Saturday, June 28, 2008

* The passing of comedian George Carlin this week generated citations of his humor and philosophy. The following appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
While critical of society, Carlin was no political activist. His view of the human condition was bleak.
"I really don't have a stake in any of this," he said. "I'm not a cheerleader for a certain outcome. Most liberals who despair of the current state of things, most of them think there's a solution and so they're naturally disappointed. It's built into their thinking system. I know there's no solution, so I just enjoy what's here and I enjoy the journey."
Conditions in this world and this country are in some ways bleak. I am certainly guilty of harboring disappointment. Where Mr. Carlin and I diverge is his assessment that there is no solution. It ignores the very essence of what has made America one of the greatest countries in world history. Addressing the challenges of large-scale community and overcoming man’s foibles and weaknesses are the very heart of this nation. America has stumbled and at times failed but finding solutions to the challenge of people living together defines America.

* For lunch I will have a B & L sandwich – Our government can listen to almost any phone call or track an email through eleven servers over 3 continents. At the same time it cannot identify the source of killer tomatoes grown somewhere in the United States. If only tomatoes could be designated terrorist fruit.

* Funding Iraqi TV ~ the hell with Public Broadcasting – The Bush administration has slashed the proposed public broadcasting budget by 56 percent -- putting at risk vital news, educational and cultural programming that millions of Americans say they prefer to commercial media. The website Free Press has details and a petition to Congress urging that these funding cuts not be approved. It is interesting that “since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government has spent nearly $500 million on an Arabic language television and radio station.” The network is known as al Hurra and its initial mission was to counter the influence of the Qatar-based al-Jazeera news network in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. How has this venture worked out? Based on a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and ProPublica it resembles so many other Bush administration efforts. The president of the network Brian Conniff “does not speak Arabic and is unable to understand anything broadcast on the radio and television networks he is paid to manage. Conniff has no journalism experience and worked previously as a government auditor. The news director has no television experience. Much of the staff lacks Arabic language skills and a background in broadcast journalism. There has been little financial accountability. There's also evidence that the station was exacerbating the sectarian tensions in Iraq…” TPM Muckraker has more details. My concern for public broadcasting led me to wonder if some of its funding could be found in Pakistan. The Bush administration has paid Pakistan more than $2 billion without adequate proof that the Pakistani government used the funds for their intended purpose of supporting U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Maybe there is some loose change lying around.

* Symbolism as art form– A San Francisco group is attempting to place an initiative on the November ballot. It proposes re-naming a water-treatment plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. “The renaming would take effect on Jan. 20, when the new president is sworn in. And regardless of the measure’s outcome, supporters plan to commemorate the inaugural with a synchronized flush of hundreds of thousands of San Francisco toilets, an action that would send a flood of water toward the plant, now called the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant.”

*The Alternative Universe:

~ Watching the pennies - The Defense Contract Audit Agency found $4.9 billion "in overpricing and waste" in Iraq contracts since 2003, a figure that doesn't include an additional $5.1 billion in "expenses charged without documentation." Although oversight is years late, the Army moved to add 5 active-duty Generals to oversee purchasing and monitor contractor performance. The White House has killed the move citing the proposed additional cost of $1.2 million as its reasoning – for a program that cannot account for $10,000,000,000 (billion). Is it possible the White House did not want to expose its corruption and incompetence? While this $1.2 million expenditure is considered extravagant the Bush budget for the Abstinence Only program to encourage teens to avoid sex is $50 million. The program is such a failure that only half of the states are accepting the funding. Perhaps some of these unused funds can be re-budgeted to find the missing $10 billion or finance public broadcasting.

~ Pride: the happy satisfied feeling somebody experiences when having or achieving something special - John McCain opposed increased benefits for veterans in the Webb GI bill saying they were too generous. When the Senate passed the legislation this week he was not present for the vote. At a town hall meeting in Ohio on Friday McCain took credit for the bill. It was an apparent proud moment for the “straight talking” candidate as seen in this YouTube video.

~ A sour note to “Let Freedom Ring” - A new poll of citizens’ attitudes about torture in 19 nations finds Americans among the most accepting of the practice. “Although a slight majority say torture should be universally prohibited, 44 percent think torture of terrorist suspects should be allowed, and more than one in 10 think torture should generally be allowed. In the United States of America, FORMERLY a world leader for morality and human rights, we find so many of our citizens believe the concept of rights, due process and rule of law to be blah, blah, blah and the torturing of SUSPECTS acceptable. Thank God we are still One Nation under God.

~ Loving to be hateful - On Monday FOX News personality Laura Ingraham declared that Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has been endorsed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. It is still early in the presidential campaign. By September FOX will be claiming that Osama bin Laden, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro have endorsed Obama and that Genghis Khan is slated to be Obama’s Secretary of Defense.

* McCain campaign advisor Charlie Black said that a terrorist attack on the U.S. prior to the presidential election would help McCain get elected. The comment stirred quite a controversy but little comment about the logic – assuming that logic applies to elections in this country. A terrorist attack prior to the election would occur during Bush’s tenure. Since McCain has tied his presidential bid umbilical cord to the Bush mother ship might not the opposite of Black’s assertion occur? Political fodder aside, what is most important to each of us is the candidates’ policy positions. A visit to McCain’s and Obama’s websites is illustrative of their approaches. Both advocate a strong and modernized military. McCain mirrors the Bush mantra of fighting Islamist extremists but omits specifics as to how he would actually protect America from terrorists. At the Obama site, under the heading “Protecting the Homeland,” he discusses the following areas that Bush and McCain have to a large and serious degree ignored:
Protecting Our Chemical Plants
Keeping Track of Spent Nuclear Fuel
Evacuating Special Needs Population in Emergencies
Reuniting Families After Emergencies
Keeping Our Drinking Water Safe
Protecting the Public from Radioactive Releases
Perhaps 2008 will be a time when “logic” re-enters the national discourse. Call me an optimist.

* ~ In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.
~ Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.
~ Conservatives say if you don't give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they've lost all incentive because we've given them too much money.
~Once you leave the womb, conservatives don't care about you until you reach military age.
George Carlin (1937 – 2008)

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