Monday, March 31, 2008


My doctor left a message on my answering machine, Deirdre, late on Friday. He said that my test results were in, and I could come in Thursday morning.

I called this morning and requested an earlier time, like today.

So I sat down with him and he went over the results.

It's NOT cancer.

It is, however, a viral infection, so I'm to see a specialist on Wednesday and start knocking the little bugger on the head. I know what it is now, and I'm determined to kill it.

Gun Rights vs. The Madness

First, most of the NRA terrorist enablers in this country will immediately and frothingly screech "Guns don't kill; PEOPLE kill!" in response to this post.

Fuck them. I own guns myself, and I have a 4th Amendment that says what's mine is mine, stays private and you'd better not try to screw with me.

I also have a 1st Amendment, and I'm not afraid to use it.

So there.

We have seen cases in just the past few months of people who've gone seriously sideways and started shooting up their places of residence, employment, education, etc. When asked (provided the perpetrator lives past the crime scene), we usually get the answer that the person was:

1. On drugs.

2. Insane at the time (but all better now).

3. Just plain pissed off.

The Republican-led Legislature of the State of Florida, who dwell within the

prophetically phallic Capitol Building in Tallahassee, are considering a bill foisted upon them by the NRA and a gaggle of pure psychotics who have apparently lost their senses entirely as well as their faith in institutions such as government, the police and the courts. Apparently believing that we are reverting to the Wild West, the bill would allow employees to take their guns with them to work, so that if someone shows up to start shooting, they can shoot back.
Let me lay a smidgen of wisdom down on you - the bulk of the workplace violence in this country comes not from a pissed-off customer, but from the workers in the workplace. That's right; your fellow employees.
It's bad enough that Florida allows anyone who can pass a simple criminal background check to own a concealed firearm (I've read editorial letters from rubes who want us to parade around with firearms openly showing, says it makes for a "polite society"), but we also have a law on the books that says you don't need to run if someone approaches you with a gun. You can stand your ground and shoot them as long as you can articulate that your life was in jeopardy.
I'll have 'OK Corral' for $600, Alex.
With so many people likely to lose even the moiety of their marbles that they still have after endless reruns of 24 and first-person shooter video games (which are dandy at teaching hand/eye coordination, aiming and the use of the one shot-one kill philosophy), what is the NRA driving at by insisting that their paid lackeys in the Legislature drive this bill forward?
Which brings me back to their screeching war cry at the beginning of this post.
Yeah. A gun's a tool, just like a hammer or a typewriter or a computer; it's what you do with it that requires personal responsibility. A gun, though, is the only of those four items that when used properly is designed to kill.
And recall the old adage that if you have a hammer, all your problems look like nails.
If you have a gun, all your problems look like targets.

Friday, March 28, 2008


More like "Round 2."

While the Bushite Junta, John McCain and the neoconservaties ("Getting Shit Wrong Since 1992") were crowing about how the Surge in Iraq was turning that benighted country into a Happy Land of Hearts and Flowers, things were happening.

The brass over there slowed down the release of hostages - er, soldiers - to their anxiously waiting families. Explanation? They wanted a pause to see what progress they've made. From a purely military standpoint, I can actually appreciate that; you need to stop and assess what's going on, then adapt. It's an organic, dare I say evolutionary process.

But at the same time we paused at 140,000 troops, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki decided to impose the central government's writ upon the southern city of Basra. Basra has the distinctions of being Iraq's second-largest city, its major oil hub and almost completely dominated by sectarian militias and criminal gangs since Saddam Hussein's troops were pushed out by our invasion in 2003.

The British last year withdrrew their last forces from Basra proper, for the relative safety of the air base outside the city.

The major militia in Basra is the JAM, or Jamiat al-Mahdi or Mahdi Army, headed by a Shiite cleric named Moqtada al-Sadr. He declared a unilateral cease-fire last year, and even the US grudgingly concedes that the cease-fire helped with the surge to quiet things down a tad.

Now, here's where things get interesting; the core of the Iraqi Army is made up of two militias, that of the Dawa Party and that of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Guess who is the leader of the Dawa Party's militia?

Nouri al-Maliki.

It's been accused that al-Maliki is trying to crack down on the JAM in order to reduce its influence in the provincial elections coming up in October, although the official line is that the Army's just trying to impose order.

Meanwhile, armed clashes and protests sparked by the Army's incursion into Basra have spread into seven other cities and towns, including the Shiite holy city of Kerbala and Baghdad, where mortar rounds and rockets have been launched into the so-called Green Zone. People living in that walled compound have been told to stay close to reinforced shelters and keep their helmets and body armor handy.

Yep, looks like The Surge was working - but not any longer.

Will the Iraqi army finally manage to do a job all on its own? Or will JAM beat their ass?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Flaws in the Foundation

I was thinking back on Senator Obama's extremely timely and well-thought speech on racism in this country, and a commentator remarked that it is believed that slavery was America's 'original sin' - that the institution of slavery was the 800-pound gorilla in the room that gave the lie to all the high-minded talk about freedom and liberty.

I think that the flaw in the base architecture of America goes back about that far, but in a different direction.

'Puritan' used to be a pejorative, in much the same way that 'Christian' was back in about AD 200. The Puritans were a sect within Christianity that sought to purge the English Church of every last trace of anything that smacked of Catholicism (or anything that wasn't in the Bible), and they wanted the Kingdom to be a Republic under the leadership of Christ.

Elizabeth I smiled at these people, and tolerated them to a certain point; her successor James I (James VI of Scotland) tried hard to be tolerant, since he'd already met their attitude with the Calvinist Scottish Kirk. His son Charles I, imbued and educated with the tenets of absolute monarchy 'by the grace of God,' tried to enforce his will on a largely Puritan Parliament (which, coincidentally, had most of the money in the realm).

Charles I was beheaded for his trouble.

While these courtesies were going on, a band of people boarded the small ship Mayflower and headed for Virginia. Because they ran out of beer and a few other essentials they stopped quite a bit further north than they had intended, at what is now Massachusetts.

The Plimoth Plantation, as the colony was called, was where the Protestant Reformation would be perfected. In the words of one of them, John Winthrop, the little town would be "a shining city on a hill" that would impress everyone and convince them that a theocratic government whose chief executive was God was the right way to go.

That idea, the idea of exceptionalism, was and is the fatal flaw at the foundations of the edifice we now call America. Other colonies were established on religious toleration; the Puritans (also nicknamed Pilgrims for their wanderings) established a theocracy and ruled Massachusetts with an iron fist. Sermons and church attendance were mandatory, families spied on each other and on their neighbors to accuse backsliders and sinners.

Fear was rampant; the morbid fear of hell, the fear of being detected, the fear that you were just not sinless enough no matter what you did.

Small wonder that the Witch Trials took place in Massachusetts. Fear is a powerful motivation, and prolonged fear in a susceptible mind can lead to hysterics.

Throughout American history we see this type of exceptionalism, metastasized like a cancer, spreading with waves of migration and colonization. People would listen to their preachers or itinerant sermonizers with all the concentration and devotion that their medieval ancestors did, and always came the message that Americans were different from everyone else. We were special, and selected by God simply because we were Americans.

(Let me interject here by saying that many Puritans believed that they had taken over God's covenant with Israel.)

And you still see it today, in efforts by otherwise normal-looking and sounding people to make our country "a Christian nation," without an inkling of the horrors that would entail - perpetual fear, dissent become blasphemy - and we must never forget that dissent is democracy, or we'd still be an appanage of the British Empire.

We also see that exceptionalism is still rampant. One only has to witness the phobic response some people had to Rev. Jeremiah Wright's remarks to agree with that assertion.

We must root out racism. There's no denying that.

But we must try to root out exceptionalism as well. It poisons our relations with other nations in a world where interconnectivity is the norm and growing more complex; it stifles criticism of the country, the government and the way America's headed; and it gives those who want to turn the clock back an excuse to turn the United States of America into another Islamic Republic of Iran.

So was slavery a flaw in the foundation? Of course.

But let's not forget the Puritans.

(This was sent as part of the Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's Good Friday!

In parts of the Phillippines today, people are being (quite literally) nailed to crosses as a mark of their devotion to their god.

I have a question, though.

Why is it called "Good" Friday? It certainly wasn't good for Jesus, I think.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Giant Passes

Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, died today at his home in Sri Lanka. He was 90.

It would be tedious to relate all of the books he wrote, so I'll hit the high points, the books that inspired me to become a writer:

2001: A Space Odyssey

Rendezvous with Rama

The Nine Billion Names of God

Further, in a seminal paper written in 1945, Clarke suggested a network of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of 22,000 miles. Had he patented the idea every country on Earth and every telecom company would be paying him royalties.

Underwater explorer, promoter of space exploration, writer.

Rest in peace, Dr. Clarke.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What I Know About The Economy ...

you could probably fit on the head of a pin with room left over for some angels to do a reprise of Riverdance, but I do know a few things.

I know that direct intervention by the Federal Government is probably NOT the right way to go about things, especially in what is supposed to be a laissez-faire conservative Republican administration.

I know that JP Morgan has tried to bail out the stock market before, in 1929, and failed miserably, but now it's doing it with taxpayer dollars provided by the Fed.

I know that the Fed subsidizing $30 billion of Bear Stearns' worst exposure (backing bad paper with my money, thank you) is probably wrong.

I know that watching the Hang Seng drop 5% last night after Morgan bought Bear Stearns for a ridiculously low sum was like an anal douche of ice water for those who still delude themselves that this economy is not in a recession.

I know that after watching President Pollyanna of Sunnybrook Farm go on about the economy, I know with the sick feeling one gets as that little tropical low turns into a Cat 4 hurricane, that We Are Well And Truly Screwed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some Good News (of a sort)

I went back to the doctor today to have the stitches removed from my chin and get the preliminary findings of the biopsies.

(As you may recall from our last episode, I had a bit of surgery - a lymph node, a hunk of my tongue and a bit from the back of my throat - in order to determine definitively what was wrong. Also, Aunt Mary, having taken a tramp into the woods, is now lying in a ditch at the edge of town.)

Worst Case (always look at Worst Case first) was something called squamous cell carcinoma - a nasty cancer that requires chemo and radiation to treat.


Which was a relief, allow me to tell you.

So the wandering lymph node and the other bits of flesh are being tested further in order to eliminate another form of cancer called Lymphoma (easily and readily treatable) or a viral infection or something else that I can identify and kill.

More updates as they come in.

The Florida March Towards Ignorance

If I had the misfortune to be a constituent of State Senator Ronda Storms, I'd be calling for her impeachment right about now. Florida is facing a budget crisis brought on by the sagging economy and the property tax revision, so what does Senator Storms decide to spend our money on?

Why, trying to reject science in science classrooms, that's what.

Senator Storms is supporting a bill that would allow teachers in science classes to teach alternatives to the theory of evolution. The bill may not actually come out and say the words "creationism" or "intelligent design," but anyone with half a brain can see it coming a mile off. To help buttress her weak-as-dishwater argument, she has enlisted a carpebagger.

The carpetbagger is a man named Ben Stein, whose major claims to fame are that he wrote speeches for President Nixon and delivered two words in a monotone for a movie (oh yeah, and he also hawked eyedrops on TV). The movie he brings with him purports to show teachers who are ostracized and denied employment because they don't support evolution.

Leaving aside the foolishness of the movie's arguments, I haven't heard of any teacher in this school district disciplined, ostracized, or fired as a result of his or her beliefs. The entire exercise, costing who knows how much, is yet another blatant attempt to take reason and rationality out of our public schools and replace it with ignorance.

Senator Storms, why are you wasting my tax money this way?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yes-Man Wanted - Military Experience Required But No Integrity Necessary

Word comes today that Admiral Fallon, the commander of CENTCOM, is tendering his resignation from that post. Although the Secretary of Defense, Robert "I Don't Know Much About Military Matters" Gates, denies it, Fallon's resignation may have something to do with an article in Esquire that implies that Fallon disagreed with Dear Leader over the White House's case of blue balls concerning Iran.

See, the White House wants to bomb the shit out of Iran. Why? Since the controversial NIE that showed that the Administration's overheated rhetoric about Tehran's nuclear program was nothing but hot air and marshmallow cream, you'd think there was no reason. The other reason (also shown to be largely codswallop) was that Iran is subsidizing Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

I'll wait for the chortling to subside. The idea that a Shiite regional power would be sending money and weapons to a Sunni insurgency is ludicrous. But we have to remember that these are the spinmeisters and blatant liars who conflated AQ with Saddam, and a lot of the American people will swallow anything if it's beaten into their ears enough by Fox News.

But Admiral Fallon's departure illustrates the basic tendency of the Bush Administration - surround Dear Leader with people who'll never say No to him, and force from office or humiliate anyone who disagrees with him.

So, farewell Admiral. Fair winds and a following sea, as they say.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bush's Veto

Our Dear Leader, Kim Jong Bush, has flourished his mighty veto pen and struck down the bill banning waterboarding as a means of interrogating people. He defended his stance by saying that we don't want to deny our intelligence agencies access to any technique that might be effective against Terrorists.

One minor problem with that, Georgie.

Waterboarding (or simulated drowning) is banned by solemn international horsefeathers like the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that, like all treaties approved by the Senate and signed by the President, have the force of Federal law in this country. If I recall correctly, we hanged some Japanese officers after the War for doing it to our brave lads in uniform.

Which brings up another topic.

Suppose one of our troops gets taken prisoner. We will naturally screech that whoever's taken the soldier better damned well abide by the Geneva Conventions. But what's to stop them from torturing this American, including waterboarding? All they'll have to do in response to our screeching is to say, "But your President says it's legal for you to do it. What's sauce for the goose, you idiots," and cheerfully attach electrodes to the soldier's naughty bits for emphasis.

No wonder the generals don't like the idea. But Bush loves it - other people (outside his immediate circle) are probably beneath his notice, just a nameless, faceless mass to be seduced, frightened or blown up to his advantage.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

An Uncomfortable Weekend

Way back on February 8 I reported that a biopsy result had come back negative, and that I apparently didn't have throat cancer. You can rest assured that the booze flowed like - well, booze that night.

Which left one teensy problem.

I still have the sore throat.

So the doctor and I sat down and talked things over, and he scheduled me for a PET scan. A PET scan involves you not eating or drinking (or even brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth) after midnight the day of the exam, then getting injected with a type of sugar tagged with a radioactive isotope. Any area of your body that's showing a high rate of metabolic activity will take up the sugar, and as the sugar is metabolized the isotope merrily decays. Then they stick you under a radiation detector, and those areas show up as bright spots.

The scan showed five bright spots, all in my neck and throat area.

The doctor and I talked things over, and he was determined (as was I) to get to the bottom of this. So, in rapid succession I received a chest X-ray, a CAT scan, an EKG, some bloodwork and clearance from a cardiologist.

I went into the day surgery yesterday morning, and came out yesterday afternoon. A little lighter for the experience, as I'm missing a hunk out of my tongue, a hunk out of the right side of the back of my throat, and two lymph nodes from under my chin. Needless to say, I also have some pain meds and my diet's rather, um, restricted for the moment.

Results will be in on Thursday, to determine once and for all what's been making my throat sore for almost a year now.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Million-Ton Shithammer

The Threefold Rule is also known as The Law of Karma, and it's one of the basic tenets in Wicca (among other things). Basically the Rule states:

Everything you do, good or bad, will come back to you three times over.

Bear that in mind for a moment, then think back on your life and try to fix on a streak of good luck. You may be able to spot where that streak started - a good deed, a kind word, an act of charity.

Now, fast forward to recent news.

A video snippet surfaced on YouTube (and was swiftly taken down) purporting to show two US Marines joking while one holds a puppy. The guy holding the puppy then apparently hurls the animal off a cliff. It was apparently too nasty for CNN to show yesterday (never stopped them before, what with the Rwandan genocide and drownings after Katrina - guess dark-skinned people are worth less than puppies in CNN's eyes. But I digress).

The Marine Corps is trying to find out who these guys were, trying to find out if it's true that they hurled a puppy, and what sort of punishment they should get. Have fun, guys.

Wired magazine unveiled a video and several pictures from the sealed Abu Ghraib archives. They are Not Safe For Work, so I haven't viewed them yet. These were the pictures that Rumsfeld suppressed because they were even worse than the pictures that leaked. The magazine article also contains an interview with Prof. Zimbardo, who set up the Stanford Experiment in the 1970s. It's rather chilling (even though Stanford was a flawed experiment, I can state that some of its conclusions are sound).

Now, war does this to certain people - it dehumanizes them to a certain extent, makes them callous to the suffering of others.

But we should never forget that these are things done by our troops.

Our troops.

Leaving aside the puppy, what was done at Abu Ghraib was done in our names - in the name of America and the American people.

Factor in the Threefold Rule.

What will we have to suffer through when the moment comes to balance the karmic books?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Presidency So Surreal ...

That even Salvador Dali would step back, scratch his head, and say "What the hell?"

Because that's where we're at right now. People call it Bizarro World, or Bush World, but it all means the same thing.

The Rule of Law has been disregarded, openly flouted by the men who are the nation's top law enforcement officers (Gonzales and Mukasey) and our elected leaders (Bush and Cheney). There are quite a few secrets floating about Washington, most of them in cyberspace; if I were Howard Dean, I'd have hired a team of topflight hackers to trawl the White House with an eye to gathering evidence against these criminals.

Because you're not going to get it any other way. So much documentary evidence of the Bush Administration's wrongdoing from 2000 to now will be destroyed before Bush leaves office. If he leaves office.

I am not among those who think that Bush's puppetmasters will engineer a coup d'etat if Clinton or Obama get elected; I will admit the possibility, however. Right now, indications are that Bush will be quite happy to leave office with a fat bank account and all the booze and blow his tiny brain can withstand.

Let's review the bidding.

The economy is starting to circle the bowl, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is bleeding us white in terms of military power and money, but President Pollyanna of Sunnybrook Farm insists that everything is just hunky-dory, hully gee and whillikers.

With all the damage done to our country - the economy, the Constitution, the legal system, the regluatory system, the environment, the poisoning of political discourse and of course the damage done from the war and self-inflicted damage to our moral standing - Bush will be more than happy to retire to Crawford or Paraguay and laugh his head off at the attempts made to fix the problems.

Meanwhile he and some of his mouthpieces (like the semen-spattered Tony Snow) have been crawling all over the TV like roaches, spewing out that Bush is actually a wonderful President.

Better than Truman.

Better than Lincoln.

I think that Star Trek had the line "In an insane society, the sane man must appear insane."

And people ask me why I act so crazy.