Saturday, December 15, 2007
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The Harper's article lays down background Clipmarks didn't have room for:
..this week, a CIA agent, John Kiriakou, appeared, first on ABC News and then in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, and explained just how the system works. When we want to torture someone (and it is torture he said, no one involved with these techniques would ever think anything different), we have to write it up. The team leader of the torture team proposes what torture techniques will be used and when. He sends it to the Deputy Chief of Operations at the CIA. And there it is reviewed by the hierarchy of the Company. Then the proposal is passed to the Justice Department to be reviewed, blessed, and it is passed to the National Security Council in the White House, to be reviewed and approved. The NSC is chaired, of course, by George W. Bush, whose personal authority is invoked for each and every instance of torture authorized. And, according to Kiriakou as well as others, Bush’s answer is never “no.” He has never found a case where he didn’t find torture was appropriate. Here’s a key piece of the Kiriakou statement:
LAUER: Was the White House involved in that decision?
KIRIAKOU: Absolutely, this isn’t something done willy nilly. It’s not something that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he’s going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner. This was a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department.
He then goes into the process in considerable detail. Watch the video here.
So let us just recap what we know:
- We know that Waterboarding is not only torture, it's really, really severe torture.
- We know that Torture is a crime under various international laws as well as and under our own, seeing that treaties we are signatory to have the force of law.
- We know that George Bush knowingly and personally approved every single instance of torture, according to this testimony.
So only one question of interest remains:
Was he actually masturbating during NSC sessions regarding torture, or did he wait until he got back to the Oval Office?
Meanwhile, for those who considered impeachment the natural course of an ethical and Democratic speaker of the house, there is a brand spanking new petition. Please let Nancy know just how pissed you are with her, constitutionally and electorally.
A Petition To Replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House of Representatives for the Purposes of Pursuing Impeachment
In the event of a rogue presidency, the founders of our great nation provided for protections for us, the citizens, under the constitution in the form of a process called impeachment.
Though rarely spoken, the word itself holds great power in that it binds the president and his entire administration to the laws of the nation and makes them all accountable to the people.
As a constant threat, impeachment forces the president and his administration to work within the confines of our system of checks and balances.
Without impeachment, there is no limit to what a rogue president can do.
Though the process has rarely been used, it has never been needed or justified as much as it is right now!
Yet, Nancy Pelosi began her term as Speaker of the House of Representatives by announcing “Impeachment was off the table”, thus giving the corrupt president a free hand in his last two years in office!
It goes on, but really, what more need be said? Wake up and smell the coffee, Nancy.
There's more serious initiatives on this topic of impeachment hitting the web. Via OpEd News, proof that the concept has penetrated the armored beltway and actually scored hits on Congresspersons besides Kucinich.
Faced with an obstructionist leadership in the House, and a mainstream media that have forsaken their role as a Fourth Estate monitor of government abuse, three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee are calling on the public to demand that the Congress initiate impeachment hearings immediately against Vice President Dick Cheney.In order to speed the plow,
Speaking at a telephone press conference Friday organized by Democrats.com, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) said that following a bi-partisan vote Nov. 7 by the full House to send Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill (H Res 799, formerly H Res 333) to the Judiciary Committee, it was time for those hearings to “immediately” get underway.
Scoffing at the argument that has been made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the Democratic leadership that impeachment might hurt Democratic chances in the November ’08 elections, or that it could deter Democrats from their Congressional agenda, Wexler says, “I believe that there is a constitutional obligation for the Congress to hold this administration accountable, and it should not depend on what people think the impact might be on an election. The only question should be: Did Vice President Cheney abuse his powers?”
He adds, “If the American people believe that the democrats are holding a legitimate inquiry into serious issues of constitutional importance, they will not hold it against them. And besides, initial polling would indicate that this is not some off-the-reservation idea.”
Wexler has set up a website, called WexlerWantsHearings. He is urging Americans from across the country to go to the sign and sign on to his call for an immediate start to hearings. “I want to be able to go to my colleagues in the house and say I have 55,000 people calling for hearings,” he says.So that's two petitions to sign. Right this second. And if I might coin a meme, let's Ron Paul the hell out of this, all over the net. Both as an ironic nod to those who think there are three of us in mommy's basement, and second, as a symbol of personal and constitutional integrity. And, having become such a symbol, somewhat to his own suprise, I think, I do hope he understands the importance of living up to it. Hence my deliberate conflation of the matter. Seems to me that if you are for Ron Paul, you most likely should be for impeaching the Miserable Failure and his brain.
Unfortunately, it has been the Christian Right's blind support for President Bush in particular and the Republican Party in general that has precipitated a glaring and perhaps fatal defect: the Christian Right cannot, or will not, honestly face the real danger confronting these United States. The reason for this blindness is due, in part, to political partisanship or personal aggrandizement. Regardless, the Christian Right is currently devoid of genuine sagacity. On the whole, they fail to understand the issues that are critical to our nation's--and their own--survival.
Republican candidates have learned how to "talk the language." They know that Christians are basically compassionate and trusting people, and therefore prone to being gullible and easily manipulated. They know that Christians have short memories and are desperate to be accepted at the king's table (largely a result of the church-growth movement and mega-church mentality).
It is at this point that much blame should be cast at the feet of the leaders of the so-called Religious Right. They have proven themselves to be much more interested in enriching their "ministries" (and themselves in the process) than they are in standing uncompromisingly for the truth. The infatuation with power and success has made them weak and vulnerable.
As a result, George W. Bush and Karl Rove have made mincemeat out of the Religious Right. They have shown everyone that once you win the support of the Christian Right with rhetoric, you can get by with just about anything. Christians are horrible at holding Republicans accountable.
Hence, neocon Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, and even Rudy Giuliani are all currently receiving fractured support from the Christian Right. However, you can mark this down: the Christian Right (with few exceptions) will eventually coalesce around whoever wins the Republican nomination--no matter who it is. You see, it's all about political partisanship. Principles are only something we talk about during off-election years.
Indeed, that HAS been the problem, Sir; the willingness to abandon principle when presented with the dangling bait of an apparent victory over the heathen, the godless, the moral relativists. Surely God must approve any means that promise to achieve such ends?
And suddenly we are all on a smoothly-paved downward slope to what, if not literal hell, will certainly do until the real thing comes along.
Now, there are a lot of folks out there who will suggest that the support of "nuts like this," for Ron Paul, people they adjudge to be religiously intolerant, even bigots and racists means that people of genuine social conscience and enlightenment should not support Ron.
For myself, I see it to people of this ilk waking up and smelling the coffee, realizing to what extent they have been led around by their noses by people even less principled, even more willing to offend the liberties of others, and realizing that perhaps, just perhaps, playing within the rules established by the Constitution is a good idea after all.
And so long as we all do that, it matters little if I think he's a religious fanatic , ideologue and pinhead, or that he thinks I'm a Godless Liberal apologist for sodomy and goat marriage. Even if we are correct in our mutual understandings and each of us is as abhorrant to the other as our first impressions might suggest, - our ambitions are limited by the compact, and he can no more force me to enter into a covenant marriage than I can force him to marry a goat.
At this point, we heave a sigh of relief realizing that the only way the beliefs of one can affect the other is through persuasion and choice, having the constitution to rule out coercive rule by any temporary majority or influential minority.
And this allows us all to enjoy a richly diverse, constantly evolving culture that is responsive to ever-changing circumstances.
At some point, people on the Right started using "diversity" as a dirty word, conveying the idea that any different idea of any sort was a visceral threat to be stamped out, not something to be tolerated in others, considered respectfully and accepted or rejected for personal use as free persons have every right do do.
By the way, that's exactly how I have treated Chuck's faith. Nice folks, most of them, but as he observes, entirely too gullible, and entirely to easily deluded by the greedy, the evil and the manipulative.
People who believe that diversity and tolerance is a social evil are - in my mind - too stupid to breed and should be retroactively aborted lest they poison the very body politic with their bigotry. And millions agree with me, even if they wouldn't put it quite that strongly.
Now do you see why we have a Constitution? None of us are entirely immune to bigotry and prejudice. Let us celebrate then our compact to keep it within decent bounds, and to let no single set of prejudices dominate us all.
Odds are, there's only a few of us that would truly prefer the results. You see, ANY exclusive vision of how things "ought" to be, what values and beliefs people "should" have or what values they should have and hold that rise above the legally required minimum of nonviolence is incompatible with liberty. If you cannot tolerate the liberties of others, you should simply admit to yourself that some honestly authoritarian philosophy would be appropriate.
In a libertarian society, you are entirely free to be a Nazi, an Old Catholic, a Stalinist, or what have you. You just have to live with the fact that your only valid source of Authority is being persuasively authoritative. The moment you start demanding followers to do as you think they ought and the right to back up that demand by force, a libertarian culture reserves the right to leave you alone.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute wonders aloud what makes a Libertarian these days.
The people who contend that I don't deserve to call myself a libertarian argue that some of my political views are un-libertarian. Specifically, I support military action against Iraq, a position that has put me at odds with many (though by no means all) of my fellow libertarians, including the foreign policy scholars at the Cato Institute. And the disagreement goes beyond Iraq: although I am by no means a knee-jerk interventionist, I do believe that sometimes the projection of American military power abroad is necessary to safeguard American lives and advance American national interests.I have to agree - minimally - with the first paragraph. I have only supported action in Iraq when I had reason to believe that the evidence given were factual, and the conclusions supposedly drawn from those facts had some connection with reality. Even then, I had serious doubts as to whether the concerns mentioned were best addressed in that way.
Meanwhile, on the domestic policy front, I hold a range of views that many self-described libertarians consider to be, for lack of a better word, heretical. I support some types of health, safety, and environmental regulation, as well as tax-funded spending programs to aid the needy, educate the young, and ease the burden of economic dislocation. That is not to say that I support anything like today's regulatory and welfare state; on the contrary, I favor a dramatic retrenchment in government spending and controls. But I do not believe that the "minimal state," much less anarchy, is the desirable end point of reform.
I supported the idea of a punitive invasion of Afghanistan - but I'll admit that was a visceral, rather than a reasoned political stance, and I tend to think that was and continues to be either the whole case or a significant bias for most people who continue to support the wider war. Be that as it may, I try not to abuse my philosophy to rationalize my actions after the fact. I still believe that ridding the world of anyone who ascribes to Taliban values is just an inherently good thing. I'm a bit more iffy on my responsibility to pay for the operation, or the prognosis for a successful surgery.
But no mistake - I LIKE the idea of turning fanatics into fertilizer. I liked it then, I still like it now. Still, charity begins at home, as the saying goes.
Perhaps it would be best if we concentrated on our own domestic sources of terror and stupidity. The Seven Hundred Club, Fox News and the Domnionist fifth column within the stupefied shell of the Republican party, for there is no greater foe to individual liberty than those who believe in imposing their wackadoodle idea of the Kingdom of Heaven upon us all.
The only reason these people are NOT detonating car bombs is because they have been quite successful in gaining control by means short of violence. But nothing in their nature, philosophy or doctrine precludes that option, as the popularity of the "Left Behind" series of religious pornography should chillingly illustrate.
But I digress.
Here's where Lindsay's essay becomes compelling and in many ways amplifies and clarifies my own thinking on the matter.
The root of the problem is that there are two very different libertarianisms jostling uneasily together under a common label. Call the first one radical or utopian, and the second pragmatic or reformist. Though they tend to generate broadly similar answers to many current policy questions, their philosophical underpinnings are miles apart.Indeed. And it's something of a frustration to me as to how many Libertarians advocate ideas - particularly in the realm of private property - that have the net effect of reducing liberty.
The radical libertarian vision starts with an abstract ideal: a polity in which government's sole function is to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property. A "true" libertarian, in this view, is someone who upholds this ideal as the summum bonum. True libertarians may get their hands dirty in the real world and advocate incremental reforms, and they may even be coy about their long-term hopes, but when pressed they must declare their allegiance to the ideal. Any deviation from the ideal, any support for any extension of government's proper role beyond rights protection, is seen as impure and compromised. Such deviations represent concessions to statism; they "open the door" to relentless and limitless expansion of Leviathan.Pragmatic libertarianism, on the other hand, starts with the status quo in all its wretched messiness. Reformists share with their radical confreres a moral commitment to the sanctity of individual rights, and a deep appreciation of the fertility of competition and the limits of centralized control. But reformists apply their principles in a very different way: not as blueprints for an ideal society, but as guides to incremental reform. As to the precise outlines of an ideal society they are agnostic or even indifferent. For them the goal is expanding the real-world frontiers of liberty, not spinning utopias.
Reformist libertarians eschew utopianism, not because they are less intellectually rigorous than their radical cousins, but because they are more intellectually rigorous. A utopia of pure rights protection, upon careful scrutiny, turns out to be a will-o'-the-wisp. Let's start with examining one niggling little problem: that full-fledged protection of property rights is incompatible with industrial civilization. In the normal common law of property, we are able to enjoin trespassers from coming onto our property, even if their trespass causes us no tangible harm. If I own a 5,000 acre spread, and my neighbor makes a daily practice of stepping onto one far corner of it, I can go to court and get an injunction ordering him to stop it. So if that same neighbor runs a factory that sends effluents into the air over my spread, I should be able to stop that, too. I shouldn't have to prove that it constitutes an "unreasonable" nuisance; I shouldn't have to prove that it imperils my health; the only thing that should matter is that there is a trespass on my property that I don't like. Which means that all it takes is one property-owning green zealot per airshed to shut down the whole economy.It's not the illustration I would have chosen, given I have a broad Green stripe within my native conservatism. It is, however, an intuitive and accurate illustration of one very apt criticism - that doctrinaire Libertarianism amounts to the assumption of the right to be an asshole with total impunity.
Aside from the question as to whether that's a legitimate ideal - good luck with the "impunity" part. In the case illustrated above, the problem goes away when those property rights are transferred to someone sensible, so no doubt, at a last resort, that happy outcome would be facilitated by one means or another, regardless of the ideological, moral, ethical or legal purity of the action. All of these necessary limits on individual action can be trumped by sheer necessity. I believe "don't be an asshole" is as needful a concept as "non-initiation of force."
And this leads us, of course, to the most valid critique of absolutist Libertarianism, where no valid Commons is admitted to exist.
The starting point of this critique is of course The Tragedy of the Commons - but I will bravely take the observation a step further - that without a broadly accessible commons sustained by broad, common social investment, liberty is constrained to being a moot point, with every Libertarian trapped within the bounds of their own heavily fortified castle. Indeed, the more one has to lose, the more one has to defend against those who need or want and do not have, the more obviously true this becomes.
When it is not just preferable, but the only reasonable course to live in a gated community with private guards and to have an armored vehicle for those rare times when one ventures forth, it is the antithesis of Liberty. When your insurance carrier informs you that your continued coverage depends upon taking such steps as mentioned above, one has lost any meaningful pretense of self-determination.
I've come to the conclusion that meaningful liberty exists only when freedom of action is as little dependent upon or constrained by wealth, power, influence or circumstance. Therefore, I must concede that in every cases where the liberty of another individual is transgressed, I must take it very personally indeed. The concept of Liberty is not conditional. If I wish to be free, I cannot accept freedom that only exists so long as my actions either do not offend or come to the attention of someone who might wish to curtail or punish my actions.
Any group, person or government that acts in that way is a direct and most personal threat who simply hasn't noticed me yet. The simplest expression is this: if they do not respect the rights and liberties of people on the current shit list, that means that their only definition of "respect" is "not on my shit list right now."
I rudely reject the right of our government - or ANY government - to arrogate unto themselves the right to pick and choose which citizens, which taxpayers, indeed, which individuals of any provenance, to respect and accord the inalienable human rights recognized in our Constitution.
The clue-by-four responsible for this insight was twenty years living in Canada where, despite my best efforts and intentions, I ran into a perfect storm of circumstance and emergent mental disability that forced me first to resort to welfare and later, after having my nose rubbed further in my embarrassing incapacities, to apply for and gain full disability status.
This was far easier than my dignity found comfortable. Indeed, embedded within that process were assays and tests that said that I really ought to be gibbering and twitching rather more than I was. I took that as a sort of backhanded complement, actually.
However, this brings me to the point of the matter. In the Canadian system, both welfare and disability (which, by the way, are the same system with a difference in criteria for different people) are designed to support people while encouraging and toward independence, or (in the case of the disabled) to achieve as much as possible toward becoming functionally independent, with as little support as needed, with the sure knowledge that if you do need it, suddenly, it's immediately there.
And that is an understanding that every Canadian has in the back of their mind - that if everything in their life goes pear-shaped, they will be able to walk into a welfare office and get help - and they will be treated with dignity and the assumption that, obviously, everything in their life went pear-shaped despite their best efforts.
The beauty of the Canadian governmental and social philosophy is first, that if it comes to help you, it is trained and equipped to do so in an arguably professional way, actually feels an obligation to achieve positive results, and best of all, will actually go away if you decline their help, even if that's the most amazingly stupid course of action imaginable. The only exception is, literally, when you present an obvious and immediate danger to yourself or others.
The equivalent systems in the US are essentially designed to prevent the disabled from achieving anything, or being of any use to anyone, enforced by a bureaucracy who's prime mandate is to assume that all clients are lying all the time, with a paperwork burden on clients that is unreasonable to expect of the inarguably sane and fully functional.
Welfare is even worse. Both systems are designed explicitly to shame those in need of their services, and make the fact that those services are needed conspicuous to other citizens. Food Stamps, for instance, are an exercise in public humiliation at the checkout line.
It strikes me that even those who think using tax money for welfare is unconscionable, that it should be obvious that using welfare to humiliate and dis empower peoople an even worse use of government money than just giving it to people. It's the use of money as a form of force to abuse people for the sake of trying to effect a social change on an individual level.
The Canadian model, on the other hand, effectively employs people on disability and welfare to contribute to the volunteer community - which is much broader and more effective than in the United States - and also as the most cost-effective means of putting money to work within economically depressed communities.
That is to say, direct welfare to individuals replaces a great deal of corporate and intergovernmental welfare and transfer payments, relying on the fact that poor people must spend their money and have a compelling incentive to spend it as efficiently as possible, while being structurally required to spend it within their own communities.
And if this means that a largish number of people must seek alternate employment or resort to welfare, rather than depending on a middle-management government or not-for-profit sinecure - is that not all to the good? Those who are unsuited for any other employment will at least be paid less - and not detract so greatly from the end result.
You will not find many conspicuous urban slums in Canada - but it's not due to any "slum clearance" policy. And, as as side-effect, there are few, if any places a wealthy or well-known person would need to take security if they wished to go there.
Canada has neither large standing armed forces or a huge and hugely expensive prison system, which serve in the United States as politically acceptable alternates to a proper, fiscally responsible, concern for the actual welfare of individual Citizens.
It occurs to me that the reason why Canada is, paradoxically, a freer and more open society is due to the fact that they value the dignity and liberty of the individual without trying to directly assign a dollar value to it - that they consider each and every citizen part of and inherently entitled to the commons that is Canadian society as a whole. And yet, if you walk around any Canadian city and compare it to any US city of the samish size with a similar economy, you will be unavoidably drawn to the conclusion that it's a freer, safer and far wealthier city, when measured in terms of individual quality of life, freedom of movement, association, etc.
Canada has a pragmatic realization that even in the minority of cases where welfare is supporting those who are simply a waste of space, that the cost of doing so is painlessly spread, rather than directly, catastrophically impacting random individuals through theft and violence.
It's certainly not a traditional Libertarian approach, much less the ideal of either social OR economic conservatives. But Canadian Conservatives DO run the numbers and are persuaded by them, even when they must clench their teeth and admit that theory and practice seem to differ. Rather than overturn these adventures in Socialism, they pragmatically made them cost-effective, and supportive to both society and business.
It seems obvious to me that certain social costs are unavoidable. The only choice is in what coin we will pay, and how those costs will be distributed. In the case of the United States, because we have an unwholesome and entirely negative view of poverty and it's root causes, we spend about as much time, money and effort not helping people as other nations do on helping them because we refuse to admit that there will always be some number of people in any population that due to various factors that cannot be reasonably controlled, predicted or completely prevented, will be incapable of full independence.
By one means or another - subsidy or crime - they will do their best to survive with the tools they have, and it matters very little what moral censure or social engineering we direct against them. If they could change, they already have more than enough motivation to do so without piling insult upon incapacity.
Furthermore, our approach to poverty in general is isolative, effectively forcing the poor into ghettos where they have no contact with "real people." This of course makes any talents and virtues they might have utterly inaccessible to the culture as a whole. That, aside from being moderately evil is conspicuously stupid, particularly in a nation where the vast majority of our citizens are a paycheck away from feeling lucky to have a place to live in a ghetto.
Rhetorical question: What is the most common cause for bankruptcy and job loss? The answer, of course, is "Medical Expenses." And that's even in the case where people have medical insurance.
In civilized nations, it's recognized that universal health care with minimal hassle and expense is a universal concern, and therefore, it's a reasonable thing for government to be doing, so that the risks and expenses are distributed as widely as possible and the expenses shared across the whole of the economy.
There are many different ways to go about doing it, some work better than others, but there is no reasonable argument that can counter the evident positive results contrasted with the results of our own, equally expensive, non-performing system.
Indeed, I would argue that it's one of the few really obvious government mandates, now that it is inarguably both economically and practically possible to address the issue at all. If things that may become a critical threat to any citizen at any time are NOT something our governments are concerned with, what the hell are we paying them for?
My final thought is that Liberty cannot be and must not be ever considered to be conditional on any standard of "ought" or "should." I could construct an ethical argument, both long and compelling, but I'll short-cut it as being moot.
No system or philosophy of government or social organization that let a theoretical ideal of a proper citizen trump the reality of the variable nature of people has ever long survived, much less prospered.
Visit any nation which has fallen into domination by religious fanaticism of any stripe. Or consider, if you will, the track record of equally fanatical secular movements such as Maoism or Marxism.
Liberty, in order for it to be Liberty, requires that Liberty exist for all, that it never be conditional on wealth, privilege, access to power or politically correct behavior - save the necessary restrictions on interpersonal and mob violence we all have an inherent right to protect ourselves against and therefore must be the most fundamental duty of government to ensure.
We must all be free to make mistakes and we deserve government that values and encourages people exploring the limits of liberty to see what of interest may be found. This encouragement of creative ferment and a toleration of those who try and fail also creates a context where more successes occur in an absolute sense - simply by empowering people to take the risk in the first place.
It may seem counter-intuitive that a libertarian goal of maximizing freedom for all may actually require some approaches common to socialism - but in the end, it's not the means, but the end that makes a society what it is.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Imagine that you have personally dealt with hearing loss due to an untreated ear infection--since your family had no health insurance. Imagine that you have been in foster care, because your home did not have sufficient heat. Imagine being an American, surrounded by SUVs, HDTVs, and unspeakable wealth, but you rely on lunches at the Salvation Army. Good days are when you get *two* small milk cartons.
Unless you have been through these experiences, you probably cannot accurately imagine any of these things. Yet, people like Charles Murray (he co-authored, the Bell Curve) and Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation, write constantly about the alleged romantic experience of poverty. They do everything in their considerable power to tell Americans and the rest of the world that poverty is bliss. They have--without conscience--lied to the American public by saying that welfare creates poverty.
When Jonathan Swift made his "modest proposal," suggesting that the potato famine be relieved by feeding people upon the flesh of their own infants, it's worth remembering that truly good satire goes merely one step beyond the sort of thing that those being satirized are saying with straight faces.
That's why it takes a particularly strong stomach to be a great satirist, for often enough the actual positions taken are enough to provoke reflexive nausea. I'm not able to hold down my lunch well enough to even pretend agreement for the purposes of satire.
As a Libertarian, I'm all for wealth and private property. I think the accumulation of capital is an inherent good. I'm not opposed at all to those of an acquisitive nature keeping score by the means most attractive to them at all. And I understand that without concentrations of capital, nothing much of interest would ever get done.
What I object to is the idea that those who are not playing that game, or who have created opportunities for the "winners" by having tried and failed, are beneath consideration.
Wealth does not exist in a vacuum. It doesn't come from nothing, and for the most part, is not created by those who end up with the great bulk of it. They are massively rewarded (and justly so, I might add,) not by being creative themselves, but by empowering the creative and the talented. Creativity and wealth-building may even be talents that are mutually exclusive. Certainly, one cannot try to be both and achieve excellence at either, in the ordinary run of things.
Donald Trump is wealthy, and yet he's not an architect, a steel worker, a plumber, a glazier or a window washer. His entire success depends entirely upon a pyramid of people who depend on people who depend on people, and without them, despite his particular and inarguable genius, he's just a guy with an attitude and a truly bad haircut.
I don't know precisely how well he understands this, but it's clear that those at the Heritage foundation do not. They are, aside from being moderately evil,very short-sighted in the sense of practical economics. Let me be blunt; poor people are either non-participants in the economy, or they are participants at a level that is far below their potential.
Or in other words, when there is a great deal of poverty, not only is that an inherently bad thing from a perspective of human rights, it's also a bad thing economically and selfishly. It means there are human resources that are lying fallow when they could be generating wealth.
It's capital being held in a low or no-interest instrument. It's an economic waste, as well as being a social embarrassment.
The pyramid would be taller if these people were not as poor as they are, and yet some portions of the wealthy appear to think they will somehow be seen as being less wealthy if the poor are less poor.
But the existence of poverty is properly seen as a metric of the overall success of the economy as a whole, and a judgment upon the skills of those who have the most influence over it.
In our economy, that would be people like Trump, Soros, Murdoch and other billionaires, who influence our government all out of proportion to their numbers.
Well, since they do, let them understand that they are responsible for the results. And let them know that funding transparently ridiculous exercises in justifying the unjustifiable will not change the fact that, whatever their personal wealth and personal comfort levels, they are not truly successful until everyone they have placed "beneath" themselves is raised to a level that they, themselves would settle for if circumstances and the luck of the draw had been just a little different.
Frankly, any money spent on the Heritage Foundation would be better used on something frivolous that was at least creative. The Heritage Foundation hasn't said anything of substance that wasn't said to the last emperor in Constantinople by his courtiers - and with no better probable outcome.
But I did pick up values here and there, and one big one is "what goes around, comes around." That may well be a univesal truth. Certainly those who believe in the concept of Karma do.
Oh, and it also fits the concept of thermodynamics.
Debsweb: Family Values:
What bothers me the most about this is that it was so widespread. So many people went along with the program, never questioning themselves or their orders but all too willing to put to the question anybody that fit a certain profile. By deciding that people were guilty and trying to get information by any means necessary to confirm their suspicions, any moral high ground was lost to the dustbins of history. Just like every other debacle of this Bush league administration, no one could have anticipated that the truth would eventually come out.
Well, it's out now and even some of Bush's staunchest supporters are willing to question the administration's behavior.House minority leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters yesterday that he supports a thorough congressional inquiry.I'm thinking of teaching Shadow some doggie tricks, now all I have to do is figure out how to use the Demowienies ability to roll over and play dead as an example.
"I think that we need to get to the bottom of why the tapes were made, why they were destroyed, under what authority were they made, and under what authority were they destroyed," Boehner said.
I think we should look very hard at late-date converts as well as those who manage to praise Bush with faint damns.
Why ain't this administration in jail? There's no sensible answer to that question.
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4 Gay Men Tell Of Dealings With Sen. Larry Craig
Four gay men have told a
Craig is fighting a guilty plea he entered in his
The Idaho Statesman reported Sunday that the four
Two of the men told the paper that they had sex
Both are more than willing to cite the importance of the Bible, and both are proud of their significant religious ordinations; both are hold ordinations in their respective faiths, and Romney is the equivalent of a Christian Bishop.
Furthermore, it seems to me that any fair-minded person, in reviewing the accomplishments of both men, which are honestly significant and important, than it's evident that they have, within the limits of human nature and circumstance - strived to honor the spirit as well as the letter of doctrinal guidance. These are not bad things. Indeed, in many ways, both men illustrate the impact of religious culture in society in it's best light - and I say this while taking direct issue with much of what each stands for, religiously and politically.
But if we are to praise men of faith who do their best to honor the words of Christ as they understand them in the world, we must heed Matthew 6:24 :
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."In context, Matthew chapter six is purportedly the direct words of Christ and is indisputably the foundation of some of the oldest and most basic Christian doctrines. In other words, it's pretty much a litmus test for people who say they are Christians, or (in Mitt's case) that their faith derives from and amplifies Christianity.
While my understanding of Mormonism is weak at best, I know of nothing in it that would dispute this passage. And aside from anything else, the words stand for themselves; they are persuasive due to them being a matter of common sense, one that is well understood within common law, which would express it as "conflict of interest."
If this were the only leg to my argument, though, it would not be worth uttering, for of course the issue goes to motive, and motive we cannot know. No, the more critical issue is this:
Both men, in taking direct ordinations and embracing certain spiritual obligations and duties, have accepted what is generally understood by persons of faith to be a higher, overriding duty. And - in the case of BOTH Mitt's Mormonism and Mike's Southern Baptist faith, there are going to be times when it will not be possible to come to an honorable compromise between the prior charge of the priesthood and the later oath of office.
The only way either could legitimately take the oath would be by renouncing their prior ordinations. But then, that would not really reflect well upon how seriously they took the duties and obligations they had sworn before their visions of God to uphold.
It seems to me that as things stand, the only way I can assume that either will "faithfully execute the office of the President" is if I assume that they were keeping their fingers crossed when they made their earlier promises, for the honorable exercise of their offices requires them to put the interests of the faithful and of their faith ahead of anything else, to a far greater and more stringent degree than is required of someone who is merely a congregate in good standing.
If I assume they are both men of faith to the degree I am expected to believe, if I assume they are sincere in their beliefs, if I assume they are faithful to their various religious doctrines which both claim overriding divine authority, I must then assume that in conscience and in practice that doctrine and faith will trump Constitution and Law every single time. And, as both support amending the constitution itself to take rights away from gays who are doctrinally excluded from marriage within either faith, we clearly see how this conflict resolves for each.
I don't ascribe this to some nefarious hidden agenda, I ascribe it to perfectly sincere faith, executed by men of conscience to the best of their ability. Believing as they both do, there is no other path of conscience.
Which means, alas, that neither man should, in conscience, be running for political office, knowing full well that they cannot and must not serve two masters.
The only question is this: which one will they choose to betray?
The President must be president for all citizens - not just citizens of a particular faith or range of faiths. The President is the safeguard of our liberties - not the figure that would impose duties upon us by fiat. We are offered two men from two very authoritarian religions who, we must assume, believe not only that it's proper that moral standards be imposed, but who each hold offices that make them responsible for doing just that.
I'd have a problem with that even if I were a member of such a faith - and I rather think that my objections would be even more profound if I held a similar ordination in a similar faith.
That is why the founders somewhat reluctantly agreed that there should be a separation of Church and State and forbade the establishment of any religion, even the rather inoffensive Deist faith.
Because a man may not serve two masters - and neither may a government.
tag: religion, faith, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, election 2008, Matthew 6:24
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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Payperpost comes through as usual when I'm stuck for an idea outside of my obsession range.
In this case, I was struck by an appeal to create buzz for a site that isn't really there yet, but will be, and which is dedicated to LED landscape lighting. While you cannot yet (as of the date of this posting) acually buy their LED outdoor lighting-, they have a lot of reasons as to why you will want to:
Ernst & Young Plaza in downtown Los Angeles is decorated with a web-like truss-structure ornamented with 3,400 light bulbs. The owner of the Ernst & Young Plaza recently switched the lights with LED lights.
The incandescent lights that were replaced by LEDs had a typical life of 3,000 hours or less, which equals a useful life of about 10 months. For the Ernst & Young Plaza this meant that an average of 340 bulbs had to be replaced each day. The labor cost associated with this exceeded $10,000 each year.
The replacement LEDs will last for more than 50,000 hours or 13 years without need for replacement.
Ordinarily I'd have given this opportunity a pass. But in this case, it's the idea more than the product, and since they reminded me of the idea, they deserve the plug.
In the ordinary run of life, Returns on Investment to that degree usually involve insider trading or products that are illegal to sell in Kansas.
LED lighting - and I do not exaggerate - will help save our planet. And it will do that in the best libertarian way, by making a few someones many bucks, while saving everyone else a significant number of bucks. lest this seem like a trivial consideration, the important thing to remember is that every single one of these dollars is created by reducing energy losses. In other words, that's money that used to go into the landfill, so to speak.
In a very real sense, when you install LED lighting, you are reclaiming lost money. Or if you prefer, lost energy. But really, the one is a symbolic representative of the other.
So, I'd strongly encourage you to consider the idea of replacing your existing landscape lighting with LEDS. This is a case where "going green" has very crisp green benefits. And when all "green choices" reach this tipping point, the "green economy" will be a reality.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
ED: republished in lieu of sending money I don't have...
A Determined Voice Lost in the Wilderness
by Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle
Greg Palast may be the only journalist with a New York office who works, as he says, “in journalistic exile.” There, with a team of a half-dozen researchers largely supported by $50 donations from readers, Palast ferrets out documents and smoking-gun-toting insiders from Washington to Ecuador and uses them to gird his bitingly sardonic investigative essays that most American mainstream outlets won’t touch.
Why? Palast figures it’s because he mercilessly attacks the status quo. He was one of the first to write about the manipulation of voter files in the 2000 election, and he used a combination of unnamed sources, leaked documents and gumshoe reporting to critique the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina.
While he’s long been a critic of the Republican Party, he’s only somewhat kinder to liberals such as Sen. Hillary Clinton (”What do you really know about her views?”) and MoveOn.org (”Their idea is, if we have enough cocktail parties and put enough ads in the New York Times, we win. We may not have influenced any elections, but hell, we feel terrific about ourselves.”)
Or maybe mainstream outlets have avoided him because, as he puts it, “I’m an expensive guy to have around.” He estimates that it cost “over a million dollars” to lawyer the two books that hit the New York Times best-seller list, the latest of which was “Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild” (Penguin, 2007).
Other than Harper’s magazine and liberal online outlets, the best place to find the work of the 55-year-old married father of two is on BBC.com or his own site, www.gregpalast.com.
Palast has long had an enthusiastic following in the Bay Area, and on Saturday PEN Oakland will award him the Literary Censorship Award for several of the pieces that appear in “Armed Madhouse” and elsewhere. Palast isn’t sure whether he’ll be able to attend - he’s been dashing back and forth to Ecuador for a series of BBC reports on the effects of oil drilling in the Amazon.
“I don’t deserve this, but I accept it on behalf of my sources, many of whom risk their lives and their jobs,” Palast said from New York. “All I do is report on the courage of others.”
How does a writer of best-selling books get classified as “censored?” The answer, according to PEN Oakland spokesperson Kim McMillon, has much to do with the state of U.S. media.
“The average American does not see the type of reporting that Greg Palast is doing,” McMillon said. “The average American gets their news from FOX, CNN and the talking heads at ABC, NBC and CBS. What has taken the place of real journalism is reporting that is safe and will keep the public calm.”
Palast is the working-class kid with a University of Chicago MBA. He never studied journalism; he was more fond of the informal writing education he received from hanging out with Charles Bukowski in Hollywood. He wanted to become a poet, until Allen Ginsberg read some of his work and told him, “You’d be a great journalist.”
He reads little mainstream press other than the Wall Street Journal (”which is extraordinarily important”) and the New York Times (”to know what I’m supposed to know”).
Palast says his desire to expose class-warfare stories is rooted in his upbringing in the “ass-end of Los Angeles,” a neighborhood wedged between a power plant and a dump. Kids in the neighborhood had two choices, he said: go to Vietnam or work in the auto plant. “We were the losers,” he said. He was saved from the war by a favorable draft number.
“A lot of people didn’t make it out. Because I made it out, and my sister (Geri, a former Clinton administration assistant secretary of labor) made it out, I feel I have this obligation to tell these stories on behalf of all of those people who didn’t make it out.”
After graduate school at the University of Chicago (where he studied under free-market economic guru Milton Friedman - “an evil brilliant mind” who “taught me to be skeptical of liberal nostrums”), Palast became an investigator, a “forensic economist,” unearthing documents exposing fraud and racketeering on behalf of labor unions and consumer groups. In the late 1990s, frustrated by the toothless reporting he saw in much of the mainstream press, he turned to writing. One of the first stories that received widespread attention - initially first in England - was about the manipulation of the Florida vote count during the disputed 2000 election.
In a new afterword to “Armed Madhouse,” Palast predicts the 2008 election won’t be stolen by faulty touch-screen voting machines or even through computers at all. It will be done by making it hard for voters - particularly people of color in traditionally Democratic enclaves - to register and vote by a series of challenges to their registration.
“I’m seriously concerned that people see Florida 2000 as a fluke. But in fact, what we see is a systematic manipulation of the electoral system.”
Sadly, Palast said, little of this is discussed in coverage of the 2008 White House campaign. And neither is much else of substance.
“I don’t think anybody knows a goddamn thing about Barack Obama. We know that (former GOP Arkansas Gov. Mike) Huckabee lost weight. John Edwards has some pretty substantive policy papers, but all we know about him is that his wife has cancer. Basically, (the coverage) is an endless, endless, endless discussion of B.S.,” he said. “And NPR (National Public Radio) is no better. They’re just Connecticut accents repeating the same information.”
At the same time he criticizes American mass media, he longs to appear there. He wants mainstream television to broadcast his muckraking work to the more politically conservative heartland. He so wants to reach a mass broadcast audience that he used to accept invitations to appear on Fox News programs (”I’ll agree every once in a while to go on to be beat up”), but the invitations have largely dried up in the past year.
So to support his investigative work, three years ago he created a nonprofit fund. It raises more than $100,000 a year - most of it in $50 and $100 donations from individuals. “It’s the only thing that’s kept us alive,” said Palast, who takes no money from the fund. The BBC didn’t pay for his team’s airfare to Ecuador, so he used $15,000 from the fund.
He wouldn’t have these problems if he could crack the American broadcast market.
“Broadcasting means just that - you’re capturing a wide audience that isn’t looking for you. I have a huge Web presence and a huge readership. But they’re self-selecting; they want to hear me,” Palast said. “I want the people who don’t want to hear me, or have never heard of me or have no idea about me. That’s a tough thing - reaching out to those who have never heard of me.”
Greg Palast was honored at the 17th annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Awards this past Saturday.
Greg Palast's investigative reports for BBC Television are compiled in the new DVDs, "The Election Files: Theft of 2008" and "The Assassination of Hugo Chavez."
The Palast Investigative Fund (a 501c3 ) is supported by your donations please give today at www.PalastInvestigativeFund.org and receive a gift in time for the holidays.
It turns out that - over howls of protests from parole boards, victims families and prosecutors of both parties - you deserved clemency if just clutched a bible and professed to be "born again" with the degree of sincerity it seems born-again Republicans expect from one another. That, or if you raked leaves at the Mansion really well. "Or at least, that was one wry observation from a prosecutor who clearly wasn't willing to go so far as to say that clemencies are for sale.
And indeed, it may well be that he's dumb enough to piss in his AG's cornflakes for free.
There is a long, long list of offenders Huckabee has granted clemency to, many who have re offended. Several of these persons had been sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole by a jury of their peers.
Now, I'm all too well aware of the sorts of things that may occur that lead to someone being unjustly convicted - I'm rather a fan of DNA and The Innocence Project. But in such cases, there should be a very high standard - which The Innocence Project meets, by re-examining DNA evidence.
But this is not about a governor carefully reviewing a case and finding grounds for reasonable doubt - in Huckabee's case, the process appears to be whimsical, insensitive and entirely inexplicable to the legal community.
When you talk to prosecutors around the state, many of them will tell you they're unhappy that Gov. Huckabee pardons criminals without letting law-enforcement officials or victims' families know why he's doing it, as he's required by law.
___ "He doesn't take giving clemency very seriously," complains Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld, who will push for new legislation next year to make the clemency process less secretive.
One particularly sore point is his arrogance; signally and contrary to the Arkansas state constitution, he refuses to explain his reasons for granting clemency.
Herzfeld successfully sued to keep a murderer named Don Jeffers behind bars (at least for a while longer) after Huckabee granted him clemency without explanation as required by law: "On granting an application (for executive clemency), the Governor shall include in his written order the reasons thereforeŠ."Reportedly, the fact that a felon has lied on a clemency application doesn't concern Huckabee;
___Attorney General Mike Beebe, in nullifying the pardon, agreed that the governor had erred when he didn't give reasons why he had pardoned Jeffers and didn't even contact the prosecutor or the victim's family about how he felt about the pardon.
___"It was a tremendous victory," says the 30-year-old prosecutor. "This was not only the first time a prosecutor had filed a lawsuit against a governor but had actually won." Jeffers had strangled a Bryant man during a home burglary in 1980 and is serving a life sentence without parole for murder and 25 years for armed robbery after he plea bargained to avoid the death penalty.
He [Herzfeld] is fighting clemency for an-other Saline County killer named Denver Dual Witham, who is also serving a life sentence without parole.
___In 1974, Witham and a cousin beat their victim to death out in the woods with a lead pipe – and beat him repeatedly so that the victim's face was smashed almost beyond recognition. "His entire face was gone," the prosecutor says.
___He accuses Witham of lying on his clemency petition to make it seem that he had killed his victim in "a barroom brawl" – as if that had made the crime less awful.
___"He's a liar," Herzfeld says of Witham, who could face perjury charges because of his whitewashed clemency application.
___Herzfeld says Witham, who plays in the prison band, hid five previous felonies from his clemency application and had threatened the previous sheriff.
___"This is the person the governor wants to let out of prison," the prosecutor says. "No word yet on whether the governor will change his mind or go ahead and grant clemency to this convicted murderer who lied on his clemency application and made threats towards former public officials," Herzfeld told us.
___"The governor has to wait 30 days from the date he announced his intent to grant clemency on May 21. My guess is that the governor will release his decision on Witham late this Friday afternoon before the long holiday weekend."
I've no idea what's happening in regards to this case, but I can't imagine what could possibly cause a reasonable Governor of either party to overlook such abuse of process that it could even become an issue. It would not be "could face" but "would face" perjury charges, and I'd take a personal interest in insuring that the inmate's circumstances changed for the worse. I would pretty much assume that response of any governor of any party.
This is apparently a long-running scandal in the Governor home state, but it's apparently news to the GOP leadership, who still apparently distrust that "internet thingie" enough to do a quick Google to find any emergent scandals. Heck, never mind that; his actual positions on the issues contain something to offend just about everyone.
Of course, over at the Daily Kos, devout Democrats hold prayer vigils in hopes of his nomination, observing that a candidate that splits the Republicans between the Religious Right and everyone else AND who has Willie Horton as an invisible running mate is pretty much a free pass for any Democratic candidate with a pulse.
The problem for the GOP is they can't really take down Huckster because most of the things that are so crazy about him actually help him with the evangelical base. Even the rape-murderer he pushed let go can be spun that he thought the guy changed from being 'born again'. Huck's views on AIDS victims being quarantined, and being homosexual means you are a public health risk are of course apalling to us and the majority of Americans, but to the evangelical base, this won't hurt him at all. So now the GOP is left with their establishment candidates, flawed as they are, (Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Thompson) battling and splitting up the non-evangelical base as Huck takes the lionshare of the evangelical base. It's a recipe for disaster for the GOP. Now with the frontrunner's bullseye on him, story after story will come out in the media of his crazy and kooky views, but those stories won't turn off the evangelical GOP base, just everybody else.I concur. And my hunch - and that's all that it is, a hunch - is that it may well end up with Ron Paul getting the nomination. Not because of his high positives (I'd call them moderate positives) but because of the overwhelming negatives carried by everyone else. Even those turned off by his anti-war stance may well vote for him rather than giving Hillary (or whoever) a walkover.
Many say (with probable accuracy) that "he can't win the nomination," but I'm starting to think that it's a case where everyone else is going to lose worse.
I swear to Ghu, I do feel for the average, traditional moderate American Conservative, they really must be wondering where their leaders found this pack of jokers. Not one really viable candidate - and I reluctantly include Ron in that; there's no way in any normal election that he'd be getting the attention he's getting.
I'm surprised there isn't a movement underway to impeach the Republican National Committee.
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