Friday, February 03, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Border

The joke is on you. Information pours from the White House and News Media about all the things that are done to protect you from terrorism. They do an excellent job of overwhelming you with fine sounding words so that you feel you can sleep better at night. Posted by Picasa
If you want to enter the United States, you can just cross the border. Not only is the border patrol under funded and under manned, it has used a defective screening process for its agents.

If you want to enter the U. S. Military, such as the Navy, you don’t have to be a U. S. citizen. You might find yourself working on navigational equipment for an amphibious attack ship such as the Tarawa.

You may not have heard much about it in the news last summer, or even in the last few weeks. You can be sure that this is not a case or a problem of just one person. However, he serves as a wonderful example of how the system really works.

Four years ago an illegal alien obtained a job at the U. S. border patrol. He used a false birth certificate. Apparently checking such a simple detail on someone who would be assigned to protect our borders was not a priority. Posted by Picasa
Oscar Antonio Ortiz was finally arrested last August. After smuggling illegal aliens in his Border Patrol Vehicle. Posted by PicasaIn other cases, he accepted bribes to ‘look the other way’ as other illegals were brought in through his patrol region outside of San Diego. He recently pleaded guilty, and will be sentence May 12th.

Ortiz had a partner in the border patrol assisting in the illegal smuggling. Whoever this person is, they have not been arrested or charged. And I don’t believe for one minute that these are the only two agents that are corrupt.

According to San Diego Union Tribune staff writer Onell R. Soto in a 02/02/2006 article: “Before becoming a Border Patrol agent, Ortiz served in the U.S. Navy and worked on navigational equipment on the amphibious attack ship Tarawa.”

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How do we know he didn’t sabotage the navigational equipment? How many other Ortiz’ are out there supposedly working to protect our nation? When a simple thing like a check of a false birth certificate could have kept them out of the system?

If you want to fly somewhere today, you have to go through a screening process. After purchasing your tickets and making your plans you might discover that you are on the huge no-fly list and denied permission to board. As many have belatedly learned, you don’t need to be connected to terrorists or subversives to be on the list. You might be a baby, or a nun, or a U. S. Senator. All in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

If you want to call someone outside of the United States, the government is spending millions monitoring calls of anyone they think could be connected to terrorists. Based on the veracity of their no-fly lists--and the fact that they don’t know everyone connected to Al Quaida--your call will probably be monitored. Chances are they will also check your e-mails, your internet searches, and even your tax returns. All in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

Yet illegal aliens are hired to protect our border from illegal aliens. Cargo containers at shipyards and airports sit unguarded. The problems in our protection system--from NORAD to simple radio communications--remain unaddressed. The bureaucracy that held up vital information about the 9/11 hijackers, and about Katrina’s damage has only grown larger.

Government spokespersons, Administration officials, and even the President using smoke and mirrors to hide reality is not surprising. I doubt there are any Americans who believe that they are being told the truth by the government on a regular basis.

Yet there used to be some underlying trust that there was a basis for what the government was doing. And the basis was that in the long run they were keeping the best interests and the safety of the people at heart.

Today, they say the words. They act irate if anyone one disputes their love for the American people. But the foundation for trust is gone.
Sadly, this is just another example.

We have a big list of people who can’t fly, and we listen into phone calls. That will keep us safe from terrorists. We do have a great sense of humor as a people. This, however, is not funny.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fun Times With The State Of The Union

Did you watch the State of the Union? Probably not. The media and the Administration tried to hype it as something that would be new and visionary. Well, there was a bit of the 'vision thing', but not really in the way that most expected. Here are excerpts from the speech, with my comments afterwards in red. I've also included some pithy quotes from others that offer additional insights into the words behind the words.

BUSH: Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal -we seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. Posted by Picasa
Me: Hello? Who came up with this one? This is something that hasn't been debated and discussed in any way; not when Bush was campaigning, not in Congress, not in the media, not anywhere. We have never had a national goal of ending tyranny in the world. It would mean non-stop war forever.
BUSH: On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state seven thousand miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.

Me: There were a lot of bets out there on how long it would take him to bring up 9/11. Didn't take long at all. I like how he implies it is Iraq, but is now afraid to say it because too many are now aware that there was no connection between Iraq and the 9/11 terrorists. So I guess that oppressive state 7,000 miles away he is talking about is Saudi Arabia, since that is where most of the hijackers were from. Our Original Department Of Homeland Security and Anti-Terrorism Division
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BUSH: Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction.
Me: He probably doesn't realize how much each of those words applies to him and his own administration. Although we already HAVE weapons of mass destruction. Posted by Picasa
BUSH: They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear.
Me: Who is 'they'? Iran? Syria? The Iraqi insurgents just want us out. The terrorists such as Al Quaida just want us out of Saudi Arabia, and now Iraq. That is what got them started to begin with. And talk about the pot calling the kettle black, who has been a master of manipulation on using fear to get into this war to begin with? Not only did Bush use fear, he lied about WMD and Iraq/Al Quaida ties to cause fear.
BUSH: In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. Posted by Picasa
If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores.
Me: What commitment? He made up the 'commitment' to bring democracy to Iraq all on his own. He didn't ask for a national debate in the U.S. on the topic. The Iraqi people didn't ask him to come. They don't want him there now. His policies have created a worse environment than the Iraqis had before. As many have said, at least they had electricity and running water with Saddam. And if you stayed out of politics your life was relatively calm. Now random killings, lack of food, suicide bombers put everyone at risk. And Iraqis repeatedly complain that it is the Americans that didn't guard the border enough to let the outside terror mongers into the country. Now so many terrible things have happened that many Iraqis feel compelled to act as insurrectionists themselves.
Battlefield to our shores???? They are terrorists; they don't operate on a traditional battlefield. Take away the poor choice of words--and ponder the terrorist threat he is implying. Take away that most of the terrorist attacks in this country over the last twenty years have been perpetuated by Americans (Oklahoma City, Unabomber, Abortion Clinics, etc.) and you have 9/11. And as the 9/11 Commission Report has shown, even that would not have occurred had enough people in the Administration, NORAD, and the FBI been doing their jobs properly.

BUSH: America rejects the false comfort of isolationism.
Me: Huh? Somehow we took a giant leap here. I read and watch a great deal about current issues, and no one is even pushing that concept. It is pretty much established that we live in a global economy. I think he is trying to establish one of two 'arguments' here. Either (1) if you want our troops out of Iraq you are an isolationist. {A rather weak argument since Iraq is not exactly the world.} Or (2) if you are against his new idea of fighting tyranny around the world you are an isolationist. Bizarre as it seems, I think that will be a 'talking point' he will be pushing.

BUSH: We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan - where a fine president and national assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy.

Me: He needs to pay more attention to the news. Or stop out and out lying. Even the mainstream media has been reporting that heroin production and drug trafficking are at an all-time high. And that the Taliban is regaining strength in rural areas. Or maybe he should listen to some of the veterans from Afghanistan. These men and women have given interviews about how we had control and lost it. Perhaps because we decided to concentrate our military in Iraq instead. All because we don't hear much about Afghanistan in the news does not mean that things are going well there.
BUSH: And we are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory.
Me: How come no one ever gets to see this 'clear' plan for victory? Every 'plan' they release is more of a mission statement filled with generalizations.
BUSH: Our work in Iraq is difficult, because our enemy is brutal.
Me: Ah, George is always working so hard. Now, is it difficult because our enemy is brutal--or because we have screwed up so badly? Let's see...We were told that: Iraquis would welcome us with open arms, that the oil from Iraq would pay for all of the war and all of the reconstruction, oh and that we had more than enough troops to do the job (despite the objections of the generals). Then, due to poor planning we ended up with anarchy, rampant looting and corruption. We seemed to bomb all the wrong places and kill all the wrong people. In between announcing that we had killed Saddam or one of his sons multiple times---and we were wrong. And have we all lost count on how many times we have announced that we killed Bin Laden's #2 man? Yet he is still alive.
Anyway, then (after Mission Accomplished) we ended up leveling Fallujah, without allowing any men below forty to leave the city. That is called genocide. Oh, and after using "Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people," as one of the high crimes that justified our toppling his regime---we use phosphorus on the people of Fallujah. Posted by Picasa
Let's see, we still have not gotten to Abu Ghraib, kidnapping Iraqi women, outrages committed by contractors who are somehow exempt from the law, throwing the Geneva Conventions out the window, torturing prisoners, and forcing our own troops to stay there after their time is up.
Whatever enemy he is referring to--insurgents, Al Quaida, Iran---has not hurt us as badly as we have hurt ourselves. They aren't as brutal as we are incompetent.
BUSH: A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison ... put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country.
Posted by Picasa Me: Since Bush and his cronies keep stating that we have successfully brought Democracy to Iraq; I guess he thinks that bin Laden is planning to run for office there. Then again, in free, honest democratic elections in Palestine, the ‘terrorist’ group Hamas won. Anyone who tries to work in any way with the U. S. government has a death warrant right now. Every day in the news a busload of police recruits, or mayor of some town is murdered. It looks like they will get killed if we are there, so why not give them a chance and leave? Then less Americans will die too.
BUSH: Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices - and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear. Posted by PicasaThey know what it is like to fight house to house in a maze of streets ... to wear heavy gear in the desert heat ... to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb.
Me: This is just sad. Not only because Bush and most of his administration never served in the military--so they don’t know what the troops are facing. But because our troops still lack proper armor for their bodies and their vehicles three years after we started the war. Posted by Picasa

Our troops are being forced to stay there after their allotted time has been completed. Then the Bush administration--that empathetic group of men--thanks the troops by cutting their VA benefits and trying to eliminate medical coverage for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

BUSH: Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law, protection of minorities, and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote.
Me: Gee, maybe someday we can count on those things in our own country again too. Posted by Picasa
BUSH: To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands...Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need.
Me: Here we go again. He is definitely trying to lay the groundwork for a ‘let’s get involved in a bunch of other countries too’ offensive blitz. I don’t know who our ‘friends in desperate need’ are, but I do know that he hasn’t done much to encourage economic progress, fight disease or spread hope in the good old U.S.A.
Bush: I urge Members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.
Me: Laughing too hard to type. Is that the compassion shown to the hurricane victims of Katrina? Posted by Picasa

Having our phones illegally wiretapped and our computer searches data mined? Posted by PicasaFalsely imprisoning Americans and suspending their rights? Our fuel bills impoverishing every home while he pushes more tax cuts for the wealthy? Oh yeah, I am feelin the love.
Congress has shown a lot of interest in their own pockets and in turning over their powers to the President. They would better serve the interests of American by doing their job, honoring their oath of office to protect the Constitution, and impeaching Bush and Cheney.
BUSH: It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Quaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late.
Me: He is implying it is because they didn’t have wiretaps. The actual reason (as the 9/11 Commission Report reveals) is that the FBI ignored the reports of their field agents. And that the crucial phone calls were not translated until September 12th. Because they didn’t have enough translators.
BUSH: So to prevent another attack - based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute – I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Quaida operatives and affiliates to and from America.
Me: One thing about this Administration, when they lie they lie with big bold brass balls. Every sentence of that is a lie. More about that seems to come out in the media every day. His assertion that the constitution gives him the right to ignore the FISA laws. His assertion that Congress implicitly approves. His assertion that the wiretaps are not domestic. His assertion that its only a few people that are wiretapped. Putting aside the Constitutional issues for a moment, why is he ignoring FISA? The wiretap law was specifically set up for the Executive Branch to use after the illegal behavior of the Nixon administration. It’s a rubber stamp court that approves 99% of their wiretap requests. They can file the paperwork 72 hours AFTER they place the wiretap. Yet Bush claims he doesn’t have to follow this law. Posted by Picasa Why? What are they doing that they don’t want a rubberstamp court to learn? Why have underlings said, in the media, that this involves hundreds of thousands of calls and they don’t have time to do the FISA paperwork? Why is Bush telling people that ‘only a few’ people are being wiretapped, and his underlings saying that is ‘hundreds of thousands’? Did someone leave some zeros off somewhere?
BUSH: Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority and Federal Courts have approved the use of that authority.

Me: Only the best liars are able to take a little bit of truth and spin it to support their lies. Without taking up space to describe the other situations, which were both totally different or prior to the FISA Laws applicable today, let me just say that after extensive research I (and many more qualified people) are sure that no previous president has used the Constitutional Authority that he is claiming, and NO federal courts have approved the use of this authority. Posted by Picasa{He is claiming, basically, that since we are at war he can do whatever he wants, and the constitution says that he can.}
BUSH: America has created 4.6 million new jobs.

Me: When he is talking about jobs, this is what he means:
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BUSH: Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly.
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Me: So impressive to hear from the man whose administration spent the last six years CUTTING benefits to the poor and elderly. And whose new prescription drug program is proving to be an unmitigated disaster for millions of senior citizens.
BUSH: We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors.
Me: That is another of the most chilling lines of this speech. Does anyone really believe that they will use this access to such private information to make things better for the average American? The government has HIPPA privacy laws preventing our private medical information from being revealed to any outside parties. (Defined as those involved in your medical care and the insurance companies). Is Bush claiming they don’t have to follow that law either? And what will they really do with the information?
BUSH: Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.
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BUSH: Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.
Me: How come I have been hearing this from one politician or another throughout my adult life? The only thing that keeps changing is the ‘by’ number at the end of the sentence.

BUSH: Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation's children a firm grounding in math and science.

Me: After six years of cutting education support. And destroying the budgets of local school systems by dumping the cost of his ‘No Child Left Behind’ program onto them.

BUSH: Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research - human cloning in all its forms ... creating or implanting embryos for experiments ... creating human-animal hybrids ...

Me: Oh, there are so many things I could say. Although I don’t really like animal testing and experimentation, it has helped homo sapiens in so many ways. Apparently he was absent from school the day they taught that homo sapiens ARE animals.
Maybe he is worried because Intelligent Design has been so publicly disparaged by the courts and the pope and all. Or he wants us to forget about the possible Primate connection--that there is a good chance that we are descended from human/chimpanzee hybrids. Especially because so many jokes about him include references to his chimp-like looks and behavior. Chimeras and hybrid stories have been around since the beginning of recorded time. Perhaps ‘human-animal’ hybrid is just an oxymoron he is using to pander to the Christian right over embryo and stem-cell research.
There is also the possibility that I am giving him to much credit for intellectual musings. It could just be that he has read too many comic books.

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The speech lasted almost one hour, and I just touched on portions of it here. One of my favorite moments wasn’t included in any of the quotes I mentioned. When Bush mentioned that his “Plan to Repair Social Security” had not been passed, all the Democrats stood and clapped. The look on his face was priceless.

Talk Is Not Always Cheap

Talk Is Not Always Cheap

For some it was an issue of backbone. After allowing the Republicans to repeatedly maneuver and disarm them on issues for so long, there was a public outcry for the Democrats to filibuster the nomination. I recently wrote about this.

For others, the threat of extensive executive power (that Alito supports) was unconstitutional. They called upon Senators to honor their oath of protecting and defending the Constitution by fighting this nomination any way that they could.

Amazingly once again it was the world of internet that made it happen. After the hearings Democrats gave up and announced there would not be a filibuster. The chance of it changing or stopping the appointment were overwhelming, the sentiment was not to waste time on a losing issue. That it would look bad. Posted by Picasa

The point of filibuster is to give the minority party a voice. The idea was to show that they still have supporters, to demonstrate that they still had strength, vigor and power, and enough courage to take a stand against the odds.

Senatorial offices were flooded with phone calls, e-mails and faxes demanding that they do something. Show opposition for history if nothing else.

Finally Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy led a drive among their colleagues to filibuster. The Republican majority responded by scheduling a cloture vote (if sixty senators vote for cloture--all debate, all filibuster is stopped).

Pundits in the media, members of the executive branch and Senate Republicans cried foul. They accused Kennedy and Kerry of playing politics, insulting the President and wasting everyone’s time. Throwing history out the window they acted as if this had never happened in the history of the U. S. Senate.

They held firm, and as the weekend passed enlisted more Senators to join them. The first issue was to vote ‘no’ on cloture. In order for it to pass the Republicans would need for all of their Senators to vote ‘yes’, as well as several Democrats. Much was played out in the media, and citizens swamped the offices of their Senators with their opinions. Some pushed their leaders to allow Alito’s confirmation.
When Monday arrived the Senators met to vote on keeping the debate alive. Here are a few things that were said:
Senator Ted Kennedy Posted by Picasa
“Let me just say this vote this afternoon will last for 15 or 20 minutes. But the implications of that vote, the implications for your life, your children's lives and your grandchildren's lives, will continue for years to come. We have only one chance to get it right."

Senator John Kerry Posted by Picasa
“The direction our country will take for the next 30 years is being set now and this is the time for debate. This is the time when it counts. Not after the Supreme Court has granted the executive the right to use torture, or to eavesdrop without warrants. Not after a woman's right to privacy has taken away. Is history going to care what we say after the courthouse door is slammed in the faces of women, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor? No. Except to wonder why we didn't do more when we knew what was coming.”

Senator Patrick Leahy Posted by Picasa
“Democratic Senators should not be criticized for taking seriously their constitutional role in trying to assess whether Judge Alito is suitable for a lifetime position on the Supreme Court. Democrats also asked tough questions of Justices Ginsburg and Breyer during their confirmation hearings, which is in stark contrast to the free pass given to Judge Alito by Republican Senators during his hearing.
Those critical of the Democrats have a short and selective historical memory. Republican Senators engaged in a party-line vote in committee against the nomination of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. Republican Senators, in an unprecedented party-line vote, blocked the nomination in 1999 of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White, an extremely qualified nominee for a Federal district court judgeship. In fact, Republicans pocket-filibustered more than 60 of President Clinton's judicial nominees by holding them up in the Judiciary Committee.”

Twenty-five Democratic Senators voted against cloture, against stopping the debate on the issue. Cloture was passed by a vote of 72 to 25, with 3 not voting. Posted by Picasa

Bayh (D-IN) Biden (D-DE) Boxer (D-CA) Posted by Picasa
Clinton (D-NY) Dayton (D-MN) Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL) Feingold Posted by Picasa(D-WI) Feinstein (D-CA)
Jeffords (I-VT) Kennedy (D-MA) Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ) Leahy (D-VT) Levin (D-MI) Posted by Picasa
Menendez (D-NJ) Mikulski (D-MD) Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL) Reed (D-RI) Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD) Schumer (D-NY) Stabenow (D-MI) Posted by Picasa
Wyden (D-OR)

Those who couldn't even hold the line to help support the opposition party's quest to regain their voice, over as something as simple as voting to continue to debate on the appointment of a lifelong tenure have joined the Cowardly Lion Club. Posted by Picasa

Democrats without backbone:

Akaka, Daniel K (HI) Baucus, Max (MT) Bingaman, Jeff (NM)
Byrd, Robert C.(WV) Cantwell, Maria (WA) Carper, Thomas R.(DE)
Conrad (ND) Dorgan, Byron L. (ND) Inouye,Daniel K.(HI)
Johnson, Tim (SD) Kohl, Herb- (WI) Landrieu, Mary (LA)
Lieberman, Joseph(CT) Lincoln, Blanche(AR) Nelson, E. Benjamin(NE)
Nelson, Bill Pryor, Mark (AR) Rockefeller, John D.(WV)
Salazar, Ken (CO)