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    11.23.2008 ||>   Replying because I can't comment

    On my last post some brilliant anonymous commenter (and they always seem to get more and more brilliant when they are anonymous!) opined that I wanted to protect unions because I didn't know about the "dark underbelly" beneath. As if I am just some starry-eyed innocent hippie dancing around the cornfield or something and said anonymous commenter knows man, because he's been in the shit.

    People, I lived right outside Philadelphia for god's sake! Of course I know all about union corruption! And I still, to my last breath will defend the rights of workers to organize for better benefits.

    Unions are the reason we have two day weekends, eight hour workdays, a large middle class and all the other "rights" you enjoy. And they are pushing the envelope as far as universal health care goes. Do they have a bad side? Sure! Should Congress destroy one of the largest unions in one fell swoop? Hell no! I am all for reforming unions, getting the bad apples out of power and restoring rights to the actual workers. I am not for destroying a centuries-old institution.

    And don't imply that I am saying something because I'm freaking stupid.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 9:08:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    11.20.2008 ||>   Bailouts

    I was going back and forth on the big auto bailouts and whether or not I liked them, and then I read this comment on Daily Kos:
    The GOP never dreamed it would get to kill a massive part of organized labor and have an entire region of the country completely collapse on the Democratic parties watch to boot, but that is just the opportunity that has arisen for the Limbaugh/Coulter wing of the GOP.

    A 25 billion dollar loan, with strings attached mandating the auto industry stay the fuck out of monkeying with healthcare reform and making them go green or else, could save hundreds of billions of dollars in social spending over the next 10 years alone.

    10 to 12 million jobs lost, boom!, 200 to 1 trillion dollars in emergency social spending to deal with the collapse's impact on the region, the UAW dead and Wal-Mart the biggest employer in the region, Michigan in full economic collapse and millions of voters ripe for being in play in the next round of the Culture War.

    The GOP, and the media pundits who are all clamoring for Obama and the Congress to let the auto industry die will be damning us and running against the Democratic Party as the party that 'Let Michigan Die' or 'Let Detroit Die' for a generation if the auto industry is allowed to die.

    The auto industry is 4% of our GDP.

    If it goes, thats several years added on to the economic crisis that we face.
    I don't exactly read DKos for the comments - occasionally it's like wading in a cesspool, even though it's a community of people I agree with. But this comment was spot on and I got to say, I'm on board now. If we are going to be giving away 700 billion to shortsighted bankers, we could at least shell out a small fraction to help 4% of our GDP and our unions.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 2:07:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    10.20.2008 ||>   Because "health" deserves air quotes when you're a mother

    The last debate has been bothering me, especially when McCain cited banning late-term abortions and ridiculing women who needed them for health reasons. I couldn't believe he implied that women in their third term were just a big bunch of fakers about those health reasons.

    This post
    by a woman named Alexa really got to me though. You see, she was one of those airquoted "exceptions."
    I want to be clear: if McCain had his so-called “culture of life,” and if my condition had progressed just a bit earlier, I would at least have lost my uterus, and I might very well be dead. All this in the interest of a baby who could not possibly have lived, because while an extremely few 23-weekers do survive, a by-then-severely-infected 23-weeker would certainly not. “Culture of life,” indeed.
    I agree with her about McCain. He does not think much of women. He left his first wife when she became disabled, called his current wife a c*** and airquotes women who need life-saving procedures. He is a known womanizer who apparently thinks we are too stupid to make decisions about our own bodies.

    Please read the whole linked article, it really is fantastic.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 10:14:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    9.29.2008 ||>   There are no words. Well, maybe a couple.

    Apparently, one of the unaired clips of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric involved Katie asking Sarah what Supreme Court decisions she knew of.

    The only one she could name was Roe v. Wade.

    Seriously?
    I think I learned of at least Brown v. Board of Education in the 6th grade. Not to mention the fact that it's the single most important civil rights decision in the 20th century.

    And does no one watch Law and Order? I mean, they read someone their Miranda rights in every fracking episode.

    Thank you Mom, for not giving me an h at birth so I don't have to share a name with this dipshit.

    Hasn't Bush been bad enough? Do we really need to elect this idiot to be a 72 year old heartbeat away from the presidency?

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 10:13:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    9.14.2008 ||>   More Politics

    Wow - an article from the New York Times lays it out better than anything here.
    Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

    That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.
    This of course means we all get richer under Democrats than Republicans. Furthermore, the article goes on to say that:
    [The data shows that] when Democrats were in the White House, lower-income families experienced slightly faster income growth than higher-income families — which means that incomes were equalizing. In stark contrast, it also shows much faster income growth for the better-off when Republicans were in the White House — thus widening the gap in income.
    Basically, only the rich get richer under the Republicans, while everyone gets richer under the Democrats. That's something that I wondered about all along, but didn't have the data to back up until now.

    But, uh, didn't you know McCain was a POW? And Obama belongs to a wacky church?

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 11:30:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    9.07.2008 ||>   Policies

    One of the things that I have been hearing from people is that Obama doesn't have any policies. As if Obama were really campaigning on the idea that if he sprinkles magical fairy dust, everything bad will go away and we will live happily amongst each other.

    As expected, I find this argument ignorant and disingenuous. Some things I love about his platform include:

    - Obviously, the idea that he will begin redeployment immediately and have a phase out period of 16 months from Iraq. For some reason, there has been a rumor that he has revamped this plan. Not so. He merely said he would be flexible and work in conjunction with the Iraqis.

    - I really like the "American Opportunity Tax Credit." The Government will give undergraduate college students $4000 for college if they complete 100 hours of community service. That's enough to pay for almost one year's in-state tuition at the University of Arizona. It could keep a lot of undergraduates from having to work while carrying a full load and also even help someone go to college in the first place.

    - The Universal Mortgage Credit would allow any homeowner to have a mortgage deduction without having to itemize their taxes. For those of us who always take the standard deduction, it makes home ownership more of a reality.

    - Eliminate the income tax for seniors making less than $50,000. There are too many people that have retired and are living with a reduced standard of living. This will really help.

    - Expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. He wants to have 250,000 Americorps volunteers and 16,000 Peace Corps volunteers out there making a difference. Obviously, I think the Peace Corps does great stuff, but the AmeriCorps are making a difference here at home with at-risk youth, environmental protection and other great projects.

    Lately, when I have been hearing, "But what are his ideas?" I have been directing people to his website. He lists all his proposals in a very clear manner. Frankly, I'm getting a bit sick of the question. It's not my job to educate perfectly literate adults who can certainly go online and see for themselves what his intentions are.

    The idea that we Obama supporters are just starry-eyed idealists with a good feeling about this whole change thing is nonsense. We are voting with a voice that says these are the things we want. We want to be better educated, have our troops home and make more compassionate choices when it comes to the tax structure. These platform items, and in fact, the whole platform is exactly what I can get behind.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 3:52:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    9.05.2008 ||>   Are you kidding me?

    I very rarely miss the national conventions, but this year, I've only seen small parts of both. I saw Obama's acceptance speech, Sarah Palin's speech and part of John McCain's acceptance speech (I fell asleep halfway through) and Michelle Obama's speech (I had to get to class). In Pennsylvania, the ads are also going strong, and I first started seeing them today, mostly because I finally got some time to myself.

    Obviously, I'm partisan and I like Barack Obama. I'm not going to pretend that I have been happy with the past eight years of Republican mismanagement. I also think it's ludicrous to elect a party that hates the government. It's like hiring a Christian Scientist as a pharmacist: why would I want them to dispense medicine when they think prayer is the only answer?

    But I have to wonder at how anyone can vote for John McCain? Maybe it's the fact that I'm from Arizona and I knows he lies his ass off about pork barrel spending? (Oh, yeah, He never brought pork back there, no siree. Except when he pushed for millions of dollars in pork for university research in Tucson or for money for our Air force bases.) Or that he keeps saying he's a maverick with nothing in the last eight years to back him up.

    I liked him well enough in the 90's, and didn't think he was such a bad guy. But since the primary in 2000, he has really changed, and nothing has made that more clear to me than this election. He runs on experience, but then anoints Sarah Palin as his running mate? The woman has only 18 months of experience as governor of a state that, if you list it in terms of population, is 47th in the nation!

    Then he decries not balancing the budget. Wow. It's not like Republicans weren't in total control of all the branches of government for 6 years. I have the feeling that, if balancing the budget were of paramount importance, it would have been addressed when they had the final say in everything.

    Then there are the little "senior moments." Like thinking Al Qaeda was training in Iran (when the Shia in Iran and the Sunni in Al Qaeda are mortal enemies), or that Vladimir Putin was the "German President." (the German President has no power - he most likely meant German Chancellor Angela Merkel). The thing that gets me about these slips is that, if John McCain has all this experience and he's the man for the job and all that, why doesn't he know the difference between the Sunni and Shia or how a female chancellor might not be the same as a male president?

    And if it was just a slip up - a senior moment - do we really want someone who admits to being senile in charge of our country? Haven't we already done stupid for long enough?

    In 2000, when Bush was "elected," I thought, "well, how badly can he screw up in four years?" Well, now I know. And I cannot imagine how anyone can be on the fence this time around. Not when there is a much better way this time.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 2:59:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    8.06.2008 ||>   I thought I'd never see the day

    It's a strange day in politics when freaking Paris Hilton puts the smack down on a presidential candidate and is actually pretty funny. Her energy policy sucks though.

    "See you at the debates, bitches." Indeed.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 5:29:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    7.28.2008 ||>   Question

    I have a 60 day gap in insurance between quitting my job and going to school. My COBRA is $523.39 per month for health and $29.73 for dental, which I have to elect by September 2. The reason I was going to go on COBRA is in case I get into an accident, then I am covered. Uncovered, I also have to pay full price for my prescriptions ($160 in July) and my out of network provider costs ($900). However, the money I wold be reimbursed is $130 for the prescriptions and $200 for the $900 I actually spent. So I would be spending $523.39 for a reimbursement of $330?

    The dental is worth it. The health? Not so much.

    I am seriously considering waiting for August 15th, and if I haven't gotten in any accidents, just not continuing coverage. I can always do so retroactively, after all. Is this a smart idea or am I playing a dangerous game with my health?

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 9:54:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    5.19.2008 ||>   Fighting about Ethanol

    I live in a very walkable town, and Tony and I like to walk to Starbucks, the mini mart, and restaurants in the area. Well, we were walking back to our place when these people had set up a booth right in front of our pathway with all sorts of signs about lowering the price of gas and how ethanol is causing the food shortage. They approached us and asked us what we thought about ethanol and whatnot.

    I, obviously, disagree with this. From everything I have read that's not oil-friendly propaganda, it's not ethanol that's really the problem, it's a broken food distribution system, the fact that GM plants are creating havoc with native species of food crops while producing lower yields than the natural varieties, and the price of oil and meat consumption that's really the issue.

    I brought up the meat consumption first, and she was really surprised that I said that, which frankly, blows my mind. How can you be so passionate about food scarcity and not realize that meat puts such a strain on the food chain? For example, according to the USDA, to get two and a half pounds of chicken on your dinner plate, it takes over seven and a half pounds of grain, and that is the most efficient ratio. To get two and a half pounds of pork, it takes 19 pounds of grain. It's simple math, really. If that grain was available to us to eat, then there would be more food for everyone.

    I've never really cared about whether or not people eat meat (other than myself) but if you do eat a lot of it, realize that you are contributing to the food shortage. There is not enough grain in the world for every person to eat meat every day. But some people would rather blame a new fuel source than look to their own habit.

    Do I think ethanol is the end all be all of oil replacements? No. I really think that we will need multiple energy sources to replace the influence of fossil fuels. We need geothermal heating and solar and wind power to replace heating oil and energy in homes, and we will need combinations of ethanol and electric cars to replace gas. There isn't going to be one savior that's going to pull us out of this thing, and demonizing one component of the solution not only doesn't help, it sets us back.

    Tony brought up a great point: you are lamenting the energy crisis, but against a solution? That just doesn't make sense.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 6:01:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    3.18.2008 ||>   Switching Allegiances

    As I blogged about before, I have remained on the fence for most of the presidential primaries. Honestly, I never thought that the primary season would extend to Pennsylvania, that everything would already be decided.

    I have gone from wishing and hoping that Al Gore would be our next president to John Edwards, to finally settling uneasily on Hillary Clinton.

    I really like Hillary, and I always have. Even during the scandals in the 90's, through all the nonsense, and people hating her for no discernible reason, I liked her. When, in my junior summer of college my boss called her a murderer quite literally, I turned my back on her and walked out. And at this very moment, I could still vote for her and feel happy about it.

    But I will not be voting for her. First, if my vote is going to count, I want it to count for ending this nomination process. In order to win the nomination, Clinton will have to pull some very dirty tricks, and I do not want a candidate who is tainted in the general election. But also... this Obama candidacy is stirring a very old belief of mine that my dad instilled in me and I want to be a part of it.

    When I was a kid, one of the things my dad told me was that in times of heavy crisis in America, we have always been lucky to have the right person in the White House at the right time. Americans dodged a bullet in the 1800s by electing Lincoln over Buchanan, because had the latter been re-elected, there would now be a Confederacy. We elected the right person in the 30s when we chose Franklin Roosevelt and have ridden on the protections of the New Deal ever since.

    I feel like we are headed into another catastrophe (of our own making). The Iraq war had been a disaster costing us 3 trillion dollars, the housing crisis will not be bottoming out any time soon, and foreclosures are flourishing.

    But here's the insidious shit: in the 1950's the difference in pay between a worker and a CEO was 20 times. Now, it's 400. The wealthy are consolidating their fortunes, while the middle class is squeezed to death. Food prices are skyrocketing, and we are all getting poorer while people like the Waltons are getting richer. The bread and butter jobs are all being shipped overseas while the jobs that are left are low-paying, abusive, customer service schemes that never benefit the people working them.

    We are being pitted against one another, and have been for at least 7 years. Liberals are "terrorist sympathizers" and conservatives are "fascists." People of color are pitted against women in some sort of oppression olympics. It has got to stop.

    Out of two great candidates, two people who have had my respect for a long time, I will choose Obama. Not because I dislike Hillary, but because I think if we elect him, he could be our next Lincoln or Roosevelt. I have been thinking more and more that he will be the person to break us out of this shit pile we have gotten ourselves into. He's the one.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 3:34:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.22.2008 ||>   Blogging for Choice

    Blog for Choice Day

    Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and this date is looked at with either celebration or revulsion depending on whichever side you happen to fall on. I think women my age sometimes don't believe this case really matters much, because we have lived it all our lives. If we get pregnant, we automatically have the opportunity to abort or keep. This is a right that not every woman has in the world, and it's an important right to keep.

    When I was 16 years old, I played a pretty nasty (but hilarious!) April Fool's Day joke on my mother. I convinced her that I was pregnant, and when she finally believed me, I told her I wanted an abortion. Poor mom. Thinking through the joke in order to make it the most realistic, I thought for awhile as to what I would really do if I had become pregnant, and that would have been the most logical choice for me. I never would have wanted to become a mother at that age, and abortion would have been the best choice for me.

    Ironically, three years later, my sister wasn't playing a prank when she told our mom she was pregnant. She made a far different choice than I would have. She kept my beautiful niece and has sacrificed a lot to raise her, adding my other niece and nephew to the bunch. And her choice, although it was not something I would have chosen to do at 17, was the best choice for her. It was a choice demanding of just as much respect as mine, and not something anyone should have taken away either.

    This power we have over our own bodies here is in stark contrast to places like Nicaragua and El Salvador which have no-exception laws on abortion. A woman can't even abort a ectopic pregnancy to save her life or fertility. Any woman that does so can face from 6 years to 30 years in jail. Police there can take out search warrants for a uterus to search for tissue indicative of abortion. Because of this, women are killed in illegal abortion, jailed and turned into criminals just to have something that we take for granted.

    There has been a shift in public opinion in the last 35 years on whether or not Roe should stand, with many people forgetting what it was like before. The truth is that Roe protects all women, and has helped them to live the lives that they needed. This decision has allowed us to keep our sovereignty, and protected us all from death, mutilation and criminal activity. So please, give some thought today about what this landmark case might have meant to you.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 7:21:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    1.09.2008 ||>   Undecided - Independent

    Until January rolled around, it was my fervent hope that Al Gore would jump in the race at the last minute, and I would vote for him and he would be president, like he should have been the first time. Last week after the Iowa Caucasus came out for Obama, I was still undecided because after all that hope was dashed, I wasn't sure who I wanted. So I thought about it, and basically, my two biggest issues are:

    1. The Iraq War - I want out, and I want a candidate that wants out.
    2. Healthcare - I want a national health plan that includes all Americans, where we cannot be denied life saving or critical treatment to help a corporation's bottom line.

    There's more that I want and don't want, but these issues are my line. I will not vote for someone who does not share these two basic issues with me, and will not fight to get this done. That leaves out all of the Republicans, but I never aligned myself with them anyway.

    After reacquainting myself with the candidates and their stances, I have to say my primary vote will be going to Edwards. I was half-tempted to vote Clinton because I am sick and tired of the way she is picked at for being a woman. However, I am worried about her stance on healthcare and she will not be my first choice.

    Obama is my last choice. If he wins the primary, I will vote for him in the general, but he seems very "kumbaya" to me. I don't want someone on my side willing to compromise with the people who got us into Iraq. I want a pit bull on my side who is willing to attack and bring down the large corporate interests in bed with Congress, who are making money off the blood of our soldiers, and who are killing cancer patients with unfounded denial letters. Edwards has already done some of that, so he's my guy until the convention.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 12:31:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    9.29.2007 ||>   Holla Back!

    On the feminist internets lately, there has been much to do about cat calling and other truly obnoxious things guys do to women while they are simply waliking down the street. Asking me to "Smile!" is possibly the most obnoxious thing I have ever encountered, basically because it never takes into account how I may be feeling, but is all about smiling on command for some dude so he feels better about himself. But, I have been catcalled numerous times and find it generally infuriating.

    Well, no thank you.

    Yesterday, Snuggles was driving around with all his landscaper crews near the Pennsylvania State University. And they were... excited... to see "all the pretty ladies" walking around campus. So Snuggles told them all that, as their boss, he was not to hear any catcalling and that it was against the law.

    That was a lie, but I am glad to see more men admonishing others to keep their mouths closed. Thanks, sweetie!

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 10:32:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    5.28.2007 ||>   Happy Memorial Day

    This year, I have done a lot of thinking about war and our troops. I have had discussions, debates and arguments with people about body armor, helmets, the appropriateness of beer ads exploiting patriotism and how to get us out of Iraq.

    I don't normally post about my anti Iraq war feelings on my website, even though I think about it every day, mostly because I don't want people trolling here telling me to get out of the country, or something equally vicious. Like I don't support people in the military or something. And my website is my website, where I am allowed to be as nutty or boring as I choose. It allows me to write in a forum where I can go back and either remember or cringe at how I wrote before. (Usually, it's cringing.)

    But let me say this: this weekend, like all weekends I support everyone who has gone over to Iraq or Afghanistan, or South Korea, Vietnam, or Germany and France. Anyone that has had to fight and die and get PTSD or lose a body part so far away from home, I feel for you. I appreciate you, even when we disagree on politics, or even if I don't like you as a person.

    So this weekend, I implore those of us who have never been in the military to help our soldiers the rest of the year. Call a congressperson about increased funding for VA care, or donate to a fund that supplies better helmets or body armor. Write to a soldier on the front lines or send a care package. But do something other than adding a magnet to a car or just eating barbecue. And enjoy the long weekend, I know I will!

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 11:35:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    11.08.2006 ||>   Like Yule in November

    I couldn't take watching the polls after 11pm last night, so with some races to go, I went to bed. And to awake to such a sight - the Dems winning control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate - was like the December holidays all coming to call in November.

    I am definitely looking forward to the first woman Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi better do what she has said she will do, though. A balanced budget, anti-corruption legislation and a check on presidential powers. What else could a girl ask for?

    I am disappointed about some races. A Lamont victory in Connecticut and Jon Kyl being unseated in Arizona would have made my year. But I'll take the bad with the good and see what the Dems come up with in the next two years.

    Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I voted straight ticket. Usually, there's at least one Republican I like. But this time around, there needed to be a clean sweep of Republican greed, and I'm glad that it happened in my district (which went all Dem - also, I believe for the first time in decades), as well as the country.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:06:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    10.09.2006 ||>   Nuclear Proliferation, Daddy

    This morning Tony runs into the bathroom after hearing the news and tells me, "North Korea tested a nuclear bomb earlier this morning." I wasn't shocked, because I had been reading the news for awhile now on this and expected it.

    My first response: "So... does this mean we're invading Iran?"

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 1:03:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    9.11.2006 ||>   5 years later and I have to ask:







    Why are the President and the First Lady stepping all over my flag?

    Oh, and... where the hell is Osama bin Laden?!

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 9:39:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    7.21.2006 ||>   Humans are the new animals

    Guess what's new in Las Vegas? You can't feed the homeless in parks, because by feeding these people, it draws them to the parks and makes the parks unsuitable to decent families to go there for picnics and such.
    The Las Vegas City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that bans providing food or meals to the indigent for free or a nominal fee in parks.

    The measure is an attempt to stop so-called "mobile soup kitchens" from operating in parks, where residents say they attract the homeless and render the city facilities unusable by families.

    This measure sounds much like the ordinances also instituted in parks like, don't feed the bears (or racoons or any other animal). Apparently, when you become homeless, you no longer exist as a citizen of the United States, or a human being for that matter. You become a rodent, who should not be around normal people because you will spread disease. But what is a homeless person? What do you have to look like to become the city's new brand of untouchable?
    The city's new ordinance, which officials could begin enforcing as early as Friday, defines an indigent as a "person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive assistance" from the government under state law.

    Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has been a vocal advocate of cracking down on the homeless in city parks, dismissed questions about how marshals, who patrol city parks, will identify the homeless in order to enforce the ordinance, the violation of which would be a misdemeanor.

    "Certain truths are self-evident," Goodman said. "You know who's homeless."
    Wow. It's good that the people of Las Vegas have such a mayor on their side, to protect them from things they don't like to see. Like their more downtrodden fellow citizens.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 9:35:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    7.19.2006 ||>   An American Day

    (Taken from the free internets - not my original material)

    Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging granola cruncher fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

    All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

    He prepares his morning breakfast: bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

    In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

    Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is relatively clean because some environmentalist wacko fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

    He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

    Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to unionize.

    If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary
    misfortune.

    It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because godless liberals wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

    Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was
    educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

    Joe is home from work because again, those same liberal union workers got the work day cut down from 12 hours long so that Joe could have an evening to see his family in. With this time, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

    He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

    He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

    Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that these good conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives!

    After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 2:06:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    7.13.2006 ||>   More boring news

    On 13 July 2006, Israel reportedly continued its air attacks on the Gaza Strip with a powerful missile strike on the Palestinian foreign ministry in Gaza City, wounding 10 people and causing heavy damage to the recently renovated five-story building, the neighboring finance ministry and 15 other nearby houses. The strike comes a day after other Israeli operations killed 23 Palestinians, making it the deadliest day since the assault began two weeks ago. A total of 75 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched a massive air and ground offensive on Gaza in a bid to release a teenage soldier captured by militants on 25 June and end rocket attacks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has slammed the deadly and ongoing air strikes as "total aggression" and called on the international community and the Middle East quartet to intervene immediately to ease the crisis. Meanwhile, the armed wing of the governing Palestinian movement Hamas, which claimed joint responsibility for the capture of the soldier, has vowed a "strong and painful" response for the increasing death toll. Aid groups, on the other hand, have expressed concern about the difficulty of providing assistance to 1.4 million people living in the impoverished Gaza Strip following months of financial crisis and the suspension of direct Western aid to the Hamas-led government.
    On 13 July 2006, Israel reportedly launched an air, sea and land blockade on Lebanon. The Israel Defense Force bombed the runways of Beirut's International Airport, forcing the closure of the facility and the diversion of flights to other airports in the Middle East. Israel also sent warships into Lebanese waters to restrict access to the Lebanese ports of Saida, Tyre, Beirut and Tripoli. Israeli army radio announced that Israel is imposing the blockade until further orders as part of operations to retrieve its two soldiers captured by Hizballah on 12 July. Meanwhile, Israeli fighter-bombers struck a Shiite Muslim mosque in a village in the eastern Bekaa valley of Lebanon, as Hizballah guerillas fired 60 more Katyusha rockets at Nahariya in northern Israel, killing at least one person, while another rocket hit the town of Safed, wounding seven people. Israel has also warned that if the Hizballah attacks continue, there will be raids in Beirut's southern neighborhoods, which house many families of Hizballah leaders, including its chief, Hassan Nasrallah. The death toll from the air strikes in Lebanon is now estimated at more than 47 civilians in addition to at least 100 people who were wounded.
    I know this is a complicated situation, with a lot of "Well, he started it" going around. But this is how I feel about it so far:
    Kids, if you do not learn to behave, I am turning this car around, goddamnit!

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 11:51:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    6.23.2006 ||>   Southern Republicans are not racist, damnit!

    From the Washington Post yesterday:
    House leaders abruptly canceled a vote to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act yesterday after rank-and-file Republicans revolted over provisions that require bilingual ballots in many places and continued federal oversight of voting practices in Southern states...

    [snip]

    But many Southerners feel the law has achieved its purpose and become more nuisance than necessity in several respects. They have aired those arguments for years, but yesterday they got a boost from Republicans scattered throughout the nation who are increasingly raising a different concern: They insist that immigrants learn and use English.
    In the 1960's, they thought African Americans should learn to read complex constitutional law too. And pay a poll tax. And not be "uppity."

    For the record, it never bothered me as an Arizonan to have ballots written in Spanish and English. I doubt it really bothers anyone else, except perhaps politicians who want to exclude citizens from the voting process. It's not even Republicans that oppose this bill. Clearly, the Voting Rights Act enjoys bi-partisan support.

    That this idiotic debate is being used as an excuse to get rid of rights fought for so hard by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. makes me very angry. Maybe next, the crazies in opposition to the VRA will go for the 13th Amendment?

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 7:23:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    6.16.2006 ||>   "It's a number," says Tony Snow, Press Secretary

    No, Tony, 2500 dead is not just a number.

    They are 2500 husbands, wives, daughters and sons that are dead. They are mothers and fathers that will never see thier children again. They are 2500 families that are wracked with a grief that will never go away.

    While some of us are getting tax breaks. Why should any of us non combatants suffer?

    Here are the names of the men and women killed. That is to say, they are names and faces and lives. They are certainly not a "number".

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:55:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    6.13.2006 ||>   Why Grieving Women have a Say

    Over the course of the last week or so, I have seen quite a few back and forths over Coulter's bitch fight with the 9/11 widows. Her supporters always go on about her "larger point" that:
    "[W]hen the left has no message, they drag out victims who are unassailable because of their pathetic circumstances. Republicans can't engage Cindy Sheehan or the 9-11 widows in meaningful debate because their victimhood overshadows everything. They are bulletproof."
    - Beagle via Media Matters
    As the author of the above point mentions, this idea uses flawed logic. I normally would give no attention to Coulter or her ravings, but I noticed it has been a topic of conversation on a social level while going out, and it's disheartening because she has no point in her ravings.

    From the official MADD website:
    In 1979, five-and-a-half-month-old Laura Lamb became one of the world's youngest quadriplegics when Laura and her mother, Cindi, were hit head-on by a repeat drunk driving offender traveling at 120 mph. As a result of the crash, Cindi and her friends waged a war against drunk driving in their home state of Maryland. Less than a year later, on the other side of the country in California, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed at the hands of a drunk driver. Two days prior, the offender was released on bail for a hit-and-run drunk driving crash. He already had two drunk driving convictions with a third plea-bargained to "reckless accident." At the time of Cari's death, the drunk driving offender was carrying a valid California driver's license.

    Enraged, Cari's mother, Candace Lightner, and friends gathered at a steak house in Sacramento. They discussed forming a group named "MADD-Mothers Against Drunk Drivers."
    Since it's inception 26 years ago, this organization, founded by grieving mothers, is involved in reforming laws and policy. It had a hand in changing the drinking age to 21. It has also reduced traffic fatalities by 43 percent and reduced the instance of alcohol-related fatalities by 17% (from the website). Were these women experts on substance abuse? No. Were they experienced policy makers? No.

    They were also not "bulletproof" by any stretch. There are many people who disagree with their aims. Their new policy proposals are vigorously debated and their grief and anger do not make them above accusations of turning our country into a "nanny state." However, although there is disagreement on the points, it can be agreed that they were certainly not unfit to have a hand in federal policy. They became experts in what they were passionate about, and changed the country.

    Going further back in history, in the 1840s, insane asylums were a mess. As per this Wikipedia article:
    the early asylums which were little more than repositories for the mentally ill - removing them from mainstream society in the same manner as a jail would for criminals. Conditions were often extremely poor and serious treatment was not yet an option. The first known psychiatric hospital, Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam), was founded in London in 1247 and by 1403, had begun accepting "lunatics". It soon became infamous for its harsh treatment of the insane, and in the 18th century would allow visitors to pay a penny to observe their patients as a form of "freak show".
    When another woman, Dorothea Dix witnessed the conditions of jails where inmates were being housed for the mentally ill, she was so consumed with horror, that she began campaigning for improvements in jails and asylums. She accomplished what other people would never have imagined, setting aside space for the mentally ill and treating them in order for them to get better.

    Was she an expert in psycology? No. That does not make her contibution any less nor did it take her out of the debate. She was passionate, involved and painstaking in her records of how the mentally ill were treated. Her ideas were also debated. Ultimately, however, the legislation she pushed changed conditions in America for the better.

    In the case of the 9/11 widows, conservative pundits are right on one point. They are not experts in counterterrorism or national security. However, it has been proven over and over that people who are not "experts" (whatever that means) not only can participate and change the debate, but should.

    This does not mean that we should agree with them because they are grieving. We should agree with them because they are lightning rods for change that America needs. They represent transparency, a focus on real national security and counterterrorism that works. They have turned their grief into knowledge and passion. To not utilize their assets in the national debate would only serve to weaken us. Like MADD and Dorothea Dix, they can change our country for the better, if only we keep to the debate.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 10:01:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    4.20.2006 ||>   Today I was a little afraid

    For work, I have been doing these profiles of doctors and hospitals all around the world. Some are easy, like London, where there are tons of available options for the American traveler. Some have been almost impossible. There was a case a couple of weeks ago where someone wanted to go to a distant village in the middle of a jungle, where the only evacuation procedure involved a mile long hike and a motorized canoe. That one was difficult, because I have to put something.

    This morning, I wanted to call the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea for another report. How anyone can get into North Korea (or want to) is beyond me. I wouldn't go there for a million dollars. I would rather go to Turkmenistan than North Korea, which says something because I don't ever want to go there either. Being followed and bugged and arrested for trumped up charges never appealed to me for some reason.

    I tried to call the embassy anyway, and of all the surprises, I couldn't get through. Not very shocking for a country that disabled most international calling features for paranoid, autocratic reasons. There was some clicking on my phone and I have to say that my first response wasn't that it was North Korea. My first thought was that it was the NSA. This morning, I called 3 Arab countries and 2 Muslim African ones, followed by North Korea. And for just a moment, I expected guys in suits to show up at my door to question me. Even though I am calling for good reasons, a small part of me still expects it.

    Today, I was a little afraid. Of my own country and my freedom to call whomever I want.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:48:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    3.15.2006 ||>   The Ides of March are always bad for senators

    Yesterday, I posted the longest post I have ever posted. It was a post that needs to be spread all over the internet like a virus, picking up support wherever it lands. If we can't impeach the President for being a lying liar, then the Congress needs to at least censure him. I mean, the guy has 38% approval rating - this should be a done deal already.

    So why is everyone equivocating?

    Senator Feingold is a solid, decent human being and an awesome senator. The people of Wisconsin are very lucky to have a senator who travels around his state going to town meetings all year. A senator who backed a politically unpopular (in DC) anti-corruption bill with Senator McCain. A senator who always does the standup, moral thing.

    So those senators that are resolutely undecided about this measure need to step up and get Feingold's back. Screw the "oh, I live in a red state!" crap. Does anyone thing Senator Snowe cared about her liberal base in Maine when she supported Alito? No! So get some goddamned courage and support this bill!

    I'm sick and tired of unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind that hurt children. I'm sick of a deficit so large it will take us 75 years to pay it all back. I'm sick of the government telling me I should be afraid of stranger danger the terrorists everyday I'm here when it's clear to me that I should be more afraid of being spied on by my own government. Mostly, I'm sick of sitting in a shitty economy while neocon assholes tell me that I should be strung up for being liberal.

    So, if the Democratic Party really represents me, they'll support this resolution. If they don't then I will consider every Democrat senator a Democrat in name only.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 9:02:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    3.14.2006 ||>   Introducing a Resolution to Censure President George W. Bush

    by US Senator Russ Feingold, March 13, 2006:
    Mr. President, when the President of the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable. That is why today I am introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush.

    The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President’s actions.

    All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President’s conduct was wrong.

    And we must do that. The President’s actions demand a formal judgment from Congress.

    At moments in our history like this, we are reminded why the founders balanced the powers of the different branches of government so carefully in the Constitution. At the very heart of our system of government lies the recognition that some leaders will do wrong, and that others in the government will then bear the responsibility to do right.

    This President has done wrong. This body can do right by condemning his conduct and showing the people of this nation that his actions will not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

    To date, members of Congress have responded in very different ways to the President’s conduct. Some are responding by defending his conduct, ceding him the power he claims, and even seeking to grant him expanded statutory authorization powers to make his conduct legal. While we know he is breaking the law, we do not know the details of what the President has authorized or whether there is any need to change the law to allow it, yet some want to give him carte blanche to continue his illegal conduct. To approve the President’s actions now, without demanding a full inquiry into this program, a detailed explanation for why the President authorized it, and accountability for his illegal actions, would be irresponsible. It would be to abandon the duty of the legislative branch under our constitutional system of separation of powers while the President recklessly grabs for power and ignores the rule of law.

    Others in Congress have taken important steps to check the President. Senator Specter has held hearings on the wiretapping program in the Judiciary Committee. He has even suggested that Congress may need to use the power of the purse in order to get some answers out of the Administration. And Senator Byrd has proposed that Congress establish an independent commission to investigate this program.

    As we move forward, Congress will need to consider a range of possible actions, including investigations, independent commissions, legislation, or even impeachment. But, at a minimum, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law.

    Our founders anticipated that these kinds of abuses would occur. Federalist Number 51 speaks of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances:

    “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

    Mr. President, we are faced with an executive branch that places itself above the law. The founders understood that the branches must check each other to control abuses of government power. The president’s actions are such an abuse, Mr. President. His actions must be checked, and he should be censured.

    This President exploited the climate of anxiety after September 11, 2001, both to push for overly intrusive powers in the Patriot Act, and to take us into a war in Iraq that has been a tragic diversion from the critical fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. In both of those instances, however, Congress gave its approval to the President’s actions, however mistaken that approval may have been.

    That was not the case with the illegal domestic wiretapping program authorized by the President shortly after September 11th. The President violated the law, ignored the Constitution and the other two branches of government, and disregarded the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded. No one questions whether the government should wiretap suspected terrorists. Of course we should, and we can under current law. If there were a demonstrated need to change that law, Congress could consider that step. But instead the President is refusing to follow that law while offering the flimsiest of arguments to justify his misconduct. He must be held accountable for his actions.

    The facts are straightforward: Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as “FISA”, nearly 30 years ago to ensure that as we wiretap suspected terrorists and spies, we also protect innocent Americans from unjustified government intrusion. FISA makes it a crime to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without the requisite warrants, and the President has ordered warrantless wiretaps of Americans on U.S. soil. The President has broken that law, and that alone is unacceptable. But the President did much more than that.

    Not only did the President break the law, he also actively misled Congress and the American people about his actions, and then, when the program was made public, about the legality of the NSA program.

    He has fundamentally violated the trust of the American people.

    The President’s own words show just how seriously he has violated that trust.

    We now know that the NSA wiretapping program began not long after September 11th. Before the existence of this program was revealed, the President went out of his way in several speeches to assure the public that the government was getting court orders to wiretap Americans in the United States – something that he now admits was not the case.

    On April 20, 2004, for example, the President told an audience in Buffalo that: “Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires – a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way.”

    In fact, a lot had changed, but the President wasn’t being upfront with the American people.

    Just months later, on July 14, 2004, in my own state of Wisconsin, the President said that: “Any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”

    Last summer, on June 9, 2005, the President spoke in Columbus, Ohio, and again insisted that his administration was abiding by the laws governing wiretaps. “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”

    In all of these cases, the President knew he wasn’t telling the complete story. But engaged in tough political battle during the presidential campaign, and later over Patriot Act reauthorization, he wanted to convince the public that a systems of checks and balances was in place to protect innocent people from government snooping. He knew when he gave those reassurances that he had authorized the NSA to bypass the very system of checks and balances that he was using as a shield against criticisms of the Patriot Act and his Administration’s performance.

    This conduct is unacceptable. The President had a duty to play it straight with the American people. But for political purposes, he ignored that duty.

    After a New York Times story exposed the NSA program in December of last year, the White House launched an intensive effort to mislead the American people yet again. No one would come to testify before Congress until February, but the President’s surrogates held press conferences and made speeches to try to convince the public that he had acted lawfully.

    Most troubling of all, the President himself participated in this disinformation campaign. In the State of the Union address, he implied that the program was necessary because otherwise the government would be unable to wiretap terrorists at all. That is simply untrue. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t need a warrant to wiretap terrorists overseas – period. You do need a warrant to wiretap Americans on American soil and Congress passed FISA specifically to lay out the rules for these types of domestic wiretaps.

    FISA created a secret court, made up of judges who develop national security expertise, to issue warrants for surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies. These are the judges from whom the Bush Administration has obtained thousands of warrants since 9/11. They are the judges who review applications for business records orders and wiretapping authority under the Patriot Act. The Administration has almost never had a warrant request rejected by those judges. It has used the FISA Court thousands of times, but at the same time it asserts that FISA is an “old law” or “out of date” in this age of terrorism and can’t be complied with. Clearly, the Administration can and does comply with it – except when it doesn’t. Then it just arbitrarily decides to go around these judges, and around the law.

    The Administration has said that it ignored FISA because it takes too long to get a warrant under that law. But we know that in an emergency, where the Attorney General believes that surveillance must begin before a court order can be obtained, FISA permits the wiretap to be executed immediately as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. The Attorney General has complained that the emergency provision does not give him enough flexibility, he has complained that getting a FISA application together or getting the necessary approvals takes too long. But the problems he has cited are bureaucratic barriers that the executive branch put in place, and could remove if it wanted.

    FISA also permits the Attorney General to authorize unlimited warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during the 15 days following a declaration of war, to allow time to consider any amendments to FISA required by a wartime emergency. That is the time period that Congress specified. Yet the President thinks that he can do this indefinitely.

    The President has argued that Congress gave him authority to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, 2001. Mr. President, that is ridiculous. Members of Congress did not pass this resolution to give the President blanket authority to order warrantless wiretaps. We all know that. Anyone in this body who would tell you otherwise either wasn’t here at the time or isn’t telling the truth. We authorized the President to use military force in Afghanistan, a necessary and justified response to September 11. We did not authorize him to wiretap American citizens on American soil without going through the process that was set up nearly three decades ago precisely to facilitate the domestic surveillance of terrorists – with the approval of a judge. That is why both Republicans and Democrats have questioned this theory.

    This particular claim is further undermined by congressional approval of the Patriot Act just a few weeks after we passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The Patriot Act made it easier for law enforcement to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists and spies, while maintaining FISA’s baseline requirement of judicial approval for wiretaps of Americans in the U.S. It is ridiculous to think that Congress would have negotiated and enacted all the changes to FISA in the Patriot Act if it thought it had just authorized the President to ignore FISA in the AUMF.

    In addition, in the intelligence authorization bill passed in December 2001, we extended the emergency authority in FISA, at the Administration’s request, from 24 to 72 hours. Why do that if the President has the power to ignore FISA? That makes no sense at all.

    The President has also said that his inherent executive power gives him the power to approve this program. But here the President is acting in direct violation of a criminal statute. That means his power is, as Justice Jackson said in the steel seizure cases half a century ago, “at its lowest ebb.” A letter from a group of law professors and former executive branch officials points out that “every time the Supreme Court has confronted a statute limiting the Commander-in-Chief’s authority, it has upheld the statute.” The Senate reports issued when FISA was enacted confirm the understanding that FISA overrode any pre-existing inherent authority of the President. As the 1978 Senate Judiciary Committee report stated, FISA “recognizes no inherent power of the president in this area.” And “Congress has declared that this statute, not any claimed presidential power, controls.” Contrary to what the President told the country in the State of the Union, no court has ever approved warrantless surveillance in violation of FISA.

    The President’s claims of inherent executive authority, and his assertions that the courts have approved this type of activity, are baseless.

    But it is one thing to make a legal argument that has no real support in the law. It is much worse to do what the President has done, which is to make misleading statements about what prior Presidents have done and what courts have approved, to try to make the public believe his legal arguments are much stronger than they are.

    For example, in the State of the Union, the President argued that federal courts have approved the use of presidential authority that he was invoking. I asked the Attorney General about this when he came before the Judiciary Committee, and he could point me to no court – not the Supreme Court or any other court – that has considered whether, after FISA was enacted, the President nonetheless had the authority to bypass it and authorize warrantless wiretaps. Not one court. The Administration’s effort to find support for what it has done in snippets of other court decisions would be laughable if this issue were not so serious.

    In the same speech, the President referred to other Presidents in American history who cited executive authority to order warrantless surveillance. But of course, those past presidents – like Wilson and Roosevelt – were acting before the Supreme Court decided in 1967 that our communications are protected by the Fourth Amendment, and before Congress decided in 1978 that the executive branch could no longer unilaterally decide which Americans to wiretap. I asked the Attorney General about this issue when he testified before the Judiciary Committee. And neither he nor anyone in the Administration has been able to come up with a single prior example of wiretapping inside the United States since 1978 that was conducted outside FISA’s authorization.

    So the President’s arguments in the State of the Union were baseless, and it is unacceptable that the President of the United States would so obviously mislead the Congress and American public.

    The President also has argued that periodic internal executive branch review provides an adequate check on the program. He has even characterized this periodic review as a safeguard for civil liberties. But we don’t know what this check involves. And we do know that Congress explicitly rejected this idea of unilateral executive decision-making in this area when it passed FISA.

    Finally, the President has tried to claim that informing a handful of congressional leaders, the so-called Gang of Eight, somehow excuses breaking the law. Of course, several of these members said they weren’t given the full story. And all of them were prohibited from discussing what they were told. So the fact that they were informed under these extraordinary circumstances does not constitute congressional oversight, and it most certainly does not constitute congressional approval of the program.

    Indeed, it doesn’t even comply with the National Security Act, which requires the entire memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee to be “fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States.” Nor does the latest agreement to allow a seven-member subcommittee to review the program comply with the law. Granting a minority of the committee access to information is inadequate and still does not comply with the law requiring that the full committee be kept fully informed.

    In addition, we now know that some of the Gang of Eight expressed concern about the program. The Administration ignored their protests. One of the eight members of Congress who has been briefed about the program, Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has said she sees no reason why the Administration cannot accomplish its goals within the law as currently written.

    None of the President’s arguments explains or excuses his conduct, or the NSA’s domestic spying program. Not one. It is hard to believe that the President has the audacity to claim that they do.

    And perhaps that is what is most troubling here, Mr. President. Even more troubling than the arguments the President has made is what he relies on to make them convincing – the credibility of the office of the President itself. He essentially argues that the American people should trust him simply because of the office he holds.

    But Presidents don’t serve our country by just asking for trust, they must earn that trust, and they must tell the truth.

    This President hides behind flawed legal arguments, and even behind the office he holds, but he cannot hide from what he has created: nothing short of a constitutional crisis. The President has violated the law, and Congress must respond. Congress must investigate and demand answers. Congress should also determine whether current law is inadequate and address that deficiency if it is demonstrated. But before doing so, Congress should ensure that there is accountability for authorizing illegal conduct.

    A formal censure by Congress is an appropriate and responsible first step to assure the public that when the President thinks he can violate the law without consequences, Congress has the will to hold him accountable. If Congress does not reaffirm the rule of law, we will create another failure of leadership, and deal another blow to the public’s trust.

    The President’s wrongdoing demands a response. And not just a response that prevents wrongdoing in the future, but a response that passes judgment on what has happened. We in the Congress bear the responsibility to check a President who has violated the law, who continues to violate the law, and who has not been held accountable for his actions.

    Passing a resolution to censure the President is a way to hold this President accountable. A resolution of censure is a time-honored means for the Congress to express the most serious disapproval possible, short of impeachment, of the Executive’s conduct. It is different than passing a law to make clear that certain conduct is impermissible or to cut off funding for certain activities. Both of those alternatives are ways for Congress to affect future action. But when the President acts illegally, he should be formally rebuked. He should be censured.

    The founders anticipated abuses of executive power by creating a balance of powers in the Constitution. Supporting and defending the Constitution, as we have taken an oath to do, require us to preserve that balance, and to have the will to act. We must meet a serious transgression by the President with a serious response. We must work, as the founders urged us in Federalist Number 51, to control the abuses of government.

    The Constitution looks to the Congress to right the balance of power. The American people look to us to take action, to speak out, with one clear voice, against wrongdoing by the President of the United States. In our system of government, no one, not even the President, is above the law.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the resolution be printed in the Record following my remarks. I yield the floor.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:43:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    2.09.2006 ||>   Chandler made it famous

    I do the news for an expatriate health website as part of my job. In fact, as I write this, I am publishing the latest feed. In the time since I started, I have seen bombing after bombing in Latin America, Spain, Nepal and other parts of the world. There are demonstrations everyday in some country for one reason or the other, some of them breaking out into violence as in the French riots, the Aussie race riots and the cartoon protests. Two conclusions I make from doing these alerts is that the Middle East is going to be a messed up place for many more years and that some countries always manage to slip under the radar.

    One of these countries is surely Yemen.

    Known only in America as a place to go to get away from an annoying ex (ala Friends), this country seems desitined for obscurity in the US. Sitting right between Saudi Arabia and two seas, it looks innocuous. But what has happened there recently to spark any interest?

    Notice how when al-Qaeda members manage to tunnel out of a prison there and escape, it's during a time when the attention is either on political cartoons or Gonzales. No one particularly seems to care that this happened and there are no screaming headlines denouncing the prison system that allowed this to happen.

    Additionally, may I offer you kidnapping insurance if you look European and want to visit? One of the reasons this country sticks in my mind are the statistics on kidnapping. In the past three months, I have seen reports of at least 12 people being kidnapped, all of whom were European. Four people per month may not be the highest kidnapping rate in a country, but it would make me think twice before visiting.

    I realize that our government is being crushed under the weight of its own incompetence. However, it would be good to come to the root of our problems with this country and normalize relations so that we may be more secure.

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    1.24.2006 ||>   Uzbeksistan Has More than Torture to Worry About

    From the RFE/RL today:
    Dozens of women recently took to the freezing streets in eastern Uzbekistan in the first public demonstration in Andijon since security forces fired on protesters eight months ago. In May, Andijon's residents and the international community were shocked when authorities used automatic weapons to disperse the crowd. Like in May, desperate residents are facing crushing social and economic hardship. But this time, protesters were seeking nothing more than regular gas and electricity supplies. And fear of official reprisal kept their demonstrations limited -- and exclusively female.
    This story is actually a couple of days old, but goes to illustrate just how bad things are in Central Asia.

    I was part of the group that the Peace Corps sent back to Uzbekistan after the evacuation in October of 2001.  I lived in the capital and for the most part, I lived okay.  I had a loving host family that let me eat some very good food, and I acquired an apartment that had both hot and cold water for about 48 weeks out of the year.

    Most volunteers there weren't as lucky, and the local people there (of all nationalities) had it either much better or much, much worse.  The people that had it the hardest were those living in the far east and far west of the country.  In the east lies the Ferghana Valley, a supposed "hotbed of terrrorism." In the far west is Karalkalpakstan, the scene of one of the most horrible environmental disasters in the world.

    I have been almost everywhere in this country and I have seen the way people live.  Villages without potable water for years, children forcibly conscripted year after year to pick cotton by hand, no gas in the winter and no water in the summer. There are rampant diseases that are simple to fix if the government weren't negligent. Yes, there is torture there too. But which problems should we try to fix first? And how? They are such a hard questions to answer.

    When I saw that people were again trying to make a difference there, it was heartening.  The government of Uzbekistan took out many of the non-governmental oranizations sent to help. They took out the Peace Corps and the American base there.  Everyday, the government tries to take the hope from a people who are known most for their hospitality and generosity.

    But still, they fight for their families. They will take to the streets not a year after a massacre, despite being disregarded.

    They fight to come in from the cold.

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    1.23.2006 ||>   Is it a crime to hold a womb hostage?

    Our Beloved President declared Jan. 19 "National Sanctity of Life Day," which in all coincidence also falls on the same day Roe v. Wade was decided.
    Note to Bush: Ok, I get it. You have an agenda.

    Quick question though: wasn't Bush the governor who put the most death row inmates to death?
    Note to self: Life is only sacred when it's in the womb. After that, you don't mean shit.

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    1.05.2006 ||>   In response to all those conservative emails

    Published at the Washington Post, I found this account compelling. I don't normally post stuff like a viral email, but it just sat with me. So, without further ado:

    A Life, Wasted
    Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed
    By Paul E. Schroeder
    Tuesday, January 3, 2006; A17 Washington Post


    Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

    At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

    "People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

    The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

    This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

    Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.

    I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

    In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

    At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

    Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

    I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

    Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

    But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

    This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

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    12.20.2005 ||>   It was a sane time, when everyone was crazy

    look at his hand on her head! ack! So I was surfing the internet, as I am wont to do, and it seems that the story of the day is that the Intelligent Design case is finally over in Dover, PA. It seems that the tide is turning, because for once the law ruled on the side of sanity and kicked ID out of our science classes.

    What's heartening to see is that, with the exception of some very crazy people, most people on both sides of the political spectrum agree with the ruling. Sure, I saw a couple of wacky quotes about the necessity of home schooling and whatnot (and saw much more of it when I was in the south), but for the most part I see Americans coming together on this issue and rejecting what is clearly an undermining of science here in the US, as well as the rule of law. But more on that later.

    The judge had this to say as part of his 139 page ruling:
    Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
    That's right. Bitch got slapped.

    On the other end of the crazy train however, is another item. And that is how creepy Tom Cruise is. I remember as a kid that I loved him. Loved. Him. Before Mission Impossible II came out, I would watch anything with him in it. Now I look at him and think, What the hell is he thinking? A case in point would be this picture on the left. Look at his hand. Now, as any girl could tell you, ponytails do a wonderful job of keeping our hair out of our faces (or flaming candles). So it can't be that he's merely helping her out by holding her hair back. It looks more like she might try to escape the bamboo cage and flee. That hair, you see, is the only thing keeping her by his side. Otherwise, she might tell someone that the baby couldn't possibly be his.

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    11.28.2005 ||>   Republican thought of the day:

    "Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills."
    - Tom DeLay, 1999, after the Columbine High School shootings
    How simple life is! My parents, Darwin, and the makers of Ortho-Tri-Cyclen are directly to blame for those shootings. Thanks again Tom, for reminding me why I will never live in Texas. Or be a Republican.

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    8.26.2005 ||>   He should really just go back to snorting coke

    This blog is mostly apolitical. It's not that I'm not a political person, because I have a degree in Political Science. It's simply that I don't believe that arguing about it makes any difference. But as you know, every once in awhile, I stick a toe into the muddy waters. And today I felt compelled to do so again.

    I had also avoided talk of Cindy Sheehan because I felt it was a complicated situation. On the one hand, I understood exactly why she was doing what she was doing. I think that if I was in her place, I might very well do the same thing. On the other hand, I had to question whether or not what she was doing was really going to make a difference. And indeed it doesn't seem like she's changed the playing field one iota.

    Plus, Tony Pierce pretty much said everything I felt about the whole thing. So why rehash what he put so eloquently? But after surfing the Washington Post today, I just couldn't take it anymore. It was the sick feeling that I got from reading about how our president, rather than giving Mrs. Sheehan the time of day, instead actively recruited another mom to be her evil twin.

    Even I, the Great Liberal Skeptic, did not expect him to go touting another woman around in Idaho as if she were a great cosmic counter-example. Let's not point out that she has 4 sons in Iraq and hasn't lost a single one (in fact, they even posed together for the liberal media while in Iraq). Or even that she let George Bush quote her as saying, "I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country. And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in."

    How presumptuous of her to say that when she has never lost a child. And how sickening that the president was looking around for someone to say something just like that. Well, at least it meant he was doing something during his 5 weeks of vacation.

    When I read that story, I felt as if he was not only spitting on Mrs. Sheehan's grief, but on the sadness and despair felt by all the Americans out there who have lost loved ones to this war and are not certain that it was worth it.

    I realize that Mrs. Sheehan put the President in a sticky situation, but fuck him for doing that.

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    6.25.2005 ||>   Give me back my broken country

    I saw a quiz yesterday asking viewers whether or not the prison at Guatanamo Bay should be closed. The options were:
    a. "Yes, the reports of human rights abuses are damaging our image"
    b. "No. National Security should be our primary consideration."
    c. "I'm undecided."
    Well shit, aren't those answers leading? I will never understand the disconnect that some people (and apparently the media as well) have with the concepts of abuse and national security. First of all, the abuses at Abu Graib and Guatanamo Bay are a national security issue. When anyone violates the Geneva Conventions, it makes them ripe to have torture turned against them. Or rather, we are giving a free pass to anyone who wants to torture Americans.

    And who is the most likely to be tortured? Oh yes, the soldiers. If the Bush Administration really supported the troops (and not just the war), they would keep our troops safer by making sure that no one would be able to get away with torturing some on the basis of an "eye for an eye".

    Furthermore, one of the reasons that terrorists make the USA a target is because of the crap things we do abroad. I'm not talking the French being annoyed at a McDonald's on every corner. I'm talking about Mai Lei, taking in the Shah of Iran, and Abu Graib. These are things that would make normally sane people incoherent with rage. So, if it does that with average people, what does it do to the people who are already unbalanced? It turns them into fanatics. And terrorists.

    Besides being morally reprehensible, Guatanamo Bay should be shut down for our safety as well as the safety of prisoners.

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    6.20.2005 ||>  

    Going to Publius Pundit the other day, I stumbled upon this campaign by opposition leaders in Nepal to shame the government into repaying its debts.
    To shame him, Nepal's major opposition parties said they have started a fund-raising campaign in Nuwakot to help the minister repay the loans. The novel 'Suka Mohor Sankalan' - penny pitching campaign - started Monday in the local market square where people were asked to chip in with sukas - 25 paise coins - and mohors - 50p coins.

    The opposition begging bowl yielded over NRS 175 with the highest "donation" said to be coming from a beggar who contributed NRS 2. The parties bought a draft for the collected amount and mailed it to Giri, the Kathmandu Post daily reported Tuesday.
    This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. I wish someone would do it here! Set someone out in front of a store like Target ala the Salvation Army to collect spare change and then send it to Congress to pay off the national debt or Social Security or something. They could have a meter and everything. Like:

    $7,800,613,105,454.05 ... then someone gives 25 cents and it drops down to $7,800,613,105,453.80.

    That would be the greatest thing ever.

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    3.22.2005 ||>   I love the country, but I can't stand the scene

    There are so many things wrong with the Terri Schiavo case, it's not even funny. While I'm sympathetic to her parents (because who would want their daughter to starve to death? It's crazy), I also have to say that it's giving people an even larger excuse to be hypocritical than usual, and that's where my problem lies.

    George Bush during his time as governor oversaw more executions than any other governor in US history. He helped send 152 people to their deaths. Then, as president, he was the first in 40 years to have a federal prisoner executed. And he goes on to say that women shouldn't have abortions because of the sanctity of life and tries to go around a court order about Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube.

    I guess life only matters as long as it was someone who didn't break the law. This is where I could make a crack about flip-flopping, but I think the disease goes much deeper than that.

    And what is with the Congress lately? We have a spiraling dollar, human rights abuses in Abu Graib, thousands of people being murdered in the streets each year and they're holding special sessions on baseball and the Schiavos? Who the hell cares if some jocks injected steroids? Lock them up for using controlled substances and be done with it. While they do that, they should also stop trying to interfere with the courts and let the judges do their job. The Supreme Court refused to review the Schiavo case... shouldn't that tell you something?

    I agree that it's a complicated issue. But at the same time, shouldn't our elected officials do their job and solve the more important crises in our country?

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    3.12.2005 ||>   Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

    I have been paying attention to that story of the kid who supposedly plotted to kill the president. It really seems like the US is putting itself out there to be criticised. If the kid was tortured, then his entire confession should be thrown out. Not only is torture a despicable way of getting a confession, but it's a really crappy way of getting the truth out of anyone. Who wouldn't say anything to stop a beating? I know I'd confess to pretty much anything.

    Not to mention, now no one will ever find out the real truth. Any confession under torture must be invalidated. If Ahmed Omar Abu Ali did in fact plan to assasinate Bush, then he will be back out on the streets. His conspirators will never be captured and justice won't be served. If he didn't, then he will have this following him around for the rest of his life. Thanks to the overzealous Saudis and the Justice Department for screwing up yet again.

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    2.20.2005 ||>   Funny* Uzbekistan Jokes II

    An Uzbek and an American were talking one day when the topic of free speech came up. The American said, "In the US we are so free that we can go right up to the White House and protest George Bush."

    The Uzbek said, "We are just as free here. We also can go right up to the presidental mansion and protest George Bush."

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    12.17.2004 ||>  

    I had seen quotes from this conversation before, but I wanted to post the whole thing because I thought it was interesting.
    Gustave Gilbert, an intelligence officer, interviewed Hermann Goering at Nuremberg on 18th April, 1946.

    'We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

    "Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

    "There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."'

    Take that as you like.

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