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

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.”

Church Ad rejected

Apparently, an advertisement for the United Church of Christ, with 1.6 million members, is too controversial for the major networks.

The ad appears to suggest that the church will welcome gay/homosexual people, and has the text: “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”\

Pretty scary, controversial stuff, that “love your neighbor” thing.

Death Penalty Reprieve in Texas

CNN reported today that the Texas Governor granted a 120 day reprieve to a black woman convicted of murder 17 years ago. The reason this made headlines is that it is only the third reprieve granted by the governor since he took office in 2000. The other two were 30 day reprieves, and the executions went forward after the 30 days.

I suppose there are those who will applaud this, but even granting the morality and effectiveness of the death penalty (which I do not), Is it really possible that there hasn’t been one single case where clemency or commuting the sentence to life might have been appropriate, or merciful?

Of the 944 executions nationally since 1976, 336 of them, more than one third, have been in the state of Texas alone.

With the previous information regarding red/blue states, I wondered how the execution totals compared by state. 842 of the 944 executions have been in southern or western “Red” states, and the top 12 states for executions were all “Red”. I guess the concept of mercy is not part of the “Moral Values” we hear so much about.

Given that the murder rate is also higher in all those states, it also calls into question the usefulness of the death penalty. The south, where those executions took place, had the highest murder rate of any region, at 6.9 per 100,000 in 2003. The “immoral” northeast had a murder rate of 4.2 per 100,000, the lowest of any region.

See the Camus quote at the top of this page.

On the whole, I think I’ll stick with the Northeast, liberal, interpretation of moral values.

Democracy perfected

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” \

__- H.L. Mencken (1880 – 1956)__

Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication

The Defense Science Board Task Force, a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense. released a report yesterday. This group reports to the Defense Department and its reports are issued in its name. The report states, in part:

__**1.2 The New Strategic Communication Environment**__

\Anti-American attitudes. Opinion surveys conducted by Zogby International, the Pew Research Center, Gallup (CNN/USA Today), and the Department of State (INR) reveal widespread animosity toward the United States and its policies. A year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger has intensified. Data from Zogby International in July 2004, for example, show that the U.S. is viewed unfavorably by overwhelming majorities in Egypt (98 percent), Saudi Arabia (94 percent), Morocco (88 percent), and Jordan (78 percent). The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe, weakened support for the war on terrorism, and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide. Media commentary is consistent with polling data. In a State Department (INR) survey of editorials and op-eds in 72 countries, 82.5 % of commentaries were negative, 17.5% positive.

Negative attitudes and the conditions that create them are the underlying sources of threats to America’s national security and reduced ability to leverage diplomatic opportunities. Terrorism, thin coalitions, harmful effects on business, restrictions on travel, declines in cross border tourism and education flows, and damaging consequences for other elements of U.S. soft power are tactical manifestations of a pervasive atmosphere of hostility.\

So much for the war in Iraq reducing the threat of terrorism.

At the same time, the International Red Cross has accused the US of “Abuse tantamount to torture” in Guantanamo.

That’s bound to help our respect and standing in the world, too.

Halliburton

US Auditors have suggested withholding payment from Halliburton due to fraud.

I’m willing to wager cash money that doesn’t stand up once the administration gets involved.

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**DELETED**

A search engine spider swept through here, and I am not willing for the contents of this post to be searchable, so I am deleting before I wished to.

It doesn’t mean that I’m not still thoroughly annoyed.

Ukrainian Election Fraud

Protests about election fraud are threatening the Ukraine

Apparently, the government favored leader somehow won a close election, despite trailing in both pre-election and exit polls. Turnout was extremely high, at times 104% of the eligible electorate, leading some to think chicanery was involved.

Fools. All those things were true in Ohio precincts, but you don’t see __us__ protesting and complaining.

I wonder which country cares more about the foundation of their democracy?

Spending

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent President Bush an $800 billion boost in the federal borrowing limit on Thursday, spotlighting how the budget has lurched out of control in recent years and how hard it will be to afford future initiatives.

With the government facing imminent default because it has depleted its authority to borrow money, the debt limit bill would pump up the federal borrowing cap to $8.18 trillion. That is 70 percent the size of the entire U.S. economy, and more than $2.4 trillion higher than the debt Bush inherited upon taking office in 2001.

Wasn’t the Republican party supposed to be the champion of fiscal conservatism? Unfortunately, those who lend money tend to want it back later, so get your checkbooks ready, boys and girls, we’re going to be paying for this for decades to come.