Friday, March 19, 2004

Loyalty and betrayal after school

I never got into fights much when I was a kid. This was probably a good thing since I was and still am thin as a rail. But one time when I was about 7 or 8 my friend Dickie was supposed to fight some kid after school and he asked me to come along. I didn’t know what the fight was about or who the other kid was, but I agreed to tag along to back up my friend. What resulted was one of my first lessons in loyalty and betrayal.

I happened to mention to another kid that day named Ronnie that there was going to be a fight after school and he agreed to come along as well. I don’t remember how many kids showed up in the end but it was something like a half dozen on each side. It was a rather bizarre experience. Sort of like being on a team in a sport where you don’t really know what the rules are or what you are supposed to do. When the actual fight started it was just Dickie and the other kid wrestling on the ground with everyone else just standing around shouting encouragements.

Before the fight actually got underway, however, I found out just how fickle my friend Ronnie’s loyalties turned out to be. As the other group of kids was walking up, Ronnie noticed that the group included a big black kid named Derrick who I’m guessing must have known a bit of judo or something. Derrick proceeded to demonstrate this skill by flipping several kids onto the ground, including me.

When Ronnie saw Derrick, he suddenly stopped and announced “They have Derrick on their side! I’m on their side!” Then he turned around and shoved me. I remember being surprised at first and then shoving him back. Afterwards he kind of slipped away to the back of the group and didn’t participate in any more fighting. Thus ended our brief friendship.

I’ve always wondered whether Ronnie went away ashamed of his actions that day. I kind of hope that he did and that he learned a valuable lesson himself. But I’ve seen that same kind of behavior over the years. People want to be on the winning side regardless of which side it is. It takes a certain amount of integrity to stick it out on the side that you know is destined to lose. This doesn’t mean that you should never change sides. It is also a mark of integrity to change sides if you determine that the side you are on is in the wrong. But that decision should be based on facts, evidence, logic and values, not on the desire to win.

Bush's Iraqi qWagmire

One year after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and the country is still in turmoil.
Most of Bush's promises about the war have turned out to be as reliable as his prescriptions for fixing the economy.
In fact, a new congressional study has documented more than 230 misleading statements , if not outright lies, told by Bush and his top advisors during the run-up to the invasion.

The cost of the war in both dollars and lives has far exceeded what the Bush administration said it would be.

"The invasion and occupation of Iraq, his administration predicted, would come at little financial cost and would materially improve the lives of Iraqis. Americans would be greeted as liberators, Bush officials predicted, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein would spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East.

Things have not worked out that way, for the most part. There is evidence that the economic lives of Iraqis are improving, thanks to an infusion of U.S. and foreign capital. But the administration badly underestimated the financial cost of the occupation and seriously overstated the ease of pacifying Iraq and the warmth of the reception Iraqis would give the U.S. invaders. And while peace and democracy may yet spread through the region, some early signs are that the U.S. action has had the opposite effect."

If anything, Iraq is a more dangerous place today than it was during Saddam's brutal regime. The AP today reports that suicide bombings in Iraq have claimed more than 660 lives. That is more than all the suicide bombing deaths in Israel since 2000. Suicide bombings used to be unheard of in Iraq, but ever since the invasion it has become common place.

There is not much nice that can be said about Saddam Hussein, but the main reason why western leaders before Bush were willing to tolerate him was because he was a secular counter to the religious fundamentalism that is spreading across the middle east.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

George Bush - Crooked Liar!!

OK, so that might be a bit provacative. But how else do you respond to this type of nonsense - "Bush Exaggerates Kerry's Position on Intelligence Budget ("

"President Bush, in his first major assault on Sen. John F. Kerry's legislative record, said this week that his Democratic opponent proposed a $1.5 billion cut in the intelligence budget, a proposal that would "gut the intelligence services," and one that had no co-sponsors because it was "deeply irresponsible."

In terms of accuracy, the parry by the president is about half right. Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting."

I think the Washington Post was being kind to use the term "exaggerates" rather than saying what it really was - a blatant lie. The $1.5 billion over five years ($300 million annually) that Kerry proposed cutting was the surplus amount left unspent that year in the intelligence budget. So all that Kerry was proposing to do was to give that unspent money back to the taxpayers - something that Republicans are typically in favor of. It would hardly have "gut the intelligence services," as Bush well knows.

But this blatant lie about Kerry trying to "gut the intelligence services" is currently being spread all across the country by our president as he attempts to divert attention from his own domestic and foreign policy failures.

But that kind of dirty pool campaigning, while despicable, is not even the worst thing that came out about the Bush administration this past week. There was also this story about how the Bush administration lied to members of its own party and threatened to fire the government's top expert on Medicare if he didn't keep quiet about how the administration's prescription drug plan would cost $100 billion more than what they were telling everybody it would cost.

"When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.
Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion."

The Bush folks knew they didn't have the votes to pass their version of the Medicare drug bill, so they simply lied about it. They LIED about it!

And they want John Kerry to apologize for what? Stating the obvious??