Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Rough Beast is Slouching Towards Bethlehem?

Happy New Year!

I've been wondering what the new year will bring, more of the wonderful, wacky domestic news, balanced by the deaths of foreign civilians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Things remain the same between Israel and Hamas. The Arabian League met yesterday, and can't quite bring itself to get on Hamas's case for sending all of those damned rockets into Israel when they should have been trying to find more productive ways to clothe and feed the 1.6 million Palestinians who live in Gaza. They are sending emissaries to talk with Hamas, if they can find them.

Europe is breathing a sigh of relief today, as the Ukraine has agreed to pay the 2 billion dollar oil bill to Russia. About 40% of Russia's oil that goes to the European market flows through the Ukraine, and if the spigot would have been turned off, many countries would have suffered. Well, as I write this the oil deal fell apart, Russia will restrict oil to Ukraine but Ukraine will not restrict oil flowing through to Europe.

The arrogant and shrill ex-US Representative Cynthia McKinney made the news yesterday, when she went along on a boat ride out of Cypress, headed towards Gaza to deliver supplies, along with 15 other activists and a CNN reporter. Ms McKinney went as the recent Green Party Presidential candidate. The 66 foot yacht Dignity went out at night without running lights, trying to sneak past the Israeli blockade of the Gaza coastline. They were detected, asked to leave or they would be treated as terrorists. After being followed for half an hour, their boat was rammed and they had to limp into the nearest port in Lebanon.

In a news conference, Ms McKinney said they were shot at, though there were no signs of it on the boat. There were no excuses why they didn't go through normal channels to give the supplies to Egypt, which has been controlling the current way in and out of the Gaza strip next to Israel.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has turned up the heat and slapped the face of his fellow Democrats, by appointing Roland Burris to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Fellow Democrats have said that they wouldn't seat anyone he appointed, so he appointed a middle of the road black man, just to make things more fun.

For days Blagojevich has been asked to resign, to not make the Senate appointment because it would be tainted love, while they seek to impeach him. His lawyer has been saying that all ya got is trash talking and hot air, and that is not against the law.

The Democrats don't have any legal grounds to not seat Mr Burris, and the Federal prosecutor is now asking for a 90 day extension instead of filing prosecution charges. The sad thing in all of this is the naked ambition in Mr Burris in going along with this. He has run for governor twice unsuccessfully, and is out in the open in lusting for the appointment. Other than that, he has been a public servant who has performed his jobs honestly and without scandal.

And if you think your year hasn't gone well and the next year also looks grim, remember that it could be worse; you could be Mike Shanahan..

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Can See Gaza From My Front Porch...

The European Union has asked Israel to consider another ceasefire, giving the Hamas leaders a chance to scurry from their bolt-holes to meet and regroup. The Arabian League is meeting today to consider their options. All press reporters have been banned from Gaza.

In a misdirection ploy, Turkey has unleashed several jet fighter raids of its own on Kurdish separatist groups that it considers threatening, flying over the border of Iraq. Pakistan halted recent NATO convoys going to Afghanistan to deploy soldiers in a surprise raid on tribal fighters in the Khyber Pass area.

The official White House response has been, please try not to hit many civilians. Since people are packed in Gaza like sardines, and Hamas has put its military warehouses in densely packed neighborhoods, that's just not gonna happen. Also, about half of the Palestinian population in Gaza is under 18 years old, many of the deaths are going to be children.

Egypt has had pressure put on it to open up the Rafah crossing, which separates Gaza from Egypt. They don't want any Hamas members in their country, for fear that their brand of radical Islamism may spread. They have opened Rafah for medical and humanitarian aid, accepting some Palestinians into Egyptian hospitals. Now that the tunnels have been destroyed, Hamas has asked citizens of Egypt to rise up and forcibly take over and open up the Rafah crossing.

Hamas forcibly took control of Gaza in 2006. Since then, their popularity has gone downhill, from over 30% in favor to under 19% this year. Now, every uneducated street punk throughout Arabia is suddenly in favor of Hamas, and sympathy is about all it has going for it. They have consistently refused to sit down at any peace talks, and all negotiations have had to have been done indirectly, which was bringing Syria into the fold as mediator. And yes, all they have to do to stop the Israelis is agree to no more funky homemade rockets being fired across the border, but then what would Omar and Hassan have to do on those days they got bored?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Stupid Israelis, Putin's Dreams Dashing

Isn't it ironic, that right now Iraq seems to be one of the more stable countries in the Middle East... Cynically, Israel has chosen this time in the waning days of President Bush to attack Gaza. Daod Kuttab reports in the Washington Post that it also has reenergized Hamas as a legitimate political force, when its influence had been waning in Gaza, steadily declining in the past two years. Nobody was even buying the bobble-head dolls... Of course, Israel is trying to woo over the right wing in time for the next elections, so they don't appear soft on Palestinian determination.

" For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals. One side wants to resuscitate its public support by appearing to be a heroic resister, while the other, on the eve of elections, wants to show toughness to a public unhappy with the nuisance of the Qassam rockets.

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel's strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. "

So, either the situation will escalate, with Israeli troops going in and trying to figure out who is a Hamas member and who is a regular citizen, or it will die down. The tunnels that were used to smuggle components in to make the rockets sent over into Israel have been destroyed. Perhaps relations can be repaired and talks again going forward for a peace process, or maybe it will all devolve back into tribal hostilities and we won't have to worry about how many crooks are harbored in Pakistan; it will be just one big, lifeless crater glowing at night to rival the Northern Lights...

Vladimer Putin has been trying to revivify the glory that was Mother Russia, primarily by using the nation's two largest companies to buy up as much private gas and oil concerns as they could. When the prices of oil were rising it was a feasible idea, but now that they have fallen and a global recession has occurred, the largest oil company, Gazprom, is seeking a government bailout. Which is weird, because the government is running the company. Its stock prices have fallen 76% this year, and haven't stabilized yet. As reported in the New York Times: "During the boom times, Gazprom and the other Russian state energy company, Rosneft, became vehicles for carrying out creeping renationalization.

As oil prices rose, so did their stocks. But rather than investing sufficiently in drilling and exploration, Russia’s president at the time, Vladimir V. Putin, used them to pursue his agenda of regaining public control over the oil fields, and much of private industry beyond.

As a result, by the time the downturn came, they entered the credit crisis deeply in debt and with a backlog of capital investment needs. (Under Mr. Putin, now the prime minister, Gazprom and Rosneft are so tightly controlled by the Kremlin that the companies are not run by mere government appointees, but directly by government ministers who sit on their boards."

Russia is also threatening to shut off oil to the Ukraine by Thursday. And this last year it has been trying to contract with as many energy concerns in Africa and South America, competing with the Us and China. Another cause of global warming may be the heightened threats and rhetoric we are directing at each other...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Order Up,One Gaza Strip,Served Rare and Bloody...

There are over 1.5 million people stuffed living in the Gaza strip, it's one of the most densely populated places on earth. Israel is amassing troops ready to go into Gaza and take out the militant group Hamas.

A few days ago there was a truce between the two, but Hamas refused to extend it. Now, almost 300 people have died from Israeli jet fighter attacks, with both sides calling for escalation of force in their decidedly shrill way.

The night before the truce was to end, Israeli jets attacked an area near the Gaza-Egyptian border, bombing where there were about 40 smuggler's tunnels, where everything from guns to food to fake rolexes were taken through the tunnels into Gaza or back to Egypt. One bomb went amiss and hit a civilian's house, killing the father of two children.

As reported by al Jazeerah: " Tensions on the border crossing, Gaza's only one to bypass Israel, had risen during the day, with Egypt blaming Hamas for not letting wounded Palestinians through and Hamas asking for medical aid to be handed over. Israeli warplanes earlier bombed a series of contraband tunnels on the border of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and Egypt, scattering Egyptians waiting at the border to help wounded Palestinians. The tunnels that criss-cross the border are used to smuggle goods and weapons into the territory that has been virtually cut off from the outside world since Hamas violently seized power in June 2007. "The air force attacked over 40 tunnels on the Gaza side of the border," said an Israeli army spokeswoman. "Those tunnels were believed to be used for smuggling weapons, explosives and sometimes people." Some of the blasts hit very close to an Egyptian military camp on the border, an AFP correspondent said."

Over the next couple of days, Hamas sent over 50 rockets into southern Israel, which prompted the Israeli jets over the last couple of days. The problem with Gaza is that it is so densely packed, that military offices are in crowded neighborhoods and rockets can be launched from rooftops or a parking lot, so any bombing inside Gaza will claim innocent lives.

Egypt had previously made a deal with Israel to patrol the border area against Gaza, and they had complained to Israel how difficult it was because of the tunnels. Now they are stuck in a difficult position if other Arab countries rally to the defense of Hamas. Israel is betting that only Iran may try to help, which was another reason for blowing up the tunnels.

A few days ago it looked like the next nuclear war would start with Pakistan and India. That situation has not defused, but now it looks like Hamas and Israel are scrambling to beat them to it. If there are any wise men traveling out on the desert tonight, I hope the light they are following is from Heaven, and not from someone's manger blown to smithereens...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dear Mr Taliban, Clean Coal Crusade

Dear Mr Taliban, Hi, it's me again, giving you a heads up. It looks like paranoid Pakistan and India are going to go to war soon, so you may not have a country to operate out of. I would suggest dumping Mullah Omar and negotiating something, anything with the Karzai government, and doing it real soon. Both countries have nuclear weapons, so where you are living may soon become a vaporized hole in the earth.

But this may be a diversion on Pakistan's part, because the UN is trying to set up a commission to find out who killed Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan sure isn't trying very hard, just like OJ is looking for the killer of his ex-wife, and George Bush was looking for Osama bin Laden.

In fact, I've been thinking of selling t-shirts with the logo: I Went Searching for Osama bin Laden, but All I got was Saddam Hussein! No? Ok, how about: I Went Searching for Osama bin Laden, but All I Got was This Lousy War! Sorry, we don't have size X-Small...

The coal industry is funding millions of dollars for web sites and bloggers to support their positions on clean coal technology, or virtual coal. So, if you see other Colorado bloggers suddenly gushing over the coal industry here, you will know who is on the payroll. Maybe someone like Barry Fagin will write something, if he hasn't stopped whining about liberals and how they should just leave him alone. I'm a bit jealous, since I've wanted to be sponsored by a lobby or industry or political group or the CIA, but haven't been approached by anyone crooked yet. Maybe I should come up with a snappy name with America or Independence or Freedom in the title, then they would come to me...

It's official, by the end of next week Florida based Distribution Video Audio, which is America's last VHS distributor, will be going out of business despite having sold four million VHS tapes in the last two years. They were a large part of my life, and I will miss them. Raise your mojitos high, my friends, the old era is truly gone and we have entered the digital age. Make it one for my baby, and one more for the road.

Is Middle East Peace Possible?

The most interesting things on the web today are opinion pieces from Turki al-Faisal, the Crown Prince of the Saudi royal family and  ex-ambassador to the US from 2005 to 2007, and Paul Krugman's article on how Obama needs to have a cleaner government free from corruption and patronage.

Turki al-Faisal's opinion piece in the Washington Post shows how the Saudi Peace Plan of 2002 can be implemented. Shimon Peres of Israel has said that he is willing to have further talks about this any time, any place.

As Thomas Friedman earlier reported: the 22 members of the Arab League, at their summit in Beirut on March 27 and 28, make a simple, clear-cut proposal to Israel to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse: In return for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967, lines, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the 22 members of the Arab League would offer Israel full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees. Full withdrawal, in accord with U.N. Resolution 242, for full peace between Israel and the entire Arab world. Why not?

Barack Obama should jump on this as soon as possible because it's the best bet in a real long time for setting up stability in the region. Of course, its opposed by Iran and its allies, but allies can change.

Here is the link to Paul Krugman's article. The gist of it is: First, the administration of the economic recovery plan has to be squeaky clean. Purely economic considerations might suggest cutting a few corners in the interest of getting stimulus moving quickly, but the politics of the situation dictates great care in how money is spent. And enforcement is crucial: inspectors general have to be strong and independent, and whistle-blowers have to be rewarded, not punished as they were in the Bush years.

Second, the plan has to be really, truly pork-free. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden recently promised that the plan “will not become a Christmas tree”; the new administration needs to deliver on that promise.

Finally, the Obama administration and Democrats in general need to do everything they can to build an F.D.R.-like bond with the public. Never mind Mr. Obama’s current high standing in the polls based on public hopes that he’ll succeed. He needs a solid base of support that will remain even when things aren’t going well.

My other favorite news article is the CIA using gifts like Viagra to tribal elders in Afghanistan in exchange for information. The lesson here is that we are going to have to befriend the tribes there, and money may not be the best way to win hearts and minds. Schools, medical supplies, things that can make the quality of life a little better that the Taliban can't offer, may do more than guns and explosives can. In the case with Viagra, the elder had four wives, and it certainly helped cement relations.

Here in Colorado Springs, I drink a lot of tap water, use it to mix sugar free drinks instead of sodas. We had a report on the amount of drugs that were in the water system. I was wondering if I could ask the city to put in more of my favorite drugs, it could be a win/win solution. It's one way the city can make some money to get out of debt, and it has a happier, if not more sedated populace.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Images from Bethlehem

These images are graffiti from an artist in Bethlehem and was published in the German magazine der Spiegel, who has been
 painting walls and the sides of buildings for the past few years. Some of them have been instantly
 erased, while others, like these three, have been protected. 

The city of Bethlehem had a quiet Christmas, as opposed to the craziness being fomented between, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. With the truce off, both sides have begun to lob bombs back and forth at each other. Israel, showing both faces, threatens to send troops into Gaza to engage Hamas, yet just released 227 Palestinian prisoners.

The Middle East is becoming more weird and entangled in who are allies, and who are enemies. Iran is the only non-Arab state, yet its the most violently anti-Israeli, and is openly helping Hamas, by supporting it with over 250 million dollars in aid since 2006, to training young men in the handling of armaments, if they can sneak themselves into Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are finding themselves in the position of taking sides with Israel, and they are not liking it very much. Iran has responded by holding demonstrations calling for the assassination of Mubarak. They are government planned demonstrations, much like Bush held rallies and press conferences, but still, Egyptian leaders are uneasy. Lately, Syria has been called on to support its Arab brothers and not be soft towards the Iranian rhetoric, which led to the recent incursion over its border by the US, who looms over the area like a giant spider.

I remember back in the sixth grade learning about the Middle East, when my teacher told us, you know, these tribes have been fighting and cutting each other's throats for over 1500 years, and I don't think it will end anytime soon. That was over 45 years ago, and still holds true.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Miracles

I've been searching the web for stories that can be considered miracles because I sure could use one. The simplest miracle is to sit quietly for a moment and meditate, get in touch with your spirit. If you are a Christian, you would get in touch with God or the spirit of Jesus Christ. This, and the ability to give and receive love is truly a miracle that you can share anytime.

Back in November a 14 year old girl was in the hospital with pneumonia, and the prognosis wasn't good. A nurse asked the mother, who was taking a break from her vigil, to come over to the nurse's station, and showed her on one of the monitor screens a bright, white light that looked a bit like an angel. The mother took a picture of the screen with her phone, and a few hours later the daughter's monitored signs all returned to normal. She soon recovered and was released from the hospital. The mother believes that the light helped her daughter recover and released the photo; it was even picked up by Fox News.

Another story is that famed bicyclist Lance Armstrong and his girlfriend are going to have a baby. The miracle here is that Lance had testicular cancer which was treated with chemotherapy and he was thought to be sterile as a result. But, practicing the old fashioned way seems to have helped in making a recovery, with the pregnant results.

It used to be enough to wish for peace upon the earth. Now, it's please don't let our nuclear neighbors get more paranoid and use those puppies. Pakistan is ratcheting it up a few notches by sending fighter jets into their airspace to guard against incursions from India. Palestine and Israel ended their cease fire truce, and the Christian pilgrims who travel to Bethlehem are bearing the brunt of the increased hostility. As an aside here, the spot where it's believed that Jesus was born has been turned into somewhat of a tourist place, named Manger Square.

Many others are wishing for the miracle that Pastor Rick Warren will become more tolerant in his views, and that Dick Cheney will gain a conscience.

Personally, I'm hoping for the willpower to keep away from all of the Christmas treats so I don't pass out in a sugar induced coma. And I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukah, especially to Lenore and her family.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Your Very Own TARP Application

If you have Acrobat Reader or better yet, Acrobat Professional, here is the link to download your own personal TARP Application to get your share of the remaining 350 billion dollars Henry Paulson is literally giving away! You won't have to account where it goes! You won't have to tell the public anything, or even the government! I'd suggest asking for at least 250 million like I am going to do, with my Grumpy Old Man Group, or GOMG of Colorado Springs...

Now you can join the big boys of financial administration, with the streamlined form that really doesn't require any information on your part. It's more difficult getting a library card than filling out the actual TARP application. When the Associated Press asked 21 banks that have already received at least one billion dollars, every single one said that we don't have to tell you squat. Members of Congress are trying to find a way to make the whole thing more responsible to the taxpayers.

In a recent article, Nobel Prize winning journalist Paul Krugman explains that it will take some time before the economy recovers. Because we don't have any markets that will drive the economy now that the housing bubble burst as did the financial industry. War is draining us instead of driving us out of recession, and if we begin to save more and keep on spending less, any recovery will take longer and need government help.

But as the economy gets worse, so does petty crime. Christmastime is the biggest shoplifting season, with 35 million in merchandise stolen daily across the country. Increase in job layoffs, not being able to get by and buy things for children, people are getting 80% more desperate this year. Stores have less employees to look for shoplifters, police departments are putting it down on their list of priorities, and even charities are being swamped with more needy folks than they have the capacity to help.

I know that we are having few gifts to give the grandchildren, and it looks to be a very modest Christmas this year. Please remember that this is a religious holiday, and helping to nurture each one's spirit is more important than the amount of swag under the tree. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Toyota to Post Loss, Cheney and Biden Death Match 2008

Toyota's shares have dropped 50% within the last year, and this weekend they have said that they expect their first loss in 70 years. Sales have dropped by 31%, compared to 33% for Honda, and 41% for Chevrolet. Although the North American market is their largest, sales have flattened in India and China, too. That plant they were going to build in Mississippi? Forget about it...

South Korea auto conglomerates of Hyundai and Kia also are reporting belt tightening measures.

The White house has approved some bailout funds for Chrysler and GMC, but is basically going to let the new administration deal with the brunt of the problem, come February or March. Henry Paulson is asking for the second 350 billion dollars to dole out before January 20 to his friends, and anyone who is asking for it, no accounting or responsibility required.

An unrepentant Vice President Dick Cheney was once called by Joe Biden, the most dangerous Vice President in history, and that's just to his hunting buddies... Further sparring between the two has been happening during these last couple of weeks. Biden vows to cut back on the VP power, but only if he can keep the x-ray vision, while Cheney has called him a fool. That the expansion of the executive branch has been a good thing, or even a legal thing is something that will remain to be decided, especially if members of the Bush administration get taken to criminal court. Cheney has said that he did make the decision to allow waterboarding, and that they would have gone into Iraq no matter what the intelligence findings were.

If George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove all keep on being regulars Chatty Cathy's, there's no telling what else they will cop to. I say, let's bring back Rumsfeld into the mix, I'm sure there are things he'd like to get off of his chest, too...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Somalian Passage, Belgians are Waffling

In what part of the world are Iran, China, the US and other countries all working together? They have all send ships to patrol the waters off the coast of Somalia, trying to guard their country's cargo ships from pirates. This past year pirates have abducted over 100 ships, and still are holding 15 for ransom.

From the Christian Science Monitor:While their countrymen suffer through another political crisis and the looming threat of famine, pirates are splashing hundred-dollar bills like play money around the nowhere towns of northern Somalia.

Residents say the pirates are building houses, buying flashy cellphones and air-conditioned SUVs, gifting friends and relatives with hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, and winning the attention of beautiful women, who seem to be flocking to pirate towns from miles around.

Somalia is a very dangerous place right now. There has been no formal government since 1991, when warlords overthrew the elected government, and then turned on each other like a pack of rabid jackals. Two years ago a small peacekeeping force came in from members of the African Union, but nobody took over the leadership role in fighting the various groups of Islamist extremists in southern Somalia. Ethiopia sent troops in to help stabilize, but now they are going to have to withdraw their forces because of internal political problems of their own.

The fishing industry has almost been depleted, thanks to huge factory ships like the ones from Japan that ignore territorial rights. Also, many countries have been dumping 55 gallon containers of nuclear waste, which have been breaking up and contaminating the water.

So, being a pirate doesn't seem so bad. You get to run around shark infested waters, dodging war ships from at least three different countries, and now the UN has sanctioned that troops can chase you back up on land. Yo, ho, ho!

We really ought to adopt the Parliamentary form of government instead of our own inept copycat version. From the BBC: Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme has offered his government's resignation amid a growing row over the break-up and sale of the stricken bank, Fortis.
King Albert II has deferred the decision on whether to accept it, and has begun talks on how best to proceed.

Fortis is a victim of the US's economic crisis and has been left desperately short of cash. Its part owned by the government and they tried to sell it off quickly, but a freeze was put on the sale until it was determined more extensively what its problems were. The government tried to intervene, and because charges of corruption are now being bandied about, the Prime Minister has threatened to take the ball away and go home in no confidence. But, the King is the final arbiter, and if he rejects the resignation, like he did once before, the Prime Minister and his government stays around and get to do  pretty much whatever they want.

Gee, I wonder if President Bush would have gotten a vote of no confidence, and would have had to dissolve his government. My big question is, who would have been the king? Besides Dick Cheney...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

States Going Broke

I want to thank the Colorado Springs Gazette for excerpting parts of my blog occasionally in their newspaper over these past few months. Oh, say this morning, for example. It's always a pleasant surprise sitting down  with a cup of coffee, opening up the front page, and finding what I wrote in the springsroll. I find that I look at the other community blogs more often, too, curious what the other local voices sound like.

The state of Colorado will be short next year by either 77 million dollars, or up to 600 million, depending on which economic forecast you adhere to. The governor's office is the rosier
 picture, predicting the general fund will increase also, while the non-partisan Legislative Council is coming up with the dire warning. The two groups will actually now work together to figure out why there is such a difference between them, and hopefully, a more real picture will emerge.

The Rocky Mountain News interviewed Henry Sobanet, who helped preside over the 1 billion in budget cuts back in 2004. " As you can imagine, it's the most difficult thing you can do, because the way our budget is, 40 cents on the dollar in the general fund goes to K-12 education, and another 20 cents goes to Medicaid, and for a variety of reasons those are off limits, so you end up having disproportionate cuts in other areas of the budget." 

It's times like these I always wonder where the money supposedly raised by the state lottery is going. But the belt tightening is trickling down to all counties and cities, even though it's reported that other states are worse off. One thing for sure, as prisons and police get laid off, robberies and violent crime will rise.

Take California, please... It's predicted that it will go broke in February, with a 5 billion deficit in March. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has just issued an order that all state employees will take two days off per month without pay, and manager's salaries will also be lowered to reflect that cut. The legislature had just passed a budget but he said that it will be rejected because it doesn't go far enough in cuts, and that the proposed salary cuts were unspecified. So, he called the legislature back into session and said that they won't go home until the budget problem is satisfactorily solved.

As you can imagine, the reaction was not kind, as reported in the LA Times: "The situation is out of control," said Walker, who represents 95,000 people, the largest number of unionized white-collar state workers. "With the state's economy heading towards a cliff, Gov.
 Schwarzenegger has pushed the state's fiscal crisis into catastrophe."

Walker said the new layoffs will come on top of 10,000 job cuts made in the last year.

The Assn. of California State Supervisors objected that managers were being singled out for potential pay cuts and layoffs on a day when the state unemployment rate rose to 8.4%, the worst in 14 years.

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) and other Democratic lawmakers issued a statement condemning the order by the governor, who negotiates state employee contracts.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger may be Hollywood royalty, but that doesn't make California a monarchy," the statement said. "Part of his core responsibility is to negotiate deals with employees."

Of course, California's situation is unique, because to really solve their budget crisis, all the governor has to do is make another movie or two. And he could start a trend, casting real politicians in them. Would they be villains or heroes, as reflected in real life?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Buy Your Heroin Locally, Economic Overdose

Parents and politicians here in Colorado Springs have been shocked, shocked I tell you, over the discovered use of black tar heroin by at least 25 high schoolers. So far it's been contained to one high school where the richer kids go, causing parental fingers to wag. Investigations are ongoing.

Any teenage kid will know more about what drugs are available on the street, where to get them, and who are the chronic users, than any school principal or cop. When I was a kid in Southern California, heroin was easy to get; all you had to do was make friends with the rich kids who lived up in Palos Verdes. You could get it elsewhere, but you always knew the quality would be better. When I was in college I had a friend who sold heroin, but his clientele was almost exclusively to the male doctors at the major hospital he worked at. Of course, later I had friends die from overdosing who were involved with the music industry.

Back here at home it's easier to condemn the use of others, harder to be in denial when it's your kid. It's not easy to watch them when they fall. Much the same behavior was exhibited when it was discovered there was a meth lab working in every neighborhood...

In a related note, Bristol Palin's future mother-in-law has been arrested on federal drug charges, because you gotta pay for the wedding somehow... No comment from the Governor's mansion.

Credit card rules have slightly been changed, so you might feel easier about getting into more debt. Because we don't want you to be responsible and pay as you go or save money in the bank; that's not much of a bailout! No, we want you to feel safe enough to buy a new Ford, use that credit card, or buy a house and pay three times the amount it's worth to the bank.

You must read Paul Krugman's opinion piece on how our whole scheme of investments is one large Ponzi scam, and that the warning signs have been there for awhile and ignored by the people we trust to detect such things. Nor has the Democratic Congress yet moved to close the loopholes to make certain investments safer for folks like you and me.

The first oversight report on the economic bailout came out a few days ago, basically saying that there has been no oversight. 350 billion has been spent in 3 months and there are no tangible results to show. There is no way of telling what the banks have done with the money given to them, no way to make them tell, and, as was discovered with Goldman Sachs, asking for bailout money with one hand while stashing it in Overseas banks that don't charge taxes with another. I wonder what they do with their tails? Time to get rid of Paulson, kick his overpaid butt out the door.

And we still won't know who won the Minnesota Senate race until after the New Year. At times like these I wonder WWJD, or What Would Jesse Do? Yep, let's strip Franken and Coleman down, oil them up, and let them go at it, best two out of three goes to the Senate.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama Invites Rick Warren to the Party

I was checking up on all of the blogs last night, trying to get a handle on what the big stories might be. To my surprise the biggest stink erupted over the announcement that Pastor Rick Warren would give the invocation at the inauguration ceremony.

If you are liberal, or support gay rights, or just don't like the corporation of America's churches, you might not like the choice. Pastor Warren started the 4th largest church in America, the Saddleback Church located in Orange County, California, and has also started six other ministries, and written two best selling books. He has several charities, mostly funded by the money he collects from parishioners, tithing back 90% and using 10% for the churches, something that not very many other churches do.

He is seen as slightly to the left of James Dobson, who, I believe has also been invited, and has given money to defeat California's proposition 8. This is Obama's way of reaching out to the more conservative, evangelical white folks who didn't vote for him, and he should watch out that they don't try to bite him in response.

But if Rick Warren really wants to up the ante to replace Billy Graham as America's top preacher, he should try to sing some duets with Aretha Franklin, who is scheduled to sing. But I'm afraid that it would be way too cool for him to attempt...

Back in the real world, our Iraqi shoe thrower has written a lovely letter of apology for his actions. His defiant brother says that is not like him, he never apologizes for anything. I get the impression that the brother would rather be the one in jail...

23 Iraqi interior and defense ministers were arrested for trying to resurrect Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party, thus paving the way for Mr al Maliki's re-election.

Britain announced two days ago that they would pull their troops out by May. Now they say it will be by July. The Japanese had a flight force which went home today. It was the first military group they had sent since ww11. South Korea will send their 18,000 troops home on Friday.

Because they are just laying around the house picking up dust, Russia will send Lebanon 10 MIG-29 fighter jets, for free.

Tomorrow the truce between Israel and Palestine will end. Israel would like to extend it, but Hamas has said that it won't because of frequent violations committed by Israel. Seems they got a little pissed when Israel sent some jets over at night, and a missile blew up a house, killing a civilian father of two. Of course, the next day Palestine fired 20 rockets back into Israel, and so the fun continues. I'd suggest adjusting your travel plans accordingly... 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

al Zaidi's Day in Court

In what has been called the shoe that has been heard around the world, or my favorite, sock and awe, the Iraqi journalist that gave of himself as a parting gift to President George Bush is having his day in court today. To recap, from the NY Times: The incident on Sunday occurred during a news conference with Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki in Baghdad’s Green Zone; Mr. Zaidi rose from his seat and threw a shoe at the president’s head. He shouted, “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!”

Mr. Bush ducked to avoid the shoe. Moments later, Mr. Zaidi threw his other shoe, shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” The shoe struck the wall behind Mr. Bush.

Who knew that the Iraqis would take rule of law seriously? Or that they would have a law against insulting the head of a foreign nation while he is visiting that can result in 7 years in prison? Sounds like Bush and Cheney wrote that one for themselves, thinking, perhaps we may not be greeted with flowers after all...

Muntader al Zaidi may be charged with the lesser crime of merely insulting the head of a foreign state, which carries the penalty of only 2 years in prison and/or the fine of 200 dinars, the equivalent of 17 cents.

The defense's argument is that al Zaidi engaged in free expression, choosing a popular local way of expressing himself to the occupier, and therefore his case should be thrown out of court and he go free. 

While he was in jail his brother raised concerns that he was badly beaten, had ribs broken, maybe and arm or two, but that seems to have been rhetoric designed to stir up support. It would have been different if he had been detained by US security. He could then have been shipped off to Guantanamo and treated in a first class manner instead of the heaping abuse he got in an Iraqi jail.

To show everyone how it's done correctly, the Illinois legislature met for a couple of hours before deciding to wait for a Federal lawyer to show up and advise the proceedings on whether they can impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich or not. The Feds are concerned that the legislature may screw up any future criminal proceedings. He is being charged with conspiring to do criminal acts, and the problem is that may be more in the realm of hearsay than actually engaging in criminal activity. So far, there's no law against cursing and trash talking, or we'd not have any professional sports in our country.

General Electric announced they have a 2.7 billion dollar contract with the Iraqi government to supply them with 56 huge electricity generating turbines. There are parts of Iraq that don't have any electricity, and many places where electricity is generated only for a few hours a day. The problem haws been that there hasn't been enough fuel for the turbines they already have, and there aren't enough trained Iraqis to do proper maintenance.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoe Jokes, Bush and Cheney and Rove, Oh My!

What's more important today than the Afghan group leaving tnt in Printemps Haussman, a Paris department store because they want French troops out of Afghanistan, or our own Ken Salazar named as Interior Secretary? Why shoeicide jokes, of course. From the late night tv hosts:

Letterman: I don't think President Bush has dodged anything like that since, well, the Vietnam War.

Leno: Looks like we finally found something President Bush is good at - dodgeball!

Ferguson: The shoe-throwing incident has made Sarah Palin want to be president even more. Free shoes! You betcha!

Conan: He's being hailed as a hero in Iraq... when he dies he'll be greeted in heaven by 172 podiatrists.

We all know by now how the Bush administration lied to us to get us to approve of his going to war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was no friend to al Qaeda, and, in fact, these outside agitators and fighters didn't become a problem until we occupied Iraq without a coherent plan or sealing the borders, practically inviting all unemployed freedom fighters into the country. In this following snippet from an interview between President George Bush and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, talking about the war on terror:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take-

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that's right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they're going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

Bush is like a shark, always moving forward, no looking back, no reflections on his past behavior. I think he ate those shoes thrown at him and we won't discover them until some angler catches him while fishing off the coast of Dallas...

In an interview with Rush Limbaugh (via Politico), Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that the next president will appreciate the way he and George Bush expanded executive power.

"Once they get here and they're faced with the same problems we deal with every day, then they will appreciate some of the things we've put in place," Cheney said.

"We did not exceed our constitutional authority, as some have suggested," Cheney added. "The President believes, I believe very deeply, in a strong executive, and I think that's essential in this day and age. And I think the Obama administration is not likely to cede that authority back to the Congress. I think they'll find that given a challenge they face, they'll need all the authority they can muster."  And, you know, I think Cheney is right, despite the personal abuse of his power and privileges. 

Speaking of someone who ignores subpoenas from Congress and claims executive privilege, here we actually get to watch the master of spin setting up the AG nominee for a Republican challenge to his confirmation, with the milktoast Matt Lauer from NBC. This occurred a couple of weeks ago, and since then he has been keeping in the media spotlight alternately complementing and criticizing Obama's picks and behavior. You know something is screwy when Karl Rove suggest more transparency... 

Matt Lauer: But let me ask you to kind of nitpick a little bit. Is there a weak link in this team [announced by Obama], in your opinion?

Karl Rove: Well, first of all, there were two team members whom I thought were not really part of the team, and that is the Homeland Security secretary and the attorney general...Eric Holder, who is the one controversial nominee whom...

Lauer: Controversial why? Why do you think he's controversial?

Rove: Well, because he was deeply involved as deputy attorney general in the controversial pardon of Mark Rich, and did so in an inappropriate way.

Lauer: Do you think that's going to become an issue?

Rove: Well, I think it's going to be clearly examined if for no other reason than people want to lay down markers that that kind of behavior is inappropriate. He was number two guy at the Justice Department, having private conversations with the representatives of a fugitive, you know, a number--on the number 10 list, and didn't even tell the investigating agencies within Justice Department or the pardons office that he was having these conversations.

Lauer: But you think he'll be confirmed with no problem.

Rove: Well, in all likelihood. But again, there will be some attention paid to this.

Lastly, here's a story reported by Walter Alarkon from the Huffington Post, with George Bush stumping for his older brother, Jeb Bush. If Jeb had been President instead, would we be in the same mess we are now? Would his younger brother George have known how to cheat on election returns and get away with it, throwing his state in support of his brother and thereby winning the election for him?

President Bush said the Republican Party could benefit from having another Bush, his younger brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in Washington.

"He would be an awesome U.S. Senator," the president said.

In an interview with RealClearPolitics, President Bush said that both the GOP and the state of Florida would gain from having Jeb Bush in the Senate.

"He is a proven leader who, when given responsibilities, succeeded," Jeb's older brother said.

The ex-governor is considering a 2010 bid for the seat held by Sen. Mel Martinez (R), who has decided against running for a second term. Jeb Bush served two terms as governor, from 1999 to 2007.

President Bush also downplayed losses by Republicans in the past election, saying that they weren't as overwhelmed at the ballot box as they had been in past years. He said he thought the United States was still a "center-right country."

"I think most Americans want their government to be effective, results-oriented, efficient," he said. "They would like to pay as little a tax as possible. They want their military to be strong, viable, and effective. They want their public leaders to promote personal responsibility by living responsible lives. Most people are - from the cultural side, believe in an Almighty. The question is how you take those basic beliefs and explain them, either through policy or words, in a way where there's common understanding."

Yeah, I know, I was feeling pretty lazy this morning and just did a lot of cutting and pasting. It must be the weather, below freezing and even the cat won't go out in it. Not even the second cup of coffee is helping, maybe the third time will be the charm... today's combination is dark roasted Sumatran with medium roasted Javanese.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eating Shoe Leather

Evidently, in Iraq throwing a shoe at someone means that they are lower than the dirt beneath the sole of the shoe. This reminds me of the games we used to play as adolescents. When we made fun of each other the really good insults were known as chopping: HA ha, I chopped you so low you have to look down to look up... Ha ha, I chopped you so low the ants can pee on you... and so it goes. While you and I, and even President Bush would see this as a silly and juvenile incident, it has provoked much debate within Iraq. In fact, Bush told ABC News that it was probably the weirdest thing that has happened to him and he doesn't hold it against the government or the Iraqi press.

Mostly, guys think it was a way cool thing to do, the brother of the short time journalist  is trying to make apologies, saying that it was a spontaneous thing, but others who knew him say that he had been planning it as a fantasy for quite awhile.

Some of the reactions from Iraqis have been: "Haitham Karem, a 32-year-old soldier, said: “What happened in the conference is a personal expression for an Iraqi journalist and a citizen. His action is kind of the freedom. The officials have to understand it.”

Ahmad Hasan, a 29-years-old TV correspondent, said: “Muntader’s action is not a civilized action by a journalist, but he sent a message by an Iraqi citizen showing that there are too many Iraqis who refused the American existence and the [security] agreement.”

Haider Quraishi, a 40-year-old journalist, said: “The action was a frank objection by one of the educated category in Iraqi community to the [security] agreement. And the government has to release Muntader immediately. I know what Bush was thinking about in that moment because he was treated in such a way before. I do not think he is upset, but Maliki is really upset.”

Abdul Zahra Hmood, a 54-year-old farmer, said: “It is shame to have an aggression against a guest of Iraqi people inside Iraqi home. The man who has political affiliations has to keep away from journalism and work with his political parties.”

Mohammad Ismaeil, a reporter, said: “What happened is a shame and it was because there is not a law governing press and media in Iraq.”

The UN agreement with Iraq concerning foreign soldiers still will end on Dec 31. Those countries who have not made a separate agreement will have to withdraw their forces. Britian plans to withdraw theirs by March, and Australia is still trying to get an agreement passed. The Germans, who are not allowed to participate in combat, will have to pack up their beer and go home. Many countries may also close their embassies in Iraq if they can't even keep a security force.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Supporting the SOB's

In a famous quote, Lyndon Johnson said this about the corrupt Somoza regime in Nicaragua, "He may be a sonovabitch but he's our sonovabitch!" Much the same can be said for our penchant of supporting dictators and every sadistic military government since then. Now, it can also be said for the governments we are trying to influence and build in the Middle East.

President Bush made a quiet, secret journey to visit Iraq, and met with the ruling council. One gentleman sitting in the press row got up and threw his shoes at Bush, was quickly tackled by security, and led far, far away. "The president was uninjured and brushed off the incident. “All I can report is it is a size 10,” he said jokingly. 

An Iraqi accompanying the pool of reporters, a colleague said the man had shouted, “This is a farewell kiss, dog.”

In a report on the federal history of Iraq's reconstruction to be presented in Feb, "it depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure." As I've said before, we have helped rebuild one of the most transparently corrupt governments and called it a democracy, mostly due to lack of planning and incredibly stupid executors of the policy, both civilian and military. It took over five years before General Petraeus came upon the winning strategy of bribing our enemies not to attack us and give up their extremist ways. There are incredibly brave young men and women risking themselves in situations that will adversely effect them for the rest of their lives, and instead of giving them something tangible that they can be proud of, we leave a legacy of torture and an infrastructure more dishonest and fractured than when Saddam Hussein ruled.

From Afghanistan,  Sarah Chayes writes that we are not giving the citizens much of a choice either, a repressive, extremist force in the Taliban, or a government that treats them like dirt to be kicked and ignored while bleeding away all aid money from the UN allies. " The hopes expressed by every Afghan I have encountered -- to be ruled by a responsive and respectful government run by educated people -- have been dashed. Now, Afghans are suffering so acutely that they hardly feel the difference between Taliban depredations and those of their own government. "We're like a man trying to stand on two watermelons," one of the women in my cooperative complains. "The Taliban shake us down at night, and the government shakes us down in the daytime." Mostly people want a chance to live their lives with dignity and respect, and if you provide a government that treats them accordingly, you will have won their hearts and minds.

I don't believe that George Bush and his criminal cohorts should be tried for treason, but I do believe in some sort of retribution. Mr Bush should be made to work the rest of his days in a veteran's hospital, explaining to all injured vets and their families why he sent them to war, and learn to live with the responsibilities of that decision. Mr Cheney, Mr Wolfowitz, and Mr Pearl gets the honor of cleaning out the latrines with a toothbrush...

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Now that the Bush era is well established in its lame duckasy, suddenly the law establishments are going into overtime arresting respected community members who are turning out to be criminals. Turns out that rock solid investor and ex-NASDAC chairman, Bernard L. Madoff, has been running a Ponzi scheme for over 20 years and has committed fraud to the tune of over $50 billion. Yep, he alone could have bailed out the auto industry, but instead bought houses, yachts, and vacationed in the Caribbean.

Equally shaking up the world of New York lawyers, is the arrest of Marc S. Drier for swindling his major clients out of $380 million, and was caught selling fake promissory notes. I wonder what kind of printer he used?

According to the Associated Press newsfeed, there is a bright spot in the mess with Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. If the situation gets too tight here in the US, he can always go back to Serbia, where his family came from. "He must have been framed, it's all politics," said Dragan Blagovic, who says he's a distant cousin of the governor.

The cousin said his famous relative still owns some land in the village of Velike Krcmare, so "he can come to Serbia if he cannot take it anymore in America."

"He can have a cow or a pig or two, a chicken... He is always welcome."

According to the National Taxpayer's Union, over the last 25 years there have been 20 members of Congress convicted of crimes, and they are all still receiving pension benefits. Dan Rostenkowski is getting $126,000 per year of your tax dollars, while Randall "Duke" Cunningham is getting $64,000 for partying and playing with prostitutes at lobbyist's poker rooms...

Not to be outdone, the military tribunal lawyers are trying to load up the court dockets with Guantanamo cases, 17 within the last few weeks, to tie up Mr Obama's hands if he should decide to close the Cuban facility. Hey, we can't close this place, we have sooo much to do yet. And besides, it's so clean you could eat off of the floor! Here, watch...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Torture Report, North Korea, AMR

I was wondering why Condoleezza Rice was a tad testy in her interviews on CNN and NPR last weekend, now I know why. The Senate Armed Services Committee released a report on the use of torture and waterboarding at military instillations like Guantanamo. It condemned Donald Rumsfeld and Ms Rice for attending the meetings that ok'ed its use as a policy decision. Ms Rice and President George Bush have been making the rounds of interviews trying to rewrite history and their roles in a kinder, more gentler version. History lite, for all of you drinkers of fake beer...

In February of 2007, North Korea verbally agreed to dismantle their nuclear facilities. Two months ago the US removed them from the list of terrorist nations. Suddenly, they were no longer considered part of the Axis of Evil. Talks have just broken down, North Korea does not want to provide verification that they are actually dismantling their facilities. This would have been letting air and soil samples taken near the buildings and examined outside of the country.“Well, it’s the same old problem,” the American negotiator, Christopher R. Hill, said in Beijing, according to a State Department transcript. “The North Koreans don’t want to put into writing what they are willing to put into words.”

My nephew works as an EMT for American Medical Response. According to the stories I have heard, this is one of the most irresponsible companies in the they way they treat their employees.

He has worked here in Colorado Springs, Mobile, Alabama, and now is in Austin, Texas. The company is constantly having workers work overtime and then short them in their paychecks, or, in my nephew's case, not give him a paycheck at all. When it happened in Colorado Springs, he had to go to the HR department up in Denver to get things straightened out. When he worked out of Mobile, he was lent out to FEMA during the last two hurricanes, and FEMA still hasn't reimbursed AMR for services rendered. The accounting for Austin is done in San Antonio, and they found a way not to pay him the rate that was agreed to on a signed contract, they have consistently shorted employees by $300-400 on their paychecks, and now they sent his current paycheck to a closed bank account in Alabama. He never gave the Texas office any personal information from when he lived in Alabama, they somehow took it on themselves to look up outdated information and use it. In the meantime, he doesn't have enough gas to get home after a 36 hour shift...

If you want to know what happens on the mean streets of your town after dark, the ambulance drivers are the ones to ride with and talk to. On his first night working, there was a horrible fire in a large apartment complex called Castle West. While he was helping to evacuate the building, going down the hallway with an elderly woman in one arm and a baby in another, two firemen rushed up to him and took the baby out of his hands. Right around a bend in the hallway was a television news crew, and the firemen left him to get the elderly woman out while they got a photo op to be on the news.

He had to take the police chief's wife to get her methadone. He was stalked by a woman police officer who thought he was cute. She handcuffed him and molested him in the back of the police car while her partner stood by outside and laughed. Often the patients he had to take were drunk or drugged and could be dangerously violent, and then the police were nowhere around to help. Good luck, buddy.

Recently, paramedics have been in the national spotlight for molesting patients from Oregon to South Carolina, and of course, in Texas. The Laredo division was recently busted by the Feds because employees were taking ambulances down into Mexico, filling them up with illegal drugs, and then driving them back across the border. If you need a job, there are current openings at the Laredo office...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Middle Eastern Bombs, Child Pornography from Australia

After the Iraqi Parliament approved the military agreement with the US, there have been a whole lot of bombs exploding all over the country. Most of these have women, children, and civilians as their targets. It will only get worse after the US pulls out and more corrupt extremists are elected to Parliamentary seats, with an Islamist as Supreme Leader.

Bombs in Baghdad and Mosul killed 30 people. 3 more bombs killed 14 people, one bomb was by a suicide, one planted in a cart next to a school in Mosul, and one roadside bomb waiting for an Iraqi military convoy. A suicide bomber went into a Kurdish restaurant in Kirkuk, killing 45 people and wounding 100 more.

In Peshawar, Pakistan, a suicide bomber went to an area where people were shopping for an upcoming holiday, killing 29 and wounding 90 more.

Britain announced that they will pull all of their troops out of Iraq by March.

In Brussels, Belgium, authorities arrested 14 people feared to be connected to al Qaeda and plotting bomb attacks during a European Union summit meeting being held today and tomorrow.

This item came and went awfully fast, probably because it will get covered up. 12 Americans were arrested for taking part in an international child pornography ring, this time based in Australia. There is a vast pedophile community throughout the world that has set up base in different countries over the years. This is different than the multi-billion dollar porn industry based in the San Fernando Valley in California. International authorities have busted operations in Illinois, East Germany, Russia, Hollywood, and Portugal. Allegations that citizens were involved included military officers, police officers, members of the US Congress, famous entertainers and personalities, as well as local business people, crooks, and cons. Images have been confiscated involving young children and even infants. Many children used came from orphanages.

This will disappear from public view, go back underground, and in a few years another ring will be discovered working out of another country, and again we will be properly shocked for a few days...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Political Corruption

" When God wants to destroy an ant, He gives it wings " - Idries Shah

One of the more fun things for me yesterday, was reading the various Illinois blogger's reactions to the indictment of their fair governor. Clicking the link on the left to the Daily News Blogs takes you to a network where you can read blogs from all over the US, categorized by state. Seems the good state of Illinois has a tradition of corrupt officials and many bloggers were pretty casual, if not gleeful in commenting on Rod Blagojevich, who is now out on bail. If the Feds had been investigating him for over 3 years, why pick now as the time to arrest him, why not earlier? Of course, the selling of a Senate seat makes for sensational headlines, and shows a level of cynicism and grandstanding by the prosecutors.

Our governments are rife with corruption, and the temptation is there involving any position that influences policy or regulatory enforcement, the making or passing of laws. The bad we call a crime, the better we call lobbying. What's the difference between selling a Senate seat, telling all lobbyists that from now on they have to be Republicans and can only lobby through the Republican members of Congress, or Paul Bremer distributing one billion dollars in cash bribes to members of the Iraqi Parliament? The reason the surge worked was because we began paying the former insurgents a monthly stipend to not attack us. Will we be happy of the democracy established in Iraq if it's also known as the most corrupt, even worse than under Saddam Hussein?

I used to work for a small, family run Internet Service Provider, and we were known for our spam protection. We routinely did not allow email to enter from Texas and Florida, considered to be the most corrupt of states, where two Bush brothers were governors, coincidence? Even now I won't donate to charities that are based in those states because the percentages are good that they are bogus charities committing fraud.

Every member of Congress is probably guilty of some ethics violation, receiving favors, money and gifts at some point during their tenure. Lord knows they are not smart individuals, and we don't make them take periodic lie detector tests, though we should. Worse, if the newspapers disappear, then who will dig for the dirt and report on those misdeeds? Most on-line sites are known for their partisan outlooks, and bloggers are even worse. 

I'm beginning to sound like a comic book, wondering whom we can turn to for truth, justice, and no corruption of the American Way. It's a constant uphill battle, one hopefully that each successive generation will pick up, as we get older, tired, and sell out.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pakistan Redux, Senate Seat for Sale

One of my greatest pleasures every morning is sitting down with a cup of fresh coffee and reading the newspaper. Usually I see that the topics I chose to write about here are reported and discussed further, which makes me less grumpy and more likely to brew a second cup as a reward.

Pakistan is more of a problem for the US than any other country, and they are at a crossroads. They helped create the Taliban and other extremist groups, and have supporters of those trains of thought throughout their government and military. One view is expressed by the current President, Asif Ali Zardari, who lost his wife to a rrorist attack. He points out that Pakistan has 150,000 troops fighting along the Afghanistan border, more than there are NATO troops, and that the civilian population is suffering as the extremist groups move away from the border area and move deeper into settled land.

In a recent column,Fareed Zakaria points out that, as with the Mumbai tragedy, all roads lead through the Pakistani military. The civilian government seems to be an observer in all of this, and " Which would be worse: if the Pakistani military knew about this operation in advance, or if they didn't?" Part of the mystery may be solved with the arrest of 22 people in Kashmir, one who is supposed to be the mastermind behind the commando raids on Mumbai. So, some tough choices for both the Pakistani government and Obama's policy makers in the coming months, that may leave both Zardari and Afghanistan's Karzai to twist in the wind...

Some good books to read are: Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid, on the current situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan; The Assasins' Gate by George Packer, on America in Iraq; and Ghost Wars by Steve Coll, on the history of Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to
September 10, 2001.

Last night's headlines were about the solidarity shown by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, for the Republic Window and Door workers occupying the building where they used to work. This morning the big news is that Federal prosecutors woke the governor up from a sound sleep to arrest him in front of his wife, and hand him an indictment before hauling him off to jail. As Gregory Tejeda put it in his Chicago Argus blog: "I just find it odd that the U.S. attorney’s investigation of state government has been going on for years (and there have been many jokes made about Blagojevich’s alter ego as “Public Official A” throughout the era) and yet the only activity solid enough to warrant prosecution is something that has happened in the past couple of weeks?"

Either this guy is brazen and doesn't care, or he is incredibly stupid. He's been under investigation for three years, and the feds claim that they have him on tape trying to sell to the highest bidder the Senate seat that is vacated by Barack Obama. Gee, this may put a taint of corruption on the whole appointing process, do you think? Since the Illinois governor was the sole person who could make the appointment, maybe they will let him do it from a prison cell. Well, if Ted Stevens could still be a Senator...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meaning of Mumbai, Putin Style

10 young men arrived by rubber boats i Mumbai, then dispersed in groups of two into the city, with specific targets aimed at creating havoc with foreigners and the Jewish center. 180 people were killed, and 300 more injured, both Muslim and Hindu killed indiscriminately.

It's been established that they were trained in Pakistan, but no reasons for the attacks have been given. So guesses are being made, that it's to fire up tensions between India and Pakistan, that it has to do with the much fought over area of Kashmir, it wants to prove to countries that their citizens aren't safe anywhere, that it puts extra pressure on Pakistan and they will move troops towards the Indian border, leaving the Afghan border open for Taliban troops to cross. Or, all of the above.

Already NATO trucks bringing supplies to Afghanistan have been attacked, including two transportation hubs with over 160 Hummers, and local Pakistani police have become outmanned with too little firepower against the local Talibans. The local groups want to take over Pakistan and have it become a Caliphate, same goal as the Afghan Taliban. The civilian government is seen as weak, with a corrupt playboy as the head of state, and nobody is really sure about the Army's loyalties, or the dreaded ISI. Every reason inside Pakistan is part of some labyrinthian plot, with the US at the center. With the rising suicide bomb attacks and more people deserting from the military and police forces, the Taliban can then offer themselves as the solution to end the chaos, plus they would get an atomic bomb to play with...

Vladimir Putin is using the current economic crisis to take back oil and natural gas companies that were sold when the Communist regime fell apart. Some may call it socialism, some call it theft, while others call it following the American model. Russia is also trying to spread its influence with an alliance with India, Brazil, and China, sending his flunky Medvedev on goodwill missions to those areas. So far the reaction from when he visited Cuba, has been Cuba asking the US to please begin normalization of relations with us...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

OJ Juiced, New Life Christianity

Yesterday I watched the television coverage of sentencing for OJ Simpson and Clarence Stewart, and was surprised that I felt pity watching him ramble on in an attempt to beg the judge for some leniency. I expected to feel more savage delight that he was finally getting to see time behind bars.

It's public consensus that OJ got away with the murder of his ex-wife Nichole, and her friend Ronald Goldman in a fit of rage. We all watched with fascination the entire trial, which beca
me more popular than daytime soap operas, and cynically laughed when OJ vowed to never stop looking foe the killers. Nichole's sister, Denise Brown issued a statement "Allowing wealth, power, and control to consume himself, he made a horrific choice on June 12, 1994, which has spiralled into where he is today."

The Goldman family crowed a bit more, saying that it was their pursuit of Simpson's assets after winning a $33.5 million wrongful-death judgement in civil court that pressured him to commit the robbery in trying to recover some of his sports and family memorabilia, which he claimed was stolen.

Of course, the real loser will be Simpson's children. His oldest daughter may finally succeed in committing suicide, which she has tried a couple of times before.

If you ever say anything critical about Conservative Christians you will instantly be attacked by them, many whom believe that you have slandered Jesus Christ and all that is holy. You are perceived as a dark force that somehow must be discredited or destroyed.

Christianity is a mystical religion. The mystical experience happens when you accept Jesus into your heart or invoke the Holy Spirit to fill you up, an experience that tries to be repeated every Sunday at worship. Churches and pastors encourage this experience but don't take any responsibility for what may happen after one experiences this mystical state. For many people it can overtake their lives and the only way that they can relate to the world is through the prism of that experience. Not being prepared for this, many folks are seen as "crazy" to the rest of us, and there is nothing in the church established to take care of these people or teach them how to come out of this state. Their emotions become limited to the addiction of this mystical state, and anger at any threat to change out of it.

In Buddhism, it can take years of training preparing to control and understand before attempting to enter this state. Back in the 1930's and 40's, a man in India by the name of Meher Baba travelled around his country, collecting these God Crazy individuals to look after and take care of. Each church here in America should be doing the same, tending to their flock, instead of letting them create websites and write prolific letters to editors, often making life threatening insults...

With that in mind, it is now the one year anniversary since a young man named Matthew Murray showed up at New Life Church with a gun, and shot and killed Stephanie and Rachel Works. Attendance is back up to 10,000 people per week with their new pastor Brady Boyd. May god have mercy on our souls.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Smells like Recession, Top 20 Politicians

Today our illustrious President gave a news conference saying that we were in a recession, he wishes us the best of luck, and then walked off without taking any questions of guff from anyone. It's funny how we have to have an official announcement to know if we are in a recession or not, and did Fed chief Paulson just want to keep it a secret while announcing all of the other bad news?

By now it may have sunk in that economics is more akin to philosophy or astrology than resembling any kind of hard science. There sure are plenty of fingers pointing in every direction at the factors that contributed to our current economic meltdown. Each argument seems right depending on your political filter. If you really want to delve into it, click on the link to the left for the Financial Times of London. Just remember: there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics!

Areas we can find money to help the economy are, stopping the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that currently cost 288 billion per year, cutting nuclear weapons cost 21 billion per year, the cost of the war on drugs 70 billion per year, and the amount added to the budget by legalizing drugs that currently comprise a black market economy, 350 billion per year. The total is 729 billion dollars that can help pay for the bailouts and economic recovery, maybe even balance the budget in a few years. Then, our local police can focus more on important services like tossing foreclosed mortgagees out on their butts and their belongings out on the sidewalk...

Ben Cohen, on his website the Daily Banter, has created a list of the Top 10 Republicans that should immediately leave the public scenery. He got so much flack from right wing whiners that he decided to create a Top 10 Democratic list. At number 1 and number 10 is Joe Lieberman, who represents just about everything wrong there is in a politician, who tries to suck up to whomever he thinks will be in power, and constantly is misjudging. The voters in his state should kick him out on his butt come next election and replace him with someone who is Black/Hispanic, female, and a gay evangelistic under 30 years old..

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Charity Fraud, Bush Legacy

The scams are hitting us fast and furious this season, I've gotten fake notices from my bank, an airlines, and the IRS from folks wanting to get my personal information. Always check the headers from any email requesting you to go to a website and put in your personal information like social security numbers, credit card or bank account numbers.

If you have been charitable and given to the Family Relief Fund or Disabled Veteran's Ca
re Center, you have been scammed. They are both "charities" run out of a couple's home and the funds have been frozen by the state of Colorado, pending further investigation. Always do your homework before giving anyone money. Many smaller charities use up to 95% of money raised for administration costs, and if they are centered in Texas or Florida, I can guarantee you that they are not legitimate.

President George Bush has called his old friends together, people like Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, to use taxpayer's money to help him rewrite history to cast him in a more favorable light. He has a lower favorable rating since Richard Nixon, and Nixon resigned... Already we are seeing attempts, like the interview with Charles Gibson, where he declares that if only the intelligence on Iraq had been right... If you turn off the sound and look at his facial expression, you can tell when he lies, because he's not very good at it. You can also tell that he has been drinking quite regularly again.

If only we had a transition period for the transition team, say, from right now until Jan 20. Have the appointed Cabinet people working with the Bush Cabinet to make a smooth transfer of power and policy. This would make for some fun couples, Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice palling around the Middle East, Robert Gates talking to himself...

Lastly, I hope that John Salazar is nominated for Agricultural Secretary. He would be perfect for the job in so many ways, Democratic Senator, rancher, and Hispanic, a triple whammy...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bill Richardson, Cluster Bombs, and Use of Torture

This morning President Elect Barack Obama announces that New Mexico's newly clean shaven governor, Bill Richardson, is his pick for Commerce Secretary. At the abbreviated press conference afterwards, Obama was asked if he was giving Richardson the consolation prize for not getting Secretary of State, and thus taking away my lead sentence... Obama responded that he is picking the best people for his cabinet and that when the process is over, folks will be impressed by the diversity and solid backgrounds of the appointees.

After thinking about it, I agree that Bill is a good pick. It signals that we will be refocusing our business and trade agreements with Latin America, an area that has languished while the focus has been on the Middle East. China, Brazil, and Russia have formed an economic alliance, and we will need to address those spheres of influence. Our economy is so bad, 250,000 jobs lost in November alone, that many illegal immigrants are packing it up and going back to Mexico. If you are going to starve, might as well be with the ones you love...

Representative from over 100 countries today were in Oslo, Norway, to sign an agreement banning the use of cluster bombs. The bombs are designed to rip apart tank armor, but have killed and maimed more children than tanks. Not surprisingly, the two largest users and manufacturers of the cluster bombs refused to sign the accord. Way to go, Russia and the United States, today's winning hypocrites...

I'm surprised that we are still having a debate over the use of torture. The proponents are mostly heartless bastards without any moral compass, who use the military and intelligence services to hide and justify their sick underpinnings. You can get better information from a prisoner using other methods and that information usually will be more reliable. Torture is used to fuel the sick, sadistic fantasies of sociopathic people like Dick Cheney and the ones who were in charge of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.