Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Feeling Gassy

I was on my way to Der Job this morning and decided to put some money into my gas tank. What with the trouble in Louisiana, I figured it was sound economics to fill my tank now rather than face the higher prices that are surely coming.

Well, the gas at the Stop-n-Rob near my house is $2.65 a gallon for regular unleaded. As I paid for the fuel, the clerk remarked, "Better fill up now - it'll go up thirty cents by the weekend."

$2.95 a gallon?! I stared at him, somewhat surprised, and asked, "Has that been confirmed?" He assured me that it had not, but that it was a very real possibility, with the prospect that it might go up an additional dime next week. He added that he was a "day and a half" behind on his gasoline deliveries, due to the storm in the Gulf states.

Sobering news, and an illustration of the reach of this disaster.



Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Eighty percent of New Orleans is under water right now, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, and it may turn out that most of Biloxi, Mississippi is gone. Mobile, Alabama was dealt a punishing blow, and these are just the preliminary reports. There is only a starting death toll (about 50 in one Mississippi county alone), but expect to see a lot of funerals in coming weeks.

About 1.5 million people are without electricity or other basic services, and the American Red Cross and other charitable agencies are gearing up for what is the largest natural disaster mobilization in the nation's history.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew obliterated large parts of southern Florida. After waiting an unconscionable amount of time, President Bush (the present Prez's father) sent 30,000 troops into the area. By then, looting was widespread and small riots had broken out over the dwindling supplies of food, water, and (essential (imho) in a subtropic climate right after a hurricane) ice. President Bush, FEMA, the Florida National Guard and others were criticized for a slow response.

You turn on the news now and you see some National Guard. About 6,500 have been mobilized, but this is a far larger area, with far greater needs. More National Guard and even Regular Army troops are required for basic rescue and security operations. Where are they?


Yeah, that's right.

They're in Iraq, taking most of the equipment with them. Fighting the "noble cause."

A disaster is in the making unless there are more troops put into the area. People need to be saved from their attics and rooftops, basic services need to be delivered.

Call the Red Cross and donate, people. They're in the book, and the toll-free number is all over the place.

Don't be a disinterested, detached, out-of-touch moron like our vacationing President.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"Trust in the Lord and a good lawyer."

That was a famous quote by Marine Lt. Col. Oliver "Who's A Naughty Boy Then?" North as he was called to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal. But it's a public utterance, so I shall not hesitate to use it.

The government of Venezuela has called on the US government to investigate whether the "Reverend" Pat Robertson had committed a crime (specifically, terrorism) when he said last week that President Hugo Chavez should be assassinated. John Dean of Watergate fame, writing for, said Yes.

Title 18 of the US Code, Section 112(b), to be precise, which makes it a Federal misdemeanor to use interstate communication or transportation to threaten people. Neat, eh? Whether or not the US decides to actually prosecute Robertson is perhaps another matter, but Crazy Pat might be well advised to keep his wrinkly melanin-deficient skin off the streets of Caracas for a long time.

Which brings up another interesting thing. Venezuela is demanding the transfer of a terrorist from US jurisdiction to theirs to stand trial for a terrorist act. Sounds pretty cut and dried - we hand the guy over, since we don't want to be seen as soft on terrorism, do we? I mean, we're not using a double standard, are we?

Maybe we are. The person is one Luis Posada-Carriles, a former CIA operative whose virulent anti-Castro leanings made him very useful to the American government. However, there is the matter of the plane that Venezuela claim Posada blew up about 30 years ago.

It will be an interesting test of our real stand vis-a-vis the War on Terror.

An Ethical Analysis

by Peter Daou
The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" - Matthew 16:26

The unbridgeable divide between the left and right’s approach to Iraq and the WoT is, among other things, a disagreement over the value of moral and material strength, with the left placing a premium on the former and the right on the latter. The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left's protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader.....

War hawks squeal about America-haters and traitors, heaping scorn on the so-called “blame America first" crowd, but they fail to comprehend that the left reserves the deepest disdain for those who squander our moral authority. The scars of a terrorist attack heal and we are sadder but stronger for having lived through it. When our moral leadership is compromised by people draped in the American flag, America is weakened. The loss of our moral compass leaves us rudderless, open to attacks on our character and our basic decency. And nothing makes our enemies prouder. They can't kill us all, but if they permanently stain our dignity, they've done irreparable harm to America.

The antiwar critique of Iraq is that it is an immoral war and every resulting death is a wrongful one. Opponents of the war view the invasion and occupation as a dangerous and shameful violation of international law. Iraq saps our moral strength and the sooner we leave the better. Opposing the invasion on the grounds that the administration lied its way into it, they see every subsequent death, American or foreign, as an ethical travesty and a stain on America's good name.

They have held this view consistently since 2002. Millions marched down the streets of our cities before the invasion, believing that the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein constituted a dire and imminent threat to the US was absurd on its face (whether or not the exact word ‘imminent’ was used is a semantic exercise, the implication was clear). Where the hawks screamed that Saddam gassed his own people, the war's opponents countered that there is no shortage of murderous tyrants. Where the hawks said that Saddam wouldn't hesitate to arm terrorists, the war's opponents argued that there’s no lack of regimes that will help terrorists obtain lethal weapons.

For the less gullible among us, the administration’s alarmist rhetoric in 2002 was a grim farce, and the unfolding of the nightmare we see today was a foregone conclusion. Saddam was no greater or immediate a threat – and arguably a lesser one – than North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia. Hindsight has proven these war critics correct. Few dispute that the threat from Saddam was over-stated - to put it mildly. And evidence continues to mount that the invasion was a fait accompli by 2002 if not 2001. Calling for an immediate pullout from Iraq has nothing to do with capitulation and everything to do with righting a moral wrong and undoing the damage done to America's moral standing.

Yet to many of Bush’s supporters, anything short of ‘victory’ is a weakening of America in the eyes of its enemies. They believe we are "taking the fight to the enemy," with the word 'enemy' defined so over-broadly as to conflate Iraq and the attacks of September 11th. It’s the “kicking ass and taking names” mentality, moral justifications be damned. Revenge for being attacked is rationale enough. Material strength trumps moral strength.

Bush plays to the basest instincts of this crowd, but he and his handlers know it’s not enough. If the left values moral strength over material strength and the right values material strength over moral strength, the common ground between the two, and the place where Bush would find his widest base of support, is a case where material strength is put to use for a moral cause. Bush et al want desperately to prove that Iraq satisfies both conditions. That’s why the Sheehan-Bush battle revolves around the words “noble cause.”

Faced with the disintegration of the original rationale for war, Bush and his supporters are scrambling to find the elusive moral ground to undergird America’s presence in Iraq. But when you’re on the record invading a country because it was a grave threat and the threat never materializes, you’re left with little but a means-ends argument to justify it. In the eyes of the war’s opponents, Bush and his apologists are mired in an ethical swamp trying to justify the mess they created. Judging from recent polls, what they’ve come up with so far is inadequate:

MORAL JUSTIFICATION #1: Bush and his administration may have knowingly exaggerated the threat but still had a hidden, righteous agenda: the removal of a murderous dictator, liberating the oppressed, etc. They simply used the most "marketable" story to gain the support of the American public.
This borders on the absurd. I'm no fan of slippery slope arguments, they're easy and ubiquitous, but this leads to the slipperiest of slopes: if it's OK to fib the country into war as long as the fibber has "good" intentions, then it's OK to lie about any policy so long as the president believes he or she is aiming for some secret "good.”

MORAL JUSTIFICATION #2: Ends justify means. In other words, pick and choose your preferred version of the following argument: “Despite the shifting rationales and lack of WMD, removing Saddam ... free elections ... an Iraqi constitution ... spreading freedom and democracy justifies the death and destruction.”
This point is often made in the form of a challenge: "Would you rather Saddam still be in power?" But rhetorical questions can go both ways. Estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties range from the low tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Taking 50,000 as an arbitrary number, who tells those 50,000 families that they have to suffer and die to prevent 100,000 other families from suffering and dying under Saddam? Are Iraqi lives fungible? Who plays God? Without an iron-clad moral justification for war, aren’t we callously and capriciously toying with matters of life and death?

Again, why Iraq? If the hyped up threat was bogus - which we now know it was - and it wasn't about self-defense, why are we there? What is it about the Iraqi people that requires Cindy Sheehan to give her child for their freedom? Why not liberate the people of Darfur or North Korea? Who tells them that an Iraqi deserves liberation but not them? Bush crows about "progress" in Iraq as though Americans had some unique obligation to ensure progress in that particular country. But if it's simply a matter of "doing good," why not spend $200 billion on cancer research or alleviating poverty or educating the uneducated or boosting safety and security at home so young girls don't get raped and buried alive?

Why spend precious lives and money in Iraq? If the answer is freedom and democracy for the Middle East, one could easily argue that a cure for cancer would be infinitely more beneficial to humanity. Spending $200 billion to find a cure for cancer may be a long shot, but judging from the news, there's a distinct possibility that our $200 billion experiment in Iraq may leave it in a worse state than when we invaded. Wouldn't it make more sense to apply those resources to research that could potentially save tens of millions of lives? And we'd have thousands less Americans killed and wounded, and tens of thousands less Iraqis slaughtered.

The problem with the Bush apologists' reasoning is that using an infinite time horizon - which they are so fond of - virtually any action, no matter how egregious, can be shown to lead to some positive results. It’s the bastardization of utilitarianism; asserting a causal relationship between a pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation and all future good developments in Iraq and the Middle East may swell the hawks' breasts with pride, but it's a dubious and dangerous way to conduct foreign policy.

Which is precisely why we need to adhere so strictly to the rule of law, to basic moral precepts, and to established principles of international relations, something that this administration has failed to do, and that the administration's supporters can dance around but can't justify.
While bumper-sticker patriotism may have anodyne effects on Bush and his followers, the retroactive ethical justifications for the invasion and occupation of Iraq are flimsy at best. And for so many on the left, the undermining of America's moral strength under this administration is more of a "grave and gathering danger" to America than Saddam Hussein ever was.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sheer Irony

At times, the best comedy lies in juxtaposition, the sudden meeting of two seemingly innocuous things that, when viewed together, make your ribs start hurting.

For example:

Earlier today I was watching (in a very offhand way) The Potter's House, a religious broadcast starring the Extremely Reverend T. D. Jakes. I ordinarily don't watch such things, but I was channel surfing and the news was no longer holding my interest. The show ended, and I looked up as a commercial came on.

It wasn't for a car dealership (something that would be appropriate, considering the show).

It was a phone sex line.

I'll say that again.

It was a phone sex line.

I almost fell out of my chair laughing. The juxtaposition of the two was just priceless. To my mind, both are prostitutes, but one is wrapped in respectability while the other is almost gigglingly naughty.

I guess you had to have been there.


'Congressman questions VP's ability to perform duties

August 27, 2005, 5:14 PM EDT NEW YORK --

The dean of New York's congressional delegation suggested in a television interview that Vice President Dick Cheney may not be healthy enough to perform his duties. Rep. Charles Rangel was being interviewed on NY1, the New York City-based all-news channel, when he was asked Friday night whether he thought President Bush was taking too much vacation time this summer.
"Oh no, it makes the country a lot more safe," the Manhattan Democrat said. "The further Bush is away from Washington, the better it is. And sometimes I don't even think Cheney is awake enough to know what's going on. Rumsfeld is the guy in Washington to watch. He's running the country."
"Cheney's not awake enough?" reporter Davidson Goldin asked. "Well, he's a sick man you know," Rangel said. "He's got heart disease, but the disease is not restricted to that part of his body. He grunts a lot, so you never really know what he's thinking." Asked whether he was suggesting that Cheney was not healthy enough to do his job, Rangel said, "Why do you think people are spending so much time praying for President Bush's health?"
"If he ever leaves and Cheney's in charge, there's not very much to pull together for the rest of our nation," he concluded. "This is a sad state of affairs."
The White House declined comment Saturday."

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.


Okay, this came from a link over at, a fine video magazine who play clips of Ultrarightists Behaving Badly, and it's just good clean fun. Congressman Rangel (D-NY) is a tough veteran of the House in DC, and he's known for being rather blunt. Now, being a Republican as I am, I am supposed to be congenitally hateful toward the honorable gentleman from the Empire State. However, I can't bring myself to do it.

Read the article again.

It's hilarious. Yes, Bush on vacation makes America safer. People pray for Bush's health because they don't want Cheney in the top slot.

It's no wonder the White House refused to comment. Any of their usual tactics would just make them look even more like misanthropic churls. Because, much as I hate to admit it, I think Rep. Rangel's exactly spot on with his assessment.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What Color is the Sky ...

... in your world?

"Now did you read the news today
They say the danger’s gone away
But I can see the fire’s still alight
There burning into the night."
- Genesis, Land of Confusion, 1986

A national chain of drugstores has an interesting commercial, about a mythical place called Perfect. In Perfect, everything is Just Fine - there doesn't appear to be any crime, poverty, pollution, terrorism, war, etc. and everyone in Perfect appears to live in perfect multicultural ethnic harmony.

Then reality comes crashing in, as the ad closes. No one ever lives in Perfect.

Except for George W Bush and his Administration.

George has a beautifully uncluttered view of the world and the people in it - black and white, cut and dried. Everything is in its place in George's World. The Good Guys always win, and those who die are Honored Dead, fitting members of the Pantheon of Heroes. The Bad Guys are animals that walk on two legs as if by some cosmic accident, and those of them who die Will Go Straight to Hell.

George wants to share his Perfect World, so he has surrounded himself with people who see the same things he sees, believe the same things he believes, and want to make his view of the Perfect World a reality. In fact, one aide told a writer that while people watch in awe, the Bush Administration (he called it an empire, in fact) will change reality as you watch, so you can observe it.

This must be why George seems so frustrated at times when he tries to articulate his vision of the Perfect World. He can see it, clearly, plain as day; why can't others see it? Why are they so blind? A lot of people bought into George's vision, but now things are changing. Their vision is starting to blur. Quick! Articulate the vision! Catapult the propaganda! See! See! The world is a beautiful place, and all is rosy and bright on the horizon, and the rest of the World knows its Place ...

So, what is the color of the sky in Your World, George?

Punk of the Week Award

Yes! Time again for the Punk of the Week Award, where we highlight the best in Punkness (or Punkosity) this past week and expose that Punkery for all the non-Punk world to see.

This week's Punk of the Week is the "Reverend" Pat Robertson of Virginia Beach, VA. Take a bow, Crazy Pat. Now, most of the people who put consider themselves the messengers of Immanence on Earth usually earn my contempt or pity (contempt for their stupidity, pity for their delusions), but Robertson and the rest of the slimy breed known as televangelists have a special place on my Too Stupid To Be Allowed To Reproduce List.

Televangelists have been with us in one form or another since Billy Sunday (who tried to 'pray away' the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, despite people falling out in the pews as he spoke) and Aimee Semple MacPherson (who went so far as to allegedly fake her own kidnapping in order to increase the size of her flock). As the great Maestro Driftglass has pointed out, none of these greedy bastards ever apologize - except when sex is involved.

Then they get all vaporish, as Jimmy Swaggart did when he wept crocodile tears and sobbed, "I have sinned against you." What utter tripe. The only two things Swaggart was guilty of was being indiscreet and being a bad consumer (honestly, who rents a hooker and just talks to her?!).

Jim Bakker's only "sin" in screwing Jessica Hahn was in not dumping his mascara-soaked bloated sow of a wife for the curvaceous Ms. Hahn. 'Nuff said.

These wealthy pukes are now deep into politics, and have the ear (some say the balls) of most of the Administration - including Condi Rice. Which doesn't make them any less odious, because now they want to impose their stupid superstition-driven American Taliban Vision Of An American Religious Empire on the rest of us. Now, just because their vision of deity is at variance with most of ours gives them a huge victim's mentality with which they curry favor and sympathy and cause most people to leave them alone so they'll stop whining about Christianity being a "minority" in this huge country.

Which is a bit off subject.

Crazy Pat let his huge smirking muscled piehole overload whatever good sense he might have had earlier this week, calling for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. At first he tried to pull the Wool of the Virgin (as opposed to virgin wool, as if any sheep is safe when he's around) over our eyes and told us that he never said "assassinate." Well, welcome to the 21st Century, Crazy Pat - people have recorders now. So he did what so many religious, business, media and political figures do nowadays.

He apologized, saying that he had been "misinterpreted."

You have to stand in absolute Awe of such outstanding Punkery.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic - and Furry?

Well, not precisely.

There's no doubt that our country faces a threat from foreign troublemakers intent on disrupting the fat, dumb and happy mob that is America. I won't mince words here, so stop foaming at the mouth. Right now.

But what about domestic terrorists? What about people who, because their name might be "Bob" rather than "Achmed," get a pass from the FBI? Case in point: a group of Klansmen (yes, you heard me right) tried to blow up a refinery in 1997. The explosion would have killed thousands. Another case in point: a Texas couple who had amassed enough weapons and ammunition to start a war with a Third World country (and lick it) as well as enough cyanide to kill a thousand Americans.

Granted, the Klan attempt failed (anyone who thinks that the Klan isn't riddled with informers probably isn't paying attention) and the Texas couple are in jail (seems they couldn't address a package correctly), but their arrest and the trial of Eric Rudolph do not mark the end of domestic terror in this country. It's still here, folks, and it's just as virulent and nasty as the Muslim variety (maybe more so).

Now, you may ask, well, this all well and good - but "furry?" What's up with that?

What indeed.

Animal-rights and environmental terror groups are a growing problem, basically because they've discovered the fun of the ancient tool of the revolutionary - Violence. Some burn SUVs, others burn houses, still others release caged animals into the wild. That last one can backfire on you - a number of sables were released, and immediately turned on and killed each other.

But now ... a supposed animal-rights group has allegedly dug up an old woman and are holding her corpse hostage until her relatives stop raising guinea pigs for laboratory testing.

Weirdness, people - and it's only going to get worse.


"'On September 14, 2001, [the president] stood at the National Cathedral and told all of America that this was going to be a very long and difficult war, and that there were going to be some very trying moments, but that because of what happened on 9/11, that we had to view the world in a different way,' White House spokesman Trent Duffy said." - Washington Post, 8/26/05


It stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Americans like things to be simple, cut and dried, black and white. Take the current "debate" over the war in Iraq. I hesitate to call it a debate because you have increasingly shrill and increasingly intransigent viewpoints that, more and more, run to extremes.

Example - Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly announcing his list of what makes a person "extremist" - and managing to list everyone on the planet, including himself.

Example - the National commander of the American Legion telling Americans to shut up and stop dissenting against the war and the policies of President Bush.

Example - the quote cited above, in context with an article on the war in Iraq.

Now, please sit down and pay attention. I want you to engrave this in your memories, nine times nine (because sometimes triple redundancy is the only remedy), and repeat the following:



You, in the back there! I didn't hear you.


Okay, now ... 15 of the 19 hijackers on Black Tuesday were from Our Ally, Saudi Arabia - none of them were from Iraq. The War in Iraq was started for several reasons, none of them very noble or even ethical, but in our fear and anger we allowed ourselves to get into it. But this post is not about whether Iraq was right or wrong.

This post is about KISS. Now, while most Americans are immune to shades of nuance (and, indeed, some seem determined not to think in nuance), there is such a thing as oversimplifying matters.

Like thinking that men are smarter than women.

Like thinking that certain ethnicities are stronger/weaker/brighter.

Like connecting Iraq and 9/11.

Two-Day Roundup

Wednesday and Thursday were quite nice, with me doing some writing and puttering about the house. Of course, I also had to watch the news (I find that if I don't pay attention, something manages to creep up on me).

Crazy Pat Robertson gave a backhanded apology for his remarks about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying that he had been "misinterpreted." Hmm. That's a common problem for many people:
"We have turned the corner in Vietnam."
"I did not have sex with that woman."
"The intelligence on WMDs in Iraq is a slam dunk."
"I have to catapult the propaganda."

Anyway ...

The national commander of the American Legion basically told people to shut up and stop criticizing the way Dear Leader is leading the war effort in Iraq. Well, so much for the freedoms he and other veterans fought to preserve, eh?

Speaking of Dear Leader, he took a vacation from his vacation and spoke to National Guard troops and their families in Idaho. I wonder if any were frisked for weapons beforehand?

All in all, not a lot of movement in the news the past two days, but Friday's here, so expect something to happen over the weekend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Yellow Peril (and Red, and Blue, and Green...)

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a singing trio called Tony Orlando and Dawn sang a song. The song was titled Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and it was about a man recently released from prison who was pining for his girlfriend, and concerned that she no longer wanted him. It was a singable, albeit rather soppy, ballad. During the Iranian Hostage Crisis (1979-1981), many Americans hung yellow ribbons in hopes that the hostages would be released soon.

But, starting with the 1991 Gulf War, we've seen the color yellow used to denote our hope that the troops would come home safely. I had a problem with that then, and I still do, thank you, for one simple reason.

Color symbology.

Yellow usually stands for two general things - cowardice, and quarantine. I, for one, will never believe that our troops are cowards, so I refuse to consider the use of yellow to symbolize our armed forces. Nor do I believe they should be quarantined.

Now we start seeing colored plastic bracelets, which may have started with Lance Armstrong and his fight against testicular cancer. I have to admire Armstrong for his perseverance, but I'm not going to wear a yellow band on my wrist.

And it's getting worse - pink for breast cancer, blue for pacifism, etc. Why is it necessary to wear all kinds of colors just to tell other people what you think or feel about a certain issue?

If I was going to wear a plastic armband, I'd wear a brown one. It would stand for "Eat Shit and Die."

In the World of Crazy Pat

Poor Pat Robertson. God speaks to him, you know. Of course, most of the people who say that God speaks to them are on seriously heavy medications.

Pat has been letting his mouth overload his ass for decades now, ever since he decided to catapult his television celebrity (he is the guru and chief talking head of the 700 Club and the so-called 'Christian' Broadcasting Network) into a bid for the Presidency in 1988. Surprisingly, he beat George HW Bush in the Iowa caucuses, which led me to consider emigrating to New Zealand to escape an Iranian-style religious government in the USA. However, Crazy Pat faded fast in the primaries, which caused me to breathe easier.

But his failed bid didn't faze him, nor did it stop him from shooting his mouth off. He suggested (loudly) that we should kill Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi back in the 80s. He came out and said very matter-of-factly that it was Americans and their many sins who were to blame for the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Now he wants the Bush Administration to send its top-uber-secret Hit Squads to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Why? Well, Chavez is socialist, a friend of Fidel Castro, and his country sits on a big pool of oil (Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC). Crazy Pat suggested that Chavez's socialism could provide an entree to Islamic extremists and Communists into South America.

This statement gives valuable insights into the world of Crazy Pat. He, like many fundamentalists, sees the world in terms of black and white or good and evil. But to trot out Communism to flog like a dead horse, not to mention openly speaking about killing a head of state, smacks of a deeper psychosis. As pointed out above, he's done it before, so maybe it's high time we had Crazy Pat put away.

Sorry, No Smoking Gun

No Proof Found of Iran Arms Program
Uranium Traced to Pakistani Equipment
By Dafna Linzer Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, August 23, 2005; Page A01

"Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.
'The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions,' said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity."

Now, whether or not this will shut the mouths of the Bush Administration, which has even gone so far as to consider a nuclear strike against Iran, remains to be seen. This news should be underlined and reinforced with severe beatings in case the Administration starts getting bellicose. Remember, it was bogus assertions of WMDs in Iraq that led to our current military misadventure.

Monday, August 22, 2005

It's All About Iraq, Baby

"We want nukes! We want war!
We think oil's worth fighting for!"

- overheard at GOP Convention, 1980

Yes, it's all that.

Despite all the blathering you may hear; on news radio, talk shows, television "news" and from any number of Talking Heads, it's all about The War.

The War is the corpse at the dinner table. Everyone sees it, and you can smell the thing too. The stench gets in your nose and won't go away. And as maggots and roaches nibble away at the rotting carcass you pretend that It's Just Not There. "Pay no attention to the dead; pass the mashed potatoes, please. American Idol will be on later."

The War is also the bride at every wedding, and in the coffin at every military funeral since 2003.

So the smell gets stronger, and repeated sprayings of Lysol and Febreeze eventually won't work any more. It's time to put the corpse to rest.

But, say the Talking Heads, we must stay in. Whether to 'stay the course' or to guarantee the new government or to avoid losing credibility, We Must Stay in Iraq.


Staying the course means that we're there for the long haul, and indeed the generals in that Monument to Murphy's Law known as the Pentagon are already planning on keeping about 100,000 troops in Iraq for the next four years. But what's another few hundred Cindy Sheehans? They're just grieving mothers, who have done their duty by sending their children off to die for the Noble Cause. Besides, they don't have a voice at the table; they didn't send the President tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

Guaranteeing the new government - ah, that brings up the new constitution. No matter what we do, people, Iraq is headed for the rocks. The Sunnis (who already demonstrated the old adage about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face) are complaining that the Shia and the Kurds are planning on cutting them out of the deal on how the oil money gets doled out, and whether or not the country is split into semiautonomous regions. The risk of Iraq becoming an Islamic Republic is very real, and increasingly likely.

What about our credibility as a superpower? Meaningless, people. We've almost trashed the best trained army on the planet, and the National Guard will be feeling the effects of this war for years to come. There's a reason Cheney asked Stratcom to come up with a nuclear war plan for Iran - we would never succeed in a conventional campaign. Most of the world now views us with hatred, fear and suspicion (and before you say "Good!" I have news for you, my friends - these countries finance our consumer-driven economy).

We must save ourselves further indignity.

We must get out of Iraq.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

One News Item, Three Voices

The one news item is the nascent Iraqi Constitution, and the fact that negotiators are increasingly at loggerheads over federalism and the role of the nation's religion in the new law. That being said, here's what three news agencies had to say about it:

CNN: "Iraqi negotiators have reached agreement on one major roadblock to a new Iraqi constitution and an agreement could be reached on another as soon as tonight, a senior Iraqi official told CNN on Sunday. Negotiators clarified the role of Islam in the constitution, said Hachim al-Hassani, speaker of the National Assembly. Al-Hassani said the compromise language called Islam "a main source of legislation" -- wording that he said concerned him and women's rights advocates. The idea of federalism -- splitting the country into as many as three separate autonomous regions -- is the other stumbling block delaying a draft constitution. Those issues prompted the National Assembly to extend the August 15 deadline to Monday.

BBC: "Iraq's deadlocked communities appear no closer to agreeing a new constitution with fewer than 36 hours remaining until the deadline for its completion. Officials are being forced to discuss a further delay, or even the dramatic option of dissolving parliament. Shia, Sunni and Kurdish teams have been unable to agree on key issues including federalism, oil and the role of Islam. An original deadline last week was shifted to midnight this Monday (2000 GMT) when no agreement was reached. "

AP (via Yahoo): "One day before the deadline for Iraq's new constitution, Sunni Arab negotiators appealed Sunday to the United States and the international community to prevent Shiites and Kurds from pushing a draft charter through parliament without Sunni consent. An Iraqi government spokesman suggested that if the factions cannot agree on a draft by Monday night, parliament may have to amend the interim constitution yet again to extend the deadline and prevent its dissolution."

Of the three, I am inclined to believe the report of the Associated Press.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Punk of the Week Award

YES! It's time again for the Punk of the Week Award, where we single out the biggest Punk of the past seven days or so and unveil their Punkery for all the non-Punk world to gape at.

And the coveted Golden Buttock goes to .....

Quite a few people, actually. Let's start with all of the lovely Ultra-Right Yahoo Pundits who smeared filth all over Cindy Sheehan this past week. Look, Rush and Ann and Michelle and Bill and all the rest of you Low-Rent, Imbecilic Rejects From The Shallow End Of The Gene Pool, she's a grieving mom who wants to as the President a question. There's NO NEED to call her a whore, or a pawn, or a fraud, or belittle her in any way or form.

Good Sweet Mother Mary in Lederhosen, people, show some politeness! Didn't YOUR mothers raise you any better than this?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

An Avalanche of Memos

"Bradley Graham writes in The Washington Post: "One month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, three State Department bureau chiefs warned of 'serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance' in a secret memorandum prepared for a superior.
"The State Department officials, who had been discussing the issues with top military officers at the Central Command, noted that the military was reluctant 'to take on 'policing' roles' in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The three officials warned that 'a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally.' . . . -- Washington Post, 8/18/05

The Downing Street Memos, you remember them? Documents from the British Government that show that the war we are currently waging in Iraq (and it is a War, thank you very much) was based on spurious, false and manipulated intelligence data.

An avalanche starts as a very soft sound, barely a murmur, but as it goes on it grows louder and stronger, gaining in force until it sweeps away all before it. That is the lesson of the Downing Street Documents. With every new revelation, every memo ferreted out of the clutches of this corrupt Administration, the sound grows a bit louder, and the avalanche builds in strength.

Everywhere Around the World, They're Coming to America...

"Why do you want to live here and not in Europe?" I asked a young woman from Ethiopia, who tipped back her Seattle Mariners baseball cap and looked at me as if I were completely mad.
"Europe," she said disdainfully.
"What do they ever hope for in Europe? Here they have a law that you can dream to be happy."

The above excerpt from the BBC website (as well as the Neil Diamond lyric as a title) points out something very interesting: Despite the problems we have in this country, despite the current low estimation that we have in the eyes of most of the planet, many people still want to come here to live.

The young lady from Ethiopia isn't quite correct; there is no law that I know of in this country that says you can dream of being happy. Our Declaration of Independence states that the "pursuit of happiness" is one of the three inalienable rights (the other two being liberty and life), although it never says what "happiness" is supposed to be.

Up until the middle of the 19th Century or so the American Dream was the idea that you could be free; after that material gain became the American Dream. You know the mantra: A good job, a house in the 'burbs, 2.3 kids and the Loving Mate at your side. However, not everyone is equal, and not everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. This causes something that criminologist Robert Merton called strain theory. He suggests that the strain of trying to succeed to the American Dream (material gain) causes people to act innovatively, unethically, corruptly, and finally criminally. While innovation is what made America what it is in terms of its business, technology, etc., the other steps are not.

What will probably come as a nasty shock for the lady from Ethiopia is the fact that the gap between those who Have and those who Have Not is growing wider and deeper almost every day. The true strength of the American economy, the middle class, is falling apart under the repeated blows of higher prices and dwindling expectations. The upper tier of the economy acts as if it doesn't care - the "let them eat cake" mentality, still alive and well (and ignoring what happened to the person who allegedly made that statement).

But people still come here. People crave the chance to at least have the opportunity to succeed.

I just hope they like it here.

Eighteen Days

August is now eighteen days old. The US military has lost over 60 personnel in those eighteen days, four of them today. The death total in Iraq now stands at 1861.

Indians and Swedes

At the big Justice Sunday II granfalloon this past weekend, one of the speakers (I can't really be bothered to look up his name or care anything about him) said to the effect that:

India was the most religious nation,

Sweden was the least religious,

and the USA was a nation of Indians governed by Swedes.

Now, apart from the complete and utter illogic of that statement, I was struck by the sweeping generality used by the speaker.

India is a big country, with a population over three times that of the United States. Not all of them are religious, and the vast majority are Hindus (it must be noted here that the overwhelming majority of people at Justice Sunday II were self-identified Christians). I'm not certain that the crowd would feel entirely comfortable with identifying themselves, even by analogy, with a religion that many of them would consider idolatrous, if not downright pagan. Further, India has had a rather long history of sectarian violence between the majority Hindus and the minority Muslims and Sikhs. Did the Christians in the audience really think about what the speaker was saying?

Now, to say that America is a nation of Indians is wrong. We are a far more polyglot nation than India, with a multiplicity of religions and many different pathways to what could be defined as spiritual truth. We also do not have the same bloody history of sectarian violence as India, where thousands have been killed in clashes since its independence in 1947.

Sweden now. It's a much smaller country, whose original religion supposed that the gods would all die eventually. It's a Christian nation now, but a very sane and mature Christian nation. It has, like many other nations, started to outgrow the need to be reliant on metaphysical parental figures. It had some sectarian violence (Lutheran v Catholic) over 200 years ago.

Saying that we are ruled by 'Swedes' is also wrong. After all, Justice Sunday people, you (or statistically 51% of the eligible voters in the nation) voted in a Republican President, a Republican House and a Republican Senate. Supposedly they all share your agenda (at least their rhetoric points to that conclusion). So why all the fuss?

They were talking about the great Satan. Activist judges.


Judges (particularly the Supreme Court) are tasked with interpreting the laws of the country, comparing them against the Constitution as well as settled case law (stare decisis to you legal types). They do not create laws or execute them - that's the job of the legislative and executive branches of government. If they had taken civics in school, they'd know that.

Also, were it not for "activist judges," many of the rights you now enjoy would not exist. Right to remain silent? Sorry, the police can beat a confession from you if they want. Right to an attorney if you're poor? Nope.

Justice Sunday II? More like "Just Us Sunday," and this American doesn't want to be a party to their illogical fantasies.

March of the Stupid

CNN (yes, the Chicken Noodle Network, filling minds with schmaltz since 1980) has repeated some news that was first reported in the Washington Post last week (and in this blog, thank you) that the Transportation 'Security' Administration is considering relaxing their restrictions against taking Pointy Things aboard an aircraft.

Thank goodness. I was SO looking forward to flying up somewhere with my favorite icepick. All sarcasm aside, I don't recall hearing that we've won the Global Struggle War on Violent Terrorism Extremism Et Cetera. Are they wanting another plane to be turned into a flying bomb?


A local woman, trying to evade arrest, threw herself from a second-story window. Like that helped - she's now in the hospital, and was arrested anyway.


A civilian jail worker was arrested here yesterday for introducing contraband (tobacco) into the jail. He joins the ranks of the dozen or so other people over the past 19 years who have demonstrated that anyone can be Stupid.


Governor Taft (R-OH) will, according to a prosecutor, be arraigned on four misdemeanor counts of government ethics violations. A recent picture of him shows him wearing a cowboy hat at the Ohio State Fair.

Excuse me? What possible connection does OHIO have with an obsolete cultural icon? Taft isn't just Stupid, he's Dumb too. Not quite in the Too Dumb to Live category, but definitely Too Dumb to Be Allowed to Remain in Office.


As Israel begins evacuating and dismantling Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian groups have started arguing among themselves who should take credit for forcing the Israelis out. Duh, people! Insh'allah, you now have the Gaza Strip - don't you think you should start building, instead of celebrating? I swear though, that place just simply screams for a Home Depot or Lowe's.


I could go on and on about the growing ranks of the Stupid, but it would depress me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Writing Update

This is the 125th post on my blog, so I'm just going to update my writing projects:

1. My third novel, 'Atshnegjir: Rebirth, is undergoing its fourth review before being sent to the publisher next spring. Expect to see an announcement about its release in September 2006.

2. My serial Luck of the Dragon has just reached Chapter 48 on the Spontoon Island website ( Not bad for a story I originally thought would be only 5 chapters long.

3. I've just sent the Spontoon Island site Chapter 1 of a new story, Mission of the Raven. It should (with luck) be shorter than Luck of the Dragon.

Along with all of this, I am working toward completing my Master's Degree and planning a fourth novel.

What Would YOU Do?

Never mind Jesus, Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Springer, Nixon, or Buffy St. Marie. What would YOU do, if faced with an ethical problem?

Like the suffering caused to both sides in an unjust war?

Or an increase in intolerance caused by ignorance?

It's high time we stopped this, folks. Stop relying on others to provide you with a moral compass and build one for yourself. Stand on your own two feet and look at the world squarely, without the blinkers of presupposition, prejudice or superstition. Yes, it's a hard thing to do, but nothing ever worth having is easy. Don't believe me? Trying losing your health in exchange for a $50 used laptop. Which would YOU rather give up?

Stop asking yourself what others would do, and start learning to solve problems yourself.

Back to Reality

An op-ed piece in today's New York Times cites a Bush Administration source as saying, in effect, that the Bushite Junta can no longer dwell in their own reality - they have to emerge from their cocoons and see just what their policies have done.


Welcome to Realityville, George - higher gas prices; higher cost of oil; (possibly) increasing inflation; a hideous money pit called Iraq; dead, wounded and haunted American soldiers returning from selfsame Iraq war, etc. And since YOU are El Presidente, you are expected to provide sane policies and leadership.

You are NOT expected to go on vacation.

You, however, ARE expected to live in the same world we have to put up with day in and day out.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Punk of the Week

Yes! It's time again for the Punk of the Week Award, where we bravely confront the biggest Punk and expose their Punkery for all the non-Punk world to see.

And the exquisitely hand-crafted-safe-for-tenderizing-steak Golden Buttock goes to ...

President George W. Bush, aka Smirky, aka Don George. Yes, the Dear Leader, the guy who reigns while Others Rule. And just what has Dear Leader done to merit the Punk Award?

For starters ... refusing to meet with Cindy Sheehan. Hey, George, cut the woman some slack and just talk to her, okay? Sweet Jesus in Jodhpurs, man, you are The Servant of THE PEOPLE. Try acting like it instead of acting like Napoleon!

And by The People, I mean ALL THE PEOPLE, not just the extreme right wing Luddite proto-fascisti who along with the many stunningly obviously Stupid People in this country were goaded and inflamed like venereal warts by the GOP Machine's fear and hate-mongering tactics into actually voting for your worthless wastrel alcoholic ass AGAIN.

Come on, George! Be a uniter, not a divider!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What the Hell is THIS?!

Airline Security Changes Planned
Threats Reassessed To Make Travel Easier for Public

By Sara Kehaulani Goo Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, August 13, 2005; Page A01

The new head of the Transportation Security Administration has called for a broad review of the nation's air security system to update the agency's approach to threats and reduce checkpoint hassles for passengers.
Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley, an assistant secretary of homeland security, directed his staff to propose changes in how the agency screens 2 million passengers a day. The staff's first set of recommendations, detailed in an Aug. 5 document, includes proposals to lift the ban on various carry-on items such as scissors, razor blades and knives less than five inches long. It also proposes that passengers no longer routinely be required to remove their shoes at security checkpoints.

- snip -

The TSA memo proposes to minimize the number of passengers who must be patted down at checkpoints. It also recommends that certain categories of passengers be exempt from airport security screening, such as members of Congress, airline pilots, Cabinet members, state governors, federal judges, high-ranking military officers and people with top-secret security clearances.
The proposal also would allow ice picks, throwing stars and bows and arrows on flights. Allowing those items was suggested after a risk evaluation was conducted about which items posed the most danger.

- snip -

K. Jack Riley, a homeland security expert at Rand Corp., said hardened cockpit doors, air marshals and stronger public vigilance will prevent another 9/11-style hijacking. "Frankly, the preeminent security challenge at this point is keeping explosives off the airplane," Riley said. The TSA's ideas, he said, "recognize the reality that we know that air transportation security has changed post-9/11. Most of these rules don't contribute to security."
Douglas R. Laird, former head of security for Northwest Airlines, said the proposal was a step backward. Laird said exempting certain categories of passengers from security screening would be dangerous because trusted groups have occasionally abused the privilege. "In an effort to be customer friendly, they're forgetting that their primary requirement is to keep airplanes safe," Laird said. "Either you screen everybody or why screen anybody?"


Why indeed? Why not go back to letting anyone board a plane? Hell, why not go back to the old days when you could just pull up at the terminal, get out and walk across the tarmac to the waiting plane?

Did Osama call up the TSA and say, "It's okay guys, I've decided to order my people to lay off the planes?"

What in the name of Bleeding Jesus are these yahoos thinking? Well, probably the bottom line - it'll save money to not have such burdensome security measures.

Of course, that won't stop them from screaming for additional security the next time some four-star lunatic goes crazy and crashes a plane.

Happy Outrage Day!

Yes, today is Outrage Day, the first holiday for the month of August! So, crank up the Crazy Meanness and let's look at stuff that really pisses us off, shall we?

First Outrage: Today is the first anniversary of Hurricane Charley's foray through Central Florida. This part of the state had not seen a major storm in 44 years, and most of us (who have ANY sense at all) are quite willing to wait another 44 years, thank you very much.

Second Outrage: Despite the Downing Street Documents, the lack of any WMDs, the continuing death toll and the constant (CONSTANT!) barrage of Lies and Sheer Unadulterated Bullshit emanating from George W Bush's smirking piehole, this slimy slacker wastrel and His Criminal Gang are still in power.

Third Outrage: Despite billions (that's Billions) of dollars in cost overruns, malfeasance and corruption, the Halliburton Corporation is still gouging the hell out of our troops and milking the hapless sheep known as American taxpayers.

Fourth Outrage: Adam Sandler, Carrot Top and Gallagher are all still alive.

Fifth Outrage: The Department of Defense is trying to assuage the rising tide of doubt concerning the War in Iraq by throwing a party. Yes, you heard me right - a Freedom Walk (that requires you to register first) that somehow manages to tie Iraq into 9/11 (which is wrong) and ends with a free concert by C&W star Clint Black (which is even more wrong).

I feel better now that I've vented a bit.

Friday, August 12, 2005


No, this is not a political post. Just a nice recipe.

Herb-stuffed Grilled Chicken
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 large fresh basil leaves, chopped coarse
3 small sprigs rosemary
3 small sprigs thyme
dry spice rub (your choice)

1. Wash the chicken, then slice them open so there's a pocket.
2. Place herbs in pockets.
3. Apply dry spice rub; set chicken aside for 1/2 hour.
4. Grill over low-to-medium heat until done.
5. Enjoy!

You Really Can't Blame Them

A group of Berkeley psychiatrists decided a few years back (2003) to finally get down to brass tacks and determine what makes a conservative a conservative. Their study has the catchy title of "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," which means basically that based on their view of the world and their mode of thinking they are most comfortable with a social movement that fits said worldview and mode of thinking.

(This came out a while back, but I only recently had the time to actually read it.)

It's an interesting read, saying that a number of qualities (rigid thinking, closemindedness, fear and nostalgia) are hallmarks of the conservative mind. And, to be completely fair, you see that a lot in those who identify themselves as Conservatives.

They adhere only to certain viewpoints.

They react (sometimes violently) to any attempt to get them to acknowledge any variant viewpoint.

They're afraid - afraid of the Stranger, the Foreigner, Death and the hideous possibility that they might be Wrong.

They long for an idealized, mythological Good Old Days where everything was just hunky-dory, gas was a quarter a gallon, and Those People knew their place in the great Scheme of Things.

So you really can't blame conservatives for thinking the way they do - just like they can't blame homosexuals for their lifestyle.

Their brains are just wired that way.

(Sarcasm Level 8.5 - not bad.)

3:05 AM - TV Roundup

I was up very late last night, and decided to put down my impressions of what I saw whilst channel-surfing:

CNN: The Hyatte prison break-shooting-manhunt.

CNN Headlline News: Ditto.

Fox: Natalee Holloway. 'Nuff said.

MSNBC: Natalee Holloway. 'Nuff said.

Food Network: Iron Chef, the Liver Episode. I watched this show last year, and learned four new ways of cooking liver.

Comedy Central: Celebrity Roast of Dennis Leary. Not bad.

I Ran, You Ran, We All Ran ...

From Iran?

Yes, indeed.

Iran has a nuclear energy industry in its country, which is all well and good. There are few large rivers, so sources of energy other than petroleum are rather scarce. However, one of the really nifty things you can do with spent uranium fuel is process it, enriching it into its weapons-grade isotope. After that, it's really Very Simple.

Case in point: The Manhattan Project was so certain that their Mark 1 bomb (the Hiroshima weapon, or "Little Boy") would work that they never tested the concept before dropping it. Recipe: Take two subcritical masses of uranium and put them at either end of a gun barrel. Add an initiator, then propel one mass into another. Bake at about 1 million degrees F.

Now, the United States and the European Union would very much like not to see this happen, as Iran funds terrorist groups and might be willing to either sell or give The Bomb to these troublemakers. So various inducements have been offered, along with the threat of sanctions. Iran has so far laughed at the idea of sanctions, and has hinted darkly at shutting off their oil supplies to the West if sanctions are imposed. Ten dollars for a gallon of regular unleaded, anyone?

The mullahs in Iran are so far quite unimpressed by this, and are saying that having The Bomb is desirable. Okay, so they want the bling that goes with being a first-rate power. Everyone wants to be a first-rate power, right? Hell, India and Pakistan (two countries not ordinarily known for restraint) have the bling - and Pakistan just tested their first cruise missile. So Iran just wants to join the Club.

The Bushite Junta doesn't want Iran to have the bomb, and has gone so far as to start contingency planning for a series of tactical nuclear strikes against selected targets. How well that will play out with Iran's neighbors (Russia, China, Pakistan and India, all of whom have The Bomb) remains to be seen. But since invading Iran might be a bit difficult at the present time (what with Afghanistan and Iraq), the real Nuclear Option might be the only card the US has to play.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Gouging Out My Eyes

Well, not really - but sometimes I do feel that using plastic picnic forks on the ol' peepers may be the only way to keep Bad Stuff from getting into my head.

Case in point, the last five days.

Last week's Punk of the Week Award went to a Punkette, Representative Katherine Harris (R-FL). She won the coveted Golden Buttock for unnecessarily drawing attention to herself about "certain newspapers" retouching photographs of her to make her look like some unholy offspring of Tammy Faye Bakker and Cruella de Vil. Of course, when challenged to name those "certain newspapers," she couldn't, which is growing to be more and more typical of her greasy ilk.

Katherine Harris is ugly, folks. Retouching is hardly necessary. I along with other Floridians had to watch her on the TV news during the 2000 election debacle when she was Florida's Secretary of State for Jebbie.

And now Ms. Harris, defying her own party (which is desperately trying to find someone to run against her in the GOP primaries) is going to run against incumbent Senator Bill "Urban Spaceman" Nelson (D-FL), who she calls "The most liberal Democrat in the Senate." Funny, I thought that was Teddy Kennedy, but who am I to judge?

Now, on to other things.

More American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and while the Bushite Junta merely shake their heads and insist on "staying the course," a growing number of people are asking why we got into this mess in the first place. And a growing number of people are just as busy wondering whether the President is trustworthy.

Ah, and where is Dear Leader, you ask? Why, he's on a well-deserved vacation in south Texas, clearing brush in 110-degree heat (which strikes me as unaccountably stupid in an almost Darwinian sense) while scrupulously avoiding the grieving mother of a dead soldier camped miles away from his front gate.

So, the war news is bad, looking worse, and people are getting anxious. What to do?

Throw a party!

Yes, you heard right. The Secretary of Defense (Donny the Jowl) announced that there will be an "America Supports You" march from the Pentagon to the Washington Mall. On September 11th. To hear Clint Black. And you have to register in order to join the march.

What fresh hell is this?

At first I could not believe my ears. Apparently the Junta wants to forever weld the idea that Iraq has or had anything to do with the al Qaeda attacks with the present Operation Bleeding Wound, and wants to seal it with a kiss from a country&western 'star.'

To quote, "Well, isn't that special?"

In good news, though, the shuttle Discovery returned to Earth safely, having had to land at Edwards AFB in California rather than in Florida (bad weather). Fewer dings in the heat shield, but the fleet (Discovery and Atlantis) is grounded until they fix the problem of debris striking the ships on liftoff. Makes sense to me, but I am perturbed that the shuttles will reach the end of their design lifespan in 2010, while the next generation of reusable heavy-lift system isn't slated for flight until 2014.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Pika Don

It's a slang term, in Japanese: "Flash-Boom" is the usual translation.

It's what the Japanese called the atomic bomb. On August 6, 1945, on a hot morning at 8:16 AM, a single plane dropped a single bomb, and an entire city was obliterated. Virtually every structure in the city of Hiroshima was destroyed or heavily damaged, and approximately 140,000 people died. The exact number will never be known, as some may have been vaporized.

Vaporized. It's a terrifying word. Nothing to even scrape up and toss into a jar to give grieving relatives closure.

For sixty years now, we have lived under the shadow of that first mushroom cloud. Whether we were right to use it or not is a specious argument. The fact of the matter is and remains we did use it, and the genie was released from the bottle.

What the mind of man can devise, the mind of man can duplicate. Others now have The Bomb, others who may not share our interests and goals. For sixty years we have managed to live under the shadow of The Bomb, and the threat of Hiroshima multiplied across an entire planet has stayed our hand.

The huge Peace Bell tolled in Hiroshima today, calling people to pause and reflect on the lesson taught to us by the Pika Don. Learn to live together without war, or step off into the abyss.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Personal War

In the wake of the tragic deaths of 21 US Marines in Iraq in the past few days, a spokesperson for an Ohio mayor (whose son is also over there) stated that the war is becoming more personal.

Excuse me.

War is always personal. These soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors did not erupt from the ground at the President's order. They are Americans, citizens, just like us.

They are our brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

In Ohio and Georgia, twenty-one families are in mourning. To them, this war is intensely personal. If the war does not seem personal to the vast majority of Americans, it is because only a small fraction of our citizenry is actually fighting. There is a disconnect here.

I have no children, no one to sacrifice to Mars on behalf of this country. But I feel those deaths keenly, the more so since they are dying for a lie.

I can understand why the President will not attend any military funerals. The corpses of those he has ordered to their deaths would rise from the soil and accuse him to his face.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Open Season

Police Chiefs Group Bolsters Policy on Suicide Bombers

By Sari Horwitz Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, August 4, 2005

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents the heads of police departments in the United States and across the world, has issued new guidelines saying that officers who confront a suicide bomber should shoot the suspect in the head.

The recommendations, the first from a major police organization to deal with the realities of a post-Sept. 11 world, take a more aggressive posture than typical lethal-force guidelines. The guidelines were published July 8 -- about two weeks before the London police, acting on a similar policy, fatally shot an innocent Brazilian seven times in the head because they mistook him for a suicide bomber.

- snip -

U.S. police officers and federal agents typically have been authorized to use deadly force if lives are in imminent danger. But since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the definition of imminent danger has changed, prompting law enforcement officials to rethink the rules of engagement.
"There is not a responsible chief or head of a law enforcement agency in this country who isn't now pondering the dilemma a suicide bomber presents to their officers," said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who became the first chief in the nation to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy if his officers are confronted with a suicide bomber.

After the July 7 attacks on the London transit system by suicide bombers, the international police chiefs organization produced a detailed training guide for dealing with suicide bombers for its 20,000 law enforcement members. It recommends that if an officer needs to use lethal force to stop someone who fits a certain behavioral profile, the officer should "aim for the head" to kill the person instantly and prevent the setting off of a bomb if one is strapped to the person's chest.

The police organization's behavioral profile says such a person might exhibit "multiple anomalies," including wearing a heavy coat or jacket in warm weather or carrying a briefcase, duffle bag or backpack with protrusions or visible wires. The person might display nervousness, an unwillingness to make eye contact or excessive sweating. There might be chemical burns on the clothing or stains on the hands. The person might mumble prayers or be "pacing back and forth in front of a venue."

The police group's guidelines also say the threat to officers does not have to be "imminent," as police training traditionally teaches. Officers do not have to wait until a suspected bomber makes a move, another traditional requirement for police to use deadly force. An officer just needs to have a "reasonable basis" to believe that the suspect can detonate a bomb, the guidelines say.

- snip -

"I really empathize with the British authorities," said Gainer, who is responsible for protecting 535 members of Congress, their staff members and visitors to the U.S. Capitol. "It's a Hobson's choice. How do you control someone you think has a suicide belt on? But what are the consequences of shooting someone, who, because of behavioral profiles, looks and acts like a suicide bomber but turns out isn't?"


"The London situation where an innocent man was shot and killed was based on Israeli procedure, and I don't think that we want to be replicating the actions of a foreign government engaged in a brutal occupation of another people," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It sends the wrong message to the Muslim world."
In contrast to the national shoot-to-kill policies of Israel and Britain, American use-of-force orders are set by each of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies.

A number of high-profile shootings in the past decade, including that of Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times in 1999 by New York police officers, highlighted the abuse of lethal force by out-of-control officers and the deadly mistakes that can be made by fearful or reckless police.


But now, in the case of a suicide bomber, the international police organization says that tactic would be "inappropriate." According to the group's training guidelines, a bullet could hit an explosive device and detonate it. The bullet also might wound the bomber, who could then detonate an explosive vest. In addition, some explosives -- such as smokeless powder and triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, which apparently was used in the London bombings -- are sensitive to heat, shock and friction, according to the training document.

- snip -

"You need to get him dead as quick as possible," said Timoney, the Miami police chief. "The easiest way to do that is a head shot. That's the only way to guarantee. It's not something you relish. But if you shot him in the upper torso, that person would be able to make movements and make sure the bomb, if he had it, could go off. A body shot very seldom kills instantly."


Well, well, well. Now, THIS is interesting.

I wonder if the IACP has ever heard of a dead man switch? Nifty little thingamajigger; when the bomber's hand relaxes (something a head shot may cause), the trigger is released and the bomb does what a bomb does. Boom.

I expect all kinds of weirdness now, especially here in Florida where Our Leader's oleaginous brother John Ellis "Jeb" Bush and the obliging Legislature have modified the Laws of Florida to accomodate the Redneck/NRA Axis of Idiocy. Now it won't just be possible to bust a cap on someone who's threatening you; police will be able to practice their target shooting doing headshots on people. And, of course, you KNOW who'll they'll be using as targets.

Send in the Clones

Don't bother, they're here ...

Yeah, yeah, I know .... hideously bad pun.

Anyway, the Seoul National University has announced the publication of a research paper on the first-ever successful cloning of a dog. Dogs, because of their reproductive biology, are apparently a complete nightmare when trying to harvest the mature ova necessary to start the process, and very tricky to grow and implant into a bitch's uterus.

However, by a lot of trial and error (123 embryos implanted, 3 pregnancies - 1 died in utero, 1 died after birth of respiratory failure) they unveiled an illustration of their work.

A cute, gangly Afghan male named Snuppy (for Seoul National University pUPPY - low marks for originality, but a cute name) was unveiled along with its sire, as well as the Labrador surrogate bitch that carried it. He's quite energetic, based on the short video I saw. I have hopes that, being a dog, he can avoid the genetic senescence that has doomed Dolly the Sheep and CC the Cat.

However, we won't be seeing this kind of innovation in the United States. Thanks to our Luddite President and his superstitious 'base' we will be doomed to at minimum two generations of stupid kids.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"Intelligent" Design?

I was tired yesterday, and grew both tired and depressed today as I read the news. Dear Leader (you know who - George Dubya Bush) came out in favor of something called Intelligent Design, which he said should be taught alongside evolution in the public schools. Several states have already written this into the public school curricula - Texas and Kansas, to be precise.

Now, ordinarily I'd say let these two states wither in their own illiteracy, but the advocacy of ID (spurred on by the Eeeevangelikal Christofascist crowd) is spreading throughout the country. Look, it's bad enough that we're insisting on kids all be educated just enough to pass a freaking skills test (which won't equip them for the outside world any way) - now we're going to abandon science altogether.

Let's look at ID for a moment.

Intelligent design postulates that life did, in fact, evolve, BUT the entire process was steered/presided over/manipulated/what have you by a "Designer." Who that "Designer" might be is left blank, but come on, people! Who the hell do you think it is?

That's right. God. Jehovah. YHVH. Allah. The Big Invisible Whatsit Up In The Sky. Call it what you will.

Houston, we have a problem.

ID fails the test of simple logic.

Simple logical process starts with a hypothesis (or theory). Then you find evidence that supports, disproves or changes that theory. Then you base a conclusion on the evidence that you have found.

Evolution passes the test of simple logic.

Intelligent Design starts with a conclusion ("Everything is the product of The Designer"). It tries to find evidence to support that conclusion, and ignores or tries to 'spin' any evidence that might change or disprove that conclusion. Bad logic, bad science.

Intelligent Design fails the test of simple logic.

Let's look at it another way. The British philosopher David Hume (hopefully no relation to the Faux News blowhard Brit Hume) suggested that simply observing the universe around us would disprove any notion that a "Designer" or "Deity" had anything to do with it.

Think about it - is there evidence of "design" in the fact that we have nonfunctional muscles to move our ears?

That men have nipples?

That we come equipped with an appendix that is quite literally good for nothing?

It doesn't surprise me that Dear Leader advocates this mishmash of religion and bad logic. It suits him and enables him to play to his "base" - the uninformed and the rapidly growing ranks of the uneducated.