' death reminds us, public transportation. This was a land where White men asserted their manhood by bullying Black women out of their seats on buses. Apparently, chivalry did not exist in long lost Christian America.

Even after the judicial activists of the United States Supreme Court overruled Plessy v. Ferguson and ruled that separate-but-equal was unconstitutional, it required the National Guard to protect young Black students from the governor of Alabama and his mob. The Christian KKK murdered NAACP leaders and students alike in their quest to intimidate Blacks from participating in the system. Republicans complain that Muslims don't speak out against terrorists in their community, but they remain and remained silent when the terrorists in their own neighborhoods preach hate against Americans.

America did not have a shred of morality until at least the 1960's. It was not until John F. Kennedy demanded that people look to the moon for inspiration, broke the Christian monopoly on the presidency and united Americans as one people did America begin to morally evolve as a nation. Everything that makes America resemble the democracy is claims to be is a product of the 60's and 70's and since. And those are the things against which the Republicans now fight in hopes of returning to "Christian" America.

The picture above is from Mississippi 1937, although it could be from many places in America in any time period through the 1960's. Is this the Christian America for which you long?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Put Your Job Where Your Mouth Is

I have been debating another blogger -- who claims to be "conservative" -- about outsourcing. She charges that American corporations that seek foreign workers for jobs that Americans can do are "committing treachery against the United States." She says that "companies that are lobbying to get immigration restrictions reduced [in order to find qualified candidates] are lamos." It ocurred to me during the exchange that much of the Bush baloney about "sacrifice" for the war implicates similar issues as outsourcing and I posed the following question: "if all the outsourcing to China is having a positive, democratizing effect on China, isn't that a positive thing? If you believe that America is 'sacrificing' and dying to bring democracy to Iraq, shouldn't Americans be willing to sacrifice their jobs in order to steer China away from communism?"

It's easy to be for war when you get to watch it from thousands of miles away on your La-z-boy. It's easy to advocate the wholesale slaughter of people when you have never met them and thus delude yourself about their humanity. But, it is not easy to be for capitalism when that threatens the very jobs to which Americans believe they are entitled.

Assuming that "free markets" are the panacea for the world's ills, shouldn't we, as Americans, support the free market in all its forms, which includes outsourcing? Or does that hit too close to home? Since the so-called "conservatives" are willing to send other peoples' children to die in war and remain unrepentant about the carnage in Iraq -- all in the name of democracy -- shouldn't they be thrilled that the exporting of jobs is empowering the Chinese people to demand reforms in their country? If you believe the stories about American companies pushing the Chinese factories to bring themselves up to American standards, doesn't that produce good in the world? The last alleged bulwark of communism, China, is changing politically and it didn't require $300 billion or mass slaughter to make it happen. China's evolution from a closed society to a vibrant capitalist society in the making should be a cause to rejoice.

If you are for the war, are you willing to really sacrifice for democracy or are you just blowing smoke?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Flip-Floppers Of The "Right"

Speaking of unprincipled, flip-flopping Republicans, I have been meaning to write about Kay Bailey Hutchison and her talking out of both sides of her mouth on the crime of perjury. As it happens, however, another blogger beat me to it.

Hat tip to the Fight The Reich Wing blog for this one:

11/23/2005 about Valerie Plame case:

"I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment ... that it is an indictment on a crime, and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime, and so they go to something just to show their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

2/13/1999 about Bill Clinton case:

"The principle of the rule of law--equality under the law and a clear standard for perjury and obstruction of justice--was the overriding issue in this impeachment."

2/12/1999 about Bill Clinton case:

"The edifice of American jurisprudence rests on the foundation of the due process of law. The mortar in that foundation is the oath. Those who seek to obstruct justice weaken that foundation, and those who violate the oath would tear the whole structure down. Every day, thousands of citizens in thousands of courtrooms across America are sworn in as jurors, as grand jurors, as witnesses, as defendants. On those oaths rest the due process of law upon which all of our other rights are based. The oath is how we defend ourselves against those who would subvert our system by breaking our laws. There are Americans in jail today because they violated that oath. Others have prevailed at the bar of justice because of that oath. What would we be telling Americans--and those worldwide who see in America what they can only hope for in their own countries--if the Senate of the United States were to conclude: The President lied under oath as an element of a scheme to obstruct the due process of law, but we chose to look the other way? I cannot make that choice. I cannot look away. I vote "Guilty" on Article I, Perjury. I vote "Guilty" on Article II, Obstruction of Justice."

Since when is perjury a "technicality" instead of a crime?

The lies the government and media tell are
amplifications of the lies we tell ourselves.
To stop being conned, stop conning yourself.
James Wolcott

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

NO on Proposition 77

Here in California, our Governor and his Republican cult followers called a special election in the hopes of advancing their "agenda" with a number of ballot measures. Since the legislature and judiciary have been standing in the Governor's way (damn checks and balances), he decided to cut out the middle man in hopes that the majority of Californians will agree with him.

I don't normally get hyped or even moderately interested in ballot initiatives, but the reasoning behind Proposition 77 is troubling. In the hopes of getting more Republicans in office in this pschizophrenic blue (with a red governor) state, Proposition 77 would strip the legislature of its power to redistrict California's Senate, Assembly, Congressional and Board of Equalization districts, placing the process in the hands of a three-member panel of retired judges selected by legislative leaders. From what I can gather, the Republicans support this measure because they believe that members of the legislature draw districts in a way to ensure their re-election, thus depriving Republicans of possible seats.

As if anyone needed further evidence of how result-oriented and unprincipled the Republicans really are, this measure sums it up. The same party that invented the hollow cliche of "judicial activism" now proposes to take powers from the legislature and give it to unaccountable judges. Remarkable since the Republicans made Proposition 73 (parental notification for abortions) an amendment to the Constitution, rather than a legal statute, precisely to avoid judges who struck down the measure in the past. Rather than leave the power of re-districting with legislators who answer to their constituents every time they stand for re-election, Republicans want to remove that power from the transparent democratic process and hide it with unaccountable judges.

This result-oriented attempt to consolidate power should not be permitted. Vote NO on Proposition 77.

Democracy consists of choosing your dictators
after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear.
Alan Corenk

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall
be governed no better than we deserve.
George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R. Murrow, journalist extraordinnaire pictured above, bid his listeners Good Night and Good Luck at the close of each of his evening broadcasts.

If you do not remember, or never learned, Murrow is the courageous journalist from CBS (when it had integrity) who challenged Senator Joseph McCarthy's unconstitutional, hysterical, immoral witch-hunt of alleged communists in the United States. McCarthy ruined many careers with unsubstantiated claims that the target was a communist party member or even a mere "sympathizer". Anyone who dared to disagree with his tactics was accused of being unpatriotic and sympathetic towards America's enemies. Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly knew they would become targets and proceeded nonetheless.

Good Night, Good Luck tells the story of Murrow's fight against Joe McCarthy. Black and white throughout, with David Strathairn as Murrow and archived footage of McCarthy's Senate hearings, audiences get a bird's eye view of the drama as it unfolded in the 1950's. It is a sobering reminder of how easy it is for our leaders to use fear and hysteria to deprive us of our rights.

A speech Murrow gave 47 years ago at the Radio Television News Directors Association convention finds incredible relevance today,

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. ... But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

This movie is a must see for anyone who cares about Freedom of the Press and the dilapidated state of American democracy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Word On Evolution

Evolution, simply stated, is the theory that species develop over time by adapting to their environments. There is no dispute that humans are taller today than they were 500 years ago. Life span is considerably longer than it once was, although if you believe the Biblical stories that Noah lived to be 950 years old, we have devolved as a species.

Natural selection is a mechanism of evolution. In other words, species improve and evolve over time by killing off the weaker members before they can reproduce. The logic is that when the strong produce, the species as a whole improves its chances of survival. Christian slave owners were guided by this belief when they bred slaves, as are modern day dog and horse breeders. On a more humorous note, the Darwin Awards are satirical awards given to people who do incredibly stupid things and sometimes die doing so.

For whatever reason, even though they acknowledge the principles of evolution in many aspects, the religious people of America have set their sights on evolution as a heretical belief to be eradicated from the public school curriculum. The rhetoric is broad, but their conclusions are quite uniform -- evolution is incompatible with religion.

Hearing this argument repeated time and again inspired me to return to the Bible to understand the argument. I now return from my journey and I remain perplexed.

The story goes that God created two human beings, Adam and Eve. They begat, and their progeny begat and everyone else begatted for hundreds of years (early humanity was one big orgy), until the earth had lots of people. Then God had second thoughts. The descendants of Adam and Eve were proving to be quite evil and disobedient so God decided to put the smack down. Repent or die.

Noah, one of the begatees, was a good child of the Lord. "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." (Genesis 6:9). Because Noah was part of the Republican party, God gave him the heads-up about Hurricane Katrina. "Psssst... Noah, over here. I'm going to break those levees and flood the whole place with everyone in it. No, FEMA, is not going in there. You want in or what?" Noah got the point. So, God told Noah to make an ark out of gopher wood and told Noah "But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee." (Genesis 6:18). "And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. (Genesis 7:7-9). Every other living creature on earth was destroyed. "And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark." (Genesis 7:23).

Every human being alive today, according to Genesis, is a descendant of Noah or one of his three sons (Shem, Ham & Japheth).

Given that the earth currently is populated by almost 6.5 Billion people, that is an exceptional amount of begatting on the part of Noah and his sons. Good job guys!

But the question remains. The 6.5 Billion people on earth look really different. How is it that a tall, blond Scandinavian descends from the same ancestor that a dark-skinned Nigerian claims as a forefather? How about the Chinese? Arabs? Why is it that Asians aren't particularly hairy people and Arabs have enough excess hair to donate to all the balding men of the world? Adaptation to the environment and natural selection makes sense as an answer. Indigenous people from the southern hemisphere tend to be darker-skinned (increased melanin to deal with sun exposure) versus the pale-skinned folks of the northern hemisphere (who have significantly less time in the sun).

The Bible says that Noah, his sons and their wives are the only people who came off the ark and God gave them the covenant to re-start humankind. What other way, besides evolution, did we go from one family to a multitude of races? It certainly wasn't intelligent design.

Foreign Fighters In Iraq

The U.S. military and its media megaphone have been yammering about "foreign fighters" in Iraq (as if the American and British soldiers aren't foreign fighters). Increasing threats of force against Syria are being justified by its alleged failure to seal its borders to keep "foreign fighters" from flooding into Iraq (perhaps once the U.S. figures out how to seal its border with Mexico, it can offer a how-to seminar to the Syrians).

As it turns out, however, not all the non-American, non-British "foreign fighters" are from Syria. Indeed, the majority are not. Major General Rick Lynch offered the following demographic breakdown: The countries of origin most represented were Egypt (78), Syria (66), Sudan (41) and Saudi Arabia (32). The list included several other Middle Eastern countries and a number of European states such as France (1) and Denmark (1) as well as two Indians and an American.

Conspicuously absent from America's pro-war media is the mention of one other "foreign fighter" captured in Iraq. The Israeli papers report today that "an Israeli is among the more than 300 foreign fighters who have been captured in Iraq by U.S.-led troops and Iraqi security forces since April." It is remarkable how much more honest the Israeli papers are about Israel than American media.

The U.S. is threatening to bomb Syria even though some of America's alleged allies, including Israel, are buttressing the insurgency in Iraq? Is it just someone eating salmon in my vicinity, or is that fishy?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Birds Are Coming, The Birds Are Coming!

At the risk of losing a few brain cells, I occasionally check out the corporate-owned media to see what weapons of mass distraction are being unleashed upon the masses. To take society's fear temperature, if you will. The latest non-threat, that might be a threat one day, that we should prepare for in case it happens in the distant future is the avian flu.

Here's what the Associated Press had to say about it today,

Scientists fear the H5N1 virus, which is difficult for humans to contract, could mutate into a form more easily transmitted between people and lead to a pandemic.

The risk of infection for most people in Europe is close to zero, said Zsuzsanna Jakab of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

The agency gave two guidelines for people to minimize the risk of being infected: Don't touch dead or sick birds, and only eat poultry and eggs that are well prepared.

Here's what the Center For Disease Control has to say on the subject

Bird flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but several cases of human infection with bird flu viruses have occurred since 1997. The risk from bird flu is generally low to most people because the viruses occur mainly among birds and do not usually infect humans. However, during an outbreak of bird flu among poultry (domesticated chicken, ducks, turkeys), there is a possible risk to people who have contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with excretions from infected birds. The current outbreak of avian influenza A (H5N1) among poultry in Asia and Europe (see below) is an example of a bird flu outbreak that has caused human infections and deaths. In such situations, people should avoid contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces, and should be careful when handling and cooking poultry.

For more information about avian influenza and food safety issues, visit the World Health Organization website. In rare instances, limited human-to-human spread of
H5N1 virus has occurred, and transmission has not been observed to continue beyond one person.

Okay, let me get this straight. The risk of human infection is close to zero. It is difficult for humans to contract. Since most of us don't handle dead or sick birds in our lifetime, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM????????? I thought the risk of salmonella poisoning made people aware that raw chicken is NOT a delicacy. Birds have a disease in China and Europe and I am supposed to quarantine my parakeet?

The Business Section of today's BBC may shed light on all of this tomfoolery,
Bird flu drug sales boost Roche
Drugs firm Roche has seen third-quarter revenues rise 17% helped by a jump in sales of Tamiflu, which is seen as the best treatment for bird flu.

This is the follow-up to my post a few days ago entitled "Drugs Anyone?", in which I suggested that the pharmaceutical industry invents diseases in order to scare the holy bejesus out of people. Works like a charm every time!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Daily Show

I am not a big fan of television, but I LOVE the Daily Show. Regardless of your political leanings, it is hilarious! Last night's episode about Bush's scripted discussion with soldiers in Iraq was priceless. Watch it here (choose The PATRIOT Act). A truly humorous -- but scary -- insight into Bush's teenie weenie brain.

Tonight, Jon Stewart will go head to head with America's Fascist Bag Of Hot Air Number 1 - Bill O'Reilly.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The White Man's Burden

Listening to all the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the American warlords about the Iraqi election makes me want to puke.

You would think that the Semitic and Muslim worlds never had democracy before the U.S. bombed the hell out of Iraq. Indeed, if you are a warlord, the attempts at democracy in the region prove how misguided you are for believing that your God, GW, is spreading democracy -- so you conveniently ignore history. You ignore the U.S.-backed military dictatorship that invalidated democratic elections and precipitated a 10-year civil war in Algeria; you forget the CIA-backed coup that ousted Mohamed Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, who committed the grievous sin of nationalizing the oil; and you applaud Pervez Musharraf, a military strongman who continues to receive full military and economic support from the U.S. for ousting his democratically-elected predecessor. On the other side of the coin is U.S. support for anti-democracy bulwarks such as Saddam Hussein, the Taleban, Osama Bin Laden, the extremist royal family of Saudi Arabia, the monarchies of Morocco and Jordan and Muammar Qaddafi is soon to be back in the club.

Facts be damned. The War Wing doesn't like facts so it relies on hollow platitudes and cliches that have been recycled through the ages. We are spreading democracy to the "dark" parts of the world, they tell us. It is the noblest of intentions that propels America the superhero into action.

Nobility, the most soothing of sentiments, was the subject of a poem that inspired generations of Whites to assume their superiority over the darker-hued savages of the world and that is now lulling America into the poison of haughty arrogance. GW and his speech writers undoubtedly draw inspiration from the following poem, written by Rudyard Kipling in 1899 in response to the American colonization of the Phillipines:

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.
Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"
Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Lightweight In A Heavyweight Arena

The United States Supreme Court is to judging what the heavyweight class is to boxing. There may be lightweights out there who are great boxers, but they just don't have the size to take on the big guns. Evander Holyfield will never be put in the ring with Oscar De La Jolla. Nothing against Oscar, he's got great experience as a boxer, but he's going to get pummelled with such a mismatch. Likewise, there may be intelligent judges out there who are great on the state courts or even in the appellate courts, but they may not be intellectually heavy enough for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Debating the John Roberts and Harriett Miers nominations for the Supreme Court has begged the ultimate question of what qualifications are required for the high court. Since the Founding Fathers offered no help on the question, everyone has offered their $.02 on the matter depending upon the result they want. According to the Emperor, one need only be his friend, agree with "strict constructionism" (although I bet the Monkey-in-Chief has no idea what that means) and be a Christian to be on the Court. It has nothing to do with having heavyweights on the Court. It has everything to do with finding someone who parrots the Bush Administration party line and emasculates the Constitutional separation of powers and independence of the judiciary. No, I am not jumping to conclusions. Bush's requirement list conspicuously excludes the most critical requirement for the job -- an intellectual heavyweight.

When I was in law school, Constitutional Law undoubtedly was one of the most challenging classes we took. The reason being, of course, is that many opinions were written in the late 1800's and were 50 pages long. Good luck trying to make heads or tails out of that as a first year law student or as a lawyer, for that matter. Even many of the modern opinions offer little clarity for the student, let alone the practitioners and lower courts who must refer to these opinions for guidance, because of result-oriented reasoning or lack of clarity in thought. For fun, try reading one Supreme Court decision here. A Supreme Court judge must read thousands of these opinions and write analyses based upon them. Not anyone can do it.

For the non-lawyers reading this, legal opinions are generally made up of the following four components: facts, issue, reasoning and holding (i.e. conclusion). When a judge makes her decision, she lays out these four factors so that those who read it understand not only what she decided but WHY. It is the why, the reasoning, that forms the crux of stare decisis (precedent that must be followed). And it is the why, the reasoning, that distinguishes a legal scholar from a crony appointment.

I have yet to hear from anyone who supports Miers that she is an intellectual powerhouse. Indeed, the super loonie reich wingers are angry about her nomination because there are judges, whether you agree with them or not, who have proven track records of having the intellectual standards to be in the Ring of 9. Miers may be a fantastic lawyer, but one can only assume that the silence about her intelligence means something. The Texas Lottery Commission does not make you an intellectual heavyweight. Nor does being White House Counsel. Thus, the inquiry has been focused on where she goes to church and whether she opposes abortion.

When the hearings on Miers' nomination get underway, the only thing that matters is what weight class she belongs in. My guess is that she will be a featherweight vying for a place among heavyweights.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Drugs Anyone?

Marketing, as a profession, is the art of convincing people that they need things they don't need. A good marketer and advertiser knows how to hit the right emotional buttons to sell everything from cars to make up to weight loss products. Fear -- injected in the right doses -- is the magic trick that gets 'em everytime (just ask Republicans).

The pharmaceutical industry, if judged by sales and profits, has some of the best marketers money can buy. After a commercial I saw the other night, I am now convinced more than ever that the pharmaceutical companies are making up diseases in order to scare the public into popping more pills.

Perhaps I am not the most informed person on the planet, but I had never heard of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) until a commercial about the pill that treats it rudely interrupted my enjoyment of Godfather II. So I looked it up. Apparently, RLS sufferers often experience an irresistible urge to move the legs. "Symptoms usually begin during attempts to sleep or relax and interfere with rest. The discomfort sometimes also appears when you are restricted from movement for long periods, such as a car or airplane trip."

This is not just silly to anyone with an ounce of common sense, but it makes me wonder what purpose this is meant to serve. I understand the need for real drugs to cure real diseases. But inventing "disorders" that are nothing more than the side effects of the common ailment called "life" does nothing but make us a society of drug addicts. Instead of exercising and eating better, fat, lazy America just pops a pill to combat high blood pressure or to lose weight. Consumers waste billions of dollars each year on pills they think will make them perfect and ignore the rushed, muffled voice at the end of any commercial that describes the horrible things that may happen to you if you take the pill. You simply replace one ailment with another.

For example, the literature says two types of medications are usually used to treat RLS. Dopamine precursors and agonists. Dopamine precursors are medications that the brain converts to dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter) involved in controlling movement.
Side effects that may occur with levodopa, a dopamine precursor, include sudden, jerky, uncontrollable movements (dyskinesias), loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting with or without stomach pain, dry mouth, drooling and difficulty swallowing, headache, dizziness, or fainting, numbness, weakness, and grinding of teeth, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, malaise, fatigue, and euphoria.

Dopamine agonists directly stimulate nerves in the brain that are not naturally being stimulated by dopamine. The most common side effects of dopamine agonists are nausea, constipation, fatigue and fluid retention.

Tough call. Move my legs or nausea, constipation, vomiting, etc.?

Next time you watch a pharmaceutical commercial, think about which you would choose and why. The fact that Americans are choosing pills over affirmative changes to their lifestyles speaks volumes as to the state of our culture and the sad direction in which it is heading.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sacrifice By Whom?

It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice,
there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings.
Where there's service, there is someone being served.
The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves
and masters, and intends to be the master.

Ayn Rand

Please keep this quote in mind everytime you listen to the dumbdumb-in-chief talk about America and the neo-con War on The World. Recycling the hollow jargon of so many prior speeches, the Emperor today spoke about the war, warning Americans that "Wars are not won without sacrifice, and this war will require more sacrifice, more time, and more resolve."

The Emperor ended the cliche-ridden rant with this insult about the still-at-large Osama Bin Laden,
Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims what is good for them and what is not. And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride.

I can think of another man who grew up in wealth and privilege, who considers himself the expert on what is good for the poor and who has never offered to go along for the ride, to send his kids or his friends' kids for the ride or even attend the funerals of those who went on the ride because of their faith in him.

Freedom isn't free is the retort but, if that is true, who should foot the bill? According to the Republicans, it should be everyone but them. They should be the masters and everyone else the slaves.

If God is just, I tremble for my country.

Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Iraq Is Not Vietnam

Iraq is not Vietnam. Stop drawing the parallel because you are wrong.

America won Vietnam. It is losing Iraq.

I realize that this is not the conventional wisdom regarding the former, but it is true and I will tell you why.


Anyone with half a brain and a minimal knowledge of the "Cold War" understands that many of the conflicts that followed World War II were proxy wars. They are called proxy wars because, behind the scenes of the local fighting, lied powerful nations that provided the money, arms and training to the regional armies. When you have a superpower, you have client states. When you have two superpowers, the client states have a choice of master. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the big daddy financiers of conflict in the world were the Soviet Union and the United States and it wasn't difficult to figure out who the client states were. Korea was a proxy war, Vietnam was a proxy war, Grenada, Cuba, etc.

The goal of a proxy war is not necessarily to win militarily. Wearing down the other side will suffice as a victory if the defeated opponent's client states ultimately have no choice but to come into your camp.

Vietnam is the perfect example of such a victory. The American public was sold the war with the recycled slogan that it was a fight for "freedom" but America did not see a loss of freedom because of the military defeat. That is, of course, because the war had nothing to do with freedom. It had everything to do with bleeding the Soviets dry. And it worked.

One need only look at the change in dynamics between the Soviet Union and its client states for evidence of this truism. The collective Arab nations went to war with Israel in 1948, 1956 and 1967, with the unflinching support of the Soviet Union. After Gamal Abdel-Nasser died in 1970, a then unknown military general named Anwar Sadat became president of Egypt. Reflecting upon the humiliating defeat by American-backed Israel in 1967 and watching the exhaustion of the Soviet Union in Vietnam, Sadat decided that Egypt's future lied with the U.S., not the USSR. Sadat provoked the point by attacking Israel in October 1973. The Russians were unable to provide the Egyptian army with reinforcement tanks and the Israelis, initially on the defensive, made strong offensive gains into the Sinai. After the U.S. stepped in to call a truce, Sadat declared his desire to make peace with Israel and offered Egypt as a client state to the U.S. The Camp David Accords are a direct result of America's victory in Vietnam.

Other nations around the world followed suit and, without the client states, the Soviet Union began the shrinky-dink process, from empire to nation. The 1982 Russian invasion of Afghanistan was a last ditch effort to maintain military control over strategic neighboring countries, but we all know the ending to that story. CIA training and religious zeal were married into a band of warriors who defeated what had been one of the strongest armies in the world. The Soviet Satellite States knew it was only a matter of time before the wall would come down. It took only eight years.

American military and financial hegemony over the past 25 years is the victory for which hundreds of thousands of American soldiers gave their lives in Vietnam.


America remains the 100 pound gorilla of the world, but the war in Iraq, and recently Katrina, are siphoning resources and constraining the stretch of the empire.

All the while, client states and superpower competitors are making interesting moves. China has taken an active role throughout Africa, offering loans (to be paid back with oil and other resources), technical support and protection from the U.N. Security Council. Sudan, Angola, Zimbabwe and Nigeria are welcoming Chinese stewardship with open arms. Iran, backed by Russia and China, remains defiant about its nuclear program and, even Israel, the long-time golden client of the U.S., has been making overtures toward Europe and to the East. Notorious for re-selling the technology it receives from the U.S. to regimes with which the U.S. does not contract, the U.S. recently sanctioned Israel for selling spare parts for attack drones to China.

The American economy is now in the hands of the Chinese Central Bank, which has been purchasing Treasury Bonds that are issued to finance the Iraq debacle. Clinton left office with a surplus and Bush pissed it down the toilet on his war games.

And what do we have to show for this wild expenditure? A bunch of holy-rolling buffoons has the U.S. military bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight. Sound familiar?

Even if America "wins" militarily in Iraq (whatever that means), she will have been financially bled dry in the process. Bush will cut more and more domestic spending, he will continue to behave like a teenager with a credit card and devalue the dollar while China and Europe stay quietly busy in the background with their new clients. This will do far more damage than any terrorist could do (just ask the last of the Roman Emperors).

Vietnam was a victory. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster.

If you live long enough, you'll see that
every victory turns into a defeat
Simone de Beauvoir