Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What I Would Do As President?

This is the most egotistical of posts. I was fantasizing the other day that it was January 20, 2009, and that I had just been elected president. "Whaddaya gonna do?" is the big question. The answer is not "I'm goin' to Disneyland!"

If I were president, this is what I'd do.

  • Close Guantanamo. Close it completely. Level the entire complex and give the whole parcel of land back to the Cubans. Bring all prisoners there back onto US Territory, place them under the jurisdiction of the US military and issue an Executive Order ensuring complete and regularly scheduled access to those prisoners by the International Red Cross. I would run all of those prisoners through real hearings to determine whether or not they are credible threats, offering them legal representation if they needed it. I would release all those who were not. I would also explore making public as much of the records at Gitmo as I reasonably could to air out the laundry once and for all regarding whether or not personnel were detained illegally.
  • Close Abu Ghraib. See "Close Guantanamo," above.
  • End Rendition. There is no good, moral, justifiable reason why we should outsource our interrogations to other regimes that practice torture, 'assurances' notwithstanding. I would attempt to get those prisoners back who were rendered to other countries and give them the same treatment as I outlined above for the Gitmo detainees.
  • Promise to Completely Leave Iraq. I would make it clear to the world that when we leave Iraq, we leave completely. No massive bases, radar/listening posts, advisors, nothing. When we give Iraq back to the Iraqis we'll give it all back. We have to back up our altruism, so to speak, with actions.
  • Submit Honest Budgets. No more yearly 'supplemental requests' to fund the war; I'd roll it all into the real budget. The American people deserve an honest accounting of the national spending plan.
  • Ensure Unconditional Media Access to the President. I would lobby for legislation that ensures media have free and fair access to all major brokers of power, especially the president and all congressional leaders. I would ask for legislation that requires a sitting president to hold at least one press conference a month and to meet with an audience of unscreened, randomly-selected citizens, on national television, at least twice a year. I would also ask for legislation that makes it illegal for any party or organization to screen or filter attendees of any public event where the president is speaking, unless valid, security concerns have been documented for the individual(s) being denied access. He's everyone's president -- every citizen deserves to see him when he shows up at taxpayer expense.
  • Cancel the Tax Cuts and Close Tax Loopholes. Returning taxes to their 1999 levels will add billions of dollars to the treasury, helping to cut the deficit. I'd also make it harder for major US corporations to hide their operations and their revenues overseas. Corporations have a moral responsibility to pay back into the system that allowed them to thrive, just as ordinary taxpayers do.
  • Adjust Social Security. Perhaps a modest hike in the cap on taxable wages, in combination with the rolled-back tax cuts described above. The basic premise of Social Security is sound; it just needs some adjustments for a few decades to accommodate the baby boomers.
  • Lift the Veils of Secrecy. At the beginning of the Bush administration, well before 9/11, a new veil of secrecy was dropped over many government operations. The ostensible reason was for national security but the real result was to hide what the government was doing, or planned to do, to a number of regulatory and enforcement agencies and public resources. I would lift those restrictions to pre-Bush administration levels and institute a review of those areas that might require rethinking in light of the post 9/11 world. Nothing cleans like sunshine.
  • Anonymize Political Donations. I would set up a Political Donation Authority, run by a consortium of government, industry, legal and media watchdogs. This authority would receive donations to political candidates and causes and anonymously pass them on to the intended recipients. This would limit no one's right to free speech -- everyone could still support the candidate(s) of their choice -- but it would take the stink of bribery off of political donations. I would make it a federal crime for any political donor to communicate the amount of their donation to the recipient of that donation.
  • Reaffirm Both The Separation of Church and State and The Importance of Religious Tolerance. The government should only invest money and support in policies that work, that provide the most advantage and help to the most citizens at the best rate of return. Only those agencies that practice an unbiased, objective form of charity should be subsidized. No agency with any religious affiliation should receive government money. If a religious organization wants to conduct charitable work with help from the government then it should spin off a separate, secular organization to do that work. As part of this effort I'd reaffirm religious freedom and tolerance for all Americans. I'd use the bully pulpit, along with more aggressive enforcement of hate crimes, to make it clear to America and the world that religious tolerance is part of the law of the land.
  • Reaffirm Commitment To A Clean Environment. The interests of big business should be balanced with the health and safety needs of common citizens, with the balance weighted toward the citizens. All the economic benefits of industry are meaningless if there's no clean air or water. I would also work to strengthen the EPA, the EEOC and the Department of Labor to better protect the common citizen.
  • Make Legal Immigration Easier, and Illegal Immigration Harder. I'd make it easier for legal immigrants to obtain responsible corporate sponsorship, permanent residency, work permits, green cards, drivers licenses and, eventually, citizenship. At the same time I would crack down hard on those companies or persons who knowingly hire illegal or undocumented immigrants. These illicit jobs are what bring illegal immigrants here in the first place; reducing the supply of illicit jobs reduces illegal immigration and eases the burden these non taxpaying people impose on our public institutions.
  • Affirm a Commitment to Strong Communities At All Levels. This is a framing-type statement that can be applied to just about every issue. Ensure fair wages, accessible health care, social protections and a safe environment and the local and national community is stronger. Promote respectful international cooperation and the world community is safer.
  • Announce Manhattan Project II - Nuclear Fusion In Our Lifetime. Maybe it's pie-in-the-sky, but I would make this an urgent national priority. The economic benefits of the research alone would boost the economy, not to mention our high-tech sector immeasurably. What if we even succeeded? If we could figure out how to make nuclear fusion work we'd make a huge leap forward to the future, transforming our economy and society, along with that of the rest of the planet. Now that's global leadership.

Okay, that last one was a little nutty -- but who knows? It woke me up, at least.

Naive? I prefer Idealistic. Practical? Heck, if I knew that maybe I'd really have a chance at being president.

The underlying theme here is openness. fairness and idealism. They will make us stronger, more free, more successful and powerful and more respected in the world.

It's the opposite of what's happening now.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

"Balance" vs. Accuracy and Truth

A lot is being made these days of the importance of balance in news reporting. There are those on the left who accuse the media of 'right-wing' bias and those on the left who claim the opposite.

I would posit that balance is not the most important consideration. Accuracy and Truth are paramount.

Fact-checking is utterly and completely fundamental to any journalistic effort. Sadly, fact-checking takes time, money, patience, willpower and sometimes a fair amount of detective work. In today's fast-paced 24/7 news cycle, the temptation to rush things through, assume your sources are correct and save money, time and effort must be resisted. Take a look at this story on Media Matters about a conservative journalist getting basic facts wrong about the debate over 'balance' at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. One word springs to my mind. Duh. In this article, basic fact-checking has taken a back seat to partisan advocacy.

Truth is much harder to arrive at. Ted Koppel correctly noted that there's a distinction between Accuracy and Truth; accuracy in facts can be verified relatively quickly -- truth is harder to arrive at and may take longer. (The relevant story about Koppel and Jon Stewart interviewing each other on Nightline can be found here.) Truth is harder to come by, often going to the heart, mind, soul and motivations of those people involved in the story. Regardless, hard labor in service of Accuracy will only serve the Truth, which is all any of us should serve -- journalists, politicians, parents, everyone.

When a news reporter goes to cover a story, their overriding concern should not necessarily be "am I hearing from all sides on this?" The reporter may well need to talk to many different people, gather many nuggets of information from multiple sources on all sides of an issue, but in the end some assessment must be made about what is really happening, regardless of what is being said on 'either side.' It's not about balance. It's about Accuracy and Truth.

You can read an outstanding speech by Bill Moyers about this and related topics here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Haliburton Malfeasance

This is simply disgusting. A Halliburton employee, injured in a bombing attack in Iraq, is having trouble getting health insurance benefits.

This line, though, REALLY smacked me between the eyes:

"Because he worked for Halliburton's KBR, which uses Cayman Island subsidiaries to employ 70 percent of it's workers, Baltazar is not eligible for unemployment."

Read the story here.

There is an attitude amongst the corporate elite in this country that making money is the most important thing and it doesn't matter what rules you have to skirt to do it. Undoubtedly KBR realizes tremendous savings by 'siting' it's employees in the Cayman Islands. However, this ends up being one more way in which Halliburton sticks a thumb in the eye of America.

Individuals and Corporations have a moral obligation to pay back and pay for the social and economic infrastructure that allowed them to flourish in the first place. In the United States there is no civil war, no social unrest, no terrorists killing soldiers every day, a reasonably robust economy, educated workforce, well-functioning infrastructure, and so on. Yet by jumping through these tax loopholes, Halliburton and other large companies like it manage to take but not give back. They end up being leeches on the society that spawned them.

To quote Bob Dole, "where is the outrage?"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

George Galloway Rocks The Senate

Former British Minister of Parliament George Galloway willingly appeared under oath before a Senate subcommittee investigating the Oil For Food Scandal. He was questioned by Republican Senator Norm Coleman. It ended up being an interesting episode where the steak grilled the cook.

Galloway pilloried Coleman, the Republicans and the right-wing RadCons in ascendancy in this country. The quotes are delicious. The RadCons, Fox News and other right wing media relied on publicly discredited accounts, some from before Oil For Food even existed, in an attempt to 'convict' Galloway in the court of public opinion. They claimed he met with shady figures who are currently US prisoners in Abu Ghraib (guess how objective and honest they will be?) and accused him of meeting with Saddam Hussein - to which Galloway replied "I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

Best quote:

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001," he told Coleman.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And 100,000 people have paid with their lives -- 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies, 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever, on a pack of lies."

He added: "Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported."

A very concise and cutting report is found here on the Political Affairs web site. A delicious and satisfying read for anyone interested in the truth. It also illustrates in stark boldness how much more articulate and verbally powerful Galloway is than the dundering Coleman. A must read!


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Which Wolf Wins?

Many thanks to my buddy Ed for this wonderful story..

One evening an old Indian told his grandson about a "battle" that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride,superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

"Which wolf wins?" asked the son.

"The one you feed," answers the Grandfather.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More Jeff Gannon Republicrap!

Hey, even more news about Jeff Gannon!

Quoting from an article in The Raw Story...

"In what is unlikely to stem the controversy surrounding disgraced White House correspondent James Guckert, the Secret Service has furnished logs of the writer’s access to the White House after requests by two Democratic congressmembers.

"The documents, obtained by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal Guckert had remarkable access to the White House. Though he wrote under the name Jeff Gannon, the records show that he applied with his real name.

"Gannon’s ready access to President Bush and his work for a news agency that frequently plagiarized content from other reporters and tailored it to serve a conservative message may raise new questions about the White House’s attempts to seed favorable news coverage. Democrats have sought to paint Guckert in the context of other efforts by the Administration to “plant” positive spin by paying for video news releases and columnists to espouse their views. "

Read the article!

The RadCon's methods are to discredit all media, whether by crap like this, Faux News or their paid shills that pose as objective journalists. Since all media is discredited it's harder for media outlets to raise serious objections to what's going on in Washington!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Validity of Belief

I've just been listening to the audiotape version of "Buddhism Plain and Simple" by Steve Hagen. He describes an interesting concept...

What if I told you I had a diamond in my closed fist? Would you believe me or not? You might consider how well you know me, how trustworthy you think me to be and how likely it is I might come across a diamond. In the end, however, all you'd have is belief. Either you'd believe I had a diamond in my fist, or you wouldn't.

BUT... your belief would do you no good. You wouldn't really know, would you?

Now let's say I open my fist and you learn whether or not I did have a diamond there. At that point, would you still have a belief about whether or not I had a diamond? Of course not, you'd know either way. Again -- your belief would do you no good.

So just believing something is not enough. You should know. Believing before you know is pointless; believing after you know is moot.

So what is the point of belief? I don't know, but there are a lot of people who believe in things that can't be proven. If they want to do that, that's fine, but when they start telling others that they should share their beliefs, and that everyone should tailor their actions to those beliefs, or worse be everyone be forced into acting in accordance with those beliefs, then I don't think it's too much to insist that some proof be given. Otherwise you're just arguing over things that cannot be proven.

Is there a God? Is Jesus his son? Is there life everlasting, heaven, hell, angels, devils? Is there a soul? We can't know, we can only believe. And that is not enough.

We need to know. There is no substitute for direct knowledge.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Military Shell Game

So now the Army is offering 15-month enlistments, according to USA Today.

Quoting from the ariticle:
"Recruits in the new 15-month program could serve in 59 of the more than 150 jobs in the Army, including the combat infantry, and then serve two years in the Reserve or National Guard.

They would finish their eight-year military obligation (emphasis mine) in the Guard or Reserve, volunteer programs such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, or the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former active-duty troops who can still be called to duty but aren't affiliated with any military unit."

The kicker is, after 15 months active duty, where do you go? You guessed it, the National Guard. In case you weren't paying attention, being in the National Guard in no way prevents you from getting sent to Iraq for a year at a time, or more.

After that you fulfill the remainder of eight years of obligatory service, during which time you still could be called up! How much do you want to bet recruiters won't be emphasizing that part of this deal a whole lot.

Just another example of trickery from the government.

Secret British Memo Still Secret Here in the US

Once again the corporate media forgets to do it's job. At least, that's the charitable way to put it.

More than two weeks ago the British Sunday Times published an article describing a secret British intelligence memo that suggested the Bush administration was fixated on war with Iraq and was fixing the 'data' and 'facts' to support the course of action they had already decided upon, i.e. to invade Iraq. Additionally, 89 members of Congress have sent a letter to President Bush demanding an explanation.

Disgustingly, all our major corporate media outlets have been silent on this issue. See for yourself. Seach Google for "british memo bush iraq" by clicking here. (There, don't say I didn't make it easy for you.) As of Friday, May 13th (hah!) I only found an entry from CNN. Nothing from CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox (no surprise there)... nothing.

There are an overwhelming number of entries from local and regional newspapers, many of note. Democracy lives!

Hey, if this is for real, wouldn't it be, uh, oh, I dunno, 'newsworthy?'

Let's pick on ABC for a bit. Go to www.http://abcnews.go.com and search on "bush british intelligence memo Iraq" -- or do it in one step by clicking here. Note that ABC News' top two entries are from some political program/blog called 'The Note' and neither make any mention at all of the story. (On a side note, why is the April 9th issue of 'The Note' billed as "Everywhere You Want To Be?" Is this an ad for VISA or something? Geez...)

Only after you get past the two lame ABC News listings and get to the 'outside world' do you see the same list of regional newspapers and left-leaning web sites. In fact the same pattern emerges on Google. There are an overwhelming number of entries from local and regional newspapers, many of note, including the Christian Science Monitor, but NOTHING from major Corporate Media.

The Corporate Media is either utterly falling down or utterly muzzled by it's owners, who don't want to make waves for their buddy 'Dubya.'

An ironic side note: In my early days of broadcasting I worked in the Midwest, where radio station call letters all begin with 'W'. If you wanted to brand yourself as new, stupid, uninformed and an idiot, all you had to do is mispronounce 'w.' If you didn't say 'double-you' clearly, you got whacked upside the head by your station manager. I didn't dare say "Dubya Bee Kay Ex" when working at WBKX. Now we have a President whose nickname is the call sign for stupid.

You can read the British Intelligence memo here. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

How Would Bush run against Jesus?

I saw this on other blogs and must repost it here. Great Stuff!
If you have a fast internet connection, see an animated version here:

Bush: Higher Gas Prices "Like a Tax"

During a press conference the other day George Bush said that higher gasoline prices were "like a tax."

Horsehockey. If they were a tax, then that money would be going into some public coffer somewhere, ostensibly to benefit the public in some way or another. Instead, these monies are going into the pockets of the big oil corporations. I doubt that this money will be used any time soon to build or fund a road, bridge, school or hospital.

Looking at this from the other end of the telescope, this could also be seen as a way to demonize all taxes as bad, which is also foolishly simplistic. Taxes are necessary. Instead of talking about tax 'relief' we should all be talking about tax wisdom....how to levy taxes in the best and fairest way and how best to spend that money for the benefit of the most people.

This is your brain on computers...

This is pretty cool. No animation, no viruses, just a static picture. Your BRAIN turns it on. Very nice. Posted by Hello

See a bigger, more impressive version here.