Monday, January 30, 2006

Schoolyard Taunting

Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the reputed #2 man in the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, appeared in a video on al-Jazeera today, and wagged a finger at President Bush. He said (in effect), "Nyah, nyah, nyah. You missed me, Sport."

Like the War on Terror was a game of Dodgeball.

To be honest, al-Zawahiri did, in fact, dodge a bullet. The bombs intended for him missed and instead blew about 18 noncombatants into a cloud of pink meat.


And, it seems, we didn't have the permission of the Pakistani government to do this.

Double oops.

So once again we strike out, killing a bunch of people in hopes of bagging just one person, only to find (once again) that we missed.

What the hell is this? A bad remake of the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's Still Surprising ...

I have to admit it.

I still have trouble believing that there are still people in this country who lap up George Bush's lies like semen and grin stickily up at him with an adoring look.

Yes, that's a naughty metaphor

It's A Slam-Dunk!

This comes courtesy of the Washington Post. Italicized passages are my comments.

Bush Confident Warrantless Wiretaps Legal
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 26, 2006; 11:11 AM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush defended anew his program of warrantless surveillance Thursday, saying "there's no doubt in my mind it is legal." He suggested that he might resist congressional efforts to change it.
Sure, why not? It's not like anyone in the Congress or the Supreme Court would dare stop you, Your Incompetent Highness.
"The program's legal, it's designed to protect civil liberties, and it's necessary," Bush told a White House news conference.
About as much protection as the "Patriot Act?"
Democrats have accused the president of breaking the law in allowing eavesdropping on overseas communications to and from U.S. residents, and even some members of his own party have questioned the practice.
Asked if he would support efforts in Congress to give him express authority to continue the program, Bush cited what he said was the extreme delicacy of the operation.
"It's so sensitive that if information gets out about how the program works, it will help the enemy," Bush said. "Why tell the enemy what we're doing?"
As if the 'enemy' doesn't already know what we're doing.
"We'll listen to ideas. If the attempt to write law is likely to expose the nature of the program, I'll resist it," the president said.
"Listen to ideas?" That'll be an innovation for this Administration.


Some enterprising fellow has dug back into the archives and found an interesting bit of trivia - way back in 2002, a Republican Senator proposed a change to the FISA law which would have made warrantless wiretapping much easier (under FISA, as you recall, the Prez can order a warrantless wiretap for 72 hours before taking a request for warrant to the FISA court - which doesn't reject many requests).

Bush rejected the idea.

And now we have found that Bush has gone far, far beyond even what Senator DeWine had proposed. The reason that Bush rejected the DeWine proposal? Because it would probably be unconstitutional.

One might almost weep at the irony.

And Bush's constant assertions that his illegal activities are legal are starting to ring hollow. Yes, he's absolutely sure - but he was also absolutely sure about the Iraqi WMDs, and that our troops would be welcomed with candy and flowers, and that we would catch Osama, and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thought for the Day

"I heard, and forgot.

"I saw, and remembered.

"I did, and understood."

- Kung fu-tse (Confucius)

America's Image?

This little gem from al-Jazeera:

Iraq abuse lenience 'affects' US image

Wednesday 25 January 2006 7:52 AM GMT

An unexpectedly light sentence for a US army interrogator who once faced life in prison for the death of an Iraqi general could tarnish the US government and hurt human-rights efforts around the globe, observers say.
Prosecutors said during Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr's court-martial that his interrogation of Major-General Abed Hamed Mowhoush "could fairly be described as torture" and had stained the military's reputation.
During the trial, testimony showed he stuffed Mowhoush in a sleeping bag and straddled his chest.
Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said if the tables were turned and an American general had fallen into enemy hands and suffered the same fate from interrogators, there would have been an uproar in the US. "How is this going to look overseas?" he said.
Mowhoush, the former commander of Saddam Hussein's air defences, surrendered to the Army on 10 November 2003, in hopes of seeing or securing the release of his four sons.

Sixteen days later, Mowhoush died after Welshofer covered him in a sleeping bag, straddled his chest and put his hand over the general's mouth, already covered by the bag.

Initially charged with murder, assault and wilful dereliction of duty at his court-martial at Fort Carson, Welshofer was found guilty of negligent homicide and negligent dereliction of duty.

On Monday, a military jury ordered a reprimand and forfeiture of $6000 in pay, and restricted him to his home, office and church for two months.

Observers said Welshofer's sentence is lenient and his case and others like it could endanger Americans whose captors might use them to justify inhumane treatment.
In May 2005, Lieutenant Andrew Ledford, a Navy SEAL who had faced up to 11 years in prison for allegedly beating an Iraqi prisoner who later died, was acquitted of assault, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer and making false statements.

In September, Army Pfc Lynndie England, who posed for some of the most infamous photos depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was sentenced to three years in prison in the last of nine courts-martial of low-level soldiers charged in the scandal.
Pvt Charles Graner Jr was sentenced to 10 years in the same case, while six soldiers struck plea bargains.

Last month, five army Rangers pleaded guilty in cases concerning detainee abuse in Iraq and received sentences ranging from 30-day to six-month confinements and reduction in rank. Those soldiers were not identified.

"The biggest news of this verdict is, it's not news," Jumana Musa, advocacy director of Amnesty International, said of the Welshofer sentencing.

"It really follows the lines of other such cases: very little punishment for what would otherwise be thought of as very serious crimes."

Musa said such cases erode US credibility at a time when it is urging other countries to increase human-rights protections. She said they could also set human rights progress back by giving countries such as Libya an excuse to justify abuses.


Which will happen. Regimes that we routinely excoriate for the worst kinds of abuse will simply shrug and say, "Hey, you do it too, motherfucker."

We have become A Nation of Motherfuckers, embodying the worst qualities in the deep netherworld of the American psyche. This is what people feared after 9/11/01 - that we would become the same sort of people we deplore.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Well, So Much for That ....

The United States doesn't meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, so why did we sink $1.9 million into trying to influence the Palestinian elections in favor of al-Fatah?

Could it be that Palestine's not a country?

How could that be? They've got land, a population, a government and a flag. Flags are important. "Hey, this is my spot."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. It's got my flag on it. Do YOU have a flag on it?"

"Um, no."

"See? Now get over there and take your shoes off - we're doing a security check."

And that's how wars start.

Happy 33rd, Roe vs. Wade

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, which effectively made abortion legal throughout the United States, and enabled women to take charge of their reproductive destiny without the danger inherent in herbal decoctions, knitting needles and coat hangers.

Few decisions have generated such a fuss. Not even the Lawrence vs Texas ruling, which decriminalized homosexual acts, has caused such a ruckus. Over the past three decades, the states and the Federal Government have added or subtracted condition and restrictions on Roe, while leaving the legality of abortion intact. It has stood the test of time and many efforts by right-wing Supreme Court Justices (activist judges!), state legislatures and Federal congresscritters to subvert the basic right enshrined in that decision.

Yes, there is a basic right here - the right to control one's destiny. Women have the same exact inherent right as men to control what they do with their bodies, and I know all the arguments. But isn't getting a vasectomy, or using a condom, or getting one's tubes tied or taking a contraceptive violating "God's Divine Plan?" Honestly, people, don't you think that after two thousand years of steady progress we should finally manage to move beyond that kind of predestinarian nonsense?

Now, if Judge Samuel Alito gets confirmed to the Supreme Court, we might see Roe overturned. Now, what would this do? Well, on both sides we see extremes: One side would hail it as the beginning of the True Millennium on Earth (with all the horrors that implies), while another would mourn a reversal as the resurrection of slavery.

Whatever happens, if Alito gets confirmed, it certainly won't be boring.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Philosophy Time!

It's time now, I think, to share my theories regarding the origins of religion and spirituality.

To take a leaf from Voltaire, let us define our terms first.

"God" is our all-encompassing term for an anthropomorphized ideal, a distillation of all that we aspire to in terms of morality and benevolence. Beyond that, "god" is a type of gestalt, a feeling of being interconnected to everyone else.

"Spirituality" is the feeling (impression, sensation) that there is an authority above us that we have an obligation toward. (I'll get to this in greater detail a bit later).

"Religion" is the outward show that provides a ritualized focus for meditation, enabling us to block out distractions and concentrate on our souls.

"Soul" is a result of interior mental processes, so "soul" is a function of our nervous system.

Now, here's how I get all these terms to hang together:

1. Your nervous system runs on electrochemical impulses, so to a certain extent you are a weak RF transmitter.
2. On a certain level, this energy (which I have termed a "soul" for lack of a better term) connects to others, leading to the subliminal feeling that you are connected to other people or to the universe. The personification of this collective sensation can go by many names, and my favorite is the Hindu Atman, or 'World-Soul.'
3. You refine your "soul" through silent meditation, usually in association with a focus. You have to exercise it in order to make it develop, just as you exercise your mind or body.
4. The "spiritual" sensation that I listed above, and the personification of deity as a parental figure, is - to my way of thinking - a product of our biology. Think about it - we are dependent on our parents for basic sustenance, early education and comfort. They punish us when we are bad, and reward us when we are good, and their wrath can be averted by proper attitude and contrition.

I await comment.

"God is Mad at America"

So said Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans.

Okay, here we go.

The idea that some invisible parental figure up in the sky is responsible for the deaths and property damage associated with two hurricanes is actually quite an indictment of said invisible parental figure. Think about it: God destroys things and snuffs out lives - for what purpose?

To punish sin? Sorry; I'm sure that a lot of good, morally upright and God-fearing people died in those two storms. To illustrate the sublimity of the deity? I don't buy that; any deity that destroys in order to show how nice he could be is to call God an ogre of the worst stripe.

Philosophically (to refer to Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought), medieval thinkers believed that natural evil (storms, floods, etc.) were a direct result of moral evil (debauchery, theft, war, etc.). The break came with the Lisbon Earthquake of November 1, 1755. A lot of churches were destroyed that day in the earthquake and accompanying tsunami and fires, while many of the brothels were left standing. That dichotomy between the moral and natural led many thinkers to dissociate natural events from moral failures.

Of course, we see the same medieval mentality show up again and again: Falwell and Robertson said that the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a direct result of America 'sinning.' And Mayor Nagin's comments are also of the same tenor.

Storms and earthquakes are natural phenomena, explainable by natural processes. That doesn't make them any less devastating, but it helps block a lot of the superstitious silliness that crops up.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Speech for Martin Luther King Day

The following link is the transcript of a speech given today by former Vice President Al Gore at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia:

I urge everyone to read this.


The Slave Media didn't cover it.

So read it.

Roughing It

I broke out my camping gear for the first time since 2001, determined to spend a weekend in the woods. It's nice and quiet (generally - see below), and I wanted to have some effect on my humors. Cutting myself free from cell phones, computers and all the other electronic paraphernalia can be a treat.

It was windy on Saturday - very windy, but the tent stood up to it, and I enjoyed hearing the wind through the trees. As night fell the temperature started to drop, so after having supper and taking another walk I went to sleep.

Well, some neighboring campers decided that it also the right time to start cranking up the techno dance mix 'music,' and I found myself wishing that I had brought my shotgun. You know, "one round, fire for effect ..." But they eventually shut up, and I tried to sleep.

I woke up about 7:30 Sunday morning and Lawsy was it cold! While heating up water for cocoa on my primus stove I noticed that my fingers and the backs of my hands were a nice medium shade of blue. A bit of frostbite (frostnip?) that was easily treated, following the guidelines from the Red Cross First Aid manual I learned from as a child (vintage 1940!). You know, dipping the hands into hot water actually works - hurts like hell, but works.

I'll be out in the woods again, when it gets a tad warmer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

7 Things

With a nod to Blondesense Liz:

7 things to do before I die:
a. Tour Europe.
b. Visit the Real Ground Zero (the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico).
c. Visit Borobudur.
d. Meditate on a beach in Kauai.
e. Laugh at the funeral of my last enemy.
f. Finally manage to forget something.
g. Take a grand tour of European brothels.

7 things I can't do:
a. Land an airplane.
b. Hold my breath for 1 minute.
c. Play the piano.
d. Stay patient in the face of abject stupidity.
e. Refrain from talking back to the television.
f. Avoid catching cold.
g. Tear down an engine and rebuild it without having parts left over.

7 things that attracted me to blogging:
a. The ability to vent.
b. Cheap advertising for my books (#3 out about August '06!).
c. The opportunity to explain my view of certain things.
d. Love of a good argument.
e. Meeting hot chicks.
f. The hope that my blog may one day be mentioned on CNN.
g. See (a).

7 things I say most often:
a. "I'm not unwell."
b. "If I were doing any better I'd chew my own foot off."
c. "What?"
d. "Well, that'll happen" (said while watching the second plane hitting the WTC).
e. "Shit."
f. "Man, that's fucked up."
g. "If that had been a snake you'd be dead by now."

7 books I love:
a. The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant
b. The Prince by Machiavelli
c. When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin
d. Unfortunately, It Was Paradise by Mahmoud Darwish
e. The Essential Rumi
f. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
g. Dune by Frank Herbert

7 movies that I watch over and over again:
a. Star Wars
b. Caligula
c. Silence of the Lambs
d. Lion in Winter
e. A Clockwork Orange
f. Monty Python's Life of Brian
g. Blazing Saddles

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

An Open Question

I sent this recently to the White House (yeah, I know, I'm probably already wiretapped):

If (as shown in various reports by the media) the President may, by virtue of his 'inherent authority as Commander-inChief,' authorize domestic spying without warrant or court oversight, and if he may circumvent the expressed will of the people of the United States (as given by the Congress in the bills it sends up) through bill-signing statements, why doesn't President Bush simply abrogate the Constitution, declare a dictatorship and dissolve the Congress?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Where Were You ...

... when the Coup happened?

The President of the United States has come out and publicly told people that he is, for all practical purposes, Above the Law in this country. Now, he justifies this by saying that we're at war, his Constitutional powers allow it, and so does the Congressional "Authorization for Use of Military Force" which marked the Congress' terror-stricken stampede away from their traditional prerogatives.

Okay. Several problems here. For starters, we already HAD a perfectly sound mechanism for wiretapping people, and you had 72 hours to do it before having to take the case to the largely rubber-stamp FISA Court. Two, the US Constitution does NOT give the President authority to act above it. This is not the Roman Republic; there is no provision to set up a dictator to 'see to it that no harm come to the State.' If Bush truly respected the rule of law in this country, he would never have done anything so patently stupid and illegal. Three, the Congress never authorized - and as far as we know never agreed to - allowing Bush to run roughshod over the Constitution.

Personally, I blame two lawyers for this shit. One is Alberto "Torturer" Gonzales, and the other is an Eichmann-like character named John Yoo. It would not surprise me in the least if Mr. Yoo were revealed to be a paid agent of the People's Republic of China (but that's a TinFoil Hat Moment).

So, let's see where we stand right now:

1. A President who claims the authority that Henry VIII, Adolf Hitler and Iosif Stalin claimed - that they are above the law, and can do whatever they wish under the guise of "protecting the country."

2. The ruling party in the Congress owned in fee simple by corporate interests who are dedicated to using the present "War on Terror" to line their own pockets.

3. The courts bypassed and the highest court in the land being packed with right-wing ideologues.

4. A largely servile news media, who have given up their independence to their corporate masters in exchange for "access" - crumbs from the tables of the powerful. Fox, for example, should call itself a Propaganda Channel - which would be the plain truth.

5. Bush's "conservative base" made up of people who have, for all intents and purpose, stopped thinking for themselves. Completely.

The only thing we can do, people, is for all of us, Republican and Democrat, to work for an overturn of the current majority in both Houses of Congress. Agitate for the news media to return to its former status as the Fourth Estate and start raking through the wreckage to find their balls.

And when the "conservative base" start screeching at you like parrots that the President needs these extraordinary powers, just remind them that Bush is setting a precedent here - and would they like to see a Democrat wielding those powers?

And now, two quotes:

"Now those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth, and let me remind you they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyranny."— Barry Goldwater

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross."— Sinclair Lewis

Saturday, January 07, 2006

There Is Not Anger Enough ...

To express my outrage over this:

Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Body Armor

The New York Times

Published: January 7, 2006

A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

- snip -

The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine officials acknowledge.
The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army was deciding among various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers, adding that they hoped to issue contracts this month.


Any American who claims to support our troops in the field must feel outrage at this. The Generals, Don Rumsfeld, and the entire Pentagon bureaucracy are at fault in this. Our troops are wounded and dying while denied some of the basic protection any fighting force requires. And what's worse, the Pentagon KNEW this going in.


And this caught my eye as well:

Basis for Spying in U.S. Is Doubted

The New York Times

Published: January 7, 2006

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 - President Bush's rationale for eavesdropping on Americans without warrants rests on questionable legal ground, and Congress does not appear to have given him the authority to order the surveillance, said a Congressional analysis released Friday.

- snip -

The report was particularly critical of a central administration justification for the program, that Congress had effectively approved such eavesdropping soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by authorizing "all necessary and appropriate force" against the terrorist groups responsible. Congress "does not appear to have authorized or acquiesced in such surveillance," the report said, adding that the administration reading of some provisions of federal wiretap law could render them "meaningless."


The Congressional report did not actually come out and say that Bush has violated the Constitution, but it came close and it was amazing that it even addressed the question. More is at stake here than just the power of the Congress to declare and wage war (which is its Constitutional prerogative).

What's at stake here is nothing less than the Constitution itself, and the framework of rights and liberties that Americans have fought and died for for the past 230 years.

Wake up, America. The enemy is closer than you think, and it is not the enemy you've been told is out to destroy you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Let the Good Times Roll

I'm being sarcastic, of course.

Lobbyist and Grand Paymaster of Legislators Jack Abramoff will, according to CNN, roll over like a weasel. He's agreed to a plea deal that will keep him out of prison, in exchange for names.

There is no doubt that many people of the rodent persuasion are now shaking in their boots, and a super-secret 'black' operation involving the NSA, the Delta Force and Fox News is probably already in the works to inject Abramoff's brain full of monkey pox or cancer cells in order to prevent from naming those names.