Monday, July 28, 2008

Anyone NOT See This Coming?

Yesterday a man barged into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN and started blazing away with a shotgun. By the time three church members tackled him and wrestled the weapon away (breaking his arm in the process) one man was dead, another was dying and several more were injured.

Today we learned the reason why:

Police: Man shot churchgoers over liberal views

A letter found in this guy's vehicle stated, among other things, that he hated liberal views. And the Unitarian church is a very liberal entity, with the dignity of all humanity as one of its core precepts.

This is what years of "Christian" Right-wing language will get you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Terrific News

America Is Now Winning Iraq War

Shiite Militia in Baghdad Sees Its Power Ebb

So, we're winning.

Can we start bringing the troops home now?

There is a Curse on John McCain

According to an uncertain tradition, there is a three-part Chinese curse that goes something like this:

1. May you live in interesting times.

2. May you get everything you wish for.

3. May you attract the attention of the powerful.

The first part of the curse - well, we're all living that one, ladies and gentlemen. With terrorism, school and mall shootings, high prices, a falling housing market and such the new century's starting out very interesting indeed.

Senator John McCain (R-Geritol) is deep into the second part of that traditional curse. He and his surrogates (which include a good healthy slab of the corporate-run media) spent a jolly time teasing Senator Barack Obama about going to Afghanistan and Iraq. They did this knowing that if Obama did go he was sure to make a misstep or verbal gaffe that could make him look less of a sure thing than he already is and give McCain some breathing room from his own cock-ups over the past weeks.

So Obama went to Afghanistan.

He went to Kuwait.

He went to Iraq.

He went to Jordan.

He went to Israel.

He went to Germany.

He went to France.

He went to Britain.

And guess what?

No missteps and no verbal gaffes. Obama spoke with troops, with generals, with national leaders and with the members of the press his campaign selected to go (and not Fox News, which serves them right). Even his aborted trip to visit wounded soldiers at Landstuhl was a very good move, showing that he knows that using troops as campaign props is wrong. The Pentagon tried to weasel on that one, saying that they didn't "explicitly" prohibit the Obama campaign from going there.

So the McCain campaign got what they wished for - Obama went abroad, and did nothing detrimental to his cause.

Although McCain and his surrogates are trying to spin it as a major blunder, saying that Obama hates the troops for not going to Landstuhl (a definite case of damned if you do / damned if you don't regarding the Republican Noise Machine). But McCain hates the troops just as much, if his votes against the GI Bill and veteran's benefits are any indication.

The McCain campaign also vilified Obama for not acknowledging the success of The Surge and McCain's idea to stay in Iraq as long as necessary, even long after Old Johnny's dead and buried.

Apart from getting the timeline wrong (and CBS giving him a pass for it), McCain's seen his stance on Iraq undermined by none other than the Bush Administration (from whose failing hands the torch of Stupid Military Adventurism has been passed to McCain) and Iraqi PM al-Maliki. Al-Maliki as much as explicitly endorsed Obama's 16-month timetable for withdrawal of US combat troops, and even Bush has set forth a "general time horizon" for withdrawal.

Nothing like getting thrown under the bus by your own people, is there John?


Oh hey! Almost forgot the third part of the curse!

That seems to fit the bill for the one million or so people who find themselves on the Terrorism Watch List (along with anyone who shares the same name) and the untold and unnumbered people whose phone calls, email and other communications have so far been swept up by the telecoms and given as a gift to the NSA.

Interesting times indeed.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Verbi Sapientae

"Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so." - Elrond Halfelven, The Fellowship of the Ring

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." - Lord Acton

"Fools are more to be feared than knaves." - Queen Christina of Sweden

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." - Ben Franklin

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where's Ralph Nader When You Need Him?

In order to counter the effects of mines and IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military trotted out a class of big wheeled vehicles known as MRAP (mine-resistant, ambush-protected). The smallest, the Caiman, weighs in at a svelte 9 tons.

The MRAPs are designed with a V-shaped hull to deflect blast waves away from the vehicle, which is a very good thing indeed. The military loves these things because it saves the lives of our soldiers. And I wouldn't mind owning a Caiman to get through that pesky rush hour traffic (provided gasoline was $0.10 a gallon - these things probably get piss-poor mileage).

But - hey, presto! - the MRAPs have a problem.

They have a tall silhouette and a high center of gravity.

Do the words "Ford Explorer" ring any bells?

Yep, there have been a number of serious rollover accidents in MRAPs, usually caused by either taking a curve too fast, misjudging the road grade or the width of a bridge. Rutted roads can also pose a problem. A couple Green Berets, for example, drowned when their MRAP overturned into a canal in Afghanistan. To their credit, the military acted very quickly on this by issuing safety alerts and providing training to forestall these accidents.

But I say get Nader on this issue - it'll distract him away from pestering us about becoming President.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It Has Come to This

The BBC reports that a British parliamentary committee is recommending to the Foreign Office that the word of the US should no longer be trusted when it comes to extraordinary rendition and the use of torture.

Happy now, George, Richard, Condi and all those other little people?

Even the British no longer trust us unreservedly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sapping Operation

A long time ago, there was a term in warfare called a sapping operation, named for the type of tunnel that was dug. The tunnel was perpendicular to the enemy's lines or fortifications, and was supposed to get underneath said lines/fortifications. Once you were underneath, your combat engineers (called sappers - and still are in the British Royal Army, by the way) would set explosive charges in order to destroy the enemy defenses.

Examples of this are rather numerous, but the two best examples are the mines set off under the German trenches at the Battle of the Somme (one didn't go off, but the others were felt as far away as London) and the one set off by the Union Army against the Confederate works at Petersburg.

Another example of a sapping operation is what we saw in the German news magazine Der Spiegel today.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in Berlin for talks with Federal Chancellor Merkel and was asked for his views on the competing plans for the eventual removal of US troops from his country. Being careful not to endorse either candidate ("Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business") he said that he favored Senator Obama's sixteen-month timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq. He did allow for some modification of that timetable, based presumably on real-world conditions and not some nebulous fantasy.

That was the first mine under the Bush Administration's "Stay the Course, Dammit!" policy, which also served to put a hole in Senator McCain's own open-ended commitment stance.

The second was what the White House did with the Reuters report of the interview by Der Spiegel. Some complete nimrod sent it out, not to the internal mailing list but to the external list - the one that goes to all the news media outlets.

Snap! As they say.

That sound you hear, reminiscent of cracking icebergs and roofs about to cave in, is the Bush Administration's policy on Iraq. That policy has, according to some, has actually been edging closer toward Obama's position in recent days, what with the semantically awkward but brilliantly obfuscatory "general time horizon" (couldn't they find a better way to say "timetable?") and the pressing need to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Where does this leave Senator McCain's foreign policy stance?

According to one GOP strategist, "We're fucked."

Res ipsa loquitur.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"I know how to win wars."

That statement, easily the top contender for Stupidest Thing Said This Week, issued from the mouth of Senator John McCain, presumptive Republican nominee for President. He said it as part of a riposte to the presumptive Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama's editorial, in which Senator Obama stated that our military adventure in Iraq distracted us away from the fight in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Obama's assertion is true on its face. Our colonial war and occupation in Iraq has in fact drawn off manpower and materiel that could have been used to keep the Afghan insurgency from growing into the problem that it now is. Last week, nine US soldiers were killed and fifteen wounded when the insurgents launched a highly coordinated attack on a new outpost in Kunar province.

But it was McCain's statement that he knows how to win wars that stopped me cold. I had to shut the browser window and leave my office. I had to walk around a bit.

If I hadn't, I feel that my head would have exploded with enough force to drive slivers of bone into the wallboard. Ten feet away.

"I know how to win wars."

I seem to recall that Senator McCain fought in the Vietnam War, a conflict that many historians and military analysts conclude was a loss for the United States. A loss? Yes; we failed to achieve our strategic objective of containing Communism and keeping South Vietnam separate and sovereign.

Perhaps Senator McCain was speaking of his leadership skills, directing mass movements of men and firepower in order to take objectives and achieve victory?

Perhaps Senator McCain was speaking of his influence and authority in setting warfighting policy as part of the Executive Branch?


Let's look at the wars we've fought, either in person or by proxy, since Vietnam:

Iran-Iraq War? Well, Saddam was Our Boy during those eight years; we gave him virtual carte blanche and turned a blind eye to his use of WMDs. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

El Salvador Civil War? We backed the right-wing government, even to providing trainers and observers and turned a blind eye to the militias and death squads. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Israel-Lebanon? Apart from the Israeli/Lebanese Christian massacres of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and the loss of 241 Marines to a truck bomb, all that war did was chase the PLO to Tunis and leave a vacuum that Syria was quick to fill. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Angola Civil War? Reagan called UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi the African equivalent of Abe Lincoln (which would have given the Great Emancipator a heart attack) despite the fact that Savimbi was a cold-hearted terrorist. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Nicaragua-Contras? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Panama Intervention? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Grenada? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

First Iraq War? Saddam thought our carte blanche regarding him and Iran extended to Kuwait. We proved him wrong. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Bosnia? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Kosovo? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?

Somalia? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?


Recall that McCain was a fighter pilot, a naval aviator. While he may have classes in leadership at Annapolis he did not lead troops in combat. A fighter cockpit usually seats only one person, after all. He spent five years in a POW camp; after that, he was assigned to the Pentagon until he was retired as a Captain (which must still itch at him, as his father and grandfather were Admirals). He went into politics.

So, based on what we know, did Senator McCain have any direct influence on any of the conflicts we've engaged in over the past 33 years apart from voting on spending bills or authorizations for force?

And if he didn't have any direct influence, what makes him think he'd be better than Senator Obama at prosecuting these current wars?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Over There

When we allowed the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda to escape through the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan to find safe haven in the tribal northwest of Pakistan

we knew they'd be back. And so it is, Son of Taliban, three times as nasty, three times as effective, and steam coming out of their ears.

Afghan insurgents (very likely Taliban) attacked a new NATO base in Kunar Province, up in northeastern Afghanistan. Nine US troops were killed in what is described as a multipronged, coordinated attack. A suicide bomber killed some 41 people in another part of the country.

Oh, and Pakistan has told us that we are not welcome to go hunting for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Like that ever stopped us before - anyone recall us bombing the snot of eastern Cambodia to destroy Vietcong and NVA positions there, in defiance of our pledges to respect Cambodia's neutrality and sovereignty?

Over in Iraq, the nascent Status of Forces Agreement (a nice cushy SOFA for our troops) had to be abandoned in favor of a more interim and temporary agreement that will bridge the gap between the expiration of the UN mandate in December and the removal of US troops in 2009.

Essentially, this defers any negotiations on the SOFA until the next Administration takes power, illustrating again the penchant of the Bush Regime for kicking the can a little further down the road. Sure, they'll leave it for John or Barack and let them take the blame when it collapses around them. Meanwhile, the worsening conditions in Afghanistan are putting pressure on the regime to withdraw more combat troops from Iraq faster, so they can deal with the new troubles.

But all is not gloom and doom and failure for Generalissimo Bush and Field Marshall Cheney. A report from the Times (of London, naturally) reveals that Bush gave Israel the "amber" light to further needlessly complicate matters by attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. What fun, eh? He'll back Tel Aviv if negotiations break down - and therefore we see a self-fulfilling prophecy begin, folks. If you're already champing at the bit to attack someone "if negotiations break down," then it becomes necessary to see to it that the talks do break down.

The scale is sliding more and more across from "Fail" to "Epic Fail" regarding Bush's military adventurism.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Foodie Saturday!

Roast Pork Loin with Blackberry Glaze

2 lbs. pork loin, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large sprig of rosemary, rinsed

1 pint of blackberries, rinsed
1/2 cup Marsala wine
4 tablespoons clover honey (or to taste)
pinch of salt
2 sage leaves, rinsed and torn into large bits
2 basil leaves, rinsed and torn into large bits

To make the glaze:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, then let boil, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Lower the heat to a bare simmer and cook until the berries fall apart and the mixture reduces to a thick slurry, about 2.25 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a glass baking dish with heavy duty foil and spray with cooking spray. Arrange the pork loin in the dish, then spoon the glaze over it, smearing it around until the loin is covered. Shred the leaves off the sprig of rosemary and sprinkle over the loin.

Cook at 350 for 45 minutes or until desired doneness is achieved. I plan on serving it with baked potato and veggies.

Buono appetito!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Abject Slaves Bowing to the Failure

Sixty-two quislings bowed to the money fed to them by the telecommunications industry and groveled before the complete and utter failure who is Our Dear Leader, and voted to pass the revised FISA law that effectively erases the Fourth Amendment from the US Constitution. That was yesterday, by the way. All of our telephone conversations, email, IM conversations and any other form of electronic communication are now subject to interception and handoff to our intelligence agencies.

Well, maybe not. This is going to be before the Supreme Court soon. The ACLU and other groups are already deploying their lawyers, determined that our country will not go the way of other bright and shining examples of democracy like Russia, Zimbabwe and Egypt (where at least they don't try to hide behind pretty words like "rule of law" to cover up their actions).

Aside from the stupidity of allowing this to happen, the Congress may be astounded to learn that their popularity with the American people has sunk to 9 percent. 9 percent, bowing to 29 percent. Could the 9 percent be the result of the Democratic majority continuously kneeling to the Great Leader Bush instead of giving the Failure a whipping he'll take to his grave?

Stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way, just a mere five minutes shows an argument that telecomm immunity's unconstitutional. Article I, Section 9 states that Congress is not allowed to make any ex post facto law; i.e., a law "after the fact." In other words, if it was illegal to start with, you can't make it legal afterward and allow the perpetrator to get off scot-free.

If we allow ex post facto laws to be established in this country, we might as well relax another prohibition in the Constitution, that of a bill of attainder. Attaint Bush and Cheney, their cronies and their families, confiscate all their money and property and exile them forever from the United States.

Hey, if we're going to turn our backs on the Supreme Law of the Land regarding the telecomms, we might as well go all the way.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Excuse me, but what the F*** is this?

Former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher have unveiled a plan to give the Congress a larger role in warfare by having things arranged so that the Congress has to agree with the President before he or she can send in the troops.

Did these two superannuated assholes completely forget the United States Constitution?

It says so, you know, in black and white, that it is up to the Congress to declare war. The President can ask for a declaration, but it's up to the Legislative Branch to approve it.

And don't give me that shit about the War Powers Act of 1972 (and amendments) and the AUMF of 2002. They did not amend the US Constitution by taking away the power of the Congress to declare war. However, I will concede that in the case of the AUMF the Congress gave away their power rather than risk the chance that an unpopular war might jeopardize their cushy jobs.

This idea's as screwed up as the "War Czar" idea Bush floated last year. We already HAVE a Commander-in-Chief - according to the Constitution it's the President. Of course, Bush would rather go off in a corner and play with himself, but he should have thought of that before some rich perverted right-wing jackoffs decided to make him President.

And Baker and Christopher? They need to increase the dosages on their Aricept, before the brain bubbles reduce them both to drooling incompetents.

Doing Business with the 'Enemy'

As everyone knows, the Bush Administration has a major throbbing hard-on against the Islamic Republic of Iran, dating all the way back to the Revolution in 1979. I see it as the primary event in the chain of events that lead to the current masturbatory eagerness Vice President Cheney and various other neoconservatives have about military action against the country.

Well, something odd came out in the news today. Despite two Presidential terms' worth of tough and at times inflammatory rhetoric (for example, Bush's big mouth can be blamed for the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's President), United States exports to Iran have seen a tenfold increase.

Items not covered under the sanctions, such as fertilizer, bull semen (bull semen?) and cigarettes are sold to Iran. Pepsi shows up in Tehran markets, and it's believed that military rifles and parts (definitely ON the sanctions list) have also been sent over there. Even - and this made me smile - arrestor gear for aircraft carrier catapults (even though Iran doesn't have an aircraft carrier).

This should come as no great surprise, once one understands the history of the Bush Family. George's grandfather Prescott did business with Germany back in the 30s and into the 40s, essentially helping the regime there acquire foreign capital in order to finance its nefarious schemes.

(Please note no violations of Godwin's Law.)

And the stuff and nonsense about not talking to Iran? Codswallop. We talked with North Korea, and the DPRK is cooperating to a certain extent in exchange for food and other essentials.

So let's sit down with the Iranians, break open the Pepsi and pass around a few packs of Pall Malls, and have a chat.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I Knew It

I knew there was a reason why I awakened shortly after 1 AM this morning.

Jesse Helms, right-wing ogre and owl-eyed fathead fascisto conservative, died at 1:18 this morning.

Helms inspired many emotions, but never indifference. My sympathies to his family, but for his racism and misogyny he will most assuredly not be missed.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Duh-minator IV: March of the Stupid

Along the French-Swiss border there sits a 27-km ring. Situated underground, it is the product of millions of euros and years of work, and it is designed to dig ever deeper into the fundamental structure of the universe.

It is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - simply put, an atom-smasher.

It will speed beams of protons up to near lightspeed and slam them into one another while delicate instruments look for the by-products. One of the objects the scientists on the project are looking for will be the elusive Higgs Boson, a theoretical particle that may be instrumental in explaining why matter has mass. The Higgs is the only particle in the Standard Model of the subatomic universe yet to be observed, and requires a lot of energy to reveal.

Got to love pure research.

Now come the ignorant people; one objection to the LHC (including an array of legal challenges including a failed injunction) is that mucking about with subatomic particles at such high energy levels could create a micro-black hole, or create an entirely new order of matter that would destroy the entire Earth.

This despite the findings of two independent scientific boards who say that the objections is stupid.

Then comes the few religious nuts (based solely on one physicist's unfortunate tongue-in-cheek depiction of the Higgs Boson as "The God Particle"). The idea here is that no one should be mucking about so deeply into the fundamental structure of the universe. It's as if we're reading God's diary.

Today, sixty-two years ago, the United States Government decided to start testing the atomic weapon they dropped on Nagasaki (the Mark II implosion device, now the model for all nuclear weapons). Dubbed Operation Crossroads, it too had its share of naysayers and ignorant conclusion jumpers. One that particularly tickled me when I read it was a concern that the underwater test, the Crossroads Baker, would knock a hole in the seabed and cause all the water to drain out of the ocean.

Every scientific endeavour comes with at least one person who says "It'll never work, so why try it, and even if it does work it'll destroy us all."

But it's necessary to expand our understanding of the universe. It's something that we do as a result of our inquisitive natures and the cultural heritage Europe inherited.

What Is A Ben Tre Republican?

I've come up with a new term to describe myself and my political affiliation ("Pants-Down Republican" required too much explanation, as well as having unfortunate Larry Craig connotations).

Ben Tre is a province in southern Vietnam, and has its own entry in Wikipedia concerning a curious type of logic. While a village was being destroyed during the Vietnam War, a US Air Force officer is supposed to have said to correspondent Peter Arnett that it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.

Hence the term, Ben Tre Republican.

The Party that I am in was once the party of Abraham Lincoln, of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Republican Presidents all; Lincoln preserved the Union, Roosevelt pioneered conservation, and Eisenhower sounded the warning against the growth of the military-industrial complex.

That's a record to be proud of.

Now, however, the Party of Lincoln is now the party of Jefferson Davis.

The Party of Roosevelt is now the Party of Halliburton.

The Party of Eisenhower is now the Party of Blackwater.

The Grand Old Party sold its soul for power starting shortly after Goldwater's loss in 1964; it got much worse after Nixon tried to wrestle the racist yahoo vote away from Wallace in 1968 and 1972. Reagan blew the dog whistle for all it was worth in 1980, attracting the worst elements in the American electorate.

The remedy?

First, the Republicans need to lose this election, and the 2010 by-election as well. Probably a couple more. It needs to go back into the political wilderness.

While it's there it needs to be destroyed, burned to the foundations and then those foundations purified by high explosives. Then, and ONLY then, can the Republican Party truly rediscover its true roots and rebuild itself into a viable political party.

Not a gaggle of special interests, Luddites, religious extremists and warmongers.

Because you sometimes have to destroy the village in order to save it.