Monday, December 17, 2007

This is Timely. I Wish I Had Written It.

"We, free citizens of the Great Republic, feel an honest pride in her greatness, her strength, her just and gentle government, her wide liberties, her honored name, her stainless history, her unsmirched flag, her hands clean from oppression of the weak and from malicious conquest, her hospitable door that stands open to the hunted and the persecuted of all nations; we are proud of the judicious respect in which she is held by the monarchies which hem her in on every side, and proudest of all of that lofty patriotism which we inherited from our fathers, which we have kept pure, and which won our liberties in the beginning and has preserved them unto this day. While that patriotism endures the Republic is safe, her greatness is secure, and against them the powers of the earth cannot prevail.

I pray you to pause and consider. Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object -- robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. To-day they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician's trick -- a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every school-house in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor -- none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, 'Our Country, right or wrong,' and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is 'the country'? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is 'the country'? Is it the newspaper? is it the pulpit? is it the school-superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn't.

Who are the thousand -- that is to say, who are 'the country'? In a monarcy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let man label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country -- hold up your head! you have nothings to be ashamed of.

Only when a republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.

This republic's life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. The stupid phrase needed help, and it got another one: 'Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor.' Why, not even a burglar could have said it better. We cannot withdraw from this sordid raid because to grant peace to those little people upon their terms -- independence -- would dishonor us. You have flung away Adam's phrase -- you should take it up and examine it again. He said, 'An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.'

You have planted a seed and it will grow."

Mark Twain
Unknown when it was written, but probably around 1901

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Presidential Election Season

Once again it is time for a presidential election, and even at this early stage in the game the smell of bull manure is already wafting on the breeze out of Washington. But enough about the Republicans.

One of the most exciting parts of the presidential election is the great variability in candidates, and this early on it's not surprising at all to have one's allegiance shift from one candidate to another. This is sometimes done by a supported candidate saying or doing something that makes them no longer worthy. It also happens when a new candidate enters the ring.

Previously, I had supported Hillary Clinton as my favorite candidate. I think our country is long overdue for a female president, and I admired Hillary for her intelligence and willingness to fight for her causes. Unfortunately, that's simply not enough. I recently attempted to get involved in Hillary's campaign here in Los Angeles and found that, quite simply, they weren't interested. The impression I get from her people is that if there aren't supporters who can contribute significantly to her campaign, she's simply not going to waste her time. This tells me that she is out of touch with the people, and probably isn't going to waste her time on us as president either.

Even worse, her campaign has been sending me letters through the mail addressed to "Ms. Patt Gavin." Nothing sets me off quicker than to see my name neutered. I'm sure she wouldn't appreciate being called "Mr. Hillary Clinton" and by the same token, I don't appreciate being called "Ms." Sorry, Ms. Clinton, but you lost my vote.

So, who do I throw my support behind? There is only one candidate who fully supports gay marriage, and that's certainly an incentive to me. He also supports a fair tax, which I am highly in favor of. In fact, I have been for several years now, but no major candidates ever seemed willing to even mention it. A Fair Tax is just that; a tax that is fair to all. Our current tax system puts an unfair burden on the middle class while allowing both the upper class and lower class to pay far less as a percentage of earnings. A Fair Tax eliminates income tax and shifts the tax burden to purchases. More information can be found on it at the Fair Tax website at

I am completely against the war in Iraq and feel we need to create a timetable for leaving that country. I don't believe it's feasible to simply leave, but I do think we need an exit strategy. Our current administration has been unwilling to provide that. I also feel that starting a war in Iran would be a stupid move.

Global warming is not just a catch phrase, it is a reality and must be addressed while there is still time. We need a candidate who is willing to listen to scientists and work to improve our planet. To that end, I believe that stem cell research is something that we need to explore deeper, not ignore. Stem cell research could help many people live richer, more productive lives, and it at least needs to be properly researched and tested. Who knows what might develop, but if we don't at least try we'll never know.

I think marijuana should be legalized. I personally don't use drugs, but that's my choice and I feel others have a right to make their own choices. It should be legalized and legislated just like alcohol. Driving under the influence is a crime, but being under the influence is not. So long as correct behavior is maintained, adults should have the right to enjoy themselves however they choose.

And who supports all of these issues as I do? Senator Mike Gravel. Gravel not only thinks like I do on all of these issues, he has even added another one, that I personally think is quite brilliant; a national ballot initiative. States west of the Mississippi have long had ballot initiatives. States in the east have not, at least not when I was living in the east. What this means is that in the east you elect officials who create the laws. In the west you do the same thing, but if those officials don't create the laws you want, you get an initiative on the ballot and let the people vote for it. If it passes, it becomes law, in spite of what the elected officials think. Senator Gravel wants to see this on a national level, so we the people will make the laws, rather than waiting for elected officials to do the same. Brilliant!

Senator Gravel's website is and I encourage everyone to check it out and see what they think. I'd be interested in hearing what others feel about this man.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Educational Reforms in our Public Schools

Much has made of Michael Bloomberg's take over of the New York City school district, and whether or not his move was successful (as defined by an improvement in the education level of the students) remains to be seen. At this point there is certainly a lot of debate over the issue, to the extent that other cities are following suit, or, in the case of Los Angeles, trying to follow suit.

I'm not advocating that Antonio Villaraigosa should be allowed to take over the Los Angeles Unified School District, as I don't find Villaraigosa to be anything like Bloomberg. As an example, and one that I think is typical since Villaraigosa took office, I recently came upon a dog lying in the street crying out because it had just been hit by a car that then sped off. It was not possible for me to stop, and I realized that the best thing I could do was to call the city and get help for this poor animal. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed 311, which would connect me with the city. The voice that answered was Villaraigosa, who greeted me and welcomed me to the 311 system which would allow me to connect to any city service, and that if this was an emergency I should dial 911 (which I did not do because I'm fairly certain that 911 is only for human emergencies, not animal). I had to sit through this message twice, because he repeats it in Spanish, apparently so he can show off that he speaks Spanish (like that's a unique skill in Los Angeles).

I finally got through the message and made my selection, that I wished to speak to a live operator, and I was once again greeted by Villaraigosa, this time telling me that while I waited, I would be entertained by selections from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra or the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

A live operator answered and I explained the situation to her, and she immediately connected me with the closest animal shelter. The person at the shelter took the information, and then proceeded to ask me personal questions (name, phone number, address), to which I finally asked why he needed this information to help an injured animal. He informed me that the city tracks their calls and they need this information to supply to, who else, Villaraigosa. I firmly informed him that an animal was injured and possibly dying and his time would be better served in helping that animal, rather than playing 20 questions with me.

I don't know what became of the poor dog, but this incident is typical of what Los Angeles is like under Villaraigosa, so the thought of him taking over the school district is frightening. Simply put, he doesn't know what he's doing running the city, and to allow him to screw up our school district is something the future of our city and our students cannot handle.

Whether or not this happens (and God willing, it won't), I think we need to take a more common sense approach to the idea of our schools and school districts. We need to focus more on the education of our children and less on the bureaucracy that mires many of our institutions. To that end, I wish to offer these ideas for the proper running of a school district:

1. Limit administrative salaries - one of the major problems we face today is an inequity of salaries between the teachers and the administrators. True administrators have a greater responsibility and should receive a higher salary, but if that salary is double what a teacher earns (or more), there is a major problem. Administrative salaries should be capped at no greater than 20% higher than the AVERAGE teacher's salary. For those working in the schools (principals, vice principals, etc.) that average is of the teachers in their school. For district administrators, that average is spread throughout the entire district. For the Superintendent of Schools, the salary would be no more than 40% higher than the average teacher salary. This means that if the average teacher salary is $40,000 the cap for administrators in the school would be $48,000 and the Superintendent would earn $56,000. These positions should be taken for the desire to make improvements in the school lives of our children, and not to make oneself rich. Now, the argument is that if you don't offer the salary, you won't attract competent people, but I would argue that this is not so. The governor of California made considerably more money as an actor than the governor's office pays, and that salary, to my understanding, he has waived during his terms in office. If an administrator wishes to increase their salary, all they have to do is increase the teacher's salaries. They're in administration, so it should be their drive to raise the funds if they want a salary increase.

2. Open bidding for services - the idea that cities and/or school districts are necessarily the best place to get goods and services is ridiculous. Bidding should be held on everything the school district needs, and the bidding should be open to any competent business. It's not necessarily the idea of finding the absolute lowest price, but of keeping costs down as much as possible. For example, just because one company has always been used for desks doesn't necessarily mean that they are the best company, nor the most cost-effective. Contracts should have to be renewed annually, with a new bid process each year. This would keep costs as low as possible.

3. Social promotion - social promotion is the idea of sending a child to the next grade whether or not they have passed their exams adequately. This is the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard. What good does it do the child to promote them into a grade for which they are unprepared? It only ensures failure in future grades, and when they finally get out of high school, not by earning a degree, but simply because they went through 12th grade, what jobs are they going to find? Students need to demonstrate that they can do the work for the next grade before being promoted to that grade. The fault with this system lies mostly with the parents, because when a child begins to fail the parent needs to get involved. More on that to follow.

4. Free schools shouldn't be - our current system funds schools with state money, but that needs to be augmented. The states should continue to fund the schools, at least at the current levels, but there also needs to be a responsibility from the parents of the students. We should charge tuition of $100 per student per academic year (including summer, if necessary). This cost would be borne by the parents of the students. The idea that a parent might be too poor to pay this is unfounded. The poorest parents often have beer in their refrigerators, and can afford to buy things like cigarettes, so to request $100 per child is not unreasonable. It also means that adults need to be more responsible. If you bring a child into this world, you will be responsible for it.

On top of the $100 per year, parents will be fined for excessive absence by their child (unless medically approved) and for a child failing a grade. As soon as a child starts failing, the parents are to be notified, and it becomes as much their responsibility for educating their child, and ensuring that proper study time is allotted and homework is completed, as it is for the schools. Should the parents fail in their duties, they will pay for it, out of their wallets. An additional $100 for the child to repeat the year.

5. More languages - there is an old joke that goes, what do you call someone who speaks three languages? Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

We need to stop being the laughing stock of the world. We are not a world unto ourselves, and it's high time we took our place as a nation that is part of the world and not above it. Our neighbors to the north speak French and our neighbors to the south speak Spanish, therefore we should be teaching our students both of these languages. This is very easily accomplished by starting them early. In first grade every child will be taught in English, but each day they will spend short periods of time learning Spanish and French. By the end of first grade they should be able to count to ten, recite the alphabet, say hello, goodbye, my name is, what is your name, and the primary colors, as well as printing their letters. In the second grade this will be built upon with additional information, again in all three languages. By continuing in this way, each child will be able to read, write and speak three languages by the time they reach high school. At that point, each child would be required to take three more years of another language, resulting in a total of four languages that every graduate of public high schools in this country will be able to read, write and speak. This makes our students ready to enter not only the work force, but the world. They can travel almost anywhere and be able to communicate, and they become better representatives of our nation to the world.

6. Curriculum - Reading, writing and arithmetic remain the foundation of our educational system and they must remain so, however they are not exclusive. History is important as a nation that does not know its past mistakes is destined to repeat them, and science is what keeps our civilization progressing. Art, music, drama and sports are all important because they allow the student a chance to get out of the daily grind and into something more enjoyable, and physical education ensures they remain healthy. Working two languages into this schedule won't be easy, but it's not impossible.

These six steps are a foundation upon which a school district can be built that will ensure the success of our students, and of our future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Supporting Our Troops

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding in our country today about what it means to support our troops. My brother Dennis and I were discussing this recently, in one of our usually heated debates, since Dennis tends to lean toward the Republicans, the right, Lord Voldemort and other areas of evil, while I remain just left of center, where all intelligent, articulate, caring human beings are. But enough about me.

Dennis' argument was that Hillary Clinton (our next President of the United States) made a statement that she will always support the troops, but then voted against the funding of the troops in Iraq. I don't know when she allegedly made this statement, but her vote came in May 2007, when both she and Obama voted against funding for the troops that did not contain a timeline to remove the troops from Iraq.

"I fully support our troops" but the measure "fails to compel the president to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq," said Clinton.

She further supported her position when Mitt Romney claimed that "Their votes render them undependable in the eyes of men and women of the United States military and the American people."

"I don't see that at all," Clinton responded. "the American people have been living now with this war for five years. I want to de-authorize it."

Added Barack Obama (our next Vice President of the United States), "The country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else's civil war."

Apparently, Right Wing tools (like my dear baby brother) don't understand that supporting the troops does not mean opening the purse every time they need money, so let me explain it the way Jesus would; with a parable.

Once upon a time there was a family with a mother, a father and a son. As the son grew up he became aligned with some less-than-reputable people, and as time went on he became a drug addict and drunk. Any time he got his hands on any money, he spent it on drugs and alcohol, and his parents were despondent over what to do with him.

Now, they loved their son, and they supported him, but they realized that giving him money was a very bad idea without him first giving them some kind of assurance that he would not be spending that money on drugs and alcohol. He refused to give them this assurance, so they refused to give him any money. They continued to feed him, clothe him and give him a home, but not to give him any money.

Did these parents stop supporting their son? Of course not. They simply realized that what was best for him was not unlimited funds that would be used for drugs and alcohol, but give him what he needs until such time as he is able to handle money without spending it on things that will kill him.

Hillary and Barack did the same thing. They both support the troops, but they refused to fund them if there isn't any end in sight. The war was a mistake and at this point you won't find many people who are willing to argue that point. Since we haven't been able to invent a time machine yet, we're stuck with the war, so the best course of action is to end it as soon as possible. This is support of our troops. Bring them home where they belong, and that is what Clinton and Obama both tried to do by withholding their votes on the bill.

Hillary does support our troops, but she is intelligent enough to understand that support does not mean a blank check.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

James W. Holsinger, Jr.

On May 24, 2007, President Bush nominated Dr. James W. Holsinger, Jr., a University of Kentucky medical professor, to be the 18th surgeon general of the United States. At the press release to announce the nomination, Bush stated, "As America's chief health educator, he will be charged with providing the best scientific information available on how Americans can make smart choices that improve their health and reduce their risk of illness and injury. Dr. Holsinger will particularly focus his efforts on educating parents and children about childhood obesity, a serious epidemic that decreases quality of life and burdens our healthcare system. I am confident that Dr. Holsinger will help our Nation confront this challenge and many others to ensure that Americans live longer, better, and healthier lives."

Anytime George Bush says "I am confident" of anything, we have reason to be skeptical about his predictions. According to Wikipedia (which is not always an accurate source, I do admit), Dr. Holsinger is a member of the United Methodist Church. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a Methodist, or being a member of any religion for that matter. The problem is if you are serving in a position where you are representative to all Americans, you cannot use your personal beliefs against (or for) any Americans over any other Americans.

For example, if your personal religion is that you're a Buddhist, and as a Buddhist you're also a vegetarian, you cannot try to pass legislation against eating meat based on your beliefs. You can introduce legislation if there is a valid health reason against the particular meat (importing beef that might be infected with Mad Cow Disease, for example), but not based on your personal religious beliefs.

Why does this matter in the issue of appointing Dr. Holsinger as Surgeon General? Well, he not only belongs to the Methodist church, but has also sat on its Judicial Council. In fact, he resigned the council over the issue of homosexuality (which he opposes):

The (Methodist) church's panel on homosexuality is stirring a ruckus even before its report is written. James Holsinger, medical director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, quit the study committee last February because he felt certain its conclusions would follow liberal lines.

After leaving the panel, he continued with the church, and helped to found a new congregation called Hope Springs Community Church in Kentucky. Rev. David Calhoun is the pastor of Hope Springs. According to Calhoun:

"Hope Springs also ministers to people who no longer wish to be gay or lesbian," Calhoun said.
"We see that as an issue not of orientation but of lifestyle," he said. "We have people who seek to walk out of that lifestyle." On this point, the church would differ with many gays and lesbians, who consider their sexuality a matter of identity, not a lifestyle choice.

This becomes a bit disturbing. In his announcement of the nomination, Bush stated, "he will be charged with providing the best scientific information available on how Americans can make smart choices that improve their health and reduce their risk of illness and injury." Yet he began a ministry that works to stop homosexuals from being gay. Is that finding consistent with the "best scientific information available"?

According to the American Psychiatric Association:

"The APA Board of Trustees endorsed a position statement at its December (1998) meeting that opposes therapeutic techniques some psychiatrists and mental health professionals claim can shift an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The Board acknowledged that there is no evidence that these so-called 'reparative therapies' have any efficacy in converting someone from one sexual orientation to another."

If Dr. Holsinger is against homosexuality, and started a ministry to help change gays to straight, which the American Psychiatric Association states cannot be done, then I don't see that he will be providing the best scientific information available. He seems to be doing just the opposite when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, therefore, will he do the same with other issues? What about stem cell research? Is he going to follow conservative views on that issue as well?

I have to question the logic of appointing this man into the position of "America's Doctor" given his views. I'm sure Bush can do a better job of finding someone to fill this position who can represent all Americans, not just the right wing.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

-- Thank you George Bush

Thank you, George W. Bush, for screwing up my country so badly that it will take several generations to get it back on track. It will take the eight years of the next Clinton administration, followed by an additional eight years of the Obama administration to even begin to clean up the mess you have made.

Our foreign policy has made us the laughing stock of the entire world, thanks to your lack of leadership abilities. You started wars in two third-world countries, spending, according to the National Priorities Project, over $370 billion. "The Cost of Iraq War calculator is set to reach $378 billion March 31, 2007, halfway through fiscal year 2007. "

This money could have been better spent on healthcare for our nation's poor, on medicine for the elderly, on education for the underprivileged, or on cleaning up our environment. Instead, the money has been wasted on declaring war on two countries who never attacked us and did not pose the threat to us that you claimed.

These wars cost our country the lives of over 3,000 of our citizens, and in Iraq over 60,000. Those deaths all sit on your shoulders, Mr. Bush, as you caused them. Those men and women would not have lost their lives had you not so callously declared war in a country where war was never necessary. You have proven yourself to be a war monger and the cost of that has been the lives of innocent people both here and in Iraq.

And what have you accomplished as our leader? Your greatest achievement has been that you will be known as the worst president this country has ever had. Your approval rating is languishing below 40% and will undoubtedly stay at least that low for the remainder of your term. Your idea to increase the amount of troops in Iraq is nearly as bad as your idea to attack that country in the first place. You obviously don't think any of your decisions through, but instead rashly act based on your own fears and insecurities.

You have instated torture policies that have made the United States and our citizens hated throughout the world, yet you have failed to capture Osama bin Laden, the one person who has truly proven to be an enemy of this country. In fact, you stopped even trying to find him years ago, concentrating instead on attacking Iraq, and probably so that our troops would be in a position whereby you could conquer Iran as well. In case you haven't been paying attention, that would be a foolish idea.

You have created the largest deficit in the history of this nation, and one that will take our people the rest of our lifetimes, and probably those of our children to erase, and this after coming into office in an economy that was thriving. Your tax cuts have benefited the rich and no one else, but that has proven to be the only aspect of our society that matters to you. As you so eloquently put it, these are your people, "The haves, and the have mores." You don't care about anyone else.

Thank you, George Bush, for making such a horrible mess of things. By your actions you have ensured that the Democrats will be fully back in power very soon, and that will prove to be your greatest, albeit most unintended, achievement.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

-- Minimum Wage

One of the first items that the new House controlled by Democrats tackled was minimum wage and the long over-due need for an increase. This has been a sticking point in the Senate, as certain Republicans want to mire the passage with amendments and additions that would either make it impossible for the Democrats to vote to pass it, or pass it along with other laws that the Democrats don't want.

Fight nicely children.

First, we need to have legislation in this country that disallows the addition of amendments or additions to any bill unless they are specifically related to that legislation. The only amendments that should be included on a bill for minimum wage would be such amendments that actually amend that particular legislation, and not anything else.

One of the arguments that the right wing puts forward in their belief that the minimum wage does not need to be raised is that most of those people who earn the minimum wage are school-age young adults working part-time in after school jobs. We know that this is not true, however, I think we could add a few amendments to the minimum wage bill based on this.

Let's split the minimum wage law into two parts; Part A for adults (18 and over) and Part B for minors (under the age of 18). Part A goes forth exactly as stated, and any adult earning the minimum wage would have their salary raised based on the new legislation.

Part B would pertain only to those people under the age of 18, and would have additional laws attached to it. For example, these earners are high-school students, and the money they earn is probably not used to support a family, but goes to buying such things as CDs, iPods and clothing. In most cases, these earners are still living at home, and they just need a little spending money, and these earners, the Republicans argue, do not need an increase in their wages. Not raising their wages, however, allows them to be abused by their employers because of the low wages they earn.

So, to protect them, let's expand the law. Part B of the Minimum Wage Act of 2007 should include the following:

- The maximum number of hours a day a minor may work is eight.
- The maximum number of hours a week a minor may work is ten.
- For every four hour shift worked, a minor must receive one half hour paid break (work three and a half hours, take a thirty minute break).
- For every shift under four hours, a minor must receive a fifteen minute paid break for every two hours worked.
- Every minor who is still in school must maintain at least a C average in every subject, and any grade below a C will result in their immediate dismissal from employment until the next grading period when they can demonstrate that their grades have improved to at least a C in every subject.
- Minors may not begin work before 9:00 a.m.
- Minors may not end work after 9:00 p.m.
- Minors minimum wage would be $7.00 per hour.

These amendments would ensure that no one takes unfair advantage of minors in hiring, and would keep employers from hiring minors over adults. These restrictions on minors would certainly make sense to add as amendments to the Minimum Wage Law, and would allow fair wages to be paid to those adults in America who are currently making minimum wage. Those people (represented in Part A) would make a higher wage, be allowed to work over-time, and have a better chance of supporting their families.

Part B employees (minors) would still be able to work, without working so many hours to cut into their school life, would not interfere with their time to do homework, and would give them a little spending money and the chance to earn that money themselves, without risk of being taken advantage of based on their age.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

-- George W. Bush's Lamest Speech Yet

The following are excerpts from tonight’s speech by the President-select of the United States, along with my comments:

Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror - and our safety here at home.

The “global war on terror” that he's referring to is actually limited to Iraq, which is hardly global. Iraq, whether historically or currently was never a threat to us here at home. Typical for W; he has used the word “terror” in some form or other in every speech he has given since the attack on the World Trade Center. It’s his way of keeping America afraid, which he used to his advantage to attack an innocent nation.

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together - and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

Who is “we” exactly? Most of the world felt that invading Iraq was a bad idea. Much of America did too, for that matter, but one person refused to listen. This was never “our” mission, this was George W. Bush’s mission, and it’s been a huge failure. Own up to the miserable mess you've made, George. Three messes, if you include your drunken daughters.

Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

Finally, an ounce of truth.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. ... Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

No, failure in Iraq would be a disaster for George W. Bush. This is your mess, not America’s. Own up to your own disgrace and stop trying to put it on the rest of America. By the way, the majority of us didn't elect you. Keep that in mind.

On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

Of course he had to bring in 9/11, even though Iraq had nothing to do with that. As always, he tries to obfuscate the truth and mislead the American public by throwing his 9/11 red herring across the path.

So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

This in spite of the fact that twice in the past year we have sent additional troops into Baghdad, only to be shown that it won’t work. The time to send in a large army is at the start of a war, not when you’re trying to end one. According to some experts, even 20,000 troops won’t be enough. We would need over 100,000 troops, and to get that many additional soldiers would require a draft.

America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan - and we will not allow them to re- establish it in Iraq.

Right, and we got bin Laden too, didn’t we?

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity - and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. ... We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria.

And if that doesn’t work, we’ll just attack Iran and Syria, just like we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. We have the troops, don't we? George seems to think we have an unlimited supply.

We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.

We don’t do “intelligence sharing” within our own government, but we’re going to do it with other nations?

On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life.

Just as we destroyed theirs.

The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.

And look at how successful W’s track record is so far. And who is he referring to when he says “our” new strategy? This is his strategy, and there isn’t anything new about it.

Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved.

In other words, we won’t be the winners.

We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas - where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.

I suggest we send Barbara Bush for starters. She really is the one who created this mess in the White House. Oh, and George H. W. Bush too. Send him with her. He has new hips now, so he doesn't have an excuse not to go and work to improve his country. W. can join him in two years, when he'll be out of the White House and will need something to do.

These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary - and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time.

Our cause in Iraq has neither been noble nor necessary. There were better ways to deal with Saddam than attacking his country, but George W. Bush refused to listen to any voice of reason who tried to tell him this. George was out for blood, and no one could stop him. In that, he has succeeded.

And what did the Republicans have to say about George’s speech?

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina: "President Bush made a very persuasive case for strategy change. I appreciate his willingness to acknowledge past mistakes and chart a new course to achieve victory in Iraq."

Wipe that brown off your nose, Lindsey.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas: "Simply abandoning Iraq now, as some would have us do, would ensure failure and put America's national security at risk. The strategy presented tonight represents a real opportunity for peace and stability in Iraq."

In the first place, how would America’s national security be at risk? Iraq never attacked us, and certainly does not have the weaponry to attack us now, so this doesn’t put us at risk, it puts the credibility of the Republican party at risk, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, the nation has already caught on to you guys. This strategy does nothing to ensure peace in Iraq.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Oregon: "Iraqis need to be their own street cops, not U.S. forces. This is the president's Hail Mary pass. Now it is up to the Iraqi Army to catch the ball.”

Because if you want to make your point, use a sports analogy!

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona: "We are paying a very heavy price for it, but I do believe we can win."

Write this down, everyone, so when McCain is running for President in ’08 you can remember why you should NOT vote for him.

Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich: "At this point I am skeptical that a surge in troops alone will bring an end to sectarian violence and the insurgency. What we need first is a political solution between Sunni Arabs and Shia militias that are adding to the violence."

Wow, a Republican with common sense. There is a God!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

-- Ethics in our Government

I spent the last eleven years working for a major accounting firm, and one of the things that I dealt with was independence. In accounting, independence means remaining distant from the client, as in not holding stock in the company. Independence isn't just a good idea, it's the law, and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). With the passage of the Sarbanes Oxley Act (possibly the most useless piece of legislation ever to disgrace our nation), accountants are now even more independent of their clients in that they are not allowed to work for those clients whose audits they worked on without a one year cooling off period.

Doesn't it seem that our elected officials and those people who they appoint to government jobs should be held to the same standard? If accountants in the private sector must maintain independence from their clients, why doesn't the government follow the same practice?

Why is John Ashcroft, the former Attorney General now heading up his own company that represents clients seeking to do business with the government? The following is from Wikipedia:

In May 2005, Ashcroft laid the groundwork for a strategic consulting firm which bears his name. The Ashcroft Group, LLC officially opened its doors in the Fall of 2005 and as of March 2006 had lined up 21 clients, turning down two for every one accepted.

In 2005 year-end filings, Ashcroft's firm reported collecting $269,000, including $220,000 from Oracle Corporation, which won Department of Justice approval of a multibillion-dollar acquisition less than a month after hiring Ashcroft. The income totals that Ashcroft has reported so far represent in some cases only initial payments.

According to government filings, Oracle is one of the Ashcroft Group’s five clients which seek his help in selling data or software with homeland security applications. Another client, Israel Aircraft Industries International, is competing with Chicago's Boeing Company to sell the government of South Korea a billion-dollar airborne radar system. The Ashcroft Group is also registered to represent Choicepoint, eBay, Exegy, Alanco Technologies, LTU Technologies and Trafficland, Inc.

In March 2006, the New York Times reported that Ashcroft was setting himself up as something of an "anti-Abramoff", and that in an hour long interview, Ashcroft used the word integrity scores of times. In May 2006, based on conversations with members of Congress, key aides and lobbyists, The Hill magazine listed Ashcroft as one of top 50 "hired guns" that K Street had to offer. In August 2006, the Washington Post reported that Ashcroft's firm had 30 clients, many of which made products or technology aimed at homeland security, and about a third of which the firm has not disclosed, to protect client confidentiality. The firm also had equity stakes in eight client companies. It reported receiving $1.4 million in lobbying fees in the past six months, a small fraction of its total earnings.

If an accountant must maintain independence, why not a government employee? While Ashcroft was not an elected official (he was appointed), shouldn't he be under the same standards as those in the private sector? Why don't we have legislation stating that former employees of the government are forbidden from becoming lobbyists, or otherwise representing clients to the government?

Gale Norton is another example. In 2001 she was sworn in as the first female Secretary of the Interior, a job she held for the next five years. Now she has taken a job with the largest oil company in Europe, Royal Dutch Shell. As Secretary of the Interior her responsibility was supposed to be to the land of this nation, and now she works for a company that can easily destroy that land. Doesn't that seem like a conflict of interest?

Why are people working in the private sector held to a higher standard than our elected officials and those appointed by them? It seems to me that we need fair legislation in this country that would ensure that all people follow a simple code of ethics, and one item in the code must certainly be an elimination of any conflicts of interest.