Sunday, April 29, 2007

Well, maybe THIS is what the second amendment is about.

You know, this bit about freedom to bear arms, and all that? Here is the text of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So, maybe, all you need to do is declare yourself a militia, and you get to have all the guns and stuff the blows up as you want. From the Birmingham News, via Dave Johnson at SeeingTheForest.

Simultaneous raids carried out in four Alabama counties Thursday turned up truckloads of explosives and weapons, including 130 grenades, an improvised rocket launcher and 2,500 rounds of ammunition belonging to the small, but mightily armed, Alabama Free Militia.

Six alleged members of the Free Militia also were arrested by federal authorities and are being held without bond.

Investigators said the DeKalb County-based group had not made any specific threats or devised any plots, but was targeted for swift dismantling because of its heavy firepower. The militia, which called itself the Naval Militia at one point, had enough armament to outfit a small army.

Yes, that gives me the warm and fuzzies all over. These clowns, whom I familiar with as a personality since I spent quite a lot of time in Alabama, hadn’t threatened anyone but had all these guns and stuff around “just in case”.

Of course, we are all so worried about Muslim terrorists and all. Anyone want to take any bets as to why no one in the mainstream press carries stories about possible terrorist attacks by right winger fundamentalist Christian groups?

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Music (and Political Statement) Review: Norah Jones/not too late

I bought a bunch of new music this last week. Some of my “new” CD’s are actually quite old, in terms of when they were released. But they were new to me. One of my choices was actually a rather recent release by Norah Jones. It’s very nice stuff. One of the things I like about her music is that it is so compact and uncluttered. She does some fantastic things with just her piano, her voice, and minimal accompanying instruments such as a bass, guitar, and background percussion. Her compositions are extremely nice, and she has quite an interesting voice, something of a bluesie/mellow jazz throwback. I would highly recommend this one.

I was listening to it through some headphones while working this week, and I wasn’t quite paying attention to the lyrics. But a song titled “my dear country” sort of broke through my attention to whatever I was doing at the moment. I certainly wasn’t expecting a political statement out of Norah. But this one, without really mentioning the current political situation or our current batch of thugs who currently hold the reigns of power, is very damning. Now, given, since they don’t get into specifics, I suppose someone on either side of the political spectrum could assume she was talking about the “other side”. However, I believe I know who she’s talking about.

I thought I would reprint the lyrics here. If you get the chance, give this one a listen.

‘Twas Halloween and the ghosts were out
And everywhere they’d go they should
And though I covered my eyes I knew
They’d go away

But Fear’s the only thing I saw
And three days later was clear to all
That nothing is as scary as election day

But the day after is darker
And darker and darker it goes
Who knows maybe the plans will change
Who knows maybe he’s not deranged

The news men know what they know but they
Know even less than what they say
And I don’t know who I can trust
For the come what may

‘Cuz we believed in our candidate
But even more it’s the one we hate
I needed someone I could shake
On election day

But the day after is darker
And deeper and deeper we go
Who knows maybe it’s all a dream
And who knows if I’ll wake up and scream

I love the things that you’ve given me
I cherish you, my dear country
But sometimes I don’t understand
The way we play

I love the things you’ve given me
And most of all that I am free
To have a song that I can sing
On election day

UPDATE: Well, this is something I hadn't expected. Norah Jones is the daughter of Ravi Shankar, the sitar playing 1960's inspiration for George Harrison in his eastern mysticism days. That is a connection I never would have come up with, but pretty interesting, yes?

It’s all getting very clear now. Bushco really does want to install a new form of government in this country.

I am amazed that it took so long to figure this all out. Many people have been pulling together very loose threads laying together, and finally, a very coherent picture of what Karl Rove has been trying to do for the last six years is coming out.

This is from Paul Kiel at TPM Muckracker.

The entire scheme has been laid out before us. The question now is whether Karl Rove will get away with it.

Here's the scheme, as revealed over the past month: Rove and his deputies traveled to various agencies throughout the government, lecturing management there about Republicans' political prospects. Which House and Senate members were in trouble? Which Democratic seats were vulnerable? What were the major issues in the election?
But there was a line to be drawn: no commands were to be given -- because such a directive would be a blatant violation of the Hatch Act, which forbids the use of government resources for political ends.

On the contrary, the government officials receiving the briefing were supposed to get the hint -- as Tom Hamburger reported, "employees said they got a not-so-subtle message about helping endangered Republicans." The briefing simply gave them the tools to be helpful in the next election. They were supposed to take the ball and run with it.

The Washington Post reports today that Rove and his deputies gave such briefings to at least 15 different agencies (ranging from NASA to the Department of Homeland Security). But one briefing in particular continues to shine a light on all the rest: the one given this January to officials at the General Services Administration, the government's massive procurement agency.

Rove's deputy Scott Jennings simply showed up and gave the briefing (the slides (pdf) for which have been obtained by the House oversight committee -- that's one of them above). Employees were supposed to get the "not-so-subtle" message. But unfortunately for Jennings, GSA chief Lurita Doan doesn't do "not-so-subtle." Doan was obviously supposed to come to the tacit understanding that such things should be discussed "off-line." But, as anyone who watched Doan testify before the House last month can attest, she doesn't think well on her feet. Now, the White House has adopted the line that the briefings were simply to provide employees a look at "the political landscape."

This is all just one piece of the whole puzzle. Rove intended to convert, with the blessings of George W. Bush, no doubt, the entire federal government into a tool by which a permanent Republican majority was the outcome. Another piece of his whole toolbox intended to dismember the democratic form of government that has served us so well is the stacking of the Dept. of Justice with toadies. These “loyal Bushies, as Kyle Sampson referred to them, would use the power of the offices of the United States Attorneys to prosecute Democrats for all sorts of real and imagined offenses while holding off or even obstructing investigations into wrongdoings by Republicans. If all this happened on a two year cycle that coincided with the elections, all the better. Investigations into “rampant voter fraud” was intended to suppress minority voting in areas that normally vote Democratic. The Bush administration routinely paid “journalists” to write stories that put them and their policies in the best light, otherwise known as propaganda. The government’s main job, besides endless war and keeping the electorate perpetually scared and in the dark, is to cater to big business, who can and does supply huge voting blocks from corporate interests. They used the FBI and other government agencies to spy on potential enemies, such as anti-war protestors. They smear anyone, and that means absolutely anyone, including former allies, who are critical of their actions and policies. Bush routinely uses "signing statements" as a way of avoiding any laws he doesn't like, while his Attorney General will come up with supposedly legal rationalizations to allow Bush to do whatever he wants, such as legalizing torture and the suspension of Habeas Corpus.

On and on it goes. It appears that everything that Karl Rove has done in the last six plus years was pointed toward this goal of total, permanent domination by the “Republican party.” There is more than a little irony in this, of course, given that the traditional Republican party was about small, non-intrusive government and fiscal responsibility. And, due to the convergence of several very bad trends, our main stream press, whose job is oversight and to ask the tough questions of our elected officials, became willing tools of the government. If someone in the government wanted to plant a story in the press that would further their goals, they didn’t have to look very hard to find someone. Judy Miller, from that “bastion of liberal press”, the New York Times, was quite willing to take whatever BS the Scooter Libby was dealing, print it as her “investigative reporting”, which the White House would routinely quote to support their arguments for war.

I knew that I desperately wanted the Democrats to win control of the House and Senate in the last election. I just wanted all Rethuglicans out office. However, I did not realize how big a deal getting a majority in each House was at the time. With the power of the subpoena in both Houses, we now have a segment of the government that has been missing for the last six years; active and critical oversight. No longer can these people (and I use that term guardedly) can do their evil work under the cover of darkness. Rocks are starting to be turned over, and everything that has been hidden for the last six years are starting to see the light of day and, believe me, it isn’t pretty.

I only hope that this continues and we rescue our “government for the people and by the people” from the hand of corrupt, power-hungry and ego-driven criminals. Before Bush got elected, I would have never thought that anyone calling themselves an American could actively work to subvert our government to the extent these people have. I just don’t understand, but then again, I have never been an egotistical, power-hungry manic like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. But by all indications, these people would have been better suited to be members of the Politburo of the Soviet Union, not members of a democratic government.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

More on the disappearing bees.

This is getting pretty frightening. This could result in some very dire, very near term effects on the human population. I find it amazing but all too predictable that most Americans haven’t even heard of this threat to our way of life.

This is from the Celsias blog.

The phenomenon is recent, dating back to autumn, when beekeepers along the east coast of the US started to notice the die-offs. It was given the name of fall dwindle disease, but now it has been renamed to reflect better its dramatic nature, and is known as colony collapse disorder.

It is swift in its effect. Over the course of a week the majority of the bees in an affected colony will flee the hive and disappear, going off to die elsewhere. The few remaining insects are then found to be enormously diseased - they have a “tremendous pathogen load”, the scientists say. But why? No one yet knows.

… The disease showed a completely new set of symptoms, “which does not seem to match anything in the literature”, said the entomologist.

… the few bees left inside the hive were carrying “a tremendous number of pathogens” - virtually every known bee virus could be detected in the insects, she said, and some bees were carrying five or six viruses at a time, as well as fungal infections. Because of this it was assumed that the bees’ immune systems were being suppressed in some way. - The Independent

There are as many theories as there are members of the panel, but Mr Hackenberg strongly suspects that new breeds of nicotine-based pesticides are to blame.
“It may be that the honeybee has become the victim of these insecticides that are meant for other pests,” he said. “If we don’t figure this out real quick, it’s going to wipe out our food supply.”

Just a few miles down the sunlit road, it is easy to find farmers prepared to agree with his gloomy assessment.

… Dennis van Engelsdorp, a Pennsylvania-based beekeeper and leading researcher… is adamant that it is too early to pin the blame on insecticides.”We have no evidence to think that that theory is more right than any other…” - BBC
Urban sprawl and farming also have taken away fields of clover and wildflowers, as well as nesting trees.

Pesticides and herbicides used in farming and on suburban lawns can weaken or kill bees.

Caron said a new class of pesticides used on plants, called neonicotinoids, don’t kill bees but hamper their sense of direction. That leaves them unable to find their way back to their hives.

… Because these bees aren’t returning to their hives, researchers don’t have a lot of evidence to study.

Those dead bees that have been found nearby have only deepened the mystery.
“They are just dirty with parts and pieces of various diseases,” said Jim Tew, a beekeeping expert with the OSU Extension campus in Wooster. “It looks like a general stress collapse.”

Similar disappearances have occurred over time. Tew said he remembers a similar phenomenon in the 1960s. Then, it was called “disappearing disease.”

“It was exactly the same thing,” he said.

But this one, Caron said, apparently causes hives to collapse at a much quicker rate and is more widespread.

Cobey said it could be from too much of everything: bad weather, chemicals, parasites, viruses.

“If you give them one of these things at a time, they seem to deal with it,” she said. “But all of these things, it’s too hard.

“I think the bees are just compromised. They’re stressed out.” -

Friday, April 20, 2007

I am totally out of words to describe what I feel about our current “government”.

“Disgusted”, “rage” and “bewilderment” point in the right direction, but does not come anywhere near describing the level of emotion that I feel. These people are absolutely astounding in their incompetence, deceit, egotism, and lust for unbridled power. Every day, some new revelation comes out that deepens my rage.

Take, for example, yesterday’s “performance” by the Attorney General of the U.S., Alberto (Abu) Gonzales. This man is so incompetent, he can’t even recognize that he is incompetent. He is so incompetent, he can’t even recognize he is a total failure as a pathological liar, even though he keeps trying. He’s so incompetent, he can’t even recognize that he is dragging down what little remains of George Bush’s credibility and that he needs to resign, immediately.

This is from the New York Times editorial page.

Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch.

He had no trouble remembering complaints from his bosses and Republican lawmakers about federal prosecutors who were not playing ball with the Republican Party’s efforts to drum up election fraud charges against Democratic politicians and Democratic voters. But he had no idea whether any of the 93 United States attorneys working for him — let alone the ones he fired — were doing a good job prosecuting real crimes.

He delegated responsibility for purging their ranks to an inexperienced and incompetent assistant who, if that’s possible, was even more of a plodding apparatchik. Mr. Gonzales failed to create the most rudimentary standards for judging the prosecutors’ work, except for political fealty. And when it came time to explain his inept decision making to the public, he gave a false account that was instantly and repeatedly contradicted by sworn testimony.

Even the most loyal Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee found it impossible to throw Mr. Gonzales a lifeline. The best Orrin Hatch of Utah could do was to mutter that “I think that you’ll agree that this was poorly handled” and to suggest that Mr. Gonzales should just be forgiven. Senator Sam Brownback led Mr. Gonzales through the names of the fired attorneys, evidently hoping he would offer cogent reasons for their dismissal.

Some of his answers were merely laughable. Mr. Gonzales said one prosecutor deserved to be fired because he wrote a letter that annoyed the deputy attorney general. Another prosecutor had the gall to ask Mr. Gonzales to reconsider a decision to seek the death penalty. (Mr. Gonzales, of course, is famous for never reconsidering a death penalty case, no matter how powerful the arguments are.)
Mr. Gonzales criticized other fired prosecutors for “poor management,” for losing the confidence of career prosecutors and for “not having total control of the office.” With those criticisms, Mr. Gonzales was really describing his own record: he has been a poor manager who has had no control over his department and has lost the confidence of his professional staff and all Americans.

Mr. Gonzales was even unable to say who compiled the list of federal attorneys slated for firing. The man he appointed to conduct the purge, Kyle Sampson, said he had not created the list. The former head of the office that supervises the federal prosecutors, Michael Battle, said he didn’t do it, as did William Mercer, the acting associate attorney general.

Mr. Gonzales said he did not know why the eight had been on the list when it was given to him, that it had not been accompanied by any written analysis and that he had just assumed it reflected a consensus of the senior leaders of his department. At one point, Mr. Gonzales even claimed that he could not remember how the Justice Department had come to submit an amendment to the Patriot Act that allowed him to fire United States attorneys and replace them without Senate confirmation. The Senate voted to revoke that power after the current scandal broke.

This man is the top prosecutorial lawyer in the country? “Incompetent” doesn’t even describe it. “Loyal toady” is very insulting, but is appropriate.

This kind of nonsense is apparently through the entire Bush administration. It seems that most of his political appointments are just that, policital. If the person is a loyal “Bushie” (which was used by Kyle Sampson as a way to gauge a USA’s worth), then they are in for life, regardless of how badly they screw up. There have been a few notable exceptions, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Michael Brown. However, that was just because the amount of public scrutiny occurred after they botched their jobs badly. There are undoubtably many, many more incompetent toadies that not have seen the light of day. One of them, Monica Goodling just resigned rather than try to answer all the questions that have come up surrounding her role in all of this.

I swear, I wish I could find something good to say about these people, but I can’t. For a while, I was thinking that we could end up with a country that resembles the old Soviet Union or Communist China. However, I don’t believe that anymore. Those people, however underhanded, devious and evil they were, were at least competent. I doubt Bush and his minions could assemble anything like that now. Instead, I now believe that we could end up with something resembling a South American banana republic. I find it amazing that we could be a world Superpower, and a banana republic at the same time, but that appears to be what could have happened to us.

Gladly, it now appears that a large number of people have finally caught on to what Bush has been doing to this country for the last six years, and are fighting back.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Well, this will be QUITE a hole in the ground.

The opportunity to make money strikes again. From the Seattle Times:

Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.

The project, which Russia is coordinating with the U.S. and Canada, would take 10 to 15 years to complete, Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. State organizations and private companies in partnership would build and control the route, known as TKM-World Link, he said.

A 3,700-mile transport corridor from Siberia into the U.S. will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S.

I was also amused to see that Czar Nicholas II had approved construction of such a tunnel under the Bering Strait, but had his grand little plan interrupted by World War I. And then other things, such as his entire family being rounded up, exiled, and then shot probably had something to do with him not picking up the project again. Damn Bolsheviks.

O.K., McCain is now on my “certifiably insane” list.

This is from The Times, which, given the unremarkable name, could actually be anywhere but I believe, given some of the context of the story, is in South Carolina.

Another man — wondering if an attack on Iran is in the works — wanted to know when America is going to “send an air mail message to Tehran.”

McCain began his answer by changing the words to a popular Beach Boys song.

“Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” he sang to the tune of Barbara Ann.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here we have a “serious” candidate for the office of the Presidency of the United States, arguably the most powerful elected position in the entire world, and this clown is singing an old Beach Boys song, altering the words that the U.S. should just bomb Iran.

I guess Brian Wilson, way back in the groovin’ 60’s, didn’t really understand that he would be instrumental in setting war policy in the next century.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Over thirty dead at Virginia Tech. The gunman was a VT student.

And the predictable firestorm over guns erupts amid all the grief around the country. I can’t imagine how the parents of those killed and wounded feel this morning. It’s one thing to have a son in the Army and know that he is in danger every day. How often do you worry about your son or daughter not coming home from a day of classes?

I am going to observe my own moment of silence here, as a tribute. No one will see, no one will care…. It’s just something that I am going to do.



I am unequivocally pro-gun control. I just do not understand this national love affair that we have with guns. I don’t know if it is the wild, wild west machismo at work, or something else. Sure, there are hunters (which I also don’t understand, shooting small animals and birds for “sport”) who have legitimate uses for the guns they own, and they are law abiding people. But there are many, many people in this country who have guns, both legally and illegally, who absolutely should not have them. And we don’t seem to want to even have a discussion about this, and I can’t figure out why.

Guns are manufactured for one purpose only, to shoot to kill or injure another living being. Not always humans, yes, but they are a killing instrument, however you slice it. Yes, cars can kill, sometimes on purpose. Knifes can be used to kill. So can a piano dropped from a balcony, if your timing is very good and the victim has no peripheral vision. But all of these items have other, primary uses. Guns are the only commercially available product whose primary purpose is to kill or injure something.

My own perception on this is colored, to say the least. Although I feel I would have been pro-gun control anyway, I experienced an event which I will not easily forget back when I was younger. One night I came across my drunk, red-neck angry step father, who felt a burning need to take out his anger on his family, in the kitchen holding a loaded pistol on my younger brother. I was immediately sucked into this drama, as this is not something that you just casually turn your back on. He was raging about how he got no respect, and that he wanted us to “love him”. Yes, threatening to shoot someone is certainly a good way to engender love and respect. Wonderful idea. We both just talked him down, all the while he continued to waved the gun around, sometimes pointing it as us and sometimes not, and continually checking to see that it was indeed loaded, until he finally just passed out on the floor. We then took the gun and hid it. I don’t even remember what we did with it.

So, yes, I am predispositioned to a certain “viewpoint” in this discussion. I admit that. But, for the life of me, I cannot understand the part of this nation that freaks out when anyone even mentions tougher gun control laws. Some gun advocacy group, don’t know which one, put out a statement yesterday even before the dead were officially counted, saying that the problem was not lack of gun control, but too much gun control. I take it their position is if everyone walked around armed all the time, then this would never happen.

Somehow, I doubt that. What I think would happen is that people out drinking in a dive on Saturday night, instead of getting in fistfights, would instead get into shooting matches. Road rage would become target practice on moving targets. Guns seem to give the owner a sense of power, of entitlement, and there are many that would not hesitate to use that power and entitlement. Given how fast we, as a society, take umbrage at the slightest provocation, even unintentional, I would certainly not want to roam the streets while everyone nursing a grudge (and possibly a bottle) is now ready to shoot someone. And that is what it would be, there is no doubt in my mind. The lawlessness of Arizona and Kansas in the 1800’s would not hold a candle to the carnage that would ensue if these people got there way.

If you have any doubts about this, go monitor some of the comments at a right wing or prop-gun blog. You see all sorts of comments from those folks about how the Constitution guarantees their right to own a gun, membership of a militia not withstanding, in addition to the fact that they don’t seem to think too much about the rest of the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Many of the comments there are actually rather scary, as it sounds like their position is that their side has the guns, so in a “battle”, they would certainly win. Many comments seem to indicate that they would have no problems shooting the pro-gun control people. Seems to me that they just proved my argument. THAT is why I think many people should not be allowed to own guns. From what I have read, many police apparently think that this is not such a hot idea, either.

I got into a very quick discussion (three comments exchanged, and I didn’t check back for a possible reply) with Taylor Marsh at her web site yesterday. (See the link over at the right.) She’s a pretty liberal blogger and radio personality, very anti-war and pro-Hillary Clinton. I was surprised to see her post on the subject yesterday, that had a statement that went something like “well, once we get over the predictable call for gun control, then maybe someone will do something about this.” How weary, how callous, someone wanting to discussion gun control. I called her on that, saying I didn’t understand why we, as a nation, can’t seem to even have a discussion about the subject. Her position seems to be that criminals will always get guns, if they have a mind to it, so any discussion of gun control is nonsense. My response was “hey, if you can say that, they I can say, with equal validity, that we shouldn’t try to do any emergency planning or protection schemes, because a criminal with a gun bent on doing violence to others will be able to get around those schemes.” She didn’t respond to that, and all I got was a restatement that criminals will always get guns.

For the most part, I don’t disagree with that assertion. Yes, guns are here to stay, sad to say. I am a pragmatist by nature. It’s not any great shakes as a “life’s philosophy”, but it seems to serve me pretty well. So, I have no doubt that we are not ever going to be able to remove guns from our society. They are here to stay. If someone were to actually try, then we might have a general uprising of the population. No, I don’t think that is something that anyone wants to tackle. However, I just don’t understand why we can’t make it harder for people to get guns. There are all sorts of loopholes and ways around the laws. Anyone who really wants a gun can get one very easily. Why not make it more difficult? Especially handguns. Hey, rifles and shotguns I understand are hunting tools. Handguns, no. Handguns are meant to be concealable and to shoot people. You do not go deer hunting with a pistol. Make it harder to obtain those. What is the problem? Yes, you will not prevent all of these tragedies from occurring. But even if we prevent ONE such occurrence, prevent the next Columbine, prevent the next Virginia Tech, wouldn’t that be worth it? Ask the parents of those murdered yesterday what they think, if they can get past their grief to even comprehend the question.

But yet, people freak when we even mention gun control. The NRA is a powerful lobby, yes, but they are a lobby that represents the gun manufacturers, not most of the public. There is one group, I forgot the name, which started their own pro-gun lobby because they objected to the stance of the NRA on certain things. In my mind, the NRA is out of control. They apparently think, along with everyone else (including Mitt Romney) they are instrumental in electing presidents. Yes, they have a lot of clout. But this is ridiculous. In Seattle a number of years ago, a guy with several guns walked into the Seattle City Courthouse and shot his wife who was trying to get a divorce and her friend. Right there in the courthouse, with hundreds of policemen within 100 yards. The NRA actually came out against installing metal detectors in the courthouse, as a way to discourage coming in with a concealed weapon. How insane is that? They were objecting to metal detectors! In my mind, insane groups of people should not be instrumental in electing our politicians.

However, the NRA is not my biggest concern. No, I don’t get them, not at all. But they are predictable in their right wing tendencies. It is people like Taylor Marsh that I don’t really get. I agree with quite a lot of what she says about every other subject she blogs about. However, her argument about criminals always getting guns makes about as much sense to me as saying that there will always be drunks who climb into a car and drive when they are physically impaired, and innocent people will die as a result. So, given that there isn’t any guaranteed way of stopping every single drunk from ever climbing into an automobile, then we should just stop trying. It’s an impossible task. End of story. That is about as much sense as I can make out of her argument. It isn’t even worth the effort that, perhaps, might save another thirty innocent lives sometime down the road.

Yes, let’s work on being proactive. Watch for signs that someone is thinking about doing something insane. Listen to what a friend, co-worker, or fellow student might be telling others or posting on the web, and TELL SOMEONE if you have any suspicions. Better safe than sorry. But why are we not able to even have a discussion about tightening up easy access to weapons? Otherwise, it is going to be very predictable. Every so often, five to ten years if not a shorter period, someone will go off and kill a lot of very innocent people who were just going about their mundane lives. People will wring their hands over how terrible a tragedy this is, and it will be shoved aside in short order so we can concentrate on the next pressing issue, like Anna Nichol Smith.

I have seen some people say things to the effect of “why is it that people want to bring up politics at a time like this?” It is as if, in their eyes, you have just committed some unpardonable sin by trying to discussion gun control when events have shown that we really need that discussion. My response, which usually goes unnoticed or unremarked, is, why do you consider objecting to 30 plus innocent people being slaughtered in cold blood “politics”? I consider it a moral discussion, not “politics”. That is insulting, to say the least. Politics is what Karl Rove does to try to make this country into a one-party system. That is politics. Objecting to, and wanting someone to address, people being gunned down in cold blood is most certainly not “politics”. I am objecting to, and want someone to address, the issue of over 30,000 people killed and injured in this country every single year by guns. That is NOT POLITICS!

There are many things I detest about this country, and this insane love affair with guns is one of them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

You know, I have wondered about the effects of cell phone radiation.

Our love of technology and “life’s little conveniences” may be striking us again. Not content with melting the polar icecaps and turning vast expanses of our world into a dustbowl, we now seem to be undercutting one of the major legs in food production (that is, bees pollinating our crops) with cell phone towers. Now, I use the words “seem to be” purposely, as the jury is not even in session on this one yet. This is just a preliminary assessment.

From the U.K. Independent, from HuffPost:

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

That’s a lot of bees to be going missing. If 60 to 70 percent of anything in a stable ecosystem goes missing, it is bound to cause some major upsets. Once again, though, I don’t see our society giving up a single piece of technology if it is helpful and some very large corporations can make massive amounts of money on it, even though it may turn out to have some very serious, negative consequences. Doing so would mean, once again accepting some unpleasant news about ourselves, which we seem loath to do. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever our fault in the eyes of many in this country. And by giving up something we currently have would mean defeat for us. We are never, ever supposed to go backwards. Onward and upward. More and more. Better and better. Easier and easier.

Well, I suppose that if everything hits us all at once, that is better than drawing it all out over a period of hundreds of years. It looks like to me we are going to run out of cheap, plentiful fuel about the same time climate change will make it very difficult to produce enough food and water for the population. The loss of the bee population is just one more link in the chain on which our society exists that is rapidly falling to pieces.

(Painting "The Bees" courtesy of J. Bartley)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Any bets as to when the Bush Administration tries to bring back the Sedition Act?

For those who may need a brush up on a history lesson from the nation’s somewhat sordid past, here is a bit from Wiki on the Sedition Act.

The Sedition Act of 1918 was an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917 passed at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, who was concerned any widespread dissent in time of war constituted a real threat to an American victory. This may have been due to "subversive activity" in Russia that resulted in the overthrow of the Russian Czar in 1917, and contributed to the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916. "Subversive activity" in Great Britain was less successful.

The Sedition Act forbade Americans to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, flag, or armed forces during war. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to deny mail delivery to dissenters of government policy during wartime.

The Sedition Act was an attempt by the United States government to limit freedom of speech during a time of war. This is in conflict with the US Constitution's First Amendment, which states, in part: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or the press". Note that there is no "war" exception (or any exceptions whatsoever) to this freedom stated in the text of the amendment. The Espionage Act made it a crime to help wartime enemies of the United States, but the Sedition Act made it a crime to utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States' form of government.

Socialist Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison under this law. U.S. citizens including members of the Industrial Workers of the World union were also imprisoned during World War I for their anti-war dissent under the provisions of the Sedition Act. Anti-war protestors were arrested by the hundreds as speaking out against the draft and the war was illegal under this law.

In his 1941 book Censorship 1917, James Mock noted that most U.S. newspapers "showed no antipathy toward the act" and "far from opposing the measure, the leading papers seemed actually to lead the movement in behalf of its speedy enactment."

The Sedition Act was repealed in 1921. Although the Sedition Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Schenck v. United States, most legal experts view the Sedition Act as being antithetical to the letter and spirit of the United States Constitution, specifically the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

So, for those of you who still may be under the impression that, even though Bush and his gang of Constitutionally impaired thugs are currently running amok, things can’t get too out of control before they somehow automatically self correct, you may want to consider what happened to this country during the time that the Sedition Act was imposed.

The country had recently been stampeded into a war with Spain, that really benefited no one other the industries dedicated to manufacturing war materials and those who desired to further this country’s colonial ambitions (re., Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico). This was done by constant warmongering by, among others, the part of the press controlled by William Randolph Hearst. An incident that most investigators now believe was purely an accident was used to further inflame the population when the battleship U.S.S. Maine blew up in a Cuban port, which made war with Spain all but inevitable.

World War I came along and, for a time, the United States was able to refrain from being involved in the actual fighting. But, when we did become involved, we went all-out, both in war and with controlling the population of this country. First came the Espionage Act of 1917. That made it illegal for a person to convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies. You could get 20 years in jail for that, plus a monetary fine that was in excess of a several hundred thousand dollars in today’s money.

Not being content with that, the Sedition Act was passed the following year. Anyone uttering or printing a word of dissent against the war effort could now be arrested or fined. The Post Office could legally withhold your mail from you. Think on that for a bit. If you uttered anything that could be construed by anyone to be disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States' form of government, you were a criminal. It is also noteworthy that this action apparently had almost full support of the newspapers of the day, even though this was in direct conflict with the First Amendment to the Constitution.

This is about as far “out of control” as our democracy can get without becoming something else entirely, although the forced relocation and internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during WWII is either on the same level or even worse.

Now, go back over these last few paragraphs and compare them to what has transpired over the last six years. If you sort of lump the Spanish-American War and World War I together, this resembles, to an astounding degree, the country as it is today.

Do I have any doubts that the Republicans would like to attempt something like the Sedition Act today? None at all. What would their definitions of “disloyal”, “profane”, “scurrilous” and “abusive” be? No doubt, whatever suited their needs at that particular moment. Would the news media and a large percentage of the population support these measures? If you were to ask these questions about four years ago, I would say, without a doubt in my mind, yes.

Although I am a bit amazed to find myself actually writing this down, we all may have been handed a lucky break that the Bushies have turned out to be so absolutely incompetent at pretty much everything they attempt. These people probably have trouble installing a new roll of toilet paper in their bathroom dispenser. Just imagine how MUCH more damage these people could have done to this country if they had gone about their plans for the entire makeover over the government of this country with any sort of competence and planning. I keep imagining a government like that of England in the future in the movie “V for Vendetta” (which is truly an astounding, thought provoking and thoroughly creepy film, if you haven’t seen it), where you had intelligent thugs that KNEW they are thugs and would do anything they can (including the murder of thousands of fellow countrymen) to get what they wanted. As much distain as I have for Bush and his cronies, I do not believe they have reached that level of malevolence and evil. These clowns are just that, clowns. Not that their intentions haven’t been despicable, they have. It’s just very fortunate for us, clowns usually aren’t the most capable of folk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The wit and wisdom of Mystery Science Theater 3000, as it applies to the administration of George W. Bush

With thanks to the Internet Movie Database.

Mike Nelson: I'm sorry, clearly you're not a psychopath.
Tom Servo: That's right! Now get out before my dog orders me to shoot the president!

Dr. Forrester: Oh, hello boobie. Say, do you want to make people's heads explode? Sure, we all do.

Crow: Clowns. Terrifying in any country.

Crow T. Robot: She doesn't have a brain... she'd make a good news anchor.

Crow T. Robot: Oh, stop pretending there's a plot. Don't cheapen yourself further.

Crow T. Robot: Mother Theresa called... She hates you.

Joel: Ambiguity is scary.

Joel: You sound like a manure salesman with a mouthful of samples.

Tom Servo: You have my word of honor that the story I have been telling is the truth... Okay, mixed with a little fiction... Alright, I'm lying my butt off...

Dr. Forrester: I'm the god, I'M THE GOD!

Joel: You know, this has all the continuity of a fever dream.

Tom Servo: Geeze, I hope this works or little Billy will be lunch meat.

Joel: It's a pity we can't kill you and get away with it.

General: Open Fire.
Crow: Kill indiscriminately.

Little Boy: What now?
Tom Servo: Scream, die maybe.

Joel: Action sequences filmed in "Confus-o-vision"

Tom Servo: It's just a simple matter of "What the hell is going on?"
Mike Nelson: Ah. You clever bastard, so the editor is working with you.

Mike Nelson: You know, I'm a little vague on what you are talking about.

Mike Blackwood: There's no reason to fear the worst. All we know is that the plane caught fire and we lost radio contact.
Mike Nelson: But there's absolutely nothing to be worried about.

Tom Servo: I can't believe people call me a psycho, I'm gonna take those people's heads and carve em' into ashtrays.

Joel: Eleanor Roosevelt's PISSED!

Mike Nelson: Apparently the story is none of our business.

[dozens of peasants are fighting to aid Deathstalker]
Crow: We are still fighting bravely for our vague goal.

Crow: I toast your sleaziness.

Tom Servo: It's the devil's theme, his stupid little song, even though he's the embodiment of evil he's still got a goofy song, in his tights he brings death, despair, destruction and disease, now let's all join him. Devil.

Crow: Come on Metamucil. Work your magic.

[Starts snowing in movie]
Mike Nelson: This is how much pure cocaine you'd need to enjoy this movie.

Reverend: George wanted to go to the funeral...
Crow: But Baywatch was on.

Crow: Tolkien couldn't follow this plot.

Lisa: It looks like there was a war.
Tom Servo: You'll have to take my word for it, we can't afford to show it.

Tom Servo: The sad thing is, they're trying to tap dance. Hahahaha. Kill me.

Crow: That was an official thing I just did.

Tom Servo: Believe in magic, or I'll kill you.

Teenage boy: Mr. Miller, is something wrong?
Crow: Sit down, pie-face. It's a long list.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reality really is a bitch sometimes, isn’t it?

"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." --Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005

"Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions. These are facts, corroborated by many sources, some of them sources of the intelligence services of other countries." –Secretary of State Colin Powell, testifying about Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capabilities before the United Nations Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003

"British intelligence has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." –President Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address

King Arthur: [after Arthur's cut off both of the Black Knight's arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left.
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: *Look*!
Black Knight: It's just a flesh wound. - King Arthur to Black Knight, 360 A.D.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What are the first steps on the way to becoming a police state?

Control the population. First, controls its communications, control movement of its people. When these have been fairly well established, then you can really start up the next phase, which is Orwell’s “thought control.” Control what people are allowed to say, what they are allowed to read, what they are even allowed to think. We have seen how the Bush administration has been trying its hand out on the first item. Here’s something about how to control movement.

This from Andrew Sullivan, with a clickthrough to a blogger name of Balkin.

For those who do not know, Professor Murphy is easily the most distinguished scholar of public law in political science. His works on both constitutional theory and judicial behavior are classics in the field. Bluntly, legal scholarship that does not engage many themes in his book, briefly noted below, Constitutional Democracy, may be legal, but cannot be said to be scholarship. As interesting, for present purposes, readers of the book will discover that Murphy is hardly a conventional political or legal liberal. While he holds some opinions, most notably on welfare, similar to opinions held on the political left, he is a sharp critic of ROE V. WADE, and supported the Alito nomination. Apparently these credentials and others noted below are no longer sufficient to prevent one from becoming an enemy of the people.

"On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."

"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years."

"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said. "

"After carefully examining my credentials, the clerk asked if he could take them to TSA officials. I agreed. He returned about ten minutes later and said I could have a boarding pass, but added: "I must warn you, they’re going to ransack your luggage." On my return flight, I had no problem with obtaining a boarding pass, but my luggage was "lost." Airlines do lose a lot of luggage and this "loss" could have been a mere coincidence. In light of previous events, however, I'm a tad skeptical."

"I confess to having been furious that any American citizen would be singled out for governmental harassment because he or she criticized any elected official, Democrat or Republican. That harassment is, in and of itself, a flagrant violation not only of the First Amendment but also of our entire scheme of constitutional government. This effort to punish a critic states my lecture's argument far more eloquently and forcefully than I ever could. Further, that an administration headed by two men who had "had other priorities" than to risk their own lives when their turn to fight for their country came up, should brand as a threat to the United States a person who did not run away but stood up and fought for his country and was wounded in battle, goes beyond the outrageous. Although less lethal, it is of the same evil ilk as punishing Ambassador Joseph Wilson for criticizing Bush's false claims by "outing" his wife, Valerie Plaime, thereby putting at risk her life as well as the lives of many people with whom she had had contact as an agent of the CIA. ..."

I don’t know what I find more outrageous; the fact that this event (and others much like it that I have read about) even occurred, or the fact that this will get exactly zero exposure from our traditional media outlets. How in the name of all that is Holy can you ban people, in a supposedly free and democratic country, from getting on a commercial flight because they have attended a “peace march”? Isn’t this the kind of behavior we came to expect from places like Communist China or the Soviet Union? How does the FBI (which I am assuming is the government agency charged with collecting such information about individuals) even come up with a list of people “who have been at any peach marches”? Maybe a person was there with a friend, or was just curious.

(As an aside, my older brother, back in the radical 1960’s, once ended up in a picture on the front page of the local newspaper as being part of the leadership of the radical SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), when in actuality, he was just there because some friend invited him to the meeting and he had no idea what it was really about. He was never part of the movement. If that had happened in the United States of 2007, that may have been more than enough to get him on several lists that the government apparently maintains.)

And, for those of you who may harbor any delusions about whether or not these kinds of “enemies lists” are an incredibly bad idea that might get used in a very wrong manner, consider this. Once your name is on this “no fly” list, your name will pop out every single time you try to board a commercial flight. You will always be “requested” to speak to a gate agent before you are allowed to fly. Your luggage will always be searched. You have no rights in finding out how your name was placed on this list. You have no appeal rights. You have no way of removing your name from said list (unless, no doubt, you have some very heavy political connections with the right sort of friends). You are permanently considered to be a person who deserves to be scrutinized at every turn. If you aren’t an all-out Enemy of the State yet, it is only because you haven’t been trying hard enough.

Something like this MIGHT just be understandable, if it were to be used to keep suspected terrorists from boarding a commercial flight. However, at what point did someone decide that attending a “peace march” was so insidious, so perfidious, that this person should not be allowed on a flight for fear of endangering the public? If anything, I would have thought that someone interested in peace (that is, not being at war) would ALSO be interested in blowing up a jet airliner. As you see, it takes no time at all to undercut the argument that this list is being used to protect the flying public. It is a iron-fisted approach to punishing the Bush administration’s political enemies. There is nothing, at all, in there about protecting the public.

This represents just one of the many heavy-handed, overbearing and totally malicious ways that George Bush and Karl Rove have transformed our government, which is supposed to be “by the people and for the people” into something that is used to punish “enemies” and instill fear into the population of our own country.

Anyone who is not fearful of what this country could become in the very near future is probably part of the group that wants to change it, or else suffers from a congenital lack of imagination.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Republican Party is melting down in front of our eyes.

Just in the last week or two, we have had:

- In order to pander to potential voters, John McCain declare Baghdad to be safe, and to prove it, he went out shopping. Three blocks from the Green Zone, in personal body armor, with an escort of 100 soldiers and five helicopter gunships. When the media jumped all over this, he said he regretted his remarks, but “that’s life”.
- In order to pander to the NRA, Mitt Romney declaring that he has been a lifelong hunter. Only, it turns out, he was hunting all of twice, once in his teens and once at a shooting range where they raise pheasants and other birds just for the purpose of being released into the waiting gunfights of “big time hunters” like Romney. I suppose this qualifies as "all his life", but I don't think that is exactly what the pro-gun good ol' boys are looking for in a candidate.
- In order to pander to his ever shrinking pro-war, anti-everything-liberal base, Dick Cheney declares that there was a substantial relationship between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein in Iraq before we invaded. The only problem is that the administration’s own CIA agency came out on the same day and said, unequivocally, that there was not any such thing.
- In order to pander to the ever shrinking Republican base, George Bush goes out and savages Nancy Pelosi for journeying to Syria and engaging in dialog. It doesn’t matter that four Republican congressmen were with her, who said that Ms. Pelosi stuck to the administration’s line and who were ever critical of how Bush has been playing this. She also played messenger between Syria and Israel, injected some much needed contact between those two arch enemies.
- Bill O’Reilly goes nutso on his own show when Geraldo Rivera challenges him and doesn’t back down on how Bill views the immigration debate in this country.

What is even stranger is that they don’t even seem to be aware of how complete this meltdown is becoming. “All is well!” It’s getting rather pathetic, actually.

Friday, April 06, 2007

John Cleese's Letter to America

Via tbogg:

John Cleese Letter to America
(Notice of Revocation of Independence)

Variant of 'Notice of Revocation of Independence' purportedly authored by John Cleese (Dec. 2004)

To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up revocation in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up aluminium. Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix ize will be replaced by the suffix ise. You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up vocabulary. Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up interspersed. There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize.

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney,upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as Taggart will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is Devon. If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become shires e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as Men Behaving Badly or Red Dwarf will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American football. There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American football is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays American football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2005. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders,your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called rounders, which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called Indecisive Day.

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time,you will go metric with immediate effect and conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer,and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. The substances formerly known as American Beer will henceforth be referred to as Near-Frozen Knat's Urine,with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine. This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen,Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or Gasoline, as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon- get used to it).

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

16. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation and have a great day.

John Cleese

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I truly don’t understand the current conservative mindset that lying is now an acceptable approach to politics.

I don’t get the conservative particular brand of politics, which seems to be “every man for himself, as long as I am taken care of and get everything I have ever wanted.” But that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about this infuriating characteristic (it’s no longer just a “trend”, it is now a full blown epidemic) of conservatives, when arguing whatever it is they are trying to promote or tear down, just make shit up. They feel they don’t need any factual backups or documentation. They just flat make it up, and they expect everyone else to just accept their assertions without question. When they do get questioned, which didn’t happen much in the last six years but is now starting to happen with increasing frequency, they either get very blustery and self-righteous or else pretend you never said anything.

Here are some very recent examples.

Last month, some organization calling itself “A Gathering of Eagles” formulated a plan to protect the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. for what they termed as some sort of immediate threat of being defaced by anti-war activists. They drummed up some non-existent threat to the memorial, which no current rational anti-Iraq war protestor would ever think of even touching much less defacing, and then declared victory when they declared that over 30,000 had shown up at their march and saved the day. They are in the process of “taking back the country”. What an overwhelming defeat for all scum-sucking, terrorist loving liberals everywhere!

The problems with the scenario, of course, aren’t too hard to find. I already mentioned that the initial “threat” was drummed up in the first place. No one ever threatened to deface the Vietnam War Memorial. The second is with the “30,000” number that was constantly being trumpeted around to confirm their huge success. To give this number the proper sheen of validity, it was quoted as coming from “the National Park Service”. This flush of victory didn’t have much of a chance to last, however, as the National Parks Service came out and said, without any equivocation, that they do not give out crowd estimates and certainly hadn’t in this case. In addition to the rug of validity being pulled out from under these fine Eagle Gatherers in regard to their quoted number, no one could produce any photos of this event that showed any more than several hundred people. To repeat, there is absolutely no evidence that there was anywhere near the 30,000 that they were trumpeting.

They make shit up, and expect everyone to buy it.

Another recent example; a report from Matt Drudge (conservative hack extraordinaire) claimed (via an “anonymous source” that CNN reporter Michael Ware openly mocked and laughed at John McCain at a recent press conference, and then insinuated Ware had some sort of drinking problem. Drudge went on to inflate his moral indignation, where he called the entire episode one of the most unprofessional spectacles he had ever seen, and I believe called on Ware to be fired. (I can’t find the exact words Drudge used, as this whole story has been scrubbed from his web site.)

The problem, as you may have guess, is that this never happened. Ware vehemently denies it happened. Then video from the press conference surfaced, which showed that, not only did Ware not heckle McCain, he never even asked a question. This entire episode was fabricated. I don’t know if Drudge had a hand in the fabrication or not. At the very least, he took an unsubstantiated story from some source and just ran with it because he could use it to bash the “liberal press” over the head. And then, when the video showed, without a doubt, this event did not happen, Drudge just removes the report from his web site, and pretended it never happened. No apology, no explanation, nothing.

They make shit up, and expect everyone to buy it.

Another fine recent example is the “shopping trip” that John McCain and Lindsey Graham made in Baghdad, in an effort to show how “safe” the city is and how the press is not showing “the real story”. Yes, it is true that those two actually did go shopping. (Graham later bragged that he got five rugs for five bucks.) What ol’ “Straight Talk Express” McCain didn’t explain that he went shopping three blocks from the heavily fortified Green Zone, he was wearing body armor, was accompanied by over 100 troops and several helicopter gunships and the next day, the very market he was shopping in was struck by bombs. Yet, this little jaunt out into downtown Baghdad was supposed to prove how wrong the “liberal press” is about how dangerous Iraq is.

This story was immediately debunked by some major television news outlets, which is refreshing.

They make shit up, and expect everyone to buy it.

There are many more examples that appear every week. Just recently, Michelle Malkin charged that the UPI news organization is feeding us false information based on her unsupported/insane theory that a person quoted in a story that talked about some Sunnis being burned alive did not exist. Once this story proved to be false, that the person is question actually did exist, she just shut up and pretended the entire thing never happened. Over and over, this happens. Scooter Libby lies in front of a Grand Jury about his role in outing an undercover CIA agent. Bush lies when he said, right before the 2006 election, that Donald Rumsfeld’s job was safe and then, right after the election, Rumsfeld was gone. Bush knew he wasn’t telling the truth, and later admitted it without any shame whatsoever. There appears to be no end to the lies being generated in the current scandals regarding the firing of the U.S. Attorneys, the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed hospital and the death by fratricide of Pat Tillman.

I just do not understand this madness. I can understand people not seeing the world in the same way. I can understand different points of view. I can understand not getting along. However, how did this new approach come about that apparently says that you can make shit up and use it against your “enemies”, and then ignore the entire controversy when your lies blow up in your face? Do these people not have any honor or self-respect? How can they live with themselves? This is, according to them, the party of “family value”, of “patriotism”, of “the Christian religion”.

How can they live with themselves?

UPDATE (before it was even posted): Ah, Bush just lied again in public. He said that his military commanders came up with the idea of “the surge”, and he was just following their recommendations. In fact, it is very easy to see, if you have any computer skills at all (e.g., “the Google”), most of his military commanders were dead set against the idea. Bush fired some, and put people in place who would follow his every order. And yet, here he comes out and says this crap. Liar.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

George Bush’s America.

I have reached the following conclusions about Bush and his followers. “Democracy” is only a word that means there are elections held every so often. How one goes about winning them, and keeping in power once one wins them, is not the prevue of a democracy. The rule of thumb seems to be “anything goes, just don’t get caught doing it”. And when someone does get caught, the order of the day is Attack, Attack, Attack! Never admit wrongdoing, always find someone else to blame. Democrats and liberals are the best targets, but if that doesn’t work, find anyone you can to throw under the bus, even if it happens to be someone that has been “the loyal party member” for as long as anyone can remember.

I am not the only one that has been thinking along these lines this past week. Here is just a sampling of some other posts that go into this subject at a greater depth than I am able.

From Glenn Greenwald in (Free site, although you have to watch a commercial to get a free day pass.)

THURSDAY MARCH 29, 2007 08:59 EST

Neoconservative radicalism has reshaped our political spectrum
David Brooks' column in The New York Times this morning contains several important observations. It would maximize clarity in our political discussions if journalists could just ingest Brooks' central point: the dominant right-wing political movement in this country that has spawned and driven the Bush presidency has nothing to do with -- it is in fact overtly hostile to -- the ostensible principles of Goldwater/Reagan small-government conservatism. Though today's so-called "conservatives" exploit the Goldwater/Reagan mythology as a political prop, they don't believe in those principles in any way. That movement is the very antithesis of those principles.

Brooks comes out and explicitly declares the twin icons of "conservatism" to be every bit as quaint and obsolete as the Geneva Conventions: "Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they're not models for the future."

Brooks admits what has been crystal clear for some time -- namely, that so-called "conservatives" (meaning the contemporary political "Right") no longer believe (if they ever did) that government power should be restrained in order to maximize freedom. That belief system, says Brooks, is an obsolete relic which arose out of the the 1970s, and has been replaced by the opposite desire -- for expanded government power on every front.

Deceitfully purporting to speak on behalf of what he calls "normal, nonideological people" (the dishonest tactic he constantly uses), Brooks says:
In short, in the 1970s, normal, nonideological people were right to think that their future prospects might be dimmed by a stultifying state. People were right to believe that government was undermining personal responsibility. People were right to have what Tyler Cowen, in a brilliant essay in Cato Unbound, calls the "liberty vs. power" paradigm burned into their minds — the idea that big government means less personal liberty.

But today, many of those old problems have receded or been addressed. Today the big threats to people’s future prospects come from complex, decentralized phenomena: Islamic extremism, failed states, global competition, global warming, nuclear proliferation, a skills-based economy, economic and social segmentation. . . .
Normal, nonideological people are less concerned about the threat to their freedom from an overweening state than from the threats posed by these amorphous yet pervasive phenomena. The "liberty vs. power" paradigm is less germane. It's been replaced in the public consciousness with a "security leads to freedom" paradigm. . .

The "security leads to freedom" paradigm doesn't end debate between left and right, it just engages on different ground. It is oriented less toward negative liberty (How can I get the government off my back?) and more toward positive liberty (Can I choose how to lead my life?).

That is exactly what the right-wing movement in this country is now -- an authoritarian movement animated by the Orwellian slogan that "security leads to freedom" which embraces and seeks ever-expanding government power based on the claimed need to protect people from all the scary, lurking dangers in the world -- dangers which are constantly stoked and inflammed in order to maximize the craving for "security," derived by vesting more and more power in the hands of our strong, protective Leaders.

And it's notable that Brooks specifically cites the limited-government views of Cato to disparage, since Cato itself has amply documented that there are few, if any, factions more hostile to limited government principles than the Bush-supporting right-wing movement that has dominated our country. As Cato's comprehensive report concluded:

Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. . . . President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.

But neoconservatism -- which is really what the right-wing pro-Bush movement has become -- doesn't believe in any of that, and Brooks' column demonstrates that they are admitting that more and more explicitly. Instead, it touts a radical and authoritarian nanny-statism that seeks, at its core, to provide feelings of protection, safety, and moralistic clarity -- "security leads to freedom" -- all delivered by political leaders using ever-increasing federal government power and limitless militarism. Whether one believes in that radical and warped vision of the American federal government is, more than any other factor, what now determines one's political orientation.

I have argued several times before that the radicalism of the Bush presidency and the neoconservatism on which it is based has resulted in a fundamental political re-alignment. As Brooks points out, the issues that shape our political spectrum and determine one's political orientation have changed fundamentally -- Brooks contrasts today's predominant issues with those of the 1970s in order to demonstrate this shift, but the shift is just as drastic even when one compares today's predominant political issues to those that drove the key political dispustes as recently as the 1990s.

There is one principal reason for this shift -- the Bush presidency and the political movement that supports it is not driven by any of the abstract political principles traditionally associated with "liberalism" or "conservatism." Whatever else one wants to say about the Bush presidency, it has nothing to do with limiting the size, scope and reach of the federal government. The exact opposite is true.
On every front, the Bush administration has ushered in vast expansions of federal power -- often in the form of radical and new executive powers, unprecedented surveillance of American citizens, and increased intervention in every aspect of Americans' private lives. To say that the Bush movement is hostile to the limited-government ends traditionally associated (accurately or not) with the storied Goldwater/Reagan ideology is a gross understatement.

But none of this expansion of government power has been undertaken in order to promote ends traditionally associated with liberalism either -- none of it is about creating social safety nets or addressing growing wealth disparities or regulating business. Instead, federal power is enlisted, and endlessly expanded, in service of an agenda of aggressive militarism abroad, liberty-infringement domestically, and an overarching sense of moralistic certitude and exceptionalism. This movement is neither "liberal" nor "conservative" as those terms are understood in their abstract form, but instead, is radical in its attempt to fundamentally re-define the American government and the functions it serves.

That is the central point of our current political predicament: the Bush presidency, and more importantly the right-wing movement which created and sustained it (and which will survive Bush's departure), are not adherents to any mainstream American political ideology. And many people, including neoconservatives themselves, have acknowledged this, and that is also the critical insight of Brooks' column today.

George Will previously called the "neoconservatism" which drives the right-wing movement in this country "a spectacularly misnamed radicalism." One of America's most influential neoconservatives, Robert Kagan, previously admitted -- just like Brooks -- that the current right-wing ideology has nothing to do with the Goldwater/Reagan limited government mythology; in fact, it is overtly hostile to it:

This is where Bush may lose the support of most old-fashioned conservatives. His goals are now the antithesis of conservatism. They are revolutionary.
That is the whole point of Andrew Sullivan's book, and Pat Buchanan founded The American Conservative based principally on the same observation: namely, that the right-wing, Bush-supporting movement has nothing to do with the political principles they manipulatively tout (of course, the federal-government-expanding, rule-of-law-ignoring Reagan presidency itself frequently deviated from these lofty, abstract "Goldwater/Reagan" conservative principles, but those deviations, for the Bush-led right-wing, have become the animating principles themselves).

And now here is Brooks, very explicitly repudiating the Goldwater/Reagan template and admitting that this movement is devoted to large expansions of federal power -- justified in the name of "protecting" Americans -- all devoted to what that movement claims is promotion of some objective Good. The central tenets of the right wing movement in this country -- which has seized and now defines the term "conservative" -- are easy to see. They're right there in plain sight -- they want to expand government power in pursuit of mindless, bloodthirsty warmongering and empire-building abroad, and the accompanying liberty-infringement at home.

As a result, to be considered "liberal" or "leftist" now means, more than anything else, to oppose that agenda. All of the people now deemed to be on the "left" -- including many who have quite disparate views about the defining political disputes of the 1990s -- have been able to work together with great unity because all energies of those "on the left" have been devoted not to any affirmative policy-making (because they have had, and still have, no power to do that), but merely towards the goal of exposing the corruption and radicalism at the heart of this extremist right-wing movement and to push back -- impose some modest limits -- on what has been this radical movement's virtually unlimited ability to install a political framework that one does not even recognize as "American."

Regardless of what other beliefs one might have, opposition to endless warmongering in the Middle East (and the wonderful tools used to promote it, such as rendition, torture and indefinite detentions) -- combined with a belief in the rule of law, along with basic checks and balances, as a means of modestly limiting the power of the federal government over American citizens -- is now sufficient to render one a "liberal" or "leftist." That's because the political movement that dominates our country is radical and authoritarian -- "security leads to freedom." Our political spectrum is now binary: one is either a loyal follower of that movement or one is opposed to it.

That is the re-alignment of our political landscape brought about by the extremism of the right-wing political movement in our country. Brooks' column (like those of Will and Kagan before it) makes clear just how radical it is, how unmoored it is to any principles which previously defined the political mainstream. The terms "left" and "right" do not mean what they meant even ten years ago, though they still have meaning. At least for now, until this movement is banished to the dustbin, those terms have come to designate whether one is loyal to, or whether one opposes, this government-power-worshipping, profoundly un-American right-wing cultism that has been the dominant political faction in America for many years.

-- Glenn Greenwald

From the Los Angeles Times:

Bush's long history of tilting Justice

The administration began skewing federal law enforcement before the current U.S. attorney scandal, says a former Department of Justice lawyer.

By Joseph D. Rich, JOSEPH D. RICH was chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005. He now works for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

March 29, 2007

THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.

This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman's central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.

Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.

Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent.

This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.

Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.

At the same time, career staff were nearly cut out of the process of hiring lawyers. Control of hiring went to political appointees, so an applicant's fidelity to GOP interests replaced civil rights experience as the most important factor in hiring decisions.

For decades prior to this administration, the Justice Department had successfully kept politics out of its law enforcement decisions. Hopefully, the spotlight on this misconduct will begin the process of restoring dignity and nonpartisanship to federal law enforcement. As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor.

This is just so disheartening. Everything in our government is just a tool in which to further the aims of the Republican party; the FBI, the Constitution, the Department of Justice, everything. Karl Rove’s very nature is to politicize absolutely everything. Governing is a concept that is beyond him. All he knows is how to manipulate every single arm of the government into a tool that can be used to further the aims of the Republican party, and to cement its hold on power forever.

If Bush, Rove and Cheney were allowed to follow their dream to its logical conclusion, this country would very much resemble the Soviet Union or Communist China. There would be a single party, where dissent is not allowed, must less an opposition party. All facets of the media would be a propaganda tool for the Republicans. The police and the FBI would be used to control the population. The elite class would flourish while the great majority of the country would toil away for their benefit, and a larger and larger percentage of this country would find themselves encased in crushing poverty. And we would be at constant war, which would mostly serve to keep the economy on its feet, however artificially.

I just cannot understand how these supposedly intelligent men can devote such a large part of the being into changing our system of government that has worked so well for over two centuries. It has survived a civil war, an invasion in which the White House was burned, two world wars, the civil rights movement, and countless other strains on the fabric of our government. And here we now have a handful of fanatics determined to foist off their particular view of our country and the world on the rest of us, regardless of what we think about it.

How have we even gotten to this point? How did these people hijack this country? Did the events of Sept. 11, 2001 scare us that badly? Are our minds now so numbed that we cannot see anything beyond video games and the latest episode of American Idol?

If that is the case, maybe this country does indeed deserve the kind of government that it will get.