Friday, July 27, 2007

July 21-26, 2007

July 26, 2007

Putting the Dems on
Suicide Watch

How does one go about talking a political party out of committing suicide? That's the question. No, I'm not talking about the Republicans. It's too late for them. I'm talking about the Democrats.

Recent polls show that Democratic Party faithful seem determined to do to their party what Republicans did to their party when they chose George W. Bush to be their top dog.

And that's precisely what Democrats will do if they nominate Hillary Clinton as their candidate for President.

I know, I've been saying that for months, beating that horse and beating it.. but it'll not only still kicking, but stronger than ever. So, maybe I'm wrong. I am wrong about half the time, so this could be one of those times.

Still I can't shake the ominous feeling that Democrats are sleepwalking their party off a cliff, led by Pied Piper Hillary. My gut tells me that, if they nominate Hillary there are only two possible outcomes, both bad;

1) She will run and lose, sticking us with another Republican in the White House,
2) Or, she'll run and win sticking us with another Bill and Hillary White House soap opera.

“But Steeeeeeeeve,” Hillary supporters squeal, “Bill Clinton was a great president. “Wouldn't it be wonderful to have him back in the White House, even if it's only as First Gentleman?”

Ah.... yeah... well, ah, let me mull that for a moment ......................


You can't go home again, even if that home was once the White House. And that truism is even more so if the homeward bound couple are Bill and Hillery. There's not enough storage in the nation's Capitol for the tons of emotional, political and personal baggage Hillary and Bill would arrive at the White House carrying.

Look, Republican voters had plenty of advance warning of what a GW Bush presidency would be like. All his arrogance, incompetence and history of failure atop failure in the private sector were laid out in painful detail. Yet they got smooth-talked into voting for him anyway. And in a shocking display of a mass learning disability, they did it a second time four years later.

And now look at the Republican party. Come January 2009 Republicans in Congress will have trouble gathering quorum for morning coffee. Eight years of George W. Bush have set the GOP back a quarter century – which of course it great news for the rest of us.

But, if Democrats succeed in putting Hillary Clinton in the White House they will doom their party to the same fate. If you think Americans are sick and tired of Bush's smirks and lies and incompetence, just wait til they get a belly full of a triangulating Hillary Clinton administration.

Like it or not – fair or not -- Bill and Hillary have an image problem. Madison Avenue has succeeded in crippling American's critical thinking skills. Today perception is reality. And the perception way too many Americans have of Hillary and Bill was engineered by the rabid-right. Since Bill Clinton left office such perceptions have laid dominant. But if you think it's dead, or that Hillary's term as a US Senator and Bill's charitable work have changed those perceptions, I have headache remedy to sell you that you apply directly to the forehead.

Assuming Hillary wins and serves only one term, that would mean 1460 days of news coverage speculating who's the top and who's the bottom. Would it be a week, or month into a Billery administration before the first rumors began to swirl that Bill was having White House maids doing more than just his laundry. True? Made up? No one will know, and many won't even care. There we would be once again, trapped in vicious cycle of smarmy accusations countered by dubious denials from two serial dissemblers.

Hillary says she would send Bill off as a roving ambassador, which sounds like a good idea – until you think about it. First there's the appearance problems that would cause. Face it, much of the world is still mired in patriarchy. Combine that with the fact that Bill Clinton attracts media attention like Paris Hilton – (let us pray the two never actually meet on the road) – and all that will raise the obvious questions of who is making US foreign policy – Hill or Bill?

Of course President Hillary Clinton's White House spokes-things will dismiss such questions as nonsense, stating that Bill is simply doing Hillary's bidding. But whenever Bill steps in front of the kleeg lights and cameras overseas it'll be deja vu all over again. It will be President Bill Clinton that reappears, like those visions on the Virgin Mary that folks say they see on all kinds of stuff.

Then there's Bill's rep as a randy dandy. I knew a person whose father used to work on Bill Clinton's campaigns when he was governor of Arkansas. Whenever Bill was on the campaign trail this guy's job was to bring a sleeping bag and pillow and sleep in the hall, leaning against Bill's hotel room door. Because if someone didn't do that Gov. Bill was likely to sneak out and go hound dogging at local bars.

So, who will do that job when Bill off mentoring the world's leaders for his presidential wife? (“Hi, my name is Bill, ¿Como se llama?) Would it be the same Secret Service that allowed Monica prance in and out of the Oval Office at will? Forgetaboutit.

I personally don't give a fig what Billy does with his Willy. I just don't want to hand the Ken Starr/Swift Boat nut balls lurking out there another gift. (And if you doubt that that is precisely what will happen, then it's you that's suffering a learning disability.)

Then there's Hillary Clinton, herself. No woman since Lizzy Borden has created more a fuss. Justified or unjustified, is it really more meaningless fuss we need right now? Don't we have more important things boiling over on our stove than Hillary? Yes! Yes we do!. But have no doubt about it, if Hillary runs and is elected, the issue will be Hillary -- all Hillary, all the time. (Is she making a statement on global warming by showing cleavage?)

When George Bush is asked a question about something important, he either lies or serves up answers so at odds with reality that they blow our cerebral fuses.

When Hillary answers questions her lips move, sounds come out but the experience leaves one feeling like they'd reached for cold beer but got only foam. It tastes like beer, smells like beer, but it fails to quench our thirst. After eight years of being forced to drink Neo-con Koolaide we deserve better than four years of Hillary's rhetorical foam.

The bulk of Hillary's support, according to the polls, comes form women. I get that. But roughly half the US population is made up of women. Is Hillary really the best woman we can come up with? Or are women supporting her because she's the only woman running for President? If that's the reason women are supporting Hillary, it's a really bad reason.

I know it's unfair, but women will pay a heavy price for a Hillary presidency. While most Americans are sick of George W. Bush, they won't take that out on any of the men running for President. But after four years of a Hillary presidency they will take their feelings about her out on the next woman to run for that office... and the next, and the next....

Unfair? Yes. Illogical? You bet. Wrong? Stupid? Ignorant? All true. Nevertheless, that's precisely what will happen.

The first woman president must be a slam dunk. She must be a Golda Mier. Hillary is not that person.

I'm sorry that all of Hillary's opponents are males. I wish there were more women, in both parties, running for President. There are great women in Congress, any one of which would be a better choice for the nation than Hillary. On the Republican side, Senator Olympia Snowe, would make a fabulous president, and there's Barbara Boxer on the Democratic side. While each of those women would bring the usual political baggage to their candidacy, neither would be the ruinous distraction from the real issues as Hillary Clinton.

Is Hillary Clinton smart enough to be President of the United States? Sure. (She was smart enough even before George W. Bush lowered that bar.) Is she tough enough? Yep. Tough as nails.

So what's my problem with Hillary?

My problem with Hillary is ... well, Hillary. I don't want the next four years to be all about Hillary. Instead I want it to be all about fixing the things George broke during his eight years in office. And I am as sure as I have ever been about anything before that, if Hillary is elected President we will quickly find Washington consumed with the goings on in the latest FOX series, As the Clinton's Turn, Part II.

July 23, 2007

Feel the Heat, Yet?

On July 17th President Bush signed another executive order. It should have made the front page and been the lead story on every newscast, but wasn't. In fact, unless you read the so-called “alternative” press, you probably still don't know a thing about it. Yet it could land your ass in jail and/or get your financial assets frozen or seized.

President Bush's latest order builds atop earlier “national security” executive orders Bush signed in the wake of 9/11. Here's the new order – with my annotations.

Executive Order:
Blocking Property of

Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004.

(This is what I call the “boiling the frog” method of de-constitutionalizing the US government. Put a frog in a pot of room-temperature water and turn the burner on low. As the water slowly heats the frog doesn't notice it's being boiled to death -- until it's too late. Each of Bush's national security executive orders turned up the heat provided by earlier orders. One hardly feels their liberties slip, sliding away. But read on... )

I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order,

(Hello? What's all that about? Well, among other things I figure it exempts anyone or company the US has “licensed” to do things in regard to Iraq, that have subsequently proven to have done more harm than good to the administration's stated goals in Iraq. Oh come on, you know, like Halliburton and Blackwater, et al.)

... all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(Hey look, there's two new federal deputies in town. Sheriff Bush just deputized the Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Defense. Bet you didn't know the Secretary of Defense could snatch the domestic assets of American citizens without a court order. Not only that but these two deputies don't even need to check with the Dept of Justice if they think you're up to no good, vis a vie Iraq. All the Secretary of the Treasury and the Sec. of Defense need to do is “consult,” before they freeze your ass-ets. I wish the Sec. of Treasury had that kind of power on Wall Street over sub-prime MBS and hedge funds. Oh wait.. he does. He just hasn't used it.)

Okay, let's delve into the guts of the new order. (Please keep hands and arms inside the column and try not to look suspicious.) The new order covers any person or entity deemed:

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq;

(Let's see. Over the last five years who might have done the most to “threaten the peace or stability of the Government of Iraq?” Oh, yeah... the Bush administration. Maybe the Sec's. of Treasury and Defense need to “consult” about that first.)

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(Ah, that explains why Halliburton is relocating it's corporate headquarters to Dubia. Getting out of Dodge while the gettin' is good.)

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

(Would that include US forces arming Sunni militias? Because any fool knows that, sooner or later, all that US ordinance is going to end being used to destabilize the Shiite-controlled central government.)

(iii)to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(Guess you better start checking on what your friends and business associates are up to. Because if one of them is up to no good, vis a vie Iraq – and upon “consultation” they are deemed to in violation of this new order -- your ass-ets and your friend's ass-ets could be playing drop the soap together in some federal lockup.)

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

(Do you really know what Goodwill and the St. Vincent de Paul do with the stuff you donate? Huh? Well, under this order, you just better hope that old computer desk you donated to Goodwill doesn't somehow end up in an al Qaeda safe house in Crazistan.)

Sec. 2. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(Got it? If you're against what the administration is doing in Iraq, keep it to yourself. Don't even think about it. And, while not thinking about it, you better not appear to trying to “evade or avoid” thinking about it either. )

b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is( prohibited.

(Got friends?)

Sec. 3. For purposes of this order:
(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;

(Point of clarification: The term “entity” in this order does not refer to Dick Cheney.)

(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

(Yes, that would mean you.)

Sec. 4. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

(Let's see... could that include a donation to, oh say, Cindy Sheehan? Or Or a pro-impeachment organization?.... Nah.... Couldn't happen. Although there seems little to prevent it, since the order does say that Bush is “the decider” in such matters: “I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified...”)

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

(Whoa! If you're a vocal opponent to the war in Iraq, you might want to consider putting your money under a mattress. Because this order gives the feds the power to snatch your ass-ets without even so much as a hoody-do. You could wake up the morning after attending a big anti-war march and discover none of your debit cards work, all your checks bounce and the ATM refuses to dish out any of your (former) dough. It's kinda like discovering your car, which had been parked in your garage, was towed – to Washington, DC.)

Sec. 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government, consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order and, where appropriate, to advise the Secretary of the Treasury in a timely manner of the measures taken.

(In otherwords those two new deputies, the Sec's of State and Defense, have been given the power to name their own assistant deputies. Hell, they can deputize entire federal agencies to keep an eye on your ass-ets. Remember that the next time you deduct a charitable contribution on your taxes. Because that posse of green-eyeshaded al Qaeda hunting IRS deputies might just decide that not all 501 (3) c's are created equal -- in particular, the one(s) you contribute to.)

Sec. 7. Nothing in this order is intended to affect the continued effectiveness of any rules, regulations, orders, licenses, or other forms of administrative action issued, taken, or continued in effect heretofore or hereafter under 31 C.F.R. chapter V, except as expressly terminated, modified, or suspended by or pursuant to this order.

(Okay, it's safe to laugh at that one. After all, what “rules, orders or other forms of adminstrative actions” of this administration have been in any way, “effective?” Hell, these people can't even issue passports to their own citizens or get aid to flood victims in their own country. But they can seem to get farm subsidy checks to long-dead farmers.)

Sec. 8. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right, benefit, or privilege, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

(In otherwords, if the deputies “consult,” and decide to grab your ass-ets, and turn out to be wrong, you can't sue them. Being in the Bush administration means never having to say you're sorry.)

July 17, 2007.

I don't know about you, but I think we're in deep water here ... deep and disconcertingly hot.

Video of the Day

July 20, 2007

How's Your Bullsit Detector?

Most days lately I feel like a losing boxer in the 12th round of 15-round match. Each morning I stagger out of my corner fully expecting another beating, and rarely am I wrong. How did this happen? Less than seven years ago I danced like butterfly and stung like a bee. How did I (we) fall so far, so fast?

In a word -- “Bullshit.” That's right, bullshit. I, and the rest of us, allowed ourselves to be bullshitted into weakness, hopelessness, fear and despair. I'm not kidding. It really is that simple – and just that depressing. And it's just that embarrassing.

For some months now I've had a link on this site (over there in the right frame ---> )to a remarkable address given 38-years ago to a convention of English teachers. It was delivered by author and scholar, Neil Postman way back in 1969. The speech was quite long, and some of it dealt with teaching. Which is why I suspect many folks never cut through the whole thing. So I've edited out the extraneous matter leaving intact Postman's core message, which I would summarize as, “Citizens living in a democracy, if they hope to keep that democracy, need to learn how to tell the difference between facts and bullshit."

Clearly, too many of us didn't, and as a direct result tens of thousands have died in Iraq and now our own democracy is threatened. All because critical thinking took a vacation, and the price we've paid for that lapse is staggering -- and growing.

Which is why I figured it was time to bring this piece up front for further attention, in the hopes it will prompt everyone to dust off their crap-detectors. Postman saw the danger nearly 40 years ago, tried to warn us, we didn't listen, and the rest is history.

(PS: While this speech was given to teachers in 1969 it would be even more relevant if given to journalists today !)

“Bullshit and the Art of Crap -Detection”
by Neil Postman

(Delivered at the National Convention for the Teachers of English [NCTE], November 28, 1969, Washington, D.C.)

With a title like this, I think I ought to dispense with the rhetorical amenities and come straight to the point. For those of you who do not know, it may be worth saying that the phrase, “crap-detecting,” originated with Ernest Hemingway who when asked if there were one quality needed, above all others, to be a good writer, replied, “Yes, a built-in, shock-proof, crap detector.”

As I see it, the best things schools can do for kids is to help them learn how to distinguish useful talk from bullshit. I will ask only that you agree that every day in almost every way people are exposed to more bullshit than it is healthy for them to endure, and that if we can help them to recognize this fact, they might turn away from it and toward language that might do them some earthly good.

There are so many varieties of bullshit I couldn’t hope to mention but a few, and elaborate on even fewer. I will, therefore, select those varieties that have some transcendent significance.

Now, that last sentence is a perfectly good example of bullshit, since I have no idea what the words “transcendent significance” might mean and neither do you. I needed something to end that sentence with and since I did not have any clear criteria by which to select my examples, I figured this was the place for some big-time words.

Pomposity is not an especially venal form of bullshit, although it is by no means harmless. There are plenty of people who are daily victimized by pomposity in that they are made to feel less worthy than they have a right to feel by people who use fancy titles, words, phrases, and sentences to obscure their own insufficiencies.

A much more malignant form of bullshit than pomposity is what some people call fanaticism. Now, there is one type of fanaticism of which I will say very little, because it is so vulgar and obvious -- bigotry. But there are other forms of fanaticism that are not so obvious, and therefore perhaps more dangerous than bigotry

Eichmannism is a relatively new form of fanaticism, and perhaps it should be given its own special place among the great and near-great varieties of bullshit. The essence of fanaticism is that it has almost no tolerance for any data that do not confirm its own point of view.

Eichmannism is especially dangerous because it is so utterly banal. Some of the nicest people turn out to be mini-Eichmanns. When Eichmann was in the dock in Jerusalem, he actually said that some of his best friends were Jews. And the horror of it is that he was probably telling the truth, for there is nothing personal about Eichmannism. It is the language of regulations, and includes such logical sentences as, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all.” Can you imagine some wretched Jew pleading to have his children spared from the gas chamber? What could be more fair, more neutral, than for some administrator to reply, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for all.”

This is a form of talk which pays a large but, I would think, relatively harmless role in our personal lives. But with the development of the mass media, inanity has suddenly emerged as a major form of language in public matters. The invention of new and various kinds of communication has given a voice and an audience to many people whose opinions would otherwise not be solicited, and who, in fact, have little else but verbal excrement to contribute to public issues. Many of these people are entertainers. The press and air waves are filled with the featured and prime-time statements from people who are in no position to render informed judgments on what they are talking about and yet render them with élan and, above all, sincerity. Inanity, then, is ignorance presented in the cloak of sincerity.

Superstition is ignorance presented in the cloak of authority. A superstition is a belief, usually expressed in authoritative terms for which there is no factual or scientific basis. Like, for instance, that the country in which you live is a finer place, all things considered, than other countries. Or that the religion into which you were born confers upon you some special standing with the cosmos that is denied other people. I will refrain from commenting further on that, except to say that when I hear such talk by own crap-detector achieves unparalleled spasms of activity.

If teachers were to take an enthusiastic interest in what language is about, each teacher would have fairly serious problems to resolve. For instance, you can’t identify bullshit the way you identify phonemes. That is why I have called crap-detecting an art. Although subjects like semantics, rhetoric, or logic seem to provide techniques for crap-detecting, we are not dealing here, for the most part, with a technical problem.

Each person's crap-detector is embedded in their value system; if you want to teach the art of crap-detecting, you must help students become aware of their values. After all, Vice President, Spiro Agnew, or his writers, know as much about semantics as anyone in this room. What he is lacking has very little to do with technique, and almost everything to do with values.

Now, I realize that what I just said sounds fairly pompous in itself, if not arrogant, but there is no escaping from saying what attitudes you value if you want to talk about crap-detecting.

In other words, bullshit is what you call language that treats people in ways you do not approve of.

So any teacher who is interested in crap-detecting must acknowledge that one man’s bullshit is another man’s catechism. Students should be taught to learn how to recognize bullshit, including their own.

It seems to me one needs, first and foremost, to have a keen sense of the ridiculous. Maybe I mean to say, a sense of our impending death. About the only advantage that comes from our knowledge of the inevitability of death is that we know that whatever is happening is going to go away. Most of us try to put this thought out of our minds, but I am saying that it ought to be kept firmly there, so that we can fully appreciate how ridiculous most of our enthusiasms and even depressions are.

Reflections on one’s mortality curiously makes one come alive to the incredible amounts of inanity and fanaticism that surround us, much of which is inflicted on us by ourselves. Which brings me to the next point, best stated as Postman’s Third Law:

“At any given time, the chief source of bullshit with which you have to contend is yourself.”

The reason for this is explained in Postman’s Fourth Law, which is;

“Almost nothing is about what you think it is about--including you.”

With the possible exception of those human encounters that Fritz Peris calls “intimacy,” all human communications have deeply embedded and profound hidden agendas. Most of the conversation at the top can be assumed to be bullshit of one variety or another.

An idealist usually cannot acknowledge his own bullshit, because it is in the nature of his “ism” that he must pretend it does not exist. In fact, I should say that anyone who is devoted to an “ism”--Fascism, Communism, Capital-ism--probably has a seriously defective crap-detector. This is especially true of those devoted to “patriotism.” Santha Rama Rau has called patriotism a squalid emotion. I agree. Mainly because I find it hard to escape the conclusion that those most enmeshed in it hear no bullshit whatever in its rhetoric, and as a consequence are extremely dangerous to other people. If you doubt this, I want to remind you that murder for murder, General Westmoreland makes Vito Genovese look like a Flower Child.

Another way of saying this is that all ideologies are saturated with bullshit, and a wise man will observe Herbert Read’s advice: “Never trust any group larger than a squad.”

So you see, when it comes right down to it, crap-detection is something one does when he starts to become a certain type of person. Sensitivity to the phony uses of language requires, to some extent, knowledge of how to ask questions, how to validate answers, and certainly, how to assess meanings.

I said at the beginning that I thought there is nothing more important than for kids to learn how to identify fake communication. You, therefore, probably assume that I know something about now to achieve this. Well, I don’t. At least not very much. I know that our present curricula do not even touch on the matter. Neither do our present methods of training teachers. I am not even sure that classrooms and schools can be reformed enough so that critical and lively people can be nurtured there.

Nonetheless, I persist in believing that it is not beyond your profession to invent ways to educate youth along these lines. (Because) there is no more precious environment than our language environment. And even if you know you will be dead soon, that’s worth protecting.

Video Of the Week

Here's one guy whose bullshit/crap detector is working just fine. Watch this if you missed it Thursday night:

July 17, 2007

Reality Check Time

What are the odds you're going to get murdered today? Are they higher or lower than they were yesterday, or last week, or ten years ago?

Say you make it through today, what about tomorrow? What are the odds you'll get killed tomorrow... and when I say killed, I don't mean falling in the shower, or run over by a drunk driver while crossing the street – I mean killed violently by another person?

Let's take the question down one level. What are the odds someone you love, care about or just know, will be slain today, tomorrow, or even during your entire lifetime ?

I figure the odds of any of those things happening to you or anyone you know range somewhere between slim and slimmer. And, despite the steady flow of fear mongering out of Washington, those odds have changed little, if any, over the last six years.

Since none of us likes to think about dying, we try not to. Which is why we need to force the issue every now and then. Otherwise the terrorists win. Which terrorists? Both kinds. The Islamically-poisoned ones that want you to live in fear, and our own mis-leaders in Washington, who have found it most useful to leverage terrorist threats to keep you living in fear.

If you took to heart every claim or threat made by these two groups on any given day, you'd never leave the house.

Al-Qaida keeps claiming that the attacks of 9/11 were the first of many to come. And that the next attacks will be even bigger.

To get itself re-elected in 2004, the Bush administration assured us they had al-Qaida on the run, that they were weaker than ever. This month the same folks, now under pressure because of it's disastrous war in Iraq, warned us that, “they're baaaaaaaaaaacccck.” That al-Qaida has regrouped and is stronger (and scarier) than ever.

Does al-Qaida and the Bush administration employ the same PR firm? Sure sounds like it. Al-Qaida says, “We're gonna get you.” The Bush administration says, “Al-Qaida is still trying to get you.” The only change today is that the administration has ginned up it's warnings, adding now that they just don't want to kill you but also “your children and grand children too.” (At this pace, can an al-Qaida threat to our family pets be far behind? Will they plant Dandelions in suburban lawns, return VHS tapes un-rewound, litter?)

I don't mean to trivialize all this. Certainly terrorism is real and terrorists hurt and kill real people somewhere on earth everyday. And I do not doubt for a second that killing Americans here is right at the top of their lunatic wish list.

All I am suggesting is that, before we decide how to respond to that threat, we assess precisely what it is terrorist and terrorism really threatens.

So here's my reality check.

1)What threat does Islamic terrorism pose to America?
Even at it's most vicious and effective levels, could it overthrow our government, take control of our institutions, subjugate the people and impose its will on the nation? No. Not even close. The “best” Islamic terrorists can hope is to be very annoying. By blowing things up from time to time they can disrupt a few city blocks, kill X-number of innocent people and, in so doing, assure that the last thing the rest of Americans would want is a country run by murderous sociopaths like them.

2)How should we respond to terrorist threats and acts on US soil?
The same way we respond to other potentially lethal threats – with some degree of proportionality. Lots of things kill Americans every year that we don't “declare war” on. For example:

Over the last 20 Years on Average:
Americans killed each year in auto accidents 42,116
By the common flu 20,000
Murdered by common criminals 15,517

Food-borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses,
325,000 hospitalizations,
and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.

On 9/11 somewhere around 3000 innocent people were killed by terrorists. Since then only five people died on US soil tied to a terrorist-type attack (the Anthrax letters.) So, 3005 divided by six years gives us a rough average of 500 Americans a year dying at the hands of terrorists.

Could it get worse? Sure. All manners of death statically rise and fall, which is why they have to be averaged. It could also get safer, driving the average lower. All we can do is make our decisions on the things that have already happened -- or not happened.

So, as the terrorist headquartered in Pakistan and the ones dug in in Washington threaten and warn we're so to be toast, the only sane way way to respond is to stop – take a deep breath and try to put those threats into some kind dispassionate perspective. The best way to do that is to compare the likelihood of dying from various threats, not just one:

According to statisticians at The National Safety Council:

You face 1 chance in 84 of dying in an auto accident during your lifetime
You face 1 chance in 218 of dying in a fall
You face 1 chance in 1113 of dying in a building fire
You face 1 chance in 193 of being poisoned to death by something
You face 1 chance in 314 of being killed by a gun

Using the same metrics employed in that study, your odds of being killed on American soil by a terrorist attack is 1 chance in 7496. (Another way of looking at it is that every day you drive to work you are 90 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.)

Speaking of cars, John Edwards got a lot of flack for claiming that the term, “War on Terror,” was little more than a bumper sticker slogan. His point was that the current administration has used it as a propagandistic slogan to gin up fear and support for it's ruinous foreign policies and it's anti-democratic domestic actions. The numbers – and the odds – support Edward's claim.

When you look closely you see Edwards was right on the mark. How so? Because:

Your chances of dying an unnatural death are not a single iota greater today than they were before 9/11.

Nor is your nation threatened by them. Terrorists pose no genuine military, social or constitutional threat to America's democracy, Government or way of life.

In fact, the only documented threat to the American way of life has come from our own government's reaction to terrorism. To date, the only liberties Americans have lost have been lost at the hands of their own government by citing terrorism as the reason.

The Dept. of Homeland Security -- isn't. The truth of the matter is that the Dept. of Homeland Security is a giant pork distribution agency. DHS has far less to do with securing the homeland than it does in providing members of Congress and the administration a way to funnel billions of federal tax dollars into the coffers of state and local governments around the country.

While DHS forces you to take your shoes off at airport security check points and to get a passport to get back into your country after visiting the Caribbean, each and everyday over 3000 aliens successfully swim, stroll or drive across the Mexican border right into the US. Were the Dept. of Homeland Security really about homeland security it's very first act would have been to plug such an enormous hole in the country's security.

But HMS had done almost nothing to plug that hole. Instead billions of dollars have been spent on municipal bling, like new fire engines for the Dog Patch volunteer fire department, gas masks and decontamination stations Mayberry-sized police departments and high-tech HazMat gear for first responders in rural towns so poor they can't even attract a single doctor to care for its own citizens.

I only mention all this because today the administration is releasing the latest National Intelligence Estimate – or at least those parts of it they want you to know about. Most of the NIE will remain classified.

But the message will be the same as it has been since 9/11 -- “Be afraid. And stay that way. Let us do what we feel we need to do to protect you.”

Personally I would rather they protect me from those things most likely to kill my ass, and my children and grandkid's asses as well. Things like global warming, food poisoning, nuts who can get their hands on loaded guns and toxic products flowing into the country from places like China. (You know it's gotta be bad when even their dog food is deadly.)

Those are the things you should worry might kill you. Because death at the hands of some Koran-ically lobotomized terrorist is about as likely as waking up tomorrow morning to learn that Dick Cheney resigned from office, announcing he was undergoing a sex change operation so he could marry his longtime secret lover, Ted Kennedy.