Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays

Americans love war analogies.  It probably stems from our love of actual war, which I think is an actual collective sin we are committing.  So analogies between war and other non-war things are pretty unsettling and off-putting for me.  In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, there are over 100,000 dead civilians, tens of thousands of dead combat troops, and millions of wounded.  So when we use frequent war allusions in sports and politics and the like I think we're being rather callous and glib.  If we paid more attention to our language and how we use it we might end up making different and better political choices in America.

That was all a slight tangent I started pondering as I considered this most special time of year when we can come together and debate whether or not there is a War on Christmas.  The weapons in this war are not missiles, bombs, drone attacks, and machine guns, but phrases like "Happy Holidays," the removal of nativity scenes from government-owned public places, and "X-mas."  The casualties are not human lives lost or permanent physical or psychological injuries and disfigurement, but . . . what?  I'm not sure.  Hurt pride, I guess.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Awkward Introduction Time

So it's high time that I make my first post here. It's been a while since I was added to be a contributor, yet I have been silent. At least I have a good reason, I'm about 70% done with a Masters degree in Computer Engineering, and seeing as how it will have taken me about 15 years since my high school graduation when I complete this thing I don't let too many distractions get in the way of my progress.

As you can probably derive from my above paragraph, I generally view things in terms of science or math, basically I try to over simplify any problem into some sort of equation that I can manipulate to confirm my preconceptions. The fact that I use math makes me feel both elitist and confident in my correctness, so it's a win-win. Doesn't qualify for the Michael Scott conflict resolution status of win-win-win, but two out of three ain't bad.

Here's the problem I've run into when I've attempted to write this first post in the past: I don't know what I should write about. With the title of the blog being Mormon Left, I find myself only half qualified. I've got the Mormon part down, but the left? Not so much. So let me introduce myself in the form of attempting to pigeon hole my political leanings. I don't really lean right or left, it's more down than anything. In fact, I once took a political test online and since it was on the Internet it was very accurate, that divided people's political leanings into a standard Cartesian Plane. I guess blogging etiquette would be for me to link that to Wikipedia, but sorry, not happening right now because I'm currently in a race against my laptop battery. So, for those that don't remember high school math and are too lazy to Google the Cartesian Plane is the standard four quadrant graphing system. Back to the quiz, my quiz results left me in quadrant four, the lower right as you look at it, with esteemed company as people like Milton Friedman. If you don't recognize the name, once again, Google it.

Now that you've Google'd his name, you probably think that I think economics is pretty important politically. You're right. In fact, in terms of the Federal Government, I don't believe they should be serving much purpose apart from national defense and economic development. I'm a Jeffersonian. I believe strongly in a limited Federal government, and strong, centralized local governments. I believe the closer you can keep the money to the people, the more honest the politicians will remain. Ironically, I don't live too far from D.C., which is a local government rife with corruption, embezzlement and outright fraud. Don't judge me.

Politically I'm old school. When I think in terms of conservative and progressive, I think about it in terms of government size and reach, not in social terms. I realize that I'm in the minority, but it's one of my biggest pet peeves on the planet that the term "conservative" has become synonymous with "social conservative". Pedantic? Yes. Irrational? Maybe. Impactful? Most definitely. Turns out when you make social conservative and conservative synonymous terms, people start to lose all grip on reality and believe things like "Mitt Romney is too liberal to be President." and "Sarah Palin would be a great leader for our country." I apologize to all the potential readers that may have pre-ordered their Palin 2012 bumper stickers, but I think she's one of the least relevant people in our country in terms of Presidential abilities and I find it amazing that there's anyone with an IQ north of the average temperature of Hawaii that believes she would be a solid executive. She does have her own reality show though, and I suppose she's probably more qualified than Snookie or that lady that got a show because she and her husband don't understand how to use a prophylactic and had 30 kids.

Okay, end of rant.

I thought of something left I can post about!

I'm in full support of Dennis Kucinich's NEED_ACT. Apart from ending the largest theft, embezzlement and fraud scheme of the last century (fractional reserve banking), it implements some really smart changes to our banking system.

That's the largest thing that our country has gotten wrong in the last 2-5 years. They believed the swindlers that told us we need specific banks in the form of bailouts. We don't need banks. We need a strong banking system. What makes a stronger banking system than forcing those banks to stop using depositor's savings accounts for financial speculation? Thus forcing any high-risk investments out in the open where the depositor knows that if they put their money into a certain investment vehicle that there's a chance they could lose their shirt?

If you haven't checked it out, don't worry about doing that. Just take my word for it, it's good legislation for our country's long term economic health. Call your congressman before it's too late and get them supporting it. After all, with the gerrymandering that's sure to happen after the census data, Kucinich may not be around much longer.

Let's make this his swan song. Thanks for the time, next time there will be more links, less rant, and more political stuff.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bomb Repeat Bomb

I had a post all ready to go about the procrastination around ratifying the New Start Treaty between the US and Russia. I've been blown away (pun intended) by the wavering Republicans that wanted to amend the treaty. The New Start Treaty is based on a previous treaty with Russia that is set to expire this month. As such, any amendment would require both countries to go back to negotiations.

I was going to write about Russia's response to the proposed amendments, "I can only underscore that the strategic nuclear arms treaty, worked out on the strict basis of parity, in our view fully answers to the national interests of Russia and the United States,” (Sergey V. Lavrov - Russian foreign minister) “It cannot be opened up and become the subject of new negotiations.”

I had a bunch written about how Senator McCain was pushing for a clause to be inserted that would maintain the US's ability to stockpile missiles in Germany and other European countries. As I wrote, I kept thinking about how completely asinine the GOP's arguments were, and how ridiculous the comment from Mr McConnell was accusing Obama of trying to force the treaty forward for political gain, "Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician’s desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the end of the year."

Then, just before clicking on the "Publish Post" button, this news was released. I can't express how delighted (and surprised) I am that congress has managed to approve a little bit of common sense. I'm glad that an the publishing of an explosive post was averted. Oh, and I'm pretty happy that congress came to their senses before we had to face the possibility of heating up a Cold War.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Judicial Activism at Work

Another example of an activist conservative judge legislating from the bench:

Virginia judge rules health care mandate unconstitutional

I fully expect Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch and the gang to rebuke this affront to our Constitutional system of checks and balances.

Friday, December 3, 2010

You Are the Government: Wikileaks and Transparency

So Julian Assange of Wikileaks recently released about 250,000 secret documents from the State Department.  The very best thing you could possibly read about Wikileaks is Glenn Greenwald.  Here is a smattering, the tip o' the iceberg, of new information that we learned about our government's illegal and immoral activity from these documents that Greenwald  put together:

(1) the U.S. military formally adopted a policy of turning a blind eye to systematic, pervasive torture and other abuses by Iraqi forces;

(2) the State Department threatened Germany not to criminally investigate the CIA's kidnapping of one of its citizens who turned out to be completely innocent;

(3) the State Department under Bush and Obama applied continuous pressure on the Spanish Government to suppress investigations of the CIA's torture of its citizens and the 2003 killing of a Spanish photojournalist when the U.S. military fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad (see The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch today about this: "The day Barack Obama Lied to me");

(4) the British Government privately promised to shield Bush officials from embarrassment as part of its Iraq War "investigation";

(5) there were at least 15,000 people killed in Iraq that were previously uncounted;

(6) "American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world" about the Iraq war as it was prosecuted, a conclusion the Post's own former Baghdad Bureau Chief wrote was proven by the WikiLeaks documents;

(7) the U.S.'s own Ambassador concluded that the July, 2009 removal of the Honduran President was illegal -- a coup -- but the State Department did not want to conclude that and thus ignored it until it was too late to matter;

(8) U.S. and British officials colluded to allow the U.S. to keep cluster bombs on British soil even though Britain had signed the treaty banning such weapons, and,

(9) Hillary Clinton's State Department ordered diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data on U.N. and other foreign officials, almost certainly in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961.