Recently, I wrote our Congressman for the 26th district of Texas, Michael Burgess, concerning a war with Iran:
Dear Congressman Burgess,
In recent weeks, the Bush administration has engaged in saber-rattling with Iran, trying to rally support for a U.S. attack on that country. The administration has claimed that Iran’s “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” is providing assistance to insurgent forces in Iraq. The evidence we have seen so far is circumstantial at best. Whether these accusations are true or not, we urge you to work with your colleagues in Congress to specifically de-authorize President Bush from any pre-emptive strikes within Iran without specific approval from Congress.
A preemptive strike could have several counter-productive effects: • It could rally the Iranian people around the IRGC, and drive them further into radical Islamism • It could further disrupt the supply of oil from the region. • It could tie up our troops on yet another front when they are already spread too thin. • It could harm relations with other countries in the region. • It will take the U.S. further into debt.
Further, the Bush administration has proven itself unreliable and untrustworthy in presenting intelligence as reasoning for war. For these reasons, we urge you to give the diplomatic process a fair chance, and reject any new wars with the exception of a proven clear and present danger to America, with a clear and compelling rationale for American involvement.
We hope that you, as a member of the President’s political party, will urge him to stand down from this dangerous and harmful posturing.
Today, I received this response, reprinted in full with my comments in red:
Dear Mr. Southwell:
Thank you for expressing your opinion regarding Iran. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.
Good, because you’ll begin hearing from me regularly as long as I continue to hear justifications from Washington for another damned war that we do not need, cannot afford, and will only harm our interests.
As you may know Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) introduced H.R. 282, The Iran Freedom Support Act, on January 6, 2005. This legislation holds the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and supports a transition to democracy in Iran. The Iran Freedom Support Act passed the full House of Representatives overwhelmingly on April 27, 2006 by a bipartisan vote of 397-21; I voted in favor of this legislation, which was signed into law by President Bush on September 30, 2006 (Public Law 109-293).
1. Allows the President to drop certain economic sanctions against Iran without congressional approval. (No “war authorization” here)
2. Extended the Iran and Libya Sanctions act’s sunset clause extending it from 9/29/06 – 12/31/11, clarifying some of the language of the act, and strengthening the ability of the U.S. Government to penalize parties that violate the act. (No “war authorization” here either)
3. States that the United States will support efforts by the people of Iran to exercise self-determination, and stating that the U.S. will support human rights, and peaceful pro-democracy forces. It authorizes financial and political assistance to a very limited set of organizations. It authorizes pro-democracy radio and television broadcasting into Iran. The section specifically says: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran”. (Nope – definitely not a war authorization)
4. Says that the United states will not cooperate with the government of any country for weapons sales in Iran unless and until such time as Iran suspends uranium enrichment and reprocessing. (Doesn’t smell like a war authorization to me)
5. Strengthens controls on money laundering by entities involved with proliferating weapons of mass destruction. (Still no war authorization)
Before the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran was one of the United States' closest allies in the Middle East region. The United States enjoyed the support of the Iranian government as well as support from the majority of Iran's citizens. Today, however, the United States and Iran do not share diplomatic relations, and Iran has been labeled as part of the "axis of evil" by President Bush and other administration officials.
It is tragic that the people of Iran were subjected to this. Even more tragic is that the United States policy has been not to try to re-establish diplomatic relations. The “axis of evil” comment only further illustrates how ignorant this administration can be. Frankly, I am surprised that after all of the miserable public failures of the administration in foreign policy, that you would even mention this. Does a simplistic labeling of a country as part of an “axis of evil” carry legal weight? Mike, you can put your boots in the oven, but that doesn’t make them biscuits.
For the past two decades, the United States has sought to contain the strategic threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. In 2003, Iran admitted that it has been developing uranium-enrichment capabilities secretly over the last 18 years. On September 24, 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors found Iran to be in noncompliance with its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards agreement and voted on February 4, 2006 to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council. The Security Council issued a presidential statement on March 29, 2006 that called upon Iran to reinstitute its voluntary suspension of enrichment and reprocessing and asked the IAEA to report on Iran's compliance by April 28, 2006. On April 11, 2006, Iranian officials announced that they had enriched some uranium to 3.5 percent enrichment. Iran has continued enrichment activities and failed to meet the Security Council's request.
As I am sure you are aware, Iran has had a nuclear energy program for many years, receiving fuel from Russia. Right or wrong, the Iranian government states a belief that it is in their national security interest to control the entire nuclear fuel cycle. Our readers may not be aware that a country as rich in petroleum resources as Iran is like ourselves facing an energy crunch. Crude oil does not equate to electricity needs. Enrichment to 3.5% is in the range of low-enriched uranium suitable for "peaceful" power generation. Reprocessing of spent fuel is the greater concern, because this provides the plutonium needed for a thermonuclear device. As unsettling as it may be to think of the Iranians with plutonium, the fact is that Iran already has plutonium by virtue of the fact that they have nuclear power. TXU has plutonium also. Shall we bomb TXU? No, the answer is very simple: There must be international involvement and inspections in reprocessing and enrichment to ensure that every gram of recoverable plutonium is transferred out of Iran, and that enrichment doesn’t extend to weapons-grade concentrations of uranium.
The permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, offered Iran a new proposal on June 6, 2006, but Iranian delays led to the Council passing UNSCR 1696, giving Iran a deadline of August 31, 2006 to comply. The resolution did not include sanctions, but expressed the intention to adopt such measures under Article 41 of the Charter should Iran fail to comply. On December 23, 2006 Security Council members unanimously adopted UNSCR 1737, which requires states to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of equipment and technology that could contribute to enrichment-, reprocessing-, heavy-water-related activities, or missile delivery systems in Iran and to freeze the funds of persons and entities involved in the nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In March 2007, t he U.N. Security Council increased the sanctions slightly and set a new deadline of late May 2007.
I support these sanctions. The last thing I would want Iran to have at this point is help in developing ballistic missiles. I must say though, that given Iran’s current situation, having been labeled "axis of evil", and situated next door to a catastrophe created by a hot-headed U.S. administration, one can hardly blame them for being concerned for their defense - especially in light of the current posturing and saber-rattling going on here. We could go a long way towards lowering any threat from Iran if we would restore diplomatic relations and take preemptive strike off the table.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has introduced additional legislation during the 110th Congress regarding Iran. While I am not a member of the House Committee on International Relations, which has jurisdiction over foreign policy, you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind should the bill or relevant legislation be brought before the full House for a vote.
Indeed she has. Neither H.R. 394, H.R. 957, nor H.R. 1357 even remotely relate to the authorization of war on Iran.
I believe that one of the federal government's most important priorities is to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and our homeland. I am committed to ensuring that United States' national security interests as well as military readiness remain secure and vital components of our nation's global agenda.
As do I, though I would probably differ with you greatly regarding what constitutes our “global agenda.” I believe that our role should not be to act unilaterally as the "World Police", but rather to set the example through our domestic agenda and fair trade, and by engaging – rather than isolating – on diplomatic and cultural levels.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. Please feel free to visit my website (www.house.gov/burgess) or contact me with any future concerns.
You can bet that I will. Thank you for writing. Again, I must appeal to reason and beg that you pledge to consider carefully and critically any rhetoric coming from the White House with regard to Iran, and make it clear that there is no blank check for another preemptive war in the middle-east. You represent the 26th district of Texas, and we have nothing to gain from another war.
Michael C. Burgess, M.D. Member of Congress
Readers, please join me in asking Michael Burgess and other Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, to commit that they will not authorize a preemptive war with Iran.
Yesterday was the first day of the 2007/2008 school year for LISD. This year, it was I who had the wonderful pleasure of taking our boys up to their elementary school. As expected, it was crowded in the parking lot, no place to park, no place to "park" (temporarily stopped while in a no parking zone or while creating a new parking area). There were people everywhere.
I saw parents with still photo cameras and video cameras trying to capture every moment. Many moms are sad that their babies are growing up and it's hard for them to let go. I feel for them. I remember. Document, document, document.
I remember the boys' first days in kindergarten. I remember having a tear surface as I realized the early times were now over. I remember feeling that heart string tug as my little boy each took their turn going to their first kindergarten class. I remember the little kiss and hug Seth gave me while his eyes simultaneously said, "don't leave me here" and "I'm excited". I also remember the look of contempt on Ike's face as he wanted me to just leave. No hug and kiss for mom from him. Seth's the sentimental one, Ike's Mr. Independent. He likes to cuddle, but only on his terms.
This year, with Seth now in the 3rd grade and Ike in 2nd, I pulled up to the curb, wished them well, gave a last little bit of instruction and reassurance, and reminded them of how much I love them both. Then I told them to get out of the car and I made haste to get the hell out of there as soon as I could. No tears this year. But it wasn't just me.
You should have seen all the looks of glee upon many parental faces. I think I saw one dad skipping. Rejoice...rejoice! FREEDOM is here again. I could just imagine the other moms and dads going home and doing the dance of joy. I did.
It was a loooonnnnnnnnngggggggggg summer. Oh heaven above, it's FINALLY over.
I’ve been a pretty strong fan of Alison Krauss’ music since about 1991, when I purchased my first cassette of “I’ve Got That Old Feeling”, which is still my favorite album of hers. For those of you who don’t know her, Alison Krauss has won approximately 4000 Grammy awards for her bluegrass music. She is a virtuoso fiddle-player and has one of the most beautiful and distinctive bluegrass voices. She has crossed over and appeared on many country albums, soundtracks, and other collaborative projects. Every member of her band Union Station is a perfect master of their instrument and a star in their own right. You may recall Dan Tyminski’s voice-over for George Clooney for the song “Man of Constant Sorrow” in the hit movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?” Anyone who knows what a Dobro is, no doubt knows that Jerry Douglas is the world’s best.
I am of course, a super-fan. I’ve met Alison and all of the band members. I have all of their CDs and DVDs.
I do have a small bone to pick though, and I hope a bit of constructive criticism can be taken in stride.
Her most recent CD, “A Hundred Miles or More – A Collection” should come with the following warning on the CD:
WARNING: Do not listen to this CD if you are taking anti-depressants, if you are depressed, if you are susceptible to becoming depressed, or if you’ve ever attempted suicide. Do not listen while driving or operating heavy machinery."
I say this because of the 16 tracks, all but a handful are just damned depressing. The musicality, the production, and everything is great – as with all of her CDs. But the lyrics are just morbid and depressing. My wife actually forbids this album from being played in her presence. Here are the tracks, and a rough description of the subject matter:
Away Down the River – A dead woman sings to her former lover. – Depressing! Baby Mine – From the soundtrack for “Dumbo”, I believe. Mother elephant sings reassurance to baby elephant whose life really sucks – Depressing! Down to the River to Pray – From “O Brother” - Spiritual, Christian Get me Through December – It’s December, the weather sucks, and her lover “stole away”. – Depressing! How’s the World Treating You? – Duet – two lovers who broke up lament about how everything sucks. – Depressing! I Give You to His Heart – From the soundtrack “The Prince of Egypt” – Moses’ mother sings with broken heart to her baby before she floats him down the river. – Depressing or uplifting, depending on what you know of the story. Jacob’s Dream – Two young children wander off and die in the cold wilderness. – Depressing! Lay Down Beside Me – Duet - I think this is supposed to be a love song, but I keep dozing off due to the slow tempo. I love you – don’t ever leave me, because the world sucks without you. Missing You – Cover, Duet – Two lovers lament their broken hearts after breaking up, but try to hide it from the other. – Depressing! Molly Ban – Gaelic sounding ballad. Young woman is shot to death in a rain storm, mistaken for a swan by her own boyfriend. – Depressing. Sawing on the Strings – Uh… It’s just embarrassing to hear her sing about “victuals” and “frolicking”. Happy, but silly tune. Simple Love – A song about a regular guy’ (her grandfather) and his love for his family, and wishing she had a simple kind of love like that. Missing him. – Depressing! The Scarlet Tide – Morose hymn-like song from the “Cold Mountain” sound track – about the insanity of war. “Scarlet Tide” is a metaphor for blood. – Depressing! Whiskey Lullaby – Duet - Former lovers have a bad breakup. Both drink themselves to death. “He put that bottle to his head and pulled trigger. He finally drank away her memory”. – Depressing! You Will Be My Ain True Love – Another one from “Cold Mountain”. A woman sings of going to the battlefield to be reunited with her lover. Depressing! You’re Just a Country Boy – She sings about a country boy who has no chances at ever having a happy life. He’ll never get married, and the girl he’s in love with is already married to someone. He’s got no money. – Depressing!
I just listened to the album again while writing this post, and I feel like crying.
Alison has made no secret of her preference for depressing and sad songs, saying as much in television interviews. She laughs it off as part of her personality.
I have two requests for Alison Krauss and Union Station: Can you please find some happy, upbeat songs or hymns for the next one? Also, it’s about time for a Christmas album. Go to the studio and get busy on that, please!
Five presidential candidates confirmed they will take part in discussions of key domestic issues before more than 600 representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) on August 27 and 28 at the Disney Yacht and Beach Club in Orlando, FL.
The schedule for the IAM's Conversation with the Candidates is as follows:
Mon. Aug. 27, 3:30 pm New York Sen. Hillary Clinton Mon. Aug. 27, 7:30 pm California Rep. Duncan Hunter and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Tue. Aug. 28, 7:30 pm Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich
The candidate conversations will be moderated by Erin Moriarty of CBS News.
The event will be streamed, live, from the www.GOIAM.org web site. Streaming provided by ustream.tv.
Don't get me wrong here: I'm no friend of smoking. I think it's a filthy habit, and I don't want anyone doing it around me. But I also believe that we live in a country where most freedoms are valued - even the freedom to be stupid. I think folks should have the right to do what they want to do, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of others, and as long as they're willing to pay the full cost of doing so.
But anyhow, I was thinking to myself, that for the council to just "punt" this to the voters to me shows a lack of political courage.
So knowing that our newly elected Councilman Lathan Watts recently opposed extending our drinking hours here in Lewisville, dismissing it with an almost puritanical "nothing good happens after midnight", I guess I figured he would be for passing this ordinance.
I suppose I need to work on not judging people.
As it turns out, Lathan Watts and I agree almost 100% on this one issue. Here are his comments from The Leader:
"This is what they elected us for"
"I voted against spending taxpayer money to put the issue of a smoking ban on the November ballot because I believe the democratic process and the representative form of government we have places the responsibility for this decision and others like it in the hands of the mayor and city council who ultimately answer to the voters via elections. If there is a broad support for a smoking ban in Lewisville, the supporters should voice their desires to their councilmen to propose an ordinance. Then we could have a public forum at the next council meeting to hear public comment and take a recorded vote on the issue."
"If citizens were displeased with my vote or any other council members’ votes, they could make that clear both at the meeting and at the ballot box the next time we face re-election. Moreover, any ordinance passed by the council can be repealed by the citizens of Lewisville via petition process. I am fully aware that a vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ a smoking ban in Lewisville would displease a large portion of the population, and it would be easy for me to avoid this tough decision by passing the buck to a general election, but very rarely is the right thing to do the easy thing to do. I also think it sets a bad precedent for the council to abdicate its responsibility when an issue is controversial."
"As a citizen, I would encourage places of business to go to a smoke free environment by speaking to the manager or writing a letter or placing a phone call; however, as a councilman, I cannot legislate my preference to every restaurant owner in town. Each business owner knows his customer base better than I do and which business model will be most successful. I do not think that government should mandate one business model to an entire industry. Free market principles will settle this issue through consumer demand without government interference."
Wow. Now you know that I disagree with a lot of our Young Republican friend's philosophies, but I think he hit the nail on the head here.
First, the issue itself: Although during the years of Republican domination of our Federal government, we've somewhat gotten used to the false argument that certain extremely complex problems will be solved by the free market, this is truly a case where it will. The question is whether to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. I think doing so would be a bad move. Regulating? Sure. Banning? No. Like Lathan, I prefer a non-smoking environment. And a restaurant gets only one chance with me. Fortunately, we just don't have a problem here in Lewisville, and any non-smoker that wants a smoke-free environment has choices.
Secondly, although I do think that there is occasionally good reason for a city to take an issue to the voters, or for voters to demand to be heard, I do think that punting this to the voters shows a lack of courage and decisiveness. If there is an issue that is just so controversial that you feel it necessary to get the voters buy-in, then you need to talk to more constituents. If you're still in doubt, make the executive decision to go with freedom.
Although I don't buy the argument that an election wastes taxpayer dollars - at least not in this case, since there is already an election scheduled, and we would be splitting the costs with the county, I do agree with Lathan ON THIS ONE THING, and I don't mind saying so.
I now say this, not in judgment of Lathan, but of my own luck at influencing anything at the city level: Now that I've said this, you can almost bet there will be an election, and that majority rule will trump minority freedom. Somebody please make me eat my words - or at least smoke them.
What does the future hold for our children? Does education really matter? America doesn't do anything any more. The only hope for our children is to own, operate or work for a marketing company who manufactures, imports and distributes something that is made in another country. We don't actually do anything anymore in this country. All we do is swap around monopoly money on the stock exchange like it actually means anything.
Warning, subprime lending rant: We swap around money to lend to ourselves to people who clearly can't handle their own simple finances and don't have the means to repay the money they borrow and then stand back in shock and horror when the inevitable time comes that they can't pay their obligations! Ooh. Better pull all our money out of that horse race and stick it all into the next fad.
The only reason our economy survives is that we continue to take our idiot asses to Walmart and buy plastic pieces of crap made in China and Indonesia with child and slave labor that inevitable ends up in a our land fills. If we were to suddenly stop buying things our entire economy would collapse.
Bush and congress know this all too well. Why on earth did Bush give tax money back to the public at a time when the economy was teetering? So we would all run out to the nearest mall and buy fanny packs and sneakers with lights in them!
The equation is stupid simple: we spend money = economy OK, we stop spending money = we are totally screwed. Seems sick that our economy is based on us wasting money and saving nothing. Even further, extending ourselves into debt. When do we reach the end of the rope?
Welcome to America. Puts a whole new meaning on obtaining a visa.
In excerpts provided by the White House of speeches to be made later today, He who occupies the Office of the President will be inserting his already pruny foot into his mouth once again. This time, he'll compare the situation in Iraq to our conflict in Vietnam, and say that pulling out of Vietnam was a mistake and that it caused the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
Well, he's got part of it right. Our military intervention in Iraq is as senseless as it was in Vietnam.
'Texas Town Hall' will draw thousands while GOP'ers Stage Straw Poll at Convention Center
What: The Texas Town Hall at the American People's Poll on Iraq
When: Polling begins 9AM, September 1st. Rally from 1:30 to 3:30 PM.
Why: To send a message to our elected officials that Americans believe that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home from Iraq NOW.
Where: 900 Main Street in downtown Fort Worth, i.e., General Worth Square, across from the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Who: A coalition of non-partisan groups, under the umbrella sponsorship of Texans for Peace. Endorsers are national, state, and regional organizations, including the following: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out; Grassroots America, Dallas Peace Center, Peace Action Texas, Crawford Peace House, Code Pink Women for Peace, Camp Casey Peace Institute, After Downing Street.
Speakers include: Colonel Ann Wright, first high-ranking diplomat to resign in protest of the Iraq Invasion; Carlos Arredondo, father of Alexander, killed in Iraq; Iraq veterans Adam Kokesh, Hart Viges, and Leonard Shelton; Tina Richards, mother of Iraq combat veteran; Reverend Lennox Yearwood, minister, former White House intern, CEO of the Hip-Hop Caucus, Air Force Reservist., Diane Wilson, author of "Unreasonable Woman" and Texas shrimper. Musicians include Carolyn Wonderland, recording artist and nationally known performer.
End the War, Bring the Troops Home Now and Take Care of Them!
A small South Carolina parts supplier collected about $20.5 million over six years from the Pentagon for fraudulent shipping costs, including $998,798 for sending two 19-cent washers to a Texas base, U.S. officials said.
The company also billed and was paid $455,009 to ship three machine screws costing $1.31 each to Marines in Habbaniyah, Iraq, and $293,451 to ship an 89-cent split washer to Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pentagon records show.
When I was a tank mechanic in the Marine Corps, I saw some pretty disturbing examples of waste, built-in to the system. It's apparently still going on. Someone needs to explain to Pentagon procurement personnel about classes of inventory. You see, washers, machine screws, and nuts are so cheap and so prone to getting lost or destroyed, that there should NEVER be a need for military personnel to order them individually. But the Marines had a policy of ZERO spare parts. We didn't have such a thing as a hardware store to go to for dinky parts. Therefore, vehicles costing many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars sat dead-lined while Marines like me had to fill out requisition forms in triplicate. When the parts would arrive, believe me - they were individually shipped. Literally you would receive a box that would have a single damn washer in it, or o-ring, or whatever it was, packaged within at least 3 expensive layers of packaging.
Once when I was in the reserves, our M88 Tank retriever vehicle developed a fuel-line leak due to a cracked fitting. The vehicle was basically useless and would remain useless for months, screwing up our training if we had waited to order the single part. By this time, I was a sergeant, and was able to get away with driving to a hardware store in Waco and getting the part for about 80 cents. My guys and I were able to get the thing put back together that day. Would it really cost that much to send out some general assortments of common fasteners, fittings, and gaskets?