Friday, February 03, 2006

Five on Friday

Another cool meme, this one asks 5 thought-provoking questions each week. Here’s this weeks postings:

Growing Up

1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A Rabbi

2. Did you follow through? If not, what happened?

No, I went to Israel and had a run in with an Israeli terrorist named Meir Kahane, and it forced me to question my career goals, and ultimately abandon them.

3. Is your life turning out the way you thought it would when you were a kid? If not, is it better or worse?

Well, certainly being a rabbi would be a very different life focused more on the religious aspects of life. At present, I’m not that religious at all, though I am spiritual and moral. But my life isn’t better or worse, it’s just different. This life has allowed me a lot of different options and experiences that the religious life would not have allowed me. So I wouldn’t change back to my original plan. But I don’t judge either life either, no regrets.

4. Paradoxes aside, if you could time-travel back to when you were 10 years old, what would you tell your 10-year-old self?

To be more confident doing the things I wanted to do and meeting the people I wanted to meet. It took me a while to realize that I wanted out of life the same things that everyone wanted out of life, and that I could be confident wanting them. I think I would have taken more risks if I had known that.

5. Do you think the child you were, would like the adult you've become?

Yeah, I think the child I was would really like the adult I’ve become quite a bit. I would not have guessed I would be this person, but I would like him.


Posted by Scottage at 1:44 AM / | |  

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Top 5 on Friday

Time for the Top 5 on Friday. And today’s topic? The envelope please: Top 5 "Super" songs...As always interpret this as you see fit. Go ahead be creative! So let’s see what we can come up with, shall we?

1. Superman – The Kinks – One of my favorite Kinks songs, this tasty track is often ignored, but I’m a big fan.
2. Superwoman – Stevie Wonder – Yeah, Gladys Knight did a great version of the song, but the Stevie Wonder version rules
3. Superstars – Styx – Many of my friends think I’m foolish, but I’m a Styx fan. The Grand Illusion album has a great first side, with Come Sail Away, Fooling Yourself, and the title track. But also on that side is Superstars, a true hidden gem.
4. Superfreak – Rick James – I’m super freakin’ out!
5. Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication – Parliament Funkadelic – This is one of George Clinton’s earlier tunes, and a great one. Highly recommended.

Honorable mention: For a band, Supertramp, for an album, Supernatural by Santana


Posted by Scottage at 11:39 PM / | |  

Adding Insult to Injury: Tornados Hit New Orleans

Two tornados swept through New Orleans this morning, one ripping through New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport, two more destroying sections of various New Orleans neighborhoods that had already been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

"Don't ever ask the question, 'What else could happen?'" said Marcia Paul Leone, a mortgage banker who was surveying the new damage outside her Katrina-flooded home. She would go no farther than the front porch of her house Thursday morning. Windows were blown out, and the building appeared to be leaning.

"I've been in the mortgage business for 20 years. I know when something's unsafe," she said.

At the airport, the storm ripped off part of a concourse roof, slammed one jet way into another, and flipped a bunch of the motorized runway luggage carts. An exhaust vent from one roof blew through a concourse window, and a metal ladder was wrapped around a light pole.

But while the damage to the airport is just another expense for a city already hurting from the expenses of a major disaster, the damage to people’s homes, and their state of mind, was the most devastating.

"I cannot believe this. We were hit twice. It's not bad enough we got 11 feet of water," said Maria Kay Chetta, a city grants manager. While her own home was not badly damaged, one across the street lost its roof and another had heavy damage to its front.

Your hearts just have to go out to these people, who have been through so much, and now get hit again. Let’s hope tomorrow is a brighter day for the people of New Orleans.


Posted by Scottage at 11:16 PM / | |  

Mohammad Cartoon Challenges Freedom of the Press

Last September, in Denmark, multiple cartoons of Muhammad were printed by a paper in Denmark. Soon, the Arab world was protesting, going so far as to prompt diplomatic sanctions and death threats to the paper. To show solidarity, many papers from France, Germany, Spain, Norway and Denmark reprinted the cartoons.

Last night, the managing editor of France Soir was fired for his republication of the cartoon, while the paper’s owner, Raymond Lakah, said “We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all the people who were shocked by the publication. The Danish paper apologized on Tuesday for the cartoons, marking two times where supposedly free journalistic publications have pulled back from a valid story. A Jordanian paper reprinted the cartoons, amidst serious heat from Muslim groups around the region.

Other papers stood by their publication, as they should. On Monday, Islamic Jihad attacked the EU compound and closed it as a protest against the cartoons. And death threats have been issued for any Dane, Norwegian, and French person living in Muslim lands. Militants say that they expect an apology within 48 hours, or people will start dying. The Muslim world has implemented a boycott of Danish goods, and is considering the same for the countries who republished the cartoon.

The US has urged media outlets not to republish the cartoons. And I guess I can understand Bush’s thinking that he doesn’t want to risk the lives of Americans or the markets for American goods. But we’re back to the same issue as before, our freedoms, including the freedom of the press. How can we say we’re fighting for freedom when we don’t exercise it here?

It’s disgraceful that people around the EU have shown solidarity with the French paper who first printed these, but the US hasn’t. If you think that our lack of participation had nothing to do with media outlets around the EU caving, then you underestimate the power of the US in situations like this. What is the true nature of our society when we say we are pushing freedom around the world but won’t stand behind freedom when it’s shown by our allies?


Posted by Scottage at 12:02 PM / | |  

The Basic Tenants of Freedom

Think about the basic freedoms which supposedly make our country great: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. The right to peaceably assemble, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, and the right to privacy are all guaranteed in our constitution.

The right to a fair and speedy trial, freedom from false arrest and the freedom from a trial for an infamous crime without indictment by grand jury, and the right to a trial by jury and the right to face your accuser are all pillars of the freedom we hold so dear. Freedom from double jeopardy and freedom from excessive bails as well as cruel and unusual punishment are ensured by our constitution.

The right to bear arms has come under question over the past 50 years, as people question whether this is a freedom that serves or prohibits democracy, but it remains part of our constitution. And finally the rights of all citizens to be protected by these rights and freedoms are ensured by the constitution.

Now let’s think about which of these rights Bush has violated so far. We’ve read recently about his violation of the freedom of speech, for Cindy Sheehan and others who disagree with Bush’s perspectives. Those same people have lost the right to peaceably assemble, in Texas near the ranch of George Bush, when they were arrested for their peaceful demonstration.

More and more we have seen the media being influenced by the Bush administration, especially regarding stories on Iraq and Hamas. Freedom from unlawful search and seizure and the right to privacy have been thrown out by the Patriot Act, which is about security but is not about patriotism, not about adherence to the ideals that this country is founded upon.

Certainly I consider Saddam Hussein to be a tyrant, and I’m glad that he’s not in power any more. But would his actions not be exactly the infamous crime the constitution speaks of? But there has been no indictment from a grand jury, and whether his is really being given a fair trial is certainly a question mark. The jury is not a jury of his peers, or it would be representative of the various racial groups which are part of the citizenry of Iraq, and representative of fair proportions; that isn’t the case, as the US selected a favorable jury.

The Bush administration has circumvented many of these rights by calling this an Iraqi trial, but we are in control of every aspect of the proceeding. This also has allowed Bush to provide Hussein with a trial where he does not face his accuser, who is basically Bush himself.

And finally, issues such as the rights of homosexuals to marry and share spousal rights between their partners is, in my opinion, a violation of the right for every person to be protected by these freedoms.

Bush said in the State of the Union last night that the world is becoming a better place because we are spreading freedom to the four corners of the globe. But it appears to me that Bush has abandoned freedom, or at least the main pillars of freedom that we, as a people, have always believed in and respected. He may be spreading democracy, but he is squashing freedom in the last true vestige of freedom, the United States. With his record, I question his right to stand in front of that flag!


Posted by Scottage at 1:37 AM / | |  

Thursday Challenge

A photo meme which runs every Thursday. The current theme is "GROUP"
(Pile, Stack, Collection, Heap, Arrangement, Bunch, People, Crowd, Team, Band, Flock, Herd, Swarm, School, Pair,...)

This picture is from the Israel Independence Day celebration in Boston in 2002. I helped organize the event, and we were fortunate to get nearly 10,000 people for the event, as well as nearly 500 protestors. These are 2 of the 1500 photos I took that day. I hope you enjoy them.


Posted by Scottage at 12:50 AM / | |  

In Cindy Sheehan’s Own Words

As another chapter to the incarceration of Cindy Sheehan story, she released a statement today detailing her treatment at the State of the Union last night, and her frustration at a government that first took away her son in an unjustified war and then took away her voice in a country that’s supposed to stand for liberty. Listen to her words, and understand the depth or our country’s betrayal of this woman:

I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.

What did Casey die for? What did the 2,244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shirt that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

And this is Sheehan’s description of the event itself:

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled, "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like, "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.

The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said, "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting."

I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."

Below you will see the shirt that got Cindy Sheehan in trouble. It says “2,245 Dead, How Many More?” and allows for the wearer to change the number to represent recent death counts. The shirt will be out of date by tomorrow if she forgets to change the number. Is this a horrible shirt to wear? I would have to say I’m not sure I would feel any differently if it were my son (if I had one). And no matter what, she has the right to express her opinion; that’s what a free nation is all about.

Sheehan may have offended tradition, but she did not break the law. There is a custom that the annual address is supposed to be dignified, and dignified attire is expected. But on the back of every gallery pass are rules including not reading, writing, smoking, eating, drinking, applauding, or taking photographs, as wel as what individuals can and cannot bring to the event. There is no mention of attire.

The police have dropped the charges against Cindy Sheehan, and apologized both for her rough treatment and for her incarceration. But last night, when millions of people watched, she had a chance to make a statement, and that chance was stolen from her by an administration that does not believe in free speech. I’m sorry, but she has earned better with her sacrifice, and she deserves better. Let’s hope Bush finds a better way to treat her in the future.


Posted by Scottage at 12:28 AM / | |  

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Florida Representatives Wife Ejected from State of Union

So evidently it wasn’t only Cindy Sheehan who was ejected from the State of the Union. Beverly Young, wife of Republican representative Bill Young, was ejected last night for wearing a T-shirt saying “Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom.”

It’s hard to say why this T-shirt would be found objectionable by the Bush administration (regime?), but they did find it objectionable, and booted the representative’s wife out of the room. I don’t know, maybe they thought the shirt was in favor of the troops and not the war? To me, this shirt seems to be pro-Bush and pro-Iraq, so it makes no sense to me. He should have loved the shirt. And Beverly Young should have been an ally, being husband to a republican representative, another patriot faithfully serving the United States.

What is going on here? At what point did we revoke citizens’ freedom of speech? How can Bush go up on that podium and say that life is better because the US is spreading freedom throughout the world, and then not ensure those freedoms here, in our own homeland. Instead, Bush feels justifying in censoring his political opponents (or who he perceives to be an opponent), and that is against the tenants of freedom, and frankly un-American.

There is a brilliant passage in the movie “The American President” that really pertains here. Look at this speech by the president, Michael Douglas, in the film, and ask yourself if our President Bush is living up to this standard which really exemplifies the spirit of the Bill of Rights:

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the 'land of the free'? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the 'land of the free.'"


Posted by Scottage at 11:29 AM / | |  

Wednesday Mind Hump

This meme is a pretty good way to get over the Hump Day Blues. Without further ado:

Choose either one or the other:

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate/Vanilla swirl
Hot or cold? Hot
A bunch of short weekend trips, or one long vacation? Short weekend trips.
Almond Joy or Mounds? Neither! I don’t really do candy any more….but chocolate crème pie is another story!
Country or Rock And Roll? Rock & Roll (country sux)
Cosbys or Bradys? Partridges, they were way cooler!
Brand new car or brand new house? Brand new car
Inside or outside? Inside
Pepsi or Coke? Crystal Lite Raspberry Ice Iced Tea


Posted by Scottage at 9:26 AM / | |  

More on the Sheehan Arrest

As a follow-up to the last post, I found this poem by Casey Sheehan's younger sister, Carly, on DesertPeace's blog, and was totally moved. You should check out his post on this incident, it's really well done. And take a moment to think of what Wendy Sheehan has sacrificed for your freedom and my freedom, and then determine for yourself whether it's right to continue arresting her for speaking her convictions.

~ A Nation Rocked To Sleep/For Casey
By Carly Sheehan (Casey Sheehan's younger sister)

Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done.
They call him a hero, you should be glad he's one, but,
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?

Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
They say he must be brave because his boy died for another mans lies.
The only thing he allows himself are long, deep sighs.
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?

Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
They say he died so the flag will continue to wave,
But I believe he died because they had oil to save.
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?

Have you ever heard the sound of a Nation Rocked to Sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep,
But if we the people let them continue, another mother will weep.
Have you ever heard the sound of a Nation Rocked to Sleep?

~ A Nation Rocked To Sleep/For Casey
By Carly Sheehan
Copyrighted 2004


Posted by Scottage at 9:15 AM / | |  

Cindy Sheehan Arrested at State of the Union

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq, was invited to the State of the Union by Representative Lynn Woolsley, Democrat from California. Sheehan was arrested in September with 300 other anti-war activities camped out in front of the White House. She also protested in front of Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. "I'm proud that Cindy's my guest tonight," Woolsey said in an interview before the speech. "She has made a difference in the debate to bring our troops home from Iraq."

But when Sheehan removed her jacket, she was wearing an anti-war t-shirt. Police warned her that anti-war displays were not allowed in the room, and when she did not respond, she was cuffed and arrested. She was originally charged with demonstrating in the capitol building, but the charge has been changed to unlawful conduct.

Excuse me, President Bush, but I do believe that in this country we still have the right to free speech. And if we didn’t have those rights, shouldn’t a woman like Sheehan have earned the right to have her voice heard after her son paid the ultimate price while serving our country and protecting our freedoms? Arresting a woman like Sheehan is an abomination, and the administration should be embarrassed for doing it on the night of the State of the Union.


Posted by Scottage at 1:32 AM / | |  

New Missile Developed by Russia

Russia has developed a new missile with long range capability, the ability to avoid missile defense systems, and the ability to carry a nuclear warhead, says Vladimir Putin. "Russia ... has tested missile systems that no one in the world has. These missile systems don't represent a response to a missile defense system, but they are immune to that. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path."

I honestly don’t have any problem with Russia having such a missile, in theory. The cold war is over, and Russia has proved to be a good diplomatic partner on the world stage. I suspect Russia regrets having lost their status as a superpower, and the revitalization of their missile program would go a long way towards bolstering their international image.

My fears come from their close ties with Iran and Syria. How long will it be before one of these countries are looking to purchase the missile? And do any of the more radical factions in Russia have the ability to get a hold of the missile to sell it to one of these countries? In a country where the mafia and black market is very strong, I do fear that this missile could wind up in the wrong hands. But I guess by now Russia has earned my trust, and I’ll have to believe in them.


Posted by Scottage at 1:20 AM / | |  

Bush’s State of the Union

Bush delivered his State of the Union tonight, and while I must admit to coming in very skeptical, I must applaud a couple of the things he said.

First off, there is no question that I am impressed with Bush’s push for alternative fuel sources. I would not have expected an oil baron like Bush to push for alternatives to oil, but he came out tonight and was frank in saying the US is addicted to oil. He was correct in citing the dangers of being so dependant on a fuel source that comes predominantly from countries with unstable and unfriendly governments. And his Advanced Energy Initiative sounds like an excellent program to start pushing America away from its dependence on the OPEC nations.

Also, I can’t help but be hopeful about Bush’s federal education initiative. There were no specifics mentioned, but the goals of helping to educate the minds that will later go on to search for new energy sources, nanotechnology, and supercomputing are certainly goals I can get behind. However, I was worried by his pointing to the success of the No Child Left Behind program, which I spoke about in an earlier post. The program has not been fully funded, and the results of the program have been questionable, as students seem to be learning how to take these tests as opposed to learning the subject matter.

But at the very least, there were these initiatives which I could stand behind, and support the president on. Unfortunately, I do not agree with his views on foreign policy.

Bush spoke of not being an isolationist country, and in playing an active role in world issues to protect our country, which I believe is true. But we also have to be smart about what situations we engage in and the manner in which we engage in these foreign conflicts. There is simply no sense to the statement that we can’t leave Iraq because terrorists will use it as a safe haven. Terrorists already have Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria as safe havens, the inclusion of another country as a potential safe haven will not make a serious difference in the war on terror.

In his section on Iran, Bush said that when Iran democratically elects a government, the US would hope to be a close friend and ally to Iran. Guess what, President Bush, they just had a democratic presidential election, and elected a radical fundamentalist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as their president. This was a democratic election, for the most part. The Iranian people do not allow women to vote, which could radically change the outcome of the election. But I read a number of reports on the election, and UN inspectors said that intimidation and unfair accounting were not aspects of Ahmadinejad’s win.

What President Bush does not know about the region is that most countries, if voting democratically, would vote for anti-Western governments. The election of Hamas is not random, nor is the election of Ahmadinejad. When you say that freedom is unquestionably raising the standard of life for people around the world, realize, President Bush, they legitimately question the value of freedom in their society. And so far, when the United States has forced a particular government upon any particular country, especially in the Middle East, those governments have come back to haunt us later.

While you characterize the US as spreading freedom throughout the world, other countries see this as imperialism by the United States. And don’t get me wrong, I think there are some aspects of the conflict we need to be engaged in. We need to be engaged in Iran, to prevent the enrichment of Uranium and the creation of an Iranian bomb. We need to be in Afghanistan, hunting Osama Bin Laden and the power structure of Al Qaeda. But we also need to question what good we are doing in Iraq, and how imposing our will on Hamas will help the situation in Israel. Because only by an intelligent approach to these conflicts can the US regain the feeling of security we’ve apparently lost over the past 5 years.


Posted by Scottage at 12:38 AM / | |  

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

We Love Ya’, Rock

“Yeah, I love you’s too” bellows Rocky into the ring announcer’s microphone, half to the fan who had called out to him, and half to the city of Philadelphia, who had rallied behind Rocky as he prepared for the rematch with Apollo Creed just as the city has rallied behind Stallone after Rocky to make the sequel, Rocky II.

Rocky became Philadelphia’s favorite son because he represented so much of what Philadelphians value. He was all about endurance, courage, and a never say die attitude that was symbolized in Mickey’s immortal words, “I ain’t heard no bell yet.” It brings back memories of those Philadelphia heroes: Bill Bergey wiping the blood from his nose on a Cowboy’s uniform after being pummeled all day, Bobby Clarke with two front teeth missing moving through two Bruins skaters giving him the Malachi crunch to score the goal that would win game 6, Mo Cheeks driving the lane and getting close lined by Kareem Abdul Jabbar but still hitting the shot to cap off the comeback in game 4.

And Rocky represents the fighters from Philadelphia, the people who just would never say day: Joe Frazier, Philly’s favorite son, Michael Jack Schmidt who may be tough to be around but wanted to win more than any Philadelphian and let nothing stand in his way, Dave Schultz, who turned the expansion Philadelphia Flyers into the Broad Street Bullies. These are the traits that Philadelphians have come to respect and to worship. And Rocky Balboa represented all these values.

Sure, Rocky may have become over commercial in Rocky IV, fighting the Russian. But he was back in Rocky V, back on the streets of Philadelphia, back where he had started from getting screwed over by the man but not letting it get him down, fighting for his respect and his pride. How many people identified with the Rock when Tommy Gun and the Don King wannabe came to call out Balboa? How many other Philadelphians have banged their heads against walls so many times, trying to get a fair shake, only to have the people who are screwing you come back to tell you to stop trying. But Philadelphians don’t give up, that’s a huge part of our pride.

I’m continually amazed that many of the people I’ve watched Rocky with, people not from Philly, don’t realize that he lost the fight in the first movie. But that is a huge part of the appeal. He didn’t win the fight, but he never went down, he never gave up. And I loved him for it, and so did most of my Philly friends. It’s no accident that a statue of Rocky, a statue of a fictional movie character, stood outside the Philadelphia spectrum, where the Flyers and Sixers played, for so many years. It stood for the values we respect in our athletes, in our heroes, and in our citizens.

Stallone is at it again, filming Rocky VI in Philadelphia now, at the age of 60. Evidently, he is asked to do a seniors fight, but somehow I suspect the fight is a small part of this film. And while some people will say it’s ridiculous for Rocky to come back to the screen, and ask how many times we’ll see a sequel for this movie, I won’t be one of those people. I will watch the film, and I will cheer for the rock, because he still ain’t heard that bell.


Posted by Scottage at 12:22 PM / | |  

Al Qaeda #2 Releases New Tape

Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a new tape calling George Bush a loser, and the “butcher of Washington”. The tape was meant as a condemnation to Bush for his air strike in Pakistan in the village of Damadola, which was targeting al-Zawahiri but killed 4 al Qaeda leaders and 13 other villagers.

“US airplanes ... launched a raid on a village in near Peshawar after Eid al-Adha in which 18 Muslim men, women and children were killed in what they call the war against terror," al-Zawahiri said. "They said this was intended to kill myself and four brothers but now the whole world has discovered their lies ...".

Very interesting is what is missing from American reports, but what is included on al-Jazeera. Similar to the message from Bin Laden last week, al-Zawahiri sends a message to the American people, warning them us that we are paying for the deceits of our leader, George Bush.

My second message is to the American people, who are drowning in illusions. I tell you that Bush and his gang are shedding your blood and wasting your money in frustrated adventures," he said, speaking in a forceful and angry voice.

Al-Zawahiri added: "The lion of Islam, Shaikh Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, offered you a decent exit from your dilemma. But your leaders, who are keen to accumulate wealth, insist on throwing you in battles and killing your souls in Iraq and Afghanistan and - God willing - on your own land."

Later in the tape:

“Your leaders responded to the initiative of sheik Osama, may God protect him, by saying they don't negotiate with terrorists and that they are winning the war on terror. I tell them: You liars, greedy war mongers, who is pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan? Us or you? Whose soldiers are committing suicide because of despair? Us or you?"

"You, American mother, if the Pentagon calls to tell you that your son is coming home in a coffin, then remember George Bush. And you, British wife, if the Defence Department calls you to say that your husband is returning crippled and burnt, remember Tony Blair."

He also offers a second olive branch to George Bush, albeit a ridiculous one. He indicates that Al Qaeda will forgive all of Bush’s sins and leave the US in peace if Bush converts to Islam. Of course Bush would never do it, but would it be worth it to save all the lives that will be taken by the next attack? The next 5 attacks? 10 attacks? Believe me, we have not seen the end of terror in this country.

I know I’m going to hear about it from TS, and maybe he’s right. I mean, there is no way you can trust criminals like the members of Al Qaeda. But they are not the first government to accuse the Bush administration of crimes against their people, and I rarely believe that events happen randomly; there are reasons for the events that befall our country. While there’s no excuse for terrorism, we need to examine the mistakes we may have made to lead to this present state of affairs so as not to repeat those mistakes in the future.


Posted by Scottage at 1:53 AM / | |  

Take Me Back Tuesday

OK, this was a tough meme for me, since I never watch the Grammies. So I went to one of those Grammy web sites, which listed winners from each year. I picked a bunch of different years, and in every year there was music in my play list. So I just picked some favorites. Hope you like them.

Name three Grammy winning artists that are on your play lists.

1. Eric Clapton
2. Aretha Franklin
3. Bruce Springsteen

Name three Grammy winning songs that are on your play lists.

1. Lean on Me – Bill Withers
2. Just The Way You Are – Billy Joel
3. Heaven – Los Lonely Boys

Name three Grammy winning albums that are included on your play lists

1. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder
2. Graceland – Paul Simon
3. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac


Posted by Scottage at 12:52 AM / | |  

Monday, January 30, 2006

Big-6 Debate Iran

Foreign ministers from the Big-6 are back in discussions today about how to deal with the quickly growing Iran threat. There are a few options on the table, and a real sense that the stakes have never been higher, as rumors emerge that Iran is far closer to having enriched Uranium than anyone had previously thought. These are the options being debated, and their present status:

1) Referring Iran to the UN Security Council:
The EU-3 and United States support referring Iran to the Security Council for economic sanctions. Russia and China do not support this move, as they believe there is still hope for the negotiations mentioned below. Both China and Russia fear sanctions on Iran will strain economic ties and world oil supplies, as both China and Russia trade actively with Iran. Additionally, there are serious questions as to what effect, if any, sanctions would have on Iran, considering they moved all their funds out of European banks last week. The Security Council may not have any teeth in this situation.

2) Negotiating the sale of processed Uranium from Russia:
The concept is good; allow Russia to enrich the Uranium to the appropriate configuration for energy production. This configuration (and I hope I’m using the right word here, science is not my forte) is not appropriate for nuclear weapons, so it is a method of regulating what Uranium Iran is in possession of, and what they can accomplish with their nuclear program.

This solution would provide for Iran’s energy need, which they state is their whole reason for a nuclear program. And it will not allow creation of a bomb. The problem is that Iran does not want to accept this option. They say it’s because they would not get enough Uranium to supply all of their energy needs, but that is clearly not the case, as Russia can enrich a limitless amount of Uranium for Iran.

Further, if this deal were accepted there have been indications that world powers would supply additional Uranium to Russia for enrichment for Iran, so Iran’s power supplies can be met. In reality, Iran doesn’t want this plan because it prevents them from enriching weapons-grade Uranium, and they want the talks because it allows them to continue enriching Uranium while the world does nothing.

3) Americans hold direct talks with Iran:
Many experts in all 6 countries are asking for the US to enter negotiations with Iran, and to talk them out of pursuing their nuclear program. But do we really think that plan will succeed? In the Iranian eyes, perhaps in reality, the US is weaker now than they have been at any time in the past hundred years. We are, to some extent, dependant on Iranian oil, which represents 25% of world oil production. And with our deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is doubtful that we could engage in a war with Iran. What’s worse, Iran knows it, and this knowledge will taint any negotiations that could occur between the United States and Iran.

The option that won’t be discussed is the military option, the potential to bomb Iranian nuclear sites and eliminate the issue. Perhaps it’s too terrible to talk about right now, perhaps there is too much fear of Iranian retribution, including reducing oil exports to the rest of the world. But that option will not be discussed yet.

This meeting is an important precursor to a meeting later this week between the leaders of all 6 countries; lets hope that somehow these meetings lead to a productive response to the largest threat on the planet today.


Posted by Scottage at 12:14 PM / | |  

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Random 10

A banner weekend of music, I must say! These are 10 songs that wound up playing on my computer this weekend, which made up a very good weekend of music while studying for the GMATs.

1. Dreams (Live) – Black Crows {Cool cover version of the Allman Brothers tune}
2. Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley – Robert Palmer
3. You Don’t Mess Around With Jim – Jim Croce
4. Late In The Evening (Live) – Paul Simon
5. Little Wing (Live) – Eric Clapton & Sheryl Crowe
6. Rat Race – Bob Marley and the Wailers
7. Kashmir (Live) – The Dixie Dregs
8. 5446 That’s My Number/Ball and Chain – Sublime
9. Who Got the Hooch – Everlast
10. Pigs on the Wing (Live) – Pink Floyd (Great 27 minute version from 1977)


Posted by Scottage at 11:31 PM / | |  

Gotta Love Football Fans

OK, I must tell you, I’m a huge football fan, an Eagles fan, die hard. I bleed green, live and die by the Eagles year after year, and am glued to the TV every Sunday for 4+ months every year. I have heroes by the name of Donovan, Reggie, Bergey, and Muddy. I am an Eagles fan, and a football fan, and my love for the team knows no bounds.

As such, I have a deep admiration for any football fans who are devoted as me (as long as they don’t live in Dallas). Thus, this story really appealed to me:

WASHINGTON, Pennsylvania - Just to make sure there's no confusion about which team they are supporting in the Super Bowl XL, the mayor and council voted unanimously to change this city's name.

Welcome to Steeler, Pennsylvania.

The name change for the city of about 15,000 people south of Pittsburgh will last through Feb. 5, the day of the football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks in Detroit.

Devoted football, fans, you really have to love them. So hats off to Steeler, PA, and good luck next Sunday!


Posted by Scottage at 11:18 PM / | |  

A Time for Peace

Ever want to slap George Bush in the forehead? {to those government censors out their surveying content for terrorism, no, this is not a death threat on George Bush, rather an indication of my frustration with the situation} Sometimes, President Bush, you need to keep your mouth shut and let events unfold naturally. Will speaking out against Hamas now do anything to change the status of the Palestinian government? Not at all. I see no benefit from the United States saying that we reject any peace talks that would include Hamas. But that rhetoric can serve to undermine future peace initiatives and push the Palestinians closer to radical governments.

If Bush would get his head out of his butt for a couple seconds, he might realize that there is a greater potential for peace in Israel than at any time since Israel’s creation. A number of factors make peace actually possible now, you might even say that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis may be a probability, rather than a mere possibility, for the first time in history. But it won’t happen on its own. Any sort of peace will require the same courage, ingenuity, and out-of-the-box thinking that was necessary to make Israel a reality in the first place. And given the state of the world today, it will also require the support of countries around the world, especially the US.

Let’s take a look at what makes a peace agreement more achievable now then ever before:

The absence of Yasser Arafat from the peace process:
Israel has always seen Arafat as a terrorist and a mortal enemy. But they were still willing to negotiate with him, begrudgingly, because he was the clear representative of the Palestinian people. But multiple incidents of deceit and duplicity inside and outside of the peace process made real negotiation with Arafat impossible. He used terrorism both to raise the international identity of the Palestinian plight and to push any particular Palestinian agenda that was relevant at that time. International monies donated to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people were either taken by Arafat or used for bankroll terror, while Israel descended into worse and worse violence.

The absence of Ariel Sharon from the peace process:
Palestine has known no worse enemy than Ariel Sharon. Yes, part of it has been his military strategies, which have foiled more than a few Palestinian initiatives towards the destruction of Israel. But it has more to do with Sharon’s brutal methods of retaliation towards the Palestinian people. This is most evident in the Sabra and Shatila incident in Lebanon in 1982, resulting in the death of 800-1000 Palestinian women and children. But Sharon’s brutal methods were also evident in the regular closures of the territories, the destruction of houses, the building of the fence, and the targeted assassinations that were all symbols of Arik Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister.

Softening of the views of some of Israel’s neighbors:
Jordan and Egypt already have standing peace agreements with Israel, and recent Israel/Palestine peace proposals put forth by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria have all included recognition of the State of Israel. Israel’s withdrawal from Jordan has significantly improved Israel’s relations with the country. In fact, before his assassination Hariri had negotiated with Israel, and there was talk that peace between those two countries may have been on the horizon. Even Palestine in the past two years has put forth peace proposals that include de facto recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a huge step towards improved relations on that front.

The change in generation in the modern Palestinian:
The most recent generation of Palestinians do not remember a day in which Jerusalem was a Palestinian city. Nor can the modern Palestinian remember a day in which they lived free of the yoke of Israeli oppression. I can’t speak for the leaders of any movements in Palestine, but most of the Palestinians I have met, talked to, spent time with, they don’t really dream of a return to Jerusalem so much as they dream of having the right to control their own destiny. Palestinians want, and frankly deserve, to live free of the fear and tyranny imposed by the Israelis on a daily basis. They dream of having their own country, their own government, their own economy, and their own life. This is a dream that Israel can and must cater to.

The weakening economy in both Israel and Palestine:
In a region with minimal natural resources, the drawn-out war in Israel and Palestine has diminished tourism, the number one domestic product for each nation. Further, international investment in the region has been stunted by the fear of all-out war and the inability to consistently operate a business due to regular acts of terrorism and closures. But at a time when there is great prosperity in the world, both nations obviously yearn for an increase in the quality of life seen in the countries. It should be noted that many Palestinians have lived in Lebanon, specifically Beirut, before the civil war, and remember how the economy in Beirut flourished while the Muslims, Christians and Jews lived, worked and traded side-by-side.

A real desire by the Palestinian people to find a peaceful solution to the conflict:
Get realistic for a second. Mahmoud Abbas was elected to his office because he was seen as a god partner for peace in these negotiations. And with Abbas having been an ineffective negotiator with the Israelis, simply because he is too weak to push his agenda, the Palestinians have elected a stronger government to negotiate. Hamas was never even a realistic candidate for office until they indicated they would be work towards peace with Israel, and Hamas’ support rose with every declaration the party made indicating that they would negotiate a peace treaty.

The (moderate) success of the pullout from Gaza:
OK, it’s true that Gaza has descended into chaos lately, with a real sense of lawlessness in the territory as a variety of groups struggle for power. But Gaza’s coexistence with Israel since the pullout has not been so bad. There have been some rockets fired into Israel, but there are always rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. There have been a couple of successful terrorist attacks, but the number of terrorist attacks coming out of Gaza today is much less than 2 years ago. Which only goes to show that the terrorism which has haunted Israel is tied to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people, and when that occupation is withdrawn, even partially, the Palestinian people respond by curbing the violence.

The rise of a more moderate government in Israel:
Israel’s Kadima party was created with the idea that there is nothing more important than finding a peaceful solution with the Palestinians. So far, Olmert, who has taken Sharon’s place, has been willing to return more land to the Palestinians, a good start to resolving this conflict. And the party does appear to be looking for a somewhat fair resolution to the conflict, including compensation for the hardships the Palestinian people have been put through. Of course there is no real compensation for all that either side has been put through, but this party is willing to move forward towards a better future with Palestine.

The new rhetoric from Hamas:Over the past few months, Hamas has declared that it is changing its positions on many issues in Palestine and Israel. For example, they have eliminated the passage in their charter which calls for the destruction of Israel. They have indicated a priority to working with Israel to find a solution which provides some future for the Palestinian people. And their ties to other countries in the region, as well as their capability in the dispensing of violence and terror, make them a partner who Israel cannot walk over. Hamas is the only government that can negotiate a real future for the Palestinian people, even if the Palestinians recognized this before the rest of the world.

I’m sure many of these opinions are not popular, but I think they are realistic. They show clearly that Hamas could be, and probably will be, a real partner for peace with Israel. But first, the US needs to keep their nose out of the situation long enough for the new government of Palestine to form, and for this government to communicate with and get to know the government of Israel. Only then can the two governments find their common ground, determine where they can trust each other, and work together towards a potential peace agreement.


Posted by Scottage at 9:14 PM / | |  

Iran Threatens Mid-Ranged Missile Attacks if Nuclear Program Targeted

It wouldn’t be a day of the week if Iran wasn’t saying something inflammatory and really scary. Today, they started out the week with a smile, threatening to fire medium range missiles should their nuclear program be attacked by the West. Iran is believed to have missiles with a 1,200 mile range, which means Israel, US Bases in the Gulf, and of course US troops in Iraq, are within range.

This round of comments came from Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guard. The Revolutionary Guard is a military group that operates in parallel to the standard Iranian military, and is directly answerable to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenie. As Ahmadinejad has become more vocal, the world had not heard from Khamenie for some time, and there were questions about his support for Ahmadinejad’s rantings. This statement answers some of those questions.

Safavi also accused Britain and the US of arming rebels in Khuzestan, in the South of Iran, areas with Iran’s rich oil reserves. "Occupying forces in Iraq, particularly those in the south, provide Iranian agents with material for bombing," he said. "British and U.S. intelligence services should avoid interfering in our affairs." Bombs have become a way of life in Khuzestan, and another bomb went off there last Tuesday in a government building, killing eight people.

The situation just worsens and worsens there, and our government passes this off as rhetoric. Really, each of these statements are mini battles for the perception of the various people around the Middle East. Each time Iran makes these statements, the Islamic world sees that they are not afraid of the west, and Iran grows more powerful. Syria has fallen in behind Iraq already, and it appears that Lebanon is next. The situation becomes more perilous, and we must act, with more than just arms to insurgents. The tiem is now!


Posted by Scottage at 1:54 AM / | |  

US General says Troops in Iraq Cut by 20% over past 2 Months

General John Abizaid, Commander of the US Central Command, told a daily newspaper in Kuwait that the US had reduced its troop deployment in Iraq by 15-20% over the past two months. And he indicates that this is just the beginning, that increases in the Iraqi military and their ability to police their own area will allow the US to reduce troops in the tumultuous country.

"I would expect that they will continue to come down, but only based on the degree of stability that is achieved there. You won’t see a rapid withdrawal of American forces. You will see American forces starting to come down as Iraqi forces start to come up, but if there is a spike in the security situation that would send Iraq in a bad direction, we are also willing to put in additional forces. So, well judge it," he said.

This is a great start, but it’s only a start. We have 140,000 troops in Iraq today, and we’ve lost over 2,300 American soldiers to date. While I understand the reasoning behind a gradual withdrawal, we need to get out of the country as soon as possible, before our situation there gets worse, and so the rest of the region does not see us as spread out and weak. So my applause, President Bush, for the returning soldiers, but let’s keep the trend going.


Posted by Scottage at 1:24 AM / | |  

Unconscious Mutterings – The Sunday Meme

A cool Meme, basically type the first thing that comes to mind when you read their word.

  1. Long distance:: Runaround
  2. Meant to be:: Fate
  3. Here:: Where
  4. Endless:: Cycle of life
  5. Resentment:: Fate
  6. Insipid:: that I must be really stupid since I have no idea what it means
  7. Bunny:: Mom
  8. Slogan:: Where’s the Beef?
  9. Naked:: Woohooooo!
  10. Sarcasm:: Sarcasm? What sarcasm?


Posted by Scottage at 1:08 AM / | |