Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Honoré: Send Congress to boot camp

(CNN) -- Like most veterans, the men and women who have worn our nation's uniform to defend this country, I am furious with and disappointed in the state of indecision that plagued Washington these past few weeks. Whether or not to raise the debt ceiling so our country can continue to pay our bills and maintain our global credit rating didn't seem like such a difficult decision.

As a retired, disabled soldier who spent 37 years in the Army, I can only see this debacle -- the weeks of haggling to get to an eleventh-hour deal -- as the definition of "mission failure." At this point, even the last-minute deal that is on its way to President Obama's desk will not repair the damage our elected leadership's amateur-hour, worthless grandstanding has caused.

(read full article)

Of course a literal requirement for congressional leaders to first undergo military boot camp would be a sufficiently high barrier of entry to make it nearly impossible to find nonmilitary candidates; a situation that would inevitably lead to a military bias in congress, but the concept of sending the present congress through boot camp has a certain appeal...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Invasion of the Body Scanners

The news these days is filled with stories of the new backscatter and millimeter-wave body-scanners in airport security checkpoints around the United States. Like many things in America these days, the public coverage of this story is very polarized and most of the public is somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, TSA insists that these screenings are necessary to deny terrorists access to commercial aircraft; on the other, many among the traveling public are upset for various reasons.

Some worry about the radiation dose, though that has been compared in the research to the dose one would get from about 20 minutes flying at cruising altitude just from the natural radiation present high in the atmosphere (TSA actually claims on their web site that it's equivalent to two minutes). This may or may not be a valid concern, but it's probably overblown.

Others are offended by the invasion of privacy inherent in having total strangers looking over what are effectively naked images of their bodies.

TSA says passengers have 3 choices:
  1. Undergo the body scan screening.
  2. Undergo what is referred to as an "enhanced pat-down", a procedure that in any other context would be regarded as sexual molestation.
  3. Don't fly.
Moreover, once the security process is started, the passenger is required to complete it, so choice #3 must be made ahead of the checkpoint.

The controversy over the use of these devices, ostensibly in the interest of public security, rages on in the media, but much of the flying public seems to actually be ok with it, convinced that the value in terms of improved traveler safety is worth the intrusion.

Others would say that in effect the terrorists win this round,because they have forced the greatest nation on earth to relinquish some of its rights and freedoms.

We in America are nothing if not adaptable. This controversy has only just begun. It will likely make its way into the court system, where it will take some years before a final decision is rendered. Meanwhile time goes on and Americans will get used to it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where did the intelligent Republicans go?

I remember a time not so many years ago when Republican was not synonymous with moron as it sadly has become. Republicans were wrong a lot, sure, but for the most part they were intelligent, educated, articulate, serious people. What happened? When did they become such a pathetic bunch? When did they become anti-education, anti-intelligence, actively ignorant, dominated by right-wing Christians? Why?

Democrats certainly have their share of problems, but at least they're trying to deal with reality.

And then there are the Tea Partiers - decrying the entrenched interests in DC, but themselves mostly just an extension of the Republican Moron brigade.

And where the hell is the 80+% of the population not on one extreme or the other? It's time for the real people to stand up and be heard. Someone has to tell all these wing nuts to shut the fuck up and stop vandalizing America.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alert: Evolution Suppressed in Connecticut

"Mr. Tangarone, a 17-year veteran of the Weston school system, claims that a program he wanted to teach about Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln was rejected by the school administration because it involved teaching evolution -- the scientific theory that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor."
Mark Tangarone, who teaches third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program at Weston Intermediate School, said he is retiring at the end of the current school year because of a clash with the school administration over the teaching of evolution.

"Under normal circumstances, I would have retired in two more years. However, I feel that because of an unacceptable administrative action, I can no longer continue teaching in Weston," Mr. Tangarone said.

Full article

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is this the way public discourse should play out?


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressman Earl Blumenauer says he's just a regular fellow "trying to get things accomplished." As a result, the Oregon Democrat tells me, he spends much of his time "looking for ideas that can bring people together -- simple, straightforward ideas that would help people and their families."

And so he proposed the infamous "death panels."


Before they were Palinized -- and turned into those nasty death panels ready to pounce on Grandma (that "goofy stuff," as he now calls it), Blumenauer had a good idea: help people prepare for the end of life.

As he wrote in The New York Times last weekend, the proposition was simple: "I found it perverse that Medicare would pay for almost any medical procedure, yet not reimburse doctors for having a thoughtful conversation to prepare patients and families for the delicate, complex and emotionally demanding decisions surrounding the end of life."

So, when he began work on health care reform, he included a provision that would allow Medicare to cover a voluntary doctor-patient discussion (only once every five years) about things like living wills, power of attorney and end-of-life treatment.

Oh, the horror.

Talk radio quickly got wind of the proposal when ex-New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey excoriated the measure as a depraved idea that would somehow counsel people to just go ahead and die faster. The absurd notion metastasized. And since Congress is the great lagging indicator, the bizarre interpretation predictably headed toward the floor of the two Houses. Republican leaders were unwilling to balk at a juicy opportunity to fan the flames -- even though the fire was fake. They courageously took on this great cause.

(read full article)

Really now. Is this the way our public discourse should play out?

  1. Something is proposed.
  2. Republicans find a way to twist it into something entirely different and trumpet their "message" to their party faithful.
  3. Unquestioningly, they accept this as the message, react with righteous indignation, and repeat the message freely, spreading the meme and further obscuring it from its origin. It takes on a life of its own.
  4. Politicians respond to this 'public outcry', as if it somehow turns this false message into truth.
  5. The proposal goes down in flames.

Come on, people. We can do better. We must do better. This is counterfeit democracy at its worst.