Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tunin' In, Turnin' On, Droppin' Out

From Geneva we hear of the death of Dr. Albert Hofmann, who was 102 years old.

Why do I bring this up, and what connection has it to the title?

Dr. Hofmann was researching a grain fungus when he extracted a compound known nowadays as lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. He had the first scientifically documented LSD drug trip when a tiny drop absorbed into his fingertip.

Potent stuff.

LSD was at first offered as a tool in posychiatric health care, but was quickly corrupted when counterculture youth and others got hold of it.

And the rest, they say, is history.

What's that?

Me, you say?

Pardon me; I was laughing. I've never tried it, or any other drug other than ethanol.

I'm crazy enough normally - IMAGINE me on drugs.

Dropping the Ball

This comes as no surprise whatever:

" Al-Qaida has rebuilt some of its pre-Sept. 11 capabilities from remote hiding places in Pakistan, leading to a jump in attacks last year in that country and neighboring Afghanistan, the Bush administration said Wednesday."

Doesn't surprise me a damned bit. We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and had Osama and the main leadership of The Base treed up in the Tora Bora mountains, and then came the order.

Let him go. We're going after Saddam in Iraq instead.

So we let bin Laden and al-Zawahiri go, let them escape into the wilds of the Pakistani tribal areas where they could find shelter and a safe haven in which to rebuild their shattered infrastructure and be able to come back one bright day as Son of The Base, twice as powerful, three times as vindictive, and steam coming out of its ears.

I saw this coming, as did a lot of other people who like me were branded as "unpatriotic" and "liberal" and "fucking traitors."

So here we are - up to our necks in Iraq, possibly going to shove oil up over $200 a barrel if we attack Iran, mired in Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban (The Students also took advantage of the priceless opportunity the Bush Regime gave them), and now faced with The Base, rearming itself and getting ready to commit more deviltry.

The President has done this to us. Another mass-casualty terrorist strike would put more blood on his hands.

But he could say, as Richard III did, "But I am in so far in blood, that sin will pluck on sin. Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye."

Appropriate words.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Unwelcome Realization

I was doing my usual perusal of news websites and ran across Glenn Beck's editorial on this morning's CNN page. Well, I reasoned, I'm up for a laugh and some bitterness directed at a right-wing kook, so I clicked on the link and read the column.


This is a good impression of my reaction to the fact that I found myself agreeing with several of the points he made.

First, I agree with his self-assessment. Glenn Beck IS a Rodeo Clown.

(Have I mentioned that I really, really LOATHE clowns?)

Second, I agree that we as a nation have been arrogant and stupid. I would also add woefully ignorant to that list, since it takes an uninformed and largely oblivious electorate to let the government get away with a lot of the things it's been doing.

In order to keep food prices up and farmers from leaving the land we subsidize them, even to the point of paying farmers to not grow food. Now we're paying to stop growing any food crops at all and instead grow corn for cheap corn whiskey to power our cars. Our erstwhile allies who provide us with oil are not necessarily friends of ours, and the only worthwhile attempt to break our addiction (synthetic fuels - sort of like methadone for the oil addicts) twenty years ago was a failure.

Beck closes with the question: "So let me be the big, dumb rodeo clown once again and ask the obvious question: Why aren't we doing it?"

Well, Glenn, let me go out on a limb here.

You start with lots of money. I mean amounts that would make Croesus gulp in disbelief, that would make Midas start wondering where his fingers have been lately. You then add the 535 venal bastards who are our elected representatives (and who Mark Twain classed with lawyers as the only true criminal class in this country), and top it off with a Vice President and President who are both oil men and beholden to the industry for their fortunes.

Now mix in an uninformed electorate more interested in some vapid "celebrity's" panties than in understanding the trouble that their ignorance and the government's arrogance has led us:

A war founded on fraudulent premises in the heart of Oil-Land, almost guaranteeing troublemakers will screw with our oil supply;

Payment for the war through borrowing from China like freakish gambling addicts at a loan shark office;

Concerted efforts by the oil industry to keep prices up by timely "maintenance" shutdowns of refineries during peak periods, and not building any new ones for the past 20 years or so;

Concerted efforts to block conservation measures, emission standards, gas mileage standards, synthetic alternatives, etc. etc. etc.

But I think the most hideous part of this whole contretemps is that I found myself actually agreeing with Glenn Beck.

I shall now drink heavily and take a nap.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Money Well (Mis)Spent

The United States Department of Homeland Security (Heimatsicherheitshauptamt des Vereinigten Staaten, for those of you who want the original German, or maybe Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del if Russian's more to your taste) realized that it had a minor problem a few years back - a massive wave of illegal immigrants moving north from Mexico. These immigrants are not all Mexicans, mind you; they're from countries as far south as El Salvador and Panama.

Why were they headed north? Because America is the Land of Opportunity (says so right on the label), and conditions in their own countries are just marginally higher than completely dreadful, that's why. They are escaping a plethora of social ills by headed to where they think they can start life anew.

So, what do we try to do? Be a good neighbor and offer aid and assistance in the hope that these countries can solve their social ills and keep these people at home so they won't risk their lives trying to get across the desert?

Hell no!

We'll build a fence!

Anyone with a mere moiety of their marbles might draw a parallel between our much-touted "border fence" and the Great Wall of China, primarily the fact that neither are/were any good at keeping out the immigrants, be they Huns, Mongols or Guatemalans. But facts have never deterred the Bush Regime, and they called for bids for a "virtual fence" - not an actual barrier, but a skein of electronic devices and cameras that could alert the Border Patrol to people crossing our borders.

The contract was let to Boeing, for $860 billion dollars, and they set up a pilot project ("Project 28" - original, huh?) along a 28-mile stretch of boundary. At a cost of $20 million.

DHS Secretary Chertoff accepted the pilot project on February 22.

So guess what?

It doesn't work:

"The government is scrapping a $20 million prototype of its highly touted "virtual fence" on the Arizona-Mexico border because the system is failing to adequately alert border patrol agents to illegal crossings, officials said."

So it's back to the drawing boards, on a project that could have been mooted simply by helping other countries keep their people at home.

Your (and my) tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Secretary of Defense Gates Hating the Troops?

Well, not specifically the troops, but he laid a dissing on the United States Air Force in a speech yesterday. In the speech he praised the USAF for its contributions, but turned right around and said that it could do more, like beef up its inventory with unmanned drones like the Army and Marines "instead of focusing mainly on future threats."

That's a quote there.

I'll be the first to suggest that our Military-Industrial Complex is still stuck somewhere beteeen 1975 and 1989 in terms of its strategic thinking, when it comes to forecasting what our potential adversaries may be and how to fight them. After all, the USAF pushed for the

F-22 Raptor air-superiority fighter despite the fact that few of our potential adversaries can field anything comparable (honestly, where was the Iraqi Air Force in 2003? Or the Afghan Air Force in 2001?) and at a hideously high cost per unit.
And the Air Force isn't the only branch with this big-ticket problem. The Navy unveiled its new Virginia-class submarine; at $8.1 billion a pop it'll do a wonderful job against al Qaeda's navy - oh, wait. Al Qaeda doesn't have a navy. The Marines have the V-22 Osprey, which has had so many teething problems you'd think the Germans after WW2 left the plans around as revenge for losing the War. A story surfaced that the Osprey is used only for ferrying VIPs - who won't be missed from the war effort should the plane crash.
Gates' assertion that the USAF is stuck in the past regarding drone aircraft harks back to the original raison d'etre of the Air Force - it has people in it who fly planes, Dumbass. Who's going to join an air force that doesn't have all that nifty piloting stuff that you see when the Thunderbirds precision team comes to town? I can see the recruiting posters now - "Join the Air Force, It's Just Like a Video Game." Ever since 1947, the Air Force has jealously guarded the fact that it controls land-based fixed-wing aircraft; the Army got the helicopters and (later) the drones. Otherwise it'd still be the Army Air Force.
Give it some time, Gates; the USAF will eventually swallow their pride and admit that swarms of small, inexpensive planes make better economic sense than giant Stealth bombers that burn like torches on Guamanian runways. Of course, we'll all likely be dead by then.
On a related note, it seems that the Army and the Marines have recruited more felons last year, even going so far as to pick up people who have sexual crime convictions and the like.
I'm going to go off on a historical rant here, folks, please bear with me.
Rapine has always been the traditional payment of armies, and we've seen an upsurge in sexual assaults ever since the Iraq War started. It's only going to get worse before we pull out of that country, lick our wounds and try to figure out our mistakes. Okay, enough of that; I am not even going to attempt to rationlaize or defend such behavior. All I will say is be prepared for more of the same.
Now, let us hark back (I know, tired analogy time) to Imperial Rome. As the proletariat in Italy decided it was better to go to the city and live off state-supplied food and games, they lost interest in serving in the military. The gaps in the ranks of the legions were filled by provincial levies, criminals and foreign mercenaries. Entire Germanic tribes were recruited into the Roman Army.
Which eventually came back to haunt the central government in Rome when they found that the Army and its generals no longer took orders, but started giving them. Then the generals got surprised when the legions stopped taking orders and instead gave their loyalties to whoever could pay them the most.
So where does that leave our military?
We have an upsurge in criminals being allowed into our military (some are gang members who, source report, are being told to join up so they can learn military tactics and bring them back to their gangs).
We are seeing immigrants in the ranks (join the military, become a citizen if you don't get blown away first).
We may start seeing mercenaries (those enlistment incentives and bonuses look pretty good on paper).
All of which adds up to a historical analogy I do not wish to see.

Monday, April 21, 2008

On the Importance of Talking to Our Enemies

Despite official hands thrown up in the air and much titty-twisting on the part of the Bush Regime and their friends in Israel, former President and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter went off to the Middle East this week to try his hand at actually Doing Something in that region.

You see, the Bushies ignored Israel and its problems until Kim Jong Bush's second term when his masters apparently thought there might be some good that can be resurrected from the morass we've been stuck in. Hence, the so-called "Road Map," which has amounted to a puddle of loose runny dog stool. The Palestinian elections (which, of course, Bush had to stick his rhetorical foot in) resulted in Gaza being run by Hamas and the West Bank being run by Fatah.

Hamas and Fatah were both classified as terrorist organizations back in the day, but Fatah was rehabilitated in the 90s so that it could have a brief luster of legitimacy.

Enter Jimmy Carter, who apparently believes the Biblical beatitude about "blessed are the peacemakers" to an extent that the Christian Zionists and religious zealots in the White House never will, who decided to try his hand at talking to Hamas.

Well, he tried. Hamas offered a 10-year truce in exchange for Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders, but balked at changing their charter to finally recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.

But that's the damned point.

Talk is cheap, and you might just get somewhere by talking. The genius of American foreign policy has, historically, been that we will talk to anyone. Even our deepest existential enemies, like the Nazis, the Fascists and the Communists. Remember? A Red-baiting right-winger sent Kissinger to Beijing, then went himself to talk to Chou and Mao personally. A triumph of American diplomacy.

If we'd bothered to actually sit down and talk to Iran, who knows what the two sides might accomplish?

Or Hamas?

Now, before someone starts breathing forth fire and slaughter on me, I will not advocate talking to al Qaeda. They have injured us, and deserve punishment first (oh, and while we're at it, wouldn't it be fair to publicly admit that the Saudis supplied 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers?)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Roundups, Ruminations and Even a Few Random Rants

Well! It's certainly been a busy couple of weeks, so I'll recap as quickly as I may:

The President (you know him, Kim Jong Bush) admitted not only the existence of the John Yoo Memo that said basically we can torture whoever the hell we want and the Constitution and international law doesn't mean shit, but said that he was aware of the meetings and approved of them. This was revealed late on a Friday afternoon thus guaranteeing that hardly anyone would pay any attention to it, and it was eclipsed in the Slave Media by Senator Obama's "bitter" comment.

The people I work for are working toward a system integration package, so I spent four gloriously boring-ass days in meetings last week, trying hard to think of ways to get out of it without shooting myself. However, the time wasn't completely wasted; I cranked out another 125 pages of content for the Spontoon Island website, including a rather neat story about Red Dorm going to the aid of Trotsky.

On April 9th and 10th I worked as a volunteer at the Sun n' Fun Airshow, the second-largest airshow in the country (right after the big one at Oshkosh, Wisconsin). While I was there I saw this plane, a concept for a new small business jet by Eclipse Aviation:
I recognized the design instantly, as it resembles the German Heinkel He-162 People's Fighter from 1945:

I guess you can't keep a good design down.
I hosted a family reunion/picnic at my house yesterday; with nearly 20 people present it's the largest party I've had at the house since I moved in eight years ago (I'm not much of a partier anymore, alas). Practically everyone brought something, leaving me to do the actual cooking of the burgers. Luckily the weather and everything else conspired to be just as nice as possible so the day went by very nicely. And, of course, it was nice to see people I haven't even thought of in years.
Getting back to the Slave Media, ABC outdid itself in irrelevancy by spending the first 52 minutes of its so-called "debate" asking stupid questions. I have often said that the only stupid questions are the ones you don't ask, but these weren't just stupid; they were nonsensical. What the hell does torture or national security have to do with a guy who was in the Weather Underground 40 godsdamned years ago? What does our sagging economy have to do with the necessity to wear lapel pins? Not a fucking things, but Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos apparently thought it did (Steph even taking pointers from Sean Hannity of Fox Noise). Fucking wankers.
A swarm of small earthquakes struck off the coast of Oregon, and a 5.2-magnitude temblor hit the Wabash System in southern Illinois. Coincidence? Nope. The swarm might have indicated landslides, or two terranes rubbing up against each other like million-ton kittens; the south Illinois quake served as a reminder that there are fossil faults underlying the entire country - not just California. Betcha there's a lot of people studying up on the New Madrid quake about now.
The Government Accounting Office released a report that said we've basically given up on the War on Terror. It seems that al Qaeda's leadership and main base of operations are in Pakistan; logic would indicate that we take those people out, hard. But since Pakistan won't let us, we've made no plans to get Osama bin Forgotten and very likely won't.
Speaking of Pakistan, they tested their new Shaheed-2 missile with a range of 1245 miles. Nice to see a nuclear power flexing its muscles like that; one wonders what India thought of it.
Muqtada al-Sadr threatened a new uprising by the Mahdi Army if the al-Maliki regime and the US kept screwing with him. Considering the way his followers acted in Basra, I'd lay odds on the Mahdi Army, and take the points.
We have suffered 4,037 combat deaths in Iraq since Bush's Wonderful Magical Mystery Military Adventure started (it's a mystery because the reason we invaded keeps changing). Even the Pentagon's own university, the Institute for National Strategic Studies, has admitted that Iraq is a debacle whose outcome is in doubt. At this rate, our record will end up 11-2-1, instead of 12-1-1. And Kim Jong Bush is now seemingly bound and determined to leave the mess for his successor - not all that surprising, really; this wastrel has failed in everything in his life, and usually walked away from the failures to let others clean them up. Cheney, on the other hand, seems equally determined to start a shooting war with the region's 800-pound gorilla. Someone needs to tell him that vicarious manhood doesn't come cheap.
The Democratic party primary process careens wildly toward the Pennsylvania elections on Tuesday. Ought to be fun.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


John McCain screws up the difference between Shiite and Sunni - four times.

Barack Obama chooses the wrong word in a speech.

Hilary Clinton takes a shot of whisky.

Surprise! Your Presidential candidates ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS.

That's right, folks; these people didn't pass through a membrane from another reality, or materialize in some mad scientist's laboratory. They were born Americans, educated in America and American voters are putting them in a position to contend for the highest elected office.

So we expect these people to be cold and remorseless as the Terminator and as calculating as a Mentat, not to mention as bone-chillingly precise in everything they do or say as Data. I've got news for those people who expect that kind of behavior from a human being.

Ain't. Gonna. Happen.

No way.

To be blunt, I like the fact that these people are making mistakes or indulging in innocent pleasures like a tot of the liquor. It makes them more approachable (and in Hilary's case, I can completely understand her need for a nip).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dealing with the Dutchman

Back in the hoary mists of time the above phrase used to mean that a person drove hard but fair bargains, and was an honest man.

Any resemblance between a fictitious 'fair and honest' Dutchman and General David Petraeus is purely coincidental.

Very basically, General Petraeus in two days of testimony failed to say whether our invasion and occupation of Iraq made us any safer, said that while the troop escalation over the past year had managed to lower one narrow index of violence, the gains made were fragile, and said that he was suggesting a 'pause' in the withdrawal already on the schedule in order to pause and see where things were headed.

Pausing to look at what must be done to adjust the plan is a reasonable thing to do, in my opinion; plans never survive first contact with an enemy so a commander should reduce the tempo a tad to see if a tweak is required.

However, when asked his opinion of the recent slap the Iraqi Army took to the balls in Basra at the hands of the JAM, Petraeus punted by saying that he hadn't been informed of it. Just to remind everyone - this man is the Tactical Commander in the theater of operations; he HAS to know what's going on. This makes Cheney's visit to al-Maliki all the more suspicious, doesn't it?

And Ambassador Crocker said two things that made me laugh out loud. One, that history would have to judge whether we did the right thing by invading Iraq; second, he kept insisting that there was "great potential" for Iraq to slide into chaos if we withdrew our forces.

Well, Shitfire and Sweet Zombie Jesus, folks, I have "great potential" to be elected Pope - and I'm neither a priest nor a Catholic. These apparatchiks and their slimy enablers in the press keep telling us this, but they can't articulate a specific victory goal beyond nebulous shit like a "free Iraq."

Iraq was free under Saddam Hussein; it was free from sectarian strife, Iranian influence, US occupation troops ...

And history will be written by the victors.

In Farsi.

Monday, April 07, 2008

No Fun At All

An elementary school in Reedsburg, Wisconsin decided to have a bit of fun by setting up what they called "Wacky Week." During this week, according to school officials, students could dress up in costume.

Bear in mind that, according to the officials, the kids thought this up.

According to the article in MSNBC, about 40% of the student body participated, with some dressing up as old people and others cross-dressing.


You can see what's coming up next.

The old adage that "a fundamentalist is someone who is convinced that someone somewhere is having fun - and is determined to stop it," a Christian radio station in the area began to ramp up a predictable amount of conservative outrage against the school, claiming that it was endorsing alternative lifestyles and transgenderism.

The principal denies it, but adds that his school won't do a Wacky Week activity again.

I look at it this way - if the students, the kids, in this elementary school decided that it'd be a hoot to dress up as their grandparents or to go the "Some Like It Hot" route, let them. Hell, it's no different than Halloween, where kids and even adults dress up -

Oh, wait. That's right. The Christian Taliban don't like ANYTHING that can be construed as fun.

Never mind.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

1 1/2 Out Of Four

Back before the Peloponnesian War (about 440 BCE), the Greek city-state of Athens established a military and political alliance with a bunch of its neighboring city-states in order to hold back the Persian threat. Basing the alliance's headquarters and treasury on the Aegean island of Delos, it became known as the Delian League.

As time went by, however, Athens grew stronger and more high-handed until the allied city-states became subjects, and the Delian League became in fact the Athenian Empire.

Okay, let's hit fast forward ...

After the Second World War (about 1949 AD), the United States established a military and political alliance with a bunch of its neighbors in order to hold back the Communist threat. Basing the alliance on its geography, it became known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

President Bush went to Bucharest, Rumania for the annual NATO summit with a few things on his mind - things designed to enhance the legacy of accomplishments he wanted to leave behind. First, he wanted to secure more signatories to his idea of planting a missile defense system right beside the Russian Federation. For all of the Bush Administration's protests to the contrary, Russian President Putin couldn't shake the idea that this shield (such as it is) was aimed at his country.

Only the Czech Republic agreed to basing some components of the missile defense.

Another thing Bush wanted was the introduction of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO membership. Putin objected vociferously, and the NATO council agreed with him, essentially giving Bush the Great Green Weenie by approving Albania and Croatia for membership.

Bush wanted Macedonia to become a member as well, but Greece (still pissed off that the breakaway Yugoslavian province called itself that) objected until the country changed its name.

France agreed to send about another 700 troops to Afghanistan to help out there.

So Bush comes away from Bucharest winning only one and one-half out of four things.

It's not looking good for His Imperial Majesty's legacy, is it?

In Defense of Others

This is from the "Sydney Morning Herald," and comes to us from Landover, Maryland (which begs the question as to why more local news outlets don't run this stuff):

12-year-old saves mum, kills attacker

April 3, 2008 - 4:18PM

A 12-year-old boy fatally slashed a man who was attacking his mother at the boarding house where they lived, authorities said.

Salomon Noubissie, 64, died at a hospital after he was slashed across the neck Monday night in the home in the Landover area.

Corporal Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman for Prince George's County police, said Wednesday that authorities hadn't decided whether the boy would be charged with anything. They were reviewing the case with the state's attorney's office.

The boy said he had been playing a video game Monday night when he heard his mother, Cheryl Stamp, scream. He found her on the kitchen floor, straddled by a fellow resident who was choking her.

"I kept saying, 'Stop! Stop! Stop!'" the boy told The Washington Post, which published his account without giving his name. "But he just ignored me. He didn't stop. He just kept hurting her."

The boy said he took a knife and swung at the man. Police say they found Noubissie with a knife wound to the upper body.

Stamp said she didn't fully realise at first what her son had done. "He didn't say anything," she said. "But I knew when I looked in his eyes. I said, 'Oh, Lord.' "

Rarely is a 12-year-old implicated in a homicide, and even less often does a child that age kill someone to protect his mother.

"In Maryland, there can be a legitimate defence of third parties in the event of a violent attack," State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey told the newspaper. "That is a possibility in this case."

Stamp said she and Noubissie, a Cameroonian immigrant, had moved into the boarding house within days of each other three months ago and had become friends. Stamp said Noubissie had told her he was studying to be a psychiatrist.

But on Monday night, she said, he was acting differently. He started to yell at her and grab her hair.

"He threw me down and started choking me. I think that's when my son came in. ... He protected me," she said.

Noubissie was combative with officers when they arrived, even as he was bleeding heavily, she said.

The boy said he was not happy with what happened but felt he had no choice.

"I told God that I had stabbed him because he was killing my mother. I know he understands, and I think he will keep us safe now."


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that even if the local prosecutor does opt to indict the 12-year-old, there's not a jury on this planet capable of convicting him.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In Praise of the Lowest Common Denominator

Way back in the hoary mists of time (oh, all right, the 2000 election), George W. Bush was widely touted as a regular guy, a guy you'd want to share a beer with. Of course, we knew then and know now that it wouldn't have stopped at one beer, and would probably have graduated to nose candy by the time the party was over.

In the 2004 election, Bush touted his educational credentials as a 'C' student at Yale. I will not speak to his Harvard MBA, because that was likely purchased for him, in my opinion.

In this election, we see Senator John McCain making a tour of the country and talking up what a hellion he was in high school and seemingly proud of the fact that he finished in the bottom of his class at the US Naval Academy. McCain also was a member of the Century Club at Annapolis - reserved for those future leaders who scored 100 or more demerits during their four years.

What am I getting at?


For too long the political parties and our own inclinations as a country have fetched up candidates who either denigrate intellectualism and rational thought, or try to come across as your least-favorite neighbor Earl - the guy who repairs cars in front of his garage and swills beer like it was water.

My question is this: After eight years of the stupidity and the failed policies of a 'C' student who you'd like to have a beer with, isn't it time we had as a President a person who can fucking THINK for a change? Just for a change?

Is that too much to godsdamned ASK of this population?