Friday, September 14, 2007

Bush Claim Smacks of "Truthiness"

Once again Bush has relied on Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" to sell the Iraq war to the American public. His assertion that there are 36 countries fighting with us in Iraq was even hard for CNN to believe.

Lying in whatever form is not the kind of behavior we should expect from our President.

America the Brave, but Apparently Very Stupid

America is doomed! At least if the survey taken by the Annenberg Public Policy Center is any indication. Fewer than one third of people polled understood that a decision by the Supreme Court is final. To use the internet vernacular, OMFG!

Of those polled just 15% could name John Roberts as chief justice. Sadly, 66% of those questioned could name at least one judge on American Idol.

An educated public is the building block of a free society and a democracy. We have dumbed down our educational system so that we produce kids that can pass standardized tests but are ignorant of the real world around them. Worse, they have little intellectual curiosity and ability to think critically. Our country will continue to slide toward irrelevance and possible dictatorship if we do not reverse this trend. Otherwise, George Orwell might be seen as a prophet and not a novelist.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Patraeus Considering Run For President

The joke I heard before the testimony in Washington my General Petraeus was that he was considering a presidential run. Seems like everyone in America is considering doing that! However, I was surprised today to find that it might not be a joke.

An Iraqi official recalled a conversation with the general back in 2005 when Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq's Interior Ministry, asked Patraeus if he was considering a run for president in 2008. Patraeus then responded, “No, that would be too soon”. The story is in The Independent .

Patraeus is known as a man of great ambition throughout military circles, and should the latest strategy succeed in Iraq, he would be a viable candidate for the GOP in 2012. As it stands he is the best known soldier in America at the moment and considering the motley group of GOP candidates, perhaps they should have drafted him earlier as a candidate.

Considering his political ambitions, his testimony should be weighed for its spin content before being taken as the actual situation on the ground in Iraq.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Patraeus Testimony Parrots Bush Propaganda

Why does it take the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to make this connection. His testimony is almost taken directly from previous Bush speeches.

Sex, Lie Dectectors and Senators

Let’s talk about sex. That got your attention, huh?

Specifically let’s talk about sex workers. That is the term I use for those men and women most people call prostitutes or whores. I think those are emotionally charged words and I prefer “sex worker” because it is more honest. These are people who engage in sex acts and get paid for it.

I have no problem with this, since it has been going on for centuries and will for centuries more. If the sex worker is healthy both mentally and physically and does his or her best to stay that way, what is the problem? Unless they are spreading disease or working for drugs I think it’s an honorable profession, at least as honorable as politics and perhaps a bit more.

Now politics, that’s a different story. Politicians are allegedly public servants, though no one believes that any more. They are elected on the strength of their character and ideas in a fair election and that is the way it should be. The problem comes when you find out they are more like carnival barkers. They say whatever is necessary to get you into the side-show or in this case election, and from that point forward all bets are off.

Take Senator David Vitter, (R-La). He has campaigned on a platform of “family values” and parades himself as a moral compass for the people of Louisiana. Sounds great! Now that he is elected, the fine folks in Louisiana find out he was on the list of the famous “DC Madame”. In other words he was a client of a sex worker. Though I have no problem with that, I do take issue with his hypocritical posturing as a “family values” candidate, and I suspect quite a few folks in Louisiana feel the same way.

He has continued to deny he never had sex with a “prostitute” showing his disdain for the profession, yet he apparently used their services frequently. Now Larry Flint, of hustler fame, has given a lie detector test to one of the sex workers he allegedly frequented and there is a 99.9% chance she is telling the truth about his patronage.

Like Larry Craig, Vitter speaks from both sides of his mouth and he needs to be called on it. Unfortunately, because Vitter visited a female instead of a male sex worker, the Senate has not seen fit to call for his resignation. I suspect there was a lot of joking and winking about his activities, but little outrage. What a pity.

It’s time for America to get itself a new definition of morality that goes beyond the action between the waist and the knees. The worse sins issue from the lies and hypocrisy of mouth.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 and Facing Mortality

On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, it would be easy to go on a long diatribe about the failure of the Bush administration to pursue the perpetrators of this attack, but I will restrain myself. There’s a surprise in itself.

I remember being with friends at an event in the woods of Michigan watching the horror of 9/11 unfold on a TV above the resort’s bar. The collective shock and grief we felt will never leave me, but now I think more about the people in the towers and offices and airplanes. What was their reaction like, when they realized that to an extent their fates were sealed. That is the true horror. I remember watching people jumping from the World Trade Center rather than be burned alive and wonder how they felt.

Call it morbid, or perhaps just an over active empathetic response, but I feel a physical pain imagining their last moments. Each one met their fate and at some moment might have wondered what they did to deserve this. That lingering “why” is the hardest thing to understand.

I suppose I will never know, and that is as it should be. Each of us will someday find ourselves in the same position. It may not be a dramatic or as sudden, but mortality is something we all live with. How we face that last moment will always be a secret. Nobody can see into the human mind and read those thoughts.

It is that mystery that will always be a mystery. Once we learn its secret we can never tell anyone. Even “near death” experiences are not accurate, for they are “near” death. I only hope that when my time comes, I will find myself drawn into the memories of all the friends and family I have ever known, and in some way meet the God of my understanding. That is what I pray those whose lives were lost on this day six years ago found as well. That is the hope of eternal life that was promised by Jesus so long ago. May it be so for us all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Larry Craig Wants A Do Over! Puh-leeze!

Larry Craig wants a do-over. He figures he can fight that conviction for disorderly conduct and clear his name. I have to wonder if the voters in Idaho will accept this “kings X” kind of behavior from a man who has had to deny rumors of this kind of activity for several years. Eventually they will say “enough is enough.”

That is kind of how I feel about it as well. As a gay man, I have absolutely no problem with men having sex with men. I love it! But I do believe it has a place, and that is not in a public restroom or public park. I feel the same way about male/female sex in public places. I think it really is rude and is rightly outlawed.

Am I a prude? Hardly. I am perhaps more kinky than 90% of our population either straight or gay and I love playing BDSM games in the dungeon or at private parties. I have friends in poly-relationships and have no problem with almost any kink short of pedophilia and bestiality. So why am I a prude when it comes to public sex? Well I have a sincere belief in consensuality. That means both parties or more who are engaged in a sexual activity must agree it’s OK. It also means that people watching are OK with it as well. That calls into question any public sexual activity, since it is impossible to get an OK from a casual passerby. Sex should take place in a consensual space, a place reserved for that kind of activity, or as far out of reach of accidental observers as is reasonably possible.

Have I had sex in the great outdoors? Yes I have, but it was at a remote location on private land and therefore consensual. Bathrooms, parks and truck stops are not consensual spaces. It’s that simple.

Now the question of why do people do it there? They may be so closeted that they are afraid of meeting another person in a conventional place. It may be that they feel so bad about themselves that they can only act out in illicit places for fear of having to admit that they have an attraction to the same sex. It may be that they get a kick out of the fear factor involved in being caught. I don’t know. I do know that soliciting sex in a bathroom or public park is a pretty good way to get yourself arrested by the vice cops, and anyone who doesn’t know that is a fool.

So here is the gist of the whole rant. I pity Larry Craig and those like him. They cannot find the courage to just admit that they want to have sex with other men and seek a legal and more conventional outlet for it. I also find it incredibly hypocritical of the Republican Party to not condemn and call for the resignation of David Vitter who was a known client of prostitutes in Washington, DC. Personally I don’t have a problem with sex workers either, but I find it really setting a double standard to go after Larry Craig on morality grounds and not David Vitter.
I suppose everyone has something they would not be particularly proud of in their past, and I am no exception, but a public servant must constantly earn the trust of the public, and claiming that you just have a “wide stance” in the toilet is not going to instill that trust. I have used public restrooms for years and never found a need to tap the foot of the person next to me or reach under the stall divider for any reason. So come on Mr. Craig, fess up or just fade away, but don’t try to weasel out of these charges again.

The Next Bin Laden Tape - 9/11 Anniversary

I expect Osama Bin Laden to release another tape tomorrow on the anniversary of 9/11. Why? Well, it’s a perfect time to deliver another rant. Though his last tape seems to be more of a political diatribe, I think we might be missing the point. The main point of the tape is that he is still alive! We have failed utterly to find or defeat him. Though he may be holed up somewhere in northern Pakistan, he is still working and capable of communicating with his followers worldwide. Why is he still at large 6 years after the attack he masterminded?

The answer is clearly that the Bush administration in its War on Terror has been tilting at windmills rather than finding the real villain. Iraq was a distraction designed to garner oil and revenue for big American companies. So what if it killed thousands of American troops, hey, it’s business! Afghanistan is a mess, since we left it before the job of rebuilding the nation was finished. Pakistan is on the verge of collapse, with a military dictator who became our “ally of convenience”, and the Taliban is making a comeback in the tribal areas of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It is a very poor tribute to the men and women who died on September 11 to find ourselves watching another tape by Bin Laden. I pray that there will be no more attacks, but I know that may not be the case. We have geared up to fight a big war, but the inconvenient truth is that this will be a little war that can easily walk into our country and take innocent American lives. That may be a reality we have to live with. Meanwhile, why not spend some of that inconceivably large defense budget on actually finding Bin Laden and pitting him behind bars. It might not make any money for Halliburton or the Carlisle Group, but it would help lots of American’s sleep better at night.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

US Lags Behind Canada, UK, Denmark and Most of Europe in Freedom

This week’s Time Magazine has the results of a survey by the World Bank of Worldwide Governance Indicators. It ranks countries by the amount of freedom its citizens have to voice their opinion and select the government of their choice. The United States comes in at 35th place down from the 2005 survey where we ranked 22nd. Much of the difference is because of restrictions on the press and decreased trust in public officials.

Not surprisingly Denmark topped the survey with a 100% rating, both Canada and the UK best the US with 94.2% and 92.8% respectively. We rated a less than stellar 83.7%. The worst country, Burma got a 0%.

So next time someone regales you with the myth that we live in the freest country in the world, tell them about the great Danes!

Iraq, Reports & Finding a Grain of Truth

This week we are going to hear lots of talk about Iraq..Most of it will be spin, either by the right or the left. Spin is not always false, it’s just biased, and though it may not represent good journalism, it will influence how Americans feel about the Iraq war. So far two reports have been presented to Congress, and both are pretty bleak as far as political progress in Iraq. The Al Maliki government is impotent by any measure.

Our military has been working under incredible stress trying to adapt to a constantly shifting enemy and objective and they have made progress, if it is measured by the correct metrics. Those wishing to see a “kick ass” victory in Iraq will be disappointed and those expecting to see a “hearts and minds” victory might be encouraged. Overall, the problem as I see it is we have an administration that wants a “kick ass” victory and a war where that kind of delineation is not possible.

So how to interpret all the reports? Well I will wait for Patraeus to give his talk to Congress and then I will make up my mind. I can tell you this. I want our troops home soon. They have been patient, loyal and more diligent than any other fighting force I could name. The continued deployment is simply unfair at best and cruel at worst.

The Pottery Barn analogy made at the beginning of the war still holds true, we broke it and we are going to have to pay for it, but I think there are better ways to pay for Bush’s mistake than with American lives.