Wednesday, May 30, 2007

History Quickie: Anne of Cleves a dog?

OK, zeppo has come up with an idea that squeezed a post out of me, since as I told him, writing about the newest Bushie depredations just depresses me and causes my iced chai to boil in my hand. So let’s hang out with the Ren-Cen crew some 465 years back - that dim time before even Bose informercials....

Was Anne of Cleves really ugly? As the comic centerpiece of the mostly-tragic story of Henry VIII’s wives (repudiated, murdered or sacrificed, the lot of them), the princess from the Germanic backwater country has always been a welcome respite. After all, how can you lose with the first pre-nup encounter between Henry VIII — aging but still both a monster of vanity and a monster full stop — and the awkward, tongue-tied, blowsy Fraulein who quite possibly suffered from body odor? It’s got all the elements voyeurs love: disappointed desire, dumb and unattractive foreigners who can’t even speak English, and the promise of grisly retribution. (Luckily for Anne, it was Thomas Cromwell, the promoter of her marriage, who took the bullet — er, axe.)

Except that all the existing visual evidence seems to say the story’s wrong. Holbein’s famous portrait of Anne (top portrait) shows a woman quite pleasant to modern eyes. A little more stolid than Britney or Paris, to be sure, but easy on the eyes despite the wacky headdress that the English of Henry’s day found equally “monstrous.” There’s a miniature of Anne that’s much the same, and a later portrait (bottom portrait) that shows her — still apparently obdurate about wearing those unflattering upholstered fishbowls — looking a bit more medieval, but that may be more a reflection of the painter’s lesser skills than of any unseemly angularity on Anne’s part.

So why was Henry — who had commissioned Holbein to paint her portrait in lieu of a personal inspection, and who pronounced himself altogether satisfied with the result — so deeply disappointed when he first saw his soon-to-be bedfellow in the flesh? Here we enter the slippery realm of sexual attraction. Anne simply didn’t stir Henry to passion — and Henry was a man notoriously demanding about being stirred. He was both sensualist and sentimentalist; he could love a woman of limited beauty (and none of his wives — except perhaps Catherine Howard, for whom we have no undisputed portrait — was a knockout even by Tudor standards) if she was a princess in need of rescue (Katherine of Aragon), a female deer “wild for to hold” (Anne Boleyn) who could be tamed to nibble from his hand, or a country virgin (Jane Seymour) waiting patiently for her lusty squire.

Anne of Cleves, despite the sentimental appeal of being a foreigner cast completely upon Henry’s mercy, just didn’t have that mysterious IT that would immediately electrify a fifty-something king in need of larger and larger jolts to his expanding frame. Nor was Henry inclined to invest the time in discovering any particular graces in Anne; he’d never been especially endowed with patience, and may even by this time have spotted the dainty Kathryn Howard. In his savage disappointment, Henry struck out with the first weapons at hand: insults about Anne’s appearance.

Was Anne awkward? Probably, at least at that disastrous initial meeting. Tongue-tied? Very likely, in a language she had yet to master. But the other adjectives that still cling to Anne originated in the main in the mouth of her vocal spouse-to-be (and soon equally vocal husband, whose disclosures about his wife’s “disordered” body probably gave pleasure to an age almost as gossipy as ours). More objective observers never echoed his commentary.

You have to wonder, though of course no one had the nerve to ask her: what did the lady think of her bloated, cranky, ulcerated-leg-ridden husband?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The wit and wisdom of Space Ghost, Coast to Coast, as it applies to the administration of George W. Bush

Many thanks to the IMDB

Space Ghost: I could plead the Fifth.
Zorak: If you could count that high.

[After viewing a commercial]
Space Ghost: Finally, a product for me! I believe every word that man just said - because it's exactly what I wanted to hear.

Peter Fonda: I learned that the best way to keep my parents off my back was to act like a grown-up, but I've been eight for fifty-six years.

Space Ghost: I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer.

Space Ghost: Bears are crazy. They'll bite your head if you're wearing a steak on it.

Space Ghost: I saw a yard gnome once. It didn't scare me!

Space Ghost: Welcome back, stupid viewers! You'll watch anything! Go ahead, change the channel. You'll be back!

Zorak: Vengeance is the refuge of the weak.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What is it about Bush and political appointments?

UPDATED: 5/29 below.

Can this person NOT appoint someone based solely on experience relevant to the job and trustworthiness? It seems like every single appointment in this administration has been a reward for loyal behavior to the president. This goes beyond cronyism. How can 23 year olds with no banking experience end up in charge of rebuilding Iraq’s financial institutions? How can a lawyer for an Arabian Horse Association end up in charge of FEMA? How can a 33 year old from one of the lowest ranked law schools in the country with no experience as a prosecutor end up being central in the hiring and firing of the entire U.S. Department of Justice? I see now that many immigration lawyers appointed by this administration where based on loyalty to the Bush administration and do not have much, if any, experience in immigration law. I even read where the person in charge of women’s health in this country is an ex-veterinarian. How insulting is this to someone who cares about the subject?

Now, I see that a leading contender to replace Paul Wolfowitz, he of the neo-con cabal most responsible for the Iraq war and his scandal-ridden term at the World Bank is none other than Bill Frist. You remember him, the doctor, ex-Representative from Tennessee who so “successfully” diagnosed Terry Shavio from a video? When I first heard about this, I thought it was a joke. It was funny, just because it would be so true-to-form. Turns out that truth is weirder than humor with Bush. What possible credentials does this man have to run a large-scale financial organization? Do credentials not matter to these people at all?

One of the many things that this distraction will be remembered for, besides ginning up a false reason for invading a country that was not threatening us, lying to the public about that reason, and then prosecuting the war so incompletely that I don’t think they could have done a worse job of it if they had actually tried to screw it up is the rampant cronyism and political favoritism.

UPDATE: I saw where Frist took himself out of consideration for this job. Probably a wise move on his part. If nothing else, bloggers were going to have a field day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

History always repeats itself, it seems, especially when actual people are involved.

Glenn Greenwald, at, had a commenter who dug out some pretty interesting quotes about the Vietnam War, as reported by Time magazine. And, I am assuming we all remember how that particular foray turned out.

This really isn’t so much of a short history lesson as it is a lesson in human psychology.

Time Magazine, Friday, May 17, 1963:
How is the war actually going? Measured against the desperate situation that faced General Maxwell Taylor on a fact-finding mission for the President 19 months ago, there is room for qualified optimism. When Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara returned from a conference with service chiefs in Pearl Harbor last week, the Pentagon said "the corner has definitely been turned toward victory."

No one was setting any timetable, but U.S. military chiefs and South Viet Nam's President Ngo Dinh Diem say that the war should be won "within three years." There are many soldiers in South Viet Nam who consider this wildly optimistic; some believe that the war may never be won. But almost everyone agrees that things have improved.

Time Magazine, Friday, March 31, 1967:
Nonetheless, a note of optimism permeated the conference. "There are many signs that we are at a favorable turning point," the President said at the outset. That theme was elaborated in detail as U.S. and South Vietnamese officials met on Nimitz Hill, the U.S. naval headquarters overlooking the Philippine Sea. . . .

The military situation in Viet Nam gave ample cause for confidence. South Viet Nam's Premier Nguyen Cao Ky said that the Communist forces in his country are "on the run" and pictured the supply system in the North as "in near paralysis."

Time Magazine, Friday, March 28, 1969:
"Progress" in Viet Nam is a relative and fragile thing at best. But within limits, a prognosis of progress seems more valid than at any time since the U.S. arrived.

The history of the war is all too painfully graven in false optimism. Again and again, U.S. hopes have been raised by officials armed with gleaming statistics and pollyanna rhetoric. First the U.S. "turned the corner" in Viet Nam; then there was "light at the end of the tunnel," "the enemy was on the run," and the attrition rates, the kill ratios, and all the other jargon of victory rolled on and on.

Since they have been proved wrong so often in the past, U.S. experts are careful not to parade their latest positive assessments; indeed, they almost tend to conceal them. But those currently in charge of the war in the field are convinced that "the curve is up" at last.

So, it seems like I have heard many of these same kinds of statements in the last three years about the war in Iraq. It’s pretty striking, really. Of course, you can’t really use these statements from forty years ago to actually predict what might happen in the future on a much different war involving vastly different circumstances. But, the similarities of these statements are impossible to ignore. Moreover, these statements show the tendencies of those who really have a stake in the outcome, such as politicians, top military commanders, and the compliant press to try to put the “best face possible” on something that people are really beginning to suspect may turn out very, very badly.

I will say this, though. I was only into my double digits, age-wise, and early teens during the height of the Vietnam war, so I was not wholly cognizant of what was going on a day-to-day basis. I wasn’t even certain who were the good guys, once I got past the U.S. as one of the good guys, and who were the bad guys. But I certainly never remember so many ex-generals and military types blasting away with some very public, very withering criticism of President Bush.

All in all, I say that none of this bodes very well for our chances of success in Iraq.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Today’s Ten Minute History Lesson: The origins of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, aka The Elks Club.

I find history fascinating. All sorts of history; relatively recent and very ancient, hugely important events and insignificant tidbits. When I was taking my undergraduate engineering curriculum, most of my electives were about history. I took a great graduate level course about the 25 years in America just preceding the Civil War. I think I graduated before I could take the companion course, which was about the Civil War itself. Too bad, too. I had a great instructor, Professor John Marzalek, who wrote “Assault at West Point, the Court Martial of Johnson Whittaker”, which was later turned into a very good film. It’s rather funny in that, as I came away with a degree in electrical engineering, this course in history was the one that I remember most fondly in my undergraduate work.

However, my experience aside, I think schools, at all levels, do a disservice when they teach history. Teaching history seems to mostly be about details and dates. Who did what to whom when. I imagine that the hardcore graduate level history courses, like the one that I mentioned above, get into more details and probe the meanings of all these happenings that affect where we are now as a civilization. But in grade school and high school, it is just a dull roar of details that you have to memorize for a test. You never get the actual flavor of the times, or a real sense that these were real people who did not know the outcome of all their actions at the time. Everything at that time was still yet to be determined, and could have easily gone the other way! In high school, history class isn’t about real people in real, unfolding events with uncertain outcomes. It is just another subject that you have to get through, one way or another, full of stultifying details and fuzzy black and white pictures of people in funny clothes.

I just find it a very interesting “thought experiment” to try to put myself in the place of the people who I am reading about, what their surroundings were actually like, what they thought, why they did what they did. That’s what’s missing from how history is taught.

Therefore, just because I find it interesting, I am going to start a new feature here at Barking Rabbits, if you can call something I might do now and then whenever the mood strikes me “a feature”, called “The Ten Minute History Lesson”, where I will quickly give the historical background on a subject that I find particularly interesting or amusing. It will be something hopefully interesting and easily digestible. Here’s this week’s/month’s installment, this time about the origins of the Elk’s Club.

(The following is an excerpt from the book by J. Anthony Lucas, entitled “Big Trouble” (Copyright 1997, Simon & Schuster). It is about the real events that took place in Idaho and other points in the Pacific Northwest around 1906 to 1912, mostly centered around the strife between labor vs. mine owners, which many times took the form of outright violence and the unabashed, unapologetic violation of many people’s civil rights. It is a very enjoyable read, although rather long.)

The Elks were born in 1867 when a young Englishman named Charles Vivian, just off the boat from Liverpool, banged through the swinging doors of John Ireland’s Star Chop House on New York’s waterfront and – with a few renditions of “Who Stole the Monkey?” and “Jimmy Riddle, Who Played the Fiddle?” – launched his music hall career. The song-and-dance man owed his success, in no small part, to a game he introduced to the tavern.

Called the Cork Trick, it began when a dupe was brought to the table full of genial men and invited to join “the Jolly Cork Society”. Each member put a cork on the table. The Imperial Cork (Vivian) explained that, when he counted three, the last man to raise his cork bought the next round of drinks. At the sound of three, the dupe instantly brandished his cork above his head. It took a bit of explaining to show him that, though he was first, he was last as well, for none of the others had so much as raised their corks off the table. Grousing under his breath, the new Cork paid up and promptly began plotting revenge on the next sucker.

Before long, the Cork Trick as the rage of New York’s theatrical world and Vivian found himself presiding over an ever-growing organization. But there was a hitch: blue laws kept the city’s theaters and taverns closed on Sunday, thus cheating bibulous show business folk of the one day on which they were free to disport themselves. To evade this regulation, the Jolly Corks found a new meeting place on Delancey Street and formed an appropriately high-sounding body to lease it, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

At the start, Elks came almost exclusively from “the theatrical, minstrel, musical, equestrian and literary professions,” but gradually the doors opened to doctors, businessmen, even clergymen. And since theater people were incessantly on tour, they carried the order with them across the land. If the Elks began as a way for New York actors to drink on Sunday, it rapidly became a socially acceptable excuse for men of all pursuits to make merry whenever they felt like it. (The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine – better known as the Shriners – had its inception at another New York tavern, the Knickerbocker Cottage, at about the same time, and once more at the behest of an actor. Perhaps it took a theatrical imagination to conceive these fanciful bodies.)

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. That’s how the Elks Club came about, with their buildings that look like they haven’t really been cleaned or painted in years, with rows and rows of photos of doughy looking old white guys hanging on the wall when you enter. It all started as a rigged game called “the Jolly Cork Society”, whose sole purpose was to enable of bunch of inebriated New York City actors to scam a round of drinks from an unsuspecting rube.

You just don’t get that kind of insight from your basic high school history class.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Evangelical Christians as victims?

It’s difficult to decide what to write on these days. I would normally just pick a subject that sparked some outrage in me on that particular day. These days, the outrage is coming in as a constant, heavy barrage. I’m being worn down by constant outrage. Outrage has got its jump shot going, big time. Just pick a story off the web or some of the more progressive papers these days and you find yet another thing to be outraged about. I just saw where Bush plans to double his escalation in Iraq, euphemistically called a “surge”, and we may have close to 200,000 combat troops in Iraq by year’s end. Where all this manpower is going to come from is unknown, as we are barely able to keep up with Bush’s demand on the military even with all the extended tours and early recalls. There is the entire fiasco that is still unfolding about the politicization of the Dept. of Justice, which is well on its way to becoming a political arm of the Republican Party. I am looking forward to Monica Goodling, the 30-something graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regents University that was apparently in charge of a whole lot of everything at the Justice Dept., even with her extremely limited experience as a litigator. I just saw a story that pretty much confirms that she was using some form of loyalty oath to Bush, the Republican Party, and All Things Conservatives Care About before she would even consider them for a job, a promotion or decline to think about kicking them out of their current jobs.

There’s just so much that a person prone to outrage to choose from. I start suffering from outrage vaporlock. However, I’ll stick with this subject, as I had planned on writing something about it for the last few days. I’ll probably get to the DOJ thing in a day or two.

What got my goat was a story I saw in a couple of places, specifically DailyKos and Talking Points Memo. It seems like Newt Gingrich, well known right wing power hungry crybaby, gave a speech at Jerry Fawell’s Liberty University. One of his main points was that Christians are a severely put-upon group in America today and this anti-Christian discrimination MUST STOP! Of course, he got several long ovations from the unusually receptive audience when this point was made.

I cannot begin to imagine how Gingrich and everyone who thinks like him can possibly imagine that Christians are somehow discriminated against. However, this story plays big with the Fundamentalist Christians, usually of the Southern Baptist variety, who like to imagine themselves the ultimate victims. Maybe it has to do with Jesus suffering unjust torture and, ultimately, death at the hands of disbelievers. I don’t know. Victimhood is certainly a great way to whip up some passion in both yourself and your audience.

Here are a few little facts that I think such people would do well to ponder on before crying out, very publicly, about how unjust this society is toward Christians.

- Over 90% of Americans profess belief in the Christian version of God or some other sort of creative force that controls the universe.
- There are huge amounts of churches in every single town in America, none of them are subject to harassment or threats of violence, except for the very infrequent attacks by crazies or bored college students who are out for a prank.
- There are large number of television, radio, internet and print outlets for Christians, none of them subject to any sort of censorship or even required to pay taxes, even when they are obviously operating outside their status as a tax-exempt institution.
- Every single candidate running for President must profess his or her belief in the Supreme Being. To not do so will just about guarantee they will not win the election. Even an “outlayer” religion, like John Kennedy’s or John Kerry’s Catholicism or Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is subject to deep suspicion from the more “mainstream Christianity” of this country.
- Christians are free to organize and run their own schools, and not be required to get their curriculum approved by any government agency.
- Christmas and other Christian holidays are officially recognized by the government, and, although it certainly has been co-opted by merchandisers and very large and powerful economic interests, Christmas remains the only religious holiday during the year for which time off for all employees in the country can expect time off from work with pay.

I see absolutely zero evidence of any harassment by official government sources. I see no large demonstrations to protest any sort of Christian observances, traditions or actions. I have never heard about any Christian being denied a job or housing based solely on their chosen religion. And I am absolutely positive that Christians are not being rounded up by jackbooted storm troopers to be put on trains bound for concentration camps or slaughtered by the U.S. Army in the middle of a religious ceremony, such as happened with Native Americans at Wounded Knee. So, where, exactly, is this discrimination coming from?

The way I see it, the thing that has Fundamentalist Christians in such as snit is this. First off, the people currently in power in the government and media have been pushing the concept of Christianism (as opposed to Christians, who are just believe who believe in Jesus and the Christian version of God, and with whom I have no real bone to pick), whose central tenet is that one’s faith should absolutely be used to further one’s goals in government at all levels. It is much easier to achieve these goals when you getting everyone’s sympathy about how discriminated you are. The goals that everyone has dreamed about for years, ever since the “hippie free-love-fest” of the 60’s, now seem very much in reach. Christianists would very much like to see the public school system dismantled, government remade in order that it served the needs of their religion, and anyone opposed to their actions would be not only relegated to the sidelines, they would be actively demonized and harassed. Morality would be enforced by both religious and civil laws. And not just morality. It would be “their kind of morality.” No gays or lesbians need apply, and people of color might be tolerated so long as they know their place and keep in it.

What has these folks so up in arms nowadays is the fact that a lot of the people on the other side of the fence are now actively pushing back on their desires and pointing out the inconsistencies and in some cases, unconstitutionality of their actions. They don’t like that. Nothing should stand in their way of achieving the “perfect society”, even when they openly advocate dismantling of our current form of democratic government and repression of any sort of free speech that they consider to be abusive toward any of their beliefs, spiritual or otherwise.

I find it absolutely amazing that people like Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and the rest are absolutely intent on pushing the victimhood of Christians in this country, and not give a second thought to how ludicrous their claim actually is.

Personally, I think the converse is true. It is actually those people like myself who profess either to heavy skepticism or outright disbelief in any deity, Christian or otherwise, who are the victims of discrimination. I was routinely harassed and ridiculed in high school (in rural Alabama, in the middle of Southern Baptist country) by my fellow students and was told I was going to Hell by a local preacher. My nickname was “Athein”. I was routinely whacked in the head during mandatory prayer our basketball team held before each and every game. You don’t have to look any further than the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to see how influential Evangelical Christianists have become in the U.S. military. And, as I said before, unless things change significantly in this country, an atheist will never, ever become President.

So, who exactly is it again that is the subject of discrimination in this country, Newt?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Very old steam locomotives

The first photo is at Mukilteo, WA May 19, 2007. Assisted by the Southern Pacific, SP 4449, the two locomotives pull an excursion train from Tacoma to Everett, WA. The tracks at Mukilteo are close to the water and run next to Lighthouse Park, and offer a very nice place to view rail operations between Seattle, Vancouver, Canada, and east over Stevens Pass on the old Great Northern route.

The second photo is at Amtrak Station Everett, WA May 19, 2007. Assisted by UP 844, Southern Pacific, SP 4449 pulls an excursion train from Tacoma to Everett, WA. While stopped at Everett, the two locomotives had changed places, as UP 844 was in the lead when I saw the train coming north at Mukilteo. The pair had a little difficulty with the grade coming around the corner from Delta Yard into the station, as both were puffing heavily and I could hear the change in frequency when the wheels lost traction with the rails and spun out for several seconds.

It's probably a little difficult to believe these days that most of this country was founded on the back of these types of trains, along with their smaller predecessors. Trains are really integral to the history of this country. Maybe I'll write a post on the great Pullman strike. It's too bad that the people who ran these early railroads were robber barons to the nth degree, and crushing people who got in their way was rather run of the mill activity for them.

See, I thought I might find a way to find some outrage....

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cubic watermelons, who woulda thunk it?

Japanese people pay a very tidy sum for these babies, upwards of 50 bucks each, I believe. I suppose this proves two things. One, the Japanese people are very inventive, even when it comes to melons. Two, their consumers are just as enamored of novelty items as are Americans.

Why is it always the media’s fault when a country is losing a war?

You hear this a lot these days from the wingers. I am paraphrasing and doing some lumping together, but the main argument seems to be that one reason the war in Iraq in not going very well is that the newspapers and other media keep running negative stories. Consequently, moral of the troops and the “home front” is low and the enemies are emboldened. I think I have that correct.

It seems like this has been a constant theme for as long as there have been wars and a press to cover them. In World War I, for example, when it became apparent that the Allies were turning the tide and were really gathering momentum, one of the two German generals administering the war, Erich Ludendorff (Paul von Hindenburg being the other) started “losing it”, shall we say. He was blaming the press for not being an ardent enough supporter of the way and for the flagging moral of the civilian population of Germany. Never mind that they didn’t have any food, most able-boded men between 16 and 45 were either in the army or were already dead, the local economy was collapsing, every single detail of their civilian lives was being disrupted even down to confiscating all metal objects in a town, such as church bells, pots and pans, even jewelry, so the military could make bullets out of them. That had nothing to do with it at all. No, it was all the fault of the newspapers. Well, he was also blaming “leftists” and Jews as well. And he blamed Kaiser Wilhelm as well for not formulating a better war plan, even though Ludendorff and Hindenburg had pretty much grabbed control of the entire country and relegated the Kaiser to the sidelines. Everyone got blamed for the coming collapse and eventual surrender of Germany to the Allies except for himself.

Does any of this sound familiar? And people wonder why the U.S. now has a “war czar”, who is only a three star general who is expected to tell four star generals what to do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Well, I’m really glad to see that total blindness to the truth is not confined to the Bush Administration.

It turns out the Pope is totally ignorant of history, culture and religions other than Christianity. The other alternative is that he is a big liar.

This is via Americablog:

In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were "silently longing" for Christianity, he said.

Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.

Uh, huh. “Longing for Christianity”.... And they even knew that Christianity existed prior to the arrival of the Europeans, how again? I don’t know if I have ever seen such an outlandishly asinine and profoundly ignorant statement by someone of such a power and influence. And yes, that includes George Bush.

I am continually amazed about the conceit of true believers of any ilk. They cannot even begin to imagine that someone else might have a valid opinion that is different from their own. I suppose that is to be expected, given human nature. No one is walking around saying “Well, I am totally convinced that what I believe is 100% absolute truth, but I sure wish someone would come along and convince me I am wrong and force me to believe something else.” Every single one of us is absolutely convinced that we know that we are correct in whatever we believe. That is the basic example of a truism. A equals A. If we weren’t convinced that we knew “the truth”, then we would go find something that we believe does represent “the truth”. The human mind does not like a vacuum like that. We need some sort of stable platform upon which we can form the basis of “self”. However, the unfortunate corollary of this is that we cannot believe that anyone who doesn’t believe the same things we do holds a valid viewpoint. “I am right, you are wrong. End of story.” What makes this tendency even worse in today’s society is that we now have very little social constraints upon trying to impose our beliefs on everyone else. Fundamentalist Christians are now the worse offenders of the bunch.

Getting back to the Pope… How can a person of his learning and background make such a stupid statement that is so obviously 180 degrees out of phase with the historical truth? This is on the same level as those who would deny that the Holocaust occurred. All statements like that accomplish by persons in a position of power and influence is that they end up looking like morons. What I can’t figure out is if he really believes that, or if he just thinks (like so many in America do these days) if he says something often enough and with authority that somehow the actual truth shall somehow be altered and people will now believe whatever he says. The former is a bit scary, but the latter is truly Orwellian. “Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.”

Then again, maybe he is just getting a bit senile?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beyond scary. Alberto Gonzales attempts downright illegal and unethical actions to get Bush’s illegal wiretapping program approved.

This post at Daily Kos puts it all together in a very terrifying way. I have been following this story for the last couple of days, but since my posting is rather irregular, I don’t usually post on current events. By the time I actually post something, that “current event” is no longer current.

However, this is just so incredible, I had to say something. This is from Kargo X at Daily Kos.

While John Ashcroft lay sedated in the hospital, having handed the reins of the Department over to Comey as Acting Attorney General, Comey got word that then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card were on their way to try and pry out of Ashcroft the approval for their surveillance programs that Comey had refused them.

Comey: So I hung up the phone, immediately called my chief of staff, told him to get as many of my people as possible to the hospital immediately. I hung up, called [FBI] Director Mueller, with whom I'd been discussing this particular matter and who'd been a great help to me over that week, and told him what was happening. He said, "I'll meet you at the hospital right now."

I told my security detail that I needed to get to George Washington Hospital immediately. They turned on the emergency equipment and drove very quickly to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran up -- literally ran up the stairs with my security detail...

Sen. Schumer: What was your concern? You were in, obviously, a huge hurry.
Comey: I was concerned that given how ill I knew the Attorney General was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me, when he was in no condition to do that.

Schumer: Right.

Comey: I was worried about him, frankly. So I raced to the hospital room, entered, and Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed. Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened. And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening. And it wasn't clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.
Schumer: And at that point it was you, Mrs. Aschroft and the Attorney General, and maybe medical personnel in the room. No other Justice Department or government officials.

Comey: It was just the three of us at that point. I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn't clear that I had succeeded. I went out in the hallway, spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. He handed the phone to the director of the security detail, and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. And I went back in the room.

Card and Gonzales arrived shortly thereafter, tried to persuade Ashcroft to authorize their activities, but failed and ultimately left the room. Within minutes after that, Card called Comey and demanded an immediate meeting on his turf, in the White House. Comey told Card that:

After the conduct I had just witnessed, that I would not meet with him without a witness present. He said, "What conduct? We were just there to wish him well."
I said again, after what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness, and I intend that witness to be the Solicitor General of the United States.

Does everyone fully appreciate that? On Wednesday, March 10, 2004, the fate of the rule of law in this country was put in doubt by the thuggery of Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, acting on behalf of the White House and the President of the United States. And at the critical moment, it all turned only on the presence of the guns of the FBI agents posted outside John Ashcroft's hospital room.
Anybody still think he's just going to roll over and comply with subpoenas?

I absolutely agree with this conclusion. This gang of thugs that we have in the White House cares not one single iota for the rule of the law. They are going to get what they want, no matter the means, legal or illegal. They will not answer any question that they don’t want to answer. They will attempt to obfuscate, and if that doesn’t work, they will tell outright lies, even under oath, if it serves their purpose. If you don’t believe me, go back and review the entire Scooter Libby trial.

These people absolutely do not believe in democracy. If this isn’t a blatant example of fascism, I don’t know what is. If you read the above narrative without names or context, you would probably guess that it comes from the Soviet Union in the 60’s. And one of the main perps in this story is now the highest ranking legal official in the U.S. government! What is it going to take for the rest of America to wake up to what is going on right underneath our collective noses? 2008 cannot come soon enough for me.

Here’s some more on this column from Dan Froomkin, with lots and lots of links.

Good analysis at TPM.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More thoughts on hypocrisy and the Republican Party’s litmus test

I hadn’t really intended, in the post below, to really get into the morality of abortion. However, the volatility of the issue kind of makes avoiding that discussion impossible. My single commenter on that thread went that way, in any event. What I had intended to discuss what the fact that the Fundamentalist Christians and other groups opposing abortion demand lock step adherence to their views before they will support that candidate. After all, George Bush and Karl Rove have been telling people for the last six plus years that religious views SHOULD guide their voting patterns. So, many voters are taking that message to heart. They are expecting, without any equivocation at all, that their candidates support their views and only their views.

In today’s Washington Post (registration required), E. J. Dionne has a column that touches on what I did in my post of last week. That is, Rudy Giuliani came out in support of a woman’s right to choose regarding that most sensitive of subjects. Now, he is going to be in hot water with the anti-abortion folks in the Republican Party. Or else, he should be, if they don’t want to be seen as complete hypocrites (which I also mentioned in my response to my commenter).

If he sticks with his decision, Giuliani will end the free ride his party has enjoyed on an issue that's supposed to be about morality but has more often been used cynically to harvest votes.

Giuliani will also test the seriousness of those who claim that abortion is the decisive issue in the political choices they make.

Bush has been a master at insisting on his devotion to "the culture of life" while avoiding hard commitments that might offend advocates of choice. His crafty approach paid substantial dividends in the 2004 election.

Media exit polls found that 55 percent of voters surveyed thought abortion should be "always" or "mostly" legal, while 42 percent said it should be "always" or "mostly" illegal.

Given these numbers, how did the antiabortion candidate win? Bush took three-quarters of the votes cast by abortion opponents, but he also managed to get the votes of one-third of those who favored legal abortion -- meaning that his artful hedging worked. Republicans would love to keep that game going.

Will conservative Catholic bishops and intellectuals, along with evangelical preachers and political entrepreneurs, be as tough on Giuliani as they were on John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign? If they are not, how will they defend themselves against charges of partisan or ideological hypocrisy?

He knew this position could not stand, so by the end of last week, he had reaffirmed his support for abortion rights and extolled the fact that Americans "understand how to respect each other's differences."

That's true, unless a liberal Democrat happens to take exactly the same position as Giuliani, and happens to be a Catholic, as Giuliani is. Yes, the heavens came down upon John Kerry.

This is the point that I really would like to bring out. Truthfully, I am not totally certain I have a firm position on abortion. I believe I am much more on the “pro-choice” side of things, but I can also see why someone else would see it differently. But here is what irks me about this discussion. If the Republican party really wants to do something about this issue, then they should shut the heck up and DO IT, instead of dragging it out of the cupboard every two/four/six year election cycle and assaulting their opponent with it, when they have absolutely no intention of actually following through on actually doing anything. The entire debate in this country today is a tool, a device, in which politicians can get their supporters energized and attract more potential supporters who care only about that issue. The politicians in charge don’t really care about this. I just wish that many of the Republican voters would see this as well. I am not asking that they vote Democratic. I am just asking them to wake up to the fact that they are being manipulated by a bunch of cynical and devious politicians who desire nothing else that to retain their power with whatever means available.

That is the issue that I would like to see openly discussed, and it really has nothing at all to do with the morality of the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Barking Rabbits One-Year Anniversary! Where’s the cocktail weenies?

Well, that was a fast year, all things considered. Doesn’t seem like a year has passed. I won’t say I have accomplished much of anything in this last year, other than to keep my non-technical writings skills from degrading entirely. I also got to vent a lot about what might be bothering me that particular day, one of the benefits of having your own blog. You get to make your own damn rules, thank you very much. “Whaddya mean, ‘stay on topic’?!?”

I was originally going to call the blog “Pithy Cabbages”, just because I liked the sound of it and it is complete nonsense. One of my posting partners, who I believe has made all of two posts, convinced me that Barking Rabbits was a much better name, albeit less nonsensical, and she even came up with some graphic art of a really annoyed bunny. But, even with the new blogspot version, I have yet to figure out how to put graphics in the header. If I ever figure out how to put one in, I still have it in memory.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thoughts on what it’s going to take to preserve our society, if not mankind itself

Global warming and its close cousin, global climate change, are coming at us faster than we could have imagined. Estimates are now that the northern ice cap will be totally gone within 35 years. With it goes a natural “refrigerator” that helps keep the Earth cool during the northern hemisphere’s summer months. Additionally, there will be no large white reflective surface that reflects the sun’s energy back into space. Thus, we get hit with the “double whammy” that results from the loss of the polar ice caps. The loss of the polar bear habitat is tragic, but of small consequence when compared to what the overall effect is.

At the same time this is going on, we are looking at the end of what is euphemistically called “cheap plentiful energy”. “Plentiful”, it has been. “Cheap” depends on your definition of the term. It has been extraordinarily expensive when you measure the impact on the health of the planet. But the times of “plentiful” are now coming to an end. Various experts argue about whether or not we have already hit “peak oil production (when overall oil production starts to decline and not increase), or whether that will happen 20 to 40 years in the future. However it turns out, the best-case scenario for when we hit peak oil is still within the lifetime of many people living today. It is coming, and very soon, if it isn’t already here.

What we really need is a global mobilization to take on these problems. How are going to sustain our global economy when getting your products from point A to point B becomes prohibitively expensive, even if you have the energy to produce a product in the first place? And how are we to combat the very real effects of global warming, which can do everything from obliterating entire food producing regions of the globe to covering major coastal cities with several feet of water? Recall the devastation of New Orleans after the levees broke, and transpose that to New York City, Boston and Miami.

Are we going to revert to burning coal, which was the prevalent energy source before oil based products became omnipresent? What would that do to worsen the effects of all the green house gasses already in the atmosphere?

We really need a massive project that spans nations that would dwarf the Manhattan Project. We are going to need answers to these questions very quickly, so that we can begin to implement them. However, this would take the combined efforts of visionaries and politicians in every industrialized country. That isn’t going to happen. Most of the industrialized nations are either focused on become more industrialized, like China and India, or else have just succumbed to the siren call of making an easy buck, no matter the long term consequences.

It just isn’t going to happen, and I predict the collapse of society on a global scale is not going to be a pretty sight to behold. I wish it were otherwise, but I cannot seem mankind obtaining the wisdom to confront these problems that are looming and having the political will to actually implement the drastic changes that are going to be necessary. We are too comfortable in our way of life and notion of superiority to actually believe that we might be threatened by the very lifestyle we find so comforting.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

From the "that's not my job" files.

This time, courtesy of the Department of Road Maintenance. Some people have a very narrow view of their job description....

The Republican Party’s litmus tests for presidential candidates.

Boy, it is looking like it is going to be very unlikely we will get someone from the Republican party who isn’t under the thumbnail of several special interest groups, namely the Fundamentalists and the NRA. Mitt Romney has been off trying to make himself look like a hard core Southern Baptist, which is a good trick for a Mormon. Same for John McCain, who I amazingly used to like, back in his “straight talk express” days, but is now trying to suck up to Jerry Fawell, Pat Robertson and that bunch. You have to apparently believe in 100% of everything the far right “Christianists” do, or they aren’t going to support you for president. The Big Business interests are a bit more pragmatic, I think, such that they will support anyone they see as following on with the special tax breaks and lax oversight provided by most of the Republican party. But the Fundies? No, I don’t think so. I mean, they even declared Fred Thompson not “Christian enough” the other day for their support.

That is why I think Giuliani really stepped in it this last week by declaring his support of a woman’s freedom to choose regarding abortion. That was actually a very good statement he made, where he said that people with differing viewpoints on this very emotional issue were all moral, and that we had to honor everyone’s position, especially those who are making the choice for themselves. I thought that a very straight up, honest and fine answer. I also think the Christianists will eat him alive for it.

This is an amazing thing where all the candidates for president from one of the two major parties has to pretend he or she holds every single viewpoint that the special interests holds, or else they have no realistic shot at getting that party’s nomination. Incomprehensible. I have always found it surprising that the Republicans are made up of so many different groups, such as Big Business, Fundamentalist Christians, anti-government types of all persuasions, etc. etc., and yet they are able to march, en masse, to a single drummer. If things continue as they are going now, however, I could see where the rest of the Republicans could just say, “screw this” and defect to the Democratic party (which is already underway in Kansas and other western states, which have elected the “blue dog Democrats”), or else form a third party. If someone like Chuck Hagel from the Republicans, who I like and think a lot of, even though I don’t agree with his actual stance on many governmental issues, and some truly moderate from the Democratic party could get together and make a third party run in the 2008 elections, I think this is the best chance this country has had since the Bull Moose party to have a viable third political party.

As it stands now, however, I am going to be very depressed when I see the Republican party’s platform for their convention. If they take us back any further into the past, we might start having the “free silver/gold standard” debate all over again.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The New Horizons spacecraft snaps Jupiter and Europa on its way to Pluto

Talk about science being exciting and beautiful at the same time. This is from the New Horizons website. Isn't that just a wonderful photo?

New Horizons took this image of the icy moon Europa rising above Jupiter’s cloud tops with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 11:48 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, six hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach to Jupiter.

The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for artistic, rather than scientific, value. This particular scene was suggested by space enthusiast Richard Hendricks of Austin, Texas, in response to an Internet request by New Horizons scientists for evocative, artistic imaging opportunities at Jupiter.

The spacecraft was 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Jupiter and 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) from Europa when the picture was taken. Europa's diameter is 3,120 kilometers (1,939 miles). The image is centered on Europa coordinates 5 degrees south, 6 degrees west. In keeping with its artistic intent - and to provide a more dramatic perspective - the image has been rotated so south is at the top.

There are many things I do not care for in our current society. However, one thing I am just truly proud to see mankind achieve is the level of understanding of the universe that we live in. There are many, many mysteries still out there, and the more we learn, the more mysterious things get. But we now know an astounding amount about the universe in which we live. Closer to home, we have sent probes to every major planet. New Horizons is scheduled to get to Pluto and its bizarre set of three moons sometime in 2013. I can’t wait to see those photos.

In the past few years, we have dune buggies running around Mars, where they have discovered conclusive evidence that Mars was once an extremely wet place. The twin rovers have returned absolutely astounding photographs that look like you took your new Nikon digital camera out to some desolate areas in Arizona. We shot a spacecraft through the gap in Saturn’s rings and dropped a probe onto Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, where we discovered weather patterns based on a methane cycle. We have taken close up photos of both a comet and an asteroid. Many asteroids, in fact, and we have actually landed/controlled crashed a space probe directly onto the surface of the asteroid Eros.

This technology is absolutely astounding, as it our curiosity that drives us to find out what we don’t currently know. We know things, today, that no one in the history of mankind has ever known or even suspected. I feel that I am extraordinarily lucky to have lived during this period of time, for that reason alone.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

How you know you are in the middle of a bad day.

“Well, officer, there was this deer at the end of the runway when I was taking off.”

This occurred in Seattle a number of years ago. The pilot was fine, but was left hanging upside down by his seatbelt for a number of hours, waiting to be rescued. He finally was, by a large fire truck with an extension ladder. This event tied up traffic for most of the day on a well-traveled secondary highway in an industrial area. To say the least, a very bad day, but very fortunately was able to be rescued with little damage to said pilot. I don’t remember how they got the airplane down from the power lines. Unfortunately, the pilot of this airplane died in the past two years, I think, in another airplane crash. I don’t remember if he was the pilot of that airplane or not.

A response to a critical comment to some of my posts.

Although ludlowlou said he did like my puppy, he made a pointed comment about what he saw as a disconnect about my position on guns and my fear that the government is being taken over by right wingers with an agenda that does not match the founding fathers. I was originally going to just reply to his comment, but the answer got so long, I might as well make it into a post.

Like I said, I will admit to being a bit irrational about guns, just as the NRA people are irrational on the opposite side. They aren’t willing to listen to much reason about the insanity of some of their positions. I’ve rather made up my mind as well. I won’t go into that debate here, but I find it incredibly the same group of people who can be so concerned and passionate about doing away with abortion can also just close their eyes to the 30,000 gun deaths every single year in this United States. It doesn’t make sense to me.

He also dinged me on Jefferson, who said something to the effect “sometimes it is neccessary to spill a little blood to maintain your freedom”. True stuff, indeed. I fully support having this country strong enough to defend itself from all threats. World War II, of course, was a great example of this. World War I was helping out our allies, which could be seen as defending our country, when they were on the verge of losing. Korea and Vietnam, I don’t know if I have yet made up my mind. I don’t know much about the reasons for the Korea conflict. Vietnam at least had a stated lofty goal. But that goal got away from us. My main point here is that this devastating military force needs to be used well, used intelligently, and used with reluctance. None of that has happened with this war in Iraq. We were lied to in order to get Bush and Cheney’s war of choice, and when we were there, it was handled just about as incompetently as anything this country has ever done.

But I don’t think that was ludlowlou’s point. He was asking how I would propose that the populace protect itself from an out of control government. I guess that’s a good question. I also said in one of my posts that I was not in favor of the government trying to round up everyone’s weapons. Wouldn’t work for several reasons. So, I am not in favor, from a pragmatic point of view, of the abolition of guns. Personally, I hate guns, but I am not advocating that.

One point is that protecting themselves from an out of control government is definitely not why the gun people in this country really want guns. I haven’t heard that argument in quite some time. But if that is true, where is the outrage about what is going on right now? From what I see, the gun people are the ones who are most supportive of Bush and actually support a lot of the stuff he is doing. The Constitution of this country is being ripped to shreds by Bush, Cheney, and their crack (I mean, as in “on crack”) staff of legal beagles, and no one on the right seems to give a damn. In fact, it all seems to be the “liberals” fault, along with the “liberal media”. So, from what I am observing, the pro-gun folks are asleep at the wheel, if that is the reason they want a huge cache of guns.

My point that I was making in this post was the fact I never hear the “liberal media” report on possible terrorist attacks from within this country by the ring wing white whackos that go around bombing abortion clinics or government facilities. It is always “the other” (currently Arabs of all persuasions) who is the enemy. We never look within to do any sort of self-checking. Why is the media not widely reporting the possibility of a large-scale terrorist attack by these loons in Alabama. That is surely what they had in mind. Or else, someone had spent a huge pile of money to sit on a weapons cache to supply a small regiment just so they could feel good about their manhood.

I suggest that we do a better job of it, protecting ourselves from the possibility that a tyrannically government might be able to install itself in this country UP FRONT. We are doing a crappy job of it right now. If we do that, we don’t need a population that is armed to the teeth to protect itself from its own government.

Thanks for making a good point, though. I did have to think about that one. Yes, I might be being a tad hypocritical in my thinking on gun control. But what I am proposing, making it much more difficult for people with criminal records and good “precursors” to get guns, just like the nutjob that killed those innocent people at VT. Why was he allowed to buy guns, with the background that he had? I am definitely not proposing to outlaw guns. Cars and drivers licenses are more regulated than guns, and guns, especially small handguns, are made with the expressed purpose of killing people. Why is that? I don’t know if there is a rational answer, other than the NRA and a significant (but not overwhelming, by any means) percentage of people want it that way.

If we are willing to put up with 30,000 gun deaths a year, including the predictable mass killings by out of control kids or lunatics like at VT or Columbine High School, then so be it, I guess. I makes absolutely no sense to me that we are worried about brown skinned Muslims trying to come over and do us harm (which some no doubt are), but we don’t care about 30,000 gun deaths a year. Makes no sense to me.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Shih Tzu blogging....

Well, even after almost a year at this, I am still trying to learn the ropes about what makes one a successful, occasionally snarky blogger full of insight. I have come to the conclusion that it is you put up weekly pictures of your pets. Why this works, I have no idea, but that seems to be the trick. tbogg has his Bassett Hounds, Kevin Drum has his cats, Jane Hamsher has Kobe, the wonder poodle, I think Taylor Marsh has cats as well. I may be wrong about that last one.

Well, in the interest of me becoming a successful, occasionally snarky blogger full of insight, I give you a pic (only one, thank you) of our 3-month-old Shih Tzu. If anyone has any good pointers about housebreaking a puppy, feel free to weigh in.

How you know you are about to have a bad day.

"Whadda mean, 'You guess you forgot to turn off the water before we left for the weekend last Friday'!?!!"

(True story, not photoshopped)

Yet another rant concerning the hijacking of our American system of government.

I had planned on doing some posts on some other topics besides politics, such as the planet Saturn, comparisons to The Gilded Age or why I am an atheist. However, I just can’t get my brain unwrapped enough from the train wreck that we euphemistically refer to as “our government” to be able to concentrate on and be coherent about any other subject.

I wrote a post several months ago, musing about how close we actually have come to a fascist state in America. I can’t figure out how to get the URL of a post that is more than 10 posts deep in a monthly archive. Stupid blogger. Just pick the March archive over to the right and scroll down until you see a picture of Mussolini, if you are interested. In that post, I listed everything I could think of at that time about how completely off-track this country is getting these days. There have been a couple of developments of late that has just left me awestruck about the magnitude of what Bush, Inc. is doing to this country.

The first is the huge effort of Karl Rove (that is only now really being uncovered) to make the Dept. of Justice into an arm of the Republican party. Seems like Alberto Gonzales signed a secret memo which apparently handed off all responsibility, except for a final signoff by AG, to his underlines, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, both of whom are rather young and very inexperienced. And they also just happened to have very close ties to Karl Rove. And these inexperienced people were able to fire, without any apparent official justification, senior presidential appointees such as the U.S. Attorneys for the states. Just superficial study will show that the people who were fired were those seen as not loyal enough to Bush and the Republican party, and those who were retained or installed were toadies to the nth degree. It is not be absolutely proven, but all indications are that some of the U.S. Attorneys were removed because they were getting too close to Republicans in office (such as Jerry Lewis) or influential lobbyists like Abramoff, or refused to push investigations of “voter fraud” or Democrats running for office right before the election. Kyle Sampson even referred to “loyal Bushies” as part of his criteria. And, it appears that Monica Goodling as been filtering candidates for Assistant U.S. Attorneys, which are not subject to a Senate confirmation, by their political party affiliation.

Such was the power vested in these two underlings that Alberto Gonzales apparently didn’t even know why the eight (possibly more) U.S.A.s were fired. He just signed off on what he was told to sign off on. He didn’t bring up this “delegation of authority” and his secret memo authorizing such delegation to the Senate committee that questioned Gonzales, under oath, several weeks ago. He just didn’t say anything about it. Kyle Sampson, while under oath, didn’t offer up such information. Rather, he pronounced himself a “consolidator”, whatever THAT means. No one told the truth about what was going on, and felt under no compunction to offer up any truth.

To summarize, Karl Rove has largely succeeded in making the Dept. of Justice into a tool which can be used to destroy political opponents and support loyalists. No one felt any need to tell the truth to the Senate committee, even under oath. And lest we forget, someone decided to amend the “Patriot” Act such that U.S.A.s no longer need to be approved by the Senate, they can act in the position on an “interim” basis for an indefinite period. And, based on what at least one candidate, Tim Griffin (Karl Rove’s friend who was given the job of interim U.S.A. in Arkansas), was saying he expected to have the position for the remainder of Bush’s term in office, without the need for a Senate confirmation process. Fired U.S.A.’s were subject to “threatening” phone calls that sure look like an attempt at keeping them quiet about why they thought they were fired.

This is something that you expect to see in the old Soviet Union, not the United States of America, where low level party officers dedicated to “the cause” could destroy a person’s career and change the course of government just based on their judgment that the target of their wrath wasn’t sufficiently “pure”. That is Orwellian stuff, not something that you associate with the country of Thomas Jefferson.

The next thing that really got my goat is George Tenet’s tell-all book, where he basically tries to make the case that nothing that went wrong with our war in Iraq (what HASN’T gone wrong) was his fault. He always knew that the case for war based on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction being aimed at the U.S. within the next few months or years was absolutely false. Yet, he didn’t say anything about it at the time. He wants to eat his cake (also known as “absolution”) and wants to have it (also known as the Medal of Freedom) too.

Yet, things that are apparently in his book (have not read it, don’t plan on it either) are more damning evidence that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the cabal planned on attacking Iraq as soon as they were in office. Tenet states (I’m paraphrasing from what I have read) that Iraq’s WMD’s were not the sole reason why war with Iraq was planned, or even the most important reason. He says that it was, however, the reason that could used to justify the war to the public.

Think about the enormity of that for a moment. This is what I can’t get my mind around. Bush and his minions wanted a war. They had no justification, other than they wanted to “get Saddam”. WMD’s and re-making the middle east in the image of the U.S. were rationalizations, not the primary cause. Bush has spent half a trillion of our dollars, which was originally going to be paid for by “Iraqi oil revenue”, killed over 3200 and injured over 20,000 of loyal and brave troops who believed that their leaders knew what they were doing, devastated an entire country in a conflict that has killed several hundred thousand Iraqis and left a huge raft of refugees trying to find sanctuary in an area where there is very little. And, oh yes, Bush has pretty much used up the entire world pool of goodwill toward the U.S. We are one of the most despised, most distrusted countries on the face of the earth right now.

All of this because this small group of people wanted a war with Iraq, for whatever reason. There is some fascinating stuff out there about Bush’s fixation to do his dad “one better” and to never admit any mistakes of any sort. That would be O.K. if the predictably bad results were confined to the political realm. But here, we are talking about people’s lives being destroyed. Not just the ones who have been killed, but the families they have left behind. Nothing will ever be the same again for these people, ever. And that doesn’t even start to mention the ones that have returned but with some severe psychological problems.

How could our system let this happen? What happened to our collective wisdom, judgment and moral compass? Our country is on the verge of becoming something that someone from the 1970’s would not recognize as the United States of America. This country, for the last few years, was on the verge of becoming a mirror image of the Soviet Union, but with multi-national mega-corporations and evangelical Christians at the heart of it instead of Stalinists. Most of the people of this country have been either been looking the other way at a real danger but probability uncertain of a possible terrorist attacks, were not paying any attention or were just too dumbstruck by the total audacity of this takeover of our government by radicals to even believe what was going on.

Luckily, the small percentage of people who were outspoken and courageous kept at it, and others in some position of influence have now found their voice and reason. However, our society remains a very shallow and superficial one. We are more concerned with the sexual dalliances of those in power and who is getting a 400 dollar haircut than finding out whether or not our President knowingly lied to the country in order to sell us his war-of-choice in Iraq and not going after the people who were REALLY behind the attacks of that hideous day in September of 2001. Hardly anyone, beyond a small but passionate group of progressives and liberals, seems to really care about getting that answer. I am wondering if we, as a country, are actually afraid to find that out, given what it might say about us.

The enormity of all of this is just staggering, as is the fact that Bush and his band of cronies almost got away with it.