Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why "they" hate us...

...And why big oil, big pharma, big retail and Rupert Murdoch are all supporting Hillary Clinton!

Update on passport

Well, no surprise here, I canceled the goddamned thing. Yeah, and I'm out a hundred twelve bucks. But does that mean I'm going to let it rest? Hell, no! I received a privacy release from and sent it and a letter back to Congressman Leonard Boswell's office yesterday after a telephone discussion with "Michael" at the Charleston Passport Center.

This doesn't get any better. Now "Michael" tells me that "a documents expert" at the passport center determined that the bottom portion of my birth certificate is missing. I guess that's the portion where Polk County embedded the microchip in 1950!

What really pisses me off is that some goddamned GS-4 is making the claim that the birth certificate, that laid in my safe deposit box for eleven years, had been deliberately tampered with by parties unknown, including myself. When I get the birth certificate back I'm going to the Polk County Recorder's Office and ask if anything's amiss. If I'm told that it looks like a bona fide Polk County issued copy of a birth certificate, I'm going to ask for an affidavit stating the birth certificate is on good shape and forward that information to Senator Harkin's and Congressman Boswell's offices. If it comes back looking like was mangled in some sort of machinery I'll forward that information to Harkin and Boswell's offices too.

And if my birth certificate comes back all chewed up I'm going to be pissed. But not because it's torn, spindled and mutilated but because these passport jackasses lied. If they'd sent me a letter saying ",Sorry, but the machine ate your birth certificate, can we have another"...yeah, sure, I'd be pissed but I'd understand.

But what "Michael" and his merry band of GS-4s have done is question the very authenticity of my citizenship. That's something no one, especially not the federal government, has the right to do to anyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Passport! Schmassport!

You know, I can't say I've been too terribly happy to say I'm an American for some time but now I'm pissed off. This "security" state bullshit has gone way too far. Let me tell you why.

My 83-year-old father wants to winter in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for perhaps the last time. I'm driving down with him and then I'm flying home. In the spring I'll fly down to the McAllen airport, help him pack up and drive him back home. That's not the problem.

You see we like to cross the Rio Grande into the little Mexican border town of Nuevo Progresso for an authentic Mexican meal. We had Thanksgiving dinner at Garcia's Restaurant above the Canada Store on Ave. Benito Juarez last year and the food and friendly service were wonderful.

So between then and now the Department of Homeland Security says that Americans coming back from Mexico and Canada, starting January 31, 2008, must possess a passport. So, thinking I'm doing the right thing, on October 19 of this year, I go to my credit union, open my safe-deposit box, retrieve my birth certificate where it has lain for the last eleven years and go to the passport office in the main Post Office. I fill out the application form, have my photo taken, surrender my birth certificate, which at the time the lady handling the application found in perfect order, and wrote out two checks, one to the State Department for $67 and another to the Postal Service for $45. This is so simple I don't know why I never did it before. So far so good.

But when I open my mail on November 5 I find a letter from the Charleston (SC) Passport Center tell me that there's a tiny corner cut out of the bottom of my birth certificate (this was how some asshole named "Michael" described it to me over the phone last night.) A fucking tiny corner missing from the bottom of my birth certificate?! What the fuck?! Did Polk County have micro-chips embedded in that missing corner of my birth certificate in 1950 or something?! What the fuck difference does it make?!

Anyway, you can't talk to anybody from the U.S. State Department Passport division over the phone about this, you can't email anybody and get any satisfaction and the fucking Charleston Passport Center is closed to the public! This is MY government we're talking about here. A fucking federal facility not open to the fucking public! The only way one can contact the Charleston Passport Center is via snail-mail, something I don't really mind, but it is childish. Here's the reason given for this petty behavior by my government:

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), requiring all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on February 22 its intent to propose, as part of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), significant flexibility regarding travel documents required for U.S. and Canadian children as part of WHTI requirements for U.S. land and sea border entry in 2008.

The goal of the initiative is to strengthen U.S. border security while facilitating entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors by providing standardized documentation that enables the Department of Homeland Security to quickly and reliably identify a traveler.
Got it? " quickly and reliably identify a traveler."

But you know what, folks?! This isn't for security's sake. This isn't going to keep terrorists out of the country. This is about harassment and humiliation. This is bullying by the Department of Homeland Security. But that's what this government is now all about; it bullys and harasses its employees, bullys other sovereign nations, humiliates illegal immigrants and harasses, humiliates and bullys it citizens in thousands of little ways on a daily basis.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans' Day 2007: Sentimentality in uniform

Well, here it is Veterans' Day 2007. It used to be called Armistice Day in remembrance of the end of The Great War, which, after the unpleasantness of World War II, got a name change. Not that anyone really cares about World War I these days. That's ancient history, so yesterday and it has nothing to do with what's happening now.

And I suppose it doesn't, for there were reasons the great European powers went to war with one-another 93 years ago. Stupid, petty reasons to be sure but reasons nonetheless. Or so the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Great Britain thought; for when we delve just a little beneath the surface what we find is a trio of royal cousins wanting an excuse to whack the crap out of each other. A lot of death, destruction and mayhem could have been avoided if the King of Great Britain, the Kaiser of Germany and the Czar of Russia had been locked in a room and beaten one another to a bloody pulp, last man standing the winner.

So how does this relate to the current "war" on terror? Because, at least in the early days of World War I the civilian population cheered declarations of war, the boys enlisted and, with much pomp and ceremony, marched off to die. And, at least according to the "polls" Americans overwhelmingly supported the opening notes of Operation Iraqi Liberation. But like the Vietnam burned babies that we are, we, the American people, have soured on President George W. Bush's little occupation of Iraq.

But we haven't soured on putting on a big sendoff for our boys and girls in uniform. Here's a sample of the latest teary-eyed, heart-tugging ceremony for the Iowa National Guards' 186th Military Police Company, in a story by reporter Melissa Walker in this morning's Sunday Des Moines Register

A soldier took a loved one down a quiet hallway to comfort her and privately say goodbye.

A freckle-faced boy wore his father's Army cap and looked up at him with pride.

A young man held his wife's hand and smiled as he patted her stomach, their baby growing inside.

There were hundreds of moments like these at the send-off on Saturday for the roughly 130 members of the Iowa Army National Guards 186th Military Police Company The company is headed to Fort Dix, N.J., for training before its deployment to Iraq.
Aw, isn't that touching. It makes this company of trained killers seem so human. Oopsie! I called them "trained killers!" I meant professional military police officers be sent to Iraq to "train" the Iraqis to police themselves. Odd, isn't it! I always thought Saddam Hussein's Iraq was something of a police state? Oh, well, silly me.

And to add a little noise and color to the sendoff ceremonies the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of Harley-Davidson ridding, flag waving, middle-aged cases of arrested development are donating their services to protect these brave boys and girls from the Reverend Fred Phelps and his merry band of Westboro Baptist homo haters. Fortunately for Register readers any reference to the Patriot Guard Riders or Fred Phelps was edited out, or both packs of assholes decided not to show.

But if we revel in the wonderful sendoffs for our "heroes" in uniform, equally we revel when they come home in a box or under their own power. We love the spectacle of flags and marching soldiers, their weeping families when they return. It only lasts a few minutes at most on the TV screen but it's so-o-o-o "emotional."

Anyway, like I wrote back on September 27 on this blog: As long as there is an All Volunteer Force. And as long as troop levels remain constantly around a 100,000 to 150,000 the American public will put up with the continued occupation of Iraq and subjugation of its people. This is the cynical and terrible arithmetic of Iraq.

To illustrate my point of September 27 last may I offer some quotations from the Veteran's Day story by George Basler in this morning's the Binghamton, NY Press & Sun-Bulletin
They're a different kind of veteran than previous generations, because they're fighting in an all-volunteer army, military officials said. Most of the country, exempt from a draft, can go about its business without being touched by war, or even thinking about it.

Opposition to the war disturbs Vincent Ruffo, 50, of Port Dickinson, who served in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005 as a sergeant with the 204th Engineer Battalion. He was in the National Guard for 20 years and also served at the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City following the events of 9/11. He thinks too many people are forgetting that day, and why the United States is fighting. Maybe it will take another tragedy to wake people up, he said.

"What makes me mad is when people say we're a country at war. We're not a country at war. We're a military at war," [Joseph Merrill] the deputy Binghamton clerk said. He has more respect for people who are vocally against the war, even though he doesn't agree with them, than he has for people who say they support the war, but don't give anything back.
With that I close this Veterans' Day tirade.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

LTE: November 6, 2007

The Des Moines Register editorial, Confirm Mukasey as U.S. attorney general, November 6, 2007, illustrates why the many voters are losing confidence in the Democratic Party, and why the United States is losing respect in the world.

Judge Michael Mukasey may be a fine jurist and personal acquaintance of New York Senator Charles Shumer, and have the credentials required to bring a smidgen of dignity back to the office of U.S. attorney general. Yet his unwillingness to denounce "waterboarding" as torture should out weigh all other considerations when the Senate votes to confirm or deny his appointment.

In 2004, in an effort to form a coherent Justice Department policy on torture, then acting assistant attorney general Daniel Levin subject himself to waterboarding. Following that experience Levin issued a memo declaring "Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms." For his efforts Levin was shown the door by, then, in-coming attorney general Alberto Gonzales.

It is alleged President Franklin Roosevelt said of a Central American dictator, "He may be a son of a b____, but he's our son of a b____ ." If this is the kind of reasoning certain leading centrist Democrats, most prominently Shumer and California's Senator Diane Feinstein, have for confirming Mukasey, it is not good enough.

Nor is any pledge of judicial independence made by Mukasey good enough. If we have learned anything
from the history of this administration it is pledges are not worth the paper on which they are written; nor will a Democratically controlled Congress do its Constitutional duty and check the power of the presidency.