Lightning Strikes Twice for Scouts

If gays, the ACLU and abortionists were responsible for 9/11, according to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, whatÆs bringing down divine wrath on the Boy Scouts?

First a scouter leader struck a power line with a tent pole killing four, and four days later, two more dead on July 30th struck by lightning. Five days later, Scouts in Utah got another jolt this time from a lightning bolt, another Boy Scout dead, more injured. Then lightning struck again.áSeven dead in nine days in three incidents of high voltage, a very, very unusual coincidence. Or maybe a message.

The Boy Scouts famously exclude those who do not believe in God, but itÆs foolish to exclude a child who might benefit from exposure to the Scouts and their values, teachings and community. Requiring children to profess belief in a supreme being doesnÆt give them time to make up their minds and discourages free thinking. Besides, ten-year olds have no idea what God is except what theyÆve been told.á Might as well ask a Martian about Michael Jackson.

The YMCA is a Christian organization but doesnÆt exclude atheists.

My suggestion of divine retribution is every bit as ridiculous as Falwell and Robertson’s, but the point is not lost. The Scouts are squandering an opportunity to reach the very people who need them most, kids most likely not being taught about God at home. Seems unchristian-like.

When confronted with the same situation, the Girl Scoutsáthey were flexible and allowed the substitution of a few words to their pledge. They donÆt exclude.

ItÆs an awfully odd coincidence, all this electricity in the air. Maybe the Scouts should rethink their policy. Until then, if youÆre a Scout and a thunderstorm is coming, IÆd put down that golf club.

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I never understood the French-bashing phenomena. IÆve even heard a few cracks about baguette-eating surrender monkeys on cooking shows. The French are so low on the American totem pole, they’d have less chance of surviving a Marine funeral than a pinada at a baseball game. But wait, didn’t the French come to America’s rescue in the Revolutionary War?

Oh yeah, thatÆs right, the Brits were pretty much kicking American ass until the French started supplying troops and resources. And it was a French fleet that blocked the Brits from resupplying and led to their surrender at Yorktown — to a combined American / French force. HereÆs a quote from a college course on the War:

ôWithout the involvement of the French, the U.S. victory (especially at the time and in the way that it happened) would have been in doubt. But, the Americans almost from the first failed to give adequate recognition to the French for what they had done….The involvement in the American cause turned out to be quite costly for the French government. It was never clearly established that the supplies were loans and not gifts – an issue never settled. As a result, the involvement in America turned out to be one of the factors that soon plunged the government into the chaos that resulted in the French Revolution.ö

Hmm. Flag waving, beret bashing, freedom-fry-flinging fools use history as their justification for the sophomoric characterization of a country — a country that tried to save us from a quagmire in Iraq for HeavenÆs sake! The French said Bush was being hasty and his justifications were shaky, which turned out to be true. Even the Congressman who proposed the freedom fry faux pas no longer supports the war.

YouÆd think the French would get a little more respect in this country — at the very least, on cooking shows.

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Under the category of worst excuse to kill your spouse, a Florida man was sentenced to die for bludgeoning his wife to death because she wanted to snuggle following sex and he wanted to watch Sportscenter. The man admitted to the crime and agreed with the sentence.

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Bush has done it again. He promised that fighting ôover thereö would prevent terror ôover here,ö but terror is already on American soil, right in the heart of the heartland, exported from Iraq to our sunny shores courtesy of clueless George.

IÆm talking about the thousands of soldiers coming home freaked out from a year or more of hell fighting an enemy that canÆt be distinguished from the population. Two GIs were in the news recently for home town shootings, and scores more have cited combat fatigue as the reason they snapped. TheyÆre coming back terrorized and passing it on to their families, neighbors, co-workers, or random people who donÆt look right.

There are a lot of unintended consequences to GeorgeÆs actions.

What was sold as a six-month breeze in the desert has become a two-years-and-counting slog that is taking a huge toll in lives lost, dollars cost, families disrupted and a White House corrupted. If WMD had been found, or Osama found hiding in Baghdad, or if Bush hadnÆt twisted 9-11 into his own personal crusade and tied it to Iraq, I wouldnÆt lay the blame on him for the costs of the war. But after reading about young soldiers coming home terrorized, possibly looking at another tour of duty coming up, and thinking about all the costs and all the deceptions large and small — yeah, clueless George deserves the blame.

He let Rumsfeld run amock in the early days and field an army too small to finish the job. He rushed to war on a political time line, invading before all resources were in place and all options exhausted so as not to get in the way of his reelection. At every turn he has bamboozled and floundered as commander-in-chief, repeating the old stay the course mantra reminiscent of LBJ and æNam. And he has no clue how to get us out.

And still to come, real live terrorists spread around the world after learning the tricks of the trade in the best simulation possible: an insurgent war on their turf. Brilliant move. We don’t have enough trouble at home so George stirs it up elsewhere.

Why this president is still approved of by 42 percent of Americans is beyond me. Maybe itÆs how he and his brother stood up for Terri Schiavo.

Mike Brownie put out to pasture

The Law of Unintended Consequences has again caught up with our boy George Bush. With a huff and a huge puff, the sinking of the deep south has revealed that homeland security is just a catch phrase after Katrina blew down the White House’s carefully constructed house of cards built around their assertion that we’re all safer. The question that should define the estimation of this president is, are we safer than four years ago? Hell no.

Bush, Cheney, Rummie Inc. didnÆt intend for a catastrophic hurricane strike when critical guard units are in Iraq. Try as they might to pretend otherwise, the fact is two battalions from Mississippi and Louisiana – several thousand soldiers – are deployed in Iraq right now when theyÆre most needed at home, for security. Those poor guys and girls over there are worried about their homes, their families and friends and jobs and neighbors while having to fight a brutal insurgency. Boy, George, you sure fucked up.

IÆm pretty sure Bush and his boys didnÆt know Katrina was coming when they appointed Brownie – the FEMA chief – to a job for which he had no qualifications. They were just rewarding a toadie, and itÆs not like the Democrats in the Senate raised a fuss when he came up for confirmation. So hey, Bush says, donÆt blame me, I only work here. How was I supposed to know the levee might break? Perhaps, the inevitable odds? The countless studies and predictions? I digress.

George’s imagination has failed spectacularly in the past. How wasáhe supposed to knowáterrorists might fly planes into major U.S. landmarks?

ItÆs not like he actually reads all those briefings. Bush leaves the details to others, and as an unintended consequence, was caught – along with the country – with his pants down. Damn hurricanes have to strike when on vacation. CanÆt a guy get some rest?

The image of Bush with his arm around Brownie telling him he was doing a heck of good job is the albatross hanging around the neck of this presidency. I have the picture on my wall next to a portrait of Bill Clinton and my ACLU card.

People said the elder Bush was detached from reality – Junior lives in a black hole.

Clueless George Brings Terror Home

Bush has done it again. He promised that fighting ôover thereö would prevent terror ôover here,ö but terror is already on American soil, right in the heart of the heartland, exported from Iraq to our sunny shores courtesy of clueless George.

IÆm talking about the thousands of soldiers coming home freaked out from a year or more of hell fighting an enemy that canÆt be distinguished from the population. Two GIs were in the news recently for hometown shootings, and scores more have cited combat fatigue as the reason they snapped. TheyÆre coming back terrorized and passing it on to their families, neighbors, co-workers — or random people who just donÆt look right.

There are a lot of unintended consequences to GeorgeÆs actions.

What was sold as a six-month breeze in the desert has become a two-years-and-counting slog that is taking a huge toll in lives lost, dollars cost, families disrupted and a White House corrupted. If WMD had been found, or Osama found hiding in Baghdad, or if Bush hadnÆt twisted 9/11 into his own personal crusade and tied it to Iraq, I wouldnÆt lay the blame on him for the unintended costs of the war. But after reading about young soldiers coming home terrorized, possibly looking at another tour of duty coming up, and thinking about all the costs and all the deceptions large and small — yeah, clueless George deserves the blame.

He let Rumsfeld run amock in the early days and field an army too small to finish the job. He rushed to war on a political time line, invading before all resources were in place and all options exhausted so as not to get in the way of his 2004 reelection. At every turn he has bamboozled and floundered as commander-in-chief, repeating the old stay-the-course mantra reminiscent of LBJ and æNam. And he has no clue how to get us out.

And still to come, real live terrorists spread around the world after learning the tricks of the trade in the best simulation possible: an insurgent war on their turf. Brilliant move. We don’t have enough trouble at home so George stirs it up elsewhere.

Why this president is still approved of by 42 percent of Americans is beyond me. Maybe itÆs how he and his brother stood up for Terri Schiavo.

Something to keep in mind as you spend those tax checks

Now that tax checks from the Treasury are arriving in mailboxes around the country, it is time for a check of another sort — a reality check.

The money arriving from the government — “Bush Bucks” a friend calls his share — is an advance on 2001 tax returns. ThatÆs right, the IRS calls it an “Advance Payment,” words taken from irs.gov. The money will be subtracted from returns next tax filing season. Even another friend who works for the IRS in data entry didnÆt know that the check he got — which helped him make his car payment — was an advance and not a give-away.

Come early 2002, reality is going to sink in, and it will be interesting to see the publicÆs reaction. Not that early returns are such a bad idea, unless the cost to the government and wisdom of the policy are considered. First the question begs to be answered, whatÆs the point?

A clue is written right on the checks: “Tax Relief for American Workers,” a motto lifted straight from President BushÆs presidential campaign.

Reality check: This “tax relief” is a political gimmick, one of those tricks thatágrease elections and lube the contribution pipeline. A lot of people are saying the Prez isnÆt such a bad guy if heÆll put some cash in my pocket, and thatÆs the point. Slick move.

And expensive. Just mailing the millions of the “rebate” notices cost $33.9 million, then tack on the expense of the checks themselves, complete with campaign motto. The White House has been quick to add that printing a few extra words on the checks didnÆt add to the cost, and really the amount of money we’re talking about here is comparable to forking over a buck for a soda. ItÆs pocket change for Uncle Sam.

But other costs loomáfor the nationÆs finances. Already Democrats are beating the drums over the dwindling budget surplus. The money-gusher has been capped, and even Bush coyly says “Surplus? What surplus?” when asked what happened. He wants to sink billions into missile defense but the money is simply not available, and that means other priorities like Medicare and education are not going to get a badly needed infusion of cash. Republicans say they “took the money off the table” so it couldnÆt be spent “for liberal pork projects.”

Reality check.

What theyÆve done is reverse the lastácommander’s chief accomplishment with the economy. Wise management of the nationÆs finances restored the confidence of the markets in the governmentÆs ability to handle its budget, spurring the greatest period of growth ever in the mid and late 90s. Strangely enough, the gold rush began after Bill Clinton passed a budget-balancing and politically risky tax hike as one of his first major accomplishments.

However, President Bush subscribes to the old school of supply-side economics and the notion that the rich know how to best use money. ThatÆs really what this tax cut is about. The pocket change arriving in peopleÆs mailboxes is pennies to dollars compared to what the richest American taxpayers got out of the deal. IÆm afraid weÆve been down this road before and results wonÆt be much better this time.

Last time down the supply side of the economic road, starting ReaganÆs first year, the budget drove off a cliff into huge deficits. With the government borrowing heavily to pay its bills in the 80s and early 90s, credit markets were sucked dry, making less money available for private financing for everything from homes to businesses. The economy was in a doldrums û it had no wind. Clinton turned all that around by weaning the government off of deficits, making lots of cheap financing available for Internet ventures and SUVs. The government even paid billions off of the national debt and ran up record surpluses.

Those days are over.

It remains to be seen if huge deficits are the result of this latest tax cutting experiment. All it takes is for some more of those rosy economic projections to come in below expectation for the money well to sputter dry and the budget to go into the red. Then all of the creative accounting in the world wonÆt do a bit of good, and itÆs exactly the sort of gimmickry used by the White House lately that contributed to the last recession and the marketsÆ loss of confidence in the governmentÆs honesty.

The first real reality check comes this fall when thereÆs no money to pay for Democratic priorities like Medicare and extended unemployment benefits. Reality strikes again in April as people realize they didnÆt really save much money from the tax cut as they thought they might. Some people might feel a little duped that these early checks came with a price, but many wonÆt care, like my friend who made his car payment. As long he doesnÆt have to pay anything back, Bush is a good olÆ guy.

Finally, the ultimate reality check comes as the government deals with tight budgets and a sluggish economy. If the tax cut doesnÆt create growth as advertised and the economy sinks like a lead balloon, Bush and his buddies in Congress will get a reality check of their own.