September 11, 2010

Nine years ago, American citizens, fearfully watching this horrific attack unfold, believed the media when it falsely proclaimed that Islam, not just Bin Laden’s , was responsible for 9/11. They gave up their rights to the Federal Government, believing the government’s assurances that they would be safer. Despite the offers of the Taliban to give  Bin Laden a public trial (let’s face it- a criminal proceeding in an Islamic court under pressure from the US would go much further in delegitimizing Bin Laden than an invasion, and we could always grab him later since we would have known where he was)  and the offer of Hussein to give up his presidency, they supported the start of two costly and arguably unnecessary invasions because the government believed it was necessary. They rationalized the unsupervised, tortuous interrogation of prisoners that had not been declared guilty under our law. And in about 550 out of 775 cases, our prisoners turned out to be completely innocent and were released…but only because the Supreme Court forced the government to do so. Many Americans dismissed constructive criticism of this and other poor anti-terrorism policies as being “unpatriotic” or “treasonous”.

We were deceived by those who swore to protect us. But we assisted. We helped deceive ourselves.

We can honorably fight those responsible for this atrocity and repair the damage to our country without needing policies based on fear and revenge. We can allow our ideas of  justice to prevail without sacrificing our security.

Advertisements

Whistleblowers

My position on the morality of leaking classified material is best explained by the following quote:

“It quickly becomes apparent to any person who has considerable experience with classified material that there is massive over classification and that the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but with governmental embarrassment of one sort or another.”

Erwin Griswold
Solicitor General to the Nixon Administration

Obviously there are exceptions, but it seems that for the most part, the US populace’s knowledge of classified material leaked over the last decade does not endanger current military operations or national security.  Seeing as this is (theoretically) a democracy, should we not be informed of the actions that our government is taking to defend us, so long as the information does not concern current troop positions or combat strategy?

The problem with anarcho-capitalism

A few days ago, I came across a rather stunning comment on the Facebook “Your Say” application, which is often trolled by both Right and Left wing extremists (with the vast majority being extremely far Right). The gist of this comment, as far as I can tell, was that the poster’s state had severe budget issues, and that he hated Obama’s “socialism” because his state taxes were “killing” him. The man concluded with a statement about how Obama is destroying the Free Market by giving “socialized pay-outs to druggies and bottom-feeders”.

My response to his post is as follows:

I don’t know where you live, but we have some severe budget problems here in Indiana too…but I fail see how you connect those fees back up to Obama, who is in charge of the federal government, not the city, county, or state governments. 75% (9 out of 12 trillion dollars) of the National deficit is the fault of the Bush, and honest to God, I can’t understand this sudden fervor against Obama when the deficit was slowly filling for 8 years. I mean, I’d be all for joining these tea party movements against Obama, but I can’t out of principle, since they have demonstrated their utter partisanship by only protesting during a Democrat majority.

I think the fact that the richest 1% of Americans are wealther than the bottom 90% seems to contradict your last statement. We’ve not all just gotten lazier, you know. We’ve been victims of corporate lock-in.

Let’s use a recent issue that I have specifics on as an example..texting. We have only four primary cellular providers here in the United States (“free market” my ass) that all have increased their rates from 10 cents to 20 cents since 2005. In Europe (which actually has real market competition), the rate is almost always below a dime because of the fierce competition and lack of large monopolies in those countries.

The same goes for the following market sectors: Agriculture/farming (Archer Daniels Midland monopoly), Internet Service Providing/Cable Providing (Comcast/Timewarner/AT&T), Defense Contracting (Boeing/Lockheed/N-G/General Dynamics), Software Development (Microsoft/Apple), Retail (Walmart/Target/Kroger/Home Depot).
In a healthy economy of days gone past, there would be thousands of small companies on that list after each market sector, not just ~ 4 or fewer. This is what the “free market” has done to us. We really do need to rebalance the playing field in order to survive economically.

Additionally, I do not deny that a great number of leechers are drug addicts. Which is why we should test for drugs before we allow people to take advantage of our social support programs. But simply assuming that all such people are leeches is fallacious in the extreme.

I support social support programs and policies to increase Wall Street regulation to promote competition. I do not support bailouts or thrown-together health care plans. However, I do not think such things can automatically classify our current Administration as “socialist”, particularly as compared to the previous one. Only time will tell.

“The GOP’s Misplaced Rage”

bruce-bartlett

Bruce Bartlett, one of the nation’s foremost conservative economists and one of the inventors of supply-side economics (more commonly called “Reaganomics”), has written an excellent analysis of the current fiscal situation in the United States- and who should take the blame. The article can be found here.

The State of American Politics: August Edition

I struggle to be objective in a partisan political environment. So does everyone else, I imagine. But almost every time in recent months that I have heard a member of the Republican National Committee open their mouths, I have felt a strong desire to move in the politically opposite direction. To go farther Left.

At first, I thought this was a simple, knee-jerk reaction. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was nothing simple about the situation. And the situation is thus:

Point A.

The GOP reached the height of political hypocrisy during the Bush Administration. It doesn’t matter how much of that good old Afghani Opium you smoke, expanding the Executive Branch’s surveillance and detainment powers in no way resembles Conservatism. And while the GOP parroted the old one liner about decreasing government power, they were busy increasing the power of the private sector, including allowing the Oil Industry to determine policy regarding Iraq. Of course, those with half a brain know that the GOP’s disposal of anti-trust regulation negates any positive attempt to “decrease the size of the government”. Tyranny can be corporate just as easily as it can be political.

Point B.

A bunch of people that I thought might still have something resembling Christian values or morality decided that because safety supersedes liberty, country supersedes morality. Or in other words, American exceptionalism supersedes the Geneva Convention. Attempts to morally justify “Enhanced Interrogation”, Extraordinary Rendition, Indefinite Confinement, Hiring of Mercenaries (then Blackwater, now Xe Services LLC),  and the Abu Ghraib cover-up all fall flat. There is no way to reconcile the GOP’s position on traditional values with these actions.

Point C.

Many say that Palin will have the power of a Federal Executive (you know, that includes military power) when pigs fly. Then again, Bush won the 2004 election. At any rate, Palin, a person who apparently didn’t know Africa is a continent and cannot even balance a single city’s budget is in no way fit to handle either Foreign or Fiscal policy on a Federal scale. Why the GOP could even consider her as an option is completely beyond me.

Point D.

Running some of the dirtiest Election campaigns I have ever seen in 2008. You can portray yourself as representing good ol’ fashion values all you want, but when your ads start leaning desperately toward calling the other side a bunch of terrorists, people will see through your facade.

***

And there is, of course, much more, but I would be here all night. The point is that some time ago, my subconscious must have begun realizing that what is best for me is generally the opposite of what the GOP wants for me.

Speaking of Palin, have a look at this. She’s buying into the Obama conspiracy theories just as the 9/11 Truthers buy into the idea that Bush committed 9/11. Both sides being, of course, absolutely nuts.

I have not yet come to a conclusion one way or another about the current iteration of the Health Care Bill. However, I am quite sure that I will oppose any corporate attempt at manipulating me through fear tactics, which now seems to be the norm for communication among the Health Care Bill’s opposition.

Computational Search Engine

wolfram_alpha

Although I knew about it when it was first released, I never really got a chance to play around with the new Wolfram Alpha search engine. Like many other people, I didn’t see anything significant about it. I would now like to categorically state that I was quite wrong in my assumptions.

I am now fairly certain that the claims about Wolfram Alpha being “the next big thing” are correct. Because it’s not just a search engine. It also computes combinations of input. For example, I can type in “iss rise indianapolis” and get back the exact orbital trajectory of the International Space Station, including its position relative to Indianapolis and the time at which it will become visible in the sky to anyone in the city.

I can type in questions related to Mathematical and Chemical formulas, and receive back detailed answers and a variety of useful definitions. I can ask for the weather in any place at any time, and receive graphed meteorological trends for the entire month. I can ask for the profits of any publicly-traded company and receive full information about stock value. In short, Wolfram Alpha’s computational power and usefulness grows with each upgrade. And needless to say, it definitely would have helped with my Calculus homework.

You can find the Wolfram Alpha computational engine here.

Women’s place in Religion

As anyone who has studied the scripture knows, divine commands found in the Bible are often easily confused with human traditions that have simply been recorded in the Bible as well. Someone of simple-mind, however, would make no effort to puzzle out the difference between the two, and so would make the assumption that everything included in the Bible must be a direct command of God.

This is particularly troubling when we come to the issue of women. Paul wrote in his letters to Timothy that “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent”. Many Christians wish to claim that this is an actual divine commandment. This is typically a result of that Christian not using their God-given brains.

Which makes more sense- that God commanded women be silent, or that Paul simply included a typical first century prejudice in a letter that was later included in the Bible?

This was prompted by an article on the subject by former President Jimmy Carter. You can find it here.