Thursday, September 27, 2007

Christianized Health Care

Michael Moore was on Oprah today. One point he made that I thought was particularly apt was that the term Socialized Medicine as the name for the idea that everyone should have health care was inaccurate. The term Socialized Medicine implies that it is a recent idea thought up by socialists. In fact, as Michael pointed out, all the major religions have said for over a thousand years that it is our religious duty to heal the sick. Jesus said that we will be judged by whether we have fed the hungry, healed the sick and housed the homeless. A health care system that covers and treats everyone is more accurately called Christianized Health Care.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The economic consequences of xenophobia

From an article in today's New York Times:
RIVERSIDE, N.J., Sept. 25 — A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. ....

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town’s already tight budget. Suddenly, many people — including some who originally favored the law — started having second thoughts.

So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.

Read entire article

Boarded up businesses in a previously thriving downtown are among the consequences of measures that make immigrants feel unwelcome and drive them away on the local level. Farmers moving their operations to Mexico or having to contract with the government for convict labor in order to harvest their crops are among the consequences we are starting to see on the national level as a result of making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to enter the country.

What would be the economic consequences if we could, as some people claim to want to do, deport all the illegal immigrants form the United States? People who understand how important illegal immigrants have been to the nation's economic growth of the last 20 years or so talk about economic stagnation and recession -- the national equivalent to Riverside's boarded up downtown. The impact on the Social Security system would be huge -- the illegal immigrants have been paying in while getting nothing back.

As the baby boom generation starts to retire who would serve them in restaurants or make their beds in hotels and nursing homes?

Actions taken based on negative emotions such as fear and xenophobia often turn out to have been mistakes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Baptist Church in Georgia Welcomes Immigrants

There was a wonderful article in this morning's New York Times about a Baptist Church in Georgia that decided their Christianity obligated them to be welcoming to all the refugees and immigrants that were showing up in their community.

“Jesus said heaven is a place for people of all nations. So if you don’t like Clarkston, you won’t like heaven.” - Rev. Phil Kitchin of the Clarkston International Bible Church, Clarkston, Georgia.
read the article

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

U.S. Diplomatic Travel Ends in Iraq

Since so many Iraqis have died as a result of the United States invasion and occupation it is may not be immediately obvious to us, half a world away, why the deaths of these 11 would so rouse the Iraqi government. Perhaps something about the recklessness and unnecessary nature of the shootings laid more bare than usual the fact that the U.S. diplomats, despite all their idealistic talk, value their own lives in particular, and United States lives in general, much more highly than Iraqi lives. Whatever the reason, Iraq has said they do not want Blackwater, the private firm that has been providing security for United States diplomats traveling around Iraq, operating in their country any longer. As a result the United States has been forced to suspend all diplomatic travel outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

We who want the occupation to end can only hope that our diplomats in Baghdad, unable any longer to strut like conquering heroes over and through the Iraqi people, will start to realize that they do not belong there and explain that to their colleagues back in Washington.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Preparing to Bomb Iran

The marketing campaign to prepare the American people for an attack by the United States on the sovereign country of Iran is well under way. We are hearing about secret evidence that cannot be disclosed for security reasons that proves that Iran is complicit in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. We are hearing vague talk about the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. (It has to be vague because Iran is years away from having a nuclear weapon and apparently we want to bomb much sooner than that.) We are also being told that we would be doing the Iranian people a favor by over-throwing their government. (Since no Iranians are asking that they be bombed or invaded we have to assume that they will come around to our way of thinking and agree that this was a good thing after the fact -- a retrospective sort of gratitude.)

As you may remember from the build-up to the invasion of Iraq this sort of public relations campaign requires a few other countries to publicly agree that a crisis is looming that may require us to go to war, after all other options are exhausted of course. Right on cue we have the foreign minister of France doing a neo-con dance:

France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sought Monday to tone down remarks he made in a radio and television interview the day before that the world had to prepare for possible war against Iran.

Attacked verbally by Iran and quietly criticized within his own government, Mr. Kouchner shifted the focus away from the threat of war and back to a call for hard negotiations as the way to force Iran to abandon key nuclear activities.

“The worst situation would be war,” Mr. Kouchner told journalists en route to Moscow. “And to avoid the worst, the French position is very clear: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, and work with our European friends on credible sanctions.”

On Sunday, Mr. Kouchner, a Socialist known for his blunt talk, said in an interview broadcast on RTL radio and LCI television: “We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time we must prepare ourselves.”

Asked what he meant in referring to preparation, he replied, “It is necessary to prepare for the worst,” adding, “The worst, it’s war, sir.”


Lost in the off-the-cuff and freewheeling remarks about war planning was his other, less alarmist message: that France is committed to using diplomacy to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran, that no military action is planned and that he did not believe there would be an American military intervention while President Bush was in office.

Isn't that last sentence a masterpiece? The suggestion that President Bush is less likely to go to war with Iran than his successor is breath-taking in its sheer neo-con perversity.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Miracles still happen?

If you have ever wondered what the video would look like if witnesses to a religious miracle had video cameras and made videos of the event then you are in luck. A large crowd in Syria witnessed what they thought was a miracle and many of them had cell phone cameras. One of them posted the video on YouTube with the following description.

This is footage taken at the Zaynab mosque in Syria where thousands of bystanders witnessed the sealed shut doors to A Miracle happened in the Maqam of Sayeda Zeinab (A.S) in the Arba3en of Imam Hussein (A.S) in Syria (1428 hijri - 2007).. The Shrine was firmly closed and nobody inside, and suddenly a Light came from inside the Maqam and the internal Large Gate started to open spontaneously (by itself) all people there saw that, it was VERY CLEAR.. and the amazing thing is that the door was openning in the reverse side of what it would normally open in!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Concert at the Moline Library

If you were not in the meeting room of the Moline Library between noon and 1 pm today you missed an amazing experience. The group Los Tiempos Pasados (which means Ages Past) from the Mexican state of Guanajuato performed using a mix of modern and early instruments, music mostly from the 13th and 14th Centuries in Spain. The crowd of approximately 85 people was so impressed that at the end of the concert they gave the first standing ovation Christina Conklin, the Children's Services Coordinator of the Moline Library, had seen in that room, in which concerts have been presented for a little over a year.

The music from Spain during that period is a glorious blend of Muslim Arab, Sephardic Jew and Spanish Christian traditions and influences. The leader of the group, Armando López Valdivia, pointed out that this synthesis of different traditions and cultures was like brothers working together, which is something we need to happen now and always.

One early instrument played during the concert that I had not heard of before was the chalumeaux, which is described in reference books as being a pre-cursor to the clarinet. Armando López Valdivia referred to it as a 3000 year old saxophone and then proceeded to play it in a way which made it sound almost exactly like a modern saxophone.

The concert was free, the expenses having been paid by the Moline Public Library, Casa Guanajuato of Moline, the Mexican state of Guanajuato, Ana Van den Bergh of the Cultural Institute of Guanajuato and the University of Guanajuato, where four members of the group are professors.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mexico City Tolerance Zones

Check out this excellent use of sarcasm to protest police inaction and/or corruption in Mexico City. Also note how the sarcasm seems to be going over a lot of people's heads.

A small price?

It sounds like the punch-line of a very old and bad joke.

Question: How can GOP House leader John Boehner consider the deaths of 3768 men and women in the United States military in Iraq a small price to have paid?
Answer: Someone other than John Boehner is doing the paying.

An excerpt from an interview yesterday with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and GOP House leader John Boehner.

BLITZER: How much longer will U.S. taxpayers have to shell out $2 billion a week or $3 billion a week as some now are suggesting the cost is going to endure? The loss in blood, the Americans who are killed every month, how much longer do you think this commitment, this military commitment is going to require?

BOEHNER: I think General Petraeus outlined it pretty clearly. We’re making success. We need to firm up those successes. We need to continue our effort here because, Wolf, long term, the investment that we’re making today will be a small price if we’re able to stop al Qaeda here, if we’re able to stabilize the Middle East, it’s not only going to be a small price for the near future, but think about the future for our kids and their kids.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Does the War in Iraq make you feel safer?

The War in Iraq has been and continues to be extremely costly in terms of lives lost, dollars spent, prestige and reputation damaged. But we are told by sober, serious people in Washington that we cannot end it now because the “surge” is “working.”

According to Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column (requires a subscription) retiring Republican Senator John Warner asked General Petraeus during yesterday’s Senate testimony "Do you feel that the Surge is making America safer?"
"Sir, I don’t know actually,” General Petraeus replied. “I have not sat down and sorted out in my own mind."

President Bush’s goal is to keep the war going through the end of his administration. He recently admitted to his biographer that he was “playing” everyone and everything to that end. One has to presume that he, like General Petraeus, has other reasons for wanting to keep our military involvement at the present level than the "feeling" that this is making America safer.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Defeated Military Causes Problem for a Society

This morning on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos program John McCain told George that one reason we should not set a time table for withdrawing the troops from Iraq would be that if we withdrew from Iraq without a clear-cut victory then our military would feel defeated. McCain said that a military that felt defeated resulted in great problems for our society after our withdrawal from Vietnam (suicide, alcoholism, homelessness, etc.) He felt that withdrawing our military from Iraq without a victory would cause these same sorts of problems again. Apparently it makes no difference that no one is suggesting that the lack of a victory is our military’s fault. If what John McCain says is true then it means that the military mind is incapable of conceiving anything more complex than either clear-cut victory or utter defeat.

If that is true then it suggests that the military is the wrong tool to use in any but the most clear cut situation of national defense or a situation in which the goal is to utterly defeat an entire nation. The current situation, in which the goal was supposed to be to leave Iraq better-off (rather than a smoldering ruin) a clear-cut victory was never a likely outcome – creating a democracy will always be a messy process. What George Bush and John McCain are saying is that once we have committed the military to battle we must, in the absence of a clear-cut victory, continue the war forever. This makes the military sound like a rogue weapon – similar to a torpedo that, if it misses its target, is likely to circle around and sink the ship that launched it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

What part of illegal doesn’t Rudy Giuliani understand?

According to an Associated Press story Rudy Giuliani has thrown cold water on the widely believed idea that the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States are criminals and that when cities instruct their employees to not inquire about immigration status they are turning a blind eye to criminal behavior.

"[Illegal immigration is] not a crime," Giuliani said Friday. "I know that's very hard for people to understand, but it's not a federal crime."

How can that be Rudy? What does the illegal in illegal immigrant mean?

"I was U.S. attorney in the Southern district of New York," he said. "So believe me, I know this. In fact, when you throw an immigrant out of the country, it's not a criminal proceeding. It's a civil proceeding."


Scott Ritter on Waging Peace

Did you catch Scott Ritter on CSpan BookTV last week talking about his new book?



Scott Ritter points out that a lot of people who currently oppose the War in Iraq do so not because we should never have invaded in the first place. They are only opposed now because the war is not going well. One clear sign that someone only opposes the war because we are losing is if they are in favor of bombing Iran. This would include most of the Democrats in Congress and the top 3 Democratic candidates for President.

I think Scott Ritter is right to talk about opposing this war the way Gandhi and his followers opposed the British in India. The media, the Congresss and the entire Washington power structure have been bought off. To stop this thing before it becomes World War III the people will need to stop waiting for leaders and just rise up the way the people of India rose up behind Gandhi.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5 Reasons why bombing Iran would be a worse mistake than invading Iraq

1. Population of Iran = 71 million. Population of Iraq = 20 million.
2. Number of Iranians in the United States = 235,000. Number of Iraqis in the United States = 90,000
3. In Iraq the Shiites and the Kurds (about three fourths of the population) did not initially oppose our invasion. All the experts agree that if the United States attacked Iran it would unite the Iranian people against us.
4. Most of the Iraqis in the United States welcomed our invasion of their country. Very few if any of the Iranians in the United States would support the United States attacking Iran.
5. Iraq had been weakened by 10 years of sanctions before we invaded. Iran is very strong and currently very wealthy because of high oil prices.

The only sources of information I have are the same ones you have. I googled to get the population figures for Iran and Iraq. I have never met President Bush. I have never looked into his eyes and taken his measure in person. And yet when Congress gave him authorization to take military action against Iraq I knew he was going to invade and Hillary Clinton, who had much more access to insider info than I, says she thought he was going to use that authorization only as a bargaining chip.

In the same way that I knew then that he was going to invade Iraq I know now that President Bush is going to bomb Iran unless someone stops him. It is obvious that the Democrats in Congress have no intention of stopping him. If you pay attention to what happens in other countries it is clear that if a large enough number of citizens take to the streets the government has to listen. Will you join me in the streets to stop the United States from bombing Iran?

Monday, September 03, 2007

A massive air strike against Iran has been planned

According to an article in the Times of London (this article is not likely to be withdrawn)

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.

Read the entire article

Remember that Congress has already authorized any action President Bush feels is necessary to protect our troops in Iraq and President Bush has already asserted numerous times, without objection from Congress, that Iran is providing weapons and support to our enemies in Iraq. Also remember that the top 3 Democratic candidates for President are on record as not ruling out military strikes against Iran. In fact, all three refused to rule out their support for the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.

Since President Bush has already asserted that the actions of Iran are threatening our troops in Iraq he need not give any more advance notice or justification than he already has before the bombing starts. Since a massive and sudden bombing campaign is being planned this raises the possibility that the 1200 sites in Iran will be bombed before the American public is officially informed that military action will be taken.

In other words, to stop this we would need to take action before there is conclusive proof that an attack is planned, likely or even possible.


I have deleted the last blog entry I posted yesterday because the blog entry on the Daily Kos that it referred to has been deleted. (Thanks for alerting me to that, Huck.) The Daily Kos article was deleted apparently because it had come under attack as being a fabrication and the author had no evidence to counter the charges. Now that it has been pointed out I guess I should realized that at most only a handful of the most senior navy officers on board a carrier would know if and how all the cruise missiles on board had been targeted and that, unlike the National Guard soldiers on the ground in Iraq, the majority of the career Navy people on board ships are probably not losing faith in Bush Administration.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

If you were gay it would be OK

Video of Avenue Q
telling Senator Craig that
if he were gay
it would be OK.

Avenue Q did not mention it but I think it should be added that whether you are gay or straight you should not be soliciting strangers in public bathrooms. That is not OK.