Saturday, August 19, 2006

Soon There Won’t Be Any Freedoms Left For Them To Hate

While catching up on the political news out of the US last week, I came across Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s press release in response to the ruling that declared the NSA wiretap program unconstitutional:

Frist says,

"Terrorists are the real threat to our Constitutional and democratic freedoms, not the law enforcement and intelligence tools used to keep America safe. We need to strengthen, not weaken, our ability to foil terrorist plots before they can do us harm. I encourage swift appeal by the government and quick reversal of this unfortunate decision."

It’s the party line of course, but put in such a direct way that it begs for rebuttal.

Terrorists are the real threat to our... freedoms...

Perhaps in the terrorists’ wildest dreams, they are, but in reality?

Do the terrorists have the capability to literally invade the US, overthrow the government and establish their own regime?


If they did they’d have done it already.

So short of overthrowing the government, how can the terrorists threaten America’s freedoms?

By getting Americans to do it for them.

It’s not so much the searches at the airport and the surveillance at public events; that unfortunately is necessary.
It’s the way in which the current administration is using the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks to attempt to control the psychology of the country, with the goal of holding on to power and justifying the Iraq war.

In the process, Bill Frist’s “Constitutional and democratic freedoms” are being trampled to bits.

There is the dispute about the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (Geneva Convention, yes or no?), the indefinite detention of others in the US (Jose Padilla), the warrantless wiretaps, and likely countless other examples that I’m either not aware of or have forgotten. There is also the flagrant disregard for court rulings that try to reign in this behaviour, and the signing statements that pretty much undo any law the President doesn’t like. The deliberate (in my opinion) outing of a CIA agent would fall into this category as well.

Did the terrorists do all that?

The administration contends that their measures are working because there has not been another attack on the US.

Of course there hasn’t been another attack. What more could another attack accomplish? How much more fearful, paranoid and emotionally devastated could the country be?

If the Bush administration has prevented one it was not by wiretaps but by giving the terrorists everything they could hope for in damaging American society.

The attacks were real. They were dramatic, terrifying, and tragic.
But now it’s time to let it heal, five years on.

The open wound that is 9/11 is preventing America from focusing on problems that are desperate for attention; for instance, what about the state of the Gulf Coast? Hurricane Katrina did more physical (property) damage over a greater geographical area than the terrorists, but doesn’t seem to have the same kind of gut-wrenching effect for those not immediately involved.
It’s also convenient to overlook the FEMA debacle when asserting that only this administration can protect the country. That argument is no longer in any way believable.

So when Bill Frist tries to tell the country exactly whom to fear, he falls terribly short in contrast to another famous statesman, one whose message in another challenging time was constructive, not destructive:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address in 1933, said the following, which has never seemed more appropriate:

"This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

News Story that Got Lost in the Big Picture:

FEMA says same key opens many trailers

Seems only fifty different key patterns were used by the maker of over 100,000 trailers sold to FEMA for hurricane relief.
By the law of averages, eventually this came to light and FEMA says it will change the locks.

Stuff happens, sure. But when so much stuff happens over and over, constantly, and most of it is preventable or could be handled better in such a way that even a five year old could tell you what is wrong with the picture, then it becomes clear that the system is rotten.

To which you will probably say, "well DUH".

But please don't forget, FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security;

the Department that is supposed to keep America safe from terrorists;

part of the government that claims that only its administration can keep the country safe.

Could the Democrats possibly do a worse job?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Finally - Vindication!

Recent news from science:

Results of a new psychological study show that in people over 60 years of age, crankiness and higher intelligence go together, and conversely, being agreeable predicts a lower IQ.

Furthermore, in the young, openness and extraversion are associated with intelligence, but that link disappears with age.

This study was reportedly the first time such personality traits were studied with age group comparisons.

Now I am nothing if not disagreeable, and I have been told I’m smart, so this theory seems to hold water in my all-important population of one.
Only I’m not yet 60. Minor detail.
I’m just ahead of my time, is all.

But I have to wonder, which is the cause and which the effect? Are older smart people “disagreeable” as the researchers put it because they see what’s going on around them more clearly – or are they smarter because they don’t accept the status quo and everything they are being told, and go and find things out for themselves?

Maybe some of each.

Does it follow, then, that if I make an effort to be even crankier, that will improve my cognitive ability?

Hey it doesn’t hurt to try!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Who is in Charge of US Foreign Policy?

Why, Osama bin Laden is, at least according to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

At today’s press briefing, in answer to a question vaguely related to Joe Lieberman’s Connecticut primary loss, Mr. Snow rambled,

“Now, when the United States walked away, in the opinion of Osama bin Laden in 1991, bin Laden drew from that the conclusion that Americans were weak and wouldn't stay the course, and that led to September 11th.”

Leaving aside how Tony Snow knows what bin Laden was thinking way back in 1991, it appears that he put the blame for the Sept. 11 attacks squarely on the shoulders of the first President Bush and his Cabinet.
The Cabinet in which current Vice President Dick Cheney held the post now occupied by Donald Rumsfeld.

Blaming the victim and blaming your boss’ father and father-figure all in one sentence is at once quite an accomplishment but not necessarily a good idea.

But, as if he hadn’t said enough, Snow continued,

“And it's important to realize that terrorists are not simply inspired by American engagement in the world, but they have their own agenda and it is an agenda that if we turn around and look the other way, they're not going to ignore -- they will continue to build strength and they will continue to build adherence.”

Following Tony Snow’s logic, then, in order to avoid future attacks the US must persevere in whatever misguided (or otherwise) pursuit it undertakes, Forever-And-Ever-Amen.
Kind of like marriage only with more commitment.

Constantly viewing vital policy decisions in the context of what would bin Laden think deprives the United States of the ability to formulate creative and independent options, and at the very least is a convenient and facile attempt to shut down critics and put a stop to healthy debate.
In this regard, I am sad to say, it appears that the terrorists have won.

Friday, August 04, 2006

As Ye Sow...

Representative government.
Their own security forces.
Political demonstrations.

-All treasured hallmarks of life in a democratic society.

According to this Associated Press article, hundreds of thousands of Shiites poured into the streets of Baghdad on Friday for a non-violent demonstration in support of Hezbollah.
They came from all over southern Iraq for the occasion, which was complete with flag and effigy-burnings, flag-stompings, people dressed in burial shrouds in case of martyrdom, and the usual rhetoric.
Participants openly exercised their right of freedom of speech by chanting, “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.

It is said to be the largest show of support for Hezbollah in the region since the current war between Israel and Hezbollah began on July 12, and it was made possible by the new era of freedom that has taken root in this newly-liberated country.

I doubt that the Shiite demonstrators feared retaliation or interference from their mortal rivals, the Sunnis, since the only things that Iraqi Moslem sects probably hate more than each other are Israel and the U.S.
Thus, a unified country appears feasible at last. It is enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Just to review, the Shiites are the ones who were repressed under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the ones who were to greet the coalition troops as “liberators”.

I guess they didn’t receive the script in time.

But now they are making up for it by showing their gratitude in the form of adopting the democratic principles of their conquerors!

If I were President Bush (perish the thought!) I’d feel proud and vindicated, since this is truly proof that my mission (to bring democracy to Iraq) has been accomplished.

And clearly, I’d immediately move to bring the troops home and close this chapter of my Presidential history, for it’s obvious that Iraqis have fully grasped the concept of democracy.

Bringing them any more of it would merely be redundant.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

By now you have doubtless heard the major news story of the day, that being the senseless massacre of a valuable teddy bear collection in England.

The alleged perpetrator (who was caught in the act so I don’t know why I might need to use the word “alleged” but you can never have enough protection from a libel suit) is Barney, a six year old Doberman pinscher.
Barney had access to the collection because he was serving as its guard dog at the behest of the insurance company covering the display at a British park.

Whoever came up with that bright idea is now in the process of moving his worldly possessions back into his parents’ basement, no doubt.

Apparently, Barney first became annoyed at Mabel, a vintage bear that had once been owned by Elvis Presley. She had survived for almost 100 years since her creation, that is, until she met Barney.
Mabel’s prognosis is uncertain at the moment.

Once Barney was deprived of his first kill, he reportedly went on a “rampage”, injuring one hundred more bears.
Perhaps he had watched one too many episodes of Stephen Colbert’s ThreatDown.

You might wonder why such a valuable collection was not locked up behind glass cases – but why would they feel the need to do that, when they had a guard dog!

As for Barney, now that he has passed the audition, he will take up residence on the proverbial “farm”, where he is to “chase chickens”.

One hopes they do not taste like teddy bears.