Monday, August 31, 2009

Waterboarding saved NO lives.

I have previously blogged about the morality and legality of waterboarding here, here, here, here, here, and here. There are other articles out there that deal with this, such as the illegality of threats of imminent death. But this post will be about the other argument I've heard: "It worked." Not true.

Even though Cheney has claimed that documents would vindicate his claim that his "enhanced interrogation techniques" [torture] saved "hundreds of thousands of lives," (a claim he later backtracked on, implicity denying that they saved a single life in reality) one of the FBI's best interrogaters has shown that, in reality, waterboarding doesn't work.

Here are some of the highlights of the article:

Former FBI Interrogator Ali Soufan testified on the use of torture before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee and stated that the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are "slow, ineffective, unreliable, and harmful to our efforts." Soufan was able to obtain valuable intel using techniques labeled the "informed interrogation approach", which are consistent with the Army Field Manual. His testimony is fascinating.

Soufin was the agent who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah, the man now famous for being waterboarded 83 times. Zubaydah had been badly wounded in the struggle to capture him and was almost immediately taken to a hospital. It was there that Soufin began his interrogation, and gained "important, actionable intelligence" within the first hour regarding the role Khalid Sheikh Mohammed played in the 9-11 attacks. Committee Chair Sheldon called this "one of the more significant pieces of intelligence information we've ever obtained in the war on terror."

Soon the CIA-CTC was brought in, and a private contractor instructed them to subject Zubaydah to harsh interrogation techniques. Michael Isikoff wrote that: "Agency operatives were aiming to crack him with rough and unorthodox interrogation tactics—including stripping him nude, turning down the temperature and bombarding him with loud music." Soufan told the committee that Zubaydah "shut down." Later, Soufan interrogated the man again, using Army sanctioned methods, and Zubaydah disclosed information about the alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. According to Soufan, the contractor soon reasserted control, ordering the use of "enhanced" techniques and Zubaydah shut down again. Worried, Soufan objected to his FBI superiors, and was soon ordered home by Director Mueller, who also decreed that FBI personnel should no longer participate in CIA interrogations.

Soufan's account of this interrogation contradicts the May 2005 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel which implied that this valuable information was elicited from Zubaydah as a result of the harsh interrogation techniques used. Soufan's account is deeply damaging to arguments about torture's effectiveness Dick Cheney and other Bush-era officials have been making of late.

Soufan describes his methods as follows:
The approach is based on leveraging our knowledge of a detainee's mindset, vulnerabilities, and culture together with using intelligence already known about him. The interrogator uses a combination of interpersonal, cognitive, and emotional strategies to exact the information needed. If done correctly, this approach works quickly and effectively because it outsmarts the detainee using a method that he is not trained nor able to resist.

He then critiqued the "enhanced techniques":
The Army Field Manual is not about being soft; it's about outwitting, outsmarting, and manipulating the detainee. The approach is in sharp contrast of the enhanced interrogation method that instead tries to subjugate the detainee into submission through humiliation and cruelty. The idea behind it is to force the detainee to see the interrogator as the master who controls his pain. It's merely an exercise in trying to force compliance rather than elicit cooperation. A major problem with it is it is ineffective. Al Qaeda are trained to resist torture. As shocking as these techniques are to us, their training prepares them for much worse. The torture that they would receive if caught by dictatorships, for example. In a democracy, however, there is a glass ceiling the interrogator cannot breach. And eventually, the detainee will call the interrogator's bluff..... The technique is also unreliable. We don't know whether the detainee is being truthful or just speaking to mitigate his discomfort. The technique is also slow. Waiting 180 hours as part of a sleep deprivation stage is time we cannot afford to waste in a ticking-bomb scenario.

There is more in the article linked above. It's a good read. We could've gotten the information in many different ways. But no, we wanted to feel better and [torture] our detainees, getting back at them for 9/11. But we did not have to, and it was an exercise in futility.

Here is something else that has bothered me in this whole debate: the questioning of our patriotism if we have a legitimate problems with torture, even of our enemies. I personally have had my Republican credentials questioned because I didn't, and never will, support torturing our enemies.

I think this summed it up quite well for me:

Conservative pundits casually liken waterboarding to prep-school initiation, and claim that anyone who opposes prisoner abuse must simply hate America. The president himself asks us to move on. And the great number of ordinary Americans who have, in fact, expressed outrage are dismissed as members of the bloodthirsty "hard left."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tort Reform...

Through all of the healthcare "debate" I've seen a few common things. One of those is tort reform. These days, the American people sue over anything. If we want to bring the price of healthcare down, we need to stop suing our doctors over everything, especially for MILLIONS. Oops, your dentist did your root canal wrong. Sue 'em for 15 million.

Or this one. Suing a comedian because she tells mother in law jokes? Ya gotta be jokin'...(pun intended)...

LOS ANGELES -- Veteran comedian Sunda Croonquist has had a lot of success with her "mother-in-law" jokes, but her mother-in-law isn't laughing.In fact, she's suing the comic for making her the butt of too many jokes.The lawsuit was filed by Ruth Zafrin, her daughter, Shelley Edelman, and Shelley's husband, Neil.

They're accusing Croonquist of spreading false, defamatory and racist lies with her in-law jokes that have become a staple of her routine in nightclubs and on television channels like Comedy Central.

Croonquist knows all too well about culture clashes -- she's half-black, half-Swedish, grew up Roman Catholic and married into a Jewish family. She has joked about her first visit to her mother-in-law's house, saying: "I walk in, I say, 'Thank you so much for having me here, Ruthie.' She says, 'The pleasure's all mine, have a seat."' Then, in a loud aside, 'Harriet, put my pocketbook away."'Then there's the one about her mother-in-law's reaction to news she was pregnant with her first child: "OK, now that we know you're having a little girl I want to know what you're naming that little tchotchke. Now we don't want a name that's difficult to pronounce like Shaniqua. We're thinking a name short but delicious.Like Hadassah or Goldie."

Croonquist said there was a time when her in-laws would laugh with everyone else at the black-member-of-a-Jewish-family jokes."They played my tape at Passover one year, and they loved it!" she said.But things changed after the comedian posted information on her Web site, promoting upcoming gigs in New Jersey.

According to her in-laws, the information allowed pretty much anyone to figure out their identities.They sued in April in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, where they live.The action seeks unspecified damages and demands that Croonquist remove any offensive statements from her Web site, routines and recordings.Croonquist says she would drop any language her family finds offensive, but refuses to pay any settlement.Her lawyer has filed a motion to have the suit dismissed, and a judge is scheduled to hear it on Sept. 8.

Croonquist, who lives in Beverly Hills, is being represented by her husband's law firm.She says it should be obvious to her in-laws that she's not anti-Jewish since she converted to Judaism before she met her husband and keeps a kosher house.Attorney Gary L. Bostwick, an expert in First Amendment law who isn't involved in the case, said suing a comedian is often difficult because courts tend to rule that it should be obvious they are joking.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rest in Peace, Ted Kennedy.

Whether or not one agreed with his politics, he was a great senator. He spoke his mind and fought for legislation. We need more Senators like him on both sides of the aisle.

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy
February 22, 1932-August 25, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Three men try to burgerlize off-duty cop's home, get shot

Score one for 2nd Amendment rights!

From the Miami Herald:

The three people who wandered into a Miami Lakes neighborhood with plans for a home invasion early Monday morning were not greeted by a frightened homeowner, but a police officer prepared to fight back.

That's the scene that unfolded at 4:30 a.m. Friday when three robbers tried to break into the home of a Bay Harbor Islands police officer and his wife, said Lt. Nancy Perez, a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman.

The off-duty police officer fired at the three intruders, possibly injuring one of them.
In investigating the attempted home invasion, Perez said detectives learned that a man had sought treatment for gunshot wounds at Memorial Hospital Miramar, which is in nearby Broward just north of Miami Lakes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Constitution upheld by Judge

This is an update from an earlier post.


An immigration judge on Friday rejected the federal government’s attempt to deport an
Egyptian immigrant who had been acquitted on charges of illegally possessing and transporting explosives.
Youssef Megahed was released after being detained as a suspected terrorist for almost five months by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in a politically explosive case that has pitted national security claims against charges of profiling and discrimination against Muslims.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, Elaine Kornis, indicated Friday that the government would appeal. However, ICE spokesman Richard Rocha later said the agency is reserving its right to appeal pending a review of the judge’s written opinion.
Megahed was released on his own recognizance, according to a court administrator. He needs to report once a month to a local ICE office and “not associate with known terrorists,” said Charles Kuck, the attorney for Megahed.

I'm really glad this judge had some sense. The Feds' arm (especially the INS) was getting a little long here. This man, Youssef Megahed, student at the University of Florida, had gone on a trip with a fellow student from the University. When pulled over for speeding, the police found explosives in the car. The car belonged to the other student, Ahmed Mohamed, who pled guilty in a plea agreement and is currently serving 30 years.

Megahed pled not guilty, and the jury agreed with him, finding him just a passenger in the car.

Justice had been served.

Then immigration came in to deport him, even though Megahed is a legal immigrant and his family is here. Even though the criminal justice system proved his innocence, the Feds thought they would overturn a state decision and use a legal loophole to banish this man.

Good thing we still have some federal judges with some sense. Megahed will still be watched, and will need to make sure to check all cars he gets into, but he will finally be allowed to go back to his family.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Terrorist released by "compassionate" Scottish government

Here's the ridiculous news item of the day:

CNN: The man convicted of murdering 270 people by blowing Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky above the Scottish town of Lockerbie two decades ago was heading home on Thursday after authorities set him free.

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, 57, landed in Tripoli, Libya, about 2045 local time (1845 GMT), according to local media reports.He is suffering terminal prostate cancer and has three months to live, Scottish authorities said.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ordered al Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, saying he will be "going home to die."

"Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion available," MacAskill said. "Our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown."

The White House, which has urged Britain to keep al Megrahi behind bars, said it "deeply regrets" the decision.

President Barack Obama said: "We thought it was a mistake... We've also obviously been in contact with the families of the Pan Am victims and indicated to them that we don't think this was appropriate."

MacAskill said he accepted al Megrahi's 2001 conviction for the Lockerbie bombing, the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed on UK soil. He also said he supported a severe sentence.
But he said al Megrahi's lack of compassion for his 270 victims should not be a reason for Scotland to deny compassion to him.

Al Megrahi left prison Thursday, shortly after MacAskill's announcement and boarded a plane shortly afterwards.

Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie four days before Christmas in 1988, killing all 259 of those aboard the plane and 11 Scots on the ground.

Many of those on board the flight were Americans, and the U.S. government responded immediately to word of al Megrahi's release, saying it "deeply regrets" the decision.

"As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland," the White House said in a statement.

The Scottish justice secretary said he decided not to transfer al Megrahi to a Libyan prison, even though a prisoner transfer agreement exists between the United Kingdom and Libya, but instead chose to set him free on compassionate grounds.

MacAskill said he believed the United States government and American families of the victims were led to expect before trial that whoever was convicted would serve out their entire sentence in Scotland.

"They did so on the basis of agreements they said had been made prior to trial regarding the place of imprisonment of anyone convicted," MacAskill said.

The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, was in fact deputy attorney general to Janet Reno at the time of the pre-trial negotiations. He was adamant that assurances had been given to the U.S. government that any person convicted would serve his sentence in Scotland."

The United Kingdom declined to back up those claims, leading MacAskill to side with the American position, he said.

Families of the Lockerbie victims have been sharply divided whether al Megrahi should be ever be released.

Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter, was adamant about her position, calling al Megrahi a "mass murderer" and his release "appalling."

"Are we so devastatingly weak now, have we lost all our moral fiber that you can say that Megrahi can be released from prison for a compassionate release? Where was his compassion for my daughter? Where was his compassion for all those people?" Cohen told American Morning.
Bert Ammerman, whose brother died in the bombing, called al Megrahi's release "ludicrous."

"First of all, he got his compassionate release when he got life imprisonment and not capital punishment, which Scotland doesn't have," Ammerman told CNN. He should have remained in prison, then after his death, his body could have been returned to Libya, he said.

"Two, he's going to be going back, even if he has terminal cancer, as a hero and he's going to be received as a hero in Libya," Ammerman said.
Al Megrahi was convicted in 2001 after the prosecution argued he had placed the bomb, hidden in a suitcase, on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany. There, prosecutors said, the bomb was transferred onto the Pan Am plane that went first to London's Heathrow Airport and then took off for New York.
Libya has formally accepted responsibility for the bombing and has compensated the families, though Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi later denied any culpability.

Al Megrahi was diagnosed in September 2008 with terminal prostate cancer, and medical officials have said his condition is rapidly deteriorating, MacAskill said. He said he declined an option to free al Megrahi and allow him to live in Scotland after senior police officers cited the severe security implications

Scotland will forever remember the crime that has been perpetrated against our people and those from many other lands," MacAskill said. "The pain and suffering will remain forever. Some hurt can never heal. Some scars can never fade."

He added, "However, Mr. al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die."

Anyone else find this ridiculous?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Right-wing paranoid delusions: We are better than that.

From the Progressive Republican's article Nightmares
and Dreamscapes
In a conference room. Maybe seven or eight government employees in their late 30s-early 40s. They’re wearing suits from Ann Taylor, or Men’s Wearhouse sitting on one side of a conference table that looks like it came right out of the Office Depot catalog In one hand they’re holding cups of coffee, or cans of Diet Coke (or some other caffeinated drink - they’ve been working late the last couple of nights) , the other hand busily hammering the keyboards of their mid-tier laptop computers, jotting down notes, trying to capture what the lady on the side of the table is saying.

Across the table is a woman in her mid 60s. Her blouse and pants recently purchased from the local Wal-Mart, her shoes from Payless Shoes. She’s nervously playing with her purse handles as she shuffles her feet. She’s not sure how to answer this last question. She should have been prepared for this question. She was…until just this second.
“We’d all like to get out of here today, Ma’am, so please answer as best you can,” the Committee chair sighs as she asks the question for the third time, “When you the government no longer finds you insurable…” she pauses, not for effect, but because she still can’t believe she has to ask the question.
“…how do you want to die?”
Chilling isn’t it? Cold, bureaucratic evil, like a scene out of the film CONSPIRACY. If certain right wing celebrities are to be believed this won ‘t be that far from the truth should Barack Obama’s health care plan pass both House of Congress.

But they are not to be believed. This is a a nightmare scenario crafted by self-styled leaders of the Republican Party. This is the kind of thing that has to stop.

Let’s be honest: Obama’s Plan is a bad one. It’s costly beyond comprehension. It adds bureaucratic roadblocks to an already excessively bureaucratic process. And, despite all the costs, it only provides additional care for a small percentage of the nation’s uninsured.
It’s a bad plan with any number of weaknesses that Republicans can point to as reasons we should be vehemently against it. Is it necessary to make things up about it?

Who is helped by devising scenarios like the one described above? Does Sara Palin making up spooky stories about Obama’s DEATH PANEL, really add weight to the argument against the real plan?

Does comparing the health plan to Nazis [limbaugh-20090806-hitler.flv] like friend of the blog, Rush Limbaugh, has done?

No. This type of rhetoric serves only to cheapen the debate.

Yes, Democrats spent a large portion of President Bush’s Presidency engaging in these very same tactics. Whether it was calling the President a Nazi for the War in Iraq or shouting down Republican members of Congress, the extreme left showed their true colors by acting insane on the public stage in support of their various causes. We justifiably condemned them for that behavior. We don’t need to turn around use those same tactics.

Not when we have the facts on our side. House Republicans have made some very clear arguments why they are against the current bill :

…was unnecessarily rushed through the Committee without proper understanding or even a reading of the bill by Members;
The massive spending and tax increases will damage an already reeling economy;
Americans will lose coverage they have and like;
The bill gives the government control over Americans’ personal health decisions
Clear, cogent arguments from the men and women we have elected to represent us in Congress. This is what we should be basing our resistance on. Not the overblown rhetoric of extreme right-wing celebrities. We have more sense than that.

I couldn't have said it better myself. People screaming "socialism!" "Nazis!" "Communism!" "Death Panels!" or other such nonsense are detrimental to the cause.

Stick to the facts: this plan sucks. We need a better one, not false and crazy accusations.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Republican HealthCare Reform

So this is going to be a list, of sorts, of what an alternative healthcare reform could be from the Republican side.

I'll start this list from comments I've read from other Republicans and conservatives, such as Jennifer and Pamela. The list will expand with other ideas found, or brought into the discussion in the comments. I'll update as we go.

So far, here is what I've got:

From Pamela D. Hart:
Add a policy, something like Medicare, let’s just call it “Medifree.” Medifree will cover anyone who doesn’t have private insurance, isn’t on Medicare, Medicaid or can’t afford insurance through their employer or any other means. Those who CAN afford insurance but choose NOT to purchase it, i.e. the 18-34 yr old invincibles and families who earn at least $50K, would have to purchase their own insurance. Those who truly can NOT afford insurance would get insurance through “Medifree” because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and are too young to be on Medicare.

Law and Order Teacher:
Have government and private health care form a partnership, something on the order of the public utilities commissions.

*Change the tax code. Individuals should have the same tax incentives as employers who offer coverage. For example, there could be an income tax deduction of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families. Over the long-term, people will move to portable, long-term individual insurance.

* Refundable tax credit. A refundable tax credit of $2,500 for individuals or $5,000 for families would eliminate the tax exclusion for those who get their insurance from their employers.

* Allow the purchase of health care insurance across state lines so that individuals have more choices in plans. This will encourage a robust market in individually owned health care.

* Reduce state regulations and mandates on insurance plans to help reduce costs. There are 1,901 mandates nationwide in 2007, up from 1,843 in 2006.

* Expand tax breaks for Health Savings Accounts. HSAs provide for tax-free accumulation and at the same time offer real protection against larges losses.

* Allow for the growth of convenient clinics. There are about 700 retail clinics located in Wal-Marts, Targets, and other Walk-in Centers. Convenient clinics reduce the costs by offering the uninsured an alternative to emergency rooms. It’s also an inexpensive option for people with HSAs.

* Medical Malpractice reforms are needed to help keep doctors’ insurance costs down which will reduce the costs of care. For example, states could enact laws that would put a cap on non-economic damages.

* Provide vouchers for the working poor so that they can purchase insurance from a state pool.

*Make health insurance more like car insurance. Provide choices.

Cost of Illegal Immigration to our healthcare system
Tort Reform - Frivolous and Record Breaking Awards
Education and Personal Health Responsibility
Freeing up Health Professionals to Deal with actual Health issues
Doctor Availability and the lack of new doctors entering the market
3rd party payer healthcare places incentives in the wrong area (HMOs and the real cost)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul dies at 94

Guitar master Les Paul, who created the famous Gibson Les Paul electric guitar {my dream guitar}, died today of severe pneumonia. He was 94.

Les Paul played guitar in clubs even in his 90s.

Paul likely will be best remembered for the Gibson Les Paul, a variation on the solid-body guitar he built in the early 1940s -- "The Log" -- and offered to the guitar company.
"For 10 years, I was a laugh," he told CNN in an interview. "[But I] kept pounding at them and pounding at them saying hey, here's where it's at. Here's where tomorrow, this is it. You can drown out anybody with it. And you can make all these different sounds that you can't do with a regular guitar."

Gibson, spurred by rival Fender, finally took Paul up on his offer and introduced the model in 1952. It has since become the go-to guitar for such performers as Jimmy Page.

"The world has lost a truly innovative and exceptional human being today. I cannot imagine life without Les Paul," said Henry Juszkiewicz, chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar, in a statement. "He would walk into a room and put a smile on anyone's face. His musical charm was extraordinary and his techniques unmatched anywhere in the world."

Paul is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Inventors Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is survived by three sons, a daughter, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Until recently he had a standing gig at New York's Iridium Jazz Club, where he would play with a who's who of famed musicians.

He admired the places guitarists and engineers took his inventions, but he said there was nothing to replace good, old-fashioned elbow grease and soul.

"I learned a long time ago that one note can go a long way if it's the right one," he said in 2002, "and it will probably whip the guy with 20 notes."

Rest in peace, Les.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Economy Stabilizing

Apparently the economy is starting to stabilize, and the recession may starting to be finally over.

The "Bush Recession" may finally be coming to an end, reports both CNN and FoxNews. Economists are putting the start of this recession at December 2007 (as much as the Obama-deranged would like to blame our current President of eight months).

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks sustained gains Wednesday after the Federal Reserve held interest rates near historic lows and signaled the economy has finally started to stabilize.

FOX NEWS: Economists date the start of the recession to December 2007 -- defining much of Ben Bernanke's term as Federal Reserve chairman -- and a majority in a Wall Street Journal survey agree that the recession is coming to an end.

As much as I disliked the bailouts and stimulus package, I have to say, they may have worked.

FOX NEWS: However, in the current recession, companies have been using the productivity gains to bolster their bottom lines in the face of declining sales. Many companies have been reporting second-quarter earnings results that have beaten expectations despite falling sales, due largely to their aggressive cost cutting.

So we are going to start seeing the economy move up for once. Thankfully.

But CNN warns:

"The Fed reinforced what investors already knew, that the economy has gotten a little better," said James Barnes, fixed income portfolio manager at National Penn Investors Trust.
"But until we see more news that either reinforces the belief that the recovery is here or says we've gone too fast too soon, you're not going to see a bigger reaction."

Hopefully this will mean that we'll be fully recovered within a year. If that is the case, I don't know if 2010 will look too good for Republicans.

If it takes longer, 2010 won't look good for Democrats.

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My take on HealthCare

I haven't posted much at all on this subject, because frankly, I haven't read the bill and really don't know too much about what it says.

I know that it doesn't talk about "death panels", euthanasia, abortions, etc. But other than that, it is a 1,000 page bill. And my representatives won't even read it.

So far, from what [little] I do know:
  • People are angry on both sides.
  • The right says the left are being thugs at the town halls
  • The left says the right are being thugs at the town halls
  • I've seen pictures/videos of both of them doing it
  • I doubt there are many "paid" disrupters
  • Lies are being thrown about by both sides as to what exactly this bill is or isn't

I have some opinions:

  • The Representatives/Senators we've elected need to read the thing, in its entirety, before voting either way
  • People need to calm down at the town hall meetings, and stop shouting over each other
  • While I feel for the uninsured, I don't think now is the time to fix this
  • Thus, I don't like it that Obama is rushing this through

Therefore, before giving healthcare to everyone, I think we need to do something more important: fix the healthcare system for those of us who already have healthcare. If you watch the movie Sicko by Michael Moore, regardless of how you feel about him, this brilliant documentary really shows how the insurance companies screw us over. There are "death" panels on private insurance companies' payroll; there are people who decide if they should pay for healthcare based on monetary/accounting figures. My sister almost died because the insurance company wouldn't approve her MRI to see what was wrong with her. When my parents finally just borrowed the money to do it anyway, they found a life threatening disease that would have killed my sister had they not caught it in time.

And that is wrong. My parents pay for healthcare.

This is what needs to be fixed. Otherwise, we are going to replace these corrupt beaurecrats with government ones, and everyone will deal with these guys. Fix the system we have now, don't just shuffle who pays for it and give it to everyone.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

America needs Immigrants to remain great

I've been reading a lot of editorials and articles lately on historical patterns. Right now, we are living in a similar, albeit smaller scale, time as around the Great Depression. Mark Twain said "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." And we are rhyming with a few other periods in time centered on a recession or depression.

From Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America, by Kurt Andersen, talking about another "rhyming" moment:

We've just finished living through a long Gilded Age, in which rich Americans got richer, and more and more people began consuming conspicuously. The original Gilded Age began a century earlier, in the 1870s, during a laissez-faire boom that lasted — déjà vu! — from the end of one Wall Street and banking meltdown (the Panic of 1873) to the beginning of another (the Panic of 1893).

The idea of historical cycles can be reassuring: what comes down must go up. However, great nations can shrivel and empires do come to an end. And America in 2009 also looks as if it could rhyme, uncomfortably, with Great Britain circa 1909. A hundred years ago, the British were coming off a proud century as the most important nation on earth. But during the 30 years between the beginning of World War I and the end of World War II, the United States emerged as the unequivocal world leader, and Britain became an admirable also-ran.

I found this quite interesting. In a few other exerpts, Andersen talks about other historical rhymes, and what the consequences were. After the Great Depression, the US emerged as the world leader. He talks about what we can do to avoid losing that spot to China, and becoming the Great Britain of the 21st century.

Andersen predicts that, if we can get through this the right way and emerge unscathed as the Great Nation we have been, we will see another great economic, technological, and societal boom as we did after each previous recession. We had similar crashes in the '60s and '70s, where "we found ourselves in a slough of despond, with an oil crisis, a terrible recession, declining productivity, a kind of Weimarish embrace of cultural decadence" we then got from that era Federal Express, Microsoft, Apple, and others. Yes, we will lose certain industries, but we will gain others.

What else did other crashes have before we went to Superpower status? We had a wave of immigrants.

The waves of exotic foreigners who poured in during the 1800s and early 1900s were unsettling to Americans at the time — culturally, economically, and politically. But our forebears got over it, fortunately, since the newcomers were instrumental in forging the American Century.

No other nation on earth assimilates immigrants as successfully as the United States. There are those who argue that we can no longer afford to open our doors so wide, but in fact precisely the opposite is true. Beyond giving sentimental, self-flattering lip service to our history as "a nation of immigrants," the sooner we can agree on a coherent and correctly self-serving national immigration policy — that is, to encourage and enable as many as possible of the world's smartest and most ambitious and open-minded people to become Americans — the better our chances of forestalling national decline...

Just as we are now dependent on cheap credit and cheap manufactured goods from China, we really can't afford to say no to cheap laborers from Mexico and Central America, and we need to admit that truth and make the system for absorbing them rational. At the upper end of the scale, it's crazily self-defeating for us to set arbitrary and entirely politicized limits on the visas we grant to skilled foreign workers, such as software engineers and nurses. Wouldn't it make more sense to establish a politically independent federal apparatus, like the Federal Reserve System, that would adjust immigration quotas according to the actual and projected ebbs and flows of our economy?

Basically, we need immigrants. Sometimes we need more, sometimes we need less. We need some way of regulating that, and a better system for getting them legally. We need tax-paying immigrants who will not only provide cheap labor, such as what provided that backbone of the industrial revolution, but also the other end of the spectrum; we need immigrants who will bring fresh ideas and ways of thinking to our complacent system. People like Einstein and other immigrants who brought changes to the United States. Immigrants who will give birth to the future Reagans, Clintons, Obamas, Martin Luther Kings, Rosa Parks, Lincolns, MacArthurs, etc.

We need to get over our xenophobic aversion to immigration in order to survive.

Read exerpts from Reset here:,8599,1914738,00.html?loomia_si=t0:a16:g2:r3:c0.0741689:b26986058&xid=Loomia

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Birthers: Enough. You are all idiots.

Obama is the President. There is nothing you nutty conspiracy theorists can do about it. Get over it. If you disagree with him and his policies, vote someone else in on November 4th, 2012. But until then, there isn't anything you can do whatsoever, especially by claiming this nonsensical craziness. The State of Hawaii says he's a citizen. There are hi-def pictures up all over the internet of the birth certificate (and for those nutjobs who still doubt, I have them posted below as well!)...

I believe this sums it up quite nicely.

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, Director of the Hawai‛i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital
records maintained on file by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama
was born in Hawai‘i and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement
or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago.”

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