This topic is for links to relevant news, interesting websites, quick opinions and inane ponderings. Postings in this thread are considered "open-thread", meaning that anyone can post a comment on any of the articles, whether the comment relates to the post or not. If you have something random to say, this is the place.
“States like these(Iran, Iraq, North Korea), and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” –GWB
“Curfew in Ramadi, seven o’clock at night. You’re on the street? You’re dead. I shoot you right between the eyes. Ok? That’s how I run that country. Just like Saddam ran it.” -Bill O’Reilly
“I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s deaths so much” -Ann Coulter, regarding a group of September 11 widows.
“They want deaths! ... It's gotten to the point now where the more deaths in Iraq the better for them...” -Rush Limbaugh, accusing Democrats and leftists.
I was wondering why people who say such ugly things can be so popular among large groups of Americans, and I think I have an idea as to why. There’s a popular country music lyric that goes like this: “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” Sounds like a nice little nugget of wisdom, right? Well, in an important way, I think it’s a little misguided. To me, that phrase reflects the popular notion that it’s more important for someone to be confident in their beliefs, and to be firm in their beliefs, than to be correct. I think this view can be harmful to an open and honest discussion of ideas. Let’s put it to rest. Some of the most terrible and destructive people in the history of the world have had unshakeable beliefs about politics, science, religion and morality. This close-mindedness, the unwillingness to consider that a certain idea, opinion, or model might be wrong, continues to cause a great deal of misunderstanding and injustice in the world. The real measure of someone’s character doesn’t depend on how strongly held their beliefs are, but how correct, how wise, and how humane they are. And it’s rarely in our nature to be so open-minded. It’s not bold or sexy. People who are open-minded about a subject tend to speak in conditional phrases. They change their minds from time to time, and so they sometimes come across as weak and wishy-washy. It doesn’t sell. We prefer certainty, and those who express it. And so it’s powerful to speak in slogans and to be belligerent and unwilling to compromise. But those are not the characteristics that make for the best policy-making leadership. It never fails that much of the speech in the public forum is based on strongly held but poorly thought out ideology. The purpose of this kind of speech is not to persuade with arguments and evidence, but to enforce a belief or set of beliefs with feel-good phraseology and forceful repetition – and some of the most intelligent people fall for it. Much of this speech is mean-spirited towards large groups of people. It’s nothing but political masturbation, and it doesn’t belong in places of decorum.
The following posted in the Burnt Orange Report by Hank Gilbert, Democratic candidate for Agriculture commissioner:
Thanks for your support Karl... (4.60 / 5) After "asking permission" from party officials to run for Agriculture Commissioner, I was told not once, but twice, by a long-time party consultant that I didn't have a chance in hell of winning this race. This person has been a driving force for me to win in November. It is evident, however, that the TDP could care less also. All of their efforts seem to be directed at the very top positions on the ballot. I am comfortable with that now. It seems like I have spent most of my life proving people wrong, and I look forward to doing it again in November!
I crashed a fund-raising reception for another Governor candidate tonight in a nearby town. I was approached by one of the hosts who was quick to tell me that I didn't have a chance in hell of beating Todd Staples in November. He agreed that I was more qualified, but I didn't have a chance because my opponent knew how to "play the game" and had more available money than I and the entire TDP could ever raise by November. Boy, he had the last comment right! He also just climbed to 2nd on my list as motivations to win in November!
He said that he is supporting 9 judicial candidates, my opponent, Susan Combs, and this Governor candidate. I made him a bet that I would win. If I win, he buys my dinner, and vice versa. He said that he has "swung the sword" for many years supporting Republicans, and has been rarely cut. I told him that I would call him on November 8th and volunteer to pull the bloody sword out of his ass, then buy his dinner! He was speechless!
These stories lead to one main point...we cannot give up hope just because others think that the odds are stacked against us. No "true" American, much less Texans, have ever folded under pressure. It's time for us to stiffen our necks and release the "bulldog" mentality that we all possess. Believe me Texans, after November 7th, we'll get to hike our legs and piss all over the people that doubted us and tried to stand in our way. We, the people, will then run the TDP!
Thanks again for your continued support, Karl.
BALLS, my friends. This guy knows which end of a cow does what. Please vote for Hank Gilbert for Texas Agriculture Commissioner.
Something that's fun, but sort of depressing, is to go on http://www3.capwiz.com/y/issues/ and read some of the letters that people are sending their congressmen.
This particular individual is a fellow Texan, who wrote Congressman Michael McCaul, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Sen John Cornyn to express support for declaring English the national language:
(BTW, I haven't corrected any spelling, grammar, or punctuation here)
"We, American citizens, have catered to the foriegn language for so long, that we have lost site on our own. I fully support in designating the English language as the "National Language". I also feel if this country was to recognize any other form of language, our founding fathers would of done so from the beginning. I believe it is an insult when I call a company, based in the United States, gives me the option of pressing "2" for Spanish. I find that very offensive. My point that I'm trying to make is the fact that we can not fold or cater to our southern friends and the language they speak. They chose to arrive here for a better life, and in doing so, should have to learn our way. If this isn't done, we will eventually be forced to go through a series of options on the telephone, starting with Spanish and ending in Russian. (Correct me if I'm wrong, isn't it discriminating not to recognize the other language along with Spanish.)
The last thing I would like to see come out of my representatives in Washington. There are a lot of angry citizens in the State of Texas that is highly offended to even hear the option of our National Anthem being sung in any other language than English. I hope that I am not around any longer when that particular day takes place because I honestly see this country going into another civil war, on the day after. I know that may sound a little drastic, but I strongly feel that I won't be to far off from the actual.
As representatives for this great state. Please stand firm on designating English as the National language. Once this is accomplished, then this country can begin to re-take it American shape and begin to eliminate all the wasted money that is being spent on our school system by holding bilingual classes.
[name withheld] Katy , TX
Wow... not much commentary is needed. Just know that your Congressmen and Senators pander to people like this. They play them like harp strings. Your senators voted for it. Tomorrow they're going to declare the sky blue.
OK, I'll admit one thing that does bother me: Why do all the ATMs - especially the ATM that I ALWAYS use at my own bank - ask what language you want to use? Why can't they just encode something on the card, or at least REMEMBER your choice? I guess it's really no bother, as long as English stays option #1 on the phone jail.
(Reuters:) "An investigation by U.S. antitrust authorities found no evidence that oil companies illegally manipulated gasoline prices or constrained oil refining operations, the Federal Trade Commission said Monday."
Phew! That's nice to know. Restores my faith that the oil and gasoline markets are free and efficient with absolutely no price fixing, collusion, or production limiting of any kind.
With the FTC as such fierce watchdogs, who needs guys like Elliot Spitzer?
New White House press secretary Tony Snow said in a press conference this past week while answering a reporter's question about the NSA's "Big Brother Cares" compassionate conservative all-American domestic telephone spy program:
"Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program... the alleged program, the existence of which I can neither confirm or deny."
I honestly don't think he meant to throw out a racial epithet. He seems like a fairly intelligent guy, even though his ideology and loyalties are misguided.
It's just another example of how the "conservative elite" are so out-of-touch with REAL AMERICA that they could slip up and say something so stupid and insensitive.
Here's another fun factoid that I'll bet you didn't know. If you make less than $40,000 per year, you don't pay any federal income taxes! It's true! Republican House speaker, Rep. Dennis Hastert said so just the other day: "Well, folks, if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two, you don't pay any taxes. So you probably, if you don't pay any taxes, you are not going to get a big tax cut."
I wonder if Snow or Hastert have any clue what it's like to be black or earn less than $40,000 per year. Heck, $40,000 is pretty good compared to the minimum wage. $40k is almost a living wage for families in some areas.
In my US Congressional District - Texas 26, our incumbent US Representative, Michael Burgess voted AGAINST network neutrality after taking $33,000 in "contributions" from the telephone and cable monopolies. (Burgess also just voted NO on an ethics reform bill that passed the house by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority. The bill will ban former members of congress who are lobbyists like Tom Delay will be soon, from entering the house floor and congressional exercise facilities.)
The challenger, Tim Barnwell, actually understands the issue, unlike many out-of-touch politicians.
There's been talk recently in Texas and around the nation about a Gas Tax Holiday or some other similar rollback of state or Federal gas taxes in light of the extremely high prices for fuel right now.
The rationale goes that since the 24.4 cents per gallon or so in taxes would be removed, gas prices would go down from the current $2.90 a gallon to about $2.66. Unfortunately this would not only NOT lower the price of gasoline, it would result in a windfall profit for the oil companies that have already taken us for a ride.
Gasoline prices are set by the market based on supply and demand. Demand for gasoline is somewhat elastic, which means that when the price goes up, people find ways to use less. When the price goes down, people use more. This price-elasticity, coupled with the worldwide and local supplies of gasoline is what ultimately sets the market price.
If the market price is artificially lowered by removing taxes, price elasticity guarantees that demand would increase until the price goes back up to a point where supply and demand match. The 24.4 cents that was going into the Federal Treasury would now be going to BP and ExxonMobil.
So, this proposal will not help lower the price of gas, and WILL result in lowered income for the government. With the current "borrow-and-spend" so-called "conservatives" in power, our children will be even more indebted.
Kudos to the Democrats for at least TRYING to do something about fuel prices, but they should have consulted any economist before proposing something so outlandish and ineffective.
We need to impose a FAIR tax on corporations, and quit giving corporate welfare to the likes of ExxonMobil and other big oil companies that are profiting greatly.
We may not "solve" the fuel price problem. It may actually help us out that prices are so high right now. I know that's not comforting to folks like my mom who drive thousands of miles a month in their jobs, but it will lead to innovation in fuel economy.
"A penny saved is a penny earned", so the saying goes. I would paraphrase to say "A gallon saved is a gallon earned". Conservation (which by all rights should be a "conservative" value) is the BEST way to lower demand and thus keep fuel costs low, and a smaller part of the budget.
We need to work on alternative sources, but we must be responsible in how we do it. The Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve (ANWAR) keeps surfacing as a supposed solution to our country's dependence on foreign oil. Unfortunately, the American people have been sold a bill of goods. ANWAR is not by ANYONE's predictions an economically feasible or even particularly large oil reserve. The oil companies don't want to drill there. The purpose of putting ANWAR on the table is two-fold:
1. Republicans resent any attempts to put a given place off-limits for environmental reasons. They believe that man has a God-given right to exploit whatever, whenever, without regard to preserving anything wild for our future generations. 2. Oil companies want the PRECEDENT of having the Federal government open up protected lands to PRIVATE drilling.
All those opposed to high gas prices: raise your right foot!
Depleted Uranium, known as “DU” is an ultra-dense and very tough metal waste product of uranium enrichment for nuclear fuel and weapons. It is used in armor plating combat vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank, because of its superior ability to stop projectiles, protecting the crew. DU is also used as a “penetrator” component in projectile weapons. At 1.7 times the density of lead, it imparts more kinetic energy its targets, thus increasing penetration of armor. Ballistically, it out-performs alternatives, sharpening rather than deforming as it penetrates.
There are problems with the use of DU, however. It is a slightly radioactive alpha emitter, and like other heavy metals, it can poison people, and the environment. It poses a health risk to our troops who have been exposed to DU destroyed targets.
The dilemma is that we want maximum effectiveness on the battlefield, but we should not poison the earth, our troops, or civilians in the combat theater. Probably for these reasons, DU weapons are NOT used in the US or for training purposes.
Our government is shooting bullets of nuclear waste and leaving the consequences for others. It’s doubtful that we would be so cavalier with DU if we were fighting in Europe to liberate one of our Western allies.
Other facts about DU
DU is Pyrophoric, meaning spontaneously combustible. Exposed DU powder can combust in plain air.
Burning DU forms Uranium Oxides and Uranium Nitrides, since it also bonds with atmospheric nitrogen
Burns at 3000 – 6000 degrees C. creating nanoparticles – about .001 microns
Radiation decay is by Alpha particles - the most energetic ionizing particles. Normally alpha radiation is stopped by the skin, but inhaled or ingested DU dust can cause radiation damage inside the lungs and other organs.
Gulf War I (GW1) Statistics
It is difficult to correlate the large number of GI deaths and disabilities from GW1 veterans with DU, and DU with GWS (Gulf War Syndrome). The DOD and VA have been conspicuously silent about the death rate, causes of death, disability rate, and causes of disability – especially with regard to DU. References to DU have been systematically removed from the VA website over the years. This is a proven fact, backed up by previous copies of pages. (use www.archive.org )
Here are selected verified statistics (provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs*):
Troops in CONFLICT in GW1:
Of those, now deceased:
11,910 or 1.71% (Mortality rate for GW1-era veterans, non-deployed as a group is 0.9%) 1.9 times more likely to be dead than a non-deployed GW1-era vet. For a similarly sized group of non-deployed GW1 vets, the expected death rate would have been 6,268. This means that there were approximately 5,642 “extra” deaths.
Currently Permanently Disabled (10% or greater)
155,028 or 22.2% (Disability rate for GW1-era veterans, non-deployed as a group is 12%) 1.85 times more likely to be disabled than a non-deployed GW1-era vet. For a similarly sized group of non-deployed GW1 vets, the expected disablement rate would have been 83,798. This means that there were approximately 71,229 “extra” disablements.
* Source: Feb 2006 Gulf War Veterans Information System (GWVIS) report (Google: GWVIS)
Veterans and Environmental groups are calling for the removal of DU from the US arsenal. Candidates for federal office are asked to present their positions and proposals regarding DU. The author recommends the following as a start:
Suspend the use of all DU projectiles unless and until an independent commission can prove their safety to personnel, non-combatants, and environment.
Hold the Pentagon and the DOE accountable for the exact count and tonnage of DU projectiles used in each conflict, and the types of targets engaged. We must determine the extent of any current damage
Inform troops of risks with DU munitions, and proper precautions for recovery efforts or operations in DU affected areas.
Require use of radiation dosimeters for troops in contact with DU. Test exposed troops immediately after exposure.
Create a program of accountability for DU cleanup and soil remediation in affected areas.
More importantly, discourage the current doctrine of pre-emptive strikes for “regime change” so that we don’t have as much reason to need and use DU munitions.
Large corporations like AOL, Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast want to have the right to control what sites on the internet you visit, or cause certain sites to load slower than others so that they can sell "preferred" access to certain websites. AOL would like to sell access to your email, but that's another story. Congress is considering passing a bill that would GUT free speech on the Internet. As MoveOn.org puts it:
"Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer."
In essense, certain websites would have to pay "protection money" in order to be seen by all users.