Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This is one of the best sports-related stories I have seen in quite some time.

I don't normally post stuff like this, as I happened to be a terrible cynic and distinctly un-sentimental about most everything not related to puppies or young children. However, after months of months of just terribly depressing news stories, one after another, this one was just too good to ignore. And it has nothing to do with winning or losing. Or maybe it does, but shows that there are other, more important considerations than “winning”, such as sportsmanship, respecting one’s opponents and being a compassionate human being.

This is from the Seattle Times.

Something remarkable happened in a college softball game Saturday in Ellensburg. At least, I am conditioned to think it was remarkable, since it involved an act of sportsmanship, with two players helping an injured opponent complete the home run she had just slugged.

Why this generous act should seem so unusual probably stems from the normal range of bulked-up baseball players, police-blotter football players, diving soccer and hockey players and other high-profile professionals.

The moment of grace came after Sara Tucholsky, a diminutive senior for Western Oregon, hit what looked like a three-run homer against Central Washington. Never in her 21 years had Tucholsky propelled a ball over a fence, so she did not have her home run trot in order, gazing in awe, missing first base. When she turned back to touch the bag, her right knee buckled, and she went down, crying and crawling back to first base.

Pam Knox, the Western Oregon coach, made sure no teammates touched Tucholsky, which would have automatically made her unable to advance. The umpires ruled that if Tucholsky could not make it around the bases, two runs would score but she would be credited with only a single. ("She'll kill me if I take it away from her," Knox thought.)

Then Mallory Holtman, the powerful first baseman for Central Washington, said words that brought a chill to everybody who heard them:

"Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?"

The umpires huddled and said it would be legal, so Holtman and the Central Washington shortstop, Liz Wallace, lifted Tucholsky, hands crossed under her, and carried her to second base, and gently lowered her so she could touch the base. Then Holtman and Wallace started to giggle, and so did Tucholsky, through her tears, and the three of them continued this odd procession to third base and home to a standing ovation.

"Everybody was crying," Knox recalled Tuesday. "It was an away game, and our four fans were crying. We couldn't hit after that."

Not sure I can say much after that.

UPDATE: I had originally thought this was a local story. That is one reason I posted it. However, I was wrong. This has become a national story, with the same information showing up on Yahoo News and the CBS Morning Show. Well, that's great for all the ladies involved and both teams. I guess a lot of people were just as taken by this story as I was. But, it is a bit sobering to think one reason this hit such a nerve with people is that this kind of story is so damn rare these days. Sportsmanship and respect is, along with many other concepts that used to be part of the fabric of this country, some quaint and obsolete notion that just has no place in our society these days. See? My cyncial side returns...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Torture Nation! Plus, some bloggy introspection with a little despair thrown in for good measure.

The second anniversary of Barking Rabbits is fast approaching. This is of absolutely no importance to anyone, of course. I am just amazed that the time has gone by so fast, and that I have been able to come up with enough material to fill two years worth of postings. Not necessarily, “good material” or “interesting material”. Just “material”…

I wish I had the incisive wit to have a really funny, snarky blog like, say, Sadly, No! Those guys are really hysterical at times, and the comment section is even better sometimes. I wish I could do that. Mostly, however, what gets me in the mindset to write something is when I finally get upset about something enough to actually formulate a readable post that isn’t just a rant that doesn’t ever manage to include a point. Rants for the sake of rants relieve the tension and stress, but it hardly meets the criteria for being interesting enough for others to read it as well. I’ve always tried to keep that in mind. No matter the subject I post about, I wanted it to be such that someone else might also find it interesting and worthwhile spending a few minutes looking at.

I just read some more information on John Yoo and his legal memos which allowed people in the employment of the United States of America to torture subjects who haven’t even been legally charged with a crime, must less actually shown to be guilty. This just is so sick…

“It increasingly appears that the Bush interrogation program was already being used before Yoo was asked to write an opinion. He may therefore have provided after-the-fact legal cover. That would help explain why Yoo strained to take so many implausible positions in the memos.

Lawyers had told Bush administration officials that some of the techniques already in use were illegal, even criminal. In fact, a senior Pentagon lawyer described to me exchanges he had with Yoo in which he stressed that those using the techniques could face prosecution. Yoo notes in his Pentagon memo that he communicated with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department and got assurances that prosecutions would not be brought. The question becomes, was Yoo giving his best effort at legal analysis, or was he attempting to protect the authors of the program from criminal investigation and prosecution?

In any case, Yoo kept the program running. Even the man who came in to run the Office of Legal Counsel after Yoo's departure, Jack Goldsmith, has written that he understood Yoo's project this way. Goldsmith also rescinded Yoo's memos.”

The people at the top knew this was illegal and immoral. Yet, they proceeded to find legal cover, however flimsy, so the perpetrators could not face future prosecution. Hey, I got news for everyone. If you are doing something for which you feel you need legal protection in the future, you probably should not be doing it! How difficult a concept is this to grasp? And yet, we have the entire White House crew personally involved in the day-to-day decision making for who to torture and how to torture them.

I don’t have a link for this one, but I saw this on Countdown the other day. Someone had the nerve to ask ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft about waterboading. In public! The question was something like, please explain how the U.S. prosecuted Japanese Army soldiers and officers after WWII for using the same technique on our soldiers, to attempt to find out information they thought would be valuable to the cause of the Japanese Imperial Army, that we are now condoning and using on prisoners. Ashcroft got all huffy, apparently, and objected to the question on the following grounds. The Japanese torturers actually FORCED water down the throat and windpipe of the U.S. military personnel undergoing this “enhanced interrogation technique”. Where WE, the good guys in this war, only “pour” the water down the prisoners throat and windpipe.

That was the distinction used by the TOP legal official in the U.S. government
was making: “forcing” vs. “pouring” water down the nose and throat of someone such that they believe they are drowing. And Ashcroft actually had the balls to act upset that the questioner, plus about 80% of the rest of the country, could not see this distinction.

And conservatives accuse liberals of “moral relativism”?!? Mother of God… What kind of person could seriously make this argument and not expect to get laughed at in his face, much less the ex-A.G. of the United States? And that brings up another point, is that he did it because he felt that no one would call him on it! It’s only those traitorous liberals that would object to such a reasoned, rational argument!

I think I have found a good excuse for not to be able to be really humorous and snarky about these kinds of events. They are just too mind numbing to even comprehend that our government, the United States of America, is a bunch of thugs and liars, much less make jokes about them. All I see is despair and disillusionment.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


According to Webster’s, the definition of “entitlement” is:

1. The act or process of entitling.
2. The state of being entitled.
3. A government program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group: "fights . . . to preserve victories won a generation ago, like the Medicaid entitlement for the poor" (Jason DeParle).

Many people in the Republican party are all up in arms about “entitlements”. In their world, this means things like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, veteran’s benefits, subsidies for farmers, etc. Oh, wait a second. Farm subsidies in heavily rural areas which tend to be Republican strongholds like Iowa and Oklahoma aren't entitlements. Those are "good things". I forgot myself for a bit. Entitlements are things that the government has promised people, and people now depend on these payments. Things could get really tough for some of these folks if these pacts between the government and the citizens of this country, i.e., entitlements, were to be suddenly voided. In the world of conservatives, entitlements are tantamount to socialism. And, as “everyone knows”, socialism is evil and doesn’t work, and besides people in Canada waiting for hip replacement surgery have to wait over a year!

However, as interesting a subject as that is, that isn’t really what I want to talk about. I only introduced that meaning as a way of explaining what I am not talking about. How’s that for being vague?

Bob Herbert wrote an eye-popping column in the New York Times. Here is a little snippet.

An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life — and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.

Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

We have one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world,” said Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a discussion over lunch recently he described the situation as “actually pretty scary, alarming.”

Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education.

When two-thirds of all teenagers old enough to graduate from high school are incapable of mastering college-level work, the nation is doing something awfully wrong.

This got me thinking a bit. Here is what I was thinking about when the word “entitlement” popped into my mind. Entitlement, to me, means something that people just expect to have or receive, without really any basis for that expectation. It, whatever "it" is, is a God given right and no one should even question as to why I deserve it.

For example, the citizens of the U.S. have a mindset that says that this country is the greatest country that has ever been and can do no wrong. That way of thinking is obviously behind some of anger that pops out of the extreme right any time the left accuses George Bush of… just about anything. “How dare you, you Blame-America-Firster, you!” As if George Bush and the United States of America are the same thing…. Anyway, back to the point I am trying to make. Americans, back in the 40's, 50's and even early 60's, had good reasons for this attitude. After all, we were on the winning side in both World Wars. We were at the core of the free world during the Cold War. (Yes, Korea and Vietnam happened, those just don’t fit too well into the established narrative.) Our industrial might was second to none, we were the source of innovation and technology. We put men on the moon. We beat the Russians in hockey at Lake Placid. The Berlin Wall came down. All other nations either followed our lead or else were very wary of us. We were a supertanker in a lake full of sailboats.

However, things have changed without many Americans not having noticed that the world is a much different place than it was in the 1950’s. We still have this feeling of entitlement (See? I knew I would get around to making the connection sooner or later) that the position of America is still predominate in the world. Everyone else should concede to the superiorousness of the United States and kowtow whenever we feel we should be kowtowed to. We, as citizens of the United States of America, are entitled to all the adulation that the world can toss at us! If they don’t, then there is something seriously wrong with that country!

In the beginning of the 21st Century, the United States is still a large player in the world. However, this feeling of entitlement by the good citizens of this country make it really difficult to see, at times, that the U.S. has no real reason for this feeling of superiority. We are constantly being outclassed by other countries in the world on many fronts. Two of the few reasons remaining that other countries pay any attention to us at all is 1) we still have a bigger military than the rest of the world, combined, and 2) we have one of the largest consumer markets in the world. We are really good at buying stuff from other countries and throwing our weight around, militarily. Other than that, we don’t seem to be doing great shakes about much of anything. Our economy is teetering on the edge of meltdown, companies are abandoning the U.S. in the hopes they can make more money elsewhere, we have very little in the way of manufacturing left in this country, one third of our students don’t even graduate high school, and the few good jobs that do remain require a college degree. Things are not looking too swell for the future. In fact, “bleak” doesn’t even begin to cover it, in my mind. “Damn frightening” is more like it.

I agree with the central premise of Herbert's column. On the whole, the population of this country is really ignorant, and they are damn proud of it, too! Don’t tell US about problems like global climate change or oil at $150 a barrel! We know better! Facts be damned! We have our opinion, and that is MUCH better than facts. More people now believe in UFO's than they do in evolution.

So, even though everything is going to the crapper here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., most of the people in this country STILL expect us to be the Top Dog, the King of the Hill. God Bless America! (Which sort of implies, in my mind, that God couldn’t give a damn about all those other countries that aren’t America.) No one should ever tell us what to do, and we can demand, at any time for any reason, that others do our bidding at the drop of a hat or else we will start calling them insulting names like “Old Europe” or “cheese eating surrender monkeys”. China and Japan are expected to buy up our debt so we can continue on throwing money at the rich people of this country and in the black hole that is Iraq.

I can’t help but feel that many people in this country are in for a very, very rude awakening in about 15 or 20 years. I am just hoping, for very selfish reasons, it isn’t sooner than that. But I do feel very badly for the children and young people in this country, because they are going to inherent a world in which the “entitlements” they have been taught are rightfully ours are a thing of the past.

Money roll picture from here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More thoughts on Clay Bennett, NBA owner, duplicitous S.O.B. extraordinaire, and proponent of socialism for the wealthy.

Yep, the hits just keep on coming. Just as with all the various Bush administration scandals, revaluations are coming so frequently that it is hard to keep up with them. Here are some excepts, via the Seattle Times, of some of the e-mail between the various parties intent on moving the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City that are coming to light in two separate court cases. (One is by the city of Seattle, intent on making the Sonics play out their remaining two years of their valid at Key Arena, and the other is by former owner (and Starbucks coffee magnate) Howard Shultz, claiming that the ownership group that he sold the team to lied to him. Gee, Howard. Who would have guessed?)

• Bennett, like Litvin, worried that McClendon's comments could land the owners in legal trouble. In an Aug. 13, 2007, e-mail to McClendon, Bennett wrote: "Yes sir, we get killed on this one. I don't mind the PR ugliness (pretty used to it), but I am concerned from a legal standpoint that your statement could perhaps undermine our basic premise of 'good faith best efforts'... "

That's a reference to the language in the contract Bennett's group signed with former owner Howard Schultz promising to make "good faith best efforts" through Oct. 31, 2007, on a Seattle-area arena deal. Earlier this week, Schultz filed his own lawsuit, accusing Bennett's group of fraud and seeking to void the 2006 sale of the Sonics to the Oklahoma group.

• Sonics owners began trying to persuade NBA executives to approve an Oklahoma City relocation as early as last April, when it became clear the Washington Legislature would not approve a $500 million Renton arena.

Bennett e-mailed Litvin on April 23, 2007, saying a decision to leave Seattle was "not made in haste but in the context of now years of failing economics" and no prospects for a new arena. While Oklahoma City "is certainly a much smaller media market, this ownership group provides a unique relationship" with the city's business, media and political leaders and "can deliver a viable business operation and commitment to competitive teams," Bennett told Litvin, president of the NBA's league and basketball operations.

• In a July 2007 e-mail to fellow team owners, Bennett still left open the possibility of a Seattle-area arena deal, saying he was issuing a "last call to action to Seattle and Washington." Noting his good-faith promise to Schultz, Bennett said "we believe our efforts in the Legislature this past session satisfied the good faith condition" and that the owners' overall actions would persuade the NBA "we are exhausting every avenue in Seattle."

• Bennett displayed frustration with politicians. In an e-mail last April to Stern and Litvin, Bennett groused that he "wouldn't trust [Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis] as far as I could throw him." He added that the political leadership in Washington state "has never valued the threat of moving to Oklahoma City. They don't even know where it is."

• Bennett vented in other e-mails about the Seattle media. In an e-mail to McClendon and other co-owners last July, Bennett reacted to a column by Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley: "All of these guys are against us. Seattle has the most inept and difficult sports media of any major market. That was the view of the league before we arrived and I now completely agree."

Bennett added: "They still don't get the deal ... Ultimately it is not up to us to build them a building — it is up to the leadership and the broad public to build a building.”

That last bit is what really got to me when I read it. “Ultimately it is not up to us to build them a building ” What is left unsaid in that sentence is “to build US a building SO WE CAN ALL MAKE LOTS OF MONEY.”

Tell me, what other industry or financial concern expects the government and citizens of the location to actually build them the infrastructure? Does the Ford Motor Company threaten to move all their plants to Alabama if Michigan won’t build them brand new, state of the art automotive assembly plants? O.K., yes, many corporations are getting lots of tax breaks when they are looking around for a new location. The Boeing Company played that very well when they were looking around the country for a location at which to assemble their new jet, the 787. And they got some attractive packages, for sure. But the local governments and the taxpaying citizens most certainly did NOT fund expansion of the Boeing facility in Everett, so Boeing could continue to make tons of money off their product.

What in God’s Name are the rich people in this country thinking?!? Conservatives and Republicans complain about entitlements and government support of various programs intended for the greater good, calling it “socialism”. Depending on your definition, that may be. But what the heck do you call millionaires expecting government subsidies and out-and-out handouts for a private, multi-million dollar business like professional basketball? What is that? Seattle “has never valued the threat of moving to Oklahoma City”? Were we supposed to?

Man, rich people make me ill. They think the world owes them even more than they have already. It’s too bad that we don’t have a time machine, where we could go plunk these people down in Neolithic North America, where one of their biggest problems would be trying to find food while not getting eaten by a saber-toothed cat.

I find that I get a certain amount of satisfaction in that visual imagery.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I have it! Our crappy media isn’t due to bias or laziness. It’s due to food poisoning from Ergot of Rye !

Here is my theory of what is going on in the media these days. I usually have a very high opinion of my original thinking, but I believe that I have outdone myself with this one.

My original thought was that, maybe after years and years of being bashed by the conservatives of this country for a real or imagined “liberal bias”, reporters, analysts, editors and owners actually have swung hardover in the other direction, such that there is now a CONSERVATIVE bias. Reporters and pundits alike would just take whatever is being fed to them by their government contacts and publish it as news or opinion. That certainly seems like what happens when Judith Miller, when she took all the stuff that Scooter Libby was feeding her and put it into the New York Times as actually reporting. Tie this in with the fact that major media outlets are now subsidiaries of major corporations whose interests lie in conservative policies and keeping the status quo, and you have what I thought to be a compelling case for why the media is doing such a terrible job of, you know, actually informing the public of what is going on in their names.

However, after hearing about how many cocktail parties that these media types go to where they gather and “chit chat” about whatever it is they chit chat about, I came up with a new idea. You know how, at cocktail parties, they always serve these stupid little “finger sandwiches” on that stupid flat, crunchy dark bread that looks suspiciously like it might be rye bread? It is now my theory that all these media types (except for Keith Olbermann) are consuming moldy rye bread infected with a nasty little fungus called Ergot of Rye. Food poisoning due to Ergot of Rye is thought to perhaps have been behind the madness that took over an entire town during the Salem witch trials. Here is an interesting speculation about Ergot of Rye.

"Today historians are speculating that some other bizarre events of the past may be due to ergot poisoning. For instance, an affliction known as "dancing mania" which struck Europe from the 14th to the 17th century may have been caused by the troublesome fungus. This phenomenon caused groups of people to dance through the streets of cities– often speaking nonsense and/or foaming at the mouth– until they finally collapsed from exhaustion. Sufferers often described wild visions, and continued to writhe after falling to the ground. Some also suggest that Kykeon, a popular hallucinogenic drink from ancient Greece, may have been made from ergot-infected barley."

See? Doesn’t it all make sense now? Doesn’t that describe people like MoDo, Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin exactly? I mean, it all fits! “Speaking nonsense and/or foaming at the mouth?” “Wild visions?” Who can tell me that doesn’t sound like David Broder?

Our entire country is collapsing around our ears and our media won’t report on it (except for liberal bloggers, who apparently either don’t go to cocktail parties or maybe they don’t like rye crisps), because of a fungus! The obvious conclusion here is, of course, that people in the media should not go to cocktail parties and hang out with the people they are supposed to be reporting on!

If you read this story and start quoting from it, please make sure you give me proper credit for this groundbreaking theory. Thank you very much in advance. That’s z-e-p-p-o, small “z”.

Picture of Salem Witch Trials from here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

David Stern; what a pathetic little man with a Napoleonic complex.

The NBA owners approved the move of the Sonics (can’t call them the “Seattle Supersonics” anymore) to Oklahoma City. Clay Bennett, Oklahoma Raider, says that he “is thrilled much more for the people of Oklahoma City more I am for me”. Yeah, I’ll bet. The people of Seattle, on the other hand, well, you can just go **** yourselves.

David Stern, making the announcement of the move, showed us exactly how firm the ground is that they are standing upon. A local reporter started asking several rather aggressive questions about whether or not Stern had actually READ the e-mails between the Sonics ownership group that showed, without question, that they had lied to everyone within earshot about their intentions. What does David Stern do? He gets all testy with the reporter asking the question and lectures him. That’s always good. Get really snippy and self-righteous when you know you are screwing people over. And then, when asked about the possibility of Seattle getting another franchise, he said that he might, but he didn’t like the fact that Seattle actually was suing the Sonics to stay and play the last two years of their valid and legal lease at Key Arena. The difference is between Charlotte, which did get another team after their original one left, and Seattle is, apparently, that Charlotte made nice, didn’t sue anyone and asked really, really nicely if they could have another team, pretty please. Stern, the magnanimous Napoleon he is, took pity on poor little Charlotte and they have another team. Seattle, on the other hand, has some nerve to actually sue anyone! Breaking a lease, all the local politicians being lied to… They all amount to nothing, and how dare you insinuate anything to the contrary!

I really won’t miss the NBA. I haven’t watched it in years, and I certainly wouldn’t have ever gone to any more games. But when the radio sports announcer read off the list of players since the inception of the franchise, I couldn’t help but get really sad and very angry. Yet another example of how greedy, rich, powerful white guys can do anything they want, no matter how badly it reflects on them, and get away with it. No conscience.

This reminds me so much of George Bush’s Iraq war. He knew that he was going to start a war. He wanted it, and was going to have it. But yet, he would say all the right things which he knew to be lies of the worst kind to make people stop asking questions during the run up, so it would make it seem like, in the end, he had no other choice but to follow through on something they knew they were going to do all the time. And we had a war. And now, Seattle has no basketball team.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, equating the two things. Not at all, so please don’t take it that way. What I am saying is comparable is the mindset of the two architects involved. "I want this, I am going to do this, but I need to lie to everyone to make sure they believe I am doing this the right way." They knew they were doing something underhanded that, if discovered, would not be looked upon kindly by the people involved. But, in the end, they were discovered and they showed no shame regarding their actions and the lies they spoke. Who cares if the "little people" get screwed over? We got what we wanted, so that's all that matters.

The attitudes of the ruling class of this country suck.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Wit and Wisdom of Repo Man, as it applies to the Administration of George W. Bush.

Thanks IMDB, although I gotta say, it’s rather annoying when you go around delete a whole bunch of quotes that have been compiled over the last five years. It isn’t like you don’t have really big servers. Some of those quotes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mystery Science Theater 3000 were classics, and now they’re not there anymore… How sad.

Agent Rogersz: Good evening, Otto. This is Agent Rogersz. I'm going to ask you a few questions. Since time is short and you may lie, I'm going to have to torture you. But I want you to know, it isn't personal.

J. Frank Parnell: You ever feel as if your mind had started to erode?

J. Frank Parnell: Ever been to Utah? Ra-di-a-tion. Yes, indeed. You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too. When they canceled the project it almost did me in. One day my mind was full to bursting. The next day - nothing. Swept away. But I'll show them. I had a lobotomy in the end.

Bud: Look at 'em, ordinary f**king people, I hate 'em.

Agent Rogersz: It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.

Leila: I'd torture someone in a second if it was up to me.

Leila: What if he's innocent?
Agent Rogersz: No one is innocent.

Otto: Some weird f**kin' shit, eh, Bud?

And, I implore you, please click on Wit and Wisdom for the other posts in this series. You won't be sorry.

Repo Man photo from, uh, I’m not really certain

Very, very odd and disturbing link.

I didn’t even know Satan had a website.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A newly discovered metaphor: My daughter’s junior high basketball team and the mainstream media.

There have been so many bloggers writing so many entries about how the media in America has fallen flat on its face when it comes to fulfilling its primary job of watchdog, it’s impossible to provide a summary here. There are also a number of very good books on the subject, such as “Lapdogs: How The Press Rolled Over for George W. Bush” by Eric Boehlert and “Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy”, by Marcy Wheeler. The magnitude of material available on this subject makes it very difficult to rant and actually add anything of substance that hasn’t been said before.

But it did occur to me that I had an analogy staring me in the face. Here it is, for what it’s worth.

The role that the media in the country is supposed to play used to be comparable to a referee in basketball. (That’s not what it is now, of course. I wrote a short blog entry about that subject here.) But back before the media became subverted or corrupted or whatever the hell happened to it, one of the main purposes of the media was to watch what was going on with our elected officials, what they said and what they did, and then call them on it if they started getting too far out of bounds. Breaking the rules, in other words, which is sort of what a referee in basketball does. Tweet! Foul, you hacked the ball carrier across the wrist while he was shooting. Two shots! Everyone line up! And knock off the whining, or I’ll nail you with a technical foul.

Basketball officials are required to be impartial, even tempered, not subject to overt pressure by coaches, players or fans, and do not give favorable calls or non-calls because they are friends with someone associated with any particular team. I am able to talk about this with some assurance, as I was a basketball referee for high school for eight years. I injured my knee and had to stop, but that is besides the point for this discussion.

Well, this last season, I would watch my daughter play on the junior high team of a very small private school. They were actually pretty good for this level of play and they were well coached. They had a tall girl who could rebound and shoot from outside. They had two good, very fast ball handlers. They were well coached. You don’t really see this combination very often at that level. They went undefeated against the rest of the league, except this one other school, call it School X, that is much bigger than our school and looks to have LOTS of more money.

All the schools in this league hire referees from the organization that does all the high school and junior high games in the county, so they are assured of getting officials that should know what they are doing. All have gone through some training, all have taken a written test to show they know the rules. All the schools in the league except for School X. They use a couple of guys who actually work for this school and “know basketball”. That was the extent of their credentials. They “know basketball” and would do the games cheaply or for free, since they worked for the school.

These two schools played four times during the year, and School X won every game. School X did have some very good players, the two teams were pretty evenly matched. However, they also were rough and really just ran over our girls. The first game at School X, I have never seen such a blatant example of referee favoritism. Before the game, the refs were out chatting with the coach and the fans of School X. They would call everything against our team and nothing against theirs. The final foul call tally was 27 fouls against our team and 2 against theirs. 27 to 2. Knowing how basketball should be officiated, there is no way this should ever happen. Their girls would just run up behind our player with the ball, essentially tackle her, such that she ended up on the floor, and take the ball away, and nothing would be called. However, even phantom fouls were called against our team. On one occasion near the end of the game, our best player stole the ball cleanly, had the ball in her possession and took two dribbles before she was whacked across the wrists by the girl who lost the ball. The foul was called, of course, on our girl, which was her fifth foul. They would not call traveling on their team, they would allow the girl to run the out-of-bounds line trying to inbound the ball, which is a violation. They would just blow the whistle and give the ball to their team without any indication of what had just been called. They would just ignore all complaints as if no one had said anything. Even as it was, our team stayed with them for about ¾ of the game before the obvious and inevitable happened.

I don’t remember every being so mad before. Yes, this was just a junior high girls basketball game that the participants themselves won’t even remember by next year. Small stuff, as issues go, I agree. However, I just couldn’t seem to let it go. I slept very little that night. The unfairness of it just really rankled and just sort of settled in my stomach and simmered for quite a while.

School X had a good enough team that they didn’t need the help of the referees, and School X obviously has enough money to pay for real officials and not someone who just works for the school. Of course, when some of the parents went to the Athletic Director of School X (which is a Christian school) to complain, she, of course, saw nothing wrong with this arrangement at all. What’s the problem? These guys “know basketball”. However, everything is wrong about it. Even if the two guys who work at that school officiated the games even handedly, there is still the perception of bias. That should be avoided at all costs, if you are trying to show everyone that you are following the rules and are not giving one team an advantage. If you abuse that trust that everyone associated with the game has given you, you have just undermined the entire setup. Why even bother playing the game if you know things have been setup such that the outcome is predetermined before the game even starts?

I’m sorry about the length of that setup. I was still getting riled up by this, even after this much time has elapsed. So, I have taken this long to get to the previously mentioned analogy. This is what our media today is doing. They are playing favorites. They are biased. They like having access to famous, powerful people. Tim Russert is an obvious example. He is much more interested in maintaining his access than he is on actually reporting the news and uncovering the truth. The media’s current love affair for John McCain has been well documented. He treats the reporters on his campaign to a BBQ and hobnobs with them on his campaign bus. That becomes the overriding factor in their reporting, not uncovering the truth. They have undermined several things that are under their control, their integrity and their impartiality. If reporters, like basketball officials, lose the confidence of everyone involved in the process, you end up with a situation where they are now regarded as part of the problem. They have “taken sides” and can no longer be counted upon to fulfill their role in American society. Even when they do the right thing and do some good reporting, they have opened themselves to all sorts of criticisms from people who don’t like what they just did. The principles that they could always stand by and shield themselves from such criticisms are no longer valid. They have lost everyone’s confidence. And once that happens, it may be impossible to get it back.

That is what is going on right now in this country. The press has become like those obviously biased and compromised basketball officials for my daughter’s junior high basketball game. They should excuse themselves from further involvement, after apologizing to the public about how they have lost their way. But, of course, they won’t. They, along with the people in power with which forms their mutual back-scratching society, have too much invested in this setup. They enjoy it. Why would they want to change? It’s only the public that is getting screwed, after all, and no one really needs to listen to their complaints. They’re only “the public”, after all. Who cares about them (us)?

Friday, April 11, 2008

If you are on a jury and vote in a way not to the liking of the DOJ, watch out!

You might get a really creepy, intimidating visit from the FBI, at your own home, asking why you voted in a particular manner.

Can we all say "police state" now?

John Cole at Balloon Juice has the full story.

Clay Bennett, Swift Boat Veteran for Basketball: Seattle Supersonics on the way to Oklahoma City?

I have written about this story before. Again, it’s a local Seattle sports and political story, and not that many people are probably interested. Actually, I am not that into the NBA myself. I hate it, truth be told. I hate how fouls are so arbitrary and apparently given without a large consideration of how big the star is first. I hate that traveling is a non-call. I hate the 24-second shot clock, where the team gets it across half court and then only has about 15 seconds to get a shot off. And I absolutely detest the carnival atmosphere. The game itself has become almost secondary. Boring…

However, the reason I am writing about this story again is because of its connection to the overall trend in America that so upsets me and I continually write about here. To whit, lying is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught. Politics, sports, it doesn’t matter. Personal integrity is a thing of the past, an ancient relic (like the “quaint” Geneva Convention accords) that is something that is more likely to invoke a smirk of distain rather than any real introspection.

However, as I noted previously, Clay Bennett is ALSO someone who was part of the “Swift Boat Vets for Truth” group that we all know held Truth is such high esteem. Given that, I don’t find this behavior too surprising.

I won’t go into great detail here on the background of the story. See my previous post, or maybe follow these links to these Seattle Times stories. But here is a quick summary.

The Sonics have kind of sucked for the last seven or eight years. Their heyday, besides their single championship (1979?), were the Gary Payton and Shaun Kemp days. Since then, they have been very mediocre. Everyone knows that teams that don't win much don't draw much of a crowd. They were sold last year to a group from Oklahoma City, which has been hosting the New Orleans Hornets when their own home got trashed during Hurricane Katrina. The Hornets moved back to N.O., but OKC still wants a team. Everyone KNEW that this group was going to pack their bags, with the team, and move to OKC as soon as they possibly could. No one believed the platitudes being spouted by the group. To ensure that the Sonics had very little backing, the new ownership group shipped off its two established stars. Yes, the Sonics have some good young talent, but a lack of established stars and even role players meant a terrible team was in the offing. Yep, their record is one of the worst in the NBA right now. Even less reason for local groups to be enthusiasitc about saving the Sonics!

As my previous post on this documented, last year, one of the new co-owners was slapped with a quarter million dollar fine for saying, in public to a newspaper in Oklahoma, about how they didn’t buy a team to stay in Seattle and of course they were going to move to OKC. Duh. Everyone knew that. However, the primary owner was “outraged” and said that wasn’t true at all. David Stern, his royal highness of the NBA, gave the guy a fine. Right. We all believed that.

Well, now it comes out during the court hearings about the group breaking the lease to Key Arena, where the Sonics currently play, that there are e-mails that went between the members of the ownership group that confirms that the group intended to move the team all the time. They lied to the public, they lied to the Governor of Washington state, and they lied to David Stern, NBA commissioner.

From the Seattle P-I:

Included in the motion were e-mails obtained by the city showing communications between Stern and Bennett on Aug. 17, 2007, in which Bennett insisted he'd never spoken to his partners about moving the team out of Seattle.

But that claim contradicted an April 17 e-mail exchange between Bennett and Sonics co-owners Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward in which the three gleefully talked about getting the team to Oklahoma City as quickly as possible.

"You are just one of my favorite people on earth and I so cherish our relationship, Sonics business aside," Bennett wrote Stern in August after McClendon told an Oklahoma newspaper that the group had never intended to keep the team in Seattle. "I would never breach your trust. As absolutely remarkable as it may seem, Aubrey and I have NEVER discussed moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City, nor have I discussed it with ANY other member of our ownership group. I have been passionately committed to our process in Seattle, and have worked my ass off.

"The deal for me has NEVER changed: We will do all we can in one year time frame (actually 15 months) to affect the development of a successor venue to KeyArena," Bennett wrote. "If we are unsuccessful at the end of the timeframe, October 31, 2007, we will then evaluate our options. I have never wavered and will not."

Stern replied to Bennett on Aug. 18, saying, "You and I are fine; I have been acting on the premise that everything you say about Aubrey and your efforts is true -- well before you said them. It pains me to see the situation you are in and I have difficulty conjuring a happy ending in Seattle, but I appreciate your efforts and very greaty (sic) value our friendship."

Well, well. It looks as if someone really got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.


What really burns me about this is not really the loss of the local team, although I think Seattle will be a bit less vibrant than before. It is the unfairness of this. These guys just decided they were going to raid another city for a team that looked to be ripe for the picking.

It seems that Seattle, no matter the sport, has always been the target. For years, it appeared that the Mariners were going to move to St. Petersburg. The owner, Jeff Sylmulian (I know I have that spelled wrong, so sue me), was from there. He was quoted as saying that he couldn’t imagine the area WITHOUT major league baseball. If memory serves, there were even T-shirts and hats printed up that said St. Petersburg Mariners. The Mariners were, again, a team that had been a consistent loser and played in a mausoleum called the Kingdome. Well, one magical year (1995), the M’s made a miracle run to win the division after being 19 games out, came back from 0-2 down in a best of 3 series against the Yankees and won their divisional playoff. They lost in the ALCS to Cleveland, but baseball had “hit the radar” in Seattle. A new stadium was built (most expensive one EVER, actually) and the M’s stayed put. (Oh, and I forgot to add that this was all before Tampa Bay was given a MLB franchise. Yes, we all see how well the TB (Devil) Rays have worked out. Very successful franchise.) (Oh, and I also forgot to mention that Seattle had ALREADY been raided for a MLB team. Who remembers the Seattle Pilots? They are now the Milwaukee Brewers. It took a number of years and a lawsuit to get MLB to give Seattle another franchise.)

The Seahawks, under the odious Ken Behring, not only were going to move to L.A., they DID move (at least their office and training equipment) for several weeks. Then, the league, and I believe some courts were involved as well, stepped in and told Behring to knock it off and go back home. One of the richest men in America who tend to live around here stepped in, paid for a new election, and a new stadium was built for the Seahawks.

The Sonics were very unhappy with their digs back in the 90’s. Can’t say that I blame them, as Seattle has the record for having the only indoor basketball game rained out due to leaks in the roof. After a big fight, the Seattle Coliseum (which was actually intended to be a temporary building for the 1960 World’s Fair) was totally gutted, except for the roof, and rebuilt as Key Arena. It is a very nice place. But the problem, for the NBA anyway, is that it doesn’t have the footprint of the Mall of America and doesn’t have room for all the luxury boxes and merchandizing they want. Like selling a beer for 7 bucks isn’t a good enough profit margin. It isn’t about the game and the spectators anymore. Like everything else in America, it is about how much money the owners can make. And, in the case of professional sports teams, they also demand that public money be used for stadiums and arenas so THEY can make the money.

Insane. But I must say that Bennett knew the situation. He KNEW that Seattle was all “stadium’ed out”. After this many fights with this many teams over this many arenas, he accurately gauged that the residents around here are completely fed up with professional sports money grubbers who really are intent on plundering the local government. It was an absolute certainty that no one around here, including the politicians, were going to sit still for another round of blackmail via professional sports.

So, it’s down to this. The Sonics are gone, unless some miracle happens here. Just what David Sterns reaction will be to being publicly lied to by someone who he has supported, against the city of Seattle and the government officials here? He was lied to, and the stories I have linked to make it very, very clear that is what happened. So, is that enough to change people’s minds? To make anyone feel guilty enough to throw up a stop sign on this move?

I seriously doubt it. Lying has become so much the norm here (thank you, George W. Bush and all your cronies) that no one is going to care. It will all blow over in short order. Everyone will forget and move on. Oklahoma City will have its NBA team. Seattle will continue on, a world-class city with just a little less electricity….

I certainly think there are more important issues that must be worked, and very quickly, if we want to maintain our current standard of living. Professional sports, however much fun and entertainment the locals derive from it, are just a diversion. But boy, I still have to admit that lying scumbags who are found out and STILL get away with it (think Karl Rove) really burn my gut.

UPDATE: Well, the saga keeps getting stranger all the time. The Commish, David Stern, says that he really hasn’t read these “incriminating” e-mails, but he still thinks Bennett was operating in good faith and still “fully supports him”. Yeah. And Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks and past owner of the Sonics, is suing the OKC ownership group for… something. Lying to him, not bargaining “in good faith”. That phrase is being tossed around a lot these days, “in good faith”. Huh. I have very little confidence that any of this will do anything in the long term, but as Jerry Brewer of the Seattle P-I notes, it sure is fun to see stupid, rich white guys show themselves to be the absolute idiots that they are, in full public view. The only problem is that all these clowns refused to be disgraced and totally ignore the fact that they are acting like arrogant, stupid jerks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Specific details of how to torture detainees was discussed in THE WHITE HOUSE!

According to a report by ABC, via Dan Froomkin, we learn the following.

Top Bush aides, including Vice President Cheney, micromanaged the torture of terrorist suspects from the White House basement, according to an ABC News report aired last night.

Discussions were so detailed, ABC's sources said, that some interrogation sessions were virtually choreographed by a White House advisory group. In addition to Cheney, the group included then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then-secretary of state Colin Powell, then-CIA director George Tenet and then-attorney general John Ashcroft.

I am sick to death of the lawlessness of this administration, and the lengths they will go to hide, or if they can’t hid it, to rationalize their behavior. These people are criminals, and this article by Dan Froomkin shows that many legal minds are of that opinion.

This boggles the mind. Our President, Vice President, National Security Advisor, Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, and Director of the CIA sat around, on multiple occasions, figuring out the best way to torture people! And this went to some pretty brutal detail. Per dday at Hullabaloo:

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The Founding Fathers would, no doubt, be aghast. We have become a torture nation, and we (collectively) are proud of it. Some of us, however, are sick to our stomachs.

Wolfman's travel blog, Feb 16 2008

Saturday Feb 16 2008

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when Sue dropped the bomb. We were seated in the first row of business class on a Boeing 777, about 1 hour into the 4 hour flight on Singapore Airlines (SQ) # 871 from Taipei to Singapore. The flight had leveled off at 39,000 feet, we were just south of Taiwan, and it was a brilliantly clear and almost cloudless day over the deep blue waters of the South China Sea.

I was sipping a cognac, and Sue was drinking water. She had the window seat, and I had the aisle next to her. There were a few open seats near us, and it was shaping up to be a smooth and easy flight. Both of us were partially reclined, relaxing with our Bose headsets on, and until that moment my deepest thought had been whether to order scallops or crab for lunch. That situation was rapidly changed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sue bring her seat fully upright, and take off her headphones. Then she reached over and tapped me on the shoulder. I dropped my headset, sat up, and caught the bomb.

“Jeff, I’m pregnant.”

Up until then it had been a good trip. We had left Boston on Saturday AM, got to Taiwan on Sunday night, and had spent the week visiting with our new colleagues in Hsinchu, and spending a few days at some subcontractor sites in Tainan, Hsinchu, and Chungli. Now we were on our way to the office in Singapore. It would be Sue’s first time in Singapore so I was looking forward to playing the tour guide and introducing Sue to my favorite city on the planet. Basically it had been an uneventful trip, the usual long dinners and longer days, but nothing really unusual. Her 3-word sentence had changed all that.

“I found out on Friday, just before we left.”

OK, I’ll admit it. My face would not have won any awards at a poker table. After the first second (or two or three) of shock, I broke into a big grin and said something really profound like “wow”. We are talking about a life changing event here. Leave it to a male to say something as profound as “wow”.

But let’s face it; this is one of life’s “wow” moments. There is also a generational and gender gap in dealing with this type of news. I’m almost old enough to retire, and Sue is a 33-year old blue-eyed blond with enough brain power to take care of any engineering challenge I have ever tossed her way. Sort of my girl-Friday, but on the technical side. If you are a fan of Stargate-SG1, and know who Amanda Tapping is, you will have a good idea of what Sue looks like.

And now she’s pregnant, and she’s telling me this while I’m sitting next to her, and I’m trapped in an airplane with nowhere to hide.

“I wanted you to know why I’ve been acting sort of odd this week, and not eating any shellfish, or having anything to drink.” As if she needed to explain that !

“Sue, I had no idea. I just thought it was a bit of jetlag, or maybe your stomach wasn’t feeling so good, so you were skipping the shellfish. I didn’t even give it a second thought. You’re pregnant ? That is so cool.” At this point my mind is racing, with about a hundred different scenarios and what-to-do options flashing in my brain.

Sue went on to explain that the first home pregnancy test had been positive on Thursday, and she came in late on Friday because she had gone to the doctor for a confirming blood test. The office had called back Friday afternoon, just before we left the office. The doctor said that traveling, even to Asia, wouldn’t be a risk, but she should avoid alcohol (of course), and also shellfish. Especially shellfish in Asia.

And now I have to figure out what I’m going to do over the next six months to adapt to Sue’s pregnancy, and to restructure the team at work for what could be 6 months (or more) after that while she’s out on maternity leave.

I guess it will all work out alright, these things usually do. I mean that there are at least three 3 billion examples of successful pregnancies now walking the planet, so the odds have to be with her. Of course it is going to be nerve wracking since this is her first child. So I opened up the Singapore airlines in-flight shopping magazine, and found a cute stuffed mouse doll. It snores when you squeeze it’s foot, and it’s belly rises up and down with the snoring (sort of like a pregnant woman !). Presented it to her at 39,000 feet, with a red ribbon courtesy of the flight attendants, and saw a trace of tears on her face.

So let’s all get together and wish Sue and her husband Steve all the best around the middle of October.

Good luck Sue ! And to you too Steve.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Kafka’s “The Castle”: a work of fiction or a playbook for General David H. Petraeus?

The Castle” is probably one of Kafka’s lesser known works. In fact, he never finished it. He died before it was completed, and the manuscript was then “completed” on several different occasions, first by a friend and then by a publisher, with some help by some translators along the way. Here is part of the Wiki entry.

The Castle is a philosophical novel by Franz Kafka. In it a protagonist, known only as K., strives to gain access to the mysterious authorities of a castle that governs the village where K. has arrived to work as a land surveyor. Dark and at times surreal, The Castle is about alienation, bureaucracy, and the seemingly endless frustrations of man's attempts to stand against the system.

The narrator, K. arrives in the village, governed by the castle. When seeking shelter at the town inn, he gives himself out to be a land surveyor summoned by the castle authorities. He is quickly notified that his castle contact is an official named Klamm, who, in the introductory note, informs K. he will report to the Council Chairman.

The Council Chairman informs K. that, through a mix up in communication between the castle and the village, he was erroneously requested but, trying to accommodate K., the Council Chairman offers him a position in the service of the school teacher as a janitor. Meanwhile, K., unfamiliar with the customs, bureaucracy and processes of the village, continues to attempt to reach the official Klamm, who is not accessible.


The castle is the ultimate bureaucracy with copious paperwork that the bureaucracy maintains is "flawless". This flawlessness is of course a lie; it is a flaw in the paperwork that has brought K. to the village. There are other failures of the system which are occasionally referred to. K. witnesses a flagrant misprocessing after his nighttime interrogation by Erlanger as a servant destroys paperwork when he cannot determine who the recipient should be.

Well, that’s enough of the summary. To the reader, it seems like a exercise in futility. K. keeps trying to see the officials in the castle, and huge amounts of arcane rules and procedures prevent him from ever achieving his goals. The exception is of a single moment, when he was asleep, and the person K. has been trying to see for ¾ of the book walks into his room, chuckles to himself and then essentially says, “Sorry, you had your chance! You were asleep!” and then the official admits that the entire purpose of the bureaucracy is to prevent people from achieving their goals, like seeing any official or getting any action taken.

Total absurdity. I remember reading it, thinking to myself, “What the hell is the point here? Isn’t anything ever going to get resolved? Why am I reading this?” (I’m an engineer, remember, not a lit major.) But still, enough of the novel still resonates that the reader will instantly recognize nonsensical administration rules and dealing with people who sit there, talking and acting like human beings, but seem to be operating like some alien life form or automata that isn’t using any form of logic that real flesh and blood persons ever employ. It’s all the same thing, just a matter of scale.

That is what I was thinking about when I was listening to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker testifying in front of the Senate regarding the Iraq war and how long does the U.S. need to keep high levels of American troops in harm’s way. Later this week, they will go in front of a House committee. The entire hearing just had this surreal sense to it, in that no one could actually really sit there, in front of some very important people, and say such crap and believe what he is saying or expect other people to believe it! It was all a matter of playing games, such that each side knew that games were being played and the Senators, no matter how hard they try, will never get their questions answered. They just won’t. That’s part of the game of futile absurdity.

Here are some conclusions from Dan Froomkin that I thought were very revealing.

While asserting that "the way forward on (troop) reduction should be conditions-based," Petraeus and Crocker were unable or unwilling to say what those conditions might be.

While insisting that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended, they described no circumstance in which it would end.

They refused to consider any hypothetical scenarios, except for their own.

They refused to acknowledge that reasonable people might disagree with them.

And, as they demonstrated yesterday and in their testimony last September, no matter what the situation on the ground, they are able to use it as an argument for staying the course.

I don’t know how those could possibly be acceptable positions with anyone dealing in reality. Their entire testimony was too bizarre to actually have real people uttering such nonsense but, at the same time, expect to have people actually understand what they were saying and actually give any sort of credence to it.

Here is an exchange I particularly like between Petraeus and Evan Bayh:

Bayh: "And I would just ask you the question, isn't it true that a fair amount of humility is in order in rendering judgments about the way forward in Iraq, that no one can speak with great confidence about what is likely to occur? Is that a fair observation?"

Petraeus: "It is very fair, Senator, and it's why I repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator. And the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible."

Bayh: "In fact, reasonable people can differ about the most effective way forward. Is that not also a fair observation?"

Petraeus: "I don't know whether I would go that far, sir . . . "

Ha! As Froomkin noted above, Patraeus just said, in front of a Congressional committee, that he doesn’t think it possible that reasonable people can have a different opinion than he does on this issue. There are about three possibilities I see here for someone to say something like that.

1) The man is a monumental liar and will say anything at all to anyone about anything without shame.

2) The man is egotistic and narcissistic to the point of megalomania, such that he believes that anything he utters, regardless of any conflicting facts, should be accepted without question by anyone he is talking to.

3) He is totally delusional, possibly psychotic.

I don’t see many other choices. It is possible that bits of all three are in play here. However, I go for item 1), mostly because I believe that he was either directly ordered to do lie and obfuscate, or has otherwise gotten “an understanding” from his superiors (meaning Bush and Cheney) to do just that, but without getting direct orders so they can maintain their stance of Plausible Deniability. That is what good military people do; take orders and carry them out. Orders from your superiors trump all other considerations. Colin Powell found out how well that works when the stakes are high and all eyes are on you. His personal reputation is now completely in tatters. He will never again command any sort of moral high ground in anything he says, and I think he knows it. But Petraeus, he has yet to figure this out.

However, that is probably the one and only reason that he still has a job and all the other military leaders who have disagreed with Bush have retired or been replaced.

But back to my original point. Logic seems to have gone missing from dealings with the Bush administration. We are operating with some other rules that regular people seem unable to comprehend. Everything is structured in order to prevent you from doing anything, no matter what it is.

Welcome to the Castle. Check logic by the door, next to the umbrella stand. You won’t be needing it.

Photo of Haunted Castle from SiamZone

Sunday, April 06, 2008

R.I.P. Charlton Heston

I didn't like his politics, particularly his stance on guns, and his acting seemed, at times, one dimensional. His role in the new updated Planet of the Apes, where he tried to warn everyone about humans and guns I found particularly weird, given his beliefs. Wasn't he president or spokesman of the NRA at one time? But still, it's really a huge loss when a legend of the screen passes. He will be missed.

Photo from Walls of Fame Hollywood Photos.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

O.K., this is for those people who end up here by searching on “rabbit enemies”…

I seem to get several hits a day by people searching on “enemies of rabbits” or "rabbit enemies". I feel badly that I am letting these folks down. I mean, REALLY badly.... They obviously have a real concern, given that they are spending their time searching The Google, worried about what nasty thing is going after their bunnies. Or maybe, actually now that I think about it, maybe they really do desire to find out who the enemies of rabbits really are, so they can get rid themselves of their own troublesome rabbits. You monsters.

So, for those folks who keep ending up here, here is my list of Enemies of Rabbits:

- Elmer Fudd
- The Home Building Industry
- Rattlesnakes
- Teenage kids driving their dad’s car really fast on rural roads
- Daffy Duck
- Judge Doom
- Pancakes (see photo)
- Christopher Hitchens and anyone else who hates Easter
- General Woundwart
- Really big noisy dogs
- The Jefferson Airplane
- Buffalo
- Yosemite Sam
- Mary Kay Cosmetics
- Leopards, pumas, bobcats, tigers, lions, jaguars, wildcats, and any feline bigger than a tabby
- Farmers and others who have gardens that don’t like their carrots messed with
- The Black Rabbit of Inlé
- The Queen of Hearts
- Glenn Close
- Veta Louise Simmons (sister of Elwood P. Dowd, if that one is too obscure for you)
- Janet Leigh and DeForest Kelly
- Tommy Brock
- King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Sir Robin, Sir Galahad, Tim the Enchanter
- Mr. Urquhart
- Isabeau
- Dudley Nightshade/Ill-regard Beauregard
- Owls, eagles, hawks
- President Jimmy Carter
- Magicians with top hats
- Lady Tottington and Victor Quartermaine
- Gollum and Sam
- Mr. McGregor
- Natasha Kinski
- Ray-O-Vac batteries

There. That should do. Glad to be able to help you out. (For the more obscure references in the list, you might try the Internet Movie Database, link at right.)

UPDATE: Well, that didn't help much. I still got about four hits today by people searching on variations of "rabbits" and "enemies". And they all got directed to my post of early last year titled "Enemies", which has absolutely nothing to do with rabbits. This one doesn't show up at all. Well, that attempt at humor was certainly wasted.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about that last post on Mukasey lying his butt off in public.

This is more about the whole concept of people (mostly associated with the Republican party, fundamentalist Christians, the media and wingnut bloggers) just getting up in front of the public and making asses out of themselves by saying stuff that is obviously not true, and all it takes is about five minutes on “the Google” to prove that they are spouting nonsense. George Bush saying, “we have never been about ‘stay the course’” is a great example. Hillary has been doing a great job of this as well of late, such as her “dodging sniper fire in Bosnia” mindtrip can attest. I won’t even bother to try to collate more examples. They are out there every single day. Important People stating, in public, that which is easily disproved are a dime a dozen.

These types of people are not even trying anymore to come up with plausible lies. It’s truly bizarre behavior for anyone with a high public visibility quotient to be going around saying stuff that they should know is going to come back and bite them sooner or later. Yet, it’s a continuous Parade of Fools. Easy pickings for Keith Olbermann’s show.

What is behind this? I can’t help but think that there is something pathological about it. This can’t be just about people who are trying to slip something by a slack-jawed audience. Yeah, that’s part of it. But it seems like there has to be more. I have been wondering for some time whether or not these people have some sort of mechanism going on in their brains (or what passes for it) that makes them really, truly believe that whatever they say becomes The Truth. Once they say it, that becomes reality to them. And if anyone dares contradict them, well, the righteous indignation just flows out. That’s because these people really believe that they have been wronged! How dare someone contradict them! They are speaking The Truth!

I’m not a psychologist. I’m just an above average engineer and a non-practicing scientist. But logically, I just can’t make myself believe that lying to the public to get their way is behind all of this going on these days. I have to believe something more is going on here, and it isn’t a pretty thought. The logical conclusion to this train of thought, if I am correct, is that many people in positions of power and influence these days are totally delusional. They can invent their own reality just by the act of putting that reality into words, printed or spoken. This could explain a lot, like why George Bush continues to think we are must stay in Iraq and why he thinks history will vindicate him and crown him as a great president. But boy, I think the ramifications of this kind of thinking, as opposed to just flat out lying and knowing that you are lying, are truly frightening. It means we are being “governed” and “being kept informed” by total psychotics.

Kafka meets Orwell meets the Marx Brothers.

This is beyond the press being trivial and lazy. This is very close to aiding and abetting criminal action.

I wrote about this the other day. This is unfolding the way scandals usually unfold; more and more information leaks out day by day. This is absolutely horrible and what is says about the press in the U.S. today is nothing less than criminal.

To recap, Attorney General Michael Mukasey made a statement that came out and stated, in no uncertain terms, that the U.S. government had a chance to listen in to a phone call from some “safe house” in Afghanistan right before 9/11, but they didn’t do it because the FISA laws prevented such actions. This is pure hogwash. Reporters might not know that, but the Attorney General of the United States damn well does. He then got all teary-eyed, thinking of the 3000 people who lost their lives that terrible day, all because of the FISA laws. What rot.

Glenn Greenwald has been on top of this one.

Mukasey’s story is either true or false — and, more importantly, nothing like it happened. He can’t claim that he just misspoke or was confused because not only was there no such call from Afghanistan (at least according to everything that is known, including by the 9/11 Commission’s version), but FISA could never possibly have prevented interception of any calls remotely like the one Mukasey described.

He just made this up out of whole cloth in order to mislead Americans into supporting the administration’s efforts to eliminate spying safeguards and basic constitutional liberties and to stifle the pending surveillance lawsuits against telecoms. That isn’t hard for anyone — even including those who play the role of journalists on TV — to understand and convey.

What is just as bad, or even worse, than the USAG making public statements like that is that the press is letting him get away with it! Not one peep! No, but we hear all about this racist, America hating black pastor in Detroit, or the fact that Obama can’t bowl very good. But hard news? Of course not! Dammit it all! This is what they are SUPPOSED to do! This is their job!

Keith Olbermann on Countdown had a conversation with Jonathan Turly, Constitutional Law Professor, about this subject. Their consensus seemed to be that one reason the press was avoiding this subject like the plague is that, if they were to report on it, they would have to admit their complicity. They have been acting like mouthpieces for the administration all along, and to start doing otherwise would raise the question about why this hasn’t come out before? In other words, they are PROTECTING THEIR OWN BUTTS! I just cannot even begin to come close as to describing how bad this is.

If we can’t get an unbiased press back that is willing to dig to uncover facts that those in power do not want to see in public view, then this country is absolutely doomed as a democracy. I don’t even think it will matter if we have a Democratic president AND a Democratic majority in both houses. If the press is still out there, aiding the Republican machinery to whatever ends they seek, then we’re sunk.

Here are some links to some good posts on the subject.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

“The Mote In God’s Eye”; by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Miscellaneous thoughts and musings.

It’s been quite some time since I have read a lot of science fiction. I was rather dedicated to the genre back in my college and pre-college days. However, as an engineer and sometimes scientist, I would find I would get very critical of the scientific aspects of the book and let that diminish my feelings about the story. I also thought a lot of the stuff I was reading was really quite juvenile. Anyway, I don’t read much sci-fi anymore.

One novel that I did read was “The Mote in God’s Eye”, and it made quite an impression. As a science fiction, mankind far-flung in space, story, it was pretty good. The writing was done well. The character development was a bit lacking, if I remember correctly, but hey, it’s sci-fi!

But what was the most striking about this novel was the analogy about ourselves it was making. Here is some information from Wiki entry for this book, for those who haven’t read it. Click the link if you want more information. Alternatively, you could just go buy it. I'm sure there are used copies at Amazon or on e-bay.

The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is a science fiction novel that was first published in 1974. The story is set in the distant future of Pournelle's CoDominium universe, and charts the first contact between Mankind and an alien species. The title of the novel is a wordplay on Luke 6:41.

The book describes a complex alien civilization, the Moties. The Moties are radically different (both physically and psychologically) from humanity in ways that become clearer over the course of the book. The human characters range from the typical hero-type in Captain Roderick Blaine to the much more ambiguous merchant prince and suspected traitor Horace Bury. Robert A. Heinlein, who gave the authors extensive, detailed advice on the novel, blurbed the story as "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".


The Moties are sequential hermaphrodites, changing sex over and over again over the course of their lives — with one quirk: if a Motie remains female for too long without becoming pregnant, the hormone imbalance will kill her. This ensures a never-ending population explosion. Attempts at population control through chemicals or infanticide have always failed for the Moties, because those who (secretly or openly) breed uncontrolled eventually swamp those Moties who complied. Once the population pressure rises high enough, massive wars inevitably result. And the Moties are very good at war.

Humans have encountered eight distinct Motie subspecies, and occasional hybrids such as the Mediators. But there is also a ninth - the Warriors. And they are far superior in combat to any human soldier. To Engineers and Watchmakers, a weapon is just something else to build and/or repair. There are no fissionables remaining in the Mote system, but asteroid bombardments are more than adequate weapons of mass destruction.

As one would expect, these wars always end in the complete and total destruction of the current Motie civilization. However, Moties are unbelievably capable survivors, and enough always survive that reconstruction proceeds quickly — especially with the aid of the museums, as this is their intended purpose. They are located in unpopulated areas so as not to be targets during collapses. Population is controlled by disease and injury between collapses and reconstructions, but it obviously never lasts.

The Cycles of civilization, war, and collapse have apparently been going on for millions of years. They are so devastating that in the past, Mote Prime has been completely sterilized several times, to be repopulated by those living in hollowed-out asteroids. In the process, the Moties mutated from earlier symmetrical forms.

Every civilization arose, unlocked the museums, and discovered that that unless they could solve a problem that had plagued countless others, they were doomed. Thus, the Moties have become fatalistically resigned to the never-ending Cycles. Only a mythical character called "Crazy Eddie" believes there is a way out, and any Motie who comes to believe a way out is possible is labeled as insane and a "Crazy Eddie." This is why they call the system's Alderson point (which, unbeknownst to the Moties until human contact, leads into the photosphere of Murcheson's Eye) the "Crazy Eddie Point".

The Keeper, the museum's caretaker, then reveals itself, confirming all of this. It states that the whole charade is the work of a coalition of Motie Masters who have seized the opportunity the Lenin and the MacArthur represent in order to save themselves by escaping into the universe at large. But the Keeper is a childless Motie Master who has voluntarily been sterilized, and thus considers the well-being of his entire race, and as such, disagrees with such a plan.

The Moties can not stop breeding, so expansion to other planets would only postpone the Cycles. Nearby planets would soon be filled with Moties, and the Alderson Drive takes time to use — years of travel across systems from tramline to tramline to reach distant planets. Eventually, it would be easier for Moties to challenge humans for their planets, especially since humans cannot compete with Moties, technologically, biologically, or even numerically. Motie victory would be inevitable.

But then each Motie world would be left waiting for its neighbors to collapse, after which the survivors fight each other for the scorched ground, while their neighbors wait for them to collapse... Endless war. The Cycles, devastating as they are, have been confined to the Mote System. What the Keeper truly fears is a universe of Cycles!

Being an ultra-rational engineer with little or no imagination, I usually take books and movies at face value. It really takes some wicked symbolism to reach out and smack me in the face such that I recognize it for what it is. This is one of those times.

Surprise! We are the Moties. So, sure, we don’t have two arms on one side of our body, individuals don’t change sexes with any great regularity, and our physiology is not such that if our females don’t get pregnant every x years that they get sick and die. Sure. But, this story still about us and the future that awaits our civilization, unless we wise up and wise up quickly. Every society in human history that has reached critical mass ends up imploding in some way or another. They have outstripped their ability to produce the requisite food, or have had to compete with other societies for scare resources. War is one normal method of attempting to resolve that imbalance. Another is that the culture in question just… dries up and blows away, to be lost to history. And, since ours is now a global society, we have no more room to expand into in order to avoid this collapse. We are reaching the end of some very finite resources, such as cheap energy. Tribal instincts (me and everyone like me come first!) will start to predominate more than they have in ages. The Moties, by their very nature, were cursed to the Cycles.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out the moral of the story. I would highly recommend the book to sci-fi fans, as well as for those you into parables and allegories.

Book cover photo from Wiki.