Sunday, December 7, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Life, Liberty and Viagra
During the second Presidential debate, the candidates were asked if they viewed health care as a right or a responsibility. Senator John McCain replied that he viewed health care as a responsibility, while Senator Barack Obama proposed that health care is a right. This is a matter on which I have (briefly) written about in the past - see below - and one that promises to move toward the national forefront once this election is decided. Regardless of opinions, the matter brings forth an interesting question: If health care is a right, should Americans need to pay for it any more than they should their other rights? For example, we have the right to a fair trial, and if we cannot afford an attorney we are granted one. It is our right. No one debates the affordability of private attorneys, and no one debates that wealthier citizens can afford better legal protection. Should the same be the case for health care? It will be interesting to see how a potential President Obama constructs his argument for the idea of health care as a 'right.'
The next 4 to 8 year period has the potential to see the seating of as many as 4 Supreme Court Justices. Their views on health care as a 'right', along with the views of the rest of the Justices, may become very important. I believe there is a real chance that after repeated failures on a legislative level, the health care debate could move into the judicial realm.Obviously, the leanings of our next president, who will appoint these judges, may play a large - but somewhat secondary- role in expanding health care. As Mr. Fitzgibbons points out, even a Democratic president, more likely to favor a 'universal' approach, faces a nearly deadlocked Congress. As an example, the Oregon House of Representatives last week failed to pass a resolution that would add a clause to the state's constitution asserting each Oregonian's 'right to health care.' A national initiative would most likely face the same fate. However, by beginning to frame this issue as a matter of 'rights', a president, through careful judicial selections, may indeed advance (or conversely squelch) this topic further than previously achieved and provide a foothold for further action.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The world lost one of its true leading men this week when actor Paul Newman succumbed to cancer at the age of 83. Newman, best known as an actor for his roles in the films Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Color of Money, and many, many others, was equally well known as a great philanthropist. Through his Newman's Own Foundation, he has donated over $250 million to charity over the last two and a half decades.
Instead of trying to summarize, praise, and reflect upon this accomplishment, I feel it is more appropriate to follow Mr. Newman's example. Visitors to this site will notice the inclusion of advertising space throughout the pages. It will be the policy of the Within Reason blog to donate 100% of the revenue generated from advertising to Newman's Hole in the Wall Camps, as a small, heartfelt tribute to Mr. Newman and the principles in which he believed.
Visit NewmansOwn.com to donate directly to the foundation, or for more information on how you can contribute to other charitable causes, please visit CharityNavigator.org, or call them at 201. 818.1288.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A quick, ahem, note to all those who are asking for the Federal Government to abstain from taking on a greater regulatory role over the American economic markets. These are some of the same folks who like to say "It's my money, not theirs." Well, take a close look at the dollar bill pictured above. There it is, in plain English, right above George Washington's head. A quick translation: it is our money.
If these knuckleheads on Wall Street, and those who share their laissez-faire views on economic regulation don't realize that they're ultimately playing with house money, how can supporters of increased regulation be faulted for wanting to prevent these glorified gamblers from going all in over and over - and losing every time?
A key function of a Federal Government - even to the staunchest conservative - is to ensure the equitable distribution of resources to its citizens. Therefore, the government is well within its right to act as overseer of a financial market - and the fiscal climate cannot always be used to consider the extent of regulation. Before you disagree with this point, consider if you're debating the "distribution" or the "equitable." Either way, it's going to be a moot point if this sort idiocy is allowed to continue. The markets can not, will not or do not regulate themselves.
Ready or Not...
If Sarah Palin is ready to be Vice President, and potentially President...
...does that mean this young man is ready to be named head of the Environmental Protection Agency?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This clip, and actor Matt Damon's comments, have caused quite a stir these last couple of days. Since his entrance into the public forum, as an actor, Damon has often been an outspoken political commentator from the left of the political spectrum. Damon has often faced criticism for sharing his views and voicing his opinion - as every American has the right to do.
Damon, and other liberal celebrities who voice their political opinions, are frequently criticized for exercising this right. They are told by those who do not share their opinions that they should stick to what they know - making movies, music, and the like. To some, this may seem a fair argument, after all, what does a Hollywood actor really know about politics? Does Matt Damon have a grasp on intelligence gathering because he has starred as an American foreign operative? Has Martin Sheen gained a special perspective of the presidency by portraying our Commander-in-Chief on television? Of course not, that's like implying Bill Pullman should be elected President should our planet be attacked by aliens.
Now ask yourself this: Who was Mike Huckabee's most influential endorser this primary season? None other than action star Chuck Norris. The late Charlton Heston was politically active, and need I mention Arnold Schwarzengger? Why is it that these actors are considered legitimate political entities, while the liberals I mention above are cast off by the mainstream as loudmouthed radicals? The answer is just as Matt Damon explains it - in America, a bad Disney movie beats an insightful drama every time; and as time goes on, our political theater is turning into just that: theater. Maybe liberals would be wise to embrace their Hollywood peers and create their own Sonny Bono, their own Fred Thompson, their own Ronald Reagan. Or maybe, as Damon implies, politics is not theater.
As Americans, we all have the right to voice our opinions. Further, we all have the right, within the frame work of the Constitution, to seek political office. In this instance, the case is simple. Damon is well within his rights to voice his opinion. Palin is well within her rights to be running for Vice President. However, Damon needs only his citizenship as prerequisite to ably exercise his right. As for Palin, well, ask Matt Damon.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Just Win, Baby - John McCain caused quite a stir when he selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on the 2008 Republican Presidential ticket. Another maverick move by an outside the box thinker, right? Well, not so much. In fact, just another example of the Republican tactic of doing whatever it takes to win. Now, don't get me wrong - having a female on major party ticket for only the second time in history is a noteworthy event, but the circumstances of Palin's selection are dubious at best.
In selecting a female, John McCain engaged in an obvious ploy to court female voters disenfranchised or discouraged by Hillary Clinton's exit from the Democratic race. Plenty of people disagree with this view, and many would label my opinion as 'sexist.' I argue that the sexism comes from the selection itself. Selecting a running mate based on a set of criteria that not only includes gender, but places it at the top of the list - that's sexist. The ploy is even more transparent when placed against McCain's stated goal to staff his administration with the most qualified and experienced Americans, regardless of their party affiliation. Palin's experience and qualifications, as far as being second in command, are shaky at best. This selection seems to have been the product of some hybrid Help Wanted/Singles ad:
WM seeks MWF for partnership, possibly more. Experience a plus, but not required. Must love America, Big Oil and family values. Qualified candidates please reply to US RNC as soon as possible. Background information helpful, but a full check will be run upon acceptance of the position. Country First!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
In 2000, after weeks of battling the Republicans in Florida, Washington D.C., and the rest of America, the Democratic party - and Al Gore, decided to "get over it" and conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush. Gore's concession speech (video above) marked the end of this disputed contest, one which, evidence shows, was actually won by Gore.
Some heralded Gore's move as a sign of bravery, some saw it as a cowardly gesture of defeat. Few, however, could foresee the dreadful consequences that lie in store for our nation as its result. This concession marked the dawn of the Bush era, a president who's doctrine can best be summed up as "What are you going to do about it?" This concession by Gore set the political tone for the next decade, a tone that, unfortunately, still echoes today.
During the course of events that played out in Florida and across the nation in the fall of 2000, Gore supporters were told to let go, to face the "facts", and give up the fight. They were told to reconcile with the inevitable, stop whining, to get over it. In the interest of the nation,for the good of the whole, as it were, the Democrats conceded, handing Bush an illegitimate victory. And so the stage was set for the era of political capital, executive privilege, and a win at all costs ideology more suited for the gridiron than for the Oval Office. The United States, as a consequence, has suffered its most dreadful decade in a century, enduring untold and unforeseen hardship, all the result of a winner-take-all, loser-silently-step-aside mindset that has corrupted our most basic principles of democracy.
So after eight years of Bush's presidency, and the aforementioned woes that have plagued us, how does the Democratic party respond? By stealing a page from the Bush playbook to hijack the core elements of our democratic system, and exploit the intricacies of our electoral processes to install a candidate who's candidacy and rhetoric ring an eerily similar, albeit dis-tonal chord to that of George W. Bush and his followers.
Now, nearly eight years later, with the Democratic party convening "in unison" - all delegates seated and present - to nominate their candidate for the presidency, many are again being told to "get over it", to stop whining, to get with the program; and while the victor's supporters may be looking forward to possibilities of an America unrealized, there are those who have already seen a crucial element of the American anatomy dissected and discarded: the ideal that contends that there is no truth too difficult to comprehend, no honest vote that shall be left uncounted, no voice left unheard.
In a political system where victory is the ultimate prize, freedom shall be the first casualty. We, as Americans, must ensure that our democratic institutions are honored and protected, and not exploited, no matter the convenience presented by circumstance. Democracy is not the folly of the weak, the sport of the treacherous, nor a spoil for the victor. It is the voice of a people, the protector of decency, and the beacon of our nation.
Final popular vote results for the 2000 presidential election:
Gore - 50,999,897 Bush - 50,456,002
Electoral Votes: Disputed
Final popular vote results for the 2008 Democratic primaries, tallying the votes of all states and territories who's delegates are seated at the convention:
Clinton - 18,046,007 Obama - 17,869,542
Clinton has now played her part by conceding, and throwing her support behind Obama. Now, as was the case in 2000, the burden of unity falls to the victor. Obama must make every effort to heal the wounds caused by this bitter contest, no matter how superficial they may seem to his core supporters. As was pledged by George W. Bush in 2000, this task must be given the highest priority. Unlike Bush, Obama must carry this duty through to completion and unite the party that nominates him.
Our nation has been bruised, but has survived George W. Bush and his flagrant misuse of power. The Democratic Party is not strong enough to sustain a similar misstep from one of its own.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
- While reading up on a CNN.com story this morning detailing the Obama campaign's efforts to defend their supporters against implications that they are "mindless fans", I noticed that I could enter the official Barack Obama webpage via a link on the page. I could not help but think that if the Obama campaign is trying to shake the image of a mindless herd of followers, maybe "Join Us" is not the best invitation. Perhaps "Find Out More" or "Enter"?
It could be all of the above, but my money, literally, goes with the fact that this is an election year - and we've been down this road before. So the next time you are reminded how precarious the international oil situation is (and it is), warned that foul weather in the Carribbean, civil unrest in Nigeria, and not voting Republican can all have a negative effect** on oil prices, consider how effectively costs can be controlled when there is so much money on the line.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Electric Breeze - Ian McCarty
For a change of pace, I thought I would post a piece of music that I've been tinkering with on and off for quite a while. Feedback is welcome (though please try to keep any criticisms constructive), and please excuse the low production value (hence the tinkering). I hope you enjoy listening!
- Note: To allow the playing of this track, the autoplay feature on the Last.fm WithinReason Radio player has been disabled. You may listen to WithinReason Radio by clicking "play" on the playlist widget.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
"Please Don't Vote for a Democrat" reads the type over the picture of the twin towers after hijacked airliners hit them on September, 11, 2001. Mike Meehan, a St. Cloud, Florida, businessman who paid to post the billboards in the Orlando area, said former President Clinton should have put a stop to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda before 9/11. He said a Republican president would have done so.
"I believe 9/11 could have been prevented if we'd had a Republican president at the time," Meehan said Wednesday on CNN's "American Morning."
-reprinted from CNN.com Wednesday, July 16th"Bush has spent more than a year of his presidency" at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. On August 19, 2005, "he broke Ronald Reagan's record of 335 days for America's most vacationed president and went on to take the longest presidential vacation in 36 years," Dale McFeatters wrote August 8, 2006, in a ScrippsNews editorial. - sourcewatch.org
For the record, George W. Bush, a Republican, was President on September 11th, 2001. Thirty-three days earlier, he had received a memo titled:
Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.
In November 2001, Bush mobilized the United States military in an effort to find Bin Laden "dead or alive." He remains at large.
In a related story, President Barack Obama has completely destroyed the American housing market, allowed the greatest 4 year increase of oil prices in history, and authorized a completely illegal and unecessary war in Iraq.
Don't say we didn't warn you.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I feel moved to direct this public essay towards you as a means to communicate, in plain public view, with what low regard it is in that I view your recent antics regarding the National Football League and the New England Patriots. Before proceeding further, and in the interest of full disclosure, I must make it known that I consider myself a Patriots fan, much as you consider yourself to be a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. As we are brethren in this loose fraternity of fandom, I would like to assume that I may skip the details that define the fandom of a modern, educated, and civilized man and proceed directly to my main point of contention; however your recent actions lead me to believe that such an assumption may not be entirely safe. Make no mistake, Mr. Senator, I do not question your impressive academic and professional credentials, nor do I imply that you are uncivilized, but rather, I doubt the context within which you view your relative place within the dynamic of sports fanaticism.
Sincerely and with Highest Regards,
Saturday, May 3, 2008
In the summer of 1945, as the United States prepared to detonate the first nuclear weapon in the American southwest, several scientists on the Manhattan Project team, most notably Edward Teller, expresseed concern that the kind of fission reaction utilizied to trigger the explosion may not be containable. What Teller and the others feared was that the reaction would spiral continually, growing larger and exponentially more powerful (all within microseconds), and eventually ignite the planet's atmosphere. After debate, the team agreed that this was a possibility, albeit a very small one, but decided to move forward with the test as planned.
Obviously, the Earth's atmosphere survived. However, a very important ethical lesson can be drawn from this: Mankind will try anything once. One of these days, once is all it's going to take. Case in point: not satisfied with the strength of the first two nuclear devices deployed over Japan in August of 1945, the United States got right to work inventing larger, more powerful nuclear weapons. Edward Teller himself, obviously relieved of his fears of world annihilation, went on to invent the hydrogen bomb, exponentially more powerful than its predecessor.
As the video clip above points out, the Large Hadron Collider presents science with another risk / reward scenario, this one containing even more potential for unwanted disaster. This time, though, instead of approaching a frontier with a 'best guess' attitude of gauging the probable outcomes (a la those on the Manhattan Project, who had no hard data either way), scientists working on the LHC are working within the framework of the Standard Model of Physics, which, despite what they say about the specifics on black holes and supersymmetrical particles, does provide strong data that the fabric of spacetime will be stretched to its limit, so to speak, when these collisions occur. The reward to be gained is the completion of the Standard Model of Everything, or a completed Grand Unified Theory, as explained in the clip. Attaining this knowledge will allow scientists to define our universe with a single set of fundamental laws and values. This would allow for the expansion of our knowledge of the universe around us to expand exponentially, pun intended. Hopefully, though, one of the lessons we will not learn from this new set of rules is "never collide two protons at 99% of the speed of light."
Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity is the real wild card here. This is the model that has many scientists worried. Einstein's Theory would, in this case, point to the creation of these micro black holes that, being caused by release of energy from a single point in spacetime, would be stationary. Most theories regarding stationary black holes leads to them growing. That's the big risk in this case. There are also other, less disastrous, and even quasi-comical potential side effects, like the creation of CTCs (closed timelike curves), and the theory (presented in this article in the U.K.'s Telegraph), that we should look forward to welcoming time travellers when the LHC is switched on in the coming weeks.
There are times it seems that humankind's search for knowedge resembles that of a child crawling along the floor, constantly needing an adult to warn "Don't put that in your mouth." In reality, though, we are neither the adult (coincidentally, the Higgs boson is referred to by most as the God particle) nor do we seem intent on listening. Humankind's propensity for the bigger, faster stronger, more attitude leads one to suspect that if unsuccessful in this endeavor, manknind will surely find - to mix metaphors - somewhere else to stick his finger.
For the record, Albert Einstein disagreed with Edward Teller's concerns about runaway fission in 1945. He was right that time, let's hope his theory is wrong this time.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Think back for a moment to where you were when you viewed the above video, or even, where you were when you began reading this sentence. Chances are you are still in the same physical location as you are in now. Now take a moment to consider where you were an hour, a day, or a week ago. You will find, most likely, that your situation has changed, that you are no longer in the same place - or are you?
Our fundamental concept of memory is best described by drawing an analogy to a computer's hard drive. As we move through our lives, our brains encrypt information and store it away to be drawn upon and referenced again and again. Is this, though, the most logical diagram we can employ to gain full knowledge over our interface with the past? Perhaps.
Consider now a different approach. What if, like touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, etc., our memory truly is a sense? Instead of drawing upon bits of information stored away in our brains like files, our memory is a physical sense of the past as it truly exists? This may seem like quite a stretch, but consider the following: In modern quantum physics, the laws of entanglement basically assert a general inter-connectivity between all physical aspects of the universe. Theories of conservation and relativity dictate (among many other things) that all mass and all energy, in all of forms, is neither destroyed nor created, but pass through various phases of existence and physical perception, and back again and again. Lastly, for the purposes of this specific theory, consider Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, which introduces the concept of spacetime, and some of the principles that bind this phenomena to the same laws that govern all other aspects of the physical universe.
Basically stated, all of these principles allow for the theory in which the past exists physically, right alongside the present and the future and all of the physical matter and energy we use as an interface to interpret our positions therein. Adding together all of these principles allows us to look at our perception of the past in a much different light.
I'll reference the video clip to illustrate the point further. The majority of our physical existence is dictated by a series of interactions with our physical surroundings, i.e., I see the coffee mug in front of me, I reach for the mug, grasp, touch, and feel the mug, bring it to my lips and consume its contents, as confirmed by my sense of taste. Through a combination of physiological maneuvers, both sensory and muscular-skeletal in nature, I have performed an action. But what if this action involved a coffee mug that was not in plain sight? What if the same mug was behind me? An act of memory replaces an act of sight in becoming the first step in determining the mug's physical location. Under the assumptions of this new, different theory, instead of referencing a snapshot of the point in time where I placed my mug on the table behind me, my brain references the point in time itself.
Just as the neurological experiments of Ben Libet (explained in the clip) point to a possible connection between our physical sensations and the future, could it be that there is a physical link between our senses and the past?
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
This information is all the more alarming when the numbers are put into perspective. The following information is taken from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website.
Defining Overweight and Obesity
Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
Definitions for Adults
For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat.
An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
See the following table for an example.
Height Weight Range BMI Considered
124 lbs or less Below 18.5 Underweight
125 lbs to 168 lbs 18.5 to 24.9 Healthy weight
169 lbs to 202 lbs 25.0 to 29.9 Overweight
203 lbs or more 30 or higher Obese
(To calculate your BMI, click here)
With health care, and more importantly, health care costs continuing to draw national attention of a mostly negative ilk, the trends and statistics illustrated above may help to point out that many, many more people than just doctors, politicians and health insurance executives play a very fundamental role in determining the nature, and cost, of health care in this country.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
- "Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction."
Proven false. Not only were these claims unfounded at the time of their assertion, they remained so at the time of invasion and throughout the subsequent occupation. The United States did finally admit in 2004 that there were, it seems, never any WMDs in Iraq after all.
- "Al Qaeda is operating in Iraq."
Nope. There is categorically zero evidence that prior to 2003 Al Qaida was any more operational in Iraq than in was in Dearborn, Michigan. Of course, there's one proven way to ensure that Al Qaida will operate in Iraq: remove any form of a central government, and place 150,000 United States soldiers into the mix. Conveniently for the President, one can no longer argue that Al Qaida is not present in Iraq.
- "The world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein and his sons in power."
This is true. However, the world would most likely be safer without Kim Jong Il, Pervez Musharraf, and Vladimir Putin, too. Is it logical to go to war with every leader with whom there is a conflict of ideology? Hardly. Of course, if the removal of a despot could turn the tide towards world peace, who could possibly oppose that? After all...
- "A democratic Iraq will have a stabilizing effect on the rest of the Middle East."
How's that working out for you, George?
All kidding aside, the examination of the case for this war, now five years on (granted that many of these reasons "evolved" out of circumstance) sheds light on a great American tragedy. George W. Bush took office in 2001 claiming to possess the power to unite America, and the knowledge needed to keep from further dividing us. This is, quite literally, the exact opposite of the result we have endured and experienced. We are a nation divided, a nation at war, a nation in peril.
The menace of this administration has successfully curbed the tongues of those who have spoken out against it, and dissuaded its detractors from full engagement. As the Democrats in-fight their way towards another national election, maybe they should stop to consider their quest for an identity, in the wake of a humiliating eight years.
This is a party all too familiar with scrutiny, with lying under oath and impeachment. When is it that Democrats will realize that their "moral high ground" cannot automatically exclude the act of confrontation, and that if one precludes themself from retaliation, their adversary will perpetually attack?
This may not be the most cohesive, compelling, or thought provoking piece you hear on behalf of these ideals, but hey, as our President loves to point out, "fool me once..."
Thursday, March 6, 2008
There is no denying that Obama enjoyed quite a February. Coming into the month trailing Senator Hillary Clinton, with many observers questioning just how long he could hold out, something unexpected, at least to most, began to happen: Obama began picking up some very key endorsements. Most notable were Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, the two U.S. Senators from Massachusetts, both former presidential candidates themselves. The reasoning these two Democratic stalwarts pointed to was that Obama, to paraphrase the two, "felt like a winner." At the time, this seemed an odd notion. Clinton was leading in the polls, had secured strong results in the early primaries and caucuses, and looked to be well on her way to securing the nomination. Then a funny thing began to happen: Obama began winning. He didn't stop winning, in fact, until this past Tuesday, when Clinton defeated him in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas (more on this in a minute) in what was looked upon by many as a last ditch effort to save her campaign.
Even now, many Obama supporters claim that Clinton's victories this week were "too little, too late," and the time has come for her to step aside and allow Obama to secure the nomination. Indeed, it is hard to argue with Obama's supporters, who can point to 24 primary and caucus victories, including the aforementioned 11 straight, and to a well oiled campaign machine that seems to be impenetrable even to Clinton's fiercest attacks. Then again, a closer look at the numbers to date suggests there may not be an argument at all.
This November, the two (sorry, Ralph) eventual presidential candidates will be vying for the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Each state is worth a predetermined amount of these votes, and in nearly every instance in modern campaign history, it's winner-take-all. Looking at the Democratic primary and caucus results to date, a very different picture than the one being illustrated in the media begins to take shape. If electoral votes were to be handed out right now to Senators Clinton and Obama based upon their victories to date, the results would read like this:
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
If we rightfully discredit our President for basing policies on intangible and emotional ideals such as terror....
...how should we look upon a candidate who bases their campaign on different intangible and emotional ideals, however appealing they may be?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking in Turkey, urged the Turkish government to quickly wrap up its recently begun military operations in Northern Iraq and move to open diplomatic channels in an effort to resolve the conflict between the neighboring countries.
Gates, who in 2006 succeeded Donald Rumsfeld as the military's highest ranking civilian, will meet on Thursday with Turkish leaders to discuss the escalating crisis between Turkey and Kurdish rebels operating out of Iraq's northernmost province of Kurdistan. At Wednesday's press conference, Gates began to lay out the United States' expectations for Turkey's future actions.
"It's very important that the Turks make this operation as short as possible and then leave, and to be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty," Gates told reporters, going on to add "I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that. Not months."
The Defense Secretary also added "There certainly is a place for security operations but these also need to be accompanied by economic and political initiatives...," and set a stern warning for Turkey by concluding "Military activity alone will not solve this terrorist problem for Turkey."
Eyewitness reports, including photographic evidence, conclude that Gates was able to maintain a straight face throughout the press conference, not once even cracking a smile.
Herein lies the quintessential example of the arrogance and indifference that embodies the Bush administration. It seems that at no point during the preparation of these remarks, did any staffer, advisor, or even Gates himself stop to think "Maybe we should avoid the topic of timetables, that's kind of a sticky topic in this neck of the woods," or "Does it somehow seem strange that I am advocating diplomacy between two parties between whom there is a longstanding history of physical violence, and all the while the nation I am here to represent is currently engaged in an illegal, unjust and immoral war that was initiated, in part, by the side stepping any form of diplomacy whatsoever?" Of course, if these questions were raised, they were quickly cast aside, in much the same manner as has been any shred of reason or decency in this administration.
In the Bush administration, it seems, there is no questioning yourself, there is no fact checking, there is no apathy. These traits are instead replaced by blind ambition, with the accent on 'blind."
What is most unfortunate about this latest series of events, is that one almost gets the feeling that the United States is looking forward to plying the tactics of its unique brand of diplomacy upon Turkey. Sadly, though, it seems the only preparation that goes into these diplomatic ventures, like the meeting scheduled to occur on Thursday between Secretary Gates and his Turkish counterparts, consists of an American diplomat standing in front of a mirror, practicing their best "Did I stutter?"
Sunday, February 24, 2008
For roughly twelve months, the Federal Government, with the cooperation of major telecommunication companies, has been listening to you. Your phone conversations, your emails, your text messages, virtually every communication you have made with the assistance of an electronic device has, potentially, been intercepted and reviewed by our government. This is all being carried out under the premise of providing "national security." This has all been necessitated, proponents of the Act argue, by the "increased post 9/11 threat level." Furthermore, this practice must be continued, the same proponents state, to provide for our continued safety against further acts of aggression.
The main sticking point that prevented Congress from allowing this bill to be extended was verbiage that granted retroactive immunity to the telecommunications firms who corroborated with the government to carry out these previously illegal wiretaps. Senate Democrats wish to strike such clauses from the bill, and allow for lawsuits brought by affected individuals against said firms to proceed. Reading between the lines, this would illustrate an acknowledgement on the part of Democrats that these practices are entirely illegal. Why else would they be willing to set precedent allowing for suits to be brought against some of the nation's largest and most profitable companies? More importantly, though, why don't these elected leaders strike down this bill for what it truly is: an illegal and unconstitutional act perpetrated by the Federal Government against the peoples that it governs?
In 1859, John Stuart Mills wrote:
As soon as any part of a person's conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion. But there is no room for entertaining any such question when a person's conduct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not affect them unless they like (all the persons concerned being of full age, and the ordinary amount of understanding). In all such cases there should be perfect freedom, legal and social, to do the action and stand the consequences.Mills is absolutely correct in his implied definition of a plausible, tangible and practicable line that separates and distinguishes the rights of society, in the present case defined as the government, from the rights and freedoms of the citizens that said government holds jurisdiction over. By blocking the passage of this bill, the Democrats, albeit unwittingly, acknowledged one of the fundamental elements that defines our society: the freedom of We, the People "to be secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
In effect then, the Protect America Act does one of two things (if not both simultaneously): It either abolishes the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, or it defines the very act of communication as a probable cause, deserving the attention and scrutiny of the persons and bodies that constitute our government. This act strikes at the very core of freedom; the very existence of such a law denigrates the society upon which it is enforced. Our Senate Democrats therefore must be applauded for blocking this bill, if only by default.
It seems that the line that separates freedom from repression has become blurred in the eyes of some within our government. Let us all hope that the fog perceived by this misguided few does not set upon us all, for this is the blinding, strangling fog of absolutism, of authoritarianism, of despotism.
It is a strange case of irony that dictates that these are the imminent threats that come from within.
Monday, February 18, 2008
-Barbara Ehrenreich, from the 2005
Lewis Lapham film The American Ruling Class