Analysis and rationality in a nonrational world

June 30, 2006

Link – how to make fake news

Filed under: News reporting — analysis @ 7:09 pm

http://www.mahablog.com/oldsite/2005.07.24_arch.html is a great in-depth description about how fake news gets accepted as reality.

As one who gets apocryphal stories in the mail every day, telling me I should be horrified by those tree-hugging liberals banning Christmas/Easter/church and/or making the world part of the United States, I appreciate his effort in exploring a story that’s been picked up through the country’s established media and even withstood attempts at removal at Wikipedia.org.

June 29, 2006

Pollution policy weirdness

Filed under: Energy — analysis @ 8:58 pm

Today’s thought comes to you from an apparently very old and abandoned site called Drivers Central. They talked about the issue of how auto pollution is measured – that is, in percentages. It’s an odd idea when you think about it, because the entire idea of emissions regulation is to reduce the total amount of emissions, not to alter percentages. Global warming does not stop if you get a slightly lower percentage of carbon dioxide created per car, but double the number of cars (though apparently it did slow quite a bit when we stopped relying on coal for heating and moving trains around). Therefore, it would seem the logical approach would be to regulate the total amount of pollutants created per mile travelled.

The outcome of this approach is fascinating, really. Suddenly, SUVs and trucks would need to all satisfy ULEV requirements while cheap economy cars would have barely any emissions apparatus at all, aside from the de rigeur catalytic converter. Cheap cars would become cheaper, while luxury cars, pickups, and SUVs would become more expensive. Minivans would overnight become much more attractive because it would be easier to get them through emissions and cheaper to design and produce them. Best of all, there’s some justice to making the bigger polluters (in absolute terms) pay more of the cost of pollution reduction than those who are barely using any fuel at all.

I’m sure there are problems with this scheme, but none that we couldn’t fix, and it seems more logical than the current mess.

Who represents the conservatives?

Filed under: Government — analysis @ 2:52 pm

There was once a time when conservatives were represented by, well, conservatives.

That day has long gone. It is the era of the chickenhawk.

No longer do we have real conservatives acting as official spokesmen for the conservative movement; now we have people who, were they Democrats, would be called hippies and traitors.

First, we have the war profiteers like G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, stealing millions now and no doubt getting hundreds of millions when they graduate from the White House.

Then we have the peacetime profiteers like Tom DeLay and all those others who use their positions in Congress and the Senate to reap millions off clearly illegal deals. No wonder they refuse to use their powers to investigate George W. Bush’s multiple felonies; they themselves are terribly vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.

Then we have the lazy drug addict who used to abuse welfare, Rush Limbaugh, the man who won’t appear unless he can choose his audience and his interviewees. Coming back from the Dominican Republic, he got hung up in customs with an illicit bottle of Viagra. This is from the man who sobbed about his addiction to prescription drugs fairly recently, and who admitted to being so lazy that friends had to do his shopping for him as he sat around the house on welfare. You know, the welfare he so eagerly wants to take away from people who have real disabilities. Like those people who are nearly killed in industrial accidents because OSHA isn’t allowed to make surprise inspections and often isn’t allowed to levy fines.

Then there’s Anne Coulter, a vile woman who makes up most of what she writes, making her the female literary version of Bill O’Reilly. And all the rest of the Fox News gang, which rather than thinking for themselves, as conservatives – people who espouse the idea that the individual is greater than the whole, that government is not fit to rule over people, that each individual has the responsibility and the right to express only their own opinion and not be “politically correct” – rather than thinking for themselves as conservatives, simply parrot a set of Party talking points.

Does anyone find it at all ironic that the “individual is greater than the state” conservatives of the Republican Party and Right Wing movements nearly always end up parroting the same lines and voting exactly the same way on each law that comes over their desk? That they who publicly espouse the idea of personal responsibility and rule of law have been guilty of the most heinous ethics violations since the Gilded Age, and have dragged their feet and refused to subpoena, much less prosecute most of the wrongdoers?

We need real conservatives to speak up now. Not crazies, not conspiracy theorists, not illogical meandering twits who use long words to cover up their own complete lack of rationality (you know who I mean!), and certainly not mail-order-PhDs (or diploma-mill PhDs for that matter) who wouldn’t know proper research if it slapped them in the face, but actual died-in-the-wool balanced-budget small-government individual-rights-and-responsibilities conservatives.

Where are you? and why do so many people think the various chickenhawks, liars, hypocrites, thieves, corporate apologists, mindless party-liners, and NSA abusers are conservatives?

June 28, 2006

Oil prices again

Filed under: Energy — analysis @ 7:12 pm

Whenever oil prices rise, you can bet that the talking points will go out and those crazy tree-huggers will be blamed, because to people like Ann Coulter, the truth is for other people. It’s hard to fight people like that, because normal citizens assume that if it’s in a book or newspaper, or on TV, or even on a web forum, it’s probably true, and that people would not intentionally lie. Unfortunately, lying has long been a part of public life; the Nazis didn’t invent the Big Lie, but they sure showed immoral people how to use it well. (Not to equate run of the mill American hatemongers and liars with Nazis, but they do share some methods.)

One of the reasons for oil prices rising recently has been speculation over Iran, Nigeria, and Venezuela. The latter country was the subject of an attempted coup by the US, which, not surprisingly, led to some bad feelings over there. Venezuela wants to get more money for its oil, which is hardly a terrible thing; wouldn’t you like the United States to get more money for its exported grain? I’d hope the answer is “yes.”

Bolivia recently nationalized its oil industry and apparently raised its export prices; Venezuela, which owns one major gas company, could do the same with what remains of private oil pumpers in its own borders. That is also driving up the price of oil.

The big factor, though, is really China, the world’s second largest consumer of oil after the United States, and despite all our SUVs and minivans, China is expanding faster in its oil use than the US, and is, like the US, doing whatever it takes to get oil rights across the world. Speculators know that.

Now, the fear-uncertainty-doubt people – those who use the term “tree hugger” and mean it – honestly seem to believe that environmentalists have caused all the oil prices to go up. They honestly believe it when they say that environmentalists capped the oil wells and won’t let oil companies open the wells again. They honestly think it’s horrible to keep that six months’ supply of oil in Alaska all cooped up just because of some spotted owls or something (normally these people are not very good at understanding the real ramifications of oil exploration and exploitation, and the fact that the spotted owl was just the only way to stop a certain area from being over-logged some years back has been rather exaggerated out of proportion. By the way, remember all that anti-environmentalism in the lumber industry, where lumber companies were claiming that the bad tree-huggers were killing American jobs? Those companies happily started moving operations to China when they got a better deal. Jobs meant NOTHING to them.)

Back to the point: oil wells are ONLY capped when they run dry, or at least dry enough to make it uneconomic to drill further. I don’t know of any environmental group that ever got an active well capped. Can you imagine the Sierra Club pushing around Exxon? With George W. Bush in the White House? Seems a bit farfetched when they can’t even get the Federal government to stop giving away national forests to loggers and mining companies.

As for Alaska, knowing what you do about the global security situation, don’t you think it might be nice to have some oil in reserve in case the Arab world turns against the US? Don’t you think serious domestic reserves in case of war would be a nice idea? Doesn’t anyone remember what happened in World War II? The Germans cut off our supplies of a number of key materials; only our cleverness and quite a bit of rationing got us through. In a guerilla war against a real power like North Korea, I suspect we could see some anti-tanker sub action. Be nice to have a pipeline, wouldn’t it?

Once they’re finished on the oil well straw man argument, they start on oil refineries and how environmentalists won’t let any new ones open. That’s baloney – because the oil industry has actually shut down a number of refineries due to financial underperformance (that means not making enough money, rather than losing money). In the 14 years ending in 2000, there was a single application for a new oil refinery and it was quickly approved. Another refinery has been proposed for Arizona; environmentalists have not blocked it, but investors aren’t providing enough money.

The number of refineries is now half of what it was in 1980, because of oil company mergers – not a single one was shut by environmentalists. Do you really think environmentalists would shut down existing facilities when they could be stopping new strip mines from destroying federal wildlife preserves, or trying to stop groundwater contamination across Northwest New Jersey, or any of the other high-priority projects that have come up?

ExxonMobil has plenty of cash for new refineries and wells if they wanted to build them – they bought back $5 billion of stock last year.

The United States currently uses nearly 21 million barrels of gasoline per day. The number of vehicles in the US is increasing faster than its population, and the weight of American vehicles has been increasing rapidly. Americans drove 1.4 trillion more miles in 2004 than in 1980, increasing miles driven by about 90%. Average gas mileage of vehicles has increased less than 5 mpg in over 25 years.

In the Great War, stickers were produced that asked “Is this trip really necessary?” Americans could greatly lower the price of oil by asking the same questions, but we’re in the entitlement society now. Gone is the sense of personal responsibility, replaced by hatred and blame. Point the fingers at tree-hugging environmentalist wackos. Never mind that the Congress, White House, and Supreme Court are now all right-wing controlled and would never dream of following the advice or requests of environmentalists. They’re still somehow in control. Just don’t ask how.

If you want to blame people for high oil prices, start pointing fingers at John Q. Public first, then maybe at China, though they’re just pursuing that American Dream we’ve been selling them. We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

June 26, 2006

Getting blog traffic – keywords, traffic spikes, and more

Filed under: Blogging — analysis @ 5:03 pm

The most popular bit of advice to weblog writers, or “bloggers,” is to just keep on producing a quality blog, day in and day out, as though we have nothing better to do but write for an audience that might or might not show up. It’s an interesting approach and I suspect it does work if you wait long enough. I was surprised to see a sudden spike in audience from under 5 people to 70 as a result of one person referring to this blog in a forum post.

There are a lot of things you can do to get traffic. The biggest is to refer to your own blog in posts to various forums. Another is to drop common keywords and things you might think will be common keywords in – the old misdirection trick that will earn you no friends, like “nude photos of Angelina Jolie and Anna Kournikova.” Or start talking about a topic you think people will care about, like spy photos of the 2008 Camaro and whether producing a 2009 Camaro (or 2008 or 2007, whatever General Motors and Chevrolet plan on) will mean that a 2008 Firebird or 2009 Trans Am is due (I do wonder about that, by the way. I mean, there’s rarely if ever been a Camaro without a Firebird or Trans Am. And will they resurrect the Firebird or just the Trans Am?).

You can also become an extremist and get some attention, like the people who call the Sierra Club tree-huggers, ecoterrorists, and commie traitors or, worse, Frenchmen. (I never do understand why Americans get angry at the things we do. I mean, people could get angry at a Cayman Islands company stealing hundreds of billions of dollars that we have to work hard for, but we don’t; people get angrier at Hillary Clinton for trying to get universal health care and for a department store for asking cashiers to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” And sometimes it seems people get angriest at hoax e-mails.)

Well, there are all sorts of ways to get people to read a blog, I guess. I wonder if writing about some of the ways to increase blog readership is a good way to increase blog readership? There’s only one way to find out…

PS> It turns out that the top searches on this blog for this week were:
costs of getting rid of rubbish, capped oil wells in US [probably someone hunting for evidence against them tree-hugging liberal Hollywood hypocrites], simplistically, true conservative neocon [someone searched for that?!?], and are we having a tree shortage.
I would have thought that the Angelina Jolie and other stuff would have brought the odd mistaken hunt, but apparently Google works better than that! What is interesting is seeing what people ARE interested in. Like Patsy Ramsey losing her battle with cancer…Powerball to $28 million…the World Cup…Katherine McPhee and other celebrities. Funny, I’d have thought phone taps and other illegal actions by the government would trigger a few searches, but nothing appeared in the top ten.

PS again: now it seems that the 2008 Firebird / 2008 Camaro stuff is what’s bringing people in. Not surprising given that General Motors has okayed their cartoonish muscle car for actual production, though I personally prefer the 2008 Dodge Charger. It’ll be an interesting year for the muscle car lovers. Still wish I had a couple of influential people linking to this blog… one good slashdot or digg is all it takes!

June 25, 2006

What it means to be patriotic

Filed under: Government — analysis @ 7:50 pm

Being patriotic means asking what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you.
It is willingly paying more taxes so veterans don’t die in poverty.
It is sacrificing your company’s profits so your country can end a war more quickly.
It is buying a flag made in America so that Americans can have jobs and businesses instead of saving a dollar by buying a flag made in China.
It means buying a smaller vehicle – a car instead of an SUV, a smaller car instead of a bigger one – because you know terrorists are funded by oil-producing nations, and because you know our soldiers are dying to keep oil fields open. (In World War II, car production stopped entirely!)
It means buying fewer luxury items made in countries that are fighting your country either overtly, by turning its people against us, or by undermining our economy (Saudi Arabia and Syria come to mind but China is always there as well). Remember, in World War II children sacrificed their toys for the war effort, and adults dealt with food and fuel rationing!

War means sacrifice. We are sacrificing by running up a Federal deficit (credit card bill) of $8 trillion and the main buyers of our debt are our enemies. Not our avowed enemies, but our more clever enemies who know that their future does not lie in a long-term powerful, wealthy, secure America. Being patriotic is being willing to make that sacrifice now, not forcing it onto America’s children and America’s future by running up an $8 trillion tab (to be $9 trillion in the not-very-distance future).

Being patriotic means asking what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you. (Not that I have any great love for John F. Kennedy, who was by no means a great president, but you have to admire the quote.)

Being patriotic means not having chicken-hawks determine war policy, but listening to the generals who have a lifetime of military experience and training. It means not calling those who sacrificed their limbs for America in Vietnam traitors and cowards. It means not blaming the victims of tragedy for creating the tragedy, and it means not profiteering – not making immense profits from the war while leaving soldiers penniless and in hospitals.

Being patriotic does not mean hating everyone from a country if a small number of people from that country are fighting us. It does not mean rewarding your friends or running your business from the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes. It does not mean blindly doing everything a leader tells you to do. Those who truly love their country will defend it from enemies within, even their commanders, if they need to; they will disobey orders that are unpatriotic, that are unethical, that will harm their country. Too many Nazis “just followed orders.” Americans do not “just follow orders.” Americans are expected to be better than that.

Being patriotic does not mean treating people from other countries like animals, vermin, or worse, especially when that will only bring about an atmosphere of hatred and venom that comes back to haunt us. Being patriotic does not mean funding evil people who are fighting a common enemy – people like Osama Bin Laden, cheerfully trained in terrorism and funded by the CIA so he could fight communists.

Being patriotic is hard. Pasting a flag made in China on the back of a Honda Odyssey is easy.

June 23, 2006

Yet more cash goes flowing down the drain

Filed under: Government — analysis @ 3:16 pm

It seems that the current administration thinks nothing of our tax dollars; rather than tax-and-spend Democrats, we have borrow-and-spend Republicans. Before you think about which is worse, consider the plight of people who have an outstanding credit card balance of over $26,000. Oops! You didn’t know it, but YOU have an outstanding balance of $26,000. You personally. That’s your share of the national debt – the last time I looked. It’s probably higher now.

Why are we spending so much money? Well, there IS a war on, but unlike the last three wars, it’s a war where profiteering is absolutely encouraged. The Senate has formally abdicated its responsibility to keep things clean, auditors are by no means allowed to examine all the no-bid contracts, and the bottom-feeders are stealing enough taxpayer wealth to buy entire countries.

Then there are the knee-jerk projects. Consider, for example, our ground-based interceptor system. Nice on paper, with about 35 interceptors already paid for, these devices have never, ever passed an intercept test – and these are tightly scripted tests where no countermeasures are used. Do we really think an enemy would send over a single missile, after first telling us it was coming and what trajectory it would follow, without a single decoy? This is a project costing tens of millions of dollars. Senator Carl Levin has put forward an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would kill this absurd project, but it’s unlikely to get passed, and even if it does, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Iraq is sucking up hundreds of billions of dollars with no accountability. It’s not an opinion; look at the deliberations of Congress and you’ll find all the proof you need, right in front of you. Government agencies and former generals have protested their inability to stop rampant corruption, getting far less press – even after six generals resigned solely to be able to speak out, giving up their careers and positions – than the smallest Lewinski revelation.

Back to missile defense. Under Bush, who decries tuition assitance, Sesame Street, and other programs generally supported by the public as wastes of taxpayer money that we can ill afford (federal funding for Sesame Street and all other children’s programming will be eliminated after two years, despite the savings to society in well-educated kids and consequent crime reduction), missile defense has received $7-10 billion per year with the 2007 budget allocation standing at $10 billion. These systems have never come near operational status, though it was promised that by 2004 a basic system would be in place. Again, these are systems that consistently fail even carefully designed, controlled tests and would certainly be useless in an actual emergency.

I know Democrats have been known for wasting money; I know they’ve supported all sorts of boondoggles. I don’t like Democrats any more than the next guy. On the other hand, our only chance to stop this kind of incredible waste is to send a clear message to the Republicans, and the only way to do that is for Republicans to vote for Democrats or independent candidates. Give them four more years, and the leadership of the Republican Party – a leadership devoid of conservatives, patriots, and war heros, but replete with criminals, broken-family creators, adulterers, and chickenhawks – will have succeeded in putting their own voting machines in place in so many parts of the country that nobody will be able to vote them out. Don’t believe me? Read this book (Black box voting) and you will. It’s all documented; the facts are out there; you just have to open your eyes and see it.

I might be conservative, but I’m not blind, and I won’t follow people because they SAY they are patriotic, have family values, and are conservative. I see them saying this as they cut services for veterans, call real veterans and war heros traitors, cheat on and divorce their wives, have kids that won’t talk to them, and run up massive debts while eliminating any protection of citizens from an oversized government. Those people aren’t conservatives; they’re criminals, and the REAL conservative Republicans need to make sure they disappear, no matter how much they talk about the other side, how much they lie, and how glib their talking points are.

June 16, 2006

…and the excitement wears off…

Filed under: Blogging — analysis @ 9:06 pm

Well, we had a pretty good run of hits as someone mentioned the George Carlin entry in another blog, but that seems to have worn off, and we’re back to one visitor every now and then… so if you like this blog mention it somewhere! Thanks.

June 15, 2006

What’s a true (social) conservative to do?

Filed under: Government — analysis @ 2:22 pm

I think I am a true conservative, though given the takeover of the Republican Party by “neocons” – an odd mixture of theocrats, empire-builders, and corporatists – leaves me with no place to go.

Socially, I am definitely conservative. I am against the insane levels of sex and profanity in all forms of media, from television to radio to Hollywood to the newspaper’s latest SEX headlines. When I look at the two parties, though – the hippy-flavored Democrats and the stolid conservative Republicans – the only person I see who really tried to do anything about that was Tipper Gore, a liberal Democrat and the wife of the man who won the 2000 election in everything but law (when the Florida votes were recounted, they clearly showed that Gore was elected, despite widespread fraud by Jeb Bush and his compatriots, including tens of thousands of Democrats being ejected from voter rolls and allegations of military ballots being filled out by officers instead of the people who were supposed voting … that story did make a number of national newspapers, you can feel free to look it up, but by then it was “old news” and we were supposed to forget it.)

Anyway, to get back on track, the Republicans have held the Congress, the courts, and the White House for six years now, and this is what they have to show for it:

1) Unprecedented levels of corruption
2) Unprecedented numbers of generals publicly denouncing the president
3) Record deficits
4) Lots of criminal activity
5) Presidential declarations that laws do not apply to the president
6) Thousands of people held in jail for years without trial, accusation, or lawyers

Meanwhile, the situation in Hollywood, Nashville, and TV-land gets worse every year, to the point where commercials and prime-time TV seems to be invariably PG and R rated, and movies for children are filled with sex and realistic violence – violence that goes far beyond the westerns many of us grew up with. Horror movies meant for adults at one time are now aimed at children.

Part of the problem is that so many network and movie executives know where the money is; it’s in the gutter. As the Kinks said, “throw the Christians to the lions, sold out every night!” (It’s in the song “Give the People What They Want.”) The Republican Party has a special relationship with these executives: while a lot of movies do have a liberal bias, and many Hollywood stars are liberals, the owners are generally not. Indeed, the owners of the newspaper chains are almost invariably neocon-style Republicans, which is why Clinton got into much more trouble for a sleazy sex affair than Bush has for repeatedly breaking Federal laws and creating a deficit that is now estimated, for each of us, at well over $20,000 (it may have broken $30,000 by now). Naturally they don’t want to offend those people.

Part of the problem is the idea that government should never regulate industry. Current neocon Republicans, unlike real conservatives, believe that the government should intrude into every facet of citizens’ lives, and spend a lot of time explaining away personal RFID tags (on passports), warrantless wiretapping, use of library and book store records (which is quite extensive, according to lawsuits filed by librarians), and the use of torture on citizens, again without any judicial foresight or knowledge. That stuff is, according to these scum who call themselves conservatives, perfectly fine. On the other hand, government oversight of corporations is evil to these people. Thoreau, the quintessential (if a bit whiny and self-righteous) libertarian, would never extend human rights to corporations, I suspect. He believed in independence and personal responsibilty and frugality, not unashamed, total greed and unchecked government and corporate authority over the individual. What it boils down to is that individual freedom of speech has been checked fairly well, down to keeping demonstrators from ever getting within sight of the president or other key officials, and with people subject to being “disappeared” and tortured to death in another country by the NSA; but corporations have the freedom to be as sleazy as they like in certain fields.

Since we’re talking about social conservatism, I am pointing to the Family Hour of television and similar rules that once existed to protect our children and to keep our society up to a certain standard of civil behavior and mutual respect. There was once a time when it was recognized that use of public airwaves was a responsibility, and networks had to provide reasonably balanced and responsible news coverage, porn-free TV during certain hours, and educational television. Networks were very profitable when these laws were in place, albeit before the widespread use of cable. Ronald Reagan, who pretended to be conservative but never did much to actually be conservative, ended all that, with the results that you see today.

Instead, we have a Republican Party that pretends to be conservative by fighting two rare things, gay marriage and flag-burning. Flag-burning pretty much died in the 1960s and nobody in the US seems to do it now; rather a waste of time to make that into a law, I’d say, especially when the Congress could save hundreds of billions of dollars by investigating waste and fraud in Iraq. (War profiteering has always been a problem, but FDR did a lot to fight it in WWII.) As for gay marriage, well, I find it hard to care that much about it, especially since it’s only allowed in a couple of states, and one of those states is moving to ban it anyway. I’m more concerned about the slide of society downwards into a pit that would be familiar to the ancient Romans.

I really don’t know what to do. I am repelled by the remnants of hippies in the Democratic party, but even more repelled by the Bible-thumping, individual-rights-repealing, corporate-rights-giving, freedom-stealing, vote-stealing posturing of the Republicans. I miss the old-time Republicans – the Rockefellers, the Roukemas, the Eisenhowers, the Gerald Fords, and, yes, the Nixons.

June 13, 2006

We will get fooled again

Filed under: Government — analysis @ 7:53 pm

Certain Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for rising to the bait yet again. At a time when most Americans have apparently realized that the White House and Congress are doing very little for national security or the economy, but are instead breaking the law of the land to enrich themselves on a scale never before seen in this country – not even during the Gilded Age – the Republicans have brought out those tired old gags of constitutional amendments to ban things nobody does anyway, and the Democrats have responded predictably.

I would have liked to see nary a liberal / leftist / centrist debate these ideas. Truly, I would have. If the Republicans really feel we need a Constitutional amendment to prevent flag-burning, bringing down the number of annual flag-burnings from none to zero, let them do it. (Of course they’d have to be careful how they wrote it because when we refer to “flag-burning” we mean the public, non-respectful kind. Flags are supposed to be destroyed by burning when they become tattered or faded. I can see a cottage industry in flag destruction starting up in China, Mexico, and Canada.)

Likewise, since there are only a handful of states that allow gay marriages, and those states are working to end them, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages is not a priority for me. Let the Republicans have their fun.

The reason for these amendments is not because they care deeply about these issues. If they really cared enough to change the Constitution, they would have acted years ago. It’s really a way to get Democrats and liberals into that wonderful position they are so often in, that is, looking as though they are all a bunch of pro-gay, pro-flag-burning hippies. Then the Republicans can look like the law and order party.

Let’s look at the two parties for a moment.

George Bush claims in his little law-signing-notes to be exempt from nearly every law passed by Congress; and he neatly exempted himself and his followers from the Geneva Convention as well as American anti-domestic-spying laws. Likewise, he “won” two elections through clear fraud which has been documented, complete with confessions run on BBC television by the people involved in vote miscounts, voter roll tampering, and other such illegal activities. (And that’s not to mention those lovely electronic voting machines that are so easily tampered with.) Then we have the easy case of treason for outing an entire CIA operation, just to punish a single Congressman. Then we have breaking into Democratic Congressional computers and monitoring Democrats’ e-mail correspondence without a court order. We could probably dig up a lot more dirt but you get the idea.

Oh, and then there’s also the creation of lots and lots and lots of terrorists through the mis-handling of the war in Iraq. Saudi Arabian terrorists (the leader was trained and funded by the CIA, for what it’s worth) attacked the US; in response, we attacked … Iraq, which had absolutely no link to 9/11 or Al-Quaeda. First we did a nice widespread bombing attack which wiped out essential services throughout the country, killing thousands of civilians, then started a program of torture-on-suspicion which Saddam Hussein would have been proud of. Generals protested and continue to protest, but they have to resign first, and then the news media ignores them as has-beens. Intelligence people protest. Antiterrorism experts protest. The problem is that the bad publicity and bad experiences (like death) cause more terrorists to spring up and paint a huge target on our face, one which would not exist had we entered as liberators (without quite so many bombing runs) and quickly left, or had we run the occupation as we did in Afghanistan, or for that matter in Italy and Germany after World War II. While building the largest, most irresponsible deficit in the history of the country, giving tax cuts to themselves and other people who did not need them, these people completely ignored domestic security, leaving chemical and nuclear plants, not to mention borders and incoming cargo shipments, largely as they were – and even restoring airplane security rules back so that you can carry serious weaponry onto planes.

Now let’s look at those rotten hippy liberals in the Democratic party. They’ve pushed for stronger border protection, inspection of all incoming sea cargo, deficit reduction, an end to the war in order to re-balance the budget (remember Clinton’s surplus?), more cops on the beat, and the rule of law to be applied to the White House. What’s more, they’d be investigating all those cost overruns, no-bid contracts, buddy-system contracts, and other causes of the Iraq war’s great expenses, except that the Republicans have not allowed them to hold meetings or issue subpoenas.

So by all means, let the more radical Republicans toss out Constitutional amendments left and right. But the real Republicans – not the neocons, but the real conservatives – can I think be depended on to reject such immature nonsense. (Unfortunately they have shown they cannot be relied on to prevent massive budget deficits, expansion of government power, setting the presidency above the law, or excessive corruption, but that’s another story, and one reason I am sorely disappointed in a group I’d normally be voting for.) And the Democrats should simply step aside and ignore it, keeping debate focused where it should be – not on side issues but on the real question of whether the United States will survive as an economically viable democracy. Four more years of the same leaders may well make that impossible – we cannot stand the continuing deficits, nor can we stand the increasing loss of our rights and our leaders’ setting themselves above the law.

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