Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Them dirty CBS Journalists got what they deserved.

The National Intelligence Council, the CIA director’s think tank, according to an article in the Washington Post, states:

\Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director’s think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with “a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills,” said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. “There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries”\

Sure am glad we’re over fighting for our security.

Released yesterday was the information that the US has stopped searching for WMD in Iraq, with the head of the search, Mr Duelfer, concluding that Iraq had no stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons at the time of the US-led invasion nearly two years ago.

US armed forces deaths in Iraq are now at 1362, nearly ten times the number killed before the famous “Mission Accomplished” Photo Oportunity. (If we included the more than 170 mercenaries and civilian contractors hired by the US, that figure would have been passed long ago.)

In the meantime, George W. Bush viewed the firing of four CBS employees by stating: \ “CBS said they would act. They did. And I hope their actions are such that this doesn’t happen again.”\ These are the people being held responsible for improper research and care regarding the stories about the supposedly false documents regarding his ANG experience.

No weapons of mass destruction; no ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq before the invasion; our security lessened, not improved, by our involvement in Iraq; nearly 1500 dead american soldiers; estimates as high as 100,000 Iraqi’s dead from the war; these are damning facts.

Given his approval of firing four journalists for failing to research a bad story, I wonder if he will hold his administration to the same standards for far more egregious failures to adequately research. My nominations for the four to go would be Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and ‘W’ himself. George Tenet might have made the list, but he’s already gracefully retired, with a Presidential Medal of Freedom to help him remember his role.

Social Security Reform

From an article in the Chicago Tribune:

\The prospect of 100 million Americans each having $1,000 of their Social Security contributions to invest every year has investment professionals salivating at the potential financial bonanza.\

Gee. No Kidding….

Combine that with the boost in stock prices when additional money starts competing for the same number of shares, and there will definitely be a windfall for somebody. Maybe those with significant money already in the market? I wonder what strata of society __those__ would be.

We still don’t have an explanation of how we will fund the retirees in the future who have invested in Social Security when that money diverted to the stock market is no longer coming in, nor do we have any “safety net” guarantees for the those who choose the market alternative, when the market tanks as it did three years ago.

If you think the president’s plan makes any sense at all, ask a Social Security employee, who deals with the benefits, people, and finances every day.

I have.

Payola

From USA Today:

\President Bush is an eloquent advocate of his 2001 education overhaul known as the No Child Left Behind Act. He calls it the “most dramatic reform in public education in a generation” and a powerful remedy for “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

But lately his administration apparently has concluded that the law needs a harder sell based on deceptive practices. Last week, USA TODAY disclosed that the Department of Education had paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to tout the measure on his syndicated talk show and to periodically interview Education Secretary Rod Paige.\

While I guess it should come as no surprise that conservative commentators are bought and paid for, this is still troubling.

In the radio industry this is known as “\Payola”, which is defined as “\The paying of cash or gifts in exchange for airplay.” A Payola scandal erupted in the late 50′s and early 60′s, when Disk Jockey Alan Freed was convicted of accepting bribes to play specific music. Congress later passed the anti-payola statute, under which payola became a misdemeanor, penalized by up to $10,000 in fines and one year in prison. Since then the anti-payola statutes have been applied in a much broader context, including hidden marketing in computer programs, and so forth.

The FCC is quite clear that payola is not restricted to payment to play music. For details of the law, reference sections 317 and 507 of the Communications act.

Is there a reason this case of payola is not being investigated as a federal crime? Should not the people responsible for paying hidden money for airplay also be indicted?

I’m sure if this were a liberal commentator receiving money from the DNC, for example, there would be screams of indignation and calls for an investigation. Somehow I doubt that will happen in this case, though.

Tusnami Aid

Apparently reacting to criticism about being stingy, the US goverment is now pledging 350 million dollars in aid for the tsunami release.

That’s approximately 1/4 of 1 percent of the money we have already spent to destroy (oops, “liberate”) Iraq.

**\A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it… It is as great presumption to send our passions upon God’s errands, as to palliate them with God’s name… We are too ready to retailiate, rather than forgive, or gain by love and information. And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what Love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.\

– William Penn**

Mississippi Abortion Clinic

CNN has an article dealing with the attempts to limit abortion in Mississippi, and the attempts to close the one remaining abortion clinic in that state.

I do not intend to support abortion clinics. I find it repulsive, and it is a difficult moral issue to balance my dislike for abortion with the rights and respect due to pregnant women.

Having said that, I find it intriguing that in juxtaposition with the article above, Mississippi has the highest rate of teen (14-19) births in the country. I would think if your concern were morality, this is a symptom of a wider problem and there would be better ways to attack it rather than the abortion clinic.

For information on teen pregnancy, and much more, see the CDC National Vital Statistics report for births in 2002.

By the way, if you are intrigued as to how the teenage birth rate corresponds to the moral red states vs the immoral, liberal blue states, the following chart might be interesting. The chart shows teen birth rates per 1000, with a national average of 43.

Teenage birth chart

There’s a whole lot of red up there at the top of the chart. The top fifteen states are all “red”, and all but one of those above the national average are. The only southern state below the national average is Virginia, and you can see for yourself how many are in the top 10 or so.

Maybe they should take some of that blue state money and spend it on sex education rather than roads, but I guess that wouldn’t be appropriately “moral” either.

Me, I kind of like the effects of the North Eastern liberal morality better.

(more…)

I can’t even bring myself to comment on the irony of this article from CNN:

**DAYTON, Ohio (AP)** — \A former Ohio Army Reserve commander who was court-martialed for taking abandoned Army vehicles in Kuwait so her unit could carry out its mission in Iraq returned home Monday after serving a six-month sentence.

Maj. Cathy Kaus defended the actions taken by herself and her fellow soldiers. She said she has applied for clemency.

“What we did, we did at that time because we thought we needed to do that,” Kaus said at Dayton International Airport, adding that she would do it “all over again” if put in the same circumstances.

Kaus, released Monday from a Navy brig in San Diego, said she was convicted of theft, willful neglect, abandonment and conspiracy of abandonment.

She was among six Ohio reservists from the Springfield-based 656th Transportation Company who were court-martialed at a time when some U.S. troops in Iraq are complaining they have to scrounge for equipment.

Members of the unit said they needed the equipment to deliver fuel to U.S. forces in Iraq for everything from helicopters to tanks.

According to one of the reservists who was court-martialed, they took two tractor-trailers and stripped parts from a truck that had been abandoned in Kuwait by other units that had already moved into Iraq.\

Man of the Year

An actual letter to Time Magazine by Cindy Sheehan:

\Tuesday 21 December 2004
Dear Time Editors:

My son, Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. This has been an extraordinary couple of weeks of “slaps in the faces” to us families of fallen heroes.

First, the Secretary of Defense-Donald Rumsfeld-admits to the world something that we as military families already know: The United States was not prepared for nor had any plan for the assault on Iraq. Our children were sent to fight an ill-conceived and badly prosecuted war. Our troops were sent with the wrong type of training, bad equipment, inferior protection and thin supply lines. Our children have been killed and we have made the ultimate sacrifice for this fiasco of a war, then we find out this week that Rumsfeld doesn’t even have the courtesy or compassion to sign the “death letters”-as they are so callously called. Besides the upcoming holidays and the fact we miss our children desperately, what else can go wrong this holiday season?

Well let’s see. Oh yes. George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three more architects of the quagmire that is Iraq. Thousands of people are dead and Bremer, Tenet and Franks are given our country’s highest civilian award. What’s next?

To top everything off-after it has been proven that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, there were no ties between Saddam and 9/11 and over 1,300 brave young people in this country are dead and Iraq lies in ruins- what does Time Magazine do? Names George W. Bush as its “Man of the Year.” The person who betrayed this country into a needless war and whom I hold ultimately responsible for my son’s death and who was questionably elected, again, to a second term, is honored this way by your magazine.

I hope we finally find peace in our world and that our troops who remain in Iraq are brought home speedily-after all, there was no reason for our troops to be there in the first place. No reason for my son and over 1,300 others to have been taken from their families. No reason for the infrastructure of Iraq to be demolished and thousands of Iraqis being killed. No reason for the notion of a “happy” holiday to be robbed from my family forever. I hope that our “leaders” don’t invade any other countries which pose no serious threat to the United States. I hope there is no draft. I hope that the five people mentioned here (and many others) will finally be held responsible for the horrible mistake they got our country into. I hope that competence is finally rewarded and incompetence is appropriately punished. These are my wishes for 2005.

This isn’t the first time your magazine has selected a questionable man for this honor-but it’s the first time it affected my family so personally and so sorrowfully.\

Not so Wonderful Life

Isn’t __It’s a Wonderful Life__ the best of the Christmas Movies? Here’s an alternative version from Maureen Dowd published as an Op-Ed in the New York Times:

Exterior bridge over Potomac River – Night

\CLOSE SHOT – Rummy is standing by the railing, staring morosely into the water. The snow is falling hard. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he wheels around and wrestles an old man with wings into a headlock.\

**OLD MAN:** Ouch! Tut, tut. When will you learn that force doesn’t solve everything?

**RUMMY:** Who the dickens are you?

**OLD MAN:** Clarence, Angel First Class. I’ve been sent down to help you.

**RUMMY, squinting**: You’re off your nut, you old fruitcake. You can’t help me. I was a matinee idol in this town, a studmuffin. Now everyone’s turned on me – Trent Lott, Chuck Hagel and that dadburn McCain.

**CLARENCE:** No more self-pity, son. I’m going to show you what the world would have been like if you’d never been born.

\Clarence, who can fly now, takes Rummy’s hand and they soar over the icy Potomac to the Pentagon. Beneath the glass on the desk of the defense secretary is a list of members of Congress and their phone numbers.\

**RUMMY:** Who put that there?

**CLARENCE:** Sam Nunn. He’s the defense secretary. Sam consults with Congress. Never acts arrogant or misleads them. He didn’t banish the generals who challenged him – he promoted ‘em. And, of course, he caught Osama back in ’01. He threw 100,000 troops into Afghanistan on 9/11 and sealed the borders. Our Special Forces trapped the evildoer and his top lieutenants at Tora Bora. You weren’t at that cabinet meeting the day after 9/11, so nobody suggested going after Saddam. No American troops died or were maimed in Iraq. No American soldiers tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. No Iraqi explosives fell into the hands of terrorists. There’s no office of disinformation to twist perception abroad. We’re not on the cusp of an Iraq run by Muslim clerics tied to Iran. Here’s Sam. He’s with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

**GENERAL SHINSEKI:** We got some good news today on the National Guard, sir. Recruiting is up 40 percent. With the money we saved killing that useless missile defense system, we up-armored all our Humvees.

**RUMMY, fists and jaw clenched**: Grrrrrrr…I want to see Wolfie!

**CLARENCE:** Sam never hired any of those wacko neocons. Wolfowitz is a woolly headed professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a consultant to Ariel Sharon. Richard Perle was never in charge of the Defense Policy Board, so he was unable to enrich himself through government connections, or help Ahmad Chalabi con the administration. Perle stayed an honest man, running a chain of soufflé shops. His soufflés were so fluffy he became known as the Prince of Lightness. Doug Feith never worked here, either, so he never set up the Office of Special Plans to spin tall tales about W.M.D. and Qaeda ties to Saddam. And he never bungled the occupation because there was no occupation. Without you to swoon over in a book, neocon doyenne Midge Decter became a fallen woman, like Violet.

**RUMMY, dyspeptic**: Holy mackerel! Take me to Dick!

**CLARENCE**: Dick and Lynne run a bait, tackle and baton-twirling shop in Casper, Wyo. You didn’t exist, so you never gave him those jobs in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and he never ran for Congress or worked for Bush 41 or anointed himself 43′s vice president. W. chose Chuck Hagel as his running mate. So without you and Dick there to dominate him, he was guided by his dad and Brent Scowcroft, who kept Condi in line. Colin Powell was never cut off at the knees and the U.N. and allies were never bullied. There was never any crazy fever about Iraq or unilateralism or “Old Europe.” Here’s Colin now, heading for the Oval Office.

**POWELL**: Merry Christmas, Mr. President. With the help of our allies around the world, we have won the war on terror. And Saddam has been overthrown. Once Hans Blix exposed the fact that Saddam had no weapons, the tyrant was a goner. No Arab dictator can afford to be humilated by a Swedish disarmament lawyer.

**RUMMY**: Goodness gracious, I’ve heard enough now. I’m going home. Unless you’re going to tell me my wife is an old maid, because I wasn’t around to marry her.

**CLARENCE**: Oh, no. Joyce lives across the street from your old house on Kalorama Road. She’s happily married to the French ambassador.

“Auld Lang Syne” swells as we FADE OUT.

When Night Ends. A lesson for the season

“How can we determine the hour of dawn – when the night ends and the day begins?” the rabbi asked of his students.

“When, from a distance, you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep?” one of his students suggested.

“No” the rabbi answered.

“Is it when you can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” another student asked.

“No” he replied.

“Please tell us the answer, then” said the students.

“It is when you can look into the face of a human being and have enough light to recognize in him your brother,” the wise teacher replied.

“Until then, it is night, and the darkness is still with us.”