Sunday, October 22, 2006

Telling It Like It Is

Following is an article by Kevin Tillman. Kevin is the brother of Pat Tillman, a slain American soldier. Both Kevin and Pat, though, are famous for their athleticism (Pat more so than Kevin). Kevin was drafted by the Anaheim Angels, but decided to enlist in the US Army to fight for our country. Pat did the same, but was a football player for the Arizona Cardinals. They were deployed to Iraq in the beginning stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and were then redeployed to Afghanistan, where Pat was killed in a friendly fire incident. Pat was then honored as a hero, and is still remembered by NFL players across the country.

However, it later came out that the Pentagon tried to cover up the circumstances of Pat's death. It also came out that Pat opposed the war, and urged fellow soldiers to vote for John Kerry in 2004. But that is all in the past.

What's important, though, is surviving brother Kevin's plea for the people of the United States to change the dangerous course that this country is taking. Following is the full text of the article he wrote, which can be found here.

It is Pat Tillman's birthday November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice.... until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can't be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It's interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers who die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that "somehow" was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat's birthday.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

October Surprises!

I told you, I'm back.

And here's the deal: There's an October Surprise coming. Except, unlike what's usual, there are October Surprises being thrown around by both sides.

What the hell is Cheen talking about, with "October Surprises"? Well, an October Surprise is basically a term for a stunning news story that breaks in the month before a national election, and usually makes one side or another look bad, or forces that side to react in a way that might make it look bad in the public view. Click the link for more information on past October Surprises.

Now, I've said in the past that I think both of the major parties in the United States have kind of let the country down, and that I'm registered as unenrolled because I don't feel any loyalty to any party, and don't want to feel any loyalty to either party. However, as I'm sure you could probably guess, I'd much rather see Democrats in control of the country than Republicans.

With that being said, let's deal with the Republican "October Surprise." Now, how do I even know that there's a Republican October Surprise, since there hasn't been anything that makes the Democrats look really bad? Well, for that, let's turn to a conservative publication: Newmax (remember, liberal generally means Democrats, conservative generally means Republicans). According to Newsmax, Karl Rove, the head Republican strategist, is promising an October Surprise. Now, it won't elaborate on what it could be, but a lot of people have guesses as to what it could be.

We're going to attack Iran.

Let me repeat that: We're going to attack Iran.

But Cheeno, the American people won't go for something like that. Not with the war in Iraq spiraling out of control. We wouldn't make the same mistake twice. We're not that stupid.

OK, first of all: I don't think we're that stupid. At least, I hope we're not.

But think of this situation: What if we were attacked, and it was almost certain that Iran had carried out the attack? America would probably be screaming for war, even with Iraq fresh on our minds.

Well, we've set up a perfect situation for that! We just sent a whole carrier group into the Persian Gulf! Take a look at TIME Magazine or The Nation (they're where I'm getting most of the information on this). We sent the USS Dwight Eisenhower, a huge carrier with a complement of thousands of sailors and over 90 aircraft; the USS Newport News, a nuclear submarine; the USS Mason, a destroyer; the USS Ramage, a guided missile destroyer (whenever you see those fancy shots of missiles being launched from a ship at night at land targets, it's from one of these); and lastly, the USS Anzio, a guided missile cruiser (another one that you see those shots from). They're going to get there on October 21.

But all we're doing is sending a fleet over there, right? Wrong! Here's what a lot of people are anticipating: Very soon after the Eisenhower Battle Group arrives, it'll be attacked by missiles from Iran. However, people suggest that the missiles, which might not even hit any of the ships, might be launched by Iraqi troops and then be blamed on Iran, just so our government can have an excuse to go to war with Iran. Does this sound anything like the USS Maine to you?

If the Bush administration led us to war against Iran after an attack by them, the majority of us would rally behind our current leaders. Ugh.

So, that's what the possible Republican October Surprise is. Or, it could be something as simple as falling gas prices and a rising economy, but that wouldn't be as exciting or controversial. And don't bother getting excited about a good economy, anyway. They always mean something bad is going to happen. I won't go into it too much, but to summarize: In 1929, the stock market was at an all time high. Seven weeks later, Black Friday, beginning 20 years of poverty (aka the Great Depression). 1987, another all time high, only two months before another crash. And in 2000, the Nasdaq reached an all time high, but sank more than 75% over the next 18 months.

Not to be pessimistic or anything.

And as for the Democratic October Surprise, I'll update with that in a short while (either later today or tomorrow). In case you don't know where I'm going with this, I'll say just the name of the person involved: Mark Foley. If you don't know about this man's story, oh, boy, are you in for a treat. (Not)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm back!

OK, after not blogging for more than half a year (yeah, my goal of trying to have at least one post a week went completely out the window), I've decided to return. Not on a regular basis, of course, but when I feel like there's something important that has to be said. And there's something important to say now.

In one week, there will be a primary election. This election year is an extraordinarily important one. We've already seen that in Connecticut, where Joe Lieberman, an incumbent Democratic candidate for Senator, was defeated by Ned Lamont, a newcomer to politics who pledged to fight against the Iraq War.

For those of you who don't know how it works: On Tuesday, September 19, there will be a primary election. Various states have various different ways of picking who will run for which position in the General Election in November. Massachusetts has a closed primary. This means that a voter may vote in the primary only if they are a registered member of that party. If you're a registered Democrat, you vote in the Democratic primary. If you're a registered Republican, you vote in the Republican primary. However, since we're Massachusetts and we like to do things differently, you can change your party registration both before and after at the polls. So if you're unenrolled in a party, you can pick which primary (Democratic or Republican) you'd like to vote in.

Phew.

Of course, since the Republicans do not have such a big influence in Massachusetts, I am going to vote in the Democratic primary (I'm unenrolled, simply because I don't want to feel like I have to vote along party lines. In fact, I'm of the strong opinion that parties take too much of a role in politics. I think that there can be good and bad candidates in all parties, and having an attachment to a particular party, feeling as if you must vote for that party's candidate, blinds you to the fact that, hey, there could be other good candidates out there.

In our current American system, there are two main parties, Democrats and Republicans. Third party candidates, such as those running under the Constitution Party, or the Green Party, or the Reform Party, or the Libertarian Party, are often looked down upon simply because they are from another party not considered mainstream. By the way, the parties I just listed span the whole political spectrum (left (liberal) and right (conservative)). What I'm saying is that you, as a voter (or if you're not a voter yet, as someone interested in politics) should not judge these candidates automatically because of the party they're running under. Hold your judgement. Hear what these candidates have to say, and then decide who you favor.

Case in point: We at Brandeis are extremely lucky to have a very vibrant political community. Some of the political clubs banded together to host a candidates' forum for candidates for the Massachusetts Secretary of State that took place today. Two of the three candidates showed up; Bill Galvin, the current Secretary of State (a Democrat), did not.

John Bonifaz is running against Bill Galvin for the Democratic nomination. Which means that on Tuesday, if you're voting in the Democratic primary, you can choose between either Mr. Galvin (the incumbent) or Mr. Bonifaz. I strongly support Mr. Bonifaz. First of all, Mr. Galvin did not show up. Secondly, though, Mr. Galvin is part of the establishment, and that's part of the problem in politics today. Being part of the establishment, which entails a lot of things, including receiving a lot of money from big business interests that are generally not in the best interests of voters, is the reason why Joe Lieberman was not nominated in the Connecticut Democratic primary. And it's the reason why I predict, or at least I hope, many other established politicians will be shown the door this November.

The other candidate was Jill Stein. She is running under the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow ticket. As much as I support Mr. Bonifaz, I support Ms. Stein even more. However, she has no primary. Also, there is no Republican candidate for this position. So, in the end, it will be Ms. Stein up against a Democrat (either Mr. Bonifaz or Mr. Galvin).

As for the other races for the Democratic primary, for governor I support Chris Gabrieli. If I can't see him winning, I'd most like to see Deval Patrick with the Democratic ticket. As for the other races, I won't say I don't care, because I do. But I haven't developed enough of an opinion about them to decide yet. Except for County Commissioner of Plymouth County. In that race, I'll certainly support Lisa C. Clark, who is from Rockland. I know her, and she's a nice person. So vote for her.

OK, so that's my take on state politics. And I'll give my take on current national politics in my next post.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union tonight

The state of the Union address is tonight, a speech given yearly by the president where he spends half the time speaking and the other half of the time being applauded. But really: the speech just gives a brief overview of what the president's overall goals for the coming year are, and allows him to review the past year.

Of course, this should be interesting, considering the political turmoil that's been happening lately, especially in regards to domestic surveillance (yes, in case you didn't know, George W. Bush might be spying on you), Samuel Alito (Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court), and all sorts of corruption in the Senate and the House of Representatives (which seems to all revolve around a man named Jack Abramoff).

These are all topics I'll bring up in the next few posts, since they haven't all been mainstream (I've kind of lost touch with what is now considered "mainstream" knowledge, and things that you really only know if you're keeping careful track of this kind of stuff; if I ever write about something that you don't know enough about, leave a comment! I'll be sure to expand upon posts that require more explanation).

Here's another thing that you ought to know about! Tax cuts. When a lot of people hear tax cuts, they think it's a good thing. However, wherever there are tax cuts, there are cuts in programs that need the funding. According to Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone, the Senate got rid of $40 billion in important programs so that there could be tax cuts this year. There will be about $90 billion in tax cuts (which means that we're increasing the deficit by at least $50 billion). Now, it might be exciting that there's a chunk of that $90 billion coming your way...but not so fast!! Half of that $90 billion goes to people with incomes over $1 million (which is about 2.27 million people, or less than 1% of the total population).

So where is that $40 billion being cut from? Or rather, where was it cut from, since this was passed on December 21? (By the way! This is an interesting story: The vote was completely tied at 50-50 in the Senate, meaning that some Republicans actually voted against these tax cuts; however, Dick Cheney, who, as Vice President is able to cast the tie-breaking vote, rushed back from Pakistan on an over-night flight to cast his vote before the Senate session ended for the holidays). Back to where the money is coming from, though: $12.7 billion, almost a third of the money, is coming from student-loan programs for college. To make things simple, now students will now have a definite minimum of about $5800 more in debt than before (assuming that they're not part of that richest one percent). About $5 billion comes from federal aid to state programs used to track down deadbeat dads--which is going to affect single mothers. Also, some money comes from Medicaid (which will hurt anyone from a low-income background not able to afford healthcare), from programs for foster parents, and from programs for the working poor (as well as from Head Start). Most all of this information is courtesy of "The Deficit Lie", page 28-29 of Rolling Stone issue 992

Besides that, there's all sorts of stuff going on with: Iran, torture, Alito, wiretapping, Jack Abramoff that I'll certainly write about in the future (I promise!).

I kind of went off topic from what I intended to write about, the State of the Union address. And at this point, it has already started. If you'd like a full text of the speech (kind of "stolen" before it actually aired!), go here. Some interesting pieces of news already: Cindy Sheehan, the mother who has revitalized the anti-war movement after her "sit-in" outside of Bush's ranch in Texas, was going to be the guest of a Democratic Congresswoman from California. However, she was arrested outside the Capitol. I heard this from NBC news.

In addition, as I'm watching Bush delivering his speech (most of which, sadly, is complete lies; at some point, I should probably go through the whole thing and pick out the lies), there are more and more ovations where only half of the room stands--the Republican side, such as when Bush said that the Patriot Act had to be renewed and that wiretapping is fine.

Some funny stuff, though: When Bush said "Congress did not act on my proposal last year to 'save' social security", the whole Democratic half had a standing ovation, while the Republican half booed.

I think I'm done now, but I've become awfully depressed with all of this--but more than that, I've become enraged. And that's what more people should feel, too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Can you say "Unnecessarily Greedy"?

This one's great! But, just a forewarning: it might make you mad.

According to ABC News, Exxon Mobil has posted the largest quarterly profit for any US company ever: $10.71 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005. With a "b." There are two important words that one must notice, of course. "Quarterly" is the first one; one quarter of the year!!! If they're making this much per quarter, that's more than $40 billion per year! Which is kind of disgusting when you consider what type of company this is (a gas company, which is raising your prices at the pump so they can make an extra buck).
The second key word is "profit." This isn't how much they made total. This was their profit. Their total revenue was actually just under $100 billion per quarter, just in case you wanted to know.
Some interesting connections: They're located in Texas, where everyone knows the capital of the country (Crawford) is now located. Also, keep in mind the state of the petroleum economy: Right after the hurricanes, and during the Iraq War, gas prices went (and sometimes still do go) up. Does anyone else think it's weird that these guys are making money off of Katrina?
One might argue that the fourth quarter didn't include Katrina and Rita. Fine, I'll concede that. But the third quarter did. And can you guess what record the fourth quarter 2005 of Exxon Mobil broke? That's right! Exxon Mobil's third quarter record of $9.92 billion, according to ThinkProgress.
This is only one gas company! The profits of the gas companies didn't really matter that much until I learned about this. I don't drive, so this shouldn't even be as big a deal to me as it ought to be to others! But it infuriates me that they're making money off of hurricane victims, and it should make you mad that they're making money off of you.

P.S. I haven't been around for a while! I'll be back more often now, college application season is over. And there's a lot of important goings-on to write about (we'll just see what happens in the State of the Union tomorrow night!). But stay tuned for more updates on things that will make you just a little mad.

Friday, December 02, 2005

State-sponsored murder---the ball keeps on rolling

Today saw the 1000th prisoner executed since the United States resumed capital punishment in 1977 after it had been stopped for almost nine years, according to the AP. The execution took place in North Carolina. Only 16 hours later, the next execution in the United States took place in South Carolina.

I have a book--I've had it for a while now--called 50 Facts That Should Change the World, and one of the chapters is about executions. Though President Bush has nothing to do with these executions that just took place, I think it's a good idea to hear what this book says anyways:

President George W. Bush's support for the death penalty is well known: Texas led the US execution stakes while he was Governor, and he made his position clear during his presidential campaign, telling a meeting of Catholic journalists that he felt capital punishment 'sends a chilling message that there is a consequence to your actions'. In the same speech he spoke of his belief in the 'sacredness of human life'. If you kill another person, it seems, in the President's eyes, your life is no longer sacred. In America, there is a continued high level of support for the death penalty - a Gallup poll conducted in May 2003 found that 74 per cent of Americans support capital punishment for those convicted of murder.

Another rather more chilling fact is included later in the chapter:

...the USA is one of a tiny handful of countries that have executed prisoners who were under eighteen at the time of the crime. Since 1990 [until the publication of the book in 2004], it has executed seventeen child offenders - more than any other country. It's a shameful record to hold.

It's important to note, though, that, in mid 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that a crime commited by a minor could not be punished with the death penalty. Thank goodness some progress is being made.

According to Amnesty International and several other sources, the United States is the only of the "Western" countries still using the death penalty. Just to get a good idea of this, take a look at the pictures below:



In both of these pictures, which I obtained through Wikipedia, blue represents no use of the death penalty, green represents a policy of using the death penalty only during extraordinary circumstances (like major crimes commited in a time of war), orange means abolished in practice (meaning that the death penalty is still legal, but hasn't been used in more than ten years), and red represents active use of the death penalty. The world map is very disturbing; just take a look at where the rest of the red countries are: the Middle East. We are exactly like the people we're fighting (whom we should not even be fighting in the first place). No European country uses the death penalty except for little Belarus. That map is not something that makes me proud to be an American. I included the map of the US just to make myself feel better about Massachusetts and the rest of the Northeast (although what's up with Connecticut?). You'll notice that a lot of it seem to resemble the maps we saw after the past two elections showing red state and blue state (although in this map, unfortunately, all of our West Coast friends are red states).

I'm not sure why we're like this, either. Does anyone remember what sent voters to the polls in huge amounts during the 2004 elections? It was that little thing called "moral values", which topped even Iraq in polls of what had sent people to the polls (although I doubt it would now with unrest with the situation in Iraq growing everyday). These moral values are not something I understand, or ever will understand. Apparently it's completely immoral to abort an unborn fetus still in the mother's womb because of the "sanctity of life". But the "sanctity of life" argument completely disappears when it comes to putting someone to death. People who oppose abortions but are in favor of the death penalty are not pro-life, they are anti-choice. So a question to conservatives: If the government should kill people who murder others, what do we do about someone who murders doctors who perform abortions?

There is so much that I didn't even touch on--like how, in the United States, at least one execution was a mistaken one, and how there's a possibility that several dozen others were too (I think I read that in one of Michael Moore's books, but I can't remember now).

So, to sum up, death penalty=bad. And we're probably going to keep right on going until we hit 1,000. How can we hope to leave Iraq and stop treating them horribly if we can't even respect our own citizens?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Introduction and some Katrina quotes

First post! This is a big deal; I've never blogged before (unless you count MySpace or LiveJournal (both of which I no longer use)--and this is something different, because I'm talking about something specific), so bear with me. What I intend to do with this blog is provide enough information to show what has happened to our national politics to those who haven't been provided with enough information. This blog will also serve as a collection of the most noteworthy pieces of news--and maybe every so often will include something extra. What it won't contain is information about how I'm feeling, what I think of people I know, etc.

First of all, understand that I don't like George W. Bush at all. And I don't like (most) Republicans. I'm also starting to become more and more aggravated by Democrats, as they have not jumped on an opportunity to change our national politics that has been presented to them (although that Senator Murtha is pretty cool).

For my first post, I've decided to start off easy by including some quotes by various Republican figures:

"Wrong? What went wrong?" --George W. Bush

"They're taking their shower, now let them drown in it."--Rush Limbaugh (talk-show host)

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."--Barbara Bush

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." --Richard H. Baker (R-Louisiana)

Aren't they nice people? Lastly, I'd like to invite anyone, regardless of their political persuasion, to comment on anything I post; I think it's important to have as many views presented as possible, and I think that there is not enough talk about what is currently going on in our country among regular people (being a student in high school, I definitely don't think that there is enough talk and debate about current events as there could be).

Much much more to come!