Dr. Forbush Thinks

Look at the world through the eyes of Dr. Forbush. He leads you through politics, religion and science asking questions and attempting to answer them....

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Location: California, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Are We Winning the War?

Like all Americans I have heard that things weren’t going that great in Iraq. But, how bad could they be? Does anyone really know how to determine when a War is won or lost? Especially a War like the one in Iraq. We certainly could sign a peace treaty with the Iraqi government, but we aren’t fighting the Iraqi government, so that doesn’t really apply in this case. So, when we are fighting a guerilla war against insurgents, what determines victory?

Well, if you listened to George W Bush’s repetitive speech this morning we all know that we are making progress in Iraq. And we know that our goal in Iraq is to eliminate the threat to the Iraqis people from the insurgents. What is the current level of threat? What will the level need to be for us to declare Iraq safe enough for us to leave? The President will not tell us these numbers, because it would give comfort or something to the enemy.

Well, one way for me to estimate when we are going to leave is to look at the number of American’s killed in Iraq. If we are getting a handle on the insurgents, this number is certainly going down. And, if we look at the slope of this line we should be able to estimate when that number will intersect zero. This will at least give us a handle on when our troops are going home, right?

So, I went over to a web site that has the monthly number of US, or coalition troops killed per month. The information also tells us how many soldiers were killed per month or the US occupation. You can see my data here: http://icasualties.org/oif/

Since there was an initial Battle to take over the country we would expect a much higher number of casualties over the first two months, so I dropped this data out of my study. May 1st, the first day of my data actually corresponds to the day George W Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared mission accomplished. I calculated the number of soldiers killed per day for each given month and fit a trend-line to the data. There isn’t anything magic about this simple statistical study. But, the results are much different than I expected.

Based on this data it turns out that the number of soldiers being killed in Iraq is actually increasing, not decreasing. In May 2003 the rate of US casualties was about 1.6 soldiers per day. Currently the rate is about 2.9 casualties per day. This isn’t a one month fluctuation, but a trend that continues to go up. Actually there are quite a few points that tend to follow this line. So, based on this analysis it looks like the number of casualties will only go up until the Bush administration changes its plan. However, if we stay the course the rate of US casualties will only go higher.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." -- Albert Einstein

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Patriotic Pat

I loved Pat Buchanan's piece in the paper this morning. Now, Pat has been called everything from a right wing nut to a fascist, and he is willing to pull the communist moniker out of his hat at the drop of a hat. Now he is calling his own Republican Party communists. Well, actually he is only calling the Neocons who have taken over the Republican Party communists. But, he is doing it in his own special way. He has coined a new word “Neo-Comintern” referring to the Comintern, or Communist International because they have pulled a page out of Stalin's play-book and decided to take over the world. He tells us that Democracy by force isn’t much better than Stalin’s idea of Communism by force. You just have to love it when even the far right begins to question the Bush administration.

The funny thing is that I don’t agree with much of what Pat has said in this piece. He actually seems to be afraid of the NeoCons. He is writing in a way that he wrote when he was afraid of the Communists. I think that he is reaching inside himself and trying to put his fear into words, and the only thing that he knows about fear is Communism. This is obviously a product of his upbringing and the times he was brought up in. But the point is that he recognizes that he should be afraid of the NeoCons, because that mean to change the United States in ways that would will not be proud of if they succeed.

I think Pat’s piece and some of the speeches that have begun to come out from other Republicans is beginning to show that the Republican monolith is beginning to break. This is good for America and American Politics, because it means that politicians will be forced to actually think about an issue before they vote on it. Spending a little bit of time pondering a new law will be beneficial for America. Instead of pondering how much campaign money can be raised based on an allegiance to Tom Delay and the NeoCons the politicians may be forced to think about the repercussions of the law in their districts or states. Maybe not all Republicans will see the results in the same light and we will be able to laws that consider the consequences of the legislation.

It may be to late to save America from Judge Alito, but surely the Republican agenda will begin to shift toward laws that have a chance to pass. These laws are usually no-brainers that everyone can agree on, like outlawing torture by all US military personal including the CIA. After all, isn’t that how American Democracy is supposed to work. When one group begins to take advantage of their power Democracy regulates the process. First people use their right to free speech to let people know about the abuse of power. As people learn about this abuse the American people change their opinions of the people they elected. As we are seeing now we don’t even need to wait for the elections, because the opinion polls are enough to moderate the behavior of politicians who want to be re-elected. So, when Pat wants to publish his nonsense I champion free speech, even if I don’t agree with the content of his column. After all, he doesn’t need to convince me that the NeoCons are not about Democracy, I already knew that. He needs to convince the vast hordes of people who the NeoCons have lied to. And, I think that makes Pat a Patriot.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What Do The Iraqis Think?

These polls have been around for quite some time, but the supporters of the War in Iraqi either ignore this information or they don’t know about it. So, I thought that I should publicize this to the few War supporters who are supporting the war and they don’t really know how the Iraqi people actually feel.

The latest Poll was published in USA Today Yesterday. So, I’m sure that at least the people who flew on Continental Airlines yesterday morning and received their complementary copy know this. (If they do that any more.)

The real point of this post is that the Iraqis don’t want us in their country. Asked whether they view the Americans as occupiers of liberators, 71% of Iraqis said we are occupiers. That number rises to 81% if the Kurds are removed from the survey. Of course this is because life is swell in Northern Iraq where the Kurds live. In the rest of the country the presence of the American troops are making things worse.

If this isn’t bad enough, the poll tells us, “If the Kurds, who make up about 13% of the poll, are taken out of the equation, more than half of Iraqis say killing U.S. troops can be justified in at least some cases.” Since we aren’t really fighting in Northern Iraq, doesn’t that mean that the majority of those we have come to liberate feel justified in killing American soldiers. That does not seem like some small radical insurgency, it is half of the country.

How long will it take for George W Bush to learn this? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, right past George W Bush, because he doesn’t actually read his daily briefings, the newspapers or even watch the nightly news.

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Listening Rush

This morning I listened to Rush Limbaugh, so you didn’t have to. I’ve mentioned this before, but for the newcomers, my car radio only picks up FM. In addition to this Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly demand that you be members before you can pick up their broadcast over the web. (Or, at least that was the way it was last time I bothered to try to listen to them over the web.) However, from time to time I get to use my wife’s car that does pick up AM radio. So, I can listen to Rush, Bill and maybe even Michael Savage and find out what the Right Wing Nuts are up too.

So, today I hopped into my wife’s car and promptly tuned into Rush Limbaugh. I was considering what topics he might be considering this morning. Perhaps he’d tell us his take on the President’s new Immigration initiative. This would certainly be interesting because the Republican Party is divided on this issue. The typical red-necked Limbaugh listener doesn’t like anyone who doesn’t want to conform to “The American Culture,” so they are certainly against immigrants who don’t speak redneck English and understand their place in society. However, the financial wizards of the Republican Party who make the cash available for campaigns actually like illegal immigration. This constant flow of human resources enables the typical corporation to keep the price of labor below minimum wage for many jobs including domestic help, cleaning, construction and agriculture. But, these cheap resources also ripple up through the labor market flooding additional resources by making labor available at almost every level of the job market. And, as the supply and demand curve demonstrates repeatedly more supply creates less demand and lower prices - or wages go down.

So, what was Rush going to say about this important and controversial issue? Well, I will never know, because Rush decided that there were certainly more important issues to discuss. For example, when I turned the radio on Rush announced that George W Bush was going to make a very important speech tomorrow. Then he said that the media were going to spin the President’s words, so we needed to stay tuned to him and he would explain everything that we needed to know about the President’s important Iraq speech. I listened to him for over an hour and he actually never came back to this subject. The news at the top of the hour actually said more about this looming speech than Rush offered while I listened.

Obviously Rush had some much more important issue that he needed to cover before he could get on with this lesser issue. So, he went on about vagina shaped chocolates. Obviously I wasn’t aware of this important topic. Boise State apparently gives away vagina shaped chocolates to promote the “Vagina Monologues” every year for the last six years. Personally I don’t know which is worse, showing the same play for six years or Rush Limbaugh spending twenty minutes replaying his old audio from this issue and using his Ditto Cam to show the complimentary chocolate vaginas over the web.

After Rush had finished with that important issue he went on to cover Arlen Spector’s defense of Terrell Owens. And, of course that lead to a discussion, or monologue on Monday Night Football. I was certainly getting the feeling that Rush was just trying to burn up time instead of choosing to discuss more crucial issues. I really did want to hear Rush’s take or spin on the President’s speech, because it would give me a heads up on how the deception would proceed from here.

It’s just too bad that Rush didn’t want to talk about the Immigration issue. I think its interesting because the President has decided to use word play on his Republican base. He says that he doesn’t want “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. But the twist on this is that he doesn’t want to arrest them and send them back either. He has created a new way to say amnesty without saying the word. He is not going to arrest them, and he is going to let them stay in the country. Most people would call this action amnesty, but in Bush World it is a guest worker program for people already in the country.

And, the deception continues…

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Anyone Want a Scary Story?

Seymour Hersh wrote one of the scariest paragraphs in American History in the New Yorker this week:

“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”

If this is even 10% true America is doomed.


How is Bush Going to Get Us Out of This Mess?

First of I need to make it clear that Bush is the only person alive that knows when the time is right to bring our troops home. George W Bush refuses to listen to the experts who have worked for years in the State Department and all agree that we should be bringing our troops home in order to improve our relationship with the civilized world. He refuses to listen to the Military experts who have been petitioning him to withdraw troops gradually over time to give the Iraqis responsibility for their own country. He has refused to listen to the terrorist experts who tell us that the number one recruiting tool for world wide Islamic terrorism is the presence of US troops in Iraq. He refuses to listen to the fiscal conservatives that tell him that the financial cost of the War in Iraq is much too high. And, George W Bush refuses to listen to the American people who currently say that George W Bush is doing a worse job than any US president in modern American History has.

If we imagine for a moment that George W Bush realizes at some point what every other expert in the country has been saying for over a year now, “Iraq was a mistake,” then how is he going to get us out? Now George W Bush can decide at any time he wants that he has done his job in Iraq and its time to bring the troops home. He could decide tomorrow that the time has come and he succeeded in keeping his plan for withdrawal secret from the terrorists, but now the Iraqis are ready to go. He would have succeeded in not having a timeline and not having a plan just like he proclaimed when he went into Iraq.

The only thing that makes this plan difficult for George W Bush is that the Democrats have already suggested it. Following the lies and deception strategy that has been made so popular by this administration George W Bush is bound to claim that he has actually been planning to withdraw the troops all along, but he couldn’t say so because it would give information to the terrorists. The truth is, the terrorists already know that the US will not stay in Iraq forever. Whether they decide to train by using the US troops as targets or if they decide to remain quiet and live in a collection of sleeper cells through out the Middle East the terrorists are not going away because of US military force. The experts tell us that the terrorists will only loose favor with the general population only if there is a deep cultural shift in the perception of what terrorists are trying to accomplish. The US presence in Iraq is encouraging the terrorists, not discouraging them.

For those of you from the South try to imagine your love of the revenuer hunting down stills in the back woods. Do you think that the presence of these men wandering around the Southern United States encouraged or discouraged the production of moonshine? Think about the hatred you feel for the IRS and how they take that money out of your paycheck every month. Does the presence of that deduction make you happy to be an American taxpayer with pride in his country? Now imagine being an Iraqi citizen living in Iraq with soldiers tramping around on their property looking for your neighbors. Add to this, the US intention to tax the Iraqi oil to pay for the invasion and chaos. Surely the Iraqis don’t care about this…

By the way, how is Bush going to get us out of this mess? I really don’t have a clue, but his plan is sure to sound like we made Iraq a better place - no matter what the reality is.

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The Perfect Food

Since Thanksgiving in the United States is mainly about eating, I thought that I would ponder the eating and report back on it. Eating is done by every living thing on Earth that we know of and most likely every living thing in the Universe. This is because eating in the broadest terms is the means in which energy is acquired by the living organisms. For example, plants eat by converting sunlight into sugar and that sugar is both stored in the plant, and also fed to each cell in its structure. Some animals eat these plants and use the sugar stored in the plant while they convert the sugar to fat and store it for later use. Other animals eat these animals and make use of the fat stored in their bodies.

Humans have taken food to an entirely different level. They have created foods with fats and sugars in them. They have learned how to extract fats and sugars out of many different animals and plants and combine them in new and interesting ways. Humans have learned to use heat to transform these foods into a variety of tastes and smells that make people want to eat even more. It is as if humans are on the never-ending search for the perfect food.

Of course, the idea behind eating isn’t really supposed to be about the eating, but rather it is supposed to be about the nourishment. After all we eat to get our bodies to function, this is the primary reason for eating. But, nature has given our bodies a natural desire to crave food, because without it we would most likely starve to death. Unfortunately the way the drive to eat works is not the best feedback system in the world. A feedback system is an engineering system that monitors a parameter in a process and responds to the value of that parameter. Natures feedback system was along the lines of “get hungry then go catch food.” If you ate too much you would get lazy and decide not to go hunt. If you began to starve you would become more and more motivated to catch something in order to abate the hunger in your stomach.

Now days the feedback system is broken. The threshold for being too lazy to go catch food has been changed to the threshold to walk to the refrigerator and grab a Coke and cold pizza. Or maybe the threshold to drive to the 24-hour grocery store to buy Oreos and Chocolate Milk is a bit to low. Either way, nature’s feedback system is broken and only human intelligence can intervene. Humans can do this in several different ways. They can pray, “Oh God please don’t let me get fat,” as they drive to the 7-11 for a Slurpy and beef jerky. Or, they can decide to fight the urge to eat. But, we also need to remember that catching the food is nature’s way to get man to exercise. So, the third way to fix nature’s feedback system is to do artificial exercise. Instead of going out and hunting food with your bare hands you can run on the treadmill or street. Instead of trekking through the woods picking nuts and berries you can trek through the woods admiring natures wonders. And instead of fishing in a stream you can swim in the pool, like I do.

Getting back to my point about the perfect food. (You thought I forgot, right?) Since I started working out I have noticed that the types of foods that my body craves has changed. For example, every morning I would wake up, get ready for work and make a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast. When we had lunchmeat in the ‘fridge I would put that on the bagel as well. As time went by the thickness of the cream cheese seemed to get thicker and the layer of lunchmeat turned into ham, salami and turkey. After I began working out my taste for food changed little by little. I was only interested in eating what I liked; I wasn’t trying to be a “health nut.” So, I began putting avocado on my bagel. Then I started buying whole wheat and nut bagels. Soon the cream cheese seemed a bit heavy, so I switched to butter. Then I discovered Kashi. I thought that maybe I had a bit of time to eat a bowl of Kashi before driving off. I began reading the paper and eating Kashi and milk. One day while walking down the dairy aisle my wife suggested that we should try yogurt. We have always bought yogurt for a snack, and I had put it into Mussili while we lived in Germany, so I thought that yogurt and Kashi might be a good mix. Soon I was eating Plain yogurt and Kashi for breakfast. It was just the right food to eat after a good morning workout. Or, so I thought until I discovered the perfect food.

On Thanksgiving day we normally cook the traditional meal. We have turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, gravy and CRANBERRY sauce. And this year after Thanksgiving on Friday morning we went out to the club to work out. When we got back I was ready for breakfast. I open the refrigerator door and found my yogurt when I saw the leftover CRANBERRY sauce. What a great idea I had at that moment that it is impossible to describe, but eating the yogurt and cranberry sauce surpassed the actual idea by many orders of magnitude. As I ate the cranberry sauce and yogurt I thought “this must be the perfect food.” With every bite I thought, “surely this is the perfect food.”

Of course, these perfect food things never last very long. If you eat them to often you become weary of them and begin to look for new and better foods. So, it may be wise to not eat this food every day for the rest of your life. But, if you ever get the chance because you have cranberry sauce and yogurt in the refrigerator at the same time after a good workout, then you certainly need to try a bite of the “perfect food.”

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Cost of War

Last night I listened to a remarkable speech by Richard Clarke. The Audio is archived at the World Affairs Council Website where you can download the mp3 file or just listen to it on audio streaming. His speech was booked to promote his book, but he didn’t talk about his book much. In fact, he mainly spoke about the situation in Iraq. It doesn’t really make much sense for me to write down exactly what he spoke about, even though he makes some very good points. Instead I’d like to write about one aspect of what he said instead. You can listen to his talk to get the rest.

Richard Clarke has been demonized by the Bush administration for opposing the way the Bush administration promoted its case for the War in Iraq and its manipulation of the evidence of its efforts in the War on Terrorism. Richard Clarke was hired while Ronald Reagan was president and he served under Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. If he were attacking the Bush administration on political grounds one would think that it would have been noticed during the Reagan or first Bush administrations. One question to ask is what changed? Did Richard Clarke change, or did US foreign policy change?

Richard Clarke makes an excellent point when he talks about the cost of the War in Iraq. He points out the seven major costs of the War in Iraq.

1) There have been over 2000 American solders killed. But also contractors, journalists and aid workers have also been killed.
2) But even more than this is the large number of American wounded. If the number of soldiers killed seems lower than the Vietnam War we should notice that the number of American wounded is much higher. Many soldiers have survived in Iraq who would have died in previous wars.
3) Looking at the war through American eyes we don’t see the tramendous number of Iraqis that have been killed. The Pentagon estimates that greater than 20,000 Iraqis have been killed. Johns Hopkins on the other hand used a sophisticated model and estimated more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in this conflict.
4) In addition to lives, there is also a financial cost of over $300 billion so far. This is equal to the entire defense budget a few years ago. It is about the same a the yearly discretionary spending of the US government. Many people can imagine all of the good that could have been done if this money were spent in the United States instead. We could have made the US much safer by spending a fraction of this amount within the US borders on anti-terrorism efforts alone.
5) In addition to the cost of blood and treasure we need to realize that we have alienated the Muslim World. Attitudes in the Muslim World have changed since the invasion of Iraq. There is much data from the last thirty years that shows a very positive attitude toward the US. The US presence in Iraq as seen through Arab media has changed the Muslim attitude and Muslim image of the US.
6) Worse than just this increased negative attitude toward the US there has been a strengthening of Terrorism. Terrorism experts agree unanimously that terrorism has been helped by the presence of US in Iraq. People come to Iraq to learn terrorism methods and techniques and take that back to their home country here they lie in wait in sleeper cells.
7) Perhaps worse of all, the credibility of the US government in the eyes of the people around the world, governments around the world and the people of the US. Imagine the US trying to convince anyone of a looming threat. Who would believe the US government now?

So, is the cost worth the benefit? We have some benefits, so let’s look at then to put the costs in line with the benefit of the Iraq War.

Gains from Iraq War
1) We got rid of Saddam Hussein, an evil tyrant. Iraq is better with out him.
2) We are now assured us that Iraq does not have WMD. There were other ways to find this out. Condi and Powell actually made a statement in 2001 that said that Iraq was not a threat. There are 24 other nations with WMD, should we plan a new war?
3) And, Democracy has been created. Although the Constitution is already a threat to Democracy. The constitution separates the different religious and cultural differences in the country. Enshrining these differences in the Constitution will assure conflict in the future.

The most ironic effect of the war must be the unintended result. This is the fact that Iran benefited more than anyone else has. In fact Iran has achieved all of the aims of the Iran/Iraq War. They wanted to throw Saddam Hussein out of power because they wanted to be neighbors with a religious state. They wanted to eliminate Iraq as a war threat. This has been done. And, they wanted to take Shiite religious leaders under their arm and allow Iran to have influence over them. This has also been done with the election of a Shiite majority. In addition, Iran has many covert troops and intelligence officers within the borders of Iraq. They are on friendly terms with the Iraq defense ministers. When the defense ministers of Iran and Iraq spoke to each other in Farsi during a meeting and proclaimed that America will eventually leave, but Iran will still be there. Truth is stranger than fiction could ever be. After all the money that the Reagan administration fed to Saddam Hussein to defeat Iran in the 1980s we have turned around and handed the Iranians everything that they wanted.

So, in the end, why are we still in Iraq? Well the pro-war group tells us that there will be chaos in Iraq if we leave. But, they should realize that there is already chaos in Iraq. So, how much will the chaos change if we pull out our troops? Many experts actually believe that the chaos will subside if we pull out our troops. They say that 90% of the insurgent activity is related to the anti-American feeling. The remaining 10% should be able to be contained by the Iraqi army and police force.

Is the cost of the Iraq War worth the benefits?

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Feature Creep

I was wondering what the Radical Right has been saying during this time of collapse of Conservative thought. I found one interesting comment made by a frustrated right wing nut. This guy says: “…I think it's a primo idea to pull out of Iraq now and waste all the effort we've put into getting them to the brink of full democracy so that the insurgents can run wild after we leave…” in a sarcastic tone. The idea is that we would have nothing to show for our efforts in Iraq. But this is wrong, we have accomplished something.

Wasn't the whole reason for the invasion to get rid of Saddam, or WMD? Both of those tasks are complete. OK, Democracy for Iraq wasn't even on the initial list of goals. Isn't proper management style to make a list of goals and accomplish them? Our list is accomplished. Doing more than that is known as feature creep, and is considered very poor management.

Yes, God Bless Our Troops and bring them home in an organized orderly way! It is irresponsible to leave our troops there as targets for the terrorists. Follow John Murtha's plan to withdraw troops slowly over six months and gives the Iraqis more responsibility.

At Least the Democrats have a plan, too bad the Republicans don't. Rumsfeld even said yesterday on ABC that he was never for the invasion. The Republican war machine is beginning to Rust....

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No One Knows the Truth and Maybe No One Ever Will

This should be a no-brainer, but perception tends to be more powerful than the truth. This is why the Bush administration continues to practice lying in the hopes that their loyal supporters will cling to the lies in order to justify their shameful act of justifying the unnecessary and unjust Iraq War.

Dick Cheney has backed off on his anti-Democracy rhetoric. He was shot down for calling critics of the Iraq War unpatriotic. Just because this strategy worked for the 2004 Presidential election and John Kerry was smeared, the American people are beginning to wake up and smell the slime. So, now Dick Cheney is narrowing his attack to the dissent in the US Senate. He claims that the Senators had the same intelligence as the White House. You can read about it right here.

But, Cheney is wrong about this simple fact, they know it and they continue to lie about it. Many people have pointed this out over and over again, but Cheney continues to ignore the facts and create an alternative reality where he hopes to find the ignorant Bush sheep to follow him. Of course these lies and deception don’t die away easily. So, Senator Bob Graham goes into the details of what he knew, what the White House knew and what the general members of the Senate knew. You can read for yourself the details that Senator Bob Graham gives on how the Senate was deceived by the Bush administration into support the debacle in Iraq.

Suddenly Donald Rumsfeld came out yesterday on the Sunday talk shows and told the world that he wasn’t in favor of the Iraq invasion. So, even some people in the White House who knew the intelligence knew that this was a bad idea. This was broadcast on ABC Television yesterday, but the liberal mainstream media has not jumped on this. Obviously the media might not be as far left as the radical right wants you to believe. But, those who care, the Iraqis have jumped on this important information.

Here’s the quote:

"I didn't advocate invasion," Rumsfeld told ABC television, when asked if he would have advocated an invasion of Iraq if he had known that no weapons of mass destruction would be found there.

The US Defense chief added: "I wasn't asked," when asked whether he supported the March 2003 invasion.

So, whom do we believe? Is Rumsfeld lying here? Or, was Richard Clarke lying when told us about Rumsfeld’s support for the invasion? The lies continue and the only way to fix this mess is “regime change.” Impeach Bush and Cheney!

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Watching the News in Spanish

I just love trying to improve my Spanish by watching the Tele Mundo News. I generally watch it in the evening after I have already watched the general news in English. This way I already know what the news is about, and then I can more easily pick up new words, the way they are used in a sentence and what they mean. Since 90% of the stories are pretty much the same stories that are on the English station news.

In addition to the free Spanish lessons I also pick up the other 10% of the news that does not appear on the general network news. This stuff is probably on the cable news stations, but since I don’t get cable or satellite I don’t really have access to “all the information.” But, that’s OK I like to be surprised from time to time.

So, last night after watching my local news and Chris Matthews on NBC I flipped over to the Tele Mundo. I had seen the first three news stories and I was surprising myself with my increasing Spanish vocabulary when suddenly they showed a clip of a frustrated George W Bush trying to open some doors in China. Then, they went to commercial. “What an ironic metaphor for Bush’s trip to Asian,” I thought. He went there to open doors, and they all seem to be locked.

You can read the story about this incident, and watch the video here. It isn’t the Tele Mundo version, but a Reuters text version and an ABC video version.

But, I was thinking about this simple incident in the larger context. George W Bush doesn’t ask questions and he doesn’t listen to people who are trying to help him out when he is in trouble. You can see that exact character flaw play itself out in the ABC video of the moment. He is bound and determined to get through the locked doors. He obviously doesn’t have a plan or know what he is doing, just like the situation in Iraq.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fear and War

Pennsylvania Democratic Representative John Murtha made a historic speech on Thursday calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. He made some very important points about the progress of the War and the deception used to deceive the American people into supporting the War in the first place. He pointed out how keeping the American troops where they are actually prevents the Iraqis from taking the responsibility for their own country.

Well, the Republicans, who lately seem to be more about deception than truth accused Representative Murtha of suggesting that we "Cut and Run," the famous scare tactic line of the 2004 presidential election. Of course Representative Murtha actually made no such suggestion. Instead Representative Murtha was suggesting that we draw back and put Iraqi forces in the hottest areas but keep the US in a support role. His suggestion is all about giving responsibility to the Iraqis in order to get them to move to the next level.

The Republicans sensed an opportunity for more deception, instead of listening to Representative Murtha's constructive criticism of the War. The Republican deception was to offer a ridiculous bill suggesting that the US should withdraw troops immediately and go home. The Republicans hope that the American people won't be able to tell the difference between Representative John Murtha's plan and the Republican's plan of "Cut and Run." After all this was a Republican bill offered for a vote, therefore it should be considered a Republican plan, right? Actually the bill was offered as a way to play politics with the War in Iraq when we have soldiers lives at stake.

It is all about lies and deception for the Republican Party. They bring a bill to the floor that has nothing to do with what Representative John Murtha was advocating. Of course he voted against it. Only three Democrats voted for the "Cut and Run" bill proving that even the most liberal Democrats are not for this absurd idea. But, a real idea that Representative John Murtha was advocating did not get a vote. Why? Because the Republicans are afraid that this idea may have a majority support and it would go against George W Bush's lame idea of staying the course no matter what the Iraqi people want or need. And, to top it off, George W Bush used more deception today in China when he said, "I know that the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops by congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way. I disagree with his position." Six months is not immediate! And giving the Iraqis some responsibility wasn't even mentioned. George W Bush is the anti-Abe Lincoln, he cannot tell the truth.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

God Chooses to Reveal Himself

God has many aspects that humans experience in their response to the Supernatural. I believe that there is one God, but He reveals himself in many ways. Humans interpret this revelation in different ways and create for themselves a personal understanding of God for themselves.

If you see God as nature, as the Goddess, as a man on a cloud, as a spirit that moves deep inside yourself or as a relationship with Jesus you are seeing God in different ways that God has chosen to reveal himself.

Since man is human he can never know the full extent of God, therefore he must except what he can understand.


Its Friday, and I thought that I would reflect on the past in this post.

In the 1960s, the heyday of anti-war protests I was too young to participate. I understood the concept of protesting the war. Later I realized that the anti-war protest movement grew out of the civil rights protest movement. The goals and the objective these two protest movements was clear, disrupt the regular flow of everyday life, and someone will take notice. In this way your message gets out and people listen.

After 1972 the anti-war protests began to subside. The message was heard and the slow withdrawal of troops from Vietnam had begun. By 1975 people were more concerned about the next party than the next war. The American people believed that the lawmakers had learned their lesson and Vietnam could never happen again. Of course that sentiment is no longer so obvious today.

In 1979 I was a college freshman beginning to understand the ways of the world. I was not eager to actually protest anything, because I didn’t feel strongly enough about any cause. Even if I did feel strong about some cause that was popular at the time it would have been difficult to motivate anyone else to participate in any type of protest. There were people who would stand in front of grocery stores protesting the way our food was grown, but they never offered a solution and the effort seemed futile. There were students at Oberlin, a very liberal campus that protested the Apartheid in South Africa, but I only saw six or seven students standing on the steps of the administration building. The rest of the students just walked by saying good morning to their friends.

I had been a photographer and columnist for my high school newspaper, so naturally I joined the University newspaper as well. And, in the fall of 1979 Iranian students over ran the United States Embassy in Tehran. The students took hostages and it wasn’t clear what should be done about the situation.

When the editor of the newspaper called me up and told me that the students were planning a protest I was surprised. How could there be a protest when I hadn’t heard anything myself. This kind of information would have been flowing through the dorm gossip grapevine, I thought. My editor told me that I should go take pictures of the event, which was a no brainer. But, I was confused as to what the protesters wanted and how they were going to get their message out.

The protesters had called the local TV stations and organized the event for seven in the evening. Of course this didn’t make much sense to me, but the students didn’t want the protest to interfere with classes or dinner. I went to the steps of the chapel, a traditional gathering place for groups. There were about twenty people standing around, some of them holding signs proclaiming the destruction of Iran. I then realized that this was not an anti-war protest, but a pro-war protest. The group was advocating dropping nuclear bombs on Iran in response to the Iranian government’s failure to handle the students in Tehran.

The students stood around for ten or fifteen minutes, but the TV cameras didn’t show up. It is quite understandable that when twenty students standing around advocating the use of nuclear weapons just might not be newsworthy. Then someone shouted, “They’re here!” The group got very excited about the idea of TV cameras actually covering their event. “Where!? Where!?” they shouted. And soon the whole group began running to the front of the school. There was a huge grass lawn on the front side of the campus. But, since the classroom buildings and dormitories were all on the other side of the administration building there weren’t many students in this expansive lawn. But, there was an unoccupied TV truck parked on the lawn with its satellite dish pointing into the sky. I took tons of pictures. My favorite was a guy wearing a sandwich board saying “Nuke Iran.” Milling around in front of the TV truck.

The students were upset that the TV cameras weren’t here either. Where could they be? Some of the guys in the group decided that climbing up on the TV truck would bring the cameras around. Soon there were four guys standing on top of a TV truck getting the others to yell, “Nuke Iran!” This was the most surreal protest that I had ever witnessed, and it wasn’t newsworthy for their efforts. Instead it was newsworthy for how they missed the entire point of what a protest was and what the message should be.

Obviously, the TV guys never found the protesters, because they showed up at the steps of chapel and the group had gone to the front of the school. The group at the truck had a very short attention span, and they weren’t willing to wait around for the TV crew to return. And, even if they did I don’t think that they would have been to happy to have these students climbing on their truck. I submitted the photo of the guy with the “Nuke Iran” sandwich board and it was published in the paper without a story, just a caption. And, about a year later I showed the same picture to my editor saying, “Remember this?” And, he didn’t even remember that this “protest” even happened. Then he published the same picture again with a caption saying, “Remember When?”

The moral of the story is that your protest should have a message, point and plan other than the protest itself.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Overprotective Parents

Children are a huge responsibility. And, of course that is a huge understatement. The outcome of raising children is not only important for parents, but for society in general. After all, that’s why society deems it important enough to spend money on schooling for every child, not just the wealthy children who can pay for an expensive education.

But, as we all know, raising children is a complex task. Children need to be told how to do basic things. Children need to practice doing basic things. And, Children need to learn how to determine when to use their basic knowledge for the good of themselves and society. Otherwise the American experiment of Democracy is bound to fall by the wayside. Children need to learn enough so that when they are adults they will be able to listen to complex issues and reason which way to vote on complex issues. Because if they defer their responsibility to what the flashy ads tell them to do the flashiest advertising will persuade the most people and we no longer have a legitimate Democracy.

But, how do parents raise the best possible children to grow into the best possible adults?

If parents are watching their children every waking moment telling their children what to do at every possible instant will the child learn to make the right choices? In this case a child will never make a mistake, isn’t that good for the child? I think that we all know that a child who is told what to do and when to do it will come to expect to be told what to do and when to do it. In the long run that parent can not be there at every moment and when the parent is no longer there the child will not know what to do and when to do it. This is the fate of the overprotected child. What seems to be the best thing for the child in the short term becomes the worst thing for the child in the long term.

It turns out that America is making the same mistake with Iraq. America through George W Bush has determined that Iraq needs some help becoming an adult nation in the eyes of the world. He has determined that if America show Iraq how to be a Democracy then Iraq will become a Democracy. Since the forceful destruction of the Iraq infrastructure the United States has tried to teach the Iraqis how to become a Democracy. They told Iraq how to have elections to create a constitutional convention, like the United States did 200 years ago. They to Iraq how to write a constitution, like the United States did 200 years ago. They told the Iraqis how fast they should create the constitution. They told the Iraqis how fast to have elections. They told the Iraqis to create a police force and a military. They told the Iraqis how to control the outbreaks of violence and how to deal with the insurgency. Basically they continue to hold the Iraqis hands every step of the way. So, do you think that the Iraqi people are being trained to be an independent or dependent nation?

Just like a child who has been protected and never given the chance to be independent the Iraqis are gradually becoming more and more dependent on the protection of the United States. When the Iraqis are trying to walk as a democracy the Americans are holding their hand every step of the way. When America finally lets go Iraq may no longer believe that it can stand on its own. This faith in ones self is more important than the protection, Iraq is beginning to believe that it can not do without. Iraq needs to begin to stand on its own and begin taking that step to adulthood.

This is like the conservative parent that believes that the local high school contains “evil” so they decide to home school their child. The child may learn quite a bit from the home schooling experience, but will the child know what to do when real danger presents itself. It could be at some future time in the workplace or the University. The child faces the real test between “good” and “evil.” But they have never been prepared with all the normal smaller tests along the way? The Iraq situation may face the same choice between “good” and “evil” whenever we finally get up the courage to let the child stand on her own.

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More Religious Study

I have received a few comments on my “Objective Religious Study?” post, and I thought that I would share an answer to one question. The question came from a Christian who says: “The point is: There is ONE God, ONE Truth and ONE way into heaven. Not many.” Obviously the strength of any religion is to promote itself as the one true religion, and Christianity is no exception. Early Christians did this as do current day Christians. So, there is no doubt that this idea would find its way into the Bible.

In response I said that there are many different religions and only one could possibly be the true religion with all the correct answers. All of the other religions have at least one point that they disagree on. My commenter has taken the point of view that HER chosen religion is the correct true religion. This is based on whatever lead to the religion - mainly fate. The odds are that her religion is wrong and she doesn’t know which things in her religion are the ones that are wrong. Maybe the quote that she quoted me is one of those things that is wrong. No one knows for sure which parts of their chosen religion are wrong, but certainly every religion has pieces that are wrong.

And, like anything else in the world, when you choose to take an absolute position on anything you are more likely to be wrong than right because we live in a grey world. Jesus pointed out these grey aspects in his teachings over and over again. This happened when the Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus being a heretic they would create difficult problems that have difficult "grey" solutions. The Pharisees addressed the issue of working on the Sabbath when they saw Jesus perform a miracle on the Sabbath. Surely he can't be from God if he did this, they said. Or if you want the exact quote: ““Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.” Which is John 9:16 from the story of Jesus healing the blind man. So, is Jesus allowed to break the Sabbath? Surely he could have waited until Sunday to heal the man, and still keep the Sabbath. But Jesus is teaching us that the scriptures are not to be taken literally. Similarly there may be one God, but which religion knows him? There may be One truth, but does any religion know what that truth is? And, there may be One way to God, but what is that way? If we look at the culmination of facts from all religious people who have spent years of their lives studying this very question the conclusion is that the “ONE” way to God is through being a “GOOD” person.

So, when John says that there is One God, One Truth and One way to heaven how do you know that you have found it? Perhaps those who wanted to make a point have corrupted the ideas. When John denounces Thomas but the other Gospels don't shouldn't John's motives be held in question?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Touché To Chuck Hagel

I have to agree with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska on this one. I know, lately its been rare for me to find anything coming out of the Republican Party that I can agree with, but it hasn’t always been that way. I have occasionally found things from the right side of the aisle that I could agree with. But, that was before the Religious Right took over the Republican Party. It was before the Bush administration thought that borrowing and spending was a better way to steal money from Americans than taxing and spending. It was before huge tax cuts for the wealthy stockholders. And, it was before the Bush administration decided to forgo world opinion and invade a non-threatening sovereign country.

I have agreed with Senator John McCain when he was the lone Republican to stand up to the White House. But, today I have found another Republican that I can agree with. Maybe Chuck Hagel is worried about his reelection in 2008, but that seems a bit far off. He’s from Nebraska after all and doesn’t have to worry about Democrats effecting his solid Christian base of support, right?

So, I was surprised when Senator Hagel said,

“the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them.”

Does this mean that someone in Nebraska disagrees with George W Bush? But, I have to agree with Senator Hagel, this is completely true. This is what makes America what it is, a Democracy, not a theocracy.

But this wasn’t just some rhetoric to quell some Nebraska unrest, because he also said,

“To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."

I have to say that those words are pretty strong. And coming from a Republican they certainly carry a bit more weight in the minds of the moderate Americans like myself. I finely feel that the tide is turning and Americans who feel that this unjust and unnecessary War can fairly be criticized without the auto-response of “patriotism” being evoked around every corner.

The cherry on the top of this Sundae however was when he accused the Bush administration of using rhetoric to “divide the country.” Touché! Maybe George W Bush was wrong about being a “Uniter.” At least one Republican thinks so - he called him a “Divider.”

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Objective Religious Study?

Ninety-nine percent of all religions are wrong. How do I know? I know, because all religions contradict each other. And, most religions believe that they are the one true religion. If these religions contradict each and they claim to be the one true religion then only one of them can be right and the rest must be wrong.

However, if a religion is wrong is that bad? Most people would agree that it depends on what the religion is wrong about. If the main issue is whether the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Jesus or a symbol of community one could argue that there is little serious difference between the beliefs and it doesn’t really matter who is wrong and who is right on this issue. Since the entire concept of Christianity pertains to community it makes little sense to even argue about this issue at all and instead concentrate on bringing the Christian community together.

But, who’s to say that any Christian sect is the one true religion, if one exists at all? After all, Paul and Jesus didn’t even agree on several points. In fact, the Bible contradicts itself in many ways and in many places. Add to that 2000 years of theologians creating ways to reconcile different ideas in the Bible. Then stepping back and looking at the Bible we find that it contradicts the observations of the real world. The Earth is round and orbits the sun, which aren’t even the center of the galaxy let alone the center of the universe. There is no water above the firmament. In fact there isn’t any firmament; gravity holds the atmosphere to the earth and is not contained by any material.

At this point we should consider what Religion is anyway. Religion is man’s natural response to the supernatural. Supernatural in this context is anything that is beyond the natural world. Since the supernatural is beyond the natural world science can not measure is by definition. Science is the observation of natural world. Religion is how man responds to the supernatural. And, since religion involves response to something that isn’t part of our natural world it gives us a handle on the supernatural.

For a moment let us assume that the supernatural exists outside the realm of our natural world and man can recognize and observe it through some unknown ways. All religions agree that man has some contact with the supernatural. If they believed that there was no possible contact in either direction there would be no point to the religion. So, for this argument we will not consider atheism.

Let us step back and look at religion as a scientific measurement device. Now, I hear some groaning and doubting going on out there. This is because all religions believe that they are the one and only true religion and they already know everything there is to know about man’s response to the supernatural. Take one moment to imagine that you might be wrong, because we already know that 99% of all religions are wrong about some aspect of their belief. The odds are pretty good that your religion is wrong about something. So, instead of concentrating on where other religions might be wrong we should look at religions in general and discover what things are similar, because similar responses to the supernatural are bound to be important responses.

So, what do religions in general tell us about man’s response to the Supernatural? Religions tell us that there is at least one supernatural being and respecting and honoring that being is a good thing. The majority of religions believe that this supernatural being created the universe and everything in it and this being cares about his creation. We should also consider the possibility of multiple supernatural beings, but these manifestations could be multiple aspects of one being. Abraham realized that one being manifesting multiple aspects was more powerful than multiple beings manifesting one aspect each. So religion concluded the belief in one God was more powerful than the belief in multiple gods.

But, religion tells us more than just the nature of the Supernatural. Religion tells us about behavior chiefly how we should behave. Since Religion is man’s response to the supernatural, man wants to know how he should behave. Through out human history there have been those who have devoted themselves to religious life. In general Religious life is concerned with fixation on the supernatural in an effort to learn what the humans should know about the supernatural. Over thousands of years man has learned quite a bit about the supernatural and what is expected of humans on this planet in this universe. He has divined that some behaviors are pleasing to the supernatural being while other behaviors displease the supernatural being.
Across the board the majority of religions agree that murder, stealing and lying displease the almighty. It is also fairly obvious that disrespecting any being would certainly displease that being, therefore disrespecting the supernatural being is bad behavior. It turns out that all these behaviors also help maintain order in society.

One aspect of religion is that it evolves over time. Primitive religions recognized the supernatural in the power of nature. Each aspect of power became a supernatural being. Lightening, Ocean, Volcano, Wind and Sun evolved into gods. Then these aspects merged into the concept of Mother Nature or a Super God or Titan. Abraham then merged all power into the aspect of one God and monotheism was born. But religion didn’t stagnate, instead it continued to evolve. Other religions also evolved as well. The evolution of religion was concerned with two main issues. First, how should man behave? And, how should man communicate with the supernatural.

Along the lines of behavior man recorded stories, allegories, myths, lessons and real history in order to have examples that describe what people should do in every possible situation. Hypothetical behavior is one thing, but there are always the particular where one needs to decide between two evil choices.

Along the lines of communication man studied prayer, meditation, ritual and contemplation. As the religious continued to study communication by using drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, pain, hunger and thirst. Hallucinatory images were revered as a form of communication with the supernatural. Over time these communications were compiled into the wisdom of each individual religion. But, since each religion believed itself to be the one true religion these ideas remained isolated and unpruned.

Unlike the free market place of ideas religions tended to keep its ideas in isolation. Because of this mistakes in understanding the intention of the supernatural being could not be corrected. In a free market of ideas the silly ones would be weeded out, as other religions that had better communications with the almighty on certain issues would prevail. In this way one super religion would evolve for all people on Earth with more of the best aspects of every religious idea in the free market place of ideas.

We can look at how Jesus helped religion evolve into a better form. In his three years of public life Jesus’ main message was: “Use love and understanding in addition to the Law to build a better community.” Jesus is saying that following the law pleases God, but when the law causes harm, use compassion instead. Break the “no work on the Sabbath” law when someone needs your help. Why should we do this? Because we are all sons and daughters of God our Father and therefore all of humanity is family. And, family takes care of each other. Jesus described taking care of the lowest in society because it is the right thing to do. Obviously this is a major step forward in the evolution of religion.

When someone does something amazing they earn respect. Sometimes when someone does something outstanding people repeat and exaggerate the feat. In the case of the amazing Jesus some people even called him God. Of course when Jesus called himself the Son of God some people claimed that he was proclaiming himself God, because a Son of a God must be a God, Right. But these same people ignore the fact that Jesus also called God "Our Father.” That makes us all sons and daughters of God and does not imply that each one of us are gods, right?

The one thing that I am sure about is that no one knows what the one true religion is. In fact, I believe that no religion has everything right. On the other hand, I also believe that every religion has something right so we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The wise person realizes this and knows that there are many paths to God and the free market of ideas is where they are tested.

Monday, November 14, 2005


One could argue that God is responsible for the recent conflicts the United States is involved in. In Afghanistan God told the Taliban that they should subjugate women to the role of second class citizens. God told the Taliban that al Qaeda was on his side. God told the Taliban to make sure that infidels should pay the price for being infidels. So, when God told Osama bin Laden to have his secret cells in the US to fly fuel laden jets into the Pentagon, World Trade Center and White House we shouldn’t be surprised, it seems like a natural extension of the things that God wills.

So, when God told George W Bush to invade Iraq it also shouldn’t come as a surprise. God seems to be a violent sort. If we look through the Old Testament we see many incidents of God telling the Hebrews to fight for their rights. Many people died in these battles, but the morals of the battles seemed to be faith yields victory. The side in the battle that had the greatest faith would always win the battle. When David killed Goliath it was against all odds, but David had faith. So, when God tells al Qaeda to attack the US and the response is God telling George W Bush to invade Iraq. And, then God tells al Qaeda to go to Iraq and defend the people in Iraq He is simply setting the stage for the typical test of faith that He has always done through out the Bible.

But, one thing bothers me about this.

When God sent Jesus to Earth to show the world a new way God did not test Jesus’ faith in War. Maybe because God already knew that Jesus had infinitely strong faith he realized that if Jesus had been summoned to fight the Roman occupation it would have been an unfair fight. After all, since Jesus was God he could have performed an instantaneous miracle that would defeat the Romans in one fell swoop and that wouldn’t be sporting.

But Jesus, who is believed to be God on Earth by many went beyond saying that it would have been an unfair fight. In fact, Jesus was teaching a new way deeply soaked with love. He didn’t tell us to go fight sinners, he said to love sinners. He told us to love God above all others and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So, how do we reconcile Jesus as God teaching us to love our neighbor and turn the other cheek with the God who tells the people to fight in order to test their faith? Could it be that God’s will was evolving over time? Certainly that can’t be true, because God is perfect and doesn’t need to change, right? So, if God didn’t change then what changed? Obviously man must have changed with the coming of Jesus. When God came to Earth and lived as a man he showed man how he should live, right? Or, maybe God living through Jesus had experienced living as man and therefore experiences human love in a new way.

I believe that the whole problem here is that people don’t and will never fully understand what happened when Jesus tried to teach us. Every person who has every thought about Jesus and his mission on Earth knows that something special happened, but every person’s understanding of this major event is clouded by personal experience. Therefore not one human can understand the full extent of Jesus’ mission. This is not to say that some people haven’t understood parts of his mission. If fact, that is what happens all the time. People understand part of what Jesus taught and they use one part or another as a blueprint for living.

This brings us back to Iraq. Supporters of the idea that people with the most faith will win the battle simply cherry pick the evidence from the Bible that justifies this concept. The supporters of fighting in Iraq sincerely believe that they are right, because they have cheery picked facts to support their justification. But they downplay the facts that Jesus was proclaimed the Prince of Peace and advocated turning the other cheek. But, when someone wants to justify something that they want to do to will find the evidence that supports what they want to do and ignore the calls from religious leaders telling them to give peace a chance. They ignore the CIA facts that doubted how serious a threat that Saddam Hussein was. They deny UN inspectors from doing their job. And they read the Bible, Intelligence Reports, and Psychological Profiles with an eye on the prize. And, it shouldn’t be a surprise!

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Who Is Re-Writing History?

Let us go back in time to September 2002. The US Senate had a slim majority of Democrats who were giving George W Bush a hard time. George W Bush was trying to get permission to wage his war in Iraq, but the Democratic Senate wouldn’t roll over and play dead. If you don’t believe me, read this story.

But, today George W Bush has come out criticizing the Democratic leadership who is demanding the truth about the run up to war in Iraq. Looking back at the fall of 2002 we see that the Democrats did not go along with the Presidents wishes and had many reservations. Today, George W Bush is accusing the Democrats of rewriting history.

The facts are that the Democrats did not want the Iraq War unless the UN agreed. The Bush administration, of course, did not want this language in the authorization to go to War. If you read this you will see that it is clear that Democrats were split over this bill, and the “fact” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was the deciding factor for those Democrats to vote on this resolution.

Based on these clear facts, the Democrats certainly have a beef with the administration. The administration was cherry picking the evidence on Iraq’s possession of WMD to win the Democrats votes. If we now know that the administration knew that Iraq did not have these weapons, but pushed the idea to win Democrat votes the Democrats have every right to be angry.

So, when we add to the mix the fact that Scooter Libby lied to the FBI and the Grand Jury to cover up his indiscretions, we should wonder why he lied. What were those indiscretions? Is it simply the fact that Joe Wilson was a threat to the administration? If Scooter didn’t want the investigators to discover him as the source he must have believed that what he did was wrong. Also, Karl Rove also lied in his testimony, but he was much more coy and was able to mold his testimony as he learned what the prosecutor knew. Why wasn’t Karl Rove open and up front about this serious threat to national security? I believe its because the Bush administration has proven over and over again that they don’t really care about national security. They care about Republican Security.

What we know now that we didn’t know at the time of the run up to the War in Iraq is that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction or even the capability to manufacture them. But that isn’t the most important revelation. The most important new evidence is that the Bush administration had a campaign of deception in which Karl Rove and Scooter Libby leaked information to trusted reporters. These trusted reporters published the leaked information and the administration used the published information to support its claim for the invasion of Iraq. The administration pointed to these claims and was able to sway 25 Democrats to vote in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq and prevented the authorization to include a stipulation that the President should get the support of the UN before the invasion.

As time goes on we all learn that the Bush administration does not tell the truth and they don’t care about national security. And we keep learning more and more every day.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

SNAFU in the Senate Sheds Light on Republican Politics

It seems to me that this little incident makes it clear how things have been operating in the Republican congress.

The point isn’t whether important or classified information is leaked. The point is to score political points. The announcement of an investigation into a leak of classified information is a good thing. But, for Republicans this could be a “bad” thing if it turns out that the leak is a Republican Senator. The image of doing an investigation is “good.” The image of finding a Republican guilty is “bad.”

So, let’s look at what happened.

Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist decide to announce a joint House-Senate investigation into the leak of secret black sites where the CIA conducts its torture on the worst terrorist suspects. Of course, America doesn’t “torture” prisoners, they conduct interrogations that are carefully not defined as torture. Of course they need to do these “interrogations” in some country hidden from the eyes of the US justice system so that they don’t get caught doing things that civilized people call torture to suspected terrorists. Of course, the American system considers these people to be innocent until proven guilty, that’s why we need to keep the sites secret, or the suspects may be able to have rights and lawyers. But, we are Americans and we instinctively make sure that the innocent suspects are not tortured - wink wink nod nod know what I mean.

So, from the Republican point of view letting the American public know about these secret places is a “bad” thing, because now the Bush administration needs to admit that they actually exist. And, they may need to tell the public that they actually are torturing innocent until proven guilty terrorist suspects at these hidden places. It isn’t good for international relations either, because no country will willingly admit to having a hidden CIA torture site within its borders.

So, the Republican leadership obviously believes that it must have been a Democrat who leaked this information. This is because the Republican leadership believes that Democrats are “bad.” And leaking this information is “bad” therefore a Democrat must have done it. Except, the Democrats were not given this information, because it was revealed in a secret Republican meeting. Republicans feared that if the Democrats knew about this they would use it against the Bush administration. It’s easy to see how the public might not like the idea of the CIA secretly torturing prisoners and innocent until proven guilty terrorist suspects. This is especially true after President Bush told the world that Americans don’t use torture - unless we call it something else.

But, when Senator Trent Lott told Senator Frist that the source of the Leak was most likely a Republican Bill Frist thought that the investigation might not be such a good idea after all. This is because another scandal in the Republican Party wouldn’t be “good” for the Party’s image. And, after all Republican politics is more about image than getting to the bottom of who leaked classified information, right?

This whole story just emphasizes that the Republican Party wants to have all the power, do what they want and not be accountable to the people of the United States. They want to create an image of caring about national security, but they don’t want to actually do anything that actually protects the American people. They want to say that they believe in Human Rights, but they want to be able to secretly violate human rights when they want to. And, the sad thing is that this incident is so complex that most of the people who voted for George W Bush will choose not to even try and understand this. This is because they want make sure that we have a moral and ethical President in the White House. It’s too bad that they don’t understand what kind of monster they have created.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Protesting Made Easy

It doesn’t take much to protest the Iraq War.

In our town we have been protesting the War since before the invasion. We have an organized group the gathers once a week, sometimes more. We gather at the town center at rush hour on Friday night. We dress in black, mourning the dead soldiers and Iraqi civilians. We hold signs of protest in silence. It doesn’t take much to make an impact. Five or ten people attract attention and sometimes more people to join in. Since it is a regular gathering everyone knows that it is happening and they show up again and again.

At special times we meet for additional protests. When the 1000th and the 2000th soldiers died we held a candle light vigil. We held candles at the War Memorial building in town.

The point however is to keep the disaster of the Iraq War in the mind of the people. Multiple regular protests multiple the effect in the memory of those who witness this from week to week.

And, it helps if you have a group of rowdy pro-war protestors who make lots of noise and yell and scream at you. They draw the attention of those driving down the street. The average person with out an opinion look at the choice between the rowdy warriors and the serene anti-war protestors and they can form their own opinions. Maturity generally looks better.

So, my point is that it doesn’t take much to organize your own war protest. The key is to protest often and be consistent and regular about your gathering…

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California Politics

Yesterday’s election results say a lot about California politics and they say a lot about elections in general.

For example, in 1987, the California Legislature enacted A.B. 2274, which altered California law to require parental consent or a court order before a minor could obtain an abortion. In 1987 the California Assembly had 44 Democrats and 34 Republicans. And, the California Senate had 24 Democrats, 14 Republicans and 1 Independent. So, it wasn’t like the Republicans took over and suddenly wanted to create more restrictive abortion standards. One could certainly argue that the representatives of the people studied the issue and created a law based on what they believe their constituents wanted.

But, August 5, 1997 the California Supreme Court ruled that law requiring a minor to get parental consent or a court order before obtaining an abortion is unconstitutional. The law cannot be enforced. The standard Republican view here is that liberal activist judges are legislating from the bench here. But, what is the will of the people? Is the legislature acting with the view of the people? Or, was the Court acting with the view of the people?

Well, yesterday California Proposition 73 asked the people the question. In fact, yesterday the question wasn’t should minors get parental consent or a court order to obtain an abortion, which was the original law. Instead, proposition 73 just required parental notification. Hence only a letter needed to be sent to the parents of a minor before an abortion could be performed. And the people have spoken and they replied, NO!

From these actions we should begin to question the anti-abortion stance of the Radical Right, at least in California. It is quite clear that the majority of Californians are pro-choice. Not only are they pro-choice for adult women, but they are pro-choice for minor women as well. So, when the California law above finally gets to the US Supreme Court this year what would a ruling in favor of the 1987 parental consent law mean? Ruling for the law would clearly be against the will of the majority of Californians. Does this mean that if the court rules against the will of the people and votes for the law would activist judges cast them? It seems that yesterday’s vote turns the tables on the activist judge argument.

But, abortion isn’t the only strange outcome of yesterday’s California elections.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election for California governor two years ago he won by virtue of his celebrity persona. It was quite obvious because he refused to take a stand on any important issue. During the debates he answered questions with fluff and no substance. But his supporters were enamored with his tough guy image and voted him into office. People of actual substance like Arianna Huffington were laughed at when they actually put in a good effort to answer the questions.

Yesterday was Arnold’s test on the issues. He invested 7 million dollars of his own money to drive around the California legislature and get four laws passed directly by the people. And yesterday we see that the people actually don’t like the laws that Arnold actually would like to pass. It’s too bad that Arnold didn’t take the time to ask the people what they thought. Its too bad that Arnold didn’t spend some time with experts trying to create laws that actually make sense.

At some point California Republicans will need to realize that Californians don’t want the vision of George W Bush, Tom DeLay, or any of the Radical Right conservatives currently in power in Washington. Conservative Californians are more libertarian in their views than these social conservatives. If you add this mix to the Liberal Californians the vision of California’s future is much different than that of the current Washington monolith of political thought. Californians will never walk in lock step with the Republican sheepal. Yesterday’s elections are the proof that most Californians already knew. And, as they say, as California goes so goes the rest of the country. We can only hope that this maxim still hold in the future.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Let Me Off the Crazy Bus

Senator Christopher Bond said on the News Hours today, “America does not use torture.” However, he continued to argue for an exception for the CIA to use “other means” to interrogate prisoners. But, he continued to say that America does not use torture.

Once again, you can’t have it both ways.

So, he was asked, why can’t we just pass a law defining exactly what is allowed and what is not allowed. Then we don’t have a problem, right?

He made the point that defining what torture just wasn’t a good idea, because anyone who might plan to be interrogated, like a terrorist, would know what to look forward to. These terrorists have already prepared to die, what difference does it make to them? In fact, pain is proven to be an unreliable method to get truth, because people will say anything to make the pain stop. Doesn’t it make sense to get “good” information? Actually, isn’t that the problem with this entire administration, they just want the information that they can use to justify what they want to do anyway.

So, this is beginning to make logical but not ethical sense. Ethically the United States doesn’t torture people. This is because we change the definition of the word torture to interrogation techniques that we do not use. Then we make sure that no laws are passed that limit the horrible things that we do to prisoners. Legally the United States follows the laws. However, unethically the United States can basically do what they want to prisoners unless someone sees them doing it. This is because the administration wants justification to do whatever they want to do. If they can make a prisoner say something that the administration wants to hear, for example, “the terrorists have a dirty bomb?” Then the administration can justify spending your tax dollars on programs to employ administration cronies to look into the possibility of dirty bombs in America. The administration doesn’t really care if the information is reliable, because they aren’t worried about reliability.

Please let me off this crazy bus, we don’t have a driver and we’re going the wrong way.

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I checked this movie out from the library several weeks ago. As sometimes happens I didn’t get a chance to watch the entire movie with the family. In fact, I began to watch the movie the night before I needed to turn it in. After watching about 30 minutes of it my wife and daughter came home and chaos ensued. Of course I needed to return the movie the next day, because the library wouldn’t allow it to be renewed.

So, I was left with the first 30 minutes of the movie for a few weeks while I waited for the movie to become available at the library again. My thoughts at this point were that the movie was funny in a strange way. It wasn’t quite 3 Stooges humor, and it wasn’t Monty Python either. Instead it was a surreal comedy based loosely on the adventures of Odysseus. The closest description would be Moulon Rouge meets the Odyssey.

The main character Everett Ulysses has a large vocabulary and a command of the English language. But, when it comes to human nature he only has an inkling of understanding. However, his two partners make him look like a genius. The three men manage to break out of a prison camp, shackled together with chains. Everett Ulysses has a plan, and the gift of persuasion, which take the men on an adventure through 1930s Mississippi. First they meet a blind man on a railroad pushcart who tells them that they will not find the treasure they seek and they will see a cow on a roof. Everett Ulysses is the skeptic while the others believe the man’s supernatural ability. In fact, Everett Ulysses, is the typical skeptic is almost every instance while his cohorts are deceived in almost every case.

Last week I was able to check out the movie once again. Aside from one very violent episode where a crazy Baby Face Nelson machine guns a cow and another car runs into several cows the movie seemed fairly tame. There was a bit of colorful language, but my kids have mostly heard this in school so it didn’t seem any worse than any other PG-13 movie. At least the first 30 minutes that I had seen wasn’t so bad. So, I thought that I could share the PG-13 movie with the family.

I thought that they would enjoy some of the slapstick comedy, being teenagers and all. One scene where the three guys are sitting around the campfire eating gopher on a stick was sure to be a hit, I thought. After all, we have about a thousand gophers living in our back yard and we joke about running a gopher farm all the time. It turns out that the movie was a bit too surreal for them, because they kept complaining that it wasn’t realistic. I kept saying that it was supposed to be unrealistic, which was the point. When we reached the scene with the gopher on a stick there wasn’t much reaction, so I knew that we weren’t going to finish the movie. The final straw was a scene where John Goodman, a Bible salesman, beats up Everett Ulysses and one of his sidekicks. Pete, his other sidekick was believed to be turned into a frog that was being kept in a shoebox. John Goodman believes that these guys have money in the shoebox, and when he discovers the frog he gets so mad that he squishes the frog in his hand and throws the body against a tree. This gruesome scene caused the kids to say that it was enough and we didn’t finish watching the rest of the film.

Unfortunately we hadn’t seen the rest of the movie, so we didn’t know that this was the most gruesome and final gruesome scene of the movie. Last night I found this out when I finally finished watching the movie.

The climax of the surrealism would be a wedding rehearsal dinner the night before Everett Ulysses’ wife is about to marry a more successful man. We find out that Everett Ulysses did not really steal 1.2 million dollars and bury it by his cabin. Instead, Everett Ulysses broke out of prison in order to get back to his wife so he can prevent the wedding from taking place. This pre-wedding party is being held in a huge hall, where the Governor and his opponent in the upcoming election have both been invited. The music from the wedding is live and being broadcast over the radio. If this doesn’t sound surreal enough, imagine that the threesome have picked up a black guitar player who sold his soul to the Devil. This foursome, in an effort to come up with some money recorded a song at a radio station in the middle of nowhere for ten bucks apiece. By the time of the pre-wedding party the song they recorded has become a hit record and the group known as the Soggy Bottom Boys becomes a huge excitement as they play their hit in front of all the guests. Even more surrealism is added to the mix when the Gubernatorial Candidate, a KKK member, and leading in the polls, becomes outraged that the Soggy Bottom Boys is seen to be integrated. In his rant he professes to be a Klan member over the radio and current Governor takes charge by exposing his challanger as a racist.

The funny thing here is that the two candidates are both undesirable, but the current Governor uses his cronyism to his advantage and also to the ex-cons advantage who are pardoned and given jobs in his government.

If you like what I have written, then you’ll like the movie. If you’d rather watch something more believable then I would say you’d be happier passing on this film.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Confusion - To Torture or Not To Torture

Well, I am totally confused. I suppose that most thinking Americans would also be confused if they were to consider the actions of the Bush administration. Yesterday George W Bush proclaimed that the United States does not torture.

But, a couple of weeks ago John McCain was trying to pass military appropriations bill that included an exclusion of using torture. This exclusion that has been called the McCain amendment passed in the Senate by a vote of 90-9. George W Bush told lawmakers that he would veto the bill if it included that amendment.

Dick Cheney was still looking for a way to exempt the CIA from the amendment. Since the version of the bill in the house will likely not include this amendment we still don’t know if President Bush will veto the bill. This means that the two bills will be reconciled in a conference between the House and the Senate. And, Dick Cheney has his bloody tortured hands in there pulling strings by lobbying the members of this committee.

Is this the President that we elected because he had a firm moral and ethical idealism. Is this the President that we elected because he believed in American ideals? Or, is this a wishy-washy president that suddenly realized that some of the Senators actually have morals and ethics and they can not support America’s use of torture even if George W Bush does not share these morals and ethics?

I actually would rather have George W Bush stay the course on this issue. It’s a slam-dunk with the American people, and Americans know that we just don’t torture prisoners. This is an issue that all sane people agree on. There is a reason for this type of prohibition - its allows the United States of America to claim moral and ethical superiority, even if it isn’t true. This is something that Republicans have used time and time again, claiming moral superiority even when it isn’t true. They claimed moral and ethical superiority to Bill Clinton’s White House. Now they are on the receiving end of the equation, and the smart Republican Senators knew it and jumped ship on the first vote. Americans should look at the nine Senators that voted against the amendment and see who these people are that condone torture. What could be more un-American?

The 9 Senators who voted against the McCain Amendment:

Senator Ted Stevens (R - AK)
Senator Jeff Sessions (R - AL)
Senator Wayne Allard (R - CO)
Senator Pat Roberts (R - KS)
Senator Christopher Bond (R - MO)
Senator Thad Cochran (R - MS)
Senator Tom Coburn (R - OK)
Senator James Inhofe (R - OK)
Senator John Cornyn (R - TX)

Everyone in these states should know that these are truly un-American Senators who condone torture and have been sent to Washington.

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Friday, November 04, 2005


Since this is Friday I thought that I would write something a bit different.

I went to the doctor today. I thought that since I was in probably the best health that I’ve been in the last twenty years I should get it on the record. This is sort of the opposite reaction that the out shape guy has when he doesn’t want to go to the doctor, because he knows what the doctor is going to say, and he doesn’t want to hear it. In my case, I lost over forty pounds since the last time I was at the doctor and I feel great.

Of course this doesn’t make any sense at all, but it is human nature.

I already knew that my blood pressure was really good, because I used the machine at the grocery store and I discovered that my blood pressure was good. But, when I was there I discovered something surprising. My pulse was only 48 beats per minute. Of course I had the blood work done, and it verified that my cholesterol, kidneys and liver were all AOK.

When I got to the doctor’s office this morning they do the typical things. First, a nurse takes your vital signs, blood pressure, weight, pulse, EKG etc… Well, since I had seen that my pulse was 48 at the grocery store I became obsessed with taking my pulse. I go through these periods of obsession that’s basically why I am a scientist. I like to take measurements, and I take them often out of curiosity more than anything else does.

Since I work out in the morning I really get my pulse going during my workout. It generally gets as high as 150 beats per minute. After my workout it will settle down gradually over the next hour or so. Typically my pulse in the morning ranges between 54 and 66 beats per minute. This isn’t as low as the 48 beats per minute that the machine at the grocery store measured, but those are typical numbers for a male in fairly good shape. For some reason my pulse tends to be a bit lower in the evening hours, and 48 isn’t unusual in the evening, when I measured my blood pressure in the grocery store.

Well, I worked out this morning before my doctor’s visit. I wondered what my pulse was before I went into the doctor’s office and I measured it to be 66 beats per minute. I did this by counting the number of beats in 30 seconds and multiplied by two. Typically a pulse is measured by counting the number of beats in 10 or 15 seconds and multiplying by 6 or 4. When the nurse measured my pulse she got 84. I have no idea how she got such a high number. She didn’t spend much time taking my pulse. She may have spent 5 or 10 seconds, but certainly not 15 counting the beats. 84 is a number that could be calculated by counting 7 beats in 5 seconds, 14 beats in 10 seconds or 21 beats in 15 seconds.

You can see how the resolution changes depending on how many seconds you spend counting beats. For example, if you spend 5 seconds counting beats you will get 48 if you count 4 beats, 60 if you count 5, 72 if you count 6 and 84 if you count 7. If my pulse was actually 66 then you would have an equal probability of counting either 5 or 6 beats in 5 seconds. There is also a smaller possibility that you could count either 4 or 7 counts in 5 seconds. This means that if a pulse is taken by counting the number of beats in 5 seconds an actual pulse of 66 could be measured to be anywhere between 48 and 84. If we compare this to counting beats over 15 seconds instead we can see that a pulse of 66 would be about 16 or 17 beats. A count of 16 beats would result in a measure of 64 and a count of 17 would result in a measure of 68. A count of 15 would result in a pulse of 60 beats per minute and a count of 18 would result in a pulse of 72 beats per minute. It would be virtually impossible to measure a pulse of 84.

The measurement of my pulse certainly is not critical, and the record of my EKG has a much more detailed measurement of the time between pulses, so this doesn’t really matter much. In fact, I wonder why they even bother taking a pulse at all if they aren’t going to spend the time to do it well. After the nurse finished her measurements I took my pulse again, wondering if somehow my heart began to race for some reason. But, I soon found out that my pulse was 66 just like it had been earlier.

Well, this is just another lesson about being aware of what is going on when you visit the doctor. You need to understand what the doctor is saying, and how he reached his conclusions. You need to ask questions. For example, if he said that he came to some conclusion based on my pulse being 84 I certainly would have said that it was much lower. Since he shook my hand and said don’t come back for another year I didn’t worry about it.

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