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

Homeland Security

homeland security office

Bill Mitchell’s cartoons can be found on the CNN website. Usually animated in some way, they are worth a look.

From CNN:

“My guys are coming back and telling me, ‘Sir, I went into a house, and there are three elderly people in their beds, and they’re gasping, and they’re dying,’ ” Coast Guard Capt. Bruce Jones said.

“And we got calls today, ‘We need you … to go to a place in St. Bernard Parish. It’s a hospice, … and there are 10 dead and there are 10 dying.’ But those people were probably alive yesterday or the day before.”

Though pilots, rescue crew members and maintenance workers are red-eyed and exhausted, they’re refusing to rest, CNN’s Karl Penhaul reported.

Meanwhile, also from CNN, the Secretary of Homeland
Security tries the patently false claim that
no one could have foreseen this
:

Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans. (See the video on a local paper’s prophetic warning — 3:30 )

“That ‘perfect storm’ of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody’s foresight,” Chertoff said.

But, of course, this is patently false:

But engineers say the levees preventing this below-sea-level city from being turned into a swamp were built to withstand only Category 3 hurricanes. And officials have warned for years that a Category 4 could cause the levees to fail.

Now, what actually is going on? Who is the current director of FEMA? Well, he’s MIchael Brown, a political appointee whose prior claim to fame was being fired as the director of the Arabian Horse Association. That’s it. Somehow, mishandling a horse owner’s association is qualification, in this administration’s mind, for running the federal office responsible for handling national disasters.

Of course, the administration has had an agenda of dismantling FEMA also, they have repeatedly cut back funding for strengthening the levees around New Orleans, as engineers and the Army Corp of Engineers have requested.

As the first quote above shows, the average joe is doing heroic work, to whatever they can manage, to handle this disaster. The same is true for our servicemen and women in Iraq. Today I spoke to a pilot on leave from Iraq. He had spent several months there, and was trying to brew a few beers, before returning to ferry A10′s to the gulf.

Our soldiers, coast guarders, fireman, policeman, and pretty much every citizen, continue to show what america is truly about, giving more than their best for their fellow americans. They deserve to have leadership, and a government, equally committed to the values we espouse.

Instead, we are stuck with a corrupt, juvenile, and simplistic administration which ignores real warnings for false, and spends vast sums of money and lives on an illegal and unnecessary war, pulling our national guard away from their true duty, and ignoring the requirements of our true national sequrity.

Is President Bush responsible for this natural catastrophe? Of course not. Though I believe if he could, he would somehow misdirect the courses of hurricanes. Fortunately, he does not have that power. He is, however, responsible for the failure of our national guard to respond until five days after a hurricane for which we had two days warning, and for the lack of preparation which might have ameliorated this disaster.

His insane policies have cost not only the lives of close to 1900 american personnel in Iraq, they are also responsible for thousands of lives yet to be counted in New Orleans and throughout the south. The blood of all these people is on his hands, as well as on the hands of all those who voted for him, returning him to office.

Emergency management

In light of the horrific destruction and death in the south following Hurricane Katrina, you wonder if there ought to be a national organization coordinating emergency management.

Oh wait, there is one. It’s called FEMA. Too bad the Bush administration is dismantling it. I know the administration is obsessed with terrorist attacks, but shouldn’t we be prepared for the natural disasters we know will come, as well as for hypothetical terrorists?

Ohio, Kentucky, what’s the difference?

Cool-O.

The governor of Ohio has pleaded no-contest to charges he accepted illegal contributions, but vows to stay on. Of course, we’ve not really yet investigated the shady dealings where state funds were invested in a risky rare-coin fund, run by his buddy.

Not to be outdone, I guess, Ernie Fletcher, the republican governor of Kentucky, has issued blanket pardons to nine of his cronies who are (I guess were, now) being investigated by a grand jury for violating personnel hiring laws.

God, I’m so glad the republicans are restoring integrity to government (sarcasm, for those slow of wit).

What is the possibility of having two republican governors impeached simultaneously in two adjoining states? It would be justified, but will probably never happen, due to the principle of IOKIYAR.

Not to ignore our president for too long, here are some stats:

1871 Number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
66 Number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since Bush went on vacation earlier this month.
35 Approximate price of a barrel of oil (in U.S. dollars) in 2000 when Bush said, “What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots. … if in fact there is collusion amongst big oil, he ought to intercede there as well. I used to be in the oil business. … And so I understand what can happen in the marketplace.”
63.59 Price of a barrel of oil (in U.S. dollars) last Thursday.
$1.52 Average price for a gallon of gasoline in September 2000.
$2.55 Average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. last week.
49 Bush’s overall approval rating on August 2 (Rasmussen)
43 Bush’s overall approval rating on August 18 (Rasmussen)
338 Number of days Bush has spent on vacation during his presidency, a new record. The previous record was held by Ronald Reagan, who spent 335 days on vacation during his eight-year presidency. Bush has topped that in just four-and-a-half years.

I haven’t posted much recently: the post previous to this one drained me emotionally, and two weeks of camp and moving stuff to my son’s college has drained me physically. Sometimes the news is too goofy to resist, though.

Proving my point that the “Christian Right” is neither, Pat Robertson has called for the US to assassinate a foreign leader.

With Reverend Robertson a minister and all, you might think he had heard or “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Or, perhaps, he might be familar with Matthew 22:34-40, where Jesus explains the second greatest commandment.

I think if you boil it down to its essentials, what Jesus taught was humility, love for God, and love for mankind. The current Evangelical/Christian so-called Conservative movement uses their christian label as justification for their prejudices and self-rightousness. That is the height of hubris, and the antithesis of what Jesus taught. In Jesus’ time, these people would have been the priests and Sadducees.

It comes home

I have just returned from a week at scout camp. In many ways, it was a typical such week (I’ve done 12 of them), with an occasional fight to break up, some homesickness to work through, and a hydrophobic scout that we finally got in the pool. In some ways it was atypical: horribly hot weather, (when it wasn’t raining cats and dogs), and some exceptionally good first year scouts, who came through the week much more smoothly than I’ve ever seen.

One event however made this a unique, and sad, camp experience.

On Thursday word came that three PA National Guardsmen had been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. One of those was a 19 year old. An eagle scout, he had been active in Bucks County scouting activities, and had served on the staff of the camp we attended for three years. I will never forget the grief I saw on the faces of the young adults who work at that camp. Nor will I forget the bravery with which they hid their grief from the campers, and continued to make that program the best it could be.

One of my sons realized on Friday night that he knew the guardsman in question. The name didn’t ring a bell, but my son had been to a week long junior leader training program with him, and had maintained some contacts playing computer games, as teenagers do. On that Friday night I found myself holding my 16 year-old son as he sobbed in my shoulder, realizing his friend – who two years ago was just another teenager – was gone.

The grief surrounding this one death was overwhelming. I am sure though that what I was exposed to was no more than a tenth of the people who knew this person and mourned his loss. The thought of how much this one loss hurt multiplied by the 1850 or so american dead in this war is staggering. How many hundreds of thousands must be mourning their fallen beloved. That in itself pales before the grief which must surround the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead. No matter how different we may be, I am sure Iraqi’s love their sons, fathers, brothers, sisters and mothers as much as we do.

I am a pacifist. I oppose the use of force not because it is an easy solution, but because it is a hard one. It is what Godand Christ have commanded however. Given that, I have nothing but love and can do nothing but honor those who see the world differently, and are willing to risk their lives for principles they hold dear. Our volunteer soldiers are the best our country has to offer, potentially laying down their lives for the love of their country. This scout was one of these. The country, and the world, is the worse for his loss.

At the same time I can do nothing but despise and hold despicable those who lie to lead this country into an unnecessary war making the world worse, not better, simply for political reasons. There are no greater traitors than those who will sacrifice this country’s finest people unnessarily or for mere political gain.

Among these traitors I count George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice, and a host of others. When the children of these people are fighting, and dying, in Iraq I will believe their motives are true. None of these people were willing to serve themselves though, let alone risk their sons and daughters. Their machinations to stay out of Viet Nam are well documented.

I also hold as traitors those young republicans who support the president and this war. It is easy to be a chicken-hawk on campus. If you truly feel this cause is just, then enlist. Our services are desperate to meet their recruitment goals. You can help. If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, and feel that the fighting and dying for this war you support is for the little people, not you, then simply shut up. You are as despicable as the government you support.

From ABC News:
WASHINGTON Aug 2, 2005President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss “intelligent design” alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”

The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

OK, this proves that Bush is a nut-job.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “science” as: The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.

Science is the attempt to observe, and formulate through those observations, a rational explanation for the observations. It is by nature contrary to the primitive attempts to explain things by recourse to magic. Science rejects magical intervention, looking for reasonable explanations for what is observed.

“Intelligent Design” is an attempt to roll magic back into scientific study. It is not only religion, of the same order as tribal shamans trying to explain the the changing of the seasons, it is the epitome of hubris, in that it assumes that because some things may not be explainable now, that they will never be explainable. Are we really ready to claim we have learned all we can learn about the universe?

So called “Intelligent Design” is also not science, in that it can never be tested – no experiment can be run, no observations can be made, which will prove it to be true. It is a mask for religious teaching, pure and simple.

I have a bargain for those who champion this – Don’t teach your religion in the public schools where I send my children, and I promise I won’t think in your churches.

Top Ten George W. Bush Solutions For Global Warming

This was posted today on “The Daily KOS“, a fun blog. I like it:

Top Ten George W. Bush Solutions For Global Warming…

10. NASA mission to turn down the sun’s thermostat

9. Federal subsidies to boost production of Cool Ranch Doritos

8. Fast track Rumsfeld’s “Colonize Neptune” proposal

7. Convene Blue-Ribbon Committee to explore innovative ways of ignoring the problem

6. Let Hillary worry about it when she takes over

5. I dunno—tax cuts for the rich?

4. Give the boys at Halliburton 90-billion dollar contract to patch hole in ozone

3. Switch to Celsius so scorching 98 becomes frosty 37

2. Keep plenty of Bud on ice

1. Invade Antarctica

From the NY Times:
“WASHINGTON, July 27 – Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show.

Despite the military lawyers’ warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism.

In memorandums written by several senior uniformed lawyers in each of the military services as the legal review was under way, they had urged a sharply different view and also warned that the position eventually adopted by the task force could endanger American service members. …”

The administration has repeatedly argued that any abuses reported at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, if they existed at all, were just bad soldiers acting on their own. Now we know that military leaders argued against these techniques and were ordered into them by the administration. Read the whole article.

The “I was just following orders” defense is certainly not sufficient, but shouldn’t those who gave the orders be held responsible? Not to be one-sided, I think Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney deserve fair trials. I might suggest they follow the same rules of procedure as the hearings for detainees in Guantánamo.