Friday, September 29, 2006

Here's a link to the story that NBC 24 aired about our presentation to Rep. Gillmor.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

This being the last day of the Declaration of Peace week the local Pax Christi chapter decided we needed to do something that would get some attention. So a chain with 3000 links was made. One link for every American soldier killed in the war on terror. Also one link for about every 33 Iraqi soldiers or civilians killed in Iraq. The chain was a city block long, several hundred feet, and took about two-dozen people to move it from the street up to Representative Gillmor’s third floor office. One of the Toledo television stations, NBC 24, even covered the event. They did a fine job indeed. I’ll post a video link if there is one eventually.

Once in Rep. Gillmor’s office, we made a presentation and Gillmor’s staff was accommodating and accepted the chain. They said they would forward a picture of the chain to Rep. Gillmor, which translates to they are going to pitch that big old chain as soon as they can get it to the dumpster.

It may seem like a small thing a few dozen people making a presentation to a congressman who was 600 miles away. But if more people made their voices heard in small ways it would add up to quite a roar and much better nation.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In light of recent events I’ve been waiting to calm down so I could write some reasoned piece about them. The thing is I have not calmed down too much. While I’m not at the stark raving lunatic phase, I am far from calm.

So let me get to the cause for what has me so riled up. How can anyone support George Bush anymore? The man is a failure on every possible level as a president. He has not only started a war under false pretenses that has quite possibly made us less safe. He has hesitated when he should have leapt into action after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. He has ignored the Constitution. He has squandered the good will of the world. Bush’s constant assertion that we need to fight them over there so we don’t need to fight them here is lie. It has only bought us a temporary sanctuary from the jihadists. Also note that this safety from terror attacks did not protect Spain or Great Britain from attacks by terrorists.

When the National Intelligence Estimate was leaked and it was revealed that the United States’ own spy agencies think the war in Iraq has indeed made us less safe. It has not only increased the number of jihadists but also their geographic diversity. This could pose a dire threat to the world’s safety as these jihadists spread across the globe.

I have just read a piece by Jed Babbin where he plays the apologist. He asserts that since the terrorists perceive Iraq as critical that we must stay and defeat them there. He over looks the most important piece of information. We never should have invaded Iraq in the first place. Iraq was not a threat. It had no weapons of mass destruction. I t was far less of a threat than North Korea, Iran or Pakistan, who helped North Korea acquire their nuclear arsenal.

There is of course the right’s claim that this is merely the liberal media bias rearing its ugly head. Is this the same liberal media that gave Bush a free pass when he wanted war in Iraq? Is this the same liberal media that sat on its hands when it was revealed that Iraq in fact did not have weapons of mass destruction? The liberal media is merely a convenient bogeyman for the right to bring out to cover for its own ineptitude.

So we now not only have a war that that taken at least 45,000 lives and was fought for false reasons and has embolden our enemies and made the world more violent and less safe. We also have a brazenly incompetent president and administration that are so concerned with proving what they believe to be correct instead of searching for any real truth. We have a country full of people that support this president and his party in spite of what the facts have proven. People so concerned with their party that they are willing to ignore the well-being of the nation.

In a bit of serendipitous timing all this has come into the public spotlight during the Declaration of Peace week. If the recent information about incompetently fought war on terror is not enough to make you oppose this president and the war in Iraq then I do not know what is. I know there is a value to calm reasoned debate. But sometimes that reason needs a megaphone. I have called for Bush to resign before. I still want him to and to take his band of criminals with him. I’m not sure we can survive another two years with him and his administration leading us down the path they’ve paved with their good intentions.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the United States use of torture. Now if you’ve been paying attention torture violates the Geneva Convention. There is now some debate of whether or not we should compromise the Geneva Convention.

OK kids this is a really easy so pay attention. This is going to be short and sweet or at least as short as I get.

Torture has absolutely no moral basis in any faith or in any humanistic school of thought. There is no moral basis for torture at all. The only people who try and justify its use are fear mongers and sadists. I did hear one fool call into the Randi Rhodes radio show and try use the “eye for eye” argument. What a goof. Eye for eye is a call for just punishment not a free pass to behave like the lowest of the low. Since there is absolutely no moral basis for torture our use of it gives absolutely no reason to ever claim we have any sort of moral high ground. We are stooping to the level of those we claim to be evil. How can you overcome anyone or anything by descending to its level? How can the United States claim any moral high ground by water boarding and dripping menstrual blood on prisoners?

Torture is also is not a reliable method of getting information. If the police arrest you and they torture a confession out of you it’s inadmissible, because the information is unreliable. People will say anything to get the torture to stop. There are other more effective means of getting information. Interrogators are smart. They know how to get information by using psychology in ways that don’t involve humiliation and sleep depravation. Torture because it is unreliable is worthless.

Now I’ve heard the argument that goes a little something like this. What if we knew a bomb was hidden somewhere and we had in custody someone who know where that bomb was, wouldn’t torture be acceptable if it saved lives? OK, I’m helpful and all so here’s what you do. You call Agent Jack Bauer from the television series 24 because that’s where you got this crappy idea!

So we have learned that torture is immoral and unreliable. So why does anyone want to use it ?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Recently there has been some discussion about our declining school system. I’ve heard people like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates discuss what awful shape our schools are in. They are in some less than wonderful condition. I was a substitute teacher for a while and I saw it first hand. I wasn’t even in the big inner city schools where it is truly depressing. The smaller rural schools and schools in smaller towns that aren’t very affluent aren’t doing so well either.

Before I offer my solution to this problem let me state something first. The education of our nation’s students should be one of this nation’s most urgent priorities. The military and infrastructure and such are just window dressing without a well-educated nation. The democracy cannot function, as it was intended to function without a well-educated nation. So we must regard education as high priority.

The solution I offer is two-fold. One is to build more schools and limit class sizes to no more than 20 students in a class and 15 would be even better. Smaller class sizes make life much easier on the teacher. Once the class is manageable the teacher is free to teach the students. Also the teacher will become more knowledgeable of each student. This allows the teacher to cater to each student’s needs more specifically. Children also have this odd dynamic where the more of them you gather together the more hyper they seem to get. Smaller classes equal less opportunity for mischief and better education all around.

The second thing is to make sure kids get the basics down when they are in elementary school. They must have mastered what used to be referred to as the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic. I’ve seen junior high students who couldn’t do simple arithmetic without a calculator. I’ve seen junior high students who could barely read. Schools need to make absolutely sure that every student gets these fundamentals down pat. Without these three basic building blocks the rest of your education is wasted time.

The solutions are simple. But I know someone out there, reading this is wondering about the money. How are we going to fund this? Well first off the way a lot of states do it by basing it on property taxes is discriminatory. Poor communities get less able schools than do the wealthier communities. This is horribly unjust, instead there needs to be a pool of money that is equally divided among all schools. There needs to be a flat rate tax that all working citizens pay that goes towards education. Everyone benefits from a strong education systems therefore everyone gets to chip in.

Those are my ideas and as always you’re free to disagree.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

About a month ago I wrote my feeling on how the term “Pro-Life” needs to apply to much more than just being against abortion. Most of the reaction I’ve gotten has been very positive. It has even been published on another web site, Peace Takes Courage. One thing has taken me a bit by surprise. Of all the criticism I’ve gotten for that essay, it has almost all been focused on one issue, gun control. It wasn’t abortion. It wasn’t capital punishment. It was gun control. Sometimes the unexpected reaction can force you to think on your feet. I have done that. So here’s a bit more about gun control.

I know why people want guns. They’re afraid. They fear criminals and the government and everything other thing that makes them uneasy. They fear harm to themselves and the one’s they love. I’m not naïve enough to think that guns aren’t one hell of an equalizer. They are. A weak man with a big gun can do a lot of damage and end the lives of far stronger men without much work. The bad guys all have guns to. So us good guys got to have them as well. Fear is an effective motivator.

I also don’t think it will work to outlaw guns. The United States’ citizens are already more heavily armed some countries’ armies. So there is no real practical way just short of fascism to get rid of all the guns. What I would like is better licensing and control of guns. You need a license to get married or go fishing. You need training and a license to drive a car. Why shouldn’t you have to be licensed and trained to carry a piece of machinery that can end a life in the blink of an eye?

I don’t think guns are evil. I own a gun. It’s an old double barrel 20-gauge shotgun. It used to belong to my grandpa and then my dad. Now it sits in my closet. It hasn’t been shot in about 20 years. I guess it’s a family heirloom and it stays with me. But it sits in my closet with no ammunition. So guns are not evil, they are merely tools. They can be used for things like hunting and target shooting, which I have no beef with. Other tools like baseball bats and hammers can kill to. Yet I don’t want special licensing for them. It’s just that guns are such efficient killing machines. To kill someone with a hammer takes quite a bit of effort, to kill someone with a gun only the motion of one finger. So we must recognize this potentially lethal nature of guns and take it very seriously. If you must wear a seat belt to protect yourself while driving a car (which is horribly paternalistic but the topic of another entry), then why shouldn’t gun owners be required to take measures to protect themselves and others?

Of course anyone who wants gun control gets the 2nd Amendment tossed at them, so I must discuss it. The 2nd Amendment reads as follows, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Now always keep this in mind, there are no absolutes in out freedoms. Freedom of speech is limited. Freedom of religion is not unbounded. So why should the right to keep and bear arms? Why should anyone not in the military have access to a .50 caliber weapon or an automatic weapon? Why does any one need to carry a concealed weapon?

I’m not so full of myself to think that this will end the criticisms people had of my original essay. But this is what I think and as always you’re free to disagree.