Sunday, July 29, 2007

Some Good News (for a change)

One of the less-known stories out of Iraq these days has been the Iraqi national football side (soccer team). Drawn from smaller clubs and leagues throuhgout the country, they represent a cross-section of all the various ethnic and religious groups in Iraq.

They took the name "Lions of the Two Rivers" and proved it today with their first-ever Asian Football Cup victory over four-time winner Saudi Arabia. They beat the Saudi side 1-0, leading to wild celebrations in the streets of Baghdad and throughout Iraq.

Congratulations to the Lions of the Two Rivers! You fought hard, and it paid off, and you provide an example of unity to your fellow citizens.

Allahu akbar!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Was "The Right Stuff" Rye or Bourbon?

Because I don't like the taste of bourbon. Cooking with it's fine, but not drinking it (tastes awful).
As the investigation into the diaper-wearing astronaut incident widened, it became apparent that NASA had a problem about which it was in deep denial. Deep? You could have floated Cleopatra's barge on it.
Allegedly (everything's alleged until the New York Times best-seller comes out) the astronauts have been having difficulties since the earliest days of the space program. Not with the equipment, but with alcohol. To be blunt, astronauts have been getting lit before launch.
Wait until the sun's up over the yardarm, guys and gals.
Now, I have much respect for anyone who deliberately straps themselves into an experimental craft built by the lowest bidder and perched precariously upon several thousand tons of high explosives. It may be a bit too much to expect that they be sober as judges when they do it, but that's not the point (although it may be - the Russians have probably allowed their cosmonauts a nip or two of vodka before flight).
Just a little alcohol is enough, in some people, to impair their reflexes and judgement, and when you're dealing with an environment that is actively trying to kill you you can't make any mistakes.
NASA is trying to set things right by increasing the frequency with which it does psychological evaluations, establishing an explicit code of conduct, and other measures. But this latest news is another black eye that the manned space program didn't need.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And Another Thing ...

As an aside to the Japan Times article I cite in yesteday's post, let me say this about the "cycle of nuclear proliferation:"

You can't stop it.

There, I said. And I'd say it again if I had to.

Whenever a new piece of technology comes along, people just fester to get their hands on it. For any number of purposes. Take gunpowder, for example. Gunpowder started the development of modern arms (or we'd still be carving road tunnels with chisels and shooting each other with crossbows). There was no way to stop it - as soon as some half-bright serf with a handcannon and his ammunition fell into enemy hands, the search was on to reverse-engineer the stuff and find out how to make more.

Okay, analogy over.

Various scientists in several countries (even Japan) were working on the idea of nuclear fission as a viable weapon way back in the 30s, showing just how hard it is to stop the spread of ideas. However, only one nation had the resources to actually bring the device to fruition - the United States.

So, let's wind the clock back and see what the Genie did after we let it out of the bottle, shall we? For starters, the secrets of the Bomb were leaked to the Soviet Union. Great Britain and France developed theirs mostly on their own (Britain had aided the US in the Manhattan Project, and France had the son of the great Madame Curie to do the heavy lifting - and France has natural supplies of uranium). And US President Eisenhower, in his "Atoms for Peace" project, freely gave out nuclear reactor technology to developing nations so they could modernize.

One of the bad things about nuclear reactors is its waste product, which includes plutonium. So it was only a matter of time before smaller nations started using reactors as seedbeds to produce oralloy (highly enriched uranium) and plutonium.

The first nation (that we know of) to start this process was Israel, who is doing it for defense reasons (we hope, as the United States has consistently blocked UN attempts to see what's going at the Israeli reactor site at Dimona - a site that the Israelis are so paranoid about that they shot down one of their own planes after it accidentally overflew the area).

Pakistan and India followed suit, as did North Korea (although I laughed when I found out the estimated yield - a measly 500 tons, or half a kiloton).

::waves at the NSA guys::

A couple years ago the United States put up on the Internet a whole bunch of documents relating to Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. After a while, someone noticed that the recipe for nerve gases were on those documents, handily in Arabic. When this was brought to the US's attention, the papers were removed from the site. Last year, a minor foofaraw resulted when another survey of the posted documents showed the actual blueprints for an implosion device, including the all-important equations that cover the amount of fissile material and the tampers. This material, too, was taken down rapidly.

But who could have read it and printed it out BEFORE it was deleted? No one knows.

You can not put the Genie back into the bottle.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Say What?

From the Japan Times:

U.S. owes A-bomb apology

Read the article; it is an interesting insight into the Japanese Government's reasoning behind its own nuclear non-proliferation stance (even though it conveniently turns a blind eye to allowing nuclear-armed US warships to use its ports). Here's the money quote:

"To end the vicious cycle of nuclear proliferation, the U.S., the first to use nuclear bombs as a weapon of war, should apologize to Japan for the bombings and pledge to abandon all nuclear arms."

Got that? The editorial writer's opinion is that the United States of America apologize to the Japanese for dropping the first uranium and plutonium devices on their cities, as a way to start the ball rolling on a worldwide disarmament strategy.

First, a bit of historical context: Wars that start with a undeclared, or 'sneak' attack will usually not end well, and usually require both combatants to sink into real depths of competitive barbarism. We were attacked by the Japanese, and spent a boatload of money in developing these bombs. Smoe thought that it would have been wasted money and effort if we hadn't used them, while others pointed to the projected casualty figures for Operations Coronet and Olympic.

Second, as to apologies:

Has Japan apologized for invading Korea and China?

Has Japan apologized for the Rape of Nanjing?

Has Japan apologized for its experiments in chemical and biological warfare on Chinese civilians?

Has Japan apologized for its use of Chinese and Korean "comfort women?"

We did not attack Japan at Pearl Harbor. We didn't start the war - but we finished it.

It is up to the vanquished to apologize first. It's just good manners.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Searching for the Truth

I hear that doctors will be at Camp David today to sedate the Pain in the Ass-in-Chief then ram a plumber's snake equipped with a camera up his rear in order to look for polyps. For the amount of time he's out Cheney will be officially in charge.

Cheney's been unofficially in charge, of course, ever since he appointed himself as the Vice-Presidential nominee way back in 2000. It's been his job to piss on our civil liberties, shit on our Constitution and lie, cheat, steal and cozen his way to even greater power.

At his instigation we were lied to in order for the PNAC/AIPAC wet dream of all that sweet Iraqi oil to be realized.

At his direction a CIA officer was stripped of her cover, an act that would ordinarily be called treason (but one must recall that it's okay to do such things, if you're Republican).

At his urging the war drums are beating louder for an attack on Iran, with no regard for how such an attack would impact our troops in the field or what's left of our standing in the world.

Both of these uncouth caterpillars upon our commonwealth need to go - but Cheney first.

Leave Bush sedated - it's nothing new to him, and it'll give the doctors plenty of time to delve deep into what makes him tick..

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Losin' It

My hair, that is.

And I've no idea why.

Well, that last is not quite true - I've always figured that I'd go bald eventually (my usual joke is that I'd burn half my hair off through job stress and overindulgence) but I figured it would be pattern baldness.

I walked into the barber shop today to get my biweekly haircut ($11 - take that, Edwards and Romney!) and both barbers stared. One asked what the Hell had I done, and the other asked if I were on chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

No, it's not radiation or chemotherapy, but my hair started to drop off my head about three weeks ago in no discernible pattern whatever. I have to wear my hair cropped close to my head now so that the gaps aren't as visible.

Now, what might the cause be? Who knows? I'm not exceptionally vain (I own mirrors, so I have no illusions about what I look like) so drugs or whatever will not be in the cards. If it gets too bad I'll just shave.

But a tiny little corner of the diseased portions of my mind can't help showing me scenes of tiny mites or lice wearing flannel shirts and knit caps and sporting really bad French-Canadian accents clear-cutting my scalp randomly with tiny axes. Everytime another follicle goes over they yell, "Teeeeeeem-bair!"

Which actually gives you some insight into my mind.

Frightening, isn't it?

Friday, July 13, 2007

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

This little nugget from NBC News ought to make your hair stand on end:

U.S. troops kill 6 Iraqi police in gunbattle

Thursday, July 12, 2007

You Just HAVE to Love This ...

This little gem of Republican Family Values was found in today's Lakeland, Florida Ledger:

(The bold bits are for emphasis.)

Rep. Allen Faces Prostitution Charge

State Rep. Bob Allen was arrested Wednesday after offering to perform oral sex on an undercover male police officer for $20, authorities said.

Veteran's Memorial Park was under surveillance when Allen, R-Merritt Island, was seen coming into and out of a restroom three times, Lt. Todd Hutchinson. Allen, 48, then approached an undercover officer and was arrested.

He has been charged with solicitation for prostitution, which has a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Allen was booked into Brevard County jail on $500 bail.

Allen is a married father of one.


Is it wrong for me, a registered Republican, to display such unseemly glee at the idea of yet another of these "family values" assholes whacked upside the head by their lusts?

Didn't think so.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nullus Salvus Extra Ecclesiam

"There is no salvation outside the Church."

Back during the rough-and-tumble years of the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church had a problem. Bunches of sects were splitting away from the Church and setting themselves up in their own businesses.

It is not my intention at this point to regale you with the bloody history of what happened next, least of all with the Thirty Years' War and all the other strife that convinced Our Founding Fathers to avoid establishing a state religion.

It is my intention to tell you what happened at the Council of Trent.

The Catholic Church decided that it needed to reform itself a tad and to make sure that all these little sects (Lutherans, Calvinists, Zwinglians, Baptists, Anabaptists, etc.) didn't horn in on its turf. Part of that is the doctrinal assertion you see at the top of this post (and in Latin as the title).

Over the years, the Church finally relaxed this somewhat, saying that it was possible for all Christians to achieve salvation.

Until recently. In 2000 the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asserted that any non-Catholic denomination (such as Presbyterian or Russian Orthodox) were not true churches in the full sense of the word. Brushing aside all the Jesuit casuistry, it's a reassertion of the nullus salvus doctrine (although it sweetens it a tad by saying that the other churches aren't true churches because they can't trace their descent back to the Apostles).

The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now dignified with the name and title Bendict XVI, Pope and Vicar of Christ.

Big Benny wants to turn the clock back, it seems, and it's got some of the major Protestant and Orthodox churches steamed at him. It was only a matter of time before he turned on the Protestants; he'd already pissed off Islam by quoting a medieval Byzantine emperor who had nothing good to say about the Prophet (pboh), and he angered the Jews by reviving parts of the Tridentine Mass.

Now I want to see if he'll go after the Hindus and Buddhists, and the battle lines will be re-drawn.

Although he'd be horribly miscast as Urban II, going around preaching crusade. "Deus vult!" he'll scream, and people will nod and go back to their iPhones.

And Catholicism will slump a bit further into total irrelevancy.

Why Do Senate Republicans Hate Our Troops?

It's pretty obvious that they do, you know.

The Senators on a Certain Side of the chamber (and their favorite catamite, Joe Lieberman, sadly of Connecticut) have consistently sabotaged every measure designed to help support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Higher pay? Struck down.

Veteran's benefits? Struck down.

Medical care? Struck down.

And now they've obstructed the Webb Amendment to the defense appropriation bill, which would have required troops to spend the same amount of time at the rear as they spent up on the front lines.

A while back, soldiers spent two years resting and recuperating for every year they were in combat. Now, that didn't necessarily mean they were home; that meant they were resting and recuperating (somewhere to the rear, where you could get a drink and maybe snag a hooker for some Horizontal Refreshment).

Now, thanks to the Bush Administration's almost Pharaonic desire to make bricks without straw, soldiers spend fifteen months on deployment or longer for every twelve months home. Which is a sad state of affairs, as it will burn out the troops that much faster.

All Senator Webb (a combat veteran himself) wanted was for the troops to spend the same amount of time resting and being with their family as they spend risking being blown up.

But apart from a few GOP Senators that voted with the Democrats, the measure failed to get the 60 votes necessary. I guess the others must think that we don't have actual, flesh-and-blood soldiers out there; I guess they think we've contracted with the Trade Federation for some Mark 15 Battle Droids or something.

Start beating that drum - the Senate Republicans Hate Our Troops.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ass Prints* and Kicking the Can

*Aren't those "bench marks" too?

Yes, once again I'm going to talk about Iraq. So there.

Yesterday the Associated Press revealed a preview of a report to be made to the Congress on July 15th regarding the progress of Our Grand Imperial Military Adventure in Iraq (Phase #12,741) and the efforts of the Iraqi Puppet Government (excuse me, the al-Maliki regime) to meet the benchmarks the Congress set for it.

For those of you playing along at home, there were four primary benchmarks that included a law to equitably distribute the nation's oil revenues among the four major ethno-religious groups (Shiite, Sunni, Kurd and Turkmen).

To the surprise of virtually no one outside of Fox Bullshit, the Iraqi government has met not a single benchmark, and violence has actually increased since the escalation started. More Americans have died.

But not to worry, says Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Snow, who looks as if he needs a lobster bib to keep the secretions off his shirt, told reporters yesterday that the benchmarks were essentially meaningless and would have nothing to do with the progress (or lack thereof) of the escalation. Instead, he referred to it as a "snapshot of the starting line" for the so-called Surge.

Wipe the semen off your chin, Tony. Maybe you can use it to mousse your hair.

Back in the halcyon days of childhood there was a game called Kick the Can. It was really simple - all you needed was a can, and a good firm kicking motion. You kicked the can, followed it to where it came to rest, and kicked it again. Like many games, it was a pointless endeavor.

However, it's a perfect metaphor for the Bushite strategy in Iraq right now. Keep kicking the can down the road, setting new benchmarks, new goals and just hope that things go on as they are until Bush can leave office and deposit this flaming sack of dog poo into the lap of his successor.

Meanwhile, things are starting to unravel in Baghdad. Not swiftly, but at a glacial pace. Several cabinet members have voiced misgivings about a precipitous withdrawal of our troops (as if anyone's actually supporting such a move), while others have called upon the Iraqi public to arm themselves, a strong implied admission that the Iraqi Army and security forces are unable to keep the population safe.

They're not "standing up," George, so we should start considering Other Options.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Clinton Did It Too!"

You've probably heard a lot of this stupid statement lately, usually in regard to the 'Scooter' Libby (who in their right mind keeps their childhood nickname well into middle age?) and the commutation of his prison sentence by Dear Leader.

Well, I'm not here to talk about that.

Late last year, as I recall, ABC broadcast a "docudrama" (an awkward word for a documentary that contains dramatized elements) called The Path to 9/11 or some such. One of the scenes that caused so much wailing and gnashing of teeth was one dramatized scene in which members of the Clinton Administration call off a CIA operation that could have killed Osama bin Laden.

You remember Osama, of course.

Well, the venerable Gray Lady, the New York Times, trotted out this story from 2005 that will no doubt cause Bush apologists to shriek "Clinton did it too!" all the louder.

You see, the Bush Administration put the kibosh on a secret military operation that could have netted some of the biggest wheels in al Qaeda, including (possibly) Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the
#2 guy.

Why was the kibosh put on it? Well, Donny the Jowl Rusmfeld told DCI Porter Goss to call off the mission, saying that it had become too "cumbersome" and would jeopardize our relations with Pakistan. Pakistan, as you know, harbors the leadership of al Qaeda in the tribal areas in the northwest of the country, where the Islamabad regime's writ doesn't run.

So, in order to avoid pissing off Gen. Musharraf, we waved off a chance to apprehend or kill some of the top leadership of those sheep-squeezing troublemakers.

The former head of the CIA, George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, wrote a line in his memoir (which should have been titled How I Didn't Do It and Kept My Mouth Shut) that seems rather odd:

“As much as we all wanted Bin Laden dead, the use of force by a superpower requires information, discipline, and time."

Say what?

The USA has hardly been a superpower in that regard, Georgie.

Information? We started an aggressive war based on lies, targeted marketing and doctored intelligence.

Discipline? One estimate has Iraqi casualties at about 300,ooo. That's three hundred thousand, by a conservative estimate.

Time? We had Saddam in a box, and poked him with a sharp stick from time to make sure he knew he was in a box. We had plenty of time for Bush to shake Osama bin Missin from his tree, and still be able to settle accounts with Hussein.

What happened to the USA in the aftermath of 9/11 was that we acted out of anger and hatred (part of which, by the way, derives from old prejudices). We're still a bit into PTSD, folks, and our leadership's more traumatized than the rest of us. So they lash out, Godzilla-like, destroying everything in their path.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Post-4th "WTF?" Moment

While strolling through the virtual pages of the Washington Post today, I happened across this in the "Post-Global / On Faith" section. I'm going to add my own comments on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, because this screed (by an ex-Watergate conspirator/convict turned preacher)demands it.

Paganism May Not Pass Religious Muster

by Chuck Colson

It is debatable whether paganism is a religion, per say. It is generally defined as a pre-Christian state, but it takes a wide variety of forms—all the way from relatively benign New Age-style nature worship, to pantheism, to witchcraft, and even human sacrifice.

"Human sacrifice," Chuck? Where have you seen that lately - apart from the soldiers that Bush keeps sacrificing to Moloch? The thing I admire about Wicca is its First Principle: "An it harm none, do what ye will."

Those who publicly identify themselves as pagans are at best a marginal number and are basically no different from dozens of other cults.

I remind you that many Christian sects are considered cults by other Christian sects (Mormonism, anyone?) and that Christianity itself was considered a cult within Judaism.

I see no reason why Wiccans or pagans generally should have the services of taxpayer-paid chaplains. It is perfectly appropriate, if a group meets court tests for religion, that outside priest/ministers be allowed to come into federal facilities and minister. But historically, with standards that have been spelled out carefully by the courts, chaplains are appointed to represent mainline religions.

The courts have already spoken on this subject. Wicca is a recognized religion, and the courts have carved an exception out of the church/state wall to accommodate chaplains. Basically, you don't want anyone horning in on your lucrative business.

The more difficult question is whether I would vote for a pagan for public office. The answer is that on one hand I fully respect the fact that there should be no religious test for public office; on the other hand, I would have great difficulty supporting an explicit Wiccan or pagan for high public office. There are tenets of their belief that, I think, are incompatible with the requirements of American democratic governance.

Tenets of their belief - hmm, yes yes yes. Harming none, respecting nature, brotherhood - I can see where those could be described as pernicious and un-American, at least in your mind.

Lest this sound discriminatory, I think it is very clear from reading the writings of our founding fathers that a sound adherence to the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition—or at the very least, deism—was essential as a basis of the moral law that would sustain a free society.

And who's to say that any other moral code - even a humanistic one - can't do as good a job of enforcing moral behavior as Christianity? Seems to me that Judeo-Christian traditions haven't been much of a help in government of late.

The writings of all the founders are clear on this. I would refer anyone interested particularly to Michael Novak’s book On Two Wings, in which he describes the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition on one wing and the influence of the Enlightenment on the other. They were finally balanced in our founding. But everyone, devout believer or deist or otherwise, saw the necessity of a strong moral law which would provide self restraint. Without self restraint, free governments cannot succeed.

John Adams famously wrote, “We have no government, armed in power, capable of contending with human passion unbridled by morality and religion . . . our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” And George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to a political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Not being as familiar with paganism in its various forms, I do not wish to condemn it unfairly. But from what I know of it, I do not think it can provide the “indispensable supports” Washington wrote about.

I refer to my previous comments above. Colson is just trying to straddle the fence in an attempt to avoid blatantly pissing people off.

So I would not appoint pagan chaplains, nor would I, as a personal decision but influenced greatly by the founders, vote for a pagan.


Lest I sound prejudiced, I would not vote for any evangelical. The Founders would agree with me that such a possessor of theological rabies should be kept as far away as possible from any political office higher than dog catcher.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Something to think about this July 4th

"... [T]hat, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

- Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Beautiful Voice ...

Falls silent.

Beverly Sills, 1929-2007.