Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barack Obama and Iraq: WYSI[N]WYG. Are You Surprised?

It is beyond me how anyone, after a detailed review, could think Barack Obama qualified to become president of the United States (I used to before my own detailed review). His campaign has been a perpetual Beatles concert, with not only the girls swooning.

Will anyone notice that his stance on Iraq has evolved to be just like the other Establishment candidates? With Barack Obama, we've known for a long time that What You See Is NOT What You Get.

It's still not too late to admit that Ron Paul is/was the best candidate for President of the United States in 2008. Several of you chose Barack Obama as your candidate primarily because of his far different stance from John McCain regarding the Iraq war and occupation.

Only one presidential candidate has been consistent on his opposition to the Iraq War--Ron Paul.

Barack Obama, the closer he gets to the nomination, the more he aligns the orbit of his earth with the Establishment's sun.

Hillary Clinton supports it. For a long time, Barack Obama fooled you into thinking that he didn't. What will you do now that he has marked yet another checkmark in the Obama book of fibs?

Iraq's al Alam newspaper is reporting that Obama's 16-month troop-removal timetable is still in effect, but that it's essentially anybody's guess when the 16-month period will ever begin.
"We're going to have to provide them with logistical support, intelligence support. We're going to have to have a very capable counterterrorism strike force," Obama told the magazine while approaching Paris during a high-profile foreign tour, which included stops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We're going to have to continue to train their army and police to make them more effective," the Illinois senator added, calling such support consistent with his proposal for a 16-month timetable for withdrawing US combat troops.

Asked if he had a clearer idea after talks with diplomatic and military officials how big a force would need to be left behind for those tasks, Obama replied: "I do think that's entirely conditions-based."

"It's hard to anticipate where we may be six months from now, or a year from now, or a year and a half from now," he said.
Aha! So it's only a partial removal and begins at quarter after we-don't-know-when!

After hearing the realignment of Obama, the John McCain campaign stated the reality correctly.
"Barack Obama is ultimately articulating a position of sustained troop levels in Iraq based on the conditions on the ground and the security of the country. That is the very same position that John McCain has long held," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

"We welcome this latest shift in Senator Obama's position, but it is obvious that it was only a lack of experience and judgment that kept him from arriving at this position sooner," the campaign said in a statement.
The presidential race is still a dogfight in other (mostly less meaningful) areas, but now, on yet another very fundamental issue, both candidates agree--and both candidates are wrong. McCain is none too sad that Obama has gravitated to his own imperialistic way of thinking.

Very few Americans supported or now support the Iraq war and occupation.

Once again, when we could have had a choice, we end up with no choice.

To the question "Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the U.S. have stayed out?", asked by CBS News on July 7-14, 2008 (for archived polling results, try here), 59% said we should have stayed out.

Only one presidential candidate has been consistent on his opposition to the Iraq War--Ron Paul. Because Congress never declared war on Iraq, an honest president has no other Constitutional alternative but to bring the troops home.

Barack Obama, the closer he gets to the nomination, the more he aligns the orbit of his earth with the Establishment's sun.

Once again, when we could have had a choice, we end up with no choice.

Are you....seriously....surprised?




Thursday, July 24, 2008

Will Governor Huntsman's Four-Day Work Week Work?

About a month ago, Utah Governor John Huntsman announced that state executive branch employees would begin working four-day work weeks with ten-hour days. The decree is set to go into effect on August 4th. Are we ready for it? Do you think it will work? A BYU study says it will. The subject of the BYU study says it doesn't.

It would certainly save me a lot on my gasoline bill.

For a long time I've wanted to work a four-day work week. Imagine how much more I could get done with a longer weekend, I told myself. But we were recently told by our employer that four-day work weeks were not going to be anywhere on our horizon, despite the fact that BYU had just completed a very rosy study about the effectiveness of four-day work weeks.
The report, authored by Rex Facer, assistant professor of public finance and management, and Lori Wadsworth, assistant professor of public management, revealed that working four 10-hour days may actually lead to less conflict at home and result in higher job satisfaction and productivity in the workplace.

The study, which appeared in the most recent edition of "Review of Public Personnel Administration", surveyed more than 130 full and part-time employees of the city of Spanish Fork, where alternative work schedules were adopted in 2003 to minimize public service costs and make those same services more accessible to citizens by extending weekday work hours.
Interestingly, not long after the BYU study was publicized, Spanish Fork Mayor Joe Thomas told me that with the exception of on-call type jobs, such as for public utilities, the four-day week is a thing of the past in Spanish Fork. It might be a great boon for employee job satisfaction, but it doesn't work so well for the citizens who want to be able to contact you on Friday.

Enter Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who wants to be known as the governor of the first State ever to move to a four-day work week.
Many state offices will be closed on Fridays, shifting state workers to a four-day work week beginning in August.

The move was announced today by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. as a way to cut energy costs by 20 percent.

Huntsman said his new "Working 4 Utah" initiative will also provide better customer service to Utahns because the agencies affected will have longer hours from Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The problem with Huntsman's plan is that everyone has to work the same four days of the week if he expects to save anywhere near the 20% he is projecting. That's a little harder for the citizens who are used to doing state business on Fridays. And then what happens when everyone gets the fever and switches to 4-day work weeks. I see two problems:

1. The State Offices will no longer have "longer hours".
2. It will be harder to get to Jazz games on time. ;-)

Will it work? It would be nice if it would. Then maybe BYU will let me work 4 tens.

Will Utah save 20% on its executive building energy costs? No. But it will certainly save something.

I look forward to an interesting experiment.




Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Historical Truth About Deaths in the US Military

A not-so-new yarn is going (again?) around the internet these days that the George W. Bush Administration has presided over a lot fewer military deaths than did the Clinton Administration. After noticing some suspiciously strange numbers in an e-mail I received, a bit of sleuthing led me to discover that the claim is patently untrue.

The e-mail I just received (who knows how many in-boxes it's been through by now) begins thusly
WE ALL AGREE THAT ONE CASUALTY IS ONE TOO MANY, BUT WAR IS HELL. THERE ARE WINNERS, CASUALTIES ARE NOT LOSERS. CAREFULLY LOOK OVER THE STATISTICS AND THEN YOU WILL REALIZE THE INCREDIBLE SKILL AND STRATEGIES OF OUR CURRENT MILITARY THAT KEEPS THEM SAFE. RECENT SPIN FROM THE MEDIA AND SOME OF THE CANDIDATES IS OBVIOUSLY IN DIRECT CONFLICT WITH THESE FACTS.
A bit further into the document, we read:
Military Losses, 1980 thru 2007

Whatever your politics, however you lean, and however you feel about the current administration, this report should open some eyes. Military losses, 1980 through 2007.

As tragic as the loss of any member of the US Armed Forces is, consider the following statistics:
The annual fatalities of military members while actively serving in the armed forces from 1980 through 2006 - by any cause.
Supposed statistics are given for several years of deaths, and then the following claim is made:
Clinton years (1993-2000): 14,107 deaths
George W years (2001-2007): 7,932 deaths
Unfortunately, the numbers given for most of the years 1993-2007 are not accurate. The totals for the Clinton Administration years are wildly off. The Bush numbers are way off, too, but not by as far.

I found perhaps the ur-source of the incorrect information here. Interestingly,

There may be a few ways to defend what the Bush administration has done to Iraq (I can't think of any), but scaring up untruthful figures is not one of them.

It is a disgrace to the memory of those men and women who fought and died for the United States of America.

while the "source document" matches the e-mail I received regarding the years 1980-2006, it does not have figures for 2007. No problem. The e-mail I received simply adds another phony figure for 2007.

Interestingly, both the source document and the e-mail have a link to the same document, from which the numbers through 2006

Statistics aside, the real issue is U.S. imperialism in general. The rates of death under both the Clinton and Bush administrations are too high.

can be compared and contrasted. That linked-to document appears to be authentic, but some (but by no means all) of its numbers are much different from the "source document" and the e-mail I received. The apparently authentic document refers an obviously authentic document from the Statistical Information Analysis Division of the U.S. Department of Defense, which, since the original yarn was spun, includes data for the year 2007. Here are the figures for the Clinton and Bush years.

President Year Purported Deaths Actual Deaths
Clinton...1993......1,213...........1,213
Clinton...1994......1,075
...........1,075
Clinton...1995......2,465
...........1,040
Clinton...1996......2,318
.............974
Clinton...1997........817
.............817
Clinton...1998......2,252
.............827
Clinton...1999......1,984
.............796
Clinton...2000......1,983..
...........758
Bush......2001........890
.............891
Bush......2002......1,007
.............999
Bush......2003......1,410
...........1,410
Bush......2004......1,887
...........1,873
Bush......2005........919
...........1,941
Bush......2006........920
...........1,882
Bush......2007........899
...........1,950

So the actual numbers look more like this
  • Clinton years (1993-2000): 7,500 deaths or 937.5 per year
  • George W years (2001-2007): 10,742 deaths, or 1534.57 per year
Statistics aside, the real issue is the problem of U.S. imperialism in general. The rates of death under both the Clinton and Bush administrations are too high. Bush is no better than Clinton, but not much worse, either. The first thing that jumped out at me, besides the wildly fluctuating figures during the Clinton years, was that Clinton was killing people in Bosnia by remote control, which would have (and did) result(ed) in far fewer casualties than Bush's, "we're here to help you in person" approach.

There may be a few ways to defend what the Bush administration has done to Iraq (I can't think of any), but scaring up untruthful figures is not one of them.

It’s not fair to Americans when untrue figures are propagated as fact, regardless of whose position they support. It turns out to be a disgrace to the memory of those men and women who fought and died for the United States of America.




Thursday, July 17, 2008

The "Untied States": Let's Get This Economic Collapse Over With, So We Can Get On With Our Lives

The United States are becoming "Untied".

The worst financial mistake we ever made was to create the Federal Reserve. In 1933, when the US went off the Gold Standard, it became only a matter of time before the center could no longer hold. I'm surprised it's lasted this long. But let's unmask the culprits and get it over with--because I would like my 401K to be worth something when I retire in 20 years.

Have you looked at your 401K lately? Mine sucks. I'm making a much higher salary than my employer projected, and I'm putting in 4 percentage points more of my own money than my employer projected, but right now, I'm about $25,000 off the pace of my employer's meager projection for my

We have become a mega-empire identified as much by gigantic economic bailouts as by military imperialism. We have become a welfare state that prizes moral hazard above all else. Somehow in the midst of all this, we think we can tax ourselves more to pay for more health care, more social security, and more CO2 abatement.

total earnings. I've lost about that much in the last year.

When one little person makes a mistake, the effect is not that costly. When a fiduciary tycoon, like Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke, make a mistake it is terribly costly. Many such tinkering mistakes are why the US economy will either go down in some sort of flames and/or we will soon be clamoring for the Amero.

In a House Financial Affairs Committee meeting 3 years ago, Ron Paul reminded Alan Greenspan how he had sold his soul to the financial devil.
Even you, in the 1960s, described the paper system as a scheme for the confiscation of wealth.
Greenspan replied:
But as I’ve testified here before to a similar question, central bankers began to realize in the late 1970s how deleterious a factor the inflation was.

And, indeed, since the late ’70s, central bankers generally have behaved as though we were on the gold standard.
That may have been partially true then, but it is not true today, and it is nonetheless a poor defense of the need for the Federal Reserve.

When George W. Bush took

Let's get over the Fed-induced economic collapse that must happen, and then let's get back to a Constitutional money standard--by abolishing the Federal Reserve.

office, you could buy an ounce of gold for about 300 bucks. Now it costs you about $970. What does that tell you about the Fed's ability to smooth out the booms and the busts?

The Fed pretends to help the economy by keeping interest rates far lower than the rate of inflation. That encourages people to buy homes and other instruments of debt that in a normal market they would have no business considering. It also makes it so you and I can't earn squat on our savings and investments. And then they finally admit what we've felt all along for quite some time--that we experienced the highest inflation in the last 37 years last year! We've already noticed a ton of belt tightening around our house in the last couple of years.

Is that why they don't dare report the value of M3 anymore? Business Week reports(March 31, 2008, page 30), however, that the Fed increased the value of M3 by as much as 15% in the past year--as well the highest increase in 37 years.

Municipalities are feeling the crunch as well. You know that $350,000 home of yours that recently skyrocketed to a value of $500,000?

We are nearly $80 trillion in debt in this country, and now the federal government is seriously considering bailing out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And in other news, fire fighters fought an out-of-control blaze at an oil refinery with jet fuel.

Well, city and county governments will not be dropping your property taxes anytime soon, because they've become used to the increased revenue--because they're feeling the pinch, too.

We are nearly $80 trillion in debt in this country, and now the federal government is seriously considering bailing out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And in other news, fire fighters fought an out-of-control blaze at an oil refinery with jet fuel. Not only will this prolong the inevitable, it will make the inevitable worse.

If our currencies remained tied to gold and silver, there would be no far less drastic booms and busts. Booms and busts occur when the government or its cronies manipulate the economy to their personal benefit. Under a gold standard, over time, the price of goods should go down, because: (1) there could be no inflation, and (2) the ability to produce goods and services would improve, making them cheaper to mass produce. That's why I want the collapse to happen, because that's the kind of economy that I want to live under--not the shyster-dominated one that we have now--even if it means we have to atone as a nation for our financial sins first.

Instead we have become a mega-empire identified as much by gigantic economic bailouts as by military imperialism. We have become a welfare state that prizes moral hazard above all else. Somehow in the midst of all this, we think we can tax ourselves more to pay for more health care, more social security, and more CO2 abatement.

To really fix the problem, we must clean out Congress--with the exception of the handful of people like Ron Paul who understand and want to fix the problem. And now is a good time for a cleaning, because almost no one thinks that Congress is performing well.

Yes, we are becoming "Untied". The Federal Reserve's enrich-the-rich policies are our main economic obstacle, and they have got to stop. Let's get over the Fed-induced economic collapse that must happen, and then let's get back to a Constitutional money standard--by abolishing the Federal Reserve.




Sunday, July 13, 2008

From JFK to George W. Bush: How Have We Sunk So Far?

John F. Kennedy was a thinker. He understood the world around him with great clarity. He surrounded himself with associates who were usually at least his intellectual equal. Not so George W. Bush. Bush doesn't think much compared to other US presidents. He looks with disdain on the rest of the world. And he wouldn't know intellectual stimulation if it bit him.

One of the greatest mistakes of Ronald Reagan's presidency was to bow to his handlers, who suggested that George H. W. Bush would be a good vice president. A man eminently more qualified to be president than his son, he nonetheless was not the best presidential material of his time, and worse, his presidency likely paved the way for

A much greater qualification for public office than one's political viewpoints is a healthy and diverse understanding of the world around us, as well as a respect for others' opinions. In this regard and many others, John F Kennedy runs rings around George W. Bush.

something that otherwise would have seemed laughable--the election of his uncouth son to the highest office in the land.

In late 1999 or early 2000, I was dismayed at the willingness of so many of my fellow Republicans to jump on the Bush campaign bandwagon to support a man who clearly had no bona fides to qualify himself to run for president. It occurred to me at the time that politicians of any stripe will regularly divorce themselves from principle, honesty, and integrity when it seems their bandwagon has the biggest chance of steamrolling to success.

It runs in my mind that Abraham Lincoln was once asked why he surrounded himself with political opponents and people smarter than himself. His reply was something along the lines that if he had people whose views differed from his and who were smarter than himself, that could only be a benefit to his presidency.

John F. Kennedy surrounded himself with such individuals, whereas George W. Bush seems to have disdained them. JFK was well read and had a wide variety of interests. W has an army of handlers who filter the news for him, ostensibly because he doesn't want his presidency to be affected by his opinions.

In her seminal work, The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby provides an elegant contrast between the well-read President Kennedy of the 1960's and the boorish Bush of four decades later, along with a stinging endictment of those who stooped so low to elect such a man--twice.
...the image of Kennedy as...someone who represented what Americans might aspire to for themselves or, more likely, for their sons--was a vital part of his appeal. Cultural literacy in a presidential candidate was seen [in the 1960's] as a desirable trait by the public... Yet forty years later, when college graduates make up a much larger proportion of the American population than they had in the early sixties, voters entrusted the nation's highest office to a man whose most distinctive personal trait has always been an absolute lack of intellectual curiosity.

The Age of American Unreason, pg 284
In other words, with all


John F. Kennedy surrounded himself with individuals of great intellectual talent, whereas George W. Bush seems to have disdained them.

of our education, we have become...

Dumber.

George W. Bush had scarcely set foot outside of the United States when he was elected president. He once taunted a member of the press in Paris who had the fluent capacity to ask French President Jacques Chirac a question in French. He has been known to refer to the Spanish language as Mexican. While political giants like FDR, Reagan, and JFK appealed to Americans in rational and reasonable terms, Bush appeals to their emotions. While all other Presidents in this century had developed the talent for fine elocution, George W Bush still cannot pronounce "guv'mint" and "nucyaler". Similarly, Susan Jacoby says
When other twentieth-century presidents, Republican and Democratic, drew on the resources of the intellectual community, they hired staff members who represented a relatively broad spectrum of opinion... Bush, by conrast, chose only those intellectual--and non-intellectual--advisers who came from the extreme right fraction of the conservative spectrum.

The Age of American Unreason, pg. 295
I am opposed to Embryonic Stem Cell research primarily because it seems like a colossal waste of money, and because adult stem cell research has shown much more practical promise. George W. Bush is opposed to it allegedly on purely religious grounds, thus giving religion a bad name. Rather than peopling his stem cell research commission with experts of differing opinions, "distinguished bioethicists and scientists" were "excluded from the panel" simply for their contrarian views.

Several people I know, including many Utahns, voted for George W. Bush twice. That is beyond my comprehension to understand how that happened (I have never voted for a Bush or a Clinton), but if they apologize, I will forgive them for it.

;-)

A much greater qualification for public office than one's political viewpoints is a healthy and diverse understanding of the world around us, as well as a respect for others' opinions. In this regard, John F Kennedy (and Bill Clinton, for that matter) run rings around George W. Bush.

My hope is that history will vindicate the growing number of people who have come to the opinion that George W. Bush was one of the least qualified persons ever to occupy the office of President of the United States.

Let's hope we can do better in 2008.




Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Increasing Divide Between Rich and Poor: An Indication of Societal Breakdown?

Those of a more liberal persuasion opine that we must take care of the less fortunate in our society through means of government wealth redistribution. Conservative types claim that anyone can get rich if they work hard enough, but that the rich are getting richer exclusively because they provide more value to society than the poor.

Both sentiments, although based on veneers of truth, are largely inaccurate. Nevertheless, a widening divide between the wealth of rich and poor portends societal breakdown, and something must be done about it--on the part of government and private interests.

Many on the American political Left lionize Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although I think he was a very dignified and well-meaning man, his policies have been the impetus for a great deal of the societal malaise that America is experiencing today.

True capitalism must be mixed with charity, but when the rich get richer at the expense of the poor that's as uncharitable as it gets.

Roosevelt's main political thrust was that the government can take care of the people, when a nearly $80 trillion budget shortfall required to take care of the schemes FDR wrought belies this noble-sounding idea. In the wake of New Deal policies, government has failed its subjects in its attempt to supplant the family as the fundamental unit of society.

The even bigger problem, however, is the lie of the American Right that the rich are getting richer simply because of their value to society. In nearly all cases this is not true.
  • Corporate Chief Executives are not being paid hundreds of times more than their employees because they provide hundreds of times more value; rather, they are getting paid exorbitant rates because they can.
  • Enron executives were, and farming and energy conglomerates are, filthy rich mainly because of their incestuous relationship with governments.
  • The longer politicians stay in office, the greater likelihood that they'll be able to make much more money from their friends on the other side of the revolving door that leads to K-Street.
  • Bankers, brokers, and federal reserve chairmen are usually able to insulate themselves from the economic chaos that their policies wreak on the rest of society.
The above examples constitute, in a nutshell, the bulk of the widening economic divide, regardless of what so-called "free-market" thinkers would have you believe. And yes, that is a bad thing.

Such political mice (not men) are faux "capitalists" in the mode that Adam Smith and Karl Marx were both correct to abhor. Although Marx came to the wrong conclusions, his observations of "capitalistic" maladies, many of which we're experiencing today, were very accurate.

True capitalism must be mixed with morality,

In the wake of New Deal policies, government has failed its subjects in its attempt to supplant the family as the fundamental unit of society.

and when the rich get richer at the expense of the poor primarily because of the machinations of government, that's as immoral as it gets.

The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, gives us an excellent pattern for recognizing impending societal breakdown. It always involves a breakdown of morality, and it always is presaged by a widening gap between the earning power and opportunities of rich versus poor.

Just prior to the coming of Christ in the Western Hemisphere following his death and resurrection, an ancient American society was in free-fall decline, characterized chiefly by a lack of charity on the part of the increasingly rich toward the increasingly poor:
10 ...some were lifted up unto pride and aboastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;
11 For there were many amerchants in the land, and also many blawyers, and many officers.
12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their ariches and their chances for learning; yea, some were bignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great clearning because of their riches.

Book of Mormon, 3rd Nephi, Chapter 6
Cataclysmic social and natural upheavals caused the breakup of their society into tribes and caused the ultimate deaths of thousands of people.

The remaining inhabitants were left to learn from previous social mistakes. It worked rather well for about two centuries, but the next devolution of society, which occurred beginning 200 years after Christ's appearance and warnings to these people, became a death spiral.
24 And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in apride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.
25 And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more acommon among them.
26 And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up achurches unto themselves to get bgain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.
35 And...in the two hundred and thirty and first year, there was a great division among the people.
43 And also the people...began to be proud in their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, and become avain like unto their brethren...
46 And it came to pass that...robbers...did spread over all the face of the land; and there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples of Jesus. And gold and silver did they lay up in store in abundance, and did btraffic in all manner of traffic.

Book of Mormon, 4th Nephi, Chapter 1
In a few more decades, the social breakdown of that ancient American society culminated in a battle in which millions perished.

It would be way cool if we could learn from their bad example before it's too late.

When it comes to ensuring economic fairness, can government be the solution? Yes, insofar as it remains within its proper sphere--that of creating and enforcing fair economic laws. Government will always create more problems than it solves, however, when it attempts to redistribute wealth. Wealth redistribution, if it is to succeed at all, must be affected by charitable individuals, strong families, and by respectful religion and other charitable social institutions.

Wealth redistribution, if it is to succeed at all, must be affected by charitable individuals, strong families, and by respectful religion and other charitable social institutions.



Many factors signal the impending failure of American society. If we hope to save ourselves, government, along with private organizations and individuals, must work within their proper spheres to once again enshrine honesty and charity. Government must enforce the rules. But individuals, if they hope to be called capitalists in the true sense of the word, must act in all cases with charity.

That is a recipe for fairness. That is a recipe for economic success for all.




Thursday, July 10, 2008

FISA: If You Vote for Hatch or Bennett Ever Again, You Are An Accessory To A Crime

Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett voted yesterday to make it legal for the government to listen in on and store data from your phone conversations anytime they want to, for no reason, and without a search warrant.

What has this country come to?

In the earlier days of the Republic, such actions would have been seen by everyone--not to mention their elected leaders--as a crime. So, for the record, I think that Hatch and Bennett are political criminals. I hope you will now agree that if you ever vote to send them back to the Senate again, you will be an accessory to their crime.

Utah Mormons: you know that Constitution hanging by a thread thingy that you talk about in church all the time?

With the vote of 69 Senators yesterday (most of them Republican), we no longer have a Fourth Amendment. Hatch and Bennett led the cheerleading and the voting.

Your two senators just took a box cutter to it yesterday, and it's just about to break.

The fourth amendment to the Constitution is very unequivocal about your being free from being searched and spied on capriciously
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
With the vote of 69 Senators yesterday (most of them Republican), we no longer have a Fourth Amendment.

Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao would be proud at what we have become.

We can only hope that this Constitution-busting FISA law will be struck down in short order by the US Supreme Court. (In a similar vote on June 20, 2008, Utah congressmen Rob Bishop and Jim Matheson voted in favor of erasing the fourth amendment, while Chris Cannon was wandering aimlessly in the House lobby mumbling something about that Jason Chaffetz was about to clean his clock.)

It's nothing really new, I guess. The Bush Administration has been doing this for the past 7 years, using 9/11 as a pretext.
Opponents of the bill say it will legalize the illegal surveillance carried out under the Bush administration’s orders between 2001 and 2007. Some say that President Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires secret-court approval to electronically track any foreign target in the United States. But Bush maintains that he had "war-time power" to authorize such a program.
Well, guess what. Now your

For those of you who were thinking about voting for Obama for president, I hope now that he voted for this police state bill that you will reconsider.

government doesn't even need the "war-time" excuse anymore.

For the record, this new law violates another tenet of the Constitution, but who even cares any more...do you? Article I section 9 of the Constitution says that “No ...ex post facto Law shall be passed.” Yet, by giving immunity to telecommunications companies who made millions of dollars by knowingly breaking the law in the past few years, Congress has just done that.

It's time to clean house of men and women in Congress who think that the Constitution is simply something to blow their nose with.

For those of you who were thinking about voting for Obama for president, I hope now that he voted for this police state bill that you will reconsider. Obama's been carrying around a basket of apples painted as oranges for his entire campaign. He is no different than Bush, McCain, or any of the other Establishment robots--to include Utah's two senators. Hillary Clinton voted against it, by the way.

When the companion bill came before the US House of Representatives, Ron Paul had this to say
In addition to gutting the fourth amendment, this measure will deprive Americans who have had their rights violated by telecommunication companies involved in the Administration’s illegal wiretapping program the right to seek redress in the courts for the wrongs committed against them. Worse, this measure provides for retroactive immunity, whereby individuals or organizations that broke the law as it existed are granted immunity for prior illegal actions once the law has been changed. Ex post facto laws have long been considered anathema in free societies under rule of law.
Hey all you frogs in a warm pot of water...did you just notice that the temperature went up a bit? I didn't think so.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and probably even Franklin D. Roosevelt are rolling in their graves. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao would be proud at what we have become.




Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FDA 1, Tomato Farmers 0

In the past few weeks, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning blaming various types of tomatoes, which have allegedly caused approximately 990 illnesses and 1 death. As of now, the FDA has not found one tomato culprit. Yet their warning has caused a drastic loss to the tomato farming industry.

Have you been to a restaurant lately and tried to get tomatoes as a part of your meal? Some eateries simply won't provide you tomatoes. Others say that you must ask for them specifically. It's because the media-abetted FDA is trying, with an unproven theory, to scare the crap out of everyone.

This was the original warning given out by the FDA to Americans everywhere:
FDA has issued a warning to consumers nationwide that an outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul, an uncommon type of Salmonella, has been linked to consumption of some raw red plum, red Roma, round red tomatoes, and products containing these raw tomatoes.
We're all going to die!! (The one guy who did die?--he was suffering from cancer.)

Having not found any specific batches of tomatoes that contained salmonella, the FDA has now broadened its brush to further damage the vegetable industry.
...in recent days [FDA officials have] also expanded their focus to other salad bowl constituents - cilantro, jalapeño peppers, serrano peppers, scallions and bulb onions.
Ellen Goodman, an expert in produce, including the routes that various kinds of produce take to get to market, is surprised at the FDA's reaction.
Goodman disagrees that tomatoes ever were involved in the outbreak, based on growers' assurances and the government's inability to find a single tainted tomato. "I know it's not tomatoes because the evidence just isn't there," said Goodman, who supplies tomatoes and other fresh produce to small supermarkets, diners and vegetable vendors on Long Island and elsewhere in the tri-state.
Meanwhile, the tomato industry is on its heels.
Losses in the tomato industry have been considerable. Goodman has not yet estimated her own. Some industry assessments have been as high as $250 million. Goodman said tons of unaffected tomatoes were trashed as people panicked.
How scared were the real experts in produce? Not much.
In June, [Goodman] donated tomatoes to charities. "We gave some of them to the homeless."
This is an interesting statistic from the Centers for Disease Control:

How common is salmonellosis?

In 2004, CDC estimated that there are about 1.4 million illnesses, 15,000 hospitalizations, and 400 deaths from Salmonella infection in the United States every year. Approximately 40,000 of those infections are confirmed each year by isolation of the Salmonella strain. Salmonellosis is more common in summer than in winter.

Admittedly, the St. Paul strain is rare, but why is the FDA freaking out because we've had 1,000 salmonella-related illnesses in three months?

There has got to be a better way of inspecting produce so that we can determine the source of such illnesses with something other than a shotgun approach. And there has got to be a more rational way of reporting such problems than to cause a near-economic catastrophe. The Establishment is doing a good enough job of that already.




Tuesday, July 08, 2008

We've Kicked al Qaeda's Butt!! Okay, Let's Go Home.

Reports coming out of Iraq say that not only is al Qaeda on its heels there, but that it can no longer even mount an attack. I wonder, then, why the Bush Administration is not planning on bringing the troops home anytime soon, especially because he is predicting a large-scale attack on America for sometime in 2009. Nouri al Maliki wants the US to begin preparations for departure, but the United States is sure that he didn't really mean it.

al Qaeda has been completely destroyed in Iraq. At least that's the news coming from foreign news sources there.
Marie Colvin of the Times of London had an answer Sunday: "American and Iraqi forces are driving al Qaida in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror."

It looks like the Democrats understand the situation better than the Republicans by a country mile. But let's go with this "we-kicked-al-Qaeda's-butt" theory, which begs the next question: when are our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines coming home?

Pssst!! It might be because they left for Pakistan and forgot to turn out the lights.
"Al Qaida is not waiting for our electoral cycle or inauguration. If they have an opportunity to strike, they will strike. And that is why I think we have to take steps today, and that is why I was very pleased when Senator Obama called for much more aggressive action in Pakistan," Senator Jack Reed [Democrat] of Rhode Island said.

There, Al Qaida is reconstituting itself. If they have the operational space and they have the time, they will develop plans, and it's not with respect to the new administration. It's when they think they can strike and be effective at catastrophic attacks, he said on ABC's "This Week" programme.
It looks like the Democrats understand the situation better than the Republicans by a country mile. But let's go with this "we-kicked-al-Qaeda's-butt" theory, which begs the next question: when are our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines coming home?

al Qaeda is still capable of attack. Apparently, the White House knows this. About a week ago, the White House warned that the next President of the United States faces imminent attack on American soil by al Qaeda. But I thought we kicked their butts?

Mr. McCormack, let me try to clarify. Mr. al Maliki said something about departure or withdrawal. I can see how giving us two choices would be confusing.

At any rate, wouldn't it make sense to make preparations for such an impending attack by pulling in our defenses to protect ourselves? Apparently not, according to the Establishment powers that be. The news cycle will be pretty boring after the November elections, anyway, so we need some new grist!

To compound Establishment problems (not to mention that the bigwigs at the G-8 summit are finally admitting that we've been for quite some time aboard an economic train wreck in progress), Nouri al Maliki has requested a timetable for Coalition pullout from Iraq. The Bush administration has always said that if the Iraqis want us to leave, we'll leave. But in this latest incident, US representatives are sure that something was lost in the translation from Arabic to English. Here's the unequivocal English translation:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday he is negotiating a deal with Washington that will for the first time set a timetable for a withdrawal of foreign forces as part of a framework for a U.S. troop presence into next year.

It was the first time that Baghdad's Shiite-led government has made a pullout deadline a condition for a promised new agreement with the United States for a troop presence into 2009.

'The direction we are taking is to have a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to have a timetable for their withdrawal,' a statement from Maliki's office quoted him as telling Arab ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates.
Nonetheless, the Pentagon and the State Department are hedging on whether al Maliki could possibly be serious.
...the administration has rebuffed Maliki’s request for a timeline. Asked about the prime minister’s comments today, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman hedged on whether the administration would follow the Iraqi government’s request, criticizing timelines as “artificial“:

WHITMAN: [I]t is dependent on conditions on the ground. … But timelines tend to be artificial in nature. In a situation where things are as dynamic as they are in Iraq, I would just tell you, it’s usually best to look at these things based on conditions on the ground.

The State Department also hedged on whether the Bush administration would listen to Maliki. In a briefing today, spokesperson Sean McCormack said the remark may have been a transcription error:

McCORMACK: Well, that’s really the part — the point at which I would seek greater clarification in terms of remarks. I’ve seen the same press reports that you have, but I haven’t yet had an opportunity to get greater clarify as to exactly to what Mr. Maliki was referring or if, in fact, that’s an accurate reporting of what he said.
Mr. McCormack, let me try to clarify. Mr. al Maliki said something about departure or withdrawal. I can see how giving us two choices would be confusing.




Monday, July 07, 2008

This is Why "They're Going to Do it Anyway" Safe Sex is a Lame Idea

Many of those who say that abstinence education doesn't work advocate the use of safe sex measures such as condoms because, supposedly, "they're going to do it anyway." Wrong. Besides the fact that children aren't mature enough to know how unsafe the results of sexuality can be, the worst and unavoidable fruits of "they're going to do it anyway" are poverty and the illicit sanctioning of predatory sex and sexual abuse. Parents and other role-models should know that their example can enforce the importance of abstinence before marriage and fidelity thereafter, and that that reality makes for a much more healthy society.

The family is

Of course abstinence education won't work if we, as a result our politically pre-conceived notions, don't want it to.
Of course it will fail if parents and other should-be role models teach their children to behave like dogs!!

the fundamental unit of society. When children are taught that sex is a recreational activity, the family unavoidably breaks down. When children are taught to simply follow their urges, society can hardly complain when (a) boys follow their urges even when girls don't want to, (b) sexual abuse is no longer recognized as such by either perpetrator or victim, and (c) legions of single-parent families are mired in poverty.

David K. Shipler, in his book The Working Poor, noted that
A surprising number of women at the edge of poverty turn out to be survivors of sexual abuse. Like huge financial debt, their trauma weighs them down long after it occurs. ...it cannot be erased by declaring bankruptcy. Their future is crippled by their past.
Even more surprisingly, Shipler mentions that in not one instance during his research for the book did he bring up the issue of sexual abuse with those he interviewed.
Even though I never posed the question, sooner or later, most of the impoverished women I interviewed mentioned that they had been sexually abused as children.

When a woman discloses such intimate humiliation to a stranger, she reveals its magnitude.

The Working Poor, pg. 143
Several studies

What we can't prevent if we pander to our baser urges is a social destruction that no one should be surprised about-- poverty, parents who don't know how to raise children, and an increase in all forms of abuse.

claim that abstinence education does not work. Well, of course it's not going to work if we, as a result our politically pre-conceived notions, don't want it to. Of course abstinence education is not going to work if a plethora of parents and other should-be role models teach their children to behave like dogs!! What these free-sex advocates can't prevent as a result of their pandering to their own urges, as well as to the urges of the upcoming generation, is a social destruction that no one should be surprised about--social destruction that includes poverty, parents who don't know how to raise children, and an increase in verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

Get an abortion? That doesn't work either. The emotional scars faced by any woman who receives an abortion are no longer felt only because her survival mechanism finally kicks in. I don't suspect that there's a single young woman who thinks cavalierly about getting an abortion. How could she think happy thoughts at a time when her body is being invaded? With the advocacy of sex as a recreational pastime, though, what is being considered far to cavalierly is that meant-to-be-sacred act whose unintended result subsequently compels the sober contemplation of taking a life. If abstinence education doesn't work, it's mostly because of familial breakdown as a result of engagement in cavalier sex and because parents and other role models aren't doing their jobs--in many cases because they don't even know how to.

When we advocate sex as just another thing to do, we can't be surprised at stories like the following:
The ten-year-old girl sat on an idle swing, chatting with the caseworker on the swing beside her. "How many times," the little girl asked [the caseworker], "have you been raped?"

The question came casually, as if it could merely glide into the conversation. The caseworker, "Barbara", tried to stay composed.

"I said I hadn't, and she seemed surprised," Barbara recalled.

"'I thought everybody had been,'" she remembered the girl saying.

The Working Poor, pg. 142
Abstinence is not working? It's only because not enough people care about the results of not advocating its importance.

It's about time we do start respecting the overwhelming power of misused sexuality to cause harm to society.

Abstinence education has to work.




Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hurry, Says Bush! Let's Attack Iran Before the November Elections!!


Pressure is mounting from the Bush White House for a military strike against Iran. Covert operations have been going on in Iran for the last year or so. Is Bush crazy enough to launch an attack before he leaves office? I'm afraid so, but I hope I'm wrong.

According to Seymour Hirsch in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine,

SecDef Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.”

the Bush Administration is on the warpath against Iran. Leadership in Congress is complicit in the happenings as well, though.
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.

...United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
Fortunately, if there is fortune to be found in this sticky wicket, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this escalation of offense against Iran.
Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House’s concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.
I completely agree, and I hope you do, too. Only someone with a daft "understanding" of history would not agree that US operations on Iranian soil is a heinously inappropriate offense towards the Iranian people. But hey, that's never stopped the World's Only Superpower before!

Hirsch talks of this interesting

It will be interesting to see if Bush and his Establishment puppeteers can finagle a "Persian Gulf Incident" to give the appearance of warrant for a full-scale attack against Iran before the elections.

conversation with an unnamed source (a representative from Secretary of Defense Gates later denied it.)
A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.”
Unfortunately, Democratic leadership in Congress seems to be in cahoots with the Bush Administration as much as they were on the ill-fated Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq.
...some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.
It will be interesting to see if Bush and his Establishment puppeteers can finagle a "Gulf of Tonkin Incident" (perhaps at some future date to be referred to as the "Persian Gulf Incident") to give the appearance of warrant for a full-scale attack against Iran before the elections.

If McCain takes over from Bush, we all know what will happen. Nuclear conflagration and a bumper crop of terrorists around the world! If Obama takes over, will it be so bad? I'm thinking that based on all the recent backpedaling Obama has done (it's all about "change" isn't it?) that, yes, it will be as bad.

I fear that we are screwed.




Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I Hope That I Can Be A Dad Like That

As I trekked with members of my family and my LDS Ward at Martin's Cove and other LDS Church historic sites last weekend, I came to realize why the Church is publicizing the events that occurred in those sacred places in 1856. It's (among many other things) to inspire me to become a better husband and father.

Yesterday I visited with Greg Allen on his radio program The Right Balance about an epiphany that I had recently as I walked along a dusty old Mormon trail in Wyoming.

The Martin and Willie Handcart Companies left Iowa City very late in the year of 1856 on their trek to join other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City. What transpired on their way west can be looked at from one of two perspectives: (1) as the result of a completely illogical and very dumb decision, or (2) as one of the most poignant examples of sacrifice, courage, and heroism that the world has ever known.

On October 16, 1856, the weather was

What transpired can be looked at as the result of a completely illogical and very dumb decision, or as one of the most poignant examples of sacrifice, courage, and heroism that the world has ever known.

pleasant on the Wyoming plain. Three days later an unseasonably violent winter storm left the Martin and Willie handcart pioneers in dire straits. Over the next few weeks food began to be rationed in ever more meager quantities until, unless rescue parties hadn't arrived, everyone of those nearly 1,000 pioneers would have perished.

As it was, the men perished in much greater disproportion to their numbers than did the women and children. It wasn't until I walked some of those same paths that I came to understand why. As the food became more and more rationed, father after father couldn't bear to see their children suffering, and so day after day, these fathers divided out their meager portions of food among their children. "Here, I'm not hungry today," they lied. Malnourished, they pushed their carts forward, many of them paying the ultimate sacrifice for their families.

Greg Allen mentioned, following my telling of that story, that we don't have many heroes like that anymore. We don't have to sacrifice like that anymore, and so we have come to completely forget what it means to do without. We have a lot of celebrities masquerading as heroes, but very few who actually fit the part.

When faced some years later with criticism of the decisions of the Martin and Willie Companies to come west at such a late season, Francis Webster, a member of the Martin Company chastised his critics soundly.
"I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Hand Cart Company out so late in the season? Yes. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that Company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that Company ever...left the church because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.

"I have pulled my hand cart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.

"Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company."
If the only reason that the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies made their fateful decisions was so their stories of courage, heroism, and sacrifice could stand as monuments to a world unfamiliar with sacrifice, then to me it was all worth it.

As I come to understand the sacrifice of these noble people, and particularly the husbands and fathers who went without so that their children could have just a little more, I hope to myself that I can come to be a dad like that.