Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pending Projects ...

Or why my mind needs an external storage drive.

Something in the terabyte range, please.

As many of you know, I'm a contributing writer to the Spontoon Island website. It's fun writing furry fiction, since you can tweak the story in another direction and the story'll be all human, all the time. Hey, if Aesop could do it, why can't I?

So here's my Pending Projects list for 2008:

Luck of the Dragon (serial started in 2003):
Chapters 133-137, closing out the section 'Hobson's Choice.'
Luck of the Dragon Summer 1937 story 'Pilgrimage'
Luck of the Dragon Summer 1937 story 'Sure Thing'
Chapters 138 - ff. (starting September 1937); section 'Dealing a Cold Deck.'

Tales from Rain Island:
'Kocha Koi' (sort of a seriocomic tale of a pirate submarine)
A Leaf in the Wind (a tale of political intrigue and crime, set in a semiautonomous Chinese colony)
Independence Day (how the Rain Coast seceded in 1885)
'Rain Island: The Great Experiment Fifty Years On,' ersatz article from the International Hydrographic Magazine (July 1935 issue)

The Highwayman Rides, the 'lost' first episode of the Highwayman radio serial
Fool's Gold, another episode of the Four Fools radio show
A Spontoon Island May Day story, to be titled

I think that should keep me occupied for a while.

Withdrawing from the Firing Line

William F. Buckley was found dead in his home today. He was 82, and ailing a bit.

Years ago I sat through an episode of his television talk show, Firing Line, and while I was impressed by Buckley's erudition, I was also convinced that he was quite the intellectual snob. Wealth + Yale degree = Self-righteous, Pecksniffian attitude, I guess.

He even wrote spy novels, so he wasn't all bad.

Unfortunately, although he was eulogized by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner, I think Buckley would have been rather uncomfortable with the current crop of roadkill and white trash who masquerade as true conservatives nowadays.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Viva Cuba! Viva la Revolucion! Viva ... Raul!?

The Cuban National Assembly voted today to confirm Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, as Cuba's new President and Commander in Chief. This signals the first change of leadership at the top of the nation's government in almost 50 years.

Raul is believed (hoped) to have some ideas about liberalizing Cuba's moribund economy before there's a counterrevolution among the younger folks, but you wouldn't know to see all the hard line Old Revolutionaries who hold the senior posts in the new regime.

While listening to NPR's report of this, I started to think.

And the Wayback machine activated.

Way back in 1984, the President of the Soviet Union, Yuri V. Andropov, died. The Soviet Politburo turned around and chose Konstantin U. Chernenko as his successor, a move that surprised many in the west since Chernenko was a) a Stalinist holdover, and b) so old you'd have to count tree rings.

Everyone instantly concluded that Chernenko was a caretaker, the last gasp (the 'last throes') of the Old Guard. Truth to tell, he did die a year after succeeding Andropov, paving the way for the man who presided over the end of the USSR, Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Now, what's all this history have to with the price of Alsakanite cigarettes FOB Valeria?

(Special no-prize for guessing what part of the culture I strip-mined THAT from.)

Raul is Fidel's baby brother, but he's 77 years old. And the others in the hierarchy are about the same age. You cannot tell me that a steady diet of rum and cigars can give these guys longevity.

So we may be looking at another change in Cuba before the wheel turns to show us 2010.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mr. Senator Straight Talk?

You might want to relax; this will only hurt for about four years.

To relate the gist of the story, right-wing blowhard Matt Drudge intimated back in December 2007 that there might be something up regarding Senator John McCain in his bid for the Presidency.

After that, communications silence.

Then about a week ago the New York Times (probably after vetting each and every source and running the whole kit and kaboodle by their lawyers) published a story. The sources in the story revealed that McCain had been very close to a lobbyist named Vicki Iseman in terms of currying favor for the firms she represented (anything of a sexual nature was left to the readers' jaded imaginings, and largely the fault of McCain's own past).

The campaign denied it, of course, while the Candidate himself just looked glum as he denied it. His Ice Queen Dominatrix wife stood by him (I like her, in a perverse way - the best kind, by the way).

One of the bones of contention is a story that, in 1999, McCain wrote to the FCC trying to get a permit for an Arizona media baron to buy a Pittsburgh station. McCain was the chairman of the board overseeing the FCC at the time. Allegedly, two letters were sent, drawing a rebuke from the head of the FCC at the time. Iseman apparently facilitated the contacts.

The campaign, of course, denied it, and has lawyered up with the addition of a criminal lawyer named Bob Bennett to the staff.

Yesterday, Newsweek dug up a deposition from 2002 where McCain admitted that he in fact had done the contacts alleged, and today the now-retired Lowell Paxson (the media baron in question) said basically that 'Mr. Straight Talk,' 'Mr. Integrity,' 'Mr. I Won't Betray the Public Trust' was talking out his ass.

What can we make of this?

The Right-Wing Noisemakers have already begun communicating in their inimitable style, farting and tapdancing in order to show that it's all a liberal plot to discredit a candidate that they themselves don't like or trust.

The Democrats are remaining eerily silent, as far as I can tell (although I thought I heard Howard Dean howling in orgasm at the news).

My take on this is that the New York Times wouldn't put this in print unless they had confirmed it and had more in the wings, waiting to dump out onto the page. If true and any wrongdoing can be construed from these activities, well, fraud and conspiracy anyone?

What's the protocol when a Presidential nominee gets indicted?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Opening Shots in a New War?

Or just posturing?

The Turkish military announced, and the PM in Ankara confirmed, that the Turkish Army had moved some of its ground forces into northern Iraq to attack some bases of the Kurdish terrorist group, the PKK.

The Turks have bombarded part of the mountainous region (part of autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq) for a while now, but sending troops in while there's still a lot of heavy snow sounds, well, suspicious.

If you're just raiding or flexing your muscle, you don't want to have the weather reduce your troops' effectiveness.

But if you're invading, it's perfect timing - the adversary would not expect it.

The United States says that it's watching, but isn't doing anything to help either the Turks (apart from intelligence and satellite images) or the PKK (apart from allowing the Kurdish government to harbor a terrorist organization).

Now, what happens if the Turks throw the bulk of their forces in the area (estimated at about 150,000, with armor) into that part of Iraq? Will the Kurds demand they leave, and what will they do if the Ankara government tells them to get knotted?

What will the US do? And what will our NATO ally tell us if we order them to back off?

It's already shaping up to be a very interesting year.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cults, Campaigns, and Candidates

“At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmic chant of 'B-B! .... B-B! .... B-B!'—over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first 'B' and the second—a heavy murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamps of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.”

- Orwell, 1984

Political campaigns in the United States are what is known as “Hurrah” campaigns – full of colorful signs, banners, and pictures of the candidates. Slogans such as “I Like Ike!” and even campaign songs figure into the process, culminating in the carnival-like atmosphere of the Party conventions.

Which brings me to Senator Barack Obama.

Allow me to tread carefully here. I am not endorsing the Senator from Illinois, just as I am not endorsing the Senators from either Arizona or New York. However, there’s been a lot of bilge spread around liberally by various of the chattering classes regarding the creation of a “Cult of Obama,” and I felt that it requires a bit of addressing.

Chanting Obama’s name (and you have to admit that it does lend itself well to that) or “Yes We Can!” or even “U.S.A!” or even having some overwrought audience member pass out does not a cult of personality make.

A cult of personality, according to Wikipedia, is usually created by a leader’s manipulation of the national media (and we’ve seen, quite clearly, that Senator Obama does not have power over what the media is saying about him), and is an extension of regular hero worship. People hanging on every word Rush Limbaugh spews from his flabby piehole can have their devotion qualify as hero worship or a cult of personality.

Cults of personality are most common in totalitarian regimes where the State controls the Press.

And it's fairly obvious that the last thing Senator Obama controls is the news media.

What I would cite as a possible indicator that a cult may be forming is the formation of a club or similar organization dedicated solely to the figure, along with an almost religious or fanatical devotion to that person. The SA and SS from 1930’s Germany are the best examples of this, and we’ve seen a hint of it in the youth organization that has sprung up around Vladimir Putin.

In other words, when you start seeing uniforms, start getting worried.

What we’ve been seeing around Senator Obama is, in my opinion, an indicator that a growing number of people in the United States want some sort of change. It’s the “Don’t Just Sit There, DO SOMETHING!” attitude – the feeling that the nation’s leaders need to do something, anything, to get the country back on track.

And these people don’t feel that Senator McCain can do it.

Or Senator Clinton.

So they flock to hear a message that, while it may be short of specifics, resonates with the yearning they have to DO something.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Florida Calls Evolution "Scientific Theory" - Hundreds of Monkeys at Silver Springs Prepare to Leave State

In a way, it's hard to believe that Florida should be kicking up such a fuss over the teaching of evolution.

Honestly, think about it.

You have our largest space port on the Atlantic coast, several nuclear power plants, aerospace firms and at least two oceanic biology institutes. Our universities are generally first-rate (okay, okay, I'm being generous regarding Florida State, but sometimes you have to generalize).

The State School Board of Florida accepted the new science standards by which local schoolkids will get themselves educated (hopefully) by a small margin, but not before the board members bluffed by a tiny addition of three words.

Instead of calling it "evolution," the Board called it the "scientific theory of evolution." Reaction from both sides of the specious debate that has enraged the Irrational and embarrassed the Rational was understandably muted, as the decision doesn't really satisfy anyone.

But in a way, couching the term in that manner enables teachers to explain what "science" really means, and let kids know what a "theory" actually entails (because we have to remind others that gravity and atoms are also just theories).

Think Progress reports that the bluff was inserted mainly to mollify the people I referred to in an earlier post as The Stupid, the legions of pig-ignorant people who can get whipped into a frenzy of irrationality by their shamans or right-wing politicians.

Typical of The Stupid is the Panhandle resident Think Progress highlights in the bit of video they have in their article (I caution all of you to make sure your stomachs are empty before you watch, as it'll make you retch).

Which got me thinking of the earliest Evolution/Creation debates shortly after Darwin published his findings and conclusions.

In 1860 at Oxford, England, a debate was held about the merits of the work (Darwin wasn't present, being a shy and retiring person). He was ably represented, however, by biologist Thomas Huxley; the opposing viewpoint was presented by the Lord Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. The topic was what the theory did to Humanity's place in the Universe.

At one point, Bishop Wilberforce decided to tweak Huxley by inquiring whether it was Huxley's grandfather or grandmother who was the ape.

Bear in mind, now, that in Victorian England the very idea that a man, let alone an Englishman, might be related to any other man let alone an inferior form of life was anathema. Wilberforce thought he could fluster Huxley and score some points.

He failed.

The story is apocryphal but it is related that Huxley leaned over to a friend and whispered, "The Lord hath delivered him into my hands." He then stood and delivered the following response to Wilberforce:

"If the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who employs these faculties and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape."

Both sides thought they had managed to get their point across, and all went off to dinner together.

Now, if someone had pointed out to the wonderful rube from Florida's Backwoods that the orange WAS related, on an atomic and molecular level, and shared some similar processes in common with our own cells, I'm afraid the idea would be totally lost on him.

Irrationality is at times a wonderful thing, as ignorance is bliss. I'd much rather be rational, and know that in the depths of my own ignorance about quite a few things I can at least think, reason, acquire knowledge and reduce that level of ignorance.

But, to quote the movie Cool Hand Luke, "Some people you just can't reach."


But what about the monkeys? I hear you ask.

Glad you brought it up.

Way back in the 30s a troupe of rhesus monkeys were brought over from Africa and deposited in the Silver Springs area to give a bit of color to the old Tarzan flicks. They stayed, went feral and are now protected within the boundaries of the park.

I heard that after they heard that guy from the Panhandle speak, many of them have decided to emigrate back to Africa. A spokesape said, "We're moving back to a smarter country."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Era Passes (?)

It was announced by the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, that Fidel Castro Ruz, the President of the Council of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Armed Forces, will not seek nor accept those posts at the upcoming Council meeting this weekend.

I heard it about 0330 local on CNN International. Let me summarize.

Fidel Castro has resigned.

His brother Raul will act as interim President until the election, as he has done since Fidel took sick a year and a half or so ago. Whether he will be Cuba's next leader remains to be seen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Glory, Glory Hallelujah! The Stupid Marches On!

Florida is experiencing a minor kerfuffle over its timid attempt to inject science into its educational standards, and the St. Petersburg Times has found out why:

The Stupid is extremely strong in Florida.

The State of Florida (also known as America's Soft Dangly Bits) is one of the so-called Bible States where, apparently, pig-ignorance of basic science is the norm.

Evolution does not explain the creation of the universe, despite what apparently 45% of those polled think; it's a means of explaining how we got to be what we are. Intelligent Design tries to explain everything from the formation of stars to cute kittens.

If we don't teach one of the fundamental theories at the heart of biology to our kids, what opportunities are we denying them?

And to my local school board, a majority of whom think we should toss most of modernity and reason out the door, I have three words:

Kitzmiller versus Dover.

If you do put this burden on our children's minds, I'll enjoy watching you get sued.

Because Stupidity is its own reward, and I could always use a cut of the court settlement.


There is a favored male tactic known as cock-blocking, which goes a bit like this:

Man A is married, but is at a singles bar trying to chat up Woman A. Man B would like to chat up Woman A, so he loudly mentions Man A's wife or married status. Man A is now immediately barred from any further progress at chatting up Woman A.

The Democratic representatives in the House on Thursday played the role of cock-blocker by refusing to bend over like their Senate counterparts and agree to giving the telecommunications companies carte blanche to help the Junta spy on us. Instead, they adjourned for the President's Day Shopping Spree Weekend after passing a 21-day extension.

President Bush and his bitch, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, wept and stamped their pointy little feet at this, claiming that the Dems were leaving the US vulnerable to enemy attack.

Probably not that vulnerable, as Bush is now day-tripping through Africa.

Besides, the actual law that Bush's supporters were trying to modify (by adding the immunity) can run for another 6 months, and if suggested by the Attorney General, for up to a year longer.

So what was Boehner weeping about? And what was Bush talking about?

It wasn't about national security - it's about shielding these companies from any liability if they screw the pooch and eavesdrop on an innocent citizen.

And that is just plain wrong.

Hang tough, House members, and keep on cock-blocking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


(This rare historical archive photograph shows the United States Senate after passage of the final Enabling Act (known as the FISA Bill With Telecom Immunity) on February 12, 2008. The assembled Senators are shown reaffirming their loyalty to the corporate masters and to Dear Leader.)

Yeah, it's a rampant violation of Godwin's Law, but what the hell? It's appropriate.

Quisling is a proper name, in this case Vidkun Quisling, who as the head of Norway's tiny and ineffectual Nazi Party sold out his country to the Germans in 1940. After his betrayal, the Germans never really trusted him, but his family name has gone down in history as synonymous with traitor.

Like Benedict Arnold.

Like Oleg Penkovsky.

Like Kim Philby.

And now like the names of all the US Senators who voted to pass this benighted, ill-bred abortion of a bill.

By affirming this bill, Senator Dodd pointed out last night, the Senate of the United States once and for all turned its back upon the Rule of Law, apparently preferring the Rule of Men and Rule by Executive Fiat.

News flash - a business is not a person. It has no right, inherent or otherwise, to immunity from any form of civil or criminal liability for its actions. The Senate's actions this week offers a lot of implications - are oil companies going to be made immune if they destroy the environment? Are mining companies to be immune from prosecution if they strip another mountain down to sea level, or logging companies for denuding our remaining forests?

I can only assume one of three things:

1. They are so bed-wettingly afraid of a group of unwashed troublemakers (or of being labeled "soft" on said troublemakers) that they buckled like soggy tacos;

2. They are bought and paid for by the telecom companies; or

3. They were threatened by Dick Cheney, who must have a lot of negatives squirreled away in his safe.

Either way, these so-called Senators (who are OUR employees, by the way) have proven themselves to be spineless weaklings richly deserving the name and dishonor of quisling. I accuse my two Senators, Bill Nelson (D) and Mel Martinez (R) or treason for violating their Constitutional oaths and the will of their constituents.

I will sooner vote Communist than throw away my vote on either of these worthless men.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Acta Diurna - Iraqi Style

While so much of our attention has been attracted away from the War to Line Dick Cheney's Pockets, what with elections and caucuses and Brittney and the Chelsea Pimp Remark and all, we might have missed the following:

Five US soldiers died in separate IED attacks earlier this weekend, while US and Iraqi forces detained 22 members of a splinter group of the Mahdi Army. We're trying to tread softly around the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, or the truce will end and we'll be back in shit up to our necks.

A diary was purportedly found in the Iraqi town of Balad, dating back to October, where the local insurgent/jihadist commander bemoans the progress made against him and his minions. If this is true, then at least the escalation worked in Balad.

And finally, two cakes were delivered to an Iraqi Air Force officer's club. They were taken home and eaten by a couple of families, who then quite inexplicably fell ill. The cakes, you see, were laced with poisonous thallium, which can cause a painful death (and according to the article was a favorite stealth tactic by Saddam's old secret police). Two children have died so far.

The idea of using thallium as a poison jumped out at me, since in 1991 a local man named George Trepal used thallium to poison his neighbors (he didn't like the noise they were making). He killed one and sickened six others, and is currently on Death Row in Florida.

So! What's happening in your neck of the woods this fine day?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

De Re Libertas

(Hat tip to frequent Blondesense commenter Tom for this. This picture was made from 18,000 US soldiers standing in formation at Camp Dodge, near Des Moines Iowa. From the uniforms I will presume it was made back around the Great War.)

Society is a constant tension between liberty and control. I know, I know, that's a very trite statement, but one can't expect deathless prose all the time, not so?

In this country, this Republic with its federal system of representative democracy, liberty is usually translated as freedom. Freedom to express yourself, freedom to arm yourself for the protection of yourself and the greater society if called upon, freedom from ... well, you get the idea.

Now, there are constraints on these freedoms. Such constraints are the rules of the game, folks; a society would be totally unworkable if there was complete freedom, so we limit ourselves to about 75% or so. This harks back to a Jeffersonian ideal that says that your freedom stops where it interferes with mine. For example, you don't have the freedom to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater; you don't have the freedom to shoot your guns off indiscriminately, and so on.

The current conservative meme (one that has been going on for about thirty years or so) is that we have too much freedom, and not enough control. For all the happy talk-talk about less government and less governmental intrusion, many conservatives have bought into the idea that while you may be free:

Your privacy must be curtailed;

Your uterus is not your own property;

Your bedroom sports must be monitored, censored and punished if necessary; and

Your ability to express yourself should be met with a Taser's electrified fishhooks.

Now, according to a small group of psychologists, many conservatives are perfectly happy to impose this authoritarianism on others, and live under it themselves. This is because they feel a deep-seated need to live under the thumb of Authority.

Fine, you may say, but what does this have to do with the price of tea in Schenectady?

Nothing at all. I am deliberately wasting your time.

This is what popped into head as I studied the picture Tom asked Liz to send me.

The Statue of Liberty.

Made up of 18,000 soldiers.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Just Heard from the Doctor ...

And whatever is making my throat sore, it's not cancer.

::tosses confetti::

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sweet Mother of Mercy in Jodhpurs and a Lobster Bib!

CNN is reporting that ex-Governor Willard "Mittbot" Romney will be 'suspending' his campaign today. I believe that's coded language for 'bailing out of the doomed money pit.'

I wonder who put that bit of code into his operating system ... I suspect Democratic hackers.

Stand by for updates.


It's official - Mittens listened to his bank book instead of his Magic Mormon Underoos. While he disagrees with McCain, he has acknowledged that it is inevitable that The Political Bisexual will get the nomination.

In other news, Rush Limbaugh was found floating face-down in a giant tureen of mock turtle soup, gurgling "Mitt, Mitt," while Ann Coulter was seen making preparations to vote for Hillary Clinton in November.

"We are the Dead. Short days ago ..."

One of the last two American World War One vets dies in Florida.

Farewell, Mr. Landis.

"Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill."

- Robert Louis Stevenson, "Requiem"

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today begins the lunar Year of the Rat.

Of course, with THIS Administration, the Year of the Rat started in 2000 and hasn't ended yet.

A Few Ruminations

“Super” Tuesday?

Well, we now have a clear front-runner in the Republican Party, at least, and the winner of the Fidel Castro Suffering All the Way to Havana Award goes to Senator John McCain. He stood there grinning like a maniac as one win after another was recorded, flanked and supported by the gay Governor of Florida, the man-boobalicious Governor of California, and the quisling “Independent” Senator from Connecticut.

The Political Bisexual’s delegate totals far outstrip those of the Mittbot Romneytron and His Partial Eminence the Governor-Reverend, Mullah Huckabee. I’m not really going to consider Ron Paul a candidate any longer, as he is no longer a serious factor.

Now, on the Democratic side, we’re looking at a tight race right down to the wire unless either Clinton or Obama manage to score a coup in some of the remaining large states (Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc.). DNC Chairman Howard Dean has already warned against a brokered convention in Denver, with the accompanying floor fights and favorite son candidates. That could conceivably split the Party, leaving an opening for Nader to leech votes away and give the White House back to the GOP for yet another four years.

Ralphie Boy needs to just STFU and retire to tend his roses. I’ll buy him a lovely mint condition 1964 Corvair if he wants.


Stormy Weather

My Inner Bastard surfaced during a news report on the damage to places like Arkansas and Tennessee over the past few days (my Inner Bastard is largely a product of an id gone horribly awry and my limbic system; it’s not a very amusing guest). The IB snarled aloud that, if I were given to the Magic Thinking that fundies have, I’d say that the damage was God’s vengeance on people for voting for Huckabee on Tuesday.

After slapping my Inner Bastard around, I hastened to assure onlookers that I was only kidding. I’m not into Magic Thinking.


Party of Three, Please

The national security apparatus of the United States apparently doesn’t believe in the adage that secrecy is toxic to a democracy.

They also seem to believe that torture works as a means of extracting information.

General Bunsen Honeydew (excuse me, Michael Hayden) let slip today that we had used waterboarding –

Wait a minute. What’s this “we” shit, bitch? You got a mouse in your pocket?

Yeah, “we,” and don’t interrupt me again. Whatever they are doing behind closed doors at various rendition sites is being done in our names. We share the moral and legal taint.


Anyway, waterboarding three al-Qaeda guys in order to obtain information which later was found to be of no or very minimal use. And there is the implication that the Dear Leader, Our President, signed off on it.

I think that he might also be responsible for the destruction of the tapes, as well. After all, once you’ve masturbated all over it, the ejaculate makes for a very sticky thing to shove into the VCR (and Laura won’t want to touch it).


Hey Gang! Great Idea!

Let’s re-legalize slavery! It’ll be a hoot!

A story out of NPR last night spoke of a bill before the Congress that would essentially fellate the agrobusiness community and allow them to treat their ‘guest’ workers more like slaves than they actually do – removing legal restrictions and requirements on things like minimum pay, housing, etc.

And this morning, NPR stated that they’d gotten their fingers onto a document where the United States Army apparently told the Veteran’s Administration to deny benefits to wounded soldiers.

Just perfect. We’re looking more and more like Rome every day – latifundia, mistreatment of veterans, the legislature ceding more and more power to the executive, and the chief executive acting more and more like a dictator. Historically, we’re looking at the transition from Republic to Principate, and from there it’s a simple step to the Dominate that (if the Roman analogy holds up) started about AD 200 with Domitian.


A Patch Job

Look at your own body (no, not THAT bit) and you’ll note a few things that don’t seem quite right. The curve of the spine, the knees, the structure of the feet, and other structures in your body (nipples on men? What’s up with that?) all point to the fact that we’re largely cobbled together as a result of our evolution and our civilization.

The good news is, according to some scientists, is that on a genetic level we’ve become so diverse and spread so widely that our evolution has accelerated, so there is some hope that at least the more glaring anatomical and systemic mistakes will correct themselves. Whether our civilization will also evolve to something a bit less amenable to our innate savagery remains to be seen.

Six Tunes
Here are six songs I like to listen to if I'm driving long distance:
"On the Turning Away" - Pink Floyd (I love singing along)
"Radar Love" - Golden Earring
"I Love Rock 'n Roll" - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
"Fat-Bottomed Girls" - Queen
"Highway to Hell" - AC/DC
"I Can't Drive 55" - can't recall the artiste offhand.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I Did Not Know That

According to the Washington Post, Barack Obama spoke to a gathering estimated at 20,000 people in Delaware.

And here's me thinking there wasn't enough room in the entire state for that many people (an old joke is that Delaware has four counties, and five when the tide's out). I always figured that most of the state was taken up by the gigantic computers of the credit card companies, making them ripe targets for destruction come the Revolution.


The forty-second Super Bowl is now history, and it was a great one.

Primarily because the team everyone expected to win - the 18-0 New England Patriots - didn't.


They lost 17-14 to the New York Giants.

The Giants defense sacked QB Tom Brady, the Pats' pissy little Borg of a signal caller, five times and left him looking even more like a petulant child. New England's offensive line was pretty offensive as they were unable to stop the constant pressure.

Giants QB Eli Manning, who was widely denigrated by NY fans, finally showed his potential.

NE Coach Belichick, that cheating little pussy, showcased his poor loser credentials by perfunctorily shaking hands with Tom Coughlin before storming off the field with one play remaining in the game.

Great game.

Went down well with homemade Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and a drink composed of V8 Fusion (Tropic Orange) and Tanqueray Gin.

The '72 Dolphins (fucking wankers) likely celebrated with champagne.

So the NFL season is now over. New England's run at a perfect season will now be remembered only because they failed at the end to complete the streak. Everything's a blank slate when the season starts up again this fall.

Go Raiders '08!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Contrary to 'MASH,' Suicide Isn't Painless

Sociobiologists, according to Wikipedia, have a problem when it comes to explaining suicide. They argue about its adaptive value to society (like when a person will wander off alone into a blizzard in order to make sure there's enough food for the others), but there isn't much dispute about causative factors.

Two of those causative factors are:

1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and

2. Suffering (an emotional or physical agony that is not correctible).

Now, some ancient cultures, like the Romans, viewed suicide as desirable if it was the only way out of an intolerable situation, one for which there was no escape. There was even an advantage to it; a person who was in Dutch to the Emperor would be invited to commit suicide. This act protected the person's family and money (this practice wasn't always followed), where an arrest, trial and execution would invariably end up with money confiscated and the family exiled or dead.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, a recent study by the United States Army has revealed that the number of suicides (actually committed, not just attempted) has jumped to an appalling 2100 last year.



Two thousand, one hundred American soldiers, folks.

For contrast, only 350 suicides in 2002, the year before Our Happy Happy Joy Joy Military Imperial Adventure in Iraq started.

Why are they doing this? Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) put it best: "Our brave service members who face deployment after deployment without the rest, recovery and treatment they need are at the breaking point."

I strongly doubt you'll hear that from a Republican senator, and definitely not from one of the "I'll Fight From My Basement" or "Soldiering is for THOSE People, Not Me" crowd.

So, we have people who are on their third, fourth or fifth deployments, suffering from shell shock and with the prospect of shattered lives, divorce and poverty. Some may feel that there is no way out, and that their lives mean little and are worthless.

And the best some of them get is a 800 help line number.

I would surmise that some are seeing what Shakespeare described as "self-slaughter" as the only way out.

The theme song of the movie MASH was titled Suicide is Painless, but it isn't. The dead no longer care, but it is the people who live after them that have to answer the question "Why?" Some ask that question, and the answer makes them loathe their government and its leaders.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rodent Hijinks

The groundhog up in Pennsylvania saw his shadow today, which traditionally presages another six weeks of winter. He also learned that Bush had less than a year remaining in office, so he promised to dance, Caddyshack style, when he finally emerges in the Spring.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Watching the Tide

Michael Corleone: I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren't.

Hyman Roth: What does that tell you?

Michael Corleone: It means they could win.

- Godfather, Part II
It's interesting how water or any other liquid will flow back and forth in response to some external force imparting energy to it. Back in the Never-Never of the late 70s and early 80s some people even had small wave machines in their homes or offices. These machines would rock back and forth, causing ripples and waves in the liquids encased therein (it was, I suppose, a step up from Lava Lamps).
Now, what might this little walk down memory lane have to do with the rather inexact cited lines from The Godfather, Part II?
Not much, until you pair it up with this:
Dozens Killed in Suicide Bomb Attacks in Baghdad
Within the span of 10 minutes, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up in crowded Baghdad markets on Friday, killing dozens of people in the deadliest day in the Iraqi capital in months, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Someone over here suggested that the two female bombers were somehow forced or duped into carrying their suicide vests into the marketplaces that got whacked. I disagree; women are every bit as capable of performing violent acts as any male, and with greater effectiveness because a lot of people don't see a woman as a possible threat. That's a cultural thing, by the way, and it holds in this country just as it does over there (who recalls Aileen Wuornos? No one expected a female serial killer).
How does this horrific act tie into two fictional characters talking about the Cuban Revolution? Well, I'll tell you, and I'll also tie it into the word "surge" as indicative of a liquid's action.
Mao famously opined that the revolutionary swims among the people as fish swim in the sea; when the "surge" came, all the insurgents had to do was melt away. Sure, we got the stragglers, the slow and stupid and those who chose to fight rear-guard actions; but once we turned our gaze elsewhere they came back.
Just as water will flow back into the void left after you sweep your hand through a kiddie pool.
Further, these insurgents are fighting for what they see as a Cause; if people are fighting for a Cause there is no way you can stop them. Even if you shoot them, chances are they're booby-trapped so after they're dead they can still take one of our troops with them.
We surged, leaving a void in our wake to mark our passing; and as the water flowed in behind us, so did the fish.
So we will be chasing all over Iraq from now until whenever, and like King Canute we'll be trying to command the tide to stop.
Ain't happening.