Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Terrorist Pres

You know, I think it's time for a change in American politics and I think I have the perfect change. I think it's time that we start calling Bush the "terrorist president." There's no doubt at all in my mind that George W. Bush's one legacy in history will be terrorism. Nearly everything that he does somehow or other involves terrorism. We could also start referring to the Republican Party as the terrorist party. I just got an email ad from Ken Mehlman, the head of the terrorist party, telling me what a stinker old Harry Reid is for opposing the Patriot Act. Well I say let's call a spade a spade. Let's call the Patriot Act the Terrorist Act. That's what it's said to be for, right? So let's call it that.
The terrorist president
The terrorist party
The Terrorist Act
Oh, and now there's the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the new White House name for the NSA spying scandal.
Only 3 more years.....
Hmmmmm... Should I rename the White House "The House of Terror"...
Maybe we can even finally get Social Security reform passed in the terrorist congress if we can somehow link it to terrorism. We could rename it Terrorist Security and fund it entirely on deficit spending.
And while we're at it, we could refer to the nightly news as the evening terrorist report, every damned network!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Time and Place
White House press secretary Scott McClellan at yesterday's White House press briefing:
MR. McCLELLAN: And as I indicated, clearly, the al Qaeda leaders and the terrorists are on the run. They're under a lot of pressure. We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. The terrorists started this war, and the President made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing. We continue to pursue all those who are seeking to do harm to the American people, and to bring them to justice.

We will end it at a time and place of our choosing? You mean we are in control?
Question:
Why not now? Why, if this is true, didn't we end it in Afghanistan in 2002? I mean, it seems only logical. Why not "choose" to end it right now?
I heard a very interesting comment on PBS's News Hour last night. Jim Lehrer was interviewing Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East specialist at Rice University, about the latest bin Laden tape. Make of this whatever you wish, but here is an excerpt from the interview:
MAMOUN FANDY: Right, but this particular tape is not terribly inspiring, just looking at the language of it. This is the first tape of bin Laden that has no single verse from the Koran. It does not have the flowery language of Arabic.
It seems to me that it is written in English first, and then translated into Arabic. It is very western style of tape. It is not very characteristic of bin Laden, at least it tells me that the non-Arabic speaking within the al-Qaida network are taking over the organization --
JIM LEHRER: You mean he didn't write this is what you are suggesting?
MAMOUN FANDY: The Arabic speakers in al-Qaida, the parts that are coming from the Arab world, are losing to the non-Arabic speaker, so it's really becoming more of a South Asian organization, rather than an Arab organization.

Terrorism is politics.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Neo-Liberal Neo-Con

William Kristol is calling for military preparations for the liberalization of Iran and the greater Middle East.
"What about the hopes for a liberal, less extremist and less terror-friendly Middle East?"
Well William, what about the hopes for a liberal, less extremist, and less terror-friendly America?
Whose side are you on, anyway? Ah, yes, that's right. You are the son of Jewish Trotskyist-become neo-conservative Irving Kristol and Jewish Victorian conservative Gertrude Himmelfarb. Your uncle Milton Himmelfarb was a prominent Jewish figure.
Why is it that when it comes to people like Kristol, the crossover between "liberal" and "conservative" becomes so blurry? What is there here that I am missing? Someone help me out here. If American conservatism really is trying to eliminate liberalism as they often claim, then how is it that these neo-conservatives who have such a strong voice in the Bush administration can speak of "the hopes for a liberal... Middle East"? There's something I missed in history class and I'm not quite sure where to look to find it truthfully explained. In what fringe of the political landscape do liberal and conservative philosophies merge? Wherever that is, Kristol must already be there if the new Iran Iraq War will liberalize the Middle East.

Iran

So Bush calls Iran part of the "Axis of Evil" prompting the Iranian people to elect a hard-line man off the streets as their president to talk tough against the superpowers, and now we're faced with Iran wanting nuclear ("nucular") power. Another Bush administration success. Now we have justification for continuing on with the PNAC agenda laid out even before 9/11 and the Bush hijacking of 2000.
To top things off, this street-wise Iranian president Ahmadinejad has been insulting and provoking Israel. When I first heard about this, his supposed call to wipe Israel off the Middle East map, my reaction was that this nutcase must be either insane or working for the Freemasons. Why would the leader of Iran dig his nation even deeper into the hole it's in? I don't have the answers to that question, but I'll speculate.
1. Iran wants nuclear power plants, not just as a cover for developing nuclear weapons but also as a source of energy for a developing economy. Word has it that Iran is supplying electricity to Iraq now and there's every reason to think that with the rising price of oil and natural gas, Iran could be making money on the international market for all three forms of energy, oil, gas, and nuclear-generated electricity.
2. The Iranian people in general feel that they have a right to defend themselves against aggression. I have a sense that even the neo-cons know this time that American tanks would not be welcomed with roses in Tehran. If the Americans went into Iran the way we went into Iraq, the war would be a whole lot messier than it now is in Iraq. Iran wants and feels that it deserves a first line of defense, a deterrent defense, a good reason for any aggressive superpower to not launch an attack. It worked for the Soviets and China. It's worked so far between Pakistan and India. It seems to be working for Israel. And it seems apparent to the Iranians that their only hope to prevent American aggression is just such a defense. The primary reason for Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is the current very real aggression of the United States.
3. Iran recognizes that the primary reason the west doesn't want them to have a nuclear defense is their proximity to Israel. We in the west assume that Iran would want to use nuclear weapons preemptively against Israel. That seems to me to be a very naive perspective for us to hold since it assumes that the Iranians are suicidal as a culture. It's not very likely to be true. Iran is no different than any other nation. They want their own nationality. They want to survive. But they don't want to submit to any western superpower. They want self-determination. They don't want nuclear annihilation, but at the same time they are willing to do whatever it takes to defend themselves.
4. Iran recognizes the new threat on their western border, American-occupied Iraq. Iran knows that the American presence in Iraq is a far greater threat to them than Saddam's military ever was. There's every reason to believe that the US is poised in Iraq to launch a nuclear attack against Iran, a massive tactical nuclear attack against advancing Iranian troops should a US air strike or invasion lead to an Iranian conventional-weapon counterattack in response. There's every reason to believe that the US is developing in Iraq the same kind of defense it used against the Soviets in Europe during the Cold War. Tactical nuclear weapons are an integral part of the US arsenal against advancing enemy armies. Iran knows it.
5. Iran knows that the UN is not the solution. Iran watched while the UN disarmed Iraq, thus leaving Iraq defenseless against aggression. The Iranian people don't intend to let that happen to them. They know they can't depend on the UN to keep the superpowers at bay. They have to defend themselves.
6. Iran knows that the attack is coming. They know that if they don't submit to Israel and to the western corporate economic powers, their government will be overthrown and the same economic process now being forced onto Iraq will be forced onto Iran. It has happened before in Iran and it will happen again if Iran is not able to develop a deterrent defense.
All things considered, it makes sense for Iran to develop its defenses. What doesn't make sense is that Iran seems to be baiting Israel to attack. How can that possibly support Iran's future as a nation? How does it fit into Iran's defense?
One reason that makes sense to me is that Iran is drawing the name of Israel into the Middle East War. President Bush has declared that it is irresponsible and partisan to suggest that Israel was a motivation for the Iraq war. Iran's president Ahmadinejad has changed the rules for Iran. He has made it impossible to claim that aggression against Iran is not motivated by the defense of Israel. That in itself is a defensive maneuver for Iran, a deterrent. What looks at first glance like insanity is actually a clever diplomatic move on his part. What he is telling the west is that if we do invade Iran, there's no way it won't implicate Israel. There's no way the people of the Middle East won't hold it against Israel. And there's every reason for Israel to not want that. Israel has enough enemies in the Middle East already. They don't need to be perceived as the real reason for US Middle East aggression.
I fear that America's blind fear of the Middle East will drive us into a war of aggression that most of us will live to regret. It seems to me that the time for debate is now. We made some serious mistakes while we debated Iraq before we attacked. We clearly cannot trust our leaders to make the right choices. In a time when we should be debating and negotiating with Iran rather than dictating to them as we now are, we ourselves, the American people, should be openly debating our future. Do we really want to be the superpower that forces its will on the rest of the world? Do we really want to pay that price? Or is there some way to secure the world that doesn't demand our presumed moral superiority and our dominance?
These people that we are trying to dominate are not the barbarians we assume them to be. We'd see that if we'd take off our blinders. We have come to see the Iraqis as enemies. We have long thought of the Iranians as our enemies. But they are only our enemies if we insist that we are dominant. If we could free ourselves of that insane notion and begin a dialog with these people that sees them as our actual equals in humanity, maybe we could begin to shed the fear we have of them. And maybe, just maybe, if we did that, they would respond to us with peace.

Spray-On Mud

For the SUV owner who has everything (except the great outdoors) now there's Spray on Mud.
That's the antithesis of good Republicanism, isn't it? Right-wingers like the appearance of clean even if everything inside is dirty. That's the whole point of closet homosexuality, closet bigotry, and even fundamentalist Christianity. Clean on the outside is what you are when you deny that America tortures prisoners. Clean on the outside is what you get when you say "We almost got him" when you send in missiles in the night and kill innocent men, women, and children while they sleep. The appearance of clean is what you have when you claim Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sin you did, are doing, and yet will do.
Spray on Mud, though... That must be for all the liberal SUV owners? I'll have to give that one some thought.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Oil Truth

When your own leaders declare the truth to be the enemy, then it's time to start looking at what the enemy has to say.
I quote from this reference:
"Report outlines plans for corporate plunder of Iraqi oil"

The actual bonanza for the oil giants from the invasion of Iraq could run into the trillions. Out of the country’s 80 known fields, just 17 are currently in production. A further 63 undeveloped fields have an estimated 75 billion barrels of oil, while industry experts believe between 100 billion and 200 billion barrels lie in unexplored fields. The country also has enormous untapped reserves of natural gas.
The Platform report establishes that control over these resources was the primary motive for the war. The first chapter draws attention to the discussion in US and British ruling circles on the strategic importance of dominating the oil and gas of the Persian Gulf. It cites the May 2001 report of the Bush administration’s Energy Task Force, which was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. The findings declared: “The Gulf will be the primary focus of US international energy policy.”

Did you catch that? At $60 per barrel the estimated worth of Iraq's unexplored oil is between 6 and 12 trillion dollars and that doesn't take into consideration the oil fields already in production or the large natural gas reserves. Considering that the war is being financed by deficit spending, how much money have investors contributed so far? 200 billion? 300 billion? Now do you understand why Wolfowitz was correct when he said oil would finance the war reconstruction?
These PSA agreements are of interest. A PSA, Production Sharing Agreement, is a contract between private corporations and the state for access to oil reserves.

Summing up the essential characteristic of a PSA, a British academic cited by Platform wrote: “The government can be seen to be running the show—and the company can run it behind the camouflage of legal title symbolizing the assertion of national sovereignty.”
The decision by the US occupation to apply this PSA model to Iraq amounts to naked corporate plunder. While common in countries that do not possess large reserves of oil and gas, or where the cost of the development of fields is substantial—such as offshore oil wells—PSAs are virtually unheard of in large oil-producing states like Iraq. Such nations either exploit their energy resources directly or use their bargaining power to negotiate far more equitable contracts.

The first PSA in Iraq was signed June 25, 2004 by DNO, a Norwegian oil company. Drilling began in November 2005 and has already yielded results.
Considering all the money involved, at least it's comforting to know that the US has a good ally in charge of the situation.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Iraqi Oil

No wonder Bush is declaring such speech the enemy...
Reference: December 10, 2005 Speech by Hassan Jumaa at UK Stop The War Coalition International Peace Conference
"As you also know, we live in a world in which evil forces pursue domination and the usurpation of rights and property. In order for peace to reign over the entire world, we have to stand steadfast against those evil forces, unify our protest and practice solidarity, for it is the unity of peoples that intimidates the forces of evil. To this end, I convey to you the greetings of Iraq's workers, and in particular the oil workers who, by their struggle, have tormented the forces of evil represented by America and its allies. They have stood against occupation forces and confronted them, preventing them from getting to the oil installations, and have stood likewise against foreign companies. Oil workers were the first to stand against these companies by holding out against the monopolist firms that were brought in by America two months after the beginning of the occupation. These firms came under the protection of American tanks; however, our Union's first action was to expel KBR [Halliburton] from our oil sites, thus marking the victory of Iraqi workers against the forces of evil."
"...If stability and security prevailed, these forces would have to leave. However, America does not want to withdraw at this time, because it did not complete its operation; it has not yet accomplished the second phase of the occupation, the economic occupation of Iraq. That is why the U.S. administration is currently putting forward its economic plans which include privatization of the oil and manufacturing sectors, and the production sharing agreement [PSA] project."
"...
1. Occupation forces must leave the country immediately and unconditionally.
2. We will stand firmly and resolutely against all those who want to tamper with the security and power of the Iraqi people.
3. We condemn terrorist attacks against our people and stress the importance of respecting human rights.
4. We support the honorable resistance that targets and strikes at foreign military forces and seeks to drive the occupiers out.
5. We will not allow the intrusion of foreign companies [in the oil sector] and production sharing agreements, and we will stand with all our force against monopoly firms such as Halliburton, KBR, Shell, and others.
6. We ask the patriotic forces, the antiwar movement and peace-lovers to support our Union in its campaign against privatization and PSAs.
7. We demand the unconditional cancellation of Iraq's [foreign] debts, as these debts never benefited the Iraqi people but served the buried regime.
..."
Free speech be damned, right George?
"The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Unitary Executive

With the Alito hearings, there has been a considerable amount of discussion about the "unitary executive theory" which is something that I have only recently become aware of. I mentioned that topic on January 6 in my "No Law" post. Much of the discussion in the Alito hearings concerning presidential powers focuses on this concept.
From what I understand, the unitary executive theory implies that the President is the head of all executive government agencies. None exist outside of presidential authority. Congress cannot establish any agency either fully or partially independent of the President. That actually seems to make some sense to me constitutionally. I'm not sure how the Congressional Budget Office fits into this framework. Wikipedia says that "is a federal agency within the legislative branch of the United States government.
I heard today that this theory was evoked one time by President Reagan, six times by Bush Sr., no times at all by President Clinton, and 110 times so far by Bush Jr. Clearly, Bush is using it to establish a new legal precedent, but the question is, what precedent are White House lawyers attempting to establish by using this theory?
It dawned on me this evening, and I was immediately rewarded with feedback from a discussion on Public Radio, that the unitary executive theory is used to define the scope of presidential power as total. That fits with Alito's 2000 comments about executive power. It also seems to fit with how the phrase is used in Bush's signing statements. By total, I mean the president is stating that the exception to law that he is establishing applies to all agencies of government under the authority of the office of the president. Nobody is excluded, not the military, not the State Department, not the CIA, not the NSA, not the FBI, and the list goes on.
So when the president says he takes exception to any particular clause of any particular bill that he is signing, he takes that exception for all agencies within his power, virtually all agencies of government. When he says the unitary executive branch takes exception to the McCain Amendment, that means no agency of government will be subject to it as long as Bush is president.
I think a better understanding of the effect of this process might be had if we were to look back at something called the "line item veto." Again from Wikipedia, "In government, the line-item veto is the power of an executive to veto parts of a bill, usually budget appropriations. This enables an executive to nullify specific provisions of a bill, rather than only being able to approve or veto a bill in its entirety." Read the rest of this short definition for some background on that concept. It's interesting that the Supreme Court struck down that power when it was given to President Clinton. I had forgotten about that, if I ever knew it. But look at the reason why it was struck down, "that unilateral amendment or repeal of only parts of statutes violated the U.S. Constitution."
Using terrorism as justification, President Bush is using signing statements, the unitary executive concept, and his powers as Commander in Chief to essentially line item veto congressional bills when they are sent to him for signing. That is the legal precedent he and his White House lawyers seem to be trying to establish. Let's hope that somebody brings this issue to the courts soon.

Global Iraq

Earlier this morning I posted a link to a January 10 speech President Bush gave to the VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. It's actually quite a speech to review. It contained some interesting points. The first that really stood out to me was the president's definition of "victory" in Iraq. In previous speeches that I have noted, Bush linked victory directly to the notion that Iraq would become a US ally in the war on terror. In this speech, he separated those two concepts by a paragraph break, suggesting that just maybe it would be possible to have victory in Iraq without Iraq becoming a US base for launching further strikes in that war. But then again, this was just a paragraph break. Here is how the president defined victory in Iraq:
"Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy. Victory will come when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens. Victory will come when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."
Note that Bush again linked Iraq to terrorists plotting attacks on the US, the elusive 9/11 connection. Take note, Republicans, when you claim Bush doesn't do this. Bush plants in our minds the assumption that Iraq has been "a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation" and we are fighting to end that situation.
But the important thing is that Bush did not say victory will come when Iraq becomes an ally with the United States in the war on terror. He reserved that for the next paragraph:
"And when victory comes and democracy takes hold in Iraq..." other nations will join by example and "we will gain new allies in the cause of freedom."
It's still troubling that Bush is painting such a rosy picture of the Middle East. We can't seriously believe all this will come about peacefully. The real question remains will Iraq tolerate the US spreading the war to neighboring countries using Iraqi military installations as our base. We already know the neo-con agenda, so the question is will Iraq allow it.
The second significant point that the president brings up is even more subtle. Bush claims that the war isn't about oil and isn't about Israel, that even suggesting such irresponsibly risks the lives of US troops, is partisan, disloyal, and defeatist. So, one might ask, what constitutes a loyal appraisal of the reason for the war? In my mind, Bush gives a few hints in this speech.
Of course there's the argument for democracy. Judging by what's been going on in recent years on K Street in Washington, one might question the definition of the word "democracy" in a Republican's mind. Here's lobbyist Jack Abramof not only encouraging corporations to bribe congressmen, but actually being a Republican operative in a game that extorts corporate donations to further the Republican agenda, the new Republican pay to play game.
But democracy isn't the only, or even the real, reason for the Iraq War.
In this speech, Bush mentioned private property rights. I'm guessing he wasn't speaking about whether the Iraqi people had the right to own their own home. I'm guessing his reference was more along the lines of the neo-liberal idea that resources and social services should be owned by private corporations rather than by the state. Energy supplies, water supplies, public transportation, communications, and any other public services should be privately (corporately) owned and operated for profit.
Bush notes that Iraq has already taken the first step in that direction with gasoline prices, emphasizing that Iraq's leaders are removing gasoline subsidies. Just how gasoline subsidies encourage the black market is a mystery to me. It seems that the opposite would be the case. Black markets thrive when governments either restrict supply or artificially elevate prices, not the other way around. Is Bush saying that government subsidies somehow reduce the supply of gasoline to the people? Government inefficiency is an old argument that favors free market supply and demand economics, a concept generally associated with "private" corporate ownership and control of supply. Considering that under Saddam, the Iraqi government owned the oil resources and that now under Bush there is a strong movement to privatize those resources, it might be a good guess that such privatization is what Bush is talking about.
Bush went on to emphasize debt relief. His mention of Malta opens a Pandora's box that I won't go into here. But Iraq has become an interest of both the IMF and the World Bank, both classic tools of the neo-liberal movement. Loans from the IMF and the World Bank generally are provided conditionally, on condition that the recipient nations undergo certain politically-driven economic transformations, most notably the privatization of the public sector. Again, privatization.
For anyone who has been paying any attention at all recently to economics, the keyword in world economics is now globalization. Bush does not mention this term in this speech. He mentions global war, but not global economics. Yet the objectives of globalization are exactly the transformations now going on in Iraq. The Iraq war is liberating Iraqi oil resources for global corporate investment under the supervision of the Bush administration. In addition, Iraq is undergoing an economic transformation to become a model in the Middle East for a privatized economy, an economy controlled by corporate interests, corporate profits, rather than by public socialist interests.
What has made that transformation possible in Iraq? The war.
What was used as justification for the war? 9/11
Now I ask you, wasn't it amazing that Osama bin-Laden has empowered the neo-liberals in this way? No wonder Rumsfeld called 9/11 a "blessing in disguise."

Loyalty

Speaking to the VFW on January 10, President Bush, after expounding extensively about the meaning of democracy, made this remark:
"The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right."
Clearly he was speaking about me.
Now to remove the cookies and Javascripts that I got from going there...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Choir Boy

That's how Sam Alito was informally portrayed by Public Radio shortly after he finished his brief introductory statement today. Public Radio is covering the Senate committee hearings for Alito's Supreme Court approval. I was impressed that the concept of "unitary executive" was brought into the discussion even at this early stage.
I haven't really made up my mind about Alito. He seems boyish and naive, but that's becoming a mainstay for service to the Republican cause. He seems like a child of the 60s who "just said no" whenever asked if he would care to expand his mind. He preferred excelling in school rather than experiencing what it meant to be "a child of the 60s" - a Stepford boy born ten years after his time. But that's just the impression I get when I see him and the impression I got listening to him today.
I can associate with that. If I weren't dyslexic, I'd probably have taken the road more taken myself. But I don't know. I think I had a little more rebel in me than I see in Sam. But who knows...
Today's hearing was mainly consumed by political posturing by the committee members characterized by repeating political talking points. The Democrats expressed their desire that Alito should speak freely about who he is and what he believes while the Republicans assured Alito that they fully support him keeping his mouth shut as much as possible.
Contrast that to yesterday's Face the Nation on CBS when Arlen Specter (the chairman of this Senate committee) when asked about the possibility of a filibuster stated, "We really ought to go to these hearings... ..and give Sam--Judge Alito a chance to testify before making all these threats." I mean, do Republicans want Alito to testify or don't they? And is it honest to say you don't want to see Alito talk but Democrats don't have the right to filibuster if he doesn't talk? And really, what's wrong with this man discussing his professional opinion about abortion or the unitary executive theory that he promoted? Why would Republicans not want the public to know Alito's positions on these issues? What's wrong with understanding who this man really is and what he believes?
What's up?

White News

Political propaganda on the White House website? What to make of that.....
This little tidbit might set the record straight for the faithful, but it does nothing to resolve the issue at hand. I wonder who gets to write propaganda like this for the official White House website.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Free-Fall

It's absolutely amazing to me what things you can come across on the Internet when you allow your mind to free-fall. Today was one of those days for me. What the heck, it's the middle of winter in Maine. I could be watching TV or ice fishing but what good would that do me?
So let me give you some examples of the things I have come across today:
A quote from Ariel Sharon shortly after 9/11
An interesting tidbit about Larry Silverstein who leased the Trade Center three months before 9/11 and had a windfall of insurance ($billions) from the disaster
A picture from that morning that I hadn't seen before. At first I thought this looked like an aerial photo, but who would have been flying then. Perhaps it's from another of New York's skyscrapers. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the towers were wired with explosives, which is about the only thing that would explain why building 7 also collapsed.
Some background information on Scooter Libby
Some background information on Public Broadcasting's new head. Note the Israeli connections.
A whirlwind of 9/11 theory
A similar whirlwind of Middle Eastern news
At this point my computer's connection to the net is frozen up so I'll need to remove the spyware I've picked up today before I can move on...
59 spyware items and one reboot later...
Friends of Israel in the 2004 US elections - Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has an impressive career total here. I saw him on Face the Nation (CBS) this morning. He surprised me with a few of his denials. Look at the support Tom Daschle has received over the years! Thune won that race with only $1,000 from these Israelis. Hmmmmm... But DeLay got a chunk of change from them in '04. Kinda looks like we're connected at both ends of the pipe, doesn't it? Total congressional race contributions from 78 to 04, almost $40 million.
For those who like to compare Iraq with the occupation of Germany after World War II
The new Inquisition - When will we learn that freedom of speech and open debate is essential to the dissemination of truth? You don't throw people in prison for denying history. Or do you?
A controversial American Jew, son of Holocaust survivors, with something to say about America's faith in the Holocaust and Israel. A speech he gave in Vancouver in May 2004 that is worth listening to.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Big Bang Balloons

National Geographic had an article in May 2005 about Einstein and the universe titled Beyond the Big Bang: Einstein's Evolving Universe. The article talks about an idea that Einstein had that he later rejected which may now be resurrected to explain the expanding universe. Einstein was surprised when Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding. But in the late 20th century, scientists were surprised to discover that the expansion was actually accelerating. What forces are there either within or beyond the universe that would draw the galaxies out from their point of origin - the "big bang" - at an accelerating rate?
Scientists are beginning to theorize that our universe may not be the only universe, that it may be only one ballooning mass of many, perhaps even an infinite number, of such universes. It has never made any sense to me to think that beyond the edge of our universe nothing else exists, that for an eternity of distance and time, the only matter in existence is what we can see with our telescopes and that everything that exists for an eternity emerged from one big explosion 14 billion years ago. I can grant that the big bang may have been the origin for our universe, but saying that this is all there is is like saying God only created life on earth - it makes no sense to me to be so self-focused. Now it's beginning to look like I am not the only one imagining the possibilities.
A three-page fold-out, pages 110 to 112, of this May 2005 issue of National Geographic is an artist's illustration of this concept. This picture is what really caught my eye about the article. An edited version of the picture is online at the National Geographic website for May 2005 so if you are curious, you can see it. But I think that picture belongs on the wall of every science classroom in the world. It was a real eye-opener for me.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Five Points

I should have been taking notes last night watching the news on PBS. They interviewed two people who had attended President Bush's war consultation. One was Republican James R. Schlesinger, career bureaucrat under Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush Jr. The other was Democrat Madeleine Albright, 64th Secretary of State. After the interview, I jotted down five important points made by Schlesinger. I'm not working from the transcript, only from my aging memory, but here's what I gathered from him:
1. The Bush administration knows how to walk and chew gum at the same time.
2. With respect to Iraq, the happy talk is over. We'll be hearing it the way it is from now on.
3. These Islamists want us all dead.
4. We can't pull out of Iraq without seriously harming America's national security, but if we stay in, there are "no guarantees... no guarantees..."
5. Comparing the Iraq War with World War II, there have been nowhere near enough American casualties yet for anyone in the US to be concerned. In one day in World War II there were five times as many casualties as we have had in the entire Iraq War. Mind you, I might have gotten this one wrong. Schlesinger was squeezing this point in at the end of the interview but it had to do with five times something about World War II.
I thought, "Oh wow! So this is how we should be seeing things now! What an enlightening interview! That sure bolsters my faith in the Bush administration!"

No Law

It seems that no little law is going to stop President Bush from doing whatever he wants to do with respect to torturing interrogatees:
"The executive branch shall construe section 8104, relating to integration of foreign intelligence information, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch."
At least now we know where the buck stops whenever we hear nightmare stories about US agents torturing prisoners.
Unitary executive branch? There's an interesting term to Google...
Update:
From Wikipedia quoting Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito:
"The Constitution makes the president the head of the executive branch, but it does more than that.... The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power—the whole thing." (The Wall Street Journal, 5 January 2006, p. 1.)
In other words, "Heil!"

Page 2

There's a new name on the political landscape in Washington. His name is Russ Tice. He was fired from the NSA in 2005 after seeking stronger whistleblower protection from Congress.
The roadblock in most people's minds when it comes to conspiracy theory is that it is impossible to keep secrets in Washington. If anyone were to write a book about how it's done, the Joe Wilson affair should be on page 1. This story should be page 2.

Pretty Faces

Some things just make you scratch your head and wonder:
Bush prefers Martin spokesman to his own

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Oil Slick

Word has it that Ahmad Chalabi has become the oil minister in Iraq for a month or so. A month should give him time enough to replenish his bank accounts, shouldn't it?
Here's an oil ministry insider joke about it from Baghdad Burning.
“You know how they used to check our handbags when we first walked into the ministry?” She asked the day after Chalabi crowned himself Oil Emperor, “Now WE check our handbags after we leave the ministry- you know- to see if Chalabi stole anything.”

Activist Pres

Question
How does an activist administration get political obstructionist hacks into top positions despite increasing concern in Congress?
Answer

Novel Idea

Here's a novel idea. Offer (from the comfort of your brand new Mercedes) male prostitutes the opportunity to come to your hotel room for oral sex so you can evangelize them... If it weren't for the damned cops...
Oh, wait, his claim was this: "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police." So he knew the man he propositioned was a cop? Well now I am confused. Praise the Lord for truth, though! Somehow the truth will cum (sp.?) out in the end.
Tulsa Pastor Arrested In OKC On Lewdness Charge

Sunday, January 01, 2006

No Intelligent Life

Yesterday I was in the local library and I noticed a box by the front door stuffed with magazines. The box had "Take These" written on the side, so I took out the one on front, an issue of National Geographic. On the back cover is a Toyota ad with an SUV parked on a slanted rock outcropping with no roads in sight. The caption reads:
NO INTELLIGENT LIFE OUT HERE. JUST YOU.
Some people might take issue with this by claiming that God is out there and God is intelligent. But I'm sure that wasn't Toyota's point. They weren't saying there is no God. What they were implying is that this Toyota SUV can take you to places where there are no other people but you. I can do that with a 1994 Chevy Cavalier with 217,000 miles on it, but that's because I live in Maine. I wouldn't expect a National Geographic reader in New York City to try it.
But that's not my point...
What this ad inadvertently says is that there is no intelligent life in nature except for mankind. That claim is an easy one for an advertisement to make because that's been a mainstay in civilized thought for centuries if not millennia. We civilized humans have deceived ourselves into believing that we and God are the only intelligence on earth.
This morning when I looked at that ad, I realized that this is the problem with the theory of intelligent design. The fundamental claim in the theory of intelligent design, the one connection between that theory and science, is the claim that science can find no intelligent mechanism in evolution and that life is too complex to have evolved through random mutation. Stated more simply, there is no intelligence in nature. For nature to have evolved, there must have been an intelligent designer because nature itself is not intelligent enough to have done the job.
At the very heart of this argument for intelligent design is this long-held misconception that the only intelligent being on earth is Man and we get our intelligence from our special relationship with God. The rest of nature goes without.
For the record let me state that nothing could be further from the truth.

Happy New Year!

I just removed 22 items of spyware from my computer, about what is to be expected for not scanning it in two days. A purchased version of Webroot Spy Sweeper runs in the background. I scan with Ad-Aware SE Personal, the free version. Now that warrantless government spying has openly been declared legal by the President of the United States, will there be more or less spyware around when 2006 draws to a close? Any predictions?