Another compilation of a couple of Glenn Greenwald articles that have caught my eye.

In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld directed the Defense Science Board Task Force to study something I have been talking about all along - the theory that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq - as well as our actions at Guantanamo Bay - are actually creating more terrorists than we are "eliminating". I am pleased, if a bit surprised, that Rumsfeld ordered such a study, but I would be even more pleased, and even more surprised, if anyone actually took action based on its findings. (.PDF)

What, exactly, did the report find? )
I recommend you read the entire lj-cut, but if you do not, here it is summed up:
American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists
Another PDF worth reading is a resignation letter from a former Marine Captain who was the the senior U.S. civilian in the Taliban-dominated Southern Afghanistan province of Zabul. One of his points is that most insurgents do not fight for the Taliban, but rather just against foreign soldiers.
This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.

-From South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's apology for yelling "You lie!" during the President's speech to Congress

Have we gotten to the point where one of the two major parties seems to campaign and run using falsehoods? I would say that it started with the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, but I realize that one could look at the justification for the invasion of Iraq as maybe the first salvo. Either way, we are now faced with people at these town hall meetings yelling complete falsehoods. Where, for example, did this idea of Death Panels come from? More importantly, though, how are members Congress bringing up the idea of Death Panels as if there is any basis in fact for them?

What bothers me so much about the above quote from Rep. Wilson is this one line. I want to repeat it and give it emphasis again:
I disagree with the president's statement
So Rep. Wilson is still calling the President a liar? I can really not get any other meaning out of this quote from his statement. Is there any other possible meaning?
For some time now I have been meaning to write an entry talking about the glaring differences between Obama the Candidate and Obama the President. A political blogger, Glenn Greenwald, did a fairly good recap of the hypocrisy of the Obama administration, at least with regards to Obama's campaign "promise" to bring more openness and transparency to the government.

Obama's administration, for all of you campaigning so hard for him last year, has seemingly embraced the Bush administration's stance on dozens of very important policies regarding secrecy.

Most bothersome, and as Mr. Greenwald points out in later entries, is Obama's acceptance of torture. You might be saying to yourself "But CIA-sanctioned torture ended under the Bush administration!" I would agree, although with some reservations given both administrations' views on keeping bad things secret so far. Obama, however, endorses torture by not investigating the people responsible for what most people agree was probably against the Geneva Convention and international law, if not in fact than at least in spirit. If Obama sets a president by which we say that we will not investigate past war crimes committed by US politicians, it opens the doors for current and future politicians, Obama included, to continue to ignore these laws.

We hold other countries accountable to international law. We berate Iran for violently putting down protests. We urge China to get better about human rights. And yet we cannot even investigate the possibility that we went against these very laws ourselves?

No, this is not the "change" people were expecting when they voted for Obama. This seems to be a continuation of Bush's policies.
A few interesting stories:
The US government is doing all of this on behalf of you, gentle reader. While you might think "the Republicans are doing this", remember that the outside world makes no such distinction. The outside world sees a budding dictator grabbing power, while pushing other countries around. The US is not beyond holding "prisoners" from other countries indefinitely, without trial, and while torturing them.

You, fair reader, are a US citizen. These things are being done on your behalf, in your name.

And $11.2 billion for some helicopters? That is simply insane.
So most Americans feel that we should have a timetable for a withdraw from Iraq.

President Bush says that doing so will tie the hands of the generals on the ground. That doing so will mean that the insurgents/terrorists have won.

I have written before that I do not know what "winning in Iraq" would look like, and I think that most Americans are coming around to asking just that question. I do not think it is so much that we want a certain date when the troops in Iraq will be brought back, but rather we want to know under what conditions the troops will be brought home.

President Bush seems to be waiting for us to "win", but between the fact that Iraq seems to be in the middle of a mild civil war (how does an outsider not choosing side "win" a civil war?) and the fact that our very presence seems to be causing some of the fighting, what does "winning" mean in Iraq?

Americans may seem to not remember things, but I think the fact that we have a sizable number of troops in both Germany and South Korea is still in the back of our collective minds. Then we can look at Vietnam. Sure, Vietnam is not doing *extremely* well, but we have to question if our withdraw from that country helped everyone out in the long run.

So tell us, President Bush, what does "winning" in Iraq look like, and how long are we going to have to wait for that to happen?

In other news, Governor Corzine has paid his $46 fine for not wearing his seatbelt. The taxpayers of New Jersey should be relieved. I mean, I am sure it is their hard-earned taxes that are paying for the hospital bed he had moved into the Governor's Mansion. That $46 will go a long way towards helping with the costs related to his selfish decision.

The vehicle's "black box" reports that the Suburban was traveling at 91mph at the time of the crash.

All of this demonstrates two preconceived notions: 1) Powerful people believe themselves immune from normal "problems" like car wrecks, and 2) The police believe themselves such good drivers that they are able to somehow drive a vehicle weighing near 6000 lbs. at 90+ mph in traffic for extended times and not have something happen.
This entry is mainly for the readers who do not follow politics as much as they might like.

I would like you introduce you to U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Why am I introducing you to him? Because you have never heard of him.

More specifically, though, because his ideology might just be a lot closer to your own than any of the Democrat frontrunners.

His views on major issues. Take a look at that list.

I do not agree with all of his platform, but I know it is probably closer to what the majority of my readership would want than any other candidate.

I will leave as an exercise for the readers what this says about the Democratic Party, the media, and for the primary system we currently have in place.

Check him out.
Sometimes I wonder why I post political posts here. It seems to me that the vast majority, if not the entirety, of my readership is composed of people who might not agree with the solution, but who do agree with the fact that there are enormous problems with the current administration.

Maybe just as fuel for any possible Bush-supporter you run into?

Anyway, today's latest is actually from a couple of weeks ago. It is an analysis piece written by a United Press International correspondent.

If you have been following the news regarding the Congressional spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, you already know that the Armed Forces are getting close to completely running out of money. SUre, there is talk here and there about being able to shift money around here and there, but ultimately, sometime in May or early June, regular operations such as training might have to be suspended until a spending bill passes.

President Bush is using this as leverage. If the Democrats pass a spending bill with requirements regarding the U.S. getting out of Iraq, he is saying, he will have no choice but to veto the bill. That will prolong the time before the proud men and women in the Armed Forces are able to get the money to continue to even operate.

President Bush is basically saying that there is no time to play politics with the money, and is able from his weakened position to show that the blame should be placed on the Democrats in Congress. "I am going to veto it", he is saying. By making that a given, the timing problem is, at most glances, the fault of the Democrats in Congress.

Ahh, but the article I linked to draws issue with that. Turns out that the reason we are under the time crunch to begin with is due to the White House. Turns out that starting in 2002, the Pentagon's budget has been submitted for approval 12 months later than it was before 2002. Because of this, there is little time for Congress to, you know, debate the spending bill each year before passing it.
Vice-President Cheney, talking about how Democrats should not exert their Constitutional powers:

“The terrorists don’t expect to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. They’re not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission.” New York Times article, (registration required).

So, should I ask how we can win? Because I am not really seeing a way. I am not even sure what "winning" in Iraq would look like.

Also in the article:

And when those lawmakers seek to impose time limits on the American presence in Iraq, Mr. Cheney added, “they’re telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out.”

That is what "the enemy" is doing now! That is all they have to do!
Just wanted to point out something on my federal taxes again this year - I can get a tax break if I purchased a hybrid vehicle during 2006, but I do not get any sort of break for not owning a car at all.

Come on, even Massachusetts gives me a tax break for the money I spent on public transportation passes.

I would like to thank [livejournal.com profile] sk8rboi for pointing out this article.
Really, I kept meaning to write up an end-of-2006 wrap-up, and I just never got around to it.

So much changed during this past December-January, and so much of it stayed the same.

I am still alive and well in the Virgin Islands. I still work the same job I had in November.

A few things to remind people what I am normally like in this journal:

* First, and most importantly, Barack Obama. I say "most importantly" in regards to this person in a very dissimilar way to most people who are throwing his name around. I have major issues with Sen. Obama. The word "issues" is probably the most important word in that last sentence. For the life of me, I cannot find out where the Senator stands on almost any issue! Alright, so I know he is against the war in Iraq, and that is all nice and good. And he has always been opposed to the war in Iraq. That is very commendable of him. Where is he on almost any other issue?

Check out The Democratic Party's webpage, for example. There is a nice "Agenda" link with major issues, and their stances on them. Now go to Sen. Clinton's Senate webpage. Again, an "On the Issues" link that takes you to a page listing the Senator's views on a wide variety of issues.

Try the same on Sen. Obama's Presidential Exploratory Committee webpage. Or on his Senate webpage.

I find it extremely scary that this many people are willing to get behind a politician who seems to be going out of his way to hide his stance on a great number of topics. Suppose you learned that he voted against increasing funding for Amtrak, despite talking about how we need to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. Or that he voted in favor of continuing the USA PATRIOT Act? I mean, you all are the same people that were up in arms after watching "Fahrenheit 9/11", correct?

I am fine with people voting their beliefs, I just want people to do some research and make sure that Sen. Obama's stances, whatever they might be, match those of the people in his grassroots campaign.

* Next, we come to my future. I had set a "end of January" deadline for figuring out what I was going to be doing post-VI. Due to some things that were in the process of changing at the end of January, I was unable to meet that deadline, and therefore gave myself a two week extension to figure it all out. I am very close to a final decision, and I will let everyone know what it is when everything gets finalized. To give you a sneak-peek, it looks like I will be returning stateside, probably on 1 May 2007.

On a related note, my roommate might be staying on island after I leave. If you are interested in spending a few months in an apartment on St. Thomas, definitely get in touch with me.

* It looks at least probable that I will return to working at a Fruit Stand sometime this year. Location is definitely not set (see above), but we will see.

* Other things are going on in my life, and I might write a more private entry on those events. Things have been a bit rocky recently, but they seem to be working out well for now.

* I was pleased to see that Adium v1.0 was released yesterday. I installed it a few minutes ago, and while some of the new user interface is taking some getting used to, I am pleased with some of the advances. Being able to sort chat logs based on aliases is worth the upgrade alone. Yet another example of an outstanding GPL program.

* In other tech news, my eyeTV 200 recently blew itself up. I am in the process of mailing it off to el gato, and it looks like I will be getting an eyeTV 250 in exchange. I am really looking forward to getting a working one, since I recently found some software to help with the eyeTV software that looks really exciting. I anticipate playing around and hacking with that software. The software looks a little old, but I am really hoping I can get it working with the newer versions of eyeTV.

* It looks like I will be in the Atlanta area for my spring break (the first week of March) and would like to see people. Details forthcoming (as in "after I buy the plane ticket").

Hopefully I will get a couple more updates posted in the next couple of days, but I did want to get everyone caught up with what is going on.
I suppose I am just not "getting it" when it comes to the idea of Net Neutrality. Sure, as a slogan it all sounds good. As a libertarian, I start to think more about it and have some questions.

So right now I could pay Verizon for a 1024kb down / 1024kb down connection. That is, all things being equal, a page from espn.com would come to me at the same speed as a page from maw-and-paw-hosting.com.

Net Neutrality, according to its backers, would make sure this remains the situation. Fine, that is understandable.

Now, suppose I paid for that same 1024kb down / 1024kb down connection, but this time without Net Neutrality. Now, I have a contract with Verizon saying, all things equal, I should be getting things at that speed. Suppose espn.com, however, wants to help me upgrade my plan with Verizon in exchange for looking at their content. So they say "Hey, Verizon, how about *WE* pay the additional $10/month for nowalmart to instead get a 3MB down / 1 MB up plan? One constraint, though - since we are footing the bill, he can only get that speed on espn.com pages."

So I am paying for a 1024 kb down / 1024 kb connection. For most hosts, that is the ideal speed I will see. For paying hosts, though, I will see faster.

Net Neutrality backers seem to be saying that while espn.com might get their 3 MB down connection, suddenly maw-and-paw-hosting.com will not get any at all, since they are not paying.

Somehow Verizon would be throttling every other host to be slower. Seems to me that I am paying for 1024 kb down, and Verizon would have no choice but to honor that.

And, while we are on the subject - is Verizon not already throttling that connection? I mean, there is no hardware difference between different DSL plans.

It also seems like a foolish thing for Verizon to do. They would be trying to shake down every maw-and-paw-hosting.com, but surely there is more money to be made from having paying DSL customers.

Sure, it is all too easy to claim complete evil of big corporations like Verizon, but, at the same time, is there not the chance that non-Net Neutrality is a chance for Verizon to offer another service, but have the hosting services pay for it?
I have taken issue with people's (misguided, in my opinion) that the Democrats are the saviors of an acceptable way of life in the U.S. I have even started to wander if further Republican control might be a better thing, if for no other reason that the fact that this might cause the Democrats to actually grow a backbone (and an actual platform) to take advantage of the backlash. But I know a lot of my readers believe otherwise. Because of this I know that a lot of you are possibly freaking out about the news surrounding Sen. Johnson (D-SD), who recently had surgery for a stroke-like condition.

An interesting read, showing that most news reports are, in fact, completely incorrect in regards to both the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of South Dakota.

Want some more proof? From a Congressional Research Service documentdescribing how congressional vacancies are filled:

Vacancies in Congress occur due to the death, resignation, or declination (refusal
to serve) of a Senator or Representative, or as the result of expulsion or exclusion by
either house.


And the 17th. Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

Compare against the 25th. Amendment, which talks about what happens when the President is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office".
On 20 July 2004, I was IM'ing some thoughts about the war in Iraq. I had these thoughts for several months prior to this, but this is the first time I wrote it down. My thoughts covered not only iRaq, but also Afghanistan, although here I was just mentioned Iraq.

19:36:08 NoWalmart:
Are we safer than we were five years ago? Probably not, and I wish G.W. would admit it. I do not hold that against him, exactly. Terrorism is difficult to stop, just ask the Israelis. They have their entire country behind their actions and they cannot stop terrorism. My question, though, is "Are our actions making us any safer and, if not, is there something better we could be doing to make ourselves safer?"
19:36:47 NoWalmart:
I believe that instead of spending $4 bil a month pissing people off in the Middle East, we could be spending $3 bil a month making friends over there.

...

19:38:54 Peter:
Well, I guess there are two philosophies. You can buy your enemies, or you can obliterate them. Neither strategy will be perfect. If you try to buy them, that will invariably piss some of them off, too.
19:39:32 NoWalmart:
Suppose we had gone into Iraq and spent $4 bil a month building factories and hospitals...

...

19:42:24 NoWalmart:
Instead we go in with tanks and planes, blow the crap out of people (knowing we are bound to kill some innocent people in the process), piss a ton of people off, *and then* we start building hospitals and so on.

In the news today, on 20 November 2006?
"Tony Blair has been urged by the West’s closest Muslim ally in the war on terrorism to change course in Afghanistan and back a “Marshall Plan” to prise the country from the grip of the Taleban."
Bush, complaining that Democrats are saying that a recently released intelligence document says the war in Iraq has made us less secure by encouraging terrorism:

"This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we are provoking them."

I am not even sure what that could possibly mean.
What I have been saying since 2002, and wrote about two years ago:
Now, I will agree that a lot of Iraqis welcome us and the liberation of Iraq. However, terrorists are not usually made from the majority of the populace. They are the extremists. How do you think borderline extremists in Iraq are going to react to this invasion?


Today?

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat
I opened up this window to write a long rant about how four years ago people like myself were talking about the likely results of an invasion of Iraq, and how all of these are coming to happen now (possible civil war in Iraq, Iran now going forward with a nuclear weapons program...).

Sort of "I told you so" rant.

Forget it. I give up.
From http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/02/05/nsa.gonzales/:
Meanwhile, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Gen. Michael Hayden defended the program.

..snip..

Under the law, if the NSA seeks a warrant from the FISA court, it can begin monitoring communications and has 72 hours to seek that warrant. But, Hayden said, it would actually take longer to begin surveillance because the NSA must still wait for the attorney general's review.

"The AG [Attorney General] has to feel as if he's got the evidence in front of him, that if he handed it to the court at that moment, he would get a yes ... and it does take time. The emergency FISA process isn't that the folks at NSA can just go do what they want and have a 72-hour hall pass. It's not that way at all."


So if the AG does not see enough evidence to go before the FISA court, who is making the decision that we have any evidence at all to start surveillance? I mean, is there any oversight at all going on here? Realize that the FISA court is one that has rejected about 4 requests for secret surveillance warrants in about 30 years. Out of something like 19,000 requests.

mode="sarcasm"

There is obviously a high burden of proof going on here to play legally!

/sarcasm
So I woke up this morning to NPR and listened to President Bush's press conference in anticipation of the Iraqi elections coming up at the end of this week.

I will not go into the entire conference, but a few points bothered me enough to keep me from drifting back to sleep as the snow fell outside my window.

1) Apparently only a few people are seeing the hypocrisy of our foreign policy under Bush. We will spread freedom and democracy around the world, and will fight for people's ability to speak out against what they see as wrong. Of course we will go to war against those people who's do not believe in our views on freedom and democracy. I do not understand this at all. We can force other countries to do what we want, and become what we think is best for them, and they have little say in this? How democratic is that?

2) Bush said that the liberation of Iraq made the world a better place for the next generations. Of course he glances over the cost of his little liberation and his other poor economic choices. When he hands over the country to the future generations they will be free from attacks from Saddam Hussein, but they will be saddled with outrageous debt. How is this better for them?

3) Bush at one point made some mention of personal accounts (in reference to "saving" Social Security). He said something about the fact that people should be able to set these up "because it is their money." Wait, I thought this was the start of the "Ownership Society"? I am fully convinced that Social Security will not be able to provide for me when I retire, assuming I ever even retire. I have set up a retirement account. I have set up a 401(k). Even now, when I am strapped for cash, I am putting money away each paycheck for my retirement. Now good old George Bush is going to take more money from my paycheck under the excuse "it is your money" and tell me what to do with it? How does that make any sense at all?
So there was a huge disaster in the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. Tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands of people, died and will die due to a natural disaster.

People are giving millions of dollars to organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders. I applaud these efforts. The President of the United States, has enlisted two former Presidents, George Bush and Bill Clinton, to help raise money for the relief efforts.

It would make so much sense if there was a very organized body that would collect money from everyone and then make informed decisions of what to do with the money. This organization would collect money from everyone and then donate it to worthy organizations, and do worthy things with the money. In fact, it would be even better if the collections were done straight from everyone's paychecks. Better yet, make it pre-tax. We could do it based on how much money you made each year, so poor people would not be expected to donate as much as a wealthy person.

As citizens we would feel good even if we did not donate to the Red Cross. We could honestly say "I gave at work, through my paycheck." The donations would be made on behalf of all Americans, and would show that we, as a nation, cared. It would show that we had the foresight to put aside money and people to deal with things on a city, state, and country-wide basis. We would share, as a country, the wealth that we had produced.

We could nominate and choose people who we think would be responsible for that money and make intelligent decisions on what to do with it. They would impose good budgetary practices so they would not take too much, but make sure they had enough to make a very generous donation when something like the tsunami hit. They would not waste the money, and only use it in very necessary times.

If we had such an organization, George W. Bush would not have to ask for private contributions. He would not have to enlist two former Presidents to raise money for private organizations to help. He would just have to turn to this national organization and ask that we send enough money to the countries in their time of most need...

That would be nice...
So the recent political uproar is whether Ralph Nader should run for President again. The only people who see this as a decision to be made are Democrats. Hopefully everyone reading this can see the reason Democrats would not want Nader to run again - they say he steals votes away from whichever Democrat is running.

Makes sense. Nader tends to appeal to a left-wing audience more than a right-wing one. As a result, people who vote for him would probably be more likely to vote for a Democrat than a Republican (provided Nader was not running and they still bothered to vote).

Nader says that "Gore beat Gore", which also makes sense. Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, and even with all of Nader's votes in that state, I still think he would have lost. Blaming Nader alone for Gore's loss is very short-sighted.

As a registered third-party voter, I bring up another theory that does not get much discussion. I vote third-party in the Presidential elections. A lot of times I get blamed for "throwing away my vote". Perhaps I have different logic than other people, but I think my vote says more than someone voting Republican or Democrat.

Maybe if Gore did not want to allow Nader to steal votes from him, he should have gone out and tried to win over the Nader supporters. Gore should have looked at some of Nader's platform and adopted some of it for himself.

The difference between Gore and Bush in Florida was also smaller than the number of people that voted Libertarian in that state. Had Gore tried to court some more of those voters, maybe he could have won that state and, therefore, the election as a whole.

Democrats talk about how Nader "stole votes" from Gore. I look at it the other way - Gore did nothing to keep those votes. Gore "gave them away", or at least stood by while Nader took them. In that situation, Gore (and Democrats) really have no ability to complain after the fact.

Gore tried running his campaign right down the middle of American. As a result, he strayed too far for some of the more extreme liberals, and they looked for an alternative. Bush also ran down the middle, and obviously did a better job of it, and continued to take the more conservative Republicans along with him. As a result, he won.

No, Gore has no one to blame for his loss but himself and his campaign advisors.

As for this November, I think Nader should run again, to keep whichever Democrat ends up running honest to his liberal stronghold.
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