Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maybe I'm Just a Cynic

But I have a hard time believing that Sarah Palin and/or Fox News didn't intentionally advertise her new interview show with a screen shot of L.L. Cool J knowing that she never interviewed him just so that they could get the free mileage out of the subsequent "story" that the denial/controversy created. It managed to get me talking about it...

Say what you will about Sarah Palin (and I have), but she and Fox both have a knack for garnering attention.


It's a long day. Still, managed to get a couple things done. Kids will be home soon - I'm sure they're going to be happy about Chicken and Dumplins for dinner tonight.

Interesting Comparison

I'm watching a show on the History Channel right now about Nazis in America. They have discussed a book called the Turner Diaries, which was a fictional telling of the overthrow of America (in favor of Nazi/Aryans). Apparently this book, along with messages of hatred for races other than Protestant Caucasians, was part of what led to violence like Timothy McVeigh, among others...

The author of the book stated that he wasn't advocating violence, however, and thought that the violence came out by itself.

Another speaker - former White Supremacist, noted that the propagandists/leaders' modus operandi is to recruit young/impressionable people, fill their minds with messages of hate and rhetoric, and then, when these people go out and take matters into their own hands, the propagandists can sit back and disclaim any ownership of the actions - "we didn't tell them to do this stuff."

It's sort of like the soil and the seed. The leaders plant the seed - the thought of violent action in furtherance of their agenda and the necessity of it being carried out - into the fertile soil of the young person's mind...

For some reason, as I heard this, I thought about Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the like...


I repeatedly hear complaints about the Health Care Reform that it didn't include anything touching on Tort Reform, with regard to Medical Malpractice. The generic complaint I hear is that frivolous lawsuits are driving up malpractice claims which in turn drives up the cost of medical care. The (Cliff's notes version) proposal, as was passed here in Texas, is that by capping damages for medical malpractice claims, fewer claims will be filed and thus health care will cost less.

This sounds logical on paper, however, it doesn't really address the problems. The first problem is that a case that goes to recovery, either by settlement or judgment by definition is not "frivolous," there was an actual injury that resulted in actual damages. The second thing that this does is, by limiting damages, you deny appropriate recovery for severely injured individuals - the man who goes in for a gall bladder removal who ends up losing both legs (happened to an A1C in California last year - but the airman couldn't sue, because he received the surgery by a military surgeon while on active duty) is unable to receive sufficient compensation to make up for the act that makes him or her an amputee.

When pressed for details on what qualifies as "frivolous," on more than one occasion I've been given the "McDonald's coffee case" as evidence of what the complainer means. The case is actually the case of Stella Liebeck, and there was really little frivolous about it (source - Lectlaw). While not going into to great a detail on this site, the gist of the story is that McDonald's had been sued 700 times over the 10 year period and the coffee was served well over the industry standard. Stella was not driving - she was a passenger and the car was standing on the shoulder while she attempted to pour in creamer. She suffered 3rd degree burns to at least 6% of her body and required skin grafts. She asked for $20K to help pay for the recovery due to the burn that McDonald's was aware their coffee was liable to cause, and was instead offered $800. Her damages the jury awarded were $200,000, which was lowered by the jury to $160,000 as they found her comparatively liable for 20% of the injury. The punitive damages are what people get upset about - that's the $2.7 Million that immediately causes people to yell "frivolous," but those are punitive damages - awarded to punish McDonald's for continuing with a practice that it knew could cause injuries such as what happened to Stella. This punitive damage was ultimately lowered to $480K, and finally was tossed out as McDonald's and Liebeck came to a confidential settlement between them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Status Update

I've been out of work for about 6 weeks now. I didn't expect the job search to be this frustrating, but I've had precious few solid leads.

I've got a couple positions that have some promise to them, but they're not as strong as I'd like them to be. One of these positions would be a title review type position that sounds right up my alley, but the firm is just starting up and the guy wasn't sure that there'd be anything for another 30-60 days. The second one is an immigration firm that sounds somewhat frustrating in nature, as I'd be defending removals, with a high failure rate as the nature of the beast.

It's not the best way to go, but it would pay the bills.

I'm still sending out 15-20 resumes/contacts per week, but I've noticed that for everything I send out, I get little in return.

Keeping the faith, but getting frustrated.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Habeas What?

I remember hearing pundit after pundit and talking head after talking head and Republican lawmaker after Republican lawmaker rail about the (accused) terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay. I remember hearing claims that these "terrorists" are the "worst of the worst" and they don't deserve habeas corpus, they aren't entitled to see the evidence against them, they are not being "tortured," rather they are subject to "enhanced interrogation techniques" that result in waterboarding as many as 183 times. Stress positions, sleep deprivation, induced hypothermia? Slamming heads against walls? Force-feeding? Tricking individuals into believing that they bore witness to murders in an effort to coax confessions? All this was completely kosher and indeed was part of the "arsenal" needed to protect America from the scourge of Terror." And besides, these evildoers aren't even being held in America, and they're not POWs, so American law doesn't apply!

Now that the Joint Terrorism task force has arrested 9 individuals from an American group charged with planning attacks against the United States, including attempted use of WMD, in theory, shouldn't these same politicians, pundits, and talking heads be demanding that this same treatment be applied to Caucasian American Citizens? What are the odds that they will?

An Interesting Link

I've not discovered the blog "Slacktivist" before today. I don't know too much about the authors of the blog or any similar details. What I can say, however, is that I find this particular post rather interesting. Check it out, and if you feel likewise, stick around and check out a few other posts.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Fox News Party

On one hand, I am not terribly surprised that the Republican Chair would send a letter to members of the RNC recommending a book written by a Fox News Channel commentator advising on how to "take back" America from the Democratically-elected President, particularly because Fox news is so clearly partisan in favor of the Republican Party that a quid pro quo seems logical.

On the other hand, it seems to completely drop all pretext that the Fox News is "fair and balanced," or that there's any separation between the RNC's and Fox News's agendas.

I like David Frum's quote that is included in the linked article: "Republicans originally thought that Fox [News] worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."

A Confederacy of Grown-ups, ctd.

I remember a huge deal being made of filibustering during the Bush Administration when Republicans held both houses of Congress. I remember talk of "Mandates," and threats to do away with the filibuster legislatively. The phrase "up or down vote" was thrown around constantly to let us know that nominees like Harriet Miers and John Bolton could get into office despite concerns about their qualifications. That Democrats could even contemplate ignoring the mandate of the people by trying to block the nominations of the sitting president was laughable, at the very least.

I don't disagree that the concept of filibustering and other processes to hold up progress in Congress are frustrating, and I generally dislike seeing them. I do see a purpose for the process, though, as there are times where there might be legitimate issues that need to be figured out, or more facts that need to come through (see Miers, Harriet. By contrast, I still don't understand the point of holding up the Bolton vote). However, much like I feel about labor unions, I believe it is something that should only be used rarely, when necessity dictates.

That is why I find it deplorable that President Obama felt it necessary to make 15 recess appointments to office. I disagree with the concept of recess appointments as a general principle, but I do think that given the unprecedented scale of obstructionism the Republican Party has embraced during the Obama administration (in part because of "fear" of the "Tyranny of Majority" that mysteriously didn't exist during the Bush years). To wit:
This opposition got so out of hand at one point that one senator put a blanket hold on all of the President’s nominees in an attempt to win concessions on two projects that would benefit his state. And another nominee’s confirmation was delayed by one senator for more than eight months because of a disagreement over a proposed federal building in his home state. When that nominee was finally given the vote she deserved, she was confirmed 96 to 0. When you attempt to prevent the government from working effectively because you didn’t get your way, you’re failing to live up to your responsibilities as a public servant.

To put this in perspective, at this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month. And cloture has been filed 16 times on Obama nominees, nine of whom were subsequently confirmed with 60 or more votes or by voice vote. Cloture was not filed on a single Bush nominee in his first year. And despite facing significantly less opposition, President Bush had already made 10 recess appointments by this point in his presidency and he made another five over the spring recess.
Emphasis Mine. This isn't governance; it's petulance. And it really has no place in government.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Clearly a Bad Decision

I remember clearly the complaints over the bailouts of the banking industry. I remember clearly how angry so many people on the Right were that Bush signed the initial stimulus and that Obama signed the second stimulus. I recall specifically friends and family members complaining about doling out money to Citibank in the wake of everything they did. I can't say I disagreed with the ire, however, I felt that since there seemed to be a general consensus among the electoral leadership and financial experts that it needed to be done, I yielded and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, it seems my decision to trust the government was not the best choice. As it turns out, if the Government sells its stock acquired in exchange for the bailout of $25BB, we will only receive $33BB in return. Clearly an 8 Billion Dollar profit is nowhere near enough for making sure our financial structure didn't completely collapse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gone Scamming

I've been on the job hunt for about a month and a half now. Unfortunately, I was the victim of a downsizing at the law firm where I had worked since the bar.

That said, I've got my resume out umpteen different directions and to several different leads. I've made use of the job sites Careerbuilder and Monster, among others. Knowing that the job boards like Careerbuilder and Monster are where ID thieves and other predators like to try to score quick hits, I've been fairly vigilant about my correspondence with responders from those two places.

Yesterday, I received a letter addressed to "Dear (My Name)." It was from a Susan Davidson who works for a company referring to itself as "New City" building company and had a position for a "Customer Manager" position. The qualifications they'd listed were a bit below my level of education and experience, but, whatever. The e-mail tells me that they regarded my resume and consider me qualified for the customer manager job... and that I could click on the PDF for more information about job responsibilities and whatnot.

The job is really no different than other scams out there. My "job" would be to set up a bank account to receive payments, checks that would come every week at values between $1000 and $10,000 (How great that they would trust me with this money and not abscond with it!), hold it for a couple days, then transfer the amount less my $500 commission. This is the scam. The checks are not valid - they are written specifically to bounce. The thing is, they are supposed to bounce AFTER you've withdrawn the amounts deposited. The check you write will then be cashed and you'll be on the hook for the overdraft that incurs when the check bounces. It's not a very clever scam, but it apparently is effective enough to have people continue to try it.

Readers of my blog might be familiar with another scam that I'd posted about 9 months ago that is similar, but slightly different.

What I would emplore my readers, and people who come by after googling "new city building company" is to recognize that this is a scam. The name I received was "Susan Davidson" and the contact telephone number, an unlisted landline in Norman OK, is 405-253-5557. Others who come across similar scams involving this company, please let readers know of other names to be on the watch for.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Best List of the Year.

TPM presents an open letter to Conservatives.

Controlling the Message, Ctd

The Republican response to Health Care Reform over the past year was to delay, disinform, and generally refuse to cooperate. It seems only fitting that now that reform has passed via reconciliation, Senate Republicans now seek to delay HCR by "vowing to introduce hundreds of amendments" (source: CBS News) to try to force the bill to return to the House.

One of the proposed amendments is one that would deny erectile dysfunction drugs to sex offenders. According to the article linked above, "By opposing that amendment, Democrats are, at least in theory, opening themselves up to charges that they support using government money to provide sex offenders with Viagra -- surely an unpopular position if ever there was one."

Note how CBS is phrasing this debate - if Democrats oppose adding this amendment to Health Care Reform, they SUPPORT giving Viagra to sex offenders. This is a classic example of controlling the message. The real story about this particular amendment isn't whether Democrats support ED drugs for sex offenders - few rational congresspeople would support such a policy. Rather, the story that should matter is, if Republicans were serious about stuff like this, why didn't they work with Democrats during the run up to Health Care Reform to include provisions like this? The fact is Tom Coburn isn't serious about the amendments he's proposing. He's interested in trying to stop a reform that, if anything, is centrist in nature.

I'll give you three guesses as to what message will control this debate, and I'll give you a hint - it's not that Republicans delayed and lied for over a year and are attempting to continue to do so through political actions that could stand on their own aside HCR.

It Boggles the Mind

It continues to amaze me that people still believe Sarah Palin is a legitimate political option, or that she or her opinion really is worth anything. That said, this most recent development is perhaps as scary as any other - we see at the blog Palingates that Palin has posted on her website a map of the U.S. with certain areas targeted. These targeted areas, and by targeted I mean sighted in crosshairs represent "House democrats who represent districts 'we' carried in 2008 who voted for the (centrist, 1993 Republican) Health Care Bill." Palin's Twitter page reads "Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America, 'Don't Retreat - Instead, Reload!"

A reasonable person reading this tweet and seeing her facebook page might legitimately come to the conclusion that she is openly advocating violence against our country's elected officials.

If you click on this link to No More Mister Nice Blog, you will find a good summary of the increased violence as well as a video with Rachel Maddow summarizing the increase in violent attacks aimed at congressional democrats, with the concise Maddow statement "What they could not achieve in the ballot box they are trying to achieve through violence and intimidation."

Clearly cause for concern.

Initial Politics

I've noted for years my disdain for people who phrase their political ideology as "I am a Republican/Democrat, so I believe X, Y, and Z," rather than "I believe X, B, and Z, so I consider myself a Republican/Democrat." The difference is significant because in the former, you decide what you believe based on which ideology you decided to hitch your wagon to as opposed to determining what your values are and allowing them to determine which political party's platform most closely matches your values.

A prime example of this, coincidentally, is the current Health Care Reform bill President Obama signed yesterday. Republicans, Teabaggers, and Conservatives across the country have railed against this bill as a step towards socialism, Democrats taking over 1/6 of the economy, loss of freedom, etc. What none of these people have said is just how similar this bill is to the Republican-proffered bill in 1993 as a response to Hillarycare.

From Kaiser Health News:

"In November, 1993, Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., introduced what was considered to be the main Republican health overhaul proposal: "A bill to provide comprehensive reform of the health care system of the United States."

Titled the "Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993," it had 21 co-sponsors, including two Democrats (Sens. Boren and Kerrey). The bill, which was not debated or voted upon, was an alternative to President Bill Clinton's plan. It bears similarity to the Democratic bill passed by the Senate Dec. 24, 2009, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

Politics are a funny thing. It makes people support or oppose programs based on initials, rather than substance. If we lived in a confederacy of grown-ups, perhaps things could get accomplished more quickly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Republican Health Care

If they could have gotten it:

I recently had a daughter who had to stay home from school due to headlice. I tried to get some treatment for her at the doctor and contacted our insurance company to check up on availability. In response, I got:

Under the current law, children who are prone to contracting headlice (e.g. children who attend public school, children who attend daycare, or who attend non-protestant or Catholic houses of religious worship - Jewish children will be considered on a case-by-case basis) will be considered as patients with a pre-existing condition should headlice be... See More contracted. As such, it will not be covered by current policy.
While this may seem harsh, one must understand that it's the choice of the child or the parent to have place their children in harm's way. If parents were truly responsible, they would keep their children away from such potentially harmful environments. It does not make sense financially to infringe upon the freedoms of the insureds who take the care to see to it that their children are not placed in such an environment to share the burden of risks to which less responsible parents expose their children.

I also got a $20 "Consulting fee" charged to my account for the inquiry.

But, I understood that I accepted the risks by being a less responsible parent and I cheerily paid my insurance company for the time it took them to write and e-mail this letter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Confederacy of Grown-ups, Ctd

(Cross posted at Vim and Vinegar) Readers of my blog will recognize the title of this post, A Confederacy of Grown-ups. It's a title I've used a couple times in the past to highlight behavior on the part of our elected officials and others that border on childish petulance. In the current instance, the target of my consternation is one Senator John McCain who, in response to the passage of HCR, stated: "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it."

While I would like to include some pithy statement about the how it would be impossible for the Republicans in Congress to cooperate any less, I leave the response to Harry Reid, posted from Balloon Juice, who seems to have found something he must have forgotten he lost:
For someone who campaigned on ‘Country First’ and claims to take great pride in bipartisanship, it’s absolutely bizarre for Senator McCain to tell the American people he is going to take his ball and go home until the next election. He must be living in some parallel universe because the fact is, with very few exceptions, we’ve gotten very little cooperation from Senate Republicans in recent years.
At a time when our economy is suffering and we’re fighting two wars, the American people need Senator McCain and his fellow Republicans to start working with us to confront the challenges facing our country—not reiterating their constant opposition to helping working families when they need it most.
I don't think I could find any better way to phrase it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Can't Make This Up

I was just watching the C-Span vote on the debate rules for HCR and they were taking callers who were offering their opinion on Health Care Reform. One of the callers was opposed to heath care reform was complaining. Her complaint ran along the lines of "My husband is in the military over in Iraq and this bill is communistic."

I don't fully understand why it matters that her husband is active duty with regard to her position on health care, but it does create the ironic position of someone who is benefitting from government-provided mandated health care is complaining about government-provided mandated health care.

A Confederacy of Grown-ups, Ctd

From Talking Points Memo:
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) just told our Brian Beutler that a short time ago, a protestor watching the House proceedings from the gallery got rowdy, yelling "Kill the Bill." He resisted four Capitol Hill police officers trying to remove him from the gallery and as this was happening he was cheered loudly by dozens of House Republicans.

"I've never seen members of the House cheering on a guy resisting being kicked out of the gallery," said Frank. "It's a dangerous situation and the Republicans are cheering him on."

These are our elected Representatives. They're supposed to be leaders - grown-ups, if you will. And they're acting like you'd expect kids in a lunchroom food fight would act.

Perhaps an Obama Influencer?

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Mahatma Ghandi

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shades of Grey

I became a fan of Balloon Juice about a year ago. John Cole and company do an excellent job of taking issues and explaining them in a pithy manner. For example, writer Tim F. offers his take on America's need to separate good from evil and convince ourselves that we couldn't possibly be evil:
We want to tell ourselves that some unbridgeable gulf separates us from the awful impulses that lead people to commit evil. Our entertainment industry is more than happy to sell that illusion back to us. The further we sink into manichean self-righteousness the more evil behavior will be accepted by politically significant numbers of Americans.
The entire article is a good read.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Talking Baseball

Today on Mike and Mike in the Morning, the guys had Fay Vincent (former commissioner of baseball) on, and he discussed the concept of making baseball more competitive against the Yankees and Red Sox vis a vis realignment.

One of the things that came up was the luxury tax, and the fact that smaller market teams such as Kansas City have some $90 million in tax revenue that they don't use to sign high priced players. The guys seemed to commiserate on this point, wondering where this extra revenue goes.

The concept seems simple enough, small market teams get X amount of money each year, and they have several million that they can use to woo the Pujols, Howards, Sheets, and other high impact players of the world, so they should be on relatively equal footing with teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox.

There are a couple problems to this concept. First off, just because you have a lot of money to spend on players doesn't mean that the players are worth the amount of money they'd be paid (and some of us would argue that none of the players are worth what they're paid). It also presumes that a player who would get 35 million would like to be the one or two all-star salaried player(s) on a team that's put their bets on him rather than one of eight or ten players on a team with annual aspirations for the World Series like in New York.

What we have here is a situation where the wealthy are bitching about having to create a competitive environment. These guys don't want to share their money with the other teams in the league. I can't blame them for being selfish, and I suppose it makes sense to want to create an environment where only you will have the best toys and therefore the best chances to win.

However, baseball is an venue of entertainment; it's not war. There is an inherent logic in maintaining superiority in warfare whereas it is less sensible for the greater good in sports to have the entire market dominated by 15% of the teams. As evidence, consider the relative marketing success that is football. Football is clearly the most popular sport in America, due in no small part to the parity of the sport. Each year, every team except the Lions has a chance to improve or build upon its success and create a winning team. This parity instills connections to home teams which in turn creates a larger fan base. Each city can believe that their team is on the path to regular season and/or playoff success, and therefore the fans are more connected.

Baseball's current structure is geared towards creating the perception of a more even playing field. Unfortunately, this is just a perception, and the league seems to believe that as long as the big market teams are succeeding, they're filling seats, which is the best way to go. They point to the fact that when the Yankees are in town, teams sell more tickets. This strikes me as false logic, as if another team were to exhibit more success, or each team had more capacity for winning, then the fans would be more willing to show up for home games, which would thereby increase ticket sales across the board.

Rich people whining about the exact number of millions they have drives me crazy.

It's like the Pot Calling the Kettle a Liar

(Cross-posted at Vim and Vinegar) One of the key terms I remember from the Bush Administration was the phrase "Cowboy Diplomacy." President Bush had a penchant for acting in an extra-Constitutional manner, to wit - the 4th Amendment violations, the enemies lists, denying entry to public gatherings, the denial of habeas corpus to our detainees, the violation of Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions (Treaties are "Supreme Law of the Land," hence Constitutional), et cetera.

The man referred to as "Bush's Brain" recently criticized President Obama (Surprise - a Republican who determines that whatever a Democratic President does is wrong simply because there's a D next to his name) for the handling of affairs in Israel. Bush's Brain said: "We saw it in Honduras. Where rather than monitoring the situation, they let a cowboy president try to act in an extra-constitutional way to violate a fundamental principle in the Constitution, without having done their homework in advance."(Source:

Apparently, it's wrong to act in an extra-Constituional manner, and "cowboy presidents" need to be monitored. Strange that this premise was rejected outright for our own "cowboy" president...

Monday, March 15, 2010

“I look forward to an honest debate with Governor Palin on the issues, in the unlikely event that she ever learns anything about them,

You can't beat the Mudflats for finding outstanding takedowns of Sarah Palin. (title from the article linked)

"The Texas Textbook Massacre"

(Cross-posted at Vim and Vinegar) That's how the recent decision to revamp the Texas education standards was described by Kathy Miller, the President of the Texas Freedom Network. Most significant of these changes was the removal of Thomas Jefferson from the world history standards. In addition, a proposal to include discussion on the importance of the concept of Separation of Church and State was rejected.

Other changes include: America's financial system will be herewith described as "free enterprise" because, as Member Terri Leo (R - Spring) writes: "Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation. You know, ‘capitalist pig!’" And while it's not possible to list the most outrageous change, it's hard to have a post on this development without including the following tidbit from this TFN insider summary: "In an absurd attempt to excuse Joseph McCarthy’s outrageous witchhunts in the 1950s, far-right board members succeeded in adding a requirement that students learn about “communist infiltration in U.S. government” during the Cold War. (Board member Don McLeroy has even claimed outright that Joseph McCarthy has been “vindicated,” a contention not supported by mainstream scholarship.)"

These changes to the Texas curriculum will affect textbooks across the country, as Texas is (one of, if not) the largest buyers of textbooks in the nation. These changes, and the ones that I haven't commented will bear tremendously on the quality of education in our country. Further, by substituting Jefferson for Aquinas and John Calvin, Texas has given a larger foothold for Christian educational encroachment into public education - which future generations might not be able to understand, due to the exclusion of a segment considering the importance of separation of Church and State...

There are little, simple things that you can do to show your displeasure. One thing you can do is sign up for Just Educate, a TFN petition (I promise, I don't work for TFN, I just get daily updates from them, and they are an outstanding source for education issues in Texas).

Changes are afoot, and not for the better.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fear and

(Cross Posted at Vim and Vinegar)

It's a hypothesis I've not heard said out loud, but I can't say that I'm surprised someone considered it - the meta-analysis of several studies have recently been completed testing the hypothesis that racism is linked to religion (Christianity). The results: "Religious congregations generally express more prejudiced views towards other races. Furthermore, the more devout the community, the greater the racism."

The study was published in the February issue of Personality and Social Psychology Review, with the conclusion: "Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant." Again, I can't say that I'm absolutely surprised by this outcome - I've noticed that agnostics seems to be more willing to accept that others' ideas or habits may be acceptable, or that while what they believe might be right for them, there are no shoes that fit all feet.

Put another way by the Center for Inquiry article linked at the beginning of this post: "Religious agnostics would be people who combine a religious/spiritual attitude in living life with a humble admission that they don't know if their approach is the only right way. Religious agnostics are pluralistic -- they have no problem admiring how different people can enjoy different religious paths. And it is precisely this lack of dogmatism which permits humanistic values to shine through. Religious exclusivism defeats humanistic universalism, but religious pluralism enhances humanistic universalism."

Perhaps tolerance comes from accepting that we can't know the unknowable and accepting that someone else's ideas may be as accurate or inaccurate as our own.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

At Least She Knows it's Ironic

So far, I've only heard this blurb on it, but it bears noting that what Sarah Palin would have you believe is a Socialist program aimed at creating "death panels," is what she and her family made use of when she lived in Western Alaska. From the article linked above: ""We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada," Palin said in her first Canadian appearance since stepping down as governor of Alaska. 'And I think now, isn't that ironic?'"

Yes. It's ironic. It's also disingenuous. You have spent months railing against the very same program you took advantage of when it was convenient for you.

On Detention

(Cross-posted at Vim and Vinegar)

I'd like everyone to play "pretend" for a moment. Pretend that you are minding your own business in your own home. You are a taxpayer, a citizen, gainfully employed and well-liked. One day, the police come to your house and bring you in for holding. You're not necessarily under arrest, at least, you aren't charged with any crimes. The police are just concerned, because, you see, one country invaded another country after a group of terrorists blew up two buildings in the first country's largest city. Now, after a week of questioning, the local police have decided that you've not only done nothing wrong, but you are in fact completely innocent.
You think you're free to go. This sort of logic is, of course, wrong. It turns out the country who was attacked by the terrorists think that there is sufficient evidence to justify holding you as a terror suspect yourself. So rather than being released, you are transported - not to another prison in your home country, not even to the country who believes that you may be a terrorist. No, instead you are transferred to yet another country where the attacked nation leases a strip of land. You are kept away from the attorneys who are appointed to defend you against whatever charges will eventually be filed against you. You don't get to see the evidence against you because the Government believes that you will share that classified information with your terrorist cronies - as if you had any. You watch as others in your situation have tubes violently forced down their throats into their stomachs so that they are available for interrogations. You are subjected to and learn that others are denied sleep, slammed against walls, induced into hypothermia, have their phobias used against them. You hear stories of how others who are detained are strapped head down at an angle on a plank, a cloth over their mouth while gallons of water is poured over their head. You are threatened with death. You hear gunshots coming from other rooms, which you believe is the murder of other detainees.
This is necessary, you learn your captors argue, because they need to get the information that you, the worst of the worst, possess. You find out that leader of the government holding you captive has told his staff to write pieces of paper that say they can do all this to you and the others in your position, for an undisclosed period of time, forever, even, if they need, to keep their people safe. You find out that one of these authors believes that his president has the authority to "crush the testicles" of your son, if he believes that would prevent a terrorist attack. You learn that according to this Government, none of this qualifies as torture, even if they go beyond what is written on these pieces of paper.
After several years, your lawyers, who you hardly got to see and were unable to present any adequate defense with, has gotten your case before the court of the country to detained you. This court has determined that you are entitled to something called "habeas corpus," which means you can challenge the government's justification for holding you. It turns out that the government's position is pretty simple. They believe that because they think you might be a terrorist, they can keep you in prison forever, and do what they want to you within the limits of the pieces of paper written for the president, and the laws of the country don't apply to you, because you aren't, technically, in the country.
Your lawyer protests on your behalf.
And he wins. Which means you win.
It turns out there was no justification for your detention, and therefore, you are to be released. No harm, no foul, perhaps.

Unfortunately, for several years, this situation has borne out countless times. Enhanced somewhat to include more of what has transpired against the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, this narrative is similar to what Lakhdar Boumediene endured at the hands of our government.

The reason for this game this morning is because Mark Benjamin today wrote an article at on waterboarding and just how stringent the protocol was to ensure proper interrogation. He writes:

[i]nterrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney "specially designed" to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner's nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.

The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding "session." Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to "dam the runoff" and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee's mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second "applications" of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee's nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.

It turns out, however, that there's a new case that Judge Wayne R. Anderson is allowing - a suit filed against Donals Rumsfeld charging the former Secretary of Defense with authorizing torture. For space sake, I will link to the article at the Huffington Post here. the suit is Donal Vance and Nathan Ertel v. Donald Rumsfeld, United States of America and Unidentified Agents. We'll see what comes from this, but the allegations include the claim that "Rumsfeld informed Major Miller that his mission was to 'gitmo-ize' Camp Cropper." That would clear the road for destroying the potential to call the detainee abuses anything other than Torture.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ugly, but Effective

I went to Radio Shack today and purchased a new cable to attach my new computer to our modem. We had a problem, you see, in that there is no telephone jack in the room in which we keep our computer. This wasn't a problem with the laptop, as we just used our wireless router. This turns out to be less effective with the new computer, however, as it has Windows 7 and does not appear to be compatible with the wireless router that we have.

I will need to check for a patch to see if there's something we can download to make it compatible. Otherwise, we'll need to purchase a new wireless router, which is fine by me.

Job search is still going. Lots of outs, no ins.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Inflammatory Rhetoric

Sometimes, I'm not sure exactly how to explain just how asinine I think what someone says or does is. The current object of my ire are Senator Grassley, Liz Cheney and their inflammatory rhetoric against Constitutionally-mandated due process. Liz Cheney refers to the attorneys in the Department of Justice who were appointed to defend the detainees at Guantanamo Bay as "the Al-Qaeda Seven." She's not referring to the detainees, whose guilt was at (or is still at) issue, or have been shown to be not guilty of the crimes for which they were detained, if not charged. No, she's referring to the attorneys, and wants them outed for daring to defend what she refers to as the already guilty.

Why anyone would vote for a Republican in this day and age given their leadership's disdain for the Constitution is beyond my capacity to understand.

Tuesday Morning

Random Quote:

A bureaucrat is a Democrat who holds some office that a Republican wants. - Harry S Truman