Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 8/21/05 - 8/28/05

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bush being Bush

There is so much to love about this column by Maureen Dowd today that everyone just needs to click the link and read the entire thing.

Americablog highlights one funny quote which simultaneously pokes fun at two folks living in alternate realities of their own making, President Bush and Tom Cruise.

However, I wanted to mention the reference to a story I read earlier this week:
Eric Lichtblau reported in The Times this week that the administration was dumping the highly respected Lawrence Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001 to head the Bureau of Justice Statistics, because he refused superiors' orders to delete from a press release an account of how black and Hispanic drivers were treated more aggressively by the police after traffic stops. The Justice Department study showed markedly higher rates of searches and use of force for black and Hispanic drivers, compared with white drivers.

Fearing that the survey would give ammunition to members of Congress who object to using racial and ethnic data in terrorism and law enforcement investigations, Mr. Greenfeld's supervisors buried it online with no press release or briefing for Congress.

Mr. Lichtblau wrote that when Mr. Greenfeld sent the planned press release to the office of his supervisor, Tracy Henke, then an acting assistant attorney general, the section on the treatment of black and Hispanic drivers was crossed out with a notation: "Do we need this?" Ms. Henke herself had added a note: "Make the changes."

Like Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, John Bolton and others who helped spin reality to suit political ends, Ms. Henke was rewarded by the president. She has been nominated for a senior post in the Homeland Security Department.

I'm so damn sick of the censorship attitude which persists throughout the entire Federal employment system. It's been especially bad under the Bush Administration, however. If you read several days ago, you will see the story of Bunnatine Greenhouse. (I dodged seeing the General, by the way.)

I've gotta get out of government work.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Are they even trying anymore?

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/mg18725133.900 .

"One of the loopholes is that protection standards will only apply to unpaid participants. So if the EPA monitors children whose rooms are sprayed with pesticides, but pays their parents, those children will not be protected.

Another loophole is that the protection will only apply to testing that aims to determine the toxicity of a chemical. Tests where the main purpose is to measure levels of exposure, absorption or metabolism of the chemical apart from its toxic effects on a subject will be allowed without any of the basic safeguards.

PEER director Jeff Ruch says the EPA's proposals mean industrial chemicals would be subject to fewer safeguards than medical drugs."

You know, at first the EPA seemed to at least want to give the appearance of caring. Nice euphemistic terms like "Healthy Forests Initiative" and "Clear Skies Initiative" at least made you feel warm and fuzzy while they were quietly eroding environmental protections. Now it appears they aren't even bothering with keeping up appearances.

Now I'm not a treehugger. I don't live in a geodome home, I don't grow my own organic food, heck I don't even drive a hybrid yet. But is there anyone out there who is really wanting less protections against toxic waste exposure? Are there any parents out there with signs campaigning "bring on the three eyed fish! We like chemical waste!" The fact we live in a society where things like this occur on a daily basis and the cacophony of protest isn't drowning the news is mind boggling to me. Ah well, I guess I better turn on the TV and watch some more Holloway news. Thank god our population is so vigilant against Aruban murderers.

Interesting Views from Iraq

I did some looking around the net for input from actual Iraqis on the Constitution issue. I want to hear many different opinions, especially from those whom it will most effect.

I found a gold mine in our very own Blogspot network called Iraq Blog Count. You'll have to search through the list of them, as many of the blogs have been inactive for awhile. However, I've now been introduced to Salam Pax and his wonderful blog.

Yesterday's post was discussing the "what ifs" of the draft constitution...as in, what if it gets ratified as is:
...And we end up with a constitution that assures all that “No law may be legislated that contravenes the essential verities of Islamic law.” And allows SCIRI and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim to announce the formation of Shiastan without the following 2 weeks.

What happens to me then? The message I get now is that since I am not Shia and not Kurd no one gives a damn about what I think. Oh and Sunnis wouldn’t be too thrilled by the idea of having infidels like me as a citizen of Middle-iraq-istan.

I don’t know what will happen when the deadline approaches but at the moment I feel like if I am not a religious Shia or a Kurd I am supposed to be neither heard nor seen. At least religious Sunnis can say their leaders told them it was against Allah will to play along. But what happens to you if you subscribe to none of those agendas? What happens if you believe that neither religion nor ethnic background is the way you want to be identified? What about just being Iraqi?
All of the pundits and experts I've been reading and listening to have been treating the constitutional sticking points of Islamic Law and Federalism as seperate issues. In one post, Salam showed how those two issues are unshakably entwined...something that does not benefit the Sunnis or those secular Iraqis stuck between all of the factions.

Plus, his Thursday post, as well as Friday's Yahoo News, shows that not even the Shiites are united:
Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army locked horns with the Badr Brigade, the militia of the ruling Shiite religious party the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), signaling that the fight for control of a new Iraq goes beyond the conflict between Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd.
I'm starting to wonder how Iraq could even avoid a civil war at this point.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pulling the reins...just a bit...at Army HQ

Army HQ spammed an email today with "OPSEC" in the title to all Army employees, active duty and civilian. It is alleging that soldiers are posting pictures and information on blogs, bulletin boards, internet photo sights, etc...that could unintentionally be giving an "advantage to the enemy."

I'm not going print the entire email for obvious reasons, however, this part is what makes me question the real reason for the email (emphasis mine):

Earlier in July, HQ passed a regulation that all active duty soldiers MUST notify command if they have their own blogger on the net.

Now, of course I agree that common sense must prevail and NO ONE should give out any information that could reveal locations or anything potentially detrimental to life and limb...I seriously doubt most soldiers (if any) are doing that. If it really was a problem, this email would have much stronger wording.

I just find it interesting that this information is coming out of HQ so soon after the ground-swell of support for Cindy Sheehan. Also, it's coming at the same time that the Bush Administration has been stepping up its attacks towards Cindy and anyone openly questioning the war in Iraq. It's also just a week or so after several articles were published about soldier's blogging from the "front lines" and how that information is fueling some who are protesting against the war.

The email is also ambiguous enough that they could pretty much accuse anyone who is stating an opinion contrary to the Administration of having a "negative impact on world opinion."

If what we were doing over there was so "noble," I don't think there would be such a concern over a few soldiers words and photos affecting "world opinion."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

When living in a Red State makes me crazy...

So, I do my morning ritual...log in and read the news. The first thing I read is on the KTUU website about the possibility of a teacher's strike.
The amount separating the Anchorage teachers union and the Anchorage School District as the labor dispute nears a strike vote Monday is $13 million.
Then, I flipped over to the Anchorage Daily News to read this:
Alaska's state spending rate is swelling this year at more than twice the national average, based on reports from state and national analysts.

Figures from the Alaska Division of Legislative Finance show general fund spending growth of either 14.8 percent or 14.3 percent, depending on how the numbers are crunched.

Alaska legislators voted to spend over $3 billion in general funds for this fiscal year, according to the division ---- almost $400 million more than the state spent the previous year.

The increase comes with Republicans -- many of whom talked in campaigns about controlling spending -- in charge of the Legislature and the governor's mansion. It was made possible because the state is flooded with dollars from record-high oil prices.
And they mentioned education:
Eagle River Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze, first elected to the House four years ago on a platform of less spending, said he is concerned about the trend in the opposite direction. But the Legislature was faced with rising Medicaid costs and the need for schools in his district and elsewhere, he said.
They seem fine with funding improvements to the buildings. Can someone please explain to me why they couldn't just funnel another 13 million over to the school district as well?

According to the NEA:

Eighteen states saw real declines in average teacher salaries over those years, adjusting for inflation. Those with average salaries declining 5% or more:

Alaska (-16.6%),
Connecticut (-10.3%),
Kansas (-9.9%),
New York (-7.7%),
Wisconsin (-6.7%), and
Vermont (-6.7%)

Average salaries for Alaska's teachers show the largest decline in all 50 states since 1994.

Also, I've heard people bitching about this:
Compared to the Alaska Department of Labor, the average teacher earns more than $8,000 a year more than the average wage-earner in Anchorage.

Of course, no one mentions that, in the last 20 years, Anchorage has lost many of its technical/professional jobs and increased its number of service jobs.

Does that mean we want our teacher's pay to be on par with Walmart employees? I don't.

Also, the quibbling over their healthcare benefits is crap. They pay $270.00/month for their portion as it stands. That's about the same that I pay, and I'm on crappy federal health care! Teachers are exposed to hundreds of children carrying billions of germs every week. They should have the best health care we can afford to give them.

And finally...if we can waste money on a jet for the Governor (I love the fact that KUDO has named it "The Bald Ego.") that can't even land in many places in Alaska, why can't we funnel 13 million bucks for the teachers over the next three years?

Someone get Murkowski out of the governor's mansion, please.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Questions I'd Love to Ask the General - but can't

Major General Strock is here. In case you are wondering, he is the Commander and Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Bunnatine Greenhouse works for him. After 24 years of exemplary service with the Corps, she has now been demoted and is on a 90 day probation (which by regulation has to include a PIP - Performance Improvement Plan)

How did she get there? She had the audacity to reject the sole-source contracting to Halliburton as unethical and illegal. Since she was the head of Contracting at the time, she ought to know.

By the way, this is the third woman I have seen who has tried to stop waste, fraud and/or abuse and has ended up with poor performance evaluations after many years of perfect ones. (I helped one woman write her grievance about it.)

We have a Town Hall Meeting tomorrow with Gen. Strock. There will be a question and answer period. Do you know how tempting it will be to just blurt out a question about this? I wish we knew now if my husband was going to stay on with the government or go into the private sector.

It's time to leave this organization...I know it. Hopefully, I will be gone by Christmas.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Iraq: If the Constitution is accepted tonight, it will be based 100% on Islamic Law

We caved:
American diplomats backed religious conservatives who threatened to torpedo talks over the shape of the new Iraq unless Islam was a primary source of law. Secular and liberal groups were dismayed at the move, branding it a betrayal of Washington's promise to advocate equal rights in a free and tolerant society.
The Kurds and the Sunnis are not happy:

Conservative Shias, dominant in the Iraqi government, had clashed with Kurds and other minorities who wanted Islam to be "a" rather than "the" main source of law.

According to Kurdish and Sunni negotiators, the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, proposed that Islam be named "a primary source" and supported a wording which would give clerics authority in civil matters such as divorce, marriage and inheritance.

If approved, critics say that the proposals would erode women's rights and other freedoms enshrined under existing laws. "We understand the Americans have sided with the Shias. It's shocking. It doesn't fit with American values," an unnamed Kurdish negotiator told Reuters. "They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state."

Mind boggling, isn't it?

We make promises we can't keep. We stick our fingers in so many pies that we can't control any of them. We ignore all of the experts and our long-time allies. Then, when we are finally faced with reality and grudgingly give in to the inevitable, we have already set it up nicely so that it becomes OUR fault!

So, with one stroke the Kurds have a reason to be pissed off, the Sunnis have one more thing for the insurgent recruiting manual (like they needed one) and Iran has a reason to celebrate...again.

When will we learn?