Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
More info to follow - I've been on vacation.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Today marks the official return of Democrats to the offices of Congressional leadership. It is a wonderful, glorious, jubilant day, on which my only regret is that we don't have a Delaware Democrat in the House of Representatives to share it. I am joyful none the less, and I have confidence the 110th Congress will be proceed far more ethically than the 109th. The question, however, is "will it be ethical enough?"
My concerns (and yours, I'm sure) are addressed by the big "O" himself, Senator Barack Obama, in a Washington Post Op-Ed:
This past Election Day, the American people sent a clear message to Washington: Clean up your act.
It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that this message was intended for only one party or politician. The votes hadn't even been counted in November before we heard reports that corporations were already recruiting lobbyists with Democratic connections to carry their water in the next Congress.
We must stop any and all practices that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a public servant has become indebted to a lobbyist. That means a full ban on gifts and meals. It means no free travel or subsidized travel on private jets. And it means closing the revolving door to ensure that Capitol Hill service -- whether as a member of Congress or as a staffer -- isn't all about lining up a high-paying lobbying job. We should no longer tolerate a House committee chairman shepherding the Medicare prescription drug bill through Congress at the same time he's negotiating for a job as the pharmaceutical industry's top lobbyist.
I have long proposed a nonpartisan, independent ethics commission that would act as the American people's public watchdog over Congress. The commission would be staffed with former judges and former members of Congress from both parties, and it would allow any citizen to report possible ethics violations by lawmakers, staff members or lobbyists. Once a potential violation is reported, the commission would have the authority to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, gather records, call witnesses, and provide a report to the Justice Department or the House and Senate ethics committees that -- unlike current ethics committee reports -- is available for all citizens to read.
Barack Obama for President, 2008. He gets it. He can do this. I pray that these proposals are made reality, so that they may serve as the inspiration for similar reforms in state legislatures around the country - especially right here in Delaware.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
If you haven't been following the latest discussion of Rep. John "Booze 'n Bruise" Atkins, here's the trail for you to follow:
Mike Matthews brings new details to light:
After having an enjoyable night out at at a Halloween party (word has it that Rep. Atkins’ wife showed up in a police-officer-porn-star costume!) at that ultimate Ocean City den of debauchery — Seacrets — Atkins and his wife got in their vehicle and headed north to their home in Millsboro. Drunk, of course. Never mind that my sources tell me Atkins and his wife had already been fighting in the parking lot at Seacrets and required some security contact. Now they were pulled out of the parking lot. They were pulled over for speeding by the Ocean City Police Department and the hard copy of that report was made public by yours truly. Of course the story revolving around Atkins’ use of his state representative license plate and ID as a means to diffuse the situation is well documented. As the police report shows, Atkins claimed he would have two friends pick him and his wife up because he both of them were completely fucked up and unable to drive. Atkins blew a .14 and his wife a .16.
The two friends show up, Atkins and his wife get into the friend’s truck and the other friend drives their car. The story gets even better, though, because this lovable foursome then headed to another local bar — this time to the drunk’s paradise Smitty McGee’s.
But wait! There's something missing here, that Mike deleted from the post. Dana Garrett saw it, though:
Later when Ocean City’s finest let the inebriated state representative off Scot free after he flashed his state legislator’s identity card and promised to get a
Delaware state trooper to drive him and Mrs. DV Victim home, it turned out that “home” meant by way of “the drunk’s paradise Smitty McGee’s — where,” according to two of Mike’s sources, “there was allegedly some quid pro quo activity on behalf of Atkins, his wife, and one of the drivers who picked them up as thanks for the kind act.”
We're just talking about salacious rumors, here, but if you're not getting the meaning of "quid pro quo" in this context, Mike gave us another innuendo in the comments section by way of a response to Dan Gaffney:
Dan Gaffney says:
From the police report:
“PFC Smith and I cleared the stop at 0142 hours”
From Smitty McGees:
“Open 364 days a year! 11am to 1am daily”
What’s next? Atkins went there, and it was closed?
Mike Matthews says:
As a matter of fact I did edit something out. I had it up for about five minutes and decided to delete it. The Smitty McGee’s thing still goes, though. Notice I never said they entered the bar or that they drank. Never said it. Get from it what you want.
If the friends were driving them home anyway, why didn't they wait until... you know what? I don't care. The real story is the DWI, the spousal abuse, the coverup, and the attitude that the law doesn't apply to elected officials. Still, if you do embarassing things in public, people are going to talk about it whether or not it constitutes a serious issue or a personal indiscretion.
FSP responds to an allegation in the comments section of Dana's blog that Atkin's wife got a cushy job through her husband:
However, an elected official proving he is a fallible human does not give a free pass to anonymous jackassery. Take, for instance, this commenter from Dana Garrett’s Delaware Watch, who claims that John Atkins got his wife a cushy job in the prison system, a job she allegedly holds under her maiden name. This is provably false, and this PDF proves it. It is one of Heather Atkins’ most recent pay stubs. It took a lot of convincing for the Atkins’ to give this up, but I got it. It shows the payee as Heather A. Atkins of Millsboro, the pay date of 12/22/06 and it also shows that she is a part-time (53 hours in two weeks) and an hourly employee. Now, if I’m John Atkins, and I want to get my wife a cushy job, I would make sure it was not hourly, and certainly not in the prison system. The more likely story (I don’t know since I didn’t ask) is that Heather Atkins applied for and got the entry-level job on her own merits, and perhaps may have used her maiden name at first so as to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
There is a lot of rumor unloading going on in this situation. This episode should convince you that none of it is true, and most of it is just political enemies sensing an opportunity to gang up on an elected official they’d rather see out of office.
At one level of understanding, whether Ms. Atkins used her maiden name or not is irrelevant. Anytime a legislator uses his influence to get a family member a job in the state system is bad. It would be particularly egregious in Rep. Atkins’ case since he is the chairperson of the House Committee on Corrections. As the chair, Atkins has considerable power regarding legislation affecting the DDOC. The apparent conflict of interest in his wife working for the DDOC isn’t mitigated in the least by her applying for the position under her married name, maiden name or under, say, the name of a Disney character. Nor is the apparent conflict of interest mitigated by Ms. Atkins procuring the job “on her own merits, which Dave states, without explanation, is the “more likely story.” As long as the DDOC knows she is Rep. Atkins’ wife, they have a huge incentive to treat her differently.
The point of the maiden name “story” is that, if true, by using her maiden name to apply for the job, Rep. Atkins might have tried to conceal that he had procured a job for his wife at the DDOC or that his wife was working for a state agency which caused him to have an apparent conflict of interest. In my view, that is an example of trying to “avoid the appearance of impropriety” but not in the way Dave believes. That is trying to avoid the appearance of impropriety in a way analogous to the measures embezzlers take to conceal their thefts or shoplifters take to conceal stolen merchandise. Nearly every crook strives to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That’s why if Ms. Atkins used her maiden name while applying for the job, no one should feel consoled.
Seriously, Mr. and Mrs. Atkins, this isn't a good time to be involved with Delaware's prison system anyway.
What else is going on? Hube mentions this very blog:
Prediction: Jason at DE Liberal will still host Delaware's version of the Democratic Underground.
Resolution: I resolve to call Jason out on that as much as possible.
OK, whatever. I can't speak for Jason, but I don't read DU - I visit DailyKos, MyDD, and Swing State Project, personally. So I guess Hube's determination to compare delawareliberal to some other blog community doesn't bother me.
In other news, Jack Markell's public swearing-in ceremony was cancelled (and made private) due to Gerald Ford's death.
I agree with Ryan about Saddam: "Why let him become a martyr overnight, when he could of just rotted away in a jail cell for the rest of his life."
Joe M. decides he's going to broaden his focus to include life and not just politics. With that in mind, here's something non-political but fun from one of my favorite bands, OK Go - "Here It Goes Again"
Gerry Fulcher calls Ron Williams a copycat. In other news, Fulcher is still pissed that we didn't elect Ferris Wharton, who is clearly a Very Nice Republican (VNR).
Back to FSP, Jud had a bad year. Jud can be a VNR sometimes: "Nationally, the Republican Congress has been a pathetic embarrassment and the Iraq War has been a bloody, mismanaged disaster." On the other hand, it's hard for me to take his overwhelming fear of immigration seriously. Nativists have never been right, will never be right, and deserve the name of the party they once chose for themselves.
Tom declares 2006 a "good year for blogging in Delaware", and mentions Jason's Channel 12 TV appearance as one of several examples of the growing influence of the DE blogosphere.
Hmmm, what else... oh yeah. Some guy named X Stryker who is in fact me posts at delaware4obama that a new batch of polls from ARG aren't quite as friendly to Obama as the last set from Research 2000. But they aren't too bad, either. Biden gets 1 or 2% from IA, NV, NH, and SC - anyone want to place bets on how long it will be before he drops out? My money's on November 2006.
Democrats IA NV SC NH
---------- --- --- --- ---
Biden 2% 1% 2% 1%
Clark 1% 4% 2% 2%
Clinton 31% 37% 34% 27%
Dodd 2% 2% - 1%
Edwards 20% 8% 31% 18%
Gravel 1% 1% - -
Kerry 2% 9% 3% 6%
Kucinich 5% 1% 2% 4%
Obama 10% 12% 10% 21%
Richardson 1% 1% 1% 2%
Vilsack 17% 1% - 1%
Undecided 8% 23% 15% 17%
I don't understand the fade in Iowa, unless it represents undecideds choosing
Hillary (31%), or perhaps defections of Obama supporters (10%) to the Kucinich camp (5% for 5th place). Hillary Clinton voted against ethanol subsidies - Obama voted in favor of them. I don't think Clinton's lead in Iowa will hold up for long. Obama should get a nice boost when he declares his intentions to run, especially considering the fact that Iowa and Illinois are midwestern neighbors. For now, though, the momentum belongs to Hillary, while Edwards (20%) and Vilsack (17%) hold position and sadly, Obama slips to fourth.
Obama places second in Nevada (12%), but the reason for Hillary's large lead here (37%) is obvious to me: name recognition. No one has campaigned in Nevada yet (23% undecided), so the candidate everyone knows gets the early lead. I hope that Obama will be able to connect with western voters. Kerry takes third with 9% and Edwards is next with 8%.
South Carolina is another state that could change once Obama (10%) starts making appearances here. It looks like the African-American vote is favoring Hillary (34%), while the white vote is likely sympathetic to Carolinan John Edwards (31%). Beating third place in SC could be tough due to Obama's progressive social stances. No other candidate gets more than 5% here.
ARG's numbers for New Hampshire are not as favorable to Obama (21%) as Research 2000's were, but still look positive for Barack. He trails Hillary (27%) by only 6%, and beats Edwards (18%) by 3%. Kerry is a very distant 4th at 6%.
- Don't hold too much stock in any one poll
- Obama and Clinton are the only candidates that are always in the double digits.
- Vilsack is a one-state pony.
- Gravel, Richardson, and Dodd don't rate.
- Neither does Joe Biden - stay in the Senate, Joe.
- Edwards may have limited appeal in the West.
- Kucinich might siphon off just enough midwestern votes from Obama to be a threat.
- Kerry doesn't break 10%.
- Clark doesn't break 5%.
- A surprisingly low number of undecideds this far out! Plenty of time for people to change their minds, though.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Happy New Year, Delaware! Tomorrow will be the first day of a new year I will spend in the First State advocating for the man I believe should be our first black president in 2008.
Five things I love about 2006:
- We won congress!
- I've finally begun to find my niche on the blogosphere.
- Beau Biden passes his first test as Attorney General by hiring some amazingly well qualified people to bridge the gap in his experience.
- NASA finally got some ISS infrastructure installed.
- We also won a majority of the governorships and state legislatures.
I realize that's a bit heavy on stuff that happened in November and December, but honestly, these have been two awesome months. Now, five resolutions that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should make:
- Raise the minimum wage.
- Invest heavily in alternative energy sources, especially renewable energy.
- Hold the Bush administration accountable for its crimes.
- Balance the budget.
- Make health care more affordable.
Finally, here are five predictions for the new year:
- Joe Biden will never poll better than 5% outside of Delaware for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sorry Joe!
- Obama will declare that he is running for president next week.
- The Bush administration will come up with several new ways to misrepresent the mess in Iraq, which not have improved by the end of the year (there will still be American troops there).
- A Democrat will be elected Governor of Kentucky.
- John Atkins will enter rehab and probably get divorced.
Don't drink too much tonight!
Friday, December 29, 2006
Why did the late President Gerald Ford pardon Dick Nixon? Was it for the good of the country?
Despite Nixon's opinion, Ford told The Washington Post last year that his long personal friendship with Nixon played a role in his decision to issue the pardon for Watergate wrongdoing.
"I looked upon him as my personal friend. And I always treasured our relationship. And I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon, because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn't want to see my real friend have the stigma," Ford told Post reporter Bob Woodward.
Awwww... the magic of friendship. That, folks, is why George W. Bush and the gang have no shame. Ford set a precedent - the president won't be held accountable for any crimes he commits in office. We're talking about war criminals - and while we're at it, how is breaking the law on wiretapping any different from breaking into the Watergate hotel? They're listening in on Americans talking domestically to other Americans, and no one has the power to review whether they're listening to terror suspects or just political opponents - we're supposed to just trust their judgement. Cheney would pardon Bush, Bush would pardon Cheney - even if we managed to get either of them out of office, they will never pay for their crimes.
Ford may have been the least awful Republican president sinced Eisenhower, but his pardon reinforced the concept of the "unitary executive", AKA President-as-Emperor. Any student of history knows that hubris is the death of every empire.
UPDATE: Taylor Marsh picjked up on this also.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Howdy folks, I'm X Stryker, and I'll be your host during Jason's vacation week. I'm an Obama fan, and a frequent commenter on Swing State Project. I'm not one to shy away from controversy, so I'll get straight to business:
Dana's exposing more double dipping from Democratic state legislators, and provides an outlet in the comments section for GOP renegades like Mike Protack and Tyler Nixon to vent. We definitely need ethics reform in the state legislature, but where will it come from? As Cracker said, "if you wanna change the world, shut your mouth and start to spin it." So, here is my challenge to the readership:
- Name progressive Democratic state legislators that we can try to engage to bring more accountability and progressive action to our caucus. John Kowalko comes to mind.
- Pick the establishment Democratic state legislator that you think is the most odious, and would make the best target for a primary challenge. You can only pick !!ONE!!, so don't give me a laundry list of everyone you don't like, unless you want me to make fun of your inability to follow directions. Keep in mind, the ideal candidate is someone that we can replace with a progressive or populist DEMOCRAT, not a seat where any challenge essentially would amount to handing the seat to a socially conservative Republican.
The idea is to turn our frustration into action. Number one is about mobilizing the Good Guys, and giving them the support and encouragement to be a force for change. Number two is all about focus - the establishment is very strong. You can't fight on every front at once and expect to win. They've got the power, the money, and the media - all we have is moral high ground, enthusiasm, and the efficiency of the blogosphere.
By the way - Drinking Liberally comes to Klondike Kates's in Newark tonight at 8:00. I'll be there, although I am a bit shy in person. Good times will probably be had, so come on down, knock back a few, and chat with other local liberals. They're having a coat drive for Operation Warm to provide coats to disadvantaged children, so if you can bring a new (preferred) or used coat that would be very cool.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Who's trailing Hillary for first by one point in New Hampshire?
What about head to head against the Republicans?
Obama 42, McCain 39
Obama 43, Giuliani 38
Obama 43, Romney 28
Edwards 42, McCain 39
Edwards 42, Giuliani 38
Edwards 41, Romney 29
McCain 43, Clinton 37
Giuliani 39, Clinton 35
Clinton 40, Romney 30
Obama 47, McCain 43
Obama 46, Giuliani 39
Obama 48, Romney 29
Edwards 44, McCain 44
Edwards 41, Giuliani 40
Edwards 46, Romney 30
Giuliani 42, Clinton 38
McCain 46, Clinton 43
Clinton 45, Romney 31
That's right. Obama would win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary wouldn't. Edwards is close, but not quite as strong as Obama in either state. Obama is the real deal.
Delaware News-Journal articles about Obama's '08 prospects: Zero.
That will change in a few short days, when Obama officially announces his bid, I hope.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Click on the pic to buy 'em. They cost $1.99 - cheap!
- Daschle: Obama has 'unlimited potential' (AP)
- Rare Daley move: Endorses Obama for primary (Chicago Sun-Times)
- Obama set to make '08 call in isles Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Cartoons from Slate:
If you haven't signed the petition at DraftObama.org yet, what are you waiting for?
Monday, December 11, 2006
UPDATE 2: Here's the video of Obama's MNF appearance:
Obama's New Hampshire appearance made the front page of Yahoo News today, and it touched off articles all over the media.
- CNN Video: The Obama Effect
- AP Video: Obama Sparks Frenzy With Visit To New Hampshire
- ABC News Video: Barack vs. Hillary?
- NBC Video: Will he run?
- Newsweek: Barack, Hillary, and Race
- BBC: Obama to meet key poll activists
- New York Times: Obama Offers Flavor of Potential Campaign
- Washington Post: Obama Takes First Steps in N.H.
- Chicago Tribune: Obama should run (editorial)
- Boston Globe: Obama says N.H. Will Help Him Make Decision on Seeking the Presidency
- CQ Politics: Obama Visit Shows All Eyes Are Still on New Hampshire
- AFP: Barack Obama, Democrats' rising star
- Reuters: Obama impresses in New Hampshire but is he ready?
- Bloomberg: Obama Inches Toward 2008 Run, Says Public 'Hungry' For Change
No mention from the NewsJournal yet, but the good news about the Junior Senator from Illinois will make its way here soon enough. Incidentally, having Obama on the ballot could really help turnout amongst New Castle County's democratic base, which could give our party a nice boost in the Governor's race.
Check out this video someone posted on YouTube. It's a collage of images of Obama set to music, and sometimes the quality is not-so-good, but I really enjoyed it.
Addendum: Thanks to Jason for linking here. His blog is my favorite Delaware politics blog, hands down (no disrespect intended to Dana and Tom, titans of the DE left-blogosphere that they are).
Friday, December 08, 2006
Obama is a rising star in the party. He's scheduled two appearances in the state on Sunday -- a book reading in Portsmouth and a big state Democratic Party bash in Manchester.
The party said today that all 1,500 tickets for the Manchester event have been sold.
No candidate generates as much excitement as Barack Obama. That is exactly what we need in 2008 - a candidate who appeals to our hopes and dreams, who excites us, and who can be a voice for change. Obama represents the America that the world want to believe in. We need to show the world that the dream is still alive, and clean the tarnish off the American flag.
Side note: When Obama comes to Delaware, I'd better get my tickets early.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
1. He has the charisma to lead the free world.
2. He's a hard worker and a tireless campaigner - we need a president who will take the job seriously instead of goofing off at his ranch.
3. He has demonstrated an uncanny ability to advance progressive causes using bipartisan appeal.
4. He has yet to be corrupted by the sleazy nature of Washington politics.
5. He has a strong moral compass and stands up for what he believes in.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Sermon: Living Under Fascism : Davidson Loehr: "It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again. "
God bless the Unitarians for understanding what every religion is trying to teach us, as opposed to what so many religious demagogues are spewing forth. This is a fantastic article exploring the nature and meaning of fascism, which will help you to understand that it is NOT a hyperbole to state that the US is moving in a clearly fascist direction.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Yahoo! News - House GOP to Discuss Ethics Rule Changes
Can we please, please stop pretending the GOP has any claim whatsoever to any kind of moral high ground? They will gladly slaughter for oil and invent pretexts to do so, allow their corporate donors to bribe votes and steal from America, and fix the rules of congress to prevent any rebuke for their wrongdoing. It disgusts me to see these men and women trumpet about religion and try to Christianize the law and government, yet discard their supposed principals when it comes to the simple commandments against killing (Iraq) and stealing. We don't need the ten commandments in the courthouse, we need them in the hearts and minds of our elected representatives. Let me take this moment to get local - Rep. Peter King (R-NY), you NEED to speak out against this travesty and/or abandon this grand old pack of hypocrites. Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), I'll be looking your way in about a month or so when I move.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Yahoo! News - SAVE SOCIAL SECURITY WITH THE FLAT TAX
I heard George Fuckya Bush's speech on Social Security. It was a good one. He said all the things I like to hear; he was thinking long term, looking out for younger voters. But it's time for a reality check; W's supporters mostly believe they'll have ascended in the Rapture within the next decade or so. Let's see, who wins, who loses? Winners include investment banks and savy investors (the kind who can afford personal finance advisors). Losers are the less savy investors, who may end up as bankrupt senior citizens, and most investors in general, who will lose part of their investment in the form of fees charged by the banks. It's basically like you're paying a fee to gamble. Furthermore, when the economy tanks, nearly everyone loses - and guess what's going to happen to the economy when our supplies of fossil fuels run out along with a disastrous climatic shift? This is a manufactured crisis; don't get taken.
Monday, November 08, 2004
Yahoo! News - Terror Financing Fines Fall After 9/11
I can't believe anyone is stupid enough to believe the Bush Administration even cares about fighting terrorism. It wasn't a priority when he took office, and it isn't a priority now. All you morons who voted for Bush have essentially handed New York City and Washington DC another tragedy, while residents of those cities overwhelmingly voted against the man who failed them on 9/11. Florida apparently voted for four more years of goat stories. Let me be clear - Bush is a fuck-up who has pretty much given up trying to find Osama Bin Laden. George W. Bush was re-elected because a bunch of small town idiots who will never be threatened by terrorism decided that gay marriage is a really big deal. Our big liberal cities are going to get attacked by terrorists again and small-town red state America is to blame. On behalf of all my liberal friends in terror-target Blue land, let me send a big "FUCK YOU!" to the Red Menace.
Monday, August 16, 2004
Yahoo! News - 'Data Quality' Law Is Nemesis Of Regulation: "'We sandwiched this in between Jerry Ford's library and something else,' Tozzi said. 'Was it something that did not have hearings? Yes. Is it something that keeps me awake at night? No. Is it something that I would do again, exactly? Yes, you bet your ass I would. I would not even think about it, okay? Sometimes you get the monkey, and sometimes the monkey gets you.'"
I have two words for the anti-regulation lobby:
Read this article, I implore you, and find out the latest trick the GOP has handed industries that give people cancer and destroy the environment. When it comes to not-giving-me-or-my-family-cancer, I will tell you right now that the EPA, the FDA, the NIH, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission most definitely do NOT over-regulate.
And as for lobbyist Jim J. Tozzi, who finagled congress into hamstringing the EPA through the White House's Office of Management and Budget, I seriously hope the monkey gets him good.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Yahoo! News - U.S. to Get International Election Observers: "'For over 200 years, this nation has conducted elections fairly and impartially, ensuring that each person's vote will count,' said Rep. Stephen Buyer during debate on the floor of the House of Representatives. 'Imagine going to your polling place on the morning of November 2 and seeing blue-helmeted foreigners inside your local library, school or fire station.'"
Apparent Mr. Buyer is not a very careful student of the US electoral process. Rutherford B. Hayes, anyone? Tammany Hall? "Vote early, and often?" The dead people who voted for Kennedy? The Jim Crow laws? You call Florida 2000 and the ridiculously careless methodology of the felon-list purge ensuring every vote will count? Nonsense! Mr. Buyer, you are ignorant of the history of elections in this country, which makes you a very poor congressional representative. Also, you're a xenophobic nutjob.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Yahoo! News - Soldier Dismissed After Revealing He's Gay:
"Since 'don't ask, don't tell' was adopted in 1994, nearly 10,000 military personnel have been discharged, including linguists, nuclear warfare experts and other key specialists. The statistics, obtained from the Defense Manpower Data Center and analyzed by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara, offers a detailed profile of those discharged, including job specialty, rank and years spent in the service. 'The justification for the policy is that allowing gays and lesbians to serve would undermine military readiness,' said Aaron Belkin, author of the study, which will be released Monday. 'For the first time, we can see how it has impacted every corner of the military and goes to the heart of the military readiness argument.'"
"Hundreds of those discharged held high-level job specialties that required years of training and expertise, including 90 nuclear power engineers, 150 rocket and missile specialists and 49 nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare specialists. Eighty-eight linguists were discharged, including at least seven Arab language specialists.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said the loss of gays and lesbians serving in specialized areas is irrelevant because they never should have been in those jobs in the first place. 'We need to defend the law, and the law says that homosexuality is incompatible with military service,' Donnelly said. 'There is no shortage of people in the military, and we do not need people who identify themselves as homosexual.'"
Bullshit. We need every willing man and woman we can get, especially linguists and engineers. Does anyone seriously think defending America against the possibility of germ warfare is less important than preserving our military's machismo?
Our troops are sweating and slaving away in Iraq and Afghanistan, constantly being promised they'll be able to return home soon and constantly seeing those promises broken. How many of them would rather stay an extra three months than be replaced by a homosexual? How many of them think that the military has more than enough rocket scientists and arabic linguists?
No shortage, huh? If we continue needlessly overcommitting our troops and allow brain-drain policies like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to cut our effectiveness, then we may see what a serious shortage looks like.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Yahoo! News - Supreme Court Preserves 'God' in Pledge: "Congress adopted the pledge as a secular, patriotic tribute in 1942, at the height of World War II. Congress added the phrase 'under God' more than a decade later, in 1954, when the world had moved from hot war to cold. "
I pledge allegiance... to the flag... of the United States of America... and to the republic... for which it stands; one nation... indivisible... with liberty and justice for all.
Was that so hard? Will removing two words that congress added as an afterthought during the height of 1950's Cold War paranoia suddenly rob us of all our sacred traditions? Will the foundations of Western Society crumble? Will children suddenly stop going to Sunday school? Will parents become unable to teach their own children about God? Is it so difficult to understand the fact that the children of atheists may be ostracized in class if they don't say the same thing all the other kids do?
The answer, in all cases, is no. In some cases, a little more respect for religious freedoms costs us so little. If you've never been the only Jew in a classroom full of children singing about Santa Claus, maybe you won't understand.
It's been fifty years since all schoolchildren were forced by congress to pledge to a nation "under god". It's also been fifty years since the Supreme Court ruled, in Brown v. the Board of Ed., that forcing children to attend different schools based on their ethnicity/color was unconstitutional. Respecting people who are different than you is one of our nation's sacred traditions, too.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Yahoo! News - Arafat Faces Deadline on Security Reforms: "Control over security services is the pillar of Arafat's authority. He has successfully resisted reforms for years, ignoring international pressure and the pleas of two Palestinian prime ministers. "
Arafat has always been an obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which is why Israel stopped dealing with him and former prime minister Abbas resigned. I'm glad to see that Egypt is taking responsibility for its fomer territory in Gaza and the peace process there. Otherwise, a de-facto dominion by Hamas will result, and that will be a disaster for the entire region.
It's clear to me that an Egyptian role is vital to peace in the Gaza strip in the absence of Palestinian willingness to take necessary measures. The Egyptian presence should have positive effects for the Gaza's economy as well, both due to the added stability and the influx of Egyptian soldiers spending money in the area. Assuming Arafat continues to bottleneck the peace process, perhaps Israel should look to Jordan as a partner in negotiations for the West Bank.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Voices in the Wilderness - Voices from Iraq
The link above is a great perspective on what's changed between pre-war and post-war Baghdad - both the good and the bad. A friend of mine, an intelligent fellow with whom I often disagree, once justified the Iraq War by stating that freedom was the ultimate human good, not security. I was flabbergasted by the idea that there was an "ultimate human good", but he seemed to think it was beyond question, "unless you're a complete moral relativist". My relativism aside, obviously there are quite a few people in Iraq who consider their security at least equal to their freedom. The same can clearly be said of America, otherwise the Patriot Act would not exist.
Now, there are cases where things should be done for someone's own good whether they like it or not - suicide prevention for example. Nevertheless, there is a cost associated with every action, and the situation in Iraq did not merit the monetary cost to American taxpayers, nor the cost in human life of American servicemen, nor the cost in security and basic services to Iraqis. The Pentagon and the White House failed to conceive of an adequate reconstruction plan for Iraq, and I for one would like to hear an admission and an apology.
On a personal note, I am deeply saddened by the recent suicide of Michael Buonauro, writer of Marvelous Bob (an excellent work of fiction available online) and co-creator of the webcomic Dr. Lobster/Wrench Farm. I extend my deepest sympathies to all those who knew him personally (I did not) and those who have merely admired and enjoyed his work (which I have). His humor and writing will be long remembered by his many fans.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Yahoo! News - Berger Writes Essay for Democrat President: "'The administration's high-handed style and its gratuitous unilateralism have embittered even those most likely to embrace American values and invited opposition even from those with most to gain from American successes,' Berger writes.
'Although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade.' "
Well said, Mr. Berger, well said. This is what I've been saying about the administration's foreign policy all along; "With us or against us" has badly damaged America's reputation and our ability to be an effective world leader. We are losing billions of dollars in increased costs and lost revenues due to alienating the rest of the world, not to mention the gravely higher human cost of the Iraq War. Why is the Iraq War far more deadly than the war in Afghanistan? Because we have completely energized opponents of the war and of American hegemony; we are rapidly losing the support of the same Iraqis we liberated.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
Yahoo! News - Gibson Film Stirs Passions in Europe, Middle East: "But the anti-Semitism controversy has helped it break box office records in many Arab countries. Only a few states like Bahrain and Kuwait have opted not to show it.
'Anything Jews say is bad becomes interesting in this part of the world,' Dubai-based film director Alfred Mutua said. "
Face facts: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ will stir up anti-Semitic hatred worldwide. Many in the US don't believe it will have any such effect, largely due to the success of the ongoing American struggle against all forms of discrimination, prejudice, and hate. This is a highly insular view that fails to recognize that the scourge of anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, hungrily seeking fuel for the fires of hatred. The film, which portrays the Jews of ancient Judea as a sneering, angry, bloodthirsty mob, largely portrays Romans as being fair and even-handed. No surprise, then, that the film is massively popular in Italy, where the descendents of Rome continue to shirk responsibilty for the death of Jesus. Torture is strictly forbidden by Jewish law, but widely practiced by the Roman Empire; even so, the supposedly fair Pontius Pilate was recalled to Rome on charges of excessive brutality. Why do so many modern Christians seek to wash Pilate's hands of the crucifixion of thousands of Jews? Now, most modern Christians recognize the fact that the death of Jesus was pre-ordained from a theological perspective, and thus there should be no such thing as "blame" for a death that, according to Christian theology, Jesus chose to accept to save the souls of those who believed in him. This practical philosophy, while endorsed by the modern Roman Catholic Church, is not shared in many areas of the world. My father was beaten up as kid by Catholics who called him "Killer of Christ" in Italian; my fiancee's father, at the age of 8, was stabbed by children who had just learned about the death of Jesus and wanted to seek revenge. This is the mentality that Gibson's film will fuel.
When you consider how little of the love and forgiveness that Jesus taught was included in the film, you come to realize that portraying only part of the story can be a not-so-subtle way of changing the message. And, incidentally, if anyone tries to beat up an Italian in revenge for the death of anyone who lived over a thousand years ago, shame on you; Italy has produced some of the world's finest works of classic art and music.
Friday, February 20, 2004
At the present time, gay marriage is opposed by a majority of Americans. At one time, however, the majority opposed the abolition of slavery. Once people get a little more used to civil unions, they'll start to open up to gay marriage also. The government has no right or reason to forbid citizens to marry anyone, with the exception of incest. Incest threatens the public health, while gay marriage does not. I have yet to hear even one single compelling argument that gay marriage has any effect whatsoever on public health. People made the same stupid arguments about interracial marriage, and they were wrong, and they lost.
I should point out that I think it's perfectly fine for the Catholic Church and any other religious body to prohibit gay marriage. Any faith has the freedom to do that if it chooses. However, marriage still exists as an institution outside religion; it is recognized by the state and can be administered by a justice of the peace. The separation of church and state is vital to our constitutional rights. Denying gays the legal and financial protections of marriage is denying their civil rights, just as denying them the right to vote would violate their civil rights. In fact, a prohibition on gay marriage would deny the religious freedoms of those faiths that do recognize gay marriage (some unitarian and pagan faiths for example).
I feel the committment of two people to a lifelong union of love and faithfulness is good for society regardless of their gender. Gay marriage will be legalized within the next few decades, and it will come to be accepted by society as well. I am absolutely certain of it.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Yahoo! News - Cheney Presses Congress to Keep Tax Cuts: "'And now we have seen the results of the hard work of the American people and the sound policies of the administration - Americans took those (refunded tax) dollars and put them to work,' [Cheney] said, suggesting the money was put to far better use by the individuals than would have been done by the government. "
You know, maybe Cheney has a point here... I think most of America is capable of spending money more wisely than the Bush Administration. This is largely because most of America is well aware of the obvious inefficiency of trickle down economics. If you institute tax cuts mainly aimed at the rich, most of the benefit will go to the rich. Business tax cuts to spur economic growth are all well and fine, but they should be tied to the creation of American jobs, not offshoring. The best approach to economic stimulation is to address the problem from multiple angles - to actually create jobs to spur demand as well as supply-side initiatives like business tax cuts.
This is the chief failing of the whole Club For Growth philosophy; they would rather let a recession drag out than see any tax money spent to actually put people to work. You can't give someone back two years of their life that were spend unemployed or underemployed by showing them GE's balance sheet and insisting "things are looking up".
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Yahoo! News - Bush Budget Would Trim Community Policing
Yeah, that's right. The next step in the War on Terror is to cut the local police who would be the first to respond to a domestic incident, just as they did on September 11. Bush's commitment to security is cutting police, he shows his patriotism by shortchanging veterans, he fights terror abroad by sending our troops to defeat one of Al Qaida's enemies, Saddam Hussein, thereby opening the borders of Iraq to terrorism. George W. Bush, the conservative, is spending us into the poorhouse, and most of the money he is spending is going into the corporate coffers of his defense industry buddies so they can fight a war we didn't need and can't afford, without UN support. Look, I'm not saying there aren't benefits to Dubya's Iraq Adventures, but they aren't worth the costs. George W. Bush is fiscally incompetent. You'd think with all the money he's burning, he'd at least have a little bit more earmarked towards keeping our streets safe. Aren't conservatives big believers in Law and Order?
It's a shame that most Republicans haven't seen through the cloud of false patriotism surrounding this guy. They deserve a better candidate this November, but no one in the GOP has the courage to contest Bush. Well, here's hoping Dubya alienates enough voters from his own party to lose the election.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Yahoo! News - Study Finds Net Gain From Pollution Rules: "The value of reductions in hospitalization and emergency room visits, premature deaths and lost workdays resulting from improved air quality were estimated between $120 billion and $193 billion from October 1992 to September 2002.
By comparison, industry, states and municipalities spent an estimated $23 billion to $26 billion to retrofit plants and facilities and make other changes to comply with new clean-air standards, which are designed to sharply reduce sulfur dioxide, fine-particle emissions and other health-threatening pollutants."
I'd like to personally thank the Office of Management and Budget, a White House group, for not being intimidated into fudging their data for the administration, the way our intelligence agencies did for the Iraq war, or the way the Environmental Protection Agency (more like Environmental Destruction Agency) did by understating the health risks of breathing the post-9/11 air in Lower Manhattan. I have been saying this for years. I will be bearing the overwhelming costs of environmental cleanup when I am 40 or 50. And if you think the costs are high now, the costs we will we bear in the future to clean up the damage we are doing today will be utterly staggering. Clean air and water aren't just hippie ideals; they are vital to our daily health and our ability to work and raise children. They are vital to the economy.
Kyoto now! It's high time our congress ratified the Kyoto Accords, a global warming treaty President Clinton signed but congress bailed on, thus embarassing the United States once again before the world community. And if they won't, make sure to vote in someone who will.
Friday, September 19, 2003
"The only way to sustain consumer spending is to employ more people." [Financial Times, London, September 19]
There was a larger-than-expected dip in first-time jobless claims this week, which boosted the stock market rather nicely. On the other hand, there were still about 399,000 first-time jobless claims; a dip in the number of people laid off this week is not the same as a dip in unemployment. People have been buzzing about "leading indicators" for months. The economy is improving, that's what they say every week. Tax cuts, interest-rate cuts, military spending... OK, so where are the jobs? The unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged in August, at 6.1% - which is to say, STILL VERY HIGH.
The quote above comes from the head of stock investment at JPMorgan Private Bank. This is not a "consumer advocate" or a labor representative, this is a man whose job is to tell millionaires and billionaires how to invest their money. He's stating the obvious... consumer spending (retail) will improve when more people have jobs.
So don't get fooled by conservative voodoo economics and the tax-cut patrol. The fact of the matter is this - if you cut taxes on corporations, they will hire more people... in Mexico, in Indonesia, in India, in China... NOT IN THE UNITED STATES. Consumer spending by Indonesian Nike factory workers isn't really going to stimulate the US economy.
The fact is, the travel sector (airlines, hotels, tourism industries) is suffering badly, hiring in the tech sector still hasn't recovered from the dot com crunch, the manufacturing sector has been shedding jobs since July 2000, wholesale trade employment is down, management jobs are down. Some sectors (health care, construction) are up, of course, but 6.1% total unemployment is still pretty damn high.
So, given that employment is not improving, and consumer spending won't improve until employment does, what's the government doing about unemployment? Well, they've cut 131,000 jobs since February. THANKS GOVERNMENT! ECONOMY LOOKS GREAT! HAVE A PRETZEL!
At last, the time of my dominion has arrived. This is a call to action - wake up and learn what's really going on. This isn't about being fair or mincing words; this is about the truth. My name is X, and I'm about to tell it like it is.