Continuing to assess the cost of the War

The is one of the ironically funny quotes I’ve seen regarding the real cost of the 5 Years War in Iraq, by former chief economist in the Bush administration, Larry Lindsey, in his recently-released book, What a President Should Know … but Most Learn Too Late:

There is a widely held but utterly false belief that wars are good for the economy. Taking resources that could be used to build homes, manufacture appliances, or invent and develop new technologies and using them instead to make things that get blown up is not good for an economy. It can foster inflation and erode a nation’s capital base. (quoted from a money.cnn.com article, January 11 2008)

Perhaps the greatest tragedy in this never-ending war is the fact that our commitment has been so completely marginalized not only by the media, who are guilty only of pandering to the ethereal whims of a fickle and impatient American society, but the very government that initiated our involvement in the first place. Over the past week, news from the front has been nearly completely drowned out by doomsday predictions on the state of the US economy. Nancy Pelosi, once so committed to ending the war, seems content now to kowtow to the White House so long as she is given a spot next to the President as they mug for cameras in front of the huge tax rebate checks they’re dangling before the noses of American consumers. Why worry about the war, they seem to be asking, when you could be out spending all this money we’re going to send you that we really can’t afford to borrow anymore anyway…? Meanwhile, soldiers are still dying. Millions of dollars are still being used every day to grease the gears of the US war machine. The voracious borrowing of the Federal Government has wreaked such havoc on the domestic economy that 2 million American families are facing foreclosure of their homes over the next year. And still the war goes on and on. Every day the news is filled not with stories on our success (or failures) in Iraq, but with reports of how our economy may or may not implode at any time. The sacrifice of our troops is at risk of being forgotten. An almost equally disturbing effect of this media saturation on our economic woes is our inability to hold our leaders accountable for their actions — or otherwise their inaction relative to the promises they made to win our vote.

If inflation is rightly considered a “hidden tax,” then Republicans still in office have lied to us with their promises not to raise taxes. If promising to end the war was the engine that drove Democrats into power in ’06, then we should be clamoring for their immediate removal from office. They claimed to need six months. We’ve given them 18. And still the war goes on and on…

It’s never good when smart people say…

From an article at CNN.com today, titled “Scientists: Artificial life likely in 3 to 10 years”:

“It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it,” said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy… “We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways – in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

At some point, one has to wonder why it is that the scientific community asks all sorts of questions and seeks to discover all sorts of answers, but one incredibly important question is always neglected. Namely, “Is this really a good idea?” Have they all been sequestered in laboratories to such an extent their entire lives that they’ve never spent any time reading sci-fi novels (or at the very least watching the movie versions of the more popular ones)? Blade Runner? Terminator? Any of the Dune prequels detailing the Machine Crusade? Whenever a so-called scientific advancement is contemplated that could turn the natural world upside down, of which the ultimate gravity is flippantly declared “impossible to predict,” this should give us all cause to hold off a bit and really think about things a bit more before we cast the die that might result in the unfortunate end of mankind as we know it…

Yes, just like cloning and nuclear weapons before it, artificial life seems to be the next big idea to thrust mankind ever closer to the inevitable wrath of a returning God.  ‘Impossible to predict’ indeed…

bin Laden strikes again…er…almost strikes again…in Afghanistan

ABC news reported today the declaration of a top Taliban official that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the February attack at a military base in Bagram, Afghanistan during what was supposed to be a surprise visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The report mentioned several key inconsistencies in this claim when compared with other activities generally attributed to bin Laden.

A U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information’s sensitivity, said al-Qaida would likely have used more than a single explosion outside the base’s main gate if it were targeting Cheney.

In addition, the official said, it takes bin Laden significant time to communicate from where he is hiding. That wouldn’t offer him the flexibility to order an attack on Cheney, whose stop at Bagram was kept secret in advance of his arrival, the official said.

The U.S. military had said previously it was unclear whether the Taliban knew about Cheney’s visit or whether the timing of the attack was a coincidence.

What is apparent, however, is the eerie synchronicity of this report, reintroducing a terror-prone US public to the exploits of bin Laden, who for the most part had faded from American awareness for some time, and two other news events also reported yesterday. First, the USA Today report detailing prevailing US sentiment in favor of executing OBL should he be captured. The report did not address the overwhelming odds against that ever happening. Secondly, news outlets reported yesterday of John McCain’s official announcement that he will seek the Presidency in ’08. McCain, noted Iraq War hawk and recent proponent of bombing Iran (bomb Iran, bomb, bomb bomb…) surely will benefit from a resurgent al Qaeda, as his campaign from the outset has been defined by his inveterate support of the so-called “War On Terror.” Interestingly, the likelihood of his being elected President are only slightly worse than that of US intelligence officials capturing the elusive bin Laden.

His campaign on the ropes, McCain seeks to change his tune

Not wanting his campaign to be defined singularly by his inveterate support of the Iraq War, Senator John McCain has sought to expand his positions on a diverse slate of other topics, including climate change, American energy dependence, and the economy.

His efforts have recently been undermined by an embarrassing gaffe at a campaign stop last week in South Carolina, where McCain tastelessly joked about bombing the Islamic Republic of Iran in response to their alleged involvement in the incessant violence in neighboring Iraq. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, McCain later defended the statement:

“Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends,” he told reporters in Las Vegas. “My response is, ‘Lighten up and get a life.’”

Asked if his joke was insensitive, McCain said: “Insensitive to what? The Iranians?”

The original video of McCain’s controversial statements can be viewed here.

In light of these developments, the picture of McCain with Henry Kissinger published today in the Washington Post seems all the more disturbing. One can only wonder what topics of conversation dominated that meeting. Perhaps McCain sought advice from Mr. Kissinger on how to launch an Operation Condor-style campaign to unseat the democratically elected government of Iran should he be elected next year. Or perhaps McCain received an earful on how the US policy toward Israel should continue to dominate our foreign policy regardless of Republican or Democratic ascension in ’08. Whatever the case may be, if we as a people are truly interested in working toward a peaceful Middle East, John McCain is not the right man for the job…

FCC, Congress, television and the future of American freedom

Much has been said about today’s article in the Washington Post reporting on the forthcoming report from the FCC recommending Congress be granted unprecedented authority to regulate violence on television in the United States. Due out sometime in the next week, the report, the release of which was apparently hastened by public outcry following the Virginia Tech massacre, “concludes that Congress has the authority to regulate ‘excessive violence’ and to extend its reach for the first time into basic-cable TV channels that consumers pay to receive.”

This is precisely the sort of outcome I most feared upon hearing of last week’s tragic mass-killing. From its outset, the week-long deluge of media coverage was peppered with intimations of the need for stricter gun-control legislation and regulations on violence in various entertainment media including television and video games. Amid our collective shock and grief over the senseless murders, special interest groups immediately began to hijack the event and transform it into a vehicle to promote a whole host of cultural and societal reforms.

This phenomenon has been exacerbated by the unfortunate reality of the perpetual campaign to which our political system has devolved. Each candidate has used the event as a springboard to expound on their opinions and interpretations of the Constitution’s famous first and second amendments. The memories of the dead have become fodder for speechwriters and pundits, each vying for their share of the pop-media/political spotlight.

As Congress mulls over the ramifications of the FCC’s recommendations, we as concerned citizens must take this opportunity to throw off the shackles of the victim mentality that has slowly been cultivated among American culture for well over half a century. We have allowed special interests and government megalomaniacs to replace the sense of empowerment and  self-reliance once thought to be inherent in the democratic process with a sense of profound hopelessness and vulnerability that compels most to look reflexively for salvation at those who hold the reigns of power in our country whenever confronted with any sort of hardship or calamity. Rather than looking to our neighbors to support, many now look instead to the ever-present Federal Government who is ready and all-too-willing to buy favor (and future electoral support)  with a magnanimous dispersal from its vast coffers in times of tragedy.

We must not allow this sort of thinking to cloud our judgement when considering the relative benefit of bestowing on Congress the power to regulate what is shown on television. For, while for time being it is merely “violence in entertainment programming,” once the precedent is set to allow this sort of control, it will be all but impossible to stop the assumption by Congress of more expansive authority to censor broadcast television should it for any reason ever feel so obliged as to do likewise in the future.

McCain again proves he is own worst enemy on campaign trail

On the heels of John McCain’s ill-informed assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq, and the stunningly embarrassing photo-op “expose” he staged to back it up, the Arizona Senator is again making headlines this week with another humiliating wartime gaffe.

CNet’s News.com reported Friday:

The Arizona senator joked about attacking the sovereign nation during a campaign stop in South Carolina this week, singing, to the tune of the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann“: “That old, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway.”

The YouTube video, although initially yanked by the site after being flagged as inappropriate by several users (McCain campaign advisers, perhaps?), the video is now back online at YouTube.

Is this really the sort of man we want running the country following what will have been eight years of the most disastrous presidency in the history of the United States, one who can so casually joke about bombing a sovereign nation? Should the widespread death of innocent civilians ever be so casually made a laughing matter by a man who is asking the American people to put him in charge of our country’s foreign policy?  If McCain is elected,  we shall surely reap what we sow…

Corruption Crusader Wolfowitz mired in scandal of his own

It is the perfectly ironic tale of turnabout in the relentlessly dramatic world of American politics.

Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and current World Bank president, has for the past two years used his high-profile post to wage war against corrupt regimes throughout the third world lined up to receive the benevolence of his organization.

Now it seems that Wolfowitz owes both his title and domestic tranquility to some corrupt dealings of his own. As reported in the USA Today:

Two years ago, Wolfowitz, former U.S. deputy Defense secretary, became president of the World Bank. His significant other, Shaha Riza, was a senior official there. To comply with the bank’s strict nepotism rules, he had her transferred to a temporary job at the State Department.

This, of course, made Riza an innocent victim – not an uncommon occurrence where such rules are too rigid. But then Wolfowitz overcompensated. He ensured that she would be guaranteed promotions, automatic evaluations of “outstanding” and raises worth more than $200,000 over five years, way more than if she had stayed at the bank.

“I made a mistake, for which I am sorry,” Wolfowitz now says, adding that “in the larger scheme of things, we have much more important work to focus on.”

Yes, important work, indeed. Like explaining how it is that someone with dual citizenship in both the United States and Israel should be so instrumental in American foreign policy, as a member of both State and Defense departments, and how the decisions of those two departments almost invariably tend to favor Israel, even when such an alliance forces our silence as Israel kills hundreds of civilians in an invasion of Lebanon, and as it draws us ever nearer to an armed showdown with Iran. Or why someone who eagerly sought and was granted immunity from service in the Vietnam War could maintain any credibility as one of the preeminent hawks in the Bush administration’s manufacturing of the Iraq War.

At any rate, as pressure continues to mount on Mr. Wolfowitz to resign, one can only hope that this latest exposure of such an incorrigible double-dealing opportunist will be his last, and the former Quill and Dagger member will be forever removed from positions from which he can continue to wreak havoc on the sovereignty of the United States. Perhaps he could be assigned a position at the US embassy in Iraq… now that would be ironic!


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